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Entries in walnuts (3)


Great British Baking Show - Mary's Walnut Layer Cake - Tech Challenge #3

If you’re one of the 13 million fans of The Great British Baking Show or GBBS on PBS then you’ll get this and might have even done it yourself.

     I’m hooked, follow along each week and fall in love with the bakers. I feel their pain when there’s a disaster in the kitchen. I admire them for making their signature bakes, blind technical challenges, and showstoppers on a time limit in front of a camera. I couldn’t do it, no way and I’m a pretty experienced cook/baker.

     So, for fun I thought I’d put myself through the GBBS tech challenges.

     Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.

     I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s *supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.

     And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to 12 (in this case 13) different people and 12/13 different results get churned out.

     I’m giving myself the same time limit that the bakers get. I know, I know – I’m in the comfort of my own home without a TV crew or judges in my face asking me unnerving questions to shatter my already fragile confidence. So, again, an advantage, but I still thought this would/could be fun. I just want to see if I can produce something anywhere close to what Paul and Mary would approve of and/or what it should look like. We shall see.

     This week’s challenge was Mary’s Walnut Layer Cake. A sponge, with buttercream filling, caramelized walnuts, and meringue icing.  I’ve made cakes with walnuts in them, I’ve made buttercream, I’ve caramelized nuts and made meringue icing. This should be easy…right? I have 1 hour and 45 minutes to get it done. Time starts now – BAAAAAKE.

     First almost disaster – only put three eggs in the batter instead of four – saw the lone egg before I added the flour mixture – disaster averted.

     2nd batch of walnuts look pretty good –1st batch was a sticky, glob of a mess.


   54:22 to go – cakes are out. While they were baking I made the buttercream and stuck it in the fridge. Next is the cooked icing – fingers crossed.

     I started the meringue icing before I spread the buttercream on the layers – CRAP. Now the buttercream is a little to cold to spread, and the layers aren’t totally cool yet.

     This on the clock thing is praying on my mind. I feel like I have to get it all done…NOW. Which is so wrong as I’ve seen in many episodes.

     Also, I was so worried about the cooked icing that I spread the buttercream on the warmish layers and watched them slide – aaand, I put the top layer on upside down. Now I've got something that looks like it belongs in a Whoville bakery, not the gingham alter. 

     While trying to check the consistency of my marshmallowy icing – I lifted the whisk [electric] still whisking away and gave myself, and the surrounding area a nice sticky shower. I needed a set of tiny windshield washers for my glasses. I’m nervous for no reason – I’M NOT BEING JUDGED.

      So now I’m scared ABOUT the time, and scared OF the icing and Mary and Paul [who don’t exist in my kitchen]. I toyed with the idea of taking the icing off the hot water and continue whisking it until it cools – that’s the way I’ve made this stuff before – heat and whisk until the egg whites are a little frothy and the sugar is dissolved – Igotthis.Iknowthis.

     Well I didn’t do that.


I decided to continue on with the disaster in the bowl and once again, sprayed myself and kitchen with the now gooey, runny white stuff [wish I took a picture to show the hilarity of it]. I even had time to redo the icing, but for some reason the idea of being on the clock made me forget all sense of any baking technique. I was in grab, go, goop, momentum, all because of the DAMN CLOCK.

     I completed the challenge with 16:31 minutes to spare, but I could have used the time better – I need better time management - I screwed up the easiest tech challenge.

     Verdict – the cake turned out okay. There were a few larger pieces of walnuts in there [which I didn’t mind, [but old blue eyes probably would have had something to say]. I thought it was on the tough side, possibly over cooked. My layers were even. The buttercream was fine, but due to spreading it on warmish layers, it eeked out of the edges.


     The second batch of walnuts were, also, fine. But I placed them wrong on the cake [again, I even knew how they should have been placed]. I tried to move them around, but they left funny marks. The cooked icing? Effing disaster. A Runny, grainy, mess.

    To put my tech challenge in perspective [with my other contestants] - my walnut cake was most like Stu’s on the icing side and Ian’s on the cake side. I had height, I had even layers, I had decent butter cream, some larger chunks of walnuts and grainy icing. I think I’d have been 11th in the challenge. That was Stu. He went home.

     I’m already nervous for next week’s challenge. I had no pressure except the timer on my iPhone and that’s what I turned out? I DON’T know how they do it.



Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting...for the Easter Bunny!

Here’s a copy of an email I received the other day…


Dear Sally 

I’ve been following your blog and reading your articles for some time now.  I’ve noticed that you cover the other major holidays well as far as desserts go.  You’ve got plenty of Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes on your website, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed that Easter seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Sure I noticed an orange cheesecake with a couple of “Peeps” stuck on top, and some lemony sugar cookies but that’s about it.  Santa gets a Buche de Noel, chocolate cupcakes with his favorite peppermint marshmallow frosting on top, and snowflake shortbread…just to name a few.  For Thanksgiving, you’ve got pumpkin everything from ravioli to cheesecake - you must just love your cheesecake! 

But Easter?  Not a whole lot.  What’s up with that?  Would it be too much to ask you to make carrot cake and then post the recipe?  And perhaps even use it in your It’s All Delicious column in Pink?  I know I’m not the only one who is partial to carrot cake – don’t forget the cream cheese frosting- BTW.  I’m sure others would like a lovely, moist, flavorful carrot cake with a hint of cinnamon, slight crunch of walnuts, and a touch of sweetness from golden raisins for Easter…wouldn’t you agree?  Oh I can taste it now.

I’m sorry for being pushy; it’s not really my nature.  I’m more of the scared rabbit type, which is why it’s taken me so long to write to you.  But I think it’s time for me to point out that for all these years I’ve visited your house, brought you and your family baskets upon baskets of lovely chocolates, surprised everyone with cute little presents and not once have I been offered anything in return.  Well this year I’m hopping mad and putting my foot down.  Make the damn carrot cake or no Easter baskets for you!

Lots of love the Easter Bunny xx


There you go…I’m just sayin…I had no choice…Enjoy!!


Makes about 24 standard size cupcakes


3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup golden raisins

3 cups carrots, peeled and grated (about 6-8 medium)

8oz crushed pineapple, drained a bit

Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

16oz confectioners' sugar (about 4 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a standard muffin tins paper liners.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Combine the carrots, pineapple, walnuts, and raisins in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Beat the oil, sugar and vanilla on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated and beginning to turn pale – about three minutes.  On low speed, add the carrot mixture and continue mixing until combined.  Reduce speed to “stir” and add the flour, mix until the batter is smooth.  Fill each liner with approximately a scant ½ a cup of batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the middle.  Cool on rack.  Refrigerate until ready to frost – see notes below...pleeeze!

To make the frosting:

Beat the butter and cream cheese, and vanilla on medium until smooth using an electric mixer.  Slowly add the sugar (and I mean slowly or you will have a confectioners’ sugar cloud in the kitchen) and beat until incorporated and smooth.  Spread frosting over cooled cupcakes.  Can be made one day ahead and stored in the fridge.  Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.


It’s All Delicious Notes:  Grate the carrots by hand on the smallest tear drop holes of a box grater – this way the carrots are not mushy and not too chunky.


Also, when I fill my cupcake liners, I use an old-fashioned ice cream scoop ¾ full – the tins fill perfectly every time and do not overflow.

One last thing, make these cupcakes a day before, stick them in the fridge and let the flavors develop



My "Waldorf" Chicken Salad


This was the number two salad from Chicken Salad Wednesday. I’ve always wanted to whip this up. Talk about simple to make and long on taste. Sweet with the grapes and raisins. Slightly tart with mustard and hint of lemon. And then the crunch from the walnuts? Perfect and delish!


Serves 4-6 for a light lunch

2 chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on

½ lb each of seedless green and red grapes halved

1-cup celery, chopped

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup golden raisins

1-cup mayonnaise

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425°F

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until golden brown and the juices run clear when tested. Cool completely, remove meat from bones, discard skin and dice into 1 inch (bit sized pieces).

Whisk mayonnaise, Dijon and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Set aside

Combine chicken, halved grapes, celery, walnuts and raisins in a medium sized bowl. Stir in mayonnaise, toss to completely combine flavors. Season with salt and pepper if you think necessary.