The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Rudolph’s Carrot Cake.

Wednesday December 6th 2017.

I love a good carrot cake.  This version from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book has a special twist to it in that it’s decorated with a reindeer red nose and antlers on the top of it.  Although my children are too old for the leaving goodies out for Santa tradition, I can imagine that Santa and Rudolph will love a slice of carrot cake as a change from all those mince pies and raw carrots!  It does take me back to when we used to leave Santa a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot for the Rudolph. As the recipe introduction says: “Father Christmas and Rudolph will be over the moon when they receive a little slice of this moist carrot cake before heading back to the North Pole.  It is best eaten on the day it is baked as the icing needs to be kept in the fridge which can make the sponge a little bit heavy”

As it’s still over 2 weeks until Christmas, there’s no way that this cake will be left out for Santa to eat at our house.  Instead it was to be baked and taken as a treat along to one of my regular schools I teach in as a supply teacher.  As I have to be extremely careful with allergies, etc. I made sure that the cake did not contain nuts.  Instead of pine nuts which this recipe called for, I substituted the same amount of nuts for raisins.

The most tedious part of baking a carrot cake, to me is the carrot grating.  Of course I could cut corners and put the carrots through the grating attachment on my food processor. But, by the time I’d got the machine out, I could have grated the carrots by hand. When I’d grated all the carrots I needed I put them to one side in a bowl so that I could get on with weighing out the other ingredients.

In one bowl I whisked together sunflower oil. maple syrup, eggs and some light brown muscovado sugar.  Then in another bowl I weighed out and sifted together the dry ingredients: self raising flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. The raisins then got added in, instead of the pine nuts along with the grated carrots.

I then greased and lined two 20cm or 8 inch diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The mixture was divided between the two tins and baked in the oven for about 35 minutes.  By this time I was feeling really hungry.  I’d come home from work, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and now the smell of baking carrot cake wafting around the kitchen was too much for me.  I made myself another cup of tea and sat in the lounge away from temptation to nibble at something sweet.

When the cake was out of the oven and cooling down on the rack I made up the cream cheese icing.  It was a miracle that Mr SmartCookieSam hadn’t nicked any of the cream cheese to put on his toast at breakfast time.  This recipe needed 400g of full fat cream cheese.  I always use full fat Philadelphia as it gives great results and is really creamy.  To this I added some icing sugar and about 50ml of double cream. This version doesn’t use butter so wasn’t as sickly as some cream cheese frostings I’ve had in the past.

Half an hour later the cake was cooled and ready to be iced and filled.  I decided to decorate the cake differently to how it was illustrated in the book.  Instead of melted chocolate and red sprinkles to make a reindeer face and antlers, I found some reindeer themed sprinkles in my baking stash.  They contrasted well with the carrot cake.

On Thursday morning I was in such a rush to get off to work that I left the cake at home in a box in the fridge. I’d kept it in the fridge what with the frosting containing cream cheese and double cream. Of course out of sight, out of mind!  So what did I do when I got in from work? Yes, you guessed right, I had a piece!

Definitely a cake to start new traditions with children on Christmas Eve. Or even a great cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee instead of a mince pie to relax with at any time over the festive period.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Carrot and Apple Cake with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

You can’t beat a good carrot cake can you? Well maybe there are lots of other favourite cakes out there but I can’t resist carrot cake.  I’ve baked lots of them over the years and tried different recipes.

I’ve been enjoying testing out a few recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” recently.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival a couple of weekends ago and I always like to donate a cake or few to the cafe that the PTA run in the primary school hall.  As my son went to that school a few years back I always like to support it as he had such a happy time there.

Carrot Cakes always seem to be popular with lots of people and this one from Lorraine Pascale was no exception. This version contains not only grated carrots but also some grated apple.  This works extremely well with carrot and adds some natural sweetness. To add maple syrup to the cream cheese frosting was also a delicious touch which worked really well.

On the Saturday morning, the day before the Spring Festival I got up really early.  It had been a crazy busy week working full time teaching a Reception class in a local school and I was due to be there another week afterwards.   The night before I had gone off to bed at 9.30pm absolutely exhausted and laid there thinking would I have time to get everything done over the weekend? Thank heavens it was a Bank Holiday that weekend. I was up at 6am and was already baking.  I had to be at my beauty therapist friend’s house for my appointment at 10am and I had to have a headstart.  I find if I get up early without distractions then I get loads done.

I was so grateful to the grating attachment on my new food processor to help me out with grating the carrots and the apple.  I don’t mind grating by hand but I was in a rush and getting a machine to do the hard work really helped to cut the time down.  The carrots and apple came out a little bit chunkier than I would have liked but it did add to the texture of the cake.  In other carrot cakes I’ve added walnuts or pecan nuts but this one doesn’t contain nuts at all. It doesn’t have any dried fruit in either, like raisins or sultanas.

The recipe itself is simple to put together as all the ingredients are weighed out and put into one bowl.  This includes using vegetable oil as the fat instead of butter as is traditionally seen in a carrot cake or a muffin mixture.  Along with this was some light brown soft sugar, eggs, the apple and carrot, some self raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon and some vanilla extract.

When all the batter had been mixed together it was divided between two greased and lined circular loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cakes were then baked in my oven for about 30-35 minutes at around 160oC in my fan oven. While they were baking I went upstairs, sorted out some washing, put some washing away and tried to get my son’s uniform ironed for work. All while I kept an eye and an ear out for the oven timer.

Half an hour or so later the cakes were ready and out of the oven.  I left them to cool in their tins on the work top on top of a wire rack and headed down to see my friend to get my nails done.

In the afternoon I got round to decorating the carrot cake.  The frosting was a traditional cream cheese one but with the addition of maple syrup. Maple syrup goes beautifully with carrot cake and I was happy I had just enough in the cupboard from pancake day.  I’m not the neatest cake decorator and to be honest I found it really tricky to keep my frosting neat. My mum was standing next to me watching me ice it and she got her fork out and fluffed up the icing.  This wasn’t the original way I wanted to decorate the cake with neat, smooth edges but the more I tried to smooth the icing the more it wanted to fall off!  To finish off I used a dozen sugar carrots bought from a pack found in the supermarket a few weeks back.

The following morning I dropped all three cakes baked down at the school.  They were gratefully received and to help the servers in the cafe I pre-cut the cakes for them.  When my mum and I went back down to the festival a couple of hours later I noticed that the carrot cake had completely gone. It had sold out.  That made me so happy.

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

See In The Dark Cake from Frances Quinn’s Quinntessential Baking.

Last Wednesday I had the chance to go and watch Frances Quinn (Great British Bake Off Winner from 2013) doing a demo and a booksigning as part of the hugely popular York Food and Drink Festival. I have always been amazed by Frances’ cake designs and artistic skill so when I found out that a few members of the York Clandestine Cake Club were going to watch her before their cake club event, I jumped at the chance.

041
My version of Frances Quinn’s See In The Dark Cake- a gorgeously spiced and moist carrot cake with a cream cheese filling and a chocolate icing.

The demo was absolutely brilliant and I thought Frances was very witty and entertaining, telling us about her experiences on the Bake Off.  She showed us how to make homemade flavoured marzipan which she then turned into cute bees with chocolate stripes and flaked almond wings.  She also showed us how she adapted a basic brownie recipe and turned them into owls with Oreo biscuits split apart to make eyes and chocolate button feathers.

042
A sneaky picture of Frances getting everything ready for her demo.
043
Frances in action with Julia Lewis from BBC Radio York.
044
A bowlful of leftover (but absolutely delicious) orange marzipan and the cutest ever brownie Owls!

Afterwards Frances was doing a book signing of her brand new book Quinntessential Baking.  I had already bought a copy and she very kindly signed it for me. I have been very impressed with the book and how there is a chapter devoted to a base recipe, such as Shortbread and then you can use that basic recipe to adapt it and create lots of different recipes.  I thought I would attempt one of the large cakes to take along to the cake club event which was going to be held at Walmgate Ale House and Bistro later that evening.  The theme was Words and Pictures and we were asked to bake a cake using the York Food and Drink Festival as our inspiration. As I had just seen Frances’ demo at the festival and her cakes are truly artistic works like pictures I had to recreate one of her recipes.

I chose to bake Frances’ See In The Dark Cake which is part of the Carrot Cake chapter on page 70.  You adapt a basic carrot cake recipe and add a twist to it.  I loved the play on words for the title of the cake, they say you can see in the dark if you eat carrots and the decoration for the cake was with dark chocolate and with moon and stars on the top.

The day before the demo and cake club on the Tuesday was a day off work for me.  I’m getting back into my supply teaching work after the summer holidays but on that day I was free. So it was me in a relaxed mode enjoying some baking therapy while catching up on what I hadn’t seen on Iplayer over the past few days.

The carrot cake itself was simple to bake.  I had to prep some chopped nuts first. Frances’ recipe suggests pistachios.  I didn’t have any but used walnuts in my cake instead. After I chopped up the walnuts it was the turn of grating carrots.  I managed this ok but I do find grating carrots boring!

Then on with the actual cake itself. First I beat butter and sugar together until it became really light and creamy. After this stage beaten eggs were added with a spoonful of the flour needed to prevent any curdling happening.  The remainder of the flour was also added along with some ground cinnamon which made the mixture smell heavenly.  Finally, in went the carrots and walnuts.  Frances says you can bake the cake in a round deep bottomed tin or in two sandwich tins.  I chose the latter as I’m not good at cutting cakes to make layers. They end up looking like a crispbread at one side and a doorstep at the other!

While the cakes were baking I made up the filling.  This was softened butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla extract to make that classic filling and topping on top of a carrot cake.  Frances’ cake was more unusual in that it had a chocolate ganache for it’s decoration. I’ve never put chocolate with a carrot cake before but it does work.

I totally mucked up the ganache though and ended up with my ganache looking more like chocolate buttercream.  It still looked good though and I wanted to decorate the cake like Frances had done with a moon and stars on the top.  I chose to cheat though and found some gold shimmer sugar and some mini gold stars in my local Booths which worked perfectly on the top.  Keeping it neat though with a moon stencil cut out of baking parchment to me was fiddly as I am a bit clumsy.

040
My cake all ready to take along to Cake Club after the demo.
046
Lots of delicious cakes at the York Clandestine Cake Club event in the function room at the Walmgate Ale House.

After the demo we all met back at Cake Club and tried little pieces of each other’s cakes.  I was all caked out after trying about three little pieces, what a good job I hadn’t eaten any tea before!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

The Ultimate Carrot Cake- Delia’s Cakes.

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes you see everywhere and there are many versions of it.  Over the years since I started baking I’ve made a fair few, some fantastic and some you’d want to chuck in the bin.  This version though, is horrifically calorific seeing as the icing contains mascarpone! Heavenly, but gorgeous!  Anyway, it wasn’t me who was going to eat it, this was another cake heading down to the Village Hall for our Open Gardens last month.  It was also another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge, this time I chose to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake from Delia’s Cakes

027
Eggs, dark brown soft sugar and sunflower oil were mixed together in a large bowl first.

In another bowl I added all the dry ingredients, which included self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.  These were combined carefully with the egg mixture, closely followed by grated carrot, dessicated coconut (which I’d never put in a carrot cake before), sultanas and pecan nuts.  What a heavenly combination! No wonder Delia called it the Ultimate Carrot Cake!

028
The mixture ready to be popped in the oven.

As you’ve probably guessed I’m a bit behind with the blogging at the moment.  There’s been a lot going on.  So I’m talking about a cake I made over three weeks ago but as I love baking carrot cakes this one I had to say was a joy to make.  When they came out of the oven it took all my courage to not bite into the cakes there and then.  But I had to restrain myself and get on with making up the icing.

The icing was made by whipping together two tubs of mascarpone, some ground cinnamon, brown sugar and a small amount of orange juice to add flavour.  I forgot I needed to add a syrup glaze to the top of the cake first ,though!

032
The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
033
The carrot cakes cooling down on my cake rack. They were baked in two 18cm or 7″ diameter sandwich cake tins.

While the cakes were cooling I made some carrot toppers out of sugarpaste to decorate the cake with.

034

035
The side of the cake.
036
As seen from the top!

The cake went down to our Village Hall with the other three cakes I’d baked and I was really pleased to see it had nearly all gone when I went down there with my mum in the early afternoon.  As it was a warm day I was hoping there wouldn’t be a problem with the icing going all runny but it was fine.

Definitely another winner here and one I’d love to bake again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Carrot and Sultana Cake- The Hairy Dieters

 

A couple of weeks ago I needed something for pud to follow our Sunday lunch and wanted something quite light and not TOO heavy on the old calories.  Even though I’ve made a lot of the savoury recipes in the two Hairy Bikers‘ diet books, I had yet to try the sweet ones.  I suppose I had this silly idea that if it was low calorie or low fat, it wouldn’t taste right and not like a full fat version.  How wrong I was. I absolutely detest shop bought and manufactured cakes and biscuits that are meant to be low fat or low sugar.  Believe you, me I have eaten more than my fair share over the years and I think my taste buds have changed as I have got older.  

So it was with mixed feelings that I attempted to bake the Hairy Bikers’ Carrot and Sultana cake from their first diet book, which was published last year.  You get fixed ideas that low fat/sugar= low taste.  This is not true as I’ve found out when cooking the other meals from the Hairy Bikers’ books.  I had realised that not only did the dishes I prepare taste delicious, they actually were lower in calories.  

The introduction to this rather delicious sounding cake says: ” We all know you can’t be eating cake every day when you’re keen to shed a few pounds,” I wish, but then the saying goes  “You can’t have your cake and eat it!”  The Hairy Bikers also say that “this cake is made with oil instead of butter and is super-moist, so non- dieters will love it too, if you let them have any!”

 I tried to work out what makes this cake suitable as a treat for dieters and noticed that the quantities will be slightly smaller.  Comparing it to another carrot cake recipe I noticed there was an absence of nuts, the amount of sugar was reduced somewhat. Some carrot cakes don’t have sultanas although I do put them in mine. The cake is also made without the traditional cream cheese frosting that you might put in the middle and on top of the cake, this was just a single layer cake.  If you feel you cannot possibly do without a cream cheese topping then The Hairy Bikers say you can spread the cake with 200g of light reduced fat soft cheese.  I know from experience that light cheese tastes disgusting in frosting so I chose to leave it off!

So, here’s how I got on with making the Carrot and Sultana Cake.

The first task was to try and grate the carrots without grating my fingers too!
The first task was to try and grate the carrots without grating my fingers too!
012
Sunflower oil and brown sugar were whisked together in a large bowl. To this I then added some beaten egg.
013
The beaten egg was whisked up.
014
In another bowl I weighed out some self raising flour, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. I was meant to add some grated orange zest to it as well but I didn’t have an orange spare to use!
015
All the dry ingredients were folded into the wet ingredients but then I remembered I had forgotten to add in the carrot! After all it was carrot cake!
016
The mixture all ready and spooned into my large springform tin now with the added carrot inside!
017
The finished Carrot and Sultana Cake. I was worried it had burned a bit in the oven but it seemed fine.
018
The cake wasn’t as deep as a regular carrot cake but it looked more or less exactly like the one featured in the recipe book. It was a great relief.
019
The photo in the book shows a slice of carrot cake topped with grated orange zest on top and then sprinkled with a dusting of icing sugar. I just dusted my cake with icing sugar as I didn’t have any orange left. I served my carrot cake with a dollop of half fat creme fraiche.

 I was very impressed with the recipe and have decided that I actually enjoyed the slice of carrot cake more without the cream cheese frosting on top of it.  I thought I wouldn’t like it without but I didn’t miss it.  So, this means I will be using this recipe in the future if we want to have carrot cake at home.  At 239 calories a slice and the cake serves 10 it meant I could indulge without feeling guilty.  

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx