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

The Hairy Dieters’ Banana and Sultana Muffins.

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Who says you can’t have muffins on a diet? You can if you bake these banana and sultana muffins from the Hairy Bikers’ diet book.

I have a long running diet problem.  My weight goes up and down by the same two stone like a yo-yo.  The reason  why? I have a sweet tooth. I had a long chat with my hubby and he said the answer is simple: “Stop baking!” To me, to stop baking would be like someone who loved playing football to be told they couldn’t play or even watch a game.  Baking is therapy to me, a real stress buster and I hope when my children are older to go back to baking cakes professionally.  It is something I enjoy doing and although I need a lot of practice in some techniques, I like to think I’m good at what I do.

In the meantime, I had ripe bananas to use up.  The kids never seem to eat them as much as they used to and I didn’t want them to go to waste.  It was last Friday afternoon and we had to be up on the Saturday morning at 3am as my daughter was setting off on a school trip to New York.  This involved being at school for a very early coach trip down to Heathrow.  I don’t know about you but I can’t eat that early on in the morning, just a cup of tea or coffee is fine for me.  Same goes for my daughter but I was worried about her not eating breakfast.  So these muffins seemed a perfect idea.

The original recipe for the muffins is in the breakfast chapter of the second Hairy Bikers’ diet book “Eat For Life” which is the yellow one published last year.

The muffins are so easy to make and as Si and Dave say “These little beauties are lower in fat and sugar than the standard and are still nicely naughty. They don’t have the same texture as a shop bought muffin but they are still tasty and filling”

At only 119 calories a muffin they would be ideal for anyone who needed to be out and about for an early start and then you could eat something like a piece of fruit later on in the morning to keep you going.  Or if you’re like me, you’d drool at the smell of a bacon buttie…..

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These banana and sultana muffins tasted great and not like “diet” food!

 To bake the muffins I started off by sifting self raising flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. This was then mixed up and to this I added some grated lemon zest. After this I added in two medium mashed bananas and some milk.  Then this was followed by some sultanas.

The lower fat content is created by using egg whites only in the mixture and there isn’t any other fat such as butter or oil added. The sweetness comes from the flavour of the bananas and there is a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the muffins themselves.  It’s a whole tablespoon that has to be divided amongst 12 muffins though!

I had to whisk three egg whites with my electric stick whisk until stiff peaks formed then this was quickly folded into the mixture until it was easily incorporated.  Into the oven they went after spooning the mixture carefully into some muffin cases.  The ones shown in the picture come from Waitrose, love the pretty pastel colours.  There were green ones in the packet as well but they’ve all gone now!

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The banana and sultana muffins fresh out of the oven. Baked in some pretty cases from Waitrose.

The muffins baked for about 20 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven.  I was desperate to eat one but had to wait until the next morning. My daughter didn’t eat one but my son and I enjoyed one.  I was pleasantly surprised. They did taste different from the muffins you get in the shops but then again I don’t really like them anyway. Much too sweet for me and too big! These tasted delicious and not like “diet” food.  Just the right size too.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Ultimate Carrot Cake- Delia’s Cakes.

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes you see everywhere and there are many versions of it.  Over the years since I started baking I’ve made a fair few, some fantastic and some you’d want to chuck in the bin.  This version though, is horrifically calorific seeing as the icing contains mascarpone! Heavenly, but gorgeous!  Anyway, it wasn’t me who was going to eat it, this was another cake heading down to the Village Hall for our Open Gardens last month.  It was also another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge, this time I chose to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake from Delia’s Cakes

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Eggs, dark brown soft sugar and sunflower oil were mixed together in a large bowl first.

In another bowl I added all the dry ingredients, which included self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.  These were combined carefully with the egg mixture, closely followed by grated carrot, dessicated coconut (which I’d never put in a carrot cake before), sultanas and pecan nuts.  What a heavenly combination! No wonder Delia called it the Ultimate Carrot Cake!

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The mixture ready to be popped in the oven.

As you’ve probably guessed I’m a bit behind with the blogging at the moment.  There’s been a lot going on.  So I’m talking about a cake I made over three weeks ago but as I love baking carrot cakes this one I had to say was a joy to make.  When they came out of the oven it took all my courage to not bite into the cakes there and then.  But I had to restrain myself and get on with making up the icing.

The icing was made by whipping together two tubs of mascarpone, some ground cinnamon, brown sugar and a small amount of orange juice to add flavour.  I forgot I needed to add a syrup glaze to the top of the cake first ,though!

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The luscious cinnamon mascarpone icing.
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The carrot cakes cooling down on my cake rack. They were baked in two 18cm or 7″ diameter sandwich cake tins.

While the cakes were cooling I made some carrot toppers out of sugarpaste to decorate the cake with.

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The side of the cake.
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As seen from the top!

The cake went down to our Village Hall with the other three cakes I’d baked and I was really pleased to see it had nearly all gone when I went down there with my mum in the early afternoon.  As it was a warm day I was hoping there wouldn’t be a problem with the icing going all runny but it was fine.

Definitely another winner here and one I’d love to bake again.

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

Carrot and Sultana Cake- The Hairy Dieters

 

A couple of weeks ago I needed something for pud to follow our Sunday lunch and wanted something quite light and not TOO heavy on the old calories.  Even though I’ve made a lot of the savoury recipes in the two Hairy Bikers‘ diet books, I had yet to try the sweet ones.  I suppose I had this silly idea that if it was low calorie or low fat, it wouldn’t taste right and not like a full fat version.  How wrong I was. I absolutely detest shop bought and manufactured cakes and biscuits that are meant to be low fat or low sugar.  Believe you, me I have eaten more than my fair share over the years and I think my taste buds have changed as I have got older.  

So it was with mixed feelings that I attempted to bake the Hairy Bikers’ Carrot and Sultana cake from their first diet book, which was published last year.  You get fixed ideas that low fat/sugar= low taste.  This is not true as I’ve found out when cooking the other meals from the Hairy Bikers’ books.  I had realised that not only did the dishes I prepare taste delicious, they actually were lower in calories.  

The introduction to this rather delicious sounding cake says: ” We all know you can’t be eating cake every day when you’re keen to shed a few pounds,” I wish, but then the saying goes  “You can’t have your cake and eat it!”  The Hairy Bikers also say that “this cake is made with oil instead of butter and is super-moist, so non- dieters will love it too, if you let them have any!”

 I tried to work out what makes this cake suitable as a treat for dieters and noticed that the quantities will be slightly smaller.  Comparing it to another carrot cake recipe I noticed there was an absence of nuts, the amount of sugar was reduced somewhat. Some carrot cakes don’t have sultanas although I do put them in mine. The cake is also made without the traditional cream cheese frosting that you might put in the middle and on top of the cake, this was just a single layer cake.  If you feel you cannot possibly do without a cream cheese topping then The Hairy Bikers say you can spread the cake with 200g of light reduced fat soft cheese.  I know from experience that light cheese tastes disgusting in frosting so I chose to leave it off!

So, here’s how I got on with making the Carrot and Sultana Cake.

The first task was to try and grate the carrots without grating my fingers too!
The first task was to try and grate the carrots without grating my fingers too!
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Sunflower oil and brown sugar were whisked together in a large bowl. To this I then added some beaten egg.
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The beaten egg was whisked up.
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In another bowl I weighed out some self raising flour, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. I was meant to add some grated orange zest to it as well but I didn’t have an orange spare to use!
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All the dry ingredients were folded into the wet ingredients but then I remembered I had forgotten to add in the carrot! After all it was carrot cake!
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The mixture all ready and spooned into my large springform tin now with the added carrot inside!
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The finished Carrot and Sultana Cake. I was worried it had burned a bit in the oven but it seemed fine.
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The cake wasn’t as deep as a regular carrot cake but it looked more or less exactly like the one featured in the recipe book. It was a great relief.
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The photo in the book shows a slice of carrot cake topped with grated orange zest on top and then sprinkled with a dusting of icing sugar. I just dusted my cake with icing sugar as I didn’t have any orange left. I served my carrot cake with a dollop of half fat creme fraiche.

 I was very impressed with the recipe and have decided that I actually enjoyed the slice of carrot cake more without the cream cheese frosting on top of it.  I thought I wouldn’t like it without but I didn’t miss it.  So, this means I will be using this recipe in the future if we want to have carrot cake at home.  At 239 calories a slice and the cake serves 10 it meant I could indulge without feeling guilty.  

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx