Rock Cakes

Does anyone remember the first thing they baked at school in Home Economics lessons? Gosh, I’m showing my age here. It’s called Food Technology in schools these days! My very first experience of baking in school was when I was in the Top Infants (as Year 2 was called back then). A parent volunteer used to come into school one afternoon a week and we used to take it in turns to go and bake. It seemed like forever until it was finally my turn and I remember being so excited.  My excitement soon turned to frustration though.  We were going to make gingerbread men. I already knew how to make gingerbread men and had made them before with my mum at home.  I can recall having to stand there whilst the adult did everything for us. We weren’t allowed to weigh anything out or to even gather the dough up into a ball.  Finally, we were allowed to roll the dough out but we were only allowed to make two gingerbread men each despite there being enough dough to make gingerbread men for the whole class.  When it came to decorating them, we had glace cherries and currants. I was so proud of my two gingerbread men but I didn’t feel that it was a real hands on experience.

When I became a teacher I always loved to do a bit of cookery if it fitted in with the curriculum.  Sadly, nowadays, along with all the other “life skills”, it’s been brushed aside for the 3 R’s and not much else.  I fondly remember a reception class I had being so excited when we had a teddy bear’s picnic one afternoon near the end of term. We spent all morning making the food for the picnic in groups. The children were so happy making sandwiches, baking buns and making teddy bear shaped biscuits as well as creating a fruit salad and healthy dips. I’ve always believed in the hands on approach and feel that you learn more by actually doing it.

After my children were born and I went back into education, first as a teaching assistant and then as a supply teacher, I found I could use my cookery skills to help others. I ran a very popular After School Cookery Club for a few years. I absolutely loved it and if I ever see one of my ex-pupils in town, they always mention Mrs Smith’s Cookery Club.  One thing we baked were rock cakes.  After talking to others, they often say they remember baking Rock Cakes!

I’ve always thought the name Rock Cakes has a double meaning.  They’re called that because they look like rocks but imagine if you’ve overcooked them and they come out hard as rocks!

Just before I went back to work from being furloughed, I dug out a few old cookbooks including my old Be-Ro one. I can just imagine my late Nana Mary baking from an earlier edition of it. I can’t remember her making Rock Cakes but I’m sure she must have done. My mum definitely did when we were young.

The Be-Ro Rock Cake recipe contains mixed, dried fruit and peel as well as ground mixed spice. I’ve used cherries and even chopped stem ginger in my rock buns in the past but I didn’t have those in. So I stuck with tradition.  They are so quick to make and are done within half an hour.

For copyright reasons, I am not permitted to copy the Be-Ro recipe word for word with you, but I can share a very similar recipe I have found online from the BBC Good Food Website: here 

For some reason this time, my rock buns looked more like cakes than knobbly rocks. They still tasted delicious, though and I took one to have on my tea break on the days I was working last week. The rest of my work mates got the other bakes, my Chocolate Mocha Latte Cake and some Lemon Cupcakes!

Can you remember what you first baked at school? Did you like cookery at school?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Ham, Cheese, Tomato and Pesto Parcels

It’s now my second week back in work after lockdown.  My working days have changed and it has made me have to be really organised.  Before lockdown I worked on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but for now I am in work on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

On a working day I finish at 6pm on two days and don’t get in from home until 6.45pm. The last thing I want to do is to think about cooking dinner.  On a work night it’s usually something I’ve prepared earlier or something easy to put together which Mr S or my daughter can make. The other day before the pandemic started was my college night where I used to go straight from work to  my patisserie course. On that night I would eat a sandwich for my tea in the car before going into college.

I love  The Batch Lady  (aka Suzanne Mulholland) I bought her book back in March and  used it loads of times.  My family have really enjoyed everything I’ve made out of her book and always ask me to  make her Farmer’s Wife Plait (basically a giant sausage roll) on a regular basis. I think The Batch Lady book has revolutionised my meal planning, especially as I love to cook but do not like to be spending ages doing it when I’m tired.

On Sunday afternoon just after I had popped our roast beef into the oven for our dinner that night, I started to prep Monday night’s dinner as well.  I had some ready rolled puff pastry in the fridge so I looked in The Batch Lady  book to see which recipes she had which used puff pastry.  Apart from the aforementioned Farmer’s Wife Plait, there was a recipe for Chicken, Cheese and Ham Lattices.  I only had chicken in the freezer and I hadn’t got a lattice cutter.  But I thought I’d adapt the recipe to suit what I had in the fridge.

I found some mature cheddar, some ham, tomatoes and half a jar of pesto sauce in the fridge which needed using up.  I thought they would make a delicious combination for a savoury lattice parcel. I could prep them up and put them on the baking tray ready in the fridge. All  Mr S or my daughter needed to do was to pop them in the oven and to stick some veg on to go with it on the Monday night.

I unrolled the puff pastry sheet and cut it into four quarters.  Then, I spread some pesto sauce on the bottom of the pastry but not quite to the edges. I then put a piece of ham, a piece of cheddar and two slices of tomato on one side of the parcel. Although the cheddar was a delicious one I’d bought off the deli counter in my local Morrisons, it was dead crumbly and made a right mess!

Once the filling had been put in, I then folded the parcel over and crimped the edges with a fork. I also made three diagonal slits in the top of the pastry.  Finally, I brushed it all over with some beaten egg. They looked very rustic but I was going for taste, not looks here!

On Monday I had had a really busy day and was exhausted.  I was so glad I had prepared the parcels the night before. As I literally crawled in through the door on my knees, Mr S had made some mashed potato and cooked some peas and sweetcorn to go with the parcels.  I was so grateful for this.

Both Mr S and my daughter said they really enjoyed the parcels.  There were four of them and we ate the fourth one between us. I had wanted to take it for my lunch on Tuesday but there it was lying all alone on the plate looking at us after we had finished our dinner. I have been told I have to make this again, which I’m definitely up for doing.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t got a photo, well that’s down to me forgetting to take one before we finished eating it! Oops!

Stay Safe!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

Honey and Camomile Bara Brith

I regularly make fruit loaves at home as they always go down well with Mr S with a cup of tea when he gets in from work.  I love a bit of fruit loaf myself and there’s nothing better than having a big slice slathered in butter.  Apart from Yorkshire Tea Loaf with a nice chunk of good old Wensleydale cheese, I can’t get enough of Bara Brith.

Bara Brith is a Welsh version of fruit loaf. Translated from Welsh, it means Speckled Bread.  Originally in some versions of Bara Brith, it is more like a bread made with yeast but I am more used to the loaf cake version. I love Bara Brith because it reminds me of my uni days.  Back in the early 1990s I was at uni in Bangor and sometimes used to buy slices of bara brith in one of the local bakeries.  Mr S lived in Ceredigion for about 10 years before his family moved to Norfolk and we love going back to visit his childhood haunts including sampling all the local Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes.

On our last holiday in Ceredigion, we went to New Quay Honey Farm which is down the road from where Mr S lived as a child.  The cafe there had some delicious honey themed cakes and bakes, including some Honey Bara Brith.  We just had to have some.

Last Sunday afternoon I made some Bara Brith from my own recipe I created after this visit.  My version has honey in it (not Welsh this time as I had what my local Morrisons had to offer) and instead of ordinary tea, I used a Twinings Camomile and Honey Teabag to infuse/ soak the dried fruit in. It gives the cake a wonderful aromatic flavour.

 HONEY AND CAMOMILE BARA BRITH

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

275g mixed, dried fruit (I use whatever I have in the cupboard, so long as it adds up to the right quantity)*

1 camomile and honey tea bag (Twinings or similar)

3 tbsp good quality runny honey

1 large free range egg, beaten

85g soft, light brown sugar

Grated zest of lemon

350g self raising flour

1 tsp ground mixed spice

*For the Bara Brith made at the weekend, I used a mixture of currants, raisins, mixed peel and dried apricots as that’s what I had left in the cupboard. I’ve also used sultanas, glace cherries and cranberries as well in the past.

The night before you want to bake the cake, you will need to soak the dried fruit. I usually do this in a large bowl. Put all the dried fruit into the bowl. In a measuring jug, make up the camomile tea with 350ml of boiling water.  Leave the tea to brew for about 10 minutes. Discard the teabag then stir in the honey. After this, pour the tea onto the dried fruit and leave to soak overnight. I leave it with a clean tea towel on top of it.

  1. When you are ready to bake your Bara Brith, pre-heat the oven to 180oC/ Fan 160oC/ 350oF or Gas 4.  Grease and line a 900g or 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment. I prefer to use loaf tin liners (available from all good cookware shops).
  2. Strain the dried fruit into another large mixing bowl but reserve the tea for later.  Stir the beaten egg into the fruit mixture.
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the fruit, folding them in carefully so that everything is mixed well. You can then add in the reserved tea bit by bit until the cake mixture has a dropping consistency.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours until the cake is risen and firm.  If the cake looks like it is browning too quickly on the top, cover it with some foil to allow it to bake for its full time. Test the cake with a skewer and if it comes out clean, then it is ready.
  5. Leave in the tin to cool down for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool down completely.
  6. When completely cool, the cake can be sliced up and served with butter.

Let me know if you try baking my Bara Brith. As I type it’s nearly time for lunch and I’m tempted to grab a slice of Bara Brith to keep me going until I have time to prepare something properly. There’s a couple of slices left in the tin!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Eccles Cake Slab

been a fan of The Boy Who Bakes (Edd Kimber)ever since he was the first winner of the Great British Bake Off back in 2010. Was that really ten years ago? Time flies! I’m trying my hardest not to buy any more recipe books for the time being as I have far too many of them! But with Edd’s latest book, I had to make an exception.  One Tin Bakes is crammed full of delicious recipes, all which use exactly the same traybake tin. Edd uses one by Nordicware in his book but I’m hoping my Alan Silverwood one will do the job for me.

My copy of One Tin Bakes arrived when I was back at work. It was my first day back in work after lockdown and of course when I got in, both Mr S and my daughter were asking what I had in my Amazon parcel.  They all tease me and say for every book I buy, they’ll chuck two out because they think I won’t notice! Oh yes I do! When I showed them One Tin Bakes and convinced them it was worth it, that did the trick.  Mr S saw there was a recipe for a giant Eccles Cake or an Eccles Cake Slab and that did it for him.

I love a good Eccles Cake too but they have to be crammed with dried fruit and not have dry, tasteless pastry. I’ve always been put off making them as I just can’t be bothered faffing around with making puff pastry.  I just haven’t got the time and as I’ve said before if Mary Berry uses Jus Rol, then that’s good enough for me! Sorry Edd!

On Sunday afternoon, I fancied making the Eccles Cake Slab as I thought I had enough currants left in the cupboard.  What I hadn’t realised is that I’d already put some in some Bara Brith I’d already made and I was about 65g short. I had to make up the remainder with some sultanas.

Edd’s Eccles Cake Slab’s filling is infused with some brandy. I didn’t have brandy but did have some Captain Morgan dark rum I could use instead. This seemed to work fine with orange zest and the aroma of ground allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in the filling.  It smelled wonderful and reminded me of that time when you are cosied up in the kitchen preparing for Christmas with your cake or mincemeat.

We had to go out as soon as the slab had finished baking. Probably a good thing as it would have been far too hot and dangerous to eat still warm.  When we got back an hour and a half later, I cut the slab into eight pieces (probably far too big but then I’m a greedy guts) and we sat outside on the patio with a piece of that and a lovely cup of tea.

Mr S was impressed with it and said it would also be a great dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. I really loved the flavour and will definitely be making it again!

Have you bought One Tin Bakes? If you have, which recipes have you tried from the book? There’s a few more I want to try out, especially the mint slice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Mocha Latte Cake

As I mentioned in my previous post Lemon Cupcakes, I was baking a couple of treats to take back into work for our first day of re-opening after lockdown.  To go along with the lemon cupcakes, I wanted to make a whole cake in a contrasting flavour.

I thought about a nice, classic Coffee and Walnut Cake but being as my workplace is a nursery I didn’t want to take anything with nuts in. Instead I found half a packet of Sugar and Crumbs Toffee Mocha icing sugar left over from when I made ice cream with it back in May.  This, I thought would go perfectly with a coffee flavoured sponge.

I also had some chocolate sprinkles which would make a perfect alternative decoration to either walnuts or coffee cocoa beans.

CHOCOLATE MOCHA LATTE CAKE

You will need two 18cm/ 7″ diameter loose bottom sandwich tins which are greased and lined.

Ingredients;
1 tbsp espresso coffee powder dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water and mixed to a paste
175g Stork or softened, unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
3 large, free range eggs

For the icing:
100g softened butter
250g Sugar and Crumbs Toffee Mocha Icing sugar
4 tbsp hot water

Chocolate decorations or sprinkles

  • Grease and line the two sandwich tins.  I use pre-cut baking parchment circles bought from Lakeland as a shortcut!
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/ 160oC fan/ 350oF / Gas Mark 4.
  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
  • Spoon carefully into the tins ensuring you have an equal quantity of mixture in each tin.
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  The cake is done if it springs back when touched.
  • Let the cakes cool in the tins for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • While the cake is cooling, make up the icing.
  • Whisk the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the icing sugar bit by bit, then add in the water. You should get a spreading consistency.
  • Spread half the mixture on top of one of the cakes. Put the other cake on top of it, then spread the remaining icing on the top of that. Decorate the top with the chocolate sprinkles.


Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

 

Lemon Cupcakes

How are you all doing? As I write, I’m catching up on my day off after a busy first week back at work.  My workplace reopened last Monday and it’s just fantastic to be back. To mark the day of reopening, I just had to celebrate by taking in some baking to share with my workmates.  I hadn’t baked for a couple of weeks as I just haven’t had the interest or the motivation to do it.

I baked lemon cupcakes to begin with.  It’s been a while since I’ve baked lemon cupcakes even though they usually go down well.  I have struggled to find plain icing sugar recently but I had some packets of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar left from a big order I had back in April.  One of the packs was a lemon and blueberry flavour.  I can’t really remember if I have tried it before but I thought I’d get it out and make something with it. I know it looks like I’m always mentioning Sugar and Crumbs, but it’s genuinely because I love their icing sugars.  I’m not on commission from them or anything!

My lemon cupcake recipe is so simple because I use the all in one method.  I also don’t use baking powder because I want my cupcakes to have a level top for icing.  When I add baking powder to a cupcake recipe I always get a peaked top like a mountain!

LEMON CUPCAKES

Makes 12

You will need a 12 hole cupcake tin and some cupcake cases.

125g Stork or softened butter
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour, sifted
2 large free range eggs
1 grated zest of a lemon

For the icing:
250g softened butter
500g icing sugar *
Juice of 1 lemon *
4- 6 tbsp milk to mix
Yellow food colouring (optional)

Sprinkles or jellied lemon decorations

*If using Sugar and Crumbs Lemon and Blueberry or Lemon Drizzle icing sugar then omit the lemon flavouring.  If you find the flavoured icing sugar too strong, you can use half ordinary icing sugar, half flavoured. I would also leave out the lemon juice.  Adding food colouring is also entirely up to you.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/ 160oC fan/ 350oF/ or Gas Mark 2.  Put the cupcake cases into the tin.
  2. Weigh out all your ingredients into one large mixing bowl and mix together until well combined, light and fluffy.
  3. Spoon into cake cases. I usually get two heaped tablespoonfuls in each case.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When the cakes are done, they should spring back to the touch.
  5. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  6. Make the icing: beat the butter until light and fluffy.  This might take a few minutes to get it really creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat in bit by bit.  Don’t do what I do and end up with clouds of icing sugar all over the kitchen! Add in the milk and lemon juice until you get a great piping consistency.
  7. Prepare a large piping bag with a star or a plain nozzle and fill it with about a third of the mixture.  Pipe in swirls on top of the cupcake.  I normally get about 4 cupcakes iced, then add the decorations before the icing begins to set.
  8. Repeat until all the cupcakes are iced and decorated.

Let me know if you do try out this recipe. I’d love to see how you decorate your lemon cupcakes as well!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx