Chocolate Chequerboard Cake.

img_1310Well, I can’t believe I started the New Year with good intentions.  I thought this year I would get myself back on track with my blog and update it more regularly.  All very well until I went back to work.  In the supply teaching world the Spring term is often the busiest for me. Each night I think I’m going to get that blog post written and it has just stayed in draft form for yet another night.  And now we’re nearly halfway through February. How did that happen?

Last month I didn’t bake much at all.  I’m trying my hardest not to have sweet stuff in at home as I’m doing Slimming World.  With 16lbs lost to date and another 16lbs to my target weight, I don’t want to undo all my hard work. Then again I’ve got to live, too.  That includes meeting up with my friends and also going to my much loved Clandestine Cake Club events.  About three weeks ago my friend Linda, who is the organiser for the Headingley and Meanwood branch of cake club, organised an event at East of Arcadia in Meanwood.  A lovely, welcoming venue and the event’s theme was “New Year, New Cake”.

I thought January is the perfect opportunity to try out something new, whether it is a new flavour, a new recipe or even a new way of decorating a cake. Fot me it had to be a new recipe combined with decorating a cake.  For once I was going to bake something that wasn’t a bundt but would still look and taste amazing.  While looking through a Green and Blacks Organic chocolate recipe book which my sister in law gave me one Christmas, I stumbled upon the perfect cake. A chocolate chequerboard cake which looked really impressive.

 

Chequerboard cakes don’t look as complicated and as fiddly as you might think.  I thought you needed a special tin or fancy cutting skills but it can all be done with a large plain piping nozzle and two large piping bags. One filled with chocolate cake mix, the other with vanilla.  You pipe concentric circles in contrasting colours by alternating them on each layer. This is so when the cake is assembled the contrasting colour and flavour is directly on top of the other one. Looks very effective when finished and if the cake is completely covered in icing nobody can tell what it looks like inside!

The Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipe Book which my sister in law gave me a couple of years back.  

It was a Monday morning, the day before the cake club.  I hadn’t got any supply work booked in until later that week and was feeling like January had got off to a slow and boring start.  The weather was foul and miserable with a damp, low fog that hung in the air.  I didn’t want to go out so the warmth of the kitchen appealed to me.  I thought as the phone hadn’t rung, I was safe.  I greased the three sandwich  tins I would need for my cake and began to get out the ingredients.  Just as I reached into the cupboard to get out my scales my phone rings. It’s one of the agencies I work through offering me work for that afternoon.  I say yes, quickly put everything away and go off to get showered and changed.

So my cake ended up being baked on the very same day of the cake club.  Fast forward to Tuesday morning.  The weather is still cold, wet and lousy but after walking the dog and dropping my son off at the bus stop I was ready to try again. As my photos show, there were a lot of interesting parts in making the cake but it was worth it for the impressive results.

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The cake needed a sugar soaking syrup to add to the cake when it was baked. So the first step was to make up the syrup using caster sugar and water.  This was then flavoured with a tiny bit of rum!
Two separate cake mixes were made up to make the chequerboard cake.  The chocolate one was flavoured with Green and Blacks Organic cocoa powder and the plain one with vanilla extract.
A bit of a messy job but made much easier with Lakeland’s Get A Grip Piping bags and their large piping nozzles which I swear by.  To help fill the bags I steadied the bags in a glass jug and this also kept them upright.
I started off by piping a chocolate ring round the edge of two of the cake tins and a vanilla ring around the edge of another one.  Doesn’t look very appealing at the moment, does it?
The piping is all finished in each cake tin and ready to bake.  I’m not the neatest at piping skills but it’s not the Great British Bake Off!
The layer with the vanilla ring round the edge was going to be the middle layer of the cake.
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All ready and waiting to come out of the tin.  When you have baked a cake like this for the first time, you never know what to expect.
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While the cakes were still warm I brushed the rum sugar syrup onto the top of the cakes. It soaked through but thankfully didn’t make the cakes soggy!
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Each tier was assembled with a generous layer of apricot jam.
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The middle layer goes on top of the bottom one…
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And now for the top layer.

In the Green and Blacks recipe book the cake was decorated with a simple Green and Blacks dark chocolate ganache and finished with chocolate curls and pieces of Green and Blacks chocolate.  This to me needed me to do something else which was a bit more fun.  I’d got some chocolate moulds I’d not used before as well as a packet of crispy M&M’s and a tub of mini chocolate jazzies.  I poured melted chocolate into a mini chocolate bar mould and then into a dog mould.  They didn’t come out in a perfect finish but then I’m no chocolatier. Once they were set and I’d got them out of the mould I started to make the chocolate ganache.  This ended up being flavoured with another spoonful of rum.  Luckily for me today the ganache was playing the game that day and let me spread it on the cake without it dripping all over the board and the wire rack underneath.

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It was hard to get a smooth finish on the side of the cake with the ganache but at least it tasted ok.
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My chequerboard cake as decorated from the top.  I didn’t have a plan of how I wanted it to look, I just threw everything on and hoped it looked ok.
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At Headingley and Meanwood Cake Club. Having a giggle with Amy over the cake and her trying to cut a piece of it. She said “That’s my piece!” and pretended to take the whole lot!
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I brought the last slice home for Mr SmartCookieSam and my teenage son to share.

I was so delighted when the cake turned out well and that it nearly all got eaten at Cake Club. That makes me feel really happy.  I’ll definitely be having a go at another chequerboard cake as it looked and tasted divine.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Strawberri Daiquiri Bundt Cake

I’m pretty sure I’ve got an addictive personality.  I’m an all or nothing kind of person.  Over the past two or three years I’ve really got into baking bundt cakes. I blame Rachel McGrath (aka the fabulous DollyBakes, the bundt queen herself!).  After seeing her amazing creations on her website using NordicWare bundt pans, I thought I fancy buying a couple of those tins!  Now I have a shelving unit with them piled up in our garage much to Mr SmartCookieSam’s disgust!  Both he and my kids have said if I buy any more cake tins, they’re going to throw some out! My 16 year old son said to me yesterday that I hadn’t used one of the tins I’d bought when we were on holiday in Canada.  Well I hate to disappoint him but that tin was a snowflake shape and I don’t want to be thinking of wintery themed cakes in August, thankyou very much!

Last week I went into TKMaxx with my Mum and daughter.  My daughter wanted a new handbag but when she was paying for it, I wandered over to the Homeware section knowing full well they sometimes have Nordicware tins in and they’re usually half price!  My eyes lit up when I saw the layered heart tin on the shelf for £19.99 (half price) and I picked it up! My Mum saw me with it and said “What do you want that for?” and “I don’t like hearts,”  When someone says that to me the rebel in me wants it all the more!  All I could think about for the next few days was getting that blooming cake tin and what I could use it for.  As luck would have it I went back into TKMaxx and it was still there on the shelf!  I nearly danced with it to the checkout!

On Sunday afternoon I got to use the tin for the very first time.  Mr SmartCookieSam saw it and asked “When did you get that tin?”  I said, “Oh I’ve had it ages and it’s been in the garage!” Normally we ladies do that with shoes and clothes (well I do that too!) It was Headingley and Meanwood Clandestine Cake Club’s event coming up and we were going to be meeting at White’s Bar in Headingley.  The theme was Cocktails which is always a fab theme for cake club and everyone comes up with some delicious cakes.  I had recently bought some of Sugar and Crumbs’ new summer flavours of their natural icing sugar and was keen to try out their Strawberry Daiquiri flavour.

I had to google what was in a strawberry daiquiri as I don’t think I’ve ever had one before.  My daughter who has a part time job in a bar said she was pretty sure it had rum in it but had never made one. She wanted me to make a Godfather Cake but that would mean going out and buying bottles of Disaronno and some Jack Daniels. With the daiquiri I could buy a small bottle of Bacardi and know that MrSmartCookieSam would finish it off with some coke.

For the cake itself I went back to the Queen of Bundts for inspiration.  Rachel McGrath has a recipe in the second Clandestine Cake Club book “A Year Of Cake” which is a Passionfruit Caipirinha  Bundt.  I adapted the recipe to make it Strawberry Daiquiri flavoured. Instead of lemon extract I used natural strawberry extract from Lakeland.  I kept in the grated lime zest but substituted passionfruit yoghurt for strawberry yoghurt.  There was also Bacardi in place of the ready made caipirinha cocktail mix.  I hoped it would work in the cake.  I’ve found in the past that you can’t always taste the alcohol, maybe I should have added it afterwards as a soaking syrup.  You can but try.

Last Sunday afternoon saw me baking a few things as I was having a couple of my friends over for lunch the day after.  The bundt was going to be done last as it needed the longest in the oven, after salted caramel brownies, peanut butter cookies and a Pimms Victoria Sponge.  My son was hovering around the kitchen and asked if he could help with the brownies and the cookies.  I don’t think using a heart shaped bundt tin was his idea of baking though, so by that time he sloped off upstairs.

An hour later and the cake was ready to come out of the oven.  I always get nervous about bundts coming out of the tin in one piece especially when it’s for cake club.  Though it nearly ended up on the floor as my dog walked into the kitchen as I was carrying the cake across from the oven to the cooling rack.  One of these days he’s going to end up with hot cake on his head! Thankfully the bundt slid out of the tin perfectly and there weren’t any stubborn bits stuck to the side.  I gave it a while to cool down and then started on dinner.  After that I mixed up the icing sugar which had a heavenly scent of strawberries.  It tasted very sweet so rather than making it into buttercream, I made a very watery glaze and let it trickle down over the sides of the cake.  I put a plastic mat underneath but icing still ran over the edge of the mat onto the worktop.  Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t like it when I use icing sugar as it goes everywhere. He has a point.The next morning the cake was finished off with its decorations.  I put whole, fresh strawberries inside the middle of the cake and cheated with ready made pink flower and leaf decorations bought in my local Morrisons. I can make sugar flowers but I didn’t have time to colour up the only white icing I had in the cupboard.  Even Mary Berry uses shortcuts!

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Oreo Rosette Cake

Back in the last week of August I finally was free to go along to one of Wharfedale Clandestine Cake Club’s events.  This was the first time I’d managed to get along, there was always something else happening.  Thankfully being the summer holidays I had more time and I was free to go along being as the event was on a Thursday night.  We met up in Otley and the cake theme for this event was “Go On, Surprise Me”!

I thought of baking a cake which had a pattern inside or was a rainbow cake but I also wanted to bake something I had never baked before.  I scoured my recipe books and fell upon a pretty looking Oreo Cookie Cake with rosette swirls of buttercream in the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  This recipe is by Helen Costello from St Helen’s Clandestine Cake Club and had originally been baked for an American themed cake event. I had a bag of Oreo cookie pieces in my baking cupboard which I had bought in an American candy shop a couple of days earlier.  The cake had Oreo pieces crushed inside the cake and I thought that the pieces were hidden inside covered up by the rosette buttercream piping.  So the cake would have its surprise after all!

On with the baking.  I started to bake the cake the day before the event by greasing two of my 8″ diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The cake itself was baked by beating butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  The cake used seven egg whites and no yolks so it was great fun separating them.. NOT! After that I added in vanilla extract, some self raising flour and then finally added in some crushed Oreo pieces.

The cakes baked for about 45-50 minutes in my fan oven.

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The Oreo sandwich cakes cooling down on the worktop.

On the morning of the event I made up the vanilla frosting.  I spread some frosting on the top of one of the cakes and sandwiched it to the other one.  Then I coated the top and the sides of the cake.  Unfortunately the frosting quantity wasn’t enough to go round and I only managed to piped the rosettes on the top of the cake.  I was very disappointed with my rustic decorating skills.

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Spreading the vanilla frosting on one of the cakes.
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The two Oreo cookie cakes on top of one another.
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The decorated cake with it’s messy sides.

Once I saw the finished cake I was ashamed and disappointed with my cake wreck.  So unfortunately my surprise ingredient ended up being sprinkled around the bottom of the cake so it would detract away from the messy sides of the cake.  The top ended up with more Oreos being thrown on top of it and then as suggested in the recipe about sprinkling your cake with edible lustre dust.  I did have some gold and silver lustre dust in my cupboard last Christmas but it had all gone so I had to use my lilac edible glitter instead. I was a bit heavy handed with it as you can see!

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View from the top. I don’t know what possessed me to chuck all that edible glitter on the top of it, though!

There were lots of lovely cakes at the event and I enjoyed lots of different surprises.  From sweetie pinata cakes to a chocolate cake containing quinoa, we were well and truly spoilt.  We had some delicious cakey leftovers to take home and I made sure I took some home for my family to enjoy as much as I did.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Mango Sandcastle Bundt Cake

About two weeks ago I went along to the Pudsey and West Leeds’ Clandestine Cake Club event, held in Stanningley.  It was a great afternoon and we had a fabulous time eating cake, drinking tea and catching up on all of the gossip before watching The Cake Man do a decorating masterclass.  The theme was Showstopper Cakes so I had to think of something special to bring along.

Here’s a link to the event as publicised on my lovely friend Sharon’s (the group organiser!) blog, called Humbug’s House.

Over the past year or so I’ve got into baking bundt cakes fuelled by several other members of Cake Club who love them as well.  It’s started off a little bundt addiction and I can’t wait to buy more pans to add to my collection.

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My collection of Nordicware Bundt Pans, have since bought a honeycomb shaped one!

In the end I decided to bake a Sandcastle shaped bundt cake as at the time it was nearly the start of the summer holidays and I was dreaming of taking my kids to the seaside!  I’d bought the sandcastle shaped bundt pan from a local shop to me Boroughbridge Hardware which sells some bundt tins and needed a good excuse to use it.  I also wanted to find a summery flavour, hence the mango yoghurt.

To bake my bundt cake once again I turned to the fabulous Rachel McGrath’s Dollybakes’ website and used her Build A Bundt recipe.  I used some Onken Mango, Passionfruit and Guava yoghurt (with a rude note written in permanent ink on the lid so my hubby and kids didn’t nick it) as well as some chopped fresh mango to add to the summery taste.

As with many of my baking experiences at the end of term they are often rushed due to being so busy.  So as you can see from the decoration on this cake it looks like it’s been decorated by a three year old.  I rushed the piping as I knew I had to get the cake finished before starting on the tea. I also kept getting interrupted.

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The finished sandcastle bundt cake. My daughter helped me with the base- we used brown sugar and popping candy to look like sand.
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I got a mixture of sweets to decorate the bundt with- I couldn’t help nicking a few Jelly Tots along the way though, ooops!
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There was enough mix left to bake three muffins so I decorated them with the same icing and sweets I used for the bundt cake.
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On display and waiting with all the other yummy cakes at Cake Club! There were three bundts this time- Sharon’s Blueberry and Elderflower Butterfly bundt and Jessica made a Chocolate Gingerbread House on a Wicked theme.

I thought the cake tasted deliciously moist and I did like the mango flavour in it, I brought back some leftovers for my family and they dived into it.  I love the sandcastle bundt tin as I know it will be great to turn it into a princess castle or  a knight’s castle in the future!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Chocolate Birthday Cake from A Passion For Baking.

Now for the last challenge in my Cooking The Books challenge using Jo Wheatley’s  A Passion For Baking.  I had already signed up to take part in a Virtual Cake Event with The Clandestine Cake Club which was taking place this weekend.  This is designed for members who can’t always get along to a cake club or if there isn’t one in their local area.  I love taking part and this month was a great theme- Sweet Shop Fantasy!  As soon as I signed up I began to think about what sweets I could use in and on a cake.  After lots of choosing I narrowed it down to two favourites: Percy Pigs from Marks and Spencers and Revels.  Though I nearly went with Maltesers but then again I wanted a cake flavour I’d never made before. So, to tick off more than one box I chose to bake a recipe from A Passion For Baking using the Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe in the Celebration Cakes chapter of the book.

My daughter was working today and was out all afternoon so my son came and asked if he could bake me a Mother’s Day cake.  I explained that I only had enough eggs and butter in to make a chocolate sweetie cake but if he wanted to he could bake this cake for me. He has made a chocolate cake before and did a great job so I let him loose in my kitchen!

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Choice of sweetie decorations? Do we go for Revels or Percy Pigs? Or both?

Well, first things first! If you’re a sweet toothed gal like me, DO NOT open the packets and put the sweets into a bowl to make them easier to handle. This is fatal!  As soon as that packet was open, my hand slid over to the bowl. Once I had tasted one Percy Pig, then I had to have another.. and another!  My son did the same. Before we knew it half the packet of Revels and Percy Pigs had disappeared down our cakeholes!  So I went into my baking cupboard and found a couple of packets of M&M’s!  These were meant to go in cookies donated to a coffee morning over the Easter holidays.  Now there would be enough to go on the cake.

My son, who is nearly 14 really enjoys being in the kitchen and sometimes cooks the tea on a Saturday night or bakes the odd cake for us.  He did ask me for instructions like “What does creaming mean?” and he asked if he was doing the chocolate ganache right for the icing. He was. I didn’t need to stand over him or watch him as I knew he would be fine.

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My son decorating the chocolate cake with ganache.
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The ganache (melted plain chocolate and double cream) filled and topped the cake. He then added the sweets to the top of the cake.

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Percy Pig sweets were put in the middle and round the edge of the cake with all the Revels and the M&M’s round the outside.
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Once decorated we had a slice with a cup of tea as a mid afternoon Mother’s Day treat. It was gorgeous.
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Ooops! Naughty, naughty! I caught my son nicking some M&M’s off the top of the cake!
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Get your hands off my cake!!!
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The rest of the cake what was left over. Put away in a tin for another time. Don’t think it will last long though!

I was very impressed with the flavour of the cake and the bright sweetie colours against the dark brown chocolate.  Definitely a Sweet Shop Fantasy for me and a wonderful treat for Mother’s Day.  Back on that diet again tomorrow- famous last words!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx