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 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.
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.
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!
As my regular SmartCookieSam readers will know, I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club. Although there are plenty of events held all over the world and some very local to me in North Yorkshire, there are also virtual or VCake events for those who can’t get to an event. Or you can join them if you want an excuse to bake!
At the end of January, Lynn Hill the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club held a virtual event where you were invited to “dust off your old cookbooks” and bake something from a recipe book you had not used for a while.
I have loads of recipe books like that and my family are sick of all the books I have all over the house. Some are more used than others and Lynn’s event gave me the perfect excuse to search through my stash and bake something. When my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) died I inherited her cookbooks. Nana and I were so alike in lots of ways, we both loved cooking and baking, knitting and sewing and also reading books. Sadly Nana died in 1994, just after I’d sat my teaching degree finals. She used to collect recipes from everywhere and wrote them down from TV cookery programmes or from the radio as well as cutting recipes out of magazines.
One of Nana’s baking books was a Sainsbury’s one. It dates from the late 1980’s and I loved looking through the recipes in it. As I decided what to bake I came across a mouthwatering recipe for a coffee sponge. I never remember Nana baking a coffee sponge, she tended to make fruit cakes and I do remember her lemon drizzle cake.
Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday is at the end of January so it was a perfect opportunity to bake the coffee cake for then. My husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he loves coffee cake. I had a couple of goodies to make this cake even extra special: some Sugar and Crumbs Coffee flavour Natural icing sugar, some cocoa covered coffee beans bought in Costa coffee and some glittery gold and silver star candles thrown in the trolley when I was shopping in Tesco.
The coffee sponge was made using the whisking method. I whisked eggs and sugar together until they became light and fluffy. Then in went some flour and baking powder, followed by a spoonful of vegetable oil and some semi skimmed milk. Also added to the mixture to give it a coffee flavour was a teaspoonful of Monin Tiramisu sugar syrup.
The cake baked for about 20-25 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven. It smelled delicious. When it was cooling I made up the coffee buttercream. I also crushed up some pecan nuts to go in the middle of the cake and to sprinkle on the top of it.
The cake was layered together with the coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chopped pecan nuts in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used a packet of cocoa covered coffee beans to decorate the top as well.
We had a slice of birthday cake and it was delicious. What a treat to celebrate Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday and he really enjoyed it.
Well, I can’t believe I started the New Year with good intentions. I thought this year I would get myself back on track with my blog and update it more regularly. All very well until I went back to work. In the supply teaching world the Spring term is often the busiest for me. Each night I think I’m going to get that blog post written and it has just stayed in draft form for yet another night. And now we’re nearly halfway through February. How did that happen?
Last month I didn’t bake much at all. I’m trying my hardest not to have sweet stuff in at home as I’m doing Slimming World. With 16lbs lost to date and another 16lbs to my target weight, I don’t want to undo all my hard work. Then again I’ve got to live, too. That includes meeting up with my friends and also going to my much loved Clandestine Cake Club events. About three weeks ago my friend Linda, who is the organiser for the Headingley and Meanwood branch of cake club, organised an event at East of Arcadia in Meanwood. A lovely, welcoming venue and the event’s theme was “New Year, New Cake”.
I thought January is the perfect opportunity to try out something new, whether it is a new flavour, a new recipe or even a new way of decorating a cake. Fot me it had to be a new recipe combined with decorating a cake. For once I was going to bake something that wasn’t a bundt but would still look and taste amazing. While looking through a Green and Blacks Organic chocolate recipe book which my sister in law gave me one Christmas, I stumbled upon the perfect cake. A chocolate chequerboard cake which looked really impressive.
Chequerboard cakes don’t look as complicated and as fiddly as you might think. I thought you needed a special tin or fancy cutting skills but it can all be done with a large plain piping nozzle and two large piping bags. One filled with chocolate cake mix, the other with vanilla. You pipe concentric circles in contrasting colours by alternating them on each layer. This is so when the cake is assembled the contrasting colour and flavour is directly on top of the other one. Looks very effective when finished and if the cake is completely covered in icing nobody can tell what it looks like inside!
It was a Monday morning, the day before the cake club. I hadn’t got any supply work booked in until later that week and was feeling like January had got off to a slow and boring start. The weather was foul and miserable with a damp, low fog that hung in the air. I didn’t want to go out so the warmth of the kitchen appealed to me. I thought as the phone hadn’t rung, I was safe. I greased the three sandwich tins I would need for my cake and began to get out the ingredients. Just as I reached into the cupboard to get out my scales my phone rings. It’s one of the agencies I work through offering me work for that afternoon. I say yes, quickly put everything away and go off to get showered and changed.
So my cake ended up being baked on the very same day of the cake club. Fast forward to Tuesday morning. The weather is still cold, wet and lousy but after walking the dog and dropping my son off at the bus stop I was ready to try again. As my photos show, there were a lot of interesting parts in making the cake but it was worth it for the impressive results.
In the Green and Blacks recipe book the cake was decorated with a simple Green and Blacks dark chocolate ganache and finished with chocolate curls and pieces of Green and Blacks chocolate. This to me needed me to do something else which was a bit more fun. I’d got some chocolate moulds I’d not used before as well as a packet of crispy M&M’s and a tub of mini chocolate jazzies. I poured melted chocolate into a mini chocolate bar mould and then into a dog mould. They didn’t come out in a perfect finish but then I’m no chocolatier. Once they were set and I’d got them out of the mould I started to make the chocolate ganache. This ended up being flavoured with another spoonful of rum. Luckily for me today the ganache was playing the game that day and let me spread it on the cake without it dripping all over the board and the wire rack underneath.
I was so delighted when the cake turned out well and that it nearly all got eaten at Cake Club. That makes me feel really happy. I’ll definitely be having a go at another chequerboard cake as it looked and tasted divine.
So far so good with my Slimming World plan. But I really miss baking. And what I mean about that is proper baking without using rubbish ingredients to replace the sugar and the butter in cakes. I’ll just have to be extra strict with myself and keep away from anything I bake.
I’ve had a large bag of Mint M&Ms in my baking cupboard for a few weeks now. Every time my son comes in the kitchen he’s always asking me if he can have the packet of M&Ms as I hadn’t used them. I told him I was using them to bake cupcakes or cookies with but last Wednesday he’d asked again on his day off from college. So I thought I would use the M&M’s as decorations on top of some chocolate mint infused cupcakes which were finished off with a swirl of mint chocolate buttercream. Those of you who know me well, know I have an addiction to all things mint flavoured and I’m also a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars. When they brought out a mint chocolate flavour icing sugar I was in heaven.
MINT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
125g softened, unsalted butter.
125g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder (I use Green and Blacks)
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp peppermint extract
Prepare a 12 hole cupcake tin with your cupcake cases and preheat your oven. I have an electric fan oven so my oven temperature is about 1600C.
Weigh out all the ingredients and mix together in a large mixing bowl. I use the all in one method for baking my cupcakes. These can either be mixed with a hand held mixer or a free standing one.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. I usually get two large teaspoonfuls into each case, making sure they are equally divided. I have used a small ice cream scoop to help me in the past but it has broken!
Bake the cupcakes on the tray in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and spring back when touched.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the icing:
250g softened unsalted butter
500g pack of Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Mint Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar
Milk to mix.
Weigh out the butter and put into a large mixing bowl. Whip it up with a hand held mixer so that it makes it creamy and easier to manage.
Sift in the icing sugar and mix carefully. Add in milk, bit by bit until the icing is smooth but not runny. It needs to be of a piping consistency.
Prepare a large piping bag with a large star shaped icing nozzle and fill the bag with about 1/3 0f the mixture. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.
As the pictures of my cupcakes shows, I used mint flavour M&M’s to top my cakes. You could use anything with a chocolate mint flavour: After Eight mints or Aero Bubbles or Matchmakers.
These cakes always go down well with my family and it was torture not being able to eat one.
I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently. Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do. I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it. So I made a deal with myself. I said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World! It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me. I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.
Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie. Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge. The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven. It sounded too mouthwatering for words.
First, I had to make the apple filling. This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing. The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking! I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them. Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar. As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice. Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.
Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes. This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part. As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks. While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.
The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking. Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue. I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.
At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven. I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue. I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess. I just hoped it would taste nice. Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.
When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen. I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin. It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin. I had greased it, too.
Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding. I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it. My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.
I’m so excited that The Great British Bake Off is back. What do you think of it so far? In the first couple of episodes I spend most of the time getting confused as you begin to find out who’s who. I get muddled up with what each contestant bakes to begin with but after this week’s programme I felt ravenous. I’d already had my dinner but all I could think about was eating a great big piece of drizzle cake, followed by some Jaffa cakes and finished off with a slice of a mirrored chocolate cake! Much too tempting and as someone who really struggles with dieting, it’s going to be hard not to succumb!
Anyway, Bake Off mania started the day before the first episode came out in SmartCookieSam’s house. My copy of the brand new Bake Off book arrived. The book to accompany this series is called Perfect Cakes and Bakes to Make At Home. I wasn’t disappointed and this year the book wasn’t too heavily bread and yeast bakes biased as last year’s one was. I was impressed with the layout and the introduction featuring all the bakers too. The recipes in this year’s book are also ones which I can see myself baking so I think I’ll be having a go at a few over the next few weeks- watch this space!
It didn’t take me long to plan out what my first bake from the book would be. Week 1’s Technical Bake was for Jaffa Cakes. Not only that but it was the theme for this week’s #GBBOTwitterBakelalong. This was perfect as they’re my son’s favourites as well. He has always loved Jaffa Cakes and once came home from school at Christmas with one of those giant metre long packets. His mate had bought him it as a Christmas present. We were allowed to have some but I think it was me who gave him the taste for them! When I was pregnant with him, I loved eating Jaffa cakes. Then again I had a craving for mushy peas when I was expecting my daughter and she hates them!
The thing is though, when you have a much loved shop bought biscuit or cake, you never know what a homemade version will turn out like. I never forget my one and only time trying to make chocolate teacakes and faffing about with making homemade marshmallow! I’ve never made them since, only bought Tunnocks instead! The same applies to Jaffa cakes, could I make them taste like McVities ones and would they be too much faff?
Last Saturday afternoon was typical August Bank Holiday weather. I’d done my cleaning and was about to go outside to start hoovering out my car. It’s in a terrible state as my dog sat on the back seat after a muddy walk and I’d forgotten to take a towel with me. But just as I was about to get the Hoover out, it started raining. Secretly I thought this was great as I could do some baking.
Baking the Jaffa Cakes didn’t take that long even though it was broken down into stages. Once the jelly was setting in the fridge I got on with the sponge bases. These are a fat less whisked sponge mixture, where you whisked sugar and eggs together for five minutes and then some self raising flour was folded in. To bake the sponges I used a shallow 12 hole tart or mince pie tin which was greased before with Wilton Cake Release. The sponges didn’t take much baking, only 9 minutes. I took them out when the sponges sprung back when I touched them.
After a few minutes the sponges were ready to come out of the tin. This is where I always panic as I didn’t want anything sticking. Thankfully apart from one cake which was a bit on the small side, they came out ok. By the way, the recipe says that there is more than enough mixture and when spooning it into the tin, you only need to fill it three quarters full! There was a bit left over but I wouldn’t have had enough chocolate to cover any extras.
I left the sponges to cool down but as it was a day when I was trying to catch up on everything I was desperate to get on with the next stage. I poked the jelly setting in the fridge and it seemed alright. So I thought I’d try and cut out the jelly circles. The recipe says you are meant to turn out the whole jelly rectangle onto a piece of baking paper and cut circles out of it. I was rushing so much that I realised the jelly wasn’t properly set and it slid out onto the baking paper in a massive orange blob! So there was one thing for it, I had to pile teaspoonfuls of orange jelly on top of the sponges, not neat little circles!
I then melted some dark chocolate and spooned it on top of the jelly blobbed sponges. Of course this wasn’t going to be a neat job with the mess I’d made with the jelly! The jelly began to move about as I spread the chocolate on. As for doing the criss-cross pattern on top of the Jaffa Cakes- forget it!
Would I bake the Jaffa Cakes again? They tasted wonderful and not as sweet as the shop bought ones. They were quite faffy to make though but I might try again when I’m not rushing things.