Things To Do With… Christmas Leftovers

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! All that build up, months of planning, crafting, shopping, wrapping and baking… and it’s finally over for another year. What does that call for? More baking! So here is a collection of recipes I have tried to help you use up all those Christmas leftovers…

Pasnip & Maple Syrup Cake (Uses 250g parsnips)
A delicious cake with a fresh mascapone filling. It also contains apple and pecans and feels like a healthier alternative to all that Christmas indulgence.

Brie & Cranberry Tartlets (Uses 250g cranberry sauce and approx 200g brie)
The perfect canape for a New Year’s Eve party that also clears out some of that leftover Christmas cheese. They are also vegetarian and incredibly moreish!

Sweet Potato Brownies (Uses 250g sweet potato)
A healthy no-sugar brownie recipe with a honey cream cheese topping.

Carrot & Orange Cake (Uses 200g carrot)
You can’t beat a carrot cake and this one has a delicious marmalade infused buttercream on top.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Uses 1 medium size cauliflower)
A low carb alternative to regular pizza, perfect for that January diet!

Leek, Cheese & Potato Pie (Uses 4 leeks and 3 large potatoes – or use half for a smaller pie)
Give hot water crust pastry a try and make this tasty pie. This recipe is for a very large pie, so if you have less people to feed, halve the ingredients.

Other ideas from around the web…

One for the Brussel Sprouts:
Bubble and Squeak Patties
I saw this recipe on TV the other day, and thought it sounded so simple and delicious. You could use a different cheese for the filling if you like a stronger flavour.

One for the Turkey:
Turkey & Chorizo Empanadas
I love chorizo and this recipe will instantly change the flavour of turkey, giving it that Spanish feel. You could also make these with leftover chicken and other meats.

One for the Christmas Pudding:
Christmas Pudding Trifle
I don’t like Christmas pudding, but I reckon if you surrounded it with custard, cream and delicious orange and brandy, I would eat the whole thing! You could also use Christmas cake in this recipe.

One for the Panettone:
Panettone Pudding
I haven’t had bread and butter pudding in ages and this version using panettone looks so indulgent, you could even splash in a little brandy!

One for the Cranberry Sauce:
Cranberry Sauce Muffins
This super simple recipe creates delicious muffins, great for breakfasts or snacks.

One for the Stilton:
Asparagus & Stilton Tarts
This is always the cheese on the cheeseboard that gets leftover. These tarts are so versatile too, try adding some ham or bacon, or mix in other cheeses like cheddar and brie. Try making your own pastry too!

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Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

After watching the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood showing us some of their favourite Christmas bakes, I just had to make Mary Berry’s Bûche de Noël! They also made Christmas cake and pudding – unfortunately I stand in the camp of not liking Christmas pudding – so the Bûche de Noël was a great alternative idea.

I made the ganache topping first because it has to cool down and set in the fridge for a few hours. I heated 300ml of double cream on the hob until it was quite warm. Mary says for it to be just hot enough that you can still hold your finger it in.

I mixed in 300g dark chocolate until it was smooth and glossy. I left it on the window sill to cool to room temperature, then popped it in the fridge for a few hours while I made the rest of the Bûche de Noël.

I missed the boat on taking photos during this point, apologies! I used my food mixer to whisk up 4 eggs with 100g caster sugar until it was frothy. Then sifted in 65g self-raising flour and 40g cocoa powder and folded it into the egg mixture gently so as not to lose the frothiness.

I put it into a lined baking tray (I don’t have a swiss roll tin, but this works just as well) and baked on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 8-10 minutes. It sprang back up when I pressed it with a fingertip.

I prepared a sheet of baking paper dusted generously with icing sugar, I tipped the sponge out onto this while it was still hot, peeled off the baking paper it was baked in, and used a knife to make a grove along one end about 2cm from the end. Then I rolled the sponge up as tight as I could, taking the paper with it. I left it to cool fully still wrapped in the paper.

Once it was cold, I whipped up 300ml of cream, I’d say to use less as I had a lot left over. Unless you want extra cream to serve with the Bûche de Noël!

I unrolled the sponge and spread out the cream onto it using a palette knife.

Then I rolled it up again, I was pretty happy with the neatness of my roll!

I cut the roll diagonally at one end and positioned on a serving board to look like a branch.

The ganache was nice and thick by now. You want it to be as thick as a butter cream. I used a star nozzle and piping bag to pipe the ganache in lines along the roll, and swirls at each of the three ends.

A dusting of icing sugar and it was ready to eat! Sadly I didn’t have a faux holly sprig to decorate with, but I still think it looks pretty good! This is the first time I’ve followed a Mary Berry recipe exactly, and it worked perfectly with all her instructions and tips, she really is a genius!

I have also entered this into Blue Kitchen Bakes Classic French Challenge!

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The December Lust List

The festive season is finally here! My Christmas tree is up, cards have been written (and sent to both local streets and foreign lands), and most importantly of all, I have made a decent start on my present shopping – finally! I’ve already been enjoying festive treats such as mulled wine, mince pies, Baileys hot chocolate, and a gingerbread house. Here are some baking goodies I would love to find under my Christmas tree…

KitchenAid Artisan Grape Food Mixer
Harts of Stur £409.00
My absolute dream gift! And in purple my favourite colour. I am not ashamed to admit I actually stroked one of these on display in Selfridges. I will have one of these beauties one day, it would make my baking life a lot easier. Especially mixing batters and buttercream.

 
Star Swirly Cupcake Stand
Lakeland £3.99
Lakeland have got some great products for baking. This cupcake stand would be perfect for displaying your festive bakes, and could be used again at other occasions like birthdays. Plus, it’s a bargain!

Giant Snowy Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter
Cakes, Cookies & Crafts £4.99
I recently discovered this website and purchased this cookie cutter (along with several other items!) It’s 8 inches tall so great for giant Christmas tree cookies!

Chocolate In The Post
The Grown Up Chocolate Company from £25.95
This company sends you a selection of quality award-winning chocolate in the post for as many months as you desire! Yes please Santa!

Spherical Cake Tin / Christmas Pudding Mould
Richmond Cookshop £15.50
I’ve never seen anything like this before, they look like they’re from space! These moulds will help you achieve a perfect spherical shape to cakes and puddings. What a stunning effect this would give, everyone will be wondering how you did it!

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Mince Pie Variations

Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat Squares

I had planned a couple of months ago to make my own mincemeat, but life got in the way and I didn’t quite get round to it. So instead I decided to add flavour to basic mincemeat, the first I came up with was cranberry and orange – very Christmasey flavours. I did this by adding dried cranberries, 2 tsp orange essence and the zest of one large orange to a jar of brandy infused mincemeat and mixing well. You can add more or less orange depending our your taste, or more alcohol if you fancy!

These mincemeat squares are made using puff pastry. I decided against making my own puff pastry, because frankly, it looks very time consuming and difficult! This time of year can be hard work, so why not make things a bit easier for yourself I say.

I found this Jus Rol Light Puff Pastry in Tesco. Christmas is such a time of indulgence, so it’s nice to save some calories where you can! And it still tasted just as good!

This pastry is so easy to use. I just defrosted it and rolled it out on a floured surface to the recommend size on the pack.

I trimmed the edges, then cut it into squares. I wasn’t overly concerned about neatness here.

Score a smaller square in the centre of the pastry square with a sharp knife. This will stop it from puffing up in the middle where your filling is. Add about a teaspoon and a half of mincemeat – depending on the size of square you cut out – and brush the edge with beaten egg. Leave a 1 cm gap at least for the edges.

Bake on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15-18 minutes. Or until the pastry has gone golden brown and puffed up.

Leave to cool (the mincemeat gets very hot in the oven so be careful if you want to eat these warm!) Enjoy alone, or with ice cream, cream, or custard. I think these are a fab and easy alternative to standard mince pies! So simple to make and they look great.

Blueberry & Lemon Mincemeat Cups

The second mincemeat flavour I created was blueberry and lemon. I did this by adding dried blueberries, a good glug of lemon juice, and the zest of one lemon to a jar of basic mince meat. This was so yummy and lemoney! Definitely my personal favourite of the two.

I’ve made shortcrust pastry several times and never had problems with it, so I made my own for the cups.

In a large mixing bowl I put 175g plain flour, and 85g grated butter. TIP: Grating the butter makes this process so much easier and saves you a lot of time. I then rubbed the flour and butter together until it formed breadcrumbs, then stirred in 45g caster sugar.

I added one egg and used my hands to bind the mixture together into a dough. I kneaded it briefly (1-2 minutes) on a floured surface until the dough was smooth. Then I wrapped it in cling film and chilled it in the fridge for 1 hour.

I rolled the dough out onto a floured surface and used a round cutter to cut out circles. I greased a cupcake tray with butter and places the circles of dough into the tray, and pricked the bottom of the dough with a fork twice.


I filled them up with the mincemeat and baked on 175C/325F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. The pastry should be golden and crispy all over – especially the bottom!

A dusting of icing sugar and they were done. I took these into work and both mince pie variations got gobbled up quickly. Really pleased with how this turned out as the idea of flavouring mincemeat was just a random thought I came up with. What other mince pie variations have you eaten or made?

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Spiced Banana, Choc Chip & Bourbon Loaf

 

I started the evening I made this with the plan to make a loaf version of the Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies I made in October. However, I forgot to get any cream cheese, which was one of the main ingredients. Luckily, my housemate had left some bananas on the side, with a note saying they were unwanted. So a banana cake it was! With a few extra flavours to jazz it up a bit.

 

Into a large bowl I sifted 145g plain flour, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground ginger. I added 1/4 tsp salt and stirred it all together.

 

In another bowl I mashed up 2 bananas with a fork. It’s best if the bananas are starting to brown, don’t use the just ripe ones as they will be too firm.

 

In a third bowl I creamed 110g caster sugar with 55g butter.

 

I added the mashed up bananas along with 1 egg, 50ml milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and mixed well.

 

 

 

The flour mixture then went into the banana mixture, along with 50g chocolate chips and 2 tbsp of bourbon (you can also use brandy).

 
 

I poured the mixture into a 1lb loaf tin.

 

I baked it on 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas 4 for 45 minutes – I covered it with foil for the last 10 minutes so it didn’t burn on top.

 
 

The final loaf is moist and delicious, the mixture of banana, spices and chocolate flavours are divine! I think it would also make good mini loaves.

Print

Spiced Banana, Choc Chip & Bourbon Loaf

Ingredients

  • 145 g Plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 Bananas mashed
  • 110 g Caster sugar
  • 55 g Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 50 ml Milk
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 50 g Chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp Bourbon or brandy

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas 4, and grease and line a 1lb loaf tin

  2. Into a large bowl sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and ground ginger, and stir it all together

  3. In another bowl cream the caster sugar with the butter

  4. Add the bananas to the caster sugar and butter mixture, then add the egg, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix well

  5. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and whisk in, then add the chocolate chips and bourbon, and mix in

  6. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes - cover with foil for the last 10 minutes if it is getting too dark on top

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Mince Pie Cupcakes with Brandy Buttercream and a Butterscotch Drizzle

 
 

This is a combination of ideas and recipes I’ve seen, and they’ve all inspired me to make these cupcakes. The idea of mince pie cupcakes is something I’ve read about around the web a few times, from other bloggers and from recipe websites. I think Nigella Lawson does a version as well. Some have had the mincemeat mixed into the batter, and others in the centre of the cupcakes. I decided to put mine in the centre, and lavish it with brandy buttercream and a butterscotch drizzle.

I made the cake batter by creaming together 220g butter and 220g soft light brown sugar. I then added 4 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract, and mixed well. Then I folded in 220g self raising flour and 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice. And finally mixed in 1 tbsp brandy. This makes about 15 large cupcakes.

 I baked in a muffin tray on 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5, for 15-20 minutes, until they were golden brown.

I cut out little divets from the cakes with a sharp knife.

And filled them up with a luxury mincemeat from Tesco that was laced with brandy and port.

I made the buttercream by mixing 340g icing sugar, 170g butter, 2 heaped tsp cream cheese, and 3 capfuls brandy. God this tasted good! Brandy is delicious stuff!

I used my large star nozzle from Jane Asher to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes.

I got the butterscotch sauce recipe from Whitworths Sugar. I made it by melting 125g butter, 175g soft light brown sugar, and 150ml double cream. Let it simmer gently for 3-4 mins, then cool until thick. I also added a capful of brandy, because it makes everything taste better!

I drizzled the sauce onto the cupcakes. It was better the next day when it had really thickened up.

 
 

I have to say that these cupcakes are probably the tastiest thing I have ever made. I ate four of them.

 
 
 
Print

Mince Pie Cupcakes With Brandy Buttercream & A Butterscotch Drizzle

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 220 g Butter
  • 220 g Light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Brandy
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 220 g Self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mixed spice

For the butterscotch drizzle

  • 150 ml Double cream
  • 125 g Butter
  • 175 g Light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Brandy

For the buttercream & filling

  • 200 g Mincemeat
  • 2 heaped tbsp Cream cheese
  • 340 g Icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp Brandy
  • 170 g Butter

Instructions

  1. Start by making the butterscotch drizzle. Heat up the butter, light brown sugar, and double cream in a pan at a medium heat. Let it simmer gently for 3-4 mins whilst stirring it, then take of the heat and mix in the brandy. Put it in a bowl in the fridge to cool and thicken up, ideally overnight

  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/370F/Gas Mark 4 and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases

  3. To make the cupcake sponge, cream together the butter and the light brown sugar

  4. Add the eggs, brandy and the vanilla extract, and mix well

  5. Then fold in the self raising flour and mixed spice

  6. Separate into cupcake cases and bake them for 20 minutes, until they are golden brown

  7. Cut out the middle of each cupcake using a cupcake corer or a sharp knife
  8. Fill each hole with the mincemeat
  9. Make the buttercream by mixing together the icing sugar, butter, cream cheese, and brandy

  10. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes using a star nozzle and piping bag
  11. Drizzle the butterscotch sauce onto the cupcakes right before serving

 

 
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Gingerbread House

This year I decided to make a Gingerbread House after seeing all the gingerbread construction efforts of the Great British Bake Off contestants. I’d never even made gingerbread biscuits before, let alone assembled them into a stable structure. I was excited, but also nervous. As you can see above it was a success and I’m so proud of my Gingerbread House! Here’s how I made it…

In a bowl I put plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, and butter (which I grated). Using my fingers I rubbed the mixture together until it resembled fine breadcrumbs.

Then I added the ground ginger, mixed spice, and light brown sugar and stirred it in.

In a pan I gently heated some golden syrup, I let it cool and whisked in two eggs.

I didn’t use a cookie cutter set for this house, I made my own template. I started with the side piece, and decided it should be 8″ long and 3 1/2″ tall. I then used these measurements to make the rest of the house. It also helped that my boyfriend is very handy at maths!

I made a well in the flour mixture, and poured in the eggs and golden syrup. I combined the mixture together until a dough formed.

I rolled out the dough and used my template to cut out the shapes of the house. Two sides, the front, the back, and two roof pieces. I kept the dough fairly thick so the house would be sturdy, and I didn’t want to risk the pieces breaking apart after baking. About 5mm should be ok.

I placed them onto lined baking trays and baked at 160C Fan/180C/375F/Gas Mark 5 for about 15 minutes.

They came out lovely and golden brown. I let them cool fully on cooling racks.

I decorated the house the next day. I mixed icing sugar with a little water to create a thick paste and piped window and door shapes onto the pieces with a piping bag and a small circular nozzle.

I bought a variety of sweets to decorate the house, and stuck them on with the icing.

I used chocolate jazzies to tile the roof, and plenty of icing to make sure they stuck. Once the icing dried it was pretty solid and nothing fell off.

I decided to use caramel to stick the pieces of the Gingerbread House together. I heated sugar until it went golden. I kept the caramel on a very low heat whilst I stuck the pieces together. This kept it liquid, but stopped it from burning. I didn’t take any photos during assembly as it was very tricky, and also I burnt myself with the hot caramel. Word of warning when using hot caramel – be careful!! It hurts a lot if it gets on your skin, and for several hours…

I started with the front piece and stuck both the sides to it. Then I put the back on, and finally the roof. Caramel hardens very fast so you have to work quickly, and an extra pair of hands is highly recommended.

I added a little Christmas tree at the front of the Gingerbread House and dusted the whole thing with icing sugar for a “snow” effect. The base used was a glass chopping board covered in foil. You can add gingerbread people to the base, or anything else you fancy.

And the Gingerbread House was complete! So pleased with it! I couldn’t bare to eat any of it or destroy it, so I left it with my boyfriend to do the ‘dirty work’.

I also made some yummy Christmas shaped cookies with the leftover dough…!

I made them again a few weeks later and gave them out as gifts in pretty bags tied with ribbon.

 

Print

Gingerbread House

Ingredients

For the gingerbread biscuits

  • 600 g Plain flour
  • 2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g Butter or baking spread
  • 3 tsp Ground ginger
  • 3 tsp Mixed spice
  • 300 g Light brown sugar
  • 8 tbsp Golden syrup
  • 2 Eggs

For the caramel

  • 200 g Caster sugar

For decoration (optional)

  • 200 g Icing sugar
  • Chocolate jazzies
  • Assorted sweets

Instructions

  1. In a pan gently heat the golden syrup, set it aside to cool for 5 minutes

  2. Put the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, and butter into a bowl and rub the mixture together with your hands until it resembles breadcrumbs

  3. Add the ground ginger, mixed spice, and light brown sugar and stir them in

  4. Add the eggs to the cooled golden syrup and whisk them in

  5. Pour the eggs and golden syrup mixture into the flour mixture, then mix until a dough forms. Wrap it in cling film and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge

  6. Pre-heat your oven to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and line your baking tray(s) with baking paper

  7. You can use a cookie cutter set for this house or make your own template like I did. My side piece was 8" long and 3.5" tall, my front and back piece was 6" long, 3.5" tall, then had a 5" slanted roof, my roof piece was 8" long and 5.5" wide - you will need two of each piece for a full house

  8. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to a thickness of 5mm using a rolling pin and use your template or cutters to cut out the shapes of the house. Re-roll the dough if needed

  9. Place them onto the lined baking tray(s) and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown all over. You may need to bake them in batches if you don't have enough space on the tray(s)

  10. Let them cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack as the biscuit will be very delicate when it's hot, let them cool fully on cooling racks

  11. I decorated the house before assembling it, but you can assemble it first if you like

  12. Mix the icing sugar with a little water to create a thick paste and pipe window and door shapes onto the pieces with a piping bag

  13. Stick any sweets onto the house using the icing as 'glue' - let the icing dry fully before moving the biscuits as otherwise the sweets could slip off

  14. If you are using chocolate jazzies to tile the roof, use plenty of icing to make sure they stick, they let it dry fully

  15. To make the caramel heat the sugar in a pan on a low-medium heat until it goes golden. Keep it on the heat whilst assembling otherwise the caramel will harden quickly

  16. Safety first! You will need someone to help you assemble it, this is a two person job. Also please be careful! Caramel is very hot and hurts a lot (trust me, I know) if it gets on your skin when it's hot

  17. Start with the front piece and stick both the sides to it by dipping the biscuit into the caramel then pressing the edges together. Then put the back on, and finally the roof. Caramel hardens very fast so you have to work quickly, you can use a spoon to drizzle more caramel over the joins to ensure a secure fit

  18. Put the assembled house onto a pretty place or board, sprinkle it with icing sugar and add extra sweets of other decorations around it

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Clandestine Cake Club: Sex On The Beach Cake

On Monday I went to my second Clandestine Cake Club event. This time it was the Christmas party for all three of the Manchester groups – Manchester North, Manchester South, and Manchester City Centre & Chorlton. It was held at Grosvenor Casino in East Didsbury. The casino has only been there since February and was a very stylish and glamorous venue. The theme was ‘Cocktails and Mocktails’ and there were about 30 cakes in total. I brought along a Sex On The Beach Cake (pictured above) which I will show you how I made further down in this post. But first a recap of the cakes…

White Russian cake by my friend Beth who I took along for her first Cake Club experience. This was definitely in my top three favourites of the night. It was covered in whipped cream, and the sponge was so light.

There were several mojito cakes, but this one was the tastiest in my opinion!

A Bailey’s cake by Kelly. Baileys was another common choice of flavour, and I am not complaining!!

Naomi’s very creative Bubbly Bucks Fizz cake was sprinkled with popping candy. I thought it was a brilliant idea making it into the shape of a martini glass! I love how creative everyone gets.

Another of my favourites of the night – Jackie’s Bailey’s cheesecake with Baileys cream. So damn good!

Ellie made The Godfather cake. The Godfather is a very manly cocktail, with only two ingredients, and yes they’re both alcohol! My housemate Pete requested a slice if someone made a Godfather cake, and lucky for him they did! He said ‘the person who made this is a genius’ after enjoying the slice I brought home for him.

There were lots of cakes involving strawberries.

Stina’s Ginger Cake with Pineapple Cream and Spiced Rum Topping. This was really delicious!

Claire’s Irish Coffee Cake definitely wins my award for the prettiest cake of the night. The decorating is superb and so neat. I didn’t actually taste this as I’m not a fan of coffee, but Beth gave it the thumbs up for taste!

A couple of shots of the tables of cake. A few more did arrive after I took these photos.

My leftovers….

I’m not sure what gave me the idea to do a Sex On The Beach cake. I think I was thinking of cocktails, and second after a cosmopolitan, I thought of a sex on the beach. And then my mind just ran with it, and this is what I came up with:

I made a basic sponge using my favourite method (weigh the eggs, then match the weight of butter, sugar and flour). I separated it into 3 bowls. Into the first bowl went dried cranberries.

Into the second bowl I put about 2 capfuls of Peach Schnapps.

I really wanted to make sure the flavours came through so I was quite generous!

And into the third bowl I put 2 tsp of orange flavouring.

I poured the mixture into a shallow lined tin.

I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out clean.

While the cake was cooling, I added some green food colouring to some white sugar paste icing and rolled it out. Use icing sugar when you roll out icing to stop it from sticking, it’s like using flour with dough. I am a sugar paste novice and don’t have any speciality tools, so I just used a knife to cut out nine leaf shapes and a pair of shorts.

I then coloured a smaller amount of white sugar paste with pink icing, rolled it out, and cut out a bikini shape.

I made buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter, and about 4 heaped tsp cream cheese. I also add some blue food colouring. This was to represent the sea.

I piled up the three sponges, putting a small amount of buttercream between each layer, then smeared the blue buttercream all over the cake until it was fully covered.

I bashed up some digestive biscuits with a rolling pin and sprinkled the crumbs over the top of the cake to represent sand.

I put a dab of buttercream on the back of the bikini and shorts, and positioned them on the cake.

I made palm trees out of orange chocolate sticks. I put two sticks back to back, then stuck three leaves on each one using buttercream to stick them. Then I pushed them into the sponge.
And the cake was done! It did get a final decoration of a cocktail umbrealla at the cake club, thanks to Beth. I was really pleased with how my idea came together and how it looked and tasted. Clandestine Cake Club is such great fun and I really do recommend anyone to join up. It inspires creativity in your cake making, and lets you share it with other passionate cake eaters and bakers.
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Swiss Roll

The last (and only) time I remember ever making swiss roll was in Home Economics (now more often known as Food Technology) at high school. So I was probably about 13 years old. I don’t remember the method, or how it tasted, or how it turned out. I just remember there being a lot of eggs involved. So I decided to refresh my memory, and give it a go a few years later….ok more than a few years later!!

Turns out my memory is terrible. What you are meant to do is this: Over a pan of simmering water, in a glass bowl whisk together 3 eggs, 100g sugar, and a pinch of salt with an electric whisk until thick. Then whisk for 1-2 minutes off the heat. Then fold in 75g of flour and 1 tsp vanilla extract. What I did: Put the flour in at the start. Ooops. I whisked it for a while and it didn’t thicken, but seemed to have lots of bubbles and volume, so in typical Baking Explorer style, I thought I’d bake it anyway and see what happened.

I lined a square tray with baking paper and poured the mixture in. I did double the above mixture to make two rolls. Tilt the tray so the mixture spreads evenly. Then I baked it on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes.

 Meanwhile, I prepared a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar.

The sponge came out of the oven looking golden and was springy to the touch. Looks like I have gotten away with my mistake!

I tipped the sponge (golden brown side down) onto the baking sheet of sugar, then smeared raspberry jam all over the other side. I smeared the second one with chocolate spread.

Now the tricky part! Make a dent in the sponge about 2cm from one end. This will help to get the roll going. Firmly, but gently, roll the sponge. Use the baking paper to help you, and don’t worry if it breaks! That is all part of a swiss roll’s charm. Keep it wrapped up in the baking paper until it cools fully.

Lay out onto a plate to serve, cutting off the ends gives it a neater, more presentable look.

This swiss roll will keep for 2 days in an air tight container, and best of all, it’s fat free! No butter or cream used. A treat you can enjoy without any guilt. They are also so versatile as you can fill them with anything you want. Lemon curd, marmalade, and even mincemeat for a festive swiss roll.

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Pretzels

Pretzels come in many shapes and sizes, from the giant to the tiny. They can be hard or soft, and sweet or savoury. A pretzel is basically a dough twisted into what is known as the ‘pretzel loop’ and a double glazing method is used when baking for a dark, shiny effect. They are popular in Europe, Germany in particular, and the USA. I’ve actually never eaten a pretzel before, and maybe that was a good thing in case I messed up, then I would be none the wiser! But in fact this is a baking success story, and I now absolutely love pretzels! Especially the sweet ones!

I started with 350g strong white bread flour, 150g plain flour, 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp caster sugar in a large bowl.

In a jug I stirred a sachet of dried yeast into 300ml warm water, and left it to dissolve for 5 minutes. Then I added 2 tbsp sunflower oil.

I mixed the yeast into the flour until it formed a dough. I tipped it out onto a floured surface and kneaded it for 5-10 minutes until it became a smooth and soft dough.

I put the dough into an oiled bowl and left it somewhere warm for about 90 minutes. There is nowhere warm in my house this time of year, so I wrapped the bowl in oven gloves and tea towels for extra warmth. After the 90 minutes it had almost doubled in size.

I knocked the dough back on a floured surface, this just means to push all the air out. I cut the dough in half with a sharp knife, then each half into half again until I ended up with 16 pieces.

I rolled the dough out into a long, thin sausage. They should be about 45cm long – I used a measuring tape to help me keep each piece roughly the same length.

To make the ‘pretzel loop’ I crossed over the two ends, then twisted them around and brought them back on each other, and secured them by pressing gently.

Not the neatest, but above is roughly what it should look like.

They were quite lose structures at this stage, so I lifted them carefully onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then I covered them with cling film and a tea towel and left for 30 minutes to rise again.

I five bowls I prepared my glazes and toppings: sesame seeds and coarse rock salt, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 3 tbsp caster sugar, one beaten egg, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed with 2 tbsp boiling water, and some melted butter.

I brushed all of the pretzels with the bicarbonate of soda mixture.

For the savoury pretzels, I sprinkled over the sesame seeds and coarse salt before baking.

I baked the pretzels on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Take them out and very lightly brush with egg, then put them back in for another 5 minutes.  Cool for at least 5 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.

For the sweet pretzels, I did the same egg glazing method as above, then once they had finished baking I brushed them with the melted butter, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar over them generously and left to cool.

My pretzels weren’t perfectly formed, but they were perfectly baked. I even did the Paul Hollywood tap on the bottom to make sure! The simple addition of the different sweet and salty flavours makes such a difference, and the baked dough is chewy and delicious. These didn’t last long, I devoured two sweet ones pretty fast! Next time I will roll the dough even thinner and might even make some giant sized pretzels.

TIP: Put chocolate spread (Nutella or any supermarket version) on the sweet pretzels, you will not regret it!!

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