December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

December 21, 2014

Lemon Sour Cream Tea Cake - light and fluffy perfection

I can hardly believe that it's almost Christmas again.  It's been a pretty huge year for me on a few levels, so I'm quite happy and relieved that it's coming to an end so that I can refresh myself.

The things that have been baking in my house around Christmas are, as always, stacks of gingerbread (here's my recipe post from back in 2010!).  Mum and I have made close to ten gingerbread houses and so many cookies (mostly trees and reindeer); all the recipients of the cookies have been very appreciative.  I brought some in to my new workplace and that was a great conversation starter!

For Christmas day itself, we have a long lunch with our family and we're usually in charge of dessert.  This year, I'm making a mud cake and Mum will whip up some pavlovas in addition to a big gingerbread house.

If you're still looking for something to bake for Christmas (or just for general snacking!), I would highly recommend this lemon tea cake.  It's beautifully moist and fluffy, as well as nice and simple to make - and most importantly, it tastes divine.

Have a lovely holiday season, everyone, stay safe and eat lots of yummy food!

Recipe adapted from: The Australian Women's Weekly Cakes & Slices Cookbook
Ingredients (26 cm (10 inch) round cake - 1/2 a batch makes one 20 cm (8 inch) round cake)
250g butter
Zest of two lemons
500g caster sugar
6 eggs
350g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
200g sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C (340 F).  Grease a 27cm round tin with butter and line the bottom with baking paper.

2. Cream the butter, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy.  I use the whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid for every process in this cake.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

4. Beat in half the sour cream, then half of the flour.

5. Beat in the remaining sour cream, then the remaining flour and the baking powder.  I use the whisk attachment on a low setting for this to ensure that everything is combined.

6. Spread the batter into your cake tin and bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until the top of the cake is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.

7. Let the cake cool in the tin and then invert onto a wire rack or your desired serving plate.

8. To serve, you can simply dust the cake with icing sugar...

...or for a bit more flair, make up a glaze with lemon juice and icing sugar.  I recommend placing the cake on a wire rack and glazing it before transferring it to your serving plate so that the drippy glaze doesn't run everywhere.

December 13, 2014

Captain America & Winter Soldier Sugar Cookies

Ever since I saw this video, I'd been longing to create my own Captain America shield cookies.  To spice things up a little, I thought I'd also attempt Winter Soldier cookies inspired by Bucky's metal arm.

While I made these cookies with only cookie dough and food colouring, the same effect could be achieved by using coloured royal icing - however, I find that the cookie-only method provides a seamless blend between the colours and looks nice and natural.  I absolutely adore the way that they turned out!

I hope that you'll enjoy seeing how I created these cookies.  This simple sugar cookie recipe can also be used as a base for so many different creations.

Recipe adapted from: Gorgeous Biscuits by Family Circle
125g butter
125g caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
250g flour
2 tsp baking powder

Method - basic sugar cookies
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (355 F).  Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and vanilla, beat until combined.

3. Fold in the flour and baking powder until a soft dough forms.

4. At this point, you can colour the dough with food colouring if you like.
Then, roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper until it's about 5 mm thick.  Cut out your desired shapes with cookie cutters, place the cookies spread out on a baking tray and bake for about 12-15 minutes (until the cookies are light golden brown).

Method - Captain America shield & Winter Soldier cookies
The basic method I followed is shown here by Rosanna Pansino making Captain America ice cream sandwiches.  I definitely recommend watching the video to get a visual idea of what I did, though I'll go through it step by step below.

I started by making a double batch of dough, then dividing my dough into portions.  The smallest was coloured blue, medium amounts coloured black and grey, a medium amount left white and the largest amount coloured red.  To create the grey, I just used a small amount of black food colouring. 

I rolled small portions of the dough out and used a small star cookie cutter to make the stars for the centre of the cookies.  I baked these first so that I knew what size I needed to make the circle parts of the cookies.

To make the main part of the Captain America cookies, I rolled the blue dough into a log about the size of the star.  I froze the log while I mixed an egg white with a small splash of water to make an egg wash so all my different colours stuck together properly.

I rolled out some of the red dough into a sheet, then brushed the dough with a small amount of egg wash and rolled it around the blue log.  I put that in the freezer and repeated the process for the white and the rest of the red, until finally I had a complete log!  (For the Winter Soldier, I followed the same method with the grey and black dough).

I let that freeze some more, trying to take the log out and roll it every now and then to keep from forming a flat side.  You can also freeze it in a hand towel roll or something of the sort if you have it on hand so that it can rest in something curved.

After the logs had hardened sufficiently (I left mine in the freezer for a few hours while I went to work), I used a large, sharp knife to cut them into slices about 5 to 6 mm thick.  I baked the cookies for about 15 minutes.  The baking process made them spread out a bit and form nice circles when, as you can see from the photo above, they were far from perfect right after they were cut.

Once the cookies were cooled, I attached the stars.  I recommend using royal icing for this part, as it will ensure you get a cement-like seal and the stars won't go anywhere.

I'm rapt with how these cookies turned out - they were exactly how I wanted them to be and they looked amazing!

December 3, 2014

Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cupcakes

For her birthday, one of my coworkers was specific with her flavour request - she wanted chocolate and salted caramel.  (I'll forever be chuffed at how excited she was that I would be making her birthday treats!  She said that she'd be thinking about what to request ever since she started working with me!)

I decided to change things up a bit and do some funky cupcakes with a gooey salted caramel centre.  I love how these turned out - the cupcake itself was perfectly moist, the buttercream turned out beautifully and it was heaps of fun to inject the cupcakes with the salted caramel!  I hope you enjoy these creations as much as I did.

Ingredients 24 cupcakes (recipe adapted from: Carla's Confections via Bits of Sunshine)
246g flour
500g white sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarb soda
250mL buttermilk (can substitute 250mL milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice)
125mL vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup hot coffee (I used instant coffee and hot water)

Ingredients - caramel buttercream (recipe adapted from: I Heart Eating)
375g butter
125mL salted caramel
1 tsp vanilla essence
415g icing sugar
Dash of cream if required to make it more pipe-able

Ingredients and method for caramel - use my caramel recipe here.  It's best to make the caramel in advance and let it cool while you do other things.  You can even make it a day or two beforehand.
To transform it from ordinary caramel to salted, I added a generous helping of salt to taste.  If I measured it, it was probably about 2 teaspoons, but you can go more or less if you wish!

Method - cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), and prepare muffin tins with patty pans.  

2. Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and bicarb soda) in one bowl.

3. Combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla in another bowl.  Keep the coffee separate.

4. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture a bit at a time.

5. Finally, stir the coffee into the batter.  It will be very liquid at this point.

6. Fill the cupcake liners with the batter to about 2/3 full.  These cupcakes rise a lot, so err on the side of caution!  I use a piping bag to do this.

7. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 - 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let them cool.

Method - caramel buttercream
1. Cream the butter until smooth.

2. Add the caramel and vanilla, beat until combined.

3. Add the icing sugar about 1 cup at a time, beating in between additions.  I sifted the icing sugar for ensured smoothness.

4. Taste test to make sure that it's caramel-y enough; if it's not, just add a little more caramel!

5. If the buttercream is too stiff, add 1 tbsp cream and beat until smooth.  Repeat this step until you reach the desired consistency.  If you're spreading the icing rather than piping it, you can afford to make it softer, but make sure it will be able to hold its shape if you're piping!

1. Make sure your cupcakes are completely cool.

2. Pour some of the salted caramel into a small piping bag with a small piping tip.  Stab the piping tip into the centre of the cupcakes and squeeze the caramel in;  I squeezed until I could see the cupcake start to inflate with the volume of caramel.  Don't worry if it oozes out the top a bit, the caramel all soaks in to the cake to give a gooey centre.

3. Use the caramel buttercream to ice your cupcakes in any way you desire.  I went for my usual piping bag with a star tip.

These cupcakes are very moist, and the caramel inside them is soft and gooey, so I recommend using plates and forks to eat them!

November 25, 2014

Mantou \\ Chinese Steamed Buns

I've always loved Chinese steamed buns in all their varieties - particularly char siu bao (barbecue pork), lotus seed paste bao and simple, plain bao (mantou).  It's been a long desire of mine to make my own bao at home, and with this recipe, I finally can!

Plain mantou are great as a snack; I usually eat them paired with some steamed dumplings, which makes for a delicious lunch.  In some restaurants they serve deep fried mantou with condensed milk, which is another great (if less healthy) option for eating these!

Recipe adapted from: Yi Reservation
1 tsp dry instant yeast
400g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
40g white sugar
1 tsp salt
30mL lukewarm water
200mL room temperature water
1 tbsp oil

1. Combine the yeast, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl.  We used our KitchenAid with the dough hook attachment.

2. Add the lukewarm water and mix, then slowly add the room temperature water while mixing.  Using dry instant yeast (we use Tandaco) and this method works without having to proof the yeast.

3. Finally add the oil.

4. Let the mixer run and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.  If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour; if it's too dry, add a little more water.

5. Cover the dough with a tea towel and set it aside for 45 - 60 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

6. Punch the dough down and knead for a few more minutes.

7. Cut the dough into sections - halves if you would like larger bao or quarters for smaller bao.

8. Flour your table or work surface so the dough doesn't stick, then roll the sections of dough into rectangles.

9. Brush the dough with water.

10. Roll the dough lengthways into a log.

11. Cut the log into bao-sized pieces - they can be whatever size you like.

12. Place the dough into a steamer basket lined with baking paper.  Make sure that you leave space between the bao so they have some more room to grow - let them sit under a tea towel for another 30 minutes.  It's best to do this directly in the steamer basket because if you have to transfer them from place to place after they've risen, the dough can easily become misshapen.

13. Steam the dough in the steamer baskets over boiling water for 12 - 15 minutes, depending on the size of your mantou.  Leave them covered in the steamer baskets for 5 minutes after they've finished steaming.

The finished buns should be nice and fluffy, and are amazing to eat while they're warm!  I enjoyed mine dipped in some hoisin sauce and sweet plum sauce.

This post is part of the link-up party, Our Growing Edge, inspiring food bloggers to try new things and connect with each other.  This month is hosted by Linda of The Orange Bee.

November 9, 2014

Cake Batter Ice Cream

Ever since my mother requested that I make cake batter ice cream, I'd been on the lookout for a perfect recipe.  Every one I came across either used boxed cake mix, milk powder or some other ingredient that wasn't readily available to me.  Then I came across a recipe that didn't need any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients and was super simple to make!

Let me tell you, it is perfect.  It tastes just like cake batter, and has an amazing creamy texture.  Just be aware that this dessert features raw eggs, so if that's something you want to avoid, unfortunately this recipe is not the one for you.  I figured that with the amount of cake batter and cookie dough I've eaten in my lifetime (a lot), some more raw eggs would not do any more damage (thankfully, they didn't)!

Recipe adapted from: Foods of Our Lives
375mL thickened cream
250mL milk
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
115g flour
185g white sugar

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Sifting the flour may help with lumps, but the few small lumps I found in the blended mixture were not noticeable in my finished ice cream.

2. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to your maker's instructions.  I did mine for about 30 minutes.  (I have a Cuisinart 2L ice cream maker of the freezer-bowl variety).

3. Once the ice cream is done churning and you are happy with the consistency, transfer it to a receptacle of your choice and put it in the freezer.  Alternatively, serve it straight away.

Enjoy!  I hope you love this as much as I did!

Next mission: gingerbread ice cream...

November 2, 2014

Orange Cake with Pastel Gradient Buttercream

I have a great orange cake recipe to share with you today, using a method that's very different from cakes I've done before but isn't too much of a hassle; and it makes a great, moist cake!  I topped mine off with orange flavoured buttercream for a coworker's birthday.

Recipe adapted from: Sweetapolita
Ingredients - cake (20cm (8 inch) round cake)
345g flour
400g white sugar
19g baking powder (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
240mL milk
60mL orange juice
170g cold butter
Zest from 2 oranges

Ingredients - orange buttercream
454g butter (room temperature is best)
565g icing sugar
60mL strained orange juice

Method - cake
1. Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F).  I did this in a two layer cake, so I buttered and lined two 22cm round tins, but you can use three for a three layer cake if you like!

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.

3. Chop the butter into rough cubes.  With the mixer on a slow speed, add the cubes one at a time, waiting a few seconds in between.

4. Once all the butter is added, keep mixing until the mixture is crumbly and all the butter is combined.

5. Mix the milk and orange juice together, then gradually add it to the flour mixture and mix until combined.

6. Mix the whole eggs and the egg yolks with a fork, then add them gradually to the batter and beat until combined.

7. Finally, add the orange zest and mix gently.

8. Portion the batter evenly between your cake tins and bake for about 30 minutes (if you're using two cake tins), or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.

9. Let the cakes cool in the tin then turn them out onto wire racks.

Method - orange buttercream
1. Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.  I use the paddle attachment on my mixer.

2. Add the icing sugar and orange juice, and beat until the icing is light and fluffy.  This will take a few minutes.

3. If desired, tint the icing with food colouring.  For this cake, I left some buttercream un-coloured and tinted some a pale peachy orange.

Assemble the cake by sandwiching the cake layers with buttercream, then fully icing the outside of the finished cake.

I made an attempt at Sweetapolita's beautiful swirly gradient decoration (video tutorial here) with my peach coloured and white buttercream, and I feel pretty good about how it turned out!  I gave the top of the cake an extra bit of colour by swiping some of the peach coloured buttercream around the outside in a circle, then finishing off with some orange sprinkles.

October 29, 2014

The Perfect Chocolate Mud Cake - dense, moist and delicious

After attending the Melbourne Cake Bake and Sweets Show and sampling some truly life-changing chocolate mud cake, I was determined to find the perfect recipe I could make myself.  I'm glad to say that I think I've found it!

This cake is beautifully chocolatey, dense and decadent, is moist all the way throughout and keeps very well.  Topped off with some ganache, it is even more delicious.

Recipe adapted from: Family Circle via Through My Kitchen Window
Ingredients (large 23 cm (9 inch) round cake or 21 x 31 cm (8 x 12 inch) sheet cake)
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
185mL hot water
250g butter
250g dark chocolate
550g caster sugar
300g flour
2 tsp baking powder
60g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
4 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
125mL milk

1. Preheat the oven to 140 - 150C (280 - 300F).  Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper, ensuring that the baking paper extends above the top of the tin.  Alternatively, you can use multiple cake tins if you're making a layer cake, or brownie tins if you're making a sheet cake.  I have used the full amount of this recipe in two square brownie tins which worked really well!

Greasing the tin before lining it will make the baking paper stick to the tin and cooperate for you
2. Dissolve the coffee granules in the hot water.

3. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave until all parts are melted.  Add the sugar and coffee, stir until combined.  Set aside to cool.

4. In your mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and bicarb soda.  Make sure to sift the cocoa for a lump-free batter!

5. Add the eggs, oil and milk to the flour mixture and mix until combined.  I used the paddle on my Kitchenaid for this part.  You should end up with a pretty thick batter after this step.

6. Add half the chocolate mixture to the batter and mix until smooth and combined.

7. Add the remaining chocolate mixture to the batter and mix until completely smooth.  The batter should be of a pouring consistency.

8. Pour the batter into the lined baking tin/s you are using, and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 3/4 hours.  Depending on the thickness of your cake, this can be a shorter time - but will most likely be over 1 hour.  Make sure that you check using a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake.  It should come out with some crumbs on it - you want this mud cake to be very moist inside!

9. Let the cake cool in the tin.  Once cool, take it out of the tin and remove all the baking paper lining.

10. Using a serrated knife, level the cake to your satisfaction.
The first time I made this cake, I made half a batch of the recipe and baked it in a 20cm round tin for about 1 1/4 hours - it turned out beautifully but a bit sunken in the middle, so there were lots of off-cuts.  (I'm not complaining!)

11. Serve the cake as desired.  I recommend using a healthy amount of ganache (2:1 chocolate to cream ratio by weight).

Here are some snaps of the sheet cake version I made, again topped with ganache - kind of like brownies but more cakey and a little more, dare I say, sophisticated.  Props for the strawberry stacking arrangement go to my Mum!