Amazing Cakes #29: Fondant Fancies

When you hear the name Fondant Fancies you immediately think of Mr Kipling’s yellow, chocolate and pink creations. Or if you live in Yorkshire like me, you might have even tasted the delectable version which Betty’s creates. I must admit I find Fondant Fancies too sweet and sickly, even though I’ve got a sweet tooth. The other week I met my friend at Betty’s and while she had a Fondant Fancy, I tucked into a Fat Rascal! Her Fondant Fancy looked so pretty though, with the icing and delicate pink flowers.

Last Thursday and Friday were my main baking days for SmartCookieSam as I had had my Mum up here visiting. I had an afternoon tea order as well as some brownies and shortbread to go out to customers. I thought of what I could maybe offer as an option on my afternoon teas and Fondant Fancies came into my head. Although I don’t really like eating them, there are plenty of people who do.

For Fondant Fancies you start off by baking a square shaped sponge cake. I did this in one of my square tins I use for my brownies, etc. It was a simple sponge, delicately flavoured with lemon.

As soon as I started baking, I realised I had not got any marzipan in. I only tend to have marzipan in around Christmas for my Christmas cakes and also at Easter for Simnel Cake. I’d been to do my shop the day before and completely forgot. Luckily later on that day I was heading out to the post office to ship my brownies and shortbread and the village shop it was attached to has a wonderful array of baking products. Phew!

After the sponge came out of the oven and I was home after my post office run, I removed the sponge from the tin. It had to be cooled but it was so hot in my kitchen that nothing was cooling down.

To the sponge I added a layer of apricot jam and then a layer of the marzipan on the top. The marzipan was very sticky to work with and my hands felt so hot. I had to dust the surfaces very thickly with icing sugar to stop the marzipan from sticking to it when I was rolling it out. I then put it on top of the sponge and trimmed round the edges of it.

The next job was to make up a batch of buttercream. This buttercream needed to be put in the fridge to harden up slightly but this didn’t work because as soon as I got it out of the fridge it became runny again.

The sponge cake was then cut into 16 equal squares and on top of each square I put a blob of buttercream. This blob is to create the little hump you get in the middle of a traditional fondant fancy.

Of course when you are tired, you misread recipes. This one being a complicated recipe with zillions of steps should have been read carefully and I didn’t. I was meant to put the cakes into the fridge to harden up again for 20 minutes but I didn’t. This then made the next steps more tricky. I had to crumb coat each of the four sides of the fondant fancies with the rest of the buttercream. This was very awkward. How do you hold the blinking things and ensure that they are all covered without getting your hands covered in more buttercream?

Now for another complicated part. The recipe asked for roll out fondant icing or sugar paste which to make runny you have to put in a mixer with water to make it runny. I felt this made it extremely messy and didn’t give the effect I wanted. I wondered whether I should have bought some fondant icing sugar instead and coloured it with food colouring. I started off trying to colour the pink icing first. It took ages to get even a hint of pink with the food colouring I have at the moment (a mixed box of Wilton food colours, which to be honest I’m not a fan of, compared to the likes of Sugarflair, etc.) The cakes from not been hard enough through not being in the fridge, were difficult to hold and the icing just went everywhere. It was meant to pour over the cakes but it didn’t. It was too thick despite me following how much water to add to the icing. I tried spreading it with a small pallette knife but that made it even messier!

Then I tried to colour the rest of the icing yellow. Unfortunately the yellow in my food colouring set doesn’t bring the icing out a deliciate pastel yellow, it came out as this flourescent, lurid yellow like you would have on a high-viz vest! You’d be able to spot it from the International Space Station. By this time I had given up caring and so long as I’d got the bloody things iced and all the stuff cleared up, I didn’t care what colour it was.

Finally, I used some left over lemon drizzle icing for the pink fondant fancies which seemed to pipe on ok through my plastic bottle. But the melted chocolate was having none of it and just wouldn’t go through the hole. It just clogged up the whole time.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned here: Don’t make Fondant Fancies when you are short of time or are tired. Always read the recipe and use ready made fondant icing sugar, not sugarpaste watered down.

I did taste one of the Fondant Fancies and it was sooooooo sickly sweet. Not my favourite bake to eat or to make, I’m afraid.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #28: Mint Chocolate Roulade

Baking roulades and Swiss Rolls always fills me with dread. They look fiddly and messy whenever I make them and the filling never looks neat when I roll them up. Or the actual sponge cracks so much.

Roulades are usually made without flour and fat and are whisked sponges baked in a flat rectangular cake tin. I have a new Swiss Roll tin but it gets used for all manner of things including roast potatoes. Before using it for cakes, I make sure it has been cleaned carefully and I always line it with baking parchment. With this cake being flour free, it is also gluten free.

Last Sunday I had my mum visiting for a few days and planned a roast chicken dinner followed by a dessert. Now it’s usually just Mr S and I at home on a Sunday (our daughter is at work and our son is at uni), we don’t usually do roasts for ourselves. I thought having my mum to stay was the perfect excuse to have a roast as well as a pudding after!

The Chocolate Roulade as featured in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes looked stunning, yet fairly quick to bake. However, looking in my baking cupboard I didn’t have any plain/ dark chocolate left. I did have two bars of mint chocolate which I love. Whenever we go up to the Isle of Arran on holiday I buy bars of Mackies chocolate in the Co-op there. Where I live in North Yorkshire, you can get Mackies icet cream but not the chocolate. Mint is just one of the best flavours out there, I love it! So a Chocolate Mint Roulade it had to be, then!

First things first was to prepare the Swiss Roll tin for baking. As I said before, it was cleaned carefully as I didn’t want residues of olive oil on it from the last time I used it. Then I lined it with some baking paper. At the same time I also cut out another sheet of baking paper to use to help me roll up the roulade later.

I then melted the mint chocolate in the microwave carefully. The recipe said to do this on the stove in a bowl over simmering water, but I find it easier to do in a microwave if I do it in small stages. Then, in my KitchenAid I whisked egg yolks and caster sugar together until the mixture had turned into a thick type mousse.

As the eggs had had to be separated, in another bowl I whisked up the egg whites. They had to be whisked up until they were stiff peaks. These egg whites were then folded into the whisked yolks and sugar mixture. Finally I folded in some cocoa powder.

When the roulade was ready, I put it on a wire rack to cool down but left it in the tin until it was completely cool to move it. I still managed to make it crack as I got it out of the tin. Using the spare piece of baking parchment sprinkled with a little icing sugar, I turned the roulade out onto it upside down. I then filled it with whipped cream. As I kept doing this, the roulade started cracking. The instructions said that it was normal for it to crack. But the recipe book photo didn’t have the massive cracks that mine did! Upon looking at the roulade from above, it resembled a giant long poo! Tasted amazing though, and I sneaked a couple of off cuts!

The complete mixture was then poured into the tin and spread carefully so that it touched each corner of the tin. I then baked it in my fan oven at 160oC for roughly just over 20 minutes.

A recipe I think I will bake again as it was quite quick to make. I just need to work on the good old presentation.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Parkin: Amazing Cakes #11

It’s that time of year again as Autumn draws upon us that I begin to think about recipes I love baking when it gets colder. One recipe I love making at this time of year is Parkin.

If you don’t know what Parkin is or you have never tasted it, then you are missing out! Parkin is a gingerbread and oaty cake very popular in the north of England. It’s one of those traditional Yorkshire baking recipes your granny or mum may have grown up on and families will have their own special recipe. My own grandma, my Nana Margaret who was from West Yorkshire was not a good cook and definitely not a baker! Any cake or sweet treat she had would be bought from a local bakery or M&S and she would try to pass it off as her own! So, I never had a grandma favourite recipe for Parkin. My other grandma on the other hand, Nana Mary was a fantastic cook and baker although she did not come from Yorkshire. She made gorgeous lemon drizzle cakes.

I first tasted Parkin when I moved to Yorkshire myself as a recently qualified teacher in the 1990s and I taught a Reception class. On a Friday afternoon all the classes in Key Stage One used to have an Activity Afternoon and I chose to do baking as my activity. In groups of 6 we would bake or make different things and I would try and link our recipe to that time of the year or a particular festival being celebrated at that time. For one week we made Parkin. At the time I had never attempted to make it myself before and as I was single at the time, I didn’t even have baking ingredients in my house! How things change! I now get all panicky when I run out of eggs! I even had to ask the other teachers if they had a Parkin recipe as this was in the days before good old Google!

Despite having never made Parkin before and neither had any of the children I taught, we had a fantastic baking session and we had some gorgeous Parkin to take home. How I wish I could bake with children like that again, now there’s no time at all on the curriculum and that was even before the Covid pandemic started.

As I type it is my last full day of self isolation myself and over the past week or so I have been baking more than I should. Usually anything I bake goes to work to share out but this last week I have had to hide everything or keep myself out of the kitchen! I couldn’t resist baking some Parkin though.

The Parkin recipe I use is from the very first Great British Bake Off Book “The Great British Book Of Baking” which accompanied the very first series way back in 2010! Parkin is meant to be kept for a week wrapped up in foil for a week to improve the flavours but I never can wait that long! There is something about the aroma of gingerbread baking that sends your senses going. I chose this time to follow the recipe in the 2019 Bake Off book “Amazing Cakes” which was really great to follow.

First, I greased and lined my square baking tin and put the oven on to heat up. While it was heating up I beat one egg with some milk in a jug.

In a saucepan I put butter, treacle, golden syrup and sugar and melted it altogether over a very low heat.

Once the butter mixture was removed from the heat, the mixture was poured into a large mixing bowl. To this I weighed out rolled oats, self raising flour, ground ginger and some mixed spice. This was then folded into the melted butter mixture with a large metal spoon until well combined.

The mixture was then put into the tin and baked for about 55 minutes in my fan oven at 140oC.

When it was finished, I left the Parkin in the tin until it was completely cold and then cut it into squares. I then wrapped them in foil and put in a tin planning to keep it there for a week. I didn’t! The following day I felt I needed something to eat and grabbed myself a piece. Oh my it was like heaven!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Battenburg Cake: Amazing Cakes #3

I’ve been so excited for the Great British Bake Off. It’s exciting every year but this year it’s been more welcomed as something special and comforting in these difficult times. At one stage I was wondering if it would make it onto our screens this year. Baking has helped a lot of us through difficult times and this is especially so where people who have never baked before have taken to the kitchen to help get them through. I’ve always seen baking as a form of therapy for me. It helped me with the black hole I got myself into when my younger child started school and my teaching career had been put on hold. Now baking helps me relax on my day off from being a nursery nurse or a supply teacher.

Week one on Bake Off usually is cake week and it’s always great to see what challenges have been set. The first signature bake was a Battenburg Cake. I do like Battenburg but am more familiar with buying Mr Kipling than making them. To me, they are very fiddly but I do love a bit of marzipan. Battenburgs remind me of my Great Grandma, my Nana Lilian. We used to visit Nana and she would do a traditional Sunday tea with ham sandwiches, Battenburgs and fruit cake. Her Battenburg was bought from a local shop though and she told me that my Dad used to call it Window Cake when he was little.

I wanted to have a go at joining in #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong this week so I got prepared to make a Battenburg. The bakers on GBBO had chosen various complimentary flavours but I stuck with traditional. Years ago I had a go at baking another GBBO recipe, Mary Berry’s coffee and walnut Battenburg but when I was talking with my daughter about flavours she said just make a normal one. The one flavour was delicately flavoured with almond to compliment the marzipan but coloured pink for half of it.

On the Bake Off I noticed that some bakers were using the Alan Silverwood aluminium Battenburg tin. I have this tin, although in the last 10 years I’ve only used it twice! It is such a cute little tin and if you take the dividing sections out, it’s also been great for mini traybakes!

After a busy morning catching up, including going to get my hair cut, I was determined to have an afternoon in the kitchen. Out came the ingredients I needed: butter, caster sugar, eggs, self raising flour, almond extract, pink gel food colouring, as well as apricot jam and some marzipan.

After greasing the tin and preheating the oven, I creamed together the butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy. Then I added in the eggs, beating after each addition. When this was done, I put in some almond extract, followed by self raising flour.

I split the cake batter into two bowls. One was left plain and the other was coloured with pink food colouring gel. Then I put the batter into the prepared tin. This was quite fiddly as the sections of the tin are quite narrow. I think using a teaspoon was the best way.

The Battenburg baked in my fan oven for 25 minutes or so. I left it to cool on a wire rack for a while until it was cool enough to take out of the tin.

Once the four sections came out of the tin (thankfully in one piece), I trimmed them so that they were flat and also the same size.

Then it was time to assemble the pieces together. Using sieved apricot jam, I brushed it onto the pieces and stuck them together to create that iconic Battenburg window shape.

Now for the really fiddly bit and the bit I dread: the marzipan! I rolled out the marzipan and despite putting plenty of icing sugar on the work top and on my rolling pin, it still stuck like glue to the worktop. I got really frustrated and ended up scraping it up and starting again a couple of times.

By the third attempt, I got so annoyed I tipped loads of icing sugar on the worktop but it did work! Nothing stuck after that! I got the marzipan wrapped round the cake and trimmed the ends.

The feeling when it was done after thinking it would be another disaster was so uplifting. I cut off a piece to photograph. Mr S ended up eating it with a cuppa when he got in from work. I didn’t have any as we were going out for dinner.

I will definitely make a Battenburg again but it’s one of those bakes you have to devote a few hours to.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Paradise Slice

This has got to be one of the best bakes….EVER! I can’t get enough of these. I remember my mum baking some when I was about 6 or 7 when I had a birthday tea party. The recipe came from an old Ladybird cookbook. I still have it somewhere. There’s nothing quite like the combination of melted plain chocolate, dessicated coconut and glace cherries! So retro. I since found out that there is another version of Paradise Slice where the coconut and cherries or other dried fruit are baked on a shortcrust pastry base, not a chocolate one. To me chocolate is paradise but I will try out the pastry version another time.

Yesterday was a quiet chilled out Sunday at home. Mr S had gone shopping with his sister who was visiting at the weekend and I was at home with the dogs. We had troughed our way through the cheesecake I had made at my class and I had cherries, chocolate and dessicated coconut. What’s not to like?

First, I lined my traybake tin with some foil and poured melted dark chocolate into the base. This went into the fridge to set for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, I washed and halved a tub of glace cherries. I do hate all the sticky syrup they come in but needs must. Ive found that even after you chop them, there’s more syrup inside and you end up having to rewash them! The cherries were put on to the top of the set chocolate and then ready for the mixture to top it.

The topping for the paradise slice is made by whisking eggs and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. When this is ready, you then fold in the dessicated coconut and put it on top of the cherries and chocolate. The whole concoction is baked in the oven until turning lightly golden for about 20-25 minutes.

I left the Paradise Slice to cool down on the work top for half an hour or so but the tin was still very hot. I gave it another 10 minutes by which time it was ready for me to cut it up. You can’t leave it until the chocolate goes hard or it’s impossible to cut up. Once it was cut up, I then turned each piece out upside down (so the chocolate was on top) and put them onto plates in the fridge so that the chocolate would harden. Half an hour later and hey presto, they were ready!

Did I forget that I was doing Weightwatchers and eat one? Yes, I blinking well did! I enjoyed every mouthful of it until I decided to work out the SmartPoints for it! It was a whopping 23 Smartpoints and I was so shocked! My sister in law took one home with her this morning. I was so tempted to have one only an hour ago with a cuppa but had an apple instead.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Fat Rascals

When you hear of Fat Rascals you immediately think of Betty’s the world famous tearooms. As I live in North Yorkshire, a visit to Betty’s is a lovely treat even though I hate the queues outside the York and Harrogate cafes. I love the one in Northallerton the best as it has a beautiful conservatory at the back as well as being less busy.

A Fat Rascal is a traditional Yorkshire delicacy which is very similar to a rock cake or a scone. There have been different variations of the Fat Rascal. Some recipes include using leftover pastry but they do include dried fruit.

Bettys introduced their version of the Fat Rascal over thirty years ago. Their version is based on a rock cake recipe with a face made from cherries and almonds. This soon became a best seller and now Bettys own the registered trade mark for the name “Fat Rascal”.

I have been going to an evening class which was called Introduction To Patisserie And Confectionery at my local college which has been an absolute pleasure to do. The course ran for ten sessions and our last session was two weeks ago. See, it’s taken me ages to sort this post out! On our last session our tutor asked us to bake Fat Rascals. As they’re my favourite thing to choose off the menu when I go to Bettys (not that I’ve been there for ages), I was really excited to have a go at baking my own version!

Apparently the original Fat Rascal recipe uses lard but I don’t like it! So I was glad that our class version was using all butter.

First, we had to sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl, then add some cubed butter. We then rubbed the flour and butter in until the mixture made fine breadcrumbs.

To the bowl, we then added some caster sugar, some grated lemon and orange zest, grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon and some dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas). These were mixed in evenly.

Then, it was time to add in a beaten egg and some whole milk to bring the mixture into a soft dough. We had to form the dough into eight equal rounds and place them well apart on a lined baking tray. I think if I was baking these at home I might use two trays but at college we use massive commercial size trays and ovens.

We then made an egg yolk and water glaze to brush the top of the Fat Rascals to give them a shiny finish. To complete them we decorated them with glace cherries and whole almonds. I chopped the cherries in half on mine or else the Fat Rascals’ eyes would have been very bulbous, like a goldfish!

I remember standing behind my work station in the college kitchen thinking what a gorgeous smell. There’s something wonderful about the aroma of Fat Rascals baking. Must be something to do with the nutmeg and cinnamon!

When the Fat Rascals came out of the oven I was so tempted to break into one there and then. I’d already had my dinner earlier and this being January I was dieting! It would have to be for breakfast the next morning!

At the end of the class we also got to bake ginger biscuits, which I really enjoyed. On the whole the class had been fun, even though there were some things I found really easy. But a few of us were already looking forward to starting the Intermediate part of the course and some fresh challenges! Though I was very tired that night, I completely forgot to add the ground ginger in. So the ginger biscuits were actually plain ones!

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Vanilla and Chocolate Button Cookies.

Wednesday 6th December 2017.

Yesterday was full on at work and I came home with a thumping headache. I couldn’t face cooking anything for dinner, so we ended up at the chippy. The sooner I could sit down and switch off last night, the better.

Today was a different story. I was home earlier from work but wanted to try out a new cookie cutter I bought in Lakeland a few weeks back. It was a button shape with four mini holes in the middle. I thought it would be perfect to try out the vanilla and chocolate button cookie recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book. The recipe looked simple enough and as I enjoy baking cookies I thought there wouldn’t be any problems.

How wrong I was! My go to recipe for vanilla or chocolate roll out cookies uses four or five ingredients. This recipe used icing sugar in place of caster which isn’t unusual but just used egg yolks and asked for baking powder.  Now, especially when I’m baking roll out cookies I never use baking powder as it makes the cookies expand and depending on the design can make them lose some of their shape.  I was tempted to leave it out but then if the recipe said so, it must have been put in there for a reason!

Ingredients needed to bake Vanilla and Chocolate Button cookies.

Softened butter, icing sugar, plain flour and baking powder added to the mixing bowl to be rubbed in and turned into a breadcrumb like texture.

Working the dough together. Unfortunately, although my recipe proportions were right, the dough turned out very sticky.

Then I divided the dough into two equal parts.  One half had vanilla added to it and the other cocoa powder to turn it chocolatey.  This did not work out too well as I felt as if I should have made the two doughs separately. The cocoa powder did not work into the dough as well as it should and the result was more of a marbled effect. Well I suppose you do get buttons that looked like that but that wasn’t the effect I wanted on these button cookies!

Then, after chilling the dough in the fridge for half an hour, it was time to get the button cookie cutter out and cut out the biscuits.  I was very disappointed with the cutter and despite the dough being chilled for the right time, the dough just wouldn’t come free from the cutter. The dough stuck to the rim of the cookie cutter and so I gave up. I don’t know whether it was the cutter or the dough so I went to my cookie cutter stash and found two round cutters. I cut out rounds of dough easily and then used a slightly smaller cutter to make the pattern for the rim. This just made an indentation and didn’t go all the way through the biscuit.  Then, to finish, I used a skewer to make four holes in the centre of each biscuit like a button.  Unfortunately due to the horrible nature of the dough used the skewers didn’t do a very good job of making the holes.

Vanilla button cookies on the cooling rack.

Chocolate Button Cookies on the rack.

As expected the cookies expanded in the oven, not a lot admittedly but enough to swell and look slightly out of shape.  I wasn’t impressed with the look of them. But as I love the recipe idea, I’ve decided to try and make them again with my own tried and tested recipe for roll-out cookies. Then I might actually be able to use my button cookie cutter without the dough sticking to it!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Jamaican Gingerbread Loaf.

4th December 2017.

Today being a Monday I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I’d had a good night’s sleep until something woke me up at 4.30am. That was it, I was wide awake for an hour. The alarm was due to go off at 6am but of course I drifted back off to sleep just as I’d got back into the land of Nod! Then, could I get myself moving? Course I couldn’t. I’m not a morning person at the best of times. There’s only one type of work that would get me out of bed early and that’s when I’m baking! It doesn’t seem like work to me when you’re in the kitchen with music playing in the background.

But needs must. I love being a teacher though some mornings I wish I could be beamed direct from my house to the school I’m at, especially with the horrendous traffic congestion I have round near where I live. This morning was no exception. My journey to school should have taken me 35 minutes. It took me nearer 50.

Back home this afternoon I got out the mixing bowl and scales to test out another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas. I love the spicy aroma of gingerbread at any time of the year but Christmas definitely lends itself to these flavours. I was really keen to try out the Jamaican Gingerbread loaf which was a perfect way of using up some treacle left over in a tin after baking some Parkin and also putting it in my Christmas cake. The loaf is an ideal bake to have as a standby, say if you have people popping over for a cuppa and it was really easy to make.

To begin with you melt butter in a saucepan with some dark brown muscovado sugar, some treacle and some golden syrup. When this has melted you take it off the heat and leave it to cool. In another bowl you weigh out some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and some mixed spice. Add the melted mixture to it, along with a beaten egg and then fold in the flour mixture. Finally add in some chopped stem ginger pieces.

I always use pre made loaf tin liners which save me a lot of faffing about. The mixture was poured into the prepared loaf tin and put in the oven at about 160oC for about 45-50 minutes. Unfortunately I set the oven timer to 45 minutes but promptly forgot to switch it on. I suddenly remembered about the loaf when I could smell gingerbread coming from the kitchen. Luckily it came out of the oven just in time and although had sunk slightly in the middle, it looked wonderful.

After about an hour of cooling I cut the loaf up into 8 generous slices. It took all my willpower not to scoff a slice there and then. I boxed up the loaf and decided to take it with me to work tomorrow to leave in the staff room.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx