I feel I am officially done with baking banana bread. Although still very delicious, we now have time to get on with other baking challenges and there's no better time for baking than the autumn. Those lovely warm homely smells wafting from the kitchen will definitely whet the appetite of everyone in the house. These bakes are perfect for warming up after a  walk among trees that have taken on their beautiful autumn colour, with a carpet of crunchy leaves ubderfoot – that remains a pleasure, no matter what your age..

Carrot & courgette squares
"A great way to add more vegetables into the day for everyone"

Makes 12 or 16 squares

  • 70g grated carrot
  • 50g grated courgette
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 70ml olive oil
  • 220g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp chopped walnuts 
  • 1 orange, zest and juice

For the topping

  • 60g softened butter
  • 120g sifted icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk

Method

  1. Line a 16cm x 25cm shallow rectangle baking tin with parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
  2. For the squares, place the grated carrot and courgette into a large bowl. Add the caster sugar and eggs, whisk until the eggs and sugar are lightly fluffy. Stir in the olive oil. Fold in the plain flour, baking powder and walnuts. 
  3. Add the orange zest and juice and mix well. If the cake batter is still a little thick, then add 1 to 2 tbsp of milk.
  4. Transfer the cake batter into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and cooked. Insert a skewer and when it is taken out it should be clear. Leave to cool on a rack.
  5. To make the topping, place the butter, icing sugar and milk into a bowl, whisk with an electric beater until a smooth thick paste forms. This should be able to be spooned into a squeeze bottle and yet it should also hold its shape. When the cake is cold, slice into squares and using the squeeze bottle, make patterns on the top of each square.

Spicy pear & almond loaf
"Add 3 tbsp of dried cranberries or sour cherries into the cake mix for a festive loaf"

Makes a 900g loaf

  • 180g softened butter
  • 80g dark brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • ¾ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 120g peeled, diced pear
  • 50ml milk
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced for the top
  • Honey, for the top

Method

  1. Line a 900g loaf tin with parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
  2. Place the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar into a bowl and whisk until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and whisk until combined. Pour in the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in the plain flour, baking powder, ground almonds, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  Add diced pear and enough milk to form a cake batter.
  4. Transfer to the lined loaf tin. Insert / arrange slices of pear on the top and bake for 45 minutes until cooked and golden. To check that the loaf is baked, insert a skewer and it must come out clean. Cool on a rack. 
  5. Drizzle over a little honey on top to give it a shine.

Top Baking Tip: MEASURE!
Simple as it sounds, this is especially important in baking. Some of us get caught out following US measurements unless we actually have proper cup measures – a teacup is not an equivalent.

Me personally? I prefer metric – it's hard to go wrong with grams, milliliters and a set of measuring spoons.
To be accurate, you’ll need a good weighing scale and ensure that you set back to zero once the bowl is on the scale before adding any ingredients.

Digital scales are best but remember you will need to have spare batteries as they are guaranteed to die right in the middle of making a cake!