Pecan and Maple Bundt Cake- Nigella’s Kitchen.

Once again I’ve lost my way a bit with my blogging.  I have all these posts in draft on my laptop but that’s as far as they’ve gone during the last month. A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve been on a trip to visit my brother, sister in law and their gorgeous family including my four month old niece who completely stole my heart. Auntie Sam was in her element and as my niece is very similar in temperament to my own daughter, it really did take me back to twenty years ago when my brother became an Uncle to my daughter. What special times. With all this in my mind I chose to bake a Canadian inspired cake for the last Clandestine Cake Club event I went to. This was a few days before I was due to jet off over to Alberta but the theme was Around The World In 80 Cakes Although there weren’t 80 cakes there, there were definitely a delicious array of cakes representing lots of different countries.

I chose to bake a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book “Kitchen” which is a maple and pecan nut bundt cake.  Although I’m a huge Nigella fan and I bake lots of her recipes, it’s been a while since I baked from Kitchen. It’s such a huge book too, wouldn’t like to drop that on my feet or I’d be in agony.  It was also a great excuse to get out one of my bundt pans off the shelf and to use it again.  My Crown Bundt pan also has a Canadian connection as I bought it last year on my first visit to Canada.  We went shopping and I got carried away in Williams Sonoma.  But it was worth it.  The pan was half the cost of UK prices!  Nigella uses the Fleur de Lys Bundt pan in her recipe and says: ” The reason I chose this particular shape for this cake was that it seemed to show it’s nutty, gooey stuffing off to maximum effect once sliced,”

The bundt cake has a separate maple pecan filling which is swirled into the vanilla batter once in the cake tin and looks really pretty when the cake is cut into.  So, as Nigella says you really need a tin which looks great when it’s cut up into slices.

I baked the cake the night before Cake Club as I was working a full week.  It had to be done in the evening once we’d had tea.  I normally love baking but it had been the first day back at work after the summer holidays.  I’d had a lot of running around and standing on my feet to do so the last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in my kitchen baking. But at least it was the first episode of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off!  So I set up my Ipad in the kitchen and watched it as I was weighing out, mixing and chopping nuts up.  I soon forgot my legs and feet ached and immersed myself in my hobby.

I always grease my bundt pans with Wilton Cake Release.  Once this was done, I pre-heated my fan oven and set myself going with the filling part to the cake.  For this I mixed flour, soft unsalted butter, ground cinnamon, chopped pecan nuts and some maple syrup. This formed a slightly more fudgy version than a crumble topping.  When this was done I put it aside and made up the rest of the cake mix.

In another mixing bowl I weighed out plain flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Though it took  me 5 minutes to find my pot of bicarb as it had somehow managed to hide itself behind everything else in the cupboard.

In yet another bowl (lots of washing up tonight!) I creamed together butter and caster sugar using my hand held mixer.  Following this I put in 2 eggs and then in went the flour mixture.  Finally, I folded in some sour cream before putting about half the mixture into the bundt pan.  The pecan mixture went in next followed by the remaining cake mixture.

The cake baked for about 40 minutes or so. I kept on checking it through the oven door and it seemed to be fine after the allotted 40 minutes.  I always panic that the bundts are going to fall apart or not come out of the tin.

Sheer relief!  A few crumbs had stuck inside the tin but not enough to worry about and the cake slid out effortlessly.  I let it cool down on the rack in the kitchen while I cleared up.  When it was cool, I dusted it with icing sugar and hoped that the cake would be ok in it’s box in my car boot while I was at work the following day.  Thankfully, even though I drove over loads of speed humps going to the venue in Leeds, the cake was intact!

I really love going to cake club events. I’ve made loads of friends through cake club and we regularly meet up for a chin wag and a catch up over cake and coffee. I can’t wait for the next one in October which is to be a Hallowe’en themed one. Better get my thinking cap on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate Percy Pig Cake.

This cake was an almalgamation of two recipes which I’ve used plenty of times before.  The cake part came from John Whaite’s first book John Whaite Bakes which contains a delicious recipe for a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake.  The decoration idea came from the second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake which has a fantastic recipe for a Cadbury’s Chocolate Finger and Smartie Cake in it.  This opened up lots of ideas to adapt a design to suit flavours and themes.

I was off to a Clandestine Cake Club event in Leeds which was held in the historic Tetley building. I remember the days of the brewery being open in my childhood when I used to see the shire horses delivering the beer to the local Leeds pubs.  I was very impressed with the bar and restaurant at The Tetley and hope to go back to look around the exhibition soon.

 The theme for this cake club was Childhood Sweets and I chose to incorporate Percy Pigs on my cake.  Incidentally Percy Pigs just celebrated 25 years which gave me the idea.  I was definitely not a child when Percy Pigs came out but my own two children love them and we always buy a bag if we go on a long train journey. I can’t stop eating them!

To assemble the cake together I made up some white chocolate buttercream with Lindt White Chocolate and some Sugar and Crumbs White Chocolate and Raspberry natural flavour icing sugar.  I was so excited to use the icing sugar as it is one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new flavours brought out for this summer.  It smelled wonderful and definitely tasted of white chocolate and raspberries, just heavenly.

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My White Chocolate and Raspberry Percy Pig Cake for The Clandestine Cake Club event I went to a couple of weeks back. The theme was Childhood Sweets.
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All ready for baking and decorating the cake. I used two different recipes for inspiration. In the end I didn’t put any marshmallows on the cake as there wasn’t room for them.
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Percy and Penny Pigs. Funny how these favourite sweets have family names. My grandad was called Percy and my mum is called Penny!
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I used to love Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers but not now. I hate to say it but the white chocolate ones tasted rank.

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We had our own special room reserved for us at Cake Club.
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My friend Amy’s beautiful Sweet Shop Neapolitan cake. It tasted and looked beautiful.

Here are just a few of the photos of my cake and also of some of the other cakes at the event.  It was a wonderful evening and I enjoyed far too much cake! I still had a sugar high the day after!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Piñata Cake

I’ve always wanted to bake a Pinata Cake.  I’d seen loads of them on the internet but never had chance to bake one until last year.  There is a really fab Pinata Cake recipe in the second Clandestine Cake Club book “A Year Of Cake”. In fact it’s the cake picture which adorns the front cover.  People wonder how you manage to get the sweets or chocolates inside the cake in the first place.  My son asked if you get to beat the cake with a stick like a traditional Pinata until it breaks and the sweets fall out! Er no, you’d end up with crumbs but the idea is the same. You cut up the cake and a load of sweets fall out of the middle that you’re not expecting to be there.

In the Easter holidays it was my turn to be on my local WI Supper Rota. I usually choose to do this when there is a meeting which falls during the school holidays. I bake a couple of cakes.  There was a mix up over the supper rota but that’s another story.  Normally I wouldn’t bake anything so fancy and highly decorated but I had the ingredients in already and they needed using up.

The original Pinata Cake recipe is a chocolate sponge but I chose to bake a vanilla one.  The icing is made up of double cream whipped up with two packets of Angel Delight.  I hadn’t eaten Angel Delight for years. It was always something we had at my Nana Margaret’s house.  Nana Margaret was my Dad’s mum and she was a dreadful cook.  She nearly gave us food poisoning with raw burgers. My poor grandad must have had iron guts.  One day he nearly broke his tooth eating a rock hard apple pie which my Nana had put in the microwave for 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds.  At least she didn’t bodge up making Angel Delight.

To bake a Pinata cake you need to bake four layers of sponge. When these are cooled and turned out of the tins onto the rack you need to find a large circular biscuit cutter and cut a hole in the centre of two of the cakes. The other two are left whole.  To assemble the cake you spread a layer of Angel Delight icing on top of one of the whole cakes. Then place the first of the cakes with the hole cut out of it and repeat with the cream layer. Do this again with the other cake with a hole in the middle. Finally add some more cream.  Before you put the top layer on you need to fill the hole full of your chosen sweets.  The original recipe showed Smarties in the middle but I reckon any sweets or chocolates would look amazing. I used a large packet of Haribo Starmix inside mine.

It took iron will power not to get a spoon and start eating the icing there and then. I used two packets of strawberry flavoured Angel Delight although I reckon any flavour would taste great. Last year I baked a similar cake with Banana Angel Delight. This made it yellow and the inside was decorated with Haribo Minion sweets.  The top of the cake was decorated with blue sprinkles.  For this cake I raided my baking cupboard and found a couple of random jars of sprinkles which needed finishing off.

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The Pinata Cake uses Angel Delight and double cream as the basis of the icing.
The top of my Pinata Cake used lots of random sprinkles I had left in my baking cupboard.

Of course because of there being a mix up over the WI Supper Rota I thought I was on the list but I wasn’t. I turned up at the village hall and one of the ladies said I wasn’t doing it. As I had spent my entire day off baking and decorating three cakes I was extremely annoyed. When one lady said they had enough cakes and to put them back in the car I was so angry and upset. She also said well you could freeze them.  I told her I was taking them in, I had been baking all day and I had no room for them at home. Not only that but only one out of the three cakes was suitable for freezing.  My friend took pity on me and said I could sell them at the meeting. So that’s what happened. The three cakes were sold to cover the cost of my ingredients.  This also meant that I didn’t get to take a photo of the cake with all the sweets spilling out of it when it was cut.  I never mentioned to the lady that bought it about the inside of the cake so she would have had a surprise when she cut into it.  Next time maybe?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Dust Off The Old Cookbooks- Coffee Cake. 

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As my regular SmartCookieSam readers will know, I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club. Although there are plenty of events held all over the world and some very local to me in North Yorkshire, there are also virtual or VCake events for those who can’t get to an event.  Or you can join them if you want an excuse to bake!

At the end of January, Lynn Hill the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club held a virtual event where you were invited to “dust off your old cookbooks” and bake something from a recipe book you had not used for a while.

I have loads of recipe books like that and my family are sick of all the books I have all over the house.  Some are more used than others and Lynn’s event gave me the perfect excuse to search through my stash and bake something.  When my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) died I inherited her cookbooks.  Nana and I were so alike in lots of ways, we both loved cooking and baking, knitting and sewing and also reading books.  Sadly Nana died in 1994, just after I’d sat my teaching degree finals.  She used to collect recipes from everywhere and wrote them down from TV cookery programmes or from the radio as well as cutting recipes out of magazines.

One of Nana’s baking books was a Sainsbury’s one.  It dates from the late 1980’s and I loved looking through the recipes in it.  As I decided what to bake I came across a mouthwatering recipe for a coffee sponge. I never remember Nana baking a coffee sponge, she tended to make fruit cakes and I do remember her lemon drizzle cake.

Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday is at the end of January so it was a perfect opportunity to bake the coffee cake for then. My husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but he loves coffee cake.  I had a couple of goodies to make this cake even extra special: some Sugar and Crumbs Coffee flavour Natural icing sugar, some cocoa covered coffee beans bought in Costa coffee and some glittery gold and silver star candles thrown in the trolley when I was shopping in Tesco.

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My Nana Mary’s old cookery book with some special extras to turn the coffee sponge into a Birthday Cake for Mr SmartCookieSam.   
The coffee sponge was made using the whisking method.  I whisked eggs and sugar together until they became light and fluffy. Then in went some flour and baking powder, followed by a spoonful of vegetable oil and some semi skimmed milk. Also added to the mixture to give it a coffee flavour was a teaspoonful of Monin Tiramisu sugar syrup.

The cake baked for about 20-25 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven.  It smelled delicious.  When it was cooling I made up the coffee buttercream.  I also crushed up some pecan nuts to go in the middle of the cake and to sprinkle on the top of it.

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The cake was layered together with the coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chopped pecan nuts in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used a packet of cocoa covered coffee beans to decorate the top as well.

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We had a slice of birthday cake and it was delicious. What a treat to celebrate Mr SmartCookieSam’s birthday and he really enjoyed it.

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Ooops! Back on the diet tomorrow!
Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Clandestine Cake Club “A Year Of Cake” December Bakealong- Nordic Spice Cake.

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I love being a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club.  I’ve made lots of lovely friends through chatting over cake. I can honestly say that cake club has changed my life in lots of ways and I wouldn’t be without it.  I haven’t been able to get along to any events for a couple of months due to work commitments but I’m excited to be getting back to it in January!

For those who can’t always make the events and meet up with friends there are a couple of other options.  Members can join in a virtual cake event or a bakealong.  I have joined in with several of these in the past, including the CCCBook Club “A Year Of Cake” bakealong.  These events are monthly and by the end of that month those who want to take part choose to bake a cake which features in that particular chapter of the Year Of Cake book. You take photos and email this with a short description of the cake and why you baked it, etc for Lynn Hill founder of the Clandestine Cake Club to put into a write up or blog post of the event. Though sometimes I’ve forgotten to post the photos by the deadline and missed it a couple of times!

Anyway, being December it was the last of the Year Of Cake bakealongs.  There were twelve scrumptious recipes to choose from all of which I would love to have baked.  I had to go with something I know everyone would eat at home.  I decided on the Nordic Spice Cake.  It is a cake typical of the flavours in Scandinavian cooking which is shared at the time of St. Lucia’s Day (the Swedish festival of lights) Baked in a circular bundt pan it could be resplendent of an Advent wreath or a St Lucia crown.

I chose to bake my version in the Gingerbread House Bundt pan instead of a wreath shape.  This is because I’m absolutely rubbish at making gingerbread houses, they always collapse on me no matter how much icing I throw on them. So I could have a cakey version instead.  It was 8.30am on December 23rd and I had so much to do. The gingerbread house was only one of a few things I was going to bake.

First things first- to grease the gingerbread house pan.  This was a complex job as it had lots of nooks and crannies.  Lots of Cake Release needed here! Then I made sure the oven was on and preheating with the top shelf removed so I could get the tin in without knocking it.

Then for the cake itself. I creamed together butter and brown sugar until it became light and fluffy.  Next I beat eggs, natural yoghurt and the zest of a large orange together in another bowl.  Finally in another bowl I measured out sifted self raising flour and three teaspoonfuls of my friend Heidi’s special Christmas Spice.  Lynn Hill’s recipe also uses 35ml of mulled wine in the mix.  I didn’t have mulled wine so instead I added in the juice of the orange I had taken the zest off first. The aroma coming out of the kitchen smelled wonderful and I couldn’t wait to try it.  Nothing smells as nice to me as the smell of baking gingerbread.

With the gingerbread house bundt pan being an uneven shape I usually put it on a flat baking tray in the oven so it can bake flat. Nothing worse than the gingerbread house’s chimney sticking through the gap in the oven tray and the mixture all falling out on the bottom of the oven. Believe me, I’ve been there.

As luck would have it the cake baked perfectly and came out of the pan in one piece. I couldn’t decorate it straight away as I had other things to do. So the gingerbread house went into a corner of the kitchen for a few hours while I started on some fudge.

Decorated with piped glace icing and some Wilton Gingerbread house sugar shapes as well as some M&Ms the cake looked really festive.  It made a beautiful centrepiece on Christmas Eve and also tasted fantastic.  Not everyone likes fruit cake or marzipan and this was a perfect alternative.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Maple Syrup Cake

Maple Syrup Cake- the recipe comes from The Clandestine Cake Club book A Year Of Cake to commemorate Canada Day!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog post update. I shouldn’t have any excuses as it’s the summer holidays and I’ve got much more time than I usually have.  But summer holidays also means a chance to catch up on a long list of jobs I don’t get done and the blogging goes by the wayside.  There have been so many blog posts in draft on the system for a few weeks now.  Today, as I write I thought enough is enough and I need to get back into it.

A couple of weeks ago I joined in with the Clandestine Cake Club’s A Year Of Cake Monthly Bakealong for July. For the monthly bakealong you have to choose one of the recipes featured in A Year Of Cake for that relevant month and bake it. You share photos and experiences with others and Lynn Hill, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club does a write-up and posts it on the website.  The July chapter has eight different cakes to choose from.  I chose to adapt the first recipe in the chapter, Shelley Titmus’ Bacon and Maple Syrup Cake in honour of Canada Day.

Coincidentally I was in Canada on holiday in July, visiting my brother and his family.  I missed being there for Canada Day on 1st July, although my mum got to enjoy the celebrations! I would have loved to have taken a cake over to my family but it would have got a bit damaged on the plane!

Shelley’s Maple Syrup Cake is actually made with bacon as well.  I’ve never tried bacon in a cake before though I’ve had it with pancakes and maple syrup.  I would have needed about 18 pieces of streaky, dry cured bacon to add to the recipe.  The bacon is grilled until crispy.  Some is added into the cake batter, the rest used as a topping and filling for the cake. I didn’t have any bacon in but I had some other ingredients I wanted to use in the cake.  I had brought back some genuine Maple Syrup back with me from Edmonton, as well as some maple flavoured peanuts.  I thought the peanuts would be a fantastic alternative to the bacon in the cake.

I didn’t actually start to bake the cake until the very last day in July.  It ended up being a Sunday lunch dessert/ pudding.  It was a fantastic reminder of a very special holiday.  The cake itself is baked in three layers in 3 separate 20cm or 8″ diameter sandwich tins.  I creamed sugar and butter together with an electric whisk, then added  5 beaten eggs one at a time.  These were mixed in slowly with some flour and a little milk, along with 3 tbsp of the pure Canadian Maple Syrup.  I didn’t add any maple peanuts to the actual cake as I wasn’t sure how they’d react to baking. Instead I kept them for the filling and topping.

While the cakes were baking, I made up the cake filling and topping.  This was a simple buttercream icing but maple syrup was added to the icing to flavour it as well.  It tasted gorgeous but very sweet so a little piece would be all you would need.

The finished Maple Syrup Cake.
Instead of baking my cake with crispy, streaky bacon I used some maple syrup peanuts bought on my holiday in Canada.
Who’s been eating my cake?
It was too tempting to scoff a piece of this luscious cake with a coffee .

The three layers baked for about 20-25 minutes and once cooked came out of the oven and cooled down on a wire rack.  I went off to start a couple of other jobs so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the spare peanuts or to decorate the cake before it was cool enough.  There was enough icing and enough peanuts to decorate the cake with.  To finish off, I drizzled some more maple syrup on the top of the cake.

We ended up having our Sunday dinner later than planned, so guess who ended up troughing a piece before? Yes, you guessed right! It was absolutely delicious and the cake didn’t last long. I’ll definitely be baking this one again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Eton Mess Cake- The Clandestine Cake Club A Year Of Cake Bakealong June 2016.

I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club and regularly go along to local events in Yorkshire. I’ve been a member for over 3 years now and have made a lot of friends through the club. We take a cake each along to the event and try tiny pieces of each other’s cakes. If we can’t eat much, we take cake home at the end to share with family or work colleagues. Last year I was excited to hear that two of my recipes were to be published in the second Clandestine Cake Club cookbook “A Year Of Cake”. My Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith and Mojito and Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipes were featured in the book, much to my surprise but happiness!

Lots of yummy recipes are featured in the book including ones created by friends.  One such recipe I’ve been desperate to have a go at baking is the one my friend Clare submitted for the book, her take on a British classic pudding in cake form- Eton Mess.  Containing some of my favourite pudding ingredients, such as meringue, strawberries and raspberries mixed with cream. Clare’s cake uses buttercream and jam to sandwich a traditional Victoria sponge together and the Eton Mess part of the cake is it’s photogenic topping. Clare’s recipe also contains another ingredient I love which works perfectly with strawberries and raspberries, a luscious addition of white chocolate chunks. 

Last Saturday afternoon I was at home for once. It’s been a crazy few weeks with every weekend spoken for and work has been chaotic. Baking was my chance to unwind and enjoy a bit of “me time”. I wanted to bake a cake to celebrate my daughter passing her college course. She is now a qualified make up artist and is off to uni to study media makeup and prosthetics in September. We are all very proud of her as she aims to follow her dream. Baking cakes of course is one of my ways of congratulating her! Everyone at home loves pavlova and cake so I knew the Eton Mess cake would be a big hit.

To bake the cake I started off by baking the sponge part. This is done in the usual way that you make a Victoria sponge and it wasn’t long before I was creaming butter and sugar together with my handheld electric mixer. Clare suggests using margarine instead of butter so I used Pure Non Dairy spread which I swear by for baking sponges and cupcakes. It makes them very light. Then in went four eggs one by one which were beaten into the mixture. As I started to add some self raising flour and baking powder I realised I hadn’t got the cake tins out. My cake tin drawers in my kitchen are getting very messy and it takes me ages to sort through them to find the right size tin. I was annoyed that one of the tins had fallen down the back of the unit and got wedged between it and the drawer below. Hubby would say it was my own fault for having too many cake tins! I don’t agree! 

Finally having found the tins I was looking for I got them greased and the mixture in them ready to go in the oven. For once I remembered to set the timer and being as I have a fan oven I wanted to check them after 20-25 minutes. This is when I realise I’m not that good at multi tasking. I put some washing in the machine and another load out on the line. It took me ages to do this as there were loads of pairs of socks and pants to hang out! By the time I’d gone back inside I realised it was time for the cake to come out of the oven. Thankfully got it out just in time!

Now for the decoration part. For the cake topping I needed to make some mini meringues. I’ve only made meringues once or twice before, it’s something I’ve never really done a lot of. I always thought of them as being fiddly and complicated. But Clare’s way of whisking the egg whites until they are stiff then adding caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time was a great help to get the right consistency. I have always tipped in the sugar and wondered why I couldn’t get them to keep the egg whites stiff enough. Also, to add into the meringue mixture you mix in some cornflour and white wine vinegar. I was impressed with my shiny meringue mixture and then got my baking trays ready. I prepared up my piping bag and my large star nozzle. The meringue piped easily onto the trays and there was more than enough to go on the cake as well as having some left over.

I was really impressed with how my meringue stars turned out.
There were lots of leftover meringue stars once I’d decorated the cake.

Now for the cake assembling and decorating time, the bit I was looking forward to the most. I decided to use whipped cream in place of buttercream in the recipe. I had a small pot of cream in the fridge which needed to be used up and I didn’t want to waste it. I whipped up the cream but there wasn’t enough to fill the middle of the cake along with some strawberry  jam. So instead the cream was just spread on the top of the cake with the jam in the middle. Once the cream was spread on I put meringue stars around the edge of the cake and filled the middle with raspberries, strawberries and white chocolate chunks.

View from the top- a heavenly combination of meringues, raspberries, strawberries, cream and white chocolate.
Ta-dah! A classic cake perfect for a summer celebration.
Lush meringue stars.
We didn’t get to eat a piece of the cake until the following day but it was worth the wait!
The cake got eaten over the next couple of days. By Wednesday it had all gone!
Although the cake had been baked on Saturday afternoon for my daughter, we didn’t actually get to enjoy some until the day after. My daughter had been working all day Saturday and went straight to a friends’ house to a party and sleepover. Then on Sunday morning she went straight to work and didn’t get to eat her cake until Sunday tea time. I kept the cake in the fridge due to the cream in it and it kept it fresh. An extremely popular cake all round and one I would love to bake again in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx