Cranberry, White Chocolate and Coconut Magic Bars. 

I’d had a manic few days at work so to come into the kitchen and bake was a great tonic for me.  I feel guilty every time I bake at the moment though.  I shouldn’t be doing it as eating the sugary stuff is not good for my health. But at the same time I love the process of making it. Why does baking always feel so much more exciting to me than cooking a casserole or a roast dinner?

It was a cold, damp and foggy Thursday morning last week and I was very tired.  I’d taken my son to the bus stop three miles away and gone out and walked the dog.  My warm, cosy and inviting kitchen beckoned. As I was walking across the muddy field with my dog, all I could think about was getting back home and into my kitchen.  I was thinking about some ingredients I had in the cupboard left over from Christmas. These included two bars of white chocolate and some dried cranberries.  It was a miracle that the chocolate hadn’t been nicked by the kids but then one of them is away at uni! My son has been trying to eat sensibly too.

Looking through one of my favourite cookbooks The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, I found the perfect recipe on page 49 for Cranberry Magic Bars.  There wasn’t a picture to accompany the recipe so I had to guess what they might look like. From looking at the ingredient list it said what I needed for the base and for the topping. So that meant it was baked in two parts. Nothing explaining it in the recipe introduction either.  I had to go on my own instincts here and worked out that the bars were made up of a shortbread type base and topped with a condensed milk, chocolate, dessicated coconut and dried  fruit concoction. Sounded scrumptious to me.

Luckily I had a tin of condensed milk in my baking stash from Christmas. Bought with the intent of using it to make fudge with, it never got used.  I also needed white chocolate, cranberries and pecans.  I didn’t have any pecans. The only nuts I had left was some flaked almonds so I put those in the recipe instead of the pecans.

I lined and greased my well loved Alan Silverwood Traybake pan and then put the made up base into the bottom of it.  This was quite a challenge.  The base had to be extremely thin and I ended up pressing it down with the back of a spoon to make it even.  It only just covered the bottom of the tin.  Into the oven it went at 150oC (fan oven) for about 15-20 minutes. I wanted the base to be a gentle golden brown.

While the base was being baked I made the topping.  This was simple enough. The condensed milk, white chocolate, cranberries, desiccated coconut and the nuts were mixed together.  I used a whole 100g bar of white chocolate chopped up instead of a bag of  white chocolate chips. I had two bars but I thought I’d save the other one for another time. The mixture was spread onto the base and back into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

Being as I wasn’t sure what the bars were meant to look like, it was confusing. When they came out of the oven they looked a bit boring. So, to make them more enticing to eat I melted my other bar of white chocolate and piped on a lattice pattern onto the cooled bars. They smelled absolutely gorgeous and I was tempted to grab at one and eat it there and then.

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I will definitely be making these again.  I usually have a stall at my village’s Open Gardens event every May selling my cookies and cupcakes so these might end up on the stall. You never know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coconut and Cherry Sponge Cake- Mercers of Yorkshire Cherry Jam.

Cherry and Coconut Sponge, a twist on an old retro favourite from childhood.

 A couple of years back as family circumstances changed we stopped having our traditional Sunday lunch at lunchtime.  My daughter was out at work and would miss having a Sunday lunch and the chance for us all to sit down over a roast dinner.  So our Sunday meal got moved to the early evening once she was in from work.  Because we were eating late I stopped making a Sunday pudding.  I really miss making a pudding on a Sunday as we don’t usually indulge throughout the week. It just makes it a bit more special.  This last Sunday I really wanted to test out an idea I had for a Cherry and Coconut Sponge cake using some Red Cherry Jam I had picked up at the Good Food Show a couple of weeks back.  It was baked in a bit of a rush though.  I have been running around like a headless chicken this weekend trying to get all my jobs done as it is a busy time for me at work in my day job supply teaching. I don’t want to be ironing or cleaning bathrooms when I’ve got in from work during the week, so I’ve been trying to keep on top of things.

 

Baking this cake gave me a great opportunity to use some special products like my favourite. Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars.
 

It was 2pm and I’d only just got dressed!  That makes me sound like a right lazy slob but if I don’t have to go anywhere I stay and do all my housework in my PJ’s. I ironed, cleaned the bathrooms, hoovered and dusted upstairs and by 2pm I was ready for a cup of tea and a baking session.

To bake the Coconut and Cherry Sponge Cake I adapted Lynn Hill (Founder of The Clandestine Cake Club’s) own recipe from the first Clandestine Cake Club cookbook which was published back in 2013.  This cake was wonderfully retro, the sort you grew up eating or your granny baked.  I don’t remember my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) baking it, though I do remember her baking lemon cake and fruit cakes.

I started by greasing and lining two 8″ diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  Once this was done I then weighed out some softened butter and caster sugar. This was creamed together with my hand held electric whisk.  To this I added three free range eggs, one at a time and then some self raising flour. Lynn’s original recipe calls for using vanilla extract for flavouring, but instead I used a few drops of some natural coconut extract which comes from Lakeland.  To add to the coconut flavour I also added some dessiccated coconut. The mixture was then divided between the two cake tins and put in the oven, preheated to 160oC.  After about 25 minutes when the cakes were risen and sprung back when touched, out they came to cool on the worktop.

While the cakes had been cooking I thought about how I could decorate the cake. Lynn’s original recipe used a butter and cream cheese icing which sounded delicious along with a filling of jam.  I decided to use some of my Mercers of York Cherry jam which is absolutely delicious.  Instead of the butter and cream cheese icing which I couldn’t do anyway as I didn’t have the cream cheese, I whipped up a carton of cream and to this I added some Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavour Coconut Icing Sugar.  I got this ready and decided to go out for a run.  I’m doing the Couch To 5K app at the moment as I’m entering the Race For Life in June so I’m trying to train when I can.  An hour later, I’m back home feeling a bit tired but ready to decorate the cake.

One top of one cake I spread about 6 tbsp jam and to the other I spread about half the coconut cream mixture. These were then sandwiched together. The rest of the cream was spread on the top of the cake with a dozen glace cherries spaced around the edge. To finish off, I sprinkled desiccated coconut on top of the cake.

 

A blast from the past.. a sponge topped with dessicated coconut. I chose to use cream instead of buttercream for my icing.
  

A coconut flavour sponge, layered with cherry jam and coconut cream.

Even though the cake was meant to be a Sunday dessert treat we were far too full to eat it.  So at the time of typing it is in a box in my fridge waiting to be eaten throughout the course of the week. 

 

A perfect Sunday afternoon treat.
 

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Coconut and Mojito Tres Leches Cake- my own recipe featured in The Clandestine Cake Club A Year Of Cake Book.

As mentioned in my previous blog post I’ve got two recipes published in the latest Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook “A Year of Cake”. Along with my Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith I also had my Coconut and Mojito Tres Leches Cake featured in the May chapter of the book.

I am a regular member of the Pudsey and West Leeds branch of the CCC.  Each event along with other cake club branches has really great themes which inspires you to get your baking thinking caps on.  Last year back in June 2014 Pudsey cake club had an event with an Around The World Theme.  I’m a huge Mojito cocktail fan (though I’m trying to steer clear due to going to Weightwatchers at the moment) and also love the way it works well with coconut and cream. So this is where the inspiration for my Tres Leches cake came from.  It was one of those cakes I’d tried baking before and although hugely calorific, it was one I enjoyed tasting the most.  So I tried baking my own version of a tres leches cake and hoped it would go down well at cake club.

I originally baked my cake as a triple layer cake but the recipe testers felt it worked better as a two layer one.  I’ve since baked it with 2 layers and I’m happy to agree with them. It holds up better, from looking at my original picture it looks like it could topple over at any time!

My original triple layered Coconut and Mojito Tres Leches cake.  I added a sugarpaste cactus to the top of it as a tres leches cake is traditionally from Mexico.
My original triple layered Coconut and Mojito Tres Leches cake. I added a sugarpaste cactus to the top of it as a tres leches cake is traditionally from Mexico. 

The recipe introduction says: “Cocktail and Mocktail themed events are very popular with Cake Club members who shake and stir all manner of ingredients to turn their favourite tipple into a cake.”  (well Mojito is one of my favourites apart from gin!) “Sam has created a South American-inspired tres leches cake- sponge soaked in three milks: condensed milk, evaporated milk and double cream- which is infused with the punchy flavours of the traditional Cuban rum cocktail, the mojito.  It’s perfect for sharing on World Cocktail Day which celebrates the day in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first put into print, thereby officially recognising the alchemy of mixing spirits”.  

Here is the top part of my recipe as featured in the new Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake. It's on page 82.
Here is the top part of my recipe as featured in the new Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake. It’s on page 82. There isn’t a picture to accompany this recipe due to cost.

The Tres Leches cake is ideally best to be made and soaked the night before you need to bake it as you need to give time for the flavours to develop in the cake.

To bake the cake itself you need to first sift plain flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  In another bowl you need to beat softened butter and sugar together until it gets light and fluffy.  Then one by one you add in eggs and a little bit of the flour mixture to stop any curdling.  When the remaining flour is added in, you then add in some natural coconut extract and some lime zest.  The natural coconut extract I swear by is one that comes from a range in Lakeland Ltd.  It comes in a small bottle and a few drops transform the flavours of your bakes.

Once all the mixture is combined well, it is divided into two loose bottomed sandwich tins and then baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

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These are the original photos I took last year before I submitted the recipe, hence there being 3 cake layers instead of two. Here they are just out of the oven and cooling.
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This is the tres leches glaze all mixed up and ready for soaking. Evaporated milk, condensed milk, double cream and some ready made up Mojito cocktail are mixed together. I use the Bacardi one found in most big supermarkets.
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Now this is a bit of a messy job and I learned the hard way that it’s best to keep the cakes in the tin when you are pouring the tres leches glaze on top of the cake. Then put the tins in the fridge overnight and remove them the next day. I didn’t and ended up with baking parchment catching the drips.

Don’t be alarmed when soaking a tres leches cake.  It looks like you have loads of soaking syrup and you do wonder how all of that will go into a cake and not fall to pieces in a big soggy mess.  I felt like that the very first time I baked one and I panicked. But I was reassured not to worry and it was fine. I took my time carefully with it, spooning the glaze carefully onto the cakes, letting it do the soaking then adding more.

Then, leave your cake overnight in the fridge to let the flavours develop.  The next morning or whenever you need to assemble it, make up the topping and filling.  This is made with double cream and icing sugar whipped up together. Sometimes I choose to decorate the sides of the cake with the topping as well, depends on what I feel like doing at the time!

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Here is the version of the Tres Leches cake I baked for the A Year Of Cake Launch party in Leeds last weekend. I tried to decorate the side of the cake with it but I am such a messy decorator.

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The first slice ready to be cut at the launch party.

 Since first creating the recipe I have discovered Sugar and Crumbs Natural flavoured icing sugars  and I am a huge fan of their products.  I’m always thinking of good excuses to use them. I used some of their Key Lime flavoured icing sugar in the topping instead of plain icing sugar to give it an extra kick.  I think it worked extremely well and will be doing that again when I bake the cake in the future.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you the whole recipe here but I am not allowed to by the publishers of the book.

Bundts, Bundts and More Bundts.

I’m getting just that teensy weensy bit obsessed with collecting Nordicware Bundt pans now. I think it needs to stop or else I will need a kitchen extension!  I just love the interesting shapes that the pans come in and how you can make a cake into a showstopper bake by using one of the pans.  I still see pans I want and the wish list is getting longer and longer by the day!

This post is to share some of the more recent bakes I have made so far this year using my bundt pans.  For recipe inspiration I can recommend the fabulous website by Rachel McGrath the Bundt Queen herself.  She has lots of ideas and fantastic flavour combinations to try out.  I would recommend looking at her Bundt recipe page and also adapting and creating your own ideas from her Build a Bundt recipe.

Rachel’s feature on her blog called Bundts on The Brain is a great insight into the history of the Bundt:

http://www.dollybakes.co.uk/p/bundts-on-brain.html

Here are my new bundt pans I have been getting excited about!

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The Heritage Bundt pan. I’ve been after this for ages, such a pretty design.
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My two loaf bundt pans: a lemon loaf one and a gingerbread man one.
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A pretty rose bundt pan. I haven’t had much success with this, tried to bake a white chocolate and raspberry bundt in it a few weeks back and it just wouldn’t come out of the tin. When I finally got it out, the top part fell out leaving half of it welded to the bottom! Try and try again I suppose!
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For Valentine’s Day I baked a chocolate and chocolate themed bundt heart cake. It featured Sugar and Crumbs‘s chocolate and coconut icing sugar which worked really well in both the mixture and the chocolate glaze. To top the cake I added miniature sugarpaste hearts.
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Connected with a previous blog post written in conjunction with Sugar and Crumbs, I baked this Jaffa Orange Bundt cake. This recipe was adapted from one in the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book and looked fab baked in my Heritage bundt pan.
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Bundt cakes are those baked in pans manufactured by Nordicware and not necessarily a cake with a hole in the middle. This sticky lemon loaf cake baked from one of my Nana’s old recipe books went along to a Clandestine Cake Club event in February.
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I spotted the Nordicware Pineapple Upside down cake pan on Ebay in March and just had to have it. Luckily it was a Buy It Now option but I did have to send for it from the USA. It was worth it to bake one of my family’s favourite desserts in such a pretty way.  The recipe itself I used from an American website but I am not sure if I got the quantities right having to use baking cups!
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Back in January I wanted to experiment with some Monin coffee syrups I was given just before Christmas. So I used one of Dollybakes’ recipes to bake this Cinnamon and Apple Bundt Cake with apple flavour glace icing.
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For my hubby’s birthday in January I baked my usual carrot cake recipe in a traditional bundt pan and decorated it with cream cheese frosting, chopped nuts and some ready made carrot decorations.
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My heart shaped bundt pan gets used at all times of the year, not just for Valentine’s Day! I baked Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from his latest book Comfort Food in my pan instead of in a traybake tin.
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My piece of sticky toffee pudding with some sauce drizzled over. Perfect for a cold February dessert.

Keep watching this space, there will be more bundts to come in the future!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Flappenjacken.

The other day when we were sat round the table eating breakfast on holiday the conversation turned to my obsession with baking.  Well we were eating croissants at the time and I said I would love to have a go at baking my own croissants one day.  My family sometimes appreciate my efforts, sometimes don’t.  What they don’t realise is that baking is therapy to me like some people play music, some paint, some do sewing or play sport.  I like the feeling baking something gives me and when I get it right there is nothing else to match those feelings.  Although baking isn’t very kind to my hips and thighs it has brought back a sense of wellbeing and boosted my self esteem enormously over the past few years.

My husband said to me “Why don’t you bake some more flapjack?” and I agreed with him.  Flapjack always goes down well with my family and I have to hide the tin from them. Sometimes I have to hide the tin from myself as I can never stop at one piece! So when we got back from holiday I knew I’d planned to try a version of flapjack called Flappenjacken from Scandelicious Baking by Signe Johansen as part of my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.

In the recipe title Flappenjacken are also described as salted caramel granola biscuits but looking at the ingredients mine had to be a complete variation on the recipe.  I also chose to bake them as a complete traybake rather than as individual biscuits. Signe says “I can’t claim that these are authentically Scandinavian in anyway but they are inspired by my love for salted caramel, Norwegian crispy havreflarn oat biscuits and British flapjacks or flappenjacken as the Muppet Show’s Swedish Chef likes to call them!”

In the recipe Signe calls for a mixture of oats to be used comprising of spelt, rye and barley flakes but I had to use plain porridge oats as I couldn’t find any other flakes in my local supermarket.  I noticed also that the recipe used egg, milk, flour and baking powder unlike my traditional flapjack recipe so that meant it was more cakeified!

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Here’s the flappenjacken mix before being tipped into the cake tin.
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All ready to go into the oven!
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Out of the oven and cut up into slices. Looks more cakey than like traditional flapjack but tasted wonderful.
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The flappenjacken was perfect for me as it wasn’t too overly sweet. My hubby enjoyed it too for the very same reason.

I was pleased with the results and should have waited a little bit longer before cutting it up as the flappenjacken crumbled as I took it out of the tin and tried to put it onto the plate.  I scoffed a piece right away with my soup at lunchtime. It should have been a sandwich but I couldn’t help myself, they smelled so good!

As for my family my hubby has spotted them in the tin and has enjoyed them, the children weren’t impressed as they had almonds, and dessicated coconut  in them.  Never mind, all the more for us as they say!

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.

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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.
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I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
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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.

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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.
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The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
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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!

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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.

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The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
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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

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