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.

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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.
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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.
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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!
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Each tier was assembled with a generous layer of apricot jam.
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The middle layer goes on top of the bottom one…
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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.

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It was hard to get a smooth finish on the side of the cake with the ganache but at least it tasted ok.
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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.
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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!
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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

Sticky Lemon Loaf Bundt Cake

Here is all about a cake I baked several weeks ago back at the end of February but forgot to blog all about it.  I was due to go along to the Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club event which was in Horsforth.  The theme for that month’s event was “Now That’s What I Call the 1980s”.

Being a 1980’s teenager I was inspired to bake and create a showstopper cake.  I thought back to all the pop groups I loved, the food we ate and what was in fashion at the time.  But all this was going to take up a lot of my time which i didn’t have much of during that week.  So something simple had to be found quickly!  Though a chocolate Rubik’s Cube cake would have been a fab idea if I’d had the time!

I phoned my mum and she thought of Pineapple Upside Down Cake which she remembered baking. Most of the things my mum and my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) baked were traditional things and not necessarily linked to the 1980s.  Nana’s fruitcake was legendary as she used to leave it in the oven for too long so it dried out.  Bless her.  I don’t think she ever realised that we served her fruitcakes with custard to add some moisture!

Nana and I had lots of things in common in that we both loved cooking and baking as well as sewing and knitting.  When I was 9, back in 1981 I remember Nana looking out a few recipe books for me to help me get into baking.  One was a Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup book which I still have to this day.  Along with some of her other recipe books which I inherited after she died, I treasure them.

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The Golden Syrup Cookery Book which my Nana gave to me when I was 9.

So, after lots of recipe browsing I had to bake something from of one of my Nana’s 1980’s cookbooks and the Golden Syrup one was perfect.  Not too many faffy, over fussy and complicated recipes and one I could adapt to bake with one of my Nordicware Bundt pans.  I settled for a gorgeous Sticky Lemon Loaf recipe as I remember my Nana baking lemon cake and also making delicious lemon marmalade.  Whether this was the recipe she used, I don’t know but I wanted to try it.

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A few weeks back I treated myself to two new Nordicware Bundt Loaf pans- a lemon loaf one and a gingerbread man one.

To bake the lemon loaf cake I was thankful that my scales can convert to imperial measurements as my Nana’s book showed all the quantities in pounds and ounces.  This didn’t worry me as I don’t mind what measurements I use.  I greased my new Nordicware lemon loaf bundt pan and dusted it with a sprinkling of flour.

In a bowl I sieved in 40z of self raising flour then into a medium saucepan I melted together 20z margarine, 2 oz caster sugar and 4oz of golden syrup.  Once this had melted and then come off the heat to cool down a little I mixed together 1 large egg and 2 tbsp milk in a small jug. This was then combined and mixed together with the syrup mixture.  To give the cake its lemon flavour I grated in the zest of a large lemon.  Finally in went the flour and the mixture was beaten until smooth. The mixture was poured into the loaf pan and then baked in my oven for about 160oC.  The recipe gave the oven temperature in Farenheit, my 0ven indicator only shows Celsius so I guessed!

The loaf cake stayed in the oven for about 25 minutes to half an hour.  It was a Monday morning when I baked the cake and I needed it that night for the club.  I was teaching that afternoon at a school over half an hour’s driving distance away and was panicking I would not have time to get myself sorted out and put on some sort of glaze on top of the cake to make it look spectacular. When it came out of the oven it looked a lot darker than I was expecting and I hoped it would look better with some sugar syrup on it to show off the lemon decorations of the loaf pan.

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The cake came out of the oven looking a lot darker than expected!

Almost straightaway I made up a sugar syrup using freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar.  This was then poured onto the cooling cake and brushed over the top of the lemon pattern carefully so that it would be even.  It melted into the cake and was left to cool while I was out at work in the afternoon.

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I loved the lemon details on the loaf pan and was so glad that the cake came out intact!
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To “lift” the cake a bit and make it more like a lemon drizzle cake I added a lemon sugar syrup to it. It made the cake very sticky and moist.

Against all the other cakes at Cake Club this month mine looked very plain and boring but I was glad it tasted ok. There were lots of delicious cakes to try this time: from a delicious Pac Man cake to a gorgeous Blueberry Ripple Bundt cake as well as a very scrummy Marathon (not Snickers!) cheesecake!

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Just some of the delicious cakes at Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club event “Now That’s What I Call The 1980s”.

My friend Sharon used her gingerbread man bundt pan to bake Wham! in cake complete with Choose Life t-shirts!  I was a Wham! fan back in the day so it was great to think we were eating George Michael’s arm or Andrew Ridgeley’s leg!

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George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in cake form!

To read about the Clandestine Cake Club event you can find out more about it here:

https://humbugshouse.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/clandestine-cake-club-february-2015-now-thats-what-i-call-the-80s/

To find out more about the fun we have at Clandestine Cake Clubs in the UK and all over the world:

http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lime Cream Cheese Cake- The Great British Bake Off Everyday.

Another delicious cake from the latest Great British Bake Off book and a scrumptious version of a lime drizzle loaf cake.  This one actually has cream cheese added to it and keeps the texture moist.  I had never used cream cheese within a cake mixture before, only as frosting.  A couple of weekends ago I chose to bake this as our Sunday dessert for teatime.  I was so glad I did as it went down very well with all of the family. The remains were cut up and put into slices where my hubby and son ate for pudding after dinner on the Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s how it was made:

Some soft butter and cream cheese was put in a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy. I then added in the caster sugar and some lime zest.
Some soft butter and cream cheese was put in a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy. I then added in the caster sugar and some lime zest.
In another bowl I beat the eggs and then gradually added it to the butter mixture.
In another bowl I beat the eggs and then gradually added it to the butter mixture.
After the mixture was beaten I added in some vanilla extract and some self raising flour by folding it in carefully.
After the mixture was beaten I added in some vanilla extract and some self raising flour by folding it in carefully.
Here is my loaf tin lined with a loaf parchment liner.
Here is my loaf tin lined with a loaf parchment liner.
While the loaf was baking I made a sugar syrup out of caster sugar and lime juice. This was put onto the cake when it was still warm so it could soak into the cake.
While the loaf was baking I made a sugar syrup out of caster sugar and lime juice. This was put onto the cake when it was still warm so it could soak into the cake.
Here is the finished cake ready to cool down.
Here is the finished cake ready to cool down.
A lime glace icing glace was poured on top of the cake. This was a bit runny as the cake hadn't completely cooled- rushing again!
A lime glace icing glace was poured on top of the cake. This was a bit runny as the cake hadn’t completely cooled- rushing again!

Despite the rather rustic look of this cake it tasted fab and I was impressed with the flavours. I am definitely going to bake this cake again as it was worth it to have everyone eating it. It wasn’t fiddly to make, either.  I bet it would work equally well with lemons or orangesas well if you don’t like limes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx