Chocolate Layer Cake


Hey Joe

Heres some written bits about birds and baths, and a chocolate cake (!!!!!! haha)

There are lots of birds in the garden at the moment. I’ve been thinking about them, in the sky mid-flight, fully feathered and singing. A picture book, pitch perfect bird. The image of a bird in my mind is a simple one; it never gets old, it never takes its first flight, it never eats its first worm, it never suffers a wing injury or almost gets eaten by a bigger bird.   

Then last week I read this by Richard Mabey: ‘nightingales… are more cultured singers in June than they are in April…’ and a small part of my mind exploded. I have read and re-read that sentence. What a great thing. And a simple thing, that a bird becomes richer in singing power from one month to the next.

In March I thought of the word ‘relish’ a lot. I thought of this word on its own, and as part of a phrase which sounded like the opening of a book, or an essay, or an entry in the diary I don’t keep.

I will relish this time. This phrase came on March 1st and stayed stuck on a loop until about March 24th. I understand the core of it. It’s speaking to the domestic beats that have punctuated my days since moving back home after a period of unsustainable effort. At the root of it, I think, was an instruction to hold the knowledge that I will relish these moments later. In April maybe.

April came and I spent a lot of time in the bath. I learnt that missing someone deeply has a way of making your bones ache. For a few weeks just about the only thing that would soothe that ache was a bath. So, I like baths more now than I did in March.

I made this cake in honour of that time. A rich chocolate cake – brilliant, restless, playful. And every now and then, sassy. 


For the Cake Layers

Note On Layers – This makes for two very thick layers of chocolate cake.

  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Cocoa Powder
  • 200g Boiling Water
  • 400g Sugar
  • 300g Salted Butter, Softened
  • 4 Medium Eggs
  • 200g Plain Yoghurt
  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

For the Buttercream

Note on Buttercream – This recipe makes A LOT of buttercream, for a thick covering all over the cake and extra to put in a piping bag and play around with decoration. If you aren’t feeling as excessive as I was while working on this recipe, half the quantities for the buttercream will give you just enough to sandwich the layers and cover the cake. The buttercream can be made up to a week in advance of icing the cake if kept covered in the fridge. Just make sure to bring it to room temp and give it a really good mix before using.

  • 80g Dark Chocolate
  • 20g Golden Syrup
  • 350g Butter, Softened
  • 550g Icing Sugar
  • 170g Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 5 Tbs Milk


Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Grease and line two 7 inch / 18cm round cake tins.

Start with the cake. Chop up the dark chocolate roughly and add it to a bowl you can cover. To this bowl add the cocoa powder and the boiling water then cover with a lid ( I used a plate) and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffed up slightly. Add one egg at a time, beating into the butter mixture until fully combined before adding the next.

Remove the lid from the cocoa powder and chocolate which should now be melted and stir to form a thick paste. Mix this paste into the butter mixture, quickly followed by the yoghurt and the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Give everything a good mix to combine.

Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and bake for about 35 – 45 mins or until a kinfe inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. The top will be cracked that’s exactly how it should be. Allow the cakes to cool while making the buttercream.

For the Buttercream, chop up the dark chocolate and melt together with the golden syrup on a low heat over an bain marie (This is a bowl resting over a saucepan that is filled with a small amount of water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water in the saucepan).

While the chocolate melts, beat together the butter and icing sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Now add in the cocoa powder, the vanilla extract, the melted chocolate mixture and half the milk. Don’t worry here if the chocolate mixture has split a bit or is very firm, it will still whip into the buttercream with no problem. Beat the mutter cream for a further 2 mins, adding the rest of the milk if you want a slightly slacker consistency.

To assemble the cake, make sure the layers are cool. You may want to trim off the cracked tops but it’s not necessary. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread the top with an even layer of buttercream. Flip the second cake over so the base of the cake is towards the ceiling and place ontop of the partly iced cake. Cover the top and sides of the whole cake with a thick layer of buttercream and it is ready to go (eat).

The cake will keep covered well at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Caitlin x

Hidden Plum Cake


Happy Sunday Joe!

I’ll let Emma do the talking today. She came to stay with me for a week early last month. I got an email, sent from her phone as she waited at a bus station for the coach to take her back to Glasgow. The email had an attachment titled ‘Caitlin’s House’. This is what the attachment said.

Caitlin’s house has an abundance to it. The kind of abundance that you sink into like and old sofa.

In the kitchen, there are bowls of fruit on the windowsill. These bowls are perpetually spilling over. Every week, new apples, new plums, new lemons and oranges and limes are cycled home from the market. From their rustling paper bags, they are tumbled gently into the ceramic, new fruits layered on top of the old ones. Containing these layers, the bowls become almost archaeological. Sedimentary, the fruits lay side by side, in various states of being: plump, subtly fragrant, market-fresh; potent, heady and ripe; soft and richly decaying. In the sunny warmth that pours in from the window, the fruit ripens quickly, and so Caitlin bakes plum cake, or apple crumble, squeezes lemon juice generously over pasta, scatters berries over yogurt in the mornings, and says ‘take some oranges for the bus!’ This generosity makes my muscles loosen, undoes their inherited tightness. Back home, fruit was kept in the fridge, where it would last, and when you bit into it, it was cold and acidic on your gums.

On the walls of the house, there are scratches and dents and marks, and they shine forth with all the dignity and intrigue of artifacts in a museum. A living museum, because these artifacts are not hermitic behind Perspex, but open to the world, in constant evolution. Last night, for instance, we had a dinner party. Hurrying through to the dinner table with a steaming risotto, the door slammed, adding another scratch to a wall already intricately, lovingly worn. Like a cave painting, the walls gather an intimate history of domesticity. This is healing to me. At my grandfather’s house, when we would visit for Christmas, we were always careful not to touch the walls. He didn’t like fingerprints.

This house is abundant. It gives itself freely. It submits itself to history, gladly. And it encourages you to do the same.

Here is the recipe for the plum cake mentioned in Emma’s words. This cake is a fluffy and fuity joy. Writing this, I realise a lot of my recipes seem to have plums in them! Well there you go, I like a plum.


  • 175g unsalted butter – softened
  • 160g sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • plash of vanilla extract
  • 175g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50ml milk
  • 3 medium plums
  • Icing sugar to finish


Pre heat the oven to 180/160 fan. Grease and line a 22 – 23cm round cake tin.

Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or electric beaters, cream together the butter etc. until fluffed up and combined. Beat each egg into the butter mixture one by one and until fully combined.

In a seperate bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Now, pour the milk and tip the dry ingreiends into the butter mixture. Beat together until only just combined. Spoon the cake batter into the cake tin and smooth out.

Half each plum and remove the stones. Arrange the plums on top of the cake batter, only very lightly pressing them into the batter, you want them resting on top of the cake when it goes in the oven. You can sprinkle some sugar over the plums if you want. Now bake the cake for 45-50 mins, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool for 10 mins before removing the tin.

Once cooled dust with lost of icing sugar. This cake is best eaten on the day of baking or the day after, but will keep for up to 4 days at room temp in an air tight container.

Caitlin x

Upsidedown Blueberry Banana Cake


Hey Joe

I made this cake for international women’s day. And because last week there were a lot of blueberries and bananas in the kitchen. Mum had bought them at the market. It made me think of the addition of blueberries she puts in her banana bread.

I’m stuck trying to write about the ways this cake can be representative of a woman’s qualities or a woman’s greatness. And that isn’t because I can’t tell you why women are great and why this cake is great.

On Wednesday this week I spent a day at a friend’s house whose just had a baby. The first of my friends to give birth. Her husband works in London 3 days a week, so I visited on one of these days. I applied for jobs while she looked after her new baby. That’s not to say she was in need of the company or needed help to keep her baby looked after. But it was nice to be able to be with her in this moment of her life and to eat soup with her at lunch time and laugh with the baby transfixed at the image of himself in the mirror. Watching my friend work on this day obliterated the ‘full-time’ classification of the jobs I was looking for in my job search.

After we had soup and drank orange squash she asked if I could take him so she could go to the toilet. The second she was out of sight, he started to cry. Loudly. I rocked him, and thought it was a fair reaction considering I wasn’t his mum. Slightly alarmed but trying not to be, I called to her that it was all fine, to stay in the toilet and spoke to him – that it was all fine, his mum would be back from the toilet very soon. She came back in a second still doing up the buttons of her trousers as I passed him over to her. When I went to the bathroom later that day, the tap was on. I switched it off and understood a little bit more about motherhood.

The trick of this cake is getting a good caramelisation on the bananas, so they become a little browned and crisped, without really overbaking the cake. It’s a balancing act this one, but worth baking slightly over what you would normally want to let it bake for. Served still warm from the oven this is a winner, melty and fruity. It’s a great cake to have around and doesn’t seem to last long. The cake base is loosely, very loosely, adapted from a Nigella recipe.


  • 2 bananas
  • 250g blueberries
  • 240g plain flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 210g sugar + extra to coat bananas
  • 210g yoghurt – one with a high fat content such as a greek style natural yohurt
  • 125g melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon / 15g veg or oilve oil.
  • splash of vanilla and lemon zest optional


Pre heat the oven to 190 / 170 fan. Grease a 22cm round tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

Halve the bananas lengthwise coat the sliced side generously with sugar. Lay the bananas sugar side down on the base of the cake tin. Pour over the blueberries.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Set aside. In a jug or bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients working quickly and making sure the melted butter is cooled slightly to avoid the mixture going lumpy (don’t worry if it does, the cake will be fine). Combine the wet with the dry, trying not to over mix. Pour in the tin and bake for 55 – 1 hour 15 mins or until the cake is dark golden brown and a knife inserted into the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 mins before carefully unmoulding.   

Caitlin xx

Ginger Marmalade Cake – Test Kitchen No. 3


Dear Joe,

24th December

I went to the Christmas service at Christ church this morning with mum. We were late, throwing keys at our bike locks and taking off our coats as the bells were ringing. I’m not a church goer but the Christmas services at Christ church is a special thing worth going to. I’m not too fussed about the praying. But I like the outfits the priest wears, and hearing the choir sing and that everyone comes together in one place. The sheer volume of people that gather to be together for one moment makes me smile to my core.

I was struck by how religious the sermon was this year. It’s normally not as God heavy, with less focus on sin and Jesus as a saviour. It’s been more – applicable to everyday life, to politics and social issues. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised that the priest was speaking of Jesus and God with such conviction, he is a priest after all. I still didn’t understand it. That another person can believe so wholeheartedly in something that I just can’t believe. But I am aware that I might be the one that’s wrong. The priest might have it all sussed. And I would still choose to hear his sermon even if I knew beforehand the contents of it.

I told you these exact thoughts and you were much less confused by the difference in belief. Said it was a nice way to live, a comforting way to live. To believe in something collectively. To have something to gather for.

26th December

After a 13 hour sleep, I came down stairs to find a small green bit of paper on the dining room table. I made out mums writing and read ‘Hi Guys, I’m going for a sauna now (12.20), maybe we can go for a walk together later xx Mum’. We went on the walk later that day, and went to the boxing day sales, and a book shop, got you a hot chocolate, me and mum a coffee.

27th December

I’m still dripping from the shower as I write this, but these thoughts have occupied my whole morning, shower included. If not explicitly religious, in the sense of worship, it seems we too took part in our own spiritual ceremony. Our ceremony was more, boxing day sales, bookshops, parks and lack of coffee fuelled tantrums. No incense, church windows, hymns in chorus and Amen, as nice as that sounds. But it was still a ceremony, no less reflective, no less moments peace, no less joyful. We gathered and found each other and our places within our three as the thing to believe in.

This is Paddington Bears’ cake, and it brings a smile behind my eyes. A thick slice of white bread, generously buttered and spread with marmalade in cake form. It’s buttery dense and slightly chewy, the ginger is there because I couldn’t get the flavour combo of marmalade and ginger out my head. Safe to say it works in delicious ways. Based on a madeira cake, this one keeps well, travels well, and wants to be eaten with hands. The icing on top is pure joy, where there is a lemon water icing, there is joy lol.  

Test Kitchen Note – It was suggested to me by one I trust that it could go well with a syrup, not to make this a drizzle cake, but just to give it a bit of moisture. I love a bread like cake, and I think the chewy, buttery-ness of this loaf should be celebrated, but, if you like your cakes more on the fluffy, moist side, give it a soak – try 2 table spoons of juice from an orange, a table spoon of boiling water and 40g caster sugar, mixed together. Or even better, replace the orange juice with ginger syrup.


For the Cake

  • 200g self raising flour
  • large pinch of salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 50g crystalised ginger
  • Zest of one medium orange
  • 175g unsalted butter – softened
  • 210g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs – aprox 165g in shells
  • 60g thick cut marmalade
  • 1 tbs milk

For the Icing

  • 100g Icing sugar – sifted
  • 1 heaped tsp marmalade
  • 1 tbs + 1 tsp lemon juice


Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

In a small bowl measure out the flour, salt and ground ginger. Finely chop the crysalised ginger and add this to the flour mixture. Set aside. Zest the orange and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and a 1/3 of the sugar at a time, each time beat until just incorporated. Don’t you don’t want too much air in the cake, so don’t beat the mix beyond getting the sugar incorporated. Now beat in one egg at a time, making sure the egg has been incorporated fully before adding the next. The mixture may curdle at this stage, it’s all good.

Beat the orange zest and marmalade through the batter. Add the flour mixture and milk to the bowl, beat to combine. Pour the batter into the tin in bake for 70 – 75 mins or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning it out onto the counter to cool completely.

Mix all the icing ingreaidnets in a small bowl and pour over the cooled cake. The cake will keep for up to 5 days, covered very well or in a air tight container at room temperature.

Caitlin x

Banana Butter Crumble Cake


Ello there Joe

Your message read ‘I’m gunna do a self-care day. Cucumber on the eyes. Face packs. That kind of thing. Any tips?’ As well as ‘put cucumber on your eyes – or anyother watery, green and helthy looking veg, such as celery, or lettuce’ and ‘listen to the late night jazz playlist on Spotify’ and ‘moisturise’ I strongly believe that the planning of a successful SCD (self-care day) is sometimes just as therapeutic as the act of the SCD itself. For example, I’ve been thinking about doing yoga for the past 3 days, so much so that I feel like I’ve already done it, which is really great, becauase the time I would have spent doing yoga, I’m using to write to you. And you already started planning your SCD a couple days before you wanted to have it, so you were already winning when you sent me that message.

In preparation for this letter, I asked Coco if he had any tips for your successful SCD. Giving someone tips for such a sacred thing as an SCD is quite the undertaking, which Cokes expressed with an ‘uummmm…’ – clearly he wanted your SCD to be just right, didn’t want to set you off on the wrong path. So, I asked him to describe what self care was.

12 hours of sleep passed and Coco sent me a message, ‘self-care is losing track of time.’

With Coco’s definition, I’m an expert a self-care. A bloody professor of self-care even. I lose track of time all the time. Particularly when I’m asleep. I woke up to that message having lost track of time whilst asleep, to quite the extreme. All sounding alarms in the world wouldn’t wake me.

It is true that I was, albeit unwillingly and sharply (definitely not how you should commence your SDC) shunted into (you should go for an ‘ease into’) my SCD. On this day, I decided I would carry on loosing track of time. Maybe you could do the same for a little bit, see where you go.

Now, if I was going to bake an SCD into a cake – it would be a banana cake. Specifically this banana cake, this Banana Butter Crumble Cake. It’s got self-care written all over it. So do bananas, everyone knows bananas are healthy, a perfect snack for a SCD. And their sweetness when they are a bit old and brown affords them a comforting presence, because bananas are one of those fruits that really does have presence, and a great addition to any fruit bowl because of that, on a SCD or not.

So here is a banana cake, a great, buttery one. The name may be misleading, there’s no butter in the cake batter, olive oil takes its place giving a soft and dense crumb, but the butter is a crucial component to the crumble topping. A high proportion of butter to flour and sugar in this crumble mixture, creates a heaver, thicker biscuity topping that sinks a little into the cake as it bakes. Once cooled and sliced little pockets of butter soaked banana cake can be found near the cakes surface under lumps of crumble and flecks of brown sugar. And every now and then, you strike gold, hitting on a lump of crumble sunk into the cake and baked within the batter. Self-care cake. Like the banana cake is giving these lil crumble clusters a big old hug. haha.


For the Crumble Topping

  • 65g butter – very cold from the fridge and cubed
  • 75g plain flour
  • 45g caster sugar
  • Large pinch salt

For the Cake

  • 200g ripe banana / about 2 medium bananas – mashed
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 20g soft light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 110g olive oil
  • Scant tablespoon milk
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder


Start with the crumble topping. In a bowl rub the butter into the flour, sugar and salt using your fingertips to make a breadcrumb texture. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge or freezer while you make the cake.

Pre heat the oven to 185 / 165 fan. Grease and line with parchment paper a 7 inch / 18 cm round cake tin.

In a large bowl whisk together the mashed banana, sugars, salt, eggs, oil and milk until thoroughly combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir in until only just combined. Pour into the cake tin, top with the crumble mixture and bake for about 70 – 80 mins or until golden brown and a knife inserted into the cake comes out with some moist crumbs. Long bake, I know, don’t worry, it’s all that crumble and banana.

Lee Dixon, Big Lee, ‘Just keep playin’ (spoken in a soft Mancunian accent). Hahahah

Caitlin xx

Chocolate Pie


Hi Joe

Been turning this chocolate pie over in my mind for the past couple weeks, triggered by a want to bake you something for your birthday and by a strong pie craving. I was after a specific texture – a ‘Joe chocolate texture’ – thick, velvety chocolate mousse in the centre, surrounded by a very dense, almost brownie like chocolate mud cake exterior, all topped off by a shiny sugar crust. I wanted it in a chocolate pastry case too. Here’s how I went about my choc pie quest: I looked at cheesecake, brownie and chess pie recipes, custard and mouse recipes and had a long look at that chocolate mud cake you were obsessed with when we were young. The calculator even came out to get the ratios right.

And here it is. In all its pie glory. Between a chocolate mousse, a thick chocolate pudding and a chocolate cheesecake; the centre has an unexpected delicateness to it, left untouched it holds its own weight – and it is weighty – but relaxes and melts on impact from a fork or hands eager for pie. This centre is encased by the densest chocolate mud cake you’ve ever eaten, which is all wrapped in a bitter, sweet and flaky chocolate pastry case. These layers of texture form in the oven, the only trick is knowing when to pull it from the heat. It goes in a viscous chocolate mixture and comes out puffed up, seemingly liquid under a firm set glassy sugar crust. The pie exhales as it cools and sets satisfyingly firm.

Before the pie, or baked into it, are my thoughts about usefullness, of which I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. People really do need to feel useful. Hold that thought in your head, and you’ll start to see it everywhere. Getting a job is a great example of being useful, it’s a given that, unless there’s a specific reason you can’t work, you need to get a job, so that you can provide, do, or fix things for other people. Obviously, getting a job is important for keeping everything, like the economy (lol out of my depth here), going, but the resulting feeling of use provided by having a job to do is bound up, sometimes messily, with a notion, my notion, of self. I’m talking about things like self-worth, being needed, having a direction. As I write this, I remember we had a conversation similar to what I’m tentitivly scratching at here in a piazza in Naples this summer.

I wasn’t aware that the need to be useful was quite so strong a part of me, until I got the job I’m in now. I feel fulfilled after working, and I notice that same fulfilment in friends who are similarly at a post student moment of their life. The need to be useful skates close to a deeper, more private notion of self, called purpose. ‘I work, I am useful. I have a purpose, I am needed’ is beautifully simple mantra that signals a warm feeling of being at the right place, in the right time, doing the right thing. And we all love to be right; it forms part of the fabric of bubble wrap we are ‘fragile, handle with care’ taped in.

Thinking back on that convo in Naples, I remember we feel something similar. Only, our expectations of the work we do in our life surpass ‘usefulness’ – it seems we shoot for exceptional. This way, no one, even ourselves, can question our sense of self, our worth, that we are needed, or that we have direction.

If you’re not Joe and reading this observation as a big congratulation to the two of us for being really great, (we are, but) you’re missing my point, and I’m sorry about that. I hope this makes things clearer: my version of finding purpose, my usefulness – and everyone has their own way – was born out of circumstances that stretched my child self’s capacity of usefulness beyond what I could give. And for Joe, repeatedly felt the brunt, a harsh brunt, of supposedly not being usefull enough. I’m treading cearfully here so as not to write something I would later rather not be publiclly accessable, but you could say, the way me and Joe grew up left us feeling we had something to prove, something to fight against.

The ease with which the feeling of lacking purpose, of not being useful, finds me at the moment, is really quite impressive. There’s no failure in this, although it can feel like that, because if framed in the context of starting to work after finishing uni, it makes a lot of sense. It is becoming clear to me that we’re all making up our purpose, all the time.

My feeling of lacking in purpose becomes a bit spikey when met with that large part of me left over from when I was young that had to do a lot of fighting to prove my usefulness, or fighgint to prove, perhaps to myself, that everything was ok. I wonder if it’s similar for you Joe, might not be, maybe I should ask you lol.

We don’t have anything to prove, Joe. We are, it seems, incredibly useful, very needed, and have purpose, most of the time, for example, I purposefully went to Lidl after work to get cream cheese so I could bake you this pie. And it’s a peng pie !!!

Note On Oven Time – This pie has quite a long bake, don’t wait for it to firm up before pulling it from the oven. It won’t. This is essentially a brownie recipe combined with key elements of a cheesecake, cream, cream cheese and a low flour to batter ratio. Just like a brownie and a cheesecake, you don’t want them to bake until firm, you want them to bake and then set in the fridge. It will need at least 4 hours in the fridge before it set enough to slice, a safe bet is to let it sit in the fridge overnight before slicing. Store the pie in the fridge, covered well for up to 4 days.


For the Pastry

  • 155g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 30g sugar
  • 100g butter – cubed and cold
  • 1 egg yolk – keep the egg white to brush the interiro of the pie shell during blind baking
  • 2.5 – 3 table spoons cold water

For the Pie Filling

  • 80g butter
  • 170g dark chocolate – roughly chopped
  • 120g cream cheese – at room temperature
  • 3 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 370g caster sugar
  • 80g double cream
  • 35g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt


Start by making the pastry. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cold cubed butter, rubbing the butter into the flour mixture with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs with some larger, slightly bigger than pea size chunks of floury butter. Add the egg yolk – reserving the egg white for blind baking – followed by 2.5 tablespoons of water. Bring the crumbly mixture together into a tight ball by squeezing with your hands. If the mixture is too crumbly to hold a ball, add the extra half a tablespoon of water. Press the ball into a thick disk shape and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins, and up to 24 hours.

Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Thoroughly grease a deep 8inch pie dish or shallow cake tin including the rim of the dish – if you use a springform or loose bottom cake tin, like I did, you can lift the whole pie out of the tin before cutting, it looks cool, no other reason. Dust the tin or dish with cocoa powder if you’re worried about it sticking.

Remove the pastry from the fridge. Using a rolling pin, roll it out to a rough circle about 1/4 of an inch thick. Line your prepared tin with the pastry, making sure there are no cracks in the pastry, and it is flush with the edges of the tin. There will be some overhanging pastry, squash these bits together to rest on top of the rim of the dish – forming a thick pastry crust around the pie as it bakes. Prick the base with a fork, cover with greaseproof paper, weigh it down with baking beads or uncooked rice and blind bake the pie crust for 15 mins.

Take it out the oven, remove the weighted greaseproof to expose the pastry case, brush the interior liberally with the reserved egg white – this will act as a barrier between the pastry and the liquid filling. Return to the oven for a further 3 minutes. Once out the oven, allow to cool while you make the filling.

When you are ready to make the filling make sure the oven is on at 180 / 160 fan. Melt the butter and chopped chocolate together over a bain-marie, stirring occasionally. Once melted, take off the heat and set the mixture aside.

Using a whisk, loosen up the cream cheese in a large bowl so it becomes smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking vigorously in between each addition to combine – you don’t want to whisk air into the mixture, you just want to ensure there are not lumps. Now stir in the egg yolk, followed by the sugar and double cream.

Pour in the melted chocolate and stir again. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and give the batter a final mix, until no dry patches of flour are visible. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake for 1 hour and 10 mins. The pie will be puffed up and when gently shaken the middle will have a liquid wabble beneath the set crust. Allow to cool in the cake tin or pie dish at room temp before setting the pie in the fridge for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight.

If you are using a cake tin, it is easiest to remove the tin once the pie has been chilled. To get a nice cut of the pie, run a large knife under just boiled water, wipe the knife and cut into the pie, repeat for each slice. The pie will keep for up to 4 days, in the fridge and covered well.

Enjoy the pie Joe xx

Honey Cake with Custard Cream


Yo Joe

A nostalgic one this week.

Tiger told me about a honey cake the canteen of her secondary school used to offer up. The area she went to school in had a big Jewish community, which in turn influenced the food served in the cafes and canteens about the area. Honey Cake was one of the traditional Jewish foods Tiger had particular memories about. The cake is eaten on Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year but it sounded like Tigers school celebrated with honey cake most days.

The way Tiger described the cake to me, it’s taste and texture was with an attention to detail particular to the way people describe food from their past. It’s a special fondness I’ve notice, food nostalgia. That food is a common topic of reminiscing, makes sense to me, the immediacy of taste, smell or touch, brings the past a bit closer to now.

You’ll probs notice the very very stark lighting changes in these pics. Not an artistic choice. I had a 13 min window of light between sunrise and me having to get on my bike to work. Funny though, the changing light works pretty well with this weeks letter.

Last night me and Emma had ‘Soy Glazed Things Are Different Salmon’ for dinner. Things do feel very different. Everyone around me is becoming an adult very quickly, not a bad thing, but, and I tread carefully now so as not to read like the diary of a mid-20s graduate, (which this is hahaha) bloody nora it’s all change.

It was because of Tigers fondness towards the honey cake, probably bound up with a fondness towards her memories of pre university years, that I set about working on a recipe. He’s where I’ve ended up. A beautifully soft syrupy tasting cake paired with a custard cream, custard seeming a suitably nostalgic taste. I reckon you’d be hard pressed to find someone without a fond memory that features custard. If you find that person, please send them my way, I’ll whisk them up a custard that’ll blow their socks off haha. Honestly the cake is worth making for the cream alone, me and Emma call it ‘crack cream’. That good.

Note on Finishing The Cake – This is a sweet cake, I’ve warned you. Saying that, it’s level of sweetness is matched in lightness. Light like a cloud, this cake. If you want a bit of tang with your sweet, a bit more complexity in taste, make up the plum compote from last weeks Plum Syrup Cake Pudding, and add it on top of the custard cream between each cake layer. Make double the recipe of the compote and you’ll have enough to fill each layer of this cake.


For the Cake

  • 150g honey
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 120g water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the Custard Cream

  • 250g full fat milk
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 30g cornflour
  • 50g egg yolks – about 3 large egg yolks
  • 25g unsalted butter – softened
  • 280g double cream
  • Salt to taste – start with half a teaspoon


Preheat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Grease and line two 18 cm/ 7 inch round cake tins.

Melt the honey and butter together in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the hob. Set aside to cool slightly. In another small bowl or jug combine the vanilla, water and eggs, set this aside.

Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and bicarb in a large bowl, whisk to get rid of any lumps. Pour in the egg mixture followed by the melted butter and cream. Whisk everything to a smooth liquid batter, your only whisking to combine, don’t beat it, you’ll get a pancake not a cake. Divide the batter evenly between the two tins. Bake for 40 – 45 mins or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow the cakes to cool completely before icing.

For the custard cream, you’re making a very firm set creme patissiere and then folding through whipped cream. Start with the creme pat. Add the milk, half the sugar (25g) and the vanilla extract to a small, heavy bottom saucepan, stir to combine and heat on medium heat.

While this is heating, add the remaining sugar, corn flour and egg yolks to a bowl, whisk that together. Place this bowl on top of a tea towel set on your work surface.

When the milk is just about to boil (steaming and bubbling at the sides) take it off the heat and, with one hand pour slowly into the egg yolk mixture, as you pour the hot milk whisk the yolks continuously with the other hand, this will stop the eggs from scrambling with the heat.

Once all the milk has been incorporated into the egg yolks, pour the liquid back into the saucepan. You’re now going to cook off the cornflour and thicken the cream. Set the heat on medium and whisk vigorously until it starts to thicken. This needs to be quite firm, so once the cream is very thick you want to keep whisking fast for about another minuet. Take off the heat, add the butter in small pieces into the saucepan and stir through the cream until fully incorporated. Get it into a clean bowl and covered with cling film making sure the cling film is touching the surface of the cream to prevent a skin forming, place the bowl in the fridge to cool completely.

For the assembly, cut the domes off the cakes and slice each levelled cake into 2 layers. Using the back of a metal spoon or a spatula, work the creme pat back and forth to loosen it so it can be folded through the whipped cream easily. Whip the double cream to stiff peaks and fold through the creme pat, add salt to taste. Pick the two most sturdy looking layers of cake, one will be the top, the other will be the base. Put the base layer on your serving plate or cake stand and spread over an even layer of the custard cream, leaving a little rim of un-creamed cake around the outer edge, place the next layer on top. Repeat for each cake layer, finally smoothing the remaining cream on top of the cake. Allow to chill for an hour before slicing to give it all a chance to set (that’s if you care about getting a very neat slice of cake, that’s what I wanted this time, but you could equally go at it with a knife straight away).

Have a good Sunday Joe, and Happy Birthday Mum for tomorrow boiii !! We love you to space and back. Caitlin X

Plum Syrup Cake Pudding


Dear Joe

I’m typing this in bed, with tired hands.

Every now and then, often, if you’re lucky, there come moments in a day where life happens, where it expands and suspends at once. I really do wish these moments for everyone. Today, life happened like this – it was at the bakery. Mandal produced a small plate of perfectly baked, crispy, dappled and soft focaccia made out of dough offcuts she’d collected from the mornings work and baked off with a generous amount of salt oil. She sat it down on the bench in the middle of the kitchen with a coffee cup filled with oil and some magic chilli spice she’d fished out of the back of one of the shelves. Aron, who drives the baked goods from bakery to shop front, Mandal and me all stopped what we were doing, wordless, like choreography in a dance routine, to gather round the plate and eat the bread.

As soon as the first bit of bread was eaten, we all came to life, you know, things like words, eye contact, raised eyebrows came about. It was brilliant. One of the highlights in my day.

Like gold dust, my writing, and being alive in general depend on these moments. A vacuum pack bag would be a pretty shit place to live and would produce some equally shit prose. I’ll leave you with that haha.

Note on Plum Syrup Cake (df) (gf) – I’ve been working on a honey cake, this Plumb Syrup Cake Pudding was a happy accident in the process. This is a cake that really wants to be a dessert served with lots of cream and eaten with a spoon, but equally as good as a standalone cake with a damp and dense syrupy base topped with a tart plum compote that holds like jam but isn’t nearly as sickly sweet. This is perfect for a dessert that you need to transport or make ahead of time, and keeps really well for up to 5 days, covered airtight (not in a vacuum bag haha) in the fridge.


For the Cake

  • 55g ground almonds
  • 45g rice flour
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 50ml recently boiled water
  • 75g honey
  • 50ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

For the Compote

  • 150g plums – with the stone removed, cut into small chunks.
  • 4.5g cornflour
  • 20g granulated sugar
  • 25g lemon juice


Pre heat the oven to 190 / 170 fan. Grease and line an 18cm / 7inch round cake tin.

Measure all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. In a jug or separate bowl, mix the boiled water, honey, oil, and vanilla extract. Add this to the bowl of dry ingredients, along with the 2 eggs and whisk to combine. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 – 33 mins, or until a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning it out and topping with the compote.

While the cake cools make the compote. In a small bowl, combine 100 grams of the plums with the cornflour, making sure all the fruit is coated, set aside. In a small saucepan add 50 grams of the plums, the sugar and lemon juice. Heat on medium for 2 -3 mins. The mixture will bubble, the fruit will break down to almost a liquid and the sugar will dissolve. Depending on how ripe your plums are, you might want to use a wooden spoon to mash the mixture a bit while it bubbles away. At this stage, add the cornflour plums to the saucepan, stirring on the heat for another minute, until the cornflour has cooked off. Pour into a clean bowl and allow the compote to cool before spreading it over the cake’s top.

Enjoy the cake Joe! Missing you X

Sticky Toffee Cake with Toffee Icing – Test Kitchen No.2


Hi Joe

This cake is for Emma.


I want to write to you about the icing. Tricky. Because, as I sit down to write this, I realise I left the recipe for the icing in a storage cupboard at my old flat. I moved out yesterday. The whole process was very simple, carried out with the kind of detached mind needed when packing up and filling bags and boxes with one years’ worth of living, ready to move the contents to another location, to unpack the old way of living, and do it again. Maybe I’ll do it differently this time.

There’s something poetic that could be written about leaving this crucial recipe for toffee icing tucked away in a notebook in the cupboard of a flat I spent my last year at university in, but, life moves on in a way that often leaves little space for poetic reflection. Thank God haha. I’m now planning when I can get on my bike to retrieve the recipe.

To understand why I want to write to you about this icing, at this time, it needs a proper description.

Hot toffee is poured over the cake still sitting in the tin, which sets firm and sticky. You might forget there’s any cake beneath the layer of glassy toffee, until you unveil the cake out the tin. As you peel the baking paper collar off the cake, the icing catches and holds on, with an almost elastic quality, before giving up, and falling over the cakes edge. It’s the most beautiful kind of giving up I’ve ever seen.

The toffee falls slow and graceful, with an understated purpose of direction. Magic. The thick layer of icing that was held in place by the cake tin has set enough so that when it’s unveiled, it bunches, slowly, slowly, slowly at the edges of the cakes top, until it just keeps falling, down the sides and sinking into the cakes body.

At first a little burst of excitement, (yeahhh… haha), peeling off the paper flood gates holding the slow-moving avalanche of toffee icing. And then, a wave of comfort as you watch the icing relax into the cake. What’s incredible about this transformation, is that like most transformations, you only notice it once it’s happened. The toffee moves too slowly, or maybe your too wrapped up in its shiny beauty to notice the change.

In every way, this cakes rhythm, the way it transforms, echoes the rhythm me and Emma have when we’re together and captures how our friendship has grown. A burst of hold-your-breath, lift-your-fists-in-the-air-like-you-do-not-care and scream out with excitement, followed by a slow, barely noticeable, sinking into the reassurance of a slow pace and a hug.

Enjoy the cake Joe!

Note on the Test Kitchen – This recipe hasn’t been developed or tested multiple times. So do with the recipe what you want. You can follow it exactly, and you’ll get a delicious cake. Or you can play around with it, and make your own delicious cake.

My Notes – The cake could do with a shorter bake, so would do well in a slightly bigger tin. I’d try subbing the water with milk, next time too, to give it a bit more dairy-ness (haha, you’ll see what I mean if you give the cake a go). I love the icing, but it’s not for everyone, it really is like toffee, I reckon adding 150g icing sugar would make it more of a buttercream consistency.


For the Cake

  • 200g dates – chopped
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 85g butter – softened
  • 80g dark brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 185g self raising flour

For the Icing

  • 60g butter
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • 150g condensed milk


Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Grease and line with greaseproof paper an 18cm (7 inch) round cake tin.

In a bowl or jug combined the chopped dates, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda. Give everything a mix and set aside. In another bowl cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture has fluffed up around the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding in a tablespoon of the flour with each egg addition.

Now add the rest of the flour, the salt and dates/water to the butter sugar mixture. Stir to combine, pour into the prepared tin and bake for 65 – 75 mins, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

Once the cake has cooled, make the icing. Add all ingredients into a heavy bottom saucepan, and heat on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Let the sauce simmer until it’s a rich golden colour – 4 mins, or when a little dropped into a glass of cold water forms a soft ball/blob. Remove from the heat and whisk until it just begins to thicken. Pour over the cake still in its tin and let it set in the fridge.

When the icing feels firm, remove the cake from the tin. The icing will fall slowly down the sides and into the cake. The cake is good for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temp.

Caitlin x

Cognac Prune Cake and Perfect Pastry – Test Kitchen No. 1


Hi Joe,

There are two things on my mind as I start writing this.

It’s beginning to feel like autumn in Glasgow, the air is smelling cold and I like it. Mum said she always feels a sense of new beginning in these times. Maybe because she spent most of her life in a job that starts again every September. My September isn’t a fresh start how I’m used to, there are no more classes to go to. Sick. Haha. Still, the cold mud smell of autumn has coated Glasgow’s floor with a fresh autumn carpet. It’s quite nice, soft on the feet and sparking a desire for comfort in the evenings, nutty tasting things and bedside lamps switched on.

I love bedside lamps for their glow. I love how they instantly create a pocket of light you can dip in and out of.

The other thing I have on my mind is how I can make these letters to you feel less like they need to be perfect.

Sometimes perfect is absolutely perfect. Very necessary, even. Like, if you are sharing a recipe for a cake with a lot of people. These times ‘perfect’ is a measure of precision. Sometimes though, perfection is something you are seeking, and it’s less about accuracy. These times ‘perfect’ is a measure of satisfaction. Most often, this is a search for the most above average level of satisfaction I know to exist.

So one finger up to that kind of perfect, here’s a new kind of post. I made this cake once, from the memory of drinking cognac at night, in candle light, the rustic kind of bedside light, with a feeling of new beginnings and a sweet, nutty taste on my tongue.

Note on the Test Kitchen – I love this cake, it’s a cake that wants teeth to sink into it, but the recipe hasn’t been developed or tested multiple times. So do with the recipe what you want. You can follow it exactly, and you’ll get a delicious cake. Or you can play around with it, and make your own delicious cake.

My Notes – The pastry is the way I want it, maybe my new go to pastry, I wouldn’t change a thing. The fruit needs more cognac if this is to be called a cognac cake and the frangipane needs to be spread thinner – use a larger tin. This will likely reduce the baking time. This cake should be eaten at least once warmed up with cream and does not keep well longer than 3 days.


For the Pastry

  • 90g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 175g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

For the Cake Filling

  • 190g dried prunes and figs
  • 50g cognac
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • salt and lemon zest to taste
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 165g ground almonds
  • 80g plain flour


In a large bowl rub the butter through the flour sugar and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and cold water. Use a knife to begin clumping the mixture together, finishing off with your hands until you have a ball of pastry. Shape into a disk and put in the freezer for 15 mins.

Pre heat the oven to 180/160 fan. Grease an 8inch round cake tin, if you use a tart case make sure it is a deep one. Roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a pound coin. Use a dinner plate bigger than the tin to trace a circle out the pastry. Line this into the greased tin, the pastry will come up the sides of the tin a little.

Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes. To do this, cover the pastry with greaseproof paper, then pour baking beans, rice or lentils over the paper to weigh everything down. After 15 mins, remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans/rice or lentils and bake for another 5 mins. Remove from the oven but keep the oven on.

Roughly chop the dried fruit and put in a small saucepan with the cognac. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat off, cover, and allow to infuse while you make the frangipane. (Possibly the two most autumnal sentences I have ever written).

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, ground almonds and flour in one and mix until just combined. Tip in the cognac and fruit and mix through the frangipane before scraping into the pastry lined tin. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Speak soon, Poe. Caitlin x