The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake.

Sunday December 3rd, 2017.

Since I gave up baking professionally to concentrate on the day job full time, I’ve had less time to spend on baking things like Christmas cakes. Mr Smartcookiesam says to me every year that I should just go and buy a small one from Marks and Spencer but to me part of Christmas is baking and decorating a Christmas cake. Why should I go out and buy something I enjoy baking at home?

I’ve never been a massive fan of roll out icing and marzipan but I love fruit cakes. If I eat Christmas cake I always take the icing off and serve it with a slice of Wensleydale cheese as you do in my part of the world. I try to decorate my cake differently each year but if I’m short of time I always get out my The Snowman and the Snowdog decorations and cake ribbon. At the time of writing I’ve no idea how I’m going to decorate this year’s cake, please send some inspiration my way!

As for the previous couple of years I’ve used Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe for my family Christmas cake. The recipe features in both The Great British Bake Off Christmas book and Mary’s own Christmas Collection. Dried fruit (a mixture of currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and halved glacé cherries) had been soaking in some brandy for a few days along with some orange zest.

This afternoon, albeit a few days after it should have been done but I thought I’d better get started on the cake. I knew I needed time where I’d be in all afternoon while it was baking. Sundays are not usually a day of rest in our house. I’m normally catching up on all the jobs I haven’t done from the previous week or trying to get ahead for the next week. No time like the present, as they always say.

In a large bowl I creamed together unsalted butter, light brown sugar, treacle and eggs. After these were mixed together, I added in some flour and some ground mixed spice along with some chopped blanched almonds. Then this was combined with the dried fruit mixture.

I had greased and carefully double lined a deep 9″ or 23cm diameter circular cake tin. Mary Berry says in her recipe intro that the cake isn’t a very deep one but it definitely makes a big enough cake for our Christmas celebrations. I found the cake mixture went just over halfway up the cake tin and was deep enough for me.

My oven had been preheated to 140oC and I put the cake tin into the oven on the central shelf. By this time it was 2.30pm and time was cracking on. The cooking time was estimated between 4- 4 1/2 hours so I wanted the cake out by the time we were due to go out.

Jobs done and now it was time to chill. Every now and again throughout the 4 hours I kept popping backwards and forwards to the kitchen to check on the cake. I’m always worried about fruit cakes burning and to be honest I think I need to get my oven checked out. I don’t think the temperature is as accurate any more. Well my oven is 11 years old and it has had a lot of use over the past few years.

At 6.30pm the cake was ready to come out of the oven. The fruit looked a bit burnt on top to be honest and I should have covered the cake with some foil or baking parchment to stop it catching. You can never tell with my oven at the moment.

I’ll be wrapping the cake up in foil and feeding it with brandy every few days or so. In the week leading up to Christmas I will be marzipanning and icing the cake. Watch this space to see it finished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Eccles Cakes.

 

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at Eccles Cakes for the very first time.
 
A few weeks ago when I was watching The Great British Bake Off my hubby said to me that a lot of bakes he finds far too sweet and sickly. As someone with a sweet tooth I found this difficult to understand. Although I do find as I’m getting older my taste buds are changing…

One bake hubby likes though are Eccles Cakes. A few weeks back he was tempted when our local Booths store had some on special offer in packs by the front entrance. He came home with some and was asking if they were easy to make. To be honest I didn’t know as I’d never made them before. I knew they were made with puff pastry, my nemesis in the kitchen. Why faff about all day making your own when you can use Jus Rol. Even Mary Berry says it’s ok, and if the First Lady of Baking says so then that’s fine by me. 

I’ve never had a thing for Eccles Cakes. I think it was because my Nana used to buy them from a local bakery and by the time we got to eat them they were always dry and stale. 

So, I thought as it was half term week and I’d have a little more time to play about, I’d have a go at some home made Eccles Cakes. Paul Hollywood has a recipe in his British Baking book and wait for it… lo and behold he says you can use ready made puff pastry to make them! What?! Couldn’t hear him saying that on Bake Off!

So, Jus Rol it was then. I’m far too busy to faff about making puff pastry. 

Paul’s recipe was very easy to follow and even had some step-by- step pictures and instructions to follow when making up the Eccles Cakes.

First I washed some currants, dried the, and then added them to a bowl with melted butter, caster sugar, some nutmeg and lemon zest. It was a delicious aroma and was very tempting to stick a teaspoon in and eat a few mouthfuls!

Next I rolled out my puff pastry on a lightly floured worktop and cut out rounds with a circular pastry cutter. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the one the right size, used an 8cm one instead of the 10cm one that Mr Hollywood suggested. After the rounds had been cut out, I spooned carefully the currant mixture in the middle of the pastry.  This was then finished off by brushing the rim of each Eccles cake with water then gathering up all the edges over the filling. I then pressed the gathered edges to seal the Eccles cakes and turned them face down on my lined baking tray.

I then flattened the top of the Eccles cakes with my hand and made 3 slits on the top of each one. They were then brushed with milk and put in the oven to bake for about 15-20 minutes.

I forgot to sprinkle the tops with caster sugar even though I’d put some out ready in my sugar dredger. They still looked ok though.

 

My Eccles Cakes came out a lot smaller than they should as I used the wrong size cutter.
  
My husband loved these Eccles Cakes .
 When they were warm out of the oven I took one to hubby with a cup of tea. He scoffs it down and asked for another one. They were smaller than the ones in the shop and although I’d only baked 12 and had filling left over he was allowed seeing as it was a long time til dinner! After dinner everyone else had apple cake and custard but hubby asked for more Eccles Cakes. I had to put the rest in a box to hide from him!

Well I don’t think I’ll be baking hubby a cake for his next birthday, he can have a giant Eccles Cake instead with a candle stuck in the middle of it! He has asked if I’ll make them again at Christmas, maybe I could try a version with cranberries in it.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Welsh Cakes/ Pices Ar Y Maen- The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking.

Who else is excited by the return of The Great British Bake Off?  Me, me, me!  Though I’m the only one in our house who watches it.  My husband nicknames it “The Great British XXXX Off” but who cares?  I love it and enjoy baking recipes from the accompanying book.  Series 5 this year is no exception and I was pleased to get my hands on a copy of The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking!

There are lots of interesting and innovative recipes in the book but sadly some recipes are repeated from the very first book The Great British Book Of Baking.  To those who have just got into the series this is fine but for me who has followed GBBO from the very beginning you do feel a little bit cheated.

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So excited to get back from my holiday to find this book waiting for me when I got home!

One such recipe was the one for Welsh Cakes.  I have previously blogged about Welsh Cakes as I adore them in a post about Welsh Baking on our holiday in Ceredigion last year.  To me, they are utterly addictive and the rest of my family feel the same.  I first tried them when I was a student in Bangor back in the early 1990s and have loved Welsh Cakes ever since.

So as it was my daughter’s GCSE results day I wanted to make Welsh Cakes for breakfast as a special treat.  They were simple to make: cubes of butter rubbed into sugar and plain flour with a hint of mixed spice added for flavour.  Currants or raisins are then added along with an egg yolk and milk to turn them into a dough.

After the dough is made you roll out the dough on a floured work surface and cut out circles with a fluted cutter.  Then, when you are ready you cook them on a griddle or flat frying pan. You usually cook them for about 2 minutes or so each side so they are golden brown.  The Welsh cakes puff up a little when they are cooked.

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Here are four of the Welsh cakes in my flat griddle frying pan. You don’t need to grease the pan.

As soon as my kids realised I was making Welsh Cakes they flew downstairs.  I couldn’t cook them fast enough, it’s like Pancake Day in our house.  They definitely are addictive! I got about 18 cakes out of the dough and when I got ready with the camera I found they had disappeared!

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That’s all that was left for me,slightly burnt too as hubby was asking me something at the time I was cooking them!

Happy Baking!  Or should I say Pobi Hapus?

Love Sam xx

Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week I had to take a few bakes along to my local WI meeting to serve up at suppertime.  We take it in turns in groups of three. Usually we liaise between one another and make or buy a selection of savoury and sweet items to take along to share with all the other ladies.  As I was the one out of the three ladies who liked baking the most the others took care of the savoury and I brought along the sweet stuff.  As some people aren’t so keen on fancy decorated cakes I always try to offer something plain like a fruit cake.  The Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible seemed to fit the bill.

In the recipe introduction Mary says “This is a traditional name for a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice.”  She also said it was “good for a hungry family,”  As I was going to be away for a couple of days over the Easter holidays with my hubby and the kids were going to be at home with my Mum, any leftover cake would come in very useful as a pudding.  I was also hoping that the cake would live up to it’s name and that the cake would be so popular that people would come back for more!

Cut And Come Again Cake couldn’t be more simpler to make.  It was prepared by simply adding all the ingredients measured into one big bowl and mixed together thoroughly.

The ingredients in Mary’s Cut and Come Again Cake are: self raising flour, ground mixed spice, butter (which has to be very soft), caster sugar, eggs, currants, sultanas, raisins and a little milk to mix.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
I used my deep 8" diameter cake tin.  This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
I used my deep 8″ diameter cake tin. This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

The cake smelled heavenly when it was baking.  My kitchen was filled with a spicy aroma and it made my mouth water.  It took about 1 1/4 hours to bake which meant I had to leave it until last when I was getting it ready for the meeting.  By this time it was the afternoon and I was feeling very hungry and in need of a pick me up!  I was so tempted to cut into the cake and scoff a slice.

At the meeting I sliced the cake up but as there were so many cakes and other goodies on offer I still had half of it left to take home.  I enjoyed my slice with a cup of tea, it wasn’t as heavy and rich as other fruit cakes but still tasted gorgeous.  My Mum and my kids ate some more at the weekend, though it doesn’t keep as well as an ordinary fruit cake.  And yes I was tempted to come back for more but I didn’t!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx