The Exploding Bakery Café opened in Exeter in 2011, and its traybakes were an immediate success. The café is still there, and still serving excellent cake and coffee. Its owners Tom Oxford and Oliver Coysh have now written their first cookbook.

In 2011 Tom Oxford and Oliver Coysh set out to build a cake revolution.

They put it quite succinctly in their new cookery book. ‘We wanted to knock off the rainbow sparkles, set fire to the pink fondant icing and let all the unicorn cakes burn to the ground in a blaze of glory.’

Tom and Ollie started making and selling their traybakes, served alongside excellent coffee, at their Exploding Bakery Café in Exeter’s Queen Street. The bakes were all made in an ethical and sustainable way, using ingredients from like-minded suppliers including Cornish butter from Trewithen Diary, Littlepod Real Vanilla and eggs from a nearby farm. They started selling wholesale to local shops and cafes and the business grew – they now also sell by post.

Bake it. Slice it. Eat it. features over 90 recipes, with chapters covering basic and ‘boss level’, as well as flourless and wholesome bakes and there’s a section on brownies; and all can be made in one pan. These are recipes that ‘go beneath the surface and focus on the integrity of the cake creating knockout flavours and banging textures with killer ingredients at the same time’.

Great British Life: Zucchini and Lime Cake.(top) Photo: Sam A Harris/QuadrilleZucchini and Lime Cake.(top) Photo: Sam A Harris/Quadrille

Zucchini and Lime Cake

Although we call them courgettes in the UK, zucchini sounds more exotic somehow – and besides, courgettes have an association with savoury food. Baking a cake with a vegetable that is light on flavour, a bit fibrous and water-laden might sound like it wouldn’t work, but it actually brings a lot of subtlety to the party. When grated, the zucchini adds texture and binds the ingredients. Most importantly, though, it brings its own unique brand of wholesome moisture. If you’re into it, an iota of cardamom is a really good addition to this cake to give it a little more complexity.


6 medium eggs

375g caster sugar

300ml rapeseed (canola) or sunflower oil

400g ground almonds

250g polenta (cornmeal)

20g poppy seeds

a pinch of salt

finely grated zest and juice of 3 limes

350g courgettes, topped, tailed and grated (you should get 300g grated flesh)

For the topping

200g icing sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime


Preheat the oven to 170°C /gas 5 and line a 22 x 33 x 5cm baking tray (sheet pan).

To make the cake, mix together the eggs and sugar until they emulsify, then slowly add the oil, mixing between each addition. Now add the almonds, polenta, poppy seeds and salt and mix to combine. Stir in the lime zest and juice, followed by the grated courgettes. Once combined, pour the mixture into your lined tray and bake for 50–60 minutes until golden on top.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray before icing. If you’re short on time (or just impatient), you can pop the cake in the freezer so it cools faster.

While the cake is cooling, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lime juice. Mix well to make a runny, white icing. Leaving it to sit for a while will help it thicken up.

When the cake is cool enough, remove from the tray and place on a chopping board, then pour the icing over the top and, before the icing has time to harden, sprinkle over the lime zest to add a splash of colour. Alternatively, a scattering of poppy seeds looks good, too.

Best eaten at room temperature. This will keep for a week when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Great British Life: Meringue Cake. Photo: Sam A Harris/Quadrille Meringue Cake. Photo: Sam A Harris/Quadrille

Meringue Cake

Ideally, you want some sour fruit in the centre of this cake to punch through the meringue and hit you in the face, remedying the sweetness. It’s similar to a Louise cake, which uses a layer of jam in the middle. You could try that, or even some sort of curd, perhaps passion fruit or sea buckthorn. We’ve found the frozen bags of mixed summer fruits are pretty good for this recipe, and you can top the sponge mixture with them while they’re still frozen. But obviously, fresh fruits are really good too. Gooseberries work really well too, just be sure to cut them up into small pieces first.


150g soft butter

125g caster sugar

4 medium egg yolks

100g plain yoghurt

finely grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½

150g plain flour

a pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

500g summer fruits (blackcurrants, red currants, raspberries, blackberries)

1 tbsp cornflour

For the meringue

4 medium egg whites

200g caster sugar

a pinch of salt

juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp cornflour


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/gas 6 and line your 22 x 33 x 5cm baking tray.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl or stand mixer until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks and stir in the yoghurt and lemon zest. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder, then fold in until combined.

Spread the mixture across the base of your lined tray, being careful to get full and even coverage.

Put the fruit in a bowl with the lemon juice and cornflour and stir to combine.

Now arrange the fruit on top of the cake batter, cutting any large pieces in half. Avoid dumping too much fruit in the middle, as that’s the last place the sponge will cook; it’s best to distribute more around the edges.

Bake for 30 minutes until the sponge puffs up around the pieces of fruit and begins to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, to make the meringue, beat together the egg whites and sugar in a clean bowl for 5–6 minutes until the mixture starts looking like white emulsion paint. Add the other ingredients and mix for a further minute or so until thick and glossy.

When the fruit and sponge layer is ready, spread the meringue over the top, making small peaks with the back of a spoon.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C fan/gas 4 and bake for another 25 minutes until the meringue is firm and browning at the peaks.

Leave to cool in the tray for half an hour before transferring to a chopping board. This will keep for 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Great British Life: Bakewell. Photo: Sam A Harris/QuadrilleBakewell. Photo: Sam A Harris/Quadrille

Raspberry and white chocolate Bakewell

Don’t be fooled by the name of this cake; it is merely a nod to the British Bakewell style, and actually has its roots in the rather fancy French friand, a small cake famed for its unusually dense yet somehow light and tender texture. Many years ago, we made them in our café, and somewhere along the line we decided to squeeze all that continental classiness into a traybake, so we bent it to our will and the result is a rather tasty Anglo-French slab of sustenance. Perfect for an end-of-summer picnic with a glass of something crisp and cold, or a flask of tea.


250g soft butter

375g caster sugar

8 medium eggs

250g ground almonds

210g plain flour

1 tsp salt

200g white chocolate chips

250g fresh raspberries

75g flaked almonds

icing sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/gas 6 and line your 22 x 33 x 5cm baking tray.

Beat the softened butter and sugar together until combined and light in colour.

Next, add the eggs and beat until fully combined and emulsified, then add the ground almonds, flour and salt. Mix until fully combined – there’s no need to beat this furiously, just enough to create a nice smooth batter.

Add the white chocolate chips and raspberries to the mixing bowl and fold through so they’re evenly dispersed. Keep mixing until ripples of pink raspberry juice begin to appear, but don’t break up the raspberries too much, as you do want some bigger bursts of fruit.

Pour the mixture into your lined tray and spread it out evenly using a spatula.

Finally, sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly across the top and place in the oven.

Bake for 45–55 minutes. You’re looking for a lovely light golden caramelization to the cake and the flaked almonds.

Leave to cool in the tray for at least 15 minutes, then remove from the tray and dust with icing sugar before serving while still a little warm. This will keep for 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Bake it. Slice it. Eat it by The Exploding Bakery is published by Quadrille, £15.

Great British Life: Bake it. Slice it. Eat it by The Exploding BakeryBake it. Slice it. Eat it by The Exploding Bakery