Another tried and tested favourite from Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect..Step By Step” recipe book, Mary says in the introduction: ” As well as being a good coffee or tea time cake, this makes a comforting pudding, served warm with clotted cream or creme fraiche. I often make it in Autumn when I have a glut of apples,”
This was the very reason I bake this traybake often. I get lots of beautiful apples given to me and although we like crumbles and pies in our house, sometimes you always want to make something different. Traybakes are great as you can use them like a pudding or a slice of cake but a little goes a long way. I also find them so easy to make, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to bake.
My dad and step mum gave me two huge bags of apples from their tree in their garden. I’m sure they said they were Pink Lady apples. Not only did they look really pretty on the outside, but the inside had a lovely pink hue to them too. They always tasted delicious so I knew they would taste incredible in this bake.
I have a well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin which came out of the cupboard again on this wet and cold Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t need a lot of greasing but I used a small amount of Wilton Cake Release to stop any stubborn bits sticking to the tin.
Once all the apples were peeled, cored and cut into thin slices, I put them into a shallow dish and sprinkled them with some lemon juice to stop them going brown.
Next, I mixed together butter, light brown muscovado sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, eggs and milk into a large bowl. So easy being an all in one method and I made sure everything was well mixed.
Now this is where I lost concentration. I got distracted and put all the apples in a layer on the bottom of the tin and then topped them with all of the sponge mix. In the recipe you are meant to put half the apples on the bottom, then half the cake mixture, then to repeat it. Rather like making a lasagne! In the end my cake turned up a bit like an upside down cake and didn’t have the defined layers that Mary Berry mentions in her “Keys To Perfection” part of the recipe. My motto is well if it tastes fine, then who cares what it looks like?
We had Toad In The Hole for Sunday lunch followed by a slice of the traybake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love the smell of apples and cinnamon as they’re cooking. Definitely an aroma of Autumn there! As the traybake was so big, the rest of it got cut up into slices and put in the freezer for my family to eat in weeks to come.
Once again I’ve lost my way a bit with my blogging. I have all these posts in draft on my laptop but that’s as far as they’ve gone during the last month. A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve been on a trip to visit my brother, sister in law and their gorgeous family including my four month old niece who completely stole my heart. Auntie Sam was in her element and as my niece is very similar in temperament to my own daughter, it really did take me back to twenty years ago when my brother became an Uncle to my daughter. What special times. With all this in my mind I chose to bake a Canadian inspired cake for the last Clandestine Cake Club event I went to. This was a few days before I was due to jet off over to Alberta but the theme was Around The World In 80 Cakes Although there weren’t 80 cakes there, there were definitely a delicious array of cakes representing lots of different countries.
I chose to bake a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book “Kitchen” which is a maple and pecan nut bundt cake. Although I’m a huge Nigella fan and I bake lots of her recipes, it’s been a while since I baked from Kitchen. It’s such a huge book too, wouldn’t like to drop that on my feet or I’d be in agony. It was also a great excuse to get out one of my bundt pans off the shelf and to use it again. My Crown Bundt pan also has a Canadian connection as I bought it last year on my first visit to Canada. We went shopping and I got carried away in Williams Sonoma. But it was worth it. The pan was half the cost of UK prices! Nigella uses the Fleur de Lys Bundt pan in her recipe and says: ” The reason I chose this particular shape for this cake was that it seemed to show it’s nutty, gooey stuffing off to maximum effect once sliced,”
The bundt cake has a separate maple pecan filling which is swirled into the vanilla batter once in the cake tin and looks really pretty when the cake is cut into. So, as Nigella says you really need a tin which looks great when it’s cut up into slices.
I baked the cake the night before Cake Club as I was working a full week. It had to be done in the evening once we’d had tea. I normally love baking but it had been the first day back at work after the summer holidays. I’d had a lot of running around and standing on my feet to do so the last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in my kitchen baking. But at least it was the first episode of the latest series of The Great British BakeOff! So I set up my Ipad in the kitchen and watched it as I was weighing out, mixing and chopping nuts up. I soon forgot my legs and feet ached and immersed myself in my hobby.
I always grease my bundt pans with Wilton Cake Release. Once this was done, I pre-heated my fan oven and set myself going with the filling part to the cake. For this I mixed flour, soft unsalted butter, ground cinnamon, chopped pecan nuts and some maple syrup. This formed a slightly more fudgy version than a crumble topping. When this was done I put it aside and made up the rest of the cake mix.
In another mixing bowl I weighed out plain flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Though it took me 5 minutes to find my pot of bicarb as it had somehow managed to hide itself behind everything else in the cupboard.
In yet another bowl (lots of washing up tonight!) I creamed together butter and caster sugar using my hand held mixer. Following this I put in 2 eggs and then in went the flour mixture. Finally, I folded in some sour cream before putting about half the mixture into the bundt pan. The pecan mixture went in next followed by the remaining cake mixture.
The cake baked for about 40 minutes or so. I kept on checking it through the oven door and it seemed to be fine after the allotted 40 minutes. I always panic that the bundts are going to fall apart or not come out of the tin.
Sheer relief! A few crumbs had stuck inside the tin but not enough to worry about and the cake slid out effortlessly. I let it cool down on the rack in the kitchen while I cleared up. When it was cool, I dusted it with icing sugar and hoped that the cake would be ok in it’s box in my car boot while I was at work the following day. Thankfully, even though I drove over loads of speed humps going to the venue in Leeds, the cake was intact!
I really love going to cake club events. I’ve made loads of friends through cake club and we regularly meet up for a chin wag and a catch up over cake and coffee. I can’t wait for the next one in October which is to be a Hallowe’en themed one. Better get my thinking cap on!
This cake was an almalgamation of two recipes which I’ve used plenty of times before. The cake part came from John Whaite’s first book John Whaite Bakes which contains a delicious recipe for a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake. The decoration idea came from the second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake which has a fantastic recipe for a Cadbury’s Chocolate Finger and Smartie Cake in it. This opened up lots of ideas to adapt a design to suit flavours and themes.
I was off to a Clandestine Cake Club event in Leeds which was held in the historic Tetley building. I remember the days of the brewery being open in my childhood when I used to see the shire horses delivering the beer to the local Leeds pubs. I was very impressed with the bar and restaurant at The Tetley and hope to go back to look around the exhibition soon.
The theme for this cake club was Childhood Sweets and I chose to incorporate Percy Pigs on my cake. Incidentally Percy Pigs just celebrated 25 years which gave me the idea. I was definitely not a child when Percy Pigs came out but my own two children love them and we always buy a bag if we go on a long train journey. I can’t stop eating them!
To assemble the cake together I made up some white chocolate buttercream with Lindt White Chocolate and some Sugar and Crumbs White Chocolate and Raspberry natural flavour icing sugar. I was so excited to use the icing sugar as it is one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new flavours brought out for this summer. It smelled wonderful and definitely tasted of white chocolate and raspberries, just heavenly.
Here are just a few of the photos of my cake and also of some of the other cakes at the event. It was a wonderful evening and I enjoyed far too much cake! I still had a sugar high the day after!
Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try or to recreate at home. Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada. I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.
On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks. They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake. Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.
Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking. I don’t know. Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!! Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.
Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:
The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.
I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.
In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.
Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.
On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood. The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted. Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning! Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone, the phone went again. The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind. It was having the opposite effect today. Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven. I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.
To be honest I was a little bit disappointed. The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly. I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had. This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet? I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each. Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.
What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge. Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box! My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.
So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school. All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!
The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!”
I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home.
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter. Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.”
To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release. Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin. It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small!
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter. Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks. No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried.
My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it!
There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon, though!
So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
I’m always up for trying out new baking products, especially those which add an extra dimension or an extra special something to my bakes.
Just recently I have discovered Sugar and Crumbs who make a range of natural cocoa powders and icing sugars to enhance your bakes and to turn them into something really special. Not only this but they also sell a great range of crumbs and sprinkles to finish off the top of your cakes with a pretty touch. Sugar and Crumbs sell their products online through their own website but they also have a really useful local stockist search facility on their website. If you type in your postcode it comes up with who stocks the Sugar and Crumbs products nearby. As I live in North Yorkshire I was pleased to see that Sugarcraft Supplies in Garforth sells them! I know where I’ll be heading on my next day off from work!
I belong to to the Clandestine Cake Club and a few of my cakey friends had bought Sugar and Crumbs products to try out in their cakes from a stand at The Cake and Bake Show last year. They were absolutely delighted with them and I was intrigued to try the products out for myself.
From coconut to lime and from Black Forest to Cherry Bakewell there is a flavour to suit everyone’s taste buds. I even noticed there is a chilli flavoured cocoa powder on the website which I would love to try out in the future! Though what I do wish to see is a mint flavour cocoa powder and icing sugar as that is my overall favourite and I would buy it by the shedload!
So when Sugar and Crumbs set me a challenge to bake with a goodie bag of their cocoa powder and icing sugars I jumped at the chance. Mother’s Day is coming up and what better occasion than to bake a cake or something delicious for your mum? I’m a mum of two teenagers myself but I love baking cakes for my own mum. She came to visit me when it was half term so I thought it was a great excuse to get out the cake tins and come up with some treats to share for Mother’s Day.
Sugar and Crumbs offered me a choice of cocoa powders and icing sugars from their wide variety of flavours and extensive range. I chose to go with the Chocolate Orange Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powder which was accompanied by two different icing sugars. One was the Jaffa Twist Natural Flavoured Cocoa Icing Sugar and the other was the Orange Zest Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar which all came in the most gorgeous pink or white resealable pouches. So pretty, just made me want to open it straightaway and get baking! I was very impressed with the packaging and I felt you got a lot in a packet, especially with the cocoa powder as it would last for a couple or several bakes depending on what you were making.
Those of you that read my SmartCookieSam blog regularly will know that I’m addicted to baking bundts and have started collecting Nordicware bundt pans. So my Mother’s Day bake just HAD to include a bundt cake somewhere. I adapted the recipe from the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book which is just out called Life Is Sweet. On page there is a recipe for the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake which I turned into a Jaffa Orange Cake instead. Not only this but I wanted to see what else I could create with my big bag of cocoa powder and hit upon the idea of baking some chocolate orange cookies at the same time.
The smell coming from my oven was just so enticing. I chose to bake the cake in my Heritage Bundt pan which always produces excellent results so I thought I would try and see how the Sugar and Crumbs products worked when baked in a bundt!
Meanwhile I attempted to bake some cookies using some more of the Jaffa Orange Cocoa Powder. I adapted a recipe from a trusty cookie book I have had for a few years now, called The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book. In this book there is a recipe for double chocolate cookies. This gave me a great idea to adapt the recipe using the cocoa powder and also to sprinkle some Orange Zest natural icing sugar on top of the cookies for an extra orangey hit. The batch baked two dozen mouthwatering cookies to complement the Jaffa Orange Bundt Cake.
Meanwhile I had to finish off the bundt. This was done by creating a chocolate glace to adorn the top of the cake. I used the chocolate orange icing sugar accompanied with some sugar and mixed it all together with a little bit of butter to form a paste. This was then drizzled carefully in the grooves on the cake. Before it had chance to set I sprinkled on cut up pieces of mini Jaffa Cakes and then some whole ones on top. I used Marks and Spencers’ own ones which are retangular, not round.
The extra flavour that the Sugar and Crumbs cocoa powder and icing sugars added to my bakes was phenomenal. My whole family, including my mum said you could definitely taste the orange in the cake and the cookies. We had a small slice of cake and a cookie each. They tasted absolutely delicious. If there is cake around in my house it always disappears like lightning so I chose to take the rest into one of the schools I teach at to share out with the staff. I hope they liked their treats!
After my Mother’s Day baking session I was pleased I still had most of one of the icing sugars left to use up and also a small amount of Jaffa Orange cocoa powder. I ran out of time to bake more last Sunday but have earmarked a couple of the recipes featured on the Sugar and Crumbs website. There are numerous useful recipes including a mouthwatering sounding brownie recipe. I am definitely going to try that one out. There are also other recipes for fudge and for meringues amongst lots of others though I know that my mum would love a box of homemade fudge!
Here is a link to the Recipe section of the website:
Last weekend I was delighted when our neighbour popped round to see us with a couple of carrier bags full of apples picked from their tree. I was pleased as my own apple tree hadn’t produced anything this year. This was disappointing as although it is a small tree, I did manage to get a few good apples off it last year. One bag from my neighbour’s stash was full of small apples ideal for my daughter’s horse to chomp on, the other was full of crisp apples perfect for cooking and baking with.
As we had my Mum staying with us last weekend I chose to cook a Sunday roast- a large chicken followed by a naughty but nice pudding involving apples. I didn’t want to make something I had already made before, though. I also didn’t want to make a steamed pudding as I have never made one before and wouldn’t know where to start!
Once again I turned to my copy of The Great British Bake Off Everyday as I remembered there being a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding recipe in there. It seems like I am doing a lot of baking from this book at the moment but I suppose I go through fads and phases. Upon reading the recipe, the introduction said it was a “very simple all-in-one sponge mix.. a good way to use slightly tart windfall apples”. This was good news to me, I didn’t want to spend ages faffing about.
To be honest I wasn’t really in a baking mood as I had been up half the night worrying about my daughter the night before. She had been to a concert and was staying overnight at her friends’ house. I wanted to know that she was back safely at her friends’ house but my stomach was churning so much, it took me until 3am to get some sleep. I also woke up with a sore throat which wasn’t good news as it has not been long since I had a cold! I had to produce something for Sunday lunch though.
We all really enjoyed the pudding and the apples were a great addition to the mix. My son said “Why do you have to ruin it with apples?” and “I don’t like it when apples are cooked” but he did eat all the sponge and sauce part. Everyone else enjoyed it and it made a huge portion. The recipe stated that it served 6 but I thought it was nearer 10-12! I thought the portions were generous too. I will definitely bake this again and might try it with pears instead.