Smoked tarragon locket

Smoked tarragon locket

Sticky Fingers Green Thumb
Tara Pearce, Tim Hillier

I had a very special grandma named Lucy Locket. She was a cockney sweetheart and an absolute fiend for sweets – custard éclairs, bite-sized fudge pieces and slabs of sticky toffee were her weaknesses. This is her recipe for ‘the ultimate chocolate cake’. It’s a light, springy chocolate cake pockmarked with toffee dimples and edges. I’ve added my own touch by smoking the flour and cocoa with home-dried tarragon to give the cake a subtle liquorice, tobacco and vanilla background. Serve it to your granny and tell me what she thinks.


Quantity Ingredient
375g self-raising flour
30g dutch (unsweetened) cocoa powder
5g dried tarragon
1 teasponn bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
230g caster (superfine) sugar
60ml golden syrup
2 eggs
200ml grapeseed oil
200ml milk
tarragon sprigs, 1 large handful to decorate

Chocolate icing

Quantity Ingredient
125g unsalted butter
130g milk chocolate, broken into small chunks
185g icing (confectioners’) sugar
60ml milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Lightly grease and line a 22 cm heart-shaped or round cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Add the flour and cocoa to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Add the tarragon to the burn chamber of a smoking gun and smoke the flour mixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions, being sure to only do this for a few seconds so as not to overdo the tarragon fragrance.
  3. Sift the smoked flour mixture into a large mixing bowl together with the bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar. Beat in the golden syrup, eggs, oil and milk for 3 minutes, or until well combined, then pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water and melt gently, stirring, until completely smooth. Remove from the heat, stir in the icing sugar and milk and beat until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
  5. Place the cooled cake on a serving plate or stand and spread the top and sides with the chocolate icing. Decorate with the tarragon sprigs.

The French do it better

  • Tarragon is a woody creeping plant with three main varieties – Russian, Mexican and French. While Russian and Mexican varieties are bushier in looks and coarser in texture, French tarragon is considered to have the truest and softest flavour of the three. Plant yours from cuttings in sandy soil within reach of full sunlight.
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