“Cooking On A Shoe String” Food Parcel Challenge in partnership with Zest Health For Life, Hammersons and Leeds East Food Bank.

Just before Christmas I was contacted by  Hammerson, the developers behind the new Victoria Gate retail development currently being built in the centre of Leeds. They are working in partnership with Zest Health For Life and the Leeds East Food Bank on a project which will make a huge difference to thousands of struggling families in Leeds. Zest Health For Life is a non- profit making organisation which helps disadvantaged people in the Leeds area by giving them chance to take part in activities to improve people’s social, mental, physical and emotional well being.

Over the past three or so years there has been an increasing need for food banks as families struggle to get by due to many circumstances.  As a result there are more and more food banks which are providing a lifeline for disadvantaged families.  There was also a need for providng people with help in giving ideas for nutritious, yet cheap mealthat would also be tempting to eat.  So Victoria Gate has linked up and created a fantastic cookbook which is given out at the food bank.

To find out more about Hammerson’s partnership with Zest Health For Life and the cookbook, read about it here:

The book “Simple Cooking On A Shoe String” is an ideal starter book to give beginners a start in cooking healthy meals that won’t cook the earth.  In the ingredients list against every recipe the foods that are usually put in the food parcels are highlighted in bold type. These are usually tinned or packet foods.

I was asked if I would like to take part in a Charitable Food Blogger Challenge by either using inspiration from my own recipes or recipes from the recipe book.  I agreed and was sent a food parcel full of ingredients to take up the challenge.

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These were the contents of my food parcel for my challenge: porridge oats, ground mixed spice, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, granulated sugar, four bananas, and some wholemeal self raising flour.

I was impressed with the ingredients I got in the food parcel.  I knew that I could bake quite a few things with the ingredients provided, they would stretch quite far and that by including oats, wholemeal flour and bananas the bakes would be healthier than, say a cupcake with buttercream. Not only were there ingredients containing the slow release carbs, such as the oats, they were also cheap ones.  I did have to add my own butter but I used Sainsbury’s own value brand of unsalted butter which at the time of writing was 95p for a 250g packet.  I also used golden syrup in one of the recipes and this is also a cheap standby to have in your storecupboard.

First of all  I chose to bake the Spicy Banana Bread in the Cooking On A Shoestring recipe book.  According to the ingredients list you might get sugar and oats in a parcel from the food bank but the other ingredients are cheap to buy and with the exception of the bananas will keep so you could make it again and again.  The recipe introduction says “bananas are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.  You can use overripe bananas for this recipe so that they don’t go to waste.  You could also use less sugar as the mixed spice already gives this recipe a delicious flavour.The bread could be eaten as a snack or at breakfast time”

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Three ripe mashed bananas were mixed with two beaten eggs and some mixed spice. Then flour, sugar, oats and vanilla essence were added to the mixture and baked in a loaf tin.
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The loaf made about 10 generous slices and tasted fab with or without butter spread on it.
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The banana kept the cake naturally sweet and moist.
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Cut up into slices, this banana bread would make a perfect lunchbox treat, or a quick breakfast on the run. It would also freeze well so you could bake in bulk if you have an abundance of bananas.

The banana loaf was simple to bake in a 24cm size loaf tin and was easily stored in an airtight tin.  It cut beautifully up into slices and tasted delicious with or without butter spread on it. My husband actually said he preferred it to other banana loaves he had tasted as it wasn’t too overpoweringly sweet.

With the remaining ingredients I had a brainstorming session and thought about what I’ve baked in the past using oats as a main ingredient and came across a wonderful recipe in another of my favourite cookbooks, one which I’ve bought for my children The Hungry Student Easy Baking by Charlotte Pike.  In this book there is a recipe for banana and chocolate chip cookies. As I had quite a bit of sugar left and one banana left in the box I thought I would adapt the recipe to suit what was in the box.  So instead of the chocolate chips in the original recipe I used 100g of oats and instead of the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda I used the wholemeal flour given to me in the food parcel.

The result was 18 deliciously chewy and moreish cookies whiche went down extremely well with the whole family.  I had to add 90g of my own butter but I didn’t need anything else to make them special.

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These oaty banana cookies may LOOK boring but they certainly didn’t TASTE boring. I had to hide them from my 14 year old son!
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I also added in a spoonful of the ground mixed spice given to me in the parcel along with the flour. It gave the cookies a lift and made them taste gorgeous.

After the cookies I realised I still had enough ingredients left to bake some flapjacks.   I combined 175g butter with 175g of the sugar in the parcel and to this I also added my own golden syrup of  about 150g.  Otherwise the flapjack wouldn’t have stuck together.  When this had melted in a large pan I then added 500g porridge oats and some ground mixed spice.  I reckon one or two of the bananas in the parcel might have worked here so long as it had been mashed in.

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Flapjack which got a bit burned at the edges!

106 Unfortunately my daughter turned the oven temperature up to well over 200oC after I had asked her to turn it up. I was refering to some music playing in the kitchen, but she thought I meant the oven! I realised when I thought I could smell burning only 10 minutes after putting the flapjacks in the oven.  So down went the temperature but they weren’t my usual chewy offerings.  Anyhow I did find one of them was delicious with a cup of coffee at breakfast the next day!

After all this I still had a tiny bit of sugar and oats, some baking powder, some of the vanilla essence, some mixed spice and some of the flour left!  It just goes to show that you can create some delicious things with store cupboard ingredients and that they don’t have to cost the earth either.  I thought I could use the remaining ingredients to make pancakes  and one member of my family could have porridge for breakfast.

You can find out about the work of Zest Health For Life at the link to their website here:

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cakes

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake (back) and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

A few weeks back I wanted to use up a tin of pumpkin puree which had been lurking in my baking cupboard. My family don’t like pumpkin pie so I looked through my recipe books and found a few recipes which would help me use this tin.  I had made a Coconut Pumpkin Bar cake from the latest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook before but wanted to try something different.

So, it was raining outside, it was cold and miserable.  The dog had been walked and I wanted to crack on before the kids came home off the school bus.  I found two recipes I liked, the first was a square cake from the fab (and much used in this house) The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, and another from the brilliant latest offering from Lorraine Pascale: A Lighter Way To Bake.  In Lorraine’s book she has a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Luckily each recipe used half the tin of pumpkin puree so I had enough to make both recipes!

First up was the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  Here’s how it was made:

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Plain flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt were added into a large mixing bowl.
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The recipe called for two different types of sugar: caster sugar and soft dark, brown sugar. I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used golden caster sugar instead.
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In another bowl I started weighing out the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. These were flour, golden caster sugar (no brown spare again), baking powder, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon.
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Here are the “wet” ingredients for the whole cake. I whisked together eggs, sunflower oil and maple syrup. The canned pumpkin mixture was added afterwards and turned it orange!
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On to the “wet” ingredients for the cupcakes, this was melted butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract. After that the canned pumpkin was whisked into the mixture.
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Here are the cupcakes ready to go into the oven. I love using these muffin cases which I bought in a pack from Booths which contained 4 dozen different coloured tulip cases. They look like the ones you see in Starbucks or Costa!
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I’m glad my son was still at school when I was making these cakes. If he had seen the pumpkin puree going into it. The last time he saw pumpkin puree he said it looked like cat sick. He has a point…
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The mixture for the whole cake. All ready to be spooned into a square tin.
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Here is the finished result, the large square cake cut up into slices. There was a cream cheese frosting to go with the recipe which was meant to be spread over the top of the cake. I thought I would pipe swirls on it but this wasn’t a good idea. For a start there wasn’t enough icing and it came out very messy. Finally I sprinkled chopped pecan nuts onto the top of the icing.
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Top view of the whole Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake.
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Oh, go on then! A sneaky piece with a mid afternoon cuppa. Very nice it was too, a lovely spicy flavour which was just perfect for a cold Autumnal day.
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The cream cheese frosting went on top of the cupcakes. As it was a lighter bake recipe there was a smaller amount of frosting. This suits me down to the ground as I find cupcake frosting far too sweet for my liking even though I make it for others! A pecan half adds the finishing touch.
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Broken open to see what the cake looked like inside, what a lovely colour.
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Ooops! Another one bites the dust!

Overall I was very impressed with the way the two recipes turned out, though my personal favourite has to be the cupcakes.  They were perfect.  They weren’t too sweet but provided me with a cakey fix.  My hubby and kids don’t really like pumpkin so I didn’t tell them that there was pumpkin in the cakes.  They were none the wiser!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Paddington Bear’s Marmalade Sandwich Cake

A couple of weeks ago I went along to York Central’s Clandestine Cake Club  event which was held in the fabulous York Cocoa House on Blake Street just around the corner from the Minster.  Although I have been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for nearly 2 years now, it was the very first time I had ever managed to get along to the York Central group.  This month’s theme was Literary Cakes which to me was a brilliant theme.  As a trained primary school teacher, a mother and a massive bookworm it just had to be a child’s book which would provide the inspiration for my cake.

After taking a while to decide, I settled upon Paddington Bear.  I first enjoyed the Paddington Bear stories by Michael Bond as a child in the 1970’s at Infant School.  Our teacher read the first book to us and I also enjoyed the TV series that used to come on just before the 6 o’clock news!  When I became a Key Stage One teacher nearly 20 years ago I had a cuddly Paddington toy and a book which I used to share with the children at story time.  The book ended up being passed down to my own two children who are now teenagers.  My hubby loved Paddington too and I remember him exploding with laughter reading the stories to my children at bedtime.  So my cake just had to be a cakey version of one of Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches!

I then started looking for recipes containing orange and or marmalade and then remembered only a few days previously Mary Berry had been showing how to make her Spiced Orange Cake on The Great British Bake Off Masterclass. It sounded like a great way to try out the cake and to experiment with it to turn it into a marmalade sandwich!

Here’s how it was done:

I copied the idea for a sandwich cake from the jam sandwich cake that Frances made on this year's Great British Bake Off.  I googled the jam sandwich cake mould and found this one on Amazon!
I copied the idea for a sandwich cake from the jam sandwich cake that Frances made on this year’s Great British Bake Off. I googled the jam sandwich cake mould and found this one on Amazon!
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I put a whole orange into a pan of boiling water and let it boil for about 30 minutes.
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Once the orange was cold, it was blitzed in my food processor into a huge pulp.
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All the other cake ingredients- baking powder, flour,caster sugar, baking spread, eggs, cinnamon and mixed spice were added to my food processor and mixed together along with the orange pulp (less 2 tablespoons reserved for the icing).
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The silicone sandwich mould was carefully greased and dusted with a little flour.
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The mixture was spooned into the mould. I placed it onto a baking tray really so it was easy to get in and out of the oven.
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The cake took about half an hour in the oven. It rose beautifully and smelled gorgeous. What a shame that the picture had a huge shadow of me taking the photo on my phone camera. It was dark outside and it was being taken in funny light in my kitchen!
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The following day I cut up the skin from an orange into small, thin pieces and covered them with boiling water. I added some caster sugar and boiled for another minute. Afterwards I tossed some more sugar in with the orange strips.
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I made the cake frosting by putting butter, the last of the orange pulp, a tub of mascarpone cheese and some icing sugar into a large bowl and whisking them together. This made a deliciously creamy frosting. I couldn’t resist nabbing a teaspoonful out of the bowl!
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Cutting the cake horizontally was quite tricky. I never get it straight but at least I didn’t have a thin crust and a massive chunky doorstep!
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To fill the cake I added some Oxford Chunky marmalade. This worked out at roughly half the jar. I chose Oxford marmalade as it’s the one I usually buy to eat at home, it isn’t too sweet and it has lovely chunky shreds in it.
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The jar of Oxford marmalade, my favourite marmalade.
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On the other cake I spread it with a layer of orange mascarpone icing. I tried to make it generous but I was worried I wouldn’t have enough for the top of the cake.
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Thankfully there was enough frosting for the top of the cake!
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The candied orange peel. It should have been left a bit longer to dry out but I ran out of time.
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To finish I added a Paddington ribbon round the edge of the cake and some Paddington cupcake picks. I would have liked to have made a fondant model of Paddington instead but I didn’t have time. Instead I found these decorations on Ebay which were great.

The cake went down well at cake club that night.  I had about a third of the cake left along with some of the other cakey leftovers to take into work with me to share with my colleagues.  It also went down well in school and I was delighted that the cake turned out the way I wanted it to.  I would love to make it again and I bet it would work well with lemon or lime as a change with different spices to complement the main flavour. Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Pie Cake From The Boy Who Bakes

Not another apple related blog post?! Well it certainly feels like it at the moment but then again I have been inundated with apples.  The other day my next door neighbour came round with some apples.  He gave us two huge carrier bags full of apples from his tree in his garden. One bag of smaller apples is being eaten by my daughter’s horse, the others by me and my family here in North Yorkshire.

The other day I posted about baking a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding nearly two weeks ago from the latest Great British Bake Off book but I still had loads of apples to use up.  I had been ill with a nasty cough so I hadn’t baked anything for nearly a week (a record for me!) But to me, Sunday lunch isn’t Sunday lunch without a pudding to finish it off especially in the colder weather.  So it had to be something with apples but what could I bake? I’d made apple cakes, apple crumbles, apple pies and was running out of ideas. I looked through my recipe books and although it looked very big for a Sunday lunch I couldn’t resist having a go at the Apple Pie Cake which is from Edd Kimber‘s recipe. This cake recipe is featured in his “The Boy Who Bakes” book.

I have always liked Edd and his style of baking ever since we first saw him on the very first series of The Great British Bake Off back in 2010.  His Red Velvet Cake from The Boy Who Bakes and his chocolate cake from his second book “Say It With Cake” are two of my favourite large cake recipes which I use time and time again.

Here’s how I made the Apple Pie Cake:

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I needed to use three 20cm/ 8″ sandwich cake tins to make the apple pie cake. Here they are greased and lined with baking parchment circles from Lakeland.

The cake itself is actually created using a whisking method where the eggs are separated.  The air gets into the cake by whisking the volume into the yolks and then into the egg whites. I’m not as experienced at this method so I did wonder how it would turn out.

Flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon were sifted into a large bowl.
Flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon were sifted into a large bowl.
Butter and half the sugar were creamed together.
Butter and half the sugar were creamed together.
One by one four egg yolks were added and beaten in to the mixture.
One by one four egg yolks were added and beaten in to the mixture.
Then some vanilla extract was added in.
Then some vanilla extract was added in.
The egg whites were whisked together.
The egg whites were whisked together.
Hoping to achieve soft peak status!
Hoping to achieve soft peak status!
Adding the remains of the caster sugar to the mixture bit by bit.
Adding the remains of the caster sugar to the mixture bit by bit.
Folding the egg whites into the cake mixture.
Folding the egg whites into the cake mixture.
Then adding the dry ingredients.
Then adding the dry ingredients.
Sharing out the mixture equally  between the three tins.
Sharing out the mixture equally between the three tins.
Making the caramelised apples for the top and filling of the cake; butter, sugar, cinnamon and sliced apples heating slowly in the pan.
Making the caramelised apples for the top and filling of the cake; butter, sugar, cinnamon and sliced apples heating slowly in the pan.
Two out of three layers of apple cake!
Two out of three layers of apple cake!
The final one!
The final one!
The apples were then taken out of the sauce so that the sauce could thicken and caramelise.
The apples were then taken out of the sauce so that the sauce could thicken and caramelise.
The apples in their bowl cooling down
The apples in their bowl cooling down.
Building up the cake layer by layer, spreading on a layer of cinnamon cream cheese icing, topped by a layer of apples.
Building up the cake layer by layer, spreading on a layer of cinnamon cream cheese icing, topped by a layer of apples.
Two of the cakes turned out onto the cooling rack.
Two of the cakes turned out onto the cooling rack.
Ta[dah! The finished cake.  It tasted delicious- all the flavours of apple pie in cake form!
Ta[dah! The finished cake. It tasted delicious- all the flavours of apple pie in cake form!

Despite still feeling rough from my cough after last week I was delighted that the cake turned out well.  It tasted absolutely delicious and everyone enjoyed it. Even my son who complains he “doesn’t like apple cooked in anything” ate a second slice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx