Cakes with a conscience

From meringues to friands to cinnamon swirls, three brilliant bakes from social enterprise Luminary Bakery’s new cookbook

Image © Matt Scheffer

It’s no surprise that we’re big fans of baking here at hush HQ. From whipping up the softest buttercream to the glorious moment we finally bite into a freshly-baked biscuit, we seriously love our bakes. But there is one thing we love even more, and that’s cake for a good cause.

Enter Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise created in 2013 for women looking for a safe space. Here, women are provided with holistic training and support to help them escape gender-based violence and exploitation, and overcome issues such as poor mental health, homelessness and convictions in the criminal justice system. 

The idea came to founder Alice Williams when she was working at a London café while volunteering with Door of Hope – a charity that provides support to homeless women caught up in the sex industry. As she talked to these women, Alice was struck by how many of them felt trapped. From this, the idea for Luminary Bakery was born.

Since then, Luminary has opened two cafés in London (bright, friendly and delicious spots that locals descend on in search of the capital’s best cinnamon swirls) and won high-profile champions including Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. This month sees the release of its first cookbook, Rising Hope. Full of its signature bakes and stories of the women it has helped, this incredible book aims to inspire hope and spread Luminary’s legacy far and wide. We love it. 

You may have seen the recipe for their crisp and cherry-filled meringues in the September print issue of Life etc., but Luminary Bakery has been kind enough to share two more of their gorgeous recipes with us: aromatic Earl Grey and lemon friands and fluffy cinnamon swirls. Providing the perfect sweet treat, they’re ideal paired with a cup of tea and a catch up with friends.

Be sure to check out Luminary Bakery’s website and their recipe book Rising Hope (available now, £20) for more information.

Lemon and Earl Grey friands 

INGREDIENTS
Makes 12

For the friands:
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
Gluten-free or plain flour, for dusting
1 Earl Grey tea bag, ripped open (see tip)
250g icing sugar
½ tsp fine salt
200g ground almonds
6 medium egg whites
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
30g flaked almonds

To decorate:
3 tbsp lemon curd
1 tbsp hot water
Dried blue cornflower petals (optional)
Extra Earl Grey tea leaves (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6. Grease the holes of a 12-hole muffin tin with butter, making sure to get into every corner and right up the sides, then dust with some flour, tipping it round the whole tin before shaking any excess out. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the tea leaves, then set aside to cool.
  2. Sift the icing sugar, salt and ground almonds into a bowl and mix together. In a separate large bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk the egg whites to soft peaks (when you lift the whisk out, it creates peaks in the egg mixture that slowly fall back into the bowl).
  3. Tip the dry ingredients and lemon zest into the bowl of egg whites and gently fold in with a spatula, then pour in the cooled butter and fold in to form a light and bubbly batter.
  4. Equally spoon the friand batter between the holes of the muffin tin and smooth the tops with the back of a teaspoon. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of each one.
  5. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the middles are just firm to the touch and the tops are beautifully golden. Leave them to cool completely in the tin before carefully turning out onto a wire rack or plate.
  6. To decorate, gently warm the lemon curd and hot water in the microwave or in a small saucepan until runny and bubbling. Brush the mixture over the top of each friand and sprinkle with dried blue cornflower petals and a few more tea leaves, if you like.

TIP: Use a tea bag with finely ground leaves, not coarse or loose-leaf tea. The tea is mixed into the friand batter, so larger leaves can be woody and unpleasant to eat.

Amaretti meringue nests with cherry compote

INGREDIENTS
Makes six

For the meringue:
75g egg whites (from 2 eggs)
¼ tsp almond extract
150g caster sugar
6 crunchy amaretti biscuits, such as Amaretti di Saronno (80g), plus an extra 2 biscuits to decorate (see tip)

For the compote:
150g frozen cherries
30g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
 
For the mascarpone cream:
100g mascarpone cheese
50ml double cream
25g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 100°C/80°C fan/Gas Mark 1/2 and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites using an electric mixer on a medium speed until they have doubled in size and form stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted sharply out of the bowl. Turn the whisk to a higher speed and add the almond extract, then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time until the mixture is glossy and you can’t feel any grains of sugar when it is rubbed between your fingers.
  2. Crumble 6 of the amaretti biscuits into 6 separate circles on a baking tray. Carefully pipe or spoon the meringue mixture onto each biscuit mound in a nest shape, making a dimple in the middle. Try to keep the biscuit crumbs on the base of the meringue. 
  3. Bake the meringues in the oven for 2 hours, or until they lift off the baking paper easily but before they have browned. 
  4. Meanwhile, make the compote. Place the cherries, caster sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have cooked down. Set aside to cool.
  5. To make the mascarpone cream, place the mascarpone in a bowl and beat it briefly to loosen. Add the double cream, icing sugar and vanilla, and whisk together until the mixture forms soft peaks – be careful not to over-mix or it will become grainy.
  6. Once the meringues and compote are cool and you are ready to serve, top each nest with some of the mascarpone cream, followed by a large spoonful of compote, letting it drip down the sides. Crumble over the remaining amaretti biscuits and serve immediately (they will go soggy if you do this in advance).

TIP: If you’re making this as a gluten-free dessert, ensure you buy a brand of amaretti biscuits that doesn’t contain wheat.

Signature cinnamon swirls with cream cheese frosting

INGREDIENTS
Makes eight large buns

For the dough:
675g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
70g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp (7g) fine salt
3 ¼ tsp (10g) fast-action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
400ml whole milk, warmed to lukewarm
70g unsalted butter, softened
 
For the filling:
150g unsalted butter, softened
75g soft light brown sugar
75g golden syrup
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
 
For the frosting:
50g unsalted butter, softened
100g cream cheese, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
 
METHOD

  1. To make the dough, combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other, making sure they don’t touch. Toss the salt in some of the flour surrounding it and do the same with the yeast, finally mixing them all together until combined. (If the yeast comes into direct contact with the salt it can retard it and stop the buns rising.)
  2. Weigh out 25g of the beaten egg (about half – reserve the other half for an egg wash later) and mix into the warm milk. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour in the milk mixture and use a butter knife or bench scraper to bring it together into a soft ball of dough. Get your hands involved, kneading it in the bowl before tipping it out onto a clean work surface.
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, using a bench scraper to keep the surface clean. Avoid dusting it with extra flour (this will give you hard, tough buns). It will be very sticky so try slapping it on the work surface and folding it over repeatedly, to keep it from covering every inch of the surface. Alternatively, use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to do all the messy kneading for you.
  4. Add the butter to the dough and knead for a further 5 minutes until glossy and still slightly sticky to the touch. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave somewhere warm to prove until doubled in size (1½–2 hours).
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a bowl, mix the butter, sugar, golden syrup and cinnamon into a smooth paste using a wooden spoon or spatula. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the mixture over the base of a 30 x 25 x 5cm baking tin and set aside.
  6. Once the dough has proved, knock out the excess air by squashing and punching it back into the bowl a few times. Scrape the dough out onto a very well-floured work surface and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 60 x 30cm rectangle, about 2cm thick.
  7. Evenly spread the remaining filling mixture across the dough, right to the very edges. Find the shortest edge of dough and fold over 1cm of it, then continue to gently roll the dough up into a tight swirl, using your fingers and thumbs to work from one side to the other. Roll it as tightly as possible. You should be left with a dough sausage about 30cm in length.
  8. Mark out, then use a very sharp knife to cut the sausage of dough into 8 even slices. Place the slices, swirl-side facing up, on the cinnamon-smeared baking tin, spacing them about 2–3cm apart. Leave somewhere warm for 40–60 minutes to prove a second time, covered with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. They should have doubled in size and started to touch one another.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.
  10. Brush the top of each swirl with the remaining beaten egg, then bake for 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Once baked, transfer the tin to a wire rack and let them cool completely in the tin.
  11. To make the frosting, beat together the softened butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer or spatula until smooth. Add the icing sugar in 3 stages, mixing in each third before adding the next
  12. Once it’s smooth and creamy, mix in the vanilla extract. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag and pipe zigzags over the top of each cooled bun. If you don’t have a piping bag, don’t worry – you can use a spoon to drizzle or smear the frosting over the tops of the buns instead. Enjoy!

All food images © Rachel Stonehouse