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Maria Bradford’s Sierra Leonean-style rich cake recipe

This light and fluffy cake has a hint of orange.

(Yuki Sugiura/PA)

“I have fond childhood memories of the preparation process involved in making this cake,” says Maria Bradford, author of Sweet Salone.

“We would often cream the butter and sugar by hand using a wooden spoon in Sierra Leone and this could take hours, but the end result was worth it. The next step is where Sierra Leonean ingenuity comes in. We would butter the inside of empty powdered milk tins and use these as baking tins.

“The cake was then baked outside in the open on an improvised oven, with a large pot placed on top of three stones, with sand spread across the base. We put the cake tins on top of the hot sand in the pot and put the lid on. Our fuel was wood or charcoal, and when the fuel was very hot, we put lumps of hot charcoal on top of the lid of the pot to brown both the top and bottom of the cake.”

Sierra Leonean-style rich cake


(Serves 6-8)

150g butter, plus extra for buttering

150g caster sugar

3 eggs

50g plain flour

150g self-raising flour

1–2tbsp full-fat milk

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1tsp natural orange flavouring (I use Steenbergs’ Organic Orange Extract)


1. Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Generously butter an 18-centimetre cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/350ºF/gas mark 4.

2. Using an electric hand-mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy (10–15 minutes). Don’t rush this step; the more thoroughly the butter and sugar are combined, the lighter the cake will be. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each addition. Add one tablespoon of flour with the last egg to prevent curdling.

3. Sift both flours into the bowl and gently fold in, adding just enough milk to give a mixture that drops slowly from a spoon when the spoon is held away from the bowl. Fold in the orange zest and orange flavouring.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Turn the cake onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Slice and enjoy.


Sweet Salone by Maria Bradford is published by Quadrille, priced £30. Photography by Yuki Sugiura. Available now.


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