There’s nothing like a solid friend. The sort who you can Skype at 7 am while you still have creases from a pillow wedged onto your cheek. The ones who offer to come over and sort through shipping boxes and sip a cup of tea, rather than go out for a spiffy lunch.

They’re the kind that cleaves of time and distance won”t wrinkle. You know you can pick up the phone after two years, or two hours and it will still be just the same. I think it comes from being cut from similar cloth and having a shared bank of shining memories.

This loaf cake is the spirit animal of those sorts of friendships. It takes four things which are natural companions, no matter which way you splice them. Apples and raspberries; they’re kindred creations. The same goes with apples and almonds and to that mind; apples and ricotta.  These things all work together. If this was a venn diagram, the centre of this quadrant would be a cosy hug of brightness and warmth. You could of course omit one element (apple ricotta and raspberry or ricotta, almond and apple etc) but to me it would lose more than a quarter of its charm. Without the raspberries, there’s no spark. The apple calls forth mild sweetness and some chew. The almonds; a toasty crunch. And the baked ricotta on the crown gives an elegant plume to it all.

But the best thing about this loaf is just how swift it is to pull together. There’s not a lot of spare time being sifted through here at the moment. As much as it might seem like I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a baby to grace us with its presence  (seriously, any day now), there’s also now another rather terrifying deadline looming. It’s for another project, that’s almost as exciting (well, maybe not, but it’s still a good one), yet it doesn’t leave a lot of spare hours for googling phantom symptoms and refolding tiny hats and bibs.

So when people drop in, I need cakes like this. It’s shockingly easy. Embarrassing even. There’s no beating of butter and sugar. There’s no whipping of eggs. You don’t even have to peel the apple (I like the rustic heft the skin provides).

It’s the sort of thing that’s perfect for good friends. You can even pull it  together one handed while you’ve got a phone balanced in the nook of your neck, nattering away. And then when you have to hang up because there’s a scary to-do list glinting from the dining room table, rest easy. Next time you see them, you’ll make them this- and once again everyone will part with a sweet taste in their mouth.

Raspberry, Apple, Almond Ricotta Loaf

Nb, the almond milk can easily be substituted for regular milk or yoghurt, though if you have some on hand it does help amplify the almond flavour in the loaf. It’s also a nifty thing to keep in the cupboard for emergency banana smoothies- and The Hungry One is quite keen on it in his piccolo lattes.

Shopping/foraging

1/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk (or regular milk, or yoghurt)
2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 cup raspberries (frozen are fine)
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 apple, cored and finely sliced
1/3 cup flaked almonds

 Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat oven to 180C/350 F and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2)  Whisk together the oil, milk and eggs and sugar.

3) Sift in the flour and bicarb. Stir to just combine (don’t overwork the batter)

4) Tumble in the berries and stir to combine. Try not to bash them about too much.

5) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.

6) Use a teaspoon to dab the ricotta down the top of the loaf. Lay the apple slices tightly together over the top of the ricotta in the centre of the loaf and sprinkle the flaked almonds down the sides.

7) Bake for 50 minutes, until the almonds are toasted and a skewer comes out clean. Slice and serve with a cup of tea.