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

Sun Dried Tomato and Mozzarella with Spiralised Veg (Mary Berry Everyday)

I have a massive addiction to Lakeland. It’s very hard for me to come out of one of their stores empty handed. I see so many fantastic products on their shelves that I wish I just had the money or the room for in my kitchen.

At half term week I met up with my mum at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.  My mum and I both love cooking and baking. I’ve been trying to lose some weight and so far have lost 1 1/2 stone since last July.  I know I need some carbs in my diet but I would like to reduce this.  One way I can do this is to use a vegetable spiralizer instead of using pasta.  Ar first I thought, what’s wrong with a bit of pasta>  But then after going to a restaurant and trying courgetti for the first time, I actually found I liked it.

Since then I’ve been keen to get a spiraliser. There were about 5 or 6 different ones to choose from on the shelf in Lakeland, ranging from a hand held simple one to a massive one which had different interchangeable blades.  The one I chose sits comfortably on the work top. It  stays put with suction pads and has four different blades of varying thicknesses.  I thought that I would get a lot of use out of it, especially when my daughter is back from uni in her holidays.  Once I got the hang of using the spiralizer I was really enjoying it.  My first attempts were a bit messy and both the courgettes and carrots came out in short strips instead of the curly, long spirals I had seen on other peoples’  Instagram and Twitter pics. I made far too much for one person really as neither Mr SmartCookieSam or my teenage son like courgettes. Though I did mix in a few carrot spirals in with their spaghetti.

I decided to make Mary Berry’s Sundried Tomato Pasta sauce from her new Everyday book which is just out.  Not a success at all.  I didn’t chop the sun dried tomatoes up enough and Mr SmartCookieSam pushed them to the side of his plate. After that he said “I can’t eat this, sorry,” and put his knife and fork together.  I agreed with him but not only did the pasta dish taste vile, it looked vile as well.  The mozzarella was meant to be cut into little pieces on top of the sauce but it was so grainy and bitty that it was in large clumps.  It wasn’t the spiralised veg, they were lovely. It was the disgusting sauce.  So sorry to say this time but this is the first Mary Berry recipe which didn’t go down well in our house.

After we had tipped the disgusting food in the bin I went and found the biscuit tin. Mr SmartCookieSam asked for some cheese and crackers. So much for trying to eat healthily and cut carbs. I had four cream crackers with Brie on top.  Ooops, better luck next time!

Colourful Chinese Egg Fried Rice #LittleKitchen

To make a change from my usual baking and sweet recipes which I create, it has been a welcome change to bring you something completely different. This is a recipe I have used for nearly 15 years with my own two children and also one that has been made at an After School cookery club that I used to run.

When Wren Kitchens contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to be involved in their #LittleKitchen campaign, I was really excited. Although I’m really busy at the moment in my teaching career and with home commitments, I love to take part in schemes which are very close to my heart.

The #LittleKitchen campaign has been created to encourage children to cook by being involved in food preparation and cooking. Wren Kitchen’s philosophy is something I heavily relate to: the kitchen is the heart of the home and where the family whatever their ages are able to come together. They talk, prepare food and have fun while they’re doing it.  At the same time you spend precious family time together as well as creating healthy and delicious food.  Not only that but by being involved in the food preparation process, children have fun, a sense of responsiblity and also are more likely to eat something that they’ve made themselves.

 It is always a challenge to find meals which tick all the boxes.  Is it delicious? Does is contain portions of fruit and veg which will count towards your 5 a day? Will the kids actually like it? I think this recipe has proved time and time again that it does fulfill that need.

My Chinese Egg Fried Rice recipe is one that children of all ages can help to create and it is a valuable recipe to add to the repertoire. I am convinced that being able to cook simple, yet nutritious, but fun meals is a valuable life skill as everyone has to eat. My own daughter is off to uni this autumn and she will be able to cook the Egg Fried Rice for herself and her friends.  The beauty in this recipe is that you can used whatever leftover veg you have left over, so long as they are chopped up small.  It can also have frozen peas and sweetcorn in it so it fills out the dish. All the ingredients are cheap so it is a useful budget dinner.

CHINESE EGG FRIED RICE

You need:

225g dry weight long grain or basmati rice

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped finely.

1 pepper, deseeded and chopped

Approx 75g frozen peas

2 medium eggs, beaten

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

If you fancy substiuting any of the vegetables, feel free.  I sometimes use 3 or 4 spring onions in the rice instead of the ordinary onions. I used a yellow pepper here but the colour doesn’t matter. Just use whatever you have at hand.

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All you need for you and your children to make this delicious egg fried rice.
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Step 1: Cook the rice following the instructions on the packet.
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After about 5 minutes cooking time, add the diced carrots to the boiling pan of rice.  About 5 minutes after that add your frozen peas or maybe if you fancy it, some sweetcorn.
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In a frying pan or a wok, heat one tablespoonful of oil, then soften the onions and peppers for five minutes or so while the rice is still cooking.
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Crack two eggs into a small bowl and beat them up.
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Set the softened onions and peppers aside on a small plate and heat up the remaining two tablespoonfuls of rapeseed oil.
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Pour the beaten eggs into the heated frying pan or wok. Fry in the oil for a minute.
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Flip over the mini omelette and cook for another minute. As this picture shows I’m rubbish at making omelettes.
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Chop the omelette up into tiny, bite size pieces.
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Mix the drained rice mixture with the softened onions, peppers and the chopped egg as well as some soy sauce.
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Serve in a massive bowl and let everyone help themselves. My family love this fried rice with left over chicken pieces which is great for a leftover Sunday roast dish.

KIDS IN THE KITCHEN:

Even very young children can take part in making this dish.  My own two children used to help by using a child friendly knife to cut and prepare easy to cut vegetables like peppers and to help weigh out ingredients.  I included them in every step of the process even though they kept away from the hob when I was frying the vegetables and boiling the rice.  When the dish was put on the table I let them serve themselves.

As children get older they are more able to cope with cutting more difficult vegetables, such as onions and will be able to peel the carrots.  You could involve them by adding the vegetables and rice to the pans at the right time and they could stir the contents of the pan.  They could also make the omelette with help.  Teenagers will easily able to cook the Egg Fried Rice without supervision. Though my children will always leave me their mess to clean up afterwards!

Happy Cooking.

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

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

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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!

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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!

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The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
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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.

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The side of the cake.
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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!
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Sunflower oil and brown sugar were whisked together in a large bowl. To this I then added some beaten egg.
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The beaten egg was whisked up.
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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!
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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!
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The mixture all ready and spooned into my large springform tin now with the added carrot inside!
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The finished Carrot and Sultana Cake. I was worried it had burned a bit in the oven but it seemed fine.
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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.
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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