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

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

‘Old House’, Cranberry Orange and Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream



Yo Joe

We were out to dinner, talking about these letters.

‘I love them’, you said. I felt a pin point pressure in my chest slightly up from my heart, to the top of my breastbone. It rounded out into a ball of fizzy yellowy warmth. The ball stayed there for a few minutes more, until the food arrived and my attention got taken by pasta sauce.

It was the quickest moment that fit into a conversation we had about writing, reading and the odd observation of how much bread we’d managed to eat since sitting down.

In that conversation you told me to read Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit, a collection of short essays that weave details of Solnit’s life into broader thoughts on the world. Since reading this book, it got me thinking about why I write to you about cake.

The opening essay is about trees. It talks about how they stand as symbols of continuity and how George Orwell believes in planting trees as an act of contribution to posterity. That planting a single plum tree might promise sustenance to future generations is a great thought to hold close to your heart.

There are trees that have lived for hundreds of years, they are part of a history that we weren’t even alive to see. And their roots, like you said, are connected underground across the world in a web that supports the soil we stand on. A hive of past wisdom that’s buried underground. There’s something grand, slow and peaceful about this, in the same way that a grandmother, or whale, or old house is.

Reading Solnits essay, it struck me that the reason I love cake, was because it stands as the exact opposite of the tree. The cake is not wise. And cake is also not peaceful. I’m not talking here about the act of making a cake, but of presenting and eating one. A beautiful, quick, excited example of an effort to make moments of joy. And the consumption, a brilliant and messy confirmation of the closure of celebration. Finishing the cake signals these moments will come again, like little erruptions of excitement in an individual’s lifespan. The cake isn’t wise like the tree because it’s eaten too quickly to gain any life expereince.

Solnit writes about her love of the steadfastness of trees, in the same manner of fondness I write about cake to you. She intersects her essay about trees with glimpses into her personal life. She seeks to find pockets of space where her own intimate experiences of daily life might fit into the wider world, the trees world. I find this to be infinitely comforting. Writing to you about the cake I bake skates close to Orwell’s idea in planting a tree as an act of contribution to future life. As I said, the cake has no wisdom itself, but the accumulation of the cakes I bake, the moments they signal in our life and the capturing of them in these letters I see as planting and tending to a tree that will grow on after us.

Soltin’s last line in the essay goes like this ‘…where (do) pleasure and beauty and hours with no quantifiable practical result fit into the life of someone, perhaps of anyone, who also cared about justice and truth and human rights and how to change the world.’

I write about beautiful cake to capture hours of pleasure passed. Keeping a record of them feels important. Like a way to change my small world, and maybe to add something to yours too, to give us some perspective, some past wisdom we can call on at a later date.

I’ve written this to you in a cafe in Naples where I’m waiting to get an overnight train to Zürich. I feel I should be more excited than I am, in reality I feel quite scared and like I want to jump back to London on the plane with you – I’m kicking myself for deciding to get this train. What I’m actually saying is, I’m kicking myself for a desicion that I have made – it could have been any decision. I would have doubted it and myself all the same. Writing this, I realise it is these moments where my writing offers real solice and perspective, like the steadfastness of a tree. Since I started writing this an hour and a half ago, I’ve felt refueled by cakes, trees and writing. Reasurance from letters of cakes past, each marking one moment of celebration or consolation, these letters very existance is evidence enough for me that more of these moments will come.


I’ve since come back to Oxford from Zürich and a long trip around Italy. It was amazing. And the overnight train that kicked off this adventure, I would do again in a heartbeat. This cake is for Cokes, who I got the overnight train to Zürich to meet, and who is sitting on the sofa next to me in Oxford as I write this. It’s his spirit cake, both joyous and wise, where a play between the excitement of a celebration cake and a depth of flavour brings each slice alive. It’s a really brilliant cake, you should make it.

Note On Berries – I first made this cake in December, for Coco’s birthday, so fresh cranberries were easy to find. Sour cherries are a great alternative for this time of year, that’s the fruit I used for these picturse. You can also use any frozen berries of your choice, just make sure to reduce the oil to 5 ml.

Note On Tins – this is a forgiving cake that is difficult to overbake and works well in a slightly larger or smaller tin that I have written in the method, just be sure to adjust the baking time.


For The Cake

  • 45g plain natural yoghurt or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 75g plain flour
  • 135g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest of one orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons / 6g baking powder
  • 10ml / 2 teaspoons vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 120g fresh cranberries or sour cherries

For the Topping

  • 40g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 50g caster sugar
  • A small handful of flaked almonds (optional)

For The Vanilla Mascarpone Cream – you may have extra

  • 90g mascarpone, room temperature
  • 60g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 70g double cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 30g icing sugar


Preheat oven to 180 / 160 fan oven. Grease and line 2 7inch / 18cm round cake tins.

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the topping to form a paste. Set aside.

Combine the yoghurt and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside. Combine the ground almonds and plain flour in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, lemon and orange zest, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one after another adding a heaped tablespoon of the flour and almonds mixture with each egg addition – this will stop the mixture from curdling too much. Add in the oil and beat to combine. Now add the rest of the flour and almonds, baking powder and yoghurt mixture in one go, mix until just combined. Fold the cranberries or other berries through the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between each cake tin. Top one tin with small lumps of the topping paste, making sure it is evenly distributed.

Bake for 35 – 40 mins or until golden brown and a knife inserted into the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool.

Whist together all the ingredients for the vanilla mascarpone cream until it reaches soft peaks. When the cake is cooled, sandwich the two halves with the mascarpone cream.

Once filled, the cake will keep for 3 days in an airtight container. Past one day, keep the cake in the fridge, this is due to the cream filling.

To cakes, trees and writing. Caitlin x

Sugared Green Apple Thyme Cake


Yo Joe

I’ve been thinking of this scene from the Matrix for the last two weeks. I’ve dreamt about it, thought about it in the shower, eating dinner, running. Had a lot of conversations about it too. With Emma having a coffee, Coco in a sauna and Máté on a park bench. The scene is lodged in my head.

Imagine it for a second. No longer than a second though, mum told me this was the film that gave you 5 years of nightmares when we were kids. So, for a second only, think of the bit where the main man with the sunglasses is on a roof, dodging bullets. Who, or what, is firing the bullets – your guess is as good as any, but they’re coming from every angle. Main Matrix man’s reflexes, and the bullets, are moving at lightning speed, in deep, breathy slow motion.

Someone ran out of bullets. Only one thing for it… to lob their afternoon snack at main Matrix man. The crunchiest, juiciest, just-plucked-from-the-tree, green apple. Cutting through the air, the green globe is spinning slowly on its axis headed to hit our main man dead centre in the forehead. He knows it. I know it. You know it. The apple, poor sod, doesn’t know it. The apple is just catapulting through the air, fast in a direction that it’s unsure of only so far as it hasn’t chosen it. But holy moly, this tasty morsel is moving with impressive conviction.

Time is slowed to an 8th of its normal pace; a thicker wave of bullets now, like a fleet of mini submarines (llolll what an effective use of a simile). But Matrix man is fixated on the green apple globe about to bonk him. A bullet impact would be far more painful, but nothing comes close to the fixation, fear and… bewilderment at something as out of place as a green apple flying through a battle field. With a sharp backwards back bend and a chin tuck, Matrix man dodges, only just clearing a path for the apple to drive through.

That’s where it ends, the scene that’s been playing in my head. I never see what happens to the apple. I only see its impressive globe greenness, and its shininess, and the sheer speed of it hurtling through the air in slow motion. The apple might be a bit baffled by the speed of the situation, only, its rapid movement forward doesn’t allow for it. The only way I can comprehend the apple’s feeling is the way the scene is distilled, neatly, but disorientingly, in mega pixel slow motion (lol what’s that?).

I have to confess, I’ve never watched the Matrix. And I’ve come to find, that scene doesn’t exist. I realise it would’ve been impressive to have a memory of a scene in mind from a film I’d never watched, but I was pretty convinced. Ever since I handed in my dissertation and finished my degree, there popped up that green apple Matrix scene. I’ve been describing it to everyone. Emma told me it made her think of Magritte’s The Son Of Man and it got me and Máté googling ‘what does you are the apple of my eye mean?’

When I realise half way through narrating this scene that the listener has watched the Matrix, I cut to the chase, tell them that I feel like that green apple. A bit lost in air and space, no ground at my feet, moving slow, a bit adrift, but hurtling so surly in a direction that I can’t comprehend, through a world that’s too quick for its own good.

Thyme gives this cake a lemony savoriness that’s initially surprising, and then addictive. It creeps up on you, and then demands to be craved. Cream cheese gives a crumb that’s soft and buttery, that holds integrity. Sugared chunks of green apple add layers of sweet and sour in equal measure that sing a lil bit when hit against the thymey cakey base(y – haha). Like I said, arresting, and then, it melts together in comforting, thrilling ways.

A Note On Thyme. You need fresh thyme leaves for this cake, so you’ll need to hand pluck them from the stalks. Yup, it takes time, but it makes a good thing in the end. I’m heavy handed with my spices and herbs, I’m not one for their subtle use. If you prefer a less punchy herb or spice experience, go for 1 and a half teaspoons.    


  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, amount to taste
  • 160g green apple, aprox. 2 small apples peeled cored and cubed
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 170g caster sugar, plus a tablespoon extra to finish the cake before the oven
  • Zest of an orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 130g plain flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan oven. Grease and line a 22cm / 8inch round cake tin.

Peel, core and cube the apples. Don’t worry too much about getting exactly 160g. Just keep in mind, if you go a lot over that weight, the cake will take longer to bake, resulting in a tough cake texture. Strip the thyme leaves off the stalks and give the leaves a rough chop. Set both aside while you make the cake batter.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest until fluffed up, about 1 min. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated between each addition.

To the bowl, add the thyme leaves, cream cheese, flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Give everything a gentle mix until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix the batter. You should end up with a soft but thick-ish batter. Smooth it out into the cake tin, scatter over the cubed apple and the tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 50-55 mins, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean but with a few moist crumbs still attached. The cake will keep covered for 4 days, but this one is best eaten on the day or the day after.

Till next thyme, Caitlin x