Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal CakeOne of my earliest memories of baking is making coconut fingers with my grandmother. She would lay out a dish of shredded coconut and one of condensed milk, trim the crusts off white bread and slice them into fingers. I would carefully dip the fingers into the sticky sweet milk and then the coconut and lay them on a baking tray. We would both watch them through the glass door of the oven, pulling them out when they were toasty and golden. They were delicious – crunchy, sweet and chewy.

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake

I was instantly transported back to my childhood kitchen when I tasted the caramelised topping of this cake.  It’s not going to win any awards for its looks but, my goodness, it is delicious. The cake itself is dense and moist with the soaked oats but redolent with the flavours of  a carrot cake. I have developed it from the retro Lazy Daisy Cake that was popular in America in the 30’s and 40’s. There are some wonderful stories in the blogosphere about people’s memories of their grandmother making this cake and you know how I love a little history! This is a one bowl cake that just needs a brisk stirring with wooden spoon to bring it together. For a lighter crumb, you could make this in a more traditional way by not soaking the oats, creaming the sugar and butter, then the eggs and finally adding all the dry ingredients but that would take away from the “lazy” aspect of it. I do plan to make it in a more traditional manner to compare.

I left the cake under the grill/broiler for a little too long and burnt some of the topping – I scraped off the worst of it and put it back for another 30 seconds but really was not enamoured of how it looked. Jake came home from school and asked if he could try some, to which I replied, “Not until I’ve photographed it.” The next morning, (I know, I am so mean keeping him waiting that long but in my defence the light was terrible by the time he got home and this cake needed all the help it could get to look even remotely appetising!) I reluctantly tipped it out of  the tin and set it up for the camera, not feeling very inspired at all. It was an ugly, brown, lumpen slab not doing much, so I decided to slice it up into squares. I tried a  bit and was really taken aback at how gloriously tasty it was. I called Jake down to try some and he absolutely loved it – said the base tasted like a carrot cake and that the topping was amazing. A proper ugly duckling! Felt like I had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat…

I have developed this recipe from one I saw on Serious Eats but have cut back a huge amount on the sugar and added carrots, sultanas and spices to make it a little more nutritious. This is my version:

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake Measure the oats into the mixing bowl and stir in the milk and water – leave to soak for 20 minutes – also soak the sultanas in a separate bowl at the same time. In the meantime, grate the carrots and measure out and ensure the butter is really soft  (see my Tips and Tricks page for a few ways to achieve this if the butter too hard). Place the bowl back on the scales and add the sugar. Then add the salt, vanilla, carrots, butter and drained sultanas and stir really well to combine. The residual heat from the oats and sultanas will help to break up and distribute the butter. Beat in the eggs and coconut until combined.

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal CakePlace the bowl back on the scales and measure in the flour. Add the spices and baking powder and mix well. Scrape into the prepared baking tin and level out. Bake for 30 minutes.

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal CakePlace the same (unwashed) mixing bowl on the scales and measure in the two types of coconut, the sugar, the walnuts , the milk and the very soft butter. Stir really well to make a coarse mixture. When ready, remove the cake from the oven, turn on the grill/broiler and top the hot cake with the coconut mixture, spreading it as evenly as possible. Place under the grill/broiler just until the topping turns golden and caramelises – this should only take a minute or two – don’t walk away like I did as it does burn very quickly.

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake

Ugly Duckling Carrot and Oatmeal Cake

  • Servings: 16 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake by Yvonne Ruperti on Serious Eats


  • 100 g rolled oats
  • 150 ml just boiled water
  • 100 ml milk
  • 75 g sultanas
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 115 g butter – very soft
  • 150 g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 100 g shredded carrot (2 medium ones)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g sweet shredded coconut
  • 180 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp allspice

For the topping

  • 85 g butter – very soft
  • 75 g light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp/45ml milk
  • 150 g sweet shredded coconut
  • 50 g coconut flakes
  • 75 g walnuts, chopped


  1. Stir together the oats, water and milk and leave for 20 minutes.
  2. Place the sultanas in a bowl and cover with just boiled water.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 175C/ 350F and grease or paper a 9″ square pan.
  4. Drain the sultanas.
  5. Mix the salt, butter, shredded carrots, sultanas, sugar and vanilla into the oats and blend with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  6. Beat in the eggs and coconut blending well.
  7. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and stir until just mixed.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30 mins or until just set.
  9. In the meantime, make the topping by combining all the ingredients.
  10. When the cake is ready, turn on the grill (broiler).
  11. Spread the topping as evenly as you can over the warm cake.
  12. Grill/broil for about a minute or two until it is lightly golden…the topping burns very easily so don’t walk away like I did (to write up this post!).
  13. Cool in the tin on a wire rack.





Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealOatmeal is not something I enjoyed as a child. My memories of porridge is that it was quite thin and watery and not very tasty at all – which is quite at odds with the delicious food I grew up with. When I began baking in my teens, I found that oatmeal was brilliant to make chewy chocolate chip cookies with.  I also discovered those packets of flavoured instant oats which bolstered me up during what felt like endless sessions of binge revision. As a mother of a school age child, I knew how nutritious and sustaining porridge is for those dark, cold, wintery school mornings and set about making it delicious as well. I don’t know if this is how you make it but I put a cup of oats in a pan and toast them slightly, I then add 2 cups of milk and one of water and stir over a medium low heat until thick and creamy. I ladle a portion into a shallow rimmed bowl, shake over some cinnamon and sprinkle it with 1 dessert spoonful of Demerara  sugar which goes syrupy. I peel a tangerine or a clementine and arrange the segments around the lip of the bowl like chubby rays of sunshine. Sometimes, I add some frozen blueberries to the bottom of bowl before ladling in the porridge. By the time my son gets to the table, dressed for school, the porridge has cooled down sufficiently to not delay him and I am quietly smug in the knowledge that he’s not going to be experiencing that mid morning sugar crash AND that I’ve managed to get 1 or 2 portions of fruit in him already. At the weekends, breakfasts are a more leisurely affair; eggs and sausages or french toast or pancakes but oatmeal doesn’t figure.

Until now, that is. I saw a photo for Oatmeal Casserole (which sounds a little grim, don’t you think?) on Pinterest and then surfed through several recipes for Baked Oatmeal, many of which included chocolate. This is my version which is full of healthy ingredients and tastes absolutely delicious. It’s warm, fruity, nutty and chewy. It takes about 15 minutes to put together and needs half an hour in the oven, filling the kitchen with gorgeous aromas as it bakes. It is ideal for a weekend breakfast. Left overs can be taken into to work or frozen in portions and warmed up in the microwave. You can chop and change the fruit and nuts to suit your palate or take into account what is in your cupboards. This is also something that you could bake in the evening during the week, to effortlessly have ready for the following morning.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealPlace the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, walnuts, dried fruit and half the blueberries in a large bowl.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealGrate in the orange zest and mix thoroughly.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealSlice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the oven safe dish. Cover with the dried mixed ingredients (which I forgot to photograph!)

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealJuice the orange.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealWhisk the wet ingredients together in the same mixing bowl you used for the dry ingredients. (If you want to substitute honey or agave syrup for the sugar, add it now, to the wet ingredients.) I find that it is best to “temper” melted butter by slowly whisking in a little cold milk into it and then adding it to everything else. Otherwise, the melted butter just solidifies into fat globules that float on top.

IMG_6150Slowly and gently, pour the wet mixture over the oatmeal mix.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealScatter over the remaining blueberries and the coconut flakes. (If you wish to use desiccated coconut instead, mix it in with the dry ingredients.) Slice the second banana and arrange over the top and bake for half an hour. (A scattering of pumpkin or sunflower seeds would be nice too.)


Baked-fruit-and-oatmealServe warm with a dollop of yoghurt.

I have included some vegan options for the dairy and egg but these are untested by me. Thanks to Susan Edelman of watchhatchfly for the information!

Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 cups oats (anything but instant or quick cook)
  • 1/4 cup muscavodo (or brown) sugar plus enough for a sprinkle later
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup walnut pieces – broken up to make them smaller
  • ½ cup dried mixed fruit like cranberries and cherries or apricots and raisins or dates
  • 1 cup of blueberries divided into two portions
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 3tbsp/45g  melted butter (or vegan soy spread/coconut oil)
  • 2 cups milk ( or soy milk/almond milk/rice milk)
  • 1 large egg ( or applesauce/mashed banana/vegan egg replacer/ground chia and flax seeds)
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • yoghurt to serve (or coconut milk or soy milk yoghurt)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F.
  2. Butter or oil an oven safe dish (mine is 28 x 20cm/11″x 8″).
  3. Thoroughly mix the first 9 ingredients (using only half the blueberries)  in a large bowl to distribute everything evenly.
  4. Slice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the dish.
  5. Cover with the dry mixed ingredients.
  6. In the same bowl that you used for the dry ingredients, lightly whisk the egg.
  7. Slowly whisk a a cup of milk into the cooled butter to amalgamate it and pour it and the second cup of milk onto the whisked egg together with the vanilla and the orange juice and whisk again.
  8. Slowly and evenly pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients.
  9. Scatter over the remaining portion of blueberries and the coconut flakes (some seeds would be nice too).
  10. Top with the slices from the second banana.
  11. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
  12. Sprinkle a little more brown sugar over the top and leave to cool a little.
  13. Serve warm with yoghurt.

Breakfast Bars

Breakfast BarsMade these lovely Breakfast Bars yesterday inspired by a twitter link from Nigella Lawson. Other than the condensed milk, the ingredients are super healthy and these bars taste much nicer that the cereal ones that you can buy.  I had lots of seeds left over from making the Seeded Spelt Crackers which were perfect for this recipe.

Breakfast BarsFeel free to use the recipe as a template. You could use varied types of nuts and dried fruits, chocolate chips (not so healthy then) and even add cinnamon or drizzle the top with chocolate. These Breakfast Bars come together in minutes and bake for an hour – who could ask for more?!

Breakfast Bars


  • Servings: 16 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Breakfast Bars 


  • 1 x 397 g can caramel condensed milk (or use plain)
  • 250 g rolled oats (not instant)
  • 75 g shredded coconut
  • 100 g dried berry mix – mine had raisins, cranberries and cherries
  • 125 g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed, sesame)
  • 100 g flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 130°C/250ºF and oil a 23 x 33 x 4cm / 9 x 13 inch baking tin, or use one of those disposable foil trays if you have one lurking around from the summer which is what I did.
  2. Measure out all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well to distribute evenly.
  3. Heat the caramel condensed milk in a large pan and when it is warm, give it a good stir and take if off the heat.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients and give it a good mix.
  5. Scrape it out into the prepared pan and  pat it out as evenly as you can.
  6. Bake for one hour, checking after 50 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 15 minutes then, using a long knife, slice into four long bars, then give it a quarter turn and slice into four again.
  8. Store in an air tight tin.