Masala chai cake

Masala chai cakeWell, it’s been rather longer since my last post than I originally anticipated! But I have been baking, so fear not. My first bake of 2017 was this rather delicious masala chai cake.

The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail, the book by one of my all-time favourite GBBO contestants, Chetna Makan. It’s a lot simpler than the recipe I came up for my own sort-of successful tea masala cake five years (!) ago – and a lot more successful at replicating the flavours of traditional Indian chai, too.

Masala chai cake
I’m a huge fan of Chetna’s recipes – they’re usually not too complicated, but they still deliver on both the flavour and texture fronts every time. This masala chai cake recipe is no exception; the sponge is beautifully soft and light, while the gorgeous combination of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger really comes through.

I chose not to make the frosting because, like many other people, I’ve been trying to eat a little less fat and sugar in the aftermath of the excesses of Christmas. I think the cake is beautiful without the frosting, but I can also see how it would add a bit more oomph if you were making the cake for a less diet-conscious crowd. Without the frosting, the cake comes in at around 150 calories per piece if you cut it into 20 pieces, which I think is very reasonable for such a delicious cake!

Masala chai cake
The recipe isn’t online, but I would strongly recommend that anyone who’s a fan of using spices in baking buy The Cardamom Trail – it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to make something else from it!


Watalappan (Sri Lankan coconut milk custard)

Sri Lankan watalappan with mango and bananaAnother week, another Sri Lankan feast! This time, my husband cooked lots of rice and curry for our friends, and I made a dessert that we had a fair bit of when we were on honeymoon – watalappan, a set custard made with jaggery, coconut milk and lots of spices.

This is a great dinner party recipe, as it can be made in advance and left in the fridge until required. I used this recipe by Peter Kuruvita, who has also written a brilliant Sri Lankan cookbook that we use and that apparently is considered something of a bible by chefs in Sri Lanka!

I followed the recipe exactly, but I served it with toasted fresh coconut, in-season Indian mango and sliced Keralan bananas, which were the closest thing we could find to the bananas we ate a lot of in Sri Lanka. I also drizzled the plate with golden syrup as recommended by Kuruvita as a substitute for palm syrup.

The only tricky thing was baking the custards – they seemed to take longer than stated, but I reckon that’s just my oven rather than the recipe being at fault. They did eventually cook after I turned the heat up slightly.

The resulting dessert was rather wonderful – the sweet, spiced coconut custard combined with juicy mango and flavoursome bananas offered a perfect balance of flavours. It’s a great recipe to use if you’re planning a Sri Lankan or Indian feast and want an easy dessert that will impress!


Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cakeAs promised, I’ve had a go at making one of the desserts we had in Sri Lanka. My husband cooked a wonderful Sri Lankan rice and curry feast for his family the other week, so I decided to make banana and cumin cake to serve as the dessert.

Banana and cumin cake
I couldn’t find any recipes for this online, so I adapted a banana and walnut loaf recipe from my Delia book, swapping out the walnuts for cashews and adding more in the way of spices.

The main sticking point was the question of how much cumin to use. The cake we had in Sri Lanka offered up a burst of cumin with the occasional bite, so it wasn’t packed with the stuff, but I didn’t want to under-spice it, either.

Banana and cumin cake
I decided to use a teaspoon of cumin seeds, but as it turned out, I should have followed my husband’s advice and used more! I only got a hint of cumin when I tasted the cake, which was slightly disappointing, but the cake was delicious anyway and at least I know for next time!

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cake recipe

Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 55g dark muscovado sugar
  • 55g jaggery, crumbled (you can buy this from Asian grocers)
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • seeds of 3 green cardamom pods, ground
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (I used 1 tsp and got a very very subtle flavour)
  • 50g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk in the butter, egg, sugar and jaggery until you get a sandy texture, almost like large crumbs.
  4. Mash the bananas in another bowl and whisk them into the flour mixture, along with the ground cloves, ginger and cardamom.
  5. Fold in the lemon zest, cumin seeds and cashews.
  6. Transfer the mix to the loaf tin, level the top and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve on its own or warm with ice cream.

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese filling

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese icing I’ve been thinking about making this coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese icing for a while. It’s basically my trusty mango and coconut cake with some cardamom added to the cake mix, but that one extra ingredient really does transform the cake into something else entirely! It’s Indian mango season at the moment, which meant that I could use the most delicious mango in this recipe.

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese icing
Funnily enough, just when I decided to make it, I also ended up acquiring the new recipe book from GBBO’s Chetna Makan, who, as is well documented on this blog, is one of my favourite GBBO contestants EVER. There’s a mango, coconut and cardamom cake early on in The Cardamom Trail, which must mean that we’re kindred spirits, right?! However, Chetna’s cake is much more impressive-looking than mine, although I suspect that they taste very similar!

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese icing
Anyway, back to my cake. It was all very straightforward to make. I did end up with runny cream cheese icing again, but that meant I had an excellent excuse to use only as much as would fill the cake without it running over the sides and, er, safely disposing of the rest. In my stomach. I think I might try making the icing with mascarpone next time to see if it comes out any thicker!

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese icing

Coconut and cardamom cake with mango cream cheese filling recipe

Serves 10

For the sponge layers:

  • 175g/6oz softened butter
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 175g/6oz self raising flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 75g/2oz dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream (I used Patak’s coconut cream, which comes in sachets)
  • 0.5 tsp ground cardamom (equivalent to the seeds of about 6-7 green cardamom pods)

For the filling:

  • 100g soft cheese (or try mascarpone!)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 50g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 0.5 medium, ripe mango
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter and line the base of two 20 cm/8 inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Gently stir in the dessicated coconut, coconut cream and cardamom.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes until evenly golden and firm.
  4. Loosen the edges and leave the tins to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer on to a wire rack to cool. Peel off the lining paper.
  5. Peel the mango, slice it away from the stone and chop into smaller chunks. Mash it to a pulp (you can use a food processor for a fine texture or a potato masher/fork for a chunkier one).
  6. Beat together the other filling ingredients and then stir in the mango.
  7. Spread one of the sponge layers with the filling and place the other on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon bunsI don’t make anything bun-like very often. I think I’m sometimes put off by the amount of time required to make some really decent buns. However, I gave cinnamon buns a go the other week, and was pleasantly surprised by how straightforward they were (well, sort of – read on…), and how delicious they turned out to be!

I used Felicity Cloake’s recipe for the perfect cinnamon buns, as published in the Guardian. I was amazed at how much cardamom it calls for – I know cardamom is quite common in Scandinavian baking, but I’ve only ever used a tiny amount of it because it has such a big, aromatic flavour. I had to re-read the ’25 pods’ bit until I was certain that’s what she actually meant!

Cinnamon buns
I did resist the urge to use fewer pods and went the whole hog. She doesn’t specify the type of pod to use, but I assumed she meant green cardamom as opposed to the black-podded variety.

Cinnamon buns
The other slight stumbling block was the consistency of the dough. I wish I’d read the comments on the recipe before I started, because a few people said they’d found the dough very wet and difficult to work with. Et voila – I didn’t so much tip the dough on to the work surface as pour it on!

Cinnamon buns
I used the long edge of a large spatula to sort of gather it up on the work surface and gave it my best attempt at a knead where possible. It didn’t seem to come together than much, but it was a little better after the first rise (but still very wet!). Spreading the filling on the wet dough and rolling it up was, er, interesting!

The other thing to note is that the recipe doesn’t mention what to do with the beaten egg and demerara sugar – I brushed the egg onto the tops of the buns and sprinkled the sugar over them before sticking them in the oven.

Cinnamon buns
The final product was rather delicious, and very, very large (yay!). The wet dough made for a really fluffy texture, and the cardamom flavour was very, very strong – to the point where it overpowered the cinnamon, but in a nice way, because I love cardamom! The filling was a bit on the salty side for my taste, so I would omit/reduce the salt called for in the filling next time.

Cinnamon buns
I would recommend this recipe for anyone wanting to give cinnamon buns a go, but definitely bear in mind my comments above before you do…!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cakeI’m going to go so far as to say that I think this coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake is one of my best ever baking inventions.

I’ve been on a bit of a ‘winging it’ kick recently, what with the muffins that nearly didn’t have any sugar in them and last week’s lovely lemony scones. But this recipe beats those two into a cocked hat!

I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I’m not: the idea for the flavour combination is mine, but the base cake recipe is an adaptation of a Chetna Makan recipe that I made a while ago. So well done to both of us!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake
The lime is present in the cake mix (the zest) and the drizzle (the juice), while there’s both dessicated coconut and coconut cream in the cake itself. The cardamom could have been overwhelming, but it’s not! The flavour of this cake is very much reminiscent of the barfi I made for Diwali last year, except with the tang of lime cutting through the sweetness.

The texture of the cake is excellent – incredibly light, airy and moist. I’m eating a piece of this cake as I type, and it’s still really fresh-tasting even 3 days after baking it! I took this cake into the office, where it got a great reception. I’m very thankful that I thought to save myself some pieces at home.

I don’t think think there’s much else that I can say except… make it now!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Cuts into 15 pieces, or 12 big ones

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for decorating
  • 50g sachet of coconut cream (I used Patak’s)
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 50g caster sugar (for the drizzle)


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C. Grease a rectangular baking dish (mine was 11″ x 7″ x 1.5″) and line it with baking parchment.
  2. Put the sachet of coconut cream in a small bowl and pour hot water over it. This will soften the cream and make it easier to mix into the cake batter.
  3. Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and lime zest, using an electric whisk or stand mixer, until light.
  4. Release the seeds from the cardamom pods and grind in a mortar and pestle or by crushing the seeds with the back of a wooden spoon on a chopping board (I tend to find that spice grinders don’t work well with tiny quantities of cardamom seeds).
  5. Fold the cardamom, desiccated coconut and coconut cream into the flour mix.
  6. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden on top. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  7. Make the drizzle by mixing the lime juice with the 50g of caster sugar.
  8. Poke holes into the cake using a skewer (don’t go all the way to the bottom, though!) and pour the drizzle all over the top, while the cake is still warm. The drizzle will sink into the holes and create a crunchy top when set.
  9. Sprinkle over some more dessicated coconut to decorate, if you like.
  10. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then release it and cut into squares or rectangles.

Coconut and cardamom barfi

Coconut and cardamom barfi
As you or may not know, we had Diwali and the start of the new Hindu year earlier this week. For the first time in a few years, I couldn’t take the day off to go to the temple with my mum, so I settled upon trying my hand at making Indian sweets for the first time courtesy of an easy-looking recipe for coconut and cardamom barfi.

Indian sweets (also known as mithai) are notorious for their richness and sweetness thanks to the copious amounts of sugar and dairy that go into them. They definitely are the Marmite of Indian cooking – most people either adore them or can’t stand them. Needless to say, having grown up with Indian sweets being wheeled out for every celebration and occasion you can think of, I absolutely love them!

Sweet-making is a bit of a fine art, so I thought I’d make just one type of Indian sweet and concentrate on perfecting it. I found this recipe for coconut and cardamom barfi (or burfi, if you prefer not to think about a certain bodily process when stuffing yourself full of sweets) on the Guardian website, and thought it looked like a good entry-level recipe.

Of course, things didn’t go quite to plan! As you can see from the photo above (the only one I took, sorry!), the sweets turned out a bit crumbly, when the texture is supposed to be slightly soft and hold together as a result. Unfortunately, I overcooked the cream and sugar syrup – I wanted to be cautious and keep the syrup on as low a heat as possible to avoid burning, but when it still hadn’t got to the thread stage after 10 minutes, I turned the heat up to speed things up a bit… for a bit too long.

I did use a thermometer halfway through to make sure I had the right temperature (one website informed me that I was looking for somewhere near the 110C mark), but either it didn’t work or the website was wrong!

I persevered anyway, as I knew the sweets would at least taste good even if they didn’t look quite right. And they did! I used fresh cardamom from the pod that I ground in a spice grinder rather than use ready-made cardamom powder, which I think intensified the flavour nicely against the sweet coconut.

I would definitely try this again now that I have a good idea of where I went wrong. I’d like to experiment with different flavours, especially almond, pistachio and rose, so stay tuned for next Diwali…!