On the hunt for dessert ideas? Consult Sarah Rainey’s new book 6-Minute Showstoppers, which features lightning-quick recipes for banoffee pie, Nutella cake, red velvet mug cakes and more.
Since the UK went into lockdown, many of us have been gripped by baking mania – whipping up bread, cookies and more with an intensity not seen since The Great British Bake Off first aired almost ten years ago. Chocolate brownies? We’ve made batches. Yeast-free bread? Nailed it. Bagels? Ours are impeccable.
But while there’s a time and a place for elaborate, luxurious bakes, sometimes you just want something quick and easy. (When you’re feeling tired and glum on a flat Thursday evening under lockdown, you might not be in the mood to make cinnamon buns from scratch.) Which is where no-baking-required desserts come in.
In new book 6-Minute Showstoppers, food writer Sarah Rainey shares recipes for simple, satisfying desserts that can be on the table in – you guessed it – six minutes or less. And they’re the perfect solution if you find yourself craving something sweet, but don’t fancy spending an hour in the kitchen.
Below, Rainey shares three recipes from the book, including an easy banoffee pie with dulce du leche, a frozen Nutella cake, and a quick store-cupboard alternative to red velvet cupcakes – aka red velvet mug cakes, made without buttermilk. Ready, steady, cook!
Quick butterscotch banoffee pie recipe
Sarah says: “Angel Delight, that school dinner staple of the 1960s and 70s, is a retro classic – and much like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Made by whisking cold milk into sweetened powder to magic up an instant dessert, it’s having something of a revival of late … and this super-speedy recipe transforms it into a spectacular pudding (that nobody will guess came partly from a packet).”
- 120g dark chocolate
- 10 digestive biscuits (approx. 150g)
- 150ml dulce de leche or caramel sauce
- 1 large or 2 small bananas, peeled and sliced
- 300ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1 pack of instant butterscotch whipped pudding (59g)
Grease a large round pie or flan dish (mine is 25cm diameter) with a little butter. You’ll also need a Pyrex bowl, either a food processor or a rolling pin and ziplock bag for crushing the biscuits, a whisk, and a potato peeler or grater for making chocolate curls.
Put 110g of the chocolate in the Pyrex bowl and melt it in the microwave on high in bursts of 20 seconds at a time (or you can melt it by suspending the bowl over a pan of boiling water if you prefer).
While it melts, crush the digestives to crumbs by blitzing them in a food processor – or you can put them in a ziplock bag and bash them with a rolling pin.
Mix the melted chocolate and biscuit crumbs together and transfer the mixture to the greased dish, using the back of a spoon to press it down ﬁrmly into the base and up against the sides.
Spread the caramel over the base, and arrange the slices of banana on top.
Whisk the milk into the butterscotch powder for a minute or so until it thickens, and then spread this over the top of the banoffee mixture.
Take the remaining 10g of chocolate and, using your potato peeler or grater, sprinkle chocolate curls over the top of the pudding.
Put it in the fridge to set for at least half an hour before serving – and if you’re not eating it straight away, keep it chilled and it will last 2 or 3 days.
Frozen Nutella loaf recipe
Sarah says: “I’m a Nutella addict, so anything that involves the chocolate hazelnut spread is a winner in my book. Like a cheesecake but made in a loaf tin, this easy layered dessert looks impressive – and tastes utterly delicious. Better still, you can make it weeks ahead of time and keep it on ice.”
- 1 x 400g tub Nutella
- 50g unsalted butter
- 200g Hobnobs (13–14 biscuits)
- 400g cream cheese
- 80g icing sugar, sifted
- 50g chopped roasted hazelnuts
Line a standard loaf tin (approximately 2lb or 1 litre) with cling film, completely covering the base and sides and making sure there’s plenty of excess overlapping the edges. I use three strips – one for each long side and one for the middle. Place a medium saucepan on the hob and turn the heat up high. You’ll also need a food processor (or a ziplock bag and a rolling pin) for crushing the biscuits, and a whisk.
Put 150g Nutella and the butter in the pan and melt, stirring often so they don’t burn.
Meanwhile, blitz the biscuits in the food processor until they turn to crumbs, or you can put them in a ziplock bag and bash them with a rolling pin.
When the mixture in the pan has melted to a smooth chocolate paste, tip the biscuit crumbs into the pan and stir until combined. Pour this into the lined loaf tin and use the back of a spoon to press it down.
In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining Nutella with the cream cheese and sifted icing sugar until smooth. Tip this into the loaf tin and spread on top of the biscuit base.
Finish with the chopped hazelnuts, covering the surface right to the edges. Wrap the excess cling ﬁlm over the top of the loaf to cover it and place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours to set.
Remove from the freezer around 20 minutes before serving and slice with a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. If you don’t eat it all in one go, keep the rest of the loaf, well covered, in the freezer – it should last for 2 to 3 months.
Red velvet mug cake recipe
Sarah says: “There was a time when red velvet cake seemed to be taking over bakeries and cupcake shops all around the world. And no wonder: the fluffy cocoa sponge is utterly delicious. Tuck into this mini version on a cold winter’s night, with your slippers on and something soppy and romantic on TV.
For the cake
- 40g self-raising ﬂour
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp sunﬂower or vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp red gel food colouring
For the icing
- 25g icing sugar
- 2 tsp cream cheese
Grease the inside of a chunky, microwave-proof mug (approx. 300ml) with a little butter or ﬂavourless oil. You’ll also need a whisk to mix the wet ingredients.
Mix all the dry ingredients together until combined.
Add the oil, milk and egg and whisk well. Finally, add the food colouring, stirring as you do so you can get the colour just right. You’re looking for a vivid red; remember it will fade slightly as it cooks and the cocoa colouring comes through.
Microwave on high for 1 to 1.5 minutes. Check it as it bakes – it may not need the full amount of time, but you’ll know it’s done when the sponge rises to the top of the mug.
While the cake cooks, make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar over the cream cheese and mix well – it should be smooth but not too runny.
Once the cake is done, spoon or pipe (if you want to be neat) the icing on top. Tuck in immediately, straight from the mug. Mmmmmm!
Note: I ﬁnd gel food colouring better than traditional water-based colouring as it’s more vivid and will give your bakes lovely vibrant hues. If you want to make this cake really show-stopping, swap the cream cheese icing for a scoop of your favourite ice cream, chocolate sauce, sweets and biscuit crumbs. Et voilà! Your very own red velvet sundae.
6-Minute Showstoppers by Sarah Rainey (£14.99, Michael Joseph) is out now
Photography: Claire Winfield