Can you fail at cupcakes? Yes.

So i’ve trumpeted the amazingness of the Donna Hay Buttermilk Chocolate Cake far and wide. “It’s the best chocolate cake ever! It never fails!” I said. Well, we all know what happens when you get too cocky.

This happens.

So just to set the scene, it was a weekday evening. I was trying to do a million things at once, and one of those things was bake cupcakes for a staff morning tea. Where I worked before my faculty always did the best morning tea so I was determined to produce something good for my new workplace! I normally take all the ingredients out of the fridge and the cupboard before cooking just to be sure I actually have all the ingredients. That night, I didn’t.

Can you tell what is wrong with these cupcakes?

I knew something was amiss ten minutes into cooking time. There was no rising action going on in that oven. No action at all! I knew I had put the bi-carb in. I know that sometimes I go out and cant remember if i’ve left my hair straightener on, or even if i’ve locked the door, but I had a crystal clear memory of adding bi-carb.

The cupcakes were dense and sticky and just doughy. Awful. Turns out that clever clogs here had forgotten to add the buttermilk (as in one of the key ingredients) AND the eggs. Go me. Word to the wise my lovelies, always get your ingredients out before you begin baking!!

Of course, I couldn’t leave it there. So I rallied, and made another batch. Avec buttermilk and eggs this time!

Ta da! Keep it simple stupid.

Enough for everyone!

So my lovelies, what crucial element have you left out of a dish before?

Daring Bakers’ Chocolate Pavlovas Challenge (June 2009)

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Ok. So you had me at “Chocolate”. Then you had me drooling at “Pavlova”. By “Mascarpone Mousse” I was on the floor in raptures! The Chocolate Gods are certainly smiling down on me.

As it needed time to chill, I thought I would make the Chocolate Mousse first. I did attempt to make my own mascarpone a day or two after the challenge was posted. While it went ok, I just didn’t have enough time to make enough for this recipe. Definitely something I’m going to do now that the holidays have started though!

Folding the chocolate into the mascarpone and cream mixture.

(I was so happy during this process I almost fainted!)

Next step was the Chocolate Pavlova. Now Pavs are a bit of an Australian specialty. Particularly after Donna Hay’s Pavlova was featured in one of the first episodes of Master Chef. While I have been experimenting with pavlova and meringue lately, I have to say that i’ve never tried a chocolate pav! Absolutely something that needed to be rectified!

Mmmm look at all that lovely cocoa, ready to be folded into the meringue mixture

It was all looking good. I shaped the mini pavs on a baking tray and it seemed as though I was traveling well until something knocked the wind out of my sails.

Horror! Pancake pavs 🙁

I’m not sure what went wrong with these but they just lost their shape. They tasted ok but were not what I was trying to do. So what do we do when something like this happens? Try, try again!

This time I tried shaping my pavs so that they would hopefully hold their shapes better

I’m finding it harder and harder to stop myself from eating the raw mixture. its just so damn tasty and don’t these just look so yummy? I was a little bit naughty and added some cornflour and vinegar on the advice of Womens Weekly. But hey, it worked!

Not only did they look yummy, but they were extremely successful! Yay!

Puffed pillows of pure pleasure.

Now, i’ve been a bit lame this month and somehow forgotten to take progress shots of my creme anglaise and mascarpone cream. Sorry! The process wasn’t particularly difficult or exciting, just a bit of stirring, a bit of sifting and a bit of folding. When I put it all together, I had something that looked like this…

and far out… it tasted gooood. With an emphasis on the “ooo”!

The best part was cracking the shell to get to all that chocolaty, marshmallowy goodness.

Yes, Chocolate Gods, I must have done something right. Word to the wise: you need a fork and a spoon for this one! I have so many different ideas of what to do with the chocolate pav, chocolate mousse and mascarpone cream. Expect some good things with these components in the next few weeks. Thank you Dawn, this recipe was both doable and delicious, not to mention inspiring! You are a star!

Now in conclusion, I want everyone to say with me:

Hooray for chocolate!

Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Mascarpone Cream Recipe

* I did have a few small substitutions (using orange juice instead of grand marnier and omitting the sambuca)

Chocolate Meringue

Ingredients

3 large egg whites

½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar

¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar

1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder

Method

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees.  Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form.  (The whites should be firm but moist.)

3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white.  (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue.  Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)

5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp.  Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Ingredients

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)

grated zest of 1 average sized lemon

9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped

1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone

pinch of nutmeg

2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

Method

1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl.  Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose.  Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks.  (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)

3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten.  Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated.  Fill a pastry bag with the mousse.  Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Mascarpone Cream

Ingredients

1 recipe crème anglaise

½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone

2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)

½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

Method

1. Prepare the crème anglaise.  Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Creme Anglaise

Ingredients

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk

1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

Method

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.

3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs.  Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon.  DO NOT OVERCOOK.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.


Gratuitous pictures of chocolate

So I’m cold, I’m tired and I’m having a massive whinge super busy this week. Therefore I’m bringing you a few posts that are a bit of a mish mash of things i’ve been doing over the last few months. On these cold cold winter nights what could warm you up better than a few gratuitous pictures of gooey, melting, rich chocolate. Enjoy!

Marbled milk and dark chocolate. The best of both worlds!

Some of my favourite ingredients. Yes, its a kilo of chocolate and a kilo of cocoa.

Milk chocolate ganache. If its not drizzling down the size, there’s not enough!

Hell, who needs ganache when you can just have melted chocolate?

I feel one step closer to a heart attack just looking at this picture…

Too much chocolate? NEVER!

Who licked the bowl? You need to ask?

mmmmm Lime Syrup Cake

So it seems like ages since I made anything with limes. Or anything with fruit for that matter. I seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut of only eating things from the top of the food pyramid. If its at the top it must be the most important right? Right…

So I was lured into the fruit shop by my guilty conscience, extreme sugar low and the memory of this lovely lady’s lime creation. I was also drawn in by the sight of all those bright green limes winking at me. See! I like fruit. Fruit that is incorporated into cake. I think this is a losing battle…

Time for cake! P.s. this is the first time in my entire life that i’ve ever lined a tin around the edges. Crazy!

Lime cake batter! Woooo! Its so close you could almost lick it… almost…

Yes I have made this cake before, you might remember it from this post. Thank god for the CWA! And limes. Im always thankful for limes. But I wasn’t satisfied with the original recipe. It wasn’t well, limey enough! How could I inject a concentrated shot of lime goodness into this cake?

Two magic words: Lime Syrup.

But first you need to prick the cake all over with a skewer to allow all that lovely syrup to permeate. And by ‘prick’ I mean ‘stab’. See, its a theraputic recipe!

Phwoar! Look at all that tasty syrup 😀

Drumroll please…

Hooray!

I personally think there’s nothing like a warm lime syrup cake to help you beat the winter chills. You can find the recipe for the cake here. And remember, limes = fruit = good for you. What more incentive do you need?

Lime Syrup Recipe – From Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess”

Ingredients

4 tablespoons lime juice

100g icing sugar

Method

1. Using a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the lime juice over a low heat. Thats it!