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!