November 5, 2013

RIESLING WINE CAKE, and the strange case of “whose recipe is it anyway?”

A few of you who have been reading this blog for a while might remember the episode a couple of years ago when I, along with many others, was ticked off by Dan Lepard’s editor/business manager/civil partner, David Whitehouse, for writing up one of his recipes on my blog.  Since then I have paid special attention to saying where recipes come from and in any case I only ever use my own photos,  but my copy of “Short and Sweet” remains unopened and gathering dust on the bottom shelf, as if jinxed. 

You will see the reason for revisiting this sorry episode when you read on............

riesling wine cake

I became a member of the Clandestine Cake Club this year (it was bound to happen) and in August I was at last able to get to one of their local meetings.  I volunteered Nick to come with me as my guest.  For those who don’t know (there might be a few!) the CCC is a UK club with branches up and down the country and the idea is that you bake a cake, take it to the meeting, introduce it, eat it, eat everybody else’s cake and, having eaten more cake than you could ever have imagined, you take away slices of all the cakes at the meeting.  Marvellous !!

riesling wine cake1

Anyway, Nick decided he would also like to make a cake to take to the meeting.  The theme was “sweet and savoury” so I made a savoury cake to a Rachel Khoo recipe, which was very nice, but I wouldn’t make it again.  Nick hunted for a recipe he would like to do and found one for Riesling Wine Cake in the Hairy Bikers Baking book that I had borrowed from the library.  This is the book that went with their Bakeation series on TV. 

riesling wine cake2

riesling wine cake3

There were lots of beautiful cakes at the meeting and whilst mine was said to be very nice, his got plenty of attention and even a special mention in the write-up after the event.  Harrumph. 

riesling wine cake4

The savoury cakes at the CCC meeting, with mine at the front.

With the next CCC meeting coming up I decided it was time to blog about the last one and looked for the Riesling cake recipe on the web, only to find no mention of it at all in any association with the Hairy Bikers.  However, I did find it here where it is credited to another TV chef, Simon Rimmer.  In fact it appears in the Hairy Bikers’ book word for word exactly the same as you see it credited to Simon Rimmer on this website, even the photograph is the same.  Now there’s a thing.

riesling wine cake5

The sweet cakes, with Nick’s at the front.

To be fair, in the introduction to the cake in their book, the Hairies don’t say they made the cake, they say they ate it in Germany and “loved it so much” they had to find out how to make it.  Obviously they did but are not giving any clue where the recipe came from.

So, what is that all about then?  Is the recipe really Mr Rimmer’s and does he know they put it in their book?

Maybe the Hairies paid Mr Rimmer handsomely for the privilege of using the recipe, or bought him a pint.  Or maybe it was the other way round, because curiously, the photo on the website looks like it was taken by the same person who took all the photos in the Hairies’ book.  The plot thickens, we will probably never know what the answer is and …. how much does it matter in any case? 

Anyway, I have to give credit to Nick, it was a stunningly good cake and looked the business topped with a few redcurrants from our garden.  It’s a very sophisticated cake.  You can taste the wine, the orange and the cardamom, and it’s gluten free.  He has made it again since but omitted the syrup that you pour on the top, which was better we think.  The syrup makes it extremely moist and boozy but we actually liked it better without it.

Nick is now a full member of our local branch of CCC.

The link I gave for the recipe on the web here has disappeared, as they do, so I have written the recipe below.


For the cake

12 cardamon pods

150g light soft brown sugar

4 lge eggs

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 2 oranges

100ml sunflower oil

150ml Riesling wine

200g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

For the wine syrup (omit if you prefer)

200ml Riesling wine

150g caster sugar


Grease and line the base of a 25cm round springform tin.  Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk4.  

In a mortar and pestle, bash the cardamom pods until split.  Tip them out onto a plate, pick out the seeds and put them back in the mortar, discarding the pods.  Grind the seeds to a powder.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until lighter and creamy.  Add the citrus zests and cardamom and beat until combined.  Whisk in the oil and wine until smooth and thick.

Mix the baking powder with the ground almonds then fold into the batter.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and golden.  Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing from the tin*.

*If using the syrup (optional) leave the cake in the tin, put the wine and sugar into a small saucepan, bring slowly to the boil, stirring all the time.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the syrup over the cake while still warm and in its tin, a little at a time so that it soaks in.  If the syrup pools on the top of the cake prick the surface with a skewer.  Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Serve decorated with a few redcurrants or raspberries, a dusting of icing sugar and a little cream or crème fraîche if you like.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.


  1. I notice that the website in question is an Australian magazine. So perhaps one side was hoping the other wouldn't see it. Does Simon Rimmer get any sort of acknowledgement in the book (at the back for instance). Who is listed as the photographer for that page -- that would be a way of tracking down who was first. And dates of publication. Yes I think matters. At best it's disingenuous, at worst it is profiting from someone else's work.

    1. Susan, it says "food photography by Cristian Barnett" in the credits and acknowledgments but there is no mention of where recipes come from, except to for thanks to someone called Justine Pattison and several assistants for "help and advice on the recipes".

  2. I think the BBC has a lot of recipes they seem to label to whichever chef is on TV at the time... lovely lot of cakes... don't lose sleep over anything though x

    1. The Lepardgate incident did spook me at the time and I think I would have handled it differently now, ie not panicked.

  3. Ha ha! I was also a victim of over-zealous Lepard protectionism - I copied out a recipe for marmalade cheslea buns, giving full credit, but was asked to take it down and replace it with a link back to the Guardian web page where I'd found it. It made me think twice about opening Short & Sweet again too and I didn't touch it for about a year, but it is a very good book, and I have snuck back to it. It does make you think though, that if the celebrity chefs are nicking recipes, where does that leave the rest of us...

  4. As far as I know, you can't copyright recipes as such. Certainly using someone else's photos and/or their exact words is breach of copyright. But rewriting in your own words and/or adapting it is not -- although out of politeness I would always state where I'd adapted it from.

    I think some big names (Jamie Oliver is another one) haven't grasped that food bloggers are popularising them by blogging about their recipes, not "stealing" from them, and pursuing them is counter-productive.

  5. It is difficult to know where a recipe originally came from. You see the same recipe on many chef's and cook's sites just given a little tweak from another version. I wouldn't worry about it; The Hairy Bikers don't!

  6. Whoever created the recipe, it's a really lovely looking cake. Over the years I've come across quite a few examples of recipes turning up in more than one book. There was a time in the 1990s when a certain celebrity chef managed to "accidentally" publish several recipes which were exactly the same as a celebrity chef from another country together with several recipes which were simply reprints of Eliza Acton recipes - all without any credits.
    On the other hand, I know how hard it is to develop and test new recipes and I don't blame writers for repeating well known recipes. After all, you've got to find the time you need to enter dance competitions from somewhere. A lot of writers have 'home economists' who do a lot of the development and testing, it's just that some are better than others at acknowledging the fact (Nigella's Hettie, for instance). As for Dan L, I didn't buy his book when it came out because it was just too expensive, especially since a lot of the recipes were already available on line. I do have a copy now and it's a pretty decent collection from someone who knows what he's talking about. But I only bought it because it was about a third of the original price in a shop selling remaindered and bankrupt stock. I don't think it's easy trying to earn your living solely from cookery books any longer. The world has changed.
    Perhaps we'll see Dan doing the paso doble before too long.

    1. Phil, I think it was the fact that all the recipes were turning up on line that prompted the Lepardgate incident.
      Some, like me, argued that it would promote book sales and in fact I bought it myself because it had been so often praised in blogs, but it was by then a sensible price in the supermarkets.
      I think you're right though, nobody can make a living from cookbooks alone these days. You need the TV series to go with it, plus the speciality foods and so on. Mary Berry's pension must have benefited enormously from her re-inventing herself in the last few years, but then she does know what she's talking about and people trust her.
      I'm not sure how much I would enjoy seeing DL doing the paso doble.