Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake

Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
Woaaah. This cake is a bit of an attack on the eyeballs isn't it? But I love it so much. I think this may be my favourite cake that I've made this year. Yes, even more than the Pocky Cake. Last week was Regex Man's birthday, and in case you don't remember, he has been the recipient of some of my craziest cakes; the Mint Chocolate Chip Cake, the Rainbow Cake with jelly beans and the Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough Cake, just to name a few. He was also the inspiration behind my beloved Fruit Tingle Cake i.e. pretty much the best icing I have ever made. He has a sweet tooth that rivals my own, and I always feel like I can go super over the top on his cakes and he'll love it.
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
But this year I was completely out of ideas. I've been in a creative baking rut for a while now, and I keep having to force myself out of it. I looked to the internets for inspiration in my time of need. I came across this visually stunning but seriously simple decorating technique from Hungry Happenings and immediately loved it. I decided it would be a perfect idea for this cake since last year I put a rainbow inside the cake, and this time I would put a rainbow on the outside. I'm also a big fan of Katherine Sabbath (if you're not following her on instagram, you should be) and remembered her gorgeous lollipop-covered cake and realised that rainbow lollipops would be the perfect topper for this particular cake. This cake is exactly the type kind of cake I like to bake because it's so impressive looking but is actually relatively straight-forward to make. And there's rainbows and lollies and popping candy. I love how the swirling icing matches the lollipops so that it kinda looks like the lollipops are melting all over the cake.
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
I simplified the swirling rainbow decoration on the top of the cake by using royal icing instead of white chocolate ganache. It was less work, quicker to set and I think it helps ensure a brighter colour since you're working with a bright white icing as the base rather than a semi-translucent white chocolate ganache. I definitely suggest using gel colouring if you want to achieve the same brightness of colours in your royal icing. No innards shot of the cake, but it was fairly simple; a vanilla layer cake with Fruit Tingle Icing in between the layers and vanilla icing on the outside. Just so you know, I sat and ate the whole of that huge lollipop at the back while watching the Lego Movie. It was pretty great.
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
(makes a tall 3-layer 6" cake or a shorter 7" cake, icing idea adapted from this recipe)
For the cake:
355g (about 2.5 cups) plain/all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
225ml (about 1 cup minus 1 tbsp) milk
2 tsp vanilla extract or scraped seeds from 2 vanilla bean pods
350g (about 1 & 3/4 cups) sugar (granulated or caster)
225g (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease three 15cm (6 inch) (or 18cm (7 inch), cake will be shorter) round cake tins. Line the base of the tins with baking paper. 
  2. Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix milk and vanilla together in a measuring jug.
  3. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended. Increase speed to high and beat well until very pale and creamy, at least 5 minutes. 
  4. Reduce speed to medium low, add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Alternately add flour mix and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture (I did it by adding 1/4 of of the dry mixture followed by 1/3 of the wet mixture at a time). Beat until smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with a spatula. 
  6. Split mixture equally between prepared tins and smooth top with a spatula (I usually do this accurately by weighing the batter first)
  7. Bake until a skewer inserted into the centre just comes out clean and the outside is golden, about 35-40 minutes (will vary depending on your cake tin size). Take cake not to overbake or cake will be dry. 
  8. Cool in tins for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep cakes wrapped in clingfilm and chilled in fridge until you are ready to assemble. Can be stored in an airtight container overnight if you want to prep the cakes a day ahead.
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
For the vanilla icing:
800g (about 6 1/2 cups) icing (powdered) sugar, sifted (or blitzed in the food processor)
400g (about 3.5 sticks) butter (I use salted, add about 1/2 tsp of salt if you use unsalted)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2- 4 tbsp milk adjusted to taste/consistency
Optional: 2-3 rolls of Fruit Tingles or any other fizzy tablet candies like Bottle Caps or Smarties (not the chocolate covered candy with the same name), SweeTarts or Barratt's Refreshers
  1. Prepare the icing; remove butter from fridge 30 mins before starting and chop into small cubes. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on high with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. 
  2. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add icing sugar until combined, add vanilla then increase speed to high and beat until very pale and fluffy. 
  3. Gradually add milk until you reach desired texture, you may need to add more icing sugar if your mixture is too runny, or more milk if you mixture is too stiff. The icing should be smooth and easily spreadable, but stiff enough to hold its shape.
  4. Optional: Separate 1/3 of icing mixture in a separate mixing bowl. Place Fruit Tingles in a food processor and blitz until it breaks down to small crumb-sized pieces. Using an electric mixer, gradually beat fruit tingle pieces into the icing, adding to taste.
  5. To assemble cake; remove cake layers from the fridge and use a long shape knife (preferably serrated) to carefully trim the tops of the cake to ensure they are level. Flip your cake layers upside down before assembling.
  6. Place one layer on your cake stand and use an offset spatula to spread a thick layer of icing (I used the Fruit Tingle icing for the filling of this cake) over the top of the cake. Repeat with remaining cake and more icing.
  7. Crumb coat cake and then chill for about half an hour, then cover with remaining icing (plain vanilla) and smooth with offset spatula.
  8. Chill cake to set icing, and prepare royal rainbow icing below.
For the royal rainbow icing:
Note: can be replaced with storebought royal icing mixture if you prefer (like this)
1 large egg white (can be replaced with 2.5 tbsp meringue/eggwhite powder + 5 tbsp water)
2 cups (about 250g) sifted icing/confectioner's sugar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Food colouring (I used Wilton gel colours to achieve a more vibrant colour without using too much colouring)
To decorate: rainbow lollipops in a variety of sizes and shapes
  1. Place egg white in a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer to form soft peaks. 
  2. Add icing sugar and lemon juice and stir with a spatula to combine. 
  3. If icing is too thick, add water 1 tsp at a time; if it is too thin, add more icing sugar. You want your mixture to be a thick but still running paste, if it is too thin it will run right off the cake and if it is too thick it won't mix and drip down the sides.
  4. Split mixture into 6-7 bowls and add colour to each bowl. I did yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue and green.
  5. Carefully drizzle small amounts of each colour over the top of the cake. I started from the centre and worked my way out, this makes it easier to gauge when there is enough icing for it to just start over-flowing around the edge of the cake. Some of the icing may pool around the bottom of the cake stand, you can either leave it or attempt to wipe it up but it may get messy. (Another option is to place strips of baking paper around the edges of the cake so that it catches the excess without messing up your plate). This gif might help give you an idea of how it should look.
  6. Chill cake until ready to serve, then remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving and decorate with lollipops. I also decorated the bottom of the cake with some rainbow popping candy.
Psychedelic Rainbow Swirl Lollipop Cake
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears

Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
More celebratory cakes! A belated birthday cake. I was offered the challenge of making a cake that involved pear and salted caramel and I can rarely say no to a challenge. My friend is not a fan of sponge/cream cakes. He's a big fan of mud cakes, especially caramel ones. A couple of years ago I attempted to make him one and it was one of my first mud cake attempts. It wasn't the best, totally overbaked and brick-like. But this time I think I got it just right.
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
I haven't made a secret of the fact that I am not a mud cake person. I'm scarred from many years of crappy chain bakery and dodgy supermarket mud cakes that are super dense and/or dry and tasteless. I prefer my cakes light and airy. I prefer a vanilla cake over a chocolate cake. But I really enjoyed this cake. A two-layer caramel mud cake with salted caramel icing, poached vanilla bean pear, crumble and salted caramel sauce. It's INTENSE.
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
It was my first time poaching pears! They turned out beautifully tender and matched so well with the buttery crumble that I sprinkled on top. I poached them in a brown sugar, vanilla bean and star anise mixture. I know the cake is a little on the brown and messy side presentation-wise, but don't let its appearance fool you. All the elements combine to make a pretty spectacular cake. I'd recommend eating small slices served with extra crumble and salted caramel sauce and a really big cup of hot tea.
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
(caramel mud cake adapted from this AWW recipe, salted caramel sauce adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
For the caramel mud cake:
250g (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp) butter, chopped
200g (7oz) white chocolate, chopped
2¼ cups (about 450g) firmly packed brown sugar
1½ cups (375ml) water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups (about 280g) plain/all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (90g) self-raising flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Grease and line the base and side of a two 18cm (7 inch) round cake tins (warning: batter is quite runny so spring-form tins may leak out the bottom, it is better to use non-springform).
  2. Sift the plain and self-raising flour into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine the butter, white chocolate, sugar and water in a medium saucepan, whisk over low heat until the chocolate is melted and sugar is dissolved. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Whisk in vanilla and eggs, then add sifted flours. Pour equal amounts of mixture into prepared tins. Bake for about 60-75 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of cake comes out just clean. Cover cake loosely with foil if it is over-browning.
  5. Cool the cake in the pan covered with a clean tea towel. Cake can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temp.
For the salted caramel sauce:
400g sugar (about 2 cups)
170g (12 tbsp) unsalted butter
2/3 cup thickened/heavy cream 
About 1 tsp sea salt flakes, adjust to taste
  1. Place sugar in a heavy-based medium to large saucepan on medium heat and whisk until it starts to melt (it may clump together but this is okay), continue whisking until all the sugar melts down.
  2. Add a sugar thermometer to the pan and continue cooking without stirring, swirl the pan occasionally to stop the bottom from burning. 
  3. Heat until mixture turns dark golden in colour and the sugar thermometer reaches 180°C (350°F), then add all the butter at once. Take care as mixture will bubble up.
  4. Whisk until the butter is incorporated, then add cream (mixture will bubble up again) and whisk until smooth. Pour into a heatproof bowl. and allow to cool slightly. 
  5. When cool enough to taste, add salt to taste. Cool to room temperature.
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
For the poached pears:
2-3 brown pears (I used 3)
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups (about 300g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped
Optional: 1 star anise
  1. Place water and sugar in a saucepan on medium high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to simmer.
  2. Peel pears (keeping the stem) and place pears, vanilla pod an seeds (and star anise) in the saucepan.
  3. Simmer, turning pears occasionally to ensure even poaching, for about 20 minutes or until pears are tender (check with a fork).
  4. Carefully remove pears and set aside to cool completely, then pat very dry using paper towels. 
  5. Slice pears in half and use a spoon to remove the core and seeds. Use a small sharp knife to thinly slice pears. You can keep it attached at the stem at fan out the pear slices as shown in the photos, or remove the stem and arrange the slices however you prefer. I retained one half of a pear and diced the fruit into small cubes to use inbetween the two cake layers.
For the crumble:
1/4 cup (about 50g) firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (about 35g) flour
25g (about 2 tbsp) cold butter, diced
Optional: A pinch of cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Place ingredients in a bowl rub between fingers to distribute butter throughout the dry ingredients. Mixture should resemble large breadcrumbs
  3. Spread mixture in an even layer on baking paper and bake. Check on mixture every 5 minutes, it may start to melt down into a giant thin cookie, just use a fork to break up the mixture and maintain a crumb consistency.
  4. Bake until mixture starts to go dark golden brown on the edges, ensure it does not burn. Leak on tray to cool completely.
For the salted caramel icing:
250g (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp) butter, softened
2 cups (about 250g) icing/confectioner's sugar, sifted
About 1 cup salted caramel sauce (recipe above), adjust to desired taste and texture
Place butter and salted caramel in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth and combined.
  1. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 
  2. To assemble cake; trim cakes to ensure that their tops are level. Place one layer of cake (cut side up) on your cake stand/plate.
  3. Place 1 cup of salted caramel icing in a piping bag with a wide star tip attached. Pipe a circle of icing about half a cm inside from the edge of the cake, then use a spatula to spread a layer of icing inside the piped circle. (I also spread a layer, using half a pear, of  small cubes of pear throughout the icing, this is optional) Sandwich with the other cake layer (cut side down) and repeat with another layer of icing.
  4. Arrange sliced pear of top and sprinkle a layer of crumble on top. Pour extra salted caramel sauce on top (you may need to warm the sauce up quickly in the microwave if it has become too thick to pour). Serve immediately. If serving layer, keep crumble and sauce separate and place on top right before serving.
Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Icing, Crumble and Vanilla Poached Pears
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Phewwww, it's been a crazy week. I've been super quiet on the blog and instagram recently because everything has been full-on nutso in every other part of my life. Work, friends and home. One of the crazier things on the schedule was planning for Asian Gaga's hens night. Asian Gaga and I are complete and utter opposites in so many ways, so planning an awesome night for her and her friends presented quite a challenge. Luckily she knew pretty much exactly what she wanted, so it was just up to me to make it a reality. And my reality was always going to involve a large amount of baked goods.
Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
As soon as I showed Asian Gaga this gorgeous Pocky Cake from Sprinkle Bakes a couple of years ago she was in love with it. We even discussed making it as part of a wedding cake table, but it turned out to be too casual for the style of wedding she's planning. I decided that the hens night would be the perfect time to make this cake. I didn't change it up too much from the inspiration, except to go even crazier with the strawberry flavours. I added Strawberry Nesquik to the icing to make it strawberry milk icing, and topped the whole thing with a ton of chocolate-dipped strawberries. Oh, and then I put the cake on top of a macaron tower.
Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Yes, I did make her wear that headdress. I love Etsy. So much better than a veil or a sash! Oh man, those macarons gave me grief all week. I had to make so many batches and I still wasn't happy with the texture of them. I made three flavours; strawberry jam, chocolate and Earl Grey, coconut and lychee. I totally overcatered for the night, considering that we had already had a full dinner including dessert. But better to have too much than too little, right?
Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
I love this cake so much. Strawberry pocky is the best thing ever. Those skinny pretzel sticks covered in strawberry chocolate smell so great. The strawberry milk icing matches it perfectly. And who doesn't love chocolate-dipped strawberries? Sorry you guys don't get to see a peek of the icing and the fluffy vanilla bean cake, but I think it tasted alright. Asian Gaga loved it so my mission was accomplished. It's actually a fairly easy cake to assemble, even though it looks complicated. The pocky helps to cover any mistakes you may have made with your cake or icing, so no stress over making your icing smooth! If you're a strawberry fan like me you'll love this cake.
Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Strawberry Milk Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
(makes a thicker 7" cake or a thinner 8" cake, inspired by Sprinkle Bakes)
For the cake:
355g (about 2.5 cups) plain/all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
225ml (about 1 cup minus 1 tbsp) milk
2 tsp vanilla extract or scraped seeds from 2 vanilla bean pods
350g (about 1 & 3/4 cups) sugar (granulated or caster)
225g (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease two 18cm (7 inch) (or 20cm (8 inch), cake will be shorter) round cake tins. Note this will make a fairly thick cake layer so you need a tin with higher sides. If using thinner tins, split the mixture into 3 tins instead. Line the base of the tins with baking paper. 
  2. Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix milk and vanilla together in a measuring jug.
  3. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended. Increase speed to high and beat well until very pale and creamy, at least 5 minutes. 
  4. Reduce speed to medium low, add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Alternately add flour mix and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture (I did it by adding 1/4 of of the dry mixture followed by 1/3 of the wet mixture at a time). Beat until smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with a spatula. 
  6. Split mixture equally between prepared tins and smooth top with a spatula.
  7. Bake until a skewer inserted into the centre just comes out clean and the outside is golden, about 40-50 minutes (will vary depending on your cake tin size). Take cake not to overbake or cake will be dry. 
  8. Cool in tins for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep cakes wrapped in clingfilm and chilled in fridge until you are ready to assemble. Can be stored in an airtight container overnight if you want to prep the cakes a day ahead.
For the Strawberry Milk Icing:
250g (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp) butter, softened
3 cups (about 375g) icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 cup (about 100g) strawberry Nesquik powder
About 1/4-1/3 cup milk, adjust for texture
To decorate: Strawberry Pocky sticks (I used about 5-6 packets), chocolate-dipped strawberries (I made some with milk, white and dark chocolate)
  1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Add icing sugar, Nesquik powder to bowl and mix until it starts to come together, then gradually add milk while beating on high until light and fluffy. I added my milk 1 tbsp at a time until I achieved the desired texture. You want your icing to be stiff enough to hold its shape but smooth enough to be spread easily.
  3. Trim the tops of your cakes so they are level using a long, sharp, preferably serrated knife. Place one layer on your cake stand and use an offset spatula to spread a thick layer of icing over the top of the cake. Sandwich with the second layer of cake.
  4. Crumb coat cake and then chill for about half an hour, then cover with remaining icing and smooth with offset spatula.
  5. Decorate the side of the cake with pocky sticks. Carefully press the pocky into the icing on the side of the cake so that it stays in place. Chill cake to set the icing.
  6. Prepare chocolate dipped strawberries. 
  7. Place cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Remove from fridge at least 15 mins before serving. Place chocolate-dipped strawberries on top and serve.
Strawberry Pocky Cake with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coconut and Lychee Macarons

Coconut and Lychee Macarons
Helllloooo! This is just a super quick post to let you know that I'm still alive! Things are just super, super busy. These macarons are my peace offering to you for being so neglectful of my blog recently. Well actually, I wasn't actually being neglectful, I was baking heaps over the last two weekends but everything I made was a complete and utter disaster. Yep I'm a flat out, freaking mess at the moment, and so is my kitchen.
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
These macarons were made for an upcoming party and are inspired by one of my favourite flavours from Gelato Messina. The ganache is made with lychee puree, and I was meant to add some coconut cream but somehow totally forgot to add it to the mixture. But the coconut on the top of the shell helps to make it for it as it got lightly toasted in the oven. I'm still having super annoying issues with hollow macarons so these were not technically the best but they still tasted great so I wanted to share them with you. I'm pretty sure that it's my oven that causing the issue, not the recipe, since it's the same recipe I've used since I started making macs. Hopefully you'll have better luck than me!
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
Coconut and Lychee Macarons
(makes 15-20 macarons)
Note: These macarons are a little trickier, if you are a beginner with macarons read up and practice plain macarons first. BraveTart has lots of useful advice and info on the subject
For the macarons:
100g (3.5oz) egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
110g (about 4oz) almond meal, at room temperature and well sifted
200g (7oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
50g (1.74oz) caster (granulated) sugar
Dessicated/shredded coconut to sprinkle on top
  1. Line two baking trays with good quality baking paper. 
  2. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. (If you don’t have a processor just sift together with a fine sieve.) Sift into a large mixing bowl and set aside. 
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in a medium mixing bowl until it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar and beat until it reaches stiff peaks.
  4. Add meringue to your dry mixture and mix together with a spatula, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, which is easily done by smearing the mixture on the bottom and side of the bowl with your spatula), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes just incorporated and the mixture starts to become shiny again. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds. 
  5. Place mixture in a piping bag with a 1cm round piping tip. Pipe circles about 3cm wide on your prepared trays, leaving about 3cm space around each one. Tap baking sheets carefully and firmly on the benchtop a couple times to remove any large bubbles.
  6. Sprinkle a pinch of coconut over the top of each piped shell.
  7. Leave to dry for about 60 mins, until when you press the surface of one gently it does not break/stick to your finger. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. (I find the easiest way to do this is to point a fan at the shells, but make sure you stick or weigh down the baking paper first)
  8. Preheat your oven to 130-150°C (265-300°F), depending on your oven (fan-forced ovens may need to be set as low as 100°C, it really depends) . You can place the sheet of piped shells on top of an upside-down roasting tray or another baking tray, for better heat distribution. 
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it’s still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. 
  10. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. 
For the lychee coconut ganache:
250g (about 9oz) good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
50ml thickened or pure/heavy cream (min 35% fat unthickened) OR coconut cream
Half can (I think mine was a 565g can) of lychees in syrup (lychees well drained and pureed, about 100g puree)
  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Heat cream and lychee puree in a small saucepan on medium-low heat until it just comes to the boil. 
  3. Add hot cream mixture to melted chocolate a third at a time (mixture may seize up after you add the first part, but will hopefully melt back down as you add the rest. If not, return bowl to over the simmering water and whisk until smooth)
  4. Chill, whisking it every 5 minutes to ensure it stays smooth, until the mixture thickens but is still pipable. If mixture is too runny, you can melt in more chocolate, 50g at a time.
  5. Place in a small piping bag (ziplock bags with a corner snipped off are handy for this), pipe and sandwich between macaron shells.
  6. Chill macarons in an airtight container overnight to allow flavour to mature. Serve at room temperature.

Coconut and Lychee Macarons
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Eton Mess Cake

Eton Mess Cake
Sorry for the late post this week, it's coming to you from the hazy world of head colds. Last weekend was my father-in-law's birthday and as per usual he requested a sponge cake with cream and fresh berries. This didn't surprise me but at first I was thinking, 'Damn I just made that kind of cake'. But then I had a small jolt of inspiration; if I used strawberries and cream and added some meringue to the cake I could make a cake inspired by one of my all-time favourite desserts, the Eton mess. This cake is made up of layered sponge flavoured with rose water, vanilla bean whipped cream, crushed meringue and a thick strawberry sauce. You cannot go wrong with that.
Eton Mess Cake
Eton mess is pretty much the ideal dessert for a baker like me. It's fresh, easy and delicious even though it looks like an absolute mess on the plate. I always love the mix of all the textures and flavours in it, with the fresh berries, tart strawberry sauce, crunchy meringue bits and fluffy whipped cream. This works really well for a naked layered sponge cake because it keeps it super light but still interesting (perfect for capping off a home-cooked roast dinner in the middle of winter, trust me!). And it's good for messy bakers because it doesn't matter if it looks a bit rough, it's supposed to be like that!
Eton Mess Cake
I was puffing my chest out feeling so original about this idea until I went back to look at the cake I baked for the same occasion last year and realised that it was nearly identical in presentation, right down to the topping of fresh berries and meringue cookies. Damn. It does taste completely different though. It's fairly messy once you start cutting into the cake, but I think that makes it extra appropriate for its title.
Eton Mess Cake
Eton Mess Cake
(makes a 3 layer 18cm (7") round cake, sponge recipe from Gourmet Traveller)
For the Sponge Cake:
Note: If you are new to sponge cakes make sure you click through to the Gourmet Traveller link above for extra tips. This sponge cake relies solely on the whipped eggs for leavening and it is important you follow all the steps carefully.
Sponge cake:
60g (about 4.5 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled plus extra for greasing tins
180g (about 1 & 1/3 cups) plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
6 eggs, at room temperature
200g (about 1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Make sure your eggs are at room temp and preheat oven to 180°C (350° F) (you may need to adjust to 160-170°C (340° F) for fan-forced). 
  2. Brush three 18cm (7 inch) round cake tins with melted butter, line base and sides with baking paper, grease paper with a little extra butter and then dust lightly with flour. 
  3. Triple-sift flour and set aside. 
  4. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (about 7-8 minutes). Sift over flour in two batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon or spatula.
  5. Fold in melted butter. 
  6. Carefully pour equal amounts into prepared tins and bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (about 20 minutes). 
  7. Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over swiftly and cool completely.
  8. Optional: I placed 1 tbsp rose water, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and stirred it over medium heat until it formed a syrup, poked holes through the cakes using a fork and brushed the syrup over the cakes to give it light rose flavour. This part isn't necessary but adds an interesting touch.
For the meringues:
4 egg whites, at room temperature
A pinch of salt
200g (about 1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F) (100°C (210°F) fan-forced) and measure all your ingredients. Line two baking trays with baking paper. 
  2. Place egg whites and salt in a large, clean mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. With the mixer on low, add sugar 1 tbsp at a time then whisk on high until thick and glossy (at least 5 mins). 
  3. Pinch a small amount of mixture between your thumb and forefinger. If mixture is smooth then the sugar has dissolved, if it is still grainy, beat for a minute or so more and check again. Beat until sugar has completely dissolved. 
  4. Place mixture in a large piping bag with a 1cm round tip and pipe on the prepared baking trays. I kept my meringues about the same size as my fresh strawberries 
  5. Place in oven and reduce oven temp to 90°C (195°F) (85°C (185°F) fan-forced). Leave the oven on for 60-75 mins or until the meringues are crisp (mine too longer but I prefer to leave them longer at a low temp than risk them browning at a higher temp), then turn off oven and allow the meringues to cool completely in the oven (2-3 hours). 
  6. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve cake.
Eton Mess Cake
For the strawberry sauce:
300g (5oz) strawberries berries, fresh or frozen, hulled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (about 65g) sugar
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) + 4 tsp cold water
  1. Place strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Mix cornflour and water together in a separate small bowl then add to the saucepan and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes (if mixture becomes too thick, add water 1 tbsp and stir until it reaches the right consistency). Set aside to cool.
To assemble cake:
Note: Amounts of cream, strawberry sauce and meringue in this recipe makes more than you need to assemble cake but the extra amounts are good for serving on the side of the cake
600ml (about 2.5 cups) thickened (heavy) cream
1/2 cup icing (confectioners') sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/pure vanilla extract)
Strawberry sauce and meringue cookies from recipes above
Fresh strawberries to decorate, hulled
Glaze: 1 cup icing sugar, sifted, about 1-2 tbsp milk or water (I also added a few drops of rose water)
  1. Place cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until it reaches stiff peaks.
  2. Use a sharp, serrated knife to level the tops of your sponge cakes.
  3. Place first cake layer on your serving plate or stand and top with a thick layer of cream swirled together with dollops of strawberry sauce and crushed meringue cookies (ensure you retain enough meringues to decorate the top of your cake). Keep filling about 1 cm from the edge of the cake to stop mixture from overflowing when you sandwich layers on top.
  4. Sandwich with another cake layer and repeat. 
  5. Mix together icing sugar with liquid to form a thick, smooth paste for the glaze. Spread over the top of your cake using a spatula.
  6. Decorate with fresh strawberries and meringues. Place in fridge to allow glaze to set and store there until ready to serve. Can be served with extra cream, sauce and meringue cookies.
Eton Mess Cake
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts

Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
I love doughnuts. I eat them more often than I should. They're one of the few things that I would rather buy than make myself, mostly because I hate deep-frying anything. Me and hot oil don't mix well. You're talking to a girl who managed to stab a blunt knife all the way through her finger when she was sleepily trying to remove a pit from an avocado early one morning. I'm not to be trusted around sharp things, flames or anything boiling hot.
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
This is why I like the idea of baked doughnuts. I've made cinnamon ones before and they were pretty good. Of course, they'll never taste as soft and fluffy as the real deep-fried thing, but it comes very close. And then you don't have to deal with all the mess of getting rid of all that oil. And no need for a special doughnut pan!
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
So I saw lots of gorgeous looking chocolate doughnuts on pinterest while trying to get ideas for this recipe, but all of them were basically cake batter that needs to be poured into a special doughnut-shaped pan to be baked. They sound delicious, but I usually prefer not to have to buy another pan for one specific purpose (there are exceptions to this but you know what I mean). So I decided to play around with the original plain baked doughnut recipe (which is more like bread than cake) and turn it into a chocolate doughnut. My first attempt was noooot good. The yeast didn't activate and they stayed like hard, poo-like lumps in the oven. But the second attempt with a few tweaks came out perfectly.
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
I topped these doughnuts with a cookies and cream flavoured topping. It was a simple icing glaze and lots of Oreo bits. I've always wanted to do a cookies and cream flavoured recipe but nothing has seemed like a fun enough idea until this one. To be perfectly honest, the baked version of these doughnuts can be fairly dry at room temperature, but I find that if you warm it up ever so slightly in the microwave before eating it, it keeps makes them super soft and more like the fried version, without melting the icing. So please, serve these warmed up! They are so much better. 
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
Anyway, these were fun for a baking day where I wasn't in a rush and had time to wait for the dough to rise. I don't get many of those days anymore so I had a lot of fun with it. The only thing I'd like to work on is how to make these even softer and less dry at room temperature, maybe if I did a dough that had more butter, like brioche. Oooooh. And apologies for the slightly dark photos, I'm still getting used to my new computer screen!
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
(adapted from these baked doughnuts, makes about 12)
For the doughnuts:
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet/7g) instant dried yeast
20g (1.5 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
350g (about 2.5 cups) plain flour
50g (about 0.5 cups) cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed but regular is fine)
1/2 cup (100g) caster/granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mixture to help rolling dough: 2 tbsp icing (confectioner's) sugar and 2 tsp cocoa powder, sifted together
  1. Heat milk to lukewarm (I did this by placing it in a microwave-safe jug and zapping it on medium-high (75%) for about 20 seconds). Make sure it's not too hot, then stir in yeast and let it sit for a minute so it starts to froth up. 
  2. Sift flour and cocoa powder together into a large mixing bowl. Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Make a well in the centre. Add melted butter, then add milk mixture. Mix to form a soft dough. 
  3. If you have a mixer with dough hooks, beat on high for about 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic. If not, turn out onto a surface dusted with the icing sugar/cocoa powder mixture (rather than using flour which will affect the colour of your dough). Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size (mine took a little longer during winter). 
  5. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Using your fist, punch dough down. Dust your surface with more icing sugar/cocoa mixture. Knead until smooth. 
  6. Roll dough out until about 1 cm (1/3 inch) thick. Using a 6.5cm (2.5 inch) cutter, cut 12 rounds from dough. Using a 3cm (1 inch) cutter, cut circles from the centre of each round. 
  7. Place doughnuts (and doughnut holes), 5cm apart, on prepared tray. (You can try rerolling the dough scraps and holes to cut more doughnuts but I found that these ones turned out a lot uglier.) Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C (350°C). Bake doughnuts for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked through (make sure not to overbake or they will be hard and dry. The easiest way to test if they're ready is to sacrifice one for tasting).
  9. Place on a wire rack and cool completely before icing. They must be completely cooled or the icing will melt! Note: doughnuts are best served after being warmed slightly in the microwave for about 15 seconds.
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
For the icing:
2 cups (150g) icing sugar, sifted
About 2 tbsp (30-40 ml) milk
Oreo biscuits, full sized or mini (I used mini)
  1. Place several biscuits in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin (or blitz in a food processor) to make fine oreo crumbs (I used about 1/3 cup of fine crumbs)
  2. Using a sharp knife, chop up several biscuits into larger chunky bits for decorating (about 3/4 cup of bits).
  3. Place icing sugar in a bowl and gradually mix in milk until it becomes a very thick paste (add the milk very slowly until it is all mixed in before adding more milk). You want it to be smooth but even thicker than tooth paste, so it doesn't run straight off your doughnuts.You can add a small pinch of fine Oreo crumbs to the icing at this point if you want it to look a little more like cookies and cream icing, but you don't need to.
  4. Dip the tops of your doughnuts in the icing, or use a spoon to spread a thick layer of icing over the top of each doughnut (icing should settle back down after being spread on, if it is too thick/starting to dry out then add a tiny bit more milk, and if it is running too thin add more icing sugar).
  5. Place in a wire rack to allow icing to set. While icing is still set, sprinkle several big chunks of Oreo pieces over each doughnut and sprinkle a pinch of fine crumbs over each doughnut as well. Set aside to set for about half an hour, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Doughnuts will store in an airtight container at room temp for about 2 days. Note: doughnuts are best served after being warmed slightly in the microwave for about 15 seconds.
Cookies and Cream Baked Chocolate Doughnuts
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries

Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I lost my tiny, ancient budgie who has been with me since I moved to Sydney and who I thought was going to live forever. I finally, FINALLY got my Ps, so have a newfound sense of freedom (don't judge, I lived right next to a train station for over 10 years so there wasn't much motivation to drive until recently). We bought a couch. So yeah...life. Anyway. This past weekend we had my cousin from Singapore visiting for her birthday, and I demanded to make her birthday cake.
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
She requested anything with berries, preferably with sponge and cream cheese. So I made a simple vanilla sponge cake and soaked the sponge in a sticky lemon syrup, sandwiched it with one layer of raspberry filling and another layer of blueberry filling, and covered it in a fluffy whipped cream cheese icing, fresh berries and raspberry heart macarons. My original idea was to tint half the icing with blueberries to make it purple, and the other half with raspberries to make it pink and to ice the cake with an ombré effect. I did it, but the tinting was so faint that you can barely see it so it probably wasn't worth it.
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
I'm still having issues with hollow macarons in my new oven, I'm going to have to keep experimenting to get the right temperature. It's driving me nuts. Anyway, it was one of the several things that I wasn't 100% happy about with this cake, but whatever it tasted great! Everyone was saying that they loved that the sponge wasn't too dry, the filling was super tasty and the icing tasted almost like ice cream! (Sneaky shot of the innards from my cousin) Surprisingly the whipped cream and cream cheese holds up fairly well at room temperature, the cake didn't melt at all (though it probably helps that it was friggin freezing). I think the icing worked particularly well with the sponge since both were quite delicate in texture and flavour, but the icing is so great that I want to try it out with some white cake next time. Happy Birthday P!
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
(makes a 3 layer 18cm (7") round cake, sponge recipe from Gourmet Traveller)
For the Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake:
Note: If you are new to sponge cakes make sure you click through to the Gourmet Traveller link above for extra tips. This sponge cake relies solely on the whipped eggs for leavening and it is important you follow all the steps carefully.
Sponge cake:
60g (about 4.5 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled plus extra for greasing tins
180g (about 1 &1/3 cups) plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
6 eggs, at room temperature
165g (about 3/4 cup) caster/superfine sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Make sure your eggs are at room temp and preheat oven to 180°C (350° F) (you may need to adjust to 160-170°C (340° F) for fan-forced). 
  2. Brush three 18cm (7 inch) round cake tins with melted butter, line base and sides with baking paper, grease paper with a little extra butter and then dust lightly with flour. 
  3. Triple-sift flour and set aside. 
  4. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (about 7-8 minutes). Sift over flour in two batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon or spatula.
  5. Fold in melted butter. 
  6. Carefully pour equal amounts into prepared tins and bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (about 20 minutes). 
  7. Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over swiftly and cool completely. 
Lemon Syrup:
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons, about 1/2 cup
1 cup (about 200g) sugar
1/2 cup water
  1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Increase heat slightly and allow mixture to come to the boil, then simmer for about 3-5 minutes to allow syrup to thicken slightly. 
  3. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a fork or skewer to poke holes over the surface of your cooled sponge cakes. Use a brush or a small spoon to carefully drizzle lemon syrup over the surface of all three cakes (you don't need to use all of it, just enough to generously cover the surface of all three). 
  5. Cakes can be wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge overnight, until ready to assemble.
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
For the berry filling:
300g (5oz) berries, fresh or frozen (I used 1 punnet raspberries to fill between one layer, and blueberries for the other layer)
1/3 cup sugar
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) + 4 tsp cold water
  1. Place berries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Mix cornflour and water together in a separate small bowl then add to the saucepan and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the whipped cream cheese icing:
250g (about 9oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (about 100g) sugar
300ml (about 1 & 1/3 cups) thickened (heavy) cream
Optional: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or 2-3 tbsp of berry filling from above to flavour icing
  1. Place cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth.
  2. With the mixer still running on medium speed, gradually add cream to mixture.
  3. Beat on high until mixture reaches stiff peaks, take care not to over mix or cream will split.
  4. Fold in vanilla or berry filling to flavour mixture.
To assemble cake:
  1. Place first cake layer on your serving plate or stand. 
  2. Spread a layer of berry filling over the top of the cake (I started with blueberry for the bottom layer and raspberry on top).
  3. Sandwich with another cake layer and repeat. 
  4. Crumb coat cake with cream cheese icing and chill cake for 15 minutes.
  5. Cover cake with remaining icing, smoothing with an offset spatula.
  6. Decorate with additional fresh berries and/or macarons (recipe here).
Lemon Syrup Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Icing and Berries
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