The Barbour Way of Life Guide to: Creative Baking with with John Whaite

The Barbour Way of Life Guide to: Creative Baking with with John Whaite

The art of baking is something that any of us can pick up — with the right recipe. The best baking is always the kind that utilises beautiful, fresh ingredients that you might even find in your own back garden. So, to give you a helping hand on whipping up something delicious, we collaborated with cookery writer and baker, John Whaite (or as you might know him, winner of Great British Bake Off 2012) to inspire you to think outside the box, by putting traditionally savoury herbs into your sweet treats. Take a look at the ingredients list below, gather what you need, and let's cook along together.

John WhaiteRaspberry, Orange, Thyme and White Chocolate Cake

It’s a given that herbs, whether home-grown or bought, work beautifully in cookery and can transform a dish from being perfectly tasty to downright delicious. But what many people don’t realise is that herbs work particularly well in cakes and pastries too. The reason their delicate flavour comes out so well in baking is because the fat in cake acts as a perfect carrier for the herbs’ volatile oils, which contain all of the flavour.

When it comes to choosing the right herb for the job, I always say to first consider what the particular herb may pair well with in savoury cooking. Thyme, for example, was made to go with orange and grapefruit, while rosemary is a match made in heaven for lemon. Basil, while somewhat savoury, is out of this world when coupled with strawberries and raspberries – especially if garnished with a little cracked black pepper — while the slightly bitter bite of bay is wonderful with blackberries. More pungent herbs like sage are a little trickier to balance, but they can work well with flavourful stone fruits such as apricots and nectarines, especially if tempered with hazelnuts or pistachios.

I’ve played it a little more safely here with this delicious raspberry, orange and thyme cake, which is sandwiched together with a lightly-infused white chocolate ganache – perfect for an afternoon snack in the summer sunshine. But whichever combination you go for, remember that a subtle hint is much better than an overwhelming flavour burst.

John Whaite gathering thymecutting thyme

Raspberry, Orange, Thyme and White Chocolate Cake


For the ganache

175g double cream

3 sprigs thyme

200g white chocolate, chopped

For the cake

200g unsalted butter

100g white chocolate, chopped

Zest of 1 orange

Leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme

200g golden caster sugar

4 large eggs

200g self-raising flour

175g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Icing sugar, to serve

cake ingredientsJohn Whaite whisking his cake


1. First make the ganache. Put the cream and thyme into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow the thyme to infuse into the cream for 30 minutes. Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl.

2. Once the cream has infused, remove the thyme and bring it back to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, leave it for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate, then whisk to a smooth, glossy ganache. If there are any lumps of chocolate that don’t melt, simply set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk until smooth. Set the ganache aside and leave to set for at least 2 hours at room temperature.

3. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C conventional/gas mark 4. Grease and line with baking paper 2 x 20cm sandwich tins.

4. Put the butter and white chocolate into a saucepan and set over a low heat. Stirring frequently, melt together ensuring the heat remains low so the chocolate doesn’t burn. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the orange zest and thyme leaves. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then add the sugar, eggs and flour and beat to a smooth batter.

5. Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins, then scatter the raspberries into the cake batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden and a skewer, inserted into the centre of each cake, comes out clean (don’t mistake a little mushy raspberry for uncooked cake batter). Allow the cakes to cool completely in their tins.

6. Once the cakes have cooled, whisk the ganache until it just holds its shape — like whipped cream. Place one cake onto a cake stand or plate, spread the whipped ganache over it, then top with the other layer of cake. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar before serving.

Raspberry, Orange, Thyme and White Chocolate Cakedusting Raspberry, Orange, Thyme and White Chocolate Cake with icing sugar

Stay tuned to the Barbour blog, for more in our Barbour Way of Life series, where we’ll be posting more heart-warming, exciting and educational guides.