Sugar Free Carrot Cake

 

     

Hi there and long time no see! I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth, I’ve just got a bit behind with my blog posts again.  Day to day life has been very busy.  I have been baking a few things here and there and have been experimenting with a couple of new ingredients.

I am really struggling with eating too many sugary things at the moment. I don’t add sugar to tea, coffee or cereal but I do have a sweet tooth.  I love my cakes and biscuits and when I’m tired and stressed I grab at things like a bar of chocolate on the way home from work from the garage.  I’m seriously thinking of going sugar free but am worried about how I’ll cope with going to Clandestine Cake Club as it is a big part of my life.

A few weeks ago York Clandestine Cake Club had their first meeting of the year and the theme for the event was Healthier Cakes. I signed up to go and chose to bake a Sugar Free Carrot Cake as featured in the latest Great British Bake Off recipe book The Great British Bake Off Celebrations. This recipe according to the introduction is a “gorgeous spicy, nutty carrot cake, the sponge is sweetened with agave syrup rather than sugar,” 

I had seen agave syrup on the shelf in supermarkets but was intrigued to see how it worked in a recipe. Was it as sweet as sugar? Would it give the cake a funny taste? Would it last as long as a cake with sugar in it? These were all questions I was keen to answer.  I knew that my family love carrot cake and it’s also a popular cake flavour whenever I’ve been to cake club.  Though it was low in refined sugar, it did not do well in the low fat or gluten free stakes.  I found a bottle of agave syrup  in Sainsburys which was at over £4 for 250ml a bit more expensive than sugar. 

Cake club was on a Wednesday and I didn’t have work that day. It was my catch up day at home and once I’d dropped my daughter off at the bus stop three miles away so she could catch her college bus I came home and set to with the cake. 

I was in a happy mood and put on Radio 2 in the kitchen while I was baking. I had music playing and even though it was dark and miserable outside I was ensconced in my warm kitchen relaxing with some baking therapy. 

Firstly I grated some carrots which I find really tedious and usually end up with big chunks falling into the bowl. Once that was over and done with I could get on with the rest of the cake. 

The cake was made in a similar way to a regular carrot cake by using sunflower oil and eggs. I measured these into a jug and added the agave syrup to it. This was beaten with a whisk until it was blended together. In another bowl all the dry ingredients were weighed out and combined- an aromatic blend of cinnamon and mixed spice in with sifted self raising flour and baking powder. Finally, in a third bowl I grated some orange zest and mixed it in with sultanas and some chopped walnuts, along with the grated carrot. All was carefully combined and ready to be put into the prepared tins.

This carrot cake was designed to be baked in two 20cm (8″) diameter sandwich tins. I always grease my tins with Wilton Cake Release and use Lakeland Baking Parchment Circles. They make wrestling getting the cake out of the tin much easier at the end. Once I’d done the greasing I could get the cake in the oven. The cake baked at 160oC in my fan oven and took about 35 minutes approx.

Once it had finished baking and was cooling down I went out for a walk with my dog. It had stopped raining for a bit and I was keen for some fresh air. We were out for about an hour which gave it time to cool down ready to be iced.

The icing was a cream cheese concoction or rather it was meant to be. When I’d been out shopping for cake ingredients there was a massive gap on the shelf where the cream cheese was. I had to use Mascarpone instead which is very naughty but nice in cakes and desserts! It was also much more expensive. Being a “sugar free” cake the cake didn’t use icing sugar but used maple syrup instead to sweeten it instead. I thought maple syrup was a form of sugar! To the mascarpone, along with the maple syrup I used some butter to cream the icing together. This was used in the cake filling and on top of the cake. Tonight off I added some chopped walnuts.

I never got to Cake Club that night in the end. I had to pick my daughter up and get the dinner on. The cake became a pudding for us. My husband, who doesn’t really have a sweet tooth but loves carrot cake enjoyed this version. He doesn’t like to eat puddings at night as he gets indigestion. I sometimes feel like my blood sugar level drops and I get a headache. But after a small piece of cake I felt OK. Definitely worth attempting some more recipes using the agave syrup, then.  

   Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Raspberry Ripple Mascarpone Traybake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

John Whaite Bakes At Home- Update on my June Cooking The Books Challenge.

Unfortunately things have gone a bit pear shaped in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  It got to the end of the month yesterday and I realised I’d not baked two of the recipes I wanted to for the challenge.  I missed out on baking some Utterly Nutterly Shortbreads and some Wedding Party Rings!  Oh dear, well not to worry.  Instead I have had other baking to do, including a Labrador shaped cake for my friend.  I’ve also been working some extra hours, so time has been precious.  Not only this but I rejoined Weightwatchers two weeks ago.  I lost 6lbs the first week but last week I didn’t follow it properly as I was too busy.  I can feel all those lost pounds creeping back on and I haven’t had the guts to weigh myself….

So this post is really to show what I did get around to baking.  A week last Sunday the village where I go to WI (when I can get to the meetings, that is!) had their Open Gardens.  I baked three things to donate to the WI tea and cake stand.  I was meant to help at the end of the day but I ended up having to say no, after all hubby was out and I needed to be the children’s taxi service!

First up was the Aussie Crunch.  Rather moreish and Gilchrists, the bakery in my nearby town of Boroughbridge makes delicious Aussie Crunch.  It’s quick and simple to make and John includes it in the Family Bakes section of his book.  Great for all the family to eat and to have a go at baking too!  Though John says “Why it is called Aussie Crunch when it comes from Bolton is a mystery to me!”  I was glad in a way it was heading up to the WI stall, if I’d even tried one bite, the whole lot would end up being scoffed!

To make the Aussie Crunch it was simple.  I put butter and sugar into a saucepan and let the butter melt and the sugar dissolve.  In a large mixing bowl I mixed together dessicated coconut and cornflakes, then tossed in some cocoa powder and self raising flour. This was all mixed together with the melted butter and then put into my greased 8″ square tin ready for baking.  It only took 20 minutes to bake and smelled fab.

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While the Aussie crunch was still cooling in the tin, John suggests adding the chocolate topping by breaking it up into squares and putting it on top of the crunch. The chocolate melts from the heat of the warm cake.
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I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
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The finished Aussie Crunch cut up into 12 large heavenly pieces.

While the Aussie Crunch was setting in the fridge, I got on with the next bake.  As I love baking bundt cakes so much I was really keen to try John’s Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake in the Friendship Feasts chapter in the book.  I’m not really keen on figs and even though I wasn’t going to be baking the cake for myself I still fancied putting something else in the cake instead!  So I plumped for chopped, dried dates.  I wanted to use my Jubilee bundt pan again as it has such a pretty lattice design on it and hoped that it would encourage people to try it.

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Butter and sugar was creamed together, then I added in grated orange zest. After this, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract were added in carefully, followed by plain flour, baking powder and some ground cinnamon. After everything was folded in, I added in chopped pecan pieces and the dried dates.
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The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
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View from the top! It looks like a flower when you look at it this way too!

I was very impressed with the results I had with the bundt.  I will definitely be baking this again.  John says “This makes for perfect toast, toppped with some boisterous Stilton cheese!”  Sounds good to me!

The final bake for the WI Open Gardens Stall was John’s Lemon Sherbet Cake.  It contains the sherbet (not the lollies though!) from Sherbet Dip dabs!  I’d never thought to put them in a cake before and it was funny buying Dip-dabs in the shop, haven’t done that since I was about 10!  I also added my own slant to the cake by decorating it with sherbet lemon sweets instead of handmade lemon peel. I just felt a bit lazy by then and wanted to cut a few corners to save time!

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Lemon Sherbet candy heaven!

The lemon sherbet cake is from the Family Bakes chapter of John Whaite Bakes At Home and is definitely one to avoid if you are on a diet but perfect for a family get-together or celebration.  John’s version involves vertically slicing the two cake layers so you have four altogether.  I find this dead fiddly so I kept the two and had all my filling in the middle of the cake.  The filling was absolutely gorgeous: whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, the Dip dabs, lemon juice and zest whipped together.  I piped it in the middle and on the top of the cake using my large star shaped nozzle.

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The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
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Sherbet Lemon sweets on top of the cake. I put whole ones around the edge and then got the remaining ones in the packet and crushed them up to sprinkle them in the middle.

Again, I was really pleased with how the cake turned out and thought I would love to try this with different flavours and sweets.  Very retro.  I took the three cakes around to my friend’s house as I couldn’t help at the stall myself.  She was pleased with them but I haven’t had chance to ask her how they went.  I hope they tasted ok.

As I type this, it is now July 4th.  I’m meant to be thinking about July’s challenge.  I’d better get my bum into gear or else it will be August!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Ultimate Carrot Cake- Delia’s Cakes.

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes you see everywhere and there are many versions of it.  Over the years since I started baking I’ve made a fair few, some fantastic and some you’d want to chuck in the bin.  This version though, is horrifically calorific seeing as the icing contains mascarpone! Heavenly, but gorgeous!  Anyway, it wasn’t me who was going to eat it, this was another cake heading down to the Village Hall for our Open Gardens last month.  It was also another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge, this time I chose to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake from Delia’s Cakes

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Eggs, dark brown soft sugar and sunflower oil were mixed together in a large bowl first.

In another bowl I added all the dry ingredients, which included self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.  These were combined carefully with the egg mixture, closely followed by grated carrot, dessicated coconut (which I’d never put in a carrot cake before), sultanas and pecan nuts.  What a heavenly combination! No wonder Delia called it the Ultimate Carrot Cake!

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The mixture ready to be popped in the oven.

As you’ve probably guessed I’m a bit behind with the blogging at the moment.  There’s been a lot going on.  So I’m talking about a cake I made over three weeks ago but as I love baking carrot cakes this one I had to say was a joy to make.  When they came out of the oven it took all my courage to not bite into the cakes there and then.  But I had to restrain myself and get on with making up the icing.

The icing was made by whipping together two tubs of mascarpone, some ground cinnamon, brown sugar and a small amount of orange juice to add flavour.  I forgot I needed to add a syrup glaze to the top of the cake first ,though!

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The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
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The carrot cakes cooling down on my cake rack. They were baked in two 18cm or 7″ diameter sandwich cake tins.

While the cakes were cooling I made some carrot toppers out of sugarpaste to decorate the cake with.

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The side of the cake.
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As seen from the top!

The cake went down to our Village Hall with the other three cakes I’d baked and I was really pleased to see it had nearly all gone when I went down there with my mum in the early afternoon.  As it was a warm day I was hoping there wouldn’t be a problem with the icing going all runny but it was fine.

Definitely another winner here and one I’d love to bake again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake from Delia’s Cakes

I’m beginning to catch up with my blog posts now, this week has been a bit of a mix up as I’ve been recovering from a minor operation.  Thankfully all went well and I’m more or less back to normal now despite still feeling tired.

The operation took place on Monday but before that I had a very busy few days.  It was my birthday followed by Open Gardens in our village.  So this meant a lot of baking but then again those of you who know me, know that I love any excuse to stick my apron on and to switch the oven on.

A week last Thursday was my last day at work before my birthday and I wanted to take a cake to share with my colleagues.  It was a toss up between a carrot cake and a coffee cake as I was choosing a recipe from my latest Cooking The Books Challenge.  Having said that I had got in late after a busy day at work and didn’t want anything too time consuming after spending time on the tea.  So that meant the carrot cake was out as I just couldn’t be bothered to grate all those carrots.  The Coffee and Walnut Sponge it was then, my choice of cake from the Sponge Cakes chapter.

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I started off by sifting self raising flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.  I then remembered I hadn’t got the right cake tins out and looked through my very messy cake tin drawer.  What a surprise the tins I needed were right at the bottom of the deep drawer and loads of tins came crashing down onto the floor before I could get  hold of them.  It made a right din and my hubby came into the kitchen to see what had happened.  Thankfully no harm was done! Finally I got the tins out, lined and greased and ready for the cake mix!

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After this I added in some soft butter, eggs, caster sugar and some expresso coffee powder.  It was mixed together thoroughly with my hand held mixer.  Once this was blended together I threw in some chopped walnuts and mixed them evenly.  The mixture was divided equally between the two tins and put into the oven to bake.

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After about 25 minutes out came the baked cakes.  They were given some time to cool down and then I turned them out onto a wire rack.  They smelled absolutely delicious and I just couldn’t wait to dive in!004

Next, it was on with the icing.  Usually when I bake Coffee and Walnut cakes I ice them with a coffee buttercream but as this cake according to Delia is a “revised, more contemporary version of one of the original sponge cake in an earlier book… since the advent of mascarpone the icing is a great improvement”  As a huge Tiramisu fan, I love the taste of mascarpone and I know it goes well with coffee.  So I just knew it would work in this icing.  The mascarpone, some more coffee granules, caster sugar and a little milk were mixed together to make a spreadable icing.

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Half the icing was spread inside the cake and the rest on top of the cake.  I wish, but this is a personal preference is that I would like to have made more icing to spread more thickly on the top of the cake!  It tasted heavenly. As a final touch, on went some walnut halves.006

I took the cake into work and it went down well.  I will definitely bake it again, the mascarpone icing was absolutely gorgeous.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx