Sunday 25 February 2018

Scrumptious Cinnamon Buns for London's hippest baker

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery.
Cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery.
Summer spelt almond cake.
Coffee Cardamon cakes
The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak.
Cinnamon buns - step 2.
Cinnamon buns - step 2.
Cinnamon roll - step 3.
Cinnamon buns - step 4.

Of course a soft yeasty bun can be a wonderful thing, but at Violet we have never had enough space to work with yeasted bread doughs. They take up more room and need larger machines.

I came up with these yeast-free buns in my home kitchen by looking back through the cookbooks of the 1950s when everything was about how to make things more quickly. Quick breads, as breads leavened with baking powder or baking soda are called, were an alternative to time-consuming yeast or sourdough breads. Truly, they are something altogether different. They both have their place on the table. This recipe can also be made ahead and then frozen in the muffin tray until ready to bake.

Makes 12 buns


75g unsalted butter

250g light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


560g plain flour, plus more for rolling

2 tbsp baking powder

2 tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp ground cardamom

240g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

300g cold milk

Caster sugar, for dipping

Butter, for greasing the tin


Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/gas 6.

Butter a 12-cup deep muffin tray.

First, prepare the filling. Melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid. Mix together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

Now make the dough. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms into a ball and comes away from the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Clear a large surface, dust lightly with more flour and roll out the dough into a large rectangle until about 5mm thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the butter. You want a good, slightly thick layer.

Now roll the dough up, starting at the long side, keeping it neat and tight. Gently tug the dough towards you to get a taut roll whilst rolling away from you into a spiral. Once it's all rolled up, gently squeeze the roll to ensure it's the same thickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom of the roll. Place in the muffin tray, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Bake the buns for 25 minutes. As soon as they're out of the oven, flip them over on to a wire cooling rack, so that they don't stick to the tray. Dip each cinnamon bun into a bowl of caster sugar and serve straight away.

Coffee cardamom walnut cakes

Coffee Cardamon cakes

I love the English coffee walnut cake that appears on the menu of every museum café and National Trust house I visit. I've always loved the flavour of coffee in cakes and desserts. When I was little, my favourite ice cream flavour was coffee and I could never say no to a coffee éclair. Adding cardamom to the sponge gives this walnut cake another depth. The three flavours marry very well.

Makes 12 individual cakes


75g walnuts

210g plain flour

¾ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp fine sea salt

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground pink peppercorns

180g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

2 eggs

1½ tsp vanilla extract

210g crème fraiche

Butter, for greasing the tins


200g icing sugar

2 tbsp freshly brewed strong coffee or espresso


Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C (fan)/gas 3.

Brush a 12-hole cupcake tin with butter.

First, warm the walnuts through on a baking tray in the oven. Do not toast them, you just want to bring out the fragrant oils. This should take less than 5 minutes. Let the nuts cool slightly then chop fine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices, then whisk this mixture through the chopped nuts. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, whisk the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated, then add the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour and nut mixture and then the crème fraiche.

Divide the batter between the 12 tins and bake for 20 minutes until the cakes spring back to the touch. Let the cakes cool in their tins for about 10 minutes, then gently pop them out (you may need to run a small paring knife around the inside of the tins to ease the cakes out). Place the cooled cakes upside down on a wire rack.

Whisk together the ingredients for the icing and spoon it over the cakes. Use the back of a spoon to gently guide it to the edges so that it willingly drips down the sides.

Summer spelt almond cake

iwSummer spelt al.jpg
Summer spelt almond cake.

This nutty light cake is perfect for scattering any summer fruits on top. Some will sink in and some will rest on top. If you want a less sweet cake, you can leave out the rose water icing.

Makes one 23cm cake, which cuts into 8-10 slices


175g butter, softened, plus more for greasing the tin

175g light brown sugar

2 eggs

¼ vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

125g ground almonds

175g wholemeal spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

200g halved cherries, or whole raspberries or blueberries

200g peaches or nectarines, sliced

2 tbsp caster sugar, for sprinkling

Rose petals, for scattering on top (optional)

FOR THE ICING (optional)

200g icing sugar

1-2 tbsp rose water


Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan)/gas 3. Butter a 23cm cake tin and line with parchment paper.

First make the sponge. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and very fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla seeds. Add the almonds and mix to combine.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then gently beat these dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture. The mixture will be rather stiff but that's OK.

Spread the cake batter into your prepared cake tin and smooth the top with a palette knife or spatula. Scatter the cherries (or raspberries or blueberries) over the batter, then press the slices of peach (or nectarine) down on top to get the fruit inside the cake batter a bit.

Sprinkle with the caster sugar and bake for about 60-70 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake springs back to the touch. Let the cake cool in its tin for about 15 minutes before turning it out on to a serving plate.

If using the icing, whisk the rose water into the icing sugar until smooth and runny. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Scatter with garden rose petals if you have them. This is best eaten on the day you bake it.

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