I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things. As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.
But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure. So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.
This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.
As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”
The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me. I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time. They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.
The recipe was simple to make. I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl. To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.
To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves. I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones. I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven. They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing. As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!
The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones. It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like. I didn’t eat any, honest!
Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer. Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog post update. I shouldn’t have any excuses as it’s the summer holidays and I’ve got much more time than I usually have. But summer holidays also means a chance to catch up on a long list of jobs I don’t get done and the blogging goes by the wayside. There have been so many blog posts in draft on the system for a few weeks now. Today, as I write I thought enough is enough and I need to get back into it.
A couple of weeks ago I joined in with the Clandestine Cake Club’s A Year Of Cake Monthly Bakealong for July. For the monthly bakealong you have to choose one of the recipes featured in A Year Of Cake for that relevant month and bake it. You share photos and experiences with others and Lynn Hill, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club does a write-up and posts it on the website. The July chapter has eight different cakes to choose from. I chose to adapt the first recipe in the chapter, Shelley Titmus’ Bacon and Maple Syrup Cake in honour of Canada Day.
Coincidentally I was in Canada on holiday in July, visiting my brother and his family. I missed being there for Canada Day on 1st July, although my mum got to enjoy the celebrations! I would have loved to have taken a cake over to my family but it would have got a bit damaged on the plane!
Shelley’s Maple Syrup Cake is actually made with bacon as well. I’ve never tried bacon in a cake before though I’ve had it with pancakes and maple syrup. I would have needed about 18 pieces of streaky, dry cured bacon to add to the recipe. The bacon is grilled until crispy. Some is added into the cake batter, the rest used as a topping and filling for the cake. I didn’t have any bacon in but I had some other ingredients I wanted to use in the cake. I had brought back some genuine Maple Syrup back with me from Edmonton, as well as some maple flavoured peanuts. I thought the peanuts would be a fantastic alternative to the bacon in the cake.
I didn’t actually start to bake the cake until the very last day in July. It ended up being a Sunday lunch dessert/ pudding. It was a fantastic reminder of a very special holiday. The cake itself is baked in three layers in 3 separate 20cm or 8″ diameter sandwich tins. I creamed sugar and butter together with an electric whisk, then added 5 beaten eggs one at a time. These were mixed in slowly with some flour and a little milk, along with 3 tbsp of the pure Canadian Maple Syrup. I didn’t add any maple peanuts to the actual cake as I wasn’t sure how they’d react to baking. Instead I kept them for the filling and topping.
While the cakes were baking, I made up the cake filling and topping. This was a simple buttercream icing but maple syrup was added to the icing to flavour it as well. It tasted gorgeous but very sweet so a little piece would be all you would need.
The three layers baked for about 20-25 minutes and once cooked came out of the oven and cooled down on a wire rack. I went off to start a couple of other jobs so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the spare peanuts or to decorate the cake before it was cool enough. There was enough icing and enough peanuts to decorate the cake with. To finish off, I drizzled some more maple syrup on the top of the cake.
We ended up having our Sunday dinner later than planned, so guess who ended up troughing a piece before? Yes, you guessed right! It was absolutely delicious and the cake didn’t last long. I’ll definitely be baking this one again.
A few weeks ago I got a copy of Chetna Makan’s new book The Cardamom Trail. Chetna was a semi finalist in the 2014 series of The Great British Bake Off . Her bakes were unique in that she added in the spices she grew up with and then gave them a unique twist. I love adding different flavours to recipes and some of Chetna’s creations seemed so mouthwatering.
It took me a while to get round to trying out a recipe from the book. It was so difficult to choose which to try out first but I needed an opportunity to get the mixing bowl out. Last Wednesday I was at home and once again the urge to bake something overcame me. I had picked my son up from school from his GCSE exam and was trying to put off doing the ironing. As you do! My mind wandered to what I could bake. I’m trying not to eat too much sweet stuff (famous last words) but I knew I was going to be teaching in one of my regular schools the following day and I sometimes take cake in for the staff to try out.
As I browsed through the book several recipes leapt out at me. But one which stuck in my mind. It was for an Almond and Coffee Cake which sounded delicious. It was also one which contained ingredients I already had in my baking stash. Including a mountain of flaked almonds and ground almonds which needed using up as soon as I could.
Chetna says “I love the combination of almonds and coffee. Normally it is associated with rich desserts, such as gateau opera but in this cake the sponge is made with ground and flaked almonds which makes it light. The richness comes with the buttery chocolate icing and can be topped with yet more almonds!” So not only will the cake taste fantastic, it will be simple to decorate with a sprinkling of almonds.
In the gorgeous photo of the cake it is shown baked as a bundt. Though for those who don’t have a bundt pan, the cake can also be baked in a 25cm diameter circular cake tin. Me being a bundt addict and an avid collector of all things bundt I was keen to get out one of my pans. I chose my square one which was a Christmas present to bake the cake in and made sure it was properly greased with Wilton Cake release.
First some butter and sugar was creamed together with my hand held electric whisk. Then I added three large eggs, beating them well after every addition. Then in went some self raising flour, baking powder, ground almonds, some coffee and milk. The coffee was actually 2 tablespoons of very strong coffee dissolved in boiling water. This was all mixed together and well combined. In the mixture went into the bundt pan but I was concerned as the mixture only seemed to fill half the pan. Really it should fill three quarters of the tin so maybe the tin I used was too big. I hoped the cake would rise a lot in the oven!
Baking is normally a relaxing experience for me but today I was a bit impatient to get the cake out of the oven and finished off. Looking back it was getting near tea time and I had to sort out other jobs. Why do I do it? I forgot what time the cake went in the oven and didn’t set the timer. Then with that I looked at the cake too early.
When the cake was ready it looked like it hadn’t risen much. Maybe the bundt tin was too big. At least it was one where it didn’t matter if the top half was missing. Thankfully also the cake came out of the tin in one piece!
Then it was time to slap the icing on and I mean slap or throw it on! I made up the icing by melting some butter in a small pan on my hob. When it was melted I took it off the heat and mixed in some icing sugar and some cocoa powder mixed into a paste with boiling water. The icing was runny but was ideal to spread on the cake and clung to the grooves of the bundt. The final finishing touch was to sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake!
The following morning I took the cake into work. It went down well but I left the cake there so I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. I collected an empty box the next time I was in. I didn’t try any myself though. I need to try it again, would be a perfect cake to bake if you have friends round for a cuppa or to donated to a coffee morning.
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.
So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school. All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!
The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!”
I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home.
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter. Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.”
To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release. Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin. It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small!
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter. Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks. No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried.
My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it!
There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon, though!
So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
A couple of years back as family circumstances changed we stopped having our traditional Sunday lunch at lunchtime. My daughter was out at work and would miss having a Sunday lunch and the chance for us all to sit down over a roast dinner. So our Sunday meal got moved to the early evening once she was in from work. Because we were eating late I stopped making a Sunday pudding. I really miss making a pudding on a Sunday as we don’t usually indulge throughout the week. It just makes it a bit more special. This last Sunday I really wanted to test out an idea I had for a Cherry and Coconut Sponge cake using some Red Cherry Jam I had picked up at the Good Food Show a couple of weeks back. It was baked in a bit of a rush though. I have been running around like a headless chicken this weekend trying to get all my jobs done as it is a busy time for me at work in my day job supply teaching. I don’t want to be ironing or cleaning bathrooms when I’ve got in from work during the week, so I’ve been trying to keep on top of things.
It was 2pm and I’d only just got dressed! That makes me sound like a right lazy slob but if I don’t have to go anywhere I stay and do all my housework in my PJ’s. I ironed, cleaned the bathrooms, hoovered and dusted upstairs and by 2pm I was ready for a cup of tea and a baking session.
To bake the Coconut and Cherry Sponge Cake I adapted Lynn Hill (Founder of The Clandestine Cake Club’s) own recipe from the first Clandestine Cake Club cookbook which was published back in 2013. This cake was wonderfully retro, the sort you grew up eating or your granny baked. I don’t remember my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) baking it, though I do remember her baking lemon cake and fruit cakes.
I started by greasing and lining two 8″ diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins. Once this was done I then weighed out some softened butter and caster sugar. This was creamed together with my hand held electric whisk. To this I added three free range eggs, one at a time and then some self raising flour. Lynn’s original recipe calls for using vanilla extract for flavouring, but instead I used a few drops of some natural coconut extract which comes from Lakeland. To add to the coconut flavour I also added some dessiccated coconut. The mixture was then divided between the two cake tins and put in the oven, preheated to 160oC. After about 25 minutes when the cakes were risen and sprung back when touched, out they came to cool on the worktop.
While the cakes had been cooking I thought about how I could decorate the cake. Lynn’s original recipe used a butter and cream cheese icing which sounded delicious along with a filling of jam. I decided to use some of my Mercers of York Cherry jam which is absolutely delicious. Instead of the butter and cream cheese icing which I couldn’t do anyway as I didn’t have the cream cheese, I whipped up a carton of cream and to this I added some Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavour Coconut Icing Sugar. I got this ready and decided to go out for a run. I’m doing the Couch To 5K app at the moment as I’m entering the Race For Life in June so I’m trying to train when I can. An hour later, I’m back home feeling a bit tired but ready to decorate the cake.
One top of one cake I spread about 6 tbsp jam and to the other I spread about half the coconut cream mixture. These were then sandwiched together. The rest of the cream was spread on the top of the cake with a dozen glace cherries spaced around the edge. To finish off, I sprinkled desiccated coconut on top of the cake.
Even though the cake was meant to be a Sunday dessert treat we were far too full to eat it. So at the time of typing it is in a box in my fridge waiting to be eaten throughout the course of the week.
My regular readers might have seen that I’m a member of the Clandestine Cake Club and that last year I was lucky enough to have two recipes published in A Year Of Cake, the second book featuring members’ recipes.
Lynn Hill, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club loves to get members baking. I for one don’t need any excuse but I was excited when Lynn introduced the monthly A Year Of Cake Bakealong on the club website. Lynn has organised a monthly event, where members are invited to choose a cake corresponding to that particular month in the book. At the end of the month the participants send their photos of their bakes to Lynn and she does a write up about them. As there are lots of yummy recipes in the book I was keen to have a go at baking some more of them.
For the January Bakealong there were seven mouthwatering recipes to choose from but I chose Lynn’s own recipe for Raspberry Cranachan Cake. It’s featured as a homage to Robbie Burns and to Burns Night. My husband’s birthday is at the end of January and I wanted to bake him a cake. He doesn’t have a sweet tooth but likes traditional cakes like Victoria Sponges and Coffee and Walnut cakes. He doesn’t like cakes covered in sugarpaste or overly sweet ones. I thought the Raspberry Cranachan cake would fit the bill, it was a sponge type cake and it also contains whisky!
According to the recipe introduction the cake is based on all the flavours of the traditional Scottish dessert Cranachan which contains “raspberries, whipped cream, whisky and honey topped with toasted oatmeal. Here it is reinvented as a cake which is just as boozy and creamy as the real thing, not to mention full of Scottish warmth and flavour,”
On my husband’s birthday I ended up with a day at home catching up on the jobs and chores that had been mounting up. Once I’d tidied up and walked the dog I started to bake. I had all the ingredients I needed for the cake including oats, clear honey, flaked almonds, raspberries and double cream as well as all the usual cake staples such as sugar. There was the small problem of the whisky though. The recipe needed 75ml of whisky plus an extra three tablespoonfuls. I thought my hubby would go ape if I used his special Glennfiddich so I was glad there was a half bottle of Famous Grouse left. Goodness knows where that came from, think one of us won it in a raffle but it did the trick. My hubby also knows if someone has been at his whisky!
The cake’s oat topping had to be made first and cooled down. It was baked on a lined baking tray. It felt like I was baking granola as first I put the honey to heat through in a saucepan then added some oats and nuts to the mixture. They were tossed to make them evenly coated with the honey and finally a tablespoonful of whisky got added in. Once the nut topping had baked I left it to cool down while I got on with the rest of the cake.
Butter and sugar were creamed together, then eggs and flour were added in gradually. After that some rolled oats and more whisky were added to the mix. Two 20cm/ 8″ loose bottomed sandwich tins were greased and lined with the cake mixture being divided between the tins. After about 25 minutes in the oven they were ready.
When the cake came out of the oven and was cooling I whipped up some double cream, adding a tablespoonful of whisky to it at the end. It smelled very alchololic but I couldn’t wait to show the cake to my husband and see if he could guess the secret ingredient.
What a boozy cake but I couldn’t wait to assemble it. I added in some seedless raspberry jam to the filling along with half the whisky cream and some fresh raspberries. When the two cakes were sandwiched on top of one another I spread the remaining whisky cream on top, scattered on the toasted oats and nuts, then finally finised with the rest of the raspberries. I’m meant to be on a health kick (meant being the operative word here?!)but who could resist a piece of this delicious cake?
Mr SmartCookieSam loved his birthday cake and so did I! Our two teenage kids weren’t impressed by the thought of a cake with nuts and whisky in it so they didn’t eat any. We could both taste the whisky in the cake but it wasn’t overpowering.
Will I be baking the Raspberry Cranachan Cake again? You bet, it was delicious!
To find out more about the fabulous Clandestine Cake Club then visit their website. With over 199 clubs and counting worldwide, there might be one near you!
The Clandestine Cake Club: A Year Of Cake is to be found on Amazon and in all good book retailers like Waterstones, WHSmiths and is also for sale in Tesco and Morrisons. Local retailers may have it too!
I’ve been at sixes and sevens with blogging recently. It’s a pain, my laptop never seems to work properly and I struggle with the WordPress app on my iPad. Anyway I’m trying out the app again. So if you hear lots of screaming and swearing coming from my house, then you know why.
Anyway, I haven’t done much baking either as we’ve had a lot on in the SmartCookieSam house. My daughter has been going on a few uni open day visits and I’ve been very busy getting back into the day job (I’m a primary school supply teacher) after the summer holidays.
Last Wednesday I had a free afternoon. I was teaching in the morning, came home and walked the dog but it was one of those afternoons where I just wanted to bake. If you are a baking addict like me then you will understand…
I decided to have a go at the Chocolate Orange Cake which is featured in the October chapter of the Clandestine Cake Club’s book “A Year Of Cake”. The recipe creator Fiona O’Donnell created it with World Mental Health Day in mind, which falls on 10th October. Although I’d baked the cake two weeks after the day itself, it is a day to me which will never be forgotten on my calendar.
The recipe introduction states “Members have often said how joining the Clandestine Cake Club has made their lives so much richer” and “that baking has helped them through difficult times in their lives.”
World Mental Health Day is held annually to raise awareness of mental health and this cake is no exception. To me, baking is not just baking a cake. It is a focus on doing something positive and productive. Baking is therapeutic and makes me feel good about myself. When I bake a cake I don’t feel like a useless fat lump but someone who can actually achieve something. If baking was taken away from me I wouldn’t be the person I was. Unfortunately it has its problems, I’m 2 stone heavier than I was 5 years ago! So anything I bake I can’t eat now, or in very small amounts. But this doesn’t stop me from feeling passionately that a pastime like baking or or another hobby like sewing have enormous benefits for people’s wellbeing.
So, with my new health regime in mind I decided to bake the Chcocolate Orange Cake which is a true feel good cake in lots of ways. It was easy to bake, looked stunning as it was a marble cake and it contains all the wonderful flavours of that ultimate feel good food- chocolate!
The cake itself was simple to bake- flour and baking powder were sifted together in a bowl, then caster sugar was added to it. After that I added in some softened unsalted butter and medium beaten eggs. This formed the main cake. To create the marble effect I then halved the mixture into two separate bowls. To one bowl I added orange juice and zest and to the other some cocoa powder.
Now this is where my heckles started rising. I’d run out of my favourite Sugar and Crumbs cocoa powder and the normal cocoa powder kept in my baking stash had gone! I was livid, think my kids had nicked it to make brownies in a mug but didn’t tell me they’d done it. Not happy. So in the end I had to use some hot chocolate powder. I wasn’t sure if this would work, especially since the mixture looked a lot paler than it would with normal cocoa powder. If only I could padlock my baking cupboard!
The mixture then went into a pre-greased and lined tin. I tried carefully to create a marble effect so it looked good when the cake was cut up.
After about 45 minutes the cake was ready. There was a gorgeous orangey smell coming from my kitchen and it was mouthwatering. I had to leave the cake cooling before I took it out of the tin but I made the chocolate orange icing while I was waiting. It was a simple runny icing: icing sugar, cocoa powder and orange juice. Though once again was using the hot chocolate powder. It worked out ok, it was just a little bit lighter than the icing shown in the picture!
As I was teaching at one of my regular schools the following day I decided to take the cake along to share with the staff there. They are all very kind and welcoming to me and I thought they deserved a treat coming up to half term. Thankfully the cake went down very well.