Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #33: The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Sunday October 24th 2021:

It was my Mum’s birthday and as she was coming up to visit for a couple of days, I thought I would bake her a birthday cake. It had to be one which would keep and she could have enough to take home and share with her friends she was meeting up with later on in the week.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m getting to struggle with being able to make some of the bakes in my Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Not because I can’t make them but simply because of the sheer waste of ingredients or not having the occasion to bake these cakes. I can’t be baking a three tier wedding cake when I’ve not got a wedding to bake for.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake on page 76 in the Chocolate Chapter looked like a pretty but not too over the top cake. It was baked in two layers but with both layers cut horizontally to create four. The recipe containing sour cream was also one which would keep it moist and fudgy which is what I needed as it might not get eaten straightaway.

I ended up baking the cake as three separate layers rather than two layers cut in half. I use ready made baking parchment circles for the bottom of my tins and this helped me to grease and line the tins.

Unfortunately, I was listening to a radio programme at the time so I was distracted and forgot to put in the baking powder. I only realised afterwards when the cakes were in the oven and I was putting the ingredients away, that I had forgotten it. I don’t know if it had much effect, the cake had still risen. Thank heavens for that.

I left the cakes cooling on the worktop while Mr S and I went off to walk the dog. When we came back I made up the chocolate buttercream icing. I used Callebaut dark chocolate chips, icing sugar, butter and some sour cream to make up the icing.

The three layers of chocolate sponge cooling on the racks in my kitchen. After my disaster forgetting to add the baking powder, I was expecting to have three large cookies!

The original decoration for the Ultimate Chocolate Cake was to have the sides plain but the top to be decorated like a giant rose petal. I didn’t have a petal nozzle suitable so instead I put a thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides and used a scraper to get the effect. To top the cake I piped stars around the edge and in the middle, topping each star with some edible shimmer pearl decorations from Tesco which I’d also used for my daughter’s birthday cheesecake the week before. I also found some Cake Angels Millionaire’s Sprinkles which contained gold stars and tiny fudge pieces to sprinkle all over the top of the cake.

My mum was really pleased with the cake. Although we are all trying to be healthy and eat sensibly, you have to have a treat when it’s your birthday. We had a small sliver with a cup of tea the day after Mum’s birthday as we ended up having scones on her actual day! Mum cut us a piece to enjoy the next day and then took the rest with her to share with her friends. I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

I think this recipe is going to be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on. But next time I’ll remember to add the baking powder!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #31: Apple, Maple and Walnut Streusel Cake

October 17th 2021.

It’s been over a year since I set myself the challenge of working my way through the bakes in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes. I’ve only managed about half of the recipes and it’s getting to the stage where there are some bakes that I might not be able to attempt. These are because they are big celebration cakes which I don’t have the occasion to make a cake like that for and baking all that cake for nothing would be a terrible waste. Over the next month or so I am going to try a couple more recipes which will be suitable and then I will start another challenge.

The Apple,Maple and Pecan Strusel Cake was a big winner.

Now it is Autumn, I am beginning to struggle a bit. I know lots of people love Autumn and Winter but I am not one of those people. I am a Spring and Summer person and dread the clocks going back. Dark nights and cold, damp weather are not my idea of fun. I struggle to get up in the mornings when it is dark. The only way I can embrace the seasonal changes, apart from trying to get out as much as possible for fresh air and exercise is to cook comfort food. I make our Sunday roast and try to make us a Sunday dessert as something to look forward to.

For our Sunday dessert last weekend, I chose to bake an Apple, Maple and Streusel Cake from the Amazing Cakes book. Featured in the Bakers’ Favourites chapter, this gorgeous and gently spiced cake was one Henry made during Series 9. This was one of Henry’s childhood favourite cakes inspired by his family holidays to Germany. I have never been to Germany myself but have tasted several Streusel cakes in the past. They are usually cakes topped with a crumble like topping with added nuts. This version uses chopped walnuts but pecans are a great alternative.

To start baking the cake, I lined and greased the bottom of a 20cm (8″) deep loose bottomed circular cake tin. I then put all the dry ingredients needed into a mixing bowl. These were self raising flour, baking powder, ground mixed spice, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Then I rubbed cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until they became like breadcrumbs. Then I added brown sugar, some chopped apple pieces and some raisins. The recipe stated sultanas or blueberries but I had a load of raisins which needed using up and I didn’t want to waste all my blueberries in a cake. I wanted them for my yoghurt on my breakfast!

In another mixing bowl, I whisked eggs, double cream and vanilla together. This was then tipped into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and the fruit. When this was done, I made the Streusel topping which was quick and easy to make. I rubbed butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together and then stirred in some chopped walnuts.

The cake mixture was spooned in to the prepared tin and then finally the Streusel mixture was sprinkled on top. The cake went into the oven and was baked for just over an hour.

When the cake came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Never mind me moaning about miserable weather, the smell of cinnamon is enough to cheer me up!

The Maple cream cheese frosting finished this cake off beautifully.
This cake was a great way to use some walnut halves I had left over from a previous bake.

I gave the cake a good hour to cool down. While it was cooling, I made up some Maple Icing. This was butter, brown sugar, Maple Syrup and full fat cream cheese mixed together. I filled a piping bag with the mixture and then piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake. To finish, I put a walnut half on top of each rosette.

A perfect balance of raisins, apple and nuts in this extremely moreish cake!
A piece for Mr S after work during the week. He really enjoyed it.

In the end we were so full after our main course that we left the cake and didn’t eat any! We didn’t start on it until the Tuesday and believe it or not it was still fresh. It was such a deliciously moist cake, with the aroma of the spices still lingering. I can honestly say this has been one of my favourite things to bake this year.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam. xx

A Bake For All Seasons #2: Jammy Dodgers

3rd October 2021.

I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.

If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.

I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.

No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.

I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Bake For All Seasons #3: Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf.

Sunday October 10th 2021

My version of the Bake For All Seasons Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf- nothing like the original!!

I wanted to bake a cake for Sunday afternoon. I had been away for some of the weekend and we weren’t having a full blown Sunday roast but Mr S was going to cook his special steak with new potatoes and salad. I’ve been suffering a bit with my mental health recently. October has been a tricky month and I can’t wait for it to end. I know that baking helps lots of us who are struggling and I’m no exception. I didn’t really need any cake in the house but I needed to have that comforting ritual of baking and creating something.

A slice for Mr S to have with his afternoon cuppa.

I looked in the new Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons to see if there was a simple Autumnal cake I could bake that afternoon that wasn’t too fancy or had weird ingredients I didn’t have in my cupboard. The only real contender was the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf in the Autumn section of the book on page 158. I didn’t have any tahini paste in, though. The only ever time I bought it was a couple of years ago to make some hummous and the rest ended up getting chucked out as my own hummous tasted revolting! I thought what could give a similar effect that was in my cupboard and I thought maybe peanut butter would work. The top of the cake as seen in the recipe photo also shows the loaf sprinkled with caramel sesame seeds and a whole banana peeled and halved as a decoration. This did not appeal to me one bit so I left it off!

To line my loaf tin, I always use the pre-made loaf tin liners available from big supermarkets or shops like Lakeland! They save so much faff! When I had lined that, I melted some butter. When this was cooling, I whisked brown sugar and eggs together. Then this was added to the cooled butter, the peanut butter and some natural yoghurt. Finally I added some mashed bananas.

In another bowl I weighed out and mixed together some dry ingredients: self raising flour, baking powder and cinnamon then folded it carefully into the other ingredients. Finally the mixture was spooned into the the tin and then baked in the oven for around 50 minutes. This was slightly earlier than the recipe suggested but my oven seems to bake a lot quicker.

Leftovers to be cut up and put in a box for later.
I love using the ready made loaf tin liners from Lakeland.

I must admit I didn’t end up trying the banana loaf as I’ve been a bit off my food and under the weather this week. Not Covid, I hasten to add! Mr S had a piece and said it was nice although I pinched 3 of his breakfast bananas to use in the cake. By the time I felt a bit better, what was left of tthe cake had gone off and had to be binned.

I don’t think I’ll attempt to make this version of a banana loaf again unless I do have any left over tahini paste knocking around. I might buy some as Nigella has a tahini cake in one of her recipes from Cook, Eat, Repeat and it seems to be popular. I think I’ll stick to my favourite Annabel Karmel one I’ve been making since my kids were little as that always goes down well with everyone.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Bake For All Seasons #1: Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake.

3rd October 2021

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that much of an Autumn/ Winter persion. Mainly because I don’t like it being dark early and getting up in the dark. Not to mention the lack of sun. But having said that, there are positives to this time of year- it’s Bake Off Season!

The 2021 Season is well underway as I write and I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers on here.

I preordered the new Great British Bake Off recipe book to accompany this series from Amazon and it arrived on the day of release. I’ve done a review on the book as a separate post: you can read it here!

I looked to see which recipes tied in with Autumn and what fitted in with ingredients we had at home. I also wanted something suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert and not an overly complicated occasion cake which we wouldn’t be able to eat.

We chose the Blackberry and Pear Crumble Cake on page 200 in the Autumn section of the book as our first recipe. But I subsituted apples in place of pears in the recipe as we had apples to use up. I also have struffled to find blackberries recently. I’ve noticed not so many growing on the hedgerows recently, or have I missed something? The only way I could find any blackberries to use in this recipe was to buy a mixed berried frozen fruit bag from the supermarket and to separate them out to use in this recipe. To peel and core the apples, I use an apple segmenter which I have had since my children were little so that I could cut apples up for them when they had a snack.

So, on with the cake. I used a 20cm (8″) springform cake tin for the recipe which was greased and lined. When that was done, I put the chopped apples into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and 25g butter. These were slowly cooked so that they would caramelise.

In another bowl I added 50g more butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and 75g plain flour and mixed this together with some toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts I found a bit fiddly to do as even as they toasted, it took ages to get the skins off. This made the crumble topping.

I then got out my KitchenAid and beat together some more butter and some more caster sugar until it was pale and creamy. I then added in eggs, one at a time and beat them well one at a time. In went the rest of the flour followed by some baking powder and finally some sour cream.

Now it was time to assemble the cake in layers. Starting with two thirds of the sponge mixture in the base of the tin. Followed by a third of the crumble topping and then the rest of the sponge. Then another third of the crumble topping. To finish off I arranged all the caramelised apples and blackberries on top, followed by the final sprinkling of crumble topping.

The cake takes quite a while to bake: the recipe stated 1 1/2 hours but I found mine was ready after 1 1/4 hours. It smelled absolutely delicious and there was nothing else you needed to do to serve it, except put a generous slice on a plate with some warm custard. The recipe suggested creme fraiche but we wanted custard.

I will definitely make this again. It might work with almonds instead of chopped hazelnuts and I will try it with pears as well. It really did hit the spot on a chilly Autumn afternoon. I must admit I had some leftovers the next day when I got in from school as I had a sweet craving!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off- A Bake For All Seasons Book Review.

October 2021.

It’s always exciting when a brand new Great British Bake Off book is released. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be one this year, what with the pandemic but like last year it was a great surprise when it popped up on Amazon to say there was going to be a new book. This year’s book was released in time for the latest series and there is a slightly different format to it. Instead of being split into categories of bakes, such as cakes, biscuits, etc. the book has been split into sections concentrating on the four seasons.

The latest Great British Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons.

It is great to work around seasonal baking and the delicious produce that is around at different times of the year. I personally try to shop seasonally if I can as I can’t stand watery, tasteless out of season strawberries. I like the certain flavours which evoke different times of the year and when you can use what is growing around you. How I wish I could grow my own veg but I don’t have the space in my back garden. I have managed some strawberries and tomatoes this year and I was so proud of them.

In every Bake Off book it is great to be introduced to that series of contestants and this year’s bunch seem so lovely and genuine. I always enjoy trying out their own recipes which get featured in the book if I can.

Starting with the Spring section, we are looking at bringing in Lenten and Easter festivities as well as pretty cakes which make use of Spring flowers such as primroses as well as seasonal fruit like rhubarb.

What I’d like to bake in Spring:

  • Semlor (Danish Lenten Buns) They look delicious and contain almond paste and cardamom, which are flavours I love.
  • Asparagus, Ham and Cheese Danish Pastries: Mr S loves his Danish pastries and I’m sure he’ll love these with some salad in asparagus season.
  • Ruby Grapefruit Bundt: as a bundt pan addict, I always look to see if there are any bundt recipes in the book first and as I’ve never used grapefruit to bake with before, this one is definitely top of the list.
  • Cherry Blossom Shortbreads: these look so pretty and would make a lovely Easter or Mother’s Day gift.
  • Crystelle’s Chai and Jaggery Cake: I haven’t a clue what jaggery is but I love chai spiced cakes. The icing is coconut flavoured as well which is another of my favourite flavours.
  • Pizza Bianca di Primavera: I love pizza although I haven’t made any homemade ones since the last lockdown. This one has sliced new potato on top of it! I’ve never had potato on top of a pizza before but the flavours sound incredible.
  • Mini Hummingbird Cakes: I just have to try these as I love Hummingbird cake and it will be a good excuse to use my mini 12 hole Victoria sponge tray!
  • Super Seeded Soda Bread: Soda Bread recipes were an absolute necessity last year. Especially on the three times when I had to self isolate and we ran out of bread and I didn’t have yeast with two or three days to go until the online food delivery came. I’d bake bread more often if I wasn’t so busy with work!
  • Chig’s Mango and Coconut Upside Down Cake: I love mangoes and coconuts and this is just a delicious alternative to a pineapple upside down cake.
  • Jairzeno’s Chocolate Mint Cake: Mint Chocolate is my absolute favourite flavour of all. I love the extra glaze layer that is included on Jairzeno’s cake and gives it a beautiful finish.
  • Wild Garlic Flatbreads: Last year I baked flatbreads a lot, especially when we had curries. They were so simple to bake and I think I’ll be looking out for some wild garlic to make these!
  • Hamantaschen (Haman’s Pockets) I’ve never heard of these delicious sounding Jewish biscuits before, which are circles of biscuit filled with jam (traditionally were dates or poppy seeds) and the biscuit folded over to represent Haman’s three pointed hat.

I won’t be making these in Spring:

  • Rhubarb and Custard Tart: I’m not a rhubarb lover, to be honest.
  • Passionfruit Souffles: I find souffles far too fiddly!
  • Spiced Lamb and Filo Pie: I don’t like lamb, especially when it’s cooking as it smells!
  • Prinzeregentetorte: Looks a stunning cake but all those layers make it far too fiddly for me.

I’ll be baking these in Summer:

I’ve already baked the Jammy Dodgers as part of #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong when it was Biscuit week on GBBO.
  • Jammy Dodgers: though mine won’t look as nice as the ones in the book because I need a set of those Nordicware Stampers. UPDATE: I baked these, separate post is coming soon!
  • Cherry and Almond Friands: these would be perfect sat outside in the summer with a cup of tea when fresh cherries are in season.
  • Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Brownies: These would be ideal for a summer dessert at a BBQ or family gathering.
  • Free-form Tomato Tart: I’ve made something similar from another recipe book and I can see myself making this for a summer dinner sat outside with salad and a glass of rose washed down with it.
  • Strawberry and Clotted Cream Cake: this cake is like Victoria Sponge but on another level with added fresh strawberries and clotted cream. Sounds like heaven to me!
  • Rochica’s Strawberry Topped Cookies and Cream Cake: This looks like a summery version of the Cookies and Cream cake I baked for my son’s birthday last year. I wonder if he would like another one next year?
  • Amanda’s Lemon and Elderflower Palette Cake: I love the flower design on the top of this stunning cake. I definitely might try the cake itself as I love lemon and elderflower flavours.

I won’t be baking these in Summer:

  • Chouxnuts: they look delicious but I don’t have a deep fat fryer or like deep fat frying.
  • Apricot Frangipane Traybake: I wish I liked apricots. Maybe it’s because they’re so fiddly to eat.
  • Cheese, Ham and Piccalilli Pasties: Eww, no I think piccalilli is disgusting. Mr S bought a jar of it a couple of months ago and it made me feel sick just looking at it!

I’ll be baking these in Autumn:

  • Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf: this sounds delicious. UPDATE: I’ve baked this now!
  • Toffee Apple Cake: what a beautiful celebration cake for the Autumn with or without the caramel on top.
  • Pear and Walnut Cake: as seen on the front cover, this is a beautiful show stopper bake for an Autumnal celebration.
  • Giuseppe’s Celebration Cake: another stunning showstopper.
  • Jurgen’s Pear and Chocolate Charlotte: what a pretty looking dessert. I need an excuse to make this.
  • Pecan Pie: I love Pecan Pie and it reminds me of my last trip to Canada to visit my family where we had it for dessert!
  • Plum and Ginger Cake: I’m not that keen on eating plums raw but in cakes I love them. This would be an ideal Sunday lunch pudding with custard or cream.
  • Ciabatta Breadsticks: I’m not that skilled at baking bread but I bet my daughter would love to make these with me!
  • Pear Crumble Cake: This would be another perfect Sunday lunch dessert. UPDATE: I’ve made this but with apples instead!
My version of the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf Cake. (Autumn )
My version of the Pear Crumble Cake which actually had apples in it as I didn’t have pears at home!

I won’t be baking these in Autumn:

  • Prue’s Vegan Sausage Rolls: I love sausage rolls and vegan ones too for that matter, but this recipe looks very complicated to me. I will be sticking to my lazy way of making sausage rolls!
  • Fig, Honey and Almond Cake: I wish I liked figs!
  • Apple, Pecan and Miso Caramel Tart: what is the fixation with putting miso in baking at the moment? Sorry, but it’s not for me.

I’ll be baking these in Winter:

  • Parsnip, Maple and Pecan Cake: I’ve never baked with parsnips before!
  • Paul’s Caramel Biscuit Bars: these home made Twixes look gorgeous.
  • Seville Orange Lamingtons: I’ve never made Lamingtons before so I’d love to try these.
  • Panettone: I’ve never baked a panettone before and it would be great to have one as an alternative to mince pies at Christmas.
  • St Clement’s Squares: I love baking these so I know they will go down well.
  • Mincemeat and Marzipan Couronne: perfect at breakfast time over Christmas.
  • Maggie’s Orange and Lemon Cake: I can see this being baked for a winter birthday celebration.

I won’t be baking these in Winter:

I can’t see anything in the Winter section that I will definitely not have a go at. Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.

The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.

For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.

Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!

As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.

Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.

Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.

My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:

  • Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
  • Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
  • Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
  • Jammie Dodger Blondies
  • Slutty Brownies
  • Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
  • Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
  • Lemon and Blueberry Scones
  • Caramel Mocha Macaroons

What I’ll pass on:

  • Hard Candy Lollipops
  • Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
  • Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
    • The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!

As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.

I bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #30: Fairy Cakes

These Fairy Cakes were made with half Sugar and Crumbs’ white chocolate icing sugar and plain icing sugar. The sprinkles are called my “Frozen” sprinkles in my house as they remind me of the colour of Elsa’s dress.

Hi everyone! Once again I’ve not kept up with my blogging. I’ve started a new job. I only work part time (every morning) but I’m busy with my online baking commitments and juggling lots going on at home at the moment.

I’m pleased to say it’s actually now half term week here and although I love my day job, I really need this week to catch up. Not to mention getting to see friends, having my Mum to stay and to get on with those long overdue chores.

I’ve still got round to baking the odd thing for ourselves and I got round to testing out the Fairy Cakes recipe in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes a couple of weeks back.

I have my own tried and tested foolproof cupcake recipe and this has been my go-to recipe for the past ten years or so. But every now and then I like trying out other recipes to see how they compare to my favourite one.

I must admit I’ve not called these little cakes Fairy Cakes since I was little and I guess cupcakes can be seen as a bigger version. I’m not sure. I live in North Yorkshire and before cupcakes became popular, I heard other people calling them buns. No matter what their name was, they’re still fun to bake. I decided to make some cupcakes from the Fairy Cake recipe in the Bake Off book and to adapt the icing to suit what I had in the cupboard at the time.

The Bake Off recipe in the Amazing Cakes book differed slightly in that the quantities of butter, sugar and flour was 25% less than what I put in my recipe for a dozen cupcakes. I use 125g of each of the former, adding in a teaspoonful of vanilla extract to two eggs. This recipe stated 100g of each to the two eggs as well as vanilla bean paste. For my icing, I use 250g butter to 500g icing sugar as a ratio and add milk to soften. The smaller quantity must have been because the recipe was for fairy cakes. I didn’t have the right size cake cases, only larger ones so I actually did up my quantities a bit.

When it got to creating the icing, I noticed the recipe was for two tone butter cream and this also was shown in the photo. I looked in my cupboard and only had half a pack of plain icing sugar as well as half a back of Sugar and Crumbs’ White Chocolate Flavoured Icing Sugar. I just decided to cop out of making it two tone and just made up the recipe quantities with half plain, half flavoured icing sugar. I had some leftover blue, green and lilac sprinkles which I call my “Frozen Sprinkles” to put on the top of the cakes.

I piped my usual swirl on top of the cupcakes with my large star shaped nozzle but I was interested in the recipe book instructions on buttercream and also different ways to decorate cupcakes. I also liked the illustrations to show what alternative effects you could get, depending on the type of nozzle used to pipe the buttercream on the cakes. I would have loved to have experimented with my piping bag but I was so short of time.

I originally was going to take the cupcakes to work to share with my work colleagues but I forgot to take them into work. That day was a Friday. Then I was away for the weekend so they stayed at home. Over the next couple of days they vanished one by one. I never got to try one!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx