Bake Off stars tell you their favourite recipes to bake yourself happy (2024)

HAVING our cake and eating it has made the nation a lot sweeter during these dark times.

Banana bread became the most-searched recipe during the national lockdown and flour sold out around the country.


Now Bake Off has been announced as Channel 4’s most-watched show in 35 years. Pauline Beaumont, author of of best-selling book Bread Therapy, says there is a science behind why baking can get us through a crisis.

The mum-of-six told us: “It forces us to slow down and go back to basics by following a recipe step by step. This moves our mind away from worrying thoughts.

“The smell of baking is also scientifically proven to make us feel happy. And when we bake something for loved ones, we get an enormous sense of achievement and it reminds us that we can provide and survive.”

Here, our favourite former Bake Off contestants give us their mood-boosting bakes.


Steph Blackwell’s Malt loaf and a cup of tea


STEPH says: “My go-to bakes when I’m feeling anxious or down are the simple ones, full of flavour and usually with a bit of meaning attached to them – a hug in a bake.

"Malt loaf brings back such comforting childhood memories. My grandma used to have a slice waiting for me after school, spread with a little butter. This one is great fuel for a workout or just enjoyed with a cuppa.”



  • 75ml of hot black tea
  • 85g Malt extract (+ extra for glazing)
  • 25g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 20g light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 120g stoned dates chopped
  • 30g sultanas
  • 2 balls of stem ginger (drained from the syrup) chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

METHOD: Preheat oven to 150C/130 fan/gas 2, grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.
Combine hot black tea, dates, sultanas, stem ginger, malt extract and sugars in a bowl.

Stir in the egg. Stir through the sifted flour and ground ginger, before quickly stirring in the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.

Pour into the tin and bake for around 50-60mins or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Optional: While still warm brush the top of the cake with a little more malt extract for extra stickiness. Leave to cool in the tin. Serve with butter and a cuppa.

David Atherton’s Almond poppy seed cake


THIS was David’s favourite recipe when he was growing up – he’s always been obsessed with the flavour of almonds.

His mum packed the cake with poppy seeds, too, to make it that bit healthier.


For the sponge:

  • 85g poppy seeds
  • 160ml whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 110ml light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp good-quality almond essence
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 60g ground almonds

For the almond glaze:

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp good-quality almond essence
  • 25g flaked almonds


You will need a 1.5 litre bundt tin or ring mould, well greased.
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan /350F/Gas 4. Put the poppy seeds and milk into a pan over a medium–high heat. As soon as the milk comes to the boil remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs and the sugar with an electric hand whisk for 3–4 minutes, until thick and creamy. Little by little, pour in the olive oil and then the almond essence, whisking between each addition, until combined.

Whisk in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds and finally the milk and poppy-seed mixture, whisking until you have a thick batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the ring comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Mix the icing sugar and almond essence together with about 1–2 tablespoons of water to give a thick, pouring consistency. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake. Toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly golden brown, then sprinkle these over the icing to finish.

  • David, Rosie and Alice’s recipes are from The Great British Bake Off: The Big Book of Amazing Cakes, with recipes by Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and The Bakers (Sphere) £20.00

Nadiya Hussain’s Money can’t buy happiness brownies


NADIYA says: “The title of this recipe says it all. Not only does the thought alone of making a batch of brownies boost your mood, the whole process is a joy because you know the end result will be amazing.

"The smell that fills your home is enough to lift your mood – but the best bit is seeing the look on your friends and family’s faces when you serve them up.”



For the brownie base:

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 280g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp instant coffee mixed with 2 tsp hot water
  • 120g plain flour, sifted
  • 30g cocoa, sifted
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 150g dark choc chips

For the nutty centre:

  • 1 x 450g jar of dulce de leche
  • 200g chopped mixed nuts or hazelnuts
  • ½ tsp salt

For the top:

  • 300g full-fat soft cream cheese
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Cocoa powder for dusting


Put the butter and chocolate in a small pan and melt gently, stirring occasionally until the mixture is liquid. Set aside to cool. Line the base and sides of a 20 x 30 x 5cm brownie tin with some baking paper so that it comes 1cm above the top of the tin, and lightly grease. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 60C/gas 4. Add the eggs, sugar and cooled coffee to a large mixing bowl and whisk until the mixture is light, thick and fluffy.

Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and whisk until the mixture no longer has any streaks in it. Then add the sifted flour, cocoa and salt and mix until you have a glossy batter. Mix the teaspoon of flour with the chocolate chips in a bowl before mixing them into the batter until well dispersed. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level off the top.

Bake for 25 minutes. While it is baking, toast the nuts in a large non-stick pan, stirring until they are a deep, golden brown. Put the dulce de leche in a bowl along with the toasted nuts and the salt, mix and set aside. As soon as the brownies are baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, spread the sticky nut mixture over the top and pop the whole thing in the freezer for 30 minutes. Adjust the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3½.

Make the cheesecake top by mixing the cream cheese, sugar, egg, almond extract, orange zest and flour together really well. Spoon and spread into an even layer over the nut mixture and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. As soon as the cheesecake is set in the centre, allow to cool totally and leave in the fridge overnight. Dust with the cocoa, take out of the tin and cut into squares. Eat, eat, eat!

  • TAKEN from Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain (Michael Joseph, £22). Photos by Chris Terry.

Rosie Brandeth-Poynter’s Chocolate beetroot cake


VETERINARY surgeon Rosie says she bakes to unwind and keep the nurses at her practice well-fed and her baking is inspired by her rural surroundings.

This is Rosie’s mum’s chocolate beetroot cake. She makes it for all family birthdays, every year. It’s a super-moist, super-easy bake that everyone loves.


For the sponge

  • 200g salted butter, diced
  • 100g 70 per cent dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 200g fresh, cooked beetroot in natural juice, finely grated
  • 200g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g dark cocoa powder
  • 250g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 large eggs

For the chocolate fudge icing

  • 200g condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g unsalted butter, diced
  • 100g 70 per cent dark chocolate, chopped


You will need two 18cm round cake tins, greased, then base-lined with baking paper. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 4. Place the butter in a medium pan over a low heat and heat gently for about 1 minute, until melted. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate.

Leave for 5 minutes, then stir until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Place the beetroot in a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and eggs, then stir in the cooled butter and chocolate mixture until fully combined. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for 30–35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely. To make the icing, pour the condensed milk into a small pan with the vanilla and warm it over a low heat for 1–2 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent burning, until the milk is hot but not boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and chocolate.

Leave for 2–3 minutes, then stir until the butter and chocolate have melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool until spreadable (about 1 hour). When the icing is ready, spread one sponge, top-side down, evenly with half the icing. Stack the second sponge on top and spread with the remaining icing to finish.

Alice Fevronia’s Pear and hazelnut cake


AT 15 years old, while recovering from a back operation for scoliosis and no longer able to do sport, Alice turned her hand to baking – and never looked back.

Alice loves the combination of flavours in this cake – and the fact that you can easily double up the recipe to add layers and make something extra-impressive for a special occasion.



  • 220g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
  • 150g 70 per cent dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 150g toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped

For the poached pears:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, halved and cored

For the maple cream cheese icing:

  • 125g full-fat cream cheese
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup

METHOD: You will need two 20cm sandwich tins, greased, then base-lined with baking paper. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and sunflower oil with a balloon whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder.

Add the pears, chocolate and hazelnuts and toss together. Then, using a large metal spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, until evenly combined. Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 20–25 minutes, or until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are baking, make the poached pears. Pour 400ml of water into a medium pan. Place over a medium heat and add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring the mixture to the boil, then gently lower the pear halves into the sugar syrup, making sure they are fully submerged. Simmer the pears in the syrup for 5–7 minutes, testing occasionally with the point of a knife, until they are tender. Remove the pear halves with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

For the maple cream cheese icing, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until very smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Then, stir in the maple syrup. Once the cakes have cooled, spread a thick layer of the icing on each cake. Thinly slice the pears and arrange the best slices on one of the cakes in a spiral. Put all the trimmings on the other cake. Stack the cakes one on top of the other, with the layer with the spiral of pears on top.

Candice Brown’s Spiced apple, date & espresso cake


CANDICE says: “This is one of my favourite bakes to make, especially now that the seasons are changing.

"With us being inside more than ever this is the perfect bake to enjoy with a hot cup of coffee.”



For the sponge:

  • 275g plain flour (plus one tbsp of extra flour set aside)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 50ml espresso (cooled)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes (either Bramley or cooking)
  • 100g chopped dates

For greasing:

  • 25g melted butter and 1 tbsp flour

For topping:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 50g chopped pecans
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 50ml of espresso and icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan / gas 4. Make one shot of espresso and set aside. In a large mixing bowl whip together the sugar and butter until pale. Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, milk, eggs and espresso.

Mix with hand mixer until fluffy and combined. Toss the cubed apple and dates into the 1 tbsp of flour that was previously set aside and fold them through the mixture.

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Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of the loaf tin with the melted butter and add a sprinkling of flour so it coats the tin. For the topping, in a small bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans.

Sprinkle this into the bottom of the loaf tin. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and level out using a spatula and place in the oven and bake for 65-70 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.


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Remove cake from the oven and turn on to a cooling rack. Leave until completely cooled. For the glaze, mix together the espresso and icing sugar to make a smooth glaze. Drizzle over the cake. Serve with a cup of coffee.

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Bake Off stars tell you their favourite recipes to bake yourself happy (2024)


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