Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess- Christmas Morning Muffins.

Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffin recipe from her Domestic Goddess Cookbook is just one of those recipes I’ve been keen to try ever since I bought the book nearly 10 years ago.  In the introduction Nigella suggests that these muffins are good as part of establishing your very own Christmas morning traditions or rituals.  To us in our house, we have our own traditions but I’ve never bothered with traditions for food on Christmas morning. We usually have something light and quick like tea and toast. About 11 am we’ll have a glass of Champagne or Prosecco with a mince pie to put us on until dinner is ready, usually about 2 o’clock.  Then again things are never set in stone in our house.  But I was keen to try out the Christmas Muffin recipe, it looked simple enough to bake the night before as I didn’t want to be baking on Christmas morning and the ingredients sounded festive and delicious.

Instead of the cranberries Nigella suggested I chose to use the same quantity of dried fruit.  I had some mixed dried fruit left over in an open bag.  I thought I’d save the cranberries for something else.

Here’s how the Christmas Morning Muffins were made:

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I used these pretty Nordic inspired Christmas muffin cases from Waitrose. I bought them last year and loved them.
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All the “dry” ingredients were weighed out into a large bowl. This was flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and some brown sugar.
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The “wet” ingredients went into another bowl: orange juice, milk, eggs and some melted butter.
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Everything was combined carefully in one bowl with the dried, mixed fruit added into the wet ingredients right at the end.
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The muffin mixture spooned into the cases and all ready to go into the oven.
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Fresh out of the oven. Some muffins rose better than others!

Nigella suggests sprinkling the muffins with demerara sugar and cinnamon before baking.  I totally forgot to do it so I ended sprinkling icing sugar on the top of mine.  However, I was a bit heavy handed as you can see in the picture below!

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Ready to be eaten dusted with a little icing sugar on Christmas Day.

So, will this be a tradition to come in my family?  I don’t think so. Sadly I was the only one who ate a muffin!  It was just the four of us on Christmas morning and my hubby said no to a muffin.  As soon as the kids noticed there was dried fruit in the muffins they turned their noses up at them. Bet it would have been different if it was chocolate.  So it was toast all round.  It did taste lovely though.  The rest ended up being used as the trifle sponges towards our Boxing Day Trifle!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. It would be lovely to know if anyone reading this also has their favourite baking traditions over Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special- Mary Berry’s Tunis Cake.

As I type, it’s now December 30th. the rain is lashing against the windows and it feels decidedly un- Christmassy. I’m catching up on all the blog posts and getting up to date.  It’s been great to veg out at home and I’m now feeling totally relaxed.  I won’t be saying that this time next week when I’m back at work and the kids are back at school.  My hubby has had some time off over Christmas but he has been nipping into work to see things tick over.  So, for me it’s time to catch up on the blog.

One of my favourite bakes this year just has to be this gorgeous Tunis Cake which Mary Berry baked on the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special from a couple of weeks back.  Not only did it look simple to make, it looked pretty impressive and would be a fantastic pudding or cake for someone who doesn’t like lots of dried fruit.  My children don’t like fruit cake or Christmas pudding so it would be perfect for them.  I had never heard of a Tunis Cake before so it was great to try something new to me, although it is said they originate from Edwardian times according to Wikipedia!

Here is a link to the original recipe on the Great British Bake Off website.  http://thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/mary-berrys-tunis-cake/

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All the ingredients were chucked together in the KitchenAid; flour, butter, sugar, eggs and ground almonds.

The Tunis cake followed an all in one method and included ground almonds which gave the cake a lovely moist texture.  It took no time at all to prepare in my trusty KitchenAid.  I like cakes that do this, saves a great deal of time not faffing about!

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Mixing all the ingredients together.
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My large springform cake tin was greased and lined.
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The mixture was put in the tin and then went straight into the oven for about 45 minutes.
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Meanwhile I heated up some double cream to make the ganache. When the cream had heated up and I’d taken it off the heat I added some plain chocolate.

For the ganache you needed 400g plain chocolate. I used some 70% cocoa solids Swiss chocolate from Tesco which was the cheapest good quality chocolate I could find.  I’ve used it in lots of different recipes before and it always works out well.

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Making some holly sugarpaste leaves. I added the veining in by using my mini wheel, Scoring the paste with a small knife works well, too.

In the recipe Mary uses marzipan coloured with food colouring for her holly leaves but I couldn’t be bothered to get my food colourings out and mess about with the marzipan.  I needed to keep some back for using in stollen (which in the end I never got round to making, but that’s another story).  I had a special Christmas Cake Decorating pack from Renshaw Icing which contained five different coloured packs of their Christmas colours.  The green one was perfect for the holly leaves so out it came!  The red berries were made from some leftover icing (also Renshaw but coloured the previous week) when I was baking Christmas cookies with the children I work with in school.

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The finished cake.

The cake turned out completely different to the way it looked on the programme.  My cake looked a lot wider and shallower and I obviously in a rush had baked the cake in the wrong tin.  Also, being as Mary’s cake was a lot deeper, she made the ganache go halfway down the side of the cake.  As my cake was a lot shallower I couldn’t do that without making a mess so I just put the ganache on the top of it.  The holly leaves were put on a bit haphazardly but I thought the cake still turned out well.

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Next time I think I’ll use smaller holly leaves as these swamped the cake a bit. It would have been nicer if they had looked like they were in a wreath.
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A slice cut for Sunday lunch dessert. Great with a dollop of cream after our Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding.

All of my family really enjoyed the cake and it didn’t last long enough til Christmas Day. I had to make another Christmas Pudding alternative instead.

I was so glad that Mary featured this recipe on the Great British Bake Off.  Looking through Facebook and Twitter just after the programme was on, it seemed like lots of us cake bakers were keen to try the Tunis Cake.  If you baked it, what did you think?  I’d love to know.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Christmas Baking 2013.

It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Even though sometimes you feel as if you’re meeting yourself coming backwards and life is a whirlwind, I do love all the exciting lead up and all the baking I do.  I’ve put my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes business on hold for the moment until my son leaves school but baking is very much in my blood and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.  It would be like losing a part of me.   Instead, I turned to baking for friends and family making foodie presents as well as donating mince pies and other goodies to Christmas events at work.

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Mince Pies- these were made with a zesty orange pastry. I used Mary Berry’s mince pie recipe from her latest recipe book: They were filled with my homemade mincemeat from Delia Smith’s Christmas book. My late mother in law always used the recipe to make her mince pies and they always tasted delicious. She recommended the recipe and I have used it ever since.

I made several batches of these mince pies during December.  In previous years I’ve used various recipes, including Nigella’s Domestic Goddess recipe and the one featured in the very first Great British Bake Off cookbook.  Compared with shop bought mince pies they are smaller and the mincemeat is sweeter but they are how I imagine homemade mince pies to taste. I baked some mince pies to serve after our school Nativity performance and also for a grandparents’ Christmas tea party. Sadly, when I was baking for the first event I was carrying a rack of two dozen pies from the oven over to the worktop and knocked them all onto the floor.  Oh dear!  It didn’t help that my greedy but gorgeous Labrador ran in while I was getting the brush out and “hoovered” them up! We only had half the mince pies on that night! I can see the funny side of it now!

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A festive version of the Mocha Marble Cake as featured in The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook. I baked this as a pudding for after Sunday lunch.
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I baked a lot of cupcakes for foodie presents this year.

I love baking cupcakes at Christmas and although I don’t have much spare time to make my own toppers and decorations I was pleased that my local Sainsburys could help me out.  I got the gingerbread men and Christmas pudding toppers in special packs and the snowmen came from somewhere else.  I was also pleased to find TKMaxx selling sprinkles and found some great crushed peppermint pieces in a tub.

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Christmas Pudding Cupcake- all the flavours of a Christmas pudding within a sponge cupcake, including a dash of brandy in the frosting! Recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.
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Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. This time it’s the Candy Cane Cupcake recipe. I decorated the top slightly differently as I couldn’t find my two tone icing bag.
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These are the EggNog cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. They were flavoured with rum!
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Finally, here are some gingerbread cupcakes. They provided a great spicy hit without being too overpowering and were topped with a lemon cream cheese icing. Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookbook.

For our school Grandparents’ Christmas Party during the last week of term I wanted to serve Christmas Cake but hadn’t left enough time to bake a traditional cake.  I found this ideal alternative in Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, a light fruit cake baked as a traybake.  You then ice the top with marzipan and sugarpaste and cut it into small squares.  I thought this was a brilliant idea and the cakes went down well even though some people don’t like the sweet icing, it was easily peeled off. I decorated the tops with snowflakes, trees, stars and other Christmassy motifs.

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The Christmas Cake Bites from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection.
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The remaining gingerbread men and the snowmen sugar toppers got used on these fondant topped vanilla sponge cupcakes made for the children in the school where I work. I love baking them cupcakes or cookies at the end of term.

When baking for Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes I made these gingerbread Christmas Trees to order.  Each one I made was unique and I loved putting them together.  This year I only made one which I donated as a raffle prize.  I originally bought the cutters from Selfridges as a set from Wilton when I was in London a few years back.  Now Lakeland Limited sell them and they are very popular.  For the recipe I use 2 batches of a gingerbread cookie recipe and bake two of each size of cookie.  Once these have been baked and cooled they are covered in roll out icing.  I used the white Renshaw icing for this project and added Skittles and Toffee bon-bons.

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The 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree.
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After baking the star shapes for the tree I had enough dough left to bake some gingerbread men. I added 4 cheeky gingerbread men to look like they were sitting on the branches of the Christmas tree.
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This is our family Christmas Cake this year. Usually I love to make my own decorations but I fell in love with all these pretty cake toppers and cake band when I was in John Lewis in Liverpool back in October. I just HAD to have them for my cake. What’s more as they’re not edible I’ve got them again for next year!
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Mary Berry’s Tunis Cake as featured on The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special
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More cupcake foodie presents. This time I made chocolate orange and chocolate mint cupcakes. The boxes were ones I found in Lakeland last year and kept them for this Christmas.
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My children helped me to decorate their Christmas pudding alternative- a chocolate Yule Log. I treated myself to the Nordicware Yule Log Bundt pan on sale in Lakeland. They covered the chocolate cake in ganache and piped royal icing on the top of it.
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I made gift bags of cookies for my step-nephews and nieces from a cutter set I bought from TKMaxx. The colours aren’t that Christmassy but it did spell out ho-ho!
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Two Mint Chocolate Cupcakes left over from all the baking. I was looking forward to trying one out but the kids got there before me!

Here’s hoping you all had a great 2013, fantastic Christmas and that you’re looking forward to what 2014 may bring.

Love Sam xx

Mocha Marble Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for a quick pudding or dessert to bake for Sunday lunch.  I had always wanted to bake the Mocha Marble Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook after tasting it when my friend had made it for one of our local cake club events.  It had gone down very well with everyone who tried a slice of it (me included!). Not only did it taste good but it looked good too.  Three months later and I finally got round to baking this scrumptious cake.  I knew all of my family would like it so I was onto a winner.

Here’s how it was made:

The two flavourings needed to make the Mocha Marble Cake.  One contains cocoa powder dissolved in boiling water, the other contains coffee granules also dissolved in water.
The two flavourings needed to make the Mocha Marble Cake. One contains cocoa powder dissolved in boiling water, the other contains coffee granules also dissolved in water.

 

I greased two sandwich tins, these were 7" diameter ones.
I greased two sandwich tins, these were 7″ diameter ones.
Into the mixer went some butter and caster sugar.
Into the mixer went some butter and caster sugar.
This was creamed together
Creaming the caster sugar and butter together.
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Adding the eggs and then the flour to the mixture.
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The mixture was then beaten until thoroughly combined.
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The mixture was divided equally into two separate bowls so that I could add the two flavourings.
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I added the cocoa powder mixture to one bowl, the coffee mixture to the other.

I then put the different cake mixes into each tin spoon by spoon so that there was a good swirl of each. I thought there wasn’t too much of a contrast between each colour on this cake and I must admit I rushed getting the cake into the oven.  I must’ve swirled it too much or something.  The cake baked quite quickly at the usual time for a sponge cake of that size for about 25 minutes.  Once it had started cooling down I made some buttercream up with butter, icing sugar and some coffee granules which had been dissolved in boiling water.  There was ample icing to fill the cake and to ice both the top and the sides.

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The finished cake. I would have liked to have decorated the top of the cake with some chocolate covered coffee beans but I didn’t have any left. Instead I found some Dr Oetker gold dragees. I like these gold balls because they are chewy ones, rather than the ones which hurt your teeth!
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A slice cut ready and waiting to be served for pudding.
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The rest of the cake. Sadly the marble effect didn’t show up very well once the cake was cooked. It tasted delicious though.

The cake lasted well for a couple of days in an airtight tin, though it was demolished by my family I only got a small slice of it. I will definitely be making this again.  My hubby loves coffee cake so it could be a contender for his birthday cake next month!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Toffee Cake.

About three weeks ago we had a special family Sunday meal at our house for my Dad and step-mum.  After some gammon which was the smallest joint ever and had to be padded out with pigs in blankets and lots of veg, I had to think of a pudding that everyone would like.

When it’s cold, dark and miserable outside I love nothing more than Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It’s simple to make yet tastes gorgeous and most people I know love eating it.  I wanted to try out the Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake in The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook as the photo in the book looked absolutely mouthwatering.  The recipe was created by Jane Edgar who is a member of the  Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club. It also came with a separate toffee sauce which would work really well to cater for everyone’s tastes.  My step mum can’t eat cream which is in the toffee sauce so this was perfect for her.  She could eat the cake without the sauce and have custard if she wanted to instead.

First of all I had to put some chopped, stoned dates into a pan with some milk and water.  These had to cook until all the liquid had been absorbed.
First of all I had to put some chopped, stoned dates into a pan with some milk and water. These had to cook until all the liquid had been absorbed.
Once the liquid had been absorbed, I removed the dates from the heat and added some bicarbonate of soda.
Once the liquid had been absorbed, I removed the dates from the heat and added some bicarbonate of soda.
The bicarbonate of soda fizzed up when it was added to the date mixture.  It was fun to watch this happen!
The bicarbonate of soda fizzed up when it was added to the date mixture. It was fun to watch this happen!
Into my mixer went Pure Soya spread and  soft light brown sugar.  This was creamed together, then eggs were added to the mixture gradually.
Into my mixer went Pure Soya spread and soft light brown sugar. This was creamed together, then eggs were added to the mixture gradually.
Sifting in some flour.
Sifting in some flour.
Folding in the date mixture with a teaspoonful of vanilla extract.
Folding in the date mixture with a teaspoonful of vanilla extract.
The mixture was then spooned into a prepared cake tin.  This was a 20cm round cake tin.
The mixture was then spooned into a prepared cake tin. This was a 20cm round cake tin.
After the cake baked in the oven for about 45 minutes it was left to cool out on the worktop.  It came out a lovely dark golden colour.
After the cake baked in the oven for about 45 minutes it was left to cool out on the worktop. It came out a lovely dark golden colour.
While the cake was cooling I made the toffee sauce.  I heated double cream, brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan.
While the cake was cooling I made the toffee sauce. I heated double cream, brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan.
The cooled cake was put onto my stand and the sauce into a separate jug.  In the recipe book Jane, the recipe creator suggests pouring the sauce all over the top.  I chose to serve it separately so my step-mum could still eat some.
The cooled cake was put onto my stand and the sauce into a separate jug. In the recipe book Jane, the recipe creator suggests pouring the sauce all over the top. I chose to serve it separately so my step-mum could still eat some.
Here is the separate jug of toffee sauce.  I doubled the quantities suggested in the recipe as the toffee sauce would be great with some ice cream for the kids.
Here is the separate jug of toffee sauce. I doubled the quantities suggested in the recipe as the toffee sauce would be great with some ice cream for the kids.
All ready and waiting to be eaten.  Yum yum!
All ready and waiting to be eaten. Yum yum!

The Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake really lived up to it’s name.  It was delicious and everyone enjoyed their piece of cake.  We also had some Kelly’s Clotted Cream Ice cream to serve with it which was perfect.  There was even some left over for my hubby to eat after his tea the night after.

Definitely one I will bake again and again as it’s perfect for a Sunday lunch or a dinner party and I found it easy to bake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Mocha Hedgehog Birthday Cake.

Who had a chocolate hedgehog birthday cake as a child?  I can’t remember having one myself but I do remember my mum making me a Mr Greedy cake when I was about 6 or 7!  It was iced with pink buttercream and I loved it as I was a huge fan of the Mr Men.  (The Little Misses hadn’t been invented then, shows how old I am doesn’t it?)  I have made chocolate hedgehog cakes for others though I never made one for my own children.  They ended up with things like pirate ships and mermaids.

Both my Dad and my step-mum celebrate their birthdays in December and with it being close to Christmas they sometimes miss out on their own birthday cakes.  So as they were coming over to our house for a birthday dinner I decided they just had to have a fun birthday cake.

I decided to test out the Chocolate Mocha Hedgehog Cake recipe from The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  It was baked in a different way to the way I had baked mine.  I had used a half sphere mould or a pudding basin to give the rounded shape in the past.  This recipe involved baking a round sandwich cake and cutting it in half.  It had the extra flavour of the coffee in it and I was pleased that it was a chocolate buttercream for the icing rather than a ganache.  My step mum can’t eat cream so a ganache topping was out.

Starting off the cake- I put butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a spoonful of Camp coffee essence into my KitchenAid.
Starting off the cake- I put butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a spoonful of Camp coffee essence into my KitchenAid.
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I greased and lined one of my 20cm diameter cake tins.
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The cake mixture was ready to spoon into the tin.
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Once the mixture was in the tin, I levelled it with a spatula and put it in the oven to bake.
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Out of the oven and cooling down on the side. The cake took about 35 minutes to bake.
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Once it had cooled down I cut the cake in half vertically so that it made two semi-circles.
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Now, on with the filling and icing. This was made by beating margarine, a spoonful of Camp Coffee, icing sugar and cocoa powder together in the mixer.

Now to assemble the hedgehog cake.  I sandwiched the two halves together using some of the mocha chocolate icing. So far so good.  When I put the cake on its side it definitely did not look like a hedgehog.  It looked far too flat.  I was meant to carve some cake off each side but me being thick couldn’t work out WHICH side I was meant to cut.  The hedgehog looked like it had been squashed trying to squeeze through a gate or door!  Oh well.  Also the recipe said to use two bags of chocolate buttons but it did not specify which size bag to use.  I thought it meant the standard size bags you buy individually.  I only just had enough buttons to cover my flat hedgehog.  To create the hedgehog’s eyes and nose I used some Skittles.  The recipe mentioned using Smarties but I hadn’t got any so Skittles had to do.  The eyes looked a bit small and lost, so I tried to make a big nose.  It looked a right mess.  My son came in and started laughing at the hedgehog saying it looked stupid.

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My flat and rather cross-eyed hedgehog.
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I only just had enough Chocolate Buttons to cover the cake and give the hedgehog his prickles.
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I thought this could be an ideal shape for a mouse in future.

My Dad and step mum loved the cake and we all had a little bit after dinner. They then took most of it home in a plastic box to finish it off. As the cake had the coffee flavour it wouldn’t be ideal for very young children, better for someone who is a child at heart.  I really enjoyed the cake, despite it’s appearance and it tasted fab.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cakes

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

A few weeks back I wanted to use up a tin of pumpkin puree which had been lurking in my baking cupboard. My family don’t like pumpkin pie so I looked through my recipe books and found a few recipes which would help me use this tin.  I had made a Coconut Pumpkin Bar cake from the latest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook before but wanted to try something different.

So, it was raining outside, it was cold and miserable.  The dog had been walked and I wanted to crack on before the kids came home off the school bus.  I found two recipes I liked, the first was a square cake from the fab (and much used in this house) The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, and another from the brilliant latest offering from Lorraine Pascale: A Lighter Way To Bake.  In Lorraine’s book she has a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Luckily each recipe used half the tin of pumpkin puree so I had enough to make both recipes!

First up was the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  Here’s how it was made:

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Plain flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt were added into a large mixing bowl.
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The recipe called for two different types of sugar: caster sugar and soft dark, brown sugar. I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used golden caster sugar instead.
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In another bowl I started weighing out the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. These were flour, golden caster sugar (no brown spare again), baking powder, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon.
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Here are the “wet” ingredients for the whole cake. I whisked together eggs, sunflower oil and maple syrup. The canned pumpkin mixture was added afterwards and turned it orange!
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On to the “wet” ingredients for the cupcakes, this was melted butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract. After that the canned pumpkin was whisked into the mixture.
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Here are the cupcakes ready to go into the oven. I love using these muffin cases which I bought in a pack from Booths which contained 4 dozen different coloured tulip cases. They look like the ones you see in Starbucks or Costa!
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I’m glad my son was still at school when I was making these cakes. If he had seen the pumpkin puree going into it. The last time he saw pumpkin puree he said it looked like cat sick. He has a point…
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The mixture for the whole cake. All ready to be spooned into a square tin.
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Here is the finished result, the large square cake cut up into slices. There was a cream cheese frosting to go with the recipe which was meant to be spread over the top of the cake. I thought I would pipe swirls on it but this wasn’t a good idea. For a start there wasn’t enough icing and it came out very messy. Finally I sprinkled chopped pecan nuts onto the top of the icing.
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Top view of the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake.
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Oh, go on then! A sneaky piece with a mid afternoon cuppa. Very nice it was too, a lovely spicy flavour which was just perfect for a cold Autumnal day.
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The cream cheese frosting went on top of the cupcakes. As it was a lighter bake recipe there was a smaller amount of frosting. This suits me down to the ground as I find cupcake frosting far too sweet for my liking even though I make it for others! A pecan half adds the finishing touch.
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Broken open to see what the cake looked like inside, what a lovely colour.
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Ooops! Another one bites the dust!

Overall I was very impressed with the way the two recipes turned out, though my personal favourite has to be the cupcakes.  They were perfect.  They weren’t too sweet but provided me with a cakey fix.  My hubby and kids don’t really like pumpkin so I didn’t tell them that there was pumpkin in the cakes.  They were none the wiser!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx