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

Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Icing Sugar Winter Flavours- Creme Brulee Snowflake Bundt and Cupcakes.

I really love Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural flavoured icing sugars and was really keen to try out their new limited edition flavours brought out for this Christmas and the Winter season.  I was lucky enough to win a £25 gift voucher from them in a Great British Bake Off competition on their Facebook page. We had to predict the winner of the Bake Off for this year. My name along with another lady, won because we were drawn out of the names who predicted Candice would win. I was so happy when I heard I’d won the prize as I wanted to buy packets of the new four flavours released in time for Christmas.  Not only that but I wanted to get some more packets of my favourite flavours, like Chocolate Mint and Salted Caramel.

The four new flavours included the decadent sounding Creme Brulee.  I love Creme Brulee although I never make it at home.  It sounded like a perfect creamy vanilla flavour to enhance a Christmas themed sponge, cupcakes or fudge.

Those of you who read my blog regularly might see I’ve not been writing much recently. This is down to me working full time with a position in a nursery.  It has been very long hours and as soon as I get in on an evening, the last thing I think about is baking or blogging.  But baking is a massive part of my life, it keeps me sane and helps me relax.  I really missed it.

Before the end of last term it was going to be a Christmas tea party at the nursery I’ve been working in.  I baked some plain vanilla cupcakes with glace icing and snowflake sugarpaste shapes for the children.  I didn’t want the adults to miss out, after all in the busy lead up to Christmas you definitely need a sugar boost to get you through the day.

Plain vanilla cupcakes baked for the children to eat at their tea party.

The Snowflake Creme Brulee Bundt was a great excuse to use my Nordicware snowflake bundt pan bought back in July when on holiday in Canada.  I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw it on the shelf in Williams Sonoma in Edmonton. I made sure I greased the bundt pan carefully with cake release, then got on with baking the bundt itself.  The recipe I used is adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery’s book Life Is Sweet.  On page 28 there is a delicious recipe for a Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake.  Here is my adaptation:

SNOWFLAKE CREME BRULEE BUNDT

INGREDIENTS:

390g unsalted, softened butter

375g caster sugar

6 large eggs

250g icing sugar (Sugar and Crumbs’ Creme Brulee natural flavour)

395g plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

extra icing sugar to dust 

To begin with preheat the oven to 170oC/ 325oF or Gas Mark 3.Grease the bundt pan with Cake release.

In a mixing bowl with a hand held electric mixer or a freestanding mixer, beat the softened butter and the caster sugar together until it is light and creamy.

Then add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture after each addition. Then add the icing sugar to the bowl, followed by the vanilla extract.

After that, add in the plain flour. Mix this with a metal spoon by folding in the flour until everything is incorporated.  

Spoon the mixture into the prepared bundt tin.  I found that there was some mixture left over when I use a smaller bundt pan.  I ended up having enough mixture to bake several cupcakes.  Of course this does depend on the size of your bundt pan, just make sure it is filled to three quarters full. 

Bake your bundt cake in the oven for about 55-60 minutes. I usually need to check with a skewer inserted into the cake but it is usually done when the cake starts to come away from the side of the tin.

As the snowflake bundt has so much pretty detail on it, I felt it didn’t need any icing. All it needed was a dusting of the creme brulee icing sugar on top and it was finished.

The remainder of the 500g packet of creme brulee icing sugar was turned into a simple glace icing for the top of the cupcakes.I then cut out some sugarpaste snowflake shapes with some mini plunger cutters bought from Lakeland.  They were gorgeous and looked pretty on top of the cupcakes in their sparkly foil cases.

The Creme Brulee Snowflake Bundt in all its glory.
The snowflake bundt only needed a dusting of icing sugar to show the beautiful detail off.
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Love these pretty snowflake plunger cutters from Lakeland.
Cupcakes baked with the remaining mixture which was left.  Topped with the remaining creme brulee icing and finished with sugarpaste snowflakes
Different snowflake patterns

Everything went down very well at work.  Though it’s nearly 3 weeks since I made them now, such a distant memory. But I’m determined to get myself organised and blog more in 2017.  Wonder if I’ll still be saying that next month!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 SmartCookieSam’s Christmas Baking.

I dream about baking and love any excuse to get in my kitchen.  But the week before Christmas I just couldn’t get into it. I knew I had lots to make but every time I thought “Right, let’s make that fudge,” something would happen and it would get pushed to the wayside.  I started off the week with a thumping fuzzy headache.  It was brought on by having to get everything I hadn’t done sorted out in three days flat because of all the work commitments leading up to the end of term. In the end I decided I would have to get up at 5.30am and get cracking on what was needed for foodie presents and for our own Christmas food.

It was a very long day and by the time I sat down at 10pm having cleaned the kitchen floor, I was ready for bed.  These photos showed what I made.

My Gingerbread House Bundt Cake baked as an alternative to Christmas cake.
Using a recipe from the Sugar and Crumbs website I made their simple fudge using Salted Caramel icing sugar, condensed milk and butter. So easy to make.
Brownies always go down well for foodie presents and I baked three different batches, starting with these Mint M&M ones.
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Brownies baked with Oreo Cookies inside, yum yum!
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Some baking for us: Mince Pies and homemade sausage rolls.
For those who don’t like mince pies I baked some peanut butter M&M cookies.  

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Gingerbread Cupcakes using the scrumptious and delicious smelling Sugar and Crumbs Gingerbread Icing sugar in the buttercream.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pumpkin Bundt With Ginger Cream Filling.

A week last Sunday was Pudsey and West Leeds’ Clandestine Cake Club event. The theme was Harvest Time and it was a great opportunity to bake with fruits or vegetables which are abundant at this time of year.  I don’t have green fingers or the space to grow vegetables in my garden though it’s something I would love to be able to do if I had a bigger back garden.  Instead I used a tin of Libby’s Pureed Pumpkin which had been in my cupboard for a few months.  My friend Linda had bought me a couple of tins when she was out shopping in Waitrose for herself and I thought a Pumpkin Bundt cake would be perfect for cake club.

I keep telling myself I have enough Nordicware Bundt pans.  I’ve lost count of how many I have.  Then again, I see a new one or one I’ve coveted for a while and I think !I just have to have that! On my day off from work I went over to TKMaxx thinking I could do with a couple of nice cake boxes and ended up coming out with the cake boxes, a mini chopper, some Christmas cupcake cases and the Nordicware Kugelhopf pan.  Did I need it? Did I heck? But it’s a beautiful pan and will last forever.  Being as it’s a traditional design it will get used all year round, too!

My baking inspiration came from a Bundt recipe book bought a few months back. It’s a Nordicware publication entitled “Best Of The Bundt” and I was very impressed with the quality of the recipes.  Even though it’s an American publication with measurements in cups, etc. thankfully there are metric equivalents given as well.

Last Sunday morning I started on the Pumpkin Cake with a Ginger Cream Filling.  The bundt contains a filling of cream cheese, ginger, sugar and flour which is baked into the middle of the cake. The cake itself was a delicately spiced pumpkin bundt infused with cardamom and cinnamon and then flavoured with buttermilk. It sounded too mouthwatering for words and perfect for an Autumn cakey gathering.

I’d left it a bit late to start on the baking. Normally I bake my cake the day before but we were out and about, so I ran out of time.  So last Sunday morning it was. I greased and floured the Kugelhopf pan which is quite a narrow and tall tin.  I hoped this wouldn’t affect the bake.  I reckoned I would have to stick the tin onto a flat baking tray so it wouldn’t tip over in the oven.

First I opened up the tin of pumpkin puree and reserved 2 tablespoonfuls of the puree towards the frosting.  The rest was going into the cake itself.  In a large bowl I creamed together butter and sugar.  As I weighed out the sugar I couldn’t believe how much was going into the cake.  Then into the bowl went 4 large eggs, followed by the pumpkin puree.  This got mixed well together. In another bowl I sifted together some dry ingredients which included some plain flour, ground cardamom, cinnamon and baking powder.  Then, I measured out some buttermilk.  The dry ingredients and the buttermilk got folded into the creamed mixture bit by bit until I ended up with a delicious and aromatic mix.

Then it was time to make up the ginger cream filling.  I’d bought a large tub of full fat Philadelphia cheese especially for the cake.  I was really angry when I got the tub out of the fridge and found it had been opened! Mr SmartCookieSam must’ve nicked some to go on his crackers! It can’t have been my daughter, the other cheese lover in our house as she has been at uni for the past month!  About 2 tbsp had gone which wasn’t much but it meant I didn’t have enough for the frosting. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil it but I wasn’t going to make a fuss over 2 tbsp of cream cheese!

The cream cheese, ground ginger, light brown sugar and 2 tbsp of plain flour all got mixed together to make the ginger cream filling.  I then started to fill the cake tin, starting with 2/3 of the pumpkin mixture. I followed that with the ginger cream cheese mixture, taking care that it wouldn’t get mixed in with the pumpkin flavour or to touch the sides of the pan. Finally, I finished off the cake with the remaining pumpkin mixture.

The bundt was meant to be baked for 65 to 70 minutes but after this time it still felt like the cake wasn’t cooked. I tested it with a skewer but there was still soggy mixture stuck to it in about three places.  After about 80 minutes the cake looked like it had cracked on the top and was ready to come out of the oven.  I had to give it about 10 minutes before I was able to turn it out onto a wire rack. I always panic at this point. This is when all your hard work can be undone in seconds if the cake won’t come out of the tin or it comes out in several pieces.  Thankfully the cake slid out in one piece which made me feel so relieved. Usually I find if the cake is meant for a special occasion or for cake club it turns into a disaster area!

While the cake was cooling down I had to make a glaze cum frosting for the top of the cake. I whipped cream, icing sugar and a little bit of milk together to form the frosting. To this I added finely chopped pecans.  The frosting was then piped onto the top of the bundt with my large star nozzle. To finish off I added whole pecans to decorate the top.

When I cut the cake at cake club later that afternoon I was bitterly disappointed. Despite the cake being in the oven longer than needed and presumably I did stick it in at the right temperature, it came out looking like the middle was uncooked.  I thought it looked disgusting inside but it still got eaten.

Would I bake the cake again? I’d like to try it out again but will have to watch the baking time and the oven temperature.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Slimming World Low Syn Christmas Star Cookies.

A few weeks ago I had a wake up call.  It came about the time when I was sorting out some clothes and realised that about two thirds of the items in my wardrobe were far too tight for me.  Trousers with zips that wouldn’t do up, buttons that wouldn’t do up and with gaping holes on my work shirts. Not to mention several dresses and skirts that made my stomach look like I was 6 months pregnant.  My baby is 16 years old!  I also saw several unflattering photos of me taken over the summer where I looked like a beached whale.  All I can say is at least I wasn’t in a bikini on them. I’m not classed as obese but well within the overweight category.  I blame my love of baking but if I don’t bake, I’m not tempted. Trouble is, I love baking and if I don’t do it, I feel I’m missing out. After a couple of attempts at Weightwatchers recently and feeling like I’ve not got anywhere, I decided to try Slimming World. I needed something new and with interesting recipes to motivate me and my family to eat what I cook.

So far in the past 3 weeks I have lost 5.5lbs. This, to me who takes ages even to lose a pound was a real motivator for me.  Not only that but I’ve really enjoyed going to my local group, everyone is so friendly and warm.

Yesterday in group was the launch of Countdown To Christmas and we were asked to bring Syn Free or low Syn Christmas nibbles for a taster session to our group.  I looked on the Slimming World Website for inspiration and came across some ideas for biscuits including a star shaped almond cookie. I was sceptical about baking cookies from a Slimming World recipe as I can’t stand using artificial sweeteners and low fat spreads in baking.  Not only is the taste different, the texture is strange and it’s just not what my baking is all about.  So I tried baking these biscuits with trepidation…eeeeekkk!

Yesterday afternoon I was in a rush after getting in from work late.  Thankfully there were no distractions so I got all the ingredients out and started on the cookies.  I mixed all the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, Canderel, Flora Cuisine and eggs all together to form a smooth dough.  The dough felt more like bread dough than a cookie dough and was a bit springy and like elastic.  It felt strange.  I don’t tend to put raising agents in my roll out cookies, unless it’s gingerbread and I felt as if I couldn’t get the dough thin enough. Also I didn’t want it rising up like pastry or a cake in the oven.

As the cookies were meant to be bite size ones I couldn’t use the normal star shape I use for cookies. Instead I used the second smallest one out of a 3D gingerbread tree set, which gave the perfect size for a nibble.  The recipe said I could get 48 biscuits, I lost count but there were definitely more than 48 there.

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I kept a close watch on the oven as the cookies would bake quickly.  I gave them about 8-10 minutes at about 160oC in my fan oven.  They did expand and rise quite a bit.

To decorate, I mixed up a little bit of glace icing. If I hadn’t made them Slimming World friendly I would have spent ages decorating the stars covering the whole of the top with a flood and fill royal icing and lots of glitter and sprinkles.  Instead I snipped a tiny hole off the bottom of a disposable piping bag and drizzled the icing on here and there, suppose Mary Berry would have said they were “informal”! I found a few bits left in different sprinkles tubs in my baking stash which needed using up. I chucked them altogether into one big jar, shook it up and sprinkled them on the cookies. Most of the sprinkles went on the floor and not on the cookies though!

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My son tasted a couple and said they didn’t taste like normal cookies and tasted bland.  I tried one and thought they were ok. I took them along to group and they went down well. I think, though for a tiny bite they are still 3 syns. That’s still quite a lot for a little biscuit.

Will I bake them again? I’m not sure.  I would rather bake biscuits with butter and caster sugar instead of fake sweeteners and low fat spreads full of chemicals.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Scone Round

img_0522Last week my Dad and step mum gave me a bag of beautiful looking apples from the tree in their garden. I was delighted with them as the apples on my own tree in my front garden aren’t quire ready yet. The apples are a bit small and hard at the moment. To top all that, Mr SmartCookieSam had to prune the tree a couple of weeks back as our greedy and nosy Labrador worked out a way that he could shake the tree to make apples fall down. He had a great time doing this until he ended up hurting his tail after jumping up at the tree! I’ll have to see if they are worth using in a couple of weeks time.

Every year I think about what I could bake with the apples and I get fed up of the same things. Of course crumbles and pies work well and I did make a few different apple cakes. But sometimes you just want to try something different.  I gor out my recipe books and looked for all the apple recipes I could find.

One simple but delicious recipe is one I’ve baked before but never actually made it at home. In my previous post about Cheesy Feet I mentioned about working in a school and running a Cookery Club. This was a big success and wherever possible we tried to use fruit and veg that was grown in the school garden.  We did have an apple tree which on one year only produced two apples. So we made a big thing of using the two apples in a yummy apple scone round.

The original apple scone round recipe comes from the very first Great British Bake Off recipe book published back in 2010 to accompany the first series: The Great British Book Of Baking.

It’s a great recipe and I found it perfect for baking with children.

First, you need to peel, chop and core some apple. I used two medium sized ones. I put the chopped apple to one side in a bowl but worked quickly so that the apple didn’t start to turn brown. Then in another bowl I rubbed in butter, self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon to create a breadcrumb texture. Then some demarera sugar was added to sweeten the mixture.  When this was done I added a little bit of whole milk bit by bit until it formed a manageable ball of dough.

On a large baking sheet covered in baking parchment, I put the dough but flattened it out gently until it was about 20cm in diameter. I then got a knife and divided the scone into 8 by scoring the lines on the top of the dough.  Into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

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Ready for the oven.
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Apple Scone Round; a great way of using all those leftover apples.
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A slice of apple scone with a cup of tea and some Cheddar cheese.

To get the best out of the flavour and taste, as with all scones it is best to eat them warm and fresh.  As I’d baked the scone round on a late Saturday afternoon and was going out for dinner, we didn’t eat any til the following day. It was ok but probably should have been eaten straightaway. A great serving suggestion popular round my way is to serve it with a slice of cheese: something like Cheddar or Wensleydale would work well. Failing that, it would also be delicious with a good dollop of clotted cream on the side.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx