One of the most frequent questions I’m asked from readers is about being a food stylist — how to break into the field, what it entails, how to do it. Food styling, like most professions, requires practice, practice, practice. Working alongside someone who’s great at styling food doesn’t hurt either, because there is always something new to learn.
The new cookbook by food and prop stylist Frankie Unsworth, called The New Art of Cooking: A Modern Guide to Preparing and Styling Delicious Food, is a perfect reference to have on hand if you want to know how to make good-looking food. It covers tips not only for cooking, but also styling and serving the range of recipes in the book. Today we are sharing the recipe for Frankie’s Olive Oil, Poppy Seed, Lemon Loaf Cake, which is simple to make and fail-proof, along with options for three fabulous ways to top it. A loaf cake is the best bang for your buck in terms of beautiful presentations. Try it and let us know how you like it! —Kristina
Why Frankie loves this cake: When I lived in Paris, my eyes (and appetite) were always drawn to loaf cakes in patisseries, even when they were surrounded by the fanciful galettes, meringue-topped tartes and pastel colored marshmallows. This olive oil, poppy seed and lemon version is quick to make and easy to embellish with one of the three icings — the passion fruit glaze being my favorite with its mirror-like, glossy sheen and sweet but tart syrup. A loaf cake is best served with a pot of tea, fresh from the oven, but it also makes for an excellent gift bundled up in parchment paper and tied up with butcher’s string.
For a chance to win a copy of The New Art of Cooking, respond to the following question in the comments section below by November 28, 5PM: What is your go-to dessert to gift or take to potlucks? What makes it special? Do you wrap it in any particular way? We love details, so spare none! The winner will be announced in the comments section, so be sure to check in again.
About Frankie: Frankie Unsworth is a professional food stylist and writer. Having trained in pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she now styles food photography shoots in her native London, as well as other locations across the world. The New Art of Cooking is her first book. You can find Frankie on Instagram @frankie_u.
Image above: Stylist’s tools
Image above: The New Art of Cooking. Photography by Kristin Perers
Image above: Frankie Unsworth
Image above: Fabrics for tabletop styling
Image above: A collection of flatware
Image above: A stylist’s toolkit
Image above: Loaf cake with three different toppings. From top: Blueberry and Yoghurt Ripple, Lavender Buttercream, Passion Fruit Glaze
- For the cake
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 200g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- 200g caster sugar (plain granulated sugar)
- 200g natural yoghurt
- 120ml light olive oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- Passion fruit glaze
- Pulp of 5 passion fruits
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 90g caster sugar (plain granulated sugar)
- Blueberry and yoghurt ripple icing
- 50g fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 tbsp water (if using fresh berries)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar (plain granulated sugar)
- 175g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- Lavender buttercream icing
- 50ml whole milk
- 2 tbsp dried culinary lavender flowers, plus 1 tbsp to sprinkle
- 200g unsalted butter
- 200g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
KNOWING YOUR OVEN The range of time given for baking this cake in the oven may seem broad, but all ovens behave differently (as I know well from using different kitchens on a weekly basis). Get to know your oven and use your intuition, and check your cake by inserting a skewer into the center – if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Grease a 2lb/900g loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Put the caster sugar into a separate bowl, add the yoghurt, olive oil, eggs, vanilla extract, poppy seeds and lemon zest and whisk vigorously using a balloon whisk or electric whisk, until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the flour mixture in two batches. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 55–70 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool (unless making the Passion Fruit Glaze in which case, follow the instructions below).
Passion Fruit Glaze
Towards the end of the cakeʼs cooking time, scoop the pulp out of the passion fruits and place in a pan with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of single cream. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push it through, leaving behind the seeds. Return 1 tablespoon of the seeds to the glaze and discard the rest.
When the cake is done, leave it in the tin and use a cocktail stick or skewer to poke holes all over the surface. Brush thoroughly with the glaze and leave for 5 minutes to soak in. At that point, transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Blueberry and Yoghurt Ripple Icing
While the cake is cooling, put the blueberries into a pan, adding the water only if they are fresh (none is needed if frozen). Add the caster sugar and cook for 4–5 minutes over a low heat, until the berries break down a little and the juice escapes. Set aside to cool.
Put the icing sugar into a bowl, add the yoghurt and stir to a thick paste. If it’s too thick, add only the tiniest more to bring it together (even the smallest amount can thin it too much). Spoon the icing over the top of the cooled cake and dot with some of the berries and juice, using a small spatula or a cocktail stick to make ripples or figure-eight patterns over the surface.
Lavender Buttercream Icing
While the cake is cooling, put the milk and lavender into a small milk pan and warm over a low heat to scalding point. Set aside to infuse for about 30 minutes.
Beat the butter with a wooden spoon or stand mixer for a good 5 minutes, until incredibly light. Sift in the icing sugar and continue to beat until very light. Strain in the infused milk and beat again.
Using a small palette knife, spread the buttercream over the cake in waves, then sprinkle with a little extra lavender.
Extract taken from The New Art of Cooking by Frankie Unsworth, Bloomsbury 2018. Photography Kristin Perers