People often call Durham the most vanilla university in the UK, and there’s no denying that they’re probably right. Like anyone, I love a night in Jimmy’s, but the nightlife of our beautiful city has nothing on that of our neighbours Newcastle. Similarly, there’s not exactly much to do unless you take the train the fifteen-minute journey north. The shopping and eating is woeful, which isn’t helped by the number of places closing down (RIP M&S – now where will I buy my free range, organic, wheat-free, dairy-free quinoa???).
I still tell my friends back home that they should come and visit me, tempting them with promises of fancy formals and balls. But maybe we should just embrace how vanilla our university is. To help with that, we’ve come up with three cheap and very easy desserts where vanilla is the star ingredient. After all, you are what you eat…
This recipe doesn’t require any baking, making it one of the easiest desserts to prepare. You can buy small bottles of vanilla extract from Tesco; there’s no need to get pods. You can create variations on this basic recipe by swirling Nutella through the cheese mixture, and by putting various things on top once it’s ready (raspberries, grated chocolate etc.)
Supposedly serves 6, but it’s very easy to eat yourself while watching Netflix (not speaking from experience or anything like that of course……)
• 125g unsalted butter
• 250g digestive biscuits
• 600g full-fat cream cheese (room temperature)
• 90g icing sugar
• 1 tsp. lemon juice
• 1tsp. vanilla extract
• 200ml double cream
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat.
2. Put the biscuits in a sandwich bag, seal, and crush with a rolling pin.
3. Take the butter off the heat, add the crushed biscuit, and stir until well mixed.
4. Push down the biscuit mix into a 22-24cm cake tin with a push out bottom, or into a round dish lined with grease proof paper. Try and get it flat, then place in the fridge.
5. Mix the cream cheese with the icing sugar (which sets the topping), lemon juice (which gives the slightly soured taste), and the all-important vanilla extract (which makes this into a truly Durham recipe).
6. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base, then chill for 4-6 hours.
Easy vanilla cake
This recipe is so easy there’s only three steps, but there’s massive room for variation – you can add pretty much whatever you want. Replace two tablespoons of flour with the same of cocoa powder and spread Nutella over the baked cake, or add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the mix and pour 2 teaspoons of icing sugar dissolved in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice over the cake for lemon drizzle.
• 170g plain flour
• 170g caster sugar
• 170g butter
• 3 medium eggs
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and pour the mix into a medium cake tin lined with grease proof paper.
2. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 mins at 180C or 160C fan.
3. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before eating.
• 300g mascarpone (room temperature)
• 2 tbsp. Nutella
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Mix everything in a large bowl. Do it slowly to create a marbled effect.
2. Spoon into four wine glasses, smooth the top and sprinkle over cocoa powder.
3. Orrrrrr just eat it straight from the bowl.