Gimme ALL The Cake: Seven Days Of Simple, Sinful Desserts

I’ve never really been a fan of heavy desserts. Bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee, treacle sponge - basically, anything that can be smothered in custard just doesn’t do it for me at all. Cake, however, is another matter. Give me a lemon cake over a Spotted Dick any day. Or Christmas cake. I absolutely LOVE Christmas cake. Every year I make the biggest one possible, drenching it in alcohol daily for two months prior, stuffing it full of morello cherries and raisins and covering in in layers of marzipan and royal icing. As the only person in my family who eats it, I then spend the next two months having it with morning coffee, basically equating to drinking brandy for breakfast.

Leo’s 10th birthday cake this week. More chocolate than Willy Wonka.

Leo’s 10th birthday cake this week. More chocolate than Willy Wonka.

The hot and heavy pudding thing always reminds me of being at primary school, where coconut jam sponge and custard day was the pinnacle of culinary excitement, closely followed by iced sprinkle cake. And who remembers pink custard? It’s fairly scary to imagine what was actually in that glutinous mixture. Food allergies didn’t seem to exist in the seventies - you had your cake and you ate it. Lots of it. By the time the mid eighties came along, the schools started realising that it possibly wasn’t that healthy to live on a diet of what was basically lard and they ditched the stodge in favour of - gasp - fruit and yoghurts. I went to Haydon School in Pinner (also attended by Fearne Cotton #random) and Friday was always poo cake day. To this day, it remains one of my favourite sweet treats - cornflakes coated in syrup and chocolate bashed to within an inch of its life and rolled into a medium sized ball, solid enough to use for actual sporting activity. Delicious.

Those heady days of daily puddings are long gone. We are constantly bombarded by media telling us how to eat, what not to eat, be vegan, don’t be vegan, don’t eat dairy, ditch the carbs, don’t eat wheat, go sugar free. Argh, it’s endless. Our family fridge is choc a block with fat free yoghurts, Actimel and Muller Corners with the occasional chocolate mousse if I’m feeling generous on the shopping order. So, so boring. When my mum comes to visit, she’s always faintly appalled by our lack of ‘puddings’ and often has to be mollified with a Kit Kat. When we do have people for dinner and I make a dessert, it always feels so luxurious to have some leftover for the week. In fact, one of the only reasons that my children are happy to visit our local pub for Sunday lunch is because they can have a sticky toffee pudding for afters.

Anyway, in praise of the sinful pud, I’ve listed out my top seven faves that are my go-to’s when we’re having an all out Sunday dinner or friends for lunch. These are ALL super easy and non time consuming (some are literally five minutes from start to oven) and they are all worthy candidates when you are looking for a much needed treat. I'm not vegan, but many of these desserts can be substituted for vegan alternatives.

I actually only discovered this recipe last week and it’s thrown me back into cake making. It took about five minutes to prepare for the oven and tasted amazing. I shopped from Asda for the ingredients so had to miss out the mahleb and bashed the pistachios with a rolling pin as they didn’t have ground, but it didn’t seem to make much difference to the texture. I also had to buy frozen prestoned cherries - I added them frozen so cooked it about half an hour longer but next time I’ll defrost them before use. My friend Pandora who was here for lunch immediately asked me to make it again this weekend. A total winner.

YOU WILL NEED: 100g caster sugar (plus 20g for topping; 90g light brown sugar; 180g ground almonds; 30g ground pistachios; 45g desiccated coconut; 50g self raising flour; 1 tsp ground mahleb; 150g melted butter; 3 eggs; 300g cherries; 50g roughly chopped pistachios (for topping).

METHOD: Preheat oven to 190/170 fan and grease cake tin with butter. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter and mix in the eggs. Spoon into tin and smooth down. Remove stones from cherries (if using fresh) and drop on to the butter. Sprinkle cake with remaining sugar and chopped pistachios. Bake for 25-30 minutes then turn and cook for a further ten. Serve with thick double cream.

No recipe collection is complete without a recipe from the God that is Nigel Slater. There’s actually two that I regularly make from this book - the second is Nigel’s Delightful Trifle which is also always successful. This one includes limoncello which gives it the edge (in my opinion) and it’s also simple to make but looks like it’s taken you hours. I never have crystallised violets, unfortunately, but I imagine they would only add to its beauty. I used a vintage glass trifle dish that belonged to my mum for this which makes it look super impressive. I once served this treat to our friend James who pronounced that it wasn’t officially a trifle as it didn’t have jelly in it. He still ate it all though. Rude.

YOU WILL NEED: 100g sponge fingers; 100g lemon curd; 3 tbsp limoncello; 500ml double cream; 120g caster sugar; 100ml lemon juice. To finish: 250ml whipped or double cream; orange zest; crystallised violets.

METHOD: Spread the sponge fingers with the lemon curd and press into the bottom of a glass or china dish. Sprinkle the limoncello over the top. Pour the double cream into a saucepan and add sugar. Bring to the boil over a moderate heat, then turn it down and leave to simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and pour this custard mixture over the sponge fingers (don’t worry if they bob about a bit, push them down). Leave to set in fridge for a few hours. Whip the cream, smooth over trifle and add orange zest and crystallised violets. If you can find them.

Okay, so this is not strictly a cake based pudding but it is, indeed an EXCELLENT pudding. Again, I’ve been making this for absolutely years and it’s really easy yet really impressive. This cookbook is one of my all time favourites and if you haven’t got it, I’d definitely recommend. It doesn’t require an ice cream maker; a plastic tub and a freezer is all you need. It should be served with a glass of Pedro Ximenez which you can either drink on the side or, my preference, pour over the top before scoffing. Delish.

YOU WILL NEED: 600ml double cream; 300ml milk; 1 cinnamon stick; 1 vanilla pod; 7 egg yolks; 85g caster sugar; 100g raisins soaked in Pedro Ximenez sherry.

METHOD: Put the cream, milk and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan (I have also used a drop of vanilla essence when I don’t have a stick). Heat until just about to boil, then remove from stove. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together with a whisk until pale and thick. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Whisk well and return to a low heat, stirring constantly. When it thickens (but not bubbling), remove, pour into a bowl and put over iced water to cool. Pour into a plastic tub with a lid and place in freezer. After an hour, add the raisins and the sherry they’ve been soaking in and then stir every half hour until the ice cream is set.

Baked Cheesecake With Blueberries

Bake - Rachel Allen (Collins)

I am a massive fan of fruity puddings as I’m sure you’ve already gathered from this list. This one is super simple yet looks really impressive and is totally failsafe. Also, most importantly, it serves up to 12 people so it’s great for a large group or if you like to have loads of leftovers from a dinner party to scoff the next day. You’ll need a 24cm cake tin with a removable bottom, well buttered on both base and sides.

YOU WILL NEED: 175g digestive biscuits; 75g melted butter; 175g blueberries (plus extra for decorating); 450lb cream cheese; 150g caster sugar; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 4 eggs lightly beaten; icing sugar.

METHOD: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Whizz the biscuits in a food processor or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they are crumbs. Mix the biscuits with the melted butter and press down into the base of the cake tin. Spread the blueberries over the base and put in the fridge to chill. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs together in a large bowl. Pour on top of the blueberries and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until pale golden with a bit of a wobble. Cool in the tin, remove, add extra blueberries to the top and dust with icing sugar. Best served at room temperature.

Apple Galette With Calvados Cream

Tarts - Sarah Banbery (Marks & Spencer)

This is a REALLY old book that I’ve had for years and is actually published, weirdly, by Marks & Spencer. I’ve searched Amazon to see if it’s there and it’s not so you’ll have to trust me on this one. The book is full of tart recipes with some excellent savoury ones as well that have been my go-to’s for years (I’ll post these another time but suffice to say there’s an excellent goats cheese one). This is super easy and never fails to look like you’ve made a massive effort when you haven’t.

YOU WILL NEED: 250g ready made puff pastry; 500g cooking apples; 4 tbsp caster sugar; 50g butter; 1 beaten egg; 150ml double cream; 1 tbsp Calvados.

METHOD: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Unroll puff pastry on to baking tray. Peel and core, then thinly slice apples. Melt sugar and butter in a frying pan then add the apples and cook gently for 10-15 mins. Leave to cool for a bit and. Reserving the apple butter mixture, arrange the apple slices in neat rows, leaving a 3cm margin around the edge of the pastry. Brush pastry with egg and cook for 30-35 minutes. Remove and brush with the apple butter mixture. Whip the cream, add the Calvados and serve (hot or cold).

Classic French Lemon Cake

Sweet - James Martin (Quadrille)

This book was given to me last year by my friend Sam Head who is Home Economist extraordinaire to James Martin. She’s massively inspired and supported me in my cooking and baking endeavours for years and this recipe is one of my favourites. Lemon cake cannot, I repeat, cannot be beaten - show me one person who doesn’t like lemon cake and I’ll eat my hat. If I had one. You’ll need a loaf tin - I’ve got one of those bendy flexible ones that I can’t remember what they’re called - greased and lined. Serve with a nice cup of tea for mid afternoon eating or with cream and berry fruit for a dinner party pudding of deliciousness.

YOU WILL NEED: 75g melted butter; 3 eggs; juice and zest of 2 lemons; 200g caster sugar; 75g creme fraiche; 150g plain flour; 1 tsp baking powder. For the glaze: 75g icing sugar; juice of one lemon.

METHOD: Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Place eggs, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until combined and sugar has dissolved. Add butter and creme fraiche into the egg and lemon mixture, then sift flour and baking powder on the top and gently fold in. Stir in lemon zest and add to tin. Bake for 45-60 mins until golden and risen (put back in oven for another five mins if inserted skewer doesn’t come out clean). Remove and leave to cool, then turn out of tin on to a wire rack with a shallow tin underneath. Whisk the icing sugar and the lemon juice together in a bowl then pour the icing over the warm cake. Spoon the excess out of the tray and add again to the top of the cake. Yum.

Syllabub is one of the quickest yet most delicious and even better, most impressive desserts that I've ever come across. I have a lemon one that I have also done for years but this one is equally delicious (I’m a total sucker for anything involving Amaretto). I serve this in charity shop found dessert dishes for maximum effect. The best thing about it is that you can make it completely in advance and whip it out for the grand finale. Serves four.

YOU WILL NEED: 80ml Amaretto; 25g caster sugar; 1 tbsp lemon juice; 250ml double cream; 250g packet of amaretti (soft almond macaroons).

Pour the Amaretto into a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and whisk to mix. Whisk in the double cream and whip until thickened but still soft. Crumble two amaretti biscuits into each glass, top with the syllabub. Crumble another biscuit or two on to the top and serve with extra amaretti alongside.

So that’s my favourite seven, each of which is well worth a bit of effort. Let me know what you think! And in the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be making poo cakes. Happy baking.