Sticky Toffee Pudding- #100bakes

My first bake of 2022: a Sticky Toffee Pudding baked in my Nordicware Anniversary 6 cup Bundt Pan.

Happy New Year to all my followers. Sorry for the lack of blogging on here but that’s down to being busy at work in the day job, as well as all my baking commitments.

I really hope that 2022 is a better year for everyone. This time last year I didn’t feel at all positive and I actually cried when Big Ben struck midnight. Mr S thought I was being so negative. But I tend not to get over excited about things because if I do, I get really disappointed and on a downer when things go wrong or get cancelled. This year, however we had a more enjoyable Christmas and even though both Mr S and I had Covid at the beginning of December, we are so thankful we got it mildly and have made a good recovery in time for the Christmas celebrations.

I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions apart from that it’s my 50th birthday this year and I intend to live every day to the full and be thankful for what I’ve got. I lost two beloved family members last year and it’s made me realise how precious life is. So I’m trying to spend time doing things which make me happy and one of those is writing my blog.

My friend bought me a brilliant poster at Christmas which is from https://www.crumbsbycollette.co.uk/ Crumbs By Collette makes gifts for the home baker as well as having three different Baking Challenges which can be shared on Social Media with a hashtag. I got the #100bakes poster. The idea is that you choose one of the bakes on the poster, make it, post a photo on SM with the #100bakes hashtag and also scratch off the square above the bake, revealing a picture of that bake. There is also a Little Bakes Challenge, as well as a bread one. I thought this was a super idea as I’m always up for a new challenge.

Here is my #100bakes poster in situ on the back of my office door. I’d love to have it up in my kitchen but there’s no room!

The first challenge of 2022 just had to be a Sticky Toffee Pudding. We always have a roast dinner on New Year’s Day and I make a Sticky Toffee Pudding. It’s definitely one of my go-to desserts if we ever go out for Sunday lunch in the Winter.

A perfect dessert for a Winter’s day. Thanks to my sister in law for taking the photo of me pouring the toffee sauce all over the pudding!

My Sticky Toffee Pudding does not contain dates as my children don’t like them. I put raisins in, instead. I also bake it in my 6 Cup Nordicware Anniversary Bundt Pan to make it look extra special.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING BUNDT

If you do not have a bundt pan, you can bake your Sticky Toffee Pudding like a cake in a 20cm round, loose bottomed cake tin. Grease this before use.

Serves 8

You will need:

  • 225g raisins
  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 115g butter or baking margarine, softened
  • 175g light brown Muscovado sugar
  • 2 large Free Range eggs, beaten
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Toffee Sauce:

  • 100ml double cream
  • 90g light brown Muscovado sugar
  • 30g butter

How to make your Sticky Toffee Pudding Bundt:

  • Preheat your oven to 180oC/160oC fan/ or Gas 4. I use a fan oven so I baked mine at 160oC.
  • Put the raisins into a pan along with the milk and the water. This needs to be brought to a simmer on a low heat until most of the liquid has soaked up the raisins. Take off the heat and add the spoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the pan. Great fun to watch it fizz up! When this is done, put the raisin pan to one side and let it cool down completely.
  • Now for the main part of the cake: Beat the butter or margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy. I used Stork in my recipe today as I had some leftover from baking cupcakes. Gradually add the eggs. If it looks like the eggs are going to curdle the mixture, add a tablespoonful of flour to the mixture.
  • Beat in the raisin mixture as well as the spoonful of vanilla extract. Then you will need to add the remainder of the flour by carefully folding it into the mixture.
  • Spoon the mixture into your preferred cake tin, ensuring it is spread out evenly.
  • Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. I actually took mine out at 42 minutes as my oven gets on the hot side so maybe check it at 40 minutes. I tested it with a skewer and it came out clean then.
  • While your cake is cooling down, make the toffee sauce. This is just made by simply heating the double cream, brown sugar and butter together in a small pan on the stove. The sauce will thicken slightly.
  • The cake can be taken out of the tin about 10 minutes after you have taken it out of the oven. Let it cool down completely or serve it straightaway, depending on your preferences. You could also serve the sauce separately in a jug. I chose to pour mine all over the cake and we ate ours about an hour after making it as I was busy getting the roast dinner ready.

This cake is perfect served hot, cold or with custard, ice cream or double cream. I have frozen the main part of the cake before (without the toffee sauce) and made that fresh when needed. Although leftovers are never around when I have made this cake. At the time of typing (Sunday 2nd in the afternoon), I am thinking I haven’t eaten lunch and knowing there’s half of the pudding cake left in the fridge. Oh dear!

1/100 of the #100bakes challenge completed. What shall I bake next?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Giant Raspberry Jam Tart

The disastrous jam tart which Mr S described as looking like “a road accident!”

October 31st 2021.

You know when you have a great plan and it goes drastically wrong? That! One Sunday afternoon I had the oven on and thought about a pudding we could have for dessert. I’d only got one egg left after all my baking orders and was just about to head out to buy more. Then I realised that pastry only needed one egg and I had loads of jam to use up. The thought of a Viennese style Linzertorte appealed to me.

I made up a batch of cinnamon and lemon infused sweet shortcrust pastry in my food processor first. Then I wrapped the ball of dough in some cling film and chilled it in the fridge. I did this for about one hour but for some reason the dough was extremely difficult to work with.

My hands were feeling incredibly hot for some reason. I blame the menopause as they never usually feel like this, Or maybe I had not chilled the dough for long enough or maybe I’d not put enough flour in the recipe. I tried rolling the dough out into a circle to line the tin but sadly it kept sticking no matter how much flour was sprinkled onto the work top or onto my rolling pin! Then the dough kept breaking as I was rolling it out. This was so frustrating, I can tell you!

Eventually, I managed to line my 20cm (8″) diameter loose bottomed flan tin. I had originally wanted to use my bigger tin but I just couldn’t roll the dough out enough without it breaking. Also the more I ended up handling the dough, the more it broke. I couldn’t start again as I needed more eggs!

Finally the flan tin had a pastry lining! I had to do a lot of patching up, in fact I felt like I was plastering a wall rather than making a tart! When I had the lining in place, I got a sharp knife and trimmed the top of the pastry. I was tempted to crack open the wine there and then but I resisted!

The cinnamon pastry burned very quickly but left the jam filling really runny in the middle of the tart.

I noticed I wouldn’t have enough jam from just one jar to fill the insides of the tart tin, so I mixed two jars of seedless raspberry jam together and then spooned it into the tart case. There was just enough.

Now for the traditional Linzertorte Lattice pattern. To achieve this I had to roll out the remaining pastry in a rectangle shape and use a fluted pastry cutter wheel to cut strips of pastry. I didn’t have a fluted wheel so I tried with a pizza cutter. This should have been straightforward but it never is when you have pastry that won’t do what it should do! As I picked up the pastry strips they kept falling apart. The lattice pattern had to be abandoned. As it was Halloween I found a small pumpkin shaped cutter in my stash. Reluctantly, I managed to get a few pumpkin shapes cut out but even those looked rank!

We couldn’t have a traditional Linzertorte lattice pattern as the pastry kept breaking. So instead we had burnt pumpkins!

I put the tart into the oven at 160oc fan but it took so much longer to cook than expected. The jam in the middle was still far too runny even after about 40 minutes baking time. Considering the amount I’d used in the filling, I was not impressed. I took it out of the oven after the 40 minutes and admitted defeat.

After giving it some time to cool down I tried to remove the tart from the tin and thankfully it came out ok. I left it on the worktop to cool down completely before I even attempted to cut it up. It was far too late to even think about using it as a dessert and besides we were full up after dinner anyway.

The filling was still a little bit runny in the middle.

Later on, I tried to cut into the tart so I could put it in the fridge in a plastic box. Mr S came into the kitchen and said the tart “looked like a road accident!” He was right but he was lucky he didn’t end up wearing it!

I did taste a morsel and it actually wasn’t that bad. But not enough to want to eat a whole slice and to serve it up for dessert.

I was so embarrassed by this bake that I definitely won’t be sharing the recipe for this one. I wouldn’t want to publish a recipe which clearly was a big baking fail! One to work on for the future!

The “road accident” jam tart in all it’s glory!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Polenta Cake

Lemon Polenta Cake: a wheat free/ gluten free cake which works perfectly well as a simple dessert or afternoon tea treat.

I had a packet of dried polenta sitting in the cupboard doing nothing. It’s not something I really cook with to be honest. I think I was going to cook a ragu type casserole to serve with it back in January or February and we ended up with something different.

I read somewhere that polenta is great for making gluten free cakes and goes perfectly with ground almonds. I love making gluten free cakes but it is great to try alternatives to the gluten free flour you can find out there. Hence the Lemon Polenta Cake. I had a few lemons which needed using up so this was a perfect way to add them into this simple, but scrumptious cake.

Please don’t be put off by this cake’s appearance. As cakes go, it is plain and boring to look at but appearances are deceptive. It also doesn’t rise very high or look that appealing. But I assure you as soon as you take a bite of this zesty treat, you will not be disappointed.

Not the most appealing looking cake but definitely a great tasting one.
View from the top: watch taking your cake out of the pan! Unlike me, who caught it on the side of the tin when I was in a hurry to get it out.
You could serve your cake with whipped cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.Cau
Or you could eat it straight out of the box as Mr S did yesterday when he came in from work hung

Here’s how to make the simple, yet delicious Lemon Polenta cake.

  • Serves 8
  • About 30 mins preparation time.
  • 45-50 minutes baking time.
  • Suitable for freezing (if it lasts that long!
  • Ingredients:
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar (175g for the cake, 25g for the lemon sugar syrup)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g dried polenta
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 2 lemons (zest and juice needed)
  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • You will need a 22cm (9″) diameter round springform cake tin which has been greased and and the base lined with a baking parchment circle.
  • Preheat your oven to 150oC fan (160oC conventional/ 235oF or Gas 3). I baked my cake in a fan oven.
  • Cream the butter and 175g of the caster sugar. Keep back 25g of it to make a sugar syrup later on.
  • Add the eggs, one by one and whisk carefully after each addition.
  • Fold in the polenta and almonds using a large metal spoon.
  • Fold in the zest of the two lemons and the baking powder.
  • Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin. Smooth the surface of the cake to make it level.
  • Bake the cake for approx 45-50 minutes. As mentioned before, it doesn’t rise much but it will spring back when it’s done.
  • Leave the cake to cool down in the tin for about 10 minutes or so.
  • While the cake is cooling, you can make a syrup to drizzle on top of the cake. Put the juice from the two lemons you have already used the zest from in a saucepan, along with the remaining 25g of caster sugar. Heat this up on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Turn the cake out onto a cake rack and prick holes in the top of the cake. Gently spoon the lemon sugar syrup onto the top of the cake so it pours down the holes and soaks into the sponge.
  • Serve the cake on its own or with ice cream, cream or creme fraiche. We enjoyed it with whipped cream and it was heavenly.

If you don’t fancy making this cake with lemons, then I think that it would work well making it with other citrus fruit such as oranges or limes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #31: Apple, Maple and Walnut Streusel Cake

October 17th 2021.

It’s been over a year since I set myself the challenge of working my way through the bakes in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes. I’ve only managed about half of the recipes and it’s getting to the stage where there are some bakes that I might not be able to attempt. These are because they are big celebration cakes which I don’t have the occasion to make a cake like that for and baking all that cake for nothing would be a terrible waste. Over the next month or so I am going to try a couple more recipes which will be suitable and then I will start another challenge.

The Apple,Maple and Pecan Strusel Cake was a big winner.

Now it is Autumn, I am beginning to struggle a bit. I know lots of people love Autumn and Winter but I am not one of those people. I am a Spring and Summer person and dread the clocks going back. Dark nights and cold, damp weather are not my idea of fun. I struggle to get up in the mornings when it is dark. The only way I can embrace the seasonal changes, apart from trying to get out as much as possible for fresh air and exercise is to cook comfort food. I make our Sunday roast and try to make us a Sunday dessert as something to look forward to.

For our Sunday dessert last weekend, I chose to bake an Apple, Maple and Streusel Cake from the Amazing Cakes book. Featured in the Bakers’ Favourites chapter, this gorgeous and gently spiced cake was one Henry made during Series 9. This was one of Henry’s childhood favourite cakes inspired by his family holidays to Germany. I have never been to Germany myself but have tasted several Streusel cakes in the past. They are usually cakes topped with a crumble like topping with added nuts. This version uses chopped walnuts but pecans are a great alternative.

To start baking the cake, I lined and greased the bottom of a 20cm (8″) deep loose bottomed circular cake tin. I then put all the dry ingredients needed into a mixing bowl. These were self raising flour, baking powder, ground mixed spice, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Then I rubbed cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until they became like breadcrumbs. Then I added brown sugar, some chopped apple pieces and some raisins. The recipe stated sultanas or blueberries but I had a load of raisins which needed using up and I didn’t want to waste all my blueberries in a cake. I wanted them for my yoghurt on my breakfast!

In another mixing bowl, I whisked eggs, double cream and vanilla together. This was then tipped into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and the fruit. When this was done, I made the Streusel topping which was quick and easy to make. I rubbed butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together and then stirred in some chopped walnuts.

The cake mixture was spooned in to the prepared tin and then finally the Streusel mixture was sprinkled on top. The cake went into the oven and was baked for just over an hour.

When the cake came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Never mind me moaning about miserable weather, the smell of cinnamon is enough to cheer me up!

The Maple cream cheese frosting finished this cake off beautifully.
This cake was a great way to use some walnut halves I had left over from a previous bake.

I gave the cake a good hour to cool down. While it was cooling, I made up some Maple Icing. This was butter, brown sugar, Maple Syrup and full fat cream cheese mixed together. I filled a piping bag with the mixture and then piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake. To finish, I put a walnut half on top of each rosette.

A perfect balance of raisins, apple and nuts in this extremely moreish cake!
A piece for Mr S after work during the week. He really enjoyed it.

In the end we were so full after our main course that we left the cake and didn’t eat any! We didn’t start on it until the Tuesday and believe it or not it was still fresh. It was such a deliciously moist cake, with the aroma of the spices still lingering. I can honestly say this has been one of my favourite things to bake this year.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam. xx

A Bake For All Seasons #1: Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake.

3rd October 2021

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that much of an Autumn/ Winter persion. Mainly because I don’t like it being dark early and getting up in the dark. Not to mention the lack of sun. But having said that, there are positives to this time of year- it’s Bake Off Season!

The 2021 Season is well underway as I write and I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers on here.

I preordered the new Great British Bake Off recipe book to accompany this series from Amazon and it arrived on the day of release. I’ve done a review on the book as a separate post: you can read it here!

I looked to see which recipes tied in with Autumn and what fitted in with ingredients we had at home. I also wanted something suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert and not an overly complicated occasion cake which we wouldn’t be able to eat.

We chose the Blackberry and Pear Crumble Cake on page 200 in the Autumn section of the book as our first recipe. But I subsituted apples in place of pears in the recipe as we had apples to use up. I also have struffled to find blackberries recently. I’ve noticed not so many growing on the hedgerows recently, or have I missed something? The only way I could find any blackberries to use in this recipe was to buy a mixed berried frozen fruit bag from the supermarket and to separate them out to use in this recipe. To peel and core the apples, I use an apple segmenter which I have had since my children were little so that I could cut apples up for them when they had a snack.

So, on with the cake. I used a 20cm (8″) springform cake tin for the recipe which was greased and lined. When that was done, I put the chopped apples into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and 25g butter. These were slowly cooked so that they would caramelise.

In another bowl I added 50g more butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and 75g plain flour and mixed this together with some toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts I found a bit fiddly to do as even as they toasted, it took ages to get the skins off. This made the crumble topping.

I then got out my KitchenAid and beat together some more butter and some more caster sugar until it was pale and creamy. I then added in eggs, one at a time and beat them well one at a time. In went the rest of the flour followed by some baking powder and finally some sour cream.

Now it was time to assemble the cake in layers. Starting with two thirds of the sponge mixture in the base of the tin. Followed by a third of the crumble topping and then the rest of the sponge. Then another third of the crumble topping. To finish off I arranged all the caramelised apples and blackberries on top, followed by the final sprinkling of crumble topping.

The cake takes quite a while to bake: the recipe stated 1 1/2 hours but I found mine was ready after 1 1/4 hours. It smelled absolutely delicious and there was nothing else you needed to do to serve it, except put a generous slice on a plate with some warm custard. The recipe suggested creme fraiche but we wanted custard.

I will definitely make this again. It might work with almonds instead of chopped hazelnuts and I will try it with pears as well. It really did hit the spot on a chilly Autumn afternoon. I must admit I had some leftovers the next day when I got in from school as I had a sweet craving!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Bake For All Seasons #3: Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf.

Sunday October 10th 2021

My version of the Bake For All Seasons Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf- nothing like the original!!

I wanted to bake a cake for Sunday afternoon. I had been away for some of the weekend and we weren’t having a full blown Sunday roast but Mr S was going to cook his special steak with new potatoes and salad. I’ve been suffering a bit with my mental health recently. October has been a tricky month and I can’t wait for it to end. I know that baking helps lots of us who are struggling and I’m no exception. I didn’t really need any cake in the house but I needed to have that comforting ritual of baking and creating something.

A slice for Mr S to have with his afternoon cuppa.

I looked in the new Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons to see if there was a simple Autumnal cake I could bake that afternoon that wasn’t too fancy or had weird ingredients I didn’t have in my cupboard. The only real contender was the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf in the Autumn section of the book on page 158. I didn’t have any tahini paste in, though. The only ever time I bought it was a couple of years ago to make some hummous and the rest ended up getting chucked out as my own hummous tasted revolting! I thought what could give a similar effect that was in my cupboard and I thought maybe peanut butter would work. The top of the cake as seen in the recipe photo also shows the loaf sprinkled with caramel sesame seeds and a whole banana peeled and halved as a decoration. This did not appeal to me one bit so I left it off!

To line my loaf tin, I always use the pre-made loaf tin liners available from big supermarkets or shops like Lakeland! They save so much faff! When I had lined that, I melted some butter. When this was cooling, I whisked brown sugar and eggs together. Then this was added to the cooled butter, the peanut butter and some natural yoghurt. Finally I added some mashed bananas.

In another bowl I weighed out and mixed together some dry ingredients: self raising flour, baking powder and cinnamon then folded it carefully into the other ingredients. Finally the mixture was spooned into the the tin and then baked in the oven for around 50 minutes. This was slightly earlier than the recipe suggested but my oven seems to bake a lot quicker.

Leftovers to be cut up and put in a box for later.
I love using the ready made loaf tin liners from Lakeland.

I must admit I didn’t end up trying the banana loaf as I’ve been a bit off my food and under the weather this week. Not Covid, I hasten to add! Mr S had a piece and said it was nice although I pinched 3 of his breakfast bananas to use in the cake. By the time I felt a bit better, what was left of tthe cake had gone off and had to be binned.

I don’t think I’ll attempt to make this version of a banana loaf again unless I do have any left over tahini paste knocking around. I might buy some as Nigella has a tahini cake in one of her recipes from Cook, Eat, Repeat and it seems to be popular. I think I’ll stick to my favourite Annabel Karmel one I’ve been making since my kids were little as that always goes down well with everyone.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.

The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.

For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.

Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!

As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.

Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.

Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.

My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:

  • Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
  • Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
  • Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
  • Jammie Dodger Blondies
  • Slutty Brownies
  • Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
  • Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
  • Lemon and Blueberry Scones
  • Caramel Mocha Macaroons

What I’ll pass on:

  • Hard Candy Lollipops
  • Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
  • Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
    • The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!

As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.

I bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #29: Fondant Fancies

When you hear the name Fondant Fancies you immediately think of Mr Kipling’s yellow, chocolate and pink creations. Or if you live in Yorkshire like me, you might have even tasted the delectable version which Betty’s creates. I must admit I find Fondant Fancies too sweet and sickly, even though I’ve got a sweet tooth. The other week I met my friend at Betty’s and while she had a Fondant Fancy, I tucked into a Fat Rascal! Her Fondant Fancy looked so pretty though, with the icing and delicate pink flowers.

Last Thursday and Friday were my main baking days for SmartCookieSam as I had had my Mum up here visiting. I had an afternoon tea order as well as some brownies and shortbread to go out to customers. I thought of what I could maybe offer as an option on my afternoon teas and Fondant Fancies came into my head. Although I don’t really like eating them, there are plenty of people who do.

For Fondant Fancies you start off by baking a square shaped sponge cake. I did this in one of my square tins I use for my brownies, etc. It was a simple sponge, delicately flavoured with lemon.

As soon as I started baking, I realised I had not got any marzipan in. I only tend to have marzipan in around Christmas for my Christmas cakes and also at Easter for Simnel Cake. I’d been to do my shop the day before and completely forgot. Luckily later on that day I was heading out to the post office to ship my brownies and shortbread and the village shop it was attached to has a wonderful array of baking products. Phew!

After the sponge came out of the oven and I was home after my post office run, I removed the sponge from the tin. It had to be cooled but it was so hot in my kitchen that nothing was cooling down.

To the sponge I added a layer of apricot jam and then a layer of the marzipan on the top. The marzipan was very sticky to work with and my hands felt so hot. I had to dust the surfaces very thickly with icing sugar to stop the marzipan from sticking to it when I was rolling it out. I then put it on top of the sponge and trimmed round the edges of it.

The next job was to make up a batch of buttercream. This buttercream needed to be put in the fridge to harden up slightly but this didn’t work because as soon as I got it out of the fridge it became runny again.

The sponge cake was then cut into 16 equal squares and on top of each square I put a blob of buttercream. This blob is to create the little hump you get in the middle of a traditional fondant fancy.

Of course when you are tired, you misread recipes. This one being a complicated recipe with zillions of steps should have been read carefully and I didn’t. I was meant to put the cakes into the fridge to harden up again for 20 minutes but I didn’t. This then made the next steps more tricky. I had to crumb coat each of the four sides of the fondant fancies with the rest of the buttercream. This was very awkward. How do you hold the blinking things and ensure that they are all covered without getting your hands covered in more buttercream?

Now for another complicated part. The recipe asked for roll out fondant icing or sugar paste which to make runny you have to put in a mixer with water to make it runny. I felt this made it extremely messy and didn’t give the effect I wanted. I wondered whether I should have bought some fondant icing sugar instead and coloured it with food colouring. I started off trying to colour the pink icing first. It took ages to get even a hint of pink with the food colouring I have at the moment (a mixed box of Wilton food colours, which to be honest I’m not a fan of, compared to the likes of Sugarflair, etc.) The cakes from not been hard enough through not being in the fridge, were difficult to hold and the icing just went everywhere. It was meant to pour over the cakes but it didn’t. It was too thick despite me following how much water to add to the icing. I tried spreading it with a small pallette knife but that made it even messier!

Then I tried to colour the rest of the icing yellow. Unfortunately the yellow in my food colouring set doesn’t bring the icing out a deliciate pastel yellow, it came out as this flourescent, lurid yellow like you would have on a high-viz vest! You’d be able to spot it from the International Space Station. By this time I had given up caring and so long as I’d got the bloody things iced and all the stuff cleared up, I didn’t care what colour it was.

Finally, I used some left over lemon drizzle icing for the pink fondant fancies which seemed to pipe on ok through my plastic bottle. But the melted chocolate was having none of it and just wouldn’t go through the hole. It just clogged up the whole time.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned here: Don’t make Fondant Fancies when you are short of time or are tired. Always read the recipe and use ready made fondant icing sugar, not sugarpaste watered down.

I did taste one of the Fondant Fancies and it was sooooooo sickly sweet. Not my favourite bake to eat or to make, I’m afraid.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx