Amazing Cakes #4: Carrot and Apple Cake

I can’t resist a good carrot cake. Neither can the rest of my family and whenever I make carrot cake it disappears very quickly. Last Saturday afternoon I hadn’t planned on doing any baking. But I had done all the housework, been food shopping and came home having bought another bag of carrots. I couldn’t believe it, I’d forgotten I’d bought carrots the other day! The ones I’d bought the other day were beginning to go funny so I thought I’d better do something with them. So I made a batch of carrot soup.

I still had about 4 large carrots left so thought I’d better bake a carrot cake. Every carrot cake recipe I had needed full fat cream cheese in the icing and I had to nick what was left of my daughter’s Philadelphia in the fridge. I chose to bake Amelia Le Bruin’s recipe in Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off. One of the chapters features recipes from last year’s bakers and I remember Amelia’s Naked Christmas Cake. I don’t recall this cake though. This carrot cake actually has chopped apple in it as well as raisins and chopped walnuts. I didn’t have chopped walnuts, only a small bag of mixed nuts which ended up being chopped into the cake instead. As with a traditional carrot cake, the fat content comes from vegetable oil and not butter.

I started by preparing and weighing out the carrots, apple, raisins and nuts. Then I weighed out the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, which was some self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. In another bowl I whisked together beaten eggs and oil along with some granulated sugar. These were then folded in with the dry ingredients followed by the carrots and apple, etc. When this was done, I tipped the mixture into the tin. I used a deep filled 20cm diameter deep filled tin. This carrot and apple cake was a single layer one. Normally the ones I make are double ones.

A raw carrot cake batter unfortunately doesn’t look very nice but I assure you it looked much better once baked! I put the cake in the oven to bake and carried on with my other jobs.

While the cake was cooling, I made up the cream cheese frosting. I have learned over the years that it is not a good idea to use low fat cream cheese for frosting. It is not the same and makes the frosting so runny. There was an added ingredient in Amelia’s frosting: double cream! This gave the frosting a delicious flavour and made it thick and glossy. It was so easy to spread onto the top of the cake and there was lots of it!

To finish, Amelia’s recipe had chopped walnuts on top of it as is traditional on a carrot cake. I must admit I prefer marzipan or sugar carrots on mine and the ones I use are ones I buy in packs of 12 from my local supermarket. They also help me with portioning out the carrot cakeWe had a piece of carrot cake that afternoon with a cup of tea and then I saved the rest to put in a box to take along to work to share with my work mates. Mr S and my daughter were looking to find the rest of the cake on Monday afternoon and wondered where it had gone. Trouble is if I usually make something they say to me why have you baked that, we don’t need it! Then when I don’t bake, they want me to make something! I can’t win!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Suet-Free Mincemeat- How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Until about five years ago I could never be bothered to make my own mincemeat. Why go to all that trouble when you can buy it readymade in jars? It was when my late mother in law told me that making your own mincemeat was so easy, that I thought I might as well give it a go myself.

My mother in law loved cooking and baking. She used to use Delia’s recipe in her Christmas book where the mincemeat baked slowly on a low heat in her oven whilst she was doing other things. I tried this for a couple of years and realised that homemade mincemeat tastes delicious. This year I decided to go for a change and looked to Nigella for inspiration.

Nigella has a whole Christmas section in her Domestic Goddess book, which is where I looked first for Christmas recipes. Her recipe entitled Hettie Potter’s Suet Free Mincemeat looked delicious and easy to follow. Not everyone is keen on suet and I must admit it’s not something I use regularly. I don’t think I have ever made a suet pudding, apart from putting it in the Christmas pudding. It was interesting to see cider as an ingredient in the mincemeat, rather than brandy or whisky! Although this recipe contains both brandy and cider! Very potent!

My own Stir Up Sunday was actually eight days later! I had prepped all the dried fruit for my Christmas Cake and pudding exactly a week after but used the Monday at home to bake. More about the cake and pudding in a later post!

I was glad that this mincemeat didn’t need to be baked, but rather heated and then simmered in a large saucepan on my hob. That meant it could be cooked as the cake was baking and the pudding was steaming in the slow cooker.

All that I needed to do was to put some soft brown sugar in the pan with some medium dry cider. The recipe used approximately half a bottle. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the cider as it was mid afternoon and I had to go out later that day to pick my son up from work! Once the sugar had dissolved, I added chopped Bramley apples, mixed spice, cinnamon, currants, raisins, glace cherries and some blanched almonds. As well as this I added in some lemon rind and a little lemon juice. The mixture had to simmer on a low heat for about half an hour so that the apples had softened and gone more squishy. When this had happened, I then took the mincemeat off the heat and stirred in some brandy.

This recipe makes approximately 2kg of mincemeat which is enough to last me throughout the festive season for home use. It smelled absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to put it in some mince pies as soon as I can!

Happy Christmas Baking!

Love Sam. xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Rudolph’s Carrot Cake.

Wednesday December 6th 2017.

I love a good carrot cake.  This version from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book has a special twist to it in that it’s decorated with a reindeer red nose and antlers on the top of it.  Although my children are too old for the leaving goodies out for Santa tradition, I can imagine that Santa and Rudolph will love a slice of carrot cake as a change from all those mince pies and raw carrots!  It does take me back to when we used to leave Santa a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot for the Rudolph. As the recipe introduction says: “Father Christmas and Rudolph will be over the moon when they receive a little slice of this moist carrot cake before heading back to the North Pole.  It is best eaten on the day it is baked as the icing needs to be kept in the fridge which can make the sponge a little bit heavy”

As it’s still over 2 weeks until Christmas, there’s no way that this cake will be left out for Santa to eat at our house.  Instead it was to be baked and taken as a treat along to one of my regular schools I teach in as a supply teacher.  As I have to be extremely careful with allergies, etc. I made sure that the cake did not contain nuts.  Instead of pine nuts which this recipe called for, I substituted the same amount of nuts for raisins.

The most tedious part of baking a carrot cake, to me is the carrot grating.  Of course I could cut corners and put the carrots through the grating attachment on my food processor. But, by the time I’d got the machine out, I could have grated the carrots by hand. When I’d grated all the carrots I needed I put them to one side in a bowl so that I could get on with weighing out the other ingredients.

In one bowl I whisked together sunflower oil. maple syrup, eggs and some light brown muscovado sugar.  Then in another bowl I weighed out and sifted together the dry ingredients: self raising flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. The raisins then got added in, instead of the pine nuts along with the grated carrots.

I then greased and lined two 20cm or 8 inch diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The mixture was divided between the two tins and baked in the oven for about 35 minutes.  By this time I was feeling really hungry.  I’d come home from work, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and now the smell of baking carrot cake wafting around the kitchen was too much for me.  I made myself another cup of tea and sat in the lounge away from temptation to nibble at something sweet.

When the cake was out of the oven and cooling down on the rack I made up the cream cheese icing.  It was a miracle that Mr SmartCookieSam hadn’t nicked any of the cream cheese to put on his toast at breakfast time.  This recipe needed 400g of full fat cream cheese.  I always use full fat Philadelphia as it gives great results and is really creamy.  To this I added some icing sugar and about 50ml of double cream. This version doesn’t use butter so wasn’t as sickly as some cream cheese frostings I’ve had in the past.

Half an hour later the cake was cooled and ready to be iced and filled.  I decided to decorate the cake differently to how it was illustrated in the book.  Instead of melted chocolate and red sprinkles to make a reindeer face and antlers, I found some reindeer themed sprinkles in my baking stash.  They contrasted well with the carrot cake.

On Thursday morning I was in such a rush to get off to work that I left the cake at home in a box in the fridge. I’d kept it in the fridge what with the frosting containing cream cheese and double cream. Of course out of sight, out of mind!  So what did I do when I got in from work? Yes, you guessed right, I had a piece!

Definitely a cake to start new traditions with children on Christmas Eve. Or even a great cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee instead of a mince pie to relax with at any time over the festive period.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake.

Sunday December 3rd, 2017.

Since I gave up baking professionally to concentrate on the day job full time, I’ve had less time to spend on baking things like Christmas cakes. Mr Smartcookiesam says to me every year that I should just go and buy a small one from Marks and Spencer but to me part of Christmas is baking and decorating a Christmas cake. Why should I go out and buy something I enjoy baking at home?

I’ve never been a massive fan of roll out icing and marzipan but I love fruit cakes. If I eat Christmas cake I always take the icing off and serve it with a slice of Wensleydale cheese as you do in my part of the world. I try to decorate my cake differently each year but if I’m short of time I always get out my The Snowman and the Snowdog decorations and cake ribbon. At the time of writing I’ve no idea how I’m going to decorate this year’s cake, please send some inspiration my way!

As for the previous couple of years I’ve used Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe for my family Christmas cake. The recipe features in both The Great British Bake Off Christmas book and Mary’s own Christmas Collection. Dried fruit (a mixture of currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and halved glacé cherries) had been soaking in some brandy for a few days along with some orange zest.

This afternoon, albeit a few days after it should have been done but I thought I’d better get started on the cake. I knew I needed time where I’d be in all afternoon while it was baking. Sundays are not usually a day of rest in our house. I’m normally catching up on all the jobs I haven’t done from the previous week or trying to get ahead for the next week. No time like the present, as they always say.

In a large bowl I creamed together unsalted butter, light brown sugar, treacle and eggs. After these were mixed together, I added in some flour and some ground mixed spice along with some chopped blanched almonds. Then this was combined with the dried fruit mixture.

I had greased and carefully double lined a deep 9″ or 23cm diameter circular cake tin. Mary Berry says in her recipe intro that the cake isn’t a very deep one but it definitely makes a big enough cake for our Christmas celebrations. I found the cake mixture went just over halfway up the cake tin and was deep enough for me.

My oven had been preheated to 140oC and I put the cake tin into the oven on the central shelf. By this time it was 2.30pm and time was cracking on. The cooking time was estimated between 4- 4 1/2 hours so I wanted the cake out by the time we were due to go out.

Jobs done and now it was time to chill. Every now and again throughout the 4 hours I kept popping backwards and forwards to the kitchen to check on the cake. I’m always worried about fruit cakes burning and to be honest I think I need to get my oven checked out. I don’t think the temperature is as accurate any more. Well my oven is 11 years old and it has had a lot of use over the past few years.

At 6.30pm the cake was ready to come out of the oven. The fruit looked a bit burnt on top to be honest and I should have covered the cake with some foil or baking parchment to stop it catching. You can never tell with my oven at the moment.

I’ll be wrapping the cake up in foil and feeding it with brandy every few days or so. In the week leading up to Christmas I will be marzipanning and icing the cake. Watch this space to see it finished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars from Delia’s Cakes.


In my monthly challenge “Cooking The Books“, where I choose a favourite baking book and bake one recipe from each chapter throughout that month, I thought I would have no problem at all in choosing a recipe from the Chocolate chapter.   After all I am a total chocolholic!  This month’s turn is to bake from Delia Smith’s fantastic and much loved “Delia’s Cakes”.  I have already fallen in love with her Chocolate Beer Cake but had to choose something else that would go down well at my neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.

I decided to go with the Chocolate Energy Bars  as they reminded me of a cross between a flapjack and chocolate fridge cake!  Whenever I have run cake stalls before, these always fly off and sell out!  So the Chocolate Energy Bars it just had to be.  Delia says in her introduction to the recipe that she “made them on TV with Dawn French for Comic Relief” and that “school children were making them all over the country to raise money and they were very popular”  I’m not surprised.  Judging by the beautiful picture to accompany the recipe, I would happily sink my teeth into a huge chunk of this!

So both my mum and I got on with baking this for our neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.  This was to be the last of the four bakes I chose to take along as my contribution to the cafe in the village school hall.   I noticed that pecan nuts were on the ingredients list but I thought I would put in crushed digestive biscuits instead of nuts in case it would put children off and what with allergy worries. I also didn’t have any Bran Flakes which were also needed for the recipe.  I can’t stand Bran Flakes, so I doubled the quantity of Rice Krispies that were needed.  The rest of the ingredients stayed the same: dried apricots, raisins, etc.  The recipe also called for molasses syrup.  I thought molasses was like black treacle but I didn’t have any so I substituted in golden syrup instead.  After all, you put golden syrup in flapjacks don’t you?

First I had to put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl.  In a small saucepan I heated up some condensed milk with the golden syrup.  I was surprised that you only needed to use half a tin of condensed milk.  It didn’t seem very much fluid at all to coat all the dried fruit and cereals.  In fact I thought the mixture was a bit dry and wondered whether to add in the rest of the condensed milk but wanted to stick to the recipe.  Then the mixture was  spooned into my traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.

 Once it had been let out and cooled I started to melt the chocolate for the topping.  In one bowl I melted white chocolate in my microwave, followed by some dark chocolate.  Even though it was exactly the same quantity it looked like I had far more dark than white chocolate!


Now for the tricky bit!  Here was where it was all about the taste and not the appearance.  Instead of the bars being easy to cut with a sharp knife I found the whole thing just broke in half diagonally as I tried to turn it out of the tin.  The air was blue in my kitchen!  Then I spread the chocolate on, not looking as pretty as it looked like in Delia’s picture.  My mum and I tried to cut the traybake into even bars but in the end we decided on little squares.  Perhaps it was too crumbly and messy because we needed more fluid to bind the mixture together. It definitely wasn’t overbaked or anything like that.  Into the fridge it went and I hoped and prayed people would buy some the next day.

Whether people did buy some to try I don’t know.  I tried a piece and I thought it was too dry for my liking, though I liked the flavour combination and the chocolate on top.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week I had to take a few bakes along to my local WI meeting to serve up at suppertime.  We take it in turns in groups of three. Usually we liaise between one another and make or buy a selection of savoury and sweet items to take along to share with all the other ladies.  As I was the one out of the three ladies who liked baking the most the others took care of the savoury and I brought along the sweet stuff.  As some people aren’t so keen on fancy decorated cakes I always try to offer something plain like a fruit cake.  The Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible seemed to fit the bill.

In the recipe introduction Mary says “This is a traditional name for a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice.”  She also said it was “good for a hungry family,”  As I was going to be away for a couple of days over the Easter holidays with my hubby and the kids were going to be at home with my Mum, any leftover cake would come in very useful as a pudding.  I was also hoping that the cake would live up to it’s name and that the cake would be so popular that people would come back for more!

Cut And Come Again Cake couldn’t be more simpler to make.  It was prepared by simply adding all the ingredients measured into one big bowl and mixed together thoroughly.

The ingredients in Mary’s Cut and Come Again Cake are: self raising flour, ground mixed spice, butter (which has to be very soft), caster sugar, eggs, currants, sultanas, raisins and a little milk to mix.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
I used my deep 8" diameter cake tin.  This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
I used my deep 8″ diameter cake tin. This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

The cake smelled heavenly when it was baking.  My kitchen was filled with a spicy aroma and it made my mouth water.  It took about 1 1/4 hours to bake which meant I had to leave it until last when I was getting it ready for the meeting.  By this time it was the afternoon and I was feeling very hungry and in need of a pick me up!  I was so tempted to cut into the cake and scoff a slice.

At the meeting I sliced the cake up but as there were so many cakes and other goodies on offer I still had half of it left to take home.  I enjoyed my slice with a cup of tea, it wasn’t as heavy and rich as other fruit cakes but still tasted gorgeous.  My Mum and my kids ate some more at the weekend, though it doesn’t keep as well as an ordinary fruit cake.  And yes I was tempted to come back for more but I didn’t!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx