One of the most overused words in the world of food these days seems to be “twist", as in “traditional dishes with a modern twist" or magazines urging us to “add a twist" to our baking. I’m not averse to playing around with recipes and in the last few years I’ve had a lot of fun “Indianizing" traditional recipes, with jaggery, ghee and a hint of spice. Sometimes, though, there are very good reasons for keeping things the way they’ve always been.

The period just after Christmas and New Year is usually the time, if you’ve been overindulging, for detoxing, hitting the gym and embracing the latest fad diet. This year, I gather we’re all meant to be facing up to the fact that we’re addicted to sugar. While I’ll never be able to give up eating or making cake (twisted or otherwise), even in the post-excess days of January, this year I was definitely craving something a little more wholesome, a cake containing nutrients as well as mood-enhancing but evil, addictive carbs. At times like this I often turn to my mother’s All-Bran Loaf, a quietly comforting and bolstering cake which offers the cholesterol-beating qualities of bran and nutritious dried fruit.

My mother’s original, from an old recipe journal, was no doubt copied from the back of a cereal packet sometime in the 1970s. I particularly like the note my mum added at the end, “The addition of an egg improves it greatly."

It’s a ridiculously simple recipe—a teacup is used to measure out a few simple ingredients which are then left to soak overnight (although in fact you could just leave them an hour or so). In the morning an (optional!) egg and flour are added. You don’t need any obscure equipment or any baking experience, just the ability to stir.

I, however, couldn’t resist the temptation to play around with the basic recipe, to add my own “twist". I decided to use some of the dried fruit and nuts I had left over from Christmas—apricot, cranberries, cherries and walnuts. I used less (and brown rather than white) sugar than the original, and added some cinnamon. My husband walked in while I was experimenting and looked sceptical, accusing me of mucking about unnecessarily with a perfectly good family classic

And you know what? He was right to be sceptical. The new version was lovely and looked very colourful but it wasn’t my mum’s cake. Hers is the one that reminds me of a much-missed mother who used to spend every Saturday afternoon baking. When she’d made everyone’s favourites (the All-Bran Loaf was my brother’s and at that time I was devoted to fairy cakes), she would lay out a tablecloth on the sitting room floor and set out a picnic, including little greaseproof parcels of banana sandwiches, which we all devoured while watching Doctor Who. And the word “twist" has no place in those memories.

I’ve used a 200ml capacity teacup for my cake but you could use any size as long as you use the same measure for all the ingredients. I’ve also included the equivalent weights. I always add an egg as I like to feel I’m enhancing the recipe according to my mother’s instructions, but you could leave it out. If you’re serious about your January detox you could also reduce the amount of sugar by about half.

All-Bran Loaf

Makes 1 loaf—using a 200ml capacity teacup


1 cup (70g) All-Bran cereal

1 cup (150g) brown sugar (the original used white caster sugar but I am sure my mother would have approved of this slight modification)

1 cup (150g) raisins (or a mixture of other dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, cherries)

1 cup (200ml) milk

1 egg (optional)

1 cup (150g) plain flour

½ tsp baking powder


In a large bowl, mix together the All-Bran, sugar, raisins and milk. Stir well, cover and leave to soak overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius and grease a 20x7cm loaf tin. Beat the egg, then add it to the soaked ingredients along with the sifted flour and baking powder. Stir everything well and put it into the loaf tin. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, then reduce to 180 degrees Celsius for another 20 minutes. Check the loaf with a skewer, there shouldn’t be any uncooked cake mix attached.

Leave to cool and then slice. Eat on its own although I prefer it spread with salty butter. The loaf keeps well in a tin for a few days.

Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns