Pecan and Maple Bundt Cake- Nigella’s Kitchen.

Once again I’ve lost my way a bit with my blogging.  I have all these posts in draft on my laptop but that’s as far as they’ve gone during the last month. A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve been on a trip to visit my brother, sister in law and their gorgeous family including my four month old niece who completely stole my heart. Auntie Sam was in her element and as my niece is very similar in temperament to my own daughter, it really did take me back to twenty years ago when my brother became an Uncle to my daughter. What special times. With all this in my mind I chose to bake a Canadian inspired cake for the last Clandestine Cake Club event I went to. This was a few days before I was due to jet off over to Alberta but the theme was Around The World In 80 Cakes Although there weren’t 80 cakes there, there were definitely a delicious array of cakes representing lots of different countries.

I chose to bake a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book “Kitchen” which is a maple and pecan nut bundt cake.  Although I’m a huge Nigella fan and I bake lots of her recipes, it’s been a while since I baked from Kitchen. It’s such a huge book too, wouldn’t like to drop that on my feet or I’d be in agony.  It was also a great excuse to get out one of my bundt pans off the shelf and to use it again.  My Crown Bundt pan also has a Canadian connection as I bought it last year on my first visit to Canada.  We went shopping and I got carried away in Williams Sonoma.  But it was worth it.  The pan was half the cost of UK prices!  Nigella uses the Fleur de Lys Bundt pan in her recipe and says: ” The reason I chose this particular shape for this cake was that it seemed to show it’s nutty, gooey stuffing off to maximum effect once sliced,”

The bundt cake has a separate maple pecan filling which is swirled into the vanilla batter once in the cake tin and looks really pretty when the cake is cut into.  So, as Nigella says you really need a tin which looks great when it’s cut up into slices.

I baked the cake the night before Cake Club as I was working a full week.  It had to be done in the evening once we’d had tea.  I normally love baking but it had been the first day back at work after the summer holidays.  I’d had a lot of running around and standing on my feet to do so the last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in my kitchen baking. But at least it was the first episode of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off!  So I set up my Ipad in the kitchen and watched it as I was weighing out, mixing and chopping nuts up.  I soon forgot my legs and feet ached and immersed myself in my hobby.

I always grease my bundt pans with Wilton Cake Release.  Once this was done, I pre-heated my fan oven and set myself going with the filling part to the cake.  For this I mixed flour, soft unsalted butter, ground cinnamon, chopped pecan nuts and some maple syrup. This formed a slightly more fudgy version than a crumble topping.  When this was done I put it aside and made up the rest of the cake mix.

In another mixing bowl I weighed out plain flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Though it took  me 5 minutes to find my pot of bicarb as it had somehow managed to hide itself behind everything else in the cupboard.

In yet another bowl (lots of washing up tonight!) I creamed together butter and caster sugar using my hand held mixer.  Following this I put in 2 eggs and then in went the flour mixture.  Finally, I folded in some sour cream before putting about half the mixture into the bundt pan.  The pecan mixture went in next followed by the remaining cake mixture.

The cake baked for about 40 minutes or so. I kept on checking it through the oven door and it seemed to be fine after the allotted 40 minutes.  I always panic that the bundts are going to fall apart or not come out of the tin.

Sheer relief!  A few crumbs had stuck inside the tin but not enough to worry about and the cake slid out effortlessly.  I let it cool down on the rack in the kitchen while I cleared up.  When it was cool, I dusted it with icing sugar and hoped that the cake would be ok in it’s box in my car boot while I was at work the following day.  Thankfully, even though I drove over loads of speed humps going to the venue in Leeds, the cake was intact!

I really love going to cake club events. I’ve made loads of friends through cake club and we regularly meet up for a chin wag and a catch up over cake and coffee. I can’t wait for the next one in October which is to be a Hallowe’en themed one. Better get my thinking cap on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Maple Syrup Cake

Maple Syrup Cake- the recipe comes from The Clandestine Cake Club book A Year Of Cake to commemorate Canada Day!

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 finished Maple Syrup Cake.
Instead of baking my cake with crispy, streaky bacon I used some maple syrup peanuts bought on my holiday in Canada.
Who’s been eating my cake?
It was too tempting to scoff a piece of this luscious cake with a coffee .

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.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars are a staple Canadian dessert.

Ever since I first saw a recipe for Nanaimo Bars in Edd Kimber’s first book “The Boy Who Bakes”, I have always wanted to test these Canadian treats out for myself.  I never got round to it, until last week. My family had just come back from a fantastic holiday visiting my brother and his family in Edmonton to celebrate his wedding and I just was in the mood to bake something Canadian.

Edd says in his recipe introduction that “this is a quintessentially Canadian recipe hailing from the small town of Nanaimo in British Columbia. It was first created in the 1950’s by a Canadian housewife who submitted it to the annual Women’s Institute fundraising cookbook. It quickly grew in popularity and was recently voted Canada’s favourite confection in a newspaper survey”,

I can easily see why, they look amazing with the three different layers of contrasting textures and also they are simple to make. No baking required here, just pop in the fridge to set. They do take time to chill the layers in stages but I assure you it is worth it!

Last week I didn’t have much supply work on with it being the end of term. So it was a great opportunity to catch up on jobs and to make these yummy treats. Although I shouldn’t have been making anything rich or sweet, I put back on all the weight I lost on holiday and should be trying to cut back. But I wanted the experience of making the bars even if it would take all my willpower and strength not to eat one.

Here is how I made these delicious and totally moreish treats:

The base was first pressed into a large traybake tin and left to chill in my fridge for about an hour until firm.

I always use my fab Alan Silverwood traybake tin which I’ve had for a few years now. It is about 30x23cm in size and gets used for all my bars, Mary Berryesque traybakes and for Rocky Road no bake type treats. I swear by it as I can get everything out of it easily. With a no bake recipe I tend to line the tray with either foil or cling film to stop it sticking and this is what I did to prepare for making the Nanaimo Bars. Then I crushed up some digestive biscuits in a bowl using the end of a rolling pin.

The next step was to melt butter in a pan on the hob.  When that was ready, I whisked in caster sugar, cocoa powder and then in two beaten eggs.  It was then I realised I needed dessicated coconut and walnuts to add in. What hadn’t I got in the cupboard? Yes! Those very same two things. In the end I substituted ground almonds and flaked almonds which actually helped me use up a huge stash of flaked almonds I didn’t think I was going to get through before they went out of date! It didn’t affect the mixture though, thankfully.

The mixture was then combined and then put into the prepared tin, making sure that it covered the whole of the tin and was even.  The mixture then had to go into my fridge to chill for about an hour.

The custardy middle layer wes then spread on top of the chilled biscuit mixture and left to set for about half an hour.
This is the custard mixture being mixed up before spreading onto the bars. It tasted of a very sweet, creamy custard.

While the base was chilling this gave me chance to catch up on a couple of jobs but I also had to make the middle layer. This was made up of icing sugar, butter, custard powder and double cream.  Sounds extremely rich, sweet and decadent to me.  I was worried about getting it right but it looked absolutely fine to me.  It was like making up a buttercream filling and spread well onto the chilled base.

Melted dark chocolate to be turned into a rich chocolate ganache.
Spreading the chocolate ganache topping on top of the other layers, which had now set.

Now for Nanaimo Bars part three as the middle layer was now being given time to set in the fridge.  Edd said to give the middle layer about half an hour to chill which is what I did.  While that was doing its stuff I started on the topping, which was a rich melted chocolate cream ganache. First I melted some dark chocolate in the microwave, then added in some butter. On the stove I heated some double cream to boil and then finally the chocolate mixture was folded in.  We now had a gorgeous, smooth chocolate topping to spread on top of the bars.

After another chilling time the finished Nanaimo bars were ready to be cut into squares.

I gave the bars another half an hour or so in the fridge to firm up and to make them easier to cut. When I cut bars like this that you need a neat edge on the top, I always wipe my knife clean between each cut so that I don’t get crumbs or cream around the next bit I cut into.

Well, I was in chocolate heaven here and it took such iron willpower not to eat one as I took photos. I cut the bars into little fingers as they are meant to be quite rich. Even my sweet toothed son said so!

I ended up cutting the squares even smaller as one big piece is very rich.
Just for photographic purposes only, I didn’t eat this…. well I did eat a small piece the following day as I was tired and hungry. I have no willpower where sweet stuff is concerned!

Well those of you who know me, will know it wasn’t long before temptation set in. I have even less willpower than my greedy Labrador, especially if I’m tired or busy.  The following two days saw me working long hours so I ended up scoffing one.  Better get out running again!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx