Pimms Bundt Cake

Pimms Bundt Cake.

A couple of weeks ago I went along to Spen Valley Clandestine Cake Club’s event in Brighouse.  The event was in a lovely cafe just out of Brighouse town centre.  Although it’s about 40 miles away from me,  I hadn’t been to cake club for ages and wanted to catch up with my cakey friends Susan and Helen. The theme for Spen Valley’s latest event was Summer and also was the group’s 4th birthday.  I got my cakey thinking cap on and thought about what I could bake which made me think of summer.  Lots of flavours make me think of summer and I did think of baking something with strawberries in.  Then I remembered we had a whole bottle of Pimms in the drinks cabinet which I’d not even opened and wasn’t likely to, either.  So a Pimms Cake it had to be, then. Not only that, but a Pimms bundt!  I looked on various websites for a Pimms cake recipe and couldn’t find what I wanted.  Then I came across exactly what I was looking for.  Lynn Hill’s very own Strawberry Pimms Cake in the June chapter of A Year Of Cake, the second Clandestine Cake Club Book.

The recipe was one of those which did not have an accompanying picture to it so I had to guess what it would look like.  The cake was also baked in a round springform cake tin and then split in half horizontally so you had two layers.  I thought I would try and bake my own version in one of my Nordicware bundt pans. Well I could but try. If it didn’t work out I could always try again.

The ingredients needed for the Pimms syrup, this was a soaking syrup which you brushed onto the cooled cake to add to the flavour of the cake.

First of all I had to make a soaking syrup using caster sugar, a strip of lemon peel pared off the lemon with a potato peeler. I boiled this for a few minutes with some water. Then I added some Pimms and a vanilla pod. I didn’t have a vanilla pod so I added in a teaspoonful of some vanilla syrup I had.  This then cooled down and became a thick syrup.

To decorate the cake I had to melt some dark chocolate.Then I dipped some whole, but hulled strawberries into the pool of melted chocolate.  I found this very messy as I should have used a skewer or a fork to hold the strawberry into the chocolate. Instead it went all over my hands and the chocolate didn’t set smoothly.  Then again at Cake Club no one judges your cakes, it’s not like the Great British Bake Off!

I left the strawberries to set and then got on with baking the cake.  It was a Friday afternoon and I was still tired after coming back off my holiday only two days before.  I had  been food shopping and had so much to catch up on so baking a cake was a welcome distraction from it all.  I chose to use my Heritage Bundt pan which lends itself to lots of different bakes. I like how icing can trickle down in the grooves and also how there is enough space to decorate the top instead if you prefer.

The cake itself was baked with ground almonds but also contained a small amount of cornflour and plain flour.  I sifted all these ingredients together so that they were well combined.  To this I added caster sugar and eggs and they were all beaten together for a few minutes.  I suddenly remembered that the butter in this recipe needed to be melted and then cooled down. I had to quickly pop it in the microwave, then gave it a few minutes to cool down.  Finally in the butter went, followed by some more Pimms.

The Pimms Cake cooked beautifully in the bundt pan and slid out perfectly.  The cooking time for the original cake was about 45-55 minutes which was roughly the same time for the bundt. I kept trying to see if it was ok from looking through the glass on the oven door but it was difficult to tell. I had to leave it to chance and thankfully it did work this time.

The finished Strawberry Pimms Cake. I baked it in a bundt pan.  The recipe is from A Year Of Cake, the second Clandestine Cake Club book.

When the cake had cooled a little I poked a few holes in it with a skewer and then brushed on the Pimms syrup made earlier.  The Pimms syrup smelled wonderful and if it wasn’t the middle of a busy Friday afternoon I would have made myself a glass of Pimms. Then again I didn’t have any lemonade. Oh well, I knew I had some tonic water so I could look forward to a gin and tonic at tea time!

I then made up the filling and icing for the cake which was a heavenly mix of Mascarpone, icing sugar, double cream and Pimms. Definitely not Weightwatchers friendly then!  I love icing made with Mascarpone, it gives the icing a rich, yet creamy texture.  This was doubly decadent with the double cream in it. In the original recipe Lynn Hill uses the mascarpone icing as a filling and a topping. She also adds some strawberries soaked in the remaining Pimms syrup to the filling.  Given that mine was a bundt cake I wasn’t able to give it layers and a filling, so all my decoration went on top of the cake!

The finished Pimms Bundt Cake.  Pimms soaked sponge topped with mascarpone cream and finished off with plain and chocolate dipped strawberries.

To decorate the cake I filled a large disposable piping bag with the mascarpone cream and piped on the decoration with my large star nozzle. There was just enough to fit on the top of the cake.  I also put some strawberries in the middle hoping that there would be enough to go round.  Luckily there was.

It was a very hot day so I kept the cake in the fridge  until it was time to leave for cake club the following morning.  I was very worried it would get knocked in the back of the car but luckily it survived the journey intact!

My cake on display at cake club.

I will definitely bake this cake again.  It looked complicated with all the little steps and bits to it. Having said that if you allow yourself a bit of time you can create an amazing showstopper of a cake perfect for any summer celebration.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx




The Hairy Dieters Fast Food- A Review

I’m a huge fan of The Hairy Bikers and love watching them on the TV. They are so friendly and down to earth. Their enthusiasm for cooking and enjoying good food always shows through and whenever a new book comes out I always want to buy it.  My favourites of their books just has to be their Hairy Dieters series which I use a lot for cooking. I’m on a permanent battle to lose weight- my own fault for loving baking too much but these Hairy Dieters books help massively with meal ideas for the whole family. Not only that but the recipes are REAL food, no fancy fad or trendy ingredients. If I see a recipe with things like chia seeds in them, then they don’t get a look in, sorry!

My family are quite difficult to cater for.  My daughter and I eat most things, though some seafood turns my stomach. We would like to cut down on our meat intake and eat more vegetarian food. My husband thinks a meal without meat isn’t a meal and my son is fussy. One week he’ll like fish pie then the next week he doesn’t and he says he’s never liked it. So when there’s something I can cook that EVERYONE will eat, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!

I feel like that most times I cook from the first of the Hairy Bikers’ diet books.  My son adores their chilli and can’t get enough of the curry.  But I can’t be cooking chilli and curry every night.  I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. A couple of months back the Hairy Dieters brought out book four entitled Fast Food.  As they say on the book blurb on the back cover “When you’re hungry you don’t want to wait” and all the recipes are low in calories yet take only up to half an hour to prepare. This really ticks more than one box for me, I’m usually shattered when I get in from work.  In the winter we have casseroles in my slow cooker but I needed more inspiration. The recipes were just what I needed.

Fast Food is split up into nine chapters. The first is an introduction with a few ideas and techniques which I think is very useful, as well as tips from the Hairy Bikers themselves.  I also liked the menu suggestions given for if you want to have friends round. The second chapter, Breakfast and Brunch features a few ideas for low calorie, yet filling meals.  In the past I have used the Hairy Bikers’ ideas for serving porridge and Bircher muesli. This book has ideas for smoothies and granola. I love making granola but I need a healthier version. Also my smoothie blender is broken but when I get round to replacing it I will definitely be making the  Apple and Oat Smoothie.

Over the last couple of weeks after coming back from my holiday feeling fat, bloated and lethargic from all the unhealthy food I’d been eating, I thought I’d better get my act together in the kitchen.  I got the Fast Food book out and thought we would put some of the recipes to the test.

The first recipe I tried out was the Chicken and Prawn Laksa on p124.  I have never tried Laksa before, let alone made it.  I saw John Torode making it on a programme about Malaysia and both my hubby and I said we would like to try it.  So I was keen to give it a go. Both children were out one Saturday night and it was just me and the hubster.  The recipe uses a ready made jar of Laksa paste or there were the ingredients to make up your own.  I couldn’t find all the ingredients or the ready made paste in my local Morrisons but instead I found some lemongrass paste. The rest of the ingredients were easily found.


All the ingredients found for Chicken and Prawn Laksa. 

We really enjoyed the Laksa. It was simple to make if you prepped the chicken and the veg beforehand.  I forgot to take a photo of it as hubby also says “I don’t want to see my dinner on bloody Facebook!” But you have to believe me, it tasted and looked wonderful.  There was too much quantity though as the recipe served 4. Definitely one to do again but not something my son would have.

The day after was a Sunday.  Usually on a Sunday lunchtime we don’t eat much if anything as we have a big meal at dinner time.  My daughter was working and it was a very hot day. I thought a salad would be perfect but wanted something more exciting and delicious than some limp lettuce and cucumber.  The Hairy Dieter’s Seven Layer Salad looked stunning on  the eye as well as sounding very tasty. It didn’t require any cooking, just lots of chopping up and either assembling as layers in a bowl or on a large serving platter.

I first had to make a tomato salsa by chopping up tomatoes, red peppers and red onions then mixing them up together in a large bowl with some chopped coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. I then squeezed some lime juice over the top of it.  This was time consuming but I wasn’t in a rush, thankfully.

Chopped Tomato Salsa.

Two other layers just asked for opening up a tin, draining the ingredients then arranging on a plate.  A tin of sweetcorn for one and the other was a tin of black beans.  I’ve never really bought black beans before though I’ve had them in a Chinese takeaway when I’ve had Beef in Black Bean Sauce. I had some in a salad my sister in law made while visiting her and my brother in Canada recently and they tasted great.

The sweetcorn and the black bean layers arranged on my serving platter.  I’ve had this Blackberry serving plate for ages, it was part of the dinner service my husband and I got for a wedding present.

To make the chicken part of the salad I quickly cooked three chicken breasts which had been cut into tiny, bite sized pieces.  When these had cooled slightly I went on to the Avocado part of the salad, then went back to the chicken.  The chicken was then tossed in a little buttermilk, low fat mayonnaise and white wine vinegar mixture.  It was meant to have finely chopped celery added to it but only I like it mixed in with things in our family, so I’ve stopped buying it.  The Avocado part of the salad was meant to be one Avocado choppe up with a grated courgette and spring onions and then dressed with lime juice.  My family don’t like courgettes so I shredded a Cos lettuce instead and tossed the chopped spring onions and chopped avocado together with the lime juice on top.


We were very impressed with the Seven Layer Salad and my husband had to have more cheese to satisfy his hungry appetite.  I found that there was also a portion left over for me to have in my lunchbox the following day.

Another successful meal from the Fast Food Book was the Vegetable Dhal on page 152.  This recipe is from the chapter called Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow which includes slow cooker and pressure cooker recipes.  I’ve not got a pressure cooker though I remember my mum having one in the 70’s.  My slow cooker is my lifesaver in the winter.  I chose to test out a pressure cooker recipe but just to cook it normally on the hob.  It was a simple Vegetable Dhal which my son said looked like sick! It was simple to make though, as well as being economical.

The Vegetable Dhal was meant to be cooked in a pressure cooker but I don’t have one.
There was enough Vegetable Dhal to eat with chapatis and some ready cooked chicken pieces on the side for rhe carnivores.  I thought it tasted delicious without meat and perfect to reheat the following day for lunch.


Chilli and Prawn Pasta ended up turning into a Spicy Meatball Pasta Sauce.

Another success was the delicious Chilli and Prawn Pasta which ended up having the prawns substituted for something else.  I hadn’t got round to getting any more prawns in but I had a packet of Heck Chorizo sausages in the fridge. These ended up being chopped up into little pieces and treated like meatballs.  My whole family loved the pasta and even though it had a little kick to it with the chilli, no one minded.

I’ve been really impressed with the Fast Food book.  There are a few recipes I wouldn’t make, mainly because they won’t appeal to the fussy eaters in my household but there are plenty I will be trying in the future.  We’ve already had the Seven Layer Salad again but this time I used plain leftover roast chicken from the previous day’s dinner.

Love Sam xx



Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars are a staple Canadian dessert.

Ever since I first saw a recipe for Nanaimo Bars in Edd Kimber’s first book “The Boy Who Bakes”, I have always wanted to test these Canadian treats out for myself.  I never got round to it, until last week. My family had just come back from a fantastic holiday visiting my brother and his family in Edmonton to celebrate his wedding and I just was in the mood to bake something Canadian.

Edd says in his recipe introduction that “this is a quintessentially Canadian recipe hailing from the small town of Nanaimo in British Columbia. It was first created in the 1950’s by a Canadian housewife who submitted it to the annual Women’s Institute fundraising cookbook. It quickly grew in popularity and was recently voted Canada’s favourite confection in a newspaper survey”,

I can easily see why, they look amazing with the three different layers of contrasting textures and also they are simple to make. No baking required here, just pop in the fridge to set. They do take time to chill the layers in stages but I assure you it is worth it!

Last week I didn’t have much supply work on with it being the end of term. So it was a great opportunity to catch up on jobs and to make these yummy treats. Although I shouldn’t have been making anything rich or sweet, I put back on all the weight I lost on holiday and should be trying to cut back. But I wanted the experience of making the bars even if it would take all my willpower and strength not to eat one.

Here is how I made these delicious and totally moreish treats:

The base was first pressed into a large traybake tin and left to chill in my fridge for about an hour until firm.

I always use my fab Alan Silverwood traybake tin which I’ve had for a few years now. It is about 30x23cm in size and gets used for all my bars, Mary Berryesque traybakes and for Rocky Road no bake type treats. I swear by it as I can get everything out of it easily. With a no bake recipe I tend to line the tray with either foil or cling film to stop it sticking and this is what I did to prepare for making the Nanaimo Bars. Then I crushed up some digestive biscuits in a bowl using the end of a rolling pin.

The next step was to melt butter in a pan on the hob.  When that was ready, I whisked in caster sugar, cocoa powder and then in two beaten eggs.  It was then I realised I needed dessicated coconut and walnuts to add in. What hadn’t I got in the cupboard? Yes! Those very same two things. In the end I substituted ground almonds and flaked almonds which actually helped me use up a huge stash of flaked almonds I didn’t think I was going to get through before they went out of date! It didn’t affect the mixture though, thankfully.

The mixture was then combined and then put into the prepared tin, making sure that it covered the whole of the tin and was even.  The mixture then had to go into my fridge to chill for about an hour.

The custardy middle layer wes then spread on top of the chilled biscuit mixture and left to set for about half an hour.
This is the custard mixture being mixed up before spreading onto the bars. It tasted of a very sweet, creamy custard.

While the base was chilling this gave me chance to catch up on a couple of jobs but I also had to make the middle layer. This was made up of icing sugar, butter, custard powder and double cream.  Sounds extremely rich, sweet and decadent to me.  I was worried about getting it right but it looked absolutely fine to me.  It was like making up a buttercream filling and spread well onto the chilled base.

Melted dark chocolate to be turned into a rich chocolate ganache.
Spreading the chocolate ganache topping on top of the other layers, which had now set.

Now for Nanaimo Bars part three as the middle layer was now being given time to set in the fridge.  Edd said to give the middle layer about half an hour to chill which is what I did.  While that was doing its stuff I started on the topping, which was a rich melted chocolate cream ganache. First I melted some dark chocolate in the microwave, then added in some butter. On the stove I heated some double cream to boil and then finally the chocolate mixture was folded in.  We now had a gorgeous, smooth chocolate topping to spread on top of the bars.

After another chilling time the finished Nanaimo bars were ready to be cut into squares.

I gave the bars another half an hour or so in the fridge to firm up and to make them easier to cut. When I cut bars like this that you need a neat edge on the top, I always wipe my knife clean between each cut so that I don’t get crumbs or cream around the next bit I cut into.

Well, I was in chocolate heaven here and it took such iron willpower not to eat one as I took photos. I cut the bars into little fingers as they are meant to be quite rich. Even my sweet toothed son said so!

I ended up cutting the squares even smaller as one big piece is very rich.
Just for photographic purposes only, I didn’t eat this…. well I did eat a small piece the following day as I was tired and hungry. I have no willpower where sweet stuff is concerned!

Well those of you who know me, will know it wasn’t long before temptation set in. I have even less willpower than my greedy Labrador, especially if I’m tired or busy.  The following two days saw me working long hours so I ended up scoffing one.  Better get out running again!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Wet Wet Wet Live At Royal Hospital, Chelsea- A Review.



Me and my lovely Wettie mates.
A Wet Wet Wet gig is always a great occasion to catch up with all these lovely ladies. Picture copyright of Joyce Williams.
It was an honour to talk to and have my photo taken with Arthur, this lovely Chelsea Pensioner.

Just a few photos of our Wets Weekend staying in London. From champagne, cupcakes, party bags and wearing our Wet Wet Wet PJs to funny happenings in a local cafe and Lilian getting a new boyfriend! Only the conversation was very one sided! A fantastic weekend from start to finish. Oh and the rare honour of being allowed to be let loose in my husband’s car, nicknamed the Posh Wets Wagon! All these photos are by both Dot Liddell and Michelle Parker Swallow.

As regular readers of my blog or as followers of my Twitter feed, you won’t have missed that I’m a huge Wet Wet Wet fan. I’ve loved them ever since they released their first single “Wishing I Was Lucky” back in 1987. Their music has seen me through the ups and downs of life for nearly 30 years (doesn’t that sound a long time?) but it feels like only 5 minutes ago since I first bought that single in HMV! Since then I’ve been on many shopping trips buying Wet Wet Wet records over the years and I can remember exactly where and when I bought each one of them. Each song conjures up a special place in time and brings back fantastic memories,  maybe of a relationship, a certain job or even a special place. For example when I think of Picture This, the Wets’ multi million selling album which has just been re-released after 20 years, I think of a time where there was a massive change in my life. I was a newly qualified teacher who was living away from home and trying to settle into a new job in a strange town where I didn’t know anyone. I used to play the CD at home in the evenings while trying to get my marking and planning done and the music which filled the room instantly cheered me up. A few weeks later I decided to move back up to Yorkshire and got a new job where I was a lot happier. It was a good job I did as I ended up meeting the man who was to become my husband and I’m sure listening to the feel good and uplifting, yet comforting music of the Wets helped me through the tricky times.

So when Wet Wet Wet announced they were going to be playing in a special show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, I just had to go. It was early on in February this year and we had already got The Big Picture Tour to look forward to I was going along  to two dates in Leeds and Newcastle, the gigs closest to where I live. My husband was thinking  “oh no, not more trips to see Wet Wet Wet!” but in the end he gave in and gave me the money for the ticket as a birthday present. We were all even more excited when my friend Dot booked the tickets and managed to get us on the second row from the stage. I’ve never been that close to the stage before. So, any excuse to get together with my Wettie mates (my lovely friends who I have made through following the band). Instead of driving down to London and back in a day or relying on the trains we decided to get a hotel for the whole weekend and I would drive us down there from Yorkshire.

As we had such a fantastic time in London, I first wanted to share some highlights of our weekend away seeing the Wets. Many thanks to my friends Dot, Michelle and Julie for sharing these photos with me as I can’t take good photos on my phone camera. I had such a giggle looking through the pictures and will treasure the memories of this weekend seeing Wet Wet Wet in Chelsea for the rest of my life.

Now for the actual reason why we were in London in the first place! We had got down to London the night before after a very long, slow and nightmarish journey. None of us had slept well. Our apartment was meant to sleep 4 people but the double bed and the double sofa bed would have been comfortable for 4 birds, not 4 adults! Anyway after a breakfast in a local cafe where we were made to feel very uncomfortable by the locals, we got ready and off in a taxi over to Chelsea.  Everyone was excited and it was fantastic to meet up with all our Wettie friends from all over the country and to catch up on everyone’s news.  As we waited outside the gates we met and chatted to a lovely and friendly lady who had been out for lunch with her Chelsea Pensioner Uncle. He happily posed for photos with us and even knew who Wet Wet Wet were!

Finally at 5pm the gates were opened into the hospital grounds. It didn’t feel like we were going to a gig, more like going to a food fair or a garden party at first.  There were several stalls selling upmarket street type food and drink like Pimms and Gin.  We bagged a big picnic table and got ourselves sorted with food and drink. I sloped off to the gin stall and bought myself a double gin and tonic. The price was eyewatering- £9 but that’s London for you.  A few of us went over to the merchandise stand and I saw the new Wet Wet Wet t-shirt for Summer 2016, a grey one. I bought one, but I didn’t wear it there and then as it was far too cold.

At long last exactly what we had been waiting for. We listened to Tim Arnold warming up and his rendition of Life On Mars was a highlight as a great tribute to  David Bowie. At 8.30pm the excitement escalated as a Chelsea pensioner came on to the stage and announced the band. He was very funny and entertaining, even telling us some jokes!

As the guys came on to the stage we noticed people from the rows behind us trying to get to the front of the stage. Bugger that I thought and we legged it into the front row so we could be closer to the front. It was fantastic and the atmosphere was electric.  As the opening to “Wishing I Was Lucky” started up, I felt I really was lucky to be in such beautiful surroundings and to have such an incredible view of the stage.

Wet Wet Wet treated us to all their favourite classics from throughout their long musical career. The set contained the same songs that they performed on their tour but in a slightly different order. It was lovely to hear Somewhere Somehow, my all time favourite Wets song. We also got to hear Love Wars again, which is one of the new songs the band recorded last year. I do hope it gets onto a new album in the future, it’s a fantastic song which had the audience clapping and dancing along. Other highlights for me is always hearing Temptation which this time was a full version of the song and not part of a medley as it was on the tour. I always mean to time how long Marti holds the note for in the song,  it totally amazes me how he does it! Other treats were to hear other classic favourites like Sweet Little Mystery and I Can Give You Everything. I also loved hearing She’s All On My Mind and Morning from the Picture This album. Just beautiful songs which stir the emotions.

As with the tour the Wets had an acoustic section in their set but this time it was only two songs long instead of three. There was a funny moment where Graeme Clark realised his microphone and stand were a bit too far away from Marti’s and he moved it over towards Marti’s spot centre  stage. Then the audience laughed when Graeme put his own microphone right in front of Marti’s. Having seen and really enjoyed  Graeme’s solo performances before, maybe he should have a go at a solo spot! Tonight though, Marti and the two Graemes performed Roll Um Easy and their own Gypsy Girl.  It is always funny to listen to the cheeky banter between the band. Marti looked across at Graeme C’s white suit and said it was like Don Johnson/ Miami Vice. Graeme responded by rolling up his jacket sleeves!  Graeme Duffin was wearing a stripy grandad shirt and Marti said he was Eddie Shoestring! Marti himself wore the same black jacket he wore on the tour and didn’t take his sunglasses off all evening despite it getting dark!

The atmosphere at the concert was just out of this world and it was so wonderful to see the clear sky with a full moon shining. I forgot about being cold and just sang and danced my way through the show. The guys were on stage for nearly two hours and all too soon they were doing their encore; Lip Service and their classic Love Is All Around. Such a fitting end to a perfect evening which went all too quick.

Marti Pellow wowed us with yet another sterling performance.
Tommy from behind his drums. He also made an announcement talking about Chelsea and the role of the Chelsea pensioners, thanking them and for what they had done fighting for our country. It was also great to see some Chelsea Pensioners enjoying the show!
A close up of Neil on his keyboards, it was difficult to see him at the back but this lovely photo of him was taken by Michelle Parker Swallow.
Both Graeme C and Graeme D playing together.
A close up of Graeme Duffin
Marti kept his sunglasses on all night!
Another photo of Graeme C, this time copyright of Dot Liddell.

When the show was over we reluctantly started to walk towards the entrance to the grounds. We had a laugh and a giggle at a Chelsea Pensioner calling out of a window at us shouting “Goodnight Girls, are you coming back tomorrow?” Then as we were walking past we spotted Tommy stood having a ciggie and had a quick chat with him. He introduced us to his parents and to his wife. It was lovely to have a quick chat with them although I need always feel guilty as you don’t want to take up their time. Tommy kindly let us have photos with him which we all really appreciated.

Here’s my photo taken with Tommy from Wet Wet Wet after the Chelsea show. Photo by Michelle Parker Swallow.

Back to our hotel we went after waiting for our taxi to turn up at the outside gates. It took us ages to get back to our hotel and we were on a real high although we were really tired. A mixture of not much sleep the night before and our long but  exciting day had worn us out. We all agreed what a fabulous night it was coupled with a great weekend where we didn’t stop laughing. We can’t wait to do it again but luckily we are off to see the band play again this time at the Open Air Theatre in Scarborough at the end of July!