Cupcake Birthday Presents!

Sometimes it feels like everyone I know is born in June and July. Not that im complaining, I love birthdays! What better time to catch up with old friends, get to know new friends, eat alot of some cake and let your hair down. Because im pretty useless at buying gifts, I decided to make people birthday presents this year. Jungle cake for Ginger Ninja was phase one of operation Edible Gifts. This was phase two.

The wonderful birthday girl Mrs S isn’t a great fan of chocolate so I had to put my thinking cap on. You may have gained an inkling as to my lifelong love affair with chocolate, and it wasn’t easy to find a good safe alternate cupcake flavour. I wasn’t adventurous enough to try some of the crazier flavours so, after consulting the demi-gods of cooking (otherwise known as Australian Women’s Weekly) I settled on orange buttercake with orange buttercream icing.

Although I was a bit naughty and didn’t do a test before baking the real thing, they came out perfectly! Hooray! They were super fluffy, lightly orangey and flat enough to accommodate the decorating ideas I had in mind. Which were…

Penguins! Well, it is winter after all, and winter is penguin season!

Teddy Bears (for cuddleability) and Rubber Duckies!

And of course, what is a birthday without a few presents?

Or a tower of presents!

This was the first time I had used rolled fondant to decorate the whole tops of cupcakes and I think it went pretty well. Of course, I had a lot of help from the fantastic Planet Cake Cake Decorating Book and im no stranger to fondant animals. Im looking forward to making more of these babies for future birthdays!

So, my lovelies, what is your take on edible gifts?

p.s. like my new microplane zester? It was amazing! No bitter white pith for me!

But there are a few bald oranges in my house now… sorry Mr Orange…

Orange Buttercake Cupcake Recipe – From the Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes Cookbook

Ingredients

90g butter

90g cream cheese

2 tsp finely grated orange rind

2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup (50g) self raising flour

1/2 cup (75g) plain flour

Method

1. Beat butter, cheese, rind, sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy

2. Mix in flours until just combined

3. Divide mix among patty pans and smooth the surface of the batter

4. Bake for 20 mins at 160 decrees celsius (for a fan forced oven)

Orange Buttercream Icing Recipe – From the Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes Cookbook

Ingredients

90g butter

1/4 tsp orange essence (I used orange blossom water and it gave a nice light orangey taste, you  might want to use a little more than 1/4 tsp though)

1 cup (160g) icing sugar

1 tbsp milk

Method

1. Beat butter and essence until light and fluffy

2. Beat in sifted icing sugar and milk

3. If icing is too thick, add a little more milk

4. Ice your cupcakes quickly, as my icing seemed to harden quite quickly. Im not sure if that was the result of using more orange blossom water or if that would happen with orange essence as well. You have been warned!

Move over Marion, here’s MY CWA Neapolitan Cake!

Hmm what could I be making with this lot? Oh wait… its in the title.

It’s no secret among my friends and family that I LOVE Masterchef. I love the hype, I love the colours, I love the food, I love the contestants, and I love the way it always gets me yelling at the television even though I have no idea how to make whatever the contestants are cooking! Until now…

The other week, the contestants were shipped off to the country to bake for a formidable group of women. The CWA. Despite having to cook for (what I consider to be) one of the scariest judging panels from the show, we were all thinking “how hard can it be? Bake a few cakes, a few scones, a few lamingtons and BAM! You’re done. What kind of challenge is this?” Until the mayhem began. Scones were rock hard, lamingtons weren’t rising, jam wasn’t setting and cakes were burning on the outside and raw in the middle. Ouch.

For once in the series, I really felt their pain. Baking in the middle of a field at the crack of dawn with ovens you haven’t cooked in is one surefire recipe for disaster. I couldn’t have done any better and to be honest, some of the dishes they brought out were amazing given the circumstances.

In the comfort of my own home, I decided to try the Neapolitan Cake that Pete and Marion seemed to fail so miserably at. Wobbly, uneven layers and crusty bottoms plagued their products. However, while I admit I was working under much much easier circumstances, I was pretty damn proud to cook a Neapolitan Cake (cooked by Pete and Marion, two of my favourite contestants!) that seemed to tick all the right boxes set out  by  the CWA guest judge Alison Mutton.

I have to admit that it was also a great chance to bust out these cute Matryoshka measuring cups. I got these as a KK present from the awesome Miss G last year and im quite embarrassed to say that I don’t think I ever thanked her! Let me take this opportunity to say a giant THANKYOU to Miss G, please forgive the lateness of my gratitude! And yes, that is my computer in the background, I read the recipe straight off the internet. It seemed easier than printing it out… and im lazy. Clearly.

I was mesmerised by the creamed butter and sugar

The bottom half of this cake required the addition of coconut. I only had a packet of shredded coconut and I didn’t think that the Mother Ship would appreciate long tendrils of coconut in her cake. So I whipped out my trusty mini food processor and got myself a-chopping! As you can see, tiny as they are, the blades made short work of that coconut!

Now I know this isn’t the prettiest picture but I thought it was important to see the cake in progress here. And who doesn’t love great spoonfulls of strawberry jam! When the mixture was halved, it seemed as though there was barely enough batter to cover the bottom of the tin. I was worried that I had made some fatal error in measuring or used the wrong sized pan. But, as it was clearly too late to go back, I thought the best decision was to press on and see how it all went.

Well.. so far so good…

Now, it is important to note that during the baking of this cake I encountered a challenge that beset Marion. My cake was browning too quickly on the top. However, I had faced this obstacle before and I was equipped with my trusty roll of aluminium foil. Pop a sheet of this over the top of your cake and it will continue to cook without browning excessively or burning on top.

And it makes the Big Reveal all the more exciting!

Hooray! Lightly browned but not burnt and perfectly risen!

The finished product. It sure tasted mighty fine!

Now I will admit that the sides were a little too crusty as the cake was a tad overcooked. I still only cooked it for about 40 mins (5 mins less than required) but I would take it out earlier next time. Maybe after 30 mins. The bottom didn’t turn out crusty though, just nice and tasty.

And it passed the all important even layers test! Don’t believe me?

Look at those even babies! And a dollop of jam in there for good measure!

So all in all, this cake was pretty easy to make. Could I make it in the middle of a field at the crack of dawn in the midst of howling winds with an oven I hadn’t used before? Not on your nelly! Can you and I make it in our sheltered kitchens with our beloved ovens? Absolutely!

You can find the recipe here. The only change I would make is to omit the Strawberry essence. The stuff I used was pretty nasty and you couldn’t taste it in the end anyway! Also, keep your eye on the baking time as your cake may be done much earlier than the recipe says.

So, my lovelies, have you tried any recipes from this year’s Masterchef? Which ones and did they work?

Not Quite Nigella’s Zebra Cheesecake

When I saw this cake as baked by the gorgeous Not Quite Nigella I thought “it can’t be done”. Even though the proof was staring me in the face. Yes, I am quite adept in the art of disbelieving certain indisputable facts. I think thats why I was never much good at maths.

Despite my irrational doubts, I knew it was something I needed to try. After reading the instructions once, twice, three times I thought I might be ready to attempt this recipe. And for once, I took progress shots! Savour it now because we all know that it wont last.

Ok so not quite progress shots, but look how great that springform tin looks! Aint no water getting into that baby!

Cake tin avec cake mix!

I like to think of the above picture as my “ta dah!” moment. A sort of “now you see it now you don’t” in reverse. Im starting to wonder whether my inability to document the actual construction of the cake might bear testament to my inability to believe it could be done. Did I mention that I very much subscribe to the belief of “out of sight, out of mind”? Still, it was only a tin of raw cake mix, all a manner of things could go wrong before the cake was finished…

I don’t think you can really see it in the picture but the roasting pan is full of water. Pretty nifty water bath hey!

It seems that all a manner of inexplicable forces are wrapped up in this cake. Note the mystery of the shrinking edges! I think there are a good few centimeters between the cake and the edge of the tin. Where did they go? Nobody knows!

But boy, it sure looks good!!

And look at those stripes! Success!

While this cake was unbelievably light, it was a little too delicate in flavour. The Mother Ship demanded the addition of chocolate. So I obliged.

Do you think there’s enough ganache there?

So, my lovelies, I urge you to try this cake yourself. If you are into the more subtle flavours then this is absolutely for you. If you like your cakes to pack a little more punch, then add some of your favourite ganache and rub your little hands with glee! Whatever your tastes are, you can be sure that you will be the proudest person ever when you successfully complete this recipe!

Zebra Cheesecake Recipe found HERE

M&M Meringues

So im on a bit of a meringue roll now! Thanks Daring Bakers! My head has just been filled with all sorts of different meringue combinations. Well, by different combinations, I really mean what different ways can I put chocolate into this recipe. I think I may have a problem.

First of all, I thought I should perfect the art of piping my meringues. I used ring moulds to make my pavs in the June Baking Challenge, but I love the look of twisty piped meringues. They remind me of the ones I used to always want from the bakery when I was little. You know the impossibly white ones with the technicolour sprinkles on top?

So I had the bright Idea to pipe them into a mini muffin pan. So far so good!

Until…

Grease the pan? Huh?

I wasn’t sure if greasing would work so I decided to pipe them into patty pans

Hold on! Rewind! I said I was trying to add some more chocolate right? I thought that a sprinkling of M&Ms inside the middle of the meringues might give it a little bit of a chocolatey surprise

Then pipe some more meringue on top in a pretty spiral, and into the oven they go!

Hooray! Twisty meringue goodness. And thanks to The Saint, there was no weeping of these meringues!

Did I mention I was proud that they didn’t weep?

They were light, and they were tasty. Now, im not sure if its the Australian in me, but I was waiting for that little inside bite of marshmallowy goodness. Yes the chocolate was a good substitute, but I think im starting to get over the novelty of the pain meringue. However, if its a nice, crispy meringue you’re after with a little chocolate surprise in the centre, then this is absolutely for you!

Meringue Surprise Recipe – adapted from ‘Delia’s How to Cook: Book One’

Ingredients

2 large egg whites

110g caster sugar

a handful of mini M&Ms

Recipe

1. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whisk on a low speed until whites are foamy (approx 2 mins)

2. Switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for another minute

3. Turn the speed to high and keep whisking until the whites are at the stiff peak stage

4. Add the sugar a little at a time (I like to count to 30 before adding another spoonful to make sure its all being incorporated properly). The whites should be stiff and glossy at this stage

5. Pipe the meringue mix into your patty pans until they are half full

6. Sprinkle a few M&Ms onto the meringue mix

7. Pipe over the M&Ms until the patty pans are full

8. Bake in an oven at 140 degrees celsius for 30 mins (keep a close eye on them because you dont want them to get too brown or to overcook them

9. When you judge that the meringues are done, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry inside the oven overnight or until the oven is completely cold

10. Eat them!! Hooray!