Cooking The Books- March 2017.

It’s been a long time since I did my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge. Every month for a few months back in 2014 I chose a book and aimed to bake or cook one or two recipes from each chapter throughout that month. It meant that any book I’d bought and let gather dust on the shelf would get some use out of it.

Or so that was the plan…

A couple of weeks back I bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook “Everyday”. There’s so many recipes in there I want to try out and it’s not all about baking.  Especially as if I bake, I end up eating it.

Mary+Berry+Everyday

The original idea in the Cooking The Books Challenge was to choose at least one recipe from each chapter of the book I was using that month.  It could vary depending on the amount of chapters and what sort of things were being cooked. With a Mary Berry cookbook and also one which featured family meals, I knew that the Everyday book challenge wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The strapline for the book is to “make every meal special”.  I cook most of my dinners from scratch but we do have the odd takeaway and use shortcuts. I don’t have time after a busy day in the classroom to make every meal special.  In fact if I have been working as with a lot of working families, it’s what you can grab at first.

So as I opened the book I laughed my head off to see the contents of Everyday’s first chapter: Food For Sharing.  Mary does love her dinner party food with canapes and little nibbles.  The only time I do anything remotely like this is at Christmas. Do people really have nibbles and bites like this everyday? Perhaps I’m missing out.

The rest of the book is divided into eight other chapters and to me  they include more of your everyday foods and meals. This does do what it says on the book cover.  The recipes are mainly every day meals but with a special twist. Also there are ideas which look very fancy but actually don’t take as long to cook as they first appear.  I was keen to try out a few recipes on my family.

What is going to be tried out in the SmartCookieSam kitchen over the next few weeks?

Food For Sharing:  I won’t be holding any fancy dinner parties this month. I’m far too busy.  But I do love the sound of the two Samosa recipes in this chapter; Curried Beef Samosas and Spicy Mexican Samosas.  I’ve got some filo pastry in the freezer I’ve not managed to use up. I might try out the Guacamole with Coriander and the Olive Tapenade if I have time one weekend.

First Courses and Light Lunches: Often at work I take along a salad, a Mug Shot, yoghurt and fruit or a sandwich.  I sometimes take soup.  Or if I’m forgetful I end up rushing out of the house and forget my lunch meaning I have to stop off at the M&S at the local garage near me.  Better get my act together.  There’s a mouthwatering recipe in this chapter for a Winter Vegetable Soup.  I also fancy trying out Mary’s Crispy Bacon Rosti one Saturday lunchtime.

Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game:  I can’t stand lamb but don’t mind venison.  There is a twist on the Cottage Pie recipe here by using minced venison in place of beef.  It looks delicious but I’m not sure whether Mr SmartCookieSam and our son will eat it. I know they will love Mary’s special Chilli Con Carne,  the Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and the Sausage  and Herb Plait.  I’m really keen to try the Portguese Pork and Rice too.

Poultry: As with lots of people, we love chicken in our house. It’s a joke that when Mr SmartCookieSam cooks it’s always Garlic Chicken.  My son said until recently, “If Dad’s cooking, it’s garlic chicken!” Though recently hubby has started cooking curries.  Now my son says “Dad’s cooking curry again!”  I’m grateful for hubby cooking and he is a great cook but sometimes I like to try different things.  So I’m going to test out Marsala Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, the Chicken Stir Fry with Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Dijon on them. I might even try more.

Fish:  I’m not a huge fish lover though I’m doing my best to eat more fish and seafood.  I had a lot of bad experiences as a child with my Nana Margaret’s terrible cooking and it’s put me off for life.  Even smelling kippers now at breakfast in a hotel room makes me want to throw up. But I’m not going to throw up testing out Mary’s Very Posh Fishcakes, her Yuzu Salmon with Buttered Leeks and her Fragrant Light Prawn Curry.

Vegetarian: I was really struggling with this chapter.  Not because I didn’t like any of the recipes.  It was more about what on earth my carnivore mad hubby would eat.  Any recipes which contain courgettes, aubergines or are risottos are out!  I think I might have to try out the Sun dried tomato pasta with Mozzarella and the Potato, Leek and Cheese Pie though.

Sides and Salads:  Lots of variety to choose from here but I think the two different salads with bulgar wheat in as well as the Satay Chicken Salad look delicious.Once again what I would eat and what Mr SmartCookieSam would eat is another thing!

Puddings and Desserts: Now for an everyday occurence, I definitely don’t have puddings and desserts.  I’ve even stopped having out weekly Sunday lunch dessert.  This is mainly because my son now works on a Sunday so we don’t eat our dinner until late. Eating a pie or a crumble late in the evening gives me indigestion so I don’t bother. All of Mary’s pudding recipes look scrumptious and I’m so tempted by her Apple and Lemon Galette and her Blackberry and Apple Crumble Pie.  But when would we eat it though?

Teatime: Now as you all know I’m a baking addict and I confess to always looking at the baking chapter first in a book like this.  As Mary Berry is the baking queen herself, her baking recipes never disappoint.  I’ve seen several recipes in this chapter I want to try but of course if I bake them, I eat them.  I would love to try out Mary’s Hummingbird Cake, her Pistachio Shortbreads, the Lemon Meringue cupcakes and her Chocolate Reflection Cake.

Watch this space and read on throughout the next few weeks to see how many recipes I actually do get to try out.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Pumpkin Bundt With Ginger Cream Filling.

A week last Sunday was Pudsey and West Leeds’ Clandestine Cake Club event. The theme was Harvest Time and it was a great opportunity to bake with fruits or vegetables which are abundant at this time of year.  I don’t have green fingers or the space to grow vegetables in my garden though it’s something I would love to be able to do if I had a bigger back garden.  Instead I used a tin of Libby’s Pureed Pumpkin which had been in my cupboard for a few months.  My friend Linda had bought me a couple of tins when she was out shopping in Waitrose for herself and I thought a Pumpkin Bundt cake would be perfect for cake club.

I keep telling myself I have enough Nordicware Bundt pans.  I’ve lost count of how many I have.  Then again, I see a new one or one I’ve coveted for a while and I think !I just have to have that! On my day off from work I went over to TKMaxx thinking I could do with a couple of nice cake boxes and ended up coming out with the cake boxes, a mini chopper, some Christmas cupcake cases and the Nordicware Kugelhopf pan.  Did I need it? Did I heck? But it’s a beautiful pan and will last forever.  Being as it’s a traditional design it will get used all year round, too!

My baking inspiration came from a Bundt recipe book bought a few months back. It’s a Nordicware publication entitled “Best Of The Bundt” and I was very impressed with the quality of the recipes.  Even though it’s an American publication with measurements in cups, etc. thankfully there are metric equivalents given as well.

Last Sunday morning I started on the Pumpkin Cake with a Ginger Cream Filling.  The bundt contains a filling of cream cheese, ginger, sugar and flour which is baked into the middle of the cake. The cake itself was a delicately spiced pumpkin bundt infused with cardamom and cinnamon and then flavoured with buttermilk. It sounded too mouthwatering for words and perfect for an Autumn cakey gathering.

I’d left it a bit late to start on the baking. Normally I bake my cake the day before but we were out and about, so I ran out of time.  So last Sunday morning it was. I greased and floured the Kugelhopf pan which is quite a narrow and tall tin.  I hoped this wouldn’t affect the bake.  I reckoned I would have to stick the tin onto a flat baking tray so it wouldn’t tip over in the oven.

First I opened up the tin of pumpkin puree and reserved 2 tablespoonfuls of the puree towards the frosting.  The rest was going into the cake itself.  In a large bowl I creamed together butter and sugar.  As I weighed out the sugar I couldn’t believe how much was going into the cake.  Then into the bowl went 4 large eggs, followed by the pumpkin puree.  This got mixed well together. In another bowl I sifted together some dry ingredients which included some plain flour, ground cardamom, cinnamon and baking powder.  Then, I measured out some buttermilk.  The dry ingredients and the buttermilk got folded into the creamed mixture bit by bit until I ended up with a delicious and aromatic mix.

Then it was time to make up the ginger cream filling.  I’d bought a large tub of full fat Philadelphia cheese especially for the cake.  I was really angry when I got the tub out of the fridge and found it had been opened! Mr SmartCookieSam must’ve nicked some to go on his crackers! It can’t have been my daughter, the other cheese lover in our house as she has been at uni for the past month!  About 2 tbsp had gone which wasn’t much but it meant I didn’t have enough for the frosting. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil it but I wasn’t going to make a fuss over 2 tbsp of cream cheese!

The cream cheese, ground ginger, light brown sugar and 2 tbsp of plain flour all got mixed together to make the ginger cream filling.  I then started to fill the cake tin, starting with 2/3 of the pumpkin mixture. I followed that with the ginger cream cheese mixture, taking care that it wouldn’t get mixed in with the pumpkin flavour or to touch the sides of the pan. Finally, I finished off the cake with the remaining pumpkin mixture.

The bundt was meant to be baked for 65 to 70 minutes but after this time it still felt like the cake wasn’t cooked. I tested it with a skewer but there was still soggy mixture stuck to it in about three places.  After about 80 minutes the cake looked like it had cracked on the top and was ready to come out of the oven.  I had to give it about 10 minutes before I was able to turn it out onto a wire rack. I always panic at this point. This is when all your hard work can be undone in seconds if the cake won’t come out of the tin or it comes out in several pieces.  Thankfully the cake slid out in one piece which made me feel so relieved. Usually I find if the cake is meant for a special occasion or for cake club it turns into a disaster area!

While the cake was cooling down I had to make a glaze cum frosting for the top of the cake. I whipped cream, icing sugar and a little bit of milk together to form the frosting. To this I added finely chopped pecans.  The frosting was then piped onto the top of the bundt with my large star nozzle. To finish off I added whole pecans to decorate the top.

When I cut the cake at cake club later that afternoon I was bitterly disappointed. Despite the cake being in the oven longer than needed and presumably I did stick it in at the right temperature, it came out looking like the middle was uncooked.  I thought it looked disgusting inside but it still got eaten.

Would I bake the cake again? I’d like to try it out again but will have to watch the baking time and the oven temperature.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Icelandic Marriage Cake.

Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try  or to recreate at home.  Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada.  I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.

On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks.  They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake.  Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.

Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking.  I don’t know.  Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!!  Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.

Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/happy-marriage-cake/

The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.

I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.

In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.

img_0095

Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.

The middle of the cake was made up of blueberry jam, although this was a bit runny!
The final layer was the topping which was the last third of the crumble mixture. Very rustic looking but it was all in the taste.
The Marriage Cake cooling on the rack before being cut into bars,
Cut into 12 bars, the Marriage cake was a little too sweet for me.

 On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood.  The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted.  Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning!  Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone,  the phone went again.  The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind.  It was having the opposite effect today.  Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven.  I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly.  I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had.  This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet?  I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each.  Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.

What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge.  Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes  a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one  who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box!  My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!

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

Sugar Free Carrot Cake

 

     

Hi there and long time no see! I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth, I’ve just got a bit behind with my blog posts again.  Day to day life has been very busy.  I have been baking a few things here and there and have been experimenting with a couple of new ingredients.

I am really struggling with eating too many sugary things at the moment. I don’t add sugar to tea, coffee or cereal but I do have a sweet tooth.  I love my cakes and biscuits and when I’m tired and stressed I grab at things like a bar of chocolate on the way home from work from the garage.  I’m seriously thinking of going sugar free but am worried about how I’ll cope with going to Clandestine Cake Club as it is a big part of my life.

A few weeks ago York Clandestine Cake Club had their first meeting of the year and the theme for the event was Healthier Cakes. I signed up to go and chose to bake a Sugar Free Carrot Cake as featured in the latest Great British Bake Off recipe book The Great British Bake Off Celebrations. This recipe according to the introduction is a “gorgeous spicy, nutty carrot cake, the sponge is sweetened with agave syrup rather than sugar,” 

I had seen agave syrup on the shelf in supermarkets but was intrigued to see how it worked in a recipe. Was it as sweet as sugar? Would it give the cake a funny taste? Would it last as long as a cake with sugar in it? These were all questions I was keen to answer.  I knew that my family love carrot cake and it’s also a popular cake flavour whenever I’ve been to cake club.  Though it was low in refined sugar, it did not do well in the low fat or gluten free stakes.  I found a bottle of agave syrup  in Sainsburys which was at over £4 for 250ml a bit more expensive than sugar. 

Cake club was on a Wednesday and I didn’t have work that day. It was my catch up day at home and once I’d dropped my daughter off at the bus stop three miles away so she could catch her college bus I came home and set to with the cake. 

I was in a happy mood and put on Radio 2 in the kitchen while I was baking. I had music playing and even though it was dark and miserable outside I was ensconced in my warm kitchen relaxing with some baking therapy. 

Firstly I grated some carrots which I find really tedious and usually end up with big chunks falling into the bowl. Once that was over and done with I could get on with the rest of the cake. 

The cake was made in a similar way to a regular carrot cake by using sunflower oil and eggs. I measured these into a jug and added the agave syrup to it. This was beaten with a whisk until it was blended together. In another bowl all the dry ingredients were weighed out and combined- an aromatic blend of cinnamon and mixed spice in with sifted self raising flour and baking powder. Finally, in a third bowl I grated some orange zest and mixed it in with sultanas and some chopped walnuts, along with the grated carrot. All was carefully combined and ready to be put into the prepared tins.

This carrot cake was designed to be baked in two 20cm (8″) diameter sandwich tins. I always grease my tins with Wilton Cake Release and use Lakeland Baking Parchment Circles. They make wrestling getting the cake out of the tin much easier at the end. Once I’d done the greasing I could get the cake in the oven. The cake baked at 160oC in my fan oven and took about 35 minutes approx.

Once it had finished baking and was cooling down I went out for a walk with my dog. It had stopped raining for a bit and I was keen for some fresh air. We were out for about an hour which gave it time to cool down ready to be iced.

The icing was a cream cheese concoction or rather it was meant to be. When I’d been out shopping for cake ingredients there was a massive gap on the shelf where the cream cheese was. I had to use Mascarpone instead which is very naughty but nice in cakes and desserts! It was also much more expensive. Being a “sugar free” cake the cake didn’t use icing sugar but used maple syrup instead to sweeten it instead. I thought maple syrup was a form of sugar! To the mascarpone, along with the maple syrup I used some butter to cream the icing together. This was used in the cake filling and on top of the cake. Tonight off I added some chopped walnuts.

I never got to Cake Club that night in the end. I had to pick my daughter up and get the dinner on. The cake became a pudding for us. My husband, who doesn’t really have a sweet tooth but loves carrot cake enjoyed this version. He doesn’t like to eat puddings at night as he gets indigestion. I sometimes feel like my blood sugar level drops and I get a headache. But after a small piece of cake I felt OK. Definitely worth attempting some more recipes using the agave syrup, then.  

   Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pear and Ginger Upside Down Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club’s A Year Of Cake.

The second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook was published last Thursday and is already proving very popular both with members and non-members.  I have been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for nearly three years now and I can honestly say it has changed my life.  I have made some wonderful friends over cake and regularly meet up with a few of them for afternoon tea or lunch and a girly gossip at the same time.

The recipe I baked for our Sunday lunch dessert yesterday was created as a homage to the seventh Duchess of Bedford who is believed to have created the idea of the English Afternoon Tea. She needed something to keep her hunger at bay until she ate dinner but then as time progressed friends began to share tea with her.  The recipe in the book is called Pear and Ginger Upside Down cake and was created by member Jean Lacey who is from the Loire Valley Clandestine Cake Club.  I can just picture this delectable cake being served at an afternoon tea.  Pears and ginger are a winning combination to me, although my two children weren’t impressed.  Neither my daughter or son like pears though I was convinced they’d eat them in a cake.  They said the same about ginger but I’ve seen them eating gingerbread men!

So yesterday was going to be a very busy one.  Loads of jobs to do on top of trying to cook a roast beef dinner and to try out the pear and ginger cake recipe. But the ironing could wait!

I got out my well used 8″ sandwich tins, greased and lined them and put on the oven.  While it was heating up I made the cake batter and prepared the pears.

In one bowl I sifted together self raising flour, baking powder and some ground ginger. To this I then added softened unsalted butter, eggs and some caster sugar.  All the ingredients were mixed together and then I got the pears ready.

On the base of one of the greased tins I sprinkled some light brown soft sugar and then topped them with sliced pears.  The recipe said to peel two pears, halve and core them, then cut each half into three wedges. My pears were quite small so I used three but still cut each of the halves into three pieces. There was just enough fruit to cover the bottom of the tin.

After that I divided the cake mixture equally between the two tins but had to take care to make sure the pears stayed intact on the bottom of the tin.  Once this had been done, into the oven they went and were baked for about 20-25 minutes.

034
The Pear and Ginger Upside Down Cake was baked in two separate 8″ sandwich tins. There was a layer of brown sugar topped with sliced pears in the bottom of one of the cakes.

The cakes cooked beautifully in the oven and rose well.  I put them on a wire rack to cool down and left them for a while when I went out for a dog walk.  When I came back I turned the cakes out onto the wire rack. I had to use my Nordicware Cake Lifter to help me move the pear layer as it seemed more fragile.

To finish the cake there was a delectable filling to make up.  It consisted of a layer of ginger preserve or jam with some sweetened whipped cream on top.  I found some delicious Tiptree Ginger Jam from Ocado the other day.  I was meant to spread a layer of the jam on top of one of the cake layers, then add the whipped cream. Only I didn’t read the recipe properly and I added the jam into the whipped cream mixture. It still looked okay though.

031
The cake was layered with a divine tasting ginger infused whipped cream filling.
032
To finish I dusted the cake with some icing sugar and put it on my cake stand ready for dinner.
006
I was very impressed by the flavour of this cake. It was very enjoyable to make and I felt it was one I could bake over and over again.

 In the end I scoffed a piece at 4 pm. We weren’t eating our roast dinner til about 6.30pm when my daughter had got in from work and I was ravenous.  It’s fatal having cake in the house when you are hungry, especially one that you know you’ll enjoy the flavours of. My husband had a small slice after his roast but my kids turned their nose up at it: “What have you put fruit in it for?” So the rest got cut up and is now in a plastic box in the fridge. I’m trying to forget about the rest of the cake but then I’ve started back at Weightwatchers….

To find out more about the Clandestine Cake Club and the fun we have at all our events all around the world then please go to www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

John Whaite Bakes At Home- Update on my June Cooking The Books Challenge.

Unfortunately things have gone a bit pear shaped in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  It got to the end of the month yesterday and I realised I’d not baked two of the recipes I wanted to for the challenge.  I missed out on baking some Utterly Nutterly Shortbreads and some Wedding Party Rings!  Oh dear, well not to worry.  Instead I have had other baking to do, including a Labrador shaped cake for my friend.  I’ve also been working some extra hours, so time has been precious.  Not only this but I rejoined Weightwatchers two weeks ago.  I lost 6lbs the first week but last week I didn’t follow it properly as I was too busy.  I can feel all those lost pounds creeping back on and I haven’t had the guts to weigh myself….

So this post is really to show what I did get around to baking.  A week last Sunday the village where I go to WI (when I can get to the meetings, that is!) had their Open Gardens.  I baked three things to donate to the WI tea and cake stand.  I was meant to help at the end of the day but I ended up having to say no, after all hubby was out and I needed to be the children’s taxi service!

First up was the Aussie Crunch.  Rather moreish and Gilchrists, the bakery in my nearby town of Boroughbridge makes delicious Aussie Crunch.  It’s quick and simple to make and John includes it in the Family Bakes section of his book.  Great for all the family to eat and to have a go at baking too!  Though John says “Why it is called Aussie Crunch when it comes from Bolton is a mystery to me!”  I was glad in a way it was heading up to the WI stall, if I’d even tried one bite, the whole lot would end up being scoffed!

To make the Aussie Crunch it was simple.  I put butter and sugar into a saucepan and let the butter melt and the sugar dissolve.  In a large mixing bowl I mixed together dessicated coconut and cornflakes, then tossed in some cocoa powder and self raising flour. This was all mixed together with the melted butter and then put into my greased 8″ square tin ready for baking.  It only took 20 minutes to bake and smelled fab.

008
While the Aussie crunch was still cooling in the tin, John suggests adding the chocolate topping by breaking it up into squares and putting it on top of the crunch. The chocolate melts from the heat of the warm cake.
009
I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
021
The finished Aussie Crunch cut up into 12 large heavenly pieces.

While the Aussie Crunch was setting in the fridge, I got on with the next bake.  As I love baking bundt cakes so much I was really keen to try John’s Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake in the Friendship Feasts chapter in the book.  I’m not really keen on figs and even though I wasn’t going to be baking the cake for myself I still fancied putting something else in the cake instead!  So I plumped for chopped, dried dates.  I wanted to use my Jubilee bundt pan again as it has such a pretty lattice design on it and hoped that it would encourage people to try it.

014
Butter and sugar was creamed together, then I added in grated orange zest. After this, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract were added in carefully, followed by plain flour, baking powder and some ground cinnamon. After everything was folded in, I added in chopped pecan pieces and the dried dates.
018
The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
019
View from the top! It looks like a flower when you look at it this way too!

I was very impressed with the results I had with the bundt.  I will definitely be baking this again.  John says “This makes for perfect toast, toppped with some boisterous Stilton cheese!”  Sounds good to me!

The final bake for the WI Open Gardens Stall was John’s Lemon Sherbet Cake.  It contains the sherbet (not the lollies though!) from Sherbet Dip dabs!  I’d never thought to put them in a cake before and it was funny buying Dip-dabs in the shop, haven’t done that since I was about 10!  I also added my own slant to the cake by decorating it with sherbet lemon sweets instead of handmade lemon peel. I just felt a bit lazy by then and wanted to cut a few corners to save time!

017
Lemon Sherbet candy heaven!

The lemon sherbet cake is from the Family Bakes chapter of John Whaite Bakes At Home and is definitely one to avoid if you are on a diet but perfect for a family get-together or celebration.  John’s version involves vertically slicing the two cake layers so you have four altogether.  I find this dead fiddly so I kept the two and had all my filling in the middle of the cake.  The filling was absolutely gorgeous: whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, the Dip dabs, lemon juice and zest whipped together.  I piped it in the middle and on the top of the cake using my large star shaped nozzle.

023
The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
024
Sherbet Lemon sweets on top of the cake. I put whole ones around the edge and then got the remaining ones in the packet and crushed them up to sprinkle them in the middle.

Again, I was really pleased with how the cake turned out and thought I would love to try this with different flavours and sweets.  Very retro.  I took the three cakes around to my friend’s house as I couldn’t help at the stall myself.  She was pleased with them but I haven’t had chance to ask her how they went.  I hope they tasted ok.

As I type this, it is now July 4th.  I’m meant to be thinking about July’s challenge.  I’d better get my bum into gear or else it will be August!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx