Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake

Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake
I had a pretty good weekend. The weekdays have been not so great, but my weekend was lovely. And this weekend it was my Mum's birthday. She was in the country to celebrate it too! You may recall that this time last year was when my Mum's birthday cake was dropped on to the middle of the road. I didn't mention in that post that it was actually my husband that turned that poor cake into roadkill. I was being all nice about it and not letting him take the blame for it but screw it, it's been a year. It was his fault! Poor guy, he's so traumatised from that experience that he now refuses to carry any of my cakes.
Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake
So my Mum's only request for this year's cake was that it wasn't too sweet or heavy and that I didn't drop it on the ground again. I went with an oldie but a goodie. A classic vanilla sponge cake, sandwiched with raspberry jam and cream. I could have left it there as a traditional Victoria sponge, but I couldn't resist adding a few embellishments to change it up a little. I decided to incorporate some rose and lychee flavours, a la Pierre Hermé's ispahan creations. After seeing some rose meringue inspiration on instagram, I knew I had to make some mini rose meringues.
Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake
The mini meringues take a little longer to bake because of the added moisture from the rose water, and they will get soggy from sitting next to the lychee and raspberry pieces, so make sure you don't put all the toppings on to the cake until you're ready to serve it. I've made a few desserts involving the combo of rose, raspberry and lychee and it is always a winner. My sponge was slightly overbaked (which you might be able to tell from its colour in these not so great photos) so it was a little bit drier than I preferred, but luckily the mountain of cream and jam ensured that this wasn't a problem. This cake is nothing ground-breaking but it's a nice and pretty cake and I think it's exactly what we needed after the insanity of the fried chicken cake.
Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake
Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge 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 two 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 20-25 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. Cakes can be baked a day ahead stored in an airtight container at room temperature
For the mini rose meringues:
4 egg whites, at room temperature
A pinch of salt
200g (about 1 cup) caster/superfine sugar 
1 tsp rose water
Optional: Powdered pink food colouring
  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). (Optional: Add food colouring here to tint mixture light pink)
  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.
  5. Place in oven and reduce oven temp to 90°C (195°F) (85°C (185°F) fan-forced). Leave the oven on for 75-90 mins or until the meringues are crisp (mine took 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.
To assemble cake:
1 cup thickened cream (or replace 1/2 cup with creme fraiche like I did), cold
2 tbsp icing/powdered sugar, sifted
About 3/4 cup raspberry jam
To decorate: Fresh raspberries, fresh or canned pitted lychees chopped in to small pieces, dried edible rose petals, extra icing sugar to dust
  1. Place cream (and creme fraiche) and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Take care not to overwhip.
  2. Place one sponge cake layer on your cake stand or plate. Spread a thick layer of raspberry jam over the top of cake, followed by a thicker layer of whipped cream. Sandwich with remaining sponge cake layer.
  3. Arrange rose mini meringues, raspberries, lychee pieces and fresh rose petals over the top of the cake. Dust with extra icing sugar to finish. Serve immediately, or can be stored in the fridge for several hours before serving.
Raspberry, Rose and Lychee Sponge Cake
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake

'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
Before you say, "EW, what the eff?!" let me say this is NOT real fried chicken on top of a cake! I did not go there. It's actually cookie pops covered in cornflakes made to look just like fried chicken, with shortbread chips! But why? Last week was Karen's birthday. We love Karen. And Karen (and most us really) loves fried chicken. We were heading to Red Pepper in Strathfield for Korean fried chicken dinner, and I was tasked with bringing the birthday cake. I was struggling to think of a theme for the cake, and Suze mentioned that Karen just wanted fried chicken for dessert. Which got me thinking of this crazy idea. Imagine if I could make my cake look like fried chicken!
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
A quick google search showed me that I was not the first person to be crazy enough to think of this. There was this fantastic video tutorial from Haniela's for fried chicken cake pops and it was exactly what I needed. Her version is a little more complicated, as it's made with cake, and she even crafts the chicken 'bone' with white candy melts and mini marshmallows. I decided to save some time by making cookie pops instead of cake pops, saving me from baking and crumbling up a cake. Instead I used crushed white chocolate Tim Tam biscuits, mixed up with cream cheese, and milk chocolate finger biscuits as the 'bone' and covered the whole thing with cornflakes. The result was so darn realistic it was disturbing.
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop
I seriously thought taking a photo of a cut up cookie pop would help prove that it wasn't fried chicken, but even the cookie pop mixture is the colour of chicken! I swear it's not really fried chicken. It's still mind boggling how realistic it looks, it's almost too realistic. It definitely managed to creep me out, and everyone who saw the cake did do a double take. But sometimes you just gotta have a little fun with your food and mess with people's heads.
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
The Tim Tam cookie pop mixture is very sweet and quite rich, so if you want to use the original cake pop mixture instead, the link is below. Though I'm not sure how many people out there are as random as me and want to make cakes that look like fried chicken. Maybe for the KFC-obsessed? It's not the first time I've done something like this. I'm weird, I know. The shortbread chips tasted great, I will totally make those again. Imagine them served with a raspberry compote 'ketchup'! My instructions below are a little sketchy, so feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if you need more details!
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
For the 'fried chicken' cookie pops:
200g (7oz) white chocolate Tim Tams (or any other Tim Tam/Penguin/Cream-filled biscuit/cookie like Oreos)
80g (2.8oz) cream cheese, softened
1 packet Cadbury Fingers or any stick shaped biscuit (the original tutorial linked above uses similar sized pretzel sticks, if you can get them)
Icing: 125g (4.4oz) cream cheese + 30g (2 tbsp) butter, softened and 1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
Coating: 3 cups corn flakes + a pinch of ground cinnamon
  1. Place Tim Tams and cream cheese in a food processor and blitz until it forms a smooth paste (you will need to stop and stir the mixture a few times while the bigger pieces break up). Scrape into a bowl and chill to allow mixture to harden slightly so it is easier to handle.
  2. (I recommend wearing food prep gloves for this messy bit) Roll about 2 tbsp of mixture into a ball and push one of the stick-shaped biscuits into the ball. Pinch mixture to the stick into the shape of a drumstick. Also place a small ball of mixture on the opposite end of the stick biscuit. (See picture below) Place moulded mixture on a lined baking tray. Repeat with remaining mixture, I think manage to make about 10.
  3. Chill tray for about 45 mins (or freeze to save time), until cookie pop mixture sets and is easy to pick up and handle. Prepare icing in the meantime.
  4. Place cornflakes and cinnamon in a large bowl, use your fingers to break up the cornflakes into large crumbs and set aside.
  5. Place icing ingredients (cream cheese, butter and brown sugar) in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and and fluffy. 
  6. Use a small spatula or knife to spread a thin layer of icing over the surface of each chilled cookie pop, then place the cookie pop in the cornflakes and roll, pressing cornflakes into the icing so that the surface of the cookie pop is covered. 
  7. Return covered cookie pops to fridge to set (at least 1 hour) until ready to use.

For the shortbread crinkle cut 'chips:
Follow instructions for this shortbread dough, omitting ground and candied ginger. Roll dough between two baking sheets to about 0.5 cm thickness, then use a pizza dough cutter or a pastry crimper (if you want to get that crinkle cut look) to cut strips of dough to form the 'chips'. Make sure you cut them about half the thickness of the intended size, as they will expand slightly in the oven. Follow instructions in link to bake until edges turn golden brown.
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
For the cake (Milo cake with milo icing and condensed milk icing):
  1. Follow the instructions for this Devil's Food Cake recipe, using three 15cm (6", this is what I used) or 18cm (7", will result in slightly thinner layers). round cake tins Optional variation: I replaced the 9 tbsp of cocoa powder with 2 tbsp cocoa powder and 7 tbsp milo powder (you could also use Ovaltine) to make it a Malted Devil's Food Cake.
  2. Beat 200g (1 & 3/4 sticks) salted butter (softened) with 3 cups (375g) icing/powdered sugar, and half a cup of milo powder in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high until fluffy and spreadable. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of cakes. Place one layer of cake (upside-down) on cake plate and use an offset spatula to spread a thick layer of icing over the top of the cake. Repeat with remaining cakes and icing. 
  3. Beat 300g (2 & 2/3 sticks) salted butter with 1 can (395g) condensed milk and 500g (4 cups) icing/powdered sugar until light and fluffy (you may need to adjust icing sugar amount until desired icing texture is achieved, you want it to be spreadable but stiff enough to hold its shape). Crumb coat cake with some of the plain lemon icing and then chill for about half an hour. Use offset spatula to cover cake in another layer of icing and smooth (run spatula regularly under hot water to achieve a smoother result)
  4. Top cake with shortbread chips and fried chicken cake pops and chill. Remove from fridge at least half an hour before serving to allow to come back to room temperature. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for several days.
'Fried Chicken' Cookie Pop Cake
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons

Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
My life is finally starting to return back to my regular routines. Weddings are hectic. And it wasn't even my wedding! Luckily for me, there was a long weekend the week after, which allowed me to rest up and get back my baking groove. So I made cake. And macarons. And lemon curd. And blueberry sauce! I love long weekends.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
I'm in love with the swirly mess of icing on this cake. It's an easy way to pretty up a cake that doesn't require any precision or perfection, that's what I love about a messy finish on a cake. All I did was mix a little bit of blueberry jam into some of my regular lemon butter icing and swirled a few dollops of the icing on the cake. I was hoping for it to give the icing a purple tint, but it came out more of a deep pink. Still pretty! I love how it looks like the cake is covered in big pink rose petals.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
The cake inside is a blueberry lemon cake, sandwiched together with some lemon curd. I had a ton of lemons in the fridge and blueberries were on special so these were easy choices. I stupidly didn't follow my own recipe instructions and forgot to turn the temperature down on my cake so the edges browned a lot more than they should have and dried the cake out too much, but luckily the curd, blueberies and icing helped to take away some of that dryness. I was a little too timid with the amount of lemon curd on the bottom layer, but other than that I'm really pleased with how the cake turned out.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
As I've mentioned in recent macaron posts, I'm having a horrible time with hollow shells when I bake macarons in my new oven. I've tried so many different tweaks, which have only slightly improved them but not eradicated those darned air pockets entirely. I have always used the French method for my macarons since I have a huge aversion to dealing with hot sugar syrup, but I finally worked up the energy to switch over to the Italian meringue method that Trissalicious, and many other bakers use. I know from the few times I've used it that it results in a much smoother shell and is more forgiving to the little mistakes that the French method exposes. And I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and a sugar thermometer, so my only excuse for avoiding it now is laziness. No more! The result were these picture perfect macarons, without an air pocket in sight! I undermixed the batter slightly, so the texture was more fluffy than I would have preferred, but much better than a crunchy, hollow shell. Feel free to keep using my old French method recipe if it's working successfully for you, but I think from now on I'm gonna stick with the Italian method to save me from hollow shell hell.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
(makes a 3 layer 6 inch (or thinner 7 inch) cake, macaron recipe from Trissalicious
For the lemon blueberry cake:
170g (1.5 sticks) butter, softened
3 cups (about 420g) plain/all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter, add an extra 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice + 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
300g (10.5oz/about 2 punnets) fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen)
  1. Grease and line three 15cm (6") or 18cm (7", will result in slightly thinner layers) round cake tins and preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). 
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Place lemon juice and milk in a jug together.
  3. Place butter and 1.5 cups sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electic mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. 
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.
  5. Fold in blueberries gently until evenly distributed.
  6. Split mixture between the three prepared tins and smooth tops with a spatula.
  7. Bake cakes for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 160 degrees. Bake until cakes are golden brown and firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 40-50 mins but timing will vary depending on your tin size (if on top and bottom rack, switch cakes between racks halfway through, baking). Let cool in tin on a wire rack, then turn out. Can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so before icing. 
For the lemon curd:
170g (about 4/5 cup) sugar
100ml (about 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
5 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for the macarons)
100g (about 1 stick minus 1 tbsp) butter, cubed
  1. Stir the sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and gradually add the hot lemon mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.  
  3. Return to the heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil. It is important to ensure this cooks for long enough or curd will be too runny for your macarons and cake.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter cubes, one at a time, stirring until fully combined. 
  5. Cover surface of mixture with clingfilm and refrigerate to allow it to set, at least 30 mins.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
For the macarons:
Note: this method uses an Italian meringue. If you prefer, you can continue to use the French method I normally use. 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
Almond Meal Paste:
125 grams almond meal
125 grams icing/confectioner's sugar
50 grams egg whites

Italian Meringue:
125g caster (granulated) sugar
35g water
50grams egg whites
Pinch of egg white powder
Optional: powdered/gel food colouring
  1. In a food processor, blend the almond meal, icing sugar and egg whites until this resembles a fine paste. Set aside.
  2. To make the Italian meringue, place the caster sugar in a saucepan.  Add the water and make sure that the sugar is dampened.  Heat the mixture and bring this to a boil (do not stir).  Place a candy thermometer in the syrup and take the temperature of 118°C (245°F)
  3. While the sugar is cooking, beat the egg whites and egg white powder using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat at medium speed until the eggs become foamy. Continue beating on high until stiff peaks form.
  4. Stop the syrup from cooking once it reaches 118°C (245°F) and take this off the heat and let the bubbling subside for a few seconds.  Pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream over the beaten egg whites while the continuing to whisk at medium speed.
  5. When all the syrup has been added, (add food colouring here) continue to beat until glossy and meringue has cooled to room temperature (around 10 to 15 minutes).
  6. Using a silicone spatula, fold a third of Italian meringue into the almond mixture to loosen it.  Then, fold in the rest of the Italian meringue.  (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) Continue folding and stirring until the batter is glossy, and fluid. 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. 
  7. 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 trays carefully and firmly on the benchtop a couple times to remove any large bubbles.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 tray of piped shells on top of an upside-down roasting tray or another baking tray, for better heat distribution.
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes. 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. 
  11. 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. 
  12. When completely cool, sandwich shells with set lemon curd (recipe above).
For the icing:
300g (about 2 & 2/3 sticks) butter
500g (about 4 cups) icing/confectioner's sugar, sifted
3-4 tbsp lemon juice, adjusted to taste and texture
To mix: blueberry jam, or this blueberry topping (strained) + 1/3 cup (about 40g) icing sugar, sifted
Optional: fresh blueberries and lemon curd macarons to decorate
  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 lemon juice then increase speed to high and beat until very pale and fluffy. 
  3. You may need to add more icing sugar if your mixture is too runny, if mixture is too stiff you can add more lemon juice or milk (if it is already sour enough). The icing should be smooth and easily spreadable, but stiff enough to hold its shape.
  4. Place 3/4 of the icing in a separate bowl and set aside. With the remaining 1/2 of icing add about 1 tbsp blueberry jam or topping and 1/3 cup icing sugar and beat again with an electric mixer to combine (you can adjust the amount of jam/icing sugar to taste here).
  5. To assemble cake; 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 lemon curd over the top of the cake. Repeat with remaining cakes and more lemon curd.
  7. Crumb coat cake with some of the plain lemon icing and then chill for about half an hour.
  8. Using an offset spatula, alternately swirl blobs of plain white icing and blueberry icing over the surface of the cake. Top cake with macarons and blueberries and chill to allow icing to set.
  9. Remove from the fridge at least 30 mins before serving to allow cake to come back to room temperature. Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several days.
Blueberry Swirl Cake with Lemon Curd Macarons
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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: 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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