chocolate fudge cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream

cupcakes and punch

Clearly, I have a problem.

No, I’m not talking about my addiction to Doctor Who t-shirts or my extreme nitpickiness when it comes to the care of books. I’m not even talking about my complete inability to ignore the inappropriate possessive apostrophe in “it’s”. People, get it right: if it is a contraction of “it is”, then it needs an apostrophe. If it is not a contraction of “it is” then it does not need an apostrophe.  Continue reading

funfetti cake

under the flower jug

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a professional cake taster. Apart from the obvious deficiencies in this plan – cake isn’t nutritionally complete, you may get large and unhealthy – I think it would be a pretty decent way of life. Continue reading

life happens

When does one become an adult?

When can a young man or woman stand in front of their peers and older adults and declare themselves to be officially grown up?

What are the markers that show the world that you have left  that middle space between complete dependence and complete independence behind? And why the heck do we have to go through it in the first place?

What happens when we get to adulthood, and how do we deal with leaving our safety net behind?

Life happens to all of us, but only some people happen to life.

Continue reading

birthday cake

AKA my favourite kind.

I mean, who doesn’t like a slice of birthday cake?

[Especially when it’s been blenderized.]

I’m sorry this post is a little late. Try a lot late, actually – my birthday was almost two months ago. There are pros and cons to baking at home. One pro is getting to use Mum’s fancy camera. A con is that between using that camera, not bringing my computer and relying on a certain brother to email me the photos I took meant that I actually had to wait till I went home again to get those photos back.

But look! I made you cake!

Ok, I made me a cake. My mum was worried I’d be psychologically scarred, baking my own birthday cake. Not really. I love baking, I’m picky with my food. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like to try new things. Therefore, it made perfect sense for me to make my own birthday cake.

Unfortunately this one didn’t turn out as well as I would have hoped. I’ve wanted to make red velvet cake for a while now and so this seemed like the perfect opportunity (especially since my favourite colour is red. Most of the time).

I think the problem was that I used a teaspoon of baking powder instead of baking soda, although even baking soda would have had a difficult time inflating this cake. Which is especially disappointing considering the fact that I was at the parents’ house, which meant I had access to a stand mixer, and I didn’t utilise it to its full potential.

Ah well. We’ll just have to wait until Christmas, when hopefully I will get one from, uh, Santa. Yes, I still leave milk and cookies out for Santa, and a bucket of water and carrots for the reindeer. Although that may be difficult this year. I hope Santa finds us.

So, cake. Birthday cake. It was yummy anyway, despite its density, and I got to practise decoration (with pink cream cheese icing! yum! and! pretty!)

You should make this cake. Maybe you’ll make it better than I did. Maybe there is actually something wrong with the recipe. Nevertheless, it was pretty good, and especially so because of the cream cheese icing. I love cream cheese icing. Yum.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

 

8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

5 tbsp cocoa powder

4 tbps red food colouring (I used 50 ml and it turned out plenty red) mixed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and flour two nine inch cake pans and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs. Beat until well incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed.

Mix cocoa and vanilla with the water and red food colouring, making a thick paste. Add to batter and beat until well incorporated. You will probably want to scrape the bottom of the bowl several times to make sure the colouring is fully mixed through.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the buttermilk. Add half the flour and salt and mix until incorporated. Repeat, and mix until smooth.

Add the baking soda and vinegar and beat on high speed for a few minutes, until fully incorporated and smooth.

Divide between the two cake pans and tap them against your bench a few times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about half an hour, then invert onto a baking rack until cool. You can make the frosting in this time.

To make the cream cheese frosting:

1 1/2 cups butter (about 300g), softened

8 oz (200g) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

4-6 cups icing sugar

2-4 tbsp milk

Cream the cheese in an electric mixer for a few minutes, until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating until well incorporated and smooth. Add sugar, salt and vanilla, beating until incorporated.

Turn off the mixer and add 2 cups icing sugar. Mix on low, adding more icing sugar and milk until you get your desired consistency.

Wait until completely cool before frosting your cake.

it’s my party

Wow! It was my birthday six whole days ago and I still haven’t told you about the amazing food experiences I experienced!

This is terrible. I am a bad food blogger. I haven’t even written since then. At all. It’s been pretty busy.

Well, there’s time enough to rectify. For me, birthdays are a lot about the food, pretty much equally about the people, and not much about the presents (although the presents are very nice. Thanks for the presents.)

So I decided to have my favourite meal for my birthday – brunch. I love brunch. It combines sleeping in/lazing in bed in the morning, and breakfast food. Best. Ever.

Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot of brunch places near my house so we decided to go to one I’d been to before, even though it’s in Abbotsford – three bags full.

I have to pause here for the amazingness of the place to sink in.

Wow. So, we drove to Abbotsford to eat brunch – well, I had brunch, in the form of twice-baked french toast with chestnut cream and quinces. So good. My tummy’s rumbling remembering the deliciousness. It wasn’t too soggy or crisp,  it was beautifully creamy and eggy and the chestnut cream was amazing. The quinces weren’t too sweet and there was exactly enough for me to finish it and be full, but not too full.

And I drink coffee in the form of cappucinos. three bags full has some good coffee. They get it from Five Senses and offer a range of blends and signature origins and different kinds of brews… I just drink cappucino. And it’s really really good.

For dinner, then, we changed scene and went to Grill’d. Grill’d, for those of you who don’t recognise the name, is a chain of burger places. Now before you click away, hear me out – they’re not burgers like McDonald’s make burgers. These burgers are amazing.

Being vegetarian must be a bit of a hindrance, you might be wondering, but you’d be wrong! There are three different vegetarian burger options, each with their own toppings and custom name, even. They have lamb, beef, chicken, steak sandwiches, salads and amazing chips. People, we have a winner. Let’s just say that I don’t often enjoy vegie burgers. I love Grill’d.

All right, all right, you must be wondering about the cake. It’s a birthday, right? There must be cake.

Well, there was a slice of New York Cheesecake from Secret Recipe which was lovely and creamy and pretty good as store-bought cheesecakes go, although I have to say that the real cake is on it’s way! Stay tuned for some fun times!

choc malt ice cream

My room is a mess. I desperately need to do some washing (I’m wearing dirty jeans, people. Not just worn, I know some people don’t wash their jeans, but these have work stains on them). I’m busy from pretty much today until the end of semester. I’m turning twenty tomorrow. Today. I don’t even know what day it is!

But I made ice cream. From scratch, for the first time, pretty much, without an ice cream machine. I. Made. Ice. Cream.

And it’s delicious.

Sometimes, you just have to do what you do. Don’t worry about the lack of sleep or the fact that you have to get up early to do it, the fact that it may be a little less than perfect due to the fact that our freezer isn’t as cold as it should be and I could’t baby it because I had to run out to go see the last (sob!) Harry Potter film. Sometimes you just have to go with a whim. Which happened last night, as I was trawling through the blogosphere and came upon this beauty.

Isn’t she gorgeous?  My friend was over and we both decided we wanted it. And so we decided to make it this morning.

I had to run to the shops to get some of the ingredients, and living as I do in the hills, I couldn’t get plain malt powder – so I got chocolate malt powder instead. I don’t think this compromised on the taste AT ALL. In fact, although I’m planning on making it again with plain malt powder (it’s that good people. THAT. GOOD) I don’t think it needs it.

And, yes, I know it’s the depths of winter. I know it’s 12° outside. I understand that ice cream is usually considered a summer food. But guys, I read all these blogs from the US and even though I’m definitely a winter person, sometimes I get season envy. Because you over there, you get to pick fresh berries and make ice cream (even combine the two and make ice cream with fresh berries…) and wear shorts and go to the beach.

I’ll just sit here, rugged up next to the heater and eat my choc malt ice cream with mixed in maltesers. Yum.

Choc malt ice cream

Adapted from the brown eyed baker

1 cup half and half – in Australia, I think you could use Jersey milk or extra light cream (labelled “cooking cream”) – I used a mix of 100ml thickened cream and 150ml Jersey milk. Jersey milk is higher in protein and fat than regular milk, and contains A2 beta proteins, which are better for you.

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

2 cups heavy cream – I used thickened and think it could probably have been heavier, so use real heavy cream.

2/3 cup malted milk powder – I used Ovaltine

teaspoon vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

 

Heat the half and half/light cream/Jersey milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and it’s all steamy up in there.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream, malt powder and vanilla together in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over it. Set aside.

When the milk mix is ready, whisk the egg yolks in a smallish bowl. Add a small amount of the hot milk and sugar, and continue whisking as you add in small amounts of the milk mixture. Pour it back into the saucepan and stir continually over low heat for forever (not really!) until the custard is quite thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon. Pour it into the big bowl with the cream and malted milk powder, and whisk them together.

Put a whole lotta ice cubes in an even bigger bowl than the one you already have and fill it with water. Put your soon-(ish)-to-be ice cream bowl in there and stir/whisk until it’s cold. Refridgerate until really really cold. This will take a while. If you are impatient, it will seem like forever.

If you have an ice cream machine, at this point, haul it out and set it to good use.  If not, you can follow these directions. Our freezer isn’t quite up to the task, as I mentioned, so it took quite a bit longer than the two to three hours David reckons it’ll take but trust me, this is worth the wait.

 

sour cream lime biscuits

It’s cold. Really cold. The wind is whistling, the rain is falling, I’m all snuggled up in bed with the blankets pulled up and the heater on, writing this. It’s total soup weather. I should get on that.

Oh, but hey, biscuits.

Winter is one of the best times for baking. You get to warm up the house a little more, move around and get warm and you also can eat more without feeling guilty because you have to be in a bathing suit in the next few months. Unless you’re a swimmer.

I’m not really a swimmer. I love the beach, but my favourite season is winter. Hot chocolate, snuggling up, rugging up in layers of tights and socks and skirts and forgiving clothes. Long walks and pretty leaves, and when the pretty leaves are gone, the stark trees into the grey sky. It’s black and white picture weather, it’s swirling in the street weather, it’s scarves and beanies weather. It’s my kind of weather.

And yes, up here in the hills, the wind whistles. I never had doubts that the wind whistled, it’s just that I always thought it happened at night, when it’s dark and stormy and you’re snuggled in bed under a mountain of blankets, warm and safe. I heard the wind whistling yesterday morning, at around ten o’clock. I was in the kitchen, getting myself that hot chocolate to go with my blanket and pyjamas, and I heard the wind whistling through the trees, and I shivered.

Then I got my hot chocolate and curled up on the couch. Then I made some cookies.

I think I like these better than the lime melting moments I told you guys about before. They’re heartier but somehow not as rich. Smooth, a little crumbly and with a sweet little glaze on top. Limey but not too acidic.

They would be a good biscuit to take to a party, or to your neighbour’s house to say hello. They add a splash of lime green brightness to a grey winter’s day. Make them, and smile at a stranger today.

Sour Cream Lime Biscuits

Adapted from Indulgence Cookies

250g butter, softened

2 cups caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest

3/4 cup sour cream

4 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:

juice of 1 lime

about 3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted – you could need more, depending on how you like your glaze.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the zest and sour cream and beat until just incorporated, then stir in the sifted dry ingredients.

Form tablespoon sized mounds of dough into rounds, and place them on the trays, about two inches apart. Flatten slightly, and bake 18-25 minutes, until nicely browned.

Cool on a cooling rack, then glaze.

Stir together the lime juice and the sifted icing sugar until you have a stiff but still workable glaze.

Drape over each cooled biscuit, and share with your friends.

happy birthday chocolate cake

Woah. I haven’t been here in a while. Is that a spiderweb I see in the corner over there? Gee, someone needs to do some vacuuming.

It’s been a bit of a birthday week this week. My Oma (that’s grandma for all of you who aren’t Dutch [or German?] out there) turned 80 [!] (double [!] – I revealed a lady’s age!) and there was a party and there were relatives who flew in from all over the wide brown land (I actually don’t really like that poem… sorry…) and there was cake.

But not this cake.

Because then my friend had her birthday today and I made this cake for her.

It’s chocolate. It has cream cheese icing. It’s soft and moist and crumples up when you smoosh it on someone’s face, as I found out this evening.

I was the smooshee, rather than the smoosher, in case you were wondering. My hands were full with camera so I couldn’t defend myself. And it was totally unexpected because Leah was threatening my sister with the smooshing so when the cake came my way…

You get the idea.

So we had a birthday feast with onion soup and birthday cake and cookies and much junk food, some tunes and a fancy camera to play with.

But back to the cake…(and yes, those are cookies there and yes, I will be posting about them… I thought I might give you guys a break from cookies)  it is really beautiful, soft and moist and crumbly, shiny dark and yummy. The cream cheese icing I think went really well but was a little too overpowering so I would definitely use less next time. And use an electric beater so there aren’t any lumps in it. [whoops].

It is the most beautiful chocolate cake. But make sure you grease the pan really well because mine stuck just a little bit to the sides.

There are also baby chocolate cakes… because the original recipe made a layer cake and I had no time for layers. None whatsoever. So I made a slightly larger than usual cake and eleven cupcakes.

Yep. Eleven Exactly. If my cake pan was a nine incher, I feel I would have just tipped over into twelve (and the perfectionist in me was really disappointed in my eleven!) but it turned out fine. Especially when m ‘n’ ms were added.

If someone you know has a birthday, make these. In whatever format you use, they will taste delicious. I promise.

Or you could do this.

Chocolate Cake

I always seem to try a different chocolate cake recipe. It’s not that they don’t all taste delicious, I just feel like there’s always a new recipe to try and while the ones I’ve already made would be fine to use, I love the excitement of a new recipe.

This one, I adapted from i am baker – I didn’t have vegetable oil, so I used olive. I didn’t have buttermilk or even vinegar with which to make buttermilk, so I used sour cream and milk. I didn’t sift my dry ingredients (but I implore you, even if you are not a sifter, like me, to sift your cocoa. You will appreciate it.)

1 3/4 cup plain flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup good cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

about 1/2 cup sour cream

the rest of the cup measure filled with milk (as in, about 1/2 cup milk)

1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil, if you’re not like me and you keep essentials like that around the house)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed coffee
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Prepare your cake pans – I used a ten inch springform tin and eleven cupcakes.

Sift (if you’re a sifter) your dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla in another bowl, then make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk until just combined. Add in coffee carefully and slowly and whisk until combined.

It’ll be pretty thin but don’t stress – it comes out just fine.

Pour into your cake pan(s) and bake large cake about 35-40 minutes, cupcakes 20-25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing

I just kinda threw this together… It is infinitely adaptable. I would maybe add a splash of milk next time and just glaze the cake a little.

250g cream cheese, softened

juice of half a lemon

about 3/4 cup icing sugar

Again, I’m not a sifter but I would suggest you sift the sugar for this one. Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth, then add the sifted sugar and lemon juice and beat until combined.

a word on words

So I hate to be blasting you with links to click on and no return on my part so at the end of this post is indeed a recipe for you to make and share, especially, if you can, with poets; they like their sweets. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway.

Before we get to the double chocolate mud cupcakes (easy to share; easy to transport; don’t need icing; easy ish to make; perfect birthday cupcakes) we’re talking about poetry.

Poetry, rather like tea, soothes the soul and calms the spirits. Poetry is the words when there are no words to describe what goes on in the heart and in the soul. Poetry writes the words that won’t come, poetry tells us that we are not alone. Poetry is the lyrics to the song of life. Poetry is the imagination of the world written out upon the pages of our collective journal, the words spoken into the darkness when no one will hear, the cry of one in the wilderness, the emphasis of the swear words when they aren’t strong enough.

Poetry lifts you up when you’re high enough to be lifted and sits with you in the deep dark places when you aren’t. It sings your delights and wails your sorrows.

Poetry touches us. Poetry holds our hearts with gentle hands, lets us rest in its soft loving arms.

Poetry challenges us. Poetry reaches in and touches our hearts and says, you can feel this. Don’t pretend you can’t. Do something about it instead.

Poetry is hope. And ‘Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune–without the words, /And never stops at all’ *

Poetry can be written, and it is beautiful when written – the Norton Anthology of Poetry is a good place to start. (page 1340).

Poetry can be read but poetry can also be spoken. Spoken Word poetry is one of the most spine tingling experiences you can be a part of.

The Centre for Poetics and Justice is ‘dedicated to the integration of poetics and social transformation.’ There are many different poetry events around Melbourne; try Overload Poetry, the Wheeler Centre, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Poetiq, or tune in to Channel 31 on Wednesdays at 11pm for Red Lobster.

And now for the cupcakes.

Everything I said earlier was true.

These are beautifully dense and chocolaty, while managing not to be overly heavy. They don’t need icing, they travel well, they are great to share – if they get past your own kitchen.

They are fantastic for birthday cupcakes, as well, as we demonstrated tonight.

Double Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

Adapted from Cupcakes from the Australian Women’s Weekly kitchen

I couldn’t find the actual book on Amazon that I got the recipe from, but this one seems quite close.

60g dark eating chocolate, chopped

160ml water

90g softened butter

1 cup firmly brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup self raising flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/3 cup almond or hazelnut meal

Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Melt chocolate with the water in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs one at a time. Sift in flour and nut meal; fold in gently and add chocolate. Stir until just incorporated.

Fill cases until about they are about 3/4 of the way full. You should be able to divide the mixture evenly among the 12.

Bake about 25 minutes. They should be lightly springy to the touch; don’t let them overbake otherwise they’ll be dry and crackly on the top. Let them rest five minutes before turning them out to cool on a wire rack.

*Hope, by Emily Dickinson