Giant Raspberry Jam Tart

The disastrous jam tart which Mr S described as looking like “a road accident!”

October 31st 2021.

You know when you have a great plan and it goes drastically wrong? That! One Sunday afternoon I had the oven on and thought about a pudding we could have for dessert. I’d only got one egg left after all my baking orders and was just about to head out to buy more. Then I realised that pastry only needed one egg and I had loads of jam to use up. The thought of a Viennese style Linzertorte appealed to me.

I made up a batch of cinnamon and lemon infused sweet shortcrust pastry in my food processor first. Then I wrapped the ball of dough in some cling film and chilled it in the fridge. I did this for about one hour but for some reason the dough was extremely difficult to work with.

My hands were feeling incredibly hot for some reason. I blame the menopause as they never usually feel like this, Or maybe I had not chilled the dough for long enough or maybe I’d not put enough flour in the recipe. I tried rolling the dough out into a circle to line the tin but sadly it kept sticking no matter how much flour was sprinkled onto the work top or onto my rolling pin! Then the dough kept breaking as I was rolling it out. This was so frustrating, I can tell you!

Eventually, I managed to line my 20cm (8″) diameter loose bottomed flan tin. I had originally wanted to use my bigger tin but I just couldn’t roll the dough out enough without it breaking. Also the more I ended up handling the dough, the more it broke. I couldn’t start again as I needed more eggs!

Finally the flan tin had a pastry lining! I had to do a lot of patching up, in fact I felt like I was plastering a wall rather than making a tart! When I had the lining in place, I got a sharp knife and trimmed the top of the pastry. I was tempted to crack open the wine there and then but I resisted!

The cinnamon pastry burned very quickly but left the jam filling really runny in the middle of the tart.

I noticed I wouldn’t have enough jam from just one jar to fill the insides of the tart tin, so I mixed two jars of seedless raspberry jam together and then spooned it into the tart case. There was just enough.

Now for the traditional Linzertorte Lattice pattern. To achieve this I had to roll out the remaining pastry in a rectangle shape and use a fluted pastry cutter wheel to cut strips of pastry. I didn’t have a fluted wheel so I tried with a pizza cutter. This should have been straightforward but it never is when you have pastry that won’t do what it should do! As I picked up the pastry strips they kept falling apart. The lattice pattern had to be abandoned. As it was Halloween I found a small pumpkin shaped cutter in my stash. Reluctantly, I managed to get a few pumpkin shapes cut out but even those looked rank!

We couldn’t have a traditional Linzertorte lattice pattern as the pastry kept breaking. So instead we had burnt pumpkins!

I put the tart into the oven at 160oc fan but it took so much longer to cook than expected. The jam in the middle was still far too runny even after about 40 minutes baking time. Considering the amount I’d used in the filling, I was not impressed. I took it out of the oven after the 40 minutes and admitted defeat.

After giving it some time to cool down I tried to remove the tart from the tin and thankfully it came out ok. I left it on the worktop to cool down completely before I even attempted to cut it up. It was far too late to even think about using it as a dessert and besides we were full up after dinner anyway.

The filling was still a little bit runny in the middle.

Later on, I tried to cut into the tart so I could put it in the fridge in a plastic box. Mr S came into the kitchen and said the tart “looked like a road accident!” He was right but he was lucky he didn’t end up wearing it!

I did taste a morsel and it actually wasn’t that bad. But not enough to want to eat a whole slice and to serve it up for dessert.

I was so embarrassed by this bake that I definitely won’t be sharing the recipe for this one. I wouldn’t want to publish a recipe which clearly was a big baking fail! One to work on for the future!

The “road accident” jam tart in all it’s glory!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #33: The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Sunday October 24th 2021:

It was my Mum’s birthday and as she was coming up to visit for a couple of days, I thought I would bake her a birthday cake. It had to be one which would keep and she could have enough to take home and share with her friends she was meeting up with later on in the week.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m getting to struggle with being able to make some of the bakes in my Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Not because I can’t make them but simply because of the sheer waste of ingredients or not having the occasion to bake these cakes. I can’t be baking a three tier wedding cake when I’ve not got a wedding to bake for.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake on page 76 in the Chocolate Chapter looked like a pretty but not too over the top cake. It was baked in two layers but with both layers cut horizontally to create four. The recipe containing sour cream was also one which would keep it moist and fudgy which is what I needed as it might not get eaten straightaway.

I ended up baking the cake as three separate layers rather than two layers cut in half. I use ready made baking parchment circles for the bottom of my tins and this helped me to grease and line the tins.

Unfortunately, I was listening to a radio programme at the time so I was distracted and forgot to put in the baking powder. I only realised afterwards when the cakes were in the oven and I was putting the ingredients away, that I had forgotten it. I don’t know if it had much effect, the cake had still risen. Thank heavens for that.

I left the cakes cooling on the worktop while Mr S and I went off to walk the dog. When we came back I made up the chocolate buttercream icing. I used Callebaut dark chocolate chips, icing sugar, butter and some sour cream to make up the icing.

The three layers of chocolate sponge cooling on the racks in my kitchen. After my disaster forgetting to add the baking powder, I was expecting to have three large cookies!

The original decoration for the Ultimate Chocolate Cake was to have the sides plain but the top to be decorated like a giant rose petal. I didn’t have a petal nozzle suitable so instead I put a thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides and used a scraper to get the effect. To top the cake I piped stars around the edge and in the middle, topping each star with some edible shimmer pearl decorations from Tesco which I’d also used for my daughter’s birthday cheesecake the week before. I also found some Cake Angels Millionaire’s Sprinkles which contained gold stars and tiny fudge pieces to sprinkle all over the top of the cake.

My mum was really pleased with the cake. Although we are all trying to be healthy and eat sensibly, you have to have a treat when it’s your birthday. We had a small sliver with a cup of tea the day after Mum’s birthday as we ended up having scones on her actual day! Mum cut us a piece to enjoy the next day and then took the rest with her to share with her friends. I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

I think this recipe is going to be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on. But next time I’ll remember to add the baking powder!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #30: Fairy Cakes

These Fairy Cakes were made with half Sugar and Crumbs’ white chocolate icing sugar and plain icing sugar. The sprinkles are called my “Frozen” sprinkles in my house as they remind me of the colour of Elsa’s dress.

Hi everyone! Once again I’ve not kept up with my blogging. I’ve started a new job. I only work part time (every morning) but I’m busy with my online baking commitments and juggling lots going on at home at the moment.

I’m pleased to say it’s actually now half term week here and although I love my day job, I really need this week to catch up. Not to mention getting to see friends, having my Mum to stay and to get on with those long overdue chores.

I’ve still got round to baking the odd thing for ourselves and I got round to testing out the Fairy Cakes recipe in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes a couple of weeks back.

I have my own tried and tested foolproof cupcake recipe and this has been my go-to recipe for the past ten years or so. But every now and then I like trying out other recipes to see how they compare to my favourite one.

I must admit I’ve not called these little cakes Fairy Cakes since I was little and I guess cupcakes can be seen as a bigger version. I’m not sure. I live in North Yorkshire and before cupcakes became popular, I heard other people calling them buns. No matter what their name was, they’re still fun to bake. I decided to make some cupcakes from the Fairy Cake recipe in the Bake Off book and to adapt the icing to suit what I had in the cupboard at the time.

The Bake Off recipe in the Amazing Cakes book differed slightly in that the quantities of butter, sugar and flour was 25% less than what I put in my recipe for a dozen cupcakes. I use 125g of each of the former, adding in a teaspoonful of vanilla extract to two eggs. This recipe stated 100g of each to the two eggs as well as vanilla bean paste. For my icing, I use 250g butter to 500g icing sugar as a ratio and add milk to soften. The smaller quantity must have been because the recipe was for fairy cakes. I didn’t have the right size cake cases, only larger ones so I actually did up my quantities a bit.

When it got to creating the icing, I noticed the recipe was for two tone butter cream and this also was shown in the photo. I looked in my cupboard and only had half a pack of plain icing sugar as well as half a back of Sugar and Crumbs’ White Chocolate Flavoured Icing Sugar. I just decided to cop out of making it two tone and just made up the recipe quantities with half plain, half flavoured icing sugar. I had some leftover blue, green and lilac sprinkles which I call my “Frozen Sprinkles” to put on the top of the cakes.

I piped my usual swirl on top of the cupcakes with my large star shaped nozzle but I was interested in the recipe book instructions on buttercream and also different ways to decorate cupcakes. I also liked the illustrations to show what alternative effects you could get, depending on the type of nozzle used to pipe the buttercream on the cakes. I would have loved to have experimented with my piping bag but I was so short of time.

I originally was going to take the cupcakes to work to share with my work colleagues but I forgot to take them into work. That day was a Friday. Then I was away for the weekend so they stayed at home. Over the next couple of days they vanished one by one. I never got to try one!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #29: Fondant Fancies

When you hear the name Fondant Fancies you immediately think of Mr Kipling’s yellow, chocolate and pink creations. Or if you live in Yorkshire like me, you might have even tasted the delectable version which Betty’s creates. I must admit I find Fondant Fancies too sweet and sickly, even though I’ve got a sweet tooth. The other week I met my friend at Betty’s and while she had a Fondant Fancy, I tucked into a Fat Rascal! Her Fondant Fancy looked so pretty though, with the icing and delicate pink flowers.

Last Thursday and Friday were my main baking days for SmartCookieSam as I had had my Mum up here visiting. I had an afternoon tea order as well as some brownies and shortbread to go out to customers. I thought of what I could maybe offer as an option on my afternoon teas and Fondant Fancies came into my head. Although I don’t really like eating them, there are plenty of people who do.

For Fondant Fancies you start off by baking a square shaped sponge cake. I did this in one of my square tins I use for my brownies, etc. It was a simple sponge, delicately flavoured with lemon.

As soon as I started baking, I realised I had not got any marzipan in. I only tend to have marzipan in around Christmas for my Christmas cakes and also at Easter for Simnel Cake. I’d been to do my shop the day before and completely forgot. Luckily later on that day I was heading out to the post office to ship my brownies and shortbread and the village shop it was attached to has a wonderful array of baking products. Phew!

After the sponge came out of the oven and I was home after my post office run, I removed the sponge from the tin. It had to be cooled but it was so hot in my kitchen that nothing was cooling down.

To the sponge I added a layer of apricot jam and then a layer of the marzipan on the top. The marzipan was very sticky to work with and my hands felt so hot. I had to dust the surfaces very thickly with icing sugar to stop the marzipan from sticking to it when I was rolling it out. I then put it on top of the sponge and trimmed round the edges of it.

The next job was to make up a batch of buttercream. This buttercream needed to be put in the fridge to harden up slightly but this didn’t work because as soon as I got it out of the fridge it became runny again.

The sponge cake was then cut into 16 equal squares and on top of each square I put a blob of buttercream. This blob is to create the little hump you get in the middle of a traditional fondant fancy.

Of course when you are tired, you misread recipes. This one being a complicated recipe with zillions of steps should have been read carefully and I didn’t. I was meant to put the cakes into the fridge to harden up again for 20 minutes but I didn’t. This then made the next steps more tricky. I had to crumb coat each of the four sides of the fondant fancies with the rest of the buttercream. This was very awkward. How do you hold the blinking things and ensure that they are all covered without getting your hands covered in more buttercream?

Now for another complicated part. The recipe asked for roll out fondant icing or sugar paste which to make runny you have to put in a mixer with water to make it runny. I felt this made it extremely messy and didn’t give the effect I wanted. I wondered whether I should have bought some fondant icing sugar instead and coloured it with food colouring. I started off trying to colour the pink icing first. It took ages to get even a hint of pink with the food colouring I have at the moment (a mixed box of Wilton food colours, which to be honest I’m not a fan of, compared to the likes of Sugarflair, etc.) The cakes from not been hard enough through not being in the fridge, were difficult to hold and the icing just went everywhere. It was meant to pour over the cakes but it didn’t. It was too thick despite me following how much water to add to the icing. I tried spreading it with a small pallette knife but that made it even messier!

Then I tried to colour the rest of the icing yellow. Unfortunately the yellow in my food colouring set doesn’t bring the icing out a deliciate pastel yellow, it came out as this flourescent, lurid yellow like you would have on a high-viz vest! You’d be able to spot it from the International Space Station. By this time I had given up caring and so long as I’d got the bloody things iced and all the stuff cleared up, I didn’t care what colour it was.

Finally, I used some left over lemon drizzle icing for the pink fondant fancies which seemed to pipe on ok through my plastic bottle. But the melted chocolate was having none of it and just wouldn’t go through the hole. It just clogged up the whole time.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned here: Don’t make Fondant Fancies when you are short of time or are tired. Always read the recipe and use ready made fondant icing sugar, not sugarpaste watered down.

I did taste one of the Fondant Fancies and it was sooooooo sickly sweet. Not my favourite bake to eat or to make, I’m afraid.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #28: Mint Chocolate Roulade

Baking roulades and Swiss Rolls always fills me with dread. They look fiddly and messy whenever I make them and the filling never looks neat when I roll them up. Or the actual sponge cracks so much.

Roulades are usually made without flour and fat and are whisked sponges baked in a flat rectangular cake tin. I have a new Swiss Roll tin but it gets used for all manner of things including roast potatoes. Before using it for cakes, I make sure it has been cleaned carefully and I always line it with baking parchment. With this cake being flour free, it is also gluten free.

Last Sunday I had my mum visiting for a few days and planned a roast chicken dinner followed by a dessert. Now it’s usually just Mr S and I at home on a Sunday (our daughter is at work and our son is at uni), we don’t usually do roasts for ourselves. I thought having my mum to stay was the perfect excuse to have a roast as well as a pudding after!

The Chocolate Roulade as featured in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes looked stunning, yet fairly quick to bake. However, looking in my baking cupboard I didn’t have any plain/ dark chocolate left. I did have two bars of mint chocolate which I love. Whenever we go up to the Isle of Arran on holiday I buy bars of Mackies chocolate in the Co-op there. Where I live in North Yorkshire, you can get Mackies icet cream but not the chocolate. Mint is just one of the best flavours out there, I love it! So a Chocolate Mint Roulade it had to be, then!

First things first was to prepare the Swiss Roll tin for baking. As I said before, it was cleaned carefully as I didn’t want residues of olive oil on it from the last time I used it. Then I lined it with some baking paper. At the same time I also cut out another sheet of baking paper to use to help me roll up the roulade later.

I then melted the mint chocolate in the microwave carefully. The recipe said to do this on the stove in a bowl over simmering water, but I find it easier to do in a microwave if I do it in small stages. Then, in my KitchenAid I whisked egg yolks and caster sugar together until the mixture had turned into a thick type mousse.

As the eggs had had to be separated, in another bowl I whisked up the egg whites. They had to be whisked up until they were stiff peaks. These egg whites were then folded into the whisked yolks and sugar mixture. Finally I folded in some cocoa powder.

When the roulade was ready, I put it on a wire rack to cool down but left it in the tin until it was completely cool to move it. I still managed to make it crack as I got it out of the tin. Using the spare piece of baking parchment sprinkled with a little icing sugar, I turned the roulade out onto it upside down. I then filled it with whipped cream. As I kept doing this, the roulade started cracking. The instructions said that it was normal for it to crack. But the recipe book photo didn’t have the massive cracks that mine did! Upon looking at the roulade from above, it resembled a giant long poo! Tasted amazing though, and I sneaked a couple of off cuts!

The complete mixture was then poured into the tin and spread carefully so that it touched each corner of the tin. I then baked it in my fan oven at 160oC for roughly just over 20 minutes.

A recipe I think I will bake again as it was quite quick to make. I just need to work on the good old presentation.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #27: White Chocolate and Blueberry Layer Cake.

The White Chocolate and Blueberry Layer Cake from the Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Amazing Cakes.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve tried out a recipe from The Great British Bake Off The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Most of the recipes I have left over in the challenge are the more complicated ones or the ones you would bake for a special occasion. Can’t imagine me baking a three tier wedding cake just for my family to have with a cuppa!

This week I have had a lot of baking to do for smartcookiesam.com, my online baking business. These have been brownies, blondies and cookies so it was a change to bake a cake for once! I chose to bake the White Chocolate and Blueberry Cake in the Chocolate chapter of the Amazing Cakes book.

The cake is a three layer blueberry sponge filled with white chocolate buttercream and finished with another layer of buttercream. The top decoration is some more white chocolate buttercream but with blueberry jam swirled in the icing to add flavour and to turn the icing a beautiful shade of lilac.

As with baking these recipes, I look to see what ingredients I have or need to get in. I had to buy double cream in for the recipe but I didn’t have any blueberry jam. I used some blackcurrant jam we had bought on holiday on the Isle of Arran instead which is gorgeous.

After doing my blondie and cookie order, I adjusted the oven termperature to 180oC fan which was stipulated in the recipe. I then thought this was a bit too hot, so I reduced it to 160o.

The cake itself was simple to make itself in a stand mixer: unsalted butter, caster sugar, vanilla extract, free range eggs and self raising flour mixed together to create the cake batter. Then I added in the blueberries, folding them in carefully until they were combined but taking care that they wouldn’t get squashed! I prepared three 20cm/ 8″ diameter sandwich tins with greaseproof lining and Cake Release Spray.

While the cake was baking, I made the buttercream in my KitchenAid mixer. First I whipped the butter for a few minutes. While that was being whipped, I melted some white chocolate in the microwave. I know some don’t approve of using the microwave method but it works for me if I do it in short blasts of time! When the white chocolate was melted and still warm, I stirred some double cream into it. The butter was now ready for me to add the icing sugar to it. No matter how hard I try I still get icing sugar all over the worktops and on the floor even on the lowest speed on the mixer! Finally, when this was blended I added in the white chocolate cream mixture to whip up into the buttercream.

The recipe time said to bake the cake for 20-25 minutes. I checked on it after 20 minutes and I noticed they were already done and coming away from the sides of the tin. I quickly got them out of the oven and onto the cooling racks.

When it was time to ice the cake I noticed the buttercream was a bit runny. It was really hot in my kitchen and I had no spare space in my fridge to chill the cake between it’s crumb coat and needing the top layer on. I also found it impossible to do the white chocolate shavings myself as the chocolate was melting in my hot hands! When the crumb coat was on, I then split the remaining icing in two. One half went as part of the topping and then the remaining part had some of the blackcurrant jam added to it to turn it lilac. I made up a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then piped the rose swirls on the top of the cake. As the kitchen got hotter and hotter, so did the blooming icing which drove me crazy! It was definitely too runny for my liking. The white chocolate curls were meant to go on the side of the cake but I found this far too fiddly. Instead i just sprinkled them on top.

Would I bake this cake again? Yes I would, although there are a couple of issues I have with the recipe. I think the oven temperatures are too hot and also the cooking times were too long. This is definitely a special occasion cake as you need three packets of butter, some double cream and 400g of white chocolate as well as a huge box of icing sugar! Definitely not a recipe you would bake every day. But worth it when you do. I also think that you could change the flavours by using raspberries and raspberry jam instead of blueberries.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam. xx

Chocolate Orange Tiffin (aka Terry’s Tiffin)

This blog post is written in memory of a very special person. My Dad Terry passed away on June 11th. As I was growing up, my Dad was always encouraging and enjoyed sampling my baking. In more recent years he would enjoy various treats I would make for him and my step mum. Dad was only 74 when he died after contracting Covid. Before the disease took a turn for the worse we spoke on the phone. This was to be the last conversation I had with Dad and he asked me for a favour. He asked if I would bake the staff at the hospital some cookies to say thankyou for all they did for him. It was the least I could do to help. Dad then added that he would love some of my special tiffin for when he came out of hospital.

Sadly that was not to be as the following day Dad started to deteriorate and passed away only 4 days later. I wanted to carry out his wishes and although he didn’t get to have his tiffin, I made some for our family to eat after Dad’s funeral service. I also baked some cookies and took some Rocky Road through to the hospital with a batch each for the Covid Ward and the ICU. Although I was upset going back to the same place where I had seen Dad after he had died and to talk to staff who had looked after him, it was a pleasure to make the treats for them. They were so grateful and also took the time to chat to me, asking how I was as well as how the rest of my family were coping.

One of the batches of Tiffin I baked was a chocolate orange flavouted Tiffin using melted chocolate orange chocolate bars as well as mini Terry’s Chocolate Orange Segments which you can buy in those treat/ sharing bags. The reason why I chose chocolate orange was because my Dad’s name was Terry and he used to joke “That’s my chocolate because it says Terry on it!” And that was before Dawn French was on TV advertising saying “It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine!” Not only that but Terry’s chocolate oranges were originally made in York near where Dad lived for the last twenty eight years of his life and near where I live too!

If you would like to make your own version of Terry’s Chocolate Orange Tiffin, then here is the recipe:

Terry’s Tiffin

Makes 9-12 pieces, depending on how big you like them!

You need a 9″ square tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.

Ingredients: 100g melted unsalted butter, 25g soft brown sugar, 3 tbsp Sugar and Crumbs’ Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder, 4 tbsp golden syrup, 400g chocolate orange chocolate (such as Dairy Milk orange or any chocolate bar flavoured with orange), 200g Digestive biscuits and a sharing pack of Chocolate Orange Segments.

  1. Put the melted butter, sugar, cocoa powder and golden syrup into a bowl and mix together until combined.
  2. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over simmering water or in the microwave in 30 second blasts.
  3. Put the digestive biscuits into a clear plastic bag and smash them into pieces with the end of a rolling pin. Try and get them in random chunks as this looks effective when you cut the tiffin up! Add in to the melted butter mixture and stir to combine. Chop the pieces of chocolate orange up and stir these into the mixture as well.
  4. Press this mixture carefully into the prepared tin, making sure it is level and filled to all four corners.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate over the top of the biscuit mixture and spread carefully.
  6. Chill in the fridge for half an hour and then slice into bars or pieces carefully. I’ve found the bars cut more easily if the knife is warm. Return to the fridge to finish off setting until needed.

I have found this Tiffin recipe is so adaptable. I’ve made other versions recently with Crunchie Bars and Maltesers and they have been really successful. Please note, some of my Tiffin photos were taken in a rush after a busy day and not of the best quality!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #25: Coconut Sugar Fruit Cake

I’ve been trying out recipes from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes recently. The book has a chapter brimming full of Free-From recipes which is really useful. So far I’ve made the Gluten Free Brownies, the Vegan Marble Bundt Cake and the Vegan Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake. To fit in with dietary requirements, lifestyles and allergy needs, it’s fantastic to have a collection of recipes to fall back on.

One of the recipes was a Coconut Sugar Fruit Loaf Cake. Although the recipe contains natural sugars in the form of dried fruit, it does not contain refined sugar. Coconut sugar is palm sugar produced from the sap of the flower bud stem of the coconut palm. I have used coconut sugar before, in a vegan cake and it is definitely more expensive to buy than your average refined sugar. It’s roughly about twice as much as the same weight of soft brown sugar. I bought The Groovy Food Company’s Coconut Sugar to bake this recipe.

To start making the cake, I soaked mixed dried fruit in some hot tea the night before. I left the bowl covered in cling film overnight.

The following day when I got in from work in my day job, I started on the cookie and brownie order I had for that afternoon. When they were finished, I kept the oven on and started to make the fruit loaf.

I put self raising flour, the coconut sugar, some ground ginger and mixed spice into my mixing bowl and stirred it before adding in two beaten eggs, I then added it into the dried fruit and tea mixture.

I then spooned the mixture into my loaf tin. I use ready made loaf tin liners as I’m dead lazy and any shortcuts you can have are a massive help. I’ve bought some more recently from Tesco and they’re a godsend.

The cake baked in the oven at 160oC (fan) for about 55 minutes. I tested it and it was still a bit sticky right in the middle, so I gave it another 10 minutes. This did the trick. When it came out of the oven I left it to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes.

Usually when I have fruit loaf, I spread it with a bit of butter and serve it the Yorkshire way with a slice of Wensleydale cheese. I was so hungry, I ate a slice straightaway without either. The result was a moist and delicious cake but without feeling overly sweet.

Would I bake it again? Yes I would although the coconut sugar does make it a rather expensive bake. You can only get two loaves out of one bag of sugar.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #23: Vegan Lemon Drizzle Loaf

It’s been a busy week here, not had much chance for actual baking as I’m getting my website ready for my online cookie business! All will be revealed by next week. I’m waiting for some new packaging to arrive so I can send out cookie samples to my taste testers. I’m also rethinking a couple of recipes so that they will leave my kitchen looking perfect.

I’m also a supply teacher working in primary schools in my area and work has been a bit quieter this week what with home learning for some and the pandemic issues. I have been grateful for this week being a bit quieter though as it has given me time to focus on jobs at home, my new business and to have some wintry walks out with my dog. On Wednesday afternoon, though I was wanting to bake something other than cookies. This is where my Big Book Of Amazing Cakes Challenge has been enjoyable and it’s nice to bake something different.

Looking through the book I wanted to make something quick, easy and that needed to use up ingredients I had at home. It was a toss up between the Pecan and Banana Loaf to use up very ripe bananas or the Vegan Lemon Drizzle Loaf. My daughter came downstairs to put the kettle on between her online uni lectures and said “Urgh no, not banana cake with nuts in!”, although it wouldn’t have had pecans in anyway. I didn’t have any in, only walnuts! She was really keen on the idea of the lemon cake as she loves lemon drizzle and although she is not fully vegan, she does have lactose intolerance.

So, the Vegan Lemon Drizzle it was! I have never made a Vegan Lemon cake before and oh my it was so worth it. It was different to some of the loaf cakes I have made before in that it came out with a flat top and not a curved one. To substitute butter and eggs, the replacements are with soya milk, apple cider vinegar and non-dairy spread. We use oat milk in our house so I hoped that would work as well. It did in the other vegan cake I baked recently, the Vegan Marble Bundt Cake. I nicked some of my daughter’s non-dairy spread and we were ready! This recipe is versatile because not only did it give quantities for the small loaf I baked but also for other size bakes including a square tin and a traybake size.

To start with I measured out the oat milk into a jug and mixed in a tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar. This had to be left for a few minutes to curdle. It looked and smelled horribly sour!

In the meantime I creamed together some caster sugar ,the non dairy spread and the zest of a large lemon. I then added a spoonful of vanilla extract to it. Then the smelly oat milk mixture was added to the creamed mixture. This looked horrible and I was worried about the curdling effect. But as soon as I added self raising flour, baking powder and ground almonds to the mixture, this sorted the problem out. I kept the rest of the lemon aside as this was going to be used in the drizzle and the icing.

The loaf cake baked in the oven at about 160oC for just under an hour and came out after I poked a skewer in it. It came out clean so the cake came out and was put on a wire rack still in its tin to cool down. After a few minutes I made up a quick lemon sugar syrup which was poked into the cake with a cocktail stick. Usually when I make lemon drizzle cake that’s all I put on top of the cake and there’s more of it so it crystallises on the top. This was the case with the first recipe from my challenge the Lemon Drizzle Traybake. Instead, this recipe also has a fondant icing on top.

Later on, I mixed up some icing sugar and lemon juice and spread it carefully on top of the cake. As shown in the recipe picture it was designed to drip down the side and not to look perfect. If you wanted you could add some edible flowers and decorations. I had some jelly lemon slices but I’m not sure if they are vegan or not. I bought them from Lakeland in a little pot and it didn’t say not suitable for vegans on the ingredients.

My daughter and I couldn’t wait to have a piece and the icing was still runny when we cut the cake. But it was delicious and I can definitely recommend the recipe. Another one on my getting increasingly longer shortlist to bake again!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #22: Angel Cake Slices

As I mentioned before in my previous Cherry Cakes post, there are a couple of recipes I’ve already baked which I can tick off my Amazing Cakes recipe book challenge.

Angel Cake as from a British point of view is the traditional cake you buy in slabs which contains a triple layer of sponge in three different flavours. Not to be mixed up with another type of Angel Cake which is a light, pale cake baked with egg whites and made in a special ring like tin. This version was the former: using three genoise sponges and cut into dainty slices. It was a technical bake in the 2019 Great British Bake Off series from one of Prue Leith’s recipes. I must admit at that time I’d never baked a genoise sponge before and I couldn’t be one hundred percent sure what one tasted like. All I know is that the sponges came out flat and looked like rubber! In the end I decided to adapt the recipe and created three layers of a traditional creamed sponge, colourung and flavouring them accordingly with lemon and raspberry extract and gel colouring.

This worked out much better and I was much happier with the result! At the time I made the Angel Cake, I didn’t write a blog post as I was busy at work. The remains of the cake ended up being taken to work to share with my work colleagues. It was baked in three circular 20cm/ 8″ tins instead of a giant traybake tin split into three.

Looking back at the pictures on my phone, I must have deleted or not taken photos of the cake disaster but kept the ones of the new cake. I also entered it in #TwitterBakeAlong for that week, hence the handwritten note. Looking back at the cake from the outside you can’t really tell it’s a three coloured Angel Cake. But when you cut into the cake, it’s a different story altogether.

I must try and have a go at a génoise sponge again. I mastered one on my Patisserie Course evening class I did at college before the pandemic started and I feel confident to have another try.

Happy Baking!

Love Samxx

Parkin: Amazing Cakes #11

It’s that time of year again as Autumn draws upon us that I begin to think about recipes I love baking when it gets colder. One recipe I love making at this time of year is Parkin.

If you don’t know what Parkin is or you have never tasted it, then you are missing out! Parkin is a gingerbread and oaty cake very popular in the north of England. It’s one of those traditional Yorkshire baking recipes your granny or mum may have grown up on and families will have their own special recipe. My own grandma, my Nana Margaret who was from West Yorkshire was not a good cook and definitely not a baker! Any cake or sweet treat she had would be bought from a local bakery or M&S and she would try to pass it off as her own! So, I never had a grandma favourite recipe for Parkin. My other grandma on the other hand, Nana Mary was a fantastic cook and baker although she did not come from Yorkshire. She made gorgeous lemon drizzle cakes.

I first tasted Parkin when I moved to Yorkshire myself as a recently qualified teacher in the 1990s and I taught a Reception class. On a Friday afternoon all the classes in Key Stage One used to have an Activity Afternoon and I chose to do baking as my activity. In groups of 6 we would bake or make different things and I would try and link our recipe to that time of the year or a particular festival being celebrated at that time. For one week we made Parkin. At the time I had never attempted to make it myself before and as I was single at the time, I didn’t even have baking ingredients in my house! How things change! I now get all panicky when I run out of eggs! I even had to ask the other teachers if they had a Parkin recipe as this was in the days before good old Google!

Despite having never made Parkin before and neither had any of the children I taught, we had a fantastic baking session and we had some gorgeous Parkin to take home. How I wish I could bake with children like that again, now there’s no time at all on the curriculum and that was even before the Covid pandemic started.

As I type it is my last full day of self isolation myself and over the past week or so I have been baking more than I should. Usually anything I bake goes to work to share out but this last week I have had to hide everything or keep myself out of the kitchen! I couldn’t resist baking some Parkin though.

The Parkin recipe I use is from the very first Great British Bake Off Book “The Great British Book Of Baking” which accompanied the very first series way back in 2010! Parkin is meant to be kept for a week wrapped up in foil for a week to improve the flavours but I never can wait that long! There is something about the aroma of gingerbread baking that sends your senses going. I chose this time to follow the recipe in the 2019 Bake Off book “Amazing Cakes” which was really great to follow.

First, I greased and lined my square baking tin and put the oven on to heat up. While it was heating up I beat one egg with some milk in a jug.

In a saucepan I put butter, treacle, golden syrup and sugar and melted it altogether over a very low heat.

Once the butter mixture was removed from the heat, the mixture was poured into a large mixing bowl. To this I weighed out rolled oats, self raising flour, ground ginger and some mixed spice. This was then folded into the melted butter mixture with a large metal spoon until well combined.

The mixture was then put into the tin and baked for about 55 minutes in my fan oven at 140oC.

When it was finished, I left the Parkin in the tin until it was completely cold and then cut it into squares. I then wrapped them in foil and put in a tin planning to keep it there for a week. I didn’t! The following day I felt I needed something to eat and grabbed myself a piece. Oh my it was like heaven!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #9: Coffee and Salted Caramel Cake


While we’re self isolating and Mr S is working from home sometimes he likes to have something with a cuppa to keep him going on an afternoon.  Last week’s Victoria Sponge had been eaten and he doesn’t really like gingerbread like the gingerbread loaf I made the day before.  So on Sunday morning I planned on making Mr S a coffee and walnut cake.  There is a recipe for Coffee and Walnut Cake in Amazing Cakes and comes under the Classic Cakwes chapter.  I know that this is one of my husband’s favourites. 

I got all the ingredients out but then realised the half finished packet of walnuts I needed to use was past its best before date.  I wasn’t going to risk it and put it in the cake but I had chocolate coated coffee beans to decorate the top of the cake instead of walnut halves.The sponge itself is a standard coffee sponge made using the creaming method. Although I use Camp Coffee Essence when making my coffee cakes, this one was made with strong, fresh espresso coffee.

When it came to icing the cake, I had to change the flavour slightly as I didn’t have enough plain icing sugar.  I had to do half Silver Spoon and half Sugar and Crumbs’ Salted Caramel flavour icing sugar.  This was the nearest flavour icing sugar I thought would complement the coffee flavour.

The layers were sandwiched together with half of the buttercream. I spread another thin layer of buttercream on top of the cake and then piped the rest as a swirl decorative effecet around the rest of the cake as well as in the middle with my star shaped nozzle.

Mr S had a slice with his cup of tea on Sunday afternoon while we were watching a film.


Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #6: Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownies

There are a couple of Brownie recipes in The Great British Bake Off Amazing Cakes which I’ve been really keen to try out. I have my own favourite regular Brownie recipe but I must admit I’ve never made a gluten free brownie before. The Amazing Cakes book has a whole chapter dedicated to Free From Cakes and one of the Gluten Free recipes is for some Chocolate Berry Brownies. I like fruit inside cakes but I didn’t want to use up my raspberries I usually have on my cereal at breakfast time. Instead, as I wanted a chocolatey hit, I put in the equivalent amount of milk chocolate chips.

The brownies are made gluten free by using ground almonds in place of the flour and baking powder. The original recipe also shows the Brownies topped with some flaked almonds. I didn’t have any left as they’d all gone in the Florentines I’d made!

The chocolate chips were part of a lovely, belated birthday present from my friend Amy. I have tried the Guittard plain chocolate chips before but never the milk ones. I used about two thirds of the packet. Hopefully there will be some left to make choc chip cookies with another time.

To make the brownies I had to melt dark chocolate and butter first. When this was melted, I added in some light brown muscovado sugar as well as some vanilla extract.

After that, I stirred in beaten eggs, followed by cocoa powder and ground almonds. Finally the chocolate chips were folded in.

I baked the brownies at 180oC in a 22cm square loose bottomed pan for 30 minutes or so.

The brownies came out with a slightly different look to them on the top but they honestly tasted fudgy and squidgy inside, just how I enjoy eating a brownie. I needed to wait until the brownies had cooled down before I could cut them up into squares. The chocolate chips gave it an extra edge of deliciousness and I was really impressed with them. No one could tell they were gluten free.

I definitely will be baking these brownies again and again as they were so simple to bake without having to buy special gluten free flour and baking powder in. I saved two brownies for Mr S and my daughter while the rest went off to work to share around with my workmates.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Battenburg Cake: Amazing Cakes #3

I’ve been so excited for the Great British Bake Off. It’s exciting every year but this year it’s been more welcomed as something special and comforting in these difficult times. At one stage I was wondering if it would make it onto our screens this year. Baking has helped a lot of us through difficult times and this is especially so where people who have never baked before have taken to the kitchen to help get them through. I’ve always seen baking as a form of therapy for me. It helped me with the black hole I got myself into when my younger child started school and my teaching career had been put on hold. Now baking helps me relax on my day off from being a nursery nurse or a supply teacher.

Week one on Bake Off usually is cake week and it’s always great to see what challenges have been set. The first signature bake was a Battenburg Cake. I do like Battenburg but am more familiar with buying Mr Kipling than making them. To me, they are very fiddly but I do love a bit of marzipan. Battenburgs remind me of my Great Grandma, my Nana Lilian. We used to visit Nana and she would do a traditional Sunday tea with ham sandwiches, Battenburgs and fruit cake. Her Battenburg was bought from a local shop though and she told me that my Dad used to call it Window Cake when he was little.

I wanted to have a go at joining in #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong this week so I got prepared to make a Battenburg. The bakers on GBBO had chosen various complimentary flavours but I stuck with traditional. Years ago I had a go at baking another GBBO recipe, Mary Berry’s coffee and walnut Battenburg but when I was talking with my daughter about flavours she said just make a normal one. The one flavour was delicately flavoured with almond to compliment the marzipan but coloured pink for half of it.

On the Bake Off I noticed that some bakers were using the Alan Silverwood aluminium Battenburg tin. I have this tin, although in the last 10 years I’ve only used it twice! It is such a cute little tin and if you take the dividing sections out, it’s also been great for mini traybakes!

After a busy morning catching up, including going to get my hair cut, I was determined to have an afternoon in the kitchen. Out came the ingredients I needed: butter, caster sugar, eggs, self raising flour, almond extract, pink gel food colouring, as well as apricot jam and some marzipan.

After greasing the tin and preheating the oven, I creamed together the butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy. Then I added in the eggs, beating after each addition. When this was done, I put in some almond extract, followed by self raising flour.

I split the cake batter into two bowls. One was left plain and the other was coloured with pink food colouring gel. Then I put the batter into the prepared tin. This was quite fiddly as the sections of the tin are quite narrow. I think using a teaspoon was the best way.

The Battenburg baked in my fan oven for 25 minutes or so. I left it to cool on a wire rack for a while until it was cool enough to take out of the tin.

Once the four sections came out of the tin (thankfully in one piece), I trimmed them so that they were flat and also the same size.

Then it was time to assemble the pieces together. Using sieved apricot jam, I brushed it onto the pieces and stuck them together to create that iconic Battenburg window shape.

Now for the really fiddly bit and the bit I dread: the marzipan! I rolled out the marzipan and despite putting plenty of icing sugar on the work top and on my rolling pin, it still stuck like glue to the worktop. I got really frustrated and ended up scraping it up and starting again a couple of times.

By the third attempt, I got so annoyed I tipped loads of icing sugar on the worktop but it did work! Nothing stuck after that! I got the marzipan wrapped round the cake and trimmed the ends.

The feeling when it was done after thinking it would be another disaster was so uplifting. I cut off a piece to photograph. Mr S ended up eating it with a cuppa when he got in from work. I didn’t have any as we were going out for dinner.

I will definitely make a Battenburg again but it’s one of those bakes you have to devote a few hours to.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #2: White Chocolate Blondies


Hot on the heels of baking my successful Lemon Drizzle Traybake,  I wanted to try something slightly different to take along for my work mates to enjoy as an alternative to the lemon drizzle.  I’ve lost my baking confidence recently and have found recipes I’ve baked time and time again going wrong.  I have always managed to bake brownies, though and I thought that I would be fine with the second recipe I wanted to try from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes.
I wanted to have a go at the White Chocolate and Hazelnut Blondies as I love blondies.  So moreish! But I didn’t have any hazelnuts so had to think of some substitutions.  I had also seen a recipe with Jammie Dodgers put in the blondies so I thought I’d add those in instead.

The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes is the latest book spin off from the last Great British Bake Off series. It came out in October 2019.

To make the Blondies,  I weighed out plain flour, some ground almonds (as I didn’t have any ground hazelnuts), some sea salt flakes and baking powder. I mixed them together in a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl I melted some butter in the microwave. To this, I added a mixture of caster sugar and dark brown muscovado sugar. 

When this was mixed in, I added beaten eggs, along with some vanilla extract and then folded this all into the flour mix.

At this stage I was also meant to add in some chopped hazelnuts which I didn’t have.  I just put in the white chocolate chips which the recipe suggested.  At this stage I didn’t read the recipe properly and noticed it asked for 2 tbsp of agave syrup or runny honey.  This was meant to be brushed onto the still warm but cooked blondies.  Instead I put two tablespoonfuls of honey in the mixture before cooking.


Finally, I used mini Jammy Dodgers to poke into the top of my blondies.  Each of these mini packs contains four mini Dodgers and I
used four of the packs to use sixteen biscuits in the blondies.  I was expecting them to sit nicely on top of them.  I couldn’t wait to taste the blondies.

But my excitement was shortlived.  I didn’t have the 22cm square tin as needed.  Mine is an 20cm square one and not loose bottomed.  The blondies were meant to be baked at 180oC for 25-30 minutes.  I had them in for the recommended time but the blondies were still looking raw and wet in the middle.  I also didn’t like how the edges had puffed up around, leaving the middle flat as a pancake.  


I put the blondies back in the oven for another ten minutes but they seemed to be even more runny and slimy than before.  I admitted defeat and took them out of the oven.  The recipe said to leave the blondies in the tin for 10 minutes to cool down.  This I did but they began to collapse. I was so frustrated as this doesn’t normally happen to me with brownies or blondies.  The temporary baking confidence I got from making the lemon drizzle traybake had taken a nose dive again!

Baking disaster: you can make out the slimy and uncooked batter despite my oven being at the correct temperature and the brownies being in the oven for ten minutes longer than the recipe stipulated.
This was the best piece out of the whole batch: one of the corners! The rest looked like road kill!


I would love to know where I went wrong with this recipe. Was it because I didn’t use hazelnuts or that I added the honey to the mixture before baking? I must admit I did not like the taste of the blondies and I was disappointed with how they came out.  I asked Mr S what he thought of them and he said he thought the ones around the edge looked ok but he tasted one. He said it tasted very sweet and jammy!

I will test this recipe again at some stage but I’ll try with hazelnuts and leave the Jammy Dodgers out instead!

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #1: Lemon Drizzle Traybake


Recipe Challenge #1: Lemon Drizzle Traybake
Lemon Drizzle Traybake is a classic recipe and one I’ve made lots over the years.  Recently I have made Mary Berry’s version and this always goes down well.  I was keen to see how this version from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes measured up to Mary’s version.  At first glance of the recipe I actually wondered if it was Mary’s recipe seeing as she used to judge on GBBO.  But any other recipes apart from the ones submitted by the baking contestants, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are created by Juliet Sear, Becca Watson and Mitzie Wilson.

To try and get my baking mojo and confidence back I thought it would be good to start with something simple that I couldn’t muck up.  Going back to basics and going through everything carefully would help me get it right. 



I first got all the ingredients out to hand.  I didn’t have whole milk, only semi skimmed so I had to use that instead.
All the ingredients were weighed out and put in my big mixing bowl ready to mix together using the all in one method. I also chose to use Stork instead of butter as the butter I had was in the fridge and not soft enough.

I was pleased this lemon drizzle recipe uses three large lemons. I grated the zest of three lemons into the sponge itself, reserving the juice for later.

I don’t tend to line my cake tins unless I am making a fruit cake. I do grease them though.  I want to know, does it make a difference to the taste and texture of the cake? It doesn’t stop it sticking to the pan for me.  The pan I use is a Mary Berry traybake one which I bought from Lakeland a couple of months back. I love it as it has the indentations on the side which can help you mark out the portion sizes.  This recipe is meant to be cut into 24 squares but I only did 16 squares!

Although the recipe stated to bake the cake at 150oC (in a fan oven) for 35-40 minutes, I felt that my cake was cooked after 25 minutes and was beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin. Our oven was definitely on at 150 degrees so whether it was down to the Stork or the tin itself. It was the smell of it cooking made me think was it burning and should I check it? Good job I did!

While the traybake was cooling, I made the drizzle which is a simple lemon juice and sugar syrup to pour over the cake.  I had to fish out several lemon pips though! I poked the traybake with holes from a cocktail stick so as the syrup was poured onto it, some would pour through the holes. To finish, I also sprinkled on some granulated sugar.


I felt happy with my latest attempt at a lemon drizzle traybake. A great start to the challenge and made me feel more confident.  I put 12 of the 16 slices into a box to take into work to leave for my work mates to enjoy.  My daughter ate one of the slices for pudding and said it was delicious. I would love to indulge but at the moment even looking at a cake makes me put on a stone!

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Lemon Cupcakes

How are you all doing? As I write, I’m catching up on my day off after a busy first week back at work.  My workplace reopened last Monday and it’s just fantastic to be back. To mark the day of reopening, I just had to celebrate by taking in some baking to share with my workmates.  I hadn’t baked for a couple of weeks as I just haven’t had the interest or the motivation to do it.

I baked lemon cupcakes to begin with.  It’s been a while since I’ve baked lemon cupcakes even though they usually go down well.  I have struggled to find plain icing sugar recently but I had some packets of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar left from a big order I had back in April.  One of the packs was a lemon and blueberry flavour.  I can’t really remember if I have tried it before but I thought I’d get it out and make something with it. I know it looks like I’m always mentioning Sugar and Crumbs, but it’s genuinely because I love their icing sugars.  I’m not on commission from them or anything!

My lemon cupcake recipe is so simple because I use the all in one method.  I also don’t use baking powder because I want my cupcakes to have a level top for icing.  When I add baking powder to a cupcake recipe I always get a peaked top like a mountain!

LEMON CUPCAKES

Makes 12

You will need a 12 hole cupcake tin and some cupcake cases.

125g Stork or softened butter
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour, sifted
2 large free range eggs
1 grated zest of a lemon

For the icing:
250g softened butter
500g icing sugar *
Juice of 1 lemon *
4- 6 tbsp milk to mix
Yellow food colouring (optional)

Sprinkles or jellied lemon decorations

*If using Sugar and Crumbs Lemon and Blueberry or Lemon Drizzle icing sugar then omit the lemon flavouring.  If you find the flavoured icing sugar too strong, you can use half ordinary icing sugar, half flavoured. I would also leave out the lemon juice.  Adding food colouring is also entirely up to you.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/ 160oC fan/ 350oF/ or Gas Mark 2.  Put the cupcake cases into the tin.
  2. Weigh out all your ingredients into one large mixing bowl and mix together until well combined, light and fluffy.
  3. Spoon into cake cases. I usually get two heaped tablespoonfuls in each case.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When the cakes are done, they should spring back to the touch.
  5. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  6. Make the icing: beat the butter until light and fluffy.  This might take a few minutes to get it really creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat in bit by bit.  Don’t do what I do and end up with clouds of icing sugar all over the kitchen! Add in the milk and lemon juice until you get a great piping consistency.
  7. Prepare a large piping bag with a star or a plain nozzle and fill it with about a third of the mixture.  Pipe in swirls on top of the cupcake.  I normally get about 4 cupcakes iced, then add the decorations before the icing begins to set.
  8. Repeat until all the cupcakes are iced and decorated.

Let me know if you do try out this recipe. I’d love to see how you decorate your lemon cupcakes as well!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Blueberry and White Chocolate Layer Cake

Cake baking to me is a great stressbuster and it really helps with my anxiety. It brings me back into the moment and has been a huge help to get me through all the worries brought about by this coronavirus pandemic. I was feeling a bit off it on Monday. I know I am far from alone though. I always feel anxious and stressed on a Monday going to the supermarket. I missed about four things off the shopping list. Only one of them was important: some dishwasher tablets. I hadn’t realised we were down to the last one when I opened the pouch in the cupboard. But I was still made to feel like a senile old bat for forgetting them!

At the beginnning of lockdown I had an order from Sugar and Crumbs. I love their flavoured icing sugars and there were several flavours I’d yet to try. One of the flavours I had bought previously and liked was their Mermaid one (what are mermaids meant to taste like?!) It must mean that the flavour is inspired by mermaids as the icing sugar is actually blueberry and white chocolate. I love both blueberries and white chocolate so I was thinking what bake I could come up with which incorporated this flavour into it. Even more so, could I come up with a recipe?

I didn’t come up with my own recipe but instead adapted an old favourite recipe. It comes from the fantastic John Whaite (Bake Off winner from Season 3 in 2012). It’s originally his Raspberry and White Chocolate Melting Cake which was featured in BBC Good Food Magazine as well as in John’s first book, the fabulous John Whaite Bakes.

Here is the original recipe; https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/johns-white-chocolate-raspberry-cake

I have made the original cake before and it is divine! The filling is a white chocolate ganache but I changed the filling and added a topping instead. This was mainly so I could use the icing sugar and also because I didn’t have enough white chocolate for both the cake and the filling. Not only that, I didn’t have cream in.

In place of the raspberries in the cake I substituted the same weight of blueberries. For the filling I spread one cake with some St Dalfour Blueberry Preserve left over from a hamper I had won before Christmas. I made up some buttercream using the Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar and a splash of food colouring to turn it lilac. I then assembled the cake. I added some stars and swirls to the top of the cake and finished it with whole blueberries and a sprinkling of some white chocolate strands.

Althought the cake looked beautiful, I personally found the buttercream far too sweet and sickly for my taste. I think I might have to rethink my quantities next time.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#BakeWithStork: Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies

It’s been nearly three weeks since my birthday but one of the presents I got with my birthday money was a fantastic recipe book. Called Stork The Art Of Home Baking, it is an amazing collection of recipes which celebrate the centenary of the famous baking ingredient. I sometimes use Stork in my sponges and cupcakes as it makes them lighter but I have never tried their block margarine.

The book contains lots of delicious recipes including both modern and traditional favourites. There are also plenty to suit special diets, including vegan recipes. I’m not vegan but I have several family members who are and it’s always great to know that Stork can be used as a butter substitute when baking vegan recipes.

With this in mind and thinking of what was in my baking cupboard because of lockdown, I chose to bake some Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies. They made good use of the end of a bag of dried cranberries and some desiccated coconut lurking in my baking cupboard.

These cookies were so quick and easy to make and were ready in less than half an hour. I can’t share the recipe with you, due to copyright but here is how they were made.

In a large mixing bowl, I weighed out porridge oats, desiccated coconut, plain flour, brown sugar, dried cranberries and some ground mixed spice.

In a medium pan, I put in Stork block, golden syrup and water and let it melt.

When the Stork block, syrup and water had melted into liquid form, I added some bicarbonate of soda. This frothed up and had to be taken off the heat.

Mixing the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stirring carefully to ensure everything was covered.

Mixing into a soft dough.

I had made up three baking trays with baking parchment. I put heaped dessertspoonfuls of dough on the tray putting them well spaced apart as they were bound to spread when cooking. There was enough for 16 cookies.

It didn’t take long for the cookies to bake in the oven. The baking time was from 8-10 minutes so you had to watch them as they brown very quickly.

After ten minutes cooling down on the baking tray, you can transfer the cookies onto the wire rack to completely cool down. If you move them before then, they might break before they have chance to harden up.

Please note, I am writing this to show what I’ve baked from the book bought from my own money. I am not being sponsored by Stork for this post.

If you have the book and have baked anything from it, do let me know what you tried. I’m hoping to bake a Victoria Sponge tomorrow.

Stay Safe.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sultana Scones- My Favourite Recipe

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post up for ages. Having a bit more time being in lockdown has given me the time to add more things on the blog. Scone’s have always been one of my favourites. You can’t beat a fresh, homemade scone. One of the things I am really looking forward to doing when cafes and restaurants have opened up again is to meet up with one of my besties, Sharon. We love to put the world to rights and have a good old catch up over a cream scone and a cuppa at Fodder on the outskirts of Harrogate.

This scone recipe works for me every time. I always put dried fruit in mine but if you don’t like it, just leave it out. Make sure you have lots of clotted or whipped cream alongside a good quality jam to serve with it. The last time I baked scones I served them with some Blackcurrant and Sloe Gin Jam which my mum had bought for me when she visited a National Trust property.

To also make the perfect scone, I have a few tips which have helped me over the years.

Remember not to overcook the scones or they will become heavy. You are looking for a soft and light texture here. When you are forming the dough, use a round bladed or palette knife to bring it together a bit like you do with pastry. Try not to handle the dough too much. I do use a rolling pin to flatten out the dough, but I don’t roll the dough much. It’s more like a light pressing. When putting the cutter into the dough, don’t twist it or it distorts the shape of the scone.

My Favourite Sultana Scone Recipe

Makes 12 scones.

You need two baking trays lined with non- stick baking paper. I use a medium sized cutter for my scones. I think the one I use is a 5cm one. Some people prefer plain edges, some fluted. With me, I read somewhere that you use a plain edge for sweet scones and a fluted one for savoury. I must admit I’ve done both, depending on what I fancy using at the time.

Ingredients:

125g butter

450g self raising flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g caster sugar

100g sultanas or raisins (optional)

1 medium free range egg, beaten

Whole milk to mix

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/ Fan 170oC/ 375oF/Gas 5.
  2. Weigh out all your ingredients and cut your butter into small cubes.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and the sugar and stir through carefully.
  5. Stir in the sultanas if you are using them.
  6. Pour in the beaten egg and work the dough together. You might need to add a few drops of milk as well.
  7. Sprinkle some flour on your worktop as well as on your rolling pin. Then roll or pat the dough lightly. The dough should be about 1.5cm thick. Cut into rounds. Gather up the remaining dough and re-roll carefully taking care not to overwork the dough. Cut more rounds until you have used the dough up.
  8. Put the scones onto your prepared baking sheets. I usually have two sheets with six scones on.
  9. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack but serve as soon as you can, the fresher the better!

You can choose whether you want to use a plain or a fluted cutter.

You can’t beat scones served with jam and whipped cream. I love clotted cream as well when I can get hold of it.

I have also baked this recipe as a plain scone as seen in the photo above. This was taken at a family birthday afternoon tea last year and the scones were made without fruit in.

Let me know if you try my recipe and what you think about it.

Stay safe.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s been ages since I’ve baked muffins. At the beginning of the lockdown when going off to the supermarket for our weekly shop, my son asked if I could buy some of those mini muffins you can buy in plastic tubs on the bakery counter. I never usually buy these as they taste horrible to me. I bought him a tub of them but when he asked again the following week, I said I would make him some homemade ones instead. After all, even though they come off the supermarket bakery counter, you still don’t know what they put in them. Would you believe, I couldn’t find any dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips. Luckily my local village shop had them in on a couple of visits.

I love making muffins as there’s not a lot of preparation goes into making them. They can be done in just about half an hour. But I do reckon they taste best on the day you make them. I love a muffin with a cup of my favourite coffee or a mug of tea and even have the odd one for breakfast if I’m in a rush on a working day morning.

My recipe for Chocolate Chip Muffins makes 12 generous size ones and they do fill over the tops of the muffin cases. I love those tulip muffin cases the best for baking in. They look pretty and give great results. I haven’t got any left at the moment so the red spotty ones I used here in the picture were from a tub from John Lewis mixed with yellow and orange spotty cases. They are still very pretty and good quality, though.

I also chose to add some vanilla yoghurt to the muffins to keep them moist and to add flavour. Use full fat yoghurt, though.

CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Makes 12. You will need a 12 hole muffin tray and 12 muffin cases.

Ingredients:

350g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 large, free range eggs

200ml full fat vanilla yoghurt

200g light brown soft sugar (preferably) but I ended up using Demerera as there wasn’t any other brown sugar in the shops

115g butter (melted before adding)

200g dark or milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat your oven to 180oC/ Fan 160oC/ Gas 4 or 350oF. Prepare your muffin tin by putting the paper muffin cases in the holes.
  2. Weigh out all your “dry” ingredients into a large mixing bowl: the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the chocolate chips. The only exception is the sugar. Mix these together with a wooden spoon.
  3. In another bowl, weigh out all your “wet” ingredients and the sugar. I find it easier to melt the butter beforehand in the microwave for about 30 seconds and to pre-beat the eggs in another bowl so you just tip them all into the bowl with the sugar and yoghurt. Mix together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Fold all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix but just fold to combine. This is best done with a large metal spoon.
  5. Spoon the muffin batter into the cases. Try and fill to the top as much as you can.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffin tops spring back when you press them gently with your finger.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from the muffin tin. Put the muffins to cool down on a wire rack.

These muffins could be adapted to make chocolate orange ones if you substitute the vanilla yoghurt for natural yoghurt and add some grated zest of an orange to the mixture.

I couldn’t wait to tuck into a muffin. I made myself a cup of tea and sat with it out in the garden enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Let me know if you try out this recipe and what it comes out like.

Stay safe!

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Yeast Free Naan Bread

With a shortage of strong bread flour and yeast in the shops the other day, I’ve been making my own naan bread. I’ve always loved naan bread but the beauty with this recipe is that it doesn’t need yeast or strong bread flour to make it.

This naan recipe contains self raising flour and full fat natural yoghurt. This helps to leaven the bread slightly. The dough does not rise but instead ferments and you have to allow for this. Instead of cooking the naan in a traditional tandoor oven, these naans are cooked under a very hot grill.

Makes 8

Ingredients:

250g self raising flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 rounded tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

115ml lukewarm water

40g unsalted butter

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp any spices or herbs

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yoghurt and the warm water to the bowl. Do this a little at a time and work the dough together first with a knife and then using your hands.
  3. The dough will be a little bit sticky and rough but this is to be expected. Leave it to ferment for an hour in the mixing bowl. It should be covered with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  4. After an hour take the dough out of your bowl. Remember it won’t have risen because it doesn’t have any yeast in it.
  5. Flour your fingers and the work top and divide the dough into eight equal portions. Make each portion into a ball. Flatten, then stretch out the dough into an oval either with your hands or using a rolling pin.
  6. Preheat your grill to the highest setting. When it is hot enough, grill the naans for roughly 1 1/2 minutes each side. They should be puffed up. I cook mine in two batches of four as they won’t all fit under my grill at the same time.
  7. While your naans are grilling, melt the butter in a small saucepan on the hob. Add the chopped garlic and any herbs or spices you may want to add.
  8. When the naan bread is ready, brush them with the melted butter mixture and serve straightaway.

Variation:

In the baking aisle of my local supermarket, I found a sachet by Allinson’s called Baking Additions which had wild garlic and herbs in it. When I used it with the naan bread, I have had added half a sachet to for each batch of naan bread and it was really delicious.

We have really enjoyed these naan breads again tonight with a curry and I’ll definitely be making some again next week.

Stay safe everyone and happy baking.

Sam xx

Flourless Chocolate Almond Easter Torte

Hi everyone! Happy Easter! I hope that you are all ok, despite the difficult times we are living in at the moment. I am trying to keep busy despite the quarantine and am doing as much as I can to help where I can.

My blog has been neglected again recently but I need to put that right. I have done lots of baking and unfortunately my waistline is now suffering for it. Thankfully the weather has been lovely for our daily exercise! But today, being Easter I thought I’d share a recipe with you that we have had for our Easter lunch. We don’t eat roast lamb at Easter (I think lamb stinks when it’s cooking) so I don’t bother. We’re having roast chicken with all the trimmings instead. For dessert we are having this Flourless Chocolate Easter Cake. Although it could be eaten at any time of the year, this is just so appropriate at the moment.

For a start, this cake doesn’t contain flour and that’s handy if you’ve been struggling to get flour when doing your food shopping. I have been fine so far but I couldn’t find any more baking powder or bicarbonate of soda last week when I went to my local Morrison’s. Instead of flour, this recipe uses ground almonds.

Ingredients:

175g unsalted, softened butter

200g plain/ dark chocolate (use one with high cocoa solids if you can)

140g caster sugar

3 large free range eggs (separated)

90g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp almond extract

Mini eggs, chocolates or sprinkles to decorate.

You will a need loose bottomed, 18cm/ 7″ diameter cake tin.

  1. Preheat your oven to 180oC/ 350oF or Gas 4. Fan oven, preheat to 160o.
  1. Grease your tin with cake release spray or some butter and line the base with a baking parchment circle.
  2. Melt half the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave this to cool down.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, cream 115g of the butter and all of the caster sugar together. One by one, add the egg yolks and beat well.
  4. Then beat in the chocolate as well as the almond extract.
  5. Fold in the ground almonds and the baking powder with a metal spoon.
  6. In another clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.
  7. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and then bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Let the cake cool on a wire rack in its tin. When it is completely cool, turn it out.
  9. Melt the remaining chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  10. Cool slightly and then spread over the top of your cake.
  11. Decorate your cake with your chosen treats!
  • I chose to use Galaxy Enchanted Mini Eggs for my decoration. I just love Galaxy chocolate and saw these a few weeks ago. They were put away out of sight or I would have scoffed them there and then! All it needs is a spoonful of cream to go with it.
  • Happy Easter and Stay Safe! Xx
  • Fat Rascals

    When you hear of Fat Rascals you immediately think of Betty’s the world famous tearooms. As I live in North Yorkshire, a visit to Betty’s is a lovely treat even though I hate the queues outside the York and Harrogate cafes. I love the one in Northallerton the best as it has a beautiful conservatory at the back as well as being less busy.

    A Fat Rascal is a traditional Yorkshire delicacy which is very similar to a rock cake or a scone. There have been different variations of the Fat Rascal. Some recipes include using leftover pastry but they do include dried fruit.

    Bettys introduced their version of the Fat Rascal over thirty years ago. Their version is based on a rock cake recipe with a face made from cherries and almonds. This soon became a best seller and now Bettys own the registered trade mark for the name “Fat Rascal”.

    I have been going to an evening class which was called Introduction To Patisserie And Confectionery at my local college which has been an absolute pleasure to do. The course ran for ten sessions and our last session was two weeks ago. See, it’s taken me ages to sort this post out! On our last session our tutor asked us to bake Fat Rascals. As they’re my favourite thing to choose off the menu when I go to Bettys (not that I’ve been there for ages), I was really excited to have a go at baking my own version!

    Apparently the original Fat Rascal recipe uses lard but I don’t like it! So I was glad that our class version was using all butter.

    First, we had to sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl, then add some cubed butter. We then rubbed the flour and butter in until the mixture made fine breadcrumbs.

    To the bowl, we then added some caster sugar, some grated lemon and orange zest, grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon and some dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas). These were mixed in evenly.

    Then, it was time to add in a beaten egg and some whole milk to bring the mixture into a soft dough. We had to form the dough into eight equal rounds and place them well apart on a lined baking tray. I think if I was baking these at home I might use two trays but at college we use massive commercial size trays and ovens.

    We then made an egg yolk and water glaze to brush the top of the Fat Rascals to give them a shiny finish. To complete them we decorated them with glace cherries and whole almonds. I chopped the cherries in half on mine or else the Fat Rascals’ eyes would have been very bulbous, like a goldfish!

    I remember standing behind my work station in the college kitchen thinking what a gorgeous smell. There’s something wonderful about the aroma of Fat Rascals baking. Must be something to do with the nutmeg and cinnamon!

    When the Fat Rascals came out of the oven I was so tempted to break into one there and then. I’d already had my dinner earlier and this being January I was dieting! It would have to be for breakfast the next morning!

    At the end of the class we also got to bake ginger biscuits, which I really enjoyed. On the whole the class had been fun, even though there were some things I found really easy. But a few of us were already looking forward to starting the Intermediate part of the course and some fresh challenges! Though I was very tired that night, I completely forgot to add the ground ginger in. So the ginger biscuits were actually plain ones!

    Happy Baking

    Love Sam xx

    Marbled Mocha Muffins #MuffinMonday

    I love baking muffins as they’re so quick and easy to throw together and stick in the oven. Though these are really more like cupcakes as I used butter in them.

    A quick and easy all in one sponge mix with butter, caster sugar, self raising flour and free range eggs to start with. Then the batter is divided into two. One half is flavoured with cocoa powder, the other with espresso powder.

    Then you grab two teaspoons and take it in turns to scoop both flavours into 12 muffin cases. I’ve been very impressed with these plain brown muffin cases from Asda as they’re not greasy and do not peel away from the cake.

    I thought the muffins looked a bit plain and boring on top so I drizzled the tops with melted dark chocolate.

    These muffins make a perfect Monday morning (or any other day!) treat with a cup of coffee. They’re great to share with friends or to take for the staff room at work.

    Ingredients:

    250g softened butter

    250g caster sugar

    250g sifted self raising flour

    4 medium free range eggs

    1 tbsp cocoa powder mixed to a paste with 1 tbsp boiling water

    1 tbsp espresso coffee powder mixed to a paste with 1tbsp boiling water

    100g bar dark chocolate (to drizzle)

    • Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer for three to four minutes.
    • Divide the mixture equally between two smaller bowls. Put the coffee paste into one bowl and mix thoroughly. Do the same for the chocolate paste.
    • Take it in turns to spoon the two different flavour batters into prepared muffin cases in a 12 hole muffin tin. Use a skewer to gently swirl them together for the marble pattern.
    • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until light and springy to touch. Put on a wire rack to cool.
    • Melt the dark chocolate in your preferred way. I always melt mine in the microwave and take it out after a minute, stir it and put it in for another 30 seconds.
    • Use a disposable piping bag with a tiny bit off the end snipped off. Fill with the melted chocolate and use to drizzle the chocolate all over the muffins.
    • Leave to set or eat straightaway depending how hungry you are! The muffins should keep for about 3-4 days in an airtight container (if they last that long!)

    Apricot and Almond Flapjacks.

    Finally getting back to normality, if there is such a thing. Over the weekend I really fancied baking some flapjacks as I have loads of porridge oats in the cupboard. They are meant to be for breakfast though, Sam! But who can resist a chewy flapjack? I can’t, and unfortunately they’re a mega downfall for me. At the moment I’m battling with my hormones all over the place and I just wanted to relax while doing some therapeutic baking.

    I’m testing out recipes from Mary Berry’s new book Quick Cooking this month. Although the book has some delicious savoury recipes, I always look out for the baking ones at the back. Most of the recipes looked easy enough for an experienced baker like me to cope with. As I was in the mood for flapjack, the recipe for Figgy Oat Squares caught my eye. I’m not really a great fig lover and even though I was given a jar or figs last year in a Christmas present hamper, they have stayed unopened in the cupboard. Figs and sunflower seeds might be someone else’s idea of a taste sensation, but not really mine.

    Instead of figs I chose to add 50g of chopped, dried apricots to the flapjack mixture. In place of sunflower seeds, I substituted flaked almonds. I don’t mind dried apricots cut up in pieces.

    Making the flapjack itself was easy enough to do. I melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan. The recipe asked for golden syrup but when I got to that part of the recipe, I noticed there was only a tablespoonful left in the tin. That got scraped out and the rest had to be maple syrup.

    After all the melted ingredients were ready, I stirred in some porridge oats, the dried apricots and the flaked almonds.

    The mixture then was put into a square tin (probably 20cm) and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

    The flapjack was much more chewy than my regular recipe and although had got very dark around the outer edges, the inner pieces looked much better. I think flapjack, although can look plain and homely, is so moreish and comforting to eat.

    Mary Berry’s flapjack recipe is definitely one I will keep in my baking repertoire. Though I’ll be passing on the figs, Thankyou very much!

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    Maraschino Cherry And Cream Cheese Brownies.

    I was planning on baking some muffins at the weekend but got on Twitter and saw that last week’s theme for #TwitterBakealong was to bake some brownies with fruit in. #TwitterBakealong is great fun. You bake something connected with that week’s theme then upload a photo to Twitter along with the hashtag. The photo has to have a handwritten sign to be included in the bakealong. Brownies are a huge favourite in our house and I love making them. Unfortunately though, they don’t do my waistline any good.

    Looking on Twitter I could see lots of incredible bakes with different added fruit inside. I’m not one who usually adds fruit to brownies. It’s usually extra chocolate, candies, Oreo cookies or nuts that end up in my brownie batter. I just didn’t know what to do that would stand out.

    Back in 2017, I bought a fabulous book which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Flapper Pies And A Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynne Johnston, who is a Canadian blogger and food writer. I came across her book in the gift shop at Fort Edmonton and just had to have it. I’m getting the hang of working in cup sizes instead of grammes! I knew that the Flapper Pies book contained several traybake and brownie type recipes which would inspire me.

    Eventually I settled on adapting the Peanut Butter and Jam Cheesecake Brownies recipe. Instead of using raspberry jam, I used two thirds of a jar of washed, drained and dried maraschino cherries which I stirred into the cheesecake mixture. The brownie was a triple layer confection. Starting with a plain chocolate chip base, then a cheesecake layer and finally topped with more decadent brownie, this time swirled with peanut butter in the mixture. It sounded so naughty but nice.

    I had to giggle at the recipe introduction as Karlynne Johnston stated that “these brownies are now my husband’s favourite bar. I put them in the freezer so I could take a photo of them later and he snuck down for an entire week and ate them straight from the freezer, frozen as a midnight snack! You have to admire his dedication!” This did make me laugh as anything baking related that goes in the freezer, especially cookies or brownies usually vanishes and gets eaten frozen!

    On Sunday afternoon I started to get everything out to start baking. I must admit this wasn’t a cheap bake, but did use up ingredients I bought on impulse when shopping in Lakeland before Christmas. I saw jars of maraschino cherries which I usually associate with cocktails or ice cream sundaes on display as well as a bag of dark Guillard chocolate chips. I knew that I had to bake something exciting with them.

    First of all I melted some butter in a saucepan. When this had melted, I removed the saucepan from the heat and stirred in some caster sugar. After the caster sugar had dissolved, I stirred in some cocoa powder.

    The next step was to add three eggs one by one and stirred into the mixture.

    Then, I added in the dark chocolate chips.

    The plain flour then was stirred in but it needed to be folded in carefully so that it wasn’t over mixed. The brownies really needed to be fudgy, rather than cakey in texture.

    The brownie batter was ready apart for one thing. It needed to be split two ways: one third containing peanut butter and the other two thirds to stay plain.

    The plain chocolate brownie base was put into a greased square loose bottomed tin. I don’t think mine was the same dimensions as the one suggested in the original recipe but this was the nearest I had.

    The next step was to make the cheesecake filling. This was done by thoroughly washing and rinsing the sticky syrup off the Maraschino Cherries. There was loads to get off. I dried them on a piece of kitchen towel then started to chop the cherries into quarters. I had to re-rinse the cherries after they had been cut up as well, as they were still covered in syrup.

    In a large bowl I whisked together some full fat cream cheese, some sugar, an egg and some cornflour. This made the cheesecake mixture quite runny so I wondered whether I should have used an egg with it. I then folded in the cherries. This turned the mixture a delicate purple colour.

    The middle cheesecake layer was finally spooned on top of the chocolate brownie layer. Unfortunately whether it was because the cheesecake layer was runnier than expected or because there wasn’t enough of the far too stiff peanut butter layer, I found this incredibly difficult to spread. Also there didn’t seem to be enough mixture. It turned out that I ended up swirling the peanut butter layer into the cheesecake layer so that it was more of a marble effect.

    You can just about make out the two layers when I cut into the brownies once they had cooled down enough. They baked in my electric fan oven for 35 minutes (which is slightly longer than other brownie recipes) at about 170oC. The texture came out perfectly and gooey just like a brownie should but I still wasn’t sure what it would taste like with cherries in it. My daughter hates glace cherries but she liked these. In fact my whole family loved them and I put the rest in a plastic box to take into work. Then I remembered that the brownies contained peanut butter and being that I work in schools and nurseries which are usually nut free environments for allergies, I put the box in the freezer.

    It will be interesting to see if my family do what Karlynne Johnston’s husband did with her brownies when she put them in the freezer. On my last count there were sixteen pieces in the batch, we ate four so that leaves twelve. I bet if I go to the freezer now, there won’t be any left. I will report back!

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    Soda Bread

    I’m not experienced at making bread and would love to learn more. Recently I’ve come to realise that if I eat bread bought from the supermarket I feel bloated. I’m not gluten free but I feel as if there’s a lot of unnecessary additives in bread. I just wish I could bake my own all the time. I don’t want to cut out bread completely from my diet but I don’t have much time when I’m at work to bake bread on top of everything I do. I have a bread maker but my husband hates it out on the work top so it has to be put away in a cupboard when I’m not using it. Because of this, sometimes I forget it’s there!

    This morning I wanted to have some bread to go with lunch that wouldn’t take ages to make. Soda Bread fits the bill perfectly when you are pushed for time as there is no need for yeast as a raising agent in the dough. Instead, the bicarbonate of soda does the job. It can be adapted to add flavourings to turn the dough into a sweet one by adding dried fruits and spices like cinnamon. Or you can add nuts and seeds to a savoury loaf.

    The latest Eat Well For Less book: Eat Well For Less Quick And Easy Meals has such a recipe and this is the recipe I used for my soda bread today.

    The recipe suggested using wholemeal flour and natural yoghurt. I didn’t have these but I had some spelt flour and some Skyr. I wasn’t sure whether they would have the same effect but it was worth a try.

    The flour, seeds, salt and bicarbonate of soda was weighed out and added to a large mixing bowl. I mixed them together evenly.

    To the dry ingredients I then added the natural Skyr and some milk.

    When making up the bread dough, you have to get your hands into the dough to work it up into a ball. The dough was quite sticky!

    The dough was gathered up into a ball and put on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment.

    Then, I got a sharp knife and scored the top of the bread into quarters. As well as doing this, I sprinkled the top of the loaf with some left over flour before baking.

    I was disappointed with how the bread turned out. The oven was put on at the specified temperature and was even baked for longer than the 20 minutes that was required. I am not sure if my oven isn’t working effectively any more. It is nearly 13 years old and has been in constant use for all that time. I bought an oven thermometer but forget to put it in the oven sometimes. The bread appeared to be hollow when I tapped it after 30 minutes so I took it out of the oven. When I cut the bread in half it looked stodgy in places. It tasted better when I toasted a couple of slices which I ate with some Allioli (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise) spread on it.

    Having said that, even though the bread looked under done, it tasted lovely and both my husband and daughter enjoyed some at lunchtime. I will try and bake some more again and see if I can improve!

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    Suet-Free Mincemeat- How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

    Until about five years ago I could never be bothered to make my own mincemeat. Why go to all that trouble when you can buy it readymade in jars? It was when my late mother in law told me that making your own mincemeat was so easy, that I thought I might as well give it a go myself.

    My mother in law loved cooking and baking. She used to use Delia’s recipe in her Christmas book where the mincemeat baked slowly on a low heat in her oven whilst she was doing other things. I tried this for a couple of years and realised that homemade mincemeat tastes delicious. This year I decided to go for a change and looked to Nigella for inspiration.

    Nigella has a whole Christmas section in her Domestic Goddess book, which is where I looked first for Christmas recipes. Her recipe entitled Hettie Potter’s Suet Free Mincemeat looked delicious and easy to follow. Not everyone is keen on suet and I must admit it’s not something I use regularly. I don’t think I have ever made a suet pudding, apart from putting it in the Christmas pudding. It was interesting to see cider as an ingredient in the mincemeat, rather than brandy or whisky! Although this recipe contains both brandy and cider! Very potent!

    My own Stir Up Sunday was actually eight days later! I had prepped all the dried fruit for my Christmas Cake and pudding exactly a week after but used the Monday at home to bake. More about the cake and pudding in a later post!

    I was glad that this mincemeat didn’t need to be baked, but rather heated and then simmered in a large saucepan on my hob. That meant it could be cooked as the cake was baking and the pudding was steaming in the slow cooker.

    All that I needed to do was to put some soft brown sugar in the pan with some medium dry cider. The recipe used approximately half a bottle. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the cider as it was mid afternoon and I had to go out later that day to pick my son up from work! Once the sugar had dissolved, I added chopped Bramley apples, mixed spice, cinnamon, currants, raisins, glace cherries and some blanched almonds. As well as this I added in some lemon rind and a little lemon juice. The mixture had to simmer on a low heat for about half an hour so that the apples had softened and gone more squishy. When this had happened, I then took the mincemeat off the heat and stirred in some brandy.

    This recipe makes approximately 2kg of mincemeat which is enough to last me throughout the festive season for home use. It smelled absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to put it in some mince pies as soon as I can!

    Happy Christmas Baking!

    Love Sam. xx

    Pistachio Sablés 

     

     

    As I type it’s now a very wet and rainy September morning.  Most of the country’s children have gone back to school. I’m a supply teacher in my day job, which I love but as there’s no work around at the beginning of term I’m finally managing to catch up on my very neglected blog.

    It seems ages ago now we’re back into school mode. Well in our house I have my older one back off to uni today.  She’s driving down in her car for the first time and my younger one doesn’t start back at college until next week. Time flies and before we know it we’ll be mentioning the dreaded “C” word!!  But for now I’ll still think about summer and our holiday.

    When we were on holiday in the south of France a couple of weeks back we did a lot of our food shopping in the local Carrefour.  I always feel stressed and wound up in supermarkets at home.  I reckon it’s because I’m always in a hurry, they move things around and you end up forgetting half the things you came in for in the first place.  But in this Carrefour, even though it was a massive “grandes surfaces” it felt like a pleasure to shop there.

    Of course wherever I go on holiday I have to search out their baking aisle.  I don’t always buy things from the baking aisle but I couldn’t help myself here.  The selection of nuts, dried fruits, flavoured baking powders, extracts and the usual cake decorations were amazing.  Seeing different flavoured baking powders was a new one on me.  I love pistachios so I bought a packet of ground pistachio nuts hoping to use them in a recipe somewhere.  Of course when I buy goodies to take home, my family make snide comments about how I’m going to make us go over the baggage allowance.  I think we had about 500g spare this time, thank God!

    Two days after we got back from France I had invited my lovely Clandestine Cake Club friends over to my house for afternoon tea.  It was a great excuse to bake for them so I thought about how I could use my pistachio nuts in a recipe.  In the end I plumped for a biscuit recipe which I adapted from a recipe in The Great British Bake Off Everyday”  The original recipe was for Coconut Sables.

    Pistachio Sables

    Makes 20-24 biscuits

    160g plain flour

    a pinch of salt

    75g icing sugar

    160g unsalted, cold and diced butter

    2 medium free range egg yolks

    100g ground or crushed Pistachio nuts (I used Vahine Eclats de Pistaches Torrifiees)

    First, put the pistachios, flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and combine them evenly.

    Then add in the cubes of butter, rubbing them in until you get fine bread crumbs.

    Next you add the egg yolks to the bowl until the mixture becomes like a ball of dough.  I then take the ball of dough out of the bowl and roll it into a disc that’s about 2.5cm thick.

     Wrap your dough in some cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for about half an hour  until you are ready to use it.  Or if you are like me, you run out of time, leave it longer and then you find it is too hard to manipulate!

    When you have the dough out of the fridge, sprinkle a little flour onto your work top and then roll out your dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut out circles with a cutter (either plain or fluted) which is 7.5cm in diameter.

    Put the biscuits onto greased baking trays and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Oven temperature: 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas Mark 4. In the original recipe the biscuits should have been pricked with a fork before being baked but I forgot!

    I found that once you ate one of these cookies, you didn’t want to stop.  So I had to hide them away until my friends came over. I could just imagine eating a massive bowl of pistachio ice cream with one of these little treats.

    img_3434-1
    Afternoon tea at SmartCookieSam’s. It’s also the perfect excuse to use my late mother in law’s china.

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    Afternoon Tea at SmartCookieSam’s. Don’t look at the creased tablecloth!!

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    My Favourite Shortbread

    There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.

    I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.

    My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.

    Ingredients needed:

    • 250g unsalted butter (softened)
    • 125g caster sugar
    • 250g plain flour
    • 125g rice flour or cornflour

    Method:

    • Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
    • Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
    • Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
    • Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
    • If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
    • Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
    • Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
    • When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
    • When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.

    There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:

    • 100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
    • Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
    • Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
    • Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
    • Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
    • M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.

    I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.

    My chocolate chip shortbread.

    If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

    Happy Baking.

    Love Sam xx

    Lemon Polenta Cake

    Lemon Polenta Cake: a wheat free/ gluten free cake which works perfectly well as a simple dessert or afternoon tea treat.

    I had a packet of dried polenta sitting in the cupboard doing nothing. It’s not something I really cook with to be honest. I think I was going to cook a ragu type casserole to serve with it back in January or February and we ended up with something different.

    I read somewhere that polenta is great for making gluten free cakes and goes perfectly with ground almonds. I love making gluten free cakes but it is great to try alternatives to the gluten free flour you can find out there. Hence the Lemon Polenta Cake. I had a few lemons which needed using up so this was a perfect way to add them into this simple, but scrumptious cake.

    Please don’t be put off by this cake’s appearance. As cakes go, it is plain and boring to look at but appearances are deceptive. It also doesn’t rise very high or look that appealing. But I assure you as soon as you take a bite of this zesty treat, you will not be disappointed.

    Not the most appealing looking cake but definitely a great tasting one.
    View from the top: watch taking your cake out of the pan! Unlike me, who caught it on the side of the tin when I was in a hurry to get it out.
    You could serve your cake with whipped cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.Cau
    Or you could eat it straight out of the box as Mr S did yesterday when he came in from work hung

    Here’s how to make the simple, yet delicious Lemon Polenta cake.

    • Serves 8
    • About 30 mins preparation time.
    • 45-50 minutes baking time.
    • Suitable for freezing (if it lasts that long!
    • Ingredients:
    • 175g unsalted butter, softened
    • 200g caster sugar (175g for the cake, 25g for the lemon sugar syrup)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 75g dried polenta
    • 175g ground almonds
    • 2 lemons (zest and juice needed)
    • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
    • You will need a 22cm (9″) diameter round springform cake tin which has been greased and and the base lined with a baking parchment circle.
    • Preheat your oven to 150oC fan (160oC conventional/ 235oF or Gas 3). I baked my cake in a fan oven.
    • Cream the butter and 175g of the caster sugar. Keep back 25g of it to make a sugar syrup later on.
    • Add the eggs, one by one and whisk carefully after each addition.
    • Fold in the polenta and almonds using a large metal spoon.
    • Fold in the zest of the two lemons and the baking powder.
    • Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin. Smooth the surface of the cake to make it level.
    • Bake the cake for approx 45-50 minutes. As mentioned before, it doesn’t rise much but it will spring back when it’s done.
    • Leave the cake to cool down in the tin for about 10 minutes or so.
    • While the cake is cooling, you can make a syrup to drizzle on top of the cake. Put the juice from the two lemons you have already used the zest from in a saucepan, along with the remaining 25g of caster sugar. Heat this up on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
    • Turn the cake out onto a cake rack and prick holes in the top of the cake. Gently spoon the lemon sugar syrup onto the top of the cake so it pours down the holes and soaks into the sponge.
    • Serve the cake on its own or with ice cream, cream or creme fraiche. We enjoyed it with whipped cream and it was heavenly.

    If you don’t fancy making this cake with lemons, then I think that it would work well making it with other citrus fruit such as oranges or limes.

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

    Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

    Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

    Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

    The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

    I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

    What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

    • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
    • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
    • Vanilla Traybake
    • Honeycomb Cupcakes
    • S’mores Cookies
    • Cinnamon Rolls
    • Triple Chocolate Brownies
    • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
    • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
    I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
    Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

    What recipes will I pass on?

    • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
    • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
    • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
    • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
    Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

    Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

    From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

    I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    Amazing Cakes #31: Apple, Maple and Walnut Streusel Cake

    October 17th 2021.

    It’s been over a year since I set myself the challenge of working my way through the bakes in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes. I’ve only managed about half of the recipes and it’s getting to the stage where there are some bakes that I might not be able to attempt. These are because they are big celebration cakes which I don’t have the occasion to make a cake like that for and baking all that cake for nothing would be a terrible waste. Over the next month or so I am going to try a couple more recipes which will be suitable and then I will start another challenge.

    The Apple,Maple and Pecan Strusel Cake was a big winner.

    Now it is Autumn, I am beginning to struggle a bit. I know lots of people love Autumn and Winter but I am not one of those people. I am a Spring and Summer person and dread the clocks going back. Dark nights and cold, damp weather are not my idea of fun. I struggle to get up in the mornings when it is dark. The only way I can embrace the seasonal changes, apart from trying to get out as much as possible for fresh air and exercise is to cook comfort food. I make our Sunday roast and try to make us a Sunday dessert as something to look forward to.

    For our Sunday dessert last weekend, I chose to bake an Apple, Maple and Streusel Cake from the Amazing Cakes book. Featured in the Bakers’ Favourites chapter, this gorgeous and gently spiced cake was one Henry made during Series 9. This was one of Henry’s childhood favourite cakes inspired by his family holidays to Germany. I have never been to Germany myself but have tasted several Streusel cakes in the past. They are usually cakes topped with a crumble like topping with added nuts. This version uses chopped walnuts but pecans are a great alternative.

    To start baking the cake, I lined and greased the bottom of a 20cm (8″) deep loose bottomed circular cake tin. I then put all the dry ingredients needed into a mixing bowl. These were self raising flour, baking powder, ground mixed spice, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Then I rubbed cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until they became like breadcrumbs. Then I added brown sugar, some chopped apple pieces and some raisins. The recipe stated sultanas or blueberries but I had a load of raisins which needed using up and I didn’t want to waste all my blueberries in a cake. I wanted them for my yoghurt on my breakfast!

    In another mixing bowl, I whisked eggs, double cream and vanilla together. This was then tipped into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and the fruit. When this was done, I made the Streusel topping which was quick and easy to make. I rubbed butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together and then stirred in some chopped walnuts.

    The cake mixture was spooned in to the prepared tin and then finally the Streusel mixture was sprinkled on top. The cake went into the oven and was baked for just over an hour.

    When the cake came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Never mind me moaning about miserable weather, the smell of cinnamon is enough to cheer me up!

    The Maple cream cheese frosting finished this cake off beautifully.
    This cake was a great way to use some walnut halves I had left over from a previous bake.

    I gave the cake a good hour to cool down. While it was cooling, I made up some Maple Icing. This was butter, brown sugar, Maple Syrup and full fat cream cheese mixed together. I filled a piping bag with the mixture and then piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake. To finish, I put a walnut half on top of each rosette.

    A perfect balance of raisins, apple and nuts in this extremely moreish cake!
    A piece for Mr S after work during the week. He really enjoyed it.

    In the end we were so full after our main course that we left the cake and didn’t eat any! We didn’t start on it until the Tuesday and believe it or not it was still fresh. It was such a deliciously moist cake, with the aroma of the spices still lingering. I can honestly say this has been one of my favourite things to bake this year.

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam. xx

    A Bake For All Seasons #2: Jammy Dodgers

    3rd October 2021.

    I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.

    If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.

    I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.

    No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.

    I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    A Bake For All Seasons #3: Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf.

    Sunday October 10th 2021

    My version of the Bake For All Seasons Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf- nothing like the original!!

    I wanted to bake a cake for Sunday afternoon. I had been away for some of the weekend and we weren’t having a full blown Sunday roast but Mr S was going to cook his special steak with new potatoes and salad. I’ve been suffering a bit with my mental health recently. October has been a tricky month and I can’t wait for it to end. I know that baking helps lots of us who are struggling and I’m no exception. I didn’t really need any cake in the house but I needed to have that comforting ritual of baking and creating something.

    A slice for Mr S to have with his afternoon cuppa.

    I looked in the new Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons to see if there was a simple Autumnal cake I could bake that afternoon that wasn’t too fancy or had weird ingredients I didn’t have in my cupboard. The only real contender was the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf in the Autumn section of the book on page 158. I didn’t have any tahini paste in, though. The only ever time I bought it was a couple of years ago to make some hummous and the rest ended up getting chucked out as my own hummous tasted revolting! I thought what could give a similar effect that was in my cupboard and I thought maybe peanut butter would work. The top of the cake as seen in the recipe photo also shows the loaf sprinkled with caramel sesame seeds and a whole banana peeled and halved as a decoration. This did not appeal to me one bit so I left it off!

    To line my loaf tin, I always use the pre-made loaf tin liners available from big supermarkets or shops like Lakeland! They save so much faff! When I had lined that, I melted some butter. When this was cooling, I whisked brown sugar and eggs together. Then this was added to the cooled butter, the peanut butter and some natural yoghurt. Finally I added some mashed bananas.

    In another bowl I weighed out and mixed together some dry ingredients: self raising flour, baking powder and cinnamon then folded it carefully into the other ingredients. Finally the mixture was spooned into the the tin and then baked in the oven for around 50 minutes. This was slightly earlier than the recipe suggested but my oven seems to bake a lot quicker.

    Leftovers to be cut up and put in a box for later.
    I love using the ready made loaf tin liners from Lakeland.

    I must admit I didn’t end up trying the banana loaf as I’ve been a bit off my food and under the weather this week. Not Covid, I hasten to add! Mr S had a piece and said it was nice although I pinched 3 of his breakfast bananas to use in the cake. By the time I felt a bit better, what was left of tthe cake had gone off and had to be binned.

    I don’t think I’ll attempt to make this version of a banana loaf again unless I do have any left over tahini paste knocking around. I might buy some as Nigella has a tahini cake in one of her recipes from Cook, Eat, Repeat and it seems to be popular. I think I’ll stick to my favourite Annabel Karmel one I’ve been making since my kids were little as that always goes down well with everyone.

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx

    A Bake For All Seasons #1: Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake.

    3rd October 2021

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that much of an Autumn/ Winter persion. Mainly because I don’t like it being dark early and getting up in the dark. Not to mention the lack of sun. But having said that, there are positives to this time of year- it’s Bake Off Season!

    The 2021 Season is well underway as I write and I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers on here.

    I preordered the new Great British Bake Off recipe book to accompany this series from Amazon and it arrived on the day of release. I’ve done a review on the book as a separate post: you can read it here!

    I looked to see which recipes tied in with Autumn and what fitted in with ingredients we had at home. I also wanted something suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert and not an overly complicated occasion cake which we wouldn’t be able to eat.

    We chose the Blackberry and Pear Crumble Cake on page 200 in the Autumn section of the book as our first recipe. But I subsituted apples in place of pears in the recipe as we had apples to use up. I also have struffled to find blackberries recently. I’ve noticed not so many growing on the hedgerows recently, or have I missed something? The only way I could find any blackberries to use in this recipe was to buy a mixed berried frozen fruit bag from the supermarket and to separate them out to use in this recipe. To peel and core the apples, I use an apple segmenter which I have had since my children were little so that I could cut apples up for them when they had a snack.

    So, on with the cake. I used a 20cm (8″) springform cake tin for the recipe which was greased and lined. When that was done, I put the chopped apples into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and 25g butter. These were slowly cooked so that they would caramelise.

    In another bowl I added 50g more butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and 75g plain flour and mixed this together with some toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts I found a bit fiddly to do as even as they toasted, it took ages to get the skins off. This made the crumble topping.

    I then got out my KitchenAid and beat together some more butter and some more caster sugar until it was pale and creamy. I then added in eggs, one at a time and beat them well one at a time. In went the rest of the flour followed by some baking powder and finally some sour cream.

    Now it was time to assemble the cake in layers. Starting with two thirds of the sponge mixture in the base of the tin. Followed by a third of the crumble topping and then the rest of the sponge. Then another third of the crumble topping. To finish off I arranged all the caramelised apples and blackberries on top, followed by the final sprinkling of crumble topping.

    The cake takes quite a while to bake: the recipe stated 1 1/2 hours but I found mine was ready after 1 1/4 hours. It smelled absolutely delicious and there was nothing else you needed to do to serve it, except put a generous slice on a plate with some warm custard. The recipe suggested creme fraiche but we wanted custard.

    I will definitely make this again. It might work with almonds instead of chopped hazelnuts and I will try it with pears as well. It really did hit the spot on a chilly Autumn afternoon. I must admit I had some leftovers the next day when I got in from school as I had a sweet craving!

    Happy Baking!

    Love Sam xx