Sunday, 21 July 2013

Petal Ombré Cake

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts

Things to view with suspicion: people who wear sneakers and track pants more than necessary and don't get any thinner, people who write baking blogs and complain about not getting any thinner, people who have multiple subscriptions to food magazines and a) don't get time to read them b) complain about not getting any thinner, people who don't strictly work for a living but complain about not having any time, particularly for exercising, and therefore complain about not getting any thinner.

Shut up already, I know. It's just because Anthopologie keeps emailing me pictures of pretty dresses and I think, oh I can see me in that, oh, wait no, I've just had a baby and August is cake month.

The forecast for girly whining in the coming weeks is dire. If I was Mr LP, I'd invest in earmuffs and practice my eye-rolling.

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts

So anyway, this is me making the best of it. If you've got five birthday cakes and a couple of extras on your horizon, may as well make them good.

I noticed too that it isn't August yet. Yes well cake month started early this year with Master O's triple layered petal ombre baptism cake.

I first saw this deceptively detailed style of frosting on Pretty Prudent in a tutorial by The Hungry Housewife and filed it under "one day." If you're going to attempt this cake, I recommend having a look at the step by step pics here.

I thought it would be extreme on the difficult and fiddly scale but it was actually kind of easy. This was in part because I kept to a simple vanilla pound cake and also because I took a shortcut and used three shades of frosting instead of six.

The original recipe calls for traditional buttercream frosting but I jazzed it up a little with a silky meringue buttercream and filled the layers with whipped white chocolate ganache.

Once I found my groove with the technique, the petals were done in less than an hour. Spare time never happens to me, so I was quietly smug.

My shortcut meant that some of the ombré shading was lost, and I used longer strokes with my pallet knife because I thought I was going to be short on frosting* but I still think the finished cake was pretty - if a little rustic. People said lots of lovely things to me about it, like how professional it looked, which is always reassuring when you've swapped a newsroom for a kitchen. Now all I have to do is take my trackpant wearing butt and swap the kitchen for the pavement once in a while before September.
*I ended up with frosting left over so I will shorten my strokes slightly next time. 

Photo thanks to Matt Rogers

To create the white chocolate disc in the centre of the cake, place a large circle shaped pastry cutter with a smooth edge onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and pour in 100g of melted white chocolate. Place in the fridge for at least an hour until set hard, then slide it out and pipe your message with melted, slightly cooled, dark chocolate.

Here is another, on top of part two of cake month: a rainbow cake for a friend's twin girls. Recipe here.

Coming next week, a caramel slice cake that I will attempt to make look pretty and girly as per the brief for my niece's high tea party. Any ideas for how to make this happen are very welcome!

Petal Ombré Cake
*You will need to start this recipe a day ahead.

250g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 cup milk
Blue and violet gel food colouring

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line the bases of three 22cm round cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.
Transfer to a large bowl and stir in half the flour and milk, followed by remaining flour and milk.
Divide the mixture evenly between cake tins, spread to the edges and smooth the tops.
Bake for 18-20 mins, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool at least 5 minutes in tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Cakes can be stored in an airtight container overnight or frozen for up to two months.

White Chocolate Ganache
400g white chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
200ml single pouring cream

Place white chocolate pieces in a bowl.
Heat cream to nearly boiling and then pour it over the white chocolate.
Whisk by hand until combined. Leave to thicken overnight.

For the meringue buttercream frosting, I followed this recipe by Warren Brown and flavoured it with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

To assemble, prepare a cake board, position one cake in the centre and then spread with white chocolate ganache using a pallet knife. Repeat with remaining cakes. Also spread the ganache over the top of the cake, taking care to smooth the top with a pallet knife.
Spread a thin layer of meringue buttercream over the sides of the cake, then divide the remaining mixture between four bowls.
Leave one bowl vanilla, tint the next bowl with 1 teaspoon of blue food colouring and 1/2 teaspoon of violet food colouring. Combine the remaining two bowls together and tint with 1/2 teaspoon of blue food colouring.
Place the three different colours of meringue buttercream into three disposable piping bags fitted with size 12 plain nozzles.
Pipe generous dots down the side of the cake in this order from top to bottom: vanilla, light blue, light blue, dark blue. Smooth into petal shapes with a pallet knife as per tutorial. Repeat with the rest of the cake until the sides are complete. Follow the same pattern on the top of the cake. If using a white chocolate message disc, leave a 10cm round circle in the centre. When frosting on top of the cake is complete, place bite chocolate disc in the centre. 

Birthday candles would look great placed around the disc.

Photo thanks to Siobhan at BeaSpoke Quilts

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tiramisu Cupcakes

I have mentioned before that I am a bit addicted to cooking shows. Especially reality ones. 

Cupcake Wars is my latest guilty pleasure. It's a bit like letting a bunch of Jerry Springer contestants loose in the kitchen (think lots of shouting, swearing at each other and bad hair accessories) but some of their creations look incredible. 

Teams of two professional cupcake bakers compete for the chance to serve their cupcakes at a big event, like a movie premiere, big fashion show or sports match. The aim is to make it to the third round, where they have to bake and decorate 1000 cupcakes in two hours. Fun!

Feeding my bubba each morning, I'm usually sitting in front of my new fave show (bless you Foxtel) and the result is a bad craving for a fabulous cupcake. One like the multi-faceted cake/filling/frosting combos I had in NYC last year. Wow, I've had a baby since then!

I have a few birthday parties coming up, so what better excuse to try putting my own spin on a cupcake?

If I was facing the judges in Cupcake Wars, I'd say (in my best mid-west twang) something like: "So, here I have for you a coffee butter cake, filled with a chocolate pastry cream, topped with a mascarpone cream frosting, finished with a dusting of cocoa." And this would be one of the shorter descriptions.

If I was just me, telling you about it in me speak, I'd say it was yummo. 

And it comes with the promise of leftover chocolate custard in the fridge...

These little creations were perfect for this month's Sweet Adventure Blog Hop with the theme of Sweet Surprise, hosted by first time guest hostess Love Swah

Sweet Adventures Blog Hop - July 2013

Check out her delicious looking rosewater and pistachio cupcakes and hop over to the other lovely blogs below to see more fab desserts with hidden surprises.

Tiramisu Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes with extra custard)

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup strong espresso coffee mixed with 1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 160C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cupcake cases.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add in eggs, one at a time and mix until combined.
Stir in flour and coffee with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Using an ice cream scoop or two spoons, fill the cupcake cases with mixture until 3/4 full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until light golden. Leave cakes to cool for 10 minutes in tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Pastry Cream:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1 1/2 cups pouring cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (I used Tia Maria)
150g dark chocolate

Melt chocolate gently over a saucepan of simmering water.
Heat cream and milk in another heavy-based saucepan until nearly boiling. Do not boil.
While this is heating, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl until thick and pale.
When the cream and milk are ready, pour into the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you go.
Immediately pour the combined mixture back into the same saucepan you used to heat the cream and milk, and place back on a medium heat.
Stir the custard until it thickens (2-3 mins).
Whisk in the vanilla and liqueur, then the chocolate, until you have a silky custard.
Pass the mixture through a sieve to eliminate any lumps, then cover the surface with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to cool completely.

250ml marscapone cheese
150ml pouring cream
1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
Cocoa, for dusting

Beat the marscapone, cream and icing sugar together in bowl of an electric mixer until thick and soft peaks form.

To assemble cakes, cut a deep circle out of the centre of each cupcake and fill each hole with chocolate pastry cream. 
Spoon the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle (or one of your choice) and pipe onto the top of each cake, covering up the chocolate cream.
Arrange onto a serving plate and dust with cocoa.

Enjoy being your own cupcake rock star. I did.

Monday, 1 July 2013

How to get super foods into little super heroes

We are very much into super heroes around here. Buzz Lightyear and Action Chugger in particular. At any given moment, the latter will come zooming across my line of sight to rescue some poor toy in distress (we have had to ban Master N from tying them upside down from the blind cords) with theme song and catch cry, "I'm number one and I get the job done." Action Chugger is, in truth, a bit of a tool but I don't have the heart to tell my toddler.

Aspiring super heroes need super foods but do you think I can get anything green into my child on that pretext? He is wise to most of my ploys, including bribes, so I have taken to disguising vegetables until he works out that they're actually not that bad. Like maybe when he's 35. My husband still balks at salad. Food that food eats, he calls it.

Cooking for this pair has resulted in a couple of dinner favourites packed with invisible goodness. That sounds like a super power right there, doesn't it. I still have to talk them up to the nearly three year old Mr Suspicious, so they have exaggerated names that bear only a distant resemblance to what they actually are but he doesn't seem to notice.

Being me and chronically time challenged whether I have a lot on or not, these recipes can be prepped in minutes and then it's just a matter of the cooking. Master N likes to help with stirring and they're all good for that too.

I also had to include something sweet. These jewelled chocolate crackles with a secret ingredient of Turkish Delight are not at all healthy but they do raise the boring average crackle to super new heights. Seriously, they're an easy kids in the kitchen treat to whip up together and in the following days they're a morning tea snack worth fighting your toddler for. I'm not a fan of the copha traditionally used in the back-of-pack recipe so I replace most of it with straight chocolate. Much tastier.


Cheesy bacon and corn "pancakes"
Makes about 10

One zucchini (courgette), grated
One small can of creamed corn
Two rashers bacon, diced
Optional: two shallots (scallions), chopped
Optional: handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Three tablespoons flour
One egg, lightly whisked
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat a large fry pan over medium heat and spray with oil.
Dollop pikelet sized fritters around the pan and cook for four or five minutes each side until golden.
Serve as is for kids. For adults, serve on top of dressed rocket leaves with a teaspoon of sour cream and tomato relish.

Spinach and ricotta "pizza" (actually a quickie quesadilla)
Makes 4

One packet of wholemeal tortillas
100g fresh ricotta
100g frozen spinach, cooked and drained (I microwave mine for 2 mins)
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
Optional: roasted diced sweet potato (I make a habit of having these in my fridge)
Optional: sweet chilli sauce

Mix the ricotta, spinach and tasty cheese in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Smear the mixture on one tortilla and if using, scatter around the sweet potato and drizzle with a small amount of sweet chilli sauce. Top with another tortilla.
Place in a hot sandwich press for one or two minutes until crispy and the cheese is melted.
Cut into wedges and serve. 
My kid calls this pizza. I like to call it bar snacks. Pass the Coronas.

Super easy mac and cheese (with hidden cauliflower)

2 cups cooked small pasta shapes like macaroni/shells/elbows/spirals
2 cans creamed corn
1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into small florets and cooked (I steam mine in the microwave for 5 mins)
150ml sour cream
1 cup grated tasty cheese

Preheat oven to 200C.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, season with salt and black pepper, and pour into a greased gratin dish.
Bake for 30-35 mins until golden brown.
This works well as a side or an easy weekend main. Kids will like this as is but adults may like it even better with a scattering of fresh basil leaves to serve.

Jewelled chocolate crackles

4 cups Rice Bubbles or puffed rice cereal
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
200g milk chocolate
50g copha
4 bars of Frys Chocolate covered Turkish Delight, chopped into small squares

Melt the copha and chocolate together slowly in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Line a tray with paper cupcake wrappers. Silver foil ones look especially pretty when finished.
Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the melted chocolate and copha and mix until all combined.
Stir in half the chopped Turkish Delight.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake wrappers and scatter with remaining pieces of Turkish Delight.
Place in the fridge to cool for at least two hours until set.