I love the trend for naked cakes (cakes with little or no icing on top). I have a sweet tooth but am finding a lot of buttercream and sugarpaste a bit too much when I eat it on a cake no matter how beautiful and delicious it looks. This cake is the third and last cake I baked for our local village’s Spring Festival nearly a couple of weeks ago. I had a full bag of pecan nuts which needed using up and also wanted to use up a bag of Sugar and Crumbs Toffee Apple Icing Sugar in the cupboard. These would work amazingly well with some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn to top the cake off.
I had already baked a carrot cake and a banana loaf as seen in my previous two blog posts. By now it was Saturday afternoon and I still had to get this cake baked. I needed to chop the pecan nuts and toast them first. This I did roughly with a small, sharp knife and then chucked them onto a baking tray. They were lightly toasted for about 10 minutes then left to cool down.
The cake itself was made by creaming together butter and sugar for a few minutes until the mixture became light and fluffy. I used my hand held whisk to speed this up. After this I added in three eggs and half the quantity needed of milk, vanilla extract, self raising flour and baking powder. Then the rest was added in, all except I used four eggs the second time round making seven all together. Once all the mixture was combined well, I folded in the toasted pecan nuts.
As you can see in the pictures, the cake is a triple layer cake. So I had to use three 20cm (8″) circular sandwich tins. These I greased and lined. I love the ready made baking parchment circles you can buy in varying diameters as they save the hassle of cutting out circles by hand when you’re pushed for time.
I was very impressed with the way the Popcorn Naked Cake turned out. Each layer rose beautifully in the tin and was left to cool down before turning out onto a rack. While these were cooling down I made up some frosting. It was a buttercream filling using butter, Toffee Apple Sugar and Crumbs Natural flavoured icing sugar and full fat cream cheese. I know full fat cream cheese doesn’t sound healthy but using the low fat stuff just doesn’t work when you’re making icing. It goes all watery and separates. The icing was easy to spread and there was just enough to decorate the two filling layers and the top. About half a packet of Toffee Butterkist popcorn adorned the top of the cake.
At the Spring Festival that afternoon after dropping off the three cakes I had baked my mum and I sampled two of my cakes. We cut each piece in half. Apart from the cream cheese icing in the Naked Pecan Popcorn Cake being a bit too sweet for me, the main cake was delicious. I also had to watch the popcorn as I had refridgerated the cake and it did taste a little bit soggy. What I really needed to do was to have added the popcorn to the top just prior to serving the cake. Having said that, I’ll definitely be making this cake again. It tasted fabulous and looked it as well.
You can’t beat a good carrot cake can you? Well maybe there are lots of other favourite cakes out there but I can’t resist carrot cake. I’ve baked lots of them over the years and tried different recipes.
I’ve been enjoying testing out a few recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” recently. Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival a couple of weekends ago and I always like to donate a cake or few to the cafe that the PTA run in the primary school hall. As my son went to that school a few years back I always like to support it as he had such a happy time there.
Carrot Cakes always seem to be popular with lots of people and this one from Lorraine Pascale was no exception. This version contains not only grated carrots but also some grated apple. This works extremely well with carrot and adds some natural sweetness. To add maple syrup to the cream cheese frosting was also a delicious touch which worked really well.
On the Saturday morning, the day before the Spring Festival I got up really early. It had been a crazy busy week working full time teaching a Reception class in a local school and I was due to be there another week afterwards. The night before I had gone off to bed at 9.30pm absolutely exhausted and laid there thinking would I have time to get everything done over the weekend? Thank heavens it was a Bank Holiday that weekend. I was up at 6am and was already baking. I had to be at my beauty therapist friend’s house for my appointment at 10am and I had to have a headstart. I find if I get up early without distractions then I get loads done.
I was so grateful to the grating attachment on my new food processor to help me out with grating the carrots and the apple. I don’t mind grating by hand but I was in a rush and getting a machine to do the hard work really helped to cut the time down. The carrots and apple came out a little bit chunkier than I would have liked but it did add to the texture of the cake. In other carrot cakes I’ve added walnuts or pecan nuts but this one doesn’t contain nuts at all. It doesn’t have any dried fruit in either, like raisins or sultanas.
The recipe itself is simple to put together as all the ingredients are weighed out and put into one bowl. This includes using vegetable oil as the fat instead of butter as is traditionally seen in a carrot cake or a muffin mixture. Along with this was some light brown soft sugar, eggs, the apple and carrot, some self raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon and some vanilla extract.
When all the batter had been mixed together it was divided between two greased and lined circular loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cakes were then baked in my oven for about 30-35 minutes at around 160oC in my fan oven. While they were baking I went upstairs, sorted out some washing, put some washing away and tried to get my son’s uniform ironed for work. All while I kept an eye and an ear out for the oven timer.
Half an hour or so later the cakes were ready and out of the oven. I left them to cool in their tins on the work top on top of a wire rack and headed down to see my friend to get my nails done.
In the afternoon I got round to decorating the carrot cake. The frosting was a traditional cream cheese one but with the addition of maple syrup. Maple syrup goes beautifully with carrot cake and I was happy I had just enough in the cupboard from pancake day. I’m not the neatest cake decorator and to be honest I found it really tricky to keep my frosting neat. My mum was standing next to me watching me ice it and she got her fork out and fluffed up the icing. This wasn’t the original way I wanted to decorate the cake with neat, smooth edges but the more I tried to smooth the icing the more it wanted to fall off! To finish off I used a dozen sugar carrots bought from a pack found in the supermarket a few weeks back.
The following morning I dropped all three cakes baked down at the school. They were gratefully received and to help the servers in the cafe I pre-cut the cakes for them. When my mum and I went back down to the festival a couple of hours later I noticed that the carrot cake had completely gone. It had sold out. That made me so happy.
As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one. So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction. Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”
Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.
Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts. I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.
In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.
Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully. The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter. This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins. The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering. By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.
The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration. It’s all in the taste of the cake. In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things. In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.
The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract. This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.
As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.
A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!
It seems like ages since I’ve baked cupcakes. A couple of years ago they were everywhere and I was always being asked to make them. I love making cupcakes, especially when you can put gorgeous decorations on them. The only trouble is that I find the icing far too sickly sweet. Doesn’t stop me baking for other people though.
Two weeks ago I had a much needed day off to catch up at home. Of course baking always takes over my mind and all I can think of while I’m hoovering or dusting is baking. Why is baking seen of as fun but hoovering is not? At least it was an incentive to get me through the tedious bits.
I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugarsand had a packet of their black cherry icing sugar to try out. With this in mind a few weeks previously I had bought a tin of black cherries in syrup. I had to de-stone all the cherries first. Can you imagine what a nasty surprise that would have been if I hadn’t have taken the stones out? I then thoroughly rinsed the cherries and patted them dry on some kitchen roll so that they weren’t covered in the sticky syrup. I kept a dozen whole for decorating the top of the cupcakes and chopped the remaining ones up into quarters to go inside the mix.
It was a perfect excuse to use some pretty black and white patterned cupcake cases I had bought last year in TKMaxx and never used. Thankfully they were great quality ones. Sometimes you buy pretty cupcake cases only to find they fade in the oven or feel greasy afterwards. These didn’t and still looked perfect when they came out of the oven.
The recipe for these delicious cupcakes is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. They were baked by creaming butter and sugar together, then adding eggs, plain flour and baking powder to the mix. After this I folded in the stoned, rinsed and quartered cherries.
Not before long the cupcakes were in the oven and I was greeted with a delicious smell wafting throughout the kitchen. Time for a cup of tea before starting on the icing.
If you read my blog regularly you will notice I use Sugar and Crumbs’ icing sugars and cocoa powders a lot. I’m not working for them or connected to them in any way but I just love their products. Every time they bring out a new flavour I’m always desperate to try it. The Black Cherry one isn’t a new flavour in their range but it was one I’d not seen before. As with their other flavours you could smell the aroma of the black cherries when you opened the packet.
Once the cupcakes had cooled down and I’d finished my cuppa, I made up the buttercream. I find buttercream a bit sickly so I always add a splash of lemon juice to mine. This is a tip I picked up from my late Nana Mary and also from my mum. It takes the teeth tingling sweetness away if you don’t like it. Just a splash of it, mind!
A few minutes later and my cupcakes were ready. A stoned black cherry on top to finish!
As my regular SmartCookieSam readers will know, I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club. Although there are plenty of events held all over the world and some very local to me in North Yorkshire, there are also virtual or VCake events for those who can’t get to an event. Or you can join them if you want an excuse to bake!
At the end of January, Lynn Hill the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club held a virtual event where you were invited to “dust off your old cookbooks” and bake something from a recipe book you had not used for a while.
I have loads of recipe books like that and my family are sick of all the books I have all over the house. Some are more used than others and Lynn’s event gave me the perfect excuse to search through my stash and bake something. When my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) died I inherited her cookbooks. Nana and I were so alike in lots of ways, we both loved cooking and baking, knitting and sewing and also reading books. Sadly Nana died in 1994, just after I’d sat my teaching degree finals. She used to collect recipes from everywhere and wrote them down from TV cookery programmes or from the radio as well as cutting recipes out of magazines.
One of Nana’s baking books was a Sainsbury’s one. It dates from the late 1980’s and I loved looking through the recipes in it. As I decided what to bake I came across a mouthwatering recipe for a coffee sponge. I never remember Nana baking a coffee sponge, she tended to make fruit cakes and I do remember her lemon drizzle cake.
Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday is at the end of January so it was a perfect opportunity to bake the coffee cake for then. My husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he loves coffee cake. I had a couple of goodies to make this cake even extra special: some Sugar and Crumbs Coffee flavour Natural icing sugar, some cocoa covered coffee beans bought in Costa coffee and some glittery gold and silver star candles thrown in the trolley when I was shopping in Tesco.
The coffee sponge was made using the whisking method. I whisked eggs and sugar together until they became light and fluffy. Then in went some flour and baking powder, followed by a spoonful of vegetable oil and some semi skimmed milk. Also added to the mixture to give it a coffee flavour was a teaspoonful of Monin Tiramisu sugar syrup.
The cake baked for about 20-25 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven. It smelled delicious. When it was cooling I made up the coffee buttercream. I also crushed up some pecan nuts to go in the middle of the cake and to sprinkle on the top of it.
The cake was layered together with the coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chopped pecan nuts in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used a packet of cocoa covered coffee beans to decorate the top as well.
We had a slice of birthday cake and it was delicious. What a treat to celebrate Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday and he really enjoyed it.
A couple of weeks ago I was so happy to win an Easter Hamper in a competition on Fentiman’s Facebook page. I couldn’t believe it, I never win anything like that and there were loads of entries. The hamper was a huge, gorgeous wicker basket filled with a massive selection of Fentiman’s popular Spring favourites. Not only that, but there was an additional treat for us, Being Easter, the hamper also contained a giant Quality Street egg, a Harry Hopalot rabbit egg from Thorntons and some delicious dark chocolate mini eggs. I was so excited when the courier delivered it a couple of days afterwards.
My only grievance about the hamper was that one of the small bottles containing the Seville Orange and Mandarin drink was smashed to smithereens inside the hamper. The drink obviously had leaked out but I was more worried about reaching inside the hamper among the shredded tissue paper to see if I could retrieve the broken glass. I was so lucky I didn’t cut my hand!
Now as you know, I always like to have any excuse to bake. So having a few bottles of my favourite soft drinks was no exception. I’ve seen cakes being baked with Coca Cola with it and wondered if I could do the same with a couple of the drinks from the hamper. I love Lemon Drizzle Cake and thought maybe instead of lemon juice I could use the lemonade in it. Last Saturday I was at home for the afternoon, so I had time to play around and experiment.
LEMONADE DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE
165g unsalted butter, softened
320g caster sugar
3 large eggs, preferably free range
200g plain flour
Grated zest from 1 lemon
90ml Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade
For the glaze:
160g caster sugar
60ml Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade
There should be about 1/3 of the bottle of Lemonade left over, so pour it into a glass and enjoy drinking it while you’re baking!
How to make the Loaf cake:
Pre-heat the oven to 170oC/ 325oF or Gas Mark 3. Line a 900g/ 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or use a ready made loaf tin liner which can be bought from a good cookware shop. I use the ones available in Lakeland and swear by them!
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or whisk until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you need to, scrape the mixture down the sides of the bowl.
Mix in the flour and lemon zest until thoroughly mixed. Then fold in the Victorian Lemonade.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level off the surface of the cake. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven. To test if the cake is done, insert a skewer into the cake. If the top bounces back when touched and the skewer comes out clean, then the cake is ready.
Keep the cake in the tin until it is completely cooled, although transfer the tin over to a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, mix caster sugar and lemonade together in a bowl to make a syrup. When the cake is completely cool, use a skewer to prick holes in the top of the cake. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Allow it to set on the top before taking the cake out of the tin and the wrapper. This stops all the syrup completely soaking into the cake and gives the cake a contrasting, crunchy topping.
Cut into slices to serve. Any uneaten slices need to be kept in an airtight container and should keep for about 3 days.
Lemon Drizzle cakes always go down well with my family and I cut the cake up to put in a tin for another day. It was all too tempting for me to nibble some and I did take half of one piece to try out. It’s quite a sweet cake as lemon drizzle cakes are so you won’t want a massive piece. Then again, where cake is concerned I don’t do small!
After the success of the Lemonade Drizzle Loaf Cake I was tempted to have another go but adapt the recipe for an alternative flavour. My favourite Fentiman’s drink is their Ginger Beer and I always have it if I’m going out for dinner at a local pub when I’m driving. Luckily for me, my kids don’t like Ginger Beer. so they hadn’t guzzled it all up. Last Wednesday I found myself with a day off work so I chose to do a spot of baking once I’d done all my jobs. I thought I’d try out some Ginger Beer Drizzle Loaf Cake and see if that worked.
GINGER BEER DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE
Ingredients are the same as for the Lemonade Drizzle Cake but with a couple of substitutions and additions:
Instead of the grated zest of a lemon, use 3 balls of stem ginger which have been rinsed, chopped into tiny pieces, rinsed and tossed in a tablespoonful of flour.
Instead of Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade, use their Ginger Beer.
Optional: I also added a tsp of stem ginger extract available from Lakeland.
The only problem I found with the Ginger Beer Drizzle Cake is that it didn’t have that punch of ginger I was expecting. Next time I bake it, I will add a couple of teaspoonfuls of ground ginger to the mix along with the dry ingredients and see what happens. Also, I found that despite rinsing and flouring the ginger pieces, they still sank to the bottom of the cake. I ate a thin sliver off one of the pieces I’d cut and thought maybe the recipe needs tweaking a bit. Then again, if you don’t like a big ginger hit, then you don’t have to change anything. The other treat was, to sit and drink the remainder of the 275ml bottle with your lunch.
At the time of writing there are two bottles left and my kids have been clamouring to drink them. I have let them have a treat at the weekend but there’s no way I’m letting them near the large bottle of Rose Lemonade! Hands off!
Last year myself and the other Clandestine Cake Club members were invited to submit recipes to be included in a brand new cookbook due to be published in September 2015. It was to be called “A Year Of Cake” and members were asked to contribute recipes which celebrated both festivals and famous people’s birthdays from all over the world. I had joined the Clandestine Cake Club just after all the recipes had been submitted and shortlisted for the hugely popular first book The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook which came out in February 2013. It is one of my ambitions to write a recipe book so I was tempted to have a go but wasn’t sure if it was what they were looking for. I was a bit nervous about sending in my own recipes but I chose three that I had tried out and worked well enough for me. Lynn Hill, founder of the Clandestine Cake Club was to have some recipes in the book herself and the rest of the book would be made up of members’ own recipes.
A few months later I was absolutely thrilled when Lynn emailed and told me that I was to have not one but two out of the three recipes included in the book! All the recipes are scrupulously tested out so I’m glad the testing team thought they would work ok! I was so excited when the email came through on my phone I shot through to where my hubby was sat watching telly in the lounge and upstairs to tell my two teenage children. They couldn’t see why I was so excited though, which dampened it down a bit.
We had to keep the nature of our recipes secret until the book was published but as soon as we got our copies of the books my cakey friends and I were looking excitedly at each other’s recipes and wondering what we’d bake first out of the book.
The first recipe I submitted was my Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith.
This is the recipe introduction in the A Year Of Cake book: Bara Brith means speckled bread in Welsh and is a delicately spiced fruity tea bread. It is sometimes made with yeast to make it more like a bread but this version is firmly anchored in the cake category with the use of self-raising flour which keeps it wonderfully sticky and moist. As a tea bread, soaking the fruit in a brew is obligatory and Sam has chosen to steep hers in a camomile and honey tea giving it a unique aromatic flavour. It’s an easy recipe to bake with children and the perfect cake to celebrate the feast of St David, the patron saint of Wales who died on this day in 569AD. Mwynhewch eich bara brith! (Enjoy your bara brith!)
The inspiration for this recipe came from lots of happy memories of childhood holidays, my time at uni in Bangor in the early 1990s and more recently holidaying in Ceredigion where my husband lived as a child. On one holiday we visited NewQuay Honey Farm and ate delicious honey bara brith made with the honey from the farm. I always stock up on the honey to take back home with me so I was really keen to replicate the recipe myself at home.
The idea is with a bara brith or other fruit bread is that you soak the fruit in the liquid the night before so that the fruit absorbs the flavours. I wanted to choose a tea which complimented the honey flavour in the bara brith and inspiration came to me when looking in my cupboard. I often drink camomile tea to relax me at night and found some Twinings Camomile and Honey teabags. So i tried it out with my recipe in place of the usual builder’s tea. The result tasted gorgeous.
After you have soaked the fruit overnight (and again I am not one of those who sticks to a certain type of dried fruit in my bara brith, I just go with what’s left in my cupboard!)
After straining the liquid I added beaten egg to the dried fruit and then afterwards added the remaining ingredients. These were soft light brown sugar, a grated zest of a lemon, some self raising flour and some ground mixed spice.
The loaf is baked in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours but if it looks like it is going brown well before the end of cooking time then you need to cover the top of it with a bit of foil.
I hope lots of people will try to bake the Bara Brith for themselves as it is such a delicious tea loaf. It freezes well too! I baked it again as I was invited to a book launch party last weekend and took along both bakes from the book. It was also easy to carry in a tin- no cake wrecks here with it being a loaf cake and easy to transport! It’s also a fab recipe to bake with kids, as a teacher in my “day” job I have baked this with children and they adored it.
The excitement about A Year Of Cake being published was amazing amongst our community of cake clubbers and we couldn’t wait for our own special copies of the book to arrive just prior to the official publication date. On Saturday 5th September my own copy arrived and I was so emotional at seeing my own name in print. Though sharing the same name as a famous singer who also happens to be singing the new James Bond theme means I do see my name a lot now, but this was to do with me and not Sam Smith the singer!
Please note I have not given out my recipe on the blog- you will have to buy the book to be able to see the full recipe. Not my rules, I’m afraid.