Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Forever Summer with Nigella Lawson

Forever Summer? Now wouldn’t that just be the ticket? As I look out of my kitchen window at a cold, wet and rainy landscape I can’t help thinking we have been just a little bit short-changed here in the UK when it comes to summer.  I was lucky enough to escape to Ibiza for a week in August which was wonderful, even though we were blessed with rain and thunderstorms when we were there. But it wouldn’t be a British Bank Holiday if it wasn’t raining would it?

When I came back from Ibiza I was determined to hold on to the concept of summer.  I am definitely a Spring and Summer person. I have much more energy and get up and go when the sun is out. To me, summer is a time when I can open up the patio doors, sit out with a drink and my cross stitch and to relax.  Being a teacher in my day, this relaxation is very important to me in the school holidays when I’m not rushing around after my teenagers.  To me, summer is also a time when you can eat simple but delicious food or even get the BBQ out. Though to be honest we have only had about 3 BBQs this year. The last one was nearly cancelled as the heavens opened when my husband pulled the BBQ out and got it set up!

Another thing I tend to do when I have more time is to cook from recipe books I’ve bought but not had time to do anything with. I love Nigella and use her recipes a lot but there’s one book on my shelf of hers that I’ve hardly used.  To be honest it’s my brother’s book which I’m borrowing off him. He lives in Canada but he’d left two of his Nigella books at my mum’s house! So Paul if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind, I’m looking after them for you and making good use of them!  One of the books is Nigella’s “Forever Summer” and upon reading it you are immediately transported into a world of dinners and BBQs on a terrace, with the blazing sun pouring down as you chat and sip on a delicious cocktail.  Instead I’m thinking it’s more like bangers and mash weather than bangers on the BBQ here.

But it is a shame that the UK climate and all our wishes of a gorgeous hot summer were dampened down this year. I’m determined to still enjoy some yummy food though.  Over the last few days I have enjoyed testing out a couple of the recipes from Forever Summer in the vain hope that we might get some better weather to take us into September.

Last weekend we had a quiet Bank Holiday weekend at home and when it is like this you want to enjoy good food and great company of family and friends.  For Sunday I attempted some Mint Chocolate Mousse which is one of the delicious dessert recipes in Forever Summer.  Nigella says it “tastes best when made with the best quality mint chocolate”. I tend to use Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense bars as they have mint pieces and oil in it rather than a soft fondant. But when I was out meeting my friend for coffee we went to a local farm shop which didn’t sell any mint chocolate bars. There were some other gorgeous ones to choose from but I had my heart set on a mint mousse.  In the end I bought good quality chocolate buttons and added some peppermint extract that I already had at home.

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I bought two large packets of Montzenuma organic dark chocolate buttons from a local farm shop. They were absolutely gorgeous. To make them minty flavour I added a couple of drops of natural peppermint extract bought from Lakeland.

I was a bit nervous about making chocolate mousse as it involves separating eggs which I always muck up. Then I had to whisk egg whites.  I managed though and the mousse turned out much better than expected.  Shared out equally and spooned into rather retro looking sundae dishes, this pudding turned out to be a lovely decadent treat.

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The chocolate mousse made five large dishes full. Served in my late mother-in-law’s sundae dishes which was a great excuse to get them out of the cupboard! The mousse was filling, creamy and rich.

For Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to create a Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake.  The picture in the book showed a mouthwatering sandwich cake.  Each layer had the sponge cake and was then topped with a layer of chewy meringue and finished off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds.  Well, it serves me right for not reading the recipe right.  I did separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl.  But that’s where it ended.  Instead of keeping the meringue separate, I wasn’t concentrating and threw the egg whites in with the rest of the sponge.  That wasn’t meant to happen! So in the end I was left with a flatter version of a Victoria Sponge!  I didn’t have any flaked almonds in either, so I sprinkled on some icing sugar hoping that it might make the cake half decent!  We were far too full up after our gammon. and pineapple so the cake went in the fridge to eat during the week.  It tasted ok and a small slice was very welcome when I got in from work absolutely exhausted after a long day.

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Here is my bungled attempt at the Strawberry Meringue and Cream Cake in Nigella’s Forever Summer book. As you can see it looks as flat as a biscuit and no sight of any meringues!

For our Bank Holiday dinner I cooked a gammon joint.  I usually boil gammon in a large pot on my hob so it takes all the salt out of it.  This time I tried it in my slow cooker which didn’t turn out too well.  It was still very salty and the meat instead of coming out in slices, fell apart like pulled pork!  I attempted to make the accompanying pineapple salsa.  None of my family liked it though, which was disappointing.

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We tried some Gammon with Pineapple last weekend for the Monday Bank Holiday. It didn’t turn out how it should have done as I tried cooking it in my slow cooker. The pineapple salsa wasn’t my cup of tea either!

For me, summer conjures up beautiful coloured and tasty salads.  One of my favourite salads is a well made Greek Salad so I was keen to try the version in Nigella’s book.  Her version includes fennel though which I can’t stand as I don’t like anything with an aniseed flavour.  I left it out.  This version also includes some finely sliced red onion which was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper.  The salad was absolutely delicious, the feta cheese and olives were just delicious, a mixture of creaminess and saltiness in the same dish.

Nigella's Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.
Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

I have really enjoyed cooking from Forever Summer over the past few days. There are a lot of recipes in the book which my family won’t touch with a bargepole but I’m keen to dip in and out of it.  Let’s hope we have a decent summer next year!

Love Sam xx