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

Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf.

I’ve baked loads of recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” now.  I’ve been really impressed with the range of recipes on offer from cakes to biscuits and desserts and savoury bakes.  I can’t bake as much as I’ve done in the past which does make me feel upset. But it doesn’t do me or my family’s health any good and also I just don’t have the time any more.  So baking for local happenings and for Clandestine Cake Club events is really special.

This Banana Loaf with Peanut Butter Frosting was the second cake I baked to donate to a local village’s Spring Festival on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend.  I love banana loaf and peanut butter but I’ve never attempted to use both these ingredients together in a cake before.

Lorraine says in her recipe introduction: “The bananas need to be super ripe for this cake recipe”. This is never a problem in our house. I always buy bananas in our weekly shop and it’s only really Mr SmartCookieSam that eats them. I like them but prefer berries on top of my porridge. Sometimes Mr SmartCookieSam puts them on his toast with peanut butter. I was lucky that there were two ripe bananas left which would be ideal to use in this recipe.

The main cake was very quick to bake.  I always use ready made loaf tin liners which are so easy to use. When the oven was preheating, I creamed together butter and sugar until it became light and fluffy. I then added one egg, followed by half the quantity of self raising flour needed. This was repeated with another egg and the remaining flour.  When all this was combined, in went two ripe mashed bananas.

The loaf was baked in the oven for about an hour.  I had to keep checking that the top didn’t over brown.  Thankfully it didn’t but I kept poking a skewer in the cake to check it was cooked.  Finally after an hour it was ready to come out.

The cake was put on a wire rack and left to cool down still with the loaf tin liner wrapped around it. I didn’t dare move it before just in case it made the whole blinking thing fall apart.

Later on that afternoon I made the Peanut Butter frosting.  I used Crunchy Peanut butter to add texture.  I prefer to use a sugar free brand, such as Whole Earth or Meridian.  There was no point in using a sugary one as I was already adding icing sugar to the frosting.  The frosting also used a little bit of butter and a small amount of cream cheese which gave it a delicious flavour.  This was simply all weighed out and mixed together with my hand held mixer.  The frosting was spread on the top of the cake with a palette knife.  To finish off I had bought a bag of salted peanuts to sprinkle on the top.  I had to hide the rest of the bag so I wasn’t tempted to eat them.

At the Spring Festival the following day I chose to buy a slice of the Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf to test it out (pictured above with a slice of my Pecan Pie Popcorn Naked Cake). My mum and I halved the slices of both cakes to check them out. I really enjoyed the banana loaf although I did find the frosting a bit on the sweet side. Since losing weight I’ve found my sweet tooth isn’t there as much as it used to be.

I’ll definitely bake the cake again.  It would also work well with chocolate chips sprinkled in the cake itself and on top of the cake instead of salted peanuts.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Curd Victoria Sponge. 

Lemon Victoria Sponge.

Long time, no see! It’s been over a month since I’ve last blogged.  My excuse is I’ve simply been busy working. Teaching full time on different supply contacts, doing extra shifts in a day nursery during the Easter holidays definitely took it’s toll though and by the Easter weekend I felt terrible.  I went down with a stinking cold which then turned into a horrible cough.  This pretty much made me feel like not doing anything much for the second week of the Easter holidays.  So much for wanting to go out running. I didn’t even feel like getting my bum off the sofa let alone gathering up some energy to stick my trainers on!

This cake was one I baked right back at the beginning of April. I really miss baking and hadn’t done much mainly because I’m meant to be on a diet.  This hasn’t really worked well the last few weeks as I have been so tired after coming in from work.  Slimming World has gone by the wayside, especially when Mr SmartCookieSam gets involved with the cooking.  He thinks nothing of using lots of olive oil. So when I get chance I like to take a cake into a school I’m teaching in. I was working in a school for the last week before the Easter holidays and decided to take a cake to leave in the staff room on the table.  I explained I loved baking but baking didn’t love my figure.

This Lemon Curd Victoria Sponge is from a recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s latest book “Bake,” You might have realised I’ve baked a few recipes from her book recently but that’s what I usually do when I get a new book. I get a bit carried away. It’s a traditional two layer Victoria Sponge baked in an 8″ or 20cm diameter sandwich tin and sandwiched together with both lemon curd and a little buttercream.  I was definitely not going to spend my precious time making my own Lemon Curd so I bought a jar of Tiptree with my weekly shop.  I used about half the jar in the filling so Mr SmartCookieSam was happy to use the rest on his toast in the morning!The cake was very quick to bake and perfect for a Spring day.  I reckon I only spent an hour baking it from start to finish, if that.  A quick dusting of icing sugar on top and the cake was good to go.  Or if you prefer caster sugar, go with that.

img_1917
Lemon Victoria Sponge baked from a recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s latest book: “Bake”.

The morning after I arrived at the school, put my lunch in the staffroom fridge and the cake in a plastic box on the table. I left a note telling people to help themselves.  It was quite a big school so I didn’t get along to the staff room until lunchtime.  When I got there I noticed nearly three quarters of the cake had gone.  Several staff members thanked me for the cake. I said I would bring some more another time, if I had time to bake.  It gave me a warm, cosy feeling knowing that some teachers appreciated my baking.  Especially at a time when it was getting near to the end of term and everyone was tired. A little bit of cake just helps you get through the day.

img_1940
This was the sight which greeted me at lunchtime in the staffroom!

 

Pancetta, Cheddar and Chive Scones. 

img_1851

On Sunday, even though it was Mother’s Day I had a quiet day to myself.  Mr SmartCookieSam was out taking part in a rally in his classic car, my son was working and my daughter is at uni.  So for some of the day I was at home with the dog. I know I shouldn’t be baking as I just end up eating it but I love the whole process of it. Baking is therapeutic to me.

Last week I treated myself to Lorraine Pascale’s latest book simply titled “Bake” I have most of her books including her very first publication, also a baking book.  As soon as I opened the book in the middle of Costa Coffee I was sat there drooling over the pics and mentally bookmarking what I was going to bake first.

The day after I got the book I baked some star shaped cookies but this time it was something savoury.  I’ve always loved cheese scones but these ones were slightly different in that they had crispy fried pieces of cubed pancetta in the dough.  I knew they would taste amazing.  I had a packet of pancetta cubes in the fridge from when I was meant to make a Carbonara last week and never did. So in the end they got thrown into the scones.

First, the packet of pancetta was fried until crispy.No need for oil in the pan, I let them fry in their own fat.  Once they’d cooked and were crisp, I got a paper towel out and let the fat soak into the towel to dry off.

While the pancetta was cooling down I grated some mature Cheddar into a bowl.

I  then used my food processor to combine cold cubes of butter with self raising flour, baking powder, mustard powder, sea salt flakes and an optional extra to the recipe: paprika.  I put a large pinch of this in.  After the mixture had turned into what looked like breadcrumbs I put in 3/4 of the cheese along with some chives and the pancetta.

To bring it all together I poured in some buttermilk which was about half of a carton.  This was enough to form the scones into a dough. It wasn’t sticky but the right consistency for rolling out gently.

Lorraine says her recipe makes 8 scones but I found I could only get 6 decent sized ones out of it. I often find this with scones. The recipe quantity makes far less than it’s meant to. Still six scones was more than enough for me.  I used a plain circular cutter for my scones and then once cut out they were put onto a baking tray covered in parchment. I glazed the top of the scones with buttermilk and then sprinkled on the remaining cheese.

The  scones went into the oven for about 10-12 minutes until they had risen well. I saw the cheese was bubbling and golden and couldn’t wait to test one out that very afternoon cut in half and spread with butter.  They were delicious.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Orange Star Cookies. 

The other day when I was in WHSmiths I ended up buying a copy of Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake”.  I was only meant to go in there to buy some new highlighter pens and a notebook but I came out with them plus Lorraine’s book and a magazine.  I was then meant to be doing my weekly shop so I went across the road and found myself sat in Costa coffee looking through the book. Instead of writing my shopping list I was sat there looking through all the recipes and mentally bookmarking which ones I wanted to try out first.

Now I’m not meant to be baking at home at the moment unless it’s for someone else or when I go to my local Clandestine Cake club event.  But I can’t help it. Baking is part of me.  So I try to make things for others.  I sometimes take bakes into schools I work in or give to other people.  This is what I did with the very first bake I tried from Lorraine Pascale’s “Bake”.

The first recipe I tried from the book was funnily enough also the very first recipe chronologically in the book.  It is an easy recipe to try and also looks effective.  The original recipe was for Chocolate and Vanilla Stars but I adapted this to turn them into Chocolate Orange Stars.  Instead of adding a vanilla pod or some vanilla extract to the dough, I used Sugar and Crumbs’ Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder instead.

Lorraine’s recipe introduction says “These stars look great and are perfect for making with children. They are also awesome as presents.”  

The first job was to cream together some butter and sugar in a bowl or with a hand mixer. This needed to be done until the mixture was light and fluffy.  After this I added in a beaten egg.  The mixture was then divided carefully into two bowls.  Although I tried to take great care over this and to split the mixture evenly, I still thought there was slightly more chocolate dough than plain dough! To one bowl I added half of the quantity of self raising flour  and some cocoa powder. To the other bowl I just added the remaining amount of flour.

My star cutters looked a bit bigger than the ones featured in the photo next to the recipe but I still had enough mixture.  I rolled out the chocolate dough first and cut out the stars.  Once all the chocolate stars were cut out, they were laid onto two lined baking trays.  I then got a smaller star cutter and cut out the middle of the biscuit leaving a star shaped hole.  The chocolate mini stars were then put to one side to become the centres of the plain cookies.  On another two baking trays I did the same but with the plain dough. When I had cut the stars out of the middle they went into the middle of the chocolate ones and vice versa.

I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I needed four trays and I can only fit two trays in at a time in my oven.  They expanded in the oven and puffed up slightly, maybe because the recipe asked for self raising flour rather than plain flour.  Once cooked in the oven after about 10 minutes I let them cool down on a wire rack then planned to get ready for work.  When I was about to go out of the door I would put them into a box.

That never happened.  Just as I was getting ready to leave my phone rang so I was locking up and getting my things together.  I left the boxful of cookies on the worktop and drove off to work.  Over the next few days they got eaten at home.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Peanut Butter Cookies- A Lighter Way To Bake (Cooking The Books January 2014.)

Peanut butter cookies are a serious addiction for me. Thank heavens I don’t make them often or I’d be the size of a killer whale!  Though keeping a whole jar of peanut butter aside for baking in our house is not an easy challenge.  Every time I buy a jar it miraculously disappears. Both my husband and daughter love peanut butter on toast for breakfast. So on the rare occasions where I have made peanut butter cookies, they just seem to vanish in our house.

Knowing that peanut butter cookies are naughty but nice, I was interested to see that Lorraine Pascale has a lighter version in her latest book “A Lighter Way To Bake” which I am currently using as my Cooking The Books Challenge for January.  Lorraine says in the recipe introduction that she has “worked hard to reduce the peanut butter, sugar and butter content in them as best as I can so that they still have that scrumbunctious flavour!”  To do this Lorraine uses no added sugar peanut butter which usually has palm oil in instead.  This is the peanut butter I usually buy anyway, like Whole Earth or Sainsbury’s Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter.

There isn’t any butter at all in the recipe, all the fat content comes from the peanut butter but there is a small amount of caster sugar.  It would be interesting to see how the peanut butter cookies tasted when compared with regular ones.

060
The peanut butter and caster sugar were beaten together in a large bowl.
061
Then I added in a beaten egg, some vanilla extract and a tablespoonful of water.
063
Finally I added in some wholemeal flour and rolled oats.

The recipe made 12 cookies and I quickly split the dough into 12 equal balls ready to be put on the baking trays.  Usually I find I don’t have to squash them or press them flat as they spread out in the oven.  I didn’t read the recipe properly, Lorraine says to flatten them down with the palm of your hand. I didn’t do it, they went straight into the oven.

064
Laid out on the baking trays well spaced apart and ready to go in the oven.

067
The finished cookies on a plate. The photo isn’t that good as I took it on my phone camera in very poor light!

When the cookies came out of the oven about 10 minutes later they were cooked to the perfect golden brown colour they should have been but they didn’t look like the ones in the book.  I then read the recipe properly and realised my mistake.  This didn’t affect the taste of the cookies though.  I was impressed with them, not too sweet and you could taste the peanuts in them without the cookies being too rich! I will definitely be making these again.  I did only have one with a cup of tea, honest!

Looking at the nutritional analysis comparison chart, it says there are only about 8 calories different between the lighter and the regular one. The fat and saturated fat content has been reduced, only by about 1g but the main reduction was in the sugar content, a huge difference of about 3 grammes! I did think the cookies were very tasty though and I did have to hide them away in the cupboard so I wasn’t tempted to binge on them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Yoghurt Pound Cake- A Lighter Way To Bake (Cooking The Books, January 2014.)

January 26th 2014.

Even though I’m trying to lose weight I just can’t face giving up my Sunday lunch pudding.  You’ve got to have SOME enjoyment in life.  A pudding after the Sunday roast rounds it all off nicely and although it can’t be a calorific, cream laden affair (now wouldn’t that be heaven?). I was thinking of what I could bake from my Lorraine Pascale “A Lighter Way To Bake”  book as part of my Cooking The Books January Baking Challenge.  It would have to be one of the bakes in the Cake chapter.

I fancied the idea of the Lemon Yoghurt Pound cake as it reminded me of a lemon drizzle cake but without the calories. Lorraine mentions in the introduction to the recipe was that she adapted a lemon drizzle cake from another of her books and gave it the least amount of sugar and butter possible. We all love Lemon Drizzle cake in our house and a small slice would fit in around my diet, everyone else could have theirs with a scoop of ice cream if they wanted to.

So here is how it was made:

042
Butter and sugar were creamed together in my mixing bowl.
043
Then eggs, egg white and Greek yoghurt were added to the bowl and mixed in.
044
Adding in the “dry” ingredients: flour and baking powder. I then added some vanilla extract as well as some lemon zest to the mixture.
045
Mixed all together. You could smell the lemon flavour as it was being prepared, what a gorgeous smell and so enticing!
046
I lined my loaf tin with a special loaf tin liner.
047
Then, the mixture was spooned into the prepared tin. My loaf tin was either too big or there wasn’t that much mixture compared to my usual lemon drizzle loaf recipe.
049
The cake was taken out of its wrapper and tin and left to cool down on the surface. I think I left the cake in a bit too long as the top burned a little!

Time was running out and I put the glaze on before I was really meant to. This meant some of it soaked into the cake instead of resting on the top like a separate layer of icing.  It did add to my cake’s rustic charm though.

050
With the citrus glaze poured on top, this was icing sugar and lemon juice mixed together.
051
Cut up into small slices ready for our pudding.

Our lemon cake ended up being eaten before pudding!  As we were all busy with the usual family things, chores and the like I ended up doing the roast at tea time instead.  I had made the cake mid-afternoon in between trying to get the ironing done and my son popped in the kitchen and begged for a slice.  As he was hungry and I was tempted, how could I refuse?  It meant no cake for pudding later though!

The cake appeared slightly smaller than my standard lemon drizzle cake recipe but, to me, what mattered most was that I could enjoy a small piece without the massive guilt trip.  It tasted fab and you wouldn’t believe it was a “lighter” version!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx