Marble Crumb Cake


A while back, I’d planned on making a blueberry crumb cake to bring to a dinner I was going to. I was also going to make a tomato tart, and a vegan tahini and orange blossom cake. It didn’t quite work out that way, because on my way home from work, I got caught in a summer storm (told you it was a while back!) of epic proportion; it was pretty great 🙂 I love a bit of dramatic weather. I left work, and the heat and humidity hit me like a wall as soon as I left the clinically cool air conditioning of my office. Everyone was wearing shorts and skirts and mellow ‘gee it’s hot ‘ end-of-the-work-day expressions. I was  sitting on the tram, lost in thoughts about the week, when the sky went almost completely black. When the tram stopped and the doors opened to let people on and off, you could feel the drop in temperature, the wind picking up, and a sort of collective sigh of relief going through the passengers, despite the sudden darkness and promise of rain.


I got off at my stop, and immediately big fat raindrops began to hit the hot asphalt, so I legged it to the supermarket, trying to dodge the worst of it (unsuccessfully, but gleefully – lightning and thunder overhead, and the wind making my umbrella turn inside out). I did my shopping, drenched. And legged it on home with my groceries.

But when I emptied my shopping bag, lo and behold, I’d forgotten blueberries. And the tomatoes. And also several of the ingredients for the vegan cake. It didn’t really seem all that dramatic, what with everything else in my head, so I just sort of shrugged my shoulders, and decided I’d buy a Spanish tortilla the next day, to bring to the dinner instead of the tomato tart, and, in the name of improvisation, to make the crumb cake, but to try substituting apricot jam for the blueberries (this really, really amazing apricot jam I got in Provence). But let me tell ya, it did not taste good. Way too sweet, too much lemon zest, and the jam just sort of fused itself to the crumble topping, making a sort of hard but chewy layer, rather than crispy, buttery crumbs. I must have not swirled the jam into the batter properly. But at least I learned that, were I to make it again, and this time with actual blueberries, I will definitely cut both the lemon zest and sugar quantities down a bit.

Anyways, there I was, sans (edible) cake. So I flipped through one of my baking books, and, since I’d had my heart set on crumb cake in particular, decided to try out this one recipe I’d been meaning to for years but somehow never got around to (and for which I happened to have all of the ingredients): a marble crumb cake – vanilla and cocoa pound cake with chocolate chips, and a thick layer of dark cocoa streusel on top. And thankfully, it was really good! Phew 🙂 And very, very moreish. I had a piece of it warm, at 11 pm, for testing purposes. And another for breakfast, still for testing purposes. Still good. And even though there were plenty of other desserts at the dinner the next day, there was barely any cake left over to bring home. Even my friend who doesn’t like chocolate cakes liked it. I think everyone likes crumble 🙂 I even made it again a couple of times over the following weeks ’cause I was craving the dark and not too sweet, intensely cocoa-ey streusel topping.

So here is a super comforting, super easy, and super quick-to-make cake, one that can very easily be made the day before as it doesn’t go dry. I baked it in a square baking tin, but I think next time I might try a loaf tin! I’m really into baking things in loaf tins at the moment. Like carrot cake. And this dense chocolate loaf cake.

I don’t think there are many situations or shitty weeks that can’t be made a little bit better by including cake of some sort; and if nothing else, it can’t make things worse… And the process itself, even if the result isn’t always what you’d hoped, is so soothing… at least to me. It’s the only thing that makes my mind go quiet for a bit. I’m terrible at meditation, and making my mind be still. It’s always buzzing, ah-ing and ooh-ing over something, thinking about that thing that I forgot to do, or that thing I need to do tomorrow. Or that time, 10 years ago, where I spilled coffee all over myself and the floor of a newsagent’s when trying to purchase a newspaper, by dropping said newspaper, bending over to pick up said newspaper, spilling the hot contents of the coffee I’d just purchased 5 minutes earlier all over my hand (ouch) and said newspaper. With people all around, staring. You know, stuff like that. Buzz buzz buzz. Anyways, my point: baking quietens that buzzing. And then, afterwards, there’s cake. 🙂

A friend of mine sent me this article from the guardian because it made her think of me, all about how baking is inherently feminist, even though some consider it to be a feminine cliché, a step backwards for feminism. The author posits that “Women who bake and write about it want you to understand what is impossible to understand without personal experience. They want you to know about the magic of it: how you combine a heap of powders which have no real-world meaning (to conceptualize flour, for example, feels impossible), and add something wet, and heat it up, and watch it change. There’s some power in this. And more than that: baking requires (and imbues) a kind of trust that is absent in everyday cooking.”

And I loved this sentence: “People can’t see wild yeast, even though it’s all around us all the time. Wild yeast is what is used in sourdough bread, but here’s the thing about it: you have to catch it.” 🙂 🙂 🙂
I need to start baking some bread. But in the meantime, there’s cake.

Marble (Chocolate Chip) Crumb Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe from How to Bake

Crumb topping:

  • 125 g flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 75 g cold butter
  • 75 g sugar (preferably light brown or unprocessed cane sugar)
  • a few good pinches of flakey sea salt

Cake batter:

  • 175 g sugar
  • 175 g butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
  • 175 g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 100 g dark chocolate, chopped into medium chunks

Line a cake tin (about 20 cm/9 inches) with baking parchment, and preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

Make the crumb by mixing the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl, then rubbing the butter into it with your fingers. Add a few drops of cold water to the mixture to bring it together, leaving some bigger chunks in amidst the rubble-like crumbs, and set aside while you prepare the batter.

Make the batter: In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder, then beat this into the butter mix.

Spoon blobs of batter around your pan, leaving gaps, using about 3/4 of the batter. Mix the remaining 1/4 with the cocoa powder, and stir in the chocolate chunks. Spoon blobs of the chocolate batter into the pan, between the blobs of vanilla batter, then make swirls with the handle of a wooden spoon. Even the batter out a little bit but not too much. Little peaks and valleys are nice 🙂

12207467_10156309078735165_1958061098_o 12209030_10156309079130165_1139491451_o 12210786_10156309077035165_1485042473_o

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven and add the crumb topping. Bake for a further 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with no batter
on it.

Leave to cool in the tin (but be sure to taste some as soon as possible – be careful not to burn your tongue on the buttery crumb topping). I don’t like milk, but if you do, I imagine this would be very good with a glass of cold milk.

Should keep for at least a few days covered in tin foil, if you have any left over.

Travels well in the tin. Serves 8-12 people 🙂

Rhubarb Torte

torte 3

What the fudge is a torte, you may ask. I have been asking myself that very question, so I googled away for answers, and it seems that while not all cakes are tortes, all tortes are cakes. In other words, a torte is a type of cake, but according to this here, a very fancy one indeed. Well now. This recipe seems to be the exception to the rule – it’s simple and wholesome, but no less delicious for it.

I’ve read a lot about this torte across the blogosphere, a simple butter cake that can be adapted using most fruits that have a sour note to them. Whilst the original recipe calls for purple plums, I’ve read about variations using raspberries, blueberries, apples..

I decided to go with rhubarb for two reasons: I love rhubarb, and I had some in the freezer. And I will most certainly be making this again. And again. And again. The result is a golden, buttery, tender-crunchy cake with luscious pockets of jammy fruit. And it’s such an unassuming cake, which makes me love it even more.  I’m going to try making this with really sour apples, next time, or blackberries, if I can find some!

Rhubarb Torte 
Adapted from smitten kitchen and Lottie + Doof  📠

  • 125 g (1 cup) flour
  • 1 tsp (5 g) baking powder
  • large pinch of salt
  • 200 g  (1 cup) sugar, plus 1-2 tbsp for sprinkling
    (1 tbsp if the fruit you’re using is on sweeter side)
  • 115 g (½ cup) softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • about 230 g rhubarb, cut into large chunks (since I was using frozen fruit, I left it to defrost on sheets of kitchen roll for a few hours, to absorb some of the liquid, before baking)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • (if using apples or berries, or plums, also add 1 tbsp ground cinnamon when sprinkling the sugar on top – I omitted this because I didn’t feel it would go so well with the rhubarb, but it would be beautiful with apples!)

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a springform pan.

 Kage 10 010Kage 10 014Kage 10 016

In a medium bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar well, preferably with an electric mixer, then whisk in the eggs one at a time (a hand whisk will do just fine here).

Kage 10 023Kage 10 026

Whisk in your dry ingredients until everything is just combined. Scrape into your springform and flatten with a silicone spatula.

Kage 10 027Kage 10 033Kage 10 036

Distribute the fruit all over the cake; sprinkle the lemon juice over the cake, followed by the extra tbsp of sugar, and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the cake is nicely brown, and no longer feels ‘squidgy’ when you press down lightly on it with a finger. (After 25 minutes of baking I had to cover it with tin foil to make sure the cake wouldn’t brown too much on top before the middle had had time to set; I left the foil on for 15 minutes, then took it off for the remaining 5 minutes to let the cake finish ‘browning up’ 🙂 ).

 Cake 10 008-001Cake 10 010

Leave to cool on a rack for a few hours (even if I didn’t…), then eat away!

P.s.: this cake is, as reported, just as good, if not better, on the second day! Which is no mean feat, as it’s pretty marvellous on the first.

P.p.s.: I have since made this several times with purple plums as well, and it is UNbelievable. One time my plums were too big (insert inuendo) and sank to the bottom, but it was luscious, and almost even better than when the plums stay ensconced in the buttery batter, if slightly more difficult to eat. This is a magical cake indeed (excuse me, torte).


Apricot Macaroon Tart


Adapted from Orangette.

Baking in a kitchen that isn’t yours can be a bit tricky. I’m in the South of France, enjoying the sun and the smell of Summer and the sounds around my parents’ house (we have dormice, they wake up at night and make squeaky sounds at each other in the trees around the veranda).

Here are a few random shots – one of the light on the kitchen floor, and another one of a heart-shaped rock I found when we went hiking the other day:

 IMG_8248 IMG_8395-002

Today we went to a market in a town nearby and I got this apricot jam that makes me giddy, as well as these little turtle ear studs, that make me happy.

IMG_8409  IMG_8261

Oh but the apricot jam. Super fragrant and not too sweet, a deep amber-orange hue. Oh dear.

So, riding the apricot wave, I decided to make this apricot macaroon tart, using fresh apricots. I first tried making this tart in this very house, and it doesn’t need precision (which is good, as there are no kitchen scales in this kitchen). I came upon the recipe last year on one of my top two favourite food blogs, Orangette, and have made it many times over the past year. She (Molly, of Orangette) suggests using a variety of flours; so far I’ve only tried it with plain old white flour, as well as ‘farine semi complète’ (a mixture of whole wheat and plain wheat flour); I prefer the whole wheat version.

I’ve also made this back home, where the apricots where a whole lot less interesting than here, and it still turned out beautiful; less-than-perfect apricots somehow sweeten and ‘ripen’ when baked. I imagine you could easily make this with other fruits, but I like the tart sweetness of the apricots so much, especially with the coconut macaroon topping, that I’ve yet to try it with any other fruit. I also add more apricots than the original recipe calls for, because I like for each bite to have a bit of fruit in it.

Alright! Here’s what you need:

For the tart crust:

  • 170 g / 1 ½ cups half whole wheat / half wheat flour
  • 60 g / 3/4 cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 100 g / 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 140 g / 10 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 5-6 large apricots (about 300-350 g), pitted and quartered
  • 4 egg whites
  • 140 g desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 70 g sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 4. Grease a baking tin or tart pan of approximately 22 cm / 9 inches (I used a square tin because it’s what I could find, and I quite like cutting the finished tart into squares).

Start by mixing the flour, desiccated coconut, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork until all the butter has been absorbed.  Turn into your baking dish, and press into a firm, flat layer.

 IMG_8319 IMG_8324

Bake for about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it and take it out when it is just beginning to brown.

IMG_8346 IMG_8294

Meanwhile quarter the apricots, and mix the macaroon ingredients in a bowl until well combined.

IMG_8352 IMG_8341

Scatter the apricots over the tart crust and cover with the macaroon, using a spatula and/or your hands to spread the macaroon evenly over and between the pieces of apricot. I’ve decided that next time I make this, I’m going to let the fruit peak out a bit more through the macaroon topping.

IMG_8363 IMG_8366  IMG_8369

Bake for about 25-30 mins until the macaroon has turned a deep golden brown.


If you can, wait for it to cool a bit before cutting yourself a slice; or do like me and immediately eat some. The warm apricots are just… I can’t even speak, as I’ve just eaten some.

 IMG_8451 IMG_8377

P.s.: Dormice are little squirrel-mouse-like creatures that sleep most of the time – the mouse in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, at the unbirthday, is a dormouse! Here’s one in real life! 🙂