Banana Cake from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.


Today was a day off from work. All very quiet on the supply teaching front when it’s SATs week so I took the chance to catch up with jobs at home and to relax a bit. 

When I was ironing this morning I looked across at my fruit bowl and spotted some bananas that were so ripe I’m surprised they didn’t grow wings and run away! My kids are going through a refusing to eat fruit phase and there’s no way I’d eat six bananas in one sitting. So there was one thing for it- bake a cake with them in!

A few weeks ago I found a lovely book in my local Waterstones called The Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink. I had never heard of The Nordic Bakery before but it is in London, Soho to be precise. I love Scandinavian baking and regularly sample the delights of a local Norwegian cafe in Harrogate called Baltzersens which makes the most gorgeous cinnamon buns. I’ve always wanted to have go at some Nordic baking myself, so I was pleased to find this book!

The recipe for Banana Cake on page 66 was a perfect way to use up my ripe bananas and also some ground cardamom I’d bought and needed to use before it went out of date. As the recipe introduction states: “Everyone loves banana bread or cake as we call it. Ours is packed with the spices that typify Nordic baking: ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Throw in some ground cloves and really ripe bananas and you have a delicious and very easy cake for any time of day,”

Being a Bundt addict and an avid collector of Nordicware bundt pans, the accompanying picture showed the banana cake as a bundt ring cake. That’s what did it for me, I had to get out one of my pans and bake the banana cake there and then.  I chose my Heritage bundt pan which is a very pretty swirl design and makes an ordinary cake look special.  I love banana cake anyway and it would be perfect served plain with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

My favourite Nordicware Heritage Bundt pan was greased with some Wilton Cake Release.
Six small , ripe bananas were mashed with a fork.
Butter and sugar were creamed together in a mixing bowl.
To the creamed butter and sugar I added two beaten eggs.
All the dry ingredients were added to another bowl: plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, ground cardamom and mixed spice.

All the dry ingredients were sifted together and added to the creamed mixture.

The flour mixture was folded in, then I added in the mashed banana.
The mixture was then spooned into the bundt pan and put in the oven.
The finished Banana Cake cooling down and smelling wonderful.
A piece of cake cut to try out.

I love the array of different spices used in Nordic baking and the aroma permeating around my kitchen smelled wonderful. I love the smell of ginger and cinnamon in baking but it was great to experiment with a spice I don’t know as much and that’s cardamom. It’s hugely popular and a staple of Scandinavian baking so when I found some ground cardamom in a local shop, I had to try it out. It saved me messing about crushing cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle! Another spice in the recipe called for using ground cloves. I didn’t have any so I substituted a teaspoonful of ground mixed spice instead.

When the cake was baking, the smell was so tempting. I’m trying so hard to keep off the sweet stuff at the moment but when you are faced with temptation all around you, it’s fatal. Luckily it was near dinner time and I had to make do with a plate of chilli and rice instead!  The cake got put into a box and is now hiding away from me. Though I know I might succumb to it tomorrow night after a long, busy day at work! I’ll let you know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Toscakaka.

I don’t miss baking and eating cakes when I’m on holiday in places like Spain.  I think it’s because it’s far too hot to be thinking about eating cake and I’m not in my own kitchen.  Although the villas we usually stay at have pretty impressive kitchens I’m happier getting a salad ready, cooking something with pasta or warming up croissants!  But as soon as I’m back home, that’s it.  I want to be baking again and eating comfort food.  When we left Spain on Saturday morning it was 30oC, now as I type it’s 14oC.  No wonder I’m craving carbs!  Or maybe it’s the fault of The Great British Bake Off?

Once I was back from holiday and had to get stocked up again in our local Morrisons I thought of what we could have to go after our Sunday lunch pudding.  I didn’t have one single pudding on holiday, apart from a couple of ice creams.  I got out my Scandelicious Baking book which is part of my Cooking The Books Challenge from this month and decided on the Toscakaka.  Of course when I told my kids I was making Toscakaka they started laughing about the kaka bit and said it sounded like cack , I think caca is also French for poo which made them laugh even more when I told them that.  Though in this case I think it’s either Norwegian or Swedish for cake!

Toscakaka is actually a very delicious cake and I’ve been lucky enough to eat it at a local  Scandinavian cafe, called Baltzersens in Harrogate which serves the most yummy cakes.  The sponge base is a light vanilla sponge made with buttermilk and topped with an almond praline.  It isn’t overly sweet which I thought would appeal to my husband.

We ate our dinner quite late that day as a main meal, I couldn’t be bothered with a full roast or anything like that so I made up a lasagne with some salad for our mains followed by a slice of the Toscakaka.  Here’s how it was made:

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First I whisked eggs with sugar and vanilla extract. This had to be done by hand as my hand held mixer has broken.
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All the “dry ingredients” were mixed together in another bowl. In another bowl I was meant to add some buttermilk but Morrisons didn’t have any. I used creme fraiche instead!
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Making the almond praline- by heating butter, brown sugar, flaked almonds and milk in a pan until caramelised.
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The baked cake out of the oven and cooling down on the rack. I left the cake inside the tin as you have to put it back in the oven with the praline topping on it.
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The cake with the praline topping on it, it went back into the oven for about 10 minutes to cook.
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Here is the finished cake after it was turned out onto the cooling rack. Although the sides weren’t very neat it tasted fantastic.
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The flaked almonds look a bit lighter than the ones in the recipe’s picture but I was worried about them burning!
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A slice for me! My hubby had his with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.
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Leftovers for another day.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Dime/Daim Bar Muffins.

Last Friday, at the end of the second week of the summer holidays I was at home in baking mode. I’d had the scales and the oven on to bake some cupcakes for my Dad’s cousin’s Golden Wedding Celebration. My two teenagers weren’t coming to the party but I wanted them to have a treat while we were out to have after their pizza.  They love muffins and chocolate so I thought I could try and bake them some Dime Bar Muffins like I saw in Scandelicious Baking by Signe Johansen.

Signe says in the recipe introduction: “These chocolate muffins satisfy a sweet tooth without being too sweet, despite the fact they contain little nuggets of Daim almond praline and are topped with a rich chocolate Daim glaze,”  Sounds good to me!

When I was out shopping the day before I struggled to find the Dime/ Daim bars needed to bake the muffins.  I was in Sainsburys and couldn’t find any on the shelf.  When I asked the assistant if they had any in he said they had stopped selling them.  Why?  I didn’t have time to go anywhere else except a local Tesco where I did find a couple of bars of Dairy Milk with Daim pieces in it.  I hoped that they would work just as well in the recipe.

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Dairy Milk Daim Bars, I needed two of these bars. Some pieces were chopped up in the muffins itself, the rest ended up as a chocolate glaze and sprinkled on the top of the muffins!

So on the Friday morning out came my muffin cases and the muffin tin and I got down to work.

The muffins didn’t swell up as much as I thought they would do, so they looked far more like cupcakes than muffins to me.  The kitchen smelled of chocolate heaven and my mouth was watering.  I didn’t eat any though as we were going out that night but I was really tempted!

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Whisking eggs, vanilla and sugar together.
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Folding in the flour and baking powder.
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The muffin batter ready to be put in the cake cases and for the oven.
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The finished Daim Bar Muffins were spread with a chocolate glaze and topped with chopped pieces of Dairy Milk with Daim inside.
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One of the muffins broken up to see what was inside!

Both my children loved the muffins and so did my hubby who had one to “put him on” until we ate at the Golden Wedding Celebration that evening.  He enjoyed it as he doesn’t have a sweet tooth but they still tasted great, just goes to show you don’t need to pack things full of sugar to taste good.  I thought, oh well I’ll have one for breakfast on the Saturday morning but when we got in from the party we found that ALL the muffins had gone!  Oh dear, my cake eating fairies had been at it again.  I’ll just have to go off and bake another batch!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- Blueberry and Elderflower Upside Down Cake.

I’m a bit behind with my blog posts recently but I’m trying to catch up with it all.  We had a few mad days before going off to Spain on our summer holidays so cake and baking was the last thing on my mind!  But I always love to have a cake or a pudding for Sunday lunch dessert.  So on the first Sunday back at the beginning of August, it was a busy day as my hubby was out all day doing a classic car rally and I was at home with my two children. The kids were busy doing their own thing as teenagers do and  I had a pile of ironing the height of the Empire State Building. I was just so unmotivated to get it done.  In the end I did about half of it but at least I had some baking to look forward to!

I chose to bake Signe Johansen’s Upside Down Blueberry and Elderflower Cake from her Scandelicious Baking book.  I have tried this delicious cake before in Baltzersens which is a Scandinavian coffee shop in Harrogate.  It is just gorgeous and I love the blueberries glistening like shiny jewels on top of the cake against the pale vanilla sponge.  A pretty cake with lots of flavour but not overpoweringly sweet and sickly.

In the recipe introduction Signe says “This cake doesn’t keep well as the blueberries lose their fresh intensity relatively quickly after cooking so be sure to get your friends around to enjoy it on the day of baking!”

It was a shame I hadn’t got any friends coming round on that day then but I was sure it would go down well with the family when I served it up for pudding. Or so I thought.

On this day I just seemed to have one baking disaster after another.  I was in tears as I had also tried to bake a quiche for our dinner.  We were having our main meal of the day at dinnertime when my hubby was due to get back but I wasn’t sure what time he would be back. The quiche going wrong was another story and I was just so tempted to say “B******r it, lets have a Chinese!” I didn’t have much food in, being as we were off on holiday a few days later I was trying to run stocks down a little.

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The elderflower flavour in the cake comes from this gorgeous elderflower cordial. I recently bought some at the Harrogate Good Food Show from the Belvoir Fruit Farms stand. I love it and have bought more as it’s delicious with fizzy water!
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The elderflower cordial was poured over a large punnet of blueberries.
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In a large bowl I whisked together eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.

Disaster in the kitchen part one started when yet another of my hand held mixers (I’ve gone through about 5 in the last 2 years) decided to pack up.  I have a KitchenAid which I love but my hubby moans about it being in the way in the kitchen when I use it and makes me put it away in the garage or the cupboard every time I’ve finished baking.  This does my head in and isn’t convienient so the handheld one does the trick if I’m only baking one thing at a time.  On a Sunday afternoon there wasn’t time to go and get another one so I used the whisk attachment on my stick blender which isn’t very strong.

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Whisking the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract up.

Then I added spelt flour, ground almonds and baking powder and alternated folding these ingredients into the mixture along with some melted butter and some Greek yoghurt.  I used a large metal spoon but the mixture did seem a little bit runny to me.

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Here is the mixture all whisked up.

In the recipe Signe mentions using a 23cm round cake tin.  I didn’t know whether she meant a deep one or a sandwich one. I got the deep one out that I use for Christmas cakes but I think I used the wrong base!  As the cake is an upside down one, I had to put all the elderflower soaked blueberries in first. followed by the cake mixture.  All seemed to be fine until about half way through the cooking time I looked through the oven window and noticed blueberry juice seeping out of the bottom of the cake tin and splashing onto the oven bottom!  I could have cried.  The cake was meant to be in the oven for 30-35 minutes but it got beyond that time and the cake was still raw in the middle.  I kept it in for about 50 minutes in the end but because I’d had the oven door open a couple of times testing the cake it came out with a big dip in the middle.  Then the tears did come and afterwards I thought “Why am I crying over a cake?”

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The finished blueberry and elderflower upside down cake. Complete with sunken middle.
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A slice of the blueberry cake cut up and appearances can be deceptive. It tasted lovely.
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After my daughter also had a slice this is what was left. No one was really that impressed by it, sadly.

When the cake had cooled down and I’d cleared up I found out that my hubby was being given dinner after his race meeting. So a big blueberry cake dessert wasn’t needed after all.  I cut up the cake and asked my children if they would like some.  My daughter loves blueberries and she enjoyed it but my son turned his nose up at it.  I really enjoyed it and would love to try and bake it again another time.  A couple of days later we still had half the cake left so I decided to get it out and see if it was still worth eating.  Unfortunately I dropped the plate and my greedy labrador scoffed the lot!  I was fuming but he obviously liked it as there wasn’t anything but crumbs left on the floor!  Bad dog!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio, Ginger and Lemon Cookies.

A few weeks ago I was asked by Whynut if I would like to try out some of their gorgeous nut products. I was sent a beautiful package of four different products to try out in my baking.  This I was really excited about as I love pistachio nuts and anything that they contain! My Mum loves pistachio ice cream as much as I do, so I thought all my Christmases had come at once when the parcel arrived.  

Whynut provides their customers with the finest quality nuts at great prices and these can be ordered via their website: www.whynut.co.uk.  They sell two different varieties of pistachio nuts; the early harvested peeled green kernels and a lightly salted version.  These are roasted and won a Great Taste Gold Award in 2012.  They also have a shelf life of 6 months.  The nuts can be ordered in sizes ranging from 100g up to 2.5kg.

Also apart from the packets of pistachio nuts, Whynut also make nut pastes which are 100% pure.  I had never come across pastes such as these before so I was thrilled to be able to test them out!  There are three varieties, their pistachio paste,  hazelnut paste and an almond paste. Both pastes are natural with no additives, E numbers or preservatives.

As well as selling their products online, Whynut also sell to other food manufacturers such as Simply Ice Cream. Another fan is Brendan Lynch who you will know as one of the finalists in The Great British Bake Off 2012. He also uses their nuts for his baking and says “There is no comparison to Whynut products on the High Street,”  I totally agree with that.

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Here is the beautiful selection of Whynut products- a packet of early harvested peeled pistachios, a packet of roasted pistachios, a tub of pistachio paste and a tub of hazelnut paste.

So, what could I bake with this array of goodies?  It was difficult to choose but I wanted to make something that would go down well with everyone I knew.  I looked through my recipe books for inspiration and came across a cookie recipe in Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking Book.  This was a book I had treated myself to a few weeks back but not got round to trying anything from it.  Then I found it, a recipe for some Lemon and Ginger cookies.  I always think Lemon and ginger works well with pistachios so thought that the packet of peeled early harvest pistachios would be a great addition to these cookies.

Here’s how they were made:

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Here is the packet of early harvest peeled green pistachios that I used in the cookies. They were a pretty dark green colour which was a lovely contrast to the light colour of the cookies.
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These cookies were made via a creaming method where the butter and sugar were creamed together first.
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An egg was added to the mixture and beat in.
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Then, flour, baking soda, vanilla extract, chopped stem ginger and the peeled zest of a lemon were folded in to the creamed mixture. Finally, the pistachios were added to the dough.

This cookie dough appeared a lot wetter than the cookie dough I usually make.  I wondered if it was because I usually use a rubbing in method.  Thankfully the dough did harden up a lot when it was in the fridge chilling for about half an hour.  I ended up making the cookies far too big, completely forgetting that they do expand a lot in the oven.  The recipe should have made about 20-30, I got about 16 out of the mixture!  Serves me right!

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Here are the finished Pistachio, Ginger and Lemon Cookies. They tasted more cakey than cookie like to me and to be fair I didn’t like them. I think I would like to try this recipe combination again but to bake it as a rubbing in method to see if the texture changes. 

So, the verdict?  I tasted a couple of pistachio kernels before I tipped the rest in the dough and they were delicious.  I just wish I had baked them in a different recipe.  In the end, sadly the cookies did not get eaten.  My children don’t like pistachios (though that’s a good thing or I would NEVER get to try anything in our house!) My hubby just didn’t touch them and they went all soggy.  I had to throw them out which was a shame. I couldn’t eat them as I am on a diet (again!)

I am looking forward to baking with the other Whynut products I received, so watch this space for further blog posts!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx