I appreciate any excuse to thank my mother and express my gratitude for her love (and patience!) in raising me and my sister. Being a mother has certainly given me an informed perspective on much of what she had to go through, though I don't think you need to be a mother yourself to understand just how impressive mothers can be.
Just as with most occasions in life, I think the best way of showing my appreciation is to cook food! I remember one Mother's Day when I was nine, I knitted my mum a lurid pink loo-roll holder. I may have thought it was beyond chic, but I suspect that she would have much preferred something to eat, or indeed almost anything at all!
There are few more gratefully received gifts than a freshly baked cake, whether it's the dessert at a Mother's Day meal, or simply to enjoy with a cup of tea.
The cardamom yoghurt cake, opposite, has a real Middle Eastern taste to it. Cardamom is one of my favourite spices to use in desserts, and especially in a cake. It has a floral quality that I think works so well as a sweet spice. In Middle Eastern desserts, it's often used in combination with rose water, and more often than not, with a sprinkling of brilliant green pistachios.
This cake uses a technique that is simple, yet so effective it almost feels like cheating. Rather than just hoping for a moist cake right of the oven, this cake is soaked with a sweet syrup, guaranteeing that every bite will be perfectly moist. The addition of the syrup also means the cake will keep for much longer - up to a week.
The lavender cake, opposite, is a more elaborate recipe, and would work wonderfully for dessert. It uses a gorgeous rhubarb curd recipe that is actually very easy to put together - just make sure you don't have the heat too high and that you're stirring constantly, otherwise you risk making rhubarb scrambled eggs!
Cardamom yoghurt cake
You will need:
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g (3oz) ground almonds
100g (3½oz) caster sugar
2 teaspoons of the black inner seeds from green cardamom pods, crushed, see my Tip, above
1 generous tablespoon or 50g (2oz) runny honey
250ml (9fl oz) natural yoghurt, unsweetened
150ml (¼pt) sunflower oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
For the syrup, you will need:
150ml (¼pt) water
100g (3½oz) caster sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons rose water
For decorating, you will need:
50g (2oz) unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (optional)
Rose petals, fresh or candied (optional)
To serve, you will need:
Cream, or natural yoghurt or Greek yoghurt
Sliced mangoes or berries
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Line the base and sides of a 22cm (8½in) springform or loose-bottomed cake tin with parchment paper.
Into a large bowl, sift together the self-raising flour, the baking powder and the pinch of salt. Add the ground almonds, the caster sugar and the crushed cardamom seeds, and mix.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the eggs, the runny honey, the unsweetened natural yoghurt, the sunflower oil and the finely grated lime zest. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients in the large bowl and slowly pour in the wet ingredients from the medium-sized bowl, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined. (At this point, if you wish, you can add to the mixture some of the chopped unsalted pistachios, if you're using them. Or you can keep them all for decorating).
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes.
While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, boil the water and the caster sugar together for about five minutes until the mixture has reduced by half. Add the lime juice and boil for a further two minutes. Allow it to cool and add the rose water, using one or two tablespoons according to your taste.
With a fine skewer, make holes on top of the warm cake and, with a tablespoon, spoon the syrup all over the top. Scatter the roughly chopped pistachios over, if you are using them, and leave to settle for one hour. You can decorate the cake with rose petals, fresh or candied, if you are using them.
Serve with cream, natural yoghurt or Greek yoghurt, sliced mangoes or berries.
Lavender sponge cake with rhubarb curd
For the lavender sponge, you will need:
Butter for greasing the tins
175g (6½oz) sugar
A pinch of salt
150g (5½oz) flour
2 teaspoons lavender buds, finely chopped (off the stems)
125g (4½ oz) butter, melted
Extra lavender buds for decoration (optional)
Softly whipped cream, to serve
For the rhubarb curd, you will need:
550g (1lb 4oz) rhubarb, cut in to 1cm (½in) slices (weigh when sliced and trimmed)
200g (7oz) sugar
75g (2½ oz) butter
3 eggs, whisked
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.
Line the base of three 18cm (7 in) cake tins and butter the sides.
To make the sponge, put the eggs, the sugar and the pinch of salt in a bowl. Using an electric whisk, beat for about 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has tripled in volume to a light and fluffy mousse. Sift the flour into the mousse mixture and then fold it in, along with the finely chopped lavender buds and the melted butter - work quickly but carefully so that too much air does not escape.
Divide the cake mixture between the three prepared tins and place them in the oven. Bake the cakes for 22-25 minutes until they are a light golden colour and a skewer inserted into the centre of each one comes out clean. Take the cakes out of the oven and let them sit in the tins for a few minutes, then take them out and allow them cool on a wire rack.
Next, make the rhubarb curd. Put the sliced rhubarb and 50g (2oz) of the sugar in a saucepan on a medium heat, stirring every so often. Cook for about 5-6 minutes until the rhubarb has softened, broken up completely and the mixture has thickened to a pulp.
Pour the mixture into a sieve that is sitting over a bowl. Push the mixture through the sieve into the bowl, making sure to scrape the underside of the sieve to get every last bit.
Next, put the butter in the cleaned saucepan on a low to medium heat and allow it to melt. Take the saucepan off the heat just while you add in the whisked eggs, the remaining 150g (5oz) sugar and the rhubarb puree. Put the saucepan back on a low heat and stir it all the time for about 2-3 minutes, until the mixture has thickened. Take the saucepan off the heat, then tip the rhubarb curd into a bowl and allow it to cool.
When you're ready to assemble the cake, place one cake (save the cake with the best-looking top for the top) upside down on a plate or a cake stand. Place half of the rhubarb curd on top and spread it out. I like to allow the curd to drip slightly over the edges. Put the next cake, right side up, on top, then cover it with the rest of the curd, as before. Finally, top with the third (and best-looking) cake. Dust it with icing sugar, and decorate with some more lavender buds if you like.
If you wish, you can also spread some whipped cream between the layers of the cake along with the rhubarb curd, though only do this if the cake is all going to be eaten on the day that it's made. Otherwise, serve it with some softly whipped cream on the side.