Cakes & Bakes: Double espresso brazil nut cake

Slice of home-made double espresso brazil nut cake and double espresso in vintage 'Black Velvet' china | H is for Home

We’ve been enjoying a very successful British summer of sport so far with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (and Heather Watson the mixed doubles), Danny Willett taking the golf US Masters title and Chris Froome dominating the Tour de France. The England cricket team have been performing well, Lewis Hamilton leads the Formula One championship… and our Olympic prospects are looking bright.

Boiling milk and coffee in a saucepan | H is for Home

Chopped brazil nuts | H is for Home

What could we incorporate into this week’s Cakes & Bakes to mark the start of the afore mentioned Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro? Why brazil nuts of course!

Double espresso brazil nut cake mixture in a pair of round cake tins | H is for Home

Cooked double espresso brazil nut cake layers cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

I trawled all my cook books and the internet and eventually found Dan Lepard’s double espresso brazil nut cake recipe in the Guardian website’s Food & drink section. If you’re a fan of coffee & walnut cake, you’ll love this!

Making the sandwich filling for the double espresso brazil nut cake | H is for Home

Chocolate icing filling ingredients | H is for Home

His instructions call for a coffee water icing but I found a chocolate filling that I fancied (from my Little Books of Delight: Chocolate Cakes), so I combined the two together. I also added some whole and chopped brazil nuts to garnish the top. Serve it with a double espresso, what else?!

Iced & decorated double espresso brazil nut cake | H is for Home

Cakes & Bakes: Cornmeal loaf

Home-made cornmeal loaf | H is for Home

Dan Lepard is probably my favourite bread & pastry baker. I’ve cut out and kept some of his recipes that were published in his long-running (now sadly ended) column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine. Luckily, they’re all still available in the Guardian’s online archive.

Whisked wet cornmeal | H is dfor Home

I’ve had his tasty cornmeal baps recipe bookmarked for a few weeks, planning to give them a go. Instead of baps,I decided to turn them into a cornmeal loaf instead.

Mixing cornmeal, egg, honey, yoghurt and cold water | H is for Home

The recipe makes two, 500g/1lb loaves. I found the dough a little on the wet side and the cooked loaf a bit too sweet so I’ve ever so slightly tweaked the recipe below. Saying that, this is one of the best loaves I’ve ever baked.

Mixing cornmeal loaf dough by hand | H is for Home

It has a great, slightly springy crumb and crisp crust.

Cornmeal loaf dough in a mixing bowl | H is for Home

Lepard recommends pairing it with fried chicken – building your own (probably far superior) McChicken Sandwich or KFC Fillet Burger. Justin also likes the idea of slicing it for a smoked bacon sandwich.

Two cornmeal loaves having a final proofing in loaf tins | H is for Home

Being a vegetarian, I might pair it with my home-made hummus or grilled Halloumi for its tangy saltiness.

Two risen, uncooked cornmeal loaves sprinkled with cornmeal before going in the oven | H is for Home

What would you pair it with?

Two cornmeal loaves cooling in their tins on a wire rack | H is for Home


Cakes & Bakes: Pain aux raisins

'Cakes & Bakes' blog post banner

Pain aux raisins on a plate with cup of coffee | H is for Home

Despite having almost permanently cold hands I’ve never been very good at making pastry. I thought I’d man up, face my fears and give it another bash. We love a real coffee with fresh croissant or Danish as breakfast-in-bed on a Sunday morning, so I thought I’d give pain aux raisins a try. I used a combination of Dan Lepard’s and Paul Hollywood’s pastry recipes with a little ad libbing of my own!

Cakes & Bakes: Pain aux raisins

Cakes & Bakes: Pain aux raisins


  • For the starter
  • 1 tsp fast-acting yeast
  • 75ml warm water
  • 50g strong white flour
  • For the dough
  • 125ml cold whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 250g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-2cm cubes
  • 300g 00 flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Beaten egg, to finish
  • For the filling
  • 50g raisins, soaked in rum or cold tea for at least an hour or overnight
  • 25g Demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon or allspice
  • 50g soft butter


  1. For the starter, in a warm bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water, beat in the flour until smooth, cover and leave for an hour to bubble
  2. In an electric mixer whisk the milk, eggs and sugar into the starter
  3. Using a dough hook, work in the butter cubes, flour and salt
  4. Scoop the dough out on to a floured worktop and quickly work it into a ball
  5. Wrap in cling film or put into a zip-lock bag and refrigerate for a hour
  6. Roll out to 1cm thick. Fold it in by thirds, roll it out again as before, fold it in by thirds again, then wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Repeat this rolling & chilling sequence twice more, Leave the dough in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight to rest & rise slightly
  7. Roll a piece of dough to 30cm x 18cm x 1cm thick
  8. Mix the raisins, Demerara sugar, ground cinnamon and soft butter
  9. With a spatula, spread the mixture evenly over the rolled out dough
  10. Roll up tightly towards you along the length, so you have a short, fat log shape
  11. Cut into wheels about 1½cm wide. At this point you can wrap each piece individually in cling film and freeze
  12. Line a baking tray with non-stick parchment paper, put the prepared pastries on top, cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise somewhere warm until almost doubled in size (1-2 hours)
  13. Once risen, brush with beaten egg and bake at 200ºC (180ºC fan-assisted)/390ºF/gas mark 6 for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted)/350ºF/gas mark 4 and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until crisp
  14. Leave to cool on the baking tray placed on a wire rack for 20-30mins
  15. Dust lightly with icing sugar