Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #33: The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Sunday October 24th 2021:

It was my Mum’s birthday and as she was coming up to visit for a couple of days, I thought I would bake her a birthday cake. It had to be one which would keep and she could have enough to take home and share with her friends she was meeting up with later on in the week.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m getting to struggle with being able to make some of the bakes in my Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Not because I can’t make them but simply because of the sheer waste of ingredients or not having the occasion to bake these cakes. I can’t be baking a three tier wedding cake when I’ve not got a wedding to bake for.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake on page 76 in the Chocolate Chapter looked like a pretty but not too over the top cake. It was baked in two layers but with both layers cut horizontally to create four. The recipe containing sour cream was also one which would keep it moist and fudgy which is what I needed as it might not get eaten straightaway.

I ended up baking the cake as three separate layers rather than two layers cut in half. I use ready made baking parchment circles for the bottom of my tins and this helped me to grease and line the tins.

Unfortunately, I was listening to a radio programme at the time so I was distracted and forgot to put in the baking powder. I only realised afterwards when the cakes were in the oven and I was putting the ingredients away, that I had forgotten it. I don’t know if it had much effect, the cake had still risen. Thank heavens for that.

I left the cakes cooling on the worktop while Mr S and I went off to walk the dog. When we came back I made up the chocolate buttercream icing. I used Callebaut dark chocolate chips, icing sugar, butter and some sour cream to make up the icing.

The three layers of chocolate sponge cooling on the racks in my kitchen. After my disaster forgetting to add the baking powder, I was expecting to have three large cookies!

The original decoration for the Ultimate Chocolate Cake was to have the sides plain but the top to be decorated like a giant rose petal. I didn’t have a petal nozzle suitable so instead I put a thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides and used a scraper to get the effect. To top the cake I piped stars around the edge and in the middle, topping each star with some edible shimmer pearl decorations from Tesco which I’d also used for my daughter’s birthday cheesecake the week before. I also found some Cake Angels Millionaire’s Sprinkles which contained gold stars and tiny fudge pieces to sprinkle all over the top of the cake.

My mum was really pleased with the cake. Although we are all trying to be healthy and eat sensibly, you have to have a treat when it’s your birthday. We had a small sliver with a cup of tea the day after Mum’s birthday as we ended up having scones on her actual day! Mum cut us a piece to enjoy the next day and then took the rest with her to share with her friends. I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

I think this recipe is going to be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on. But next time I’ll remember to add the baking powder!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

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.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

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.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

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!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

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
  • Slutty Brownies
  • 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 bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

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.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #27: White Chocolate and Blueberry Layer Cake.

The White Chocolate and Blueberry Layer Cake from the Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Amazing Cakes.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve tried out a recipe from The Great British Bake Off The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Most of the recipes I have left over in the challenge are the more complicated ones or the ones you would bake for a special occasion. Can’t imagine me baking a three tier wedding cake just for my family to have with a cuppa!

This week I have had a lot of baking to do for smartcookiesam.com, my online baking business. These have been brownies, blondies and cookies so it was a change to bake a cake for once! I chose to bake the White Chocolate and Blueberry Cake in the Chocolate chapter of the Amazing Cakes book.

The cake is a three layer blueberry sponge filled with white chocolate buttercream and finished with another layer of buttercream. The top decoration is some more white chocolate buttercream but with blueberry jam swirled in the icing to add flavour and to turn the icing a beautiful shade of lilac.

As with baking these recipes, I look to see what ingredients I have or need to get in. I had to buy double cream in for the recipe but I didn’t have any blueberry jam. I used some blackcurrant jam we had bought on holiday on the Isle of Arran instead which is gorgeous.

After doing my blondie and cookie order, I adjusted the oven termperature to 180oC fan which was stipulated in the recipe. I then thought this was a bit too hot, so I reduced it to 160o.

The cake itself was simple to make itself in a stand mixer: unsalted butter, caster sugar, vanilla extract, free range eggs and self raising flour mixed together to create the cake batter. Then I added in the blueberries, folding them in carefully until they were combined but taking care that they wouldn’t get squashed! I prepared three 20cm/ 8″ diameter sandwich tins with greaseproof lining and Cake Release Spray.

While the cake was baking, I made the buttercream in my KitchenAid mixer. First I whipped the butter for a few minutes. While that was being whipped, I melted some white chocolate in the microwave. I know some don’t approve of using the microwave method but it works for me if I do it in short blasts of time! When the white chocolate was melted and still warm, I stirred some double cream into it. The butter was now ready for me to add the icing sugar to it. No matter how hard I try I still get icing sugar all over the worktops and on the floor even on the lowest speed on the mixer! Finally, when this was blended I added in the white chocolate cream mixture to whip up into the buttercream.

The recipe time said to bake the cake for 20-25 minutes. I checked on it after 20 minutes and I noticed they were already done and coming away from the sides of the tin. I quickly got them out of the oven and onto the cooling racks.

When it was time to ice the cake I noticed the buttercream was a bit runny. It was really hot in my kitchen and I had no spare space in my fridge to chill the cake between it’s crumb coat and needing the top layer on. I also found it impossible to do the white chocolate shavings myself as the chocolate was melting in my hot hands! When the crumb coat was on, I then split the remaining icing in two. One half went as part of the topping and then the remaining part had some of the blackcurrant jam added to it to turn it lilac. I made up a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then piped the rose swirls on the top of the cake. As the kitchen got hotter and hotter, so did the blooming icing which drove me crazy! It was definitely too runny for my liking. The white chocolate curls were meant to go on the side of the cake but I found this far too fiddly. Instead i just sprinkled them on top.

Would I bake this cake again? Yes I would, although there are a couple of issues I have with the recipe. I think the oven temperatures are too hot and also the cooking times were too long. This is definitely a special occasion cake as you need three packets of butter, some double cream and 400g of white chocolate as well as a huge box of icing sugar! Definitely not a recipe you would bake every day. But worth it when you do. I also think that you could change the flavours by using raspberries and raspberry jam instead of blueberries.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam. xx

Chocolate Drip Cake: Amazing Cakes #12

It was my daughter’s birthday back in October. It had been a strange couple of weeks for us and her birthday coincided with her last day of self isolation. I had originally planned her cake for her weeks ago and had bought ingredients and the decorations well in advance. Had I known, I wouldn’t have baked such an extravagant and massive cake!

I’ve seen lots of these fancy drip cakes around and although I bake lots of cakes it has been a while since I have made any celebration cakes. Making a drip cake is something I’d always wanted to have a go at but never had chance to do. So even though my daughter said “Don’t make me a massive cake, Mum!”, what did her mother do? Make a massive cake!

I looked at the recipe for the Chocolate Drip Cake in the Great British Bake Off book Amazing Cakes to help me for quantities, etc and I adapted it to suit the ingredients I had at home at the time. The original recipe has two layers each of chocolate sponge and also of a brown butter sponge! As the brown butter sponge used a whole packet of butter which I didn’t have enough of, I chose to make this one as a Vanilla sponge but bake both sponges using Stork instead. I had a whole tub of Stork which needed using up and only enough butter for the buttercream. Also I chose to adapt the decorations. My friend Amy had bought me a tub of Cake Decor Chocolate Mirror Glaze icing in a tub which I had not used before and I thought it would be perfect on the top of the cake for the drip. Instead of homemade chocolate shards, I used Lindt Dor Salted Caramel Truffles and some honeycomb pieces. For the buttercream icing, I had to use a mixture of plain Tate and Lyle Icing Sugar with a packet of Sugar and Crumbs’ Honeycomb flavour icing sugar as I didn’t have enough plain for all the buttercream. So the chocolate cake ended up being a chocolate, salted caramel and honeycomb flavour cake!

On Sunday morning, the morning of my daughter’s actual birthday I baked the sponges and made up the buttercream. This did not take long. It wasn’t until later when I had to assemble the cake that the panic started. I see so many perfect cakes on the internet where the buttercream is so smooth. I can never get mine like that. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the moment you start piping or something is the exact moment when Mr S comes in the kitchen and wants to get something out of that very cupboard right where you are working! This time he came in asking for a cup of tea! (fit eyeroll emoji in here!)

It was as I was assembling the cake that I realised how big it actually was and why I needed 500g butter and 1kg of icing sugar in the buttercream. It also contains 200g dark chocolate and double cream which was made into a ganache and then whipped into the butter and icing sugar. Assembling the cake was fine and I put it on my larger Cath Kidston cake stand. Once it was assembled, I gave the cake a crumb coat and put it to chill in the fridge for an hour. While it was chilling I made the cup of tea and tried to clean up as best as I could.

Another coat of buttercream went on and then I spent ages smoothing it with my cake smoother before melting the pot of chocolate glaze gently in the microwave. I have seen people use plastic bottles with nozzles on for piping on the chocolate drip but I chose to use a piping bag to help me. The chocolate glaze was slightly too thick really and some of the drips didn’t look as neat as others. Once the chocolate was on then I put on the Lindt balls and sprinkled the honeycomb pieces in the middle. The finishing touch was some gold Happy Birthday lettering.

I was very pleased and proud of the cake and my daughter loved it which was the main thing. Since she has gone back to work she has taken it to share with her work mates and they enjoyed it too.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coffee Cake

It’s my husband’s birthday today. It’s always very difficult when there’s a birthday during the week. How do some people manage to have the day off when it’s their birthday, I don’t know. It never works out that way for me. The same goes for my hubby. We celebrated over the weekend by going out for a meal and being treated to a tour of a local craft brewery and vineyard. Yesterday we gave him his birthday presents and I baked him a cake. Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he likes fruit cake, carrot cake and coffee cake. This year I chose to make him a coffee cake as I had some Coffee Nut M&Ms as well as a tub of chocolate covered coffee beans to use up.

Yesterday I had a helper in the kitchen- my mum! She had come up to stay for the weekend and offered to do the washing up! She loves baking herself, when she gets chance.

I bought these Coffee Nut M&Ms when I was in Canada last September. I’ve not seen this flavour before and thought they would be great to bake with. I actually bought two packs but the fairies had been at them and I could only find one packet in the cupboard! Funny how my son said they tasted disgusting so it must’ve been him who troughed them!

To get the coffee flavour in the cake I had to mix two tablespoonfuls of coffee powder with a tablespoonful of water. This made a great paste.

I use the all in one method for my sponges wherever possible so I put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl at the same time. I used Pure Dairy Free Baking Spread as it makes really light sponges, caster sugar, self raising flour, baking powder and free range eggs.

I had to buy a new electric mixer before Christmas and it got another outing this afternoon beating the sponge mixture together.

I then folded in the coffee paste so that it was evenly blended. Then the cake mixture was ready to be divided between two greased and lined sandwich cake tins. I used 20cm/ 8″ diameter ones. My mum had very kindly greased the tins for me. I use ready made parchment circles as they are so much less faff than drawing round the tin and cutting out the circles from a roll of baking parchment. Once the cakes had been divided equally between the tins they went straight into the oven and baked for 20-25 minutes at 160oC.

The M&Ms and chocolate covered cocoa beans I used to decorate the top of the cake with.

To prepare the coffee buttercream for the cake I needed some butter but it was a bit hard despite being out of the fridge for a couple of hours. I cut the butter up into cubes and gave it a quick blast in the microwave for about 20 seconds to take the edge off it.

Here are the finished cakes cooling on the rack. One of them had slightly cracked on it as I had poked the top of them to check if they had been cooked and whether the sponge bounced back when touched. At that time it didn’t, until I had put it back in the oven for another five minutes!

Making the buttercream was simple in that the butter was creamed first, then milk and some more coffee paste was added. Finally I carefully added some icing sugar bit by bit to the mixture. It still didn’t stop the puffs of icing sugar clouds descending all over the work top!

The cake was decorated simply by spreading half the coffee buttercream on the top of one of the cakes and then putting the second one on top. The remainder of the top was spread on the cake with a pallette knife. To finish off I put the coffee M&Ms and cocoa beans around the edge of the cake.

Mr SmartCookieSam had some champagne bottle candles on his cake. Very fitting as we had been to a vineyard tour the day before.

We lit the candles and had a piece of birthday cake with a cup of tea yesterday afternoon. The cake was delicious and there was plenty left over for Mr SmartCookieSam to take to work the next day.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Vegan Bundt Cake

My daughter’s 21st birthday cake/s. A vegan chocolate Bundt cake baked in my 6 cup Anniversary Bundt pan, along with some mini bundtlettes.

I’m feeling very old right now. I’m officially the mother of an adult. My older child, my daughter had her twenty first birthday a few weeks ago. Of course Mother SmartCookieSam wanted to bake her a cake even though she didn’t want much fuss. It made me think back to my own 21st back in the 1990s. I was also at uni like my daughter and having a cake was the last thing on my mind. Having a massive party and going out with my mates was more my thing. I did have a cake which was very traditional. My Dad got it and it was a fruitcake decorated like a basket with sugar flowers on top. How times have changed.

For my daughter who is dairy free and follows a vegan diet at uni, her cake had to be vegan. She also has two Vegan housemates who were going to be sharing the cake with her. Vegan baking is a relatively new thing for me. My family over in Canada are vegan and when I was there recently I was able to bake them a couple of things to try out. It’s a pity they couldn’t taste this decadent vegan chocolate Bundt I baked for my daughter.

To bake this a Decadent Vegan Chocolate Bundt I first whisked together plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and some salt. In another bowl I beat together some caster sugar and some vegetable oil until well combined. After that I added some strong coffee, vanilla extract and a little cider vinegar.

I wondered why the recipe contained cider vinegar and in the tip section it explains that “the cider vinegar acts as an acid that reacts with the baking soda to give the batter a lift as it bakes. You will not taste it in the finished product, I promise!”

To incorporate all the ingredients together, I then alternated between adding the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and then folding in coconut milk. The coconut milk gives the cake a rich texture.

The recipe is for a 10 cup Bundt pan but my daughter only wanted a small cake. I hadn’t a clue how to scale down a recipe which uses American cup sizes so I baked the full mixture. Instead, there ended up being a 6 cup Bundt as well as four bundlettes.

The cake was topped with an adapted version of a vegan chocolate glaze. I made the icing thicker by using more icing sugar and slightly less coconut milk. As for the Bundt recipe, the glaze can also be found in Julie Ann Hession’s book, Beautiful Bundts.

The gold and silver sprinkles are from Dr Oetker and were bought in a local supermarket. They added lots of sparkle and bling to the top of the cake.

We were due to visit my daughter at uni the weekend before her actual birthday so I made sure I wasn’t working the day before we had to go away. I wanted her cake to be perfect. More recently I’ve been so snowed under that baking has taken a back seat, which really upsets me as baking is a real stress buster!

I found one of these sparkly word cake toppers on EBay from Honey and Ladle and it contrasted really beautifully with the chocolate. The cake had to travel in the boot down to Southampton so I took the cake topper off the cake and put it inside the box until we got to my daughter’s house.

I was absolutely furious with Mr SmartCookieSam, though. People who have never baked a cake do not realise how delicate they can be when you carry them out to a car or how important it is to put it in the boot without someone putting something on top of the box. He was all set for balancing the box on top of a suitcase . There was no way I was going to allow that and more so letting the cake share the boot with a greedy Labrador! Of course he thought I was going off on one but cakes have to be treated with care, not thrown about like a ball!

Fortunately, we and the cake got to Southampton in one piece. My daughter and her friends enjoyed the cake although I didn’t get to taste a piece for my verdict.

It was one of those cakes you could use to turn into a special occasion cake or one you could eat as a weekend pudding.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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