The Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home Recipe Book

On Valentine’s Day I did not receive a huge bouquet of red roses, I did not scoff my way through a huge box of luxurious champagne truffles. In fact I can’t be doing with Valentine’s Day and all the nonsense that goes with it. I bake my family a cake and fulfill orders for those who want sweet treats but otherwise I can take it or leave it.  I think you need to show your loved ones how much you love them EVERY DAY, not just on 14th February. My hubby did offer to make me a special dinner which we enjoyed on the Saturday as a Thursday is always too rushed with all the daily commitments that don’t stop for St. Valentine!

So, on the afternoon of 14th February I was astounded to see a courier on my doorstep brandishing two packages from Amazon.  One was the fantastic Clandestine Cake Club book which I had preordered and had actually been published today.  I have blogged a review about it which you can read about here.  The other book was non other than the latest Hummingbird Bakery cook book “Home Sweet Home”  This is another book I have been on about getting for a while so it was a brilliant surprise to see it turning up on Valentine’s Day.

My Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook (left) and the new Hummingbird Bakery "Home Sweet Home" book on the right
My Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook (left) and the new Hummingbird Bakery “Home Sweet Home” book on the right.

Upon first glance the book looked stylish and the cover complimented the Hummingbird Bakery’s brand colours, the pink and the dark brown.  The other two earlier books are dark brown and pink respectively so this third book would slot well alongside them on my bookshelf.  The front cover looked very contemporary, yet had a nostalgic look about it as well.

Inside the front cover, the blurb reads: this book “celebrates classic homebaking with inspirational recipes and fail-safe advice on how to achieve baking perfection in the comfort of your own kitchen,”   The last sentence also reads “ The Hummingbird Bakery’s beautiful and practical new book offers delicious reasons to get into the kitchen and enjoy your homemade treats,”  So I was hoping, would their advice help me to perfect their signature cupcake swirls, something I’ve always struggled with in the past!

The book is split into different chapters, firstly starting with a lengthy section on cupcakes, followed by Cakes, Cheesecakes and Roulades, Cookies and Biscuits, Pies and Cobblers, Traybakes, Sweet Treats and Classic Puds, not to mention a whole section devoted to Savouries.  I was intrigued to see the final chapter as I hadn’t seen savoury recipes associated with the Hummingbird Bakery before. There is also a useful section entitled Baking Essentials at the back of the book.

The photographs are of a very high standard and make the bakes look gorgeous and tempting to eat.  I was pleased to see a photograph for each recipe, some even have step-by step photos. Some recipes go over onto a second page but that is not confusing as there are matching photos.  The recipes themselves are clearly laid out with the ingredients clearly marked and where you need ingredients for separate components of a cake such as a filling, these are clearly identified as well.

So what do I think of the recipes themselves? Most recipes I absolutely loved, some I wasn’t so keen on and others I thought looked good but looked too fiddly to make from scratch if I was pushed for time.  I think I will try most of the Cookie recipes and some of the less sweet and sickly looking cupcake recipes.  I don’t think I will be using it as a cookbook for every day bakes but would be ideal if you are needing something for a dinner party or another special occasion.

Would I recommend this book to others?  The answer is yes if you like American style baking and you love visiting the Hummingbird Bakery.  Sadly I have not yet had chance to go there. Every time I go down to London my hubby says “I am not spending my afternoon looking at bloody cupcakes!”

In my next blog post I will be writing about making the Jaffa Cake Cupcakes as my son spotted them when I was looking through the book and has asked me to make them.  Let’s see if I can have a go at the famous Hummingbird Icing Technique.

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off- Chocolate Truffle Showstopper Valentine Cake

Last Tuesday was York Clandestine Cake Club’s event “All You Need Is Love” which was a perfect theme for a cake. After all, for me baking is something I do with love for my friends, family and whoever gets to try out one of my creations.  We were inspired to find something that you would associate with love.

It took me a while to decide what to bake. I went through all my baking books and even thought about what I had made before for Sam’s Smart Cookie orders but it always came back to chocolate. I don’t know why but I began thinking of a large chocolate truffle cake  with lots of ganache piled on decorated with sugarpaste heart shapes.

Inspiration came from my The Great British Bake Off- How To Turn Everyday Bakes Into Showstoppers which has been a firm favourite of mine since I bought it last August.  In the first chapter of the book there is a rather yummy looking triple layer chocolate truffle celebration cake.  My mouth started watering.  I had never made the cake from that recipe before and was desperate to try it.  Of course I wouldn’t be making three layers, just the smallest one which would amply serve 12 people.

So, last Monday afternoon after I had done my usual dog walk with my black lab I was back in good time for Sainsbury’s doing a delivery. I had the ingredients for the cake itself but the cream for the ganache was on the Sainsbury’s order. I hoped it was on the order and not out of stock. Out came the 70% cocoa solids chocolate and some butter which was carefully melted and put aside.

The chocolate and butter was melted in the microwave.
The chocolate and butter was melted in the microwave.

I had had to stop on the way home from work for eggs as my daughter had used the last of them making omelettes for her and my hubby at breakfast time.  Thankfully the shop had plenty of local free range eggs in stock!  Four of these little beauties were whisked up together in my KitchenAid mixer until frothy along with caster sugar and vanilla extract.  Then I added the chocolate and melted butter to the mixture. Finally baking powder and flour were folded in.

Whisking the eggs with sugar and vanilla extract together.
Whisking the eggs with sugar and vanilla extract together.

The mixture was divided between two sandwich tins and placed in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. As it was nearing the end of the cooking time I noticed the Sainsbury’s van parking outside.  The delivery man said “Something smells nice!” and asked me what I was making. I quickly whipped the cakes out of the oven when he had gone back to the van to get the rest of the shopping out. I did not have enough chocolate left to go back making more!

The chocolate cakes cooling on the rack.
The chocolate cakes cooling on the rack.

About an hour later my daughter came home from school and then I had to go out and collect my son from his After School Club. I left the cake cooling on the rack in the kitchen glad that it would be ready to ice when we got back from school.

The ganache was easy to make up, I melted plain chocolate and double cream under a low heat on my hob and let it cool down so it thickened. It was still a little runny by dinner time so I decided to decorate the cake after tea.

Making a mess putting the chocolate ganache on the cake!
Making a mess putting the chocolate ganache on the cake!

It didn’t take long to sandwich the cake together and put the ganache on the top and the sides of the cake.  It was a bit runny and I always make a big mess of ganache but I kept a sheet of baking parchment under the rack to catch any drips.  As a finishing touch I found some red sugar heart shapes which I had bought in Sainsburys.  I then added some red hundreds and thousands sprinkled on the top of the cake.

Finally on went a bright red ribbon with silver hearts to go with the love theme.  All I could hope was that the cake would go down well at the event.

The finished cake complete with heart patterned ribbon. Think it originally came from Duttons for Buttons in Harrogate.



All the delicious cakes laid out ready for the York Clandestine Cake Club event.

The event was the first one I had been to outside my own group and it was lovely to meet a few new friends.  We went along to the fabulous Sooty’s Cupcakery on Castlegate in York which was a perfect venue.  It had a retro American diner deco theme and I noticed along with all the cupcakes and other bakes as well as the drinks it sold American candy/ sweets and some cake decorating products to recreate some cupcakes at home. I had never been there before and now am determined to go back now I know about it!  Sooty’s mum served us drinks and looked after us and made us feel very welcome.  We had loads of cake to try and we went back with lots of cake in the boxes we went with.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook

The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill

As written on the back cover of the book:- “Across the UK and beyond, thousands of home bakers meet with one simple mission: bake, eat and talk about cake. Now, founder Lynn Hill and the members of the famous Clandestine Cake Club reveal their favourite recipes, from teatime treats and chocolatey indulgences to global bakes and seasonal extravaganzas. The secret is out!”

The pretty pastel retro feel front cover of The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook
The pretty pastel retro feel front cover of The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook

I first discovered the Clandestine Cake Club about a year ago when I was looking through my Twitter feed. I came across the name Clandestine Cake Club and wondered what it was all about.  I visited the website to find out more and noticed there was an event taking place near me in Harrogate in a couple of weeks time. I immediately registered as a member, signed up for the event and planned out the cake I was going to bake.  Unfortunately I had to cancel going to the event due to family circumstances and to two more events at other local clubs.  Now I am jointly running the newly formed Knaresborough and Ripon Club and loving it.  It took me several months to get involved in going to an actual club but I enjoy it so much. It has transformed my life.

Last Thursday the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook was published.  The book contains recipes from Lynn Hill herself and from other CCC members from all over the country and overseas too.  We have all been waiting for this cookbook so much and it has not disappointed at all.  I know that Lynn has worked very hard to see this book come to life.  She should be proud of her efforts as the book is perfect in every way.  I have tasted a few of  the recipes from other members when at events and was determined to try the recipes out for myself when I could.

Gorgeous recipes with something for everyone.
Gorgeous recipes with something for everyone.

The appearance of the book is just simply gorgeous. It stands out from all the other baking books on the shelf, a pretty mint green colour with a retro feel to it.  I also love the typeface used in the book for the titles as well as the easy layout. One of my bugbears about recipe books is when recipes don’t have pictures with them so you have to guess about what the dish should look like. This is definitely not the case with the Clandestine Cake Club book. All cakes have been photographed, most side by side with the accompanied recipe or on a special page spread. It was also lovely to read how the Clandestine Cake Club concept has come about as well as seeing pictures of events and some of the groups taking place.

The recipes are laid out in an easy to read style with a traditional typeface for the title with stylish accompanying photos.

I genuinely feel that this book is one which will be used in many people’s kitchens from years to come and will become a classic.  Every recipe I believe is within everyone’s capabilities and most use ingredients which are readily available in supermarkets or high street shops.  The problem is- which cake do you bake first?

I love the way the 120 recipes are split into 8 chapters which are: Classic Cakes, Victorian Cakes, Fruity Cakes, Global Cakes, Zesty Cakes, Chocolatey Cakes, Celebration Cakes and Creative Cakes.  There is definitely something for everyone whatever your taste in cakes, whether you are young or old. As a baking addict I know I shall be baking EVERYTHING in this book.

Featuring photos from various Clandestine Cake Club events with Lynn Hill and some of her Club organisers and members.
Featuring photos from various Clandestine Cake Club events with Lynn Hill and some of her Club organisers and members.

If you would like to buy a copy of the book, it is for sale in Waterstones, on Amazon and via the Book People. You will not be disappointed and the book is ideal to give as a gift for an avid baker or with Mother’s Day coming up!

 I bought my own copy from Amazon which is currently selling at the very reasonable price of £12.70 (RRP £20).  I have chosen to review the book for my blog as a Clandestine Cake Club organiser, not for my own gain.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cherry Bakewell Jam Sandwich Shortbread Cookies

Cherry Bakewell Jam Sandwich cookies and plain jam sandwich cookies dusted with caster sugar.
Cherry Bakewell Jam Sandwich cookies and plain jam sandwich cookies dusted with caster sugar.

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.

Cherry Bakewell Jam Sandwich cookies and plain jam sandwich cookies dusted with caster sugar.
Cherry Bakewell Jam Sandwich cookies and plain jam sandwich cookies dusted with caster sugar.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sam’s Smart Cookies- Valentine’s Day Large Cakes Given With Love

This chocolate brownie heart cake has been made over and over again in my kitchen. It’s been made for customers, donated as raffle prizes for local coffee mornings or even for family. It is topped with rich chocolate ganache, left to set and then decorated with glittery funky hearts.

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 chocolate fudge square cake was made from the second Great British Bake Off recipe book. I made it as a Sunday lunch dessert using Dr Oetker chocolate hearts.
This is a Death By Chocolate cake baked from the first Great British Bake Off recipe book “The British Book Of Baking” I used white and plain chocolate hearts from a Dr Oetker pack.

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.

This Red Velvet cake always goes down well around Valentine’s Day. I make a version of this for customers, this one isn’t too red inside but is decorated with a creamy Philadelphia cheese icing and finished with pink and red heart sprinkles.
My large heart sponge cake has been made in many designs and guises, sometimes as a birthday cake or sometimes as a Valentine’s Day present.

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.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sam’s Smart Cookies- Valentine’s Day Cupcakes and Small Bakes

These cupcakes were made originally for a wedding. They are vanilla cupcakes topped with a vanilla swirl of buttercream and finished with tiny heart shaped sprinkles. I loved the gorgeous butterfly cupcake wrappers which were fiddly to do up but worth it as they were so pretty.

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.

My luxurious chocolate cupcakes come in several different chocolate designs for Valentine’s Day. I made these with handmade sugar roses.
This version of my wedding and Valentine’s Day cupcakes is made with white chocolate. They are also topped with handmade sugarpaste roses and were baked in pretty spotty tulip style cupcake cases.
These cupcakes are the similar to the ones above featured in the butterfly cupcake wrappers but this time I added some special heart cupcake wrappers I was given as a present.
In the previous two years I had requests for Whoopie Pies. I don't make these very often but I enjoyed making these chocolate whoopies with marshmallow frosting topped with giant red hearts!
In the previous two years I had requests for Whoopie Pies. I don’t make these very often but I enjoyed making these chocolate whoopies with marshmallow frosting topped with giant red hearts!
These mini Love Heart themed cakes were made for someone who loves the sweets of the same name! I used a heart shaped silicone mould to bake chocolate sponges then coated them in buttercream and pastel fondant icing.
My personal favourite way of serving the Valentine’s Day chocolate cupcakes. I bought these chocolate heart truffles from Marks and Spencers to top these beauties.
These cupcakes were rosewater flavoured cupcakes inspired by the recipe in the Primrose Bakery cupcake book and topped with rosewater pink buttercream. I made the glittery wonky hearts to top them along with some sugar sprinkles.

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!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sam’s Smart Cookies- Valentine’s Day Cookies

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!

These were my first ever attempt at wedding favours, made in 2009 for a red and white themed wedding. The cookies were bagged in cellophane bags and tied with pretty red and white co-ordinating ribbon.
Linzer biscuits are always popular and these cookies went down very well as a gift for a man who didn’t like iced cookies.
Not a brilliant picture but these mini hearts were iced in different pinks and white royal icing to make favours for a Valentine’s dinner. They were based on a recipe seen in one of Peggy Porschen’s books.
Giant Dotty Hearts, these giant gingerbread hearts went down well in a gift box along with a card.
Luscious Hot Lips cookies- these were made for a customer two years ago who loved glitz and glamour.
These were the Valentine’s Cookies made by Sam’s Smart Cookies last year (2012). I wanted to stick to the red and white colour scheme on vanilla cookies though I did make them with chocolate as a special request.
With my leftover gingerbread dough I made these pretty mini hearts for favours .

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx