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

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.

img_0517
Ready for the oven.
img_0522
Apple Scone Round; a great way of using all those leftover apples.
img_0523
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

 

 

Apple and Blackberry Loaf Cake- A Passion For Baking.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Jo Wheatley who won the Great British Bake Off back in 2011.  I love baking from her two recipe books and her Apple and Blackberry Loaf Cake is absolutely gorgeous.   I have baked this recipe a couple of times before but last week I planned to bake it for the parents at school where I work.  When the new starters settle into school we have a Welcome Mass in church and then the parents are invited back for tea or coffee.  I usually bake some goodies to treat the parents.

I wanted to bake something seasonal and using fruit from my garden.  I have a small apple tree in my front garden with some eating apples on it but my greedy labrador has worked out a way of shaking the tree so an apple will fall off and he can get it! No apples for us then, so I used ones from the supermarket but I did manage to get the blackberries from the hedge in my garden.

433
Blackberries picked from the hedge in my back garden.

Anyway, last week was very stressful in lots of ways.  It started off with a powercut in our village on the Sunday night which was a massive problem for me.  It had a knock on effect all week.  At least it had its merits: we got to talk to one another instead of my hubby being glued to the telly.  It was also pretty to look out at the full moon.  Instead of going to bed at 11pm, it was 9.30pm and I hadn’t got my work done on the computer.  The power ended up being off until about 4am and there were workmen across the road from me setting up a noisy generator.  I was very grateful that they got us wired up to a generator though.

So, two days later and our end of the village is still wired up to a generator. But I came home at lunchtime on the Tuesday ready to start baking that afternoon for our coffee morning.  I wanted to bake two different traybakes and an Apple and Blackberry Loaf cake, hence the title of this post!  It never happened!  The generator wasn’t working and there were two vans next to it with workmen near it.  The power was off AGAIN in our village! Why not another time?  In the end I chose to go up to my hubby’s office 5 miles away and work on his spare computer on my planning (which I was going to do that night) and to get a much needed cup of tea!  Hubby said that was fine when I phoned him on my mobile.  Only when I got there twenty minutes later, we find that his internet server had gone down!  What a joke!

So, all I could do was have a cup of tea and then go and collect the kids from school.  What a wasted afternoon!  When I got back in from the school run, the power had come back on again so I opted to bake just the loaf cake.

The cake had a crunchy streusel type topping on it made from brown sugar, butter and flour.  The rest of the ingredients for the main cake were mixed together with the chopped apple and blackberries folded in at the end.  I always use paper loaf tin liners and I popped the cake into the oven before our dinner.  At the same time I hoped and prayed that the power would stay on while it was baking!

At the time I was very distracted and had lots going through my mind. When the cake was baking I couldn’t remember when I’d put it in  the oven as I’d forgotten to set the timer! It was complete guesswork so I went by the look of the cake.  I tested it and when it seemed cooked I put it on the worktop to cool.  To save time at these events I usually pre slice the cakes and I tried to slice the loaf at home.  What a mistake!  The cake crumbled and looked a complete mess.  So I gave up and planned on buying some biscuits at the garage on the way to school the next morning instead.

498
As I had rushed my baking, all the blackberries had sunk to the bottom of the cake. The cake was also very crumbly when I cut it.

 

500
My family ended up with another cake to go into the freezer and my school ended up with biscuits bought from the garage.

 

501
Crammed into a plastic box to put in the freezer for another day.

If you would like to bake this recipe for yourself, then you can find it in Jo’s first book “A Passion For Baking”.  I’m sure it would work well with other fruits such as raspberries or pears.  Last Friday after a busy time catching up on jobs, I defrosted a slice and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.  It was gorgeous.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cakes

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

A few weeks back I wanted to use up a tin of pumpkin puree which had been lurking in my baking cupboard. My family don’t like pumpkin pie so I looked through my recipe books and found a few recipes which would help me use this tin.  I had made a Coconut Pumpkin Bar cake from the latest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook before but wanted to try something different.

So, it was raining outside, it was cold and miserable.  The dog had been walked and I wanted to crack on before the kids came home off the school bus.  I found two recipes I liked, the first was a square cake from the fab (and much used in this house) The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, and another from the brilliant latest offering from Lorraine Pascale: A Lighter Way To Bake.  In Lorraine’s book she has a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Luckily each recipe used half the tin of pumpkin puree so I had enough to make both recipes!

First up was the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  Here’s how it was made:

035
Plain flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt were added into a large mixing bowl.
036
The recipe called for two different types of sugar: caster sugar and soft dark, brown sugar. I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used golden caster sugar instead.
037
In another bowl I started weighing out the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. These were flour, golden caster sugar (no brown spare again), baking powder, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon.
038
Here are the “wet” ingredients for the whole cake. I whisked together eggs, sunflower oil and maple syrup. The canned pumpkin mixture was added afterwards and turned it orange!
039
On to the “wet” ingredients for the cupcakes, this was melted butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract. After that the canned pumpkin was whisked into the mixture.
040
Here are the cupcakes ready to go into the oven. I love using these muffin cases which I bought in a pack from Booths which contained 4 dozen different coloured tulip cases. They look like the ones you see in Starbucks or Costa!
042
I’m glad my son was still at school when I was making these cakes. If he had seen the pumpkin puree going into it. The last time he saw pumpkin puree he said it looked like cat sick. He has a point…
043
The mixture for the whole cake. All ready to be spooned into a square tin.
044
Here is the finished result, the large square cake cut up into slices. There was a cream cheese frosting to go with the recipe which was meant to be spread over the top of the cake. I thought I would pipe swirls on it but this wasn’t a good idea. For a start there wasn’t enough icing and it came out very messy. Finally I sprinkled chopped pecan nuts onto the top of the icing.
045
Top view of the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake.
046
Oh, go on then! A sneaky piece with a mid afternoon cuppa. Very nice it was too, a lovely spicy flavour which was just perfect for a cold Autumnal day.
047
The cream cheese frosting went on top of the cupcakes. As it was a lighter bake recipe there was a smaller amount of frosting. This suits me down to the ground as I find cupcake frosting far too sweet for my liking even though I make it for others! A pecan half adds the finishing touch.
049
Broken open to see what the cake looked like inside, what a lovely colour.
052
Ooops! Another one bites the dust!

Overall I was very impressed with the way the two recipes turned out, though my personal favourite has to be the cupcakes.  They were perfect.  They weren’t too sweet but provided me with a cakey fix.  My hubby and kids don’t really like pumpkin so I didn’t tell them that there was pumpkin in the cakes.  They were none the wiser!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx