Marzipan, cherry and almond Cake: National Marzipan Day

Celebrating National Marzipan Day with this Cherry, Marzipan and Almond Cake.

Today is National Marzipan Day! To be honest, although I love marzipan, I only bake with it at Christmas, Easter and for traditional fruit cakes. I never bother with it at other times of the year. I see it as something you use for special occasions. Even if it isn’t used as a layer for a fruit cake or Christmas cake or as one of the 13 balls on top of a Simnel Cake, I always see it as a special treat.

After baking with marzipan at Christmas I always have a bit left over and this year was no exception. I found three quarters of a packet wrapped up in my baking cupboard and thought about what I could bake with it. It had to be something quick and easy to make as I don’t have a lot of spare time during the week.

After looking on good old Google and through my recipe books, I came across a recipe I’m pretty sure I’ve baked before. It’s in one of the Great British Bake Off Recipe books, the one which accompanied the second series, aired in 2011. Called How To Bake, it had a whole cake recipe using fresh cranberries, marzipan and almonds. I think I did bake it using dried cranberries as I know fresh ones can be very hard to get hold of.

I chose to bake today’s version to celebrate National Marzipan Day with glace cherries instead of the cranberries. I think cherries work well with marzipan and almonds (think of Bakewell tarts!).

I can’t share the recipe with you, unfortunately as it is not my own recipe and I don’t want to infringe any copyright. But I can show you how I baked the cake.

It is a single layer cake which I baked in one of my loose bottomed sandwich tins. I used a 20cm (8″diameter) one. First, I had to grease and line the base of it with a baking parchment circle. I pre-heated my oven to 160oC (I have a fan oven) and then weighed out all the ingredients.

The glace cherries were washed, halved and dried before I mixed the cake up. I creamed butter and caster sugar together, then added the eggs to the mixture. After this, I used a large metal spoon to fold in small chunks of marzipan. I then folded in some ground almonds, flour and baking powder followed by the halved cherries. I only had 100g cherries left from my baking stash so I had to make do with that.

The mixture seemed a little firmer than other cake batters but it did look pretty with its chunks of yellow coming through from the marzipan and the bright red from the cherries. It took some spreading into the cake tin. The final touch was a sprinkling of flaked almonds to add to the topping before popping into the oven.

The cake baked for about 45 minutes in my fan oven. I did check it with a skewer after 35 minutes but one part of the cake was still not cooked whereas the rest looked done. It went back in the oven for a further 5 minutes, followed by another 5 minutes.

Pray, tell me why does having something in the oven always coincide with everything else happening at once? My Sainsbury’s online delivery arrived but that was about 15 minutes into the bake. So I was trying to put shopping away. Then I was trying to watch the dog who had decided he wanted to go outside in the garden. I heard the timer go off when I was outside in the garden with the dog. The cake went back in for its last 5 minutes just as Mr S came home from work and wanted a cup of tea- he had to wait!

After our dinner, I took the cake out of the tin and cut a piece. Although it’s been cut into, I’ve not actually eaten any of the cake. It was too late to eat any as I get indigestion when I eat anything sweet in the evening. I’ll have a taste of it tomorrow and give you the verdict.

What is your favourite recipe with marzipan in it? Or do you even like marzipan? Let me know!

Love Sam xx

Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread #100bakeschallenge/ National Shortbread day

My latest try out flavour for shortbread- Cranberry and White Chocolate!

January 6th 2022

Did you know that January 6th is #NationalShortbreadDay? I didn’t until I got a My Legoman Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar for my kitchen wall. Or rather, its framed but still on the floor in my office until I can move pictures around in my kitchen and have the space to put it up!

My Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar which is still propped up against the bookshelf in my office. Excuse the Instagram link all over the photo.

I also noticed that Shortbread was one of the bakes on the #100bakeschallenge so this was bake number two scratched off the poster. If you’re wondering what I am on about, I got a Christmas present from my friend which is a fabulous poster made by Crumbs by Collette linked to a baking challenge. You post your results on social media using the hashtag #100bakeschallenge. I have seen that some people are giving themselves a year to do it in. I think that is achievable but quite a lot of my bakes are repetitive depending on my customer’s needs, my own time and my family’s personal preferences.

My #100bakeschallenge poster. It’s pinned up on the door of my office as there’s nowhere else to put it.

Shortbread has always been one of my favourite bakes to make as well as to eat! I love how you can turn four basic ingredients into something just utterly sublime. Then if you don’t like it plain, you can add extras to make it even more delicious. I bake lots of shortbread to send to customers and also for friends. It’s a shame that this day falls in January in a way, as shortbread does get made a lot in my kitchen for Christmas. It’s ideal for presents and for bringing out when you have visitors if they don’t like mince pies.

I also had a couple of batches of chocolate chip shortbread to bake earlier in the week. For that, I use the same basic shortbread recipe then substitute 75g of plain chocolate chips and 75g of dark chocolate chips. I always use Callebaut chocolate chips.

I absolutely love the cranberry and white chocolate combination and you name it, I have used it in other bakes where I can. It’s my brother’s favourite cookie flavour and he gets a vegan version every time I see him. I had to test it out in shortbread and oh my it looked lovely. I made extra to take to work as well.

The shortbread picture was scratched off my #100bakeschallenge poster. Two challenges completed, ninety eight to go!

CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

Serves 12-16 depending on how big you like your pieces.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 125g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cornflour
  • 50g white chocolate chips (I use Callebaut)
  • 100g dried cranberries

Grease and line a 23cm/ 9″ square baking tin while you make the shortbread dough.

I make my shortbread dough in my KitchenAid as it stops me from handling the dough so much.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer until it becomes light and fluffy.

Add the plain flour and cornflour to the mixture and bring it all together to form a ball of dough. Then fold through the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Press the shortbread dough into the prepared tin ensuring that it is evenly spread and into all four corners of the tin. Prick the dough with a fork.

Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes. The shortbread should be lightly golden. After about 10 minutes, cut the shortbread up into however many pieces you would like and let it cool down on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove from the tin and sprinkle with extra caster sugar. Although I forgot to do this on this occasion as I was trying to do about ten things at once, this is what I usually do!

If you bake this recipe, do let me know how you get on with it. Do you use other ingredients in your shortbread or add extra flavours?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Favourite Shortbread

There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.

I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.

My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.

Ingredients needed:

  • 250g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g rice flour or cornflour

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
  • Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
  • Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  • Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
  • If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
  • Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
  • When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
  • When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.

There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:

  • 100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
  • Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
  • Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
  • Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
  • Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
  • M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.

I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.

My chocolate chip shortbread.

If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Giant Raspberry Jam Tart

The disastrous jam tart which Mr S described as looking like “a road accident!”

October 31st 2021.

You know when you have a great plan and it goes drastically wrong? That! One Sunday afternoon I had the oven on and thought about a pudding we could have for dessert. I’d only got one egg left after all my baking orders and was just about to head out to buy more. Then I realised that pastry only needed one egg and I had loads of jam to use up. The thought of a Viennese style Linzertorte appealed to me.

I made up a batch of cinnamon and lemon infused sweet shortcrust pastry in my food processor first. Then I wrapped the ball of dough in some cling film and chilled it in the fridge. I did this for about one hour but for some reason the dough was extremely difficult to work with.

My hands were feeling incredibly hot for some reason. I blame the menopause as they never usually feel like this, Or maybe I had not chilled the dough for long enough or maybe I’d not put enough flour in the recipe. I tried rolling the dough out into a circle to line the tin but sadly it kept sticking no matter how much flour was sprinkled onto the work top or onto my rolling pin! Then the dough kept breaking as I was rolling it out. This was so frustrating, I can tell you!

Eventually, I managed to line my 20cm (8″) diameter loose bottomed flan tin. I had originally wanted to use my bigger tin but I just couldn’t roll the dough out enough without it breaking. Also the more I ended up handling the dough, the more it broke. I couldn’t start again as I needed more eggs!

Finally the flan tin had a pastry lining! I had to do a lot of patching up, in fact I felt like I was plastering a wall rather than making a tart! When I had the lining in place, I got a sharp knife and trimmed the top of the pastry. I was tempted to crack open the wine there and then but I resisted!

The cinnamon pastry burned very quickly but left the jam filling really runny in the middle of the tart.

I noticed I wouldn’t have enough jam from just one jar to fill the insides of the tart tin, so I mixed two jars of seedless raspberry jam together and then spooned it into the tart case. There was just enough.

Now for the traditional Linzertorte Lattice pattern. To achieve this I had to roll out the remaining pastry in a rectangle shape and use a fluted pastry cutter wheel to cut strips of pastry. I didn’t have a fluted wheel so I tried with a pizza cutter. This should have been straightforward but it never is when you have pastry that won’t do what it should do! As I picked up the pastry strips they kept falling apart. The lattice pattern had to be abandoned. As it was Halloween I found a small pumpkin shaped cutter in my stash. Reluctantly, I managed to get a few pumpkin shapes cut out but even those looked rank!

We couldn’t have a traditional Linzertorte lattice pattern as the pastry kept breaking. So instead we had burnt pumpkins!

I put the tart into the oven at 160oc fan but it took so much longer to cook than expected. The jam in the middle was still far too runny even after about 40 minutes baking time. Considering the amount I’d used in the filling, I was not impressed. I took it out of the oven after the 40 minutes and admitted defeat.

After giving it some time to cool down I tried to remove the tart from the tin and thankfully it came out ok. I left it on the worktop to cool down completely before I even attempted to cut it up. It was far too late to even think about using it as a dessert and besides we were full up after dinner anyway.

The filling was still a little bit runny in the middle.

Later on, I tried to cut into the tart so I could put it in the fridge in a plastic box. Mr S came into the kitchen and said the tart “looked like a road accident!” He was right but he was lucky he didn’t end up wearing it!

I did taste a morsel and it actually wasn’t that bad. But not enough to want to eat a whole slice and to serve it up for dessert.

I was so embarrassed by this bake that I definitely won’t be sharing the recipe for this one. I wouldn’t want to publish a recipe which clearly was a big baking fail! One to work on for the future!

The “road accident” jam tart in all it’s glory!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #31: Apple, Maple and Walnut Streusel Cake

October 17th 2021.

It’s been over a year since I set myself the challenge of working my way through the bakes in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes. I’ve only managed about half of the recipes and it’s getting to the stage where there are some bakes that I might not be able to attempt. These are because they are big celebration cakes which I don’t have the occasion to make a cake like that for and baking all that cake for nothing would be a terrible waste. Over the next month or so I am going to try a couple more recipes which will be suitable and then I will start another challenge.

The Apple,Maple and Pecan Strusel Cake was a big winner.

Now it is Autumn, I am beginning to struggle a bit. I know lots of people love Autumn and Winter but I am not one of those people. I am a Spring and Summer person and dread the clocks going back. Dark nights and cold, damp weather are not my idea of fun. I struggle to get up in the mornings when it is dark. The only way I can embrace the seasonal changes, apart from trying to get out as much as possible for fresh air and exercise is to cook comfort food. I make our Sunday roast and try to make us a Sunday dessert as something to look forward to.

For our Sunday dessert last weekend, I chose to bake an Apple, Maple and Streusel Cake from the Amazing Cakes book. Featured in the Bakers’ Favourites chapter, this gorgeous and gently spiced cake was one Henry made during Series 9. This was one of Henry’s childhood favourite cakes inspired by his family holidays to Germany. I have never been to Germany myself but have tasted several Streusel cakes in the past. They are usually cakes topped with a crumble like topping with added nuts. This version uses chopped walnuts but pecans are a great alternative.

To start baking the cake, I lined and greased the bottom of a 20cm (8″) deep loose bottomed circular cake tin. I then put all the dry ingredients needed into a mixing bowl. These were self raising flour, baking powder, ground mixed spice, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Then I rubbed cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until they became like breadcrumbs. Then I added brown sugar, some chopped apple pieces and some raisins. The recipe stated sultanas or blueberries but I had a load of raisins which needed using up and I didn’t want to waste all my blueberries in a cake. I wanted them for my yoghurt on my breakfast!

In another mixing bowl, I whisked eggs, double cream and vanilla together. This was then tipped into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and the fruit. When this was done, I made the Streusel topping which was quick and easy to make. I rubbed butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together and then stirred in some chopped walnuts.

The cake mixture was spooned in to the prepared tin and then finally the Streusel mixture was sprinkled on top. The cake went into the oven and was baked for just over an hour.

When the cake came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Never mind me moaning about miserable weather, the smell of cinnamon is enough to cheer me up!

The Maple cream cheese frosting finished this cake off beautifully.
This cake was a great way to use some walnut halves I had left over from a previous bake.

I gave the cake a good hour to cool down. While it was cooling, I made up some Maple Icing. This was butter, brown sugar, Maple Syrup and full fat cream cheese mixed together. I filled a piping bag with the mixture and then piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake. To finish, I put a walnut half on top of each rosette.

A perfect balance of raisins, apple and nuts in this extremely moreish cake!
A piece for Mr S after work during the week. He really enjoyed it.

In the end we were so full after our main course that we left the cake and didn’t eat any! We didn’t start on it until the Tuesday and believe it or not it was still fresh. It was such a deliciously moist cake, with the aroma of the spices still lingering. I can honestly say this has been one of my favourite things to bake this year.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam. xx

A Bake For All Seasons #2: Jammy Dodgers

3rd October 2021.

I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.

If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.

I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.

No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.

I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.

The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.

For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.

Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!

As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.

Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.

Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.

My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:

  • Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
  • Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
  • Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
  • Jammie Dodger Blondies
  • Slutty Brownies
  • Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
  • Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
  • Lemon and Blueberry Scones
  • Caramel Mocha Macaroons

What I’ll pass on:

  • Hard Candy Lollipops
  • Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
  • Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
    • The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!

As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.

I bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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