9 ingredients to elevate your baking with Natural Baker, Henrietta Inman

24th October 2019

Here at Farmdrop we’re all about using the best possible ingredients in our baking. No nasties, preservatives or rubbish additives. But ingredients that have been sourced seasonally and locally, and with little interference from harvest to kitchen. Which is exactly why we love Henrietta Inman – food writer, baker and author of new cookbook, The Natural Baker. She gives us her go-to ingredients to add natural flavour and texture for epic baking every time. Scroll down for her show-stopping, gluten-free Polenta, raspberry & lemon cake.

KEFIR | We’re all getting a lot more interested in gut health and kefir – along with kombucha, sourdough and many other ferments – is a great way of topping up our good bacteria. It allows for a great, smooth and creamy taste in sponges, but also a little sourness, which complements sweeter flavours well. I used to make it myself and had so much leftover one day, I tried it in a cake and found it was delicious!

POLENTA | I love its slightly nibbly, grainy texture – dispersed in a soft sponge, it’s really lovely. Remember, texture and flavour are equally important when it comes to cooking and baking.

GREEK-STYLE YOGURT | Yogurt adds great tang and creates a luscious, soft character. As does soured cream, crème fraîche, buttermilk, mascarpone, ricotta, goat’s cheese, feta and other cheeses. All dairy produce must be bought fresh; please do try to source it grass-fed, local and/or organic when you can.

The Natural Baker ingredients

NUTS & SEEDS | For bite and taste. Nut butters and seed pastes are good in doughs, giving a crumbly structure. Desiccated coconut and coconut flakes are great for crunch, especially toasted flakes.

DRIED FRUIT | Dates, figs, apricots, prunes, raisins, sultanas and cranberries add natural sweetness and a chewy quality. Dates, figs and prunes have rich tastes, great with wholegrain flours and brown sugars, as well as with dark chocolate and nuts. I love to heat them with water or a citrus juice, to make a sweet paste.

DRIED FLOWERS | Lavender, flower waters and teas such as rooibos, as well as fresh edible flowers for finishing touches add delicate flavour.

Edible flowers

Westland’s colouful selection of edible flowers

SEA SALT | Salt is very important, not just for savoury dishes, but also for lifting flavours in sweet recipes, where just a little is needed. I use sea salt flakes that I crumble between my fingers before adding.

SWEET THINGS | The granulated sweeteners I use most are coconut sugar or light brown muscovado sugar, both with a delicious caramel-toffee taste. To flatter delicate flavours – lavender, for example – I use lighter golden caster and golden icing sugar. As for liquid sweeteners, I use honey, local whenever possible and – if I can – raw honey, as it is less processed. Also maple and date syrup; the former is lighter in taste.

FRESH PRODUCE | Seasonal fruits and vegetables add insurmountable flavour and colour to my recipes and are probably my favourite magic ingredients. Fresh herbs are also great in both sweet and savoury recipes, as are spices. In sweet recipes, a little cinnamon or vanilla can really boost the other notes. Citrus fruits, their juices and especially their zests are great for this, too, as well as for keeping things fresh-tasting.

Polenta, kefir, coconut, raspberry and lemon cake
with raspberry ripple yogurt cream, from The Natural Baker

Polenta raspberry cake

Polenta, raspberry & lemon cake

This is one big and beautiful show-stopper of a cake. It’s a bit like an Eton Mess, but in cake form! I must say, it’s one of my favourite recipes in the book; serve it in the late summer when raspberries are at their sweet peak. The subtle, creamy sponge is the perfect canvas on to which raspberries can burst and lemon zing. The three butter-soft layers, with a little texture from the polenta and vanilla-ish coconut, become moist and sublimely delicious as the juices from the berries sink in. Greek-style yogurt is the perfect addition to the cream, its sharpness balancing out the sweetness of the cake and keeping the filling and topping fresh and light.

Serves 12–14

For the cake
unsalted butter, for the tins
90g quick cook polenta
90g brown rice flour
60g desiccated coconut
240g golden caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
pinch of sea salt flakes
375g kefir, buttermilk or natural yogurt
135g virgin coconut oil, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
375g raspberries, fresh or frozen

For the cream
350g double cream
350g Greek-style yogurt, the thickest you can find
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp golden icing sugar
300g fresh raspberries, plus more to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter the sides and bases of 3 x 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed cake tins. Line the bases with baking parchment.

In a bowl, mix together the polenta, rice flour, coconut, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt, using a whisk to disperse all the ingredients evenly. Separately combine the kefir or buttermilk or yogurt, coconut oil and eggs, then mix them into the dry ingredients. Finally, fold in the raspberries, treating the mix as lightly as possible to keep them whole.

Divide the mix between the 3 tins, using about 500g in each tin. Smooth out the tops with a step or cranked palette knife, or the back of a spoon. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the tins and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool. They can be frozen at this stage for up to 1 month.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the yogurt, lemon zest and juice and icing sugar. Finally, fold in the raspberries. Build the cake by spreading each layer with one-third of the cream, trying to top the stack with the most attractive sponge. Finish with extra raspberries (plus their leaves, if you have them) and serve. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

For more quality home-baking ingredients, head to the larder at

The Natural Baker Henrietta Inman

Recipe from The Natural Baker: a new way to bake using the best natural ingredients by Henrietta Inman. Published by Jaqui Small (£20).

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