Chocolate Chequerboard Cake.

img_1310Well, I can’t believe I started the New Year with good intentions.  I thought this year I would get myself back on track with my blog and update it more regularly.  All very well until I went back to work.  In the supply teaching world the Spring term is often the busiest for me. Each night I think I’m going to get that blog post written and it has just stayed in draft form for yet another night.  And now we’re nearly halfway through February. How did that happen?

Last month I didn’t bake much at all.  I’m trying my hardest not to have sweet stuff in at home as I’m doing Slimming World.  With 16lbs lost to date and another 16lbs to my target weight, I don’t want to undo all my hard work. Then again I’ve got to live, too.  That includes meeting up with my friends and also going to my much loved Clandestine Cake Club events.  About three weeks ago my friend Linda, who is the organiser for the Headingley and Meanwood branch of cake club, organised an event at East of Arcadia in Meanwood.  A lovely, welcoming venue and the event’s theme was “New Year, New Cake”.

I thought January is the perfect opportunity to try out something new, whether it is a new flavour, a new recipe or even a new way of decorating a cake. Fot me it had to be a new recipe combined with decorating a cake.  For once I was going to bake something that wasn’t a bundt but would still look and taste amazing.  While looking through a Green and Blacks Organic chocolate recipe book which my sister in law gave me one Christmas, I stumbled upon the perfect cake. A chocolate chequerboard cake which looked really impressive.


Chequerboard cakes don’t look as complicated and as fiddly as you might think.  I thought you needed a special tin or fancy cutting skills but it can all be done with a large plain piping nozzle and two large piping bags. One filled with chocolate cake mix, the other with vanilla.  You pipe concentric circles in contrasting colours by alternating them on each layer. This is so when the cake is assembled the contrasting colour and flavour is directly on top of the other one. Looks very effective when finished and if the cake is completely covered in icing nobody can tell what it looks like inside!

The Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipe Book which my sister in law gave me a couple of years back.  

It was a Monday morning, the day before the cake club.  I hadn’t got any supply work booked in until later that week and was feeling like January had got off to a slow and boring start.  The weather was foul and miserable with a damp, low fog that hung in the air.  I didn’t want to go out so the warmth of the kitchen appealed to me.  I thought as the phone hadn’t rung, I was safe.  I greased the three sandwich  tins I would need for my cake and began to get out the ingredients.  Just as I reached into the cupboard to get out my scales my phone rings. It’s one of the agencies I work through offering me work for that afternoon.  I say yes, quickly put everything away and go off to get showered and changed.

So my cake ended up being baked on the very same day of the cake club.  Fast forward to Tuesday morning.  The weather is still cold, wet and lousy but after walking the dog and dropping my son off at the bus stop I was ready to try again. As my photos show, there were a lot of interesting parts in making the cake but it was worth it for the impressive results.

The cake needed a sugar soaking syrup to add to the cake when it was baked. So the first step was to make up the syrup using caster sugar and water.  This was then flavoured with a tiny bit of rum!
Two separate cake mixes were made up to make the chequerboard cake.  The chocolate one was flavoured with Green and Blacks Organic cocoa powder and the plain one with vanilla extract.
A bit of a messy job but made much easier with Lakeland’s Get A Grip Piping bags and their large piping nozzles which I swear by.  To help fill the bags I steadied the bags in a glass jug and this also kept them upright.
I started off by piping a chocolate ring round the edge of two of the cake tins and a vanilla ring around the edge of another one.  Doesn’t look very appealing at the moment, does it?
The piping is all finished in each cake tin and ready to bake.  I’m not the neatest at piping skills but it’s not the Great British Bake Off!
The layer with the vanilla ring round the edge was going to be the middle layer of the cake.
All ready and waiting to come out of the tin.  When you have baked a cake like this for the first time, you never know what to expect.
While the cakes were still warm I brushed the rum sugar syrup onto the top of the cakes. It soaked through but thankfully didn’t make the cakes soggy!
Each tier was assembled with a generous layer of apricot jam.
The middle layer goes on top of the bottom one…
And now for the top layer.

In the Green and Blacks recipe book the cake was decorated with a simple Green and Blacks dark chocolate ganache and finished with chocolate curls and pieces of Green and Blacks chocolate.  This to me needed me to do something else which was a bit more fun.  I’d got some chocolate moulds I’d not used before as well as a packet of crispy M&M’s and a tub of mini chocolate jazzies.  I poured melted chocolate into a mini chocolate bar mould and then into a dog mould.  They didn’t come out in a perfect finish but then I’m no chocolatier. Once they were set and I’d got them out of the mould I started to make the chocolate ganache.  This ended up being flavoured with another spoonful of rum.  Luckily for me today the ganache was playing the game that day and let me spread it on the cake without it dripping all over the board and the wire rack underneath.

It was hard to get a smooth finish on the side of the cake with the ganache but at least it tasted ok.
My chequerboard cake as decorated from the top.  I didn’t have a plan of how I wanted it to look, I just threw everything on and hoped it looked ok.
At Headingley and Meanwood Cake Club. Having a giggle with Amy over the cake and her trying to cut a piece of it. She said “That’s my piece!” and pretended to take the whole lot!
I brought the last slice home for Mr SmartCookieSam and my teenage son to share.

I was so delighted when the cake turned out well and that it nearly all got eaten at Cake Club. That makes me feel really happy.  I’ll definitely be having a go at another chequerboard cake as it looked and tasted divine.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mojito Cake

Mojito Sponge Birthday Cake.

My husband doesn’t really care much for birthdays.  To him they’re just another day on the calendar.  Until he met me, that is! He says he doesn’t like a fuss and big celebrations but I think you should mark the day in some way or another.

A few weeks ago we were talking about birthdays and my hubby said “Don’t bother making me a cake,”  But I bet if I didn’t serve him one up he would feel upset.  So I try a compromise, I make him a small cake which is big on the flavours he loves and not swamped in sugarpaste or fancy decorations.

So why a Mojito cake?  Both my husband and I love Mojitos especially since we first drank one in the Australian restaurant Reef n’ Beef in Copenhagen a few years back.  The mixture of white rum, lime and mint was just simply gorgeous.  By the way, the meal was lovely as well! Ever since then we have tried to make them at home, especially in the summer.  We also love drinking them on holiday.

So, I baked a simple Victoria Sponge recipe and added some white rum (sorry dear hubby I nicked the rest of your Bacardi to bake your birthday cake), lime juice and zest as well as some chopped mint to the basic mixture.  The icing was a lime flavoured buttercream and to decorate I used chopped pecans and hazelnuts round the edge of the cake along with lime slices for the top.

View from the top of the Mojito Cake.
View from the side. Note the slapdash way in which I threw on the nuts. This was done in a hurry before my hubby arrived home from work as I wanted the cake to be a surprise for him!
A better side view- this cake ended up not being a complete surprise. Hubby noticed the cake in it’s box on the worktop in the utility room. I had nowhere else to put it.
The cake already cut into.
A piece of cake for pudding!

My hubby was pleased with his cake and enjoyed it even though he originally asked me not to make a cake.  Everyone enjoyed it and I was pleased with how the Mojito flavours all worked well together in the mixture.  He didn’t even bat an eyelid when I confessed to using up his Bacardi!

I got the idea of the Mojito cake from Lorraine Pascale’s first book “Baking Made Easy”  Her recipe uses a Genoise sponge, mine was an ordinary Victoria Sponge like mixture.  I used her decoration idea as well, although hers was just using pecan nuts. I didn’t have enough pecans so I added hazelnuts to mine as well.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Rum Babas from The Great British Bake Off -Showstopper Bakes.


Last year when the Great British Bake Off was on I was tempted by the Rum Babas that the contestants were asked to make for their Technical Challenge in the very first week. Who can remember John Whaite accidentally putting salt in the rum babas instead of sugar because the glass jars weren’t labelled?  Luckily though it worked out for him in the end becoming the series winner! I was keen to try out making rum babas, they are something I think of as a 1970’s dessert trolley invention.  I had only tasted a rum baba once, about three years ago when my hubby bought one.  It was stale and tasted funny.  I only had one mouthful of it which is rare for someone like me who is a sugar addict!

To make the rum babas you need some small savarin moulds, these are the ones I bought last year in Lakeland:

I noticed that Lakeland started stocking them after the Bake Off had been on which is great. They came in packs of 4. They have also started stocking the silicone chocolate dome moulds which are for making the chocolate teacakes which were another very tricky technical challenge bake from Series 3.  As a regular shopper at my local stores (either Harrogate, York or Northallerton) I was pleased as I knew my hubby would want me to try them.

But did I get round to using them? No I didn’t! Well over a year later I had forgotten about the moulds and found them in my cupboard still in the packaging.  Guilt overcame me and I thought I must try them out as promised.  My hubby talked about rum babas saying he would love to have one for pudding.  We had rum, I had yeast so I decided to get baking.

Last Sunday morning was a quiet day at home at the beginning of half term week.  I had all day to spend on the rum babas between other jobs but there was lots to do.  I’m still underconfident when it comes to anything involving yeast.

Here’s how it was made and what happened:

First, flour, sugar, yeast and salt were put in a large bowl. They were put at different sides to one another.
A beaten egg in the measuring jug.
The dry ingredients are gently mixed together, then the egg was poured into the same bowl.
The eggs were mixed in with the dry ingredients to form a wet dough.
The wet dough was placed in my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and mixed on a very slow setting for 8-10 minutes with a dough hook.
After the kneading time.

At this point I began to panic.  The dough was very wet and I really struggled to knead it by hand.  In the end I had to stick it in the mixer as I just couldn’t work with it.  It just stuck to my hands and the more I tried to knead, the more it stuck.  I don’t know if I was meant to use the mixer but I thought it would be better than my hot hands touching the dough.  I managed to get it into the bowl, I washed my hands and then tried to search on YouTube to see if they had the original episode where they made the rum babas.  Then I could watch it back and see where I was going wrong.  Lo and behold there was a clip showing the rum babas and it was mentioned that the dough did appear wet.  Thank heavens for that!

If you want to see the original clip, then here is the link to it here:

The dough was placed in my Utility room on the work surface. The bowl was covered in cling film. I chose the utility room as I had the tumble dryer on and the room was quite warm at the time.

After all this messing about my kitchen surface looked like a scene of destruction.  It took some scrubbing to get the dough of the surface, it felt stickier than Superglue, if that’s possible!  I left the dough to rise in the bowl for about an hour and a half which was enough time for me to get on with the ironing.

Here are the 4 savarin moulds bought from Lakeland.
The moulds were lightly greased with flour and a sprinkling of caster sugar.
The dough was meant to be piped carefully into the savarin moulds, taking care that each one held an equal amount of mixture.  I spooned it in with a teaspoon and wondered why it was so messy!

Then for a second proving, this time in the savarin moulds. They had to rise to the level of the hole but not be too overproved.  This was easier said than done!

After baking, I turned the rum babas out onto a mat to cool down. Before they were fully cooled I needed to soak them with the rum sugar syrup.
Each rum baba was so big it only just fitted inside my dessert bowls.
Here is the cream mixture all whipped up. I swear by the Get A Grip piping bags from Lakeland. To help me fill these bags easily I use a pint glass to support the bag.
Each rum baba got a swirl of cream piped in the middle of it and was then topped with some berries. I used blueberries and strawberries but I reckon chopped kiwi fruit would look pretty too!
All ready for our pudding! What a massive rum baba as well. We all really enjoyed them and our eyes were bigger than our stomachs!

So, would I make the rum babas again?  Yes, I would.  Despite them being quite labour intensive in short bursts they were a massive hit with the family and a perfect treat.  Very naughty but nice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx