Red Velvet Bliss!

Please don’t mistake my absence for a baking hiatus. I definitely have been baking. I’m sure you can sympathise though with how quickly the days disappear. Whilst my intentions have been honourable, I’m afraid I haven’t followed through! My apologies, along with a personal pledge to never let it happen again! Another pledge: following my own frustration at recipes which only provide volume measurements (i.e. cups), and those which only provide weights (i.e. grams) I’m now going to include both, all the time. That way you can choose the easy route (volume), or go with the more accurate (but more time consuming) weight. Apart from tea/tablespoons. Ain’t nobody got time for (weighing) dat! But I will try to add ml measurements where possible. No fluid ounces for you, ‘Mericans. Not sorry.

This most recent baking adventure started with a teeny bit of research. I’d be wondering for a while why red velvet is a thing. I mean they’re really just a light chocolate cupcake, with a big kick of red food colouring, right? While mostly right now, this was once WRONG. Thanks to Wikipedia, the homepage to my life, I learnt this little morsel of info: during food rationing in WWII bakers often boiled beetroots and added the liquid to their cakes, to enhance the colour and ensure they still looked appetizing. Whilst I didn’t this time, I’m interested to try baking red velvet with beetroot juice… I think the sweetness could definitely bring a different dimension to the flavour! I will keep you posted when I get to that experiment.

Now, onto the important part. This recipe was recommended to me by a friend and it did not disappoint! My pretty minimal kitchen efforts yielded moist, rich cupcakes that were gobbled up pretty quickly. Plus, who doesn’t like a good cream cheese icing? Apart from the poor lactose-intolerants among us, I really don’t think I could trust someone who ‘doesn’t like cheese’. I suppose even the lactose-intolerants probably still do like cheese, but can’t eat it. Now, that IS a tragedy.

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 12

1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed

2/3 cup (140g) caster sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 tspn. (2.5ml) vanilla extract

2 tbsp. (20ml) red food colouring

2 tbsp. water

pinch of salt (I just know you’ll want to skip this, but please don’t!)

1/4 (30g) cup cocoa

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour, sifted

1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk

1/2 tspn (2.5ml) cider vinegar

1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

Icing

1 cup (200g) cream cheese, at room temperature, cubed

2 tbsp (30g) butter, softened

2 cups (260g) icing sugar, sifted (I know this is a pain…but really is necessary)

 

Preheat your oven to 180°C and either grease with spray oil / butter a 12 hole muffin pan, or line with paper cases. Tip: if you do want to use cases, use only a very dark colour as the red food colouring will stain them quite heavily. I’d recommend you go with just greasing, as that way the red-velvet-ness of the cupcakes will be on display for all to see!

Beat together with electric beaters (on high) the butter and sugar (for the cupcakes, not the icing just yet!) until very pale in colour and fluffy in texture. This should take 4 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, beat together with a fork the vanilla, food colouring, salt and cocoa (no sifting required, woohoo!) until they form a smooth, thick paste. Beat into the butter mixture until all combined. At this stage if you’ve been a bit enthusiastic with the beaters, or if they’re a bit unruly, I’d recommend cleaning up any splatters. The food colouring in such a concentration will stain bench tops and anything else it sticks to. Not fun.

Turn your mixer down low… and add about a third of your (sifted) flour, and beat til just incorporated. Add a third of your buttermilk and beat again. Repeat this twice more with the flour and milk until all incorporated. Next, in a small cup combine the cider vinegar and bicarb soda. Add this to the batter and using big, gentle motions with a spatula fold in. Leave for 3 minutes.

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Mmmm…

Spoon evenly into the prepared pan and place into the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until top of biggest one springs back when lightly touched. Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and placing onto a cooling rack. If you’re in a rush to ice them, place them into the fridge as they need to be 100% cool before you put anything on top!

 

And now time for the best part. The icing. Obviously. Put the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth. Gradually add the (sifted) icing sugar until well incorporated and very smooth.

Now: pipe, smooth, dollop, throw or smear the icing onto your (cooled) cupcakes. Then, EAT.

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In case you’re wondering: yes, you definitely should refrigerate these cupcakes due to the cheese content of the icing. If you don’t want to serve them cold however, just leave them out to for an hour or so before serving to get closer to room temperature.

Thanks to A Zombie Ate My Cupcake (you should seriously check it out, much scarier looking cupcakes than mine!)

 

 

 

Fruit = Healthy #2, The Sequel

I’ve always thought of bananas as ‘the convenience fruit’. They’re a snack pre-packaged by NATURE and in addition to being pretty good for you are also damn tasty. You’ll see below a marriage made in heaven. Delicious morsels of ripe banana dripping in caramel fudge. The partnership we’ve all been waiting for. If this looks like something you want in your belly, please read on …

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This was probably the most well-received cake my colleagues have been fed by me so far. I initially mistook the eerie silence after serving as a sign that I’d either a) poisoned everyone and they’d died silently whilst I was taking photos of my slice of cake, or b) it was so dreadfully awful they were all politely spitting it into tissues to throw away. Turns out (cheerfully!) that it was secret option c) they were lost in reverie between mouthfuls of banana, vanilla sponge and caramel fudge. If you’d like to draw your friends, your family, attractive strangers or lucky passers-by into a similar state, give this recipe a go. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Banana Fudge Layer Cake

175g unsalted butter, softened and cubed

150g caster sugar

25g brown sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

175g self-raising flour

1/2 tspn. vanilla extract

3 tspns. milk

The part that glues it all together…

150g unsalted butter

175g brown sugar

75mL double cream

1/4 tspn. sea salt flakes

2 ripe bananas

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Lightly grease (with butter or oil) the sides, and line the base of 3 x 18-20cm round cake tins. HOT TIP: Before you start putting ingredients into your mixing bowl, weigh it! This will make measuring out the portions for your 3 tins later about a zillion times easier. Now that your oven is heating, tins are lined and bowl is weighed, time to move onto the fun part.

Place the butter for the cake into a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy (it will start to look whipped and also lighten in colour). A tablespoon at a time, slowly beat in the white and brown sugar and continue beating until all combined, whipped and paler in colour.

Add eggs, whisked, one at a time beating well between each until all 3 have met their demise. Or higher calling? You decide. With the last bit of egg, add a spoonful of your whisked flour to prevent the mix from curdling. Sift the rest of the flour into the bowl, add the milk and vanilla and gently fold until combined.

Here’s where weighing your bowl earlier will help. Weigh the bowl again with the batter in it, minus the weight of the bowl and divide the remainder by 3. This will give you an approximation of how much to pour into each tin! One at a time, tare off the weights of the tins and pour in a third of the batter. Gently smooth with the back of a spoon until surfaces on all are even and a-ready for bakin’. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until evenly golden on the top, just starting to pull away from the sides and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Depending on just how awesome your oven is, you may need to rotate the tins half way throughout cooking in order to cook them all evenly. Turn cakes out onto wire cooling racks.

Now for the REALLY fun part. While your cakes are baking or cooling, place the butter, sugar and cream into a small saucepan over low heat . Stir constantly until the butter is fully melted. Turn the heat up a teensy bit to low-moderate and, still stirring, simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add sea salt flakes and stir vigorously for about half a minute. Pour into a heat proof jug and leave to cool for an hour or so, until thickened enough to pour and not have a (albeit, delightful) fudgey mess on your bench. A bit thicker than golden syrup is what you should aim for here; you can test by pouring a few tablespoons onto one of your cakes. If it spreads a bit into a circle, you’re good to go. If it absorbs into the cake or thins out very quickly leave it for a bit longer (note, this won’t really affect the taste or look of your finished cake!). A few drippies on the side will give your cake character, so don’t be afraid to be a bit messy!

Once your fudge is ready, pour about a third each onto 2 cakes. It should take care of itself without too much smoothing out. Cover the cakes with thinly-sliced banana pieces, peeking over the edges.

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Next, place one of your banana covered cakes onto the plate you’re going to serve your cake on (or in my case, by trusty Tupperware Cake Carrier). Top this with your other banana covered cake, and finally with the plain cake. Pour the remaining fudge over the top, trying to get an even coverage. You may like to place some extra banana slices on top for decoration like I did, or leave as a beautiful blank, caramel canvas. Totally up to you. Hopefully it now looks something like this, and you’re having to use every ounce of your self-control not to jump right in.

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This cake is best eaten on the day of baking, as refrigeration may harden the sponge and will be required if you leave it over night (due to the fresh banana). However it will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge, just expect a change in texture and bring to room temperature before serving. Here’s an idea of what it will look like inside…

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It really did taste as good as it looks. I highly HIGHLY recommend giving this one a shot. Eating it is not for the faint-hearted though; with the ripe banana and lashings of fudge it is very sweet. That’s how we like all cakes though, right?

 

Thanks to The Great Australian Bake Off 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemons are my favourite fruit. “Said no one ever,” I’m sure you’re saying, but it’s true! In lemon water, in a fruit salad, on fish, on schnitzel. I could go on for days. But best of them all, lemon curd! It’s like combining the best parts of citrus, custard and sugar into one glutinous, yellow treat. Not that there’s anything bad about any of those things. And combining the ethereal appeal of lemon curd with sweet, delicate meringue and light, fluffy cupcakes really can only end well. Of all the goodies I’ve blogged (and a stack I baked before starting this writing adventure), these went down the best with my work crowd. Rave reviews, I tell you. So, without further ado…

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Curd

2 eggs

2 egg yolks (keep the whites for your meringue later!)

3/4 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup cubed, chilled unsalted butter

Zest & juice of 2 lemons

Place eggs, yolks and sugar into a small saucepan and whisk til combined. Over low heat, add butter, juice and zest, whisking continuously until starting to thicken. Stop as soon as you feel the curd catching on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and pour through a sieve into a heat-proof container. Pop a lid on and place into the fridge. Voila!

Lemon Cupcakes

3 eggs

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup caster sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted into a bowl

Preheat your oven to 160 C (140 C fan forced). Line a 12 cupcake pan with papers. Yellow or white will look adorable! In a bowl beat the eggs until just combined. Add butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add rind, then a third of the flour and gently fold until just combined. Add a third of the milk, fold til combined. Repeat until all combined. Scoop heaped tablespoons into the cupcake papers and bake for 18-20 minutes or until spring back when lightly touched. Leave in tray for 5 mins, then remove and place onto a cooling rack. Wait until completely cooled. Using a serrated edge knife, cut a chunk out of the top of each cupcake equalling 2-3 teaspoons. Scoop a dollop of lemon curd into the top of each cupcake. A la this:

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Meringue

2 egg whites (see, I told you you’d use them!)

1/2 cup caster sugar

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form (peaks that fall). One tablespoon at a time beat in sugar until combined. Spoon into a piping bag with a large nozzle attached. Mine was 11mm, so adjust to your liking (photo below for your reference!). Pipe onto your cupcakes, completely covering the lemon curd nook, in a pleasing circular pattern. If you want to go for a more traditional lemon meringue look you could scoop the meringue on instead and texture with a fork.

Now, here’s the part where you could put the cupcakes on a tray back into the oven on 180 C until meringue is just browned. However, I decided to use my new blowtorch for the first time. I’m not going to deny that there were some tiny fires in my kitchen. I did have fun though. And I think that the results were quite cute.

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TIME TO EAT. Once you’ve put out any teeny fires you may have ignited.

This was a really fun recipe to try and I highly recommend it! If you’re in doubt, just canvass your local baking beneficiaries. I’m sure they’d think trying this would be a great idea as well.

Fruit = Healthy (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

My regular readers may remember some fancy photos I posted a little while ago along with my musings on candying my own orange slices. Those who didn’t join me on my maiden post can read it here. I used those little beauties on a Jaffa Cheesecake Slice recently and the results were pretty satisfying.

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They presented really well…but didn’t take a whole lot of technical skill. So good for those of you who want your friends to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ but not to have spent your whole weekend slaving away in your kitchen. I think I can guess pretty safely that would be everyone, ever. Please give this one a shot; it’s really not that hard! One thing to bear in mind is that the 3 teaspoons of rind in the topping make for a big orange hit. If you want more of a hint of orange I’d go 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons rather than the full 3.

Jaffa Cheesecake Slice

Base

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder 

1/2 cup icing sugar

185 butter, chopped

Topping

250g cream cheese, chopped and softened

3 tspn. finely grated orange rind (1-1/5 oranges should suffice)

1/2 cup sour cream

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup caster sugar

100g white chocolate, grated

For decorating

Grated dark chocolate and glacé orange wedges

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 23cm square tin (or rectangle, so long length + width = 46cm (23cm x 2!)) with butter or oil and line the base with baking paper, extending over two sides (so you can easily lift the slice out later).

Combine all ingredients for the base into a food processor and process on a high speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute until ingredients have come together. Scoop out into your tin and press out evenly, smoothing with the back of a warmed spoon (kept in boiling water and quickly dried off before you touch the base works and is a great trick to try to stop the mixture from catching on the spoon). Place into your preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove and leave somewhere to cool completely (you may like to wait 20 minutes or so before starting the topping as you’re likely finish that before the base has cooled if you don’t!).

For topping, place cream cheese, rind and sour cream in a bowl. Thoroughly beat together with electric beaters until a smooth, creamy consistency. Add eggs, sugar and grated white chocolate and beat until combined.

Gloop the soon-to-be-cheesecake mixture into the tin on top of your cooled base. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cheesecake has set (I would have liked mine to be less brown but it still tasted delicious, so don’t lose hope if you overcook yours a teeny bit!). Cool completely in the tin, cut into squares (or whichever shape takes your fancy at the time), decorate to your liking with the chocolate and orange. Place somewhere where passers-by will see them. Watch them disappear. These will keep for 3 days or so in the fridge, but I guarantee you they won’t last that long!

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Thanks to Basics to Brilliance – Slices Recipes.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People: Bake Them Things

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Tantalised? Titillated? Intrigued? These fell into a cake and the results were DELICIOUS.

Chocolate Chilli Cake was a huge hit amongst my work crowd, including some non-chocolate-cake-devotees (I know, right. For real, these people exist). The recipe made a super moist, beautiful bar cake that I’ll definitely make again. I think that the recipe could easily transfer to any other flavour as well, choosing a flavour essence to add in place of the chilli. Use your imagination!

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The chilli finish was just perfect. As someone who can’t handle any (and I mean ANY) amount of heat in my food, it was just a nice touch. Give this one a go and impress your friends (slash, local IT team who will *hopefully* be onside when you next blow up your computer).

Chilli Chocolate Cake

250ml milk

100g dark chocolate (the darkest you can find!), broken into small pieces

1/4 tspn ground ginger

1/4 tspn Tabasco sauce (seriously, it’s enough)

250g plain flour

3 tspn cocoa powder

2 tspn baking powder

1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

150g unsalted butter, softened

300g brown sugar

1 Tbsp black treacle

3 lg eggs

icing sugar for dusting

Grease a large loaf tin (mine was 28 x 12.5 x 7.5cm) and line the base with baking paper. Preheat your oven to 180 C (or 160 C for fan forced).

Heat the milk in a small pan until very hot, but not boiling (when it’s starting to steam a bit, you’re done!). Remove from the heat and add chocolate, ginger and Tabasco. Stir or whisk until melted and smooooth. Hot Tip: don’t try this delicious looking chocolate milk. It is fire. (PS, see what I did there?). Place in your freezer/fridge to cool.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside

Put the softened butter into a mixing bowl and beat until creamy (electric beaters are your friend!). After forking the brown sugar until it’s free of lumps, gradually beat it into the butter along with the treacle. Beat until combined – it will look a bit paler and creamy.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and then gradually beat into the sugar mixture. At this point, make sure your chocolate milk is cool! You don’t want it to be warm as it will melt your butter and make your cake sad.

Then, using a large spoon, stir in a third of the flour, then a third of the chocolate milk alternating until all combined. Pour this deliciousness into your prepared tin, and place into your prepared oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until firm, skewer inserted comes out clean and gives off a pleasing ‘I’m ready to be eaten’ vibe. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins, before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool completely (if you can resist!), dust with icing sugar and serve!

PS I served this the following day and it was still beautiful and fresh.

Thanks to The Great Australian Bake Off.

Best Chocolate Fudge Icing. Ever.

The verdict is in. The proof was in the pudding. A slice of truth was cut and presented.

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The cake was a little bit too dry and crumbly; probably would have been awesome just slightly heated and served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. On the other hand, the icing was amazeballs. I don’t think I’ve ever made better. So, for your viewing, creating and eating pleasure, here’s the recipe for Amazing Chocolate Fudge Icing:

225g milk chocolate, broken into squares / pieces

55g brown sugar

225g unsalted butter, diced

5 Tbsp. evaporated milk

1/2 tspn. vanilla extract

Pretty straightforward method: pop all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate and butter have melted and everyone’s made friends into a gooey chocolate mess. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes. A la this:

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I dare you not to try some. That spoon was really just dying to be licked, I’m sure of it. So long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of double-dipping, I really think sampling some of your wares is probably the best idea you’ll have all day.

Anyway, back to the recipe: once it’s cooled a little, place the bowl into the fridge for about an hour or until it’s thick enough to be called frosting. This icing would be perfect on, in and around any chocolate cake. Or any cake. Or on it’s own.

Moral of the story: Make this. Cover things with it. Give things to friends. Watch them swoon.

Thanks to Baking Bible (Love Food)

Death by Chocolate (and Oranges)

Baking a birthday cake for a (probably diagnosable) chocaholic is a bit of pressure. As a perfectionist baker / everything(perfectibaker?), cooking cakes for anyone creates some mild anxiety, but when we’re talking about someone who’s probably sampled half the chocolate cakes this side of the equator, you have to up your game. Enter the Chocolate Fudge Cake. Kicked along by the addition of golden syrup, I’m hoping this cake will be as delicious as it looks. I attempted latte-art inspired love hearts Iike these on the top, but was a little disappointed…so drowned them in bigger love hearts.

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No…I wouldn’t call it my best attempt ever at cake decorating. But doesn’t that icing just look delish? Can’t wait to tuck into a slice after lunch tomorrow. The proof will be in the proverbial, and I will report back! If the cake does taste as lush as it looks I will share the recipe with you, but until I’ve tried it myself I won’t give it my stamp of approval. Fingers (and toes!) crossed.

In preparation for some more baking tomorrow, I tried something new today: candying my own orange slices. It was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. First, slice the oranges into 4-5 mm slices…

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In a frying pan, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar (or just plain caster sugar would also be fine) and 1 1/2 cups water at moderate-high heat. As the sugar starts to dissolve, place enough orange slices to cover the surface of the water (7 or 8 in most regular sized frypans) and leave for 20-30 mins (or until the slices are translucent), turning occasionally.

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Turn the heat down and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. When you have a beautiful, light golden syrup, turn the heat off and gently lift your orange slices out and onto a cooling rack. Over the sink or a tray is a good idea, as they will drip! Conserve the syrup for another use (Crepes Suzette, anyone?) and pop your orange slices in an airtight container in the fridge, where they’ll keep for about 2 weeks. Bonus: your kitchen now smells like heaven. Open that door and waft towards your neighbour’s place. Tune in again soon for Jaffa Cheesecake Slice and Chilli Chocolate Cake