1940s Vintage Scent Session: Perfume and Cake with Odette Toilette

Red Velvet cakes

Cola Chocolate Cake

Ration Bakewell Tart

Red Velvet Cake, Odette Toilette 1940s  Perfume event

M.O.F. Carrot Cake

Chocolate Cola Cake

I recently went to another perfume and cake afternoon put on by Odette Toilette and Leonie Sooke at Les Senteurs in Marylebone. This session focussed on the perfume scene in the 1940s with the effects of WWII on the perfume industry with limits to importing/exporting, ingredients, materials, and employees within the industry, the Americanisation of perfume names and the very idea of the luxury of perfume at such a time. The interesting talk was complemented with Leonie’s fabulous cakes taking inspiration from the issues of the time. Vegetables were used in baking during the rationed times of WWII and sugar was one of the most rationed items so the carrot cake was made according to a Ministry of Food (M.O.F.) recipe. Carrot is naturally high in sugar so added to the sweetness and texture of the cake. There was a chocolate and cola cake as a nod to the perfume industry of the US becoming more popular with some European professionals seeking refuge in the US. The cake batter actually had cola in it which made it extra moist and fluffy as it reacted with the baking powder.

The event was peppered with interesting anecdotes, clips from films at the time, and, of course, wonderful cakes and scents! I’d recommend any of Odette’s events for an unusual couple of hours of history, olfactory delights and delicious cakes! Find out about her upcoming events here.

You can read my posts on Odette’s 1920s Vintage Scent Session here and her Rebel Cake and Perfume Club here.

Odette Toilette 1940s Perfume event


The Rebel Cake and Perfume Club at Les Senteurs

Salame al cioccolato

Salame al cioccolato

Golden pretzel peanut squares

Peanut pretzel squares

Marmalade Bakewell

Marmalade Bakewell


Umami cups of white chocolate, green tea and vanilla with dried strawberries

Lemon olive oil cake

Lemon and rosemary olive oil cake

Odette Toilette

On Saturday I spent my afternoon at a fabulously quirky cake tasting and perfume smelling session beautifully put on by Odette Toilette and Leonie Sooke.

It is part of the Vintage Scent Sessions which the wonderfully named Odette Toilette runs at Les Senteurs, a scent salon in Marylebone. Originally Odette was hosting a scent sniffing session with bubbly and cakes merely as the refreshments until she met Leonie, a food historian and cook  of The Gossip Bowl, who suggested matching cakes to the perfumes in a timeline from 1900 to the present day. The rebel part kicks in with the selected cakes and perfumes having been made by people who were avant-garde. Needless to say, it was a great afternoon. Just going to smell perfumes and eat cakes would be a brilliantly decadent combination itself but to have a talk on the cakes and perfumes as well was great sustenance for the brain.

We learnt about how Elizabeth David managed to move the olive oil bottle from the pharmacy to the kitchen cupboard whilst eating a zingy piece of lemon and rosemary olive oil cake. It was interesting that this cropped up as whilst watching “Call the Midwife” a few days before I was interested to see that a midwife bought avocado pears from the market and served them to the other midwives and nuns with olive oil. Several of the nuns and midwives seemed surprised because they were used to seeing it in the pharmacy and found the different context a bit unnerving. I had wondered what medicinal purpose it had been used for and a quick search has informed me that it was used to cure ear ache and rid lousy heads of head lice amongst other things. The wonderful Elizabeth David also steered British kitchens away from the stuffy and meticulously arranged platters of food that were served at family meals towards a more relaxed Mediterranean style with a medley of fresh flavours.

Another chapter concentrated on Trash and the smartening up of street food as has been seen recently with restaurants such as Bubbledogs which has a menu of hot dogs and champagne only, gourmet doughnuts such as those by St John, and indulgent burgers at the likes of Meat Liquor. The perfume that went with this was “Encens et Bubblegum” by Antoine Maisondieu. Smelling it reminded me of chewing Hubba Bubba as a teen wearing a pair of Converse on the rare occasions that I could chew any gum since it was not something I was really allowed (quite right too!). Perhaps wearing a perfume that smells of it is a way of satisfying the urge to have gum without encountering sticky wodges of pink squidge stuck to pavements, hair and the underside of desks.

The cakes were all delicious and being a peanut butter, peanut anything fan I had my eyes on the peanut pretzel (sprayed golden!) square from the moment I walked in. You can sign up to receive Leonie’s recipes on her website here.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers as I really recommend that you go to see, smell, hear and taste this event! Buy your ticket immediately here!

Les Senteurs

Les Senteurs exterior

Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Icing

To put another chocolate cake recipe out there seems as necessary as designing another chair! There are many, do we need more? In both cases I’d say yes. So, here is another chocolate cake recipe. Don’t watch this space for a chair design but whilst I’m on the subject this is one of my latest favourites: Maritime S by Benjamin Hubert. Not long ago I went to an evening of vice and virtue at Hampton Court Palace put on by The Idler Academy, coinciding with the exhibition of portraits from Charles II’s court and his mistresses. At one point during the talk we were asked to sit in silence and when a vice like thought popped into our heads we had to put our hands up. Well, within a few moments I was thinking about chocolate cake. Surprise surprise. But my hand hesitated, a vice or a virtue? I think if I were to make a chocolate cake every day and eat it all then it would count as a vice but if I shared it or in fact gave it away, surely that would be a virtue?

To get the chocolate bomb shape I made two cakes – one smaller than the other and put them on top of each other with a spread of icing between them and lashings of icing all over them.

What you need for the cake:

200g butter (softened)

120g soft brown sugar

50g cocoa powder

3 teaspoons coffee granules

3 dessert spoons boiling water

5 eggs

50g dark chocolate, grated

240g self-raising flour

What you need for the icing:

150g dark chocolate (80% cocoa is good)

150ml cream

30g butter

150g icing sugar

4 dessert spoons golden syrup

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C and grease the cake tins with butter or some sunflower oil on a piece of kitchen paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together with a fork in a large bowl.

3. Put the cocoa powder and coffee granules in a mug, pour the boiling water over them and mix well.

4. Scoop this cocoa coffee paste into the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture and mix it in well.

5. Crack the eggs in and beat them in one at a time.

6. Pour the grated chocolate into the bowl and mix it in well.

7. Add the self-raising flour 40g at a time beating it in well each time, allowing lots of air to be beaten into the mixture.

8. Pour the sponge mixture into the two cake tins.

9. Put them in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Insert a skewer to check that they are ready, it should come out clean.

10. Whilst the cake is baking you can make the icing.

11. Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave or in a bowl sitting on a pan of boiling water (but not touching the water).

12. Allow the chocolate to cool a little then stir in the cream, butter and golden syrup.

13. Then stir the icing sugar in.

14. When the cakes are ready and have cooled place the larger of the two on a plate and spread some icing on top, then place the smaller one on the centre of it and spread the rest of the icing all over it.

15. Sprinkle sugar balls or strands on top for a bit of colour.

Share with friends to feel as virtuous as you can when eating cake!

Halloween Treats: Snake and Cake Skewers

Make a sticky wormy mess for Halloween with snakes peeping from sponge, a nest of liquorice lace and skewered with cubes of cake onto cocktail sticks. This treat takes 10 minutes to put together (once you’ve made the sponge of course!). I can’t remember actually doing Trick or Treat myself as a child and was a little horrified to hear thumps and bangs at my door this evening along with hands clawing at the letter slot and then voices screeching through “We know you’re in there!”, “Open up!” and “Come out!” I think not with a tone like that! I carefully slinked out later to cycle off to Tranky Doo practice and found the poor marmalade cat cowering behind the railings until he saw me, then shot in in an orange flash not unlike the orange unspun wool in the photos!

What you need:

Cocktail sticks

Gummy snakes/ spiders/ whatever you can get your paws on

Black food dye

A box of icing sugar

Liquorice lace

A square or rectangular sponge such as this recipe for cardamom cake (you can omit the cardamom) or just buy a sponge loaf cake (I feel ok saying this as this is the kind of thing Nigella might say!)

What you need to do:

1. Cut a rectangular slice from the cake, around 2cm deep,  then cut the rest of the cake into cubes.

2. If the black food colouring is the sticky almost gel like one, mix it with a touch of water, otherwise just put the food colouring in a bowl with the icing sugar. Mix until you reach a thick glossy consistency, adding more colouring and/ or water if necessary.

3. Dip the squares of cake into the icing and skewer between two gummy snakes/ spiders, or whatever you have, on a cocktail stick.

4. Place the rectangle of cake on a surface and tuck some snakes or spiders underneath so they are poking out as if emerging from the sponge. Pour the rest of the black icing over the rectangle of sponge.

5. Arrange nests of liquorice lace on top, then stick the cocktail stick skewers of cake and snakes into the sponge.

6. Alternatively use small bowls or espresso cups to make individual liquorice nests with the skewered cakes sticking out of them.


Cardamom Cakes with Sticky Chocolate Icing and Chocolate Sticks

Inspired by someone I worked on a project with I decided to write this post with completely useless instructions. Yes, that’s right. Useless! Here they are:

How to make these cakes in 5 steps!

How were your cakes?! Did you enjoy them? Did they turn out just like mine? Or did you feel like you needed a bit more information? Such as…perhaps…dare I suggest, descriptions? On what to do? I thought so! Here are my instructions on how to make these cardamom cakes with sticky chocolate icing. The marbled cardamom and chocolate cake I devoured at the wonderful Earthy was my inspiration.

Makes 10 // Takes 30 minutes to prepare // 15-20 minutes baking

What you need:

For the sponge –

100g butter (softened)

60g golden castor sugar

2 eggs

120g self-raising flour

20 cardamom pods

For the icing –

100g melted chocolate (80% cocoa)

4 dessert spoons cream

4 dessert spoons golden syrup

100g icing sugar

For the chocolate sticks –

50g dark chocolate

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C and grease a muffin tray.

2. Melt the chocolate for the chocolate sticks and dribble it onto baking paper in swirls. Place the paper in the freezer to set the sticks.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.

4. Crack the eggs in and beat them in one at a time.

5. Add the self-raising flour 40g at a time beating it in well each time, allowing lots of air to be beaten into the mixture.

6. Split the cardamom pods with a pestle and grind the seeds as much as possible in the mortar.

7. Add the ground seeds to the sponge mix and stir them in.

8. Spoon dollops of the mixture into a muffin tray and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Check they are ready by inserting a knife – it should come out clean.

9. Whilst the cakes are baking you can make the icing. Start by melting the chocolate.

10. Stir the cream and golden syrup into the melted chocolate, then stir the icing sugar in.

11. When the cakes are ready and have cooled pipe the icing over each one.

12. Remove the chocolate sticks from the freezer and stick them into the tops of the iced cakes.

I hope you enjoy them and that my instructions were clear!

Bibi’s Bakery, Edinburgh



At the weekend I went to Edinburgh to visit friends and to go to a wedding. I was interested to see if there would be much sign of the fact that it was Jubilee weekend in town. During my wanderings I would have hardly known! This wasn’t much of a surprise considering that Scotland’s campaign for independence was launched ten days ago. I read that only ten street parties were registered in the city. I did, however, find this dinky bakery which had union flag clad windows and crowned Jubilee cupcakes. Bibi’s Bakery can be found in Edinburgh (37 Hanover Street, EH2 2PJ), Aberdeen and St Andrews. It certainly wasn’t around when I was at university in St Andrews, I would have been so distracted knowing that these fluffy cupcakes were around the corner. I tried a chocolate caramel one which had a most satisfying ooze of caramel in the middle and a rolo on top, and a chocolate Jubilee cupcake with vanilla icing. Both delicious with fluffy sponge and icing that was just sweet enough. A lot of the cupcakes are based on chocolates and sweets such as Maltesers, Smarties and After Eights. There is also a Victoria Sponge one amongst chocolate and vanilla classics. This bakery is definitely worth a pit stop followed by a walk up the Mound to make room for another!



Mini Honey Cakes with Orange Zest and Blueberries

Again?! I know, I know, I only just posted a honey cake recipe, but I really love them so here they are again with a couple of recipe amendments, and orange zest and blueberries. These were served with strawberries and cream last night for dessert and one “devourer” said she didn’t breathe until she had finished it. Good! I love comments like that!

What you need:

100g butter (left out to soften for a day or put in the microwave for 15 seconds)

60g white sugar

2 eggs

4 dessert spoons clear runny honey

110g self-raising flour

Zest of half an orange

1 punnet of blueberries

A couple of dessert spoons of icing sugar

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until very well combined.

3. Beat the eggs in, one at a time.

4. Add the honey and combine well.

5. Grate the orange zest over the mixture and stir in.

6. Blend the flour in bit by bit and whip well into the mixture each time with a whisk making sure you incorporate a lot of air.

7. Spoon the mixture into mini moulds and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. A skewer will come out clean when they are ready.

8. Fill the centres with blueberries and shake icing sugar in a sieve over the cakes. Peel the remaining skin off the orange and cut into pieces, drop these willy nilly over the cakes.