Amazing Cakes #5: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I’ve always loved Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It was a great favourite when I was a child. I hadn’t baked one for a while and had yet to find a recipe I liked and was really happy with. Until now. It was quite by chance that I spotted there was a recipe in the book I’m attempting to bake through at the moment: Amazing Cakes from The Great British Bake Off. Coupled with the Technical Bake from week one in this year’s Bake Off, I was even more keen to have a go!

The caramelised pineapple layer is made so by using golden syrup in the bottom of the cake tin. This gives the gloriously sticky but delicious topping when inverted out of the tin. Other bakes have used brown sugar and butter to create a type of caramel. I really thought the syrup was a great idea and much less of a faff!

I used a 23cm diameter spring form cake tin which is usually my cheesecake tin! I lined and greased it then poured golden syrup on the bottom of the tin. When this was done I arranged the pineapple rings to fit in the base of the tin. Some rings had to be cut to fit in the gaps as well as leaving the circles to adorn with glace cherries. I do think it makes a pretty cake and the pineapple rings remind me of flowers with their red cherry centres.

The cake part was made by creaming together butter and sugar. When the butter and sugar had been creamed for a few minutes, I added in eggs slowly, followed by sifted self raising flour and some baking powder. The batter was very stiff so it needed liquid. To this we needed some milk and vanilla extract. When I looked in my cupboard I realised I didn’t have any vanilla extract left! I needed something to add to it so in the end I used some Monin Coconut sugar syrup which was from a cocktail set I got at Christmas. It’s useful having this set as the syrups are great substitutes for flavour extracts.

Bearing in mind that last Sunday, when I baked the Pineapple Upside Down Cake was a very stressful day, I was actually calmed down by baking. A task on the computer which should have taken half an hour on Sunday morning ended up taking me 5 hours. I was so stressed and wound up. Then the task didn’t work and I had to do it all again on Monday night. But that’s another story. By the time the cake was in the oven it was Sunday dinner time and we were having a sausagemeat puff pastry plait. That was in the oven while I was preparing the cake. The cake had to be in the oven while we were eating.

After the stresses of Sunday afternoon, I was hoping and praying that the cake wouldn’t be a disaster. It was fine! We didn’t eat any for dessert as it was still too hot to eat and too late. So I cut ourselves three slices and saved the rest to take to work for my workmates. I had a piece on Monday night when I got in from work. I am meant to be cutting down on sugar, but I was so tired I needed the energy. It hit the spot!

My slice on Monday night. It goes really well with custard, cream or ice cream. I ate mine plain though!

Did any of you try Paul Hollywood’s version of the individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes? I thought they looked wonderful as an individual dessert with the whipped cream piped on it. I also thought about using my Nordicware Pineapple Upside Down Bundt pan but it does come out really big. I thought we’d be eating the cake for weeks afterwards!

If you would like to try Paul Hollywood’s version, here is the link to it:

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Battenburg Cake: Amazing Cakes #3

I’ve been so excited for the Great British Bake Off. It’s exciting every year but this year it’s been more welcomed as something special and comforting in these difficult times. At one stage I was wondering if it would make it onto our screens this year. Baking has helped a lot of us through difficult times and this is especially so where people who have never baked before have taken to the kitchen to help get them through. I’ve always seen baking as a form of therapy for me. It helped me with the black hole I got myself into when my younger child started school and my teaching career had been put on hold. Now baking helps me relax on my day off from being a nursery nurse or a supply teacher.

Week one on Bake Off usually is cake week and it’s always great to see what challenges have been set. The first signature bake was a Battenburg Cake. I do like Battenburg but am more familiar with buying Mr Kipling than making them. To me, they are very fiddly but I do love a bit of marzipan. Battenburgs remind me of my Great Grandma, my Nana Lilian. We used to visit Nana and she would do a traditional Sunday tea with ham sandwiches, Battenburgs and fruit cake. Her Battenburg was bought from a local shop though and she told me that my Dad used to call it Window Cake when he was little.

I wanted to have a go at joining in #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong this week so I got prepared to make a Battenburg. The bakers on GBBO had chosen various complimentary flavours but I stuck with traditional. Years ago I had a go at baking another GBBO recipe, Mary Berry’s coffee and walnut Battenburg but when I was talking with my daughter about flavours she said just make a normal one. The one flavour was delicately flavoured with almond to compliment the marzipan but coloured pink for half of it.

On the Bake Off I noticed that some bakers were using the Alan Silverwood aluminium Battenburg tin. I have this tin, although in the last 10 years I’ve only used it twice! It is such a cute little tin and if you take the dividing sections out, it’s also been great for mini traybakes!

After a busy morning catching up, including going to get my hair cut, I was determined to have an afternoon in the kitchen. Out came the ingredients I needed: butter, caster sugar, eggs, self raising flour, almond extract, pink gel food colouring, as well as apricot jam and some marzipan.

After greasing the tin and preheating the oven, I creamed together the butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy. Then I added in the eggs, beating after each addition. When this was done, I put in some almond extract, followed by self raising flour.

I split the cake batter into two bowls. One was left plain and the other was coloured with pink food colouring gel. Then I put the batter into the prepared tin. This was quite fiddly as the sections of the tin are quite narrow. I think using a teaspoon was the best way.

The Battenburg baked in my fan oven for 25 minutes or so. I left it to cool on a wire rack for a while until it was cool enough to take out of the tin.

Once the four sections came out of the tin (thankfully in one piece), I trimmed them so that they were flat and also the same size.

Then it was time to assemble the pieces together. Using sieved apricot jam, I brushed it onto the pieces and stuck them together to create that iconic Battenburg window shape.

Now for the really fiddly bit and the bit I dread: the marzipan! I rolled out the marzipan and despite putting plenty of icing sugar on the work top and on my rolling pin, it still stuck like glue to the worktop. I got really frustrated and ended up scraping it up and starting again a couple of times.

By the third attempt, I got so annoyed I tipped loads of icing sugar on the worktop but it did work! Nothing stuck after that! I got the marzipan wrapped round the cake and trimmed the ends.

The feeling when it was done after thinking it would be another disaster was so uplifting. I cut off a piece to photograph. Mr S ended up eating it with a cuppa when he got in from work. I didn’t have any as we were going out for dinner.

I will definitely make a Battenburg again but it’s one of those bakes you have to devote a few hours to.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #2: White Chocolate Blondies

Hot on the heels of baking my successful Lemon Drizzle Traybake,  I wanted to try something slightly different to take along for my work mates to enjoy as an alternative to the lemon drizzle.  I’ve lost my baking confidence recently and have found recipes I’ve baked time and time again going wrong.  I have always managed to bake brownies, though and I thought that I would be fine with the second recipe I wanted to try from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes.
I wanted to have a go at the White Chocolate and Hazelnut Blondies as I love blondies.  So moreish! But I didn’t have any hazelnuts so had to think of some substitutions.  I had also seen a recipe with Jammie Dodgers put in the blondies so I thought I’d add those in instead.

The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes is the latest book spin off from the last Great British Bake Off series. It came out in October 2019.

To make the Blondies,  I weighed out plain flour, some ground almonds (as I didn’t have any ground hazelnuts), some sea salt flakes and baking powder. I mixed them together in a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl I melted some butter in the microwave. To this, I added a mixture of caster sugar and dark brown muscovado sugar. 

When this was mixed in, I added beaten eggs, along with some vanilla extract and then folded this all into the flour mix.

At this stage I was also meant to add in some chopped hazelnuts which I didn’t have.  I just put in the white chocolate chips which the recipe suggested.  At this stage I didn’t read the recipe properly and noticed it asked for 2 tbsp of agave syrup or runny honey.  This was meant to be brushed onto the still warm but cooked blondies.  Instead I put two tablespoonfuls of honey in the mixture before cooking.

Finally, I used mini Jammy Dodgers to poke into the top of my blondies.  Each of these mini packs contains four mini Dodgers and I
used four of the packs to use sixteen biscuits in the blondies.  I was expecting them to sit nicely on top of them.  I couldn’t wait to taste the blondies.

But my excitement was shortlived.  I didn’t have the 22cm square tin as needed.  Mine is an 20cm square one and not loose bottomed.  The blondies were meant to be baked at 180oC for 25-30 minutes.  I had them in for the recommended time but the blondies were still looking raw and wet in the middle.  I also didn’t like how the edges had puffed up around, leaving the middle flat as a pancake.  

I put the blondies back in the oven for another ten minutes but they seemed to be even more runny and slimy than before.  I admitted defeat and took them out of the oven.  The recipe said to leave the blondies in the tin for 10 minutes to cool down.  This I did but they began to collapse. I was so frustrated as this doesn’t normally happen to me with brownies or blondies.  The temporary baking confidence I got from making the lemon drizzle traybake had taken a nose dive again!

Baking disaster: you can make out the slimy and uncooked batter despite my oven being at the correct temperature and the brownies being in the oven for ten minutes longer than the recipe stipulated.
This was the best piece out of the whole batch: one of the corners! The rest looked like road kill!

I would love to know where I went wrong with this recipe. Was it because I didn’t use hazelnuts or that I added the honey to the mixture before baking? I must admit I did not like the taste of the blondies and I was disappointed with how they came out.  I asked Mr S what he thought of them and he said he thought the ones around the edge looked ok but he tasted one. He said it tasted very sweet and jammy!

I will test this recipe again at some stage but I’ll try with hazelnuts and leave the Jammy Dodgers out instead!

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #1: Lemon Drizzle Traybake

Recipe Challenge #1: Lemon Drizzle Traybake
Lemon Drizzle Traybake is a classic recipe and one I’ve made lots over the years.  Recently I have made Mary Berry’s version and this always goes down well.  I was keen to see how this version from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes measured up to Mary’s version.  At first glance of the recipe I actually wondered if it was Mary’s recipe seeing as she used to judge on GBBO.  But any other recipes apart from the ones submitted by the baking contestants, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are created by Juliet Sear, Becca Watson and Mitzie Wilson.

To try and get my baking mojo and confidence back I thought it would be good to start with something simple that I couldn’t muck up.  Going back to basics and going through everything carefully would help me get it right. 

I first got all the ingredients out to hand.  I didn’t have whole milk, only semi skimmed so I had to use that instead.
All the ingredients were weighed out and put in my big mixing bowl ready to mix together using the all in one method. I also chose to use Stork instead of butter as the butter I had was in the fridge and not soft enough.

I was pleased this lemon drizzle recipe uses three large lemons. I grated the zest of three lemons into the sponge itself, reserving the juice for later.

I don’t tend to line my cake tins unless I am making a fruit cake. I do grease them though.  I want to know, does it make a difference to the taste and texture of the cake? It doesn’t stop it sticking to the pan for me.  The pan I use is a Mary Berry traybake one which I bought from Lakeland a couple of months back. I love it as it has the indentations on the side which can help you mark out the portion sizes.  This recipe is meant to be cut into 24 squares but I only did 16 squares!

Although the recipe stated to bake the cake at 150oC (in a fan oven) for 35-40 minutes, I felt that my cake was cooked after 25 minutes and was beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin. Our oven was definitely on at 150 degrees so whether it was down to the Stork or the tin itself. It was the smell of it cooking made me think was it burning and should I check it? Good job I did!

While the traybake was cooling, I made the drizzle which is a simple lemon juice and sugar syrup to pour over the cake.  I had to fish out several lemon pips though! I poked the traybake with holes from a cocktail stick so as the syrup was poured onto it, some would pour through the holes. To finish, I also sprinkled on some granulated sugar.

I felt happy with my latest attempt at a lemon drizzle traybake. A great start to the challenge and made me feel more confident.  I put 12 of the 16 slices into a box to take into work to leave for my work mates to enjoy.  My daughter ate one of the slices for pudding and said it was delicious. I would love to indulge but at the moment even looking at a cake makes me put on a stone!

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

A New Challenge!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about my SmartCookieSam blog. Recently I’ve been so sporadic in uploading posts and when I do, I struggle to fit in blogging as well as everything else going on in these crazy times. Part of me has even thought about packing in this blog. I don’t have much time for baking at the moment. Every time I bake something it seems to go wrong. I just sit looking at other people’s perfect creations on social media and feel so fed up/ I guess I’ve lost my baking mojo. This is sad as I always used to love baking as a form of relaxation and therapy. But now it makes me feel anxious as I can’t get it right. I don’t want to give up baking but at the same time I am really struggling with my weight since going through the menopause. I even thought about changing my blog to healthy recipes but I still think baking is a huge part of who I am. I guess I just need something to motivate me and to be given a bit of encouragement.

I love the idea of baking through a book and thought of this as an idea to base my blog on going forward. I have lots of books I would love to do this with but it has to have recipes that I actually have time to bake. It also had to contain recipes that I can share with family and friends and not containing obscure ingredients which would be offputting.

So which book would I go for to start my challenge? I know that the Mary Berry Baking Bible has been done by a few people! I would have loved to have done this myself but I didn’t want to be seen as copying! I thought about the lady who fanned my obsession with baking back in the early noughties, the one and only Nigella herself with her Domestic Goddess book. But after lots of thought, I was thinking about all the Great British Bake Off books I had, including ones from former contestants and winners and decided on the latest one to come from last year’s series. “The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes” which came out at the beginning of last October.

Although I bought the book when it came out, I’m shocked I haven’t tried any of the recipes in the book. They range from a mixture of classic and modern, from easy to more challenging and contain recipes from previous series as well as offerings from the last series’ contestants. I feel this might help me get my teeth back into something after all the upheaval we have had over the previous months.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to bake the seventy plus recipes in “The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes” but I reckon I can manage a couple a week if time allows. I can fit some in around various times of the year, such as Parkin at Hallowe’en or on Bonfire Night or to be attached to various occasions such as a birthday. Lets see how I get on! Whether I get the blog updated as well is another job entirely!

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx