If you find yourself really fancying cake mid-afternoon (or any other time for that matter), these are the cake recipes bringing us mellow fruitfulness and autumnal joy.

There is no better time of the year to eat cake. Sure, every season is cake season for the committed baker, but there is nothing quite like this particular shift in seasons, from high summer to early autumn, to make us want to knock up comforting cakes to eat with big cups of tea, preferably from under the comfort of a blanket. The winning thing is that many of them feature the glut of mellow fruits with which the season is synonymous. Grab a pot of tea and your slippers, and tuck into one of these seasonal beauties.

Main image: Hairy Bikers/ BBC

Brown Butter Pear Cake

Olive Magazine

As the days get shorter and the temperatures colder, this amazing cake should be considered little short of medicinal, such is it pep-me-up properties. The secret lies in cooking the butter until it is brown and nutty, and then immersing the pears in a little sugar until they are caramelised. Moist and moreish, it is one that can be served up with a brew at teatime or after a dinner party with a good dollop of cream or ice cream. Find the recipe here.

Bramley Apple and Olive Oil Cake

Saga Magazine/ Frances Atkins

The humble apple comes into its glorious own come the season of gold and russet. And while we will always be loyal to the classic apple crumble (especially with an addition of a blackberry or plum), this fruity, spiced apple cake by Michelin starred chef Frances Atkins is heavenly. Cinnamon, walnuts, Bramley apples, sultanas and olive oil: is there a cake more redolent of the season than this? Find the recipe here.

Chocolate And Cherry Buns

The Hairy Bikers/ BBC

We do love a bake that is so good, it invites you to tear and share (the latter only if you’re lucky enough to catch us on a generous day). This is one such, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers. It features glacé cherries, chocolate chips and an optional ice glaze, which we highly recommend you opt into. Maple syrup, cinnamon, mixed spices and soft brown sugar on top of the two headlining ingredients ensure that this is a bake of unalloyed autumn joy. Find the recipe here.

Blackberry, Bay and Honey Tart

Anna Jones/ Soil Association

Less cake, more tart, we wouldn’t kick this beautiful dish off our teatime table on the technicality. Equally though, it would make a knock-out pudding at a dinner party. Any which way, we adore the combination of the almond and spelt pastry, the honey-sweetened frangipane, the blackberry compote and the scattering of blackberries. It also features the zest of a lemon and a clementine, making the whole affair vibrant, zesty, and exceptionally moreish. Find the recipe here.

Sticky Gingerbread Puddings With Ginger Wine And Brandy Sauce

Delia Smith/ BBC

Be still our beating hearts! This may officially be a pudding, but we prefer to think of it as an individual cake, thereby justifying our impulse to tuck in mid-afternoon. After all, as the great Delia reminds us, they freeze beautifully and are therefore perfect as a ready-made pick-me-up. Featuring stem ginger, cinnamon, cloves, ginger wine and brandy, this is a properly indulgent precursor of the festive pud. We say, all the better for getting in training as Christmas twinkles on the horizon. Find the recipe here.

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Olive Magazine

For weeks now, our fruit bowls have been overflowing with plums, the sweet yet tart glory of the season. But even we can reach our limit of post breakfast, lunch and supper plum scoffing straight from the bowl, and find ourselves looking for other ways to use these dark jewels. This plum upside-down cake answers the question beautifully. Vivid and vibrant, it also includes the addition of couscous. Unorthdox? Maybe, but it really, really works, aping the nutty crunch of polenta in the context of a cake. A beautiful bake, in every sense. Find the recipe here.

Venetian Carrot Cake


Venice is never not a good idea, even if we must be transported there by cake alone. As Nigella notes, this is a far cry from the popular American rendition of a carrot cake, its more modest shape far less sweet than its trans-Atlantic cousin. And yet, it’s a true winner. Plus, we’ll never not delight in the Italian tradition for pine nuts atop bakes. Nigella writes, ‘This modest disc is very different from the gargantuan US model with its rich sweet cream-cheese filling and topping, and although - apart from a glorious – it's not much to look at, it is divine to eat. It also has the added virtue of being attractive to those with dairy and gluten allergies: it came to me dairy free, and I decided to use ground almonds in place of flour to keep the gluten-averse brigade happy, too, but more particularly because it tastes perfect to me like this. Only those with less austere eating habits will care to dollop alongside each damply crumbling wedge of cake my Italianate nod to the American cream-cheese frosting - a soft, rum-flavoured mascarpone cream.’ We’d keep it simple and serve au naturel. Find the recipe here.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2021

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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.