Category Archives: baking

Cake for a rainbow wedding

Hello!  It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?  There were several reasons for this – I got interested in fiction writing, which meant that I had less time to spare for food writing; my wrist kept getting worse, which made baking and typing both painful; I discovered Indian cooking, which meant that I was using recipe books a lot, and not creating many new recipes.  Also… I’ve had kind of a bad patch in the last year or so where I haven’t felt like doing anything creative at all, but this seems to be getting better.

Anyway.  None of this is important compared to the much more exciting fact that I got to make my first ever cake for a same-sex wedding yesterday!

(I’ve been calling it my first Big Gay Wedding Cake, but since I do not, in point of fact, know what the cake’s personal preferences are, I should probably stop calling it that.)

Much has been made in the media (ooh, alliteration!) of gay weddings and Christian bakers and how it’s terrible, awful, so bad, that we might be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings.

But I have to say, I was so incredibly thrilled when the sister of one of my dearest friends was finally able to get engaged to her long-time partner, and immediately asked my friend to relay the message that I’d love to bake their wedding cake, please, pretty please…

I mean, those of you who have met me in the flesh know how I feel about bright colours.  I have rainbow glasses.  I have rainbow ear-rings.  I have rainbow tops and rainbow skirts.  My wedding dress had rainbow chiffon on it.  Let’s just say that when I went to a marriage equality rally last year, I really had no difficulty whatsoever in finding something appropriate to wear, and indeed, at the rally I looked around me and thought, now, THIS is my aesthetic.  I want to go to more rallies like this one.

Anyway, to my great delight, they said yes, and that they would love a cupcake tower, with a cuttable cake on top.

At which point I got super nervous because what if the cake wasn’t PERFECT enough for this very special wedding, and warned them that while I could guarantee cakes that were pretty and delicious and catering to all allergies, I couldn’t promise something that looked, you know, like a perfectly smooth, white, professional wedding cake.

But that was OK, because they wanted rainbows too.  In fact, I was specifically told to make the cakes as bright and colourful as possible.  OK, then. I could do that.

The saturation adjuster on photoshop (or, as I like to think of it, the oversaturation button) was made for occasions like this one…

(And I have to note in passing that while I’m sure there are Christian bakers out there who don’t want to do gay wedding cakes, I suspect that they are in the minority.  Every single cake decorating place I spoke to, without exception, was as excited at the idea of gay wedding cakes as I was.  A couple of people told me that they absolutely couldn’t wait to do their first gay wedding cake – all those colours!  So I think that even if you wanted a proper, professional looking cake, you wouldn’t have trouble finding one.)

One of the brides can’t eat gluten, and we had the usual array of vegan guests and guests with egg allergies, nut allergies, etc.  But that’s what cake towers are for – you can have a different flavour on each layer, and make each one cater to a different set of dietary requirements!

(When I first asked one of the brides what flavours they had in mind, she seemed taken aback and said… “Vanilla…?”  To which my response was equally taken aback.  “Well, I could do that, of course.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a plain vanilla cake…”  I then brainstormed a list of flavours.  Needless to say, we did not go with vanilla…)

With at least six colours in the rainbow and only four layers in the tower, some doubling up was required.  I decided on red and pink for the bottom layer, orange and yellow for the next, green and blue for the next, and purple for the layer below the cuttable cake.

Ready to start baking…

This necessitated a remarkable amount of sourcing of cupcake holders – anywhere that stocked orange did not stock purple, and if they had purple, they didn’t have green.  It was bizarre.  I also spent way too much time at Spotlight looking for the right coloured ribbons with which to decorate the cake boards, and then half an afternoon carefully glueing the ribbons to each other to get a two-coloured effect, and then to the board.

I wanted to make sure that at least half of the cakes were gluten free, so the bottom layer was raspberry, pistachio and rose cupcakes.

I made roses out of marbled red, pink and white fondant in fondant molds, and a pale green lemon icing to hold them in place.

The second layer was lemon meringue cupcakes, which I made gluten-free with my standard gluten-free flour mix.  I have made these cupcakes many, many times before, so while I was a little concerned about their structural integrity with the gluten-free flour, I was pretty confident that the rest would be easy.

Ha. The day started well – I successfully separated twelve eggs in a row, which is practically a miracle, and the lemon curd and cupcakes came out beautifully.  And then the meringue failed.  Repeatedly.  It took me an hour and five bowls to successfully make my meringues, and I ended up with meringue all over the walls and myself.

But they were done, so that was good.  I thought.

Then the weather changed overnight and when I got up on the morning of the wedding, all my meringues were weeping.  I had been planning to decorate them with little rainbows, with the meringues representing clouds.  I momentarily considered pretending that the weeping meringue represented entirely intentional raindrops, but I couldn’t do it.  I scraped all the meringues off and started again.

There aren’t a lot of photos of these cakes. This is because they were very naughty cakes and did not deserve to be photographed.

Suffice it to say, this made my nice, relaxed cake baking plan for the morning of the wedding a little bit less relaxed – in the end, by the time I’d got everything done or re-done, got to the venue, assembled everything on the table, and hidden away the rest of the cupcakes, I was just squeezing out from behind the table when the first guests walked in.  (And this is why I always add two hours of contingency time into my planning for events like this – I needed every second of them!)

See that box on the side of the table? Yeah. I basically heard the guests coming and chucked it off the table right after taking this photo. This was really, really down to the wire. Never trust a meringue, that’s my advice.

Layer three was my vegan sachertorte recipe, which I’ll share on this blog next week.  This, thankfully, is a tried-and-true, nearly failproof recipe, and it worked just fine.

I topped these cakes with vegan chocolate ganache, and little buttons that I’d made out of bright blue and green gum paste.

The gum paste was a bit of a surprise – I hadn’t used it before, and when it arrived in the post, I realised that it contained egg-white, which wasn’t going to be great for my vegans and egg allergies.

So, since I had four people who couldn’t eat eggs and 48 cupcakes, I decided to keep the green and blue buttons for 36 cakes, and make twelve lots of buttons out of pure white fondant, which I painted with gold lustre dust.  That way the vegans would have something that was clearly identifiable, but in a way that looked extra special rather than sad…

When I’d been throwing out ideas for flavours, one of the brides had been very interested in the lavender and blackberry cupcake idea.  I was initially planning to just make lavender butterfly cakes with blackberry jam and whipped cream, but when I was at the Ruby Chocolate demonstration at Savour a couple of weeks ago, one recipe that was demonstrated was a whipped ganache – a whipped cream enriched by white chocolate, which made it a little heavier and more stable.

So I decided to see if I could make a blackberry and lavender-infused whipped ganache for these cakes, and it worked really beautifully.  (You’ll be getting that recipe, too, in a week or so.)

For the cuttable cake, I was a bit anxious on several counts.  For one thing, I have done precisely one white wedding cake in my life, and it was the first wedding cake I did, and frankly, it wasn’t very good.  I had a lot of trouble rolling out the icing, and it showed.  But I really did want a proper wedding-cake looking cake if I could manage it.  Fortunately, while I haven’t rolled out icing in the last eighteen years, I’ve somehow improved in the interim – just more cooking experience generally, I suppose, plus the magic of YouTube videos, and it covered the cake beautifully.

I also wanted to make figurines out of fondant, something else I hadn’t done before.  Alas, my first attempt was not auspicious.  The brides started off tall and elegant, but sank, slowly and inevitably, into themselves, and then began tilting drunkenly to the side and backwards.  And their lips protruded like fish lips.  And their arms kept falling off.  It wasn’t a good look.

(Nope, you’re not getting photos of those ones.)

I decided that I could get away with a perfect white cake with rainbow ribbon, and would have another crack at the figurines on Friday and see how that went.  My second try at the brides was informed by the first attempt – I made each batch of colour before I started, and made the bodies short and sturdy, like pawns from a chess set.  I then refrigerated them after each step, to make them get more solid.  The faces still weren’t quite right, and I accidentally switched the heads so that the wrong bride had the wrong dress, but the arms stayed on almost entirely – I had to re-attach one at the venue, and then reattach it again after we removed the brides from the cake for cutting.

But this was a rainbow wedding, and it had been a very long time coming, so I really wanted to make sure that when the brides cut the cake, they got something really special.

This was rather nervewracking, because as you can see, the rainbow is baked into the cake, and I had no way of knowing until they cut it whether it had actually worked.

But it had, and it was a great hit, both with the brides and with everybody under the age of five.  I made this cake pretty plain – and gluten-free – and flavoured with with orange flower water, since orange flowers are traditional for a wedding.

I have to say, I am very, very proud of this cake.  I do think it’s the most beautiful wedding cake I’ve done yet, and one of the tastiest, too.  And I am so extraordinarily happy to have been part of this wedding – I missed the ceremony due to the meringue disaster, but when they got us all lined up to form a living rainbow based on our outfits, and the brides came dancing in to the reception hall the strains of ‘I do, I do, I do, I do, I do’ with their son running ahead of them trailing a rainbow ribbon, I had tears in my eyes.  I have tears in my eyes again writing this.

I mean, this is a food blog, so this post has been all about the cake and how delighted I am with it.  But I am so very thrilled that my LGBTQIA friends can finally have the weddings they’ve been waiting for, that their relationships are recognised by the government (and even by the Uniting Church!), and that we can all come together and celebrate that.

It really was the most joyful gathering I’ve ever been a part of, and it was such a privilege to be there.  Congratulations, Kathryn and Rachel!  May your years together be many, and as full of joy as yesterday was.

P.S. – I don’t know if I’m going to be back here regularly at this stage.  A lot of the factors above still apply, in addition to the fact that dealing with photos on my computer is becoming increasingly time consuming and annoying – and you can’t really have a food blog without photos.  But there will definitely be recipes up for various bits of this wedding cake over the next few weeks, as well as some recipes for the things I did with the leftovers.  After that?  Who knows.  We’ll just wait and see what happens…

Wedding cake without a top layer, representing the uncertainty of the blogging existence…

 

Recipe: Vegan Cheeseburger Cupcakes

This is the time of year when bloggers do their retrospectives, but I don’t feel like doing a blog retrospective for 2015.  For one thing, I did hardly any blogging, and barely kept up with reading other blogs.  For another, the end of 2015 was made absolutely horrible for us by the disappearance of our beloved cat, Mystery.  She slipped out on the evening of December 22nd, and has not been seen since.  We’ve letterboxed and doorknocked and rung vets and visited shelters, but to no avail, and at this stage, we hold out little hope.  It’s been a painful and distressing way to end an exhausting year, and it’s very hard to look ahead and come up with plans, resolutions, or even hopes for 2016 at this point – because right now we are all too aware that life is uncertain and cannot truly be planned for.

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So no perspectives from me, just a remarkably silly recipe, inspired by Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  She has a very fun recipe for a cupcake that looks like a cheeseburger, with a brownie patty, coconut lettuce, and buttercream piped to resemble cheese, tomatoes.

It’s very cute, but it also looked terribly sweet.  Also, I was cooking in part for Steph, so I needed a vegan recipe, and frankly, I found the idea of a vegan cheeseburger cupcake absolutely hilarious and thus irresistible, so off I went.

To avoid the excessive use of buttercream, I decided it would be more fun to give the burger a fruity sort of theme. Mango fruit leather strips make an excellent (and truly revolting-looking) substitute for plastic cheese, jam makes a fine substitute for tomato sauce, and tinned plums replace the beetroot that is a necessity in any Aussie hamburger. Mint leaves made a delicious substitute for lettuce, and at that point, you’re done.

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Angelique’s Banana Bread

This is a gluten-free banana cake I put together for a friend of mine.  It’s a nice, easy cake to put together, and good for afternoon tea, as it’s solid, but not too sweet.

I must admit, I had my doubts about this cake initially.  You see, I used quinoa flour, and I used a different brand from usual (McKenzies, if you’re wondering), and it turns out that this particular brand has quite a strong taste.  I could still detect it in the final, baked recipe, which was annoying.  But in fact, it grew on me pretty fast, and I actually rather like it.  Though not enough to use the same brand next time.

Looking around, it turns out that quite a lot of people don’t like quinoa flour.  If this is you, don’t despair – more rice flour would work.  Alternatively, I note several food writers suggest ‘heat treating’ or toasting quinoa flour before use – apparently the trick is to spread out your quinoa flour on a baking sheet and bake it at 100°C for two hours.  I’ll be doing this next time – quinoa is a useful flour because of its high-protein ways, and this is an advantage worth keeping.

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2 over-ripe bananas
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup (approximately one drained tin) crushed pineapple
1/3 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp gingerbread spice mix, mixed spice, or ginger
1 cup rice flour
1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup almond meal
2 tsp baking powder

For the icing:
250 g light cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups icing sugar

 

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Recipe: Christmassy Almond Butter Cookies (vegan and gluten free and almost healthy)

Ah, December.  No matter what I do, it seems to get away from me, and this year, more than ever.  I wound up doing most of my Christmas Baking last weekend – all day on Sunday, in fact – and only got my Christmas letters written and posted this morning.  Oops.  But since I am now officially On Holiday, I can actually start writing down the recipes I bookmarked in my head to put on this blog before Christmas.  So long as I’m quick about it…

This recipe was one I made last week.  I have what I would like to call an annual tradition, though in fact I don’t manage it nearly often enough, of baking up a storm a bit before Christmas and then going around to all the departments on Levels 1 and 2 (the professional services departments), delivering goodies and thanks to all and sundry.  And writing this, I’ve just realised that I never did get to Engineering.  Drat.  I dropped by twice and they weren’t there.  But that’s still a bad miss. 

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Anyway, I tend to try to make things that are large on output and low on effort, which is to say, lots of shortbread and mince pies and ginger biscuits.  But I also like to make sure there are some things in the mix which are vegan and gluten-free, and others that are nut free (so far, fortunately, I have not acquired any individual colleagues with more than two of these three requirements).  This year, the shortbread was egg and nut free, so my gluten-free and vegan biscuits were my chocolate tahini ones, and these little bites.

These almond butter biscuits are just barely sweet.  They really only have three main ingredients, after which you can flavour them according to your liking.  The quinoa flour and almond butter make them high in protein, and the agave nectar makes them fairly low in glycaemic index.  But they do, I think, want that little bit of glacé or dried fruit, or something sweet, to take them out of the health food category and into a more festive arena…

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150 g almond butter, unsweetened
100 g quinoa flour2-3 tbsp agave nectar
glacé cherries or glacé ginger or jam, or see variations for more suggestions

Now what will you do with it?

Pre-heat the oven to 165°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine the almond butter and quinoa flour in a bowl.  Add two tablespoons of agave nectar and mix in.  Taste for sweetness, and check the texture – you will find that it is extremely crumbly at this stage, so you will probably want to add another tablespoon of water or another tablespoon of agave nectar, according to taste.  Basically, you do want a relatively crumbly dough, but it needs to be something you can form into a little ball and make a thumbprint in it.

Do so, making the biscuits fairly small – if you make a circle of your thumb and first finger, that’s the size of the ball you want.

Press half a glacé cherry, or a sliver of glacé ginger, or a little dollop of jam into the thumbprint in each biscuit.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden and firm.

Serve to your deserving colleagues!

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Variations

I have so many ideas!  Firstly, if you were someone who liked peanut butter, I’ve seen an amazing looking honey and cinnamon peanut butter at the shops.  Now, I think peanuts are basically demonic, and honey isn’t very vegan, but if this is your idea of fun, I suspect it would be a great substitute for the almond butter.  You may need a little more or less quinoa flour to get the texture right, so fiddle around and see.  Macadamia butter or pistachio butter would also work.

You could roll these little biscuits in cinnamon sugar instead of doing the thumbprint thing – teeny, tiny almond snickerdoodles.  Or you could put a whole dried cherry in the middle of an almond ball (surprise!).  Or both at once!  Dried apricots would be nice, too, but you wouldn’t fit a whole one.

You could also choose a different flour, but bear in mind that this would affect the texture of the dough.

Allergy-wise, this is obviously useless if you are allergic to nuts, but it’s good for the gluten-free and the vegans, and if you swap out the agave nectar for maple syrup – which would be delightful, by the way, I just didn’t have any that day – you would be doing OK fructose-wise, I think.  And, as mentioned, they are not too bad in the glycaemic index department.  Quite a handy recipe to have in one’s repertoire, I think.

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Recipe: Strawberry, Pomegranate and Lemon Herman Cake, with Vegan potential

“Vegan potential?” I hear you ask.  Well, yes.  My Herman cake can never be vegan, because he was drinking cow’s milk when I got him, and even if I started feeding him almond milk or soy milk now, he would always be some tiny portion dairy.  But this Herman cake is egg-free, so if you have a Herman that was raised on non-dairy milks, you could make a vegan cake from him. 

And if you are going to make a vegan Herman, I can really recommend this one.  It’s lovely and tangy from the lemon and pomegranates, but is also lushly strawberry.  Also, you get to play Superfood Bingo, because I’m pretty sure chia seeds, pomegranates and anything sourdough is superfood-ish.  If you used coconut sugar instead of raw caster sugar, all the better.

What more could you want from a cake?

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2 tbsp white chia seeds
6 tbsp water
1 cup of Herman sourdough starter
2/3 cup raw caster sugar or coconut sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup canola oil
zest and juice of two really good lemons
500 g strawberries, hulled, and either halved or quartered, depending on size
2/3 cup (about 50 – 60g freeze-dried pomegranate seeds
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Recipe: Herman the German Peach and Apricot Cake

I have a Herman the German sourdough cake starter!  Does anyone want one?  (No, seriously, I mean it – Herman is a delightful fellow, but I think he was a Tribble in a past life, and as a result, one must constantly find new Herman acolytes who want a Friendship Cake bubbling away on their benchtop during the week…)

Anyway, he’s a lovely, healthy, vibrant Herman – I think he really likes brown sugar, because he froths and bubbles with enthusiasm at the slightest provocation – and he made me a lovely apple cake with the original recipe a couple of weeks back, but one cannot live on apple cake alone, and also, I found his apple cake rather sweet, so I decided to have a bit of a play with what was in the pantry, and see what happened.

The first thing in my pantry was an awful lot of almond meal left over from last week’s baking extravaganza, as well as a couple of spoonfuls of chocolate-coated coriander seeds, which I had forgotten to add to one of my recipes.  An interesting start.  Apricots and almonds are a natural fit, and I felt that apricot and coriander also gets along fairly well – and I also had somehow acquired no fewer than three half-empty packets of dried apricots, so that seemed to be an obvious choice already.  I still needed some ‘wet’ fruit, and I’ve got a surprising number of tins and bottles of peaches lurking around the place, so they seemed like the best idea for that.  At this point, I gleefully remembered my peach schnapps, and got that out, too.

Does this combination work?  You know, I can’t decide.  I love, love, love the zings of coriander with the dried apricots, but the peach is perhaps a little wet for my taste.  And the whole thing tastes so very alcoholic, far past what I would expect for that amount of schnapps.  On the other hand, all the Germans in my lab absolutely adored this, and said it tasted like a proper German cake (“Like Stollen, only not dry”), so evidently it works for some tastes, if not for mine.  I think next time, I’d use fresh peaches, however.  And maybe a bit of cardamom in the batter.  See what you think.

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250 – 300ml Herman starter (i.e., about a quarter of your Herman on day 10 after his second feed on day 9)
2/3 cups sugar – any kind, but I used half castor and half coconut sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
160 ml canola oil
2 tablespoons peach schnapps, + 2 more tablespoons for the glaze
400 ml tinned or bottled sliced peaches, which you probably should chop, but I didn’t
1 cup dried apricots, ditto
10 g coriander seeds in milk chocolate.  Or just a teaspoon of coriander seeds, just for fun.
115 g icing sugar

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Recipe: Upside-Down Plum and Walnut Cake, with Cardamom

It’s January in Australia, and you would be within your rights to expect that the weather would be swelteringly, painfully hot and sticky.  But you’d be wrong, because this is Melbourne we’re talking about, so it’s cool and drizzly, and pretty much the perfect weather for staying inside with a book.  Or several books.   Like the ones I accidentally bought when I went looking for calendars today.

But that really wasn’t my fault.  I mean, nobody could seriously expect me to pass up a book about Richard III and finding his grave.  Or Gail Carriger’s newest YA offering, Curtsey and Conspiracies.  And really, if you had just discovered that Joan Aiken wrote Jane Austen fanfic, wouldn’t you be heading straight for the nearest bookshop to find out exactly what it was like?  (Very good, as it turns out – she has the voice down just about perfectly, and while I found that it did have a certain amount of Victorian sensibility and wish fulfilment, Aiken definitely wasn’t taking liberties with the characters.)  And I may possibly have bought a cookbook, too.  I have no self-control when it comes to bookshops.

(You will note that actual calendars are conspicuously missing from this list.  There’s a reason for that.)

But I digress.  And also spend a lot of money in bookshops.

Do you know what’s really great about this weather, though?  It’s summer, so all the most beautiful stone fruits are in season, but it’s cold, so you can bake with them.  And baked, stewed, roasted and caramelised stone fruits are one of the great joys of life.  I am a very happy Catherine right now.

I am also a Catherine who has been baking upside-down plum cake, and this is a kind of weird cake for me, because I love plums, and in fact I grew up with a plum tree in the back yard, so stewed plums are a bit of an emblem of summer for me, but I really hate walnuts, and especially walnut cakes.  So when I started making up this cake, it was going to be an almondy sort of cake, but some part of my cooking-self was *positive* and *certain* and really *very sure* that plum cake required walnuts, not almonds, and in the end I had to obey.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to make it all with walnut meal, so I went half and half.

In retrospect, I think it might actually have been better with all walnuts, which is sort of unnatural, really, but true nonetheless.  The walnuts have an earthiness that goes well with the plums.  But I have no idea how my cooking-self figured that out, frankly.  And I’m still deeply suspicious of the whole idea.

It’s a good cake, though.  Nice and afternoon tea-ish, and it should keep for several days, assuming it lasts long enough to do so.  And it is really perfect for a Melbourne summer.

Look at me with my arty photo composition!

Look at me with my arty photo composition!

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9 plums
10 g butter
3 tbsp vanilla sugar
75 g walnuts
75 g almonds (or more walnuts)
175 g caster sugar
200 g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch of salt
2 eggs
150 ml olive oil
250 g Greek Yoghurt

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Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Zucchini Pesto Surprise muffins

The thing with making a lot of antipasto dips and spreads is that then you have to work out what to do with leftover dips and spreads.  And yes, one could always have them on bread, but that stops being fun after a few days.  One of my favourite uses for antipasto dips is as pasta sauces, though they are also good on pizza bases instead of tomato paste.  But today I’m making food to take to the cricket, which means portable food, so it’s time for these dips to find their way into some muffiny goodness.

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The flavour of these muffins will depend a bit on what sort of pesto and dips you are using, but if you play your cards right, they might almost be healthy.  Certainly, the zucchini is a good start in this direction and if, like me, you are using homemade dips in your muffins, you might be working in all sorts of handy vitamins from roasted capsicums, sunflower seeds, broccoli, hazelnuts and herbs.  But having said that, these muffins will work with just about any sort of non-yoghurt-based vegetable or herb dip you have to hand.  So, I wouldn’t try them with hummus or tzatziki, but babaganoush would work, as would olive dip, sun dried tomato dip, or any kind of roast pepper dip or paté. Just make sure you really like the flavour of it, because it will be the main muffiny flavour.

A cream cheese dip would probably work, too, though be prepared for a very cheesy flavour to your muffin.  (Also, you just lost any claim to healthiness in this muffin.  Sorry.)  The dip is replacing some of the liquid, some of the egg, and some of the oil from a standard muffin recipe, so be mindful of this when making your dip selections.

As for the surprise – it’s more pesto!  Or rather, different pesto, in a dollop at the centre of the muffin.  This, in fact, is where your cheesy dip would really work, with a herby pesto in the muffin itself.  Or you could use a cherry tomato for a lovely fresh centre.

Your Shopping and Leftovers List

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour (wholemeal is good if you have it, might as well add an air of healthiness to these muffins)
1/2 tsp herbs such as paprika, oregano, thyme, chilli, fennel – depending on your dip flavours
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup roasted capsicum and sunflower seed spread, or another pesto or vegetable/herb/nut  spread of your choice
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup low fat milk
about 1/2 cup broccoli pesto, or other dip of your choice, or about 16 cherry tomatoes, whole

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Recipe: Passionfruit Cupcakes with Lemon Coconut Butter

I wasn’t going to bake anything for the Movember morning tea.  I mean, really – I’ve donated to all the Mo Bros on my floor, and surely, surely in the name of men’s health the boys can take a turn at baking?*

Well, it turns out that some of them can, but not enough for our purposes.  And when it comes down to it, faced with a conflict between ‘really, why should the women be baking for all the men’s health days *and* all the women’s health days too?’ and ‘but what if there isn’t enough food?’, well, there really can be only one answer in the land of Cate.

Besides, I bet none of the boys were going to bring anything that was vegan.  And I have friends who are vegan.  So there.

Anyway, having not intended to bake, I then certainly didn’t intend to post a recipe, largely because I really wasn’t in a cooking mood (yes, it’s true I baked a fruitcake today, and made a hot lunch, and made dinner for tonight *and* started dinner for tomorrow, but most of this was about the fact that our heating has been broken and baking keeps the house warm), and also because I didn’t plan to do anything fancy. Aside from using the passionfruit powder I ordered from TasteBom and have been looking for a use for.

Also, when I did start making these cupcakes, I swapped them around in the oven too early, so most of them sank in the middle. 

Also, the icing came out beige.  And when I went to fix it, it wound up mustard-coloured. Which probably is a masculine colour, at least.  Most of the ugly ones seem to be, if you believe the clothing shops.

And yet… the crumbs of cake that were stuck to the tin were *amazing*.  Properly tangy and full of passionfruit flavour.  And then, the ugly, ugly icing is rich and lemony and smooth with a coconut creaminess to it… and altogether, my ugly duckling cupcakes… taste like swans?  Only vegan.  And not kind of tough and unpleasant-tasting, which I gather swan meat is.  And that right there, folks, is why some people shouldn’t be licensed to use metaphors.  Especially the clichéd kind, though I don’t think anyone can claim it was still a cliché by the time I was done with it.  Unappetising, yes.  Cliché, no.

Have I put you off yet?  I hope not.  These really are delicious cupcakes.  And you can’t see how ugly they are once they are in your mouth…

(Even that came out sounding vaguely unappetising.  I think I’d better stop with the describing and just give you the recipe)

(Also, unsurprisingly, there are very few photos, and they aren’t that good – this is because I wasn’t documenting as I went, and the light in the kitchen is bad…)

photo 2

* I strongly suspect that the appeal of Movember has nothing to do with men’s health and everything to do with growing the most gross moustache one can.  And I say this as someone who is actually mildly in favour of facial hair.  But some of the shrubbery currently to be seen in our lab should really not be encouraged.

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1 1/3 cups caster sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
400 ml (1 standard tin) light coconut milk
3 lemons
40 g freeze-dried passionfruit powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

2 – 2 1/3 cups raw icing sugar

90 g virgin coconut oil, melted (you want the virgin stuff because it has a strong coconut taste – the refined version is too neutral here)

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Recipe: Strawberry, Lemon and Apricot Cake

You know when you are doubling a recipe, and you think that because you do this all the time you will be totally fine doing this in your head, and then you randomly go and forget to double some ingredients and then, for some mysterious reason, somehow quadruple other ingredients, and this doesn’t even count the fact that you had, in any case, done that usual thing where you take out the icky walnuts and replace them with something random and also don’t measure the lemon zest properly, because seriously, who measures lemon zest?, and also you added extra strawberries because STRAWBERRIES, and…

Yeah, that’s what happened here.  I was wondering why the batter was turning out so oddly, and then, as I was carrying the cakes to work last Thursday morning a little part of my brain went “wait, 15 times 16 is 240, not 480, and definitely not 500, which is what I actually used because I couldn’t be stuffed measuring the butter properly so late at night…”

Oops.  But, as it turns out, doubling the butter just turns the cake from a tea-cake texture into more of a pound cake one, and the whole thing was absolutely delicious, and best of all, I actually get to write up the recipe in my blog, because I assure you, the recipe as I adapted it, both deliberately and inadvertently, is definitely not the recipe in Nicole Routhier’s Fruit Cookbook.  Not by a long way.

So there you go.

Incidentally, this is also why there are very few photos and they are all of the cake in pieces.  I really didn’t think it was going to work.  Sorry.

slice1

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2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
2 large eggs
 1/2 cup caster sugar + 1/3 cup for the syrup
250 g unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
zest and juice of two lemons
500 g strawberries, hulled and cut into 1 cm pieces, or thereabouts.

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