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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Brownies, to make up for a long absence.

I know. Its been a very long time. I've had a half written Valentines Day post for two months. But its too embarrassing to post it now.

What I find amazing is how quickly time can fly by. One minute your happily chowing down on chocolate brownies with your sister at Jamie's Italian, the next two months have past and you're finally able to share your own version of it.

We inhaled that brownie (we did share it). It was amazing. Dense, dark, chewy, with a crispy edge, and ice cream and chocolate sauce to make the perfect dessert.

And you can make it at home. Like I did. Twice so far. Jamie put it in one of his cookbooks (which is where I found it), and he also posted it online because he's a champion.

Heads up, it makes a LOT of chocolate brownie. We served it with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and chopped peanuts. How do you like yours?

Recipe is over here (we omitted the cherries and nuts, but next time…ahh third times the charm) but tell me, why aren't you already making this?

 

Calories be damned

Sometimes my mum or my sister will send me an email or text, or facebook message with a recipe that we just have to try. My sister sent me this one after she started watching the Mary Berry TV show.

I sat on it for probably two weeks. There was a lot of looking through my fridge and pantry to make sure I still had the ingredients (I did), and a lot of going back and going back (and going back) to reread the recipe.

My fingers started itching. I dug through my baking cupboard to make sure I had the right tin (I do!). And then finally, on a Friday night caved. Calories be damned I wanted chocolate tart.

The trouble is…..Brisbane in January is not a good time to bake. As an individual I'm already baking and you've never seen a cake, in the oven cooking, making a batch of cookies. There's a reason for that (and its nothing to do with cake being an inanimate object I assure you).

Still. I had to try. I did learn that Mary's receipe for pastry does NOT like Brisbane humidity (much like me) and fits your tin EXACTLY. There is no leftover pastry. It did shrink a little when I did the first bake, so the chocolate filling probably could have done two shells…..I couldn't face the heat again so I will admit I brought some premade shells the next day to use up the last of chocolate filling. It also freezes WONDERFULLY (much to the disgust of my workmates who usually reap the benefits of my baking). I put quite a lot of it in the freezer and I ate a slice today, straight from the freezer, and now have visions of using it as the base for the most epic ice cream cake…..

Please make this….on a day when you don't have 90% humidity.

Chocolate Fondant Tart – from Mary Berry Cooks

I followed the receipe on the BBC website almost to the letter, just substituting a little of the dark chocolate for milk….

 

Easy like Sunday morning

Sunday was my birthday. A whole year has simply flown by and this one was pretty hectic. Most excitingly perhaps was the fact that we finally got married and had a simply amazing honeymoon.

With all the preparations we have coming up for Christmas I didn't get the opportunity to make a cake. Thankfully though I'm a twin, and my twin sister received a shiny watermelon Kitchenaid and she couldn't wait to make a cake with it.

We had a lazy family afternoon at Mon Komo with lunch and cocktails, then after a quick nap, hubby and I had dinner at Jamie's new Italian restaurant in Brisbane. Hubby's gift to me? A cuisine art ice cream maker, so be prepared for lots of ice cream and gelati as it continues to get hotter here.

Intense Chocolate Cake – from SmittenKitchen (her cookbook, not the blog)

This was quite a small cake, and too be honest, it looked sad. You had a slice because you felt bad. But, once sliced you could see it was almost a mousse cake, and moist, delicious and as the name suggests, intense. We ate it with a scoop of Black Forest ice cream, but cream or vanilla would be just as good.

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, plus more for pan
  • 115g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine or flakey sea salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a 15cm round springform tin with a circle of parchment paper. Generously butter sides of pan and parchment round.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over a medium heat, stirring for even cooking. After the butter melts it will then hiss and splatter a bit as the water cooks off, and the. The fragrant brown bits will form at the bottom of the saucepan. The whole process will take about 3 minutes. Quickly remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted and smooth. Cool the chocolate mixture to lukewarm.

With an electric beater, beat the egg yolks, brown sugar, and vanilla together until the mixture thickens and takes on a icky pale-yellow-brown colour. Slowly beat in the lukewarm chocolate mixture, and a pretty colour will return. The mixture will become very thick but will loosen significantly once we add the egg whites.

Wipe clean, wash, and dry your electric beater(s), beat egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until firm peaks form. Add a pinch of cinnamon, if desired. Stir one-third of egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining two-third of egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining two-thirds in gently, trying to keep the batter as light as possible. Pour into prepared pan, and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it is puffed with a lovely dome on top (don't get attached to it!) and a tester or skewer comes out clean or with just a couple of crumbs attached.

Let cool on rack for 10 minutes (it will sink in the middle) then run a knife around the cake to maker sure it's not stuck to the pan, and release the springform sides. Let it cool the rest of the way on its base. Once it's cool, flip out onto a plate or second rack, remove parchment round from the bottom and flip cake back onto a small plate. Cut, and serve with ice cream, or cream, or while hiding from everyone you know.

 

 

Rum, Rum, Rum

My husbands birthday each year is….hmmm…difficult. I want to celebrate, and he wants to pretend its a normal day. I won, I think this year, in a quiet, but fun with the most awesome present I could think to buy him. An enormous hooded BBQ that I’m pretty sure he could cook me in….

I spent a couple of weeks wondering what to do about a birthday cake. He only has a few favourite things, one being Bundeberg Rum (yes, I married a rum drinker….but at least we don’t have to worry about each other drinking our own booze!) and another being chocolate.

So I started wondering…..how could I make the most amazing chocolate and rum based cake? And then, of course, it spiralled uncontrollably from there.

There are four elements to this cake, each one with its own hit of rum, so of course, when the extended family dropped by, the kiddies missed out on rum balls, and had very skinny slices.

It took quite a lot of coordination to get all the elements together, and perhaps my rum balls were too big, as the final product didn’t quite look how I’d imagined it would. But, it all disappeared pretty quickly, and most importantly the birthday boy thought it was pretty damn fine.

Michael’s Birthday Rum Cake – with White Chocolate Creme Pattisiere, Chocolate Rum Fudge Icing, and Rum Balls

The Chocolate Cake – adapted from KitchenAid

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (55g) dark baking cocoa
  • 50ml boiling water
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (280g) caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of strawberry jam

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a deep 20cm cake pan with butter and baking paper.

Place the cocoa, boiling water and rum in a bowl and mix until smooth. Set aside.

Place the butter in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 20 secs. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. This could be up to five minutes so don’t be in a rush.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scrapping down the sides if required. Once all the eggs are in, turn the mixer off to add the flour, cocoa mixture, and jam. Beat on a low-speed until its well combined. My mixer is a little high, so I make sure to use a spatula to get the bottom mixed in.

Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 50mins. Just be careful of the sides and top getting dried out, you might need to pop a foil cover over to protect it.

Stand for 10 minutes before turning out. Allow to cool completely.

The White Chocolate Creme Pattisierre – taken from my Chocolate E’clair receipe

Chocolate Rum Fudge Icing – adapted from Donna Hay magazine, Issue 76 – Chocolate friands with mocha fudge icing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) single pouring cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 300g dark chocolate (either chopped or in buttons)

Method

Place the cream and rum in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes before whisking until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool for 30-40 minutes.

When ready to ice the cake, whisk the icing to ensure smooth.

Rum Balls – adapted Donna Hay magazine, Issue 72 – Dark Chocolate and Rum Truffles

Ingredients

  • 300g store-bought fruit cake
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 200g dark chocolate, melted
  • 400g dark chocolate, extra, melted

Method

Place the fruit cake and rum in a food processor and process to combine. Place the mixture in a bowl with the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until just set.

Roll the mixture into teaspoon sized balls. Using two forks, dip the truffles into the extra melted chocolate and place on a lightly greased wire rack over a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Refrigerate until set.

Putting it all together!

I pinched the Jamie Oliver method with toothpicks to cut my cake into two layers. It’s not 100% foolproof but certainly gets me closer than winging it with my serrated knife.

Fill the layers with as much White Chocolate Creme Pattissiere as you like. For me it’s definitely more is better!

Top with the Chocolate Rum Fudge Icing, and then add as many Rum Balls as you fancy.

Add sparklers, sing enthusiastically and enjoy.

Chocolate E’clairs

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The messy, but finished product

This is one of those things that I’d long ago pegged as much to hard. Too many elements, too much to go wrong, and without a stand mixer, just too tricky. Then of course I got my beautiful KitchenAid and realised, that perhaps….perhaps it was time to quietly have a go. And I mulled over that for a little while, and let my fingers itch with anticipation of tackling something new.

Then, one of the blogs I follow made them, and made it look easy. So I cleared my weekend, bought the ingredients I was missing, and made my first attempt.

Which went in the bin before I made the crème patisserie.

What I was missing was a calm, patient hand when piping the pastry. I also need to adjust the bake time, as it was devastatingly to short.

Then I had pastry shells which, while still having room for improvement, were definitely acceptable for a first attempt.

Second attempt at the pastry

Second attempt at the pastry

Then I found a white chocolate crème patisserie. So simple, so easy, and the chocolate ganache almost made itself. Added bonus? Mixing the left over ganache and crème patisserie into my ice cream maker for another day. All kinds of delicious.

These babies have an extraordinarily short shelf life. So try to make them the day you want them. That being said, I made them Sunday, and ate the last one Thursday, and it was ok.

Chocolate E’Clairs – from zoebakes.com

make the crème patisserie (white chocolate pastry cream) first.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks (freeze your whites for another bake)
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
  • 2 tablespoons white rum (optional)
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Method

In a pan, heat the milk and half the castor sugar over a medium heat until simmering. In a separate bowl combine the yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt.

Once the milk has come to a simmer, ladle a small amount out (I used a 1/4 cup for this) and whisk it into the egg mixture to warm it up. This prevents the eggs from cooking too quickly. Keep doing this until the mixture is warm to touch, then whisk the whole lot into the pot of milk.

Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil, whisk it vigorously for about 3 minutes so that you are sure to cook the cornflour. Whisk in the vanilla, rum and butter until its smooth.

Place in a large bowl and immediately whisk in the chopped white chocolate.

Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Pâte à choux (cream puff dough)

Makes quite a lot, so have plenty of hungry mouths ready when you’re done.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon castor sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature if possible

Method

Preheat the oven to 425oF. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a rapid simmer. Dump the flour in all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon over a low heat. Because I cook with a dodgy electric stove top, I had two elements going, one on a medium heat to get everything to a simmer, and another on a low heat that I swapped to once the flour was added.

The dough will come together as a smooth ball and the bottom will have a skim of dough stuck to it. This happened faster than I thought it would. Remove the dough from the pot, and place in the bowl of your stand mixer. Which should be fitted with your paddle attachment. Beat well in between adding each egg individually. Depending on your mixer you may need to scrap the sides of the bowl down between eggs.

Once it comes together as a smooth paste and is thick enough to hold its shape, then you’re all ready for piping.

My cheap disposable pastry bags didn’t come with a nozzle large enough, so I just cut the end of the bag of at a point that suited me. The trick I’ve found is to pipe SLOWLY, this is not a raise. Push as much dough into each pastry shell as you can along about a 3 inch line on your parchment paper. They’ll spread sideways a little, but you don’t need to leave miles of room.

This is where I varied from the original recipe. I baked my eclairs for 15 minutes at the high temperature, then I dropped it to 375oF for the next 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them, everyone’s oven is different, and my first attempt using the lower temp, and a much shorter cook time was a complete fail. When you drop the temp, rotate your trays and swap shelves.

Once baked, let them cool to room temperature.

Ganache

This ganache never sets hard like tempered chocolate, so don’t expect it to crack when you bite into your eclair.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Method

Heat the cream to a simmer. Add the chocolate, swirl the pan to cover the chocolate with the cream and allow to sit for 2 minutes.

Gently stir the cream and chocolate together. You don’t want to whip too much air into it or it won’t be smooth and shiny.

Assemble your eclairs

Cut your eclair pastry shells open along the side with a sharp knife.

Gently stir the pastry cream and pipe it into the pastry shells. Don’t be stingy here!

Dip into the ganache, or paint on and refrigerate until ready to eat.