I am not Irish although my husband has Irish ancestors on his Dad’s side of his family, his paternal granddad was Irish apparently. In previous years Sam’s Smart Cookies made St Patrick’s Day cupcakes and cookies for orders but this year I have been so busy with my day job and other commitments I haven’t been able to offer my usual array of goodies. It’s a shame as earlier on this year I bought some fantastic cookie cutters made by Wilton from Ebay in America so I could make some different cookies. The cookie cutters have now been discontinued, sadly. Sadly that wasn’t to be but I am working on some new designs for next year so watch this space!
So, instead I will share my previous year’s cupcakes and cookies with you. Have a look at the photos below and see what you think!
Now here is a selection of St Patrick’s Day Cupcakes that I have made over the previous years. I want to make more designs and will add to the post as I make them.
For the Shamrock cupcake cases I bought some dark green ones as made by Wilton from Sugarshack, to find out more, please click here.
And finally here are my large cakes! I absolutely love my Shamrock shaped cake pan which I bought on Ebay from Wilton. It is perfect not only for making Good Luck cakes but for celebrating St Patricks’ Day as well. There are some fab decorating ideas, as well as tasty recipes on the Wilton website which I find very useful.
A couple of weeks back I was shopping in my local Sainsburys and spotted the latest in the series of 30 Best Loved Recipes where each week a new recipe book is issued featuring a well known food brand. This was the fifth book in the series and featured Bonne Maman jams and compotes. I have always liked Bonne Maman jam both on holidays in France when I was younger and later on by buying it in the UK. I knew I just had to have this book to add to my growing collection. I had promised myself I would not buy every issue, only ones which would appeal to me and to my family. The little books are only £2.99 which doesn’t sound much but they say there’s going to be 80 of these books! I can’t see me spending nearly £240 on books and even so where would I put them all?
However, I couldn’t wait to get home and make something from the Bonne Maman book. I had popped into Harrogate Sainsburys on the way home from work so I sat in Starbucks eating my lunch and looking through the book. Immediately, being a baker I was drawn to the cake and biscuit recipes. What’s new about that? But also I knew it had to be a recipe which featured strawberry jam as this was the only jam I had got at home.
I saw the jam sandwich biscuit recipes and thought I had to make them. They were plain jam sandwich biscuits sprinkled with caster sugar as half of the biscuits in the picture look like. Some had star shapes cut out of the middle like jammy dodgers or Linzer biscuits. I decided to stick with the plain ones and to add a decoration to the top of the others instead. More of that later.
As soon as I had got home I went off on a long dog walk. As I was walking the dog I thought constantly of getting back to bake, surely this must be a terrible addiction. All I can think of is when I’m going to get my next baking fix!
So, as soon as I was home and the dog was snoring away on his bed I set to in the kitchen. On went the apron, out came the baking trays lined with parchment and my circular cookie cutters.
First, I sieved flour into a large mixing bowl, along with some caster sugar and a pinch of salt. This was closely followed by cubes of cold butter which was rubbed into the mixture until it became fine bread crumbs. I then had to add half an egg (very difficult to gauge half) along with a spoonful of vanilla extract. The recipe also suggests to add orange zest. When I looked in my fruit bowl there weren’t any oranges left which was a surprise, they’re usually the last to linger in ours! Obviously I had to leave it out.
The dough combined really well and according to the recipe I needed to cut out the shapes, put the shapes on their baking trays in the fridge for an hour and then bake them. This method was completely new to me, I usually chill the dough in a ball for half an hour and then roll it out. I did not have room in my fridge to put three full baking trays so I completely cut out the chilling process.
Into the oven went 40 plain fluted circles of shortbread dough. I had limited time to get the cookies baked before my children got in from school so a long chilling time was not practical for me. The dough had to be baked in two batches but each batch only took 10-12 minutes as I did not want my cookies to be too burnt! They smelled delicious and it took all my willpower not to snatch a couple off the tray.
As the cookies were cooling down I decided to make myself a cup of tea. As I was getting the milk out of the fridge I spotted a bowl of leftover royal icing covered in cling film from a couple of days previously. I knew it would probably go to waste so I decided to get it out and spread it on some of the cookies and top them with a cherry on top to look like Bakewell tarts. I drank my cuppa, enjoying the peace and quiet then thought I’d better finish off the cookies.
I had just enough Bonne Maman strawberry jam left in the jar to sandwich the cookies together. I love the Bonne Maman strawberry jam as it is not gloopy and you get really big strawberry pieces in the jam. It reminds me of what homemade strawberry jam should taste like. I am not at all experienced at making jam but I know what tastes great and what doesn’t.
Half my jam sandwich cookies got the caster sugar sprinkle treatment and the remaining half were given royal icing and a glace cherry on top. They were quickly assembled and I was in the middle of clearing up when I saw my children’s school bus go past. In came my children followed by the cat who had been running around the garden. Before I could say I had made some cookies and they could have one my son grabbed one off the cooling rack. He was sharply reprimanded and told to get changed before he could have one.
I tasted one of the iced ones and to be honest I found the icing far too sweet for my liking. It had been on top of some cupcakes earlier on in the week. I ended up throwing it in the bin. I took one of the sugar sprinkled ones and it was delicious. My children both agreed with me that the icing was too sickly.
Ever since I started baking for pleasure when my daughter was a baby 15 years ago I have always loved to give cakes as gifts to my special friends and family to show my love and appreciation to them. I enjoy the therapy and comfort that baking gives me as I create something that I hope the recipient would enjoy. I think love is an invisible ingredient in baking as well as the butter, sugar and eggs. I know there are some out there who would think “Oh no not another box of cupcakes!” but I honestly say the presents I receive that are handmade and made thinking of me and that I would enjoy the gift means more than something expensive that is bought without a thought. Though I wouldn’t say no to huge bottles of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir perfume!
This blog post shows some of the cakes I have made for Valentine’s Day in the past three years. I make the heart shaped ones regularly for Sam’s Smart Cookies customers but the other ones have been made with love for those close to me.
Over the next few days I am going to be a very busy bee baking Valentine’s Day cakes, cupcakes and cookies so watch this space to see what I bake.
Although I originally started off baking cookies and other small bakes it is amazing how cupcakes have taken off in the last three years or so since I started up Sam’s Smart Cookies. It was funny as more and more customers were coming to me for cupcakes I did wonder about changing my business name for a while. I love making cupcakes and decorating them even more but personally I find eating them rather too sweet. I would prefer a nice fresh warm scone or a chewy flapjack.
I am really looking forward to baking some more Valentine’s Day cupcakes over the next couple of days. It has been amazing how some people love to give cupcakes to their loved ones to show them that they care or even to treat themselves. My husband would not thank me for these as he says he doesn’t like sweet buttercream even though I have seen him munching on my leftovers! Haha, caught in the act!
Baking cookies has always been my first love ever since my children (now both in their teens) were small. My first efforts at icing weren’t very neat and professional though so in June 2008 I went down to Princes Risborough and visited the wonderful Splat Cooking to take part in a “Posh Icing Workshop” as run by the lovely Beverley Glock. Beverley taught us all the techniques and tricks to create fabulous biscuits and I came away all fired up with enthusiasm. Two months later my little cookie business Sam’s Smart Cookies was born, a company I fit around my day job working as a teaching assistant and supply teacher.
Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to get out the cutters and bake beautiful cookies for your loved ones. I don’t make cookies for my hubby though as he doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he doesn’t mind the odd slice of chocolate cake or brownies. I just wanted to share some of the cookies I have made in the last year or so on a Valentine’s theme. My heart cutters get a lot of use at this time of year but I love all the beautiful pinks and reds that are so cheerful on a bleak winter’s day.
Have a look at some of the Valentine’s Day cookie designs I have created over the past year. I will post the ones I am making for this year later on as soon as they are made!
If you are looking for a special centre piece for your Christmas table or something sweet to add to your festive celebrations then why not consider one of Sam’s Smart Cookies hand crafted 3D Christmas Trees?
Gingerbread Tree in green decorated with jellytots, jellybeans and white chocolate Jazzies to customer’s specifications.
Lovingly hand made to order out of mouthwatering gingerbread stars, starting from the large to small, the gingerbread trees are then carefully iced and stacked together to resemble the branches of a Christmas Tree. There are approximately 8 different sized stars with two of each size, starting with the largest at the bottom, the smallest at the top. Each tree comes in either a green or a white colourway and can be decorated with your favourite chocolates or sweets. Usually customers choose traditional colourful sweets, such as jellybeans, M&M’s or Smarties, though I have also used peppermint ones for a mint lover!
White gingerbread Christmas Tree made for a peppermint lover with Mint Imperials, red and green Smarties, traditional pink and white peppermints, chewy mints and silver dragees.
These trees cost just £20 each.
Once the tree is assembled and completed on a cake board, it is carefully wrapped in clear cellophane and decorated with ribbons for easy transportation.
Tree wrapped up and shown ready for transportation.
Showing another version of my green tree with piped royal icing snow and lots of other sweets.
If you would like one of these Tree masterpieces then please contact me on 07710 775715 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I can offer delivery in a 10 mile radius of the YO26 9TG for a small extra delivery charge or you can pick your tree up from my premises at a mutually convienient time. Last day for ordering is December 15th, last day for picking up 23rd December if you want a tree for Christmas. If you need one before then please contact me for availability.
Although I tend to stick to traditional colours for my trees I am always open to suggestions for different colours, just message me your requirements and I will only be happy to help.
As my first blog post said I’m now attempting to bake my way through the two Primrose Bakery recipe books within a year! So this means I’d better get cracking as I want to be finished by June 17th 2013! There’ll be another book and another challenge waiting for me!
But, as I’ve had the two Primrose Bakery Books a while now they have been dipped into for ideas for cake commissions and orders that customers have placed with me. I have always drooled over the pretty pictures in the book and loved the beautifully photographed cupcake towers created for weddings and other special occasions.
So, it was the Primrose Bakery recipe books I turned to for inspiration when I was asked to make a Yorkshire wedding cake and cupcakes a month ago. When my son was at Primary School he used to go to his school after school club a couple of times a week when I did supply teaching and ran an After School Cookery Club. The manager of the club had seen my cupcakes when I had brought some in for a party and admired them. I was thrilled to be asked to make her wedding cake and cupcakes for her wedding. I found the perfect example of what I was looking for, for the design brief when I looked through my Primrose Bakery books. I love the idea that each guest has an individual cupcake to eat, saves on the cutting up of the cake or they can be taken home easily if they don’t want to be eaten there and then. I also like the idea of a top tier that the bride and groom or birthday boy/ girl can cut if they want to.
The Yorkshire Wedding Cake was made at the end of an extremely busy week for me! In fact I had just celebrated my 40th birthday with a party the weekend before, gone through an OFSTED Inspection at the school where I work in my day job and then on the Friday I set to on the wedding cake order. I panicked when I looked and found I hadn’t got enough silver foil cases earlier on in the week and had had to order more over the internet. Thankfully they arrived in time!
The Top Tier- made from The Primrose Bakery’s Vanilla Layer Cake and Vanilla Buttercream recipe coloured a delicate lilac and finished with handmade Yorkshire Roses.
Here are the matching cupcakes, based on the Primrose Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcake recipe and topped with a version of their Vanilla buttercream. The only difference is the Primrose Bakery tend to apply their icing with a pallette knife swirl, I prefer to use a star nozzle like on an ice cream!
Here is the cake and cupcakes all assembled and ready for the wedding reception to start.
I was more nervous taking the cakes to the venue. The bride had given me brilliant directions and I was easily able to park outside the Hospitium to take the cake in, it had been a horrible wet night. The roads were slippy and it took me a while to carry all the cakes to the boot of my car from my house. I made sure they were all safely stowed in the boot and drove very slowly all the way along the A59 to York. I couldn’t care less that I was driving like an old fart, all I cared about was getting the cakes safely to their destination. Even a pothole in the road can be catastrophic! Luckily the staff at the Hospitium were wonderful and offered help in setting the table up for me to assemble the cakes on my stand. Finally they were in place and I could drive home and start on my next cake commission.
Luckily the cakes went down very well, I was delighted as I always feel a bundle of nerves handing over a cake to a customer and I was proud of my very first Primrose Bakery inspired wedding order.