Fruity No Bake Granola Flapjack Bars

Last week I felt really tired, exhausted and hormonal.  I just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week yet at night I really struggled with my sleep. It took  me ages to drop off, then I was waking up at 3am  and 5 am.  I couldn’t understand why.  When I feel like this I just want carbs and comfort food and to bake stuff like flapjacks. So I got in from school and after the dog had his walk and I made myself a cup of tea, I got out the scales and looked through the cupboards.

I came up with these Fruity Granola Flapjack Bars which are full of dried fruit, pumpkin seeds and dessicated coconut.  They aren’t very healthy as they have lots of butter, sugar and golden syrup in them but taste fab and ideal if you need a burst of energy when you have had a rough day.  I think they would make a quick grab as you go breakfast as well if you are in a rush.

Ingredients:

100g dried fruit (just chuck in anything you have up to this weight you have in your cupboards- currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries, mixed peel) I used what was left of a bag of mixed dried fruit

100g porridge oats

50g Rice Krispies

85g dessicated coconut

50g pumpkin seeds (you could add in sunflower or sesame seeds if you want instead)

50g of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

100g light brown soft sugar

125ml golden syrup

100g unsalted butter

001First you need to tip all the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and Rice Krispies into a large bowl.

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Give everything a really good stir so that it is evenly mixed through. Then in a large saucepan melt the butter and add the sugar and golden syrup.  Heat through until dissolved and like a syrupy mixture. Tip this into the large bowl with all the dry ingredients in and mix together thoroughly, ensuring that everything is well coated.003

When this is done, grease a 20cm/ 8cm square tin.  Then spoon the mixture into it carefully, pressing it down into the corners. I use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to level it out evenly.004

This flapjack bar is a no bake one so it goes straight into the fridge for about 2 hours to set instead of being cooked. Once set, you can cut it up into 12 bars or 16 square pieces.

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Be warned, they are moreish!

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Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Chocolate Birthday Cake from A Passion For Baking.

Now for the last challenge in my Cooking The Books challenge using Jo Wheatley’s  A Passion For Baking.  I had already signed up to take part in a Virtual Cake Event with The Clandestine Cake Club which was taking place this weekend.  This is designed for members who can’t always get along to a cake club or if there isn’t one in their local area.  I love taking part and this month was a great theme- Sweet Shop Fantasy!  As soon as I signed up I began to think about what sweets I could use in and on a cake.  After lots of choosing I narrowed it down to two favourites: Percy Pigs from Marks and Spencers and Revels.  Though I nearly went with Maltesers but then again I wanted a cake flavour I’d never made before. So, to tick off more than one box I chose to bake a recipe from A Passion For Baking using the Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe in the Celebration Cakes chapter of the book.

My daughter was working today and was out all afternoon so my son came and asked if he could bake me a Mother’s Day cake.  I explained that I only had enough eggs and butter in to make a chocolate sweetie cake but if he wanted to he could bake this cake for me. He has made a chocolate cake before and did a great job so I let him loose in my kitchen!

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Choice of sweetie decorations? Do we go for Revels or Percy Pigs? Or both?

Well, first things first! If you’re a sweet toothed gal like me, DO NOT open the packets and put the sweets into a bowl to make them easier to handle. This is fatal!  As soon as that packet was open, my hand slid over to the bowl. Once I had tasted one Percy Pig, then I had to have another.. and another!  My son did the same. Before we knew it half the packet of Revels and Percy Pigs had disappeared down our cakeholes!  So I went into my baking cupboard and found a couple of packets of M&M’s!  These were meant to go in cookies donated to a coffee morning over the Easter holidays.  Now there would be enough to go on the cake.

My son, who is nearly 14 really enjoys being in the kitchen and sometimes cooks the tea on a Saturday night or bakes the odd cake for us.  He did ask me for instructions like “What does creaming mean?” and he asked if he was doing the chocolate ganache right for the icing. He was. I didn’t need to stand over him or watch him as I knew he would be fine.

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My son decorating the chocolate cake with ganache.
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The ganache (melted plain chocolate and double cream) filled and topped the cake. He then added the sweets to the top of the cake.

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Percy Pig sweets were put in the middle and round the edge of the cake with all the Revels and the M&M’s round the outside.
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Once decorated we had a slice with a cup of tea as a mid afternoon Mother’s Day treat. It was gorgeous.
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Ooops! Naughty, naughty! I caught my son nicking some M&M’s off the top of the cake!
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Get your hands off my cake!!!
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The rest of the cake what was left over. Put away in a tin for another time. Don’t think it will last long though!

I was very impressed with the flavour of the cake and the bright sweetie colours against the dark brown chocolate.  Definitely a Sweet Shop Fantasy for me and a wonderful treat for Mother’s Day.  Back on that diet again tomorrow- famous last words!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Eton Mess from A Passion For Baking.

Now there’s two days until the end of the month and I have two recipes left to try out from Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking as part of my Cooking The Books challenge for March 2014.  Today, being Mothers’ Day I wanted to make a scrummy dessert for our lunch.  I wanted something everyone in our house would eat and something not too heavy and sickly.  All of the desserts in Jo’s first book looked lovely and I want to try them all out eventually.  I chose Eton Mess because it meant I would have to try out making meringues, something which I haven’t really done. Normally I just buy the ready made meringue nests you get in the supermarkets, but Jo’s recipe would not only test my meringue skills but jam making ones too! I would have to make a strawberry jam like sauce, now jam making is something else I really struggle with.  I can never get it to set properly!

Late this morning I was also trying to make an Onion and Cheese Tart  for our lunch with the Eton Mess as the pudding.  The meringue was going to be the time consuming bit as they would be in the oven for an hour baking plus the time they had to stay in there after to cool down.  This was a bit of a pain as I needed the oven to bake the tart in.  I have a double oven range cooker but I only cook roasts in the other one. It was funny as I was trying to sort out the Eton Mess downstairs in my kitchen, my hubby was upstairs moaning at my kids for the mess in their bedrooms.  I give up!

Anyway, I was well out of it down in the kitchen and I got down to it straightaway. Here’s how I got on:

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I had to make the meringues first. Here, I am whisking up three egg whites until they held soft peaks.
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After that, the second stage was to add some caster sugar bit by bit to the egg whites. It took a long time to get the meringues stiff!

The meringues were a bit runnier than I expected but I managed to pipe them onto some baking parchment ready to pop in the oven.  They were baked for about an hour on a low temperature (of 100oC), then were left to cool down in the oven afterwards even when the oven was switched off.  This helped them to crisp up and set a little bit.

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Here are my finished meringues. They don’t look very pretty but then it didn’t matter as I was going to break them up in chunks anyway!

While the meringues were baking I got on with the jam.  Jo’s recipe mentions strawberries but being as strawberries aren’t in season at the moment I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to make up the same quantity needed for the jam.  I got the pan to the boil first to get the sugar dissolved which was also in the pan, then the heat was turned down and cooked for another 15 to 20 minutes longer to thicken up. Once this had happened I set it aside to cool down until I was ready to assemble the pudding.

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Boiling the jam.
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Whipping double cream and half fat creme fraiche together.

When it was time to get the pudding ready I got out some double cream and half fat creme fraiche.  I’d had to use some of my double cream in the onion and cheese tart so there wasn’t enough to put on the Eton Mess!  You needed 600ml of double cream, I only had 350ml, so I added in a small tub of half fat creme fraiche I had in the fridge.  This was whipped up together with my  electric hand whisk.

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A huge bowlful of whipped cream and creme fraiche.

When it was ready I started to assemble the puddings.  I don’t have any tall sundae glasses so I used some tumblers.  The strawberry jam went in the bottom of the glasses first, with pieces of crushed meringue, cream with jam stirred through, followed by plain cream and finished with more meringue pieces. I’d forgotten to save some fruit to keep for the top of the puddings.

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My finished Eton Messes!
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Showing the crushed homemade meringues on top of the cake.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our puddings and they were very naughty but nice.  My hubby is convinced that Eton Mess has vanilla ice cream in it, I told him he was wrong! To me Eton Mess is like a pavlova but messed up! If he wants ice cream with it I suppose you could have a scoop of it on the side.  I couldn’t help him out there, we didn’t have any ice cream in to give him!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Onion and Cheese Tart from A Passion For Baking.

It’s nearly the end of the month and I’m three recipes away from completing this month’s Cooking The Books challenge from A Passion For Baking.  I needed to bake a recipe from the Pastry chapter as well as one from the Desserts and the Celebration Cakes chapters before Monday 31st March. With only two days to go I’d not been very organised this month.

For the Pastry chapter recipe I had chosen the Onion and Port Salut Tart.  When deciding on a recipe to bake it has to be one my family will eat and one that will fit in around what we’re doing and if I have time to make it in the first place!  I originally wanted to make it on Saturday this week but I never got round to it.  In the end I ended up in York eating in Wagamama with my hubby and son!  In the end the tart became my Mother’s Day lunch!

So, late this morning after I’d realised the time due to the clocks going forward, I thought I’d better get my skates on and produce something for lunch.  Only I realised I’d planned to make Eton Mess with meringues so Sunday lunch became a very late lunch/ early tea! When I first saw this recipe I knew that an onion and cheese tart would be fine with my family, only I couldn’t find Port Salut in my local Sainsburys the other day.  I wasn’t even sure what sort of cheese Port Salut was, doesn’t that sound stupid?  It sounded like a French cheese to me but I wasn’t sure what I could use as a substitute.  In the end I bought a piece of Emmenthal cheese as I have used it before in a quiche and it worked really well.

So here is how I made this delectable tart:

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I sliced up four medium onions ready to caramelise.
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As the onions were frying, I made up a batch of shortcrust pastry. It was wrapped in cling film and chilled for about half an hour while I finished cooking the onions.
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The pastry was rolled out, trimmed and the base pricked with a fork. It was then put in the freezer to chill for another 20 minutes.
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Out came my baking beans and the pastry case was baked blind for about 20 minutes.

At this stage I was meant to take the beans out of the pastry case and give it another five minutes or so in the oven baking blind.  Only, I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough as I was trying to sort out some laundry in the meantime. I know I can multitask but not today, I hoped and prayed my tart wouldn’t have a soggy bottom. Snigger, snigger!

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The caramelised onions were spread on the bottom of the tart.
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Then, to the filling! I mixed double cream, milk, eggs, salt, pepper and some tarragon together. It was meant to be thyme as the herb flavouring but I couldn’t find any in the cupboard!
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I grated the piece of Emmenthal and mixed some in to the mixture, the rest was sprinkled on the top of the filling.
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After about 30 minutes at 180oC this is what the tart looked like. I couldn’t wait for lunch as I was starving. It smelled gorgeous.
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The case round the outside looked thin and crispy but sadly it did have a little bit of the old soggy bottom. I think I should have baked it blind for a bit longer.
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A slice of the tart.

I have to say this is one of the nicest recipes I’ve worked with. Nothing faffy or over complicated and it went down well with my family. We sat down to eat it finally at 5pm once my daughter had finished work.  It was delicious with a jacket potato and veg though I think it would be lovely with new potatoes and salad too.  We ate half the tart, there’s plenty left over for tomorrow night. Well that saves me cooking again, I suppose!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Baking Update on A Passion For Baking.

I’ve not been very organised at keeping up with the old blog posts recently.  Life has been very busy both at work and at home so blogging has gone a bit by the wayside!  I also managed to delete a load of photos on my phone I’d taken of some Peanut Butter M&M cookies and some Raspberry Iced Fingers!  They were two of the ten recipes I needed to bake from my “Cooking The Books” challenge from this month, which is to bake one recipe from each chapter of Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking. I got as far as sticking the photos on Facebook and Twitter but that was it!

As I don’t have time to write much at the moment I thought I would produce an updated blog post to show everyone how I’m getting on so far this month!  I’ve managed to bake seven out of ten of the recipes and as I’ve had so much on (but then who doesn’t these days, it’s a fact of life!) I can’t even remember how the recipes were baked.  Isn’t that awful but let’s hope as soon as the Easter holidays are here I can concentrate a bit more!

I was very pleased with how the Peanut Butter Cookies from the Biscuit chapter turned out.  I adapted the recipe and added in some Peanut Butter M&Ms bought in Gob Stoppers, an American sweet shop in Trinity Leeds.  This was based on a similar idea from a few months earlier where I baked Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies.  They turned out MAMOOOSIVE and even though I lost the picture to post on here, if you follow me on Twitter (@smartcookiesam) there will be a couple of pics of them somewhere about. The cookies disappeared very quickly as everyone in my family love peanut butter. A big success and one to try again in the future.

A couple of days after I tried baking the Raspberry Iced Fingers from the Bread and Yeast chapter for Sunday lunch pudding instead of a massive, stodgy dessert.  Anything involving yeast is my nemesis but I managed ok with these apart from the fact they looked a bit messy.  They were very naughty but nice but better eaten fresh as my hubby tried eating one the day after and it tasted stale.  No pictures here, either but once again if you are really bothered about seeing what they look like, look through my tweets!

If you like Blueberry Muffins then you will love the Blueberry Muffin Loaf which is in the Brunch chapter of A Passion For Baking.  It has a crumbly streusel like topping which gives the cake a lovely texture.  The cake itself was easy to make and very quick, all put together into a loaf tin.  It was moist and kept well for a couple of days in an airtight tin. Although it was a brunch recipe I baked it to have over the weekend for my family to have with a cup of tea.

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The delicious Blueberry Muffin Loaf Cake.

My hubby went away overnight a couple of weekends ago so I cooked some Singing Hinnies for my two children one Sunday breakfast time.  They reminded me of Welsh cakes which you cook in a griddle pan but Singing Hinnies originate from the North East as they “sing” as they are cooking on the griddle. Hinny is a term of endearment used in the north east, a bit like honey I suppose!  I thought they were delicious and I devoured them spread with jam. Definitely a recipe I have to try again and again!

Singing Hinnies "singing" away in the griddle pan.  They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!
Singing Hinnies “singing” away in the griddle pan. They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!

Last week I had another go at making macaroons, this time it was to try out some Coconut and Pineapple ones.  Unfortunately they burned a bit and the colour came out a bit brown rather than the delicate pastel yellow they were meant to be. My daughter said they tasted nice, though I wasn’t convinced.  I might have another go when I get time as I love the pina colada combination.

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Pineapple and Coconut Macaroons from the Afternoon Tea chapter.
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Even at a better photo angle the macaroons didn’t look their best! Never mind!

Last Sunday I attempted to bake a Swiss Roll for the first time.  I chose to try out the Chocolate Cardamom Swiss Roll from A Passion For Baking as I loved the idea of baking with flavoured sugars.  I made up a jam jar of Cardamom sugar a few days before, leaving the flavour from the cardamom pods to infuse into the sugar.  The smell was gorgeous and the leftover sugar will go beautifully in some shortbread in the future!

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My made up jar of Cardamom Sugar to go in the Chocolate and Cardamom Swiss Roll.
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A bit squished and probably wouldn’t impress Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood but who cares? It tasted fab!
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Oooh all that cream and chocolate made this cake quite calorific but it was worth every mouthful!

So what’s left to bake this month for the Cooking The Books Challenge? I have three recipes left to bake this weekend, after all it’s the end of the month on Monday!  Onion and Port Salut Tart for Saturday lunch with some salad, Eton Mess for Sunday lunch dessert and that leaves something from the Celebration Cakes chapter.  I’m thinking of the chocolate cake decorated with lots of sweets on top!

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- March 2014.

A new month means a brand new book to bake from in my Cooking The Books Challenge.  I originally wanted to bake from Dan Leppard’s Short And Sweet but I have this on my Kindle.  My Kindle sometimes goes out of charge at the wrong time and I’m not organised at getting it recharged when I need it. So I’ve had to change to another book, one which I have as an actual paper copy.

The book I nearly baked from this month! Image courtesy of Google Images.

Another of my favourite cooks at the moment is the lovely Jo Wheatley who won the second series of The Great British Bake Off back in 2011.  When her books A Passion For Baking and the follow up Home Baking came out, I couldn’t wait to buy them.  I have baked quite a few recipes from A Passion For Baking but wanted even more of an excuse to try out recipes I hadn’t done before. So this is going to be the March challenge, to bake a recipe from each chapter of A Passion For Baking.

Front cover of A Passion For Baking, image courtesy of Google Images.

Now I suppose to find yummy things to bake in this book and Jo’s follow up book is not difficult.  My family and friends have enjoyed loads of treats from A Passion For Baking in the past 18 months or so but there’s still loads more to choose from.

The book has ten chapters so that means at least ten bakes on top of other things but here’s the plan so far.It might change, but watch this space!

Breakfast; I want to try Singing Hinnies.  They sound like a North East version of Welsh Cakes (which I have a serious addiction to!)

Brunch: Can’t remember if I’ve baked the Blueberry Muffin Loaf or not, but who cares? It sounds delicious and everyone will eat it in our house, which is a bonus!

Family Baking: For one of the Sunday lunch desserts in March I’m going to bake the Chocolate Cardamom Swiss Roll.  I’ve only baked a Swiss Roll once before and it stuck to the tin. So this might end up being a massive challenge in itself. Though my daughter makes fab Swiss Rolls, maybe she might end up helping.  The recipe also uses cardamom infused sugar which sounds delicious. Jo gives instructions on how to make up flavoured sugars to enhance your baking in her book.

Afternoon Tea: Who can remember Jo’s gorgeous macaroons that she baked on The Great British Bake Off?  I’m getting to grips with baking them myself so I’ll be glad of the opportunity to bake some Pineapple and Coconut Macaroons.  They might be a great present for Mothers’ Day!

Celebration Bakes:  We don’t have any family birthdays this month but I do have my Clandestine Cake Club VCake event taking place in March.  The theme this month is Sweet Shop Fantasy so I thought I would bake Jo’s Chocolate Cake and decorate it with lots of yummy sweets and chocolates, it’s just deciding which ones to choose though!

Baking With Children:  As a mum and a teacher I have lots of opportunities to bake with children.  I’m going to revisit and adapt an old favourite: Chewy Fruity Flapjacks as I know my own teenage children will enjoy that, especially if we put chocolate on them as well!

Breads:  I’m a complete numpty when it comes to bread but I was salivating at the thought of the Raspberry Iced Fingers.  I’m going to give these a whirl and hope they turn out half decent!

Biscuits:  I’ve already baked quite a few of the biscuit recipes in this chapter but my family adore peanut butter.  So I’m going back to bake some Peanut Butter Cookies but I’m adding something extra special to the dough!

Pastry:  For a Saturday night supper I’m going to try and bake the Onion and Port Salut Tart.

Desserts:  My family love Eton Mess (though usually I’ve cheated in the past and used shop bought meringues!) This time I’m going to attempt to make them from scratch and that will be another Sunday lunch pudding sorted out!

So here goes!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Last Sunday I needed a pudding for our lunch and thought about baking something from the Cake chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  My favourite bake so far from that chapter has been the Boston Cream Pie but my eye has also been on the Courgette Cake in the same chapter.  The picture of it in the book looked so pretty with the pastel green pistachios sprinkled on top and a pale green layer of lime curd gently seeping out of the middle of the cake.  I definitely wanted to give it a try but I knew my family would not be keen on anything with courgettes in it.  They hate them with a passion. If I use any courgettes in my cooking they usually get fished out and put on the side of the plate.  I hoped, though that in a cake they wouldn’t notice them mixed in with other ingredients.  After all they troughed down the  Honey and Courgette Loaf baked from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookbook when I baked it last summer!

Nigella mentions in her recipe introduction that the recipe was actually given to her by Flora Woods who worked in Harrod’s Waterstones when How To Eat was published.  She also mentions that “if courgette cake sounds dodgy to you, think about carrot cake for a moment, this is just an adaptation of that (though if you feel it’s safer, don’t tell people it’s made out of courgettes until after they’ve eaten it)!” I reckoned that would work with my family if they were well disguised!

So, last Sunday afternoon in between ironing and cleaning I attempted to wow my family with the pretty cake.  Read on to see how I got on with baking it:

Nigella mentions that you can add raisins to the mixture if you want.  I didn’t have any, only mixed fruit so I left them out of the cake.

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I grated two courgettes and tried to drain excess water out of them.
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In a bowl I combined eggs, oil and caster sugar.
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The eggs, sunflower oil and sugar were beaten together until creamy.
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Then the dry ingredients were added to the wet ones. These were self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
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Once this was mixed I then added in the grated courgette.

The two cakes were baked in greased and lined 8″ diameter sandwich tins at 180oC for roughly half an hour.  This wasn;t a problem and they didn’t look too bad when they came out of the oven.  I had my cooled lemon curd ready which wasn’t what I wanted to put in the cake at all after my disastrous attempt at making it earlier!

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Out of the tins and cooling on a wire rack in my kitchen.
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The lumpy lemon curd made earlier on that day to use as the filling in the cake.

I’d read somewhere that using low fat cream cheese is a no-no for making frosting with.  It just doesn’t work properly but sadly I hadn’t got any full fat cheese so I had to use the low fat stuff. As I mixed up the icing it just wouldn’t thicken and I became so frustrated. The icing was sloppy, gloopy and ran all down the sides of the cake instead of being spread all over the top of it.  I was really disappointed in it.

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Making up the cream cheese frosting to top the cake with. Unfortunately I used Morrison’s own brand low fat cheese which was far too runny as I didn’t have full fat Philadelphia. Big mistake, it just wouldn’t thicken up!
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The finished cake. The thick and creamy icing turned out to be thin and runny.
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The runny icing totally messed up the cake and dripped down the side of it. What a cake wreck!

To finish, I grated plain chocolate on top of the cake as I knew my children don’t like pistachios.  In the end I think the grated chocolate was the best part of the cake for them!

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We had a small slice for our pudding. As you can see not much was eaten!

I brought the cake out at pudding time and my son said “What the hell is that?”  I said it was a cake, which it was!  When I cut into it, he said “Ugh, it’s got bogies in it!” Both my son and daughter refused to try some and said they would go without.  My husband thought it was bits of lime zest in the cake and didn’t think it was courgette in it until after when he said he couldn’t taste any lime!  He didn’t like it and neither did I.  The lemon curd was very sweet and cloying and I ended up eating two mouthfuls of my cake.  I was very disappointed in it.

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A slice of courgette cake, the courgette is clearly visible which put the kids off straightaway and the lemon curd didn’t look very appetising.

Sadly the rest of the cake did not get eaten as none of us liked it in the end. In hindsight I should have chosen another cake from the chapter, there was also a heavenly sounding Butterscotch Cake which I should have gone for instead. Oh well, you live and learn!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx