Turning Two and Champagne

Birthdays, as grown ups (I can't use the word adult, I'm not good at adulting) should always be celebrated with champagne. And as this blogs second birthday coincided with a 50th at the office, a Champagne Cake seemed the way to go.

Given how unseasonably warm its been as well, a Raspberry, Cream and Champagne cake seemed like an even BETTER idea. I would have loved to have used real cream, but given the transport required to get it into the office, a champagne buttercream was the safest method to go with.

I found the sponge and raspberry curd recipes on an aussie blog, which made measurements easier, however I was a little uncertain about what to use as 'cake flour'. Given the lack of raising agents, I decided to go with self-raising. The sponge was still a little flatter than I would liked, but I can think of a few recipients that would enjoy a rebake.

I will admit this is a very 'girlie' cake, and wouldn't be out of place at a baby or bridal shower.

Raspberry and Champagne Celebration Cake adapted from Erin Made This

Ingredients

For the sponge layers

  • 6 eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted

For the champagne syrup

  • 3/4 cup champagne
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar

For the raspberry curd

  • 500g frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 60g unsalted butter

For the champagne buttercream

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 330g icing (powdered) sugar
  • 100ml champagne syrup
  • drizzle of curd until it turns the pink colour you want

Method

For the sponge layers

Preheat your oven to 180C and you'll need to prepare two 20-22cm round cake tins, greasing and lining.

With your stand mixer (or a handheld if you're more patient then me) beat together the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and fluffy.

Fold through the flour and butter, then pour equally into the cake tins. Bake for 25-30mins or until cooked through. Rest in the tins for 10mins then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the curd

Blend or blitz the raspberries in either your blender or food processor until smooth and then strain through a fine sieve.

Place in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice to simmer on a low heat.

In a seperate bowl whisk the eggs and the egg yolks in a small bowl, then use some of the warm raspberry mixture to temper the eggs by adding 1/4 cup or so to the eggs and whisking.

Add the egg mixture into the raspberry mix and return to the stove on a medium/low heat AND KEEP WHISKING while you add the butter.

Whisk whisk whisk until thickened, then allow to cool completely.

For the syrup

Place the sugar and champagne in a saucepan (this became tricky as I only had one appropriately sized saucepan).

Heat over a low heat until the mix reduces by a third.

Brush each cake layer with syrup.

For the buttercream

Using a mixer, beat the butter in a bowl for 3-4 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and the champagne syrup and continue to beat until smooth. Be patient, the smoother the consistency the better. Start drizzling in the curd to make it the kind of pink you like. You'll have a crazy amount of curd so don't worry about quantities.

Assembly!

Place layer one of your champagne brushed sponge on your cake stand/plate/whatever.

Spread a layer of buttercream over this and 1/3 (or more!) cup of the curd.

 

Place the next sponge layer and coat completely with the buttercream (or not if you like a naked cake).

I then decorated the top with crumbled up flake, sliced and hulled strawberries and I cheated and bought wafer flowers.

 

Whiskey is ALWAYS a good idea

So we’re fairly well settled into our new home now. I finally unpacked my ridiculous collection of shoes and tidied up under the stairs. When I get round to buying a spare bed and we consider having a housewarming party you’ll know that we’ve properly finished this moving in lark. We have found ourselves pretty busy every weekend since we’ve moved, but I did find time to remember some birthdays and produce a cake.

I’m a sucker for trying to match a flavour to a birthday so I probably spent way too much time searching for something interesting on Pinterest than I should have. It paid dividends though, as I found this Gingerbread Layer Cake with Whiskey Salted Caramel which was perfect for my Whiskey loving friend.

Given this was delivered to work on a Wednesday it meant very rapidly baking a cake during my lunch break (hello MasterChef style timed challenge) and then making caramel and buttercream once I’d finished work and before hubby got his dinner (sorry hubby).

This was definitely one of my more ‘rustic’ looking cakes, especially as I didn’t bother with evening up my layers (or actually turning the two cakes into four layers), but the feedback from happy birthday participants was positive, and I had the satisfaction of watching every last slice disappear.

The gingerbread layers speak a very Christmas-y language, but given June is *technically* winter here, I figure we can get away with it, and it made a lovely difference from the stock standard chocolate cake we normally see (and there is nothing wrong with stock standard chocolate cake). And after watching someone dip slices of apple into the Whiskey Caramel I’m wondering if caramel apples might be a good idea!!

 

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Salted Whiskey Caramel

From topwithcinnamon.com

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 110g treacle
  • 110g golden syrup
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar, not packed
  • 2 medium eggs (I used large because its what I had)
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

For the Salted Whiskey Caramel Sauce

  • 250g caster sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp whiskey
  • 1-2 tsp flaky sea salt

For the Whiskey Caramel Buttercream

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 330g icing (powdered) sugar
  • 100ml salted whiskey caramel

 

Method

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare two 18cm round, deep cake tins by greasing and lining the base with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the butter, treacle and golden syrup in a large saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted.
  3. Beat in the sugar and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk together. Slowly beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
  5. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt into the saucepan and beat until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached.
  7. Let cool for about 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the icing and caramel sauce.

For the caramel sauce

  1. Heat the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the sugar into the liquid areas of the pan without stirring.
  2. While the sugar is melting, gently warm the cream and butter in a separate pan until the butter has melted.
  3. After about, 10 minute, or once the sugar has completed melted and is a dark amber colour, remove the saucepan from the heat.
  4. Immediately whisk in the warm cream and butter mixture (be careful, as the hot caramel can splash up). If the sugar solidifies, return the pan to medium heat until the mixture is liquid again.
  5. Stir in the salt and whiskey.
  6. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a heatproof bowl to remove any remaining lumps of sugar and leave to cool.

For the buttercream

  1. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter in a bowl for 3 – 4 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and whiskey caramel sauce then continue to beat for another 2 -3 minutes until smooth.

 

Assembly

  1. Level the cakes by cutting off the domed tops (I like using a serrated knife for this) and split each layer in half so that you four layers in total.
  2. Spread the first layer with about 1/6 of the buttercream. Make a thicker layer of buttercream like a dam around the edges and spoon in about 2 tbsp of the slightly cooled caramel. Place the second layer and repeat the buttercream/caramel process. Repeat with the third layer and place fourth tier on top. Cover the entire cake with the remains of the buttercream. Chill for 30 minutes then pour over the caramel.

 

 

Birthday Marble Cake

It was my birthday on Monday. Another year older, and this year has been, well, a lot quieter than the last one in some ways. But aside from the fact that I’m at that point where you really don’t want to get any older, I’m kinda glad we’re getting to the end of 2015.

I’m spending the week before and after Christmas away from home, at my parents in Hervey Bay. And very much enjoying having a much bigger kitchen to play in, even if I am missing my Kitchenaid almost as much as I miss my husband who doesn’t arrive until VERY LATE Christmas Eve. He can’t be too late though, because he has my Christmas present!

This is the cake I made for my and my twin sisters birthday. I found the recipe through Pinterest, and like a lot of things you find in Pinterest, the recipe was deceiving. To my eye, things were in the wrong order, and the instructions were a bit vague and abstract. So I’m not sharing the actual recipe because I don’t want you to fall down the same rabbithole.

When I’ve had a chance (and Christmas week is NOT the time for experimentation) I’ll work out the kinks and post it.

In the meantime, its a Chocolate and Peanut Butter marble cake, with a Peanut Butter Ganache Icing and Chocolate Drizzle. Its probably one of my ugliest cakes. But, version 2 will be better, with the kinks firmly ironed out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35 and counting.

Friday the 16th was hubbys birthday. And while last years Four Element Rum Cake will go down in history as the most appropriate cake ever made for him, it was perhaps not thought of so fondly by the parents of the young children we shared it with.

So this time, I took the rest of my audience into account, and made perhaps my most visually impressive cake of all time.

I found this recipe in the Woolworths free recipe magazine, and instead of making my own chocolate bark, I just bought up a bunch of chocolates and decorated like crazy.

Given the numbers I was catering for I also chose to make two two-tier cakes instead of one four-tier. Although if I did that again I'd make more of the nutella buttercream frosting.

This cake was dense, and the buttercream mellowed out the strong nutella flavour. So even a couple of 'non-nutella' people (who are they?) liked the cake.

The first one we ate with hubbys family (there was 11 of us, but one too little for cake), with a slice saved over for my sister….who shared it with her daughter who demanded 'more cakey mummy' between bites.

The second one we actually took camping with us for the weekend, and shared with a group of nine. Only made possible because one couple has the most amazing 4WD caravan with a proper fridge.

If you have something a bit special to celebrate….this is certainly a very very delicious chocolate way to do so.

 

Happy Birthday!

Today marks the 12 month mark since I made my first post on this blog. Granted, timings have been a little hit and miss but I'm pretty pleased with the fact that we're 12 months in and I'm still blogging.

I didn't take a lot of photos of this cake, and none of the preparation. It was hard. There was SO MUCH batter, and I didn't really think things through, for example, the cake batter? 7 bowls people. 7. Try doing that in a kitchen that's been turned upside down. Which mine had. Bench space is hard to find in the first place but with the upside-downidness….even harder.

I made a smaller cake than the recipe called for and then filled up my 12 mini Bundt pan, and then filled up my 6 friand tray. Sadly upon turning out I lost (deliciously) 1 friand and possibly all but three of the bundts. I'm scared to look (I did look, we have a container full of delicious crumbs).

The recipe is dense and delicious and all of the chocolate, which I think every first birthday calls for. I didn't have enough semi-sweet chocolate so I used a big mix of white, semi and dark chocolate. I don't care, it's still delicious.

A five egg batter is huge. HUGE. So make sure you save your biggest electric mixer bowl for that bit. I didn't and had to do some tricky switching around.

Because I had no candles, I had sparkles. If doubt, ALWAYS wear sparkles.

 

 

July 4th….on the 5th

Living in Australia, we don't celebrate the American 4th July. Its not a long weekend, and its not our independence. Probably because we're still not independent. Thats ok. But this year, Hubby and I hosted my sister, her hubby and little girl for a 4th July BBQ.

To be honest, we just wanted an excuse to eat our own body weight in BBQ, and Thank You! America for providing it.

Of course, these things never seem to go quite to plan, so we had our BBQ on the 5th July. And the night before my oven broke. Which meant corn bread and apple pie were baked in our hooded BBQ.

So what did we eat? BBQ Brisket in bread rolls with coleslaw and cheese sauce, Chilli Dogs that were so Chilli no one but me could eat them, Corn Bread, and Corn Cobs, and then Apple Pie made by my sister with a custard pastry served with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Ice Cream made by me.

And the receipe I'm sharing here, is for the Jalapeno Poppers I made. Which were delicious and so close to the ones I had in Hawaii on honeymoon.

I found the receipe here, and the only thing we all agreed on was that something needs to be done (perhaps blanching?) to take away that 'raw chilli' element. When reheated they were amazing, so I'm thinking next time, cook them, then reheat in the oven when we want them…….I reckon they'd even freeze and reheat beautifully……

Thanks America, you star-spangled legend you.

 

Anniversaries, cake and strawberry ice cream

At the beginning of May, my hubby and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. The lovely thing about having gotten married at a restaurant on top of a mountain, means we can revisit it each year. Assuming of course that The Summit at Mt Cootha doesn't close down anytime soon!

We had a lovely meal, in the best seats, and even had a view of some fireworks from Suncorp Stadium. We ordered an entree and main each, but, skipped dessert in favour for a slice of wedding cake frozen from last year.

I made some strawberry ice cream to add something extra, we weren't sure how well the cake would hold up after 12months. But after, it was just lovely, and we had it over a couple of nights, with ice cream, and chocolate sauce.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk, chilled
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups thickened cream, chilled
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries

Method

Put the strawberries in your food processor and blitz until, chunky but the kind of size you'd want as chunks in your ice cream. Set aside.

Using a whisk, or electric mixer, or similiar, whisk to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the cream and vanilla to taste, mix in the strawberries and pop into your ice cream maker.

 

 

Anzac Biscuits, for Anzac Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing on Gallipoli in 1915. Its a day that, now, is a national day to remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Traditionally, across the country there will be Dawn services, marches, ceremonies where we pay our respect.

Personally, I can't help but watch the Dawn services televised from Gallipoli and more recently from Villers-Bretonneux in France. A few years ago on Anzac Day I watched a brilliant interview with a nurse from WWII, which just goes to show that its no longer 'just' a WWI day of remembrance.

Of course, food becomes part of any kind of event, and for today, it has to be Anzac Biscuits.

The story goes, that women made these sturdy, long-shelf-life, biscuits to send from Australia to our boys fighting so far from home. There's no dairy other than butter (which never goes off) so we could take comfort that they would survive the long long long boat ride. There are endless recipes, but they are much the same, rolled oats, flour, coconut, golden syrup, butter, bicarb and sugar. Some add fruits, some use treacle or swap brown and white sugar around.

Its been a long time since I'd made them. But I decided, in honour of the 100 year anniversary it was high time I made them again.

My first trial batch made on a weekend went well, made 28 biscuits and we happily munched on them all week. They were the perfect combination of chewy inside and crunchy outside.

The next batch I made on Tuesday night, and well, lets just say I left out one ingredient (I blame listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter for distracting me) and they were baked at the same time as our dinner.

Moroccan Chicken flavoured Anzac Biscuits are very strange. Very. Strange. They also had a weird consistency.

Round three, last night, I was still listening to Mr Fry, however, the oven was empty and I laid out all my ingredients to be sure I didn't forget any. Much more of a success and today we have an excellent batch of these to chow down on.

My receipe came from the May 2015 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Although I did swap out half a cup of rolled oats for half a cup of shredded coconut, and I used brown sugar insted of white.

Anzac biscuits, makes about 28

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

Preheat the oven to 150C. Line 4 trays with baking paper (or like me, you can cook in two batches).

Put flour in a large bowl and stir in the oats and sugar.

Put butter, syrup and hot water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until butter has melted.

Stir bicarbonate of soda into syrup mixture and remove from heat (it'll go all puffy and awesome).

Add warm syrup mixture to oat mixture and stir until well combined.

Shape tablespoons of the mixture into 28 balls. Arrange on prepared trays about 8cm apart. Press each ball lightly with your fingers to flatten slightly.

Bake, in batches, for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on trays.

Be careful when you pull them out of the oven, as the biscuits will be very soft, they harden as they cool.

 

 

3.5hrs, a hot day and the best cheesecake ever

Its my sister-in-laws birthday (you know, the brave one that took a knife out of my hands at Christmas) and I couldn't think of a better idea than to make her a birthday cake, rather than a store bought one.

She is an absolute Nutella fanatic. So I started googling all different nutella cheesecake recipes. The cheesecake is because I made one last year and she asked if she could book one in for her birthday (its amazing what I remember…or don't). I looked at all different kinds, and despite our oppressive heat and humidity I pretty much disregarded the no-bake versions out of hand. I know, I'm a cheesecake snob, but I just love the baked varieties.

I found this recipe for a New York Baked Nutella Cheesecake and got excited. Seriously. Its like my three favourite things IN A NAME. I did have to make a couple of substitutions based on what I had, and what I was prepared to spend (marscarpone is EXPENSIVE!!).

So rather than 600g of jacob's digestive biscuits, I used 500g Arnotts Choc Ripple biscuits and made up the difference with teddy bear biscuits. I stand by my choice.

And instead of 600g of marscarpone and 600g of cream cheese, I used 500g marscarpone and 700g cream cheese.

I didn't simmer my nutella jar, but I did fill my sink with hot water and sit the jar in that. (Hubby's idea, he's an ideas man). It worked just fine.

Oh, and while I'm remembering, instead of putting the filling ingredients in a food processor (because it wouldn't fit) I used the kitchenaid and did it that way. Much bigger capacity for 1.2kg of cheese and assorted other ingredients.

I checked the cake after 2.5hrs, and it was NOWHERE NEAR cooked. So after being told repeatedly by hubby that we have nowhere to be and to not stress, I put it back for another hour.

At which point, while a skewer did come out clean, the cake looked terrible. It had risen quite high, and cracked very badly, a section at the back had fallen off onto the base of the oven, and to be honest I felt beaten. I left it to cool down and hoped when I came back I would be able to inact the 'disguse the ugly bits' plan Hubby had come up with.

I will admit to being impressed by the height of the biscuit crumb. Even if I'm nervous about how we will cut it.

A second quick trip to the grocery store and we were in business with 'disguise the ugly top' plan.

Whipped cream and some flake crumbs later and I had a cake I am still extremely proud of.

It sliced up fine with a bit of downward force, and possible most important the birthday girl loved it.
 

It's a little grown up for the kiddies, but for us grown ups, it's smooth and lush and everything a cheesecake should be. If it's not oppressively hot where you are….you need to make this!

 

Orange you glad to see me?

I can't get the image of a hypnotised Christian Slater offering to get orange sherbert out of my mind. Mostly because I made orange creamsicle sherbert as part of a New Years Eve dessert. I had two oranges left over from the Christmas insanity so it seemed like a good way to use them up. And it's crazy hot here so cold desserts are better.

I cut the original recipe in half, because the whole recipe when I made strawberry ice cream broke the lid on my machine. This worked much better and was actually frozen when I took it out.

To go with my sherbert I borrowed a clementine cake recipe from Jamie's Great Britain cookbook, but instead of making a big cake, or predictable cupcakes, I used my brand new mini Bundt tray. I think they look adorable.

I'm skipping out on the lemon icing though, I think the sherbert is sugar enough!!

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2015 is more good things than bad. Starting with cake and icecream hopefully bodes well!

Orange Creamsicle Sherbert – adapted from the Cuisinart Recipe Booklet

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup orange juice (about the juice of one naval orange)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup thickened cream
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of half the orange

Method

Put the juice and sugar in a blender and blitz until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream, milk, vanilla extract and zest then blitz to combine.

Pour into your ice cream maker and set for 60mins. One finished swap into an airtight container and pop into the freezer until you're ready to serve.

Little Orange Cakes – from Jamie's Great Britian cookbook, My Nan's Clementine Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 large orange (zest and juice)
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g self-raising flour

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C. Grease a 12 tin mini Bundt tray, or 12 cupcakes, or a 20cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin.

Beat the softened butter with 125g caster sugar and until it's light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well inbetween. Add the zest, fold in the ground almonds and sift in the flour.e. Mix and gently combine everything before spooning into your chosen tin. Bake for about 30mins (less for mini bundts and cupcakes – keep an eye on them) or until risen and golden. Check with a skewer if uncertain, it should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin while you make the orange syrup.

Put the remaining 100g of caster sugar into a pan and add the juice of the orange. Place the pan on a medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still hot, poke lots of holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup all over it. Once the syrup has been absorbed move to a wire rack to cool.

Serve cake and sherbert together in a very humid hot summers night.