T-T-T-Tapioca!

The other week I went on a shopping expedition to Cabramatta with the lovely Mrs S. I was in search of Kaya after reading¬†many many posts raving about it! Little did I know, that Kaya was merely one of the treasures this gem of a suburb had to offer…

Behold! Multi coloured tapioca!

I’ve never been a big fan of tapioca. It was a staple dessert when my mum was little but it seems to have fallen out of fashion in recent years. As I love all things gelatinous, tapioca has secured a firm place in my heart. When I saw this packet of pastel multi coloured tapioca pearls I knew it was something I had to try!

I followed this recipe because if there were instructions on the packet, they certainly weren’t in a language I speak!

Note: I didn’t realise that you had to soak the pearls before cooking them. I soaked these babies for around half an hour and they came out beautifully!

Tapioca mixture bubbling away in the pan

Mmmmmm creamy tapioca!

Its like a custardy creamy jelly! Yummo! Definitely comfort food for a cold, rainy winters evening. It’s just a pity that the pearls didn’t retain their colour a bit better. There is still a touch of colour in the tapioca but it mostly washed out. At least it still tasted amazing!

Mandarin Syrup Cakes

I don’t like change. I know thats an awful thing to admit, but when things change I feel all out of my depth. A little bit lost at sea.

By now i’ve gotten used to the fact that things like the seasons must change, the weather changes and traffic lights change (thank god). But i’ve never been able to get my head around the seasonality of fruit and vegetables. I hate wanting to make something with Mangos in June, and not being able to find nice fresh juicy ones in the store ūüôĀ So, in order to make the most of seasonal fruit and vege and educate myself a bit, i’ve been trying to eat and cook with things that are in season.

Enter: The Mandarin

I have been quite neglectful of the humble Mandarin over the past few years. I had forgotten how sweet and juicy its segments are. How lusciously orange its juice is.

Yummo! Mandarin Juice!

The recipe for Mandarin Syrup Cakes in the Good Living section of the paper was just what I was looking for. Why didn’t I think of it before? However, I am a little wary of newspaper recipes. They aren’t always the most reliable and something I think their writers omit a crucial ingredient or step on purpose! Who honestly wants to share their secret recipes with the nation?

Have you ever seen such a beautiful simple little cake?

I shouldn’t have worried! These little babies came out wonderfully. They slipped out of the pan and stood proudly on the plate in all their buttery goodness, waiting for the syrup. Fluffy, moist and lightly mandarin-y, they were everything you could want in a cake.

and of course, they didn’t last long!

The syrup was subtle and sweet. If you aren’t a fan of the tangy lime or lemon syrups, this is absolutely the one for you. I drizzled the syrup over the cakes after putting them on the plate. If you want the syrup to permeate deeper then I would syrup them when they are just out of the oven but still in the pan. Yum!!

Mandarin Syrup Cakes – From the Good Living Guide (Sydney Morning Herald)

Ingredients

125g butter

1 cup caster sugar

2 tsp mandarin zest

2 eggs

1 cup self-raising flour

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mandarin juice

1 tsp orange flower water

Method

1. Beat butter, half the sugar and zest in a small bowl until light and fluffy

2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition

3. Stir in flour and buttermilk

4. Divide mixture  between 6 greased muffin holes (recipe say 180ml capacity, I just used one of those giant texas muffin pans with the huge holes)

5. At 180 degrees celsius, bake for 25-30 mins (I did mine for 20, make sure you check yours!) or until they are golden on top and feel cooked

6. Combine mandarin juice and remaining sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved.

7. Simmer for two to three minutes or until it has thickened slightly

8. Remove from heat and stir in orange flower water

9. To serve, drizzle syrup over cakes and serve with cream or icecream (original recipe also suggests greek yoghurt, whatever floats your boat!)

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?