Chocolate & Vanilla Cheesecake with Raspberries

I’ve always been a cheesecake fan, but I don’t like all cheesecakes, especially ones which are dry. This one is rich and creamy and not too sweet.

Chocolate, vanilla and raspberries go together extremely well, but if you prefer leave the cocoa powder out and just have a simple biscuit base. Vanilla paste is nicer than essence because it has the little black vanilla seeds in it.

Chocolate & Vanilla Cheesecake with Raspberries

170g plain sweet biscuits (digestives, Nice, any will do)
3 Tbs cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted
500g ricotta cheese
250g cream cheese at room temp
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence or paste
Finely grated rind one lemon
Pinch salt
2 cups sour cream
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or paste
500g frozen raspberries
1 Tbs sugar (or to taste)

Place biscuits in food processor and process to fine crumbs. Add cocoa and sugar and blitz for 30 secs. Meanwhile in a mixing bowl melt the butter in microwave. Add biscuit crumbs and mix well.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Butter or oil a 22cm springform pan. Press biscuit crumbs over the base and about three quarters up the sides of the pan. Use your hands to coat the sides and a small glass to press down the bottom – try to avoid it being too thick where the sides meet the bottom. Place in the fridge or freezer.

Rinse out food processor. Place all ingredients for filling in food processor and mix until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides and checking there aren’t any large lumps of cream cheese left. Scrape into the biscuit lined pan, then bake for 40-50 mins or until cheesecake is set around the edges but still a bit wobbly in the middle. Mix all ingredients for topping and spread over the top. Put back in the oven for 8-10 mins until just set, then remove and cool. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and  when cold refrigerate overnight, covered.

Serve cheesecake with the raspberries which have been left to thaw in a bowl with the sugar, then gently stirred.

Serves 12-16

Variations: use gingersnap biscuits instead of plain ones and omit cocoa. Serve with fresh or frozen berries such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or slices of fresh mango.

Rhubarb Syrup Crumb Cake

Rhubarb grows like a weed in our garden, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to cook it and giving away what we can’t eat.

This recipe by Annabel Crabb is so good you simply have to try it. I’ve adjusted the method slightly and cut down a bit on the sugar in the rhubarb. The cake would go well with other poached fruit, such as quinces, pears or figs and instead of almonds you could use walnuts or other nuts.

If you don’t like the acidity of sour cream or crème fraîche, serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but I think sour cream provides a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the cake.Rhubarb Syrup Crumb Cake

100g almond meal (or make from whole or slivered blanched almonds)
1 heaped cup stale coarse breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough but any kind will do)
75g whole un-blanched almonds
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp baking powder
400g rhubarb (as red/pink as possible)
½ cup water
3-4 Tbs sugar
To serve:
Sour cream or crème fraîche

Preheat oven to 170°C and grease a 20cm cake tin. If tin is metal line with baking paper, but if it’s silicone just spray with oil.

If you don’t have almond meal make your own: place blanched almonds in food processor and process till fairly fine, then tip into a bowl. Blitz bread in the processor until you have coarse crumbs then tip onto a baking tray. Add whole un-blanched almonds to the processor and chop coarsely, leaving some bits the size of a pea. Add to the breadcrumbs on the baking tray and spread out evenly. Place in the oven for about 5 mins or until golden then remove and cool. Watch carefully as they burn easily.

Place eggs and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl and whip with electric beaters until thick. Continue to whip while gradually adding the oil. With a spatula, fold in the almond meal, toasted breadcrumbs/almonds and baking powder, sifted. Tip into cake tin and bake for 45 mins or until golden, risen and firm to touch. Remove from the oven and when cool remove from tin. If cake has puffed up leaving a big air pocket underneath (mine did) just flatten it down gently with your hand.

Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into 4cm lengths. Place in a bowl with the water, mix to wet them all, then tip into a baking dish with the water and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle evenly with sugar then bake for 10-15 mins or until tender but still holding its shape.

An hour or so before serving, drain rhubarb and keep the syrup. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and drizzle with the syrup. Serve each slice of cake with a pile of poached rhubarb and some crème fraîche or sour cream.

Serves 10

Useful Tip: don’t throw stale bread away. Make breadcrumbs in the food processor and store them in the freezer to make this cake or to use in a stuffing for roast chicken.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

This delicious recipe is adapted from one which appeared recently on the New York Times Cooking site.

The original version used two cups of brown sugar and one cup of icing sugar which seemed an awful lot, so I’ve cut it down to one cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of icing sugar. The result is sweet enough for most people’s tastes, but if you have a sweet tooth make double the amount of glaze.

I left the bourbon whisky out of the glaze and made 12 slightly larger rolls instead of 18. If you like, add a tablespoonful of any whisky to the glaze. I made the dough in a food processor rather than a mixmaster because I do pretty much everything in my Magimix.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup milk
75g butter
3 cus plain flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
1 egg
50g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs water
25g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted

Heat milk for a minute in the microwave then add the butter and allow to melt. Place flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cardamom or cinnamon in a food processor. Process for a minute then gradually add the warm milk and butter and the egg through the feed chute with the motor running. When mixture forms a sticky ball stop the motor and tip dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile for the filling, heat butter in a small saucepan, swirling the pan from time to time, until it turns nut brown. Watch carefully as it won’t take long. Cool. Mix the brown sugar with the spices.

When dough has doubled in size tip onto a floured surface and roll into a 30×40 cm rectangle with a rolling pin. Brush with the brown butter leaving about a centimetre all round. Drizzle with any remaining butter, so you use it all. Sprinkle sugar and spice mixture all over then roll up from the long side. Cut into 12 even slices. Arrange slices evenly in a buttered 20x30cm rectangular roasting pan or baking tray – 3 one way and 4 the other – they will expand to fill the gaps. Leave to stand for 45 mins or until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Bake rolls for 20-25 mins then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins. Meanwhile for the glaze heat brown sugar, water and butter in a small saucepan for 2-3 mins, or until thickening. Add vanilla and icing sugar and continue to cook, stirring, until you have a nice thickish icing. Leave to cool until rolls are ready.

Drizzle glaze all over the rolls, then cool a bit so the icing firms up. Serve warm. Any leftover buns can be frozen or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven before serving.

Makes 12 rolls

Lemon Slice

Having offered to take a dessert to a family picnic for more than twenty people I decided that a slice, which could be cut into 20 or 30 squares, was the answer.

For some time I’ve been wanting to create a lemon version of Galaktoboureku, the traditional Greek Custard Slice. I thought I would make a lemon-flavoured custard instead of the usual vanilla one, sandwich it between layers of crispy fillo pastry and drizzle it with lemon syrup, rather than a plain syrup which the Greek version uses.

Well here is the result. Matthew enjoyed the leftovers which I called Lemon Slice for his benefit. Any mention of custard would have put him off. For a smaller version just halve the recipe and make it in a standard 22cm cake tin.

Lemon Slice

125g butter, melted
About half a packet of Fillo pastry, thawed if frozen (about 16 sheets)
2½ cups milk
2 cups cream
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups (200g) semolina
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups Lemon Curd (preferably home-made)
Juice of 1 large or 2 smaller lemons
¾ cup sugar
To serve:
Whipped or pouring cream (optional)

Line a buttered 20x30cm roasting pan or deep baking tin with about 8 layers of fillo pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter and cutting or overlapping the sheets as necessary. If the pan is non-stick you don’t need to line it with baking paper, but if in doubt you’re better off doing so.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Heat milk, cream and sugar until simmering point, then add semolina and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add lemon curd and beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Cover with another 8 layers or so of fillo pastry, brushing each one with melted butter.

Bake for 45 mins or until set and lightly golden. Meanwhile heat lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer the syrup for a minute then cool a bit.

Remove slice from the oven and drizzle the warm lemon syrup evenly over the top. Cool then cut into squares. Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream or pouring cream.

Cuts into about 20 or more small squares

Chocolate and Ginger Cheesecake

Chocolate and Ginger CheesecakeWith a food processor this dessert is quick to make. Really chocolatey and not too sweet.

125g Ginger Nut biscuits
50g butter
250g mascarpone or sour cream
500g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2-3 Tbs sugar, to taste
150g dark chocolate, melted in microwave
2-3 Tbs crystallised ginger, chopped
To serve:
Icing sugar
Crystallised ginger or stem ginger in syrup, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Place biscuits in food processor and process until fine. Melt butter in microwave, mix in biscuit crumbs then tip into a 20cm (8″) springform pan which has been greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Press the mixture evenly over the base of the tin. Bake for 10 mins.

While biscuit crust is cooking make filling. Wipe out the food processor. Place all ingredients except ginger in processor and mix till well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides halfway. Add chopped ginger and process briefly, just to combine.

When ready remove biscuit base from the oven tip in the filling and smooth the top. Return to the oven for 30 mins or until just set, but still a bit wobbly when shaken. Cool cheesecake, then refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Dust the top of the cheesecake with icing sugar. Serve with Labneh or whipped cream, with some chopped ginger and a little icing sugar mixed in.

Serves 10-12

Lemon Drizzle Cake

As we were heading off to Europe last year for an extended holiday my friend Karen lent me a few good books.

Matthew and I thoroughly enjoyed The House at Salvation Creek, a delightful memoir by Susan Duncan, but soon realised that it’s actually a sequel to her first book. So when we got back I borrowed the first one from the local library, Salvation Creek.

Pittwater, where the narrative takes place, is described by Wikipedia as “a tide-dominated drowned valley estuary 40 km north of Sydney.” Duncan’s descriptions of the native flora and fauna is exceptional. A friend in Denmark to whom I recommended the books said “Susan Duncan brought some warm Australian sunshine into the bleak, grey days of a Danish winter.”

Duncan’s relationship with her ageing mother is something many readers will relate to. And of course I loved all the references to what she was cooking. This is her recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake. Very easy and a real crowd pleaser.

Zest of 1 large lemon
250g caster sugar
250g butter (at room temp)unnamed
4 large eggs
250g SR flour
Pinch salt
1 level tsp baking powder
Juice of 1 large lemon
150g sugar

Preheat oven to 160ºC and prepare a round or square cake pan. I used a 22cm (9″) square silicone pan, so there was no need to grease and line the bottom with baking paper, which you need to do with a metal pan.

Place lemon zest and sugar in food processor and blitz for 1-2 mins. Add butter and mix for a minute then add the eggs, sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Mix for 1- 2 mins then stop to scrape down the sides and mix for another minute. Scrape into cake pan, spread out evenly and bake for 30-40 mins or until golden and well risen. Test cake with a toothpick inserted in the middle, which should come out clean, but don’t overcook the cake. Remove from oven and pour over the syrup while hot, using a knife to distribute it evenly. If liked serve garnished with flowers e.g. potato vine as in photo.

Syrup: heat lemon juice and sugar together in a small saucepan to form a syrup.

Serve for afternoon tea or as a dessert with whipped cream and some berries. Duncan suggests mixing some icing sugar and passionfruit pulp into the cream.

Serves 16

Notes: The original recipe says to cook the cake for 30-35 mins but mine took 40. The recipe can be doubled and it makes very good cupcakes. She says it freezes well.



Quick Apple Cake

My mother used to make a dessert called Eve’s Pudding which consisted of stewed apples topped with a simple butter cake mixture. It was a family favourite when I was growing up in England.

This quick and easy recipe combines the same simple ingredients, but instead of being underneath the cake the apples are mixed through. You can use oil or butter, although butter always gives a better flavour.

Served warm with cream or ice cream it’s sure to please the whole family. Any leftovers are perfect for school lunch boxes.

Quick Apple Cake2 eggs
1¾ cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil or melted butter
2 cups Plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder
(Or 2 cups self-raising flour)
4 tsp cinnamon
6 eating apples, peeled and sliced

Pre-heat oven to 180ºC. In a mixing bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and oil or melted butter until well combined. Fold in the sifted plain flour and baking powder (or self-raising flour) and cinnamon. Add the apples and mix to coat thoroughly. Tip mixture into a well-greased 22cm (9 inch) cake pan or pudding dish. Bake for 50 mins or until well risen and golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold

Serves 8-10

No-Knead No-Cross Buns

There’s nothing quite like home-made Hot Cross Buns for breakfast over the Easter weekend. Serve them warm straight from the oven. Or make them ahead and reheat them in a moderate oven. Or split and toast them.

In an attempt to save time I thought I would see if the No-Knead Bread recipe could be adapted to make Hot Cross Buns. You always need more yeast when you’re adding fruit, sugar, butter and eggs to a basic bread dough, so I doubled the amount used in the No Knead Bread recipe.

Putting crosses on the buns is a bit fiddly so I didn’t bother and can assure you they taste just as good without! Technically this recipe is not quick because you leave the dough to prove overnight. But the actual work involved takes no more than five or ten minutes.

Basic yeast mixture:
4 cups plain flour
½ tsp dry yeast unnamed
1½ cups warm water
1 tsp salt
60g butter at room temp (I used spreadable butter)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, mixed spice and ground ginger
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup sultanas
¼ cup dried mixed peel (optional) or use more sultanas
Extra flour as needed
1 Tbs cold water
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp powdered gelatine

In a large mixing bowl mix all ingredients for yeast mixture with a spoon until well combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave overnight. Next day – whenever you are ready – mix butter, sugar, spices and egg into the yeast mixture, using electric beaters. Lastly mix in the fruit then tip mixture onto a well-floured surface.

Knead just enough to incorporate a bit more flour and get rid of excessive stickiness, then cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Form into balls and arrange in a greased 10-12″ (25+cm) round tin or use a rectangular one. Leave to rise for an hour or two, then bake in a pre-heated oven at 220ºC for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and brush with hot glaze while hot. Serve warm or toasted split in two and spread with butter.

Glaze: place cold water and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatine. Zap in the microwave for 20 secs on High.

Makes 12 buns

Note: can be frozen, but best frozen without glaze then thawed, reheated in a moderate oven and brushed with glaze while hot. Made in this way the buns all stick together and need to be broken apart. If preferred bake them on a larger biscuit tray, leaving more space between each one, so they don’t stick together.


During the recent school holidays number one son James headed off to Disney World with his wife Karen and two very excited boys aged seven and five. He’s the computer wizz behind Café Cat, making sure that subscribers get their weekly recipe.

When James & Co go away we look after Hershey, their bouncy chocolate labrador and when we go away they look after Danske, our ivory-coloured golden retriever. A reciprocal arrangement which works well. Hershey doesn’t have to be here long for the contents of our vacuum cleaner to change from cream coloured hairs to a perfect cappuccino mix of the two!

Hermits are spicy, slightly salty little cakes which originate in Canada. James is very fussy particular when it comes to cakes, but as I mixed them I thought they would be right up his alley, though he would prefer them without the nuts.  Unfortunately they were all gone by the time he got back.


1½ cups plain flour
1½ cups self-raising wholemeal flour
1 egg
½ cup olive oil or melted butter
½ cup plain yoghurt
1/3 cup molasses or treacle
½ cup milk
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ cup brown sugar
½ tsp each cinnamon, salt, ground cloves & nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup raisins or sultanas
½ cup walnuts or pecan nuts (optional)
To finish:
icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease a 20-22cm square cake pan or a small slice/slab tin and line with non-stick paper. A Lamington tin is perfect. Place all ingredients except fruit and nuts in food processor and mix well, stopping after a minute to scrape down the sides. Add fruit and nuts and process briefly, just to mix.

Scrape mixture into tin and smooth the top. Bake for about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Don’t overcook – the cakes should be soft and chewy in the middle like chocolate brownies. How long they take will depend on the size of your tin. Cool then cut into squares or rectangles and dust with icing sugar.

Makes 16-20


Our Polish friend Peter was coming for dinner so I decided to make something for dessert which would remind him of his homeland. After searching online I came across Mazurek, a nutty cake, not quite as dense as shortbread, covered with chocolate icing and nuts.

There are as many recipes for Mazurek as I’ve had hot dinners, so having found a version for which I had the ingredients – essential when you don’t want to go shopping – I adjusted it slightly and came up with this.

Peter explained that Mazurek is traditionally served at Easter so my timing was perfect. He hadn’t tasted one for many years and was delighted to take home the leftovers.

Serve for afternoon tea or as dessert, with a dollop of cream. Scrumptious.

250g butter at room temperature
½ cup sugarDSCF0579
1 egg
1½ cups almond meal (see note below)
1 cup plain flour
pinch salt
¼ tsp almond essence
¼ cup cream or sour cream
Chocolate Icing:
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate squares
1 Tbs corn (glucose) syrup
2 Tbs cream
2 Tbs butter
To decorate:
¼ cup flaked or slivered blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Grease a 9″ (22cm) square cake pan and line with non-stick baking paper. In a food processor or with electric beaters mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, salt and almond essence and mix well. Add flour and almond meal and mix well. Scrape into cake pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 mins or until light golden – don’t overcook or cake will be dry. Cool completely in tin.

Remove cake and place on a flat serving plate. Place chocolate, corn/glucose syrup, cream and butter in a small bowl over simmering water and when melted stir till smooth. Cool a little then spread icing over cake and decorate with almonds.

Serves about 16

Note: make your own almond meal by blitzing blanched or unblanched almonds in food processor until fine.

Variations: use hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans instead of almonds.