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Jessica Simmons’ Vintage Cake Diet!

Baking artist extraordinaire Jessica Simmons is among mavericks turning over new avenues to express their creativity. Dieting in January? Amelia's recommends the Simmons Cake Diet.Yum!

Written by Jessica Simmons

Good-housekeeping-biscuitsAll photographs courtesy of Camilla Blackie except where otherwise stated

I’ve just spent a snowy weekend in my friend’s country kitchen, elbow deep in flour, spice and all things nice. It’s for my vintage cake-spot. Here, I bake and blog, throwing some of the best and most well-loved cake recipes of the last century into the mixing bowl.


I mixed my ingredients for a classic marmalade pudding (sourced from The Constance Spry Cookery Book,1956) in a small, glass basin. After wrapping this in a clean tea-towel, I left it to gently steam on top of the Aga. Three hours later the pud was a picture of dome-shaped perfection; all steaming suet and glinting orange rind. This was going to be a good baking day.


Constance Spry, described as the ‘Martha Stewart of mid-century Britain’ joins a long list of bakers, homemakers and celebrated authors who’ve left a lasting legacy in the culinary world. As a girl who’s partial to the sweeter side of life, I became fascinated by one legacy in particular – the cake.


As writer for the Women’s Institute membership magazine, WI Life,  my research began in earnest. Lunch breaks were spent in the national archives, dusting off leather-bound periodicals dating back to 1919. Economy cake, plum pudding, and gingerbread were just some of the suggestions listed in the H.H.H. (handy household hints); a modest few lines of recipes printed in the then WI membership magazine Home and Country.


By the time I’d test-baked a batch of spiced buns, my mind was made up. My good friend Camilla came on board as cake-spot photographer and we haven’t looked back. If I’ve got the nose for burning crumbs, she’s got the eyes to weigh up a perfect cake shot.


Baking, and blogging about it, is fast becoming my number one past-time – not forgetting the odd ‘tweet’ as part of the global PR cruise. Yes, I was inspired by Julie and Julia – who wouldn’t be charmed by a French-talking Meryl Streep? – but the vintage cake-spot is more than show and tell. These are real cakes using classic, trusted recipes. And they’re tasty, too.



The good news is, everyone loves cake. But while the red-velvet iced delights of Portobello Road still cause a stir for hungry Londoners, I must stay true to my recipe books. If a slice of dripping cake’s not to your fancy, look away now. This is no time for counting calories.


The blog has opened my eyes up to a new London. East-end antique stores and charity shops have taken on a whole new dimension, many harbouring the battered old cook-books held so precious for women now and during the last century.


Cake is one of life’s pleasures and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to celebrate the fact. If my blog can inspire anyone to grab an apron, some pantry essentials and get baking, I’m a happy girl.


JessicaJessica Simmons photographs courtesy of Peter Schiazza

What Jessica likes:

Places: Whitby in North Yorkshire. It’s got high cliffs, a beautiful old abbey and probably the best fish and chips you’ll ever taste ( There’s also a fun caravan site called La Rosa and you can get your fortune told in a little shack on the pier

Food: A nice fish pie (see above)

Drink: Chambord and lemonade, whisky macs

Website: Find delicate hand-picked teas and a very inspiring lady

Music: Blondie, Moloko, Pink Floyd, Jay-Z, the Doors

Books: Shadow of the Wind’ by Carols Ruiz Zafon. I’m currently reading ‘The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton’ by Kathryn Hughes for inspiration

Film: Far from the Madding Crowd

Shop: Hemswell Market in Lincolnshire. It’s an antiques wonderland. I also can’t resist cos on Regent Street for a bit of office-glam.



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5 Responses to “Jessica Simmons’ Vintage Cake Diet!”

  1. Satu says:

    These look like heaven, I might go home and make some this week. My kind of diet. Also, good choice in Shadow of the Wind, I love that book.

  2. Lilly P says:

    Absolutely Darling

    I love it all…yummy


  3. Amelia says:

    The reception for this article is scrumptious! I knew when I commissioned it you girls would feel inspired, glad to be of service! Valerie

  4. buy r4 says:

    Wow! Looks like mouth watering recipe. Thanks for sharing it. Can’t wait more to taste it. I will start to make it right now.

  5. Hello ! Great website with content that i look for some week ! Maybe you can chnage a little bit color of the design but it’s actually cool ! I’live in Switzerland and so i dont speak great english so i wish i’m not to too much mistake ! Bye bye and continue like that

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