The Ultimate Carrot Cake- Delia’s Cakes.

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes you see everywhere and there are many versions of it.  Over the years since I started baking I’ve made a fair few, some fantastic and some you’d want to chuck in the bin.  This version though, is horrifically calorific seeing as the icing contains mascarpone! Heavenly, but gorgeous!  Anyway, it wasn’t me who was going to eat it, this was another cake heading down to the Village Hall for our Open Gardens last month.  It was also another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge, this time I chose to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake from Delia’s Cakes

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Eggs, dark brown soft sugar and sunflower oil were mixed together in a large bowl first.

In another bowl I added all the dry ingredients, which included self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.  These were combined carefully with the egg mixture, closely followed by grated carrot, dessicated coconut (which I’d never put in a carrot cake before), sultanas and pecan nuts.  What a heavenly combination! No wonder Delia called it the Ultimate Carrot Cake!

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The mixture ready to be popped in the oven.

As you’ve probably guessed I’m a bit behind with the blogging at the moment.  There’s been a lot going on.  So I’m talking about a cake I made over three weeks ago but as I love baking carrot cakes this one I had to say was a joy to make.  When they came out of the oven it took all my courage to not bite into the cakes there and then.  But I had to restrain myself and get on with making up the icing.

The icing was made by whipping together two tubs of mascarpone, some ground cinnamon, brown sugar and a small amount of orange juice to add flavour.  I forgot I needed to add a syrup glaze to the top of the cake first ,though!

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The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
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The carrot cakes cooling down on my cake rack. They were baked in two 18cm or 7″ diameter sandwich cake tins.

While the cakes were cooling I made some carrot toppers out of sugarpaste to decorate the cake with.

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The side of the cake.
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As seen from the top!

The cake went down to our Village Hall with the other three cakes I’d baked and I was really pleased to see it had nearly all gone when I went down there with my mum in the early afternoon.  As it was a warm day I was hoping there wouldn’t be a problem with the icing going all runny but it was fine.

Definitely another winner here and one I’d love to bake again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Toffee Loaf Cake With Fudge Icing- from Delia’s Cakes

Gosh, is it really nearly three weeks since my last post?  Well over half term I was away on holiday up on the Isle of Mull, a beautiful part of the world and since I’ve been back I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my laptop.  So better late than never I suppose!

Last month I spent a very busy afternoon baking four different cakes to take down to the Village Hall at my local Open Gardens event.  Usually I have a stall at the Open Gardens where I sell all my handmade cookies, cupcakes and other treats but this year I had been far too busy as well as it being the day before I was due to go into hospital.  I also ended up being the judge at our village baking competition so a stall would have been a bit tricky to fit in.  Anyway, I found four different cakes I fancied trying out on visitors to our village and hoped that they would be fine.

First of all I chose to bake Delia Smith’s Sticky Toffee Fudge Loaf Cake which comes with a fudge icing.  Another recipe also to tick off my Cooking The Books Challenge for May.  I love Sticky Toffee Pudding and have made different variations of it in cake form.  But this version as a loaf cake looked absolutely delicious.  I didn’t have any dates in my baking cupboard, though so I ended up adding an equal amount of raisins to the mix instead.

Here’s how it was made:

No dates in this sticky toffee loaf cake but there were plenty of chopped pecan nuts!
No dates in this sticky toffee loaf cake but there were plenty of chopped pecan nuts! I chopped these first before getting on with the rest of the cake.
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Butter, black treacle and golden syrup went into a saucepan to be melted together on the hob.
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The treacle mixture melted down to look like this.

Once the mixture in the pan had been taken off the heat and cooled slightly I added two beaten eggs.  After this I weighed out the dry ingredients needed for the cake: plain flour, mixed spice, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda.  These were sifted together then folded into the melted mixture.  Delia recommends Silverwood bakeware in her latest book.  I love Silverware cake tins and love my traybake tins but my loaf tin is equally fantastic, a Lakeland one.  As you might have gathered I swear by Lakeland’s loaf tin liners and can’t do without them whatever loaf cake I bake.  They worked perfectly with this one too!

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The spicy aroma filling my kitchen once the Sticky Toffee Loaf cake came out of the oven was just heavenly. It rose perfectly in the oven. Here it is just cooling down.
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As the cake cooled down on the work top I got on with making the fudge icing.

I used my brand new pan which my auntie bought me from John Lewis on my birthday.  My mum had bought me some new pans but my auntie treated me to the small one in the set.  So the pan was “christened” by having the fudge icing made in it.  It was a very rich icing: evaporated milk, butter and brown sugar which was melted and then simmered until it thickened up.

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The fudge icing as it melted.

My icing turned out a little bit runnier than the one shown on the picture in the book.  But it still looked presentable to take down to the Village Hall.  I hoped it would go down well as it was a very warm day and I usually associate sticky toffee pudding as a Winter comfort food!

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The finished cake! Ta-dah!
My mum tried a piece down at the Village Hall when we went there for tea and cake.  I didn't eat any as I'd already sampled lots of cake when I was judging the competitions earlier.
My mum tried a piece down at the Village Hall when we went there for tea and cake. I didn’t eat any as I’d already sampled lots of cake when I was judging the competitions earlier.

My mum enjoyed her piece of cake and I was glad by the time I saw the cake about half of it had gone.  That was a relief.  I would definitely bake it again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake from Delia’s Cakes

I’m beginning to catch up with my blog posts now, this week has been a bit of a mix up as I’ve been recovering from a minor operation.  Thankfully all went well and I’m more or less back to normal now despite still feeling tired.

The operation took place on Monday but before that I had a very busy few days.  It was my birthday followed by Open Gardens in our village.  So this meant a lot of baking but then again those of you who know me, know that I love any excuse to stick my apron on and to switch the oven on.

A week last Thursday was my last day at work before my birthday and I wanted to take a cake to share with my colleagues.  It was a toss up between a carrot cake and a coffee cake as I was choosing a recipe from my latest Cooking The Books Challenge.  Having said that I had got in late after a busy day at work and didn’t want anything too time consuming after spending time on the tea.  So that meant the carrot cake was out as I just couldn’t be bothered to grate all those carrots.  The Coffee and Walnut Sponge it was then, my choice of cake from the Sponge Cakes chapter.

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I started off by sifting self raising flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.  I then remembered I hadn’t got the right cake tins out and looked through my very messy cake tin drawer.  What a surprise the tins I needed were right at the bottom of the deep drawer and loads of tins came crashing down onto the floor before I could get  hold of them.  It made a right din and my hubby came into the kitchen to see what had happened.  Thankfully no harm was done! Finally I got the tins out, lined and greased and ready for the cake mix!

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After this I added in some soft butter, eggs, caster sugar and some expresso coffee powder.  It was mixed together thoroughly with my hand held mixer.  Once this was blended together I threw in some chopped walnuts and mixed them evenly.  The mixture was divided equally between the two tins and put into the oven to bake.

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After about 25 minutes out came the baked cakes.  They were given some time to cool down and then I turned them out onto a wire rack.  They smelled absolutely delicious and I just couldn’t wait to dive in!004

Next, it was on with the icing.  Usually when I bake Coffee and Walnut cakes I ice them with a coffee buttercream but as this cake according to Delia is a “revised, more contemporary version of one of the original sponge cake in an earlier book… since the advent of mascarpone the icing is a great improvement”  As a huge Tiramisu fan, I love the taste of mascarpone and I know it goes well with coffee.  So I just knew it would work in this icing.  The mascarpone, some more coffee granules, caster sugar and a little milk were mixed together to make a spreadable icing.

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Half the icing was spread inside the cake and the rest on top of the cake.  I wish, but this is a personal preference is that I would like to have made more icing to spread more thickly on the top of the cake!  It tasted heavenly. As a final touch, on went some walnut halves.006

I took the cake into work and it went down well.  I will definitely bake it again, the mascarpone icing was absolutely gorgeous.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars from Delia’s Cakes.

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In my monthly challenge “Cooking The Books“, where I choose a favourite baking book and bake one recipe from each chapter throughout that month, I thought I would have no problem at all in choosing a recipe from the Chocolate chapter.   After all I am a total chocolholic!  This month’s turn is to bake from Delia Smith’s fantastic and much loved “Delia’s Cakes”.  I have already fallen in love with her Chocolate Beer Cake but had to choose something else that would go down well at my neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.

I decided to go with the Chocolate Energy Bars  as they reminded me of a cross between a flapjack and chocolate fridge cake!  Whenever I have run cake stalls before, these always fly off and sell out!  So the Chocolate Energy Bars it just had to be.  Delia says in her introduction to the recipe that she “made them on TV with Dawn French for Comic Relief” and that “school children were making them all over the country to raise money and they were very popular”  I’m not surprised.  Judging by the beautiful picture to accompany the recipe, I would happily sink my teeth into a huge chunk of this!

So both my mum and I got on with baking this for our neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.  This was to be the last of the four bakes I chose to take along as my contribution to the cafe in the village school hall.   I noticed that pecan nuts were on the ingredients list but I thought I would put in crushed digestive biscuits instead of nuts in case it would put children off and what with allergy worries. I also didn’t have any Bran Flakes which were also needed for the recipe.  I can’t stand Bran Flakes, so I doubled the quantity of Rice Krispies that were needed.  The rest of the ingredients stayed the same: dried apricots, raisins, etc.  The recipe also called for molasses syrup.  I thought molasses was like black treacle but I didn’t have any so I substituted in golden syrup instead.  After all, you put golden syrup in flapjacks don’t you?

First I had to put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl.  In a small saucepan I heated up some condensed milk with the golden syrup.  I was surprised that you only needed to use half a tin of condensed milk.  It didn’t seem very much fluid at all to coat all the dried fruit and cereals.  In fact I thought the mixture was a bit dry and wondered whether to add in the rest of the condensed milk but wanted to stick to the recipe.  Then the mixture was  spooned into my traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.

 Once it had been let out and cooled I started to melt the chocolate for the topping.  In one bowl I melted white chocolate in my microwave, followed by some dark chocolate.  Even though it was exactly the same quantity it looked like I had far more dark than white chocolate!

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Now for the tricky bit!  Here was where it was all about the taste and not the appearance.  Instead of the bars being easy to cut with a sharp knife I found the whole thing just broke in half diagonally as I tried to turn it out of the tin.  The air was blue in my kitchen!  Then I spread the chocolate on, not looking as pretty as it looked like in Delia’s picture.  My mum and I tried to cut the traybake into even bars but in the end we decided on little squares.  Perhaps it was too crumbly and messy because we needed more fluid to bind the mixture together. It definitely wasn’t overbaked or anything like that.  Into the fridge it went and I hoped and prayed people would buy some the next day.

Whether people did buy some to try I don’t know.  I tried a piece and I thought it was too dry for my liking, though I liked the flavour combination and the chocolate on top.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Orange Biscuits From Delia’s Cakes.

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Even though the title of Delia Smith’s book is called Delia’s Cakes, it also includes recipes for lots of different biscuits and cookies.  I love baking biscuits (and stuffing them down my gob as fast as I bake them too!).  So I had loads of recipes I wanted to choose from to bake for, for the Biscuits chapter as part of my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.

But, the Chocolate Orange biscuits stood out for me in the end.  It was the recipe introduction that did it for me.  Delia says “If you like chocolate and orange as a combination, then forget Jaffa Cakes. These are in a completely different class,”  How could you forget Jaffa Cakes?  All my family love them, especially my fourteen year old son.  I love Terry’s Chocolate Oranges too, so it’s a win win combination.  I just had to bake these even though they weren’t going to be eaten by us, they were off down to the neighbouring village’s Spring Festival to be served in the cafe with the coffee and teas in the school!  I hoped temptation wouldn’t get the better of me!

A week last  Saturday, the afternoon was beautiful and sunny.  My children had gone off into Leeds with friends and my mum had just arrived for the weekend as it was also my son’s birthday.  My mum offered to help me in the kitchen.  We set to with our baking and enjoyed our relaxing afternoon.

First I had to chop up a 100g bar of plain chocolate into small chunks.  Delia says to use chopped dark chocolate but I suppose chocolate chips would be fine.  After that I grated the zest of two oranges into a small bowl and squeezed one half of one of the oranges as I needed a tablespoonful of orange juice to add to the mixture.

After that I started on the actual biscuits themselves.  I beat spreadable butter and caster sugar together until it became light and creamy, followed by flour and some baking powder.  The mixture didn’t need an egg to combine it together as the fluid came from the orange juice. This gave it a nice smell and I was tempted to stick my finger in the mix and lick some dough.  I had to restrain myself though.

Once the dough had come together it had to be rolled out.  I find this difficult with mixtures containing fruit and chocolate as the cutter edge always seems to be where there’s a giant sultana or chocolate piece that won’t cut.  You end up with jagged lumps.  After managing to get 2 dozen cookies out of the dough I was pleased and they were put on the baking trays ready to be baked.

After the cookies came out the oven they went onto my cooling rack once I’d given them 5 minutes resting time on the oven tray.  The heavenly aroma was just far too tempting.  But I knew they weren’t for us!

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The chocolate orange cookies all ready and packed in a plastic box to take down to the Spring Festival.

Once they were cooled down, my mum put the cookies into a spare box for me.  We left them overnight ready for the Spring Festival the following day.  Unfortunately, my greedy son stole two cookies from the box.  He asked if he could have one on the Sunday morning.  I said no as they were for the Spring Festival but he helped himself anyway when I went upstairs.  He thinks I can’t count and I wouldn’t miss them.  I went ballistic!  Thank heavens they hadn’t been for a special order or anything.

I’m not sure how well the cookies sold at the cafe in the Spring Festival.  When my mum and I popped in for a cup of tea and cake in the afternoon there were still loads of cakes and biscuits left.  I didn’t taste one but they did look fine to me.  I will definitely bake them again.

Happy baking!

Love Sam xx

Blueberry and Pecan Muffin Cake from Delia’s Cakes.

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Blueberry and Pecan Muffin Cake: recipe from Delia’s Cakes.

This is the second recipe I baked from Delia’s Cakes as part of my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  I baked four recipes this weekend as I wanted to bake and donate some cakes to the cafe at my son’s old Primary school where they serve tea and cake during the village Spring Festival.

I love blueberries and any excuse to bake with them and there’s a couple of other posts on here with blueberry cakes.  But this cake with the addition of pecan nuts and a crumbly topping just made my mouth water from the picture.   I thought it would be a great bake to send down to the Spring Festival as not everyone likes fancy decorated cakes.  To be honest even though I love cake decorating,  it’s all about the taste for me!

First I greased my springform cake tin with Dr Oetker Cake Release Spray and lined it with a baking parchment circle.  The oven was still on from the previous bake at the right temperature so I got on straightaway with the weighing out.  All the dry ingredients were sifted together in a large mixing bowl- starting with plain flour, then I added some baking powder and cinnamon to the mixture.  In another bowl I mixed together some milk, melted butter, eggs and sugar.  These two mixtures were combined carefully and folded with a metal spoon.  Finally I added some blueberries.

The mixture was quickly spooned into the tin and then I added the crunchy crumbly topping.  This was some chopped pecan nuts, some more blueberries and a sprinkling of demerara sugar.  Into the oven it went for around an hour.  After an hour my mum checked the cake and it felt springy to the touch so she took it out of the oven and let it cool down.

I thought the cake looked a bit flat compared to other cakes but then when I checked the picture out in the book, thankfully there wasn’t much difference.  When it was cooled down I dusted the top of it with icing sugar and put it away in a box ready to be taken down to the Spring Festival.

Although I had been concerned about no one wanting to buy my Raspberry Cupcakes I noticed that my Blueberry Muffin cake had been cut up into 8 slices and by the end of the day they had all gone.  My son’s former teacher was eating the last slice of it when I was chatting to her on her stall in the playground and I was so grateful to hear her say it was delicious! My mum said to me afterwards that she thought people are turning away from the heavily decorated cupcakes and going for more plain things.  I agree with her.  I love the look of cupcakes but I always have a massive headache after eating loads of that buttercream!

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Delia says “Any of my muffin recipes can be adapted to any fruit and blueberries have always been popular so in this recipe I decided instead of making muffins, I’d use the mixture to make a cake, which has turned out to be a real winner!” I can definitely agree with that, Delia!

So, this cake in my opinion was a real success and one I would love to bake time and time again.  I think it would work well with raspberries and apples as well.  Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Iced Hidden Raspberry Cupcakes from Delia’s Cakes.

For this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge I’m a bit pushed for time as I have to concentrate all my baking into the first half of the month. The second half of the month I will be recuperating from surgery.  Even though it’s only a minor procedure I’m having I still won’t be wanting to think about any sort of cooking, let alone baking.  So I’ve chosen Delia’s Cakes as there are only nine recipes in this challenge and I can bake most of them for two local events which need cakes donating for a cake stall.

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Last Saturday afternoon I was busy in my kitchen baking four recipes from the challenge.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival yesterday.  A cafe is set up in the school hall serving teas and cakes.  As my son used to go to that primary school and he had such a wonderful time in the two years that he went there, I am only too glad to support the school in any way I can even though he left in 2011!  So baking a few cakes for the school cafe is the least I can do.

The recipe I chose from the Small Cakes chapter had to be something quick and easy to make as well as something appealing.  In the end I chose the Iced Hidden Strawberry Cupcakes.  With it not being the season for strawberries I chose raspberries instead.

All I had to do was to sift some self raising flour into my large mixing bowl.  This was followed by adding all the other ingredients, such as some spreadable butter, caster sugar, eggs and some vanilla extract.  This was mixed together with my hand whisk.  But as I was whisking the mixture the motor suddenly made groaning noises and one of the beaters stopped spinning round.  This is just typical.  I have a large KitchenAid but my hubby doesn’t like it cluttering up the surface when it’s not being used so I have to put it away in a cupboard.  I end up using the hand whisk but as it’s such a cheapo one which I bought at Christmas (not even 5 months!) and it’s stopped working! I took the faulty beater off and continued with one beater for another minute or so.

When that was done I got out my cupcake cases and found some silver foil ones.  I thought I’d use silver ones as Delia had in the picture next to the recipe and it looked pretty against the pink icing on the cupcakes.  These ones were small for cupcakes but the standard “fairy cake” size ones. Half the mixture was put inside the cases, then I pressed a whole raspberry inside, finishing off with the rest of the filling.

Into the oven went the cupcakes for about 20 minutes and out they came later all risen and golden.  I let them cool and then I made up the raspberry icing.  This was made by pureeing some raspberries in my blender and sieving the pips out so I was left with the juice.  This was then mixed with some icing sugar.  The mixture was far too stiff so I added a little milk.  Then it was too runny so I added more icing sugar.  When it came to decorating the top of the cupcakes the icing was quite runny but I prefer that than it looking perfect to be honest.  The finishing touch was a whole raspberry and a dusting of icing sugar on the top of each cupcake.

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The finished iced hidden raspberry cupcakes.

The cupcakes were put into a plastic box ready to take down to the school the following morning but when I checked them I noticed the icing looked like it had lost its shine and was a bit wrinkly.  I was disappointed with their appearance and noticed when I was down at the school only one had gone from the plate.  I was concerned about whether people were put off by their appearance so when I bought my cup of tea I bought one of my cakes back so I could test it out.  We also chose a slice of delicious banana cake which my mum and I shared along with half each of my cupcake.  Both my mum and I thought it tasted fine and my mum said the sponge tasted nice and light.  I don’t know what happened afterwards but to be fair there were a lot of different and very yummy cakes to choose from there.  I just don’t know whether it was the milk which made the icing wrinkle like that, maybe I should have added water instead. Oh well, you live and learn!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx