Muscovado Madeira cake from Cake by Rachel Allen {book review}

Any chance I get to bake I take it. Baking just for me and for the family has gotten a bit…well… it’s hard to explain. There is only so much cake one family can eat! So, I've cut back a bit on my baking “just because” and baking more useful things like bread. So, having some mum friends around for coffee was a great excuse to use one of my new books I got over the holiday period!

Cake by Rachel Allen! I have watched Rachel since I moved to the UK on her various TV programs. I could never decide which one of her books to start with, not being able to buy all of them in one go, I didn't.

It wasn't until watching Cake Diaries on the Good Food Channel that I decided to start with the accompanying book. Cake is broken down into 9 chapters: Easy; Fast; Healthy; Classic; Teatime; Dessert; Children’s; Celebration; Festive. The Chapter titled ‘Easy’ is where I found the recipe for the Muscovado Madeira cake the one I made for my mom friends. With only 4 ingredients (butter, dark soft brown sugar, eggs, flour) this cake was easy to throw together. It was a hit as well, everyone said it was very nice and went great with coffee or tea!

Normally when reviewing a book I list all the recipes I really want to try, but this book is slightly different. It has so many different ideas for different occasions I wouldn't know where to start my list. However, I know that whenever a cake is needed, Cake will be one of the first places I look! It has so many great looking (sounding) cakes, 200 to be exact, that I will be completely spoiled for choice!! 

notes: last picture; 1. Angel Cake, I love Angel Cake and this is the first time I've seen it not made in a tube pan! A must try! 2. Madeleines, these are everywhere I look at the moment! Thinking I'll have to try them soon! 3. Rhubarb and Custard Swiss Roll one of the reasons I bought the book. Looks delicious! 
Cake by Rachel Allen: Amazon & The Book People
Rachel Allen’s website
A variation on this cake: Orange Madeira cake
Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries on Good Food Channel (recipes from book)

Biscuit Brownies from Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth!!

This Friday is the last day to enter my very first giveaway ever! If you’d like a chance at winning a copy of Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth and a copy of her first book A Zombie Ate My Cupcake go here and leave a comment!

So, I thought to get some excitement about the book (I did a book review ages ago) I’d make something I've been meaning to make for ages!! Biscuit Brownies!! They are delicious!

Mine aren't shiny, like in the book. After a little research I confirmed what I already knew – I left the mixture in the fridge too long. The middle was soft and easy to make into balls and the sides of the dough were hard. Oh well, they taste good and at the end of the day that’s all that matters to me! Lesson for next time, as there will be a next time! Who doesn't like a brownie biscuit?? Biscuit Brownie or whatever... 

I have also made the Spiced Apple Custard Tarts!! Which were one of the best desserts I have ever had!! I do love apples and cinnamon and custard so it was a win/win!! It also means I might be a bit biased. 

I don't know what else to say, that I haven't already, to convince you this book is amazing! The flavor combinations are different and exciting! Follow the links above to see full posts! Don't comment here... comment on this post to be in a chance to win!! Good Luck!! 

Warm Bread and honey cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra {book review}

I was researching baking books, my favorite pastime, and came across Warm Bread and honey cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. Never heard of the author or the book. So, I went to the first place I always go: Culinaria Libris written by fellow blogger Gretchen. She reviews cookbooks of all kinds so it’s a no wonder I visit her blog often! Basically whenever I come across a book I don’t know about I search her blog! Off her recommendation I bought this book along with Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s second, more recent book Sugar & Spice (review to come at a later date). I was not disappointed!

I think what I like most about this book are the stories about the origins of some of the treats in this book. Along with which country or area makes it best! This was one of those cookbooks I toted around with me so I could read it whenever I had a free moment. It kept me awake at night as I thought about visiting all these amazing places that make these amazing things!

There is a huge variety in this lovely book so it I think it would please many people with different tastes and different skill levels! Chapters are broken down into Flatbreads; Yeast Breads, Cakes, and Rolls; Cakes & Cake-Making this chapter has sub groups dividing cakes into fruit, spice, chocolate, nut, coconut, and other; Small Cakes, Pastries, & Savouries; Leaf & Thread Pastries. Each chapter begins with what ingredients and tools you may need to make the treats in that particular chapter. Which I thought was useful.

Here is a list of the stuff I want to make:
Flaky Indian Flatbread: Paratha
Coconut Milk Bread
Fruit Loaf
Sweet Brown Sugar Pretzels or Coils
Pineapple Tart (picture on cover)
Layered “Drunken” Apple Cake (picture)
Fresh Cherry Cake
Spice Cake Stuffed with Almond Paste (picture)
Traditional Sachertorte
Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie
Gerbeaud Slices
Coconut Cake
Coconut and Cassava Pudding
Mango Cheesecake (picture)
Almond Paste Rounds
Chocolate and Pistachio Sandwich Biscuits
Pine Tarts
Classic Baklava
Bird’s Eyes
Almond Flutes

That is one of the longest lists I have ever made for a book review! The only little grip I have is... useless pictures. I am not one of those people who need pictures of every single recipe and I don’t mind a few artistic pictures of things that have to do with baking. However I do not understand having a picture of flour dusting pastry or whipped egg whites… especially if the photography isn't that great and it looks like a blank page. Weird. It’s my only gripe and it doesn't take away from the content. Therefore I would still recommend this book to avid bakers who like to travel and who like classic baking that has a bit of history!

I can’t wait to get baking!!

Warm Bread and honey cake Amazon UK, USA
Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra Facebook page
Culinaria Libris  and what she had to say about this book!

The Perfect White Loaf & Rolls!!

With England being covered in white over the weekend I used it to my advantage and baked! 

As I said in my last post I am starting to be a lot more concerned about what's in my food and what I'm feeding my kids. So, I thought I'd give bread a go! I went straight to Nick Malgieri's Bake! 

Over Christmas I tried his Tiger Rolls and had good results. So, it was a no brain-er to go back to his book! 

So, first off I just want to say bread is pretty easy to make if you follow the "rules" and you have time for all the rising. Second I want to say if you are taking the time to make bread you might as well make double batches as bread freezes well! 

I only owned 1 loaf tin and never thought twice about it's size. The instructions from Nick say it should rise just above the rim. Mine didn't. It was then I thought  twice about the size of my tin. It's a 2lb loaf tin not a 1lb. Oops! As you see from the pictures it doesn't look perfect, but it still turned out nice! 

The other lesson I have learned from this is read through the whole recipe even the variations. When I started I was worrying about how I was going to bake 2 loaves with only 1 tin (which was the wrong size) and in the variations it says you can use half of a batch for rolls. So, that's what I did. We used them for ham & cheese sandwiches to go with homemade root vegetable soup! A perfect dinner for a cold night! 

I'm going to be trying other breads to find one that is easy and tasty enough to make on a regular basis. Therefore I'm not going to share the recipe with you on here at this time. Once I've found "the one" I will post the recipe! Does anyone have any suggestions for bread? Any tried and true recipes? 

notes: it looks like Bake! is only available from other sellers on Amazon. I wouldn't doubt the recipe I used for this loaf or something similar would be in his new book Bread! (it's on my wish list!) While I was getting supplies at my local store I picked up a couple of 1lb loaf tins! Now I'm better prepared! :0) 

Cinnamon Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream! {weekend baking with janet}

15 years ago, I was preparing Mike (my husband) to go out to the bars for his 21st birthday, agonizing about the fact that I couldn't go with him. This year, I was preparing his birthday dinner and dessert.

He has had cakes, brownies, pies, and cupcakes for his birthdays in the past. I now found myself agonizing over what kind of birthday treat to make! I've tried almost every way to make peanut butter in a dessert, so this year I focused on cinnamon.

Thankfully, David Lebovitz came to my rescue! Figuratively, not literally, (although that would've been super cool)! Mike really enjoys the streusel part of the Martha Stewart muffins I make, so I added streusel on the top of this cake. The result was amazing!!! It is super yummy! Janet

notes: cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman adapted by David Lebovitz recipe found on David Lebovitz's site ice cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz found on Elly says Opa!

Mary Berry's Cornflake Cookies!!

Recently my sisters and I have been talking not only about healthy eating, but what is in the food we eat. Today there is so much package/pre-prepared food that is consumed.

My eldest has a lunch box every day and I include a pre-packed treat next to her sandwich and fruit. After reading some of the ingredients I thought to myself ‘I am a baker! What am I doing putting this junk in her lunch!’ So, I’ve decided I’m going to try to start baking bars or cookies or something lunch box friendly for her.  

Even though these cookies/biscuits have margarine, sugar, flour in them and aren’t exactly “healthy” they are made of exactly 5 ingredients. Five! Most granola/cereal bars have at least double that! On top of that I know exactly what I’ve put in them. One could argue about the ingredients in a box of cornflakes, but my UK Kellogg’s cornflakes have 12 ingredients and I can pronounce each one. Plus 50g of cornflakes divided by 34 cookies is hardly worth getting excited about.

Avoiding all packaged food is a bit impractical. However, I would encourage everyone to just be a bit more aware of what they are eating. If a packaged product has a list of ingredients that is miles long and/or half of them are un-pronounceable stay away. Further more if the first or second ingredients are either water or sugar* it's probably a good idea to avoid it. 

That was my preachy-rant for the day! Thanks for listening (reading)! :0) How do you feel about additives and stuff added to the food we eat?

Back to the cookies: they were a hit with my girls and were super easy to make. They come from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes and are in the section “Things Children Can Make Themselves.” That’s how easy they are! Enjoy! 

Mary Berry's Cornflake Cookies:  

225g soft margarine
175g caster or light soft brown sugar (I used caster)
1 egg, beaten
275g self-raising flour
50g cornflakes, lightly crushed

Pre-heat oven 190C/375F/gas 5 grease or line your baking sheet. Mary suggests 3 large ones, but I only own 1 medium one so that’s what I used.
Beat the margarine and sugar together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. I don’t think mine was very light and fluffy after my arm started to get tired…should’ve had softer margarine. Beat in the egg. Slowly mix in the flour until combined. Mary’s note: if it’s a warm day or the kitchen is hot leaving the mixture too soft to handle, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Ready to roll: wet your hands lightly and roll the mixture into about 34 balls. Coat with cornflakes, Mary’s note: it’s worth taking the time to coat them carefully.
Arrange on the baking sheet with enough space to flatten slightly with your hand. They will slightly spread during baking. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack. They are good fresh out of the oven as they are still a little soft in the middle. Once they have cooled they are crunchier. Once cool store in an airtight container.

* Other words for sugar
notes: I love this blog post from Brave Tart aka Stella Parks on what's in the food we eat focusing mainly on desserts! Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes Amazon UK (first baking book I ever bought!)

Tart it Up! Sweet & Savoury Tarts and Pies by Eric Lanlard {book review}

This book has been out for a little while now and I've only just got myself a copy (thank you Christmas vouchers). I have a huge wishlist of baking books that I will never ever be able to afford. Having to pick and choose can be hard.

Tart it Up! feels very familiar and comfortable. Most likely because it's laid out like Home Bake. I think of that as a good thing. I like "comfortable" (I am a Taurus) and I like this book.

I wish I hadn't waited so long for it. There are so many things I want to make. This list is more for my benefit, but it’s a great way to show you what is inside! 

Fig, lardon and dolcleatte tart
Belgian endive and Parma ham tart
Artichoke and black olive tart (picture)
Black pudding and apple tart
Curried chicken (making tonight!)
Thai crab mini pies

West Indies chocolate tart
Amaretto and peach tart
Blueberry amandine tarts (picture)
Gypsy tart
Strawberry tart ‘royale’
Treacle tart
Matcha and yuzu tart (picture)
‘Praline rose’ tarts
Raspberry Cheesecake pie
Caramelized blood orange pie

As I mentioned above - I have a copy of Home Bake and I love it so it’s no surprise that I am now in love with Tart it Up! Eric Lanlard is a Master Patissier, celebrity chef, and owner of his own cafĂ©, Cake Boy boutique. Which I will be visiting in May for the Baking Mad Spring Course! 

Have I mentioned that yet?? It’s not like I haven’t tried to put it in every blog post or tweet I write! :0) The Matcha and yuzu tart (pictured above) is one of the 3 tarts I will be making on Thursday May 16th with Eric and 7 other ‘students’. May 16th also happens to be my 30th birthday! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate! I am going to apologize now as I predict I will become a little annoying about the whole thing... mentioning it any chance I get!

There is more then my birthday and the course to look forward too!! His new book is out this spring: Chocolat!! I do love my cook (baking) books!!

Cake Boy website
Cake Boy Courses
Tart it Up! Amazon UK & USA; The Book People
Home Bake! Amazon UK & USA (Cake Boy)
Chocolat! Amazon UK

update: made the gypsy tart and chicken curry tart

Red Velvet Layer Cake!!

If you follow me on Twitter, you most likely saw these last week, but here they are again! 
Made for my father-in-law's retirement party!!
Do feel I need to work on my piping/icing skills. 
Ah well as long as it tastes good who cares right??
Everyone who had a slice said it was amazing!!
Made from Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days.
If you want to make this cake times this recipe by 4! or buy the book.
It's probably easier buying the book. 
Nobody likes doing math. 

Snickerdoodles!! Again!!

Snickerdoodles are an amazing, almost cake-like cookie that I cannot live without.

These are so easy to throw together for a quick treat or to bring to a friends for tea! Mainly because the ingredients are so basic they are almost always sitting in your cupboard.

Friday was the last day of the Christmas school holiday's so took my girls to a friends for lunch and a play. Since we were being fed lunch I didn't want to go empty handed! Our friends hadn't heard of them before! And the one friend who did, said theyreminded her of America! The 3 dozen cookies I brought with us vanished!

Having already shared a few recipes before (linked below) I don't feel the need to share the same recipes again! Snickerdoodles don't really vary much. If you've never had one I would say you need to make some! They are good!! Enjoy!

Check out other Snickerdoodle treats!!
Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Snickerdoodle Cupcakes: My sister's Snickerdoodle Cupcakes are her family's favorite. I do need to make them myself sometime. Or wait until we visit and she can make them for me. :0)

A few books that I know have a Snickerdoodle recipe are Nigella's  How to be a Domestic Goddess, Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, Tea with Bea by Bea Vo, Martha Stewart Cupcakes and probably many more!!


"Learn from the past, look to the future, but live in the present." Petra Nemcova
from Kung Fu Panda "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."

A very wise quote and one I don’t always listen too. I spend a lot of time planning and worrying about the future. Sometimes I over think things that have already happened and that I can’t change.  I do these things instead of “living” in the present.

But before I start this whole living in the present thing… let’s look to the future for a moment:

1.      I’m going to have my first giveaway this month!! I’m giving away one of my favorite baking books!!! Details will be coming soon!
  1. My sisters and I have created our own The Biggest Loser competition. Whoever loses the most in the next 12 weeks gets $50! So, I hope to share some “healthier” dessert recipes while I win my $50! ;0)
  2. I took part in a few linky blog posts recently and it was a lot of fun! My plans for the New Year are to find more linky posts to participate in! If you know of any please leave a comment!! (I need to get my butt in gear and partake in United Bakes of America with Cupcake Crazy Gem!)
  3. There are tons of new books out this spring. It’s going to be tough deciding which ones to get!!
    1. Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home by Tarek Malouf out February 14th
    2. Patisserie at Home by Will Torrent out in April
    3. The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill out February
    4. Bake it Like You Mean It by Gesine Bullock-Prado out in March
    5. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan (novel) out in March! 
    6. The Hairy Bikers’ Great Curries also out in February!!
  4. I am going home!! For a visit we’re arranging it for May/June time! USA here we come!!

and last but not least … the one thing I am looking forward to the most…

  1. I have booked myself on Eric Lanlard’s Baking Mad Spring course on my 30th birthday! Oh yeah! Visit his website for more info!! 
   Baking Mad Spring Course Synopsis:
Students will have the opportunity to
expand their repertoire and improve
their pastry making skills - with three
delicious treats – a Middle Eastern
inspired Light Fruit Cake, a Matcha and
Yuzu Tart and a Valhrona ‘pure caraibe’
Chocolate Mousse on a crunchy
praline base.
A seasonal lunch with be served with
wine and a delicious pudding.
Students will take home everything they
have baked, along with the recipes, a
Cake Boy apron, a Baking Mad goody
bag, plus a shopping discount voucher
for the Shop at Cake Boy.

Okay now I can start living in the present!! I just have to get over this cold I've had for the past few days. I hope everyone had an amazing 2012! And I wish everyone lots of love and happiness for 2013!!

note: images are not my own and come from: turtle quote; logo, Paul & Babe, and Eric