The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Tunis Cake

Friday 15th December 2017.

I must admit I hadn’t a clue what the origin of a Tunis Cake was.  Mary Berry had made one on one of her and Paul Hollywood’s original Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes from a couple of years back.  I remember having a go at making one myself after seeing the pretty impressive chocolate topped almond  and lemon sponge which was finished off with marzipan holly leaves and berries.

The definition of a Tunis cake according to Wikipedia is that it’s “a madeira cake topped with a thick layer of chocolate and decorated with marzipan fruits,”  The origin of the cake dates back to Edwardian times.

I had been at work in the morning and was back home just after lunch time to get jobs done.  Not much had got done this week at home and don’t even ask about the Christmas shopping. But baking would relax me and I fancied baking a cake for my daughter coming home from uni the next day!

When I had my last go at baking the Tunis Cake I used the wrong size tin and therefore the cake was wider and shallower than it was meant to be.  Also, the icing didn’t look as neat as it should be.  Didn’t spoil the taste though!  Traditionally, the decorations are marzipan but I used sugar paste both times.  I needed to save the marzipan for our Christmas Cake!

First of all I started to bake the Madeira Sponge.  I love madeira sponges and this one is full of flavour from ground almonds and grated lemon zest.  All the ingredients were weighed out and mixed together in an all in one method.  The mixture was then put in the greased and lined deep cake tin.  While this was baking I made myself a well needed cup of tea and did the washing up!

The topping for the Tunis Cake is a very deep chocolate ganache.  I heated double cream in a small pan on the hob, then once it was starting to boil I took it off the heat and stirred in the chocolate pieces until they melted.  The ganache was left to cool a little and then poured on top of the cake still in the tin.  It was left in the tin until the chocolate was set. I was worried that the cake wouldn’t come out of the tin properly but it did.

The holly leaves were made simply by using ready made and coloured sugar paste.  I had a holly cutter and put the veins on the leaves using  a mini roller. I also rolled mini red balls for the berries.

Before the cake completely set, I arranged the holly leaves in a wreath pattern around the edge of the cake.  I didn’t dare eat a piece there and then but by the following lunchtime I caved in and ate a piece instead of eating a healthy lunch.  Too much temptation. Over the next few days the cake got eaten.  It’s definitely one you would have as an alternative to Christmas Cake or pudding if you’re not a great dried fruit lover.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte.

Monday December 11th 2017.

Gosh, this seems like a long time ago now but the last two weeks before Christmas were so busy.  I didn’t have time to get updated with my blogging.  Anyway, here we are just after Christmas and I’m sat on the sofa typing this feeling like a beached whale.  I haven’t stuffed myself silly full of Celebrations and mince pies but I’ve not eaten well all through December.  Roll on the New Year!  Though when I go along to one of my Clandestine Cake Club events I don’t feel guilty about eating and enjoying cakes.  

The aforementioned Clandestine Cake Club recently celebrated its seventh birthday at a special event in Leeds.  The event was held in the restaurant on the top floor in the new John Lewis store.  I always like going to cake club events there because of the car park next door so that I haven’t got to cart my cake too far through the city centre.  This time, though was funny as I had my cake in a clear plastic container so various people were looking at me walking through the store carrying a cake.  I was so worried I was going to trip up on the escalator!

The cake I chose to bake was yet another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas recipe book which was one of John Whaite’s own creations.  John won series three back in 2012 and his Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte sounded absolutely mouthwatering.  The recipe introduction says: “Christmas is undoubtedly a time of indulgence or rather overindulgence (you’re telling me!) This torte is not only a feast for the stomach with its layers of soft cake, sweet mousse and decadent fudge but because of those defined layers, also a feast for the eyes; perfect for a Christmas Eve treat,”  We tend to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve but usually there isn’t cake involved, we’re far too full up!

 Although there was a lovely photo of John himself in the book posing with what looked like a peanut butter cake, there wasn’t a photo of the whole cake.  I had to guess from the recipe instructions to see how it would turn out like. 

So, on with the actual baking.  Mr SmartCookieSam had gone off to work and my son had left for college, it was just me and the animals.  My dog sloped off to have a snooze in his bed and I put the radio on to listen along while I was baking. I felt really happy and content as I got out my ingredients and the cake tin needed for the recipe.

The main part of the cake is a chocolate genoise.  I am not that familiar with baking genoise cakes but I know that they involce whisking eggs and then sugar together to get the air into the cake,  I did whisk for the full five minutes as the recipe asked me to do, even looking at the clock to check.

After the eggs and sugar had been whisked together I sifted in some plain flour and some cocoa powder along with some melted butter. I’m glad I remembered about the melted butter.  Last time a recipe asked for melted butter I melted it in the microwave and then forgot about it.  It wasn’t until the cake was in the oven baking that I realised I’d forgotten to add the butter! Eeeek!!

The cake mixture was then poured into a springform cake tin and put in the oven for 25 minutes to bake.  I then took it out of the oven and let it cool down on a wire rack until it was completely cold.

Meanwhile, I got the filling for the cake ready.  This was where all the calorific and indulgent ingredients came out.  I started with blitzing some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn in my blender until they became like coarse sand. I then added in double cream until it started to thicken up slightly.  After this, in went some smooth peanut butter, some condensed milk and some mascarpone cheese.  How does this taste sooo good?  Once this was mixed again so it was thickened up but not so much that it couldn’t be spread with a pallette knife. It was then put aside in a bowl and left until the cake was ready to be iced.  

The topping was a chocolate fudge affair and was made with even more condensed milk, more peanut butter, more double cream and some dark chocolate.  I can’t remember what sort of dark chocolate I used, probably what was on special offer in Morrisons that week.  

Now this is where I’d fail miserably if this had been a Bake Off Technical challenge.  I didn’t read the recipe properly and missed out the step where I was meant to put the cake back into the tin once I’d cut it in half horizontally, filled it and then added the fudge topping when it was in the tin.  I didn’t do that.  I took the cake out of the tin and then put it onto a cake board to decorate.  When I’d decorated it, it went into the fridge to set but not in the tin.  It did make the finish of the cake a bit messier.

When the cake was setting in the fridge for an hour, it was lunchtime by this stage.  I sat down and had some soup while the remaining toffee popcorn had been put into a pan with some brown sugar to caramelise.  It took about 10 minutes to do this and then I let them cool down completely before putting them on the top of the cake.  To finish I found some champagne bottle candles left over from a birthday cake and stuck them on the top of the cake.  

The cake was very big and rich so a small slice was all that was needed.  It seemed to go down well, along with the other cakes at the event.  I went home with one of my sugar rush headaches feeling that I could never eat another cake again.  This was very short lived as the following day I was out having Afternoon Tea with my friends!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Coconut Traybake.

img_5006
Coconut and Marshmallow Traybake.

 I’ve been testing a few recipes out of a favourite book of mine this month: The Great British Bake Off Christmas.  There’s been loads of different things to choose from and we’re not just limited to cakes and biscuits here.   I was tempted to have a go at Cathryn Dresser’s own recipe featured in the book, her Snowy White Coconut Traybake. Cathryn was one of the contestants on the Bake Off from the third series in 2012. I liked her and who can forget her catchphrase “Oh my giddy aunt?” Her coconut traybake is bound to be a big hit with young and old alike as you can add optional marshmallow snowmen to the top of the cake. I didn’t do this as I didn’t have any marshmallows in.  I had completely forgotten to blog about this bake as things became so hectic in the run up to Christmas.

Sunday 9th December 2017.

After dropping my son off at work and catching up on the ironing, I fancied some baking. Anything with coconut in goes down really well with me and I had the perfect excuse to use some Sugar and Crumbs Marshmallow Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar in the frosting. I thought coconut and marshmallow would work really well together. As stated in the introduction “this sweet, simple cake is a delicious treat to enjoy with your visitors during the festive season,”  Or a great recipe to try out with children as it’s so easy and fun to bake.

After preheating my oven to 170oC (fan oven) I weighed out all my ingredients and greased my traybake tin.  Butter and sugar were creamed together with my electric whisk.  After that I mixed together some sour cream, buttermilk and eggs in another bowl.  Finally, these were combined, along with some desiccated coconut.  I could have added some ground cardamom pods to the mixture but I didn’t have any.  

Once all added together I poured the mixture into the prepared tin and baked it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  As usual I got distracted and ended up forgetting to put the oven timer on. I went off upstairs to put some washing away and forgot I’d put the cake in the oven.  It wasn’t until I smelled coconut coming from the kitchen that I remembered! Luckily I got the cake out in time.  Aftter another half an hour or so it was ready to be flipped out of the tin. Thankfully I had no problems with that coming out and falling to bits.

The frosting or icing for the top of the traybake was a combination of butter, icing sugar and soured cream.  As I said before, I was keen to try out one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new winter flavours which was a Marshmallow one.  The ingredients were simply added together in one bowl and then spread on top of the cooled cake.  My final flourish was to sprinkle some snow themed sprinkles on top of the cake.  I thought I had some snowflake themed ones but I found some pale blue, white and lilac hundreds and thousands to decorate instead.  I could have used some more dessicated coconut and/ or some edible glitter but the other choice worked well.  

To decorate the top I found some winter themed hundreds and thousands.

I’m definitely going to add this to my baking list for next year at Christmas.  Though the coconut bake being reminiscent of snow could be linked to Christmas and winter, I think that you could bake it all year round.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Rudolph’s Carrot Cake.

Wednesday December 6th 2017.

I love a good carrot cake.  This version from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book has a special twist to it in that it’s decorated with a reindeer red nose and antlers on the top of it.  Although my children are too old for the leaving goodies out for Santa tradition, I can imagine that Santa and Rudolph will love a slice of carrot cake as a change from all those mince pies and raw carrots!  It does take me back to when we used to leave Santa a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot for the Rudolph. As the recipe introduction says: “Father Christmas and Rudolph will be over the moon when they receive a little slice of this moist carrot cake before heading back to the North Pole.  It is best eaten on the day it is baked as the icing needs to be kept in the fridge which can make the sponge a little bit heavy”

As it’s still over 2 weeks until Christmas, there’s no way that this cake will be left out for Santa to eat at our house.  Instead it was to be baked and taken as a treat along to one of my regular schools I teach in as a supply teacher.  As I have to be extremely careful with allergies, etc. I made sure that the cake did not contain nuts.  Instead of pine nuts which this recipe called for, I substituted the same amount of nuts for raisins.

The most tedious part of baking a carrot cake, to me is the carrot grating.  Of course I could cut corners and put the carrots through the grating attachment on my food processor. But, by the time I’d got the machine out, I could have grated the carrots by hand. When I’d grated all the carrots I needed I put them to one side in a bowl so that I could get on with weighing out the other ingredients.

In one bowl I whisked together sunflower oil. maple syrup, eggs and some light brown muscovado sugar.  Then in another bowl I weighed out and sifted together the dry ingredients: self raising flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. The raisins then got added in, instead of the pine nuts along with the grated carrots.

I then greased and lined two 20cm or 8 inch diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The mixture was divided between the two tins and baked in the oven for about 35 minutes.  By this time I was feeling really hungry.  I’d come home from work, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and now the smell of baking carrot cake wafting around the kitchen was too much for me.  I made myself another cup of tea and sat in the lounge away from temptation to nibble at something sweet.

When the cake was out of the oven and cooling down on the rack I made up the cream cheese icing.  It was a miracle that Mr SmartCookieSam hadn’t nicked any of the cream cheese to put on his toast at breakfast time.  This recipe needed 400g of full fat cream cheese.  I always use full fat Philadelphia as it gives great results and is really creamy.  To this I added some icing sugar and about 50ml of double cream. This version doesn’t use butter so wasn’t as sickly as some cream cheese frostings I’ve had in the past.

Half an hour later the cake was cooled and ready to be iced and filled.  I decided to decorate the cake differently to how it was illustrated in the book.  Instead of melted chocolate and red sprinkles to make a reindeer face and antlers, I found some reindeer themed sprinkles in my baking stash.  They contrasted well with the carrot cake.

On Thursday morning I was in such a rush to get off to work that I left the cake at home in a box in the fridge. I’d kept it in the fridge what with the frosting containing cream cheese and double cream. Of course out of sight, out of mind!  So what did I do when I got in from work? Yes, you guessed right, I had a piece!

Definitely a cake to start new traditions with children on Christmas Eve. Or even a great cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee instead of a mince pie to relax with at any time over the festive period.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake.

Sunday December 3rd, 2017.

Since I gave up baking professionally to concentrate on the day job full time, I’ve had less time to spend on baking things like Christmas cakes. Mr Smartcookiesam says to me every year that I should just go and buy a small one from Marks and Spencer but to me part of Christmas is baking and decorating a Christmas cake. Why should I go out and buy something I enjoy baking at home?

I’ve never been a massive fan of roll out icing and marzipan but I love fruit cakes. If I eat Christmas cake I always take the icing off and serve it with a slice of Wensleydale cheese as you do in my part of the world. I try to decorate my cake differently each year but if I’m short of time I always get out my The Snowman and the Snowdog decorations and cake ribbon. At the time of writing I’ve no idea how I’m going to decorate this year’s cake, please send some inspiration my way!

As for the previous couple of years I’ve used Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe for my family Christmas cake. The recipe features in both The Great British Bake Off Christmas book and Mary’s own Christmas Collection. Dried fruit (a mixture of currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and halved glacé cherries) had been soaking in some brandy for a few days along with some orange zest.

This afternoon, albeit a few days after it should have been done but I thought I’d better get started on the cake. I knew I needed time where I’d be in all afternoon while it was baking. Sundays are not usually a day of rest in our house. I’m normally catching up on all the jobs I haven’t done from the previous week or trying to get ahead for the next week. No time like the present, as they always say.

In a large bowl I creamed together unsalted butter, light brown sugar, treacle and eggs. After these were mixed together, I added in some flour and some ground mixed spice along with some chopped blanched almonds. Then this was combined with the dried fruit mixture.

I had greased and carefully double lined a deep 9″ or 23cm diameter circular cake tin. Mary Berry says in her recipe intro that the cake isn’t a very deep one but it definitely makes a big enough cake for our Christmas celebrations. I found the cake mixture went just over halfway up the cake tin and was deep enough for me.

My oven had been preheated to 140oC and I put the cake tin into the oven on the central shelf. By this time it was 2.30pm and time was cracking on. The cooking time was estimated between 4- 4 1/2 hours so I wanted the cake out by the time we were due to go out.

Jobs done and now it was time to chill. Every now and again throughout the 4 hours I kept popping backwards and forwards to the kitchen to check on the cake. I’m always worried about fruit cakes burning and to be honest I think I need to get my oven checked out. I don’t think the temperature is as accurate any more. Well my oven is 11 years old and it has had a lot of use over the past few years.

At 6.30pm the cake was ready to come out of the oven. The fruit looked a bit burnt on top to be honest and I should have covered the cake with some foil or baking parchment to stop it catching. You can never tell with my oven at the moment.

I’ll be wrapping the cake up in foil and feeding it with brandy every few days or so. In the week leading up to Christmas I will be marzipanning and icing the cake. Watch this space to see it finished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt.

Who remembers having Pineapple Upside Down Cake as a child?  Did you have it for school dinners? I did, although when I was little I didn’t like the pineapple and left it. I remember a very strict teacher at our Infant School telling me off for not eating it and making me sit there at the table until I’d eaten every last mouthful! I’m surprised it hasn’t put me off pineapple for life!

I’ve had the NordicWare Pineapple Upside Down Bundt pan for a couple of years now.  I spotted it on Ebay from the US and just HAD TO HAVE IT! I love how you already have the shape of where to stick the pineapple rings and the cherries in. Alternatively as with other bundt pans, you could bake a pineapple flavoured cake and the pretty pattern will come out on top of the cake when you take it out of the tin. Personally, I’ve not got round to trying this out yet, but maybe one day?

To be honest I’ve not had much chance for blogging recently so this cake was baked over a month ago.  It was my 19 year old daughter’s last day at home before going back to uni for her second year. She was moving into a new house and would be going back early to work on a film shoot.  As with the last year before she left for uni we had a family meal at our house.  My Dad and step mum came over and I cooked a roast  chicken dinner followed by either Pistachio and White Chocolate Blondies and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  What would you serve with it? I went for a choice of double cream or vanilla ice cream.

As for the recipe used, I tried googling for a recipe specifically for the Nordicware pan but could I find one? No such luck, so I tried adapting a recipe I’ve used before. Nigella Lawson has a lovely recipe in her Express book, but the cake comes out a lot smaller. I doubled the quantities of the cake mixture itself and that seemed to work. I had to keep an eye on the time in the oven though. As it was over a month ago I can’t remember the exact time but my guess is it took me about an hour to bake.

img_3535
The bundt pan has been greased in the usual way. I put the cherries and the pineapples in the right places and then sprinkled sugar on the top of them to help make them caramelise.
img_3538
The finished Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It was perfect for a Sunday lunch dessert.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pecan and Maple Bundt Cake- Nigella’s Kitchen.

Once again I’ve lost my way a bit with my blogging.  I have all these posts in draft on my laptop but that’s as far as they’ve gone during the last month. A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve been on a trip to visit my brother, sister in law and their gorgeous family including my four month old niece who completely stole my heart. Auntie Sam was in her element and as my niece is very similar in temperament to my own daughter, it really did take me back to twenty years ago when my brother became an Uncle to my daughter. What special times. With all this in my mind I chose to bake a Canadian inspired cake for the last Clandestine Cake Club event I went to. This was a few days before I was due to jet off over to Alberta but the theme was Around The World In 80 Cakes Although there weren’t 80 cakes there, there were definitely a delicious array of cakes representing lots of different countries.

I chose to bake a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book “Kitchen” which is a maple and pecan nut bundt cake.  Although I’m a huge Nigella fan and I bake lots of her recipes, it’s been a while since I baked from Kitchen. It’s such a huge book too, wouldn’t like to drop that on my feet or I’d be in agony.  It was also a great excuse to get out one of my bundt pans off the shelf and to use it again.  My Crown Bundt pan also has a Canadian connection as I bought it last year on my first visit to Canada.  We went shopping and I got carried away in Williams Sonoma.  But it was worth it.  The pan was half the cost of UK prices!  Nigella uses the Fleur de Lys Bundt pan in her recipe and says: ” The reason I chose this particular shape for this cake was that it seemed to show it’s nutty, gooey stuffing off to maximum effect once sliced,”

The bundt cake has a separate maple pecan filling which is swirled into the vanilla batter once in the cake tin and looks really pretty when the cake is cut into.  So, as Nigella says you really need a tin which looks great when it’s cut up into slices.

I baked the cake the night before Cake Club as I was working a full week.  It had to be done in the evening once we’d had tea.  I normally love baking but it had been the first day back at work after the summer holidays.  I’d had a lot of running around and standing on my feet to do so the last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in my kitchen baking. But at least it was the first episode of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off!  So I set up my Ipad in the kitchen and watched it as I was weighing out, mixing and chopping nuts up.  I soon forgot my legs and feet ached and immersed myself in my hobby.

I always grease my bundt pans with Wilton Cake Release.  Once this was done, I pre-heated my fan oven and set myself going with the filling part to the cake.  For this I mixed flour, soft unsalted butter, ground cinnamon, chopped pecan nuts and some maple syrup. This formed a slightly more fudgy version than a crumble topping.  When this was done I put it aside and made up the rest of the cake mix.

In another mixing bowl I weighed out plain flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Though it took  me 5 minutes to find my pot of bicarb as it had somehow managed to hide itself behind everything else in the cupboard.

In yet another bowl (lots of washing up tonight!) I creamed together butter and caster sugar using my hand held mixer.  Following this I put in 2 eggs and then in went the flour mixture.  Finally, I folded in some sour cream before putting about half the mixture into the bundt pan.  The pecan mixture went in next followed by the remaining cake mixture.

The cake baked for about 40 minutes or so. I kept on checking it through the oven door and it seemed to be fine after the allotted 40 minutes.  I always panic that the bundts are going to fall apart or not come out of the tin.

Sheer relief!  A few crumbs had stuck inside the tin but not enough to worry about and the cake slid out effortlessly.  I let it cool down on the rack in the kitchen while I cleared up.  When it was cool, I dusted it with icing sugar and hoped that the cake would be ok in it’s box in my car boot while I was at work the following day.  Thankfully, even though I drove over loads of speed humps going to the venue in Leeds, the cake was intact!

I really love going to cake club events. I’ve made loads of friends through cake club and we regularly meet up for a chin wag and a catch up over cake and coffee. I can’t wait for the next one in October which is to be a Hallowe’en themed one. Better get my thinking cap on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx