Christmas Leftovers- Mincemeat Loaf Cake.

I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things.  As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.

But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure.  So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.

This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.

As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”

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The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me.  I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time.  They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.

The recipe was simple to make.  I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl.  To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.

 To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves.  I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones.  I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven.  They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing.  As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!

The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones.  It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like.  I didn’t eat any, honest!

Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer.  Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Stem Ginger Shortbread #GBBOtwitterbakealong

When August comes around, it’s always exciting in lots of ways.  For me being a teacher the summer is my one chance to catch up.  It’s also usually when my family go on our summer holiday.  This year we went away in July instead but there has still been loads of things to enjoy.  Not only that but August means Great British Bake Off time!  This year it’s starting later (think it’s Wednesday August 24th) due to the Olympics but the excitement and the build up for GBBO fans has started already.

On Twitter I love to get involved with anything GBBO related and a few of my Twitter followers and friends are doing a bake along.  It’s called #GBBOTwitterBakealong and there’s a different theme each week. When the Bake Off is actually on, we’ll be baking something from the show like the technical bake for that week or something connected with that week’s theme.  This week on the Twitter Bake Along has been biscuits so we had to bake some biscuits and post them on Twitter.  I love any excuse to bake biscuits so I had a look at what was left in my baking cupboard and also looked at recipes I wanted to have a go at.

I looked in Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking and found the perfect recipe for busy weekend baking around all the other jobs I had to do.  It was her recipe for Stem Ginger Shortbread.  My whole family love it when I bake shortbread for them but aren’t so keen on the ginger.  The recipe called for five balls of stem ginger and that’s exactly what I had to use up.  It’s funny how my kids say they don’t like my ginger cookies, yet when I bake them they miraculously disappear.

Out came my well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin.  It’s been bought thinking of Mary Berry and traybakes though this time, it was to make shortbread fingers.  I greased it carefully with Wilton Cake Release then started on the shortbread itself.  The stem ginger needed to be rinsed and patted dry so that the sticky syrup came off it.  This was easy enough and then I chopped the ginger into little chunks to go into the shortbread.  When I’d finished this, I then started on the shortbread itself.  I put tiny cubes of butter into a large mixing bowl and then added plain flour, rice flour and caster sugar to the mixture.  Mary’s recipe used semolina but I didn’t have any so I used some rice flour from the last time I baked shortbread. It gives the shortbread a nutty taste but works wonderfully well in the recipe.  All the ingredients were rubbed in together and then formed to make up a dry dough. At this stage, I tossed in the chopped stem ginger and then mixed it into the dough evenly.

The dough was carefully pressed into the tin with a back of a teaspoon so that it was level. To give it a crunchy topping Mary Berry suggested sprinkling on two tablespoonfuls of  Demerara sugar to the top of the shortbread.  I didn’t have any demerara sugar so I used light brown muscovado sugar instead. This was a bit clumpy though.

The shortbread baked for about 40 minutes and by this time it had turned a pale golden brown.  The smell was just heavenly and I was so tempted to scoff one there and then.  But I had to let them cool down so they could be cut up into fingers!

The shortbread fingers were divine and they went down very well.  As I type the day after, there are only 4 left! I need my jaw wiring with shortbread around! I didn’t eat them all though, please believe me!

The shortbread was cut into 12 fingers. Though one finger is never enough!
The Stem Ginger shortbread fingers were sprinkled with two types of sugar.
Stem Ginger Shortbread- from Mary Berry’s latest recipe book Foolproof Cooking.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Salted Caramel Chocolate Traybake 

 

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Salted Caramel Traybake- a recipe adapted from a Mary Berry recipe in her new book “Foolproof Cooking,”

 Last week I was getting over a nasty chest infection and didn’t have much energy. I spent about 9 consecutive nights sleeping on the sofa as it was the only place where I could sleep propped up on the sofa. I still didn’t sleep very well though and my back was in agony. I had to take time off work which I don’t like doing.  So the last two weeks I just wasn’t myself!

Thankfully I’ve been able to recover with it being the Easter holidays and have been back in the kitchen.  My son is currently working on a media studies film project and has had friends over to help him with filming. My daughter has been on hand to help out with the make up and special effects and good old mum here has been the transport and the catering manager!

Last Friday it had been a horrible day for filming. So when they finished after filming in the mud and the rain,  I thought they deserved a chocolatey treat.  But what could I give them?
In the end I found the perfect recipe to adapt in Mary Berry’s latest book “Foolproof Cooking”. I’ve had the book since it first came out but not made anything from it. The recipe is called “Bonfire Chocolate Traybake” and it looked perfect for feeding a crowd. Although being April it’s the wrong time of year for Bonfire Night but as Mary says in the recipe introduction: “Being a traybake it cuts into squares and is so perfect for packing into a box and sharing with family and friends at an event such as Bonfire Night,” Mary’s recipe was also  plain and didn’t need any decorating or icing. I chose to add icing on mine, though.

I love baking traybakes as they are easy to bake and always feed a crowd.

The finished traybake cut up into large squares.

The  traybake was very simple to put together.  I used my trusty Alan Silverwood traybake tin which was simply greased with Cake Release. I didn’t need any baking parchment to line the tin.

Mary’s original recipe uses dark chocolate but I used two 100g bars of Lindt Salted Caramel chocolate which I melted along with some butter.  When this was done, I weighed out some caster sugar and mixed this in with the melted chocolate mixture. This was then left to cool down then I added three eggs one at a time into the bowl.  Afterwards it was time to add the dry ingredients.  To keep the cake moist the cake is flavoured with ground almonds which are added at the same time as self raising flour and baking powder.  I could imagine the addition of ground almonds would also give a lovely flavour, as well as helping the cake to keep longer.

I added my own icing to the top of the traybake to finish it off.

  A very quick mixture to make up and one which didn’t have a list as long as your arm of ingredients.  Before long it was ready to be spooned into the tin and baked.  It didn’t take long to bake at all, only about 25-30 minutes.

The traybake smelled heavenly when it came out of the oven.  I know Mary Berry said the recipe didn’t need icing but I wanted to give it a finishing touch.  So as the cake was cooling I made up a chocolate icing using a bar of melted plain chocolate and melted butter.  This was quite runny on its own so I chose to add some icing sugar to thicken it up a bit.  I had stocked up on some of my favourite Sugar and Crumbs Salted Caramel Icing Sugar so I added 60g or 4 tbsp of it to the mix.  It thickened up beautifully and spread well onto the top of the traybake.  I cut the traybake up into portions and then to finish, sprinkled it with some gold sugar crystals I had in my baking cupboard.

When my son and his friends finished their filming, they were tired and hungry so a chocolate traybake square hit the spot for them.  As the traybake kept well it got eaten over the next few days bit by bit.

A wonderful recipe that could be adapted and not just for any time of the year.  I would love to try this with different chocolate flavours. I bet a mint or a chocolate orange one would be delicious.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Anyone who knows me knows I have a terrible addiction to Maltesers.  I don’t know why I do, I just love them.  These big “sharing” bags are a big joke to me as they have resealable tops.  How can this be possible?  I’ve never resealed anything that has chocolate inside it!

I can't get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?
I can’t get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?

Last month my baking cupboard had many packs of Maltesers in it because they were supporting Comic Relief this year with their Bake Yourself Silly campaign. for Red Nose Day 2015. I always love to get involved with Comic Relief and baking is one of my ways of doing my bit.  The Maltesers website has some brilliant baking recipes to use for fundraising and I was keen to have a go.

I’m now working as a primary supply teacher in various schools in my area.  One of the schools I work in regularly was going to have a Comic Relief bake sale on the day after I was working there.  I brought in two dozen cupcakes and a batch of Malteser Rocky Road for the stall.  The school were over the moon with them and on the following Monday when I was next teaching there, they said all the cupcakes and Rocky Road sold out.  What a relief.

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I baked two dozen vanilla cupcakes for the bake sale. The cupcake cases and toppers came in a special pack from Sainsburys.

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I used Lorraine Pascale’s fridge cake recipe which is in one of her books. Unfortunately it was meant to have marshmallows in it. I found my kids had nicked my mini marshmallow packet to use in their hot chocolate!

I also tried baking some cheeky Red Nose Day Empire biscuits, which were shortbread rounds sandwiched together with jam. They were finished off with white glace icing, a big glace cherry red nose and funny faces piped on with melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

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My cheeky Red Nose Day Empire Biscuits.
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Mary Berry’s fantastic new book.

After all this baking I was still left with a whole packet of Maltesers.  Knowing me, this packet sitting there in the cupboard would be taunting me every time I went to get something else out.  What could I do with it?  I had recently bought a copy of Mary Berry’s latest book “Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites” and had already decided what I wanted to cook from it.  Although I love baking I was glad to see there would be lots of other delicious savoury recipes to try.  But one recipe I just had to try was the Malted Chocolate Cake.

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Mary Berry’s Malted Chocolate Cake was a perfect treat to serve on Mother’s Day.

I chose to bake the chocolate cake on Mother’s Day. Although I wouldn’t be seeing my Mum until the following weekend I was spending time with my own husband and two teenagers.  Normally they would bake a cake for me but both of them were busy with schoolwork so I baked it myself! After all you are meant to spend time doing things on Mother’s Day that you enjoy the most and baking to me is just that!

The Malted Chocolate Cake was very simple to bake in two 8″ sandwich tins and involves using cocoa powder and chocolate flavoured Ovaltine to get the malty taste.  The chocolate buttercream was the same.  I was also impressed that it wasn’t too sweet which both my daughter and hubby commented on when they ate some.

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The finished Malted Chocolate cake.

After the cake had cooled enough I made up the chocolate icing.  It did not need real bars of chocolate melted in the mixture but the chocolate flavour once again came from cocoa powder.  I always try to use a good brand of cocoa powder in my bakes, such as Green and Blacks.

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Oh, go on then, don’t mind if I do! The diet starts AGAIN tomorrow!

Now, you’re probably wondering what happened to the remaining Maltesers which were left over after adorning the top of the cake.  Well, I was a kind mum to my kids and shared them out equally between the two of them.  I don’t think they were expecting that to happen with my track record.  The cake itself got eaten over the next few days, it kept well in an airtight tin.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake- Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge.

I’ve already been back at work for over two weeks now but for our school training day at the very beginning of the year we always have a shared lunch.  As I love baking I always bring in the pudding or some cake.  This time as normal I brought along some peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies and a cake.  The cake was one I’d been wanting to bake for a couple of weeks now, ever since it was the Technical Challenge in the first week of this year’s Great British Bake Off! So Mary’s Cherry Cake it had to be!

For the link to Mary’s own recipe you can find it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/marys_cherry_cake_17869

In the Bake Off it was lovely to see the cakes baked in ring tins and I thought that one of my Nordicware Bundt pans would be perfect for the job.  My bundt pans are my new obsession and I can’t wait to add to the collection when I can afford it.  So I got out my heart shaped one, greased it carefully and got on with the baking.

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I carefully washed the cherries to get rid of all the sticky syrup and then dried them on some kitchen towels.

More often than not my cherries sink to the bottom of my cakes.  I try to rinse them carefully but I’ve since found out that taking a couple of tablespoonfuls of flour out of the total amount and tossing the cherries in it works well to stop the sinking.  I realised also if I needed to halve or quarter the cherries I should really rinse off the sticky syrup after cutting them as you end up with the stickiness on the inside too! Maybe that was another reason why my cherries sank!

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The quartered cherries now thoroughly rinsed and ready to go in the mixture.

All the other ingredients were simply weighed out and mixed together in one large bowl. Self raising flour, caster sugar, butter, eggs, along with a delicate flavour of grated lemon zest and a small amount of ground almonds.  I was pleased about that, almonds always go really well with cherries.

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Here’s the mixture spooned into my heart shaped tin and ready to be baked.

The cake was meant to stay in the oven for about 35-40 minutes.  I found this was ample time for the cake and thankfully it rose well inside my bundt tin.  I always feel nervous when turning out a cake from its tin, especially so with a shaped cake.  But I can honestly say I don’t have any trouble with Nordicware bundt pans so long as you spray the tin with Dr Oetker Cake Release first!

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The cake turned out onto the wire rack and ready to cool down.

While the cake was cooling it was time to make the icing.  I mixed up icing sugar and the juice of one lemon to make a glace icing.  I think my lemon made a lot of juice as the icing was very runny and I ended up having to add twice as much icing sugar than was asked to make the icing thick enough.  It was still runny though but I didn’t mind that as I wanted it to trickle down the sides of the heart in the grooves.  When I’d done this I added some halved cherries and some flaked almonds to decorate the top.  Hey presto, it was finished and ready to take along to work.

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The finished cake as seen from the top.
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View from the side.
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The cake was cut up into slices to enjoy for pudding at our school training day lunch.
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I was pleased with how the cake turned out.
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Whoohooo! Suspended cherries! Mary and Paul would be proud!

My cake went down well at the training day.  There wasn’t much left the next day, although I did manage to have a small slice myself.  I love cherry cake so I know I’ll be having another go at this in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake.

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Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake as featured in her Baking Bible. Baked by me, decorated by my daughter.

Last Sunday I wanted to make a pudding for Sunday lunch.  Funnily enough it turned into an evening meal as we had a late breakfast so skipped lunch completely.  It wasn’t even going to be a chocolate based pudding, I wanted to bake the Venetian Zabaglione Cake from Delia’s Cakes.  But when you start reading the ingredients list and realise on a Sunday afternoon that you need double cream and Marsala wine, well what can you do?

So I had to choose something else.  There were two bars of plain chocolate left in my baking cupboard and a load of chocolate sprinkles.  I had the ingredients for Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake which I could bake in my bundt tin and also it was a recipe I missed off last month’s Cooking The Books Challenge due to lack of time! The cake looked so inviting I just had to have a go.  I didn’t have any extra milk chocolate for drizzling on the top so I had to make do with what was in my cupboard.  Thankfully I had a tub of chocolate sprinkles!

 Here’s how it was made:

Softened butter, caster sugar, large free range eggs, self raising flour and baking powder were weighed out into a large bowl first of all.
Softened butter, caster sugar, large free range eggs, self raising flour and baking powder were weighed out into a large bowl first of all.
In a small bowl I mixed together some cocoa powder and hot water to make a stiff paste.
In a small bowl I mixed together some cocoa powder and hot water to make a stiff paste.
The cake mix was whisked together thoroughly.
The cake mix was whisked together thoroughly.
The cake mix was spooned into my prepared tin. Afterwards the cocoa paste was dotted in and gently swirled together.
The cake mix was spooned into my prepared tin. Afterwards the cocoa paste was dotted in and gently swirled together.
After about 40 minutes the cake was brought out of the oven.  I was pleased to see the marble pattern showing!
After about 40 minutes the cake was brought out of the oven. I was pleased to see the marble pattern showing!
The cake turned out onto the cooling rack.  Thank heavens it came out of the tin without any problems sticking.
The cake turned out onto the cooling rack. Thank heavens it came out of the tin without any problems sticking.
My daughter asked if she could decorate the cake.
My daughter asked if she could decorate the cake.

My 16 year old daughter came downstairs during a break from revising for her GCSE’s and asked if she could decorate the cake.  I let her and told her to have a look in my baking cupboard for decorations instead of the milk chocolate drizzle.  I had some chocolate sprinkles in a tub and some rainbow sugar but she opted for the chocolate.  I told her Mary’s cake had the icing spread so it completely covered the cake.  She told me she just wanted to spread it on the top and it looked great with the extra bits.  I couldn’t wait to cut the cake and eat some.

It was worth the wait.  A lovely chocolatey hit without being too sweet or overpowering.  I really enjoyed it with a tablespoonful of creme fraiche.  Perfect for a family dessert or a fabulous birthday cake offering!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A slice cut ready for pudding.  It tasted very nice with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
A slice cut ready for pudding. It tasted very nice with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
Leftovers for another day!
Leftovers for another day!

Cooking The Books Challenge (April 2014)- Mary Berry’s Baking Bible Update.

I go in fits and starts with my blog posts. Sometimes I have loads of time to write things up and take photos, other times I don’t have time to even think about it.  Over the past week it’s been the same and I realised I had seven recipes to blog about linked in with my Cooking The Books Challenge for this month.  For those of you that don’t know, I’m attempting this month to bake one recipe from each chapter of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  This is easier said than done as the Baking Bible has about 250 recipes and 19 chapters!  At the beginning of April what with me having 2 weeks off for the Easter Holidays and for Easter itself I thought I would have it covered.  Oh no!  It’s the end of April tomorrow and I have two recipes I won’t get round to baking: the Banoffi Pie and the Marbled Chocolate Cake.  At least I managed 17 out of 19, that is some achievement and I am proud of that.

So I’m going to share pics of the bakes I never got round to blogging about and as from now I’ll try to keep up!  So here goes:

First up is Mary Berry’s Simnel Cake which I baked for Easter Sunday.  It tasted absolutely divine and had a delicate spice flavour to it.  I loved Mary’s recipe and so far out of all the Simnel Cake recipes I have tried I have found this by far to be the tastiest as well as the easiest for me.

212Last Sunday I baked Mary’s Hazelnut Meringue Cake for our Sunday lunch pudding.  Both my children hate anything with nuts in it but they devoured this.  I really enjoyed baking this dessert and I think I will bake it again and again.  I would love to try it with pistachios and strawberries in over the summer, they sound like a delicious combination.

083Now for one of my baking flops!  I have never ever made choux pastry before and it shows!  I wanted to bake Mary Berry’s Chocolate Eclairs last Saturday but they were a complete disaster from start to finish.  First the mixture was far too runny so it poured out through the piping bag straight onto the trays like a flood!  I tried again but this time I gave up the idea of piping eclairs and did great big mounds.  Of course they didn’t puff up like I wanted them to and looked like frisbees!  By this time I couldn’t give a stuff and filled and decorated them anyway.  Although they looked awful, can you imagine what would have happened if I’d have been on The Great British Bake Off with those monstrosities? But not to worry, my family wolfed them down anyway!066

My daughter was asked to bake some buns for her dance class bake sale, so she baked Mary’s Butterfly Buns for her contribution.  I originally was going to bake them myself but she asked if she could do them instead.  I thought she did a marvellous job.  I think butterfly buns are so cute and I’m sure they went down well.

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I made Mary Berry’s Borrowdale Teabread to go in the freezer as we didn’t need it there and then but might in a few weeks time.  I should have baked one big tea bread instead of two small ones as they don’t look very attractive.  Still, I’m looking forward to a slice with butter or served with cheese sometime soon!

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All the family loved the pudding I made for the Easter weekend.  It was an Austrian  Baked Cheesecake but instead of curd cheese I used ricotta.  My son finds creamy American style cheesecakes far too rich but this was sweet without being  too heavy, claggy and overpowering.  I really enjoyed it and had to use all my willpower to stop myself eating the leftovers!

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At work we had a training day for the first day of term so I took in some of my first ever attempt at Millionaire’s Shortbread from the Baking Bible.  I find it a bit rich and sickly so I don’t often eat it.  I need a bit of practice in getting the neatness on the top but it did taste lovely.

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On the Easter Weekend I baked a large Cheese Scone Round to go with a bowl of tomato soup.  It was heaven and went down very well with the whole family.  I think I’ll be baking this again and again as it was so quick to make and tasted fab.
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Two weeks ago during the Easter holidays my mum came to stay.  On the Saturday night I chose to bake Mary’s Caramelised Onion and Balsamic Foccacia Bread to go with antipasti meat, olives and cheese.  When I was kneading the dough earlier that day my son came into the kitchen and asked “What’s that?” When I told him what it was and that it was for our tea he said “I’m not eating that Italian shite!”  That’s teenagers for you!  Anyway, he ate two pieces of the bread so it can’t have been “shite!” The rest of us enjoyed it too, though it reminded me more of pizza dough than foccacia.

A Caramelised Onion and Balsamic Foccacia bread.  I baked this when my mum came to stay, it went really well with anti pasti, cheese and olives.

I have really enjoyed this month’s challenge and baking more recipes from one of my favourite cooks.   There are still loads more recipes I would like to try but now is the time to move onto a fresh challenge for next month.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx