Pecan Pie Popcorn Naked Cake.

I love the trend for naked cakes (cakes with little or no icing on top). I have a sweet tooth but am finding a lot of buttercream and sugarpaste a bit too much when I eat it on a cake no matter how beautiful and delicious it looks.  This cake is the third and last cake I baked for our local village’s Spring Festival nearly a couple of weeks ago.  I had a full bag of pecan nuts which needed using up and also wanted to use up a bag of Sugar and Crumbs Toffee Apple Icing Sugar in the cupboard. These would work amazingly well with some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn to top the cake off.

I had already baked a carrot cake and a banana loaf as seen in my previous two blog posts.  By now it was Saturday afternoon and I still had to get this cake baked.  I needed to chop the pecan nuts and toast them first. This I did roughly with a small, sharp knife and then chucked them onto a baking tray. They were lightly toasted for about 10 minutes then left to cool down.

The cake itself was made by creaming together butter and sugar for a few minutes until the mixture became light and fluffy.  I used my hand held whisk to speed this up. After this I added in three eggs and half the quantity needed of milk, vanilla extract, self raising flour and baking powder. Then the rest was added in, all except I used four eggs the second time round making seven all together.  Once all the mixture was combined well, I folded in the toasted pecan nuts.

As you can see in the pictures, the cake is a triple layer cake. So I had to use three 20cm (8″) circular sandwich tins. These I greased and lined. I love the ready made baking parchment circles you can buy in varying diameters as they save the hassle of cutting out circles by hand when you’re pushed for time.

I was very impressed with the way the Popcorn Naked Cake turned out. Each layer rose beautifully in the tin and was left to cool down before turning out onto a rack.  While these were cooling down I made up some frosting.  It was a buttercream filling using butter, Toffee Apple Sugar and Crumbs Natural flavoured icing sugar and full fat cream cheese.  I know full fat cream cheese doesn’t sound healthy but using the low fat stuff just doesn’t work when you’re making icing. It goes all watery and separates. The icing was easy to spread and there was just enough to decorate the two filling layers and the top.  About half a packet of Toffee Butterkist popcorn adorned the top of the cake.

At the Spring Festival that afternoon after dropping off the three cakes I had baked my mum and I sampled two of my cakes. We cut each piece in half. Apart from the cream cheese icing in the Naked Pecan Popcorn Cake being a bit too sweet for me, the main cake was delicious.  I also had to watch the popcorn as I had refridgerated the cake and it did taste a little bit soggy. What I really needed to do was to have added the popcorn to the top just prior to serving the cake. Having said that, I’ll definitely be making this cake again. It tasted fabulous and looked it as well.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Carrot and Apple Cake with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

You can’t beat a good carrot cake can you? Well maybe there are lots of other favourite cakes out there but I can’t resist carrot cake.  I’ve baked lots of them over the years and tried different recipes.

I’ve been enjoying testing out a few recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” recently.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival a couple of weekends ago and I always like to donate a cake or few to the cafe that the PTA run in the primary school hall.  As my son went to that school a few years back I always like to support it as he had such a happy time there.

Carrot Cakes always seem to be popular with lots of people and this one from Lorraine Pascale was no exception. This version contains not only grated carrots but also some grated apple.  This works extremely well with carrot and adds some natural sweetness. To add maple syrup to the cream cheese frosting was also a delicious touch which worked really well.

On the Saturday morning, the day before the Spring Festival I got up really early.  It had been a crazy busy week working full time teaching a Reception class in a local school and I was due to be there another week afterwards.   The night before I had gone off to bed at 9.30pm absolutely exhausted and laid there thinking would I have time to get everything done over the weekend? Thank heavens it was a Bank Holiday that weekend. I was up at 6am and was already baking.  I had to be at my beauty therapist friend’s house for my appointment at 10am and I had to have a headstart.  I find if I get up early without distractions then I get loads done.

I was so grateful to the grating attachment on my new food processor to help me out with grating the carrots and the apple.  I don’t mind grating by hand but I was in a rush and getting a machine to do the hard work really helped to cut the time down.  The carrots and apple came out a little bit chunkier than I would have liked but it did add to the texture of the cake.  In other carrot cakes I’ve added walnuts or pecan nuts but this one doesn’t contain nuts at all. It doesn’t have any dried fruit in either, like raisins or sultanas.

The recipe itself is simple to put together as all the ingredients are weighed out and put into one bowl.  This includes using vegetable oil as the fat instead of butter as is traditionally seen in a carrot cake or a muffin mixture.  Along with this was some light brown soft sugar, eggs, the apple and carrot, some self raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon and some vanilla extract.

When all the batter had been mixed together it was divided between two greased and lined circular loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cakes were then baked in my oven for about 30-35 minutes at around 160oC in my fan oven. While they were baking I went upstairs, sorted out some washing, put some washing away and tried to get my son’s uniform ironed for work. All while I kept an eye and an ear out for the oven timer.

Half an hour or so later the cakes were ready and out of the oven.  I left them to cool in their tins on the work top on top of a wire rack and headed down to see my friend to get my nails done.

In the afternoon I got round to decorating the carrot cake.  The frosting was a traditional cream cheese one but with the addition of maple syrup. Maple syrup goes beautifully with carrot cake and I was happy I had just enough in the cupboard from pancake day.  I’m not the neatest cake decorator and to be honest I found it really tricky to keep my frosting neat. My mum was standing next to me watching me ice it and she got her fork out and fluffed up the icing.  This wasn’t the original way I wanted to decorate the cake with neat, smooth edges but the more I tried to smooth the icing the more it wanted to fall off!  To finish off I used a dozen sugar carrots bought from a pack found in the supermarket a few weeks back.

The following morning I dropped all three cakes baked down at the school.  They were gratefully received and to help the servers in the cafe I pre-cut the cakes for them.  When my mum and I went back down to the festival a couple of hours later I noticed that the carrot cake had completely gone. It had sold out.  That made me so happy.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake.

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I’m a huge fan of Nordicware Bundt pans much to the annoyance of Mr SmartCookieSam and my kids.  I’ve lost count of how many pans I’ve got since I started collecting them seven years ago.  My first one was the giant cupcake pan and since then I’ve been lucky enough to find ones in local shops, chain stores, Ebay, Amazon and even over in Canada in Williams Sonoma.  I spend birthday and Christmas money on them. Even only a few days ago as I type I managed to buy the Blossom pan. It turned up when Mr SmartCookieSam was there and he said “But you’ve got already got that one!” Er no, but then I suppose they all look the same to him.

The other week I managed to find the Star Pan (pictured below with the Heritage pan and the Elegant Party pan) in my local Home Sense.  I’d only gone in to find a blanket for my dog to lie on when he goes in my car.  Thankfully he did get his beautiful tartan blanket but I also came out with a bundt pan!  I wasn’t expecting that!

Fast forward to a month later and I had the perfect chance to use my star pan for the first time.  In my previous two posts about the Pinata Cake and the Decadent Chocolate Bundt Cake I mentioned about my wasted day baking three sumptuous cakes for my local WI Supper, only for there to be a mix up on the rota.  The third and final cake I chose to bake was one that always goes down really well at WI is my Lemon Drizzle Bundt.

By this time it was early afternoon and I had already baked two cakes and decorated one of them. I had yet to decorate the second and to bake this one.  Fortunately lemon drizzle cake doesn’t need any icing on it, just the syrup and a dusting of icing sugar.  At least time was on my side.

I greased the Star Bundt pan with Wilton Cake Release, preheated the oven to 160oC and then started to weigh out the ingredients.  I beat together butter and caster sugar until it was light and fluffy and then added in four eggs one by one.  When the eggs were beaten in, I also added a tablespoonful of self raising flour from the whole amount each time to prevent any curdling.  In another bowl I grated the zest from two large lemons and also added the juice from one of them in with some natural yoghurt.  This was mixed together.

To bring the mixture together I alternated spoonfuls of the remaining flour along with the lemony yoghurt mixure.  This was carefully folded in so I didn’t see any flour not mixed in.  Then the mixture was ready to go into the tin and into the oven.

After about 40 minutes I checked the cake and noticed it was still a little bit runny in the middle.  I kept this cooking for another ten minutes or so and that did the trick.  The cake came out of the oven and was ready to cool down.

While the cake was cooling I had to make the lemon sugar syrup.  This was made with caster sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice gently heated up in a saucepan until the sugar had dissolved.

It needed to cool a little bit for a few minutes but the cake needed to still be warm for the syrup to soak into the sponge.  I did this as the cake was still cooling in the tin.

When the cake was ready to come out I felt as anxious as I always do every time I take a bundt cake out of it’s pan.  This one would have to look good as it wasn’t going to be heavily decorated and any chunks missing from still being stuck in the tin would be on show!

Fortunately, thanks to taking great care with greasing the pans carefully I didn’t have any problems.  So all that remained was to let the cake cool down on a cake board and to dust it with icing sugar.

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Decadent Chocolate Bundt. 

Just before Easter I finally managed to get round to using my Nordicware Elegant Party Bundt pan. Easter was weeks ago but my blogging has gone by the wayside.  Life has just been too hectic recently.  The Elegant Party pan was a Christmas present and I’d wanted to use it for a while. What better than to bake a mouthwatering chocolate cake in it and decorate it with any Easter chocolates and mini eggs I had to hand?

As mentioned in my previous post, I had a bit of a fiasco with my turn doing supper for my local WI meeting.  Luckily three ladies took the three cakes off my hands for me and paid me to cover the cost of the ingredients.  I was so grateful, after all I had spent a lot on extra chocolate to give this cake the wow factor!

To bake the actual chocolate bundt itself I started off by greasing the pan with some trusty Wilton Cake Release.  I made sure it went into all the nooks and crannies of the pan so the cake would slide out easily and the pattern would stay intact.  Once this was done, I preheated my oven to 160oC (it’s a fan oven).

Then to start on the cake. I melted some dark chocolate in the microwave carefully then left it to cool down but not to set.  As this was happening I creamed together some soft unsalted butter and some golden caster sugar.  Once this was soft and fluffy I then added in some eggs one at a time.  In between adding the eggs I also added a tablespoonful of self raising flour from the flour already weighed out to mix in.  This prevented the mixture from becoming curdled.  The rest of the flour along with some baking powder was folded in afterwards.  In a third bowl along with the cooled down melted chocolate I also had some natural yoghurt and some vanilla extract mixed up.  To combine all the ingredients I put in about a third of the flour mixture, then folded it in and then repeated that with the chocolate mixture.  I did this again twice more so all the ingredients were combined.

The mixture was then carefully spooned into the pan and went straight into the oven.  Luckily the base of the Elegant Party pan is quite stable so I didn’t need a baking tray underneath to stop it tipping all over the floor of my oven.

After about an hour’s baking time the bundt was ready to come out of the oven.  At home by this time it was lunchtime and the smell was making me desperate to eat something.  I was so tempted to raid the chocolate stash and unfortunately the temptation was too great.  A mini creme egg slipped into my mouth, closely followed by about four min Milky Bar eggs.  The embarrassment of not having enough chocolate to decorate the cake was enough to stop me working my way through the rest of them, though!

Then to the moment of reckoning- the dreaded will the bundt come out of the pan in one piece moment? All cake bakers feel like this! But I usually find its typical when a cake has to look perfect, it doesn’t come out in one piece and most of it sticks to the bottom.  And when you don’t have to worry about a perfect cake, it slides out immaculately.  Thankfully I knew that any mistakes could be covered up with chocolate ganache on this cake.

Out if slid in one piece! Yayyyy! I left it to completely cool and went off to get some lunch for myself and my two teenagers.  Only both of them at lunchtime had only just got out of bed and had just eaten breakfast.  This means that at 3.00pm when I’m slap bang in the middle of something they’ll saunter into the kitchen to see whats for lunch and wonder why I can’t drop everything and cook something.  Or they’ll start making something themselves taking up space and making my cake baking space in a mess. So I ended up with beans on toast just for myself.

After the cake had cooled down it was time to add a chocolate ganache to the cake.  This was made by melting three bars of dark chocolate in the microwave and then pouring some double cream over the top of it. This made a beautifully runny and smooth icing.  To get the ganache into the grooves of the bundt cake I got a disposable piping bag and snipped off a tiny corner of the tip. The ganache was poured into the bag and piped over the top of the bundt, coaxing the drips so they went down in between the grooves.

As it was nearly Easter and I needed all those Easter treats using up without me gobbling them, I went completely over the top.  Starting off with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, I filled the middle of the bundt until the eggs reached the top. Then on top I stuck Malteser bunnies, Galaxy mini eggs, Oreo mini eggs, Milky Bar mini eggs and mini Creme Eggs. Definitely not a cake to eat if you are on a diet.  But the original idea was that each person would have a tiny sliver with a couple of mini eggs. 

This chocolate bundt could be adapted for any occasion where you need a chocolate cake. You could use anyone’s favourite sweets or chocolates to decorate it.  It can be for a birthday or even for Christmas if you fancy something like this instead of a traditional fruit cake.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Lemon Curd Victoria Sponge. 

Lemon Victoria Sponge.

Long time, no see! It’s been over a month since I’ve last blogged.  My excuse is I’ve simply been busy working. Teaching full time on different supply contacts, doing extra shifts in a day nursery during the Easter holidays definitely took it’s toll though and by the Easter weekend I felt terrible.  I went down with a stinking cold which then turned into a horrible cough.  This pretty much made me feel like not doing anything much for the second week of the Easter holidays.  So much for wanting to go out running. I didn’t even feel like getting my bum off the sofa let alone gathering up some energy to stick my trainers on!

This cake was one I baked right back at the beginning of April. I really miss baking and hadn’t done much mainly because I’m meant to be on a diet.  This hasn’t really worked well the last few weeks as I have been so tired after coming in from work.  Slimming World has gone by the wayside, especially when Mr SmartCookieSam gets involved with the cooking.  He thinks nothing of using lots of olive oil. So when I get chance I like to take a cake into a school I’m teaching in. I was working in a school for the last week before the Easter holidays and decided to take a cake to leave in the staff room on the table.  I explained I loved baking but baking didn’t love my figure.

This Lemon Curd Victoria Sponge is from a recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s latest book “Bake,” You might have realised I’ve baked a few recipes from her book recently but that’s what I usually do when I get a new book. I get a bit carried away. It’s a traditional two layer Victoria Sponge baked in an 8″ or 20cm diameter sandwich tin and sandwiched together with both lemon curd and a little buttercream.  I was definitely not going to spend my precious time making my own Lemon Curd so I bought a jar of Tiptree with my weekly shop.  I used about half the jar in the filling so Mr SmartCookieSam was happy to use the rest on his toast in the morning!The cake was very quick to bake and perfect for a Spring day.  I reckon I only spent an hour baking it from start to finish, if that.  A quick dusting of icing sugar on top and the cake was good to go.  Or if you prefer caster sugar, go with that.

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Lemon Victoria Sponge baked from a recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s latest book: “Bake”.

The morning after I arrived at the school, put my lunch in the staffroom fridge and the cake in a plastic box on the table. I left a note telling people to help themselves.  It was quite a big school so I didn’t get along to the staff room until lunchtime.  When I got there I noticed nearly three quarters of the cake had gone.  Several staff members thanked me for the cake. I said I would bring some more another time, if I had time to bake.  It gave me a warm, cosy feeling knowing that some teachers appreciated my baking.  Especially at a time when it was getting near to the end of term and everyone was tired. A little bit of cake just helps you get through the day.

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This was the sight which greeted me at lunchtime in the staffroom!

 

Strawberry Milkshake Traybake.

Strawberry Milkshake Traybake as made for an event in my local village hall.

A couple of weeks back we had an event in my local village hall.  I was asked to bake a couple of things to take along.  I was surprised to be asked as it was an evening event.  Usually cakes and bakes are meant to be eaten during the day but not alongside wine and nibbles.  I presumed this was because there would be children there.

So with this in mind I got baking one Saturday afternoon.  I started with some flapjacks, then some Oreo Cookie Brownies and then decided to make a traybake.  Traybakes, to me are perfect for big gatherings as they take no time at all to prepare and a little goes a long way. I thought a plain vanilla sponge would go down well and thought about a suitable topping.

I went completely overboard with the heart shaped sprinkles and the purple edible glitter.
Traybakes always go down well- a little always goes a long way.
I also baked flapjacks, which go down well with people of all ages.

I use a lot of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavoured icing sugars and their cocoa powders.  Every now and again I get a few packets and stock up, trying out new flavours.  Or I go back and repeat buy flavours I know everyone loves. This is what happened with their Strawberry Milkshake flavour.  Last year I tried making some cupcakes with strawberry milkshake flavour buttercream. This time I decided to make up some buttercream and put it on the top of the traybake.  I also had some pastel coloured heart sprinkles and some edible glitter to finish off the decorations.

As expected the traybake went down well with the children and not so much with the adults.  After all, who wants to eat cake with wine?  I had also eaten my dinner quite late that afternoon and was still full up from then. There were a few bits left. I was still happy with the result though and will make another traybake like this another time for a coffee morning.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx