Pecan Pie Popcorn Naked Cake.

I love the trend for naked cakes (cakes with little or no icing on top). I have a sweet tooth but am finding a lot of buttercream and sugarpaste a bit too much when I eat it on a cake no matter how beautiful and delicious it looks.  This cake is the third and last cake I baked for our local village’s Spring Festival nearly a couple of weeks ago.  I had a full bag of pecan nuts which needed using up and also wanted to use up a bag of Sugar and Crumbs Toffee Apple Icing Sugar in the cupboard. These would work amazingly well with some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn to top the cake off.

I had already baked a carrot cake and a banana loaf as seen in my previous two blog posts.  By now it was Saturday afternoon and I still had to get this cake baked.  I needed to chop the pecan nuts and toast them first. This I did roughly with a small, sharp knife and then chucked them onto a baking tray. They were lightly toasted for about 10 minutes then left to cool down.

The cake itself was made by creaming together butter and sugar for a few minutes until the mixture became light and fluffy.  I used my hand held whisk to speed this up. After this I added in three eggs and half the quantity needed of milk, vanilla extract, self raising flour and baking powder. Then the rest was added in, all except I used four eggs the second time round making seven all together.  Once all the mixture was combined well, I folded in the toasted pecan nuts.

As you can see in the pictures, the cake is a triple layer cake. So I had to use three 20cm (8″) circular sandwich tins. These I greased and lined. I love the ready made baking parchment circles you can buy in varying diameters as they save the hassle of cutting out circles by hand when you’re pushed for time.

I was very impressed with the way the Popcorn Naked Cake turned out. Each layer rose beautifully in the tin and was left to cool down before turning out onto a rack.  While these were cooling down I made up some frosting.  It was a buttercream filling using butter, Toffee Apple Sugar and Crumbs Natural flavoured icing sugar and full fat cream cheese.  I know full fat cream cheese doesn’t sound healthy but using the low fat stuff just doesn’t work when you’re making icing. It goes all watery and separates. The icing was easy to spread and there was just enough to decorate the two filling layers and the top.  About half a packet of Toffee Butterkist popcorn adorned the top of the cake.

At the Spring Festival that afternoon after dropping off the three cakes I had baked my mum and I sampled two of my cakes. We cut each piece in half. Apart from the cream cheese icing in the Naked Pecan Popcorn Cake being a bit too sweet for me, the main cake was delicious.  I also had to watch the popcorn as I had refridgerated the cake and it did taste a little bit soggy. What I really needed to do was to have added the popcorn to the top just prior to serving the cake. Having said that, I’ll definitely be making this cake again. It tasted fabulous and looked it as well.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pumpkin Bundt With Ginger Cream Filling.

A week last Sunday was Pudsey and West Leeds’ Clandestine Cake Club event. The theme was Harvest Time and it was a great opportunity to bake with fruits or vegetables which are abundant at this time of year.  I don’t have green fingers or the space to grow vegetables in my garden though it’s something I would love to be able to do if I had a bigger back garden.  Instead I used a tin of Libby’s Pureed Pumpkin which had been in my cupboard for a few months.  My friend Linda had bought me a couple of tins when she was out shopping in Waitrose for herself and I thought a Pumpkin Bundt cake would be perfect for cake club.

I keep telling myself I have enough Nordicware Bundt pans.  I’ve lost count of how many I have.  Then again, I see a new one or one I’ve coveted for a while and I think !I just have to have that! On my day off from work I went over to TKMaxx thinking I could do with a couple of nice cake boxes and ended up coming out with the cake boxes, a mini chopper, some Christmas cupcake cases and the Nordicware Kugelhopf pan.  Did I need it? Did I heck? But it’s a beautiful pan and will last forever.  Being as it’s a traditional design it will get used all year round, too!

My baking inspiration came from a Bundt recipe book bought a few months back. It’s a Nordicware publication entitled “Best Of The Bundt” and I was very impressed with the quality of the recipes.  Even though it’s an American publication with measurements in cups, etc. thankfully there are metric equivalents given as well.

Last Sunday morning I started on the Pumpkin Cake with a Ginger Cream Filling.  The bundt contains a filling of cream cheese, ginger, sugar and flour which is baked into the middle of the cake. The cake itself was a delicately spiced pumpkin bundt infused with cardamom and cinnamon and then flavoured with buttermilk. It sounded too mouthwatering for words and perfect for an Autumn cakey gathering.

I’d left it a bit late to start on the baking. Normally I bake my cake the day before but we were out and about, so I ran out of time.  So last Sunday morning it was. I greased and floured the Kugelhopf pan which is quite a narrow and tall tin.  I hoped this wouldn’t affect the bake.  I reckoned I would have to stick the tin onto a flat baking tray so it wouldn’t tip over in the oven.

First I opened up the tin of pumpkin puree and reserved 2 tablespoonfuls of the puree towards the frosting.  The rest was going into the cake itself.  In a large bowl I creamed together butter and sugar.  As I weighed out the sugar I couldn’t believe how much was going into the cake.  Then into the bowl went 4 large eggs, followed by the pumpkin puree.  This got mixed well together. In another bowl I sifted together some dry ingredients which included some plain flour, ground cardamom, cinnamon and baking powder.  Then, I measured out some buttermilk.  The dry ingredients and the buttermilk got folded into the creamed mixture bit by bit until I ended up with a delicious and aromatic mix.

Then it was time to make up the ginger cream filling.  I’d bought a large tub of full fat Philadelphia cheese especially for the cake.  I was really angry when I got the tub out of the fridge and found it had been opened! Mr SmartCookieSam must’ve nicked some to go on his crackers! It can’t have been my daughter, the other cheese lover in our house as she has been at uni for the past month!  About 2 tbsp had gone which wasn’t much but it meant I didn’t have enough for the frosting. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil it but I wasn’t going to make a fuss over 2 tbsp of cream cheese!

The cream cheese, ground ginger, light brown sugar and 2 tbsp of plain flour all got mixed together to make the ginger cream filling.  I then started to fill the cake tin, starting with 2/3 of the pumpkin mixture. I followed that with the ginger cream cheese mixture, taking care that it wouldn’t get mixed in with the pumpkin flavour or to touch the sides of the pan. Finally, I finished off the cake with the remaining pumpkin mixture.

The bundt was meant to be baked for 65 to 70 minutes but after this time it still felt like the cake wasn’t cooked. I tested it with a skewer but there was still soggy mixture stuck to it in about three places.  After about 80 minutes the cake looked like it had cracked on the top and was ready to come out of the oven.  I had to give it about 10 minutes before I was able to turn it out onto a wire rack. I always panic at this point. This is when all your hard work can be undone in seconds if the cake won’t come out of the tin or it comes out in several pieces.  Thankfully the cake slid out in one piece which made me feel so relieved. Usually I find if the cake is meant for a special occasion or for cake club it turns into a disaster area!

While the cake was cooling down I had to make a glaze cum frosting for the top of the cake. I whipped cream, icing sugar and a little bit of milk together to form the frosting. To this I added finely chopped pecans.  The frosting was then piped onto the top of the bundt with my large star nozzle. To finish off I added whole pecans to decorate the top.

When I cut the cake at cake club later that afternoon I was bitterly disappointed. Despite the cake being in the oven longer than needed and presumably I did stick it in at the right temperature, it came out looking like the middle was uncooked.  I thought it looked disgusting inside but it still got eaten.

Would I bake the cake again? I’d like to try it out again but will have to watch the baking time and the oven temperature.

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

Scandelicious Baking- An Update on the August Cooking The Books Challenge.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog. There’s been so much going on.  Once the school holidays are over I’m back into work mode and there is barely time to get the jobs around the house done.  Then again, I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my computer.  So I thought I’d better get something writen down.

My August Cooking The Books recipe book challenge from Scandelicious Baking seems like a lifetime ago now.  Although I found it enjoyable and I had plenty of time, I didn’t get round to baking two of the recipes I’d originally planned to bake. These were a Pistachio Pavlova with Boozy Cherries and a Norwegian AlmondTart.  I don’t know what happened at the end of the holidays, guess I just ran out of time.

So, to recap I think I would like to look at what I did get round to making.  On the whole I have really enjoyed testing out some delicious recipes. Different flavours and things I wouldn’t have thought to try.

I love making fish pie for my family so I thought the Scandelicious Fish Gratin would go down well with my family.  Instead of being topped with pastry, mashed potato or breadcrumbs this version of a fish pie was topped with some crushed Swedish Krisprolls.  Well I didn’t crush them enough so the topping looked very rustic and unappealing.  Also my son (who used to love my fish pie) refused to eat it.

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The Scandelicious Fish Gratin had a topping of crushed Krisprolls.

To make the Fish Gratin filling I poached some cod cut into large chunks in some milk infused with peppercorns and nutmeg.  After this I made a sauce which had leeks, onion, eggs and creme fraiche in to add to the fish.  This was then poured into a baking dish ready to be topped with the crushed krisprolls!

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The fish gratin filling.
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The finished fish gratin. Looked a bit unappealing and appealed even less to myself and my family. Not a big success at all.

After eating some savoury cheesecake from a buffet once I was keen to have a go at baking one myself. So I had a go at the Scandelicious Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.  The cheesecake contained an oatcake and porridge oat base which had been combined with melted butter.  To make the filling I whisked egg yolks with a pinch of salt, then added some Quark and some cream cheese along with some flour, chopped spring onions and some cheese.  Now in the recipe Signe Johansen suggests Vasterbotten cheese which I have never even heard of, let alone seen it in my local shops.  In the end I used Jarlsberg cheese and grated it straight into the mixture.  In another bowl I beat some egg whites which were then combined with the cheese mixture.  When this was ready it went straight on top of the base and was baked in the oven for about half an hour.

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The finished Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.
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Delicious with a salad.
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I had a slice on its own for lunch the following day.

I’m not very good at baking bread or using yeast but I wanted to have a go at the Spelt Picnic Buns.  I’m not that used to using spelt flour either but I like eating spelt bread.  These buns were meant to be useful for eating on a picnic but we never got to go on one as it was too cold or wet during the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays.  I baked the buns in my muffin tin but they were not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting them to turn out a lot a bigger than they were.  They tasted delicious though and I had one spread with butter at breakfast.

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Scandelicious Spelt Picnic Buns.

So here ends the Cooking The Books Challenge for August and I had more challenges for days in the month than I had time for.  There are lots more recipes I would love to bake from Scandelicious Baking.  I can definitely recommend the book.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Raspberry Ripple Mascarpone Traybake

This bake was made over 4 weeks ago now and I’d completely forgotten about it.  I don’t know why, just I suppose I was caught up in lots of catching up at the end of term in my day job, coupled with the start of the summer holidays.

On the last morning of school before we broke up for the summer we had our Year 6 Leaver’s Mass. We go across to church and after Mass the parents are invited back to school for tea or coffee and cakes or biscuits. Mostly I end up in charge of the tea urn and serving up the coffee so I thought why not bring something in for the parents to help themselves to?  Sometimes we ask for donations towards the school building fund but I don’t mind, I love baking and seeing people  enjoy what I make.

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Raspberry Ripple Mascarpone Traybake- recipe by Ruth Clemens on her blog/ website The Pink Whisk.

I’d always wanted to have a go at Ruth Clemens’ (Great British Bake Off Series 1 finalist) Raspberry Ripple Cake . It’s on her blog The Pink Whisk, which I really enjoy looking at. I’ve seen how popular this is as I’ve seen other people bake this cake in different ways; as a bundt or as a tray bake. I chose to try out a tray bake as I could cut it up at home and get more portions out of it!  I’m sure it would work well as a muffin or cupcake mix as well.

So after school on the night before the end of term I got cracking. It was really hot as the sun shines in the back ofmy house in the afternoon where my kitchen is.  I had to have all the doors and windows wide open.  I don’t mind this as I hate being cooped up inside when it’s hot and sunny.

I personally thought I should have put more raspberries in the cake and made them more squishy so they blended in more, giving a ripple effect.

For the icing I was meant to use cream cheese but when I went to the fridge to get out my tub of Philadelphia, I noticed three quarters of it had gone!  I think my daughter, who had been at home after finishing all her exams had been eating it on toast or something!  Now I’ve learned to write on the top of my baking things with a permanent marker saying “Do Not Use!” But at the time this was really annoying but gladly I had some unused mascarpone in a tub so that went in the icing instead!

I was really pleased as the traybake slices were popular with the parents and staff.  There wasn”t any left by the end of the session and one parent said it was the best of my bakes she had tried.  I definitely will be making them again!

Now, here are some photos of the Raspberry Ripple Traybake.

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The finished raspberry ripple traybake.
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View from the top.
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I cut up the traybake into pieces beforehand so it was easier to serve.
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The raspberries in the mixture didn’t go all squishy and look rippled but they still looked fine.
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Too tempting by half!
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You could tell which was the more popular cake with the parents! The children liked the chocolate chip bundt though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cakes

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

A few weeks back I wanted to use up a tin of pumpkin puree which had been lurking in my baking cupboard. My family don’t like pumpkin pie so I looked through my recipe books and found a few recipes which would help me use this tin.  I had made a Coconut Pumpkin Bar cake from the latest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook before but wanted to try something different.

So, it was raining outside, it was cold and miserable.  The dog had been walked and I wanted to crack on before the kids came home off the school bus.  I found two recipes I liked, the first was a square cake from the fab (and much used in this house) The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, and another from the brilliant latest offering from Lorraine Pascale: A Lighter Way To Bake.  In Lorraine’s book she has a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Luckily each recipe used half the tin of pumpkin puree so I had enough to make both recipes!

First up was the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  Here’s how it was made:

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Plain flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt were added into a large mixing bowl.
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The recipe called for two different types of sugar: caster sugar and soft dark, brown sugar. I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used golden caster sugar instead.
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In another bowl I started weighing out the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. These were flour, golden caster sugar (no brown spare again), baking powder, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon.
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Here are the “wet” ingredients for the whole cake. I whisked together eggs, sunflower oil and maple syrup. The canned pumpkin mixture was added afterwards and turned it orange!
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On to the “wet” ingredients for the cupcakes, this was melted butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract. After that the canned pumpkin was whisked into the mixture.
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Here are the cupcakes ready to go into the oven. I love using these muffin cases which I bought in a pack from Booths which contained 4 dozen different coloured tulip cases. They look like the ones you see in Starbucks or Costa!
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I’m glad my son was still at school when I was making these cakes. If he had seen the pumpkin puree going into it. The last time he saw pumpkin puree he said it looked like cat sick. He has a point…
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The mixture for the whole cake. All ready to be spooned into a square tin.
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Here is the finished result, the large square cake cut up into slices. There was a cream cheese frosting to go with the recipe which was meant to be spread over the top of the cake. I thought I would pipe swirls on it but this wasn’t a good idea. For a start there wasn’t enough icing and it came out very messy. Finally I sprinkled chopped pecan nuts onto the top of the icing.
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Top view of the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake.
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Oh, go on then! A sneaky piece with a mid afternoon cuppa. Very nice it was too, a lovely spicy flavour which was just perfect for a cold Autumnal day.
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The cream cheese frosting went on top of the cupcakes. As it was a lighter bake recipe there was a smaller amount of frosting. This suits me down to the ground as I find cupcake frosting far too sweet for my liking even though I make it for others! A pecan half adds the finishing touch.
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Broken open to see what the cake looked like inside, what a lovely colour.
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Ooops! Another one bites the dust!

Overall I was very impressed with the way the two recipes turned out, though my personal favourite has to be the cupcakes.  They were perfect.  They weren’t too sweet but provided me with a cakey fix.  My hubby and kids don’t really like pumpkin so I didn’t tell them that there was pumpkin in the cakes.  They were none the wiser!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lime Cream Cheese Cake- The Great British Bake Off Everyday.

Another delicious cake from the latest Great British Bake Off book and a scrumptious version of a lime drizzle loaf cake.  This one actually has cream cheese added to it and keeps the texture moist.  I had never used cream cheese within a cake mixture before, only as frosting.  A couple of weekends ago I chose to bake this as our Sunday dessert for teatime.  I was so glad I did as it went down very well with all of the family. The remains were cut up and put into slices where my hubby and son ate for pudding after dinner on the Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s how it was made:

Some soft butter and cream cheese was put in a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy. I then added in the caster sugar and some lime zest.
Some soft butter and cream cheese was put in a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy. I then added in the caster sugar and some lime zest.
In another bowl I beat the eggs and then gradually added it to the butter mixture.
In another bowl I beat the eggs and then gradually added it to the butter mixture.
After the mixture was beaten I added in some vanilla extract and some self raising flour by folding it in carefully.
After the mixture was beaten I added in some vanilla extract and some self raising flour by folding it in carefully.
Here is my loaf tin lined with a loaf parchment liner.
Here is my loaf tin lined with a loaf parchment liner.
While the loaf was baking I made a sugar syrup out of caster sugar and lime juice. This was put onto the cake when it was still warm so it could soak into the cake.
While the loaf was baking I made a sugar syrup out of caster sugar and lime juice. This was put onto the cake when it was still warm so it could soak into the cake.
Here is the finished cake ready to cool down.
Here is the finished cake ready to cool down.
A lime glace icing glace was poured on top of the cake. This was a bit runny as the cake hadn't completely cooled- rushing again!
A lime glace icing glace was poured on top of the cake. This was a bit runny as the cake hadn’t completely cooled- rushing again!

Despite the rather rustic look of this cake it tasted fab and I was impressed with the flavours. I am definitely going to bake this cake again as it was worth it to have everyone eating it. It wasn’t fiddly to make, either.  I bet it would work equally well with lemons or orangesas well if you don’t like limes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx