Pecan and Maple Bundt Cake- Nigella’s Kitchen.

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 Bake Off!  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!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Hilton Doubletree Cookies

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My version of Hilton Doubletree Cookies. Soft and chewy and deliciously moreish.

A couple of weeks ago I was in one of those I want to bake moods.  This happens quite a lot as baking takes my mind off everyday worries and is pure escapism from my busy job.  When I have times like these I love to bake cookies. They are quick and simple to make and taste fab too. Not that I’m allowed at the moment. I’m doing Slimming World and I can’t even begin to think about how many Syns are in some of my baking creations.

I was in one of those moods where I wanted to try out something new so I went online and came across these stunners.  Hilton Doubletree Cookies.  Now, if you have ever stayed in a Hilton Doubletree Hotel they give you a fresh and warm cookie when you check in.  I stayed at one in London near Tower Bridge about five years ago with my family and my son for one thought this was amazing to get a cookie.  We had set off early down to London from Yorkshire and were just checking in late in the morning so the cookie staved off the hunger pangs until we could stop for lunch later.

From what I remember of my Hilton Doubletree Cookie, it was soft and chewy inside, just how I like a cookie.  So when I saw the recipe online, I wrote it down and attempted to have a go at making some.  The recipe was in American measurements so I got out my set of baking cups.  I’m always nervous of adapting American recipes as I’m worried they won’t be as accurate because I’m not used to them.  Especially as this recipe called for a cup of butter.  I had to scoop up the butter and put it into the cup which was quite messy.  Usually when I bake cookies you just weigh out the butter!

The cookies also asked for chopped walnuts in the mixture. I added pecans to mine as I didn’t have any walnuts in at home. Of course due to nut allergies, etc. you can omit the nuts.  I used chopped chocolate chunks as well.

It was torture not being able to eat a cookie. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t like cooking Slimming World friendly cookies.  The one time I did this I was not impressed at having to use artificial sweetener and low fat spread in my baking. All those chemicals and the bake felt wrong. So it’s better to abstain and give the baking to someone else who can indulge. And this is exactly what happened here…. until the following day when I’d been so busy I’d not had time for lunch and got home from work. Who wanted a banana or an apple then? Oh no, not me! I ate one and very gorgeous it was too. Now a few months back I would have eaten another and another but guilt stopped me. So I stuck at one!

Now if you want to try baking the DoubleTree Hilton Cookies yourself,  then this is where I found the recipe. Head over to  fabulous The Little Kitchen blog and you will find it there:

http://www.thelittlekitchen.net/doubletree-hotel-copycat-chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe/

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With the addition of chocolate chunks and pecan nuts, these cookies are heaven on a plate.
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These cookies didn’t last long in our house.

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Dust Off The Old Cookbooks- Coffee Cake. 

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As my regular SmartCookieSam readers will know, I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club. Although there are plenty of events held all over the world and some very local to me in North Yorkshire, there are also virtual or VCake events for those who can’t get to an event.  Or you can join them if you want an excuse to bake!

At the end of January, Lynn Hill the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club held a virtual event where you were invited to “dust off your old cookbooks” and bake something from a recipe book you had not used for a while.

I have loads of recipe books like that and my family are sick of all the books I have all over the house.  Some are more used than others and Lynn’s event gave me the perfect excuse to search through my stash and bake something.  When my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) died I inherited her cookbooks.  Nana and I were so alike in lots of ways, we both loved cooking and baking, knitting and sewing and also reading books.  Sadly Nana died in 1994, just after I’d sat my teaching degree finals.  She used to collect recipes from everywhere and wrote them down from TV cookery programmes or from the radio as well as cutting recipes out of magazines.

One of Nana’s baking books was a Sainsbury’s one.  It dates from the late 1980’s and I loved looking through the recipes in it.  As I decided what to bake I came across a mouthwatering recipe for a coffee sponge. I never remember Nana baking a coffee sponge, she tended to make fruit cakes and I do remember her lemon drizzle cake.

Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday is at the end of January so it was a perfect opportunity to bake the coffee cake for then. My husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he loves coffee cake.  I had a couple of goodies to make this cake even extra special: some Sugar and Crumbs Coffee flavour Natural icing sugar, some cocoa covered coffee beans bought in Costa coffee and some glittery gold and silver star candles thrown in the trolley when I was shopping in Tesco.

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My Nana Mary’s old cookery book with some special extras to turn the coffee sponge into a Birthday Cake for Mr SmartCookieSam.   
The coffee sponge was made using the whisking method.  I whisked eggs and sugar together until they became light and fluffy. Then in went some flour and baking powder, followed by a spoonful of vegetable oil and some semi skimmed milk. Also added to the mixture to give it a coffee flavour was a teaspoonful of Monin Tiramisu sugar syrup.

The cake baked for about 20-25 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven.  It smelled delicious.  When it was cooling I made up the coffee buttercream.  I also crushed up some pecan nuts to go in the middle of the cake and to sprinkle on the top of it.

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The cake was layered together with the coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chopped pecan nuts in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used a packet of cocoa covered coffee beans to decorate the top as well.

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We had a slice of birthday cake and it was delicious. What a treat to celebrate Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday and he really enjoyed it.

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Ooops! Back on the diet tomorrow!
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

Blueberry and Pecan Muffin Cake from Delia’s Cakes.

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Blueberry and Pecan Muffin Cake: recipe from Delia’s Cakes.

This is the second recipe I baked from Delia’s Cakes as part of my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  I baked four recipes this weekend as I wanted to bake and donate some cakes to the cafe at my son’s old Primary school where they serve tea and cake during the village Spring Festival.

I love blueberries and any excuse to bake with them and there’s a couple of other posts on here with blueberry cakes.  But this cake with the addition of pecan nuts and a crumbly topping just made my mouth water from the picture.   I thought it would be a great bake to send down to the Spring Festival as not everyone likes fancy decorated cakes.  To be honest even though I love cake decorating,  it’s all about the taste for me!

First I greased my springform cake tin with Dr Oetker Cake Release Spray and lined it with a baking parchment circle.  The oven was still on from the previous bake at the right temperature so I got on straightaway with the weighing out.  All the dry ingredients were sifted together in a large mixing bowl- starting with plain flour, then I added some baking powder and cinnamon to the mixture.  In another bowl I mixed together some milk, melted butter, eggs and sugar.  These two mixtures were combined carefully and folded with a metal spoon.  Finally I added some blueberries.

The mixture was quickly spooned into the tin and then I added the crunchy crumbly topping.  This was some chopped pecan nuts, some more blueberries and a sprinkling of demerara sugar.  Into the oven it went for around an hour.  After an hour my mum checked the cake and it felt springy to the touch so she took it out of the oven and let it cool down.

I thought the cake looked a bit flat compared to other cakes but then when I checked the picture out in the book, thankfully there wasn’t much difference.  When it was cooled down I dusted the top of it with icing sugar and put it away in a box ready to be taken down to the Spring Festival.

Although I had been concerned about no one wanting to buy my Raspberry Cupcakes I noticed that my Blueberry Muffin cake had been cut up into 8 slices and by the end of the day they had all gone.  My son’s former teacher was eating the last slice of it when I was chatting to her on her stall in the playground and I was so grateful to hear her say it was delicious! My mum said to me afterwards that she thought people are turning away from the heavily decorated cupcakes and going for more plain things.  I agree with her.  I love the look of cupcakes but I always have a massive headache after eating loads of that buttercream!

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Delia says “Any of my muffin recipes can be adapted to any fruit and blueberries have always been popular so in this recipe I decided instead of making muffins, I’d use the mixture to make a cake, which has turned out to be a real winner!” I can definitely agree with that, Delia!

So, this cake in my opinion was a real success and one I would love to bake time and time again.  I think it would work well with raspberries and apples as well.  Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx