Banana Cake from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.


Today was a day off from work. All very quiet on the supply teaching front when it’s SATs week so I took the chance to catch up with jobs at home and to relax a bit. 

When I was ironing this morning I looked across at my fruit bowl and spotted some bananas that were so ripe I’m surprised they didn’t grow wings and run away! My kids are going through a refusing to eat fruit phase and there’s no way I’d eat six bananas in one sitting. So there was one thing for it- bake a cake with them in!

A few weeks ago I found a lovely book in my local Waterstones called The Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink. I had never heard of The Nordic Bakery before but it is in London, Soho to be precise. I love Scandinavian baking and regularly sample the delights of a local Norwegian cafe in Harrogate called Baltzersens which makes the most gorgeous cinnamon buns. I’ve always wanted to have go at some Nordic baking myself, so I was pleased to find this book!

The recipe for Banana Cake on page 66 was a perfect way to use up my ripe bananas and also some ground cardamom I’d bought and needed to use before it went out of date. As the recipe introduction states: “Everyone loves banana bread or cake as we call it. Ours is packed with the spices that typify Nordic baking: ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Throw in some ground cloves and really ripe bananas and you have a delicious and very easy cake for any time of day,”

Being a Bundt addict and an avid collector of Nordicware bundt pans, the accompanying picture showed the banana cake as a bundt ring cake. That’s what did it for me, I had to get out one of my pans and bake the banana cake there and then.  I chose my Heritage bundt pan which is a very pretty swirl design and makes an ordinary cake look special.  I love banana cake anyway and it would be perfect served plain with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

My favourite Nordicware Heritage Bundt pan was greased with some Wilton Cake Release.
Six small , ripe bananas were mashed with a fork.
Butter and sugar were creamed together in a mixing bowl.
To the creamed butter and sugar I added two beaten eggs.
All the dry ingredients were added to another bowl: plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, ground cardamom and mixed spice.

All the dry ingredients were sifted together and added to the creamed mixture.

The flour mixture was folded in, then I added in the mashed banana.
The mixture was then spooned into the bundt pan and put in the oven.
The finished Banana Cake cooling down and smelling wonderful.
A piece of cake cut to try out.

I love the array of different spices used in Nordic baking and the aroma permeating around my kitchen smelled wonderful. I love the smell of ginger and cinnamon in baking but it was great to experiment with a spice I don’t know as much and that’s cardamom. It’s hugely popular and a staple of Scandinavian baking so when I found some ground cardamom in a local shop, I had to try it out. It saved me messing about crushing cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle! Another spice in the recipe called for using ground cloves. I didn’t have any so I substituted a teaspoonful of ground mixed spice instead.

When the cake was baking, the smell was so tempting. I’m trying so hard to keep off the sweet stuff at the moment but when you are faced with temptation all around you, it’s fatal. Luckily it was near dinner time and I had to make do with a plate of chilli and rice instead!  The cake got put into a box and is now hiding away from me. Though I know I might succumb to it tomorrow night after a long, busy day at work! I’ll let you know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate and Peanut M&M Cake- The Clandestine Cake Club A Year of Cake May Bakealong

It was my son’s 16th birthday last week.  I’m feeling very old.  It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since he was born and we brought him home from hospital.  Now he’s studying for his GCSE’s and he’s taller than me! As the boy wonder has grown older I think back to all the birthday cakes I’ve baked for him over the years.  I remember baking him a giant pirate ship cake complete with Curly Wurly masts and a Dairy Milk plank. How I wish I’d taken a photo of it but this was in the days before Smart phones and I wasn’t very organised with cameras.

This year my son said he just wanted a small birthday cake.  I was gratelful for that as I had had an extremely busy week teaching in a nursery class the week before. I eventually found the perfect cake in The Clandestine Cake Club’s second cookbook “A Year of Cake”.  The original recipe is a stunning looking cake called “Smartie Pants Cake” by Ruth Tebbutt from Gateshead Club.  Her recipe in the May chapter of the book was created to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest, usually held in May.  As the recipe introduction states “Rather than pick sides, Ruth has created a cake that reflects the colourful spirit of the event and the kaleidoscope of cultures, characters and costumes that viewers have come to expect,”

What I also love about the Smartie Pants Cake is that it is so adaptable.  It could be baked for any age group: young or old as well as being perfect for different occasions.  The outer edging of the cake is decorated with Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers and the topping is decorated with a rainbow effect of colourful Smarties.  I had made the cake once before as part of a cake demo evening so I knew it would work well.  When I was buying the ingredients though, I found that Fox’s Chocolate Fingers were on special offer in Morrisons and at 55p a packet as opposed to Β£1.50 for the Cadbury’s ones, you can guess what I went for.  I also found that Peanut M&M’s treat bags were on special offer, so they were substituted for the Smarties instead!

Last Saturday afternoon, I started to bake the cake once my jobs had been done.  It’s a vegetable oil based chocolate cake and also uses golden syrup to sweeten the mixture as well as sugar.  It gives a lovely light sponge without being too sickly sweet which does go well with all the chocolate and sweets! The cake is sandwiched together with a chocolate fudge buttercream which is not too heavy but provides enough “glue” to the top and sides of the cake so you can stick the chocolate fingers and Smarties in the right places.

One of the fun parts of baking this cake is to separate all your Smarties or M&M’s out into separate dishes of different colours. This makes it so much easier when you’re decorating the top of the cake. My mum, who was staying with us for the weekend enjoyed helping me with this task but we were both annoyed when opening the Fox’s Chocolate Fingers. For a start about 10 of them were snapped in half so were no good for decorating the outside of the cake.  I was also furious because I didn’t have enough fingers to go round the outside of the cake with three packets, although last time with three packets I had more than enough! Even the broken ones stuck together weren’t enough.  The cake looked a complete mess on one side.

In the end my son asked if he could decorate the top of the cake and he really enjoyed doing it. What made me laugh though was that he said he didn’t want brown M&M’s on the top of the cake.  He couldn’t see what was funny but I told him there was a pop star (can’t remember which one) who asks for M&M’s in his or her dressing room with the brown ones taken out. My son said the brown ones didn’t show up against the chocolate cake. He has a point!

We had a large slice of cake the following morning.  It gave a lovely chocolatey hit without feeling too sweet or too sickly. I really enjoyed it and it got eaten over the next few days.  I would love to bake it again, although I won’t be baking it for a Eurovision Song Contest Party.  It’s my own birthday celebration that weekend and my daughter has offered to bake me a cake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Orange Yoghurt Muffins.

These Chocolate Orange Yoghurt Muffins were baked from an adapted Mary Berry recipe.

I get itchy hands when I haven’t baked for a few days.  It’s been a mad few days in SmartCookieSam land.  I had a really busy week doing a teaching assignment in a nursery, then that very weekend I went down with a chest infection. Before I started feeling really rough, I did manage to bake my son’s 16th birthday cake.  After that, it all went downhill.  I had three days in bed either coughing my guts up or dozing off to sleep.  I had to cancel two days pre-booked supply work in schools I go to regularly.  I only worked last Friday in the end and felt completely useless. Baking was the last thing on my mind, in fact it was even a struggle to muster up the energy to make myself a cup of tea!

By yesterday, though, apart from the odd coughing fit I have got back to my normal self.  I’m still feeling very tired and have been trying to take it easy but I really wanted to bake something quick and simple. To me, muffins fit the bill there, they take no time at all to make and don’t need much mixing. You just throw all the ingredients together and hey presto in about half an hour you have a gorgeous smell wafting out of your kitchen.

I chose to adapt a Mary Berry muffin recipe which is in her Cookery Course book.  Her original recipe is for Blueberry Muffins, which I love but I wanted to use chocolate chunks in mine.  I grated some orange zest and used a pot of natural yoghurt, as well as 5 tablespoonfuls of milk.  These muffins are also baked using melted butter, instead of oil. As for muffin cases, I used brown tulip shaped ones but it really doesn’t matter what you use.

This is how the muffins were made: first I beat two large eggs together, then added caster sugar, milk, natural yoghurt, vanilla extract and the grated orange zest to a large bowl.  All of these were stirred up gently so they were just combined, not beaten.  To this, I sifted in self raising flour and baking powder.  This needed to be folded into the wet mixture, and then finally in went a whole packet of dark chocolate chunks.  The batter was then divided equally among 12 muffin cases and put into a pre-heated oven.  The muffins came out well risen after about 25 minutes baking time with a wonderful aroma permeating the whole of the house.  I put them onto a wire rack and let them cool down.

It was gorgeous BBQ weather yesterday and not really the right time for eating warm muffins straight from the oven.  To be honest, it was the last thing I wanted to eat, even though I could eat cake all day and every day normally! The muffins ended up in a box and ready to go into the freezer for a day when cake would hit the spot.  I forgot to put them in the freezer and found hubby eating one when he came back in from work. He said they were lovely as they weren’t too overpoweringly sweet like you can find with some shop bought muffins.

Chocolate Muffins of any sort go down well with all my family.
I love using tulip muffin cases, these were an Ebay find I think.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx