Michelle Darmody: The swinging pendulum of January

In January I swing like a pendulum between my perceived new, healthier self and the more usual me. The me who wants to sit on the couch, eat comfort food, with a pile of books and films at my side, and wait for the evenings to brighten up before facing the world.

One January morning breakfast is homemade granola filled with seeds and nuts, topped with organic yoghurt and the next it is slices of fried black pudding on toast with eggs and lashings of butter. Today’s recipes are a microcosm of my January moods; one extremely healthy, one not and another somewhere in the middle.

Cinnamon scrolls are rich and heavy and not for everyday. The filling is made up of chopped nuts, butter and sugar that seeps into the dough as it bakes. They are very tasty eaten warm and sticky soon after they are taken out of the oven. The fig compote in the sponge can also be made independently and used in porridge or with yogurt at breakfast time. If you are feeling more virtuous, and veering towards the healthier side, the pumpkin seed buns are a good option. They contain spelt flour which, for many, is easier to digest than wheat and are packed with seeds, bran and wheatgerm for added fibre. The orange zest adds a nice hint of citrus.

Today, as I write, and the second storm of the New Year lashes against the windowpane, the pendulum is swinging towards the soft and sticky cinnamon scrolls.

Cinnamon and walnut scrolls



  • 2 tbs of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon, ground
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 350g of self raising flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150mls of milk
  • 100g of melted butter


  • 2 tsp of cinnamon, ground
  • 50g of muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbs of caster sugar
  • 2 tbs of melted butter
  • Handful of walnuts, finely chopped


  • 1 tbs of melted butter
  • 2 tbs of cream cheese
  • 120g of icing sugar
  • 2 tbs of boiling water


Heat your oven to 180C. Grease and line an 8in-round cake tin.

Add the caster sugar,cinnamon, sea salt and flour into a large bowl and mix. Add the egg yolks, milk and melted butter and combine all ingredients until completely mixed together. Allow to sit as you make the filling.

Mix the cinnamon, sugars, butter and walnuts until they form a paste.

Roll the dough into a rectangle and spread the filling on top. Roll it up into acylinder so that it looks like a swissroll. Cut it into 10 slices. Lay the slices into the prepared tin, lay them flat so you can see the swissroll-like rolls facing up from the tin. You may have to pack them in but do not worry if they pull apart after baking.

Place into the oven for 35 minutes until golden and risen.

Mix the ingredients for the glaze until smooth. Place the rolls onto a wire rack when cool enough to handle. Brush with the glaze.

Fig and vanilla sponge 


  • 100g of dried figs
  • 20g of sultanas
  • 20g of dried apricots
  • 260 mls of cloudy apple juice
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon, ground
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 150g of self-raising flour
  • 2 drops of vanilla essence or the inside of 1 vanilla pod
  • 120g of mascarpone


Heat the oven 180C and prepare two cake tins by lining them with parchment.

Place the figs, sultanas, apricots, apple juice and cinnamon into a heavy saucepan and simmer on a low heat until it is syrupy and thick — about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Mix your eggs and sugar with the balloon attachment until really light and fluffy, it will take a bit of patience to get the desired result but it is worth the effort.

Sieve in the flour and then fold it in gently so the mixture does not lose its volume, fold in the vanilla as well.

Pour half of the mixture into each tin and bake for about 20 minutes until they have risen and are nice and golden. Do not open the oven door during the first half of the baking time.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then transfer the cakes onto a wire rack.

Once completely cooled spread one cake with a layer of mascarpone then spread the fig compote on top. Place the other sponge over it.



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