A couple of weeks ago I went along to York Central’s Clandestine Cake Club event which was held in the fabulous York Cocoa House on Blake Street just around the corner from the Minster. Although I have been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for nearly 2 years now, it was the very first time I had ever managed to get along to the York Central group. This month’s theme was Literary Cakes which to me was a brilliant theme. As a trained primary school teacher, a mother and a massive bookworm it just had to be a child’s book which would provide the inspiration for my cake.
After taking a while to decide, I settled upon Paddington Bear. I first enjoyed the Paddington Bear stories by Michael Bond as a child in the 1970’s at Infant School. Our teacher read the first book to us and I also enjoyed the TV series that used to come on just before the 6 o’clock news! When I became a Key Stage One teacher nearly 20 years ago I had a cuddly Paddington toy and a book which I used to share with the children at story time. The book ended up being passed down to my own two children who are now teenagers. My hubby loved Paddington too and I remember him exploding with laughter reading the stories to my children at bedtime. So my cake just had to be a cakey version of one of Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches!
I then started looking for recipes containing orange and or marmalade and then remembered only a few days previously Mary Berry had been showing how to make her Spiced Orange Cake on The Great British Bake Off Masterclass. It sounded like a great way to try out the cake and to experiment with it to turn it into a marmalade sandwich!
Here’s how it was done:
The cake went down well at cake club that night. I had about a third of the cake left along with some of the other cakey leftovers to take into work with me to share with my colleagues. It also went down well in school and I was delighted that the cake turned out the way I wanted it to. I would love to make it again and I bet it would work well with lemon or lime as a change with different spices to complement the main flavour. Watch this space!
A couple of weeks ago I needed something for pud to follow our Sunday lunch and wanted something quite light and not TOO heavy on the old calories. Even though I’ve made a lot of the savoury recipes in the two Hairy Bikers‘ diet books, I had yet to try the sweet ones. I suppose I had this silly idea that if it was low calorie or low fat, it wouldn’t taste right and not like a full fat version. How wrong I was. I absolutely detest shop bought and manufactured cakes and biscuits that are meant to be low fat or low sugar. Believe you, me I have eaten more than my fair share over the years and I think my taste buds have changed as I have got older.
So it was with mixed feelings that I attempted to bake the Hairy Bikers’ Carrot and Sultana cake from their first diet book, which was published last year. You get fixed ideas that low fat/sugar= low taste. This is not true as I’ve found out when cooking the other meals from the Hairy Bikers’ books. I had realised that not only did the dishes I prepare taste delicious, they actually were lower in calories.
The introduction to this rather delicious sounding cake says: ” We all know you can’t be eating cake every day when you’re keen to shed a few pounds,” I wish, but then the saying goes “You can’t have your cake and eat it!” The Hairy Bikers also say that “this cake is made with oil instead of butter and is super-moist, so non- dieters will love it too, if you let them have any!”
I tried to work out what makes this cake suitable as a treat for dieters and noticed that the quantities will be slightly smaller. Comparing it to another carrot cake recipe I noticed there was an absence of nuts, the amount of sugar was reduced somewhat. Some carrot cakes don’t have sultanas although I do put them in mine. The cake is also made without the traditional cream cheese frosting that you might put in the middle and on top of the cake, this was just a single layer cake. If you feel you cannot possibly do without a cream cheese topping then The Hairy Bikers say you can spread the cake with 200g of light reduced fat soft cheese. I know from experience that light cheese tastes disgusting in frosting so I chose to leave it off!
So, here’s how I got on with making the Carrot and Sultana Cake.
I was very impressed with the recipe and have decided that I actually enjoyed the slice of carrot cake more without the cream cheese frosting on top of it. I thought I wouldn’t like it without but I didn’t miss it. So, this means I will be using this recipe in the future if we want to have carrot cake at home. At 239 calories a slice and the cake serves 10 it meant I could indulge without feeling guilty.
A few weeks back it was just brilliant to watch the Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes. I love the Masterclasses as they show you how it should be done. I was intrigued to see how the terribly difficult technical challenges were meant to be done. I had attempted a couple of them like the Angel Cake and the English Muffins but now I have a little more confidence to have a go at some of the others.
I also loved the inclusion of some of Paul and Mary’s signature bakes in the Masterclasses. One of my favourites was Mary’s Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake which looked like a perfect alternative to Parkin at Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night or even as an excuse to eat cake in the cold, dark and damp Autumn months! Well, any day or any type of weather is an excuse to eat cake for me though! The Friday of half term week up here in North Yorkshire was one of those miserable days. It didn’t seem to get light at all so baking this gorgeous sounding traybake was definitely on the cards.
Here’s how I got on:
The traybake did go down well with my hubby but the children aren’t that keen on heavily spiced gingery things. I loved it too and had to steel myself to make sure I only had one small piece. It did keep well for several days in an airtight tin. It was so simple to make that I think it would not only be a good bake for children to attempt or something that a novice in the kitchen could cope with. I love traybakes for coffee mornings and the like as a little goes a long way. I cut my traybake into 16 pieces but they were very large ones. I don’t “do” small portions! Hope it’s not too long before I get the chance to try baking this delicious bake again,
A couple of weeks ago it was my last event as joint organiser for the Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon Clandestine Cake Club. I have a lot on my plate at the moment but I felt that I had to step down as organiser to create more time to deal with everything else going on in life! I have had a great time organising the events and have met some fantastic people, not to mention sampling some incredible cakes along the way. I am still going to be a Clandestine Cake Club member and will attend as many events as I can fit in as I have made some lovely friends who I think the world of.
Ironically, the cake club event that was my last as joint organiser was exactly a year to the day after my first event. It was held in exactly the same place, the gorgeous Wellington Inn, in Darley a village in the heart of beautiful Nidderdale. The theme was “Happy First Birthday” so my cake had to be worthy of something you would bake for a birthday cake, yet not something that would be too sickly sweet to eat.
I chose to bake a Coffee Bundt cake based on a recipe I had in the very first Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. I had not made a coffee Bundt before but I know whenever I’ve made coffee and walnut cakes they always go down well.
The cake was left to bake for about 40 minutes. Only my cake decided that it didn’t fancy staying inside the pan and it spilled out over the top and onto the bottom of my oven! I was not a happy bunny and the cake looked a right mess on the top of it. I wasn’t sure how it had happened, maybe it was just too full. I had to get the cake scrapings out straightaway before my hubby noticed though. Once the cake was out, I let it cool in the tin and then it slid out perfectly onto the rack. At least it looked fairly presentable for Cake Club!
To decorate the cake the recipe calls for a vanilla frosting flavoured with coffee essence. I had made up some strong expresso coffee essence according to the recipe instructions. Instead of spreading it on the cake I chose to pipe it on using my large star nozzle. It only just had enough icing to decorate the top. I then added some chocolate cocoa beans which I had bought in Waitrose. It only used half the jar so I hope no one in my family nicks the rest or they won’t get used for cupcakes! Poor lighting in my kitchen made the icing look a lot more yellow than it really was, well it was about 7 o’clock on a dreary November night I suppose!
This Coffee Bundt was a definite winner and one I would love to bake again and again. My hubby loves Coffee Cake so maybe he might want one for his birthday?
Oh no, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve updated my blog. It has been really busy here, just too much going on what with life in general! I thought I’d better get my act together and update it, seeing as Christmas and the mad hectic season is nearly upon us! Anyway, enough of that. Back to what I’m meant to be doing!
I’m going back to a cake I made a couple of weeks ago, initially intended for The Clandestine Cake Club‘s VCake event. The theme was Life Is A Just A Bowl Of Cherries and we were invited to bake a cake containing cherries and email our photos to Katie, the organiser. Only I clean forgot. This is not good and I only remembered when I read the write up Katie had written on the website. Anyway, at least I did make the cake and it was a pleasure to make it.
I always think of cherries as a summer bake so I decided to stick with the charming, retro bright red glace cherries. My kids aren’t great glace cherry lovers though but I thought if I do make a cherry cake at least they won’t nick it when I’m not looking! I set my heart on baking an old favourite, a cherry loaf I used to bake for coffee mornings. Only being me, I went to the cupboard and realised I hadn’t got any cherries left! How did that happen? So back to the cakey drawing board!
I was looking through the blog At Home With Mrs M after I did the link up to her Meal Planning Monday blog hop and noticed that she had a post with a recipe about a Cherry and Almond Victoria Sponge. This made my mouth water. To me, cherries and almonds go together like fish and chips, Ant and Dec, strawberries and cream… I just had to make this! Mrs M used cherry curd in her filling but I bought a jar of Morello Cherry jam in Sainsburys and hoped for the best. I love this jam, I buy it quite often to have on toast.
I originally planned to bake the cake on the Sunday and take it into work the following day on the Monday. What I had forgotten though, was that I would be too busy on the Sunday to be baking and then on the Monday we were out on a training day. So we wouldn’t be in work to eat the cake! So, I chose to bake it on the Friday and take it along as a second/ alternative cake for members to try at the Harrogate Clandestine Cake Club event.
Here’s how I made the cake. Now bearing in mind I’m usually trying to cram everything in at breakneck speed I think this one turned out fine. I was so impressed with the flavours that I’m definitely going to make it again and again!
Last year when the Great British Bake Off was on I was tempted by the Rum Babas that the contestants were asked to make for their Technical Challenge in the very first week. Who can remember John Whaite accidentally putting salt in the rum babas instead of sugar because the glass jars weren’t labelled? Luckily though it worked out for him in the end becoming the series winner! I was keen to try out making rum babas, they are something I think of as a 1970’s dessert trolley invention. I had only tasted a rum baba once, about three years ago when my hubby bought one. It was stale and tasted funny. I only had one mouthful of it which is rare for someone like me who is a sugar addict!
I noticed that Lakeland started stocking them after the Bake Off had been on which is great. They came in packs of 4. They have also started stocking the silicone chocolate dome moulds which are for making the chocolate teacakes which were another very tricky technical challenge bake from Series 3. As a regular shopper at my local stores (either Harrogate, York or Northallerton) I was pleased as I knew my hubby would want me to try them.
But did I get round to using them? No I didn’t! Well over a year later I had forgotten about the moulds and found them in my cupboard still in the packaging. Guilt overcame me and I thought I must try them out as promised. My hubby talked about rum babas saying he would love to have one for pudding. We had rum, I had yeast so I decided to get baking.
Last Sunday morning was a quiet day at home at the beginning of half term week. I had all day to spend on the rum babas between other jobs but there was lots to do. I’m still underconfident when it comes to anything involving yeast.
Here’s how it was made and what happened:
At this point I began to panic. The dough was very wet and I really struggled to knead it by hand. In the end I had to stick it in the mixer as I just couldn’t work with it. It just stuck to my hands and the more I tried to knead, the more it stuck. I don’t know if I was meant to use the mixer but I thought it would be better than my hot hands touching the dough. I managed to get it into the bowl, I washed my hands and then tried to search on YouTube to see if they had the original episode where they made the rum babas. Then I could watch it back and see where I was going wrong. Lo and behold there was a clip showing the rum babas and it was mentioned that the dough did appear wet. Thank heavens for that!
If you want to see the original clip, then here is the link to it here:
After all this messing about my kitchen surface looked like a scene of destruction. It took some scrubbing to get the dough of the surface, it felt stickier than Superglue, if that’s possible! I left the dough to rise in the bowl for about an hour and a half which was enough time for me to get on with the ironing.
Then for a second proving, this time in the savarin moulds. They had to rise to the level of the hole but not be too overproved. This was easier said than done!
So, would I make the rum babas again? Yes, I would. Despite them being quite labour intensive in short bursts they were a massive hit with the family and a perfect treat. Very naughty but nice!
Last week I blogged about my fantastic goodies which Whynut sent me and how excited I was to receive them. After trying out the early harvested peeled pistachio kernels I wanted to try out the other products as soon as I could. My mum, like me adores pistachio nuts and I thought I could incorporate the packet of lightly salted pistachio nuts I was sent into a cake or cupcakes to celebrate her birthday last weekend.
Inspiration came in the end from a cupcake book I have and love: Making Cupcakes With Lola. There is a recipe in the book for chocolate and pistachio cupcakes. The cupcake itself has chocolate chips inside it and is topped with a chocolate swirl icing and finished with chopped pistachios. I didn’t have enough spare chocolate to make the icing as well so the icing became an experiment. I took a large spoonful of the pistachio paste that was also part of the goodie box and swirled it into some buttercream icing instead. This tinted the icing the gorgeous pastel green hue that pistachios are. The cupcakes were then topped with whole pistachio nuts. I thought these looked pretty as well, the nuts had a beautiful rose pink tint to them which contrasted well with the green.
Here’s how I made the cupcakes:
I must admit I had a giggle when I first opened the tub of pistachio paste. I was expecting the paste to be a delicate green colour but to my surprise it was a funny dark green colour. Do you know what it reminded me of? It reminded me of the colour of meconium stained pooey nappies that newborn babies produce!
Straightaway I got my piping bag and large star nozzle set up, piping a giant swirl on the top of each cupcake. Before they had a chance to set, I opened the pack of pistachios and sprinkled an equal amount onto each cupcake.
Off we went down to Nottingham to stay with my Mum for a couple of days and I took the cupcakes with us. We ate one on the Monday afternoon with a cup of tea and we both loved them. Mum kept some back when we had gone home and they were still fresh for her to serve when she had some friends around for afternoon tea. My kids weren’t keen as they don’t like pistachios but Mum and I were tucking in. To be honest I usually find buttercream on cupcakes a bit sickly but this was fine with the added paste. I still have some paste left to use so I’m wondering what I can make with it next. Watch this space!