The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte.

Monday December 11th 2017.

Gosh, this seems like a long time ago now but the last two weeks before Christmas were so busy.  I didn’t have time to get updated with my blogging.  Anyway, here we are just after Christmas and I’m sat on the sofa typing this feeling like a beached whale.  I haven’t stuffed myself silly full of Celebrations and mince pies but I’ve not eaten well all through December.  Roll on the New Year!  Though when I go along to one of my Clandestine Cake Club events I don’t feel guilty about eating and enjoying cakes.  

The aforementioned Clandestine Cake Club recently celebrated its seventh birthday at a special event in Leeds.  The event was held in the restaurant on the top floor in the new John Lewis store.  I always like going to cake club events there because of the car park next door so that I haven’t got to cart my cake too far through the city centre.  This time, though was funny as I had my cake in a clear plastic container so various people were looking at me walking through the store carrying a cake.  I was so worried I was going to trip up on the escalator!

The cake I chose to bake was yet another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas recipe book which was one of John Whaite’s own creations.  John won series three back in 2012 and his Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte sounded absolutely mouthwatering.  The recipe introduction says: “Christmas is undoubtedly a time of indulgence or rather overindulgence (you’re telling me!) This torte is not only a feast for the stomach with its layers of soft cake, sweet mousse and decadent fudge but because of those defined layers, also a feast for the eyes; perfect for a Christmas Eve treat,”  We tend to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve but usually there isn’t cake involved, we’re far too full up!

 Although there was a lovely photo of John himself in the book posing with what looked like a peanut butter cake, there wasn’t a photo of the whole cake.  I had to guess from the recipe instructions to see how it would turn out like. 

So, on with the actual baking.  Mr SmartCookieSam had gone off to work and my son had left for college, it was just me and the animals.  My dog sloped off to have a snooze in his bed and I put the radio on to listen along while I was baking. I felt really happy and content as I got out my ingredients and the cake tin needed for the recipe.

The main part of the cake is a chocolate genoise.  I am not that familiar with baking genoise cakes but I know that they involce whisking eggs and then sugar together to get the air into the cake,  I did whisk for the full five minutes as the recipe asked me to do, even looking at the clock to check.

After the eggs and sugar had been whisked together I sifted in some plain flour and some cocoa powder along with some melted butter. I’m glad I remembered about the melted butter.  Last time a recipe asked for melted butter I melted it in the microwave and then forgot about it.  It wasn’t until the cake was in the oven baking that I realised I’d forgotten to add the butter! Eeeek!!

The cake mixture was then poured into a springform cake tin and put in the oven for 25 minutes to bake.  I then took it out of the oven and let it cool down on a wire rack until it was completely cold.

Meanwhile, I got the filling for the cake ready.  This was where all the calorific and indulgent ingredients came out.  I started with blitzing some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn in my blender until they became like coarse sand. I then added in double cream until it started to thicken up slightly.  After this, in went some smooth peanut butter, some condensed milk and some mascarpone cheese.  How does this taste sooo good?  Once this was mixed again so it was thickened up but not so much that it couldn’t be spread with a pallette knife. It was then put aside in a bowl and left until the cake was ready to be iced.  

The topping was a chocolate fudge affair and was made with even more condensed milk, more peanut butter, more double cream and some dark chocolate.  I can’t remember what sort of dark chocolate I used, probably what was on special offer in Morrisons that week.  

Now this is where I’d fail miserably if this had been a Bake Off Technical challenge.  I didn’t read the recipe properly and missed out the step where I was meant to put the cake back into the tin once I’d cut it in half horizontally, filled it and then added the fudge topping when it was in the tin.  I didn’t do that.  I took the cake out of the tin and then put it onto a cake board to decorate.  When I’d decorated it, it went into the fridge to set but not in the tin.  It did make the finish of the cake a bit messier.

When the cake was setting in the fridge for an hour, it was lunchtime by this stage.  I sat down and had some soup while the remaining toffee popcorn had been put into a pan with some brown sugar to caramelise.  It took about 10 minutes to do this and then I let them cool down completely before putting them on the top of the cake.  To finish I found some champagne bottle candles left over from a birthday cake and stuck them on the top of the cake.  

The cake was very big and rich so a small slice was all that was needed.  It seemed to go down well, along with the other cakes at the event.  I went home with one of my sugar rush headaches feeling that I could never eat another cake again.  This was very short lived as the following day I was out having Afternoon Tea with my friends!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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.

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.
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.
Percy and Penny Pigs. Funny how these favourite sweets have family names. My grandad was called Percy and my mum is called Penny!
I used to love Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers but not now. I hate to say it but the white chocolate ones tasted rank.

We had our own special room reserved for us at Cake Club.
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.

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. 


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.

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.


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.


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.


Ooops! Back on the diet tomorrow!
Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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


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