Amazing Cakes #15: Banana And Chocolate Chip Loaf

On the first Monday of the second “lockdown” (don’t even get me started on that term!) I had a day at home.  I wasn’t even sure what was going to happen for some of that week.  Some of my work involves working in a day nursery on a regular basis and the other time I am teaching on supply in various primary schools in my area.  I knew I already had Friday booked but nothing for the three remaining days of the week. Although I love teaching, I am really anxious at the moment with the Covid situation.  I am really careful with keeping safe but I have to do my job.

To me, baking is a massive help and distraction from the crazy world we live in.  Even before the pandemic came I found baking on my days off extremely calm and therapeutic. I’d put on some of my favourite music in the kitchen and get lost in my own little baking world. I think back to why I started baking in the first place and that was over 20 years ago as a new mum.  Obviously baking was the last thing on my mind when I had a newborn but I bought a couple of Annabel Karmel’s recipe books to help give me ideas for family meals. 

In Annabel’s book The Family Meal Planner, she had a recipe for banana bread. I used to make this so often as my kids loved it and so did Mr S.  I still make this recipe to this day! Funny how my kids (especially my son)  wouldn’t eat many of her baby purees at the time but they loved all the cake recipes!
On this Monday morning I had some bananas to use up and thought about baking some banana loaf.  Annabel’s recipe includes optional nuts like walnuts or pecans but I sometimes substitute in dark chocolate chips or raisins.  It’s also a great way of using up stuff you have at home.  I also decided to try a slightly different Banana Loaf recipe and went for the one in my Great British Bake Off Amazing Cakes book. It is similar in quantities but it is a plain banana loaf with no chocolate or nuts in.

As per usual, the butter and sugar was mixed together first using the creaming method. Then beaten eggs were added in carefully, followed by  some vanilla extract.

In another bowl I weighed out the dry ingredients: plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and my own addition: a teaspoonful of cinnamon.  After the dry ingredients were folded in, I added in three ripe mashed bananas and some sour cream.  The Annabel Karmel recipe uses natural yoghurt here but I had sour cream left over from making fajitas a couple of days before.  I also added in 75g of dark chocolate chips to my mixture.

The loaf was baked in a 900g or 2lb loaf tin and I used one of my pre made loaf tin liners which I think came from Lakeland originally.

I followed the baking time carefully (one hour) and had the oven temperature on at 160o fan as stated but I felt as if the top of the cake looked burnt and unappealing.  It definitely wasn’t burnt inside and it tasted fine when I had a piece with a cup of tea later on.

Sliced up into pieces, we ate the banana bread over the next week. It keeps well for a couple of days in the tin but I always freeze it and get out exactly what we need for the day. 

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #14: Almond Poppy Seed Bundt

This recipe has been a great favourite bake from Amazing Cakes From  The Great British Bake Off.  It was created by last year’s winner David Atherton.  According to the recipe introduction it was his “favourite recipe from when he was growing up- he’s always been obsessed with the flavour of almonds.”

I love almond recipes as well but have never put poppy seeds in a cake with them before. I usually put poppy seeds in bread or a lemon cake. I must admit I had to buy in some poppy seeds to bake the recipe but I had some almond extract in. I love almond extract, the aroma of it is just heavenly.

Looking back at the photos, I actually baked this cake at the end of October and it ended up being one that was taken into work to share with my work mates.  I can’t even remember what day of the week it was baked on as it was such a busy, full on time and I had just gone back to work after having to self isolate for two weeks.

Baking this cake also was a fantastic excuse to get out one of my Nordicware Bundt pans! I chose to use my Elegant Party Bundt Pan which is just perfect for this recipe with the drip icing and the grooves.  Although I didn’t have any toasted flaked almonds to top the cake, I used whole cherries which turned it into more of a Bakewell recipe.

To begin with, the poppy seeds were infused in a pan of milk which came up to the boil and then simmered for a few minutes. I took the pan off the heat and then got the rest of the cake batter sorted out.  The fat content is oil based, rather than butter or margarine and David uses olive oil in his. I thought the olive oil I had in my cupboard would be too strong for this recipe so I used sunflower oil instead. 

In one bowl I whisked eggs and caster sugar together for about 4 minutes until the mixture became creamy and thick.  To this, I then added in the oil and some almond extract. I whisked this carefully so it was well mixed in.  The dry ingredients were weighed out in a separate bowl.  Plain flour, baking powder and ground almonds were then added and carefully folded in. 

Finally, the milk and poppy seed infusion was folded into the batter.  I loved the look of the batter: the pale colour with the contrasting dark poppy seeds throughout the whole mixture looked really pretty. 

Into the prepared bundt pan it went.  I was hoping I wouldn’t have a bundt pan failure like I did last time but I took extra care to grease it.  The cake takes less time to bake than a usual bundt recipe. Usually any bundt I have baked has taken about an hour or so but the required cooking time for this recipe was 30-35 minutes. I checked the cake at 25 minutes and it definitely needed the extra ten minutes.

To see the cake slide out of the pan as a whole without snapping in two or having half of it welded to the pan was a huge relief.  It smelled wonderful as well.  I just love the smell of almonds and my kitchen was full of this delicious aroma.

As the cake was cooling, I decided what I would do with the icing.  When icing sugar was in very short supply in the supermarkets earlier on this year, I put in a massive order to Sugar and Crumbs for some of their flavoured icing sugars. I’ve always loved their icing sugars.  I hadn’t got any plain icing sugar which I could flavour with almond extract so I had to use one of my Sugar and Crumbs flavours.  I had a packet of their Cherry Bakewell icing sugar in my cupboard so I used some of that being as that was almond based. To top the cake I used glace cherries as I didn’t have any flaked almonds in.

The cake went to work to share with my work colleagues.  I didn’t taste any but judging by the way the cake disappeared over the next day it must have tasted fine.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #13: Swiss Roll

I’ve been so behind with my blog posts recently. One day I’d like to have the time to write up about what I’ve made on the day it was actually made. Since we went into the second lockdown (though I can’t really call it that as I don’t think anything has closed where I live, except the pub and local cafes!) I’ve been working virtually full time and haven’t had much time for baking over the last couple of weeks. On the day after Boris’ announcement, it was business as usual for us at home. Loads of jobs to catch up on and a nice Sunday roast to cook, followed by some sort of dessert or cake for pudding.

I was looking through my Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off book and was thinking what would make a great pudding. I thought about a Swiss Roll as I can’t believe I’ve never made one before. They look so fiddly and awkward to handle that I’ve thought I can’t be bothered with all that effort.

This recipe for a Swiss Roll is a quick bake and is made in just ten minutes. As a whisked and fatless sponge it doesn’t last long but then again anything with cream inside never lasts long in our house!

I didn’t have a special Swiss Roll tin for the bake but I used a shallow baking tray which usually ends up being my roast potato baking tray as it was the same size. I lined it carefully with some baking paper. You need quite a bit of baking paper for this bake as you need an extra piece to help you roll up the Swiss Roll when it has baked.

I got started on the sponge part just before lunchtime on the Sunday after I had waded through a huge pile of ironing. A baking session with music playing in the background is always my spur to get the chores done. To begin with, I whisked eggs and sugar together until the mixture was thick and like a mousse. It took a while to get the ribbon trail hanging down from the whisk!

I used the spare sheet of baking paper to sift the flour and salt on it. I then took half of the flour off it and folded it into the whisked egg mixture with a large metal spoon. Then I added the other half of the flour and did the same.

The mixture was then poured into the prepared tin. I had pre-heated my oven to 200oC fan which seemed very high but that was what the recipe stated. I was meant to put the sponge in for 9-10 minutes but after 8 minutes it looked burnt and was coming away from the sides of the tin. I hope it wasn’t because the oven was too hot!

Feeling disappointed and deflated, I sprinkled caster sugar onto the spare baking sheet and then turned the sponge onto it. Hoping the caster sugar would cover up the mistakes and any cracks, I was careful to roll it up until it was completely cool.

I was thinking about what filling to put in the Swiss Roll and thought ooh great I’ve got some lemon curd! I didn’t realise that there wasn’t enough to spread on even half of the roll. Same with some blackberry jam. In the end it became a hybrid lemon-blackberry combo with far more whipped cream than jam.

I know when I bake sometimes things do look like the pictures in the recipe book but the same can’t be said of this recipe! I couldn’t see any jam when I rolled up the Swiss Roll. All I could see was the cream and it didn’t look that pretty. This was a true case of it tastes better than it looks!

The Swiss Roll was ready before I had even started on the roast chicken dinner we were planning on eating. I felt hungry and ended up cutting off a piece to eat. It tasted lovely and definitely not burnt!

Next time I make a Swiss Roll I’ll check if the oven temperature really should be 200oC even for a fan oven or maybe I’ll reduce the baking time. It was true that the cake should have been eaten on the day it was made, we had all had a piece but the following day it tasted stale.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Drip Cake: Amazing Cakes #12

It was my daughter’s birthday back in October. It had been a strange couple of weeks for us and her birthday coincided with her last day of self isolation. I had originally planned her cake for her weeks ago and had bought ingredients and the decorations well in advance. Had I known, I wouldn’t have baked such an extravagant and massive cake!

I’ve seen lots of these fancy drip cakes around and although I bake lots of cakes it has been a while since I have made any celebration cakes. Making a drip cake is something I’d always wanted to have a go at but never had chance to do. So even though my daughter said “Don’t make me a massive cake, Mum!”, what did her mother do? Make a massive cake!

I looked at the recipe for the Chocolate Drip Cake in the Great British Bake Off book Amazing Cakes to help me for quantities, etc and I adapted it to suit the ingredients I had at home at the time. The original recipe has two layers each of chocolate sponge and also of a brown butter sponge! As the brown butter sponge used a whole packet of butter which I didn’t have enough of, I chose to make this one as a Vanilla sponge but bake both sponges using Stork instead. I had a whole tub of Stork which needed using up and only enough butter for the buttercream. Also I chose to adapt the decorations. My friend Amy had bought me a tub of Cake Decor Chocolate Mirror Glaze icing in a tub which I had not used before and I thought it would be perfect on the top of the cake for the drip. Instead of homemade chocolate shards, I used Lindt Dor Salted Caramel Truffles and some honeycomb pieces. For the buttercream icing, I had to use a mixture of plain Tate and Lyle Icing Sugar with a packet of Sugar and Crumbs’ Honeycomb flavour icing sugar as I didn’t have enough plain for all the buttercream. So the chocolate cake ended up being a chocolate, salted caramel and honeycomb flavour cake!

On Sunday morning, the morning of my daughter’s actual birthday I baked the sponges and made up the buttercream. This did not take long. It wasn’t until later when I had to assemble the cake that the panic started. I see so many perfect cakes on the internet where the buttercream is so smooth. I can never get mine like that. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the moment you start piping or something is the exact moment when Mr S comes in the kitchen and wants to get something out of that very cupboard right where you are working! This time he came in asking for a cup of tea! (fit eyeroll emoji in here!)

It was as I was assembling the cake that I realised how big it actually was and why I needed 500g butter and 1kg of icing sugar in the buttercream. It also contains 200g dark chocolate and double cream which was made into a ganache and then whipped into the butter and icing sugar. Assembling the cake was fine and I put it on my larger Cath Kidston cake stand. Once it was assembled, I gave the cake a crumb coat and put it to chill in the fridge for an hour. While it was chilling I made the cup of tea and tried to clean up as best as I could.

Another coat of buttercream went on and then I spent ages smoothing it with my cake smoother before melting the pot of chocolate glaze gently in the microwave. I have seen people use plastic bottles with nozzles on for piping on the chocolate drip but I chose to use a piping bag to help me. The chocolate glaze was slightly too thick really and some of the drips didn’t look as neat as others. Once the chocolate was on then I put on the Lindt balls and sprinkled the honeycomb pieces in the middle. The finishing touch was some gold Happy Birthday lettering.

I was very pleased and proud of the cake and my daughter loved it which was the main thing. Since she has gone back to work she has taken it to share with her work mates and they enjoyed it too.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Parkin: Amazing Cakes #11

It’s that time of year again as Autumn draws upon us that I begin to think about recipes I love baking when it gets colder. One recipe I love making at this time of year is Parkin.

If you don’t know what Parkin is or you have never tasted it, then you are missing out! Parkin is a gingerbread and oaty cake very popular in the north of England. It’s one of those traditional Yorkshire baking recipes your granny or mum may have grown up on and families will have their own special recipe. My own grandma, my Nana Margaret who was from West Yorkshire was not a good cook and definitely not a baker! Any cake or sweet treat she had would be bought from a local bakery or M&S and she would try to pass it off as her own! So, I never had a grandma favourite recipe for Parkin. My other grandma on the other hand, Nana Mary was a fantastic cook and baker although she did not come from Yorkshire. She made gorgeous lemon drizzle cakes.

I first tasted Parkin when I moved to Yorkshire myself as a recently qualified teacher in the 1990s and I taught a Reception class. On a Friday afternoon all the classes in Key Stage One used to have an Activity Afternoon and I chose to do baking as my activity. In groups of 6 we would bake or make different things and I would try and link our recipe to that time of the year or a particular festival being celebrated at that time. For one week we made Parkin. At the time I had never attempted to make it myself before and as I was single at the time, I didn’t even have baking ingredients in my house! How things change! I now get all panicky when I run out of eggs! I even had to ask the other teachers if they had a Parkin recipe as this was in the days before good old Google!

Despite having never made Parkin before and neither had any of the children I taught, we had a fantastic baking session and we had some gorgeous Parkin to take home. How I wish I could bake with children like that again, now there’s no time at all on the curriculum and that was even before the Covid pandemic started.

As I type it is my last full day of self isolation myself and over the past week or so I have been baking more than I should. Usually anything I bake goes to work to share out but this last week I have had to hide everything or keep myself out of the kitchen! I couldn’t resist baking some Parkin though.

The Parkin recipe I use is from the very first Great British Bake Off Book “The Great British Book Of Baking” which accompanied the very first series way back in 2010! Parkin is meant to be kept for a week wrapped up in foil for a week to improve the flavours but I never can wait that long! There is something about the aroma of gingerbread baking that sends your senses going. I chose this time to follow the recipe in the 2019 Bake Off book “Amazing Cakes” which was really great to follow.

First, I greased and lined my square baking tin and put the oven on to heat up. While it was heating up I beat one egg with some milk in a jug.

In a saucepan I put butter, treacle, golden syrup and sugar and melted it altogether over a very low heat.

Once the butter mixture was removed from the heat, the mixture was poured into a large mixing bowl. To this I weighed out rolled oats, self raising flour, ground ginger and some mixed spice. This was then folded into the melted butter mixture with a large metal spoon until well combined.

The mixture was then put into the tin and baked for about 55 minutes in my fan oven at 140oC.

When it was finished, I left the Parkin in the tin until it was completely cold and then cut it into squares. I then wrapped them in foil and put in a tin planning to keep it there for a week. I didn’t! The following day I felt I needed something to eat and grabbed myself a piece. Oh my it was like heaven!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx