Thursday, 27 December 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

It's super weird how things move really quickly, isn't it?

Well, things "in general", like, say attempting to maintain a blog for leisure, seem to pass in a millisecond and other things, sometimes unwanted and uncomfortable things (like the final exam period in your final school year EVER) take an eternity. In short, I'm sorry I have been away for so long, I have missed you, my little blog!

Much has happened over the time I have spent away from the joys of baking + photographing. Exams were done, holidays to Vietnam were taken, marks were given back, oh, and that little thing called Christmas happened too. Everything is happening and changing so fast now, I'm at the edge of this new huge part of my life. In one aspect, I absolutely cannot wait to go to university, and move out, and do all these things I've been dreaming of doing forever. I got the marks to get into my ideal course, I have everything sorted to move away, and I have been slowly accumulating vintage teacups and sewing bunting to decorate my room at college! But then, on the other hand, I'm scared. And nervous. And I absolutely positively have no idea what I'm about to get myself into. Help!

But then, change seems really scary until you're actually doing it. And everything seems really hard and scary until it's done. So I guess I'll keep on going with life, baking and taking photos and IN NO WAY THINKING ABOUT SCHOOL OR STUDY. 

^This is my vintage high tea stand. Do you like my vintage high tea stand? It is one of my most favourite things in the whole world, and I will use it and love it until it can be used and loved no more. I enjoy putting things on it, like these Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes I made.

Christmas was lovely, and I am hoping that yours was too, whoever you are. These would have been good to make at Christmas, I think, but hey, who needs an excuse to make Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes!

The cupcake itself is gorgeous and has a nice dense, but not heavy, crumb. Then I decided to put chocolate ganache in the centre to emphasise that this was not just a chocolate cupcake, but was a true ode to the delight of chocolate dipped strawberries that I have made with my mum and devoured from a young age. Nothing says love or family or summer like chocolate dipped strawberries. The buttercream has pureed fresh strawberries in it instead of strawberry essence to make it actually taste like strawberries, because really, strawberry essence tastes like sweetened medicine and nothing at all like the delicious berry we all know and love. Then I topped it all with a chocolate dipped strawberry... because it was necessary.

So please make these for your family and loved ones, they will speak for themselves. It's basically like giving someone a hug in the form of a cupcake! Enjoy baking, and keep doing the things you love, no matter how much time has passed and how out of practise you feel!

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 12

{Chocolate cupcake recipe adapted from 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly}

300g milk chocolate, chopped
300g unsalted butter
5 eggs
115g caster sugar
115g self raising flour

Chocolate Ganache:
200g milk or dark chocolate
150ml thickened cream

Strawberry Buttercream:
375g icing sugar, sifted
225g unsalted butter, softened
200g chopped/ pureed strawberries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:
Chocolate ganache (see above)
12 strawberries


For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius and place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin.
In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together. Leave to cool a little.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and thick, then fold in the flour, then the melted chocolate and butter. Mix well.
Spoon mixture into cases and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes in muffin tray. Then move to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before scooping out little divets in the tops.

To make the chocolate ganache, Place the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until it melts. Add the cream and stir until uniform and glossy. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour, until thickened. Then, spoon a teaspoon of the ganache into each cupcake - you should have scopped out toe divets into

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Chocolate M & M Cake

Ooh! Hello!

I'm good, thank you :) I'm assuming you're great too? Well, if you aren't, I'm pretty sure that this cake will make you feel jolly again.

I'm feeling sort of jolly right now. Tomorrow, school goes back, and it will by my last term of school EVER in the history of the world! It's extremely exciting, but also kind of scary and a teensy bit sad. But I think I'm ready for life outside of school. There's a whole big world out there waiting for me, and now I can contribute to it. Yay!

But then there's the HSC exams to think about, which occur before any of this exciting stuff happens. Maybe, if I close my eyes and cover my ears, and hum nice songs for the next three months, it will go away? Here's hoping!

In any case, there's always baking therapy to get me through.

Now that I think of it, keeping this blog, and baking for people, making them happy, has been one of the things that have kept me motivated throughout this rigorous period of school. Baking really does have an impact on your emotions. I think I've dealt really well with all the adversities of my final school year.

I mean, who wouldn't be happy looking at this cake? I definitely had a fun time making it, the rainbow-ness of it all put a smile on my dial :)

The "heART" word on the top of the cake is there because I made this cake for my art class last week, when we had an art workshop for the day. I think it went over rather well, very colourful for the bright, bubbly artists! And I can never resist a pun...

I first saw the M & M technique used on Sprinkle Bakes, but the technique is a well-known and well-loved one! It does take a bit of time, separating all the lollies into their colours, putting them individually on the cake etc. But it's impressive, and if you need some baking therapy, this is it my friends!

You could most definitely use Skittles instead of M & Ms, or some other miniature coloured lolly,  but since I was making a chocolate cake, I thought M & Ms were highly appropriate. The cake itself is gorgeous and soft, and the coffee in it brings out the chocolate flavour even more!

I have a large cake tin, but if yours are quite small or shallow, you could divide the mixture into three pans for a layer cake. You could fill it with some chocolate ganache, or the buttercream used as the icing here - you could even be adventurous and sprinkle some extra M & Ms in there, if you aren't convinced there's enough already!

Happy baking folks!

Chocolate M & M Cake

Makes one glorious, jolly cake (serves about 30)

Recipe adapted from the Sprinkle Bakes Cookbook, by Heather Baird

200g dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups strong black coffee, fresh and hot
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla Buttercream:
250g unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Milk, if necessary
3 packets M & Ms


To make the cake, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a large (or 3 shallow) 20cm cake tins.

Put the chocolate and hot coffee in a heatproof bowl and stir until fully melted. When smooth, set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoapowder, soda, powder and salt. Stir in sugar until combined.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a mixer until thickened and light. Add the canola oil and cooled coffee-chocolate mixture. Beat again until combined.

Add flour mixture and beat on medium until just combined. Pour batter into cake tins and bake for 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely in tins before turning out onto a wire rack. Ice when completely cooled.

For the icing, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and icing sugar. Mix on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract and beat for another minute, until light and fluffy. If too stiff, add a little milk until consistency is firm, but spreadable.

Spread evenly over cake with an offset spatula. Separate M & Ms into separate colours, and order M & Ms into colour gradient (eg. red, orange, yellow etc.). Starting at the base, press M & Ms individually into butter cream, making your way around the cake. For the next row, above the bottom, position the M & M of the corresponding colour slightly to the right of the first one, and continue around. Decorate the top however you please!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Toblerone Cookies

Happy (winter) Holidays everyone!

I've just returned from a four-day trek in the bush. Let's just say it was fun, but I am sooooo happy to be experiencing the joys of my shower and bed. When you're in the bush, you start fantasising about all the different things you could be doing, foods you could be eating etc. when you're at home. I think we all went a little crazy! Don't get me wrong, sleeping in a dirty cave is... nice, but I appreciate my home a great deal now!

The fact that it was so cold and wet on the trek made coming home a lot more satisfying I think, too. I was absolutely soaked to the core out there, so I'm glad to be in the dry. And now that I'm at home, typing away, it's such a beautiful day! Dammit, weather! Humph.

I actually had a great time on the trek. I really improved my navigational skills, and talked to kids and teachers that I might not usually have been able to talk to. So all in all, it was a good experience. And I did get to test out some... ahem, interesting combinations of ingredients.

Fact:  Vegemite + raw carrots = winning combination.

Fact: Sultanas + dry crackers = surprisingly tasty.

Fact: All food tastes better in the bush.

But really, we all know that these Toblerone Cookies I whipped up this morning for my sister's friends, look DAMN TASTY.

Ooh yes. I decided to chop up a big ol' triangular prism of the stuff and incorporate them into some mighty fine biscuits. The idea just came to me, most probably because I was in serious need of baking therapy after my stressful time in the bush.

And I made them little triangles! So they would look just like... you get the idea.

These cookies are so cute and triangular! Chocolate enjoyers will... enjoy the reference to the Swiss prism-y chocolate bar, and will most definitely appreciate their amazing, overwhelming chocolate and almond taste. To top it all off, the chunks of Toblerone inside the cookies stays all melty, even when the biscuits are cooled - yay! I know how much you all enjoy melty chocolate chunks :)

Well, I think that settles that. You shall make these cookies, and rejoice when their soft crumb teases and delights your palette. And also, these are most definitely a milk-and-cookies kind of cookie, so please don't disrespect that. (Unless you're a bit of a biscuit-rebel).

Toblerone Cookies

{Cookie dough recipe adapted from "Chocolate Magic" by Kate Shirazi. Toblerone idea adapted from Angela's brain.)

Makes 20

1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
85g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
300g milk or dark Toblerone, coarsely chopped
150g slivered almonds, lightly toasted


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy, then add the vanilla and eggs. Fold in Toblerone chunks and slivered almonds until evenly spread throughout. Fold flour mixture through wet mixture until combined.

On a large square of baking paper, place the mixture and mould into a triangular prism shape (like Toblerone) with floured hands. Fold baking paper over the sides, shape further, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Remove from freezer, cut into triangles about 1 cm thick, reshape quickly if needed, and place cookies on baking trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Cookies will firm up when cooled.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Caramel Apple Birthday Cake

Why hello you gorgeous people!

So it would seem that all my assessments are over... for now. AND it would also seem that the weather is grey, wet and horrible, perfect for staying indoors. AND it would ALSO seem that it was my dad's birthday yesterday... so what can I say?
The stars aligned. I just had to bake a great big birthday cake.

This cake is a bit of an homage to the transition of the seasons (it was kind of autumn a couple of weeks ago, but now, it's, kind of winter.) I thought the flavour combination, and the rich earthy tones of the icing and caramel would...
Ah I'm just kidding, I just made this cake because my dad really likes apple cake! And I kind of like caramel. So I googled 'caramel apple cake', and there it was, from "baked" (I really like these guys, it's a shame I didn't know about them when I was in New York last year!)
I tweaked the recipe for the icing (I just used Heather from Sprinkle Bakes' salted caramel icing, and also the hard caramel decorations - from her new cookbook, which is amazing!)

This cake looks really impressive, but really, it's not that difficult. And the apple cake is so soft and light, and SO APPLE-Y!
You can also decorate the cake however you want, I had never made hard caramel before, so I just kind of improvised drizzling the stuff all over some baking paper, and stuck it all over the cake however I pleased! You don't even have to make the caramel or the icing if you don't want to, I think the apple cake would be really nice just made as a loaf cake.
But as a whole, the cake and icing and hard caramel are sooooo good. Did I mention it was good?

Folks, you will need to crumb coat this one. See above.

I just love the hard caramel on top of the cake. The organic shapes look really impressive, and they taste good too! Just like the toffees you used to get from the canteen and school fetes when you were young. I made some little caramel droplets too, which I decorated the base with.

Dad had a really good birthday. I love you Papa C!

Caramel Apple Birthday Cake

Makes a big birthday cake, serves 20

For the apple sauce:
6 red apples, peeled, cored and chopped.
1 cup apple juice
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

For the apple cake:
4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
180g (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups home-made apple sauce

For the salted caramel buttercream:
3/4 cup caster sugar
6 tbsp water
3/4 cup lite thickened cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
3 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar

For the hard caramel:
1 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice


Apple Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, and stir to combine. Cook voer medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher until all solids are removed. Cool till room temperature.

Apple Cake:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line 3 round cake tins of the same size with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy and combined.
Add eggs, and mix until combined.

Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, alternating additions with the apple sauce. Stir until combined, making sure no pockets of flour are left unnoticed!

Divide the batter between cake tins. Smooth tops, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Transfer cakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Salted Caramel Buttercream:

In a saucepan, stir together sugar and water, bringing to the boil over a medium-high heat. Cook without stirring until the sugar has liquified and has turned a deep amber colour. Be careful of burning it though! You must watch carefully!
Remove from the heat and add in cream and vanilla, stirring to comnbine. Allow to cool until barely warm, yet still pourable.

With an electric mixer, beat sugar, salt and butter until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add icing sugar. Add the caramel, and beat again until misture is light and airy (about 4 minutes). Frosting is now ready to use.

Hard Caramel decorations:

Fill your kitchen sink halfway with icy cold water. Line baking trays with baking paper.

Put sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and heat over a medium-high heat. Cook without stirring, instead swirling the pan a little, until caramel is a nice amber colour. Remove from the heat and sit the saucepan in the iced water for about 3 seconds to stop further cooking. The pan will sizzle!

Working really quickly, use a spoon to gather caramel in the sauce and drizzle it over the baking paper, in whatever crazy shape you want. You could go for circles, waves or just "abstract" drizzles like I did. Leave to harden.


Place one of the cooled cake layers on a large plate and level off the top using a bread knife. Spread a little of the buttercream over the top so it fully and evenly covers the cake. Repeat with other layers, stacking one upon the other as you go. Put the last layer of cake bottom-side up, so it is nice and flat.
Crumb coat the cake: Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of buttercream over the whole cake. (See photo above). Place in fridge for 30 minutes until the cake is chilled (this will make it easier to ice later).

Once chilled, evenly spread the rest of the icing all over the cake. Now, with the hardened caramel, go crazy! Stick whatever shapes you have all over the cake. Have fun with it!

Congratulations! And also (if applicable), Happy Birthday!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Nutella Muffins

Hello once again :)

Sigh. It's cold. Winter is coming...

And also: yay! Winter's coming! I can wear Ugg boots all day and drink hot drinks all the time and supremely enjoy turning my electric blanket on at night!

I'm not sure what the weather's like at your house, but here at mine, it's blustery and chilly and the air is so clear and fresh. Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year. I just feel so alive! When you breathe in, you appreciate the oxygen filling your lungs, and when you go outside, you can just SMELL THE NATURE! It's so invigorating! It makes me feel like I can run off into the forest and brefriend some big-eyed woodland animals and sing and dance with them while they braid my hair.

...Or maybe, I could just make some muffins?

Ooh! It was my birthday this week. Wednesday the 23rd. I had a lovely birthday, made extremely special by my family and good friends. And my mum made me a cake! All by herself! Made with love, and chocolate! It was amazing, better than any store-bought cake. Maybe you should bake more often, Mum. (Hint.)

Speaking of baking... Muffins! Nutella! Strawberries! More Nutella! To me, it sounds like a recipe for success.
Do I really need to explain these? I think they speak for themselves, loud and clear. To be enjoyed any time, anywhere. Anything with Nutella is bound to be good - but these are friggin' amazing!

I don't usually make muffins, but I saw these in the Nutella cookbook I bought when in Noumea last month. And yes, before you ask, I HAVE A NUTELLA COOKBOOK.
It's in French, but luckily for me, je parle le francais!

So I used these muffins as an excuse to say I was studying French. Which I was. Sort of.

S'il vous plait, faites ces muffins. Vous ne regretterez rien!

P.S. I translated the recipe for you, because I'm really nice.

Nutella Muffins

{Recipe adapted from 'Les Petits Plats' Nutella Cookbook, by Sandra Mahut}

Makes 12

200g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
100g melted butter
100ml pouring cream
1 tbsp milk
100g milk chocolate
75g Nutella


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, and mix in sugar and salt.

In another bowl, beat the eggs with the cream until well combined, then add the melted butter and again, mix well.

In a bain-marie (heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure water doesn't touch bottom of bowl), melt together the chocolate and milk, stirring until smooth and glossy.

Add the melted chocolate and Nutella to the egg-cream-butter mixture, stirring until combined. Fold into the dry ingredients, incorporating until just combined.

In 12 muffin cases sitting in muffin tins, divide the mixture, filling until cases are 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.


Once completely cool, scoop out a little divet in the top of the muffins. Fill with a little nutella, and place a little strawberry in there, as if it were enjoying a realxing, nutella-y bath!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Chocolate Chip - Oat Cookies

Hello again.

Guess what? 11 DAYS TILL MY BIRTHDAY! :D :D :D

... but yeah, life's pretty good.

After a time full of new recipes that didn't quite work out, I am back with a simple, yet reliable and amazingly good, chocolate chip cookie recipe.
It's so good to bake something that you could do in your sleep. It's so relaxing. Baking in general is a good hobby, but with fiddly things that require unwanted thinking and carefulness (pfft!), sometimes you get really tired and stressed - NOT GOOD!

But with these little dandies, not so. I have been making these since I was about 11, and they have never failed me. It's from Bill Granger - you should know by now my worship of him. They're just like plain chocolate chip cookies, but with oats! That means that they're wholesome! (Just tell yourself that).

*I know that these look like ANZAC biscuits in the photos, but trust me, there are LOTS of chocolate chips in those little things! And the light when I took the photos wasn't too crash-hot, so I brightened them up on the computer, and they turned a sort of sepia colour! Forgive me, peoples of the internet!
Anyway, I kind of like the warm tone of the photos. Sue me why don't you!

I joke, I joke, but really, folks, for a nice afternoon bikkie to be enjoyed with a cup of tea and a bowl full of strawberries, you really can't go past these. They're humble and kind and simple and they love it when you eat them! So do these cookies a favour (or two) and have a munch on them!

Chocolate Chip - Oat Cookies
{Recipe from Bill Granger's "Bill's Food" - I didn't adapt, why take away from perfection?}
Makes 30 (I got away with 33!)

150g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
I tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, or chopped up milk chocolate


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until fluffy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, beat until smooth. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl and mix liightly with a wooden spoon. Fold in oats and chocolate chips.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place, evenly spaced, on the baking trays. Flatten the balls slightly with a fork dipped in flour. Bake cookies for 20 min, or until light golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 min, then transfer to a wire rack.

P.S. If you're wondering about the photos with a shaft of light through them (hint: above this sentence), I went all experimental and postmodern by seeing what the biscuits would look like in the harsh light. Not sure of the outcome... some might call it weird. I think I'm going to call it... ART.