baking – cake

Warm apple cake with brandy butterscotch sauce

Cookbook Challenge 2011: Fortnight 13, Dessert
Recipe: Warm apple cake with brandy butterscotch sauce
Cookbook: AWW Bake

How on earth did it become August already? June and July passed by in a blur, and I didn’t spend much (any) time cooking or baking anything blog worthy. Unfortunately, August will be the same – my parents are visiting for a month, and next week we’re ON A BOAT (minus the excessive swearing and auto-tune…).

It’s not good for the blog, but it’s good for me. Because we all know what happens when my mum and dad visit – I get a holiday due to them taking over all the housework and kitchen duties. 😀 And mum really does take over the kitchen – we picked them up on Sunday, and within three hours of them being in the country, she had already planned dinner for the coming three nights.

It’s not all roses though, before their arrival I kill myself cleaning – always a fun way to spend a Saturday! The boys and I scrubbed the house from top to bottom – even fitting in a trip to the tip – but it took me the whole day, to the point where I was still wiping down all the kitchen cupboards at 10pm at night…


Sticky date pudding

Meal to Share: Pub Food

Our fine trio are late for this month’s Meal to Share, because one of us (ahem Penny) has been eating it up in America and Canada. Naturally, Celeste and I don’t mind that Penny was having way too much fun overseas to cook her part of the meal, though I’m not sure we have forgiven her for not taking us on her trip! 😉

But better late then never! Meal to Share is our monthly collaboration where the three of us each cook a course for a themed meal. The theme this month is pub food, and I’ve made dessert.

Chocolate and chestnut cake

Chestnuts that refuse to peel are completely infuriating. Chestnut season in Australia starts around late March through to May – in some ways I’m glad that it’s short, because they are a total pain in the arse! They taste good and all, but man they can be annoying little buggers.

My last fruit and vege delivery came with a container of fresh chestnuts, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them. It was the beginning of the Easter holiday, and we weren’t going to be home much for meals, so I decided to turn it into cake: specifically, this chocolate and chestnut cake.

Orange yoghurt cake

Orange yoghurt cake

Hello! This is a very quick post from Dubai! Alastair and I have had a great time in the UK over the past couple of weeks and now we’re flying to Singapore for several days. I can’t wait to eat some Asian food, although we have been quite spoilt in the meals we’ve eaten while in the UK – no complaints about English food from me! There has been a lot of pub meals, a couple of great home cooked meals (courtesy of my inlaws) and one very indulgent splurge that I can’t wait to blog about.

But more on that later – let’s talk about cake! About an orange yoghurt cake, to be exact. I am loving this cake at the moment. I love it so much that I’ve baked it about five times in the past few months. (My colleagues, Alastair and Pat have enjoyed it too!).

It has a good balance of orange flavour and sweetness, but it’s the texture that I love the most. It’s moist and soft, but not so soft that it falls apart on you.

Chocolate mud cake for my 3rd blog birthday

Chocolate mud cake with chocolate glaze

It’s the third birthday of my wee blog, and I’ve decided that it’s time I moved it to a new home. So – welcome! Please update all links, bookmarks and RSS feeds, and if you see something looking a bit strange, please let me know!

I must say a big thanks to Alastair for helping me sort out hosting, wordpress installation, and being a sounding board for my stupid tech questions. Plus he didn’t threaten me with divorce when I threw tantrums over issues relating to HTML, importing posts, and image editing, when he would have been within his rights to! And thanks to you as well, for being here and reading and commenting. Yay! (Can you feel the love? Awww. Hugs all around!)

Chocolate mud cake with chocolate glaze

And since it’s not a birthday without cake, here’s a chocolate mud cake for the occasion. I actually made this cake for a work friend’s birthday (hello Ms Carina! xx) and here it is doing double duty as my blog birthday cake.

Moist chocolate beetroot cake *

Moist chocolate beetroot cake
Kindly ignore the big crack in my cake, thank you.

Cookbook Challenge: Week 13, Love
Recipe: Moist chocolate beetroot cake
From: Nigel Slater’s Tender

Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day! And Chinese New Year! Rather aptly, this week’s theme for the Cookbook Challenge is “love” and this week I’m breaking out a Nigel Slater recipe because I love his book, Tender. and I love his writing.

This week I made a moist, chocolate beetroot cake, which also fits in with the theme because beetroots are red, and red is the colour of luuuuuuuuuuurve. Additionally, everyone loves chocolate, and any people who are non-chocolate lovers are not worth knowing (only kidding, you non-chocolate lovers! I still love you!).

Moist chocolate beetroot cake

The first step to making this cake is to cook some beetroots until soft. Once that is done, it’s no more difficult to put together than any other moist chocolate cake (unless you’re particularly clumsy and are at risk of staining your kitchen red!). There are some strange steps in the recipe that I didn’t quite understand – 200g of chocolate is melted in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, but the recipe specifies not to stir it. Later, once the chocolate is almost melted (but not stirred!), hot espresso is poured over, and butter is added. This is left to soften, and then it is stirred later. Why is this? Why can’t the chocolate and butter be melted together and stirred? If there’s a good reason for it, I’d like to know!

The other part that confused me is the egg whites. In the recipe, the egg whites are whipped until stiff, and then sugar is folded into the whites. This is then added into the chocolate mixture, and finally the flour is folded in. Most cake recipes have you fold in the egg whites last, so you don’t lose the air that you so carefully whipped in. In the end, I deviated from the recipe and folded my egg whites through last. But if there is a good reason for the former method, I would like to know what it is!

Moist chocolate beetroot cake

I don’t think my folding through the egg whites last affected my cake negatively. I also baked it for a bit longer than the recipe specified and it still seemed to come out fine, if you ignore the big ass crack. Nigel says about this cake: “This is a seductive cake, deeply moist and tempting.”

It is moist, indeed. Really, really moist. But anyone who tells you that you can’t taste the beetroot in it is a big fat liar. I didn’t think that the beetroot was “subtle or elusive”, I thought that it screamed beetroot. The cake is a very dark purple brown, unlike plain chocolate cake, and the beetroot added an earthy, tanginess to it that I was unsure about. Nevertheless, even though I didn’t think I particularly liked it, I found that I went back for another spoonful… and another… and another.

Hmmpt. Perhaps that’s why it was described as seductive. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Update: I ate a piece of cake the day after I baked it, and the beetroot wasn’t as pronounced. It’s moist like a mud cake, but didn’t seem as heavy. So I’ve decided that this cake is REALLY REALLY REALLY good! In fact, I think it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made.

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: see the round up at My Food Trail.

Moist chocolate beetroot cake

If you’d like to make this cake – check out the recipe here. PS: the cake photo on the website is NOT of the chocolate beetroot cake. It’s a beetroot seed cake in the book.

Cherry coconut mud cake

Cherry coconut mud cake

As mentioned previously, it was my birthday last weekend. It rained allllll day but despite the rain, I had a pretty good day. It started off with brunch at Plum (which was great, as always), and then afterwards Alastair took me shoe shopping as part of my birthday present. Those who know me in real life (particularly my colleagues) know that I have a shoe obsession, so it was a particularly good gift!

Cherry coconut mud cake

What’s a birthday without cake though? Before the weekend my colleagues surprised me with a gorgeous chocolate mousse cake. I wish I had thought to take a photo of it! Then on Friday I baked (yes, I made my own birthday cake) and made a cherry coconut mud mud cake. Good cake, but oh my, it’s certainly not one for those on a diet. Check out some of the ingredients! 250g butter, 2 cups of sugar, 200g chocolate, a can of coconut milk, plus two king-size Cherry Ripe bars.

I’m not a Cherry Ripe fan, so I thought about using real cherries. But I didn’t want to go to the market on my birthday and I refused to pay supermarket prices for cherries, so Cherry Ripe it was!

Fortunately, despite my dislike of Cherry Ripe bars, I liked the cake! It was delicious but very sweet and rich. Good in small slices only! If you try it, I would recommend warming it up a bit before serving. The original recipe included a dark chocolate icing as well as dark chocolate panels, but I left the icing off. Thank goodness I did, otherwise it would’ve been incredibly sweet! I decorated with white chocolate panels and coloured shredded coconut and I think this was fine although I must admit I didn’t eat the white chocolate.

Cherry coconut mud cake

Cherry coconut mud cake

From Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”

250g butter, chopped
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 & 2/3 cups (400ml) coconut milk
20g dark eating chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
1 cup (150g) plain flour
3/4 cup (110g) self raising flour
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 x 85g Cherry Ripe bars, chopped coarsely

Chocolate panels

300g chocolate Melts
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 150°C fan-forced. Grease deep 22cm round cake pan, line base and sides with baking paper.

Melt butter in a large saucepan; add coffee, coconut milk, chocolate and sugar. Stir over heat until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in sifted flours and cocoa, then eggs and extract; stir in half of the Cherry Ripe. Pour mixture into pan. Top with remaining Cherry Ripe; bake for about 1 & 3/4 hours. Stand cake for 10 minutes, turn, top side up, onto wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make chocolate panels: Stir chocolate and oil in a medium heatproof bowl over medium saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Cute two 6cm x 50cm strips of baking paper. Spread chocolate evenly over strips; lift strips to allow chocolate to drip off paper. Allow chocolate to set, then, using ruler as guide, cut chocolate into 4cm panels with sharp knife. Carefully peel away baking paper and place chocolate panels around side of cake.

Pistachio and polenta cake with orange blossom syrup

Moroccan lamb

A wee while ago now, Alastair and I went over to the lovely Jo’s place for lunch along with our usual dinner/lunch group. She made a delicious Moroccan lamb stew on cous cous, and I contributed dessert.

Since I hadn’t flicked through the Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake” in quite a while, I allowed myself to have a look at it again. I found a recipe for a blood orange and syrup polenta cake and made a couple of adaptations.

Pistachio and polenta cake

The resulting cake was rather interesting. The addition of the polenta, and this may sound strange, gives it a different but pleasing grainy texture. While it sounds weird, it actually was good! Unfortunately I broke the cake turning it out (check out that large crack!) hence my trying to cover it up with icing sugar and pistachios.

Pistachio and polenta cake

Pistachio and polenta cake with orange blossom syrup

Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”

125g butter, softened
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
300g sour cream
2 cups (300g) self-raising lour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup (110g) polenta
3/4 cup (180ml) water
2/3 cup (100g) shelled pistachios

Orange blossom syrup

1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water

Preheat oven to 160C/140C fan forced. Grease a deep 20cm round cake pan; line base and side with baking paper.
Beat butter, sugar, sour cream, sifted flour and soda, polenta and the water in a large bowl on low speed with an electric mixer until combined. Increase to medium speed, beat until mixture changes to a paler colour. Stir in the nuts. Spread mixture into the pan.
Bake cake for about 1 hour. Stand cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Serve cake warm or cold with the warm orange blossom syrup.

Orange blossom syrup

Stir the sugar and water together in a small saucepan; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Stir in the orange blossom syrup to taste.

Baked vanilla cheesecake (with bonus friands!) *

Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

Recently I discovered that two of my colleagues were having birthdays in the same weekend. I discretely questioned one of those colleagues, trying to figure out his cake preferences and discovered that he didn’t really like cake! Shock horror! How can someone not like cake?! But after some further sly questioning, I found out that he liked cheesecake, and specifically, baked cheesecake.

I immediately thought of the recipe below from Australian Table, which has been my go to recipe for baked cheesecake for many years. Unfortunately, I mislaid it for a while and only rediscovered it recently when I did a clear out of most of my food magazines.

I’m very fond of this cheesecake. It’s not too large and doesn’t use a kilo of cream cheese unlike other recipes I have tried. And it’s delicious, with just the right balance of sweetness and richness. The other bonus is the sour cream topping – it doesn’t matter if the top of the cheesecake cracks or bubbles in the oven, because it all gets covered up!

The only change to the original recipe I make is to double the amount of biscuits and butter as I prefer a thicker base. Sometimes I top the cheesecake with fruit, but this time (as you can see) I drizzled it with dark chocolate.

The cheesecake was a hit at work and slices were very enthusiastically gobbled down! I was happy to see that the base and filling held up well, and slices were even able to be hand-held.

Coconut and berry friands

Along with the cheesecake, I also made mini coconut and berry friands. I have made and blogged about these before, but I love them so much I thought I’d rave about them again.

This time I used a mini patty pan to make tiny bite side friands. They were a pain in the arse to get out of the pan. I ended up breaking several, but Alastair happily “taste tested” those ones for me. They were little but fabulous!

Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

From Australian Table – December 2005

250g Nice biscuits, crushed
120g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
3/4 cup (180ml) cream
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar, plus 1 tablespoon extra
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
2 punnets raspberries (or other fruit of your choice)
icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line and grease base and side of a springform (2cm) pan.

Combine biscuit crumbs and butter. Press firmly into base of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Place cream cheese, eggs and egg yolk, cream, 1/4 cup caster sugar and vanilla into a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour over biscuit base. Bake for 25 minutes, until firm, but still slightly wobbly in centre. Cool.

Whisk together sour cream and extra sugar. Spread over cheesecake. Top with fruit and dust with icing sugar.