31 December 2012

Half-Baked Cakes

Let me introduce you to a range of home-baked cakes, made from fresh ingredients. I discovered these in the chilled cabinet of Tesco and was initially enticed by the modern box design and eye-catching mascot.

What convinced me to try these was the simplicity - "Just add... nothing! it's all in the box". This is true, you don't even need the correct size baking tray as they come in their own paper case that sits straight on the oven shelf.

Their concept is that "We make them, you bake them". They pride themselves on using quality ingredients - free range eggs, patisserie flour, and real butter. Looking through the ingredients list, there was very little difference to what I would expect to use at home, just a thickening agent. No preservatives, or stings of chemicals.

In the box then is a case of cake mix, a booklet with simple step-by-step instructions to bake and decorate each of the four cakes, and separate packets of any needed extras. I liked that I could buy all the cakes in advance and freeze them. Take the box out of the freezer in the evening, and next day I was ready to bake a cake in time for lunch. No shopping  for forgotten ingredients. Very quick, and very easy.

Farmhouse Apple Cake
At 485g this is the lightest of the four cakes, and per 100g the lowest in energy and saturated fats. It comes with two 'extras' as pictured above. The sultana and apple is added on top of the cake mix before baking, and the icing drizzled criss-cross over the cooled cake to finish. If you follow the instructions, you'll get nice thin lines of icing, unlike me.

Scrumptious Chocolate Cake
At 600g this is the heaviest and the most indulgent cake. After baking, all that is required is to slather on a generous coating of chocolate buttercream.

Coffee & Walnut Cake
The walnuts account for the highest energy content in this 595g cake.This time a coffee buttercream is followed by a second sachet of walnut pieces.

Lemon & Lime Drizzle Cake
This is 490g. After baking and whilst still warm, smother with a sachet of lemon and lime syrup. When cooled drizzle icing, in the same way as for the farmhouse cake. I forgot to take a photo of this one, so checkout the box pictures.

Each of the cakes took 50 minutes to bake. All gave great results. The sponge was light, well risen and evenly baked. The chocolate cake perhaps was slightly more dense and less risen, but fine in its own right.

The flavours were all good, my favourite being the farmhouse. I got 8 slices from each cake. They were delicious freshly baked, fine for a few days, and OK with a drink at the end of a week.

I've avoided the numerous packet mix cakes in supermarket baking aisles. In my experience, those that do use them have often commented at how much nicer my self-made cakes are in comparison. I don't see myself buying packets in the future, but I will definitely buy these again.

I was interested in the Half-Baked Cake Co and did a little research. Fronted by mascot 'Victoria', the company based in Lancashire was incorporated in 2009 and has changed name three times since. Who knows whether Victoria is real, or just a nice idea? I missed the Half Baked Chocolate Yule Log at Christmas, but am hoping that new recipes will be appearing in Tesco soon.

23 December 2012

Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter Crisps

Christmas Pudding & Brandy Butter
Roast Norfolk Turkey & Stuffing with Onion Gravy
Whilst on a routine supermarket shop I happened to notice these. Tesco Finest Handcooked  Crisps - Christmas Pudding & Brandy Butter flavour. I'd not encountered a sweet crisp before and struggled to imagine how it would taste, so picked a packet to sample.

Before pudding I decided to have a main course of Tesco Finest Handcooked Crisps - Roast Norfolk Turkey & Stuffing with Onion Gravy. These were perfectly nice crisps and nothing remarkable. If you've had chicken flavour crisps before, then this would be no leap.

Onward to dessert then. The wording on the packet states "The sweet seasonal flavours of rich dried fruit and spices complemented perfectly with creamy brandy butter".

On opening the packet my first indication that this was something different was the distinctly blackened colour to the potato slices. With no artificial colourings or flavourings, I eagerly selected one of the darkest snacks coated in the salty mix of fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

Honestly, the sensation was unusual. It was kind of like eating Christmas Pudding with a mouthful of crisps. It didn't work. I still hold the opinion that crisps should be savoury. I haven't bought a second bag.