Monday, 23 July 2012

Party Season - Rainbow Cake

It’s party season around here. My little beartiger, the ever cheeky Master N, is about to turn two. Two! The time has passed in a blink. Suddenly he is running, jumping and talking in sentences. Coming out with things like, “Whatcha doing Daddy?” and, while scoffing dinner the other night, “It’s delicious!” He makes me fall about laughing pretty much every day. I am ridiculously proud of my beautiful blue-eyed boy.

Party season kicked off last weekend with our mothers’ group joint birthday bash. We hired a beachside scout hall, brought along play tents, ball pits, bubbles, music and party food, and then stood around catching up while our little mites ran free for a couple of hours. Yes, this is my idea of a pretty good time these days!

I made the cake. Last year we were a bit disorganised and ended up with (gasp) supermarket sponges as an afterthought. It didn’t really matter then because the babies were still babies but this year I thought we could have some fun with it.

Then I ran out of time. So typical! So, no animal designs or fiddly shapes were considered as they take an eternity! This is the reason I know: the scene on the kitchen bench last year after midnight when Mr LP, my Mum and I finally finished Master N’s train cake. 

Note the wineglasses – an essential if any shred of humour is to be found in arguing over the correct shade of red frosting and placement of ornamental smarties at 11.45pm.

For minimum fuss with maximum impact, this year I chose a rainbow cake, adapted from here (recipe below). It looks very impressive with its six coloured layers, but there’s no drawing and cutting out shapes involved and this simplifies things greatly. It took two batches of mixture, six gel-based food colours, one batch of vanilla frosting and some white freckles. Done!

Forgive the presentation in a box. I wasn’t risking moving it onto a cake plate! I had to settle for cake plate pics with the leftovers.

It still looked pretty cool on the day. I think I got away with it :)

That’s one cake down. Now I have Master N’s upcoming party to plan and another cake to decide on. I grew up with Mum making birthday cakes for us each year (usually chosen by us kids based on the quantity of lollies involved) and now I love doing them too – from scanning the birthday cake books to buying all the sweets and working out how to do it. 

How about you? Do you like to get your hands in the frosting and DIY cake, or do you prefer to save time and buy yours? 

Larissa x

Rainbow Cake (Gluten Free)
(Recipe adapted from Whisk Kid’s Rainbow Cake and Donna Hay Kids 2011 Pink Layer Cake)
You will need 3 x 22cm round cake tins for this recipe
This cake requires two quantities of the Basic Vanilla Cake. I recommend making the six cakes in two lots, baking three at a time.

2 x quantities basic vanilla cake
1 x quantity vanilla frosting
1 x quantity white chocolate freckles
Gel Food Colours in purple, blue, green, orange, yellow and red

Make two batches of basic vanilla cakes, using six different colours of gel based food colouring.
Cool all six cakes entirely before assembling the final cake.
Place purple layer first on a cake board or your serving plate. Use a pallet knife to spread over a modest layer of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers in order of blue, green, yellow, orange, and finishing with red on top.
Spread the sides and top of cake with remaining icing, creating a smooth finish as you go. A good tip is to run the pallet knife under hot water, dry thoroughly with a tea towel, then use it to smooth the frosting.
Decorate the base of the cake with a single layer of white chocolate freckles.

Basic Vanilla Cake:
250g butter, softened
385g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 ½ cups rice flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 160C. 
Grease and line the base of three x 22cm round cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Place the butter, caster sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined each time. 
Add half the sifted flour and baking powder and half the milk and mix on low speed until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour, baking powder and milk.
Divide the mixture between three bowls. Colour each mixture accordingly, using one to two teaspoons of gel colouring to achieve a vibrant colour. No pastels here!
Pour cake batters into tins and bake for 20-22 mins or until a cake skewer comes out clean.
Cool in tins before turning onto wire racks.

Vanilla Frosting:
500g butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups icing sugar

Beat butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer for 4-6 minutes until as white as possible. 
Mixing on a low speed, add one tablespoon of icing sugar at a time until all incorporated. 
Turn up mixing speed and beat for about 8 minutes until light and fluffy. 

White Chocolate Freckles
100g white chocolate
Hundreds and thousands

Melt chocolate gently in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. When most of the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and stir gently until fully melted. 
Line a baking tray with a sheet of non-stick baking paper.
Place chocolate in a small piping bag (I use glad sandwich zip lock bags and snip the end off). 
Pipe medium freckle sized discs (or however large you want your freckles to be) onto the baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over hundreds and thousands. Leave in a cool dry place to set.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Growing the empire

Late in 2007, Mr LP took his new fiancĂ©e, being me, to the top of a hill in Sydney that I’d never seen before. He thought I might like the Tea Rooms at The Gunners’ Barracks as a possible wedding venue. He was right, of course. The view across the harbour was breathtaking.

It is just as beautiful from the bottom of the hill at Chowder Bay, where we stopped for a coffee at Bacino Bar afterwards to discuss our plans. A short stroll away, past the historical sandstone buildings of the navy base, down the old steps past Ripples restaurant, is Bacino’s little sister kiosk, perched on a rock above the bay at Clifton Gardens.

In summer, with its deck chairs and sun umbrellas fanned out across the rock, it looks like a scene straight out of Positano.

Mr LP and I eventually chose to tie the knot in the Hunter Valley. But in a strange twist of fate, I am now supplying Little Pudding cakes to that very same Bacino and its funky beachside kiosk.

Which means I get to visit this very beautiful corner of Sydney every week :) And occasionally indulge in their damn fine breakfast panini!

I should also mention that Little Pudding goodies can now be found at Biroska Brazil, the charming old-world cafe tucked away inside the Sydney Antique Centre in Surry Hills.

Every time I deliver there I am dazzled by the gorgeous displays and the sheer range of incredible stuff for sale – from 50’s vintage Mad Men dresses, to old signs, tables, glassware, cabinets, crockery, artworks, cushions,... *takes breath*

I haven’t let myself have a decent look around. I’d be in there for days. Search parties would be needed. And that wouldn’t do, because things are a tad busy around here!

And where are these lovely cafs??
  • Bacino Bar Chowder Bay – Building 14, Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman NSW, Ph: 02 9460 4566
  • Bacino Kiosk Clifton Gardens - Clifton Gardens Beach Walkway, Clifton Gardens NSW
  • Biroska Brazil - Upstairs inside the Sydney Antique Centre, 531 South Dowling St, Surry Hills NSW

Larissa x

Monday, 2 July 2012

Gluten Free Citrus Cakes

I was recently asked by one of my lovely cafe crew if I would have a go at creating little gluten free lemon cakes. 

I love having an excuse to experiment in the kitchen. It’s one of the main reasons I started this blog – to document the results. All of them. The good and the...interesting!

For this challenge, I tried two versions of a citrus cake. I use lemons all the time in my baking. I’m a little bored of them to tell you the truth. So I added some orange zest and called it citrus. 

The first, a dense, buttery variation of my GF friand recipe - topped with lemon frosting and pretty sugared violet petals - was the winner with the cafe. You might see them soon at Bacino in Chowder Bay & Clifton Gardens ;)

The other is more of a mini sponge cake, which, when sandwiched with clotted cream and passionfruit, makes a gorgeous afternoon tea treat.

The sponges were an accident. Taking my queues from traditional syrup cakes, I began by boiling the fruit until soft and pulpy before blitzing it and adding the rest of the ingredients. I was going for something dense and high. What I got was moist and light but not high enough to serve on their own.
I thought they were a flop but Mr LP said they were very tasty indeed, so I reconsidered. I managed to hide a few from him to make these little sponges :)

Both versions are quite easy to make so take your pick, or try both!

Larissa xx

Have you ever set out to make one thing and ended up with a completely different, but equally good, result?

Lemon frosted Citrus Cakes – gluten free
Makes 24 

250g butter
1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of ½ a lemon
Zest of ½ an orange
6 egg whites

1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 packet of sugared violet petals (I source mine from Coco Chocolate)

Preheat oven to 160C
Grease a 24 hole mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Melt butter gently in a small saucepan over low heat.
Mix together the almond meal, sifted flour, baking powder and icing sugar, lemon and orange zest in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the egg whites followed by the melted butter.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 12 – 15 mins until risen and golden.
Cool for five mins in tin before lifting onto wire rack to cool completely before icing.
For the icing, mix the lemon juice into the icing sugar until you have a thick, oozy icing.
Spread the icing on the top of each cake carefully until it just seeps over the edges.
Top each with a couple of sugared violets.

Gluten Free Citrus Sponges with Clotted Cream and Passionfruit
Makes 12 assembled sponges 

1 orange
1 lemon
½ cup rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 ½ cups icing sugar
4 eggs 
125g butter, melted

To serve: 
Clotted or whipped cream
Pulp of 4 fresh passionfruit

Preheat oven to 160C.
Grease a 24-hole mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Place the orange and lemon in a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour.
Drain and cool the fruit slightly before roughly chopping into quarters, removing any seeds and core. Place the fruit into a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Add the rice flour, baking powder, almond meal, icing sugar, and two of the eggs, and blitz again until all combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining two eggs with an electric beater (I used a hand-held stick mixer with a whisk attachment) until thick and pale and doubled in volume (about 2-3 mins).
In two batches, gently pour the mixture from the food processor into the eggs and fold until just combined.
Lastly, add in the melted butter, folding in gently until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 15 mins or until light golden and puffed.
Allow to cool slightly before lifting cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To serve, place a dollop of clotted or whipped cream and a drizzle of fresh passionfruit onto one cake and top with another cake. Repeat with remaining cakes. 
Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.