Banana Cake from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.


Today was a day off from work. All very quiet on the supply teaching front when it’s SATs week so I took the chance to catch up with jobs at home and to relax a bit. 

When I was ironing this morning I looked across at my fruit bowl and spotted some bananas that were so ripe I’m surprised they didn’t grow wings and run away! My kids are going through a refusing to eat fruit phase and there’s no way I’d eat six bananas in one sitting. So there was one thing for it- bake a cake with them in!

A few weeks ago I found a lovely book in my local Waterstones called The Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink. I had never heard of The Nordic Bakery before but it is in London, Soho to be precise. I love Scandinavian baking and regularly sample the delights of a local Norwegian cafe in Harrogate called Baltzersens which makes the most gorgeous cinnamon buns. I’ve always wanted to have go at some Nordic baking myself, so I was pleased to find this book!

The recipe for Banana Cake on page 66 was a perfect way to use up my ripe bananas and also some ground cardamom I’d bought and needed to use before it went out of date. As the recipe introduction states: “Everyone loves banana bread or cake as we call it. Ours is packed with the spices that typify Nordic baking: ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Throw in some ground cloves and really ripe bananas and you have a delicious and very easy cake for any time of day,”

Being a Bundt addict and an avid collector of Nordicware bundt pans, the accompanying picture showed the banana cake as a bundt ring cake. That’s what did it for me, I had to get out one of my pans and bake the banana cake there and then.  I chose my Heritage bundt pan which is a very pretty swirl design and makes an ordinary cake look special.  I love banana cake anyway and it would be perfect served plain with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

My favourite Nordicware Heritage Bundt pan was greased with some Wilton Cake Release.
Six small , ripe bananas were mashed with a fork.
Butter and sugar were creamed together in a mixing bowl.
To the creamed butter and sugar I added two beaten eggs.
All the dry ingredients were added to another bowl: plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, ground cardamom and mixed spice.

All the dry ingredients were sifted together and added to the creamed mixture.

The flour mixture was folded in, then I added in the mashed banana.
The mixture was then spooned into the bundt pan and put in the oven.
The finished Banana Cake cooling down and smelling wonderful.
A piece of cake cut to try out.

I love the array of different spices used in Nordic baking and the aroma permeating around my kitchen smelled wonderful. I love the smell of ginger and cinnamon in baking but it was great to experiment with a spice I don’t know as much and that’s cardamom. It’s hugely popular and a staple of Scandinavian baking so when I found some ground cardamom in a local shop, I had to try it out. It saved me messing about crushing cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle! Another spice in the recipe called for using ground cloves. I didn’t have any so I substituted a teaspoonful of ground mixed spice instead.

When the cake was baking, the smell was so tempting. I’m trying so hard to keep off the sweet stuff at the moment but when you are faced with temptation all around you, it’s fatal. Luckily it was near dinner time and I had to make do with a plate of chilli and rice instead!  The cake got put into a box and is now hiding away from me. Though I know I might succumb to it tomorrow night after a long, busy day at work! I’ll let you know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- An Update on the August Cooking The Books Challenge.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog. There’s been so much going on.  Once the school holidays are over I’m back into work mode and there is barely time to get the jobs around the house done.  Then again, I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my computer.  So I thought I’d better get something writen down.

My August Cooking The Books recipe book challenge from Scandelicious Baking seems like a lifetime ago now.  Although I found it enjoyable and I had plenty of time, I didn’t get round to baking two of the recipes I’d originally planned to bake. These were a Pistachio Pavlova with Boozy Cherries and a Norwegian AlmondTart.  I don’t know what happened at the end of the holidays, guess I just ran out of time.

So, to recap I think I would like to look at what I did get round to making.  On the whole I have really enjoyed testing out some delicious recipes. Different flavours and things I wouldn’t have thought to try.

I love making fish pie for my family so I thought the Scandelicious Fish Gratin would go down well with my family.  Instead of being topped with pastry, mashed potato or breadcrumbs this version of a fish pie was topped with some crushed Swedish Krisprolls.  Well I didn’t crush them enough so the topping looked very rustic and unappealing.  Also my son (who used to love my fish pie) refused to eat it.

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The Scandelicious Fish Gratin had a topping of crushed Krisprolls.

To make the Fish Gratin filling I poached some cod cut into large chunks in some milk infused with peppercorns and nutmeg.  After this I made a sauce which had leeks, onion, eggs and creme fraiche in to add to the fish.  This was then poured into a baking dish ready to be topped with the crushed krisprolls!

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The fish gratin filling.
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The finished fish gratin. Looked a bit unappealing and appealed even less to myself and my family. Not a big success at all.

After eating some savoury cheesecake from a buffet once I was keen to have a go at baking one myself. So I had a go at the Scandelicious Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.  The cheesecake contained an oatcake and porridge oat base which had been combined with melted butter.  To make the filling I whisked egg yolks with a pinch of salt, then added some Quark and some cream cheese along with some flour, chopped spring onions and some cheese.  Now in the recipe Signe Johansen suggests Vasterbotten cheese which I have never even heard of, let alone seen it in my local shops.  In the end I used Jarlsberg cheese and grated it straight into the mixture.  In another bowl I beat some egg whites which were then combined with the cheese mixture.  When this was ready it went straight on top of the base and was baked in the oven for about half an hour.

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The finished Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.
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Delicious with a salad.
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I had a slice on its own for lunch the following day.

I’m not very good at baking bread or using yeast but I wanted to have a go at the Spelt Picnic Buns.  I’m not that used to using spelt flour either but I like eating spelt bread.  These buns were meant to be useful for eating on a picnic but we never got to go on one as it was too cold or wet during the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays.  I baked the buns in my muffin tin but they were not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting them to turn out a lot a bigger than they were.  They tasted delicious though and I had one spread with butter at breakfast.

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Scandelicious Spelt Picnic Buns.

So here ends the Cooking The Books Challenge for August and I had more challenges for days in the month than I had time for.  There are lots more recipes I would love to bake from Scandelicious Baking.  I can definitely recommend the book.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Flappenjacken.

The other day when we were sat round the table eating breakfast on holiday the conversation turned to my obsession with baking.  Well we were eating croissants at the time and I said I would love to have a go at baking my own croissants one day.  My family sometimes appreciate my efforts, sometimes don’t.  What they don’t realise is that baking is therapy to me like some people play music, some paint, some do sewing or play sport.  I like the feeling baking something gives me and when I get it right there is nothing else to match those feelings.  Although baking isn’t very kind to my hips and thighs it has brought back a sense of wellbeing and boosted my self esteem enormously over the past few years.

My husband said to me “Why don’t you bake some more flapjack?” and I agreed with him.  Flapjack always goes down well with my family and I have to hide the tin from them. Sometimes I have to hide the tin from myself as I can never stop at one piece! So when we got back from holiday I knew I’d planned to try a version of flapjack called Flappenjacken from Scandelicious Baking by Signe Johansen as part of my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.

In the recipe title Flappenjacken are also described as salted caramel granola biscuits but looking at the ingredients mine had to be a complete variation on the recipe.  I also chose to bake them as a complete traybake rather than as individual biscuits. Signe says “I can’t claim that these are authentically Scandinavian in anyway but they are inspired by my love for salted caramel, Norwegian crispy havreflarn oat biscuits and British flapjacks or flappenjacken as the Muppet Show’s Swedish Chef likes to call them!”

In the recipe Signe calls for a mixture of oats to be used comprising of spelt, rye and barley flakes but I had to use plain porridge oats as I couldn’t find any other flakes in my local supermarket.  I noticed also that the recipe used egg, milk, flour and baking powder unlike my traditional flapjack recipe so that meant it was more cakeified!

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Here’s the flappenjacken mix before being tipped into the cake tin.
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All ready to go into the oven!
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Out of the oven and cut up into slices. Looks more cakey than like traditional flapjack but tasted wonderful.
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The flappenjacken was perfect for me as it wasn’t too overly sweet. My hubby enjoyed it too for the very same reason.

I was pleased with the results and should have waited a little bit longer before cutting it up as the flappenjacken crumbled as I took it out of the tin and tried to put it onto the plate.  I scoffed a piece right away with my soup at lunchtime. It should have been a sandwich but I couldn’t help myself, they smelled so good!

As for my family my hubby has spotted them in the tin and has enjoyed them, the children weren’t impressed as they had almonds, and dessicated coconut  in them.  Never mind, all the more for us as they say!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Toscakaka.

I don’t miss baking and eating cakes when I’m on holiday in places like Spain.  I think it’s because it’s far too hot to be thinking about eating cake and I’m not in my own kitchen.  Although the villas we usually stay at have pretty impressive kitchens I’m happier getting a salad ready, cooking something with pasta or warming up croissants!  But as soon as I’m back home, that’s it.  I want to be baking again and eating comfort food.  When we left Spain on Saturday morning it was 30oC, now as I type it’s 14oC.  No wonder I’m craving carbs!  Or maybe it’s the fault of The Great British Bake Off?

Once I was back from holiday and had to get stocked up again in our local Morrisons I thought of what we could have to go after our Sunday lunch pudding.  I didn’t have one single pudding on holiday, apart from a couple of ice creams.  I got out my Scandelicious Baking book which is part of my Cooking The Books Challenge from this month and decided on the Toscakaka.  Of course when I told my kids I was making Toscakaka they started laughing about the kaka bit and said it sounded like cack , I think caca is also French for poo which made them laugh even more when I told them that.  Though in this case I think it’s either Norwegian or Swedish for cake!

Toscakaka is actually a very delicious cake and I’ve been lucky enough to eat it at a local  Scandinavian cafe, called Baltzersens in Harrogate which serves the most yummy cakes.  The sponge base is a light vanilla sponge made with buttermilk and topped with an almond praline.  It isn’t overly sweet which I thought would appeal to my husband.

We ate our dinner quite late that day as a main meal, I couldn’t be bothered with a full roast or anything like that so I made up a lasagne with some salad for our mains followed by a slice of the Toscakaka.  Here’s how it was made:

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First I whisked eggs with sugar and vanilla extract. This had to be done by hand as my hand held mixer has broken.
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All the “dry ingredients” were mixed together in another bowl. In another bowl I was meant to add some buttermilk but Morrisons didn’t have any. I used creme fraiche instead!
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Making the almond praline- by heating butter, brown sugar, flaked almonds and milk in a pan until caramelised.
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The baked cake out of the oven and cooling down on the rack. I left the cake inside the tin as you have to put it back in the oven with the praline topping on it.
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The cake with the praline topping on it, it went back into the oven for about 10 minutes to cook.
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Here is the finished cake after it was turned out onto the cooling rack. Although the sides weren’t very neat it tasted fantastic.
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The flaked almonds look a bit lighter than the ones in the recipe’s picture but I was worried about them burning!
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A slice for me! My hubby had his with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
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Leftovers for another day.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Dime/Daim Bar Muffins.

Last Friday, at the end of the second week of the summer holidays I was at home in baking mode. I’d had the scales and the oven on to bake some cupcakes for my Dad’s cousin’s Golden Wedding Celebration. My two teenagers weren’t coming to the party but I wanted them to have a treat while we were out to have after their pizza.  They love muffins and chocolate so I thought I could try and bake them some Dime Bar Muffins like I saw in Scandelicious Baking by Signe Johansen.

Signe says in the recipe introduction: “These chocolate muffins satisfy a sweet tooth without being too sweet, despite the fact they contain little nuggets of Daim almond praline and are topped with a rich chocolate Daim glaze,”  Sounds good to me!

When I was out shopping the day before I struggled to find the Dime/ Daim bars needed to bake the muffins.  I was in Sainsburys and couldn’t find any on the shelf.  When I asked the assistant if they had any in he said they had stopped selling them.  Why?  I didn’t have time to go anywhere else except a local Tesco where I did find a couple of bars of Dairy Milk with Daim pieces in it.  I hoped that they would work just as well in the recipe.

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Dairy Milk Daim Bars, I needed two of these bars. Some pieces were chopped up in the muffins itself, the rest ended up as a chocolate glaze and sprinkled on the top of the muffins!

So on the Friday morning out came my muffin cases and the muffin tin and I got down to work.

The muffins didn’t swell up as much as I thought they would do, so they looked far more like cupcakes than muffins to me.  The kitchen smelled of chocolate heaven and my mouth was watering.  I didn’t eat any though as we were going out that night but I was really tempted!

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Whisking eggs, vanilla and sugar together.
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Folding in the flour and baking powder.
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The muffin batter ready to be put in the cake cases and for the oven.
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The finished Daim Bar Muffins were spread with a chocolate glaze and topped with chopped pieces of Dairy Milk with Daim inside.
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One of the muffins broken up to see what was inside!

Both my children loved the muffins and so did my hubby who had one to “put him on” until we ate at the Golden Wedding Celebration that evening.  He enjoyed it as he doesn’t have a sweet tooth but they still tasted great, just goes to show you don’t need to pack things full of sugar to taste good.  I thought, oh well I’ll have one for breakfast on the Saturday morning but when we got in from the party we found that ALL the muffins had gone!  Oh dear, my cake eating fairies had been at it again.  I’ll just have to go off and bake another batch!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Blueberry and Elderflower Upside Down Cake.

I’m a bit behind with my blog posts recently but I’m trying to catch up with it all.  We had a few mad days before going off to Spain on our summer holidays so cake and baking was the last thing on my mind!  But I always love to have a cake or a pudding for Sunday lunch dessert.  So on the first Sunday back at the beginning of August, it was a busy day as my hubby was out all day doing a classic car rally and I was at home with my two children. The kids were busy doing their own thing as teenagers do and  I had a pile of ironing the height of the Empire State Building. I was just so unmotivated to get it done.  In the end I did about half of it but at least I had some baking to look forward to!

I chose to bake Signe Johansen’s Upside Down Blueberry and Elderflower Cake from her Scandelicious Baking book.  I have tried this delicious cake before in Baltzersens which is a Scandinavian coffee shop in Harrogate.  It is just gorgeous and I love the blueberries glistening like shiny jewels on top of the cake against the pale vanilla sponge.  A pretty cake with lots of flavour but not overpoweringly sweet and sickly.

In the recipe introduction Signe says “This cake doesn’t keep well as the blueberries lose their fresh intensity relatively quickly after cooking so be sure to get your friends around to enjoy it on the day of baking!”

It was a shame I hadn’t got any friends coming round on that day then but I was sure it would go down well with the family when I served it up for pudding. Or so I thought.

On this day I just seemed to have one baking disaster after another.  I was in tears as I had also tried to bake a quiche for our dinner.  We were having our main meal of the day at dinnertime when my hubby was due to get back but I wasn’t sure what time he would be back. The quiche going wrong was another story and I was just so tempted to say “B******r it, lets have a Chinese!” I didn’t have much food in, being as we were off on holiday a few days later I was trying to run stocks down a little.

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The elderflower flavour in the cake comes from this gorgeous elderflower cordial. I recently bought some at the Harrogate Good Food Show from the Belvoir Fruit Farms stand. I love it and have bought more as it’s delicious with fizzy water!
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The elderflower cordial was poured over a large punnet of blueberries.
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In a large bowl I whisked together eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.

Disaster in the kitchen part one started when yet another of my hand held mixers (I’ve gone through about 5 in the last 2 years) decided to pack up.  I have a KitchenAid which I love but my hubby moans about it being in the way in the kitchen when I use it and makes me put it away in the garage or the cupboard every time I’ve finished baking.  This does my head in and isn’t convienient so the handheld one does the trick if I’m only baking one thing at a time.  On a Sunday afternoon there wasn’t time to go and get another one so I used the whisk attachment on my stick blender which isn’t very strong.

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Whisking the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract up.

Then I added spelt flour, ground almonds and baking powder and alternated folding these ingredients into the mixture along with some melted butter and some Greek yoghurt.  I used a large metal spoon but the mixture did seem a little bit runny to me.

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Here is the mixture all whisked up.

In the recipe Signe mentions using a 23cm round cake tin.  I didn’t know whether she meant a deep one or a sandwich one. I got the deep one out that I use for Christmas cakes but I think I used the wrong base!  As the cake is an upside down one, I had to put all the elderflower soaked blueberries in first. followed by the cake mixture.  All seemed to be fine until about half way through the cooking time I looked through the oven window and noticed blueberry juice seeping out of the bottom of the cake tin and splashing onto the oven bottom!  I could have cried.  The cake was meant to be in the oven for 30-35 minutes but it got beyond that time and the cake was still raw in the middle.  I kept it in for about 50 minutes in the end but because I’d had the oven door open a couple of times testing the cake it came out with a big dip in the middle.  Then the tears did come and afterwards I thought “Why am I crying over a cake?”

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The finished blueberry and elderflower upside down cake. Complete with sunken middle.
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A slice of the blueberry cake cut up and appearances can be deceptive. It tasted lovely.
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After my daughter also had a slice this is what was left. No one was really that impressed by it, sadly.

When the cake had cooled down and I’d cleared up I found out that my hubby was being given dinner after his race meeting. So a big blueberry cake dessert wasn’t needed after all.  I cut up the cake and asked my children if they would like some.  My daughter loves blueberries and she enjoyed it but my son turned his nose up at it.  I really enjoyed it and would love to try and bake it again another time.  A couple of days later we still had half the cake left so I decided to get it out and see if it was still worth eating.  Unfortunately I dropped the plate and my greedy labrador scoffed the lot!  I was fuming but he obviously liked it as there wasn’t anything but crumbs left on the floor!  Bad dog!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- A Brand New Challenge For August 2014.

A new month and that means a brand new book in my SmartCookieSam Cooking The Books Challenge. I’ve chosen the fabulous Scandelicious Baking by Signe Johansen for this month’s featured book. I’ve just recently discovered Scandi baking and how delicious it is through going along to the brilliant Balderzens in Harrogate. The owner, Paul’s grandmother is Norwegian and he often uses her recipes in his cafe. I was also lucky enough as former organiser for Harrogate Clandestine Cake Club to be able to hold one of our cakey gatherings there. When we were at the event we were told that some of the cakes served in the cafe were also based on Signe Johansen’s Scandelicious recipes. I went out and bought the book and found lots of things I really wanted to try myself!

So what am I going to bake? Well it all depends on a couple of things really. Will my family eat it? Will it be something which will fit in around all my other plans? It also depends on how long the book is and how many chapters it has. Scandelicious has six chapters so this means I will try for about 1-2 recipes per chapter. Watch this space!

First up is the Breads, Rolls and Flatbreads chapter, so for this I’m going to go with something I know my kids will eat, some Spelt Picnic Buns They should go down well at breakfast or if we need to take a picnic anywhere.

Last month I tried a savoury cheesecake for the first time and loved it. So I would love to try the Cheese and Onion Cheesecake from the Savouries chapter. From the same chapter is a recipe for a Fish Gratin which I’m sure all my lot will eat!

The third chapter in Scandelicious is called Pastries, Sweet Buns and Muffins. I must admit I always run away from patisserie style baking as it always looks far too complicated. So. I’ll stick with some muffins instead. My kids would love the Daim Chocolate Muffins.. Whenever I see Daim bars I always think of IKEA!

Now for the chapter I always look at first: Cakes: For this challenge I will be baking two things from this chapter, mainly because I can’t make my mind up between the two. I’ve eaten both at Baltzersen’s and loved them. So we are going for Toscakaka, which is a Scandinavian caramel almond praline topped sponge. Not to mention the equally mouthwatering Upside Down Blueberry and Elderflower Cake.

Onto the Puddings and Tarts chapter where again I was struggling to choose. But I just have to have a go at  the Fyrstekake, which is a Norwegian Spiced Almond Tart.

In the Biscuits chapter there is also a lot to choose from but I want to have a go at the Chocolate Cardamom Biscuits and the Flappenjacken.  I hope I can stop at one.

Let’s see how I get on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx