The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake.

Sunday December 3rd, 2017.

Since I gave up baking professionally to concentrate on the day job full time, I’ve had less time to spend on baking things like Christmas cakes. Mr Smartcookiesam says to me every year that I should just go and buy a small one from Marks and Spencer but to me part of Christmas is baking and decorating a Christmas cake. Why should I go out and buy something I enjoy baking at home?

I’ve never been a massive fan of roll out icing and marzipan but I love fruit cakes. If I eat Christmas cake I always take the icing off and serve it with a slice of Wensleydale cheese as you do in my part of the world. I try to decorate my cake differently each year but if I’m short of time I always get out my The Snowman and the Snowdog decorations and cake ribbon. At the time of writing I’ve no idea how I’m going to decorate this year’s cake, please send some inspiration my way!

As for the previous couple of years I’ve used Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe for my family Christmas cake. The recipe features in both The Great British Bake Off Christmas book and Mary’s own Christmas Collection. Dried fruit (a mixture of currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and halved glacé cherries) had been soaking in some brandy for a few days along with some orange zest.

This afternoon, albeit a few days after it should have been done but I thought I’d better get started on the cake. I knew I needed time where I’d be in all afternoon while it was baking. Sundays are not usually a day of rest in our house. I’m normally catching up on all the jobs I haven’t done from the previous week or trying to get ahead for the next week. No time like the present, as they always say.

In a large bowl I creamed together unsalted butter, light brown sugar, treacle and eggs. After these were mixed together, I added in some flour and some ground mixed spice along with some chopped blanched almonds. Then this was combined with the dried fruit mixture.

I had greased and carefully double lined a deep 9″ or 23cm diameter circular cake tin. Mary Berry says in her recipe intro that the cake isn’t a very deep one but it definitely makes a big enough cake for our Christmas celebrations. I found the cake mixture went just over halfway up the cake tin and was deep enough for me.

My oven had been preheated to 140oC and I put the cake tin into the oven on the central shelf. By this time it was 2.30pm and time was cracking on. The cooking time was estimated between 4- 4 1/2 hours so I wanted the cake out by the time we were due to go out.

Jobs done and now it was time to chill. Every now and again throughout the 4 hours I kept popping backwards and forwards to the kitchen to check on the cake. I’m always worried about fruit cakes burning and to be honest I think I need to get my oven checked out. I don’t think the temperature is as accurate any more. Well my oven is 11 years old and it has had a lot of use over the past few years.

At 6.30pm the cake was ready to come out of the oven. The fruit looked a bit burnt on top to be honest and I should have covered the cake with some foil or baking parchment to stop it catching. You can never tell with my oven at the moment.

I’ll be wrapping the cake up in foil and feeding it with brandy every few days or so. In the week leading up to Christmas I will be marzipanning and icing the cake. Watch this space to see it finished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Eton Mess Cake- The Clandestine Cake Club A Year Of Cake Bakealong June 2016.

I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club and regularly go along to local events in Yorkshire. I’ve been a member for over 3 years now and have made a lot of friends through the club. We take a cake each along to the event and try tiny pieces of each other’s cakes. If we can’t eat much, we take cake home at the end to share with family or work colleagues. Last year I was excited to hear that two of my recipes were to be published in the second Clandestine Cake Club cookbook “A Year Of Cake”. My Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith and Mojito and Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipes were featured in the book, much to my surprise but happiness!

Lots of yummy recipes are featured in the book including ones created by friends.  One such recipe I’ve been desperate to have a go at baking is the one my friend Clare submitted for the book, her take on a British classic pudding in cake form- Eton Mess.  Containing some of my favourite pudding ingredients, such as meringue, strawberries and raspberries mixed with cream. Clare’s cake uses buttercream and jam to sandwich a traditional Victoria sponge together and the Eton Mess part of the cake is it’s photogenic topping. Clare’s recipe also contains another ingredient I love which works perfectly with strawberries and raspberries, a luscious addition of white chocolate chunks. 

Last Saturday afternoon I was at home for once. It’s been a crazy few weeks with every weekend spoken for and work has been chaotic. Baking was my chance to unwind and enjoy a bit of “me time”. I wanted to bake a cake to celebrate my daughter passing her college course. She is now a qualified make up artist and is off to uni to study media makeup and prosthetics in September. We are all very proud of her as she aims to follow her dream. Baking cakes of course is one of my ways of congratulating her! Everyone at home loves pavlova and cake so I knew the Eton Mess cake would be a big hit.

To bake the cake I started off by baking the sponge part. This is done in the usual way that you make a Victoria sponge and it wasn’t long before I was creaming butter and sugar together with my handheld electric mixer. Clare suggests using margarine instead of butter so I used Pure Non Dairy spread which I swear by for baking sponges and cupcakes. It makes them very light. Then in went four eggs one by one which were beaten into the mixture. As I started to add some self raising flour and baking powder I realised I hadn’t got the cake tins out. My cake tin drawers in my kitchen are getting very messy and it takes me ages to sort through them to find the right size tin. I was annoyed that one of the tins had fallen down the back of the unit and got wedged between it and the drawer below. Hubby would say it was my own fault for having too many cake tins! I don’t agree! 

Finally having found the tins I was looking for I got them greased and the mixture in them ready to go in the oven. For once I remembered to set the timer and being as I have a fan oven I wanted to check them after 20-25 minutes. This is when I realise I’m not that good at multi tasking. I put some washing in the machine and another load out on the line. It took me ages to do this as there were loads of pairs of socks and pants to hang out! By the time I’d gone back inside I realised it was time for the cake to come out of the oven. Thankfully got it out just in time!

Now for the decoration part. For the cake topping I needed to make some mini meringues. I’ve only made meringues once or twice before, it’s something I’ve never really done a lot of. I always thought of them as being fiddly and complicated. But Clare’s way of whisking the egg whites until they are stiff then adding caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time was a great help to get the right consistency. I have always tipped in the sugar and wondered why I couldn’t get them to keep the egg whites stiff enough. Also, to add into the meringue mixture you mix in some cornflour and white wine vinegar. I was impressed with my shiny meringue mixture and then got my baking trays ready. I prepared up my piping bag and my large star nozzle. The meringue piped easily onto the trays and there was more than enough to go on the cake as well as having some left over.

I was really impressed with how my meringue stars turned out.
There were lots of leftover meringue stars once I’d decorated the cake.

Now for the cake assembling and decorating time, the bit I was looking forward to the most. I decided to use whipped cream in place of buttercream in the recipe. I had a small pot of cream in the fridge which needed to be used up and I didn’t want to waste it. I whipped up the cream but there wasn’t enough to fill the middle of the cake along with some strawberry  jam. So instead the cream was just spread on the top of the cake with the jam in the middle. Once the cream was spread on I put meringue stars around the edge of the cake and filled the middle with raspberries, strawberries and white chocolate chunks.

View from the top- a heavenly combination of meringues, raspberries, strawberries, cream and white chocolate.
Ta-dah! A classic cake perfect for a summer celebration.
Lush meringue stars.
We didn’t get to eat a piece of the cake until the following day but it was worth the wait!
The cake got eaten over the next couple of days. By Wednesday it had all gone!
Although the cake had been baked on Saturday afternoon for my daughter, we didn’t actually get to enjoy some until the day after. My daughter had been working all day Saturday and went straight to a friends’ house to a party and sleepover. Then on Sunday morning she went straight to work and didn’t get to eat her cake until Sunday tea time. I kept the cake in the fridge due to the cream in it and it kept it fresh. An extremely popular cake all round and one I would love to bake again in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Madeira Cake from The Great British Bake Off Celebrations.

Along with millions of others I got whipped up into all the excitement now that The Great British Bake Off is back!  Week one started with cakes.  Now for me that wouldn’t be a problem but may be with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry watching me I might feel different.

First of all the bakers were asked to bake their Signature Cake- their take on a Madeira Cake.  To me, a Madeira cake is a well loved classic that shouldn’t be messed about with too much. I think the simpler the better and the recipe on page 17 of The reat British Bake Off Celebrations book fits the bill perfectly.  It is a lemon flavoured cake with accompanying home made candied lemon peel. It has a closer texture than an ordinary sponge and I use a Madeira recipe when I want a plain cake to carve into a shape for a birthday cake.

Madeira cakes first became popular in Victorian times where a slice was served with a glass of Madeira wine.They don’t come from the island of Madeira like I originally thought!

Last Thursday, the day after the Bake Off had been on TV I had a day at home.  I had lemons in the fruit bowl and wanted to bake.  Bake Off has two effects on me, it makes me want to get my apron on and also to stuff my face! It was also a crazy day, I had to take my dog to the vets, run around after my two teenage children and get some ironing done in between all that. But at least I had time in between.

First of all I needed to make some candied lemon peel.  I’ve never made this before, seems such a faff. I had to cut a large lemon into 8 wedges, cutting off the flesh and leaving the pith and some peel behind.  Then each wedge needed to be cut into 4 strips.

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Preparing the lemon strips to make the candied peel.
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The lemon peel strips were then put into a pan with 300ml water and some granulated sugar. This was then dissolved over a low heat and simmered for about 3/4 hour until the lemon strips became soft and translucent.
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Drying the lemon peel on a lined baking sheet for it to dry out. It then went into my oven on a very low setting for about an hour.

At this time I had to break off to go and take the dog up to the vets and then collect my son’s friend from the train station.  I had to leave the peel out on the surface to harden up and hope it turned out ok later on.

Later on I finally got round to actually starting on the cake itself. I was still giggling and laughing to myself about the Bake Off the previous night with all the innuendoes flying around the tent, this week was all about showing your cracks! Mary Berry said that she expected a Madeira cake to have a crack and a dome. So of course I wanted to make sure I had a “crack” too!

The lemon Madeira cake was baked using an all in one method and mixed together using my hand held mixer. Butter, caster sugar, self raising flour, ground almonds, eggs and the grated zest of a large lemon were weighed out and combined.  This was done until the mixture was smooth, yet well combined.  It was then put into a deep filled 18cm diameter cake tin which had been lined and greased carefully.

The cake was meant to be baked in the oven first for about 35 minutes. Then you added a few pieces of the candied peel to the top of the cake and returned the cake to the oven for another 20 minutes or so.  This was until a cake tester poked into the cake came out clean. Unfortunately my phone started ringing as I was putting the cake in the oven so I stupidly forgot to switch the oven timer on.  I had to guess the time I’d put the cake in the oven.  So it does look a little bit pale on the top but it was definitely cooked when I tested it!

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My finished Lemon Madeira Cake as featured on the Great British Bake Off as the Signature Bake for Week 1. Yes, I do have a crack and a dome!

I did take the cake out of the tin when it was still a little bit warm and it was a bit crumbly when I cut a slice. I should have waited but I was running out of time. It tasted absolutely delicious although it didn’t taste as lemony as I thought it would.

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Sneaking a piece to try with a cup of tea for 4 o’clock munchies time!

The Technical Bake featured on the Great British Bake Off last week was Mary Berry’s Walnut Cake. It was described as “the de-caf version” by Mel and Sue. Usually you do get coffee and walnut together in a cake but this cake was different. The recipe is featured in the new Bake Off book but there is also a version like this in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I baked this cake last year and it didn’t come out too well.  It was the icing that let me down.  It just wouldn’t thicken up and I was too ashamed to take it along to my WI meeting as one of my contributions to our supper.

The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting.  The cake was finished with walnut halves.
The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting. The cake was finished with walnut halves.
A cut slice of the walnut cake.
A cut slice of the walnut cake.
The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!
The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!

As you can tell from the above picture it looked nothing like it should have done and to me, it also tasted strange.  One for me to practise again in the future!

The final challenge for the Bakers was to produce a showstopping Black Forest Gateau.  I love the flavours of Black Forest Gateaux and really enjoyed baking one a couple of years back for my hubby’s birthday.  Even though he doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he was impressed with the cake I baked for him using a recipe in the Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation book.

The mixed dried fruit was left to soak in tea along with demerara and dark muscovado sugars.
The mixed dried fruit was left to soak in tea along with demerara and dark muscovado sugars.
The black forest cherry filling was spread on top of one of the layers.
The black forest cherry filling was spread on top of one of the layers.
Ta-da !Here is the finished cake in all it's glory.
Ta-da !Here is the finished cake in all it’s glory.

 

I had forgotten to put the candles on!
I had forgotten to put the candles on!

I’m looking forward to the Bake Off again tomorrow. Biscuits this week. I can’t wait to see what everyone’s baking and I fancy having a go myself later on this week if I have time.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

 

Cooking The Books March 2014- Eton Mess from A Passion For Baking.

Now there’s two days until the end of the month and I have two recipes left to try out from Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking as part of my Cooking The Books challenge for March 2014.  Today, being Mothers’ Day I wanted to make a scrummy dessert for our lunch.  I wanted something everyone in our house would eat and something not too heavy and sickly.  All of the desserts in Jo’s first book looked lovely and I want to try them all out eventually.  I chose Eton Mess because it meant I would have to try out making meringues, something which I haven’t really done. Normally I just buy the ready made meringue nests you get in the supermarkets, but Jo’s recipe would not only test my meringue skills but jam making ones too! I would have to make a strawberry jam like sauce, now jam making is something else I really struggle with.  I can never get it to set properly!

Late this morning I was also trying to make an Onion and Cheese Tart  for our lunch with the Eton Mess as the pudding.  The meringue was going to be the time consuming bit as they would be in the oven for an hour baking plus the time they had to stay in there after to cool down.  This was a bit of a pain as I needed the oven to bake the tart in.  I have a double oven range cooker but I only cook roasts in the other one. It was funny as I was trying to sort out the Eton Mess downstairs in my kitchen, my hubby was upstairs moaning at my kids for the mess in their bedrooms.  I give up!

Anyway, I was well out of it down in the kitchen and I got down to it straightaway. Here’s how I got on:

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I had to make the meringues first. Here, I am whisking up three egg whites until they held soft peaks.
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After that, the second stage was to add some caster sugar bit by bit to the egg whites. It took a long time to get the meringues stiff!

The meringues were a bit runnier than I expected but I managed to pipe them onto some baking parchment ready to pop in the oven.  They were baked for about an hour on a low temperature (of 100oC), then were left to cool down in the oven afterwards even when the oven was switched off.  This helped them to crisp up and set a little bit.

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Here are my finished meringues. They don’t look very pretty but then it didn’t matter as I was going to break them up in chunks anyway!

While the meringues were baking I got on with the jam.  Jo’s recipe mentions strawberries but being as strawberries aren’t in season at the moment I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to make up the same quantity needed for the jam.  I got the pan to the boil first to get the sugar dissolved which was also in the pan, then the heat was turned down and cooked for another 15 to 20 minutes longer to thicken up. Once this had happened I set it aside to cool down until I was ready to assemble the pudding.

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Boiling the jam.
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Whipping double cream and half fat creme fraiche together.

When it was time to get the pudding ready I got out some double cream and half fat creme fraiche.  I’d had to use some of my double cream in the onion and cheese tart so there wasn’t enough to put on the Eton Mess!  You needed 600ml of double cream, I only had 350ml, so I added in a small tub of half fat creme fraiche I had in the fridge.  This was whipped up together with my  electric hand whisk.

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A huge bowlful of whipped cream and creme fraiche.

When it was ready I started to assemble the puddings.  I don’t have any tall sundae glasses so I used some tumblers.  The strawberry jam went in the bottom of the glasses first, with pieces of crushed meringue, cream with jam stirred through, followed by plain cream and finished with more meringue pieces. I’d forgotten to save some fruit to keep for the top of the puddings.

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My finished Eton Messes!
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Showing the crushed homemade meringues on top of the cake.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our puddings and they were very naughty but nice.  My hubby is convinced that Eton Mess has vanilla ice cream in it, I told him he was wrong! To me Eton Mess is like a pavlova but messed up! If he wants ice cream with it I suppose you could have a scoop of it on the side.  I couldn’t help him out there, we didn’t have any ice cream in to give him!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Tea Cakes- Great British Bake Off Series 3

I’ve always loved Tunnock’s Teacakes.  To be honest I don’t usually buy packets of chocolate biscuits when I do my weekly food shop as I know once that packet is open, I’ll trough the lot!  I did buy them when my children were at primary school and took packed lunches.  We all love them in our house, so when we do buy a packet of teacakes, it’s a real treat.

In series 3 of the Great British Bake Off last summer the Technical Challenge in Biscuit Week was to make Chocolate Teacakes!  I was excited to see this as they have always been a mystery about how you went about making them.  As I had bought the book to accompany the last series How To Turn Everyday Bakes Into Showstoppers, I had the recipe but had absolutely no confidence in making them.  Who can forget the lovely Cathryn and her famous catchphrase “Oh my giddy aunt!” every time something went wrong in the Bake Off tent.  I also loved her comment “I can’t serve Mary Berry green carpet!”  Cathryn was a joy to watch on the TV, her bakes were stunning but the chocolate teacakes and the other biscuit bakes led to her leaving the show.

It has taken me a year to have a go at baking the teacakes for a couple of reasons, mainly because I thought I couldn’t do it and also due to them being time consuming. It wasn’t until I went into my local Lakeland Limited shop in Harrogate and found out that they have started to sell the silicone chocolate moulds that you need to make these gorgeous treats!

To find out more about the Lakeland silicone moulds click here

 

This is what the silicone chocolate teacake mould looks like-photo courtesy of Lakeland’s website.

Last Wednesday my husband was away working up in Scotland.  I was spending a day catching up on jobs and errands but decided once and for all I was going to get on with making these teacakes. I knew I was in for a tricky time but I thought if I followed the instructions carefully then I might be ok.

The chocolate slicone teacake mould was washed out and wiped with a kitchen towel.
The chocolate slicone teacake mould was washed out and wiped with a kitchen towel.
300g plain chocolate were melted carefully in the microwave.  It was meant to cool slightly to stiffen up. It took ages to do this.
300g plain chocolate were melted carefully in the microwave. It was meant to cool slightly to stiffen up. It took ages to do this.
While the chocolate was cooling I made the biscuit base, this was made with wholemeal flour, plain flour, butter, caster sugar and golden syrup to bind it together. The biscuits were very short in texture and kept crumbling. It took all my effort to roll and re-roll the dough to get 6 cookies out of it!
While the chocolate was cooling I made the biscuit base, this was made with wholemeal flour, plain flour, butter and caster sugar. The binding was done with a tablespoon of milk which didn’t work too well!  The biscuits were very short in texture and kept crumbling. It took all my effort to roll and re-roll the dough to get 6 cookies out of it!
The melted chocolate is spooned carefully into the mould and spread around to make the dome part of the chocolate teacake.  The chocolate was still far too runny and kept running down to the bottom of the mould! I kept spooning it back and trying to coat the edge of the moulds.
The melted chocolate is spooned carefully into the mould and spread around to make the dome part of the chocolate teacake. The chocolate was still far too runny and kept running down to the bottom of the mould! I kept spooning it back and trying to coat the edge of the moulds.
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Once the biscuit bases were out of the oven they were covered in the remains of the melted chocolate and left to set. This bit seemed easier than the dome bit but I did struggle with it as I was hungry and could have happily wolfed the biscuits down there and then!

While all the chocolate was setting I had a go at making the marshmallow filling. I have never, ever made marshmallow before and began to get worried once I saw the method. It involved heating the egg whites, golden syrup and salt in a pan rather like an Italian meringue. You needed to add a vanilla pod but I didn’t have one, so a splash of vanilla extract went in here instead.  The one and only time I made Italian meringue to make a topping for lemon meringue cupcakes resulted in me burning my thumb when the meringue splashed on me. I still have a scar about 1cm long 2 years later! I opted for another method, mixing it all in the KitchenAid with my balloon whisk. It seemed to work ok.

By this time it was far too late to be baking. The chocolate in the mould still hadn’t set and I was tired. I thought I would leave it until the morning and assemble the teacakes in the morning when I got up!

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Next morning! The teacakes were assembled. The marshmallow filling was put inside the domes with a tablespoon then the edges of the biscuits were piped with more melted chocolate.
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After a couple of hours I attempted to get out the teacakes out of the mould! As the chocolate in the dome part wasn’t thick enough, only one turned out intact! They also had this horrible streak on the chocolate, not sure what that is as I am not a chocolate expert.
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And here are the rejects! Only suitable to be eaten with a spoon and from a bowl. You could hardly put a foil wrapper around these!

Well, was it worth the effort?  I’m so sorry to say but no it wasn’t. I found the recipe far too fiddly and time consuming.  I will stick to buying Tunnocks as normal!

Here is a link to the recipe if you are brave enough to have a go at making your own chocolate tea cakes:

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_marshmallow_60410

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx