There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.
I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.
My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.
250g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
250g plain flour
125g rice flour or cornflour
Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.
There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:
100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.
I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.
If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.
I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.
If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.
I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.
No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.
I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.
It’s always exciting when a brand new Great British Bake Off book is released. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be one this year, what with the pandemic but like last year it was a great surprise when it popped up on Amazon to say there was going to be a new book. This year’s book was released in time for the latest series and there is a slightly different format to it. Instead of being split into categories of bakes, such as cakes, biscuits, etc. the book has been split into sections concentrating on the four seasons.
It is great to work around seasonal baking and the delicious produce that is around at different times of the year. I personally try to shop seasonally if I can as I can’t stand watery, tasteless out of season strawberries. I like the certain flavours which evoke different times of the year and when you can use what is growing around you. How I wish I could grow my own veg but I don’t have the space in my back garden. I have managed some strawberries and tomatoes this year and I was so proud of them.
In every Bake Off book it is great to be introduced to that series of contestants and this year’s bunch seem so lovely and genuine. I always enjoy trying out their own recipes which get featured in the book if I can.
Starting with the Spring section, we are looking at bringing in Lenten and Easter festivities as well as pretty cakes which make use of Spring flowers such as primroses as well as seasonal fruit like rhubarb.
What I’d like to bake in Spring:
Semlor (Danish Lenten Buns) They look delicious and contain almond paste and cardamom, which are flavours I love.
Asparagus, Ham and Cheese Danish Pastries: Mr S loves his Danish pastries and I’m sure he’ll love these with some salad in asparagus season.
Ruby Grapefruit Bundt: as a bundt pan addict, I always look to see if there are any bundt recipes in the book first and as I’ve never used grapefruit to bake with before, this one is definitely top of the list.
Cherry Blossom Shortbreads: these look so pretty and would make a lovely Easter or Mother’s Day gift.
Crystelle’s Chai and Jaggery Cake: I haven’t a clue what jaggery is but I love chai spiced cakes. The icing is coconut flavoured as well which is another of my favourite flavours.
Pizza Bianca di Primavera: I love pizza although I haven’t made any homemade ones since the last lockdown. This one has sliced new potato on top of it! I’ve never had potato on top of a pizza before but the flavours sound incredible.
Mini Hummingbird Cakes: I just have to try these as I love Hummingbird cake and it will be a good excuse to use my mini 12 hole Victoria sponge tray!
Super Seeded Soda Bread: Soda Bread recipes were an absolute necessity last year. Especially on the three times when I had to self isolate and we ran out of bread and I didn’t have yeast with two or three days to go until the online food delivery came. I’d bake bread more often if I wasn’t so busy with work!
Chig’s Mango and Coconut Upside Down Cake: I love mangoes and coconuts and this is just a delicious alternative to a pineapple upside down cake.
Jairzeno’s Chocolate Mint Cake: Mint Chocolate is my absolute favourite flavour of all. I love the extra glaze layer that is included on Jairzeno’s cake and gives it a beautiful finish.
Wild Garlic Flatbreads: Last year I baked flatbreads a lot, especially when we had curries. They were so simple to bake and I think I’ll be looking out for some wild garlic to make these!
Hamantaschen (Haman’s Pockets) I’ve never heard of these delicious sounding Jewish biscuits before, which are circles of biscuit filled with jam (traditionally were dates or poppy seeds) and the biscuit folded over to represent Haman’s three pointed hat.
I won’t be making these in Spring:
Rhubarb and Custard Tart: I’m not a rhubarb lover, to be honest.
Passionfruit Souffles: I find souffles far too fiddly!
Spiced Lamb and Filo Pie: I don’t like lamb, especially when it’s cooking as it smells!
Prinzeregentetorte: Looks a stunning cake but all those layers make it far too fiddly for me.
I’ll be baking these in Summer:
Jammy Dodgers: though mine won’t look as nice as the ones in the book because I need a set of those Nordicware Stampers. UPDATE: I baked these, separate post is coming soon!
Cherry and Almond Friands: these would be perfect sat outside in the summer with a cup of tea when fresh cherries are in season.
Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Brownies: These would be ideal for a summer dessert at a BBQ or family gathering.
Free-form Tomato Tart: I’ve made something similar from another recipe book and I can see myself making this for a summer dinner sat outside with salad and a glass of rose washed down with it.
Strawberry and Clotted Cream Cake: this cake is like Victoria Sponge but on another level with added fresh strawberries and clotted cream. Sounds like heaven to me!
Rochica’s Strawberry Topped Cookies and Cream Cake: This looks like a summery version of the Cookies and Cream cake I baked for my son’s birthday last year. I wonder if he would like another one next year?
Amanda’s Lemon and Elderflower Palette Cake: I love the flower design on the top of this stunning cake. I definitely might try the cake itself as I love lemon and elderflower flavours.
I won’t be baking these in Summer:
Chouxnuts: they look delicious but I don’t have a deep fat fryer or like deep fat frying.
Apricot Frangipane Traybake: I wish I liked apricots. Maybe it’s because they’re so fiddly to eat.
Cheese, Ham and Piccalilli Pasties: Eww, no I think piccalilli is disgusting. Mr S bought a jar of it a couple of months ago and it made me feel sick just looking at it!
I’ll be baking these in Autumn:
Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf: this sounds delicious. UPDATE: I’ve baked this now!
Toffee Apple Cake: what a beautiful celebration cake for the Autumn with or without the caramel on top.
Pear and Walnut Cake: as seen on the front cover, this is a beautiful show stopper bake for an Autumnal celebration.
Giuseppe’s Celebration Cake: another stunning showstopper.
Jurgen’s Pear and Chocolate Charlotte: what a pretty looking dessert. I need an excuse to make this.
Pecan Pie: I love Pecan Pie and it reminds me of my last trip to Canada to visit my family where we had it for dessert!
Plum and Ginger Cake: I’m not that keen on eating plums raw but in cakes I love them. This would be an ideal Sunday lunch pudding with custard or cream.
Ciabatta Breadsticks: I’m not that skilled at baking bread but I bet my daughter would love to make these with me!
Pear Crumble Cake: This would be another perfect Sunday lunch dessert. UPDATE: I’ve made this but with apples instead!
I won’t be baking these in Autumn:
Prue’s Vegan Sausage Rolls: I love sausage rolls and vegan ones too for that matter, but this recipe looks very complicated to me. I will be sticking to my lazy way of making sausage rolls!
Fig, Honey and Almond Cake: I wish I liked figs!
Apple, Pecan and Miso Caramel Tart: what is the fixation with putting miso in baking at the moment? Sorry, but it’s not for me.
I’ll be baking these in Winter:
Parsnip, Maple and Pecan Cake: I’ve never baked with parsnips before!
Paul’s Caramel Biscuit Bars: these home made Twixes look gorgeous.
Seville Orange Lamingtons: I’ve never made Lamingtons before so I’d love to try these.
Panettone: I’ve never baked a panettone before and it would be great to have one as an alternative to mince pies at Christmas.
St Clement’s Squares: I love baking these so I know they will go down well.
Mincemeat and Marzipan Couronne: perfect at breakfast time over Christmas.
Maggie’s Orange and Lemon Cake: I can see this being baked for a winter birthday celebration.
I won’t be baking these in Winter:
I can’t see anything in the Winter section that I will definitely not have a go at. Watch this space!
Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.
I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.
As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.
The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.
For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.
Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!
As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.
Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!
The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.
Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.
My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:
Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
Jammie Dodger Blondies
Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
Lemon and Blueberry Scones
Caramel Mocha Macaroons
What I’ll pass on:
Hard Candy Lollipops
Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!
As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.
I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.
When you hear the name Fondant Fancies you immediately think of Mr Kipling’s yellow, chocolate and pink creations. Or if you live in Yorkshire like me, you might have even tasted the delectable version which Betty’s creates. I must admit I find Fondant Fancies too sweet and sickly, even though I’ve got a sweet tooth. The other week I met my friend at Betty’s and while she had a Fondant Fancy, I tucked into a Fat Rascal! Her Fondant Fancy looked so pretty though, with the icing and delicate pink flowers.
Last Thursday and Friday were my main baking days for SmartCookieSam as I had had my Mum up here visiting. I had an afternoon tea order as well as some brownies and shortbread to go out to customers. I thought of what I could maybe offer as an option on my afternoon teas and Fondant Fancies came into my head. Although I don’t really like eating them, there are plenty of people who do.
For Fondant Fancies you start off by baking a square shaped sponge cake. I did this in one of my square tins I use for my brownies, etc. It was a simple sponge, delicately flavoured with lemon.
As soon as I started baking, I realised I had not got any marzipan in. I only tend to have marzipan in around Christmas for my Christmas cakes and also at Easter for Simnel Cake. I’d been to do my shop the day before and completely forgot. Luckily later on that day I was heading out to the post office to ship my brownies and shortbread and the village shop it was attached to has a wonderful array of baking products. Phew!
After the sponge came out of the oven and I was home after my post office run, I removed the sponge from the tin. It had to be cooled but it was so hot in my kitchen that nothing was cooling down.
To the sponge I added a layer of apricot jam and then a layer of the marzipan on the top. The marzipan was very sticky to work with and my hands felt so hot. I had to dust the surfaces very thickly with icing sugar to stop the marzipan from sticking to it when I was rolling it out. I then put it on top of the sponge and trimmed round the edges of it.
The next job was to make up a batch of buttercream. This buttercream needed to be put in the fridge to harden up slightly but this didn’t work because as soon as I got it out of the fridge it became runny again.
The sponge cake was then cut into 16 equal squares and on top of each square I put a blob of buttercream. This blob is to create the little hump you get in the middle of a traditional fondant fancy.
Of course when you are tired, you misread recipes. This one being a complicated recipe with zillions of steps should have been read carefully and I didn’t. I was meant to put the cakes into the fridge to harden up again for 20 minutes but I didn’t. This then made the next steps more tricky. I had to crumb coat each of the four sides of the fondant fancies with the rest of the buttercream. This was very awkward. How do you hold the blinking things and ensure that they are all covered without getting your hands covered in more buttercream?
Now for another complicated part. The recipe asked for roll out fondant icing or sugar paste which to make runny you have to put in a mixer with water to make it runny. I felt this made it extremely messy and didn’t give the effect I wanted. I wondered whether I should have bought some fondant icing sugar instead and coloured it with food colouring. I started off trying to colour the pink icing first. It took ages to get even a hint of pink with the food colouring I have at the moment (a mixed box of Wilton food colours, which to be honest I’m not a fan of, compared to the likes of Sugarflair, etc.) The cakes from not been hard enough through not being in the fridge, were difficult to hold and the icing just went everywhere. It was meant to pour over the cakes but it didn’t. It was too thick despite me following how much water to add to the icing. I tried spreading it with a small pallette knife but that made it even messier!
Then I tried to colour the rest of the icing yellow. Unfortunately the yellow in my food colouring set doesn’t bring the icing out a deliciate pastel yellow, it came out as this flourescent, lurid yellow like you would have on a high-viz vest! You’d be able to spot it from the International Space Station. By this time I had given up caring and so long as I’d got the bloody things iced and all the stuff cleared up, I didn’t care what colour it was.
Finally, I used some left over lemon drizzle icing for the pink fondant fancies which seemed to pipe on ok through my plastic bottle. But the melted chocolate was having none of it and just wouldn’t go through the hole. It just clogged up the whole time.
There’s a couple of lessons to be learned here: Don’t make Fondant Fancies when you are short of time or are tired. Always read the recipe and use ready made fondant icing sugar, not sugarpaste watered down.
I did taste one of the Fondant Fancies and it was sooooooo sickly sweet. Not my favourite bake to eat or to make, I’m afraid.
Baking roulades and Swiss Rolls always fills me with dread. They look fiddly and messy whenever I make them and the filling never looks neat when I roll them up. Or the actual sponge cracks so much.
Roulades are usually made without flour and fat and are whisked sponges baked in a flat rectangular cake tin. I have a new Swiss Roll tin but it gets used for all manner of things including roast potatoes. Before using it for cakes, I make sure it has been cleaned carefully and I always line it with baking parchment. With this cake being flour free, it is also gluten free.
Last Sunday I had my mum visiting for a few days and planned a roast chicken dinner followed by a dessert. Now it’s usually just Mr S and I at home on a Sunday (our daughter is at work and our son is at uni), we don’t usually do roasts for ourselves. I thought having my mum to stay was the perfect excuse to have a roast as well as a pudding after!
The Chocolate Roulade as featured in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes looked stunning, yet fairly quick to bake. However, looking in my baking cupboard I didn’t have any plain/ dark chocolate left. I did have two bars of mint chocolate which I love. Whenever we go up to the Isle of Arran on holiday I buy bars of Mackies chocolate in the Co-op there. Where I live in North Yorkshire, you can get Mackies icet cream but not the chocolate. Mint is just one of the best flavours out there, I love it! So a Chocolate Mint Roulade it had to be, then!
First things first was to prepare the Swiss Roll tin for baking. As I said before, it was cleaned carefully as I didn’t want residues of olive oil on it from the last time I used it. Then I lined it with some baking paper. At the same time I also cut out another sheet of baking paper to use to help me roll up the roulade later.
I then melted the mint chocolate in the microwave carefully. The recipe said to do this on the stove in a bowl over simmering water, but I find it easier to do in a microwave if I do it in small stages. Then, in my KitchenAid I whisked egg yolks and caster sugar together until the mixture had turned into a thick type mousse.
As the eggs had had to be separated, in another bowl I whisked up the egg whites. They had to be whisked up until they were stiff peaks. These egg whites were then folded into the whisked yolks and sugar mixture. Finally I folded in some cocoa powder.
When the roulade was ready, I put it on a wire rack to cool down but left it in the tin until it was completely cool to move it. I still managed to make it crack as I got it out of the tin. Using the spare piece of baking parchment sprinkled with a little icing sugar, I turned the roulade out onto it upside down. I then filled it with whipped cream. As I kept doing this, the roulade started cracking. The instructions said that it was normal for it to crack. But the recipe book photo didn’t have the massive cracks that mine did! Upon looking at the roulade from above, it resembled a giant long poo! Tasted amazing though, and I sneaked a couple of off cuts!
The complete mixture was then poured into the tin and spread carefully so that it touched each corner of the tin. I then baked it in my fan oven at 160oC for roughly just over 20 minutes.
A recipe I think I will bake again as it was quite quick to make. I just need to work on the good old presentation.
As I mentioned before in my previous Cherry Cakes post, there are a couple of recipes I’ve already baked which I can tick off my Amazing Cakes recipe book challenge.
Angel Cake as from a British point of view is the traditional cake you buy in slabs which contains a triple layer of sponge in three different flavours. Not to be mixed up with another type of Angel Cake which is a light, pale cake baked with egg whites and made in a special ring like tin. This version was the former: using three genoise sponges and cut into dainty slices. It was a technical bake in the 2019 Great British Bake Off series from one of Prue Leith’s recipes. I must admit at that time I’d never baked a genoise sponge before and I couldn’t be one hundred percent sure what one tasted like. All I know is that the sponges came out flat and looked like rubber! In the end I decided to adapt the recipe and created three layers of a traditional creamed sponge, colourung and flavouring them accordingly with lemon and raspberry extract and gel colouring.
This worked out much better and I was much happier with the result! At the time I made the Angel Cake, I didn’t write a blog post as I was busy at work. The remains of the cake ended up being taken to work to share with my work colleagues. It was baked in three circular 20cm/ 8″ tins instead of a giant traybake tin split into three.
Looking back at the pictures on my phone, I must have deleted or not taken photos of the cake disaster but kept the ones of the new cake. I also entered it in #TwitterBakeAlong for that week, hence the handwritten note. Looking back at the cake from the outside you can’t really tell it’s a three coloured Angel Cake. But when you cut into the cake, it’s a different story altogether.
I must try and have a go at a génoise sponge again. I mastered one on my Patisserie Course evening class I did at college before the pandemic started and I feel confident to have another try.
Hi everyone! I’ve realised I’ve not been on my blog and updated it for well over two months! Happy New Year to you all for a start! Not only that but it hasn’t been a great start to 2021 has it? The pandemic and the latest lockdown aside, I always find January and February really difficult. I know I’m not alone in struggling with SAD and the depressing, miserable rainy weather we have but this year it has been doubly hard. There has been another reason for the lack of blogging: I am currently setting up a little business selling cookies and other treats online! So watch this space! This is something I have wanted to do for years but I never had the time due to work commitments in the day job. Leading up to Christmas I was working long 10 hour shifts in a day nursery with a 40 minute commute each way. I had no time for my family and I was relying on Mr S to cook dinner. It got to Christmas and when I realised that I had the first night’s decent sleep in ages, I realised something had to give. So for now I am supply teaching in local primary schools part time and hopefully trying to achieve part of my dream of baking for a living. I feel like a different person!
Looking back in the drafts on the blog I found I had a post for Carrot Cake. It was a shock to look back and realise I’d actually baked this cake on 30th November. This Carrot Cake was another recipe from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes and do you know I can’t even remember why I baked it. I think it ended up at work for the other staff to eat to keep them going! I don’t remember eating any of it. But I do remember it not lasting long.
This carrot cake recipe contains sultanas but I guess you could swap them for nuts, such as pecans or walnuts if you aren’t keen on dried fruit. I left the sultanas in as I don’t like taking products with nuts into work for fear of allergies even though no one had a nut allergy at the time. Other flavour in the carrot cake was created with the zest of an orange and also with ground mixed spice.
The frosting is a traditional cream cheese frosting flavoured with orange and vanilla paste. I “cheated” by buying the carrot decorations in my local supermarket as I didn’t want to go out and buy sugarpaste and colour it myself for just these decorations. The original recipe illustration in the Amazing Cakes book had three real, tiny carrots poking out of the cake and with added cocoa powder and chopped hazelnuts to look like soil on the top of the cake. I didn’t want this effect as it would mean having to go out and buy some hazelnuts just for two tablespoonfuls. It looked like an effective decoration idea, but not for me this time!
I know I’ve published a blog post somewhere about a good old Vicky Sponge but I wanted to try out the Amazing Cakes’ version last Monday.
It was my day off work and I walked down to my local post office to post a few parcels of some hand crocheted and knitted baby blankets I sell. This walk took me twice as long as my local post office is 1 1/2 miles away and I was trying to walk the dog and carry parcels at the same time. On the way back my shopping bag contained some Stork and some fresh Longley Farm thick Jersey double cream. I kept thinking ooh that would go nicely in the middle of a Victoria sponge. We walked back and I sat eating some lunch quickly so I could get on with my jobs and then the all important baking!
In the Amazing Cakes book the quantities for butter/ margarine, caster sugar and flour are the same as they are in all Victoria sponge recipes. This version asked for 4 eggs but when I weighed them only 3 eggs weighed the total as the separate quantities of 200g. As I always weigh the eggs to match the weight of the other ingredients, I only used three eggs. This worked well and I also used the creaming method.
I had invested in some new 20cm or 8″ diameter cake tins a few weeks ago as my previous ones had got very scratched. They had been used a lot though and I worked out I had had them since about 2002! My new ones are Mary Berry endorsed ones from Lakeland and I can’t recommend them enough. I also treated myself to her traybake tin and square tin at the same time and they are fantastic. This was the first time I had got round to using the sandwich tins and I was impressed with the result.
Usually you think of Victoria Sponges as being filled with strawberry or raspberry jam but I thought I’d give mine a seasonal twist and used some gorgeous Bramble and Apple jam I buy when we go on holiday to the Isle of Arran. I know I’m always banging on about going to the Isle of Arran but that’s where we have been for our last two holidays (last October half term and this September) and there is a wonderful selection of food produce I buy each time we go there. The Bramble And Apple Jam being one of them made by Arran Fine Foods though they also make other wonderful preserves and chutneys.
When Mr S got in from work he said “More baking!” as I also managed to bake some Coconut Macaroons on the same afternoon. He didn’t complain when he got a piece of cake with his cup of tea before I started getting our dinner ready.
The remains of the Victoria Sponge got eaten throughout the rest of last week as on Wednesday night we found out we had to self isolate for two weeks.