Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD - All in One Holiday Bundt Cake

This week’s TWD is all in one holiday Bundt Cake and was chosen by Britin of the Nitty Britty. This cake is perfect for this time of year in the states – full of all the things that you associate with autumn and thanksgiving – pumpkin, cranberries, pecans and apples. Of course, we are heading into summer, not autumn here and we don’t celebrate thanksgiving, but this is the most delicious cake for any time of the year.

The recipe is easy to put together. The only more time intensive bit is that we don’t have canned mashed pumpkin here, so I cooked some pumpkin and mashed it. When I do this I do it in the microwave and don’t add any liquid, as that makes the pumpkin go watery. It is best to steam it. Also, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, fresh or even frozen cranberries are very rare here, so I used dried cranberries instead. I also only had a 70g packet of pecans which is about 2/3 of a cup instead of the cup stipulated in the recipe, but that was fine.

This was my second time using my bundt pan. Last time was to make Dorie’s banana bundt. This time I didn’t have such great success getting the cake out of the tin – I don’t think I left it for quite long enough before trying to remove it. But it was still mostly in one piece. I made the maple syrup glaze for the cake, but I think I watered it down too much and the glaze kind of ran off the cake. It still tasted pretty good.

I would definitely make this cake again. See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, November 20, 2009


A couple of weeks ago I made these cupcakes and I was so delighted with how they turned out. I really need to get back into the cupcake making thing again as they are so much fun. I also need to start thinking about Christmas treats. Now that I am nearly 30 weeks pregnant the time I used to spend baking in the evenings is now spent lying on the sofa watching Sex and the City – I have never seen this before, but started watching re-runs on Sky and am now addicted!! I need to start baking again in time for the Christmas baking extravaganza!

These cupcakes are the same lemon cupcakes I made for my baby shower. Even though they look completely different, the flavours are virtually the same. The pink ones were baked in pink paper cases, and I actually popped a raspberry in each cake before it was baked for lemon and raspberry cakes. I then tinted cream cheese icing pink, swirled it on top and topped with edible glitter and a white chocolate heart which I had used a chocolate transfer on. It was the first time I had used edible glitter and I probably used a bit too much, but they still looked cute.

The other cupcakes I left the cream cheese icing uncoloured and then topped them with a red icing flower which I made. The cases are red, so all colour co-ordinated. Not as great looking as the pink ones but still cute and effective. The thing with cupcakes is that it’s almost all in the look rather than the taste.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheese Scones

Recently I bought a new recipe book which is a breast cancer research fundraiser, but is full of the favourite baking recipes of well known NZ cooks. It is a lovely book and has some great recipes. I decided on Sunday to make the cheese scone recipe for lunch. I absolutely love cheese scones, but I have never really been a great scone maker.

This scone recipe is not your usual in that it contains an egg. In some ways this made the scones a little more like cheese puffs than cheese scones as they were very light. They also had buttermilk in them. When we came back from three months travelling round Europe five years ago, I always had buttermilk in the fridge, as our trip had included time bike touring round Ireland and I became addicted to Irish soda bread. The Irish soda bread recipe I was given by the owner of the B & B we stayed in in Tralee, included buttermilk – hence having it in the fridge. These days I don’t make as much bread and when a recipe calls for buttermilk I often add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sour. This is what I did on Sunday.

I made two thirds of the following recipe (using just the egg yolk rather than the whole egg) and it made 6 large cheese scones. They were delicious both hot from the oven and even once cooled later on in the day. They all got eaten before I could see whether they would have survived until the next day, although I think scones are always better on the day made and preferably hot from the oven.

Cheese Scones (adapted from a Treasury of NZ Baking)

3 c self raising flour
½ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
25g butter
100g grated tasty cheese
1 1/2c buttermilk (or sour your own milk by using my method above)
1 egg

• Combine flour, mustard powder and cayenne pepper
• Grate in butter and rub with fingers, stir in cheese
• Combine milk and egg
• Pour milk into a well in the middle of the flour and then us a knife to bring the dough together
• Pat out on a well floured bench and cut into scones. Sprinkle tops with a little more grated cheese
• Bake at 220c fanbake for 12 minutes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD - Sugar Topped Molasses Cookies

This week’s TWD recipe is sugar topped molasses spice cookies chosen by Pamela of Cookies with Boys. I was looking forward to making these cookies as I’ve never baked wit molasses before – it’s not really a product we use in NZ that much – we tend to use golden syrup instead which is a more mild syrup.

When I went supermarket shopping on Saturday the only molasses they had at two supermarkets was blackstrap molasses. I had a feeling that wasn’t quite right and when I went home and looked at the recipe, I was right – it specifically said not to use blackstrap molasses. I had a wee taste of the molasses and it was pretty disgusting – thick , very dark and strong. I decided to make a half batch of the cookies anyway just to see what they were like. I didn’t even get to cook them. I had a taste of the mixture and it was foul! I decided not to even bake the yucky tasting mixture.

Having thrown the cookie dough down the waste disposal, I made the cookie dough again using golden syrup rather than molasses. The cookies were delicious. They turned out very similar to a gingernut biscuit – crisp, spicy but with a little bit of chew. I didn’t make them as flat as suggested in the recipe, but they were still delicious. Perfect with a glass of cold milk.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Baby Shower Cupcakes for me

One thing I haven’t mentioned on my blog is that I am having a baby. I am 28 weeks pregnant with our first child and that is the main reason why my postings haven’t been as regular over the last few months as they were in the past. It is an extremely exciting time and I am pleased to say that I have been incredibly well and enjoying every minute of it.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Mum and Dad and two of my sisters were up in the weekend. Well, on Saturday Mum and my sisters hosted a baby shower for me. It was a lovely afternoon and our little baby was so spoiled! We had a lovely afternoon tea with sandwiches, asparagus rolls, a cheese board and these cupcakes and shortbread that I made. The cupcakes were lemon yoghurt cake and were topped with tinted whipped cream. I topped them with these little fondant booties which I made. There was a tutorial on one of my favourite blogs, Not Quite Nigella, some time ago. You can find it here. They are deceptively easy to make and look just so gorgeous.

The shortbread shapes are decorated with fondant and royal icing. They are pretty simple but sometimes less is more. As you will be able to tell from the colours, we are not sure what we are having, so are having a very fun time guessing!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Birthday Cake

When my in-laws were up a few weeks ago, it was my mother in law’s birthday. Rather than go out for dinner, I made a special dinner at home. I asked her what she would like for dinner and after her saying what ever you want to make a number of times, she confessed that her favourite is lamb. So, for the first time I cooked rack of lamb.

I used a Julie le Clerc recipe as a guide, coating the lamb rack in a crust made with breadcrumbs, sundried tomatoes and chopped olives. I think for my first go at lamb rack, I actually cooked it fairly well – cooked, but still lovely and pink in the middle. I served it with a salad of baby spinach, avocado and asparagus and cous cous.

I made a birthday cake for pudding. I used a recipe for a sponge cake from Ladies, A Plate. The forward to the recipe said that the cake didn’t rise high like a sponge cake usually would. And that was the truth. Even though the cake tasted lovely, I was a little disappointed with how flat it was. I did manage to cut in half and cream it (the cream is the best part of a sponge cake as far as I am concerned) and I did ice the top of the cake which is something I wouldn’t normally do but it was suggested the recipe. I then decorated the top of the cake with some icing flowers I made a while ago.

I wont make this cake again – it’s probably the first recipe from Ladies, A Plate that I haven’t really enjoyed, but if you want a very easy (albeit not terribly high!) sponge cake, then give it a go.

Birthday Sponge Cake (from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnson)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
70g icing sugar
55g flour

• Beat eggs, yolk and icing sugar until thick, pale and creamy
• Sift over flour and fold in
• Pour into a 20cm round tin which has had its base lined
• Bake at 190c for 25-30 minutes or until the cake has begun to shrink from the sides and bounces back when you touch the middle
• Cool on wire rack, then split and fill with whipped cream

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD Cran Apple Crisp

This week’s TWD recipe is cran apple crisp and was chosen by Em of the Repressed pastry Chef. As I mentioned yesterday we had my family staying over the weekend and it was pretty hectic. I almost forgot to make my cran apple crisp until last night when I quickly made dinner before we took Mum and Dad to the airport. I guess that this proves that cran apple crisp is a quick and easy dessert to make.

Cran apple crisp is basically like an apple crumble with the addition of cranberries, both fresh and dried. I was lazy and just made my crisp with canned apple slices and dried cranberries – you can very rarely buy fresh cranberries in NZ and the frozen ones are also hard to come by. The topping was a crumble made with the addition of rolled oats, thread coconut, cinnamon and ginger. We ate the crisp with yoghurt and a little milk.

We all loved this – leftovers would be good for breakfast as well!! See if the other TWDers enjoyed it here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carrot Cake

My third sister (there are four of us) turns 30 next weekend and she and my youngest sister were up in the weekend, so I made her an early birthday cake. Mum and Dad were up as well so we had a wonderful weekend, but did miss sister #2. My sister’s favourite cake is carrot cake, but a plain carrot cake with no sultanas, pineapple etc in it. I have to say I am with her on that one, although I don’t mind walnuts in carrot cake.

I made the recipe from one of Annabel Langbein’s book. It makes a large, 23cm cake, but I actually made a higher cake in a 20cm cake tin. The cake is very easy to make – the recipe says to whiz it up in the food processor, but as I had my cake mixer out making other things, I just made it in that. The cake was beautiful and moist as well and is definitely my “go to” carrot cake recipe. I covered it with cream cheese icing and simply decorated it with little icing flowers I made a while ago. This recipe would make great cupcakes as well.

Carrot Cake (Annabel Langbein)

1 c neutral oil (I used rice bran oil)
2 c raw sugar
4 eggs
1 c wholemeal flour
1 c plain flour
3 c grated carrot
1 tsp each mixed spice and ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp orange juice (I used milk)

• Beat together oil, sugar and eggs
• Beat in flour, then carrot and spices and lastly baking soda
• Pour into lined 23 or 20cm round cake tin
• Bake at 160c for 50-60 minutes or until cooked through
• When cold ice with cream cheese icing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oaty Caramel Slice

My in-laws were up last week. My father in law was helping build a part of our new fence. As I have mentioned before, it always like to fill the tins before guests arrived and this time I made some biscuits (which I will blog about at a later date) and this oaty caramel slice. Both were a hit, but in particular the caramel slice. As you know by now, I love caramel slice. I actually love caramel, so it doesn’t particularly bother me what kind of caramel slice it is. This oaty one could fool you into thinking that it was a little bit good for you. But, even though the oats do offer up a little more fibre than some of the other variations of caramel slice that I make, the amount of butter in this slice probably counteracts against the wholesomeness of the oats!

The original recipe had chopped dates in the crumble topping. I didn’t have any dates at home, so I substituted dried apricots. I actually think that dates would probably work better as they would probably incorporate into the topping a little more – the apricots tended to fall off. I also made the slice in a smaller tin than that specified and while that was good for the caramel layer, if I made this again I would make it in the bigger tin but do 1 ½ times the caramel. The recipe used purchased caramelised condensed milk (similar to dulche de leuche). However, you can make your own by boiling an un-opened can of condensed milk for 2 hours, making sure you keep the water topped up to cover the can, and you are very careful when opening the can, as the hot caramel often splutters (a friend once got a bad pock mark on her forehead when opening a hot can of caramelised condensed milk).

Oaty Caramel Slice

220g butter
1 c brown sugar
1 c rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
380g can caramelised condensed milk (I would use 1 1/.2 or even 2 cans)

• Melt butter and then add in rest of ingredients other than condensed milk
• Press into a 20x30 cm tin and bake at 180c for 15-20 minutes
• Lightly cool, spread over caramel and then sprinkle with the following topping and bake for a further 15 minutes

1 c rolled oats
1 c finely chopped dates or dried apricots
½ tsp cinnamon
½ c flour
100g butter

• Combine dry ingredients and then rub in butter to make a crumble mixture

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Caramel chestnut Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is another rich cake – Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake, and was chosen by Katya of Second Dinner. I have to admit yet again, that this is a cake that I would have by-passed if I wasn’t baking my way through this book. It is a layer cake (layer cakes aren’t as big in NZ as they seem to be in the States) and is a reach concoction of two types of chocolate ganache and chestnuts.

The actual cake is a sponge made with sweetened chestnut paste. For some reason I had a tube of vanilla sweetened chestnut paste in the pantry. I had never used it before, and must have bought it one day, just in case, but not really knowing what I would do with it. The cake is a lovely, light cake as you beat the egg whites separately and fold into the cake mixture at the end. I actually thought that the cake was quite delicious by itself without the addition of the yummy but a bit sickly ganache.

The cake is layered with a caramel milk chocolate ganache made by making a caramel sauce then adding milk chocolate and a little bit of dark chocolate. You then beat in butter once this mixture has cooled. The amount of butter used seemed a lot, so I halved it as the ganache was tasty enough and creamy enough without having to add a lot of butter. The cake was cut into three layers and a good dollop of ganache spread between each layer. You were meant to sprinkle chopped chestnuts over the ganache, but even though it was a chestnut cake, I left them out – it is the wrong season for chestnuts here and the vacuum packed ones aren’t stocked at my supermarket and I didn’t go searching for them at a specialty food store.

The whole cake was covered in a glaze which was essentially dark chocolate ganache. I made ¼ of the recipe which made two little 10cm cakes. I decorated the tops with gold dragees. To be honest I wouldn’t make this cake again as I found the end result to be a bit too sickly sweet. Layer cakes are a bit too much for me unless they are layered with whipped cream.

See if the other TWDers enjoyed the cake more than I did here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Raspberry and Almond Cakes

A couple of Saturday nights ago, my husband and I had one of those rare Saturday nights where we had nothing on. I made him mussels for dinner (one of his favourite things, except this time I did them in a tamarind coconut cream broth and he wasn’t overly fussed on the tamarind flavour) and salmon for me (I don’t like mussels). Even though we don’t usually have dessert when it is just the two of us, I thought it would be nice to make something and I so I made us a little raspberry and almond cupcake each.

The recipe is in Donna Hay’s latest book and is actually for a full cake. I scaled the recipe back to 1/3 of the original and made two little cakes. The cake recipe is really a friand recipe – made with egg whites, ground nuts, melted butter and icing sugar. I like the idea of making little cakes from this recipe as the finished product is light and delicate and kind of suits little cakes, rather than one big one. I have given the recipe below for 6 little cakes, but the recipe does easily scale down.

Raspberry and Almond Cakes (adapted from Donna Hay)

1/3 c flour
2/3 c ground almonds
1 c icing sugar
90g butter, melted and cooled
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 c raspberries (I used frozen)

• Combine all ingredients other than the raspberries. Mix well, but do not beat
• Stir in raspberries and spoon into little cake moulds or cases
• Bake at 160c for 35-40 minutes or until the thin blade of a knife comes out clean
• Serve warm or at room temperature with extra raspberries and whipped cream