Dust Off The Old Cookbooks- Coffee Cake. 

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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.

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My Nana Mary’s old cookery book with some special extras to turn the coffee sponge into a Birthday Cake for Mr SmartCookieSam.   

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.

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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.

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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.

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Ooops! Back on the diet tomorrow!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate and Peanut M&M Cake- The Clandestine Cake Club A Year of Cake May Bakealong

It was my son’s 16th birthday last week.  I’m feeling very old.  It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since he was born and we brought him home from hospital.  Now he’s studying for his GCSE’s and he’s taller than me! As the boy wonder has grown older I think back to all the birthday cakes I’ve baked for him over the years.  I remember baking him a giant pirate ship cake complete with Curly Wurly masts and a Dairy Milk plank. How I wish I’d taken a photo of it but this was in the days before Smart phones and I wasn’t very organised with cameras.

This year my son said he just wanted a small birthday cake.  I was gratelful for that as I had had an extremely busy week teaching in a nursery class the week before. I eventually found the perfect cake in The Clandestine Cake Club’s second cookbook “A Year of Cake”.  The original recipe is a stunning looking cake called “Smartie Pants Cake” by Ruth Tebbutt from Gateshead Club.  Her recipe in the May chapter of the book was created to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest, usually held in May.  As the recipe introduction states “Rather than pick sides, Ruth has created a cake that reflects the colourful spirit of the event and the kaleidoscope of cultures, characters and costumes that viewers have come to expect,”

What I also love about the Smartie Pants Cake is that it is so adaptable.  It could be baked for any age group: young or old as well as being perfect for different occasions.  The outer edging of the cake is decorated with Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers and the topping is decorated with a rainbow effect of colourful Smarties.  I had made the cake once before as part of a cake demo evening so I knew it would work well.  When I was buying the ingredients though, I found that Fox’s Chocolate Fingers were on special offer in Morrisons and at 55p a packet as opposed to £1.50 for the Cadbury’s ones, you can guess what I went for.  I also found that Peanut M&M’s treat bags were on special offer, so they were substituted for the Smarties instead!

Last Saturday afternoon, I started to bake the cake once my jobs had been done.  It’s a vegetable oil based chocolate cake and also uses golden syrup to sweeten the mixture as well as sugar.  It gives a lovely light sponge without being too sickly sweet which does go well with all the chocolate and sweets! The cake is sandwiched together with a chocolate fudge buttercream which is not too heavy but provides enough “glue” to the top and sides of the cake so you can stick the chocolate fingers and Smarties in the right places.

One of the fun parts of baking this cake is to separate all your Smarties or M&M’s out into separate dishes of different colours. This makes it so much easier when you’re decorating the top of the cake. My mum, who was staying with us for the weekend enjoyed helping me with this task but we were both annoyed when opening the Fox’s Chocolate Fingers. For a start about 10 of them were snapped in half so were no good for decorating the outside of the cake.  I was also furious because I didn’t have enough fingers to go round the outside of the cake with three packets, although last time with three packets I had more than enough! Even the broken ones stuck together weren’t enough.  The cake looked a complete mess on one side.

In the end my son asked if he could decorate the top of the cake and he really enjoyed doing it. What made me laugh though was that he said he didn’t want brown M&M’s on the top of the cake.  He couldn’t see what was funny but I told him there was a pop star (can’t remember which one) who asks for M&M’s in his or her dressing room with the brown ones taken out. My son said the brown ones didn’t show up against the chocolate cake. He has a point!

We had a large slice of cake the following morning.  It gave a lovely chocolatey hit without feeling too sweet or too sickly. I really enjoyed it and it got eaten over the next few days.  I would love to bake it again, although I won’t be baking it for a Eurovision Song Contest Party.  It’s my own birthday celebration that weekend and my daughter has offered to bake me a cake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Bundts, Bundts and More Bundts.

I’m getting just that teensy weensy bit obsessed with collecting Nordicware Bundt pans now. I think it needs to stop or else I will need a kitchen extension!  I just love the interesting shapes that the pans come in and how you can make a cake into a showstopper bake by using one of the pans.  I still see pans I want and the wish list is getting longer and longer by the day!

This post is to share some of the more recent bakes I have made so far this year using my bundt pans.  For recipe inspiration I can recommend the fabulous website by Rachel McGrath the Bundt Queen herself.  She has lots of ideas and fantastic flavour combinations to try out.  I would recommend looking at her Bundt recipe page and also adapting and creating your own ideas from her Build a Bundt recipe.

Rachel’s feature on her blog called Bundts on The Brain is a great insight into the history of the Bundt:

http://www.dollybakes.co.uk/p/bundts-on-brain.html

Here are my new bundt pans I have been getting excited about!

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The Heritage Bundt pan. I’ve been after this for ages, such a pretty design.
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My two loaf bundt pans: a lemon loaf one and a gingerbread man one.
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A pretty rose bundt pan. I haven’t had much success with this, tried to bake a white chocolate and raspberry bundt in it a few weeks back and it just wouldn’t come out of the tin. When I finally got it out, the top part fell out leaving half of it welded to the bottom! Try and try again I suppose!
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For Valentine’s Day I baked a chocolate and chocolate themed bundt heart cake. It featured Sugar and Crumbs‘s chocolate and coconut icing sugar which worked really well in both the mixture and the chocolate glaze. To top the cake I added miniature sugarpaste hearts.
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Connected with a previous blog post written in conjunction with Sugar and Crumbs, I baked this Jaffa Orange Bundt cake. This recipe was adapted from one in the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book and looked fab baked in my Heritage bundt pan.
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Bundt cakes are those baked in pans manufactured by Nordicware and not necessarily a cake with a hole in the middle. This sticky lemon loaf cake baked from one of my Nana’s old recipe books went along to a Clandestine Cake Club event in February.
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I spotted the Nordicware Pineapple Upside down cake pan on Ebay in March and just had to have it. Luckily it was a Buy It Now option but I did have to send for it from the USA. It was worth it to bake one of my family’s favourite desserts in such a pretty way.  The recipe itself I used from an American website but I am not sure if I got the quantities right having to use baking cups!
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Back in January I wanted to experiment with some Monin coffee syrups I was given just before Christmas. So I used one of Dollybakes’ recipes to bake this Cinnamon and Apple Bundt Cake with apple flavour glace icing.
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For my hubby’s birthday in January I baked my usual carrot cake recipe in a traditional bundt pan and decorated it with cream cheese frosting, chopped nuts and some ready made carrot decorations.
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My heart shaped bundt pan gets used at all times of the year, not just for Valentine’s Day! I baked Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from his latest book Comfort Food in my pan instead of in a traybake tin.
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My piece of sticky toffee pudding with some sauce drizzled over. Perfect for a cold February dessert.

Keep watching this space, there will be more bundts to come in the future!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

The Ultimate Carrot Cake- Delia’s Cakes.

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes you see everywhere and there are many versions of it.  Over the years since I started baking I’ve made a fair few, some fantastic and some you’d want to chuck in the bin.  This version though, is horrifically calorific seeing as the icing contains mascarpone! Heavenly, but gorgeous!  Anyway, it wasn’t me who was going to eat it, this was another cake heading down to the Village Hall for our Open Gardens last month.  It was also another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge, this time I chose to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake from Delia’s Cakes

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Eggs, dark brown soft sugar and sunflower oil were mixed together in a large bowl first.

In another bowl I added all the dry ingredients, which included self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.  These were combined carefully with the egg mixture, closely followed by grated carrot, dessicated coconut (which I’d never put in a carrot cake before), sultanas and pecan nuts.  What a heavenly combination! No wonder Delia called it the Ultimate Carrot Cake!

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The mixture ready to be popped in the oven.

As you’ve probably guessed I’m a bit behind with the blogging at the moment.  There’s been a lot going on.  So I’m talking about a cake I made over three weeks ago but as I love baking carrot cakes this one I had to say was a joy to make.  When they came out of the oven it took all my courage to not bite into the cakes there and then.  But I had to restrain myself and get on with making up the icing.

The icing was made by whipping together two tubs of mascarpone, some ground cinnamon, brown sugar and a small amount of orange juice to add flavour.  I forgot I needed to add a syrup glaze to the top of the cake first ,though!

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The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
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The carrot cakes cooling down on my cake rack. They were baked in two 18cm or 7″ diameter sandwich cake tins.

While the cakes were cooling I made some carrot toppers out of sugarpaste to decorate the cake with.

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The side of the cake.
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As seen from the top!

The cake went down to our Village Hall with the other three cakes I’d baked and I was really pleased to see it had nearly all gone when I went down there with my mum in the early afternoon.  As it was a warm day I was hoping there wouldn’t be a problem with the icing going all runny but it was fine.

Definitely another winner here and one I’d love to bake again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake.

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Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake as featured in her Baking Bible. Baked by me, decorated by my daughter.

Last Sunday I wanted to make a pudding for Sunday lunch.  Funnily enough it turned into an evening meal as we had a late breakfast so skipped lunch completely.  It wasn’t even going to be a chocolate based pudding, I wanted to bake the Venetian Zabaglione Cake from Delia’s Cakes.  But when you start reading the ingredients list and realise on a Sunday afternoon that you need double cream and Marsala wine, well what can you do?

So I had to choose something else.  There were two bars of plain chocolate left in my baking cupboard and a load of chocolate sprinkles.  I had the ingredients for Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake which I could bake in my bundt tin and also it was a recipe I missed off last month’s Cooking The Books Challenge due to lack of time! The cake looked so inviting I just had to have a go.  I didn’t have any extra milk chocolate for drizzling on the top so I had to make do with what was in my cupboard.  Thankfully I had a tub of chocolate sprinkles!

 Here’s how it was made:

Softened butter, caster sugar, large free range eggs, self raising flour and baking powder were weighed out into a large bowl first of all.
Softened butter, caster sugar, large free range eggs, self raising flour and baking powder were weighed out into a large bowl first of all.
In a small bowl I mixed together some cocoa powder and hot water to make a stiff paste.
In a small bowl I mixed together some cocoa powder and hot water to make a stiff paste.
The cake mix was whisked together thoroughly.
The cake mix was whisked together thoroughly.
The cake mix was spooned into my prepared tin. Afterwards the cocoa paste was dotted in and gently swirled together.
The cake mix was spooned into my prepared tin. Afterwards the cocoa paste was dotted in and gently swirled together.
After about 40 minutes the cake was brought out of the oven.  I was pleased to see the marble pattern showing!
After about 40 minutes the cake was brought out of the oven. I was pleased to see the marble pattern showing!
The cake turned out onto the cooling rack.  Thank heavens it came out of the tin without any problems sticking.
The cake turned out onto the cooling rack. Thank heavens it came out of the tin without any problems sticking.
My daughter asked if she could decorate the cake.
My daughter asked if she could decorate the cake.

My 16 year old daughter came downstairs during a break from revising for her GCSE’s and asked if she could decorate the cake.  I let her and told her to have a look in my baking cupboard for decorations instead of the milk chocolate drizzle.  I had some chocolate sprinkles in a tub and some rainbow sugar but she opted for the chocolate.  I told her Mary’s cake had the icing spread so it completely covered the cake.  She told me she just wanted to spread it on the top and it looked great with the extra bits.  I couldn’t wait to cut the cake and eat some.

It was worth the wait.  A lovely chocolatey hit without being too sweet or overpowering.  I really enjoyed it with a tablespoonful of creme fraiche.  Perfect for a family dessert or a fabulous birthday cake offering!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A slice cut ready for pudding.  It tasted very nice with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
A slice cut ready for pudding. It tasted very nice with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
Leftovers for another day!
Leftovers for another day!

Mojito Cake

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Mojito Sponge Birthday Cake.

My husband doesn’t really care much for birthdays.  To him they’re just another day on the calendar.  Until he met me, that is! He says he doesn’t like a fuss and big celebrations but I think you should mark the day in some way or another.

A few weeks ago we were talking about birthdays and my hubby said “Don’t bother making me a cake,”  But I bet if I didn’t serve him one up he would feel upset.  So I try a compromise, I make him a small cake which is big on the flavours he loves and not swamped in sugarpaste or fancy decorations.

So why a Mojito cake?  Both my husband and I love Mojitos especially since we first drank one in the Australian restaurant Reef n’ Beef in Copenhagen a few years back.  The mixture of white rum, lime and mint was just simply gorgeous.  By the way, the meal was lovely as well! Ever since then we have tried to make them at home, especially in the summer.  We also love drinking them on holiday.

So, I baked a simple Victoria Sponge recipe and added some white rum (sorry dear hubby I nicked the rest of your Bacardi to bake your birthday cake), lime juice and zest as well as some chopped mint to the basic mixture.  The icing was a lime flavoured buttercream and to decorate I used chopped pecans and hazelnuts round the edge of the cake along with lime slices for the top.

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View from the top of the Mojito Cake.
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View from the side. Note the slapdash way in which I threw on the nuts. This was done in a hurry before my hubby arrived home from work as I wanted the cake to be a surprise for him!
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A better side view- this cake ended up not being a complete surprise. Hubby noticed the cake in it’s box on the worktop in the utility room. I had nowhere else to put it.
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The cake already cut into.
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A piece of cake for pudding!

My hubby was pleased with his cake and enjoyed it even though he originally asked me not to make a cake.  Everyone enjoyed it and I was pleased with how the Mojito flavours all worked well together in the mixture.  He didn’t even bat an eyelid when I confessed to using up his Bacardi!

I got the idea of the Mojito cake from Lorraine Pascale’s first book “Baking Made Easy”  Her recipe uses a Genoise sponge, mine was an ordinary Victoria Sponge like mixture.  I used her decoration idea as well, although hers was just using pecan nuts. I didn’t have enough pecans so I added hazelnuts to mine as well.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx