Category Archives: cakes

Recipe and Review: Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes and Deceptive Desserts

When I got back to work after my long service leave earlier this year, I discovered a cookbook on my desk, courtesy of one of my Professors.  This is an excellent way to come back from long service leave and I highly recommend it to any who are considering such a thing.  The book was  Deceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide to Baking Bad! (which I see is actually discounted at the Book Depository right now), and it is a rather brilliant collection of recipes for ill-advised treats – face-hugger cake, cannoli with little kitten faces, Frankenstein’s monster cake, terror-mi-su, cinnamon buns shaped to look like serpents ready to strike, cat-lady jello, and my personal favourite, screaming strawberries in vanilla mousse with chocolate tentacles.

It’s kind of like someone watched a lot of 1980s Dr Who and then read the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book right before bedtime, and then had nightmares.

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The illustrations are truly a thing of beauty – Christine McConnell, who is a stylist and photographer as well as a baker, photographs herself in vintage costumes that coordinate with her various disturbing desserts, with the occasional cat in the background, looking appalled.

The recipes are also nicely varied – it isn’t the sort of cake book that gives you six basic recipes at the start and then focuses on how to decorate them; there are recipes for sugar cookies (decorated to look like gravestones), waffle cones, various mousses and jellies, lime meringue cakes, devil’s food cakes, donuts (disguised as fried chicken and vegetables), banana bread, caramel popcorn, peppermint brownies, and apple pie, to name a random assortment.  I would note that the recipes are American and thus tend to have rather more sugar than I prefer in my cakes, but this is a minor quibble for an extremely fun and comprehensive book.

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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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Recipe: DIY Brownie Packet Mix (gluten-free)

OK, after yesterday’s exploration of the truly disgusting things one can create while in pursuit of dessert, I thought we deserved something a bit less traumatic. So here, have a soothing brownie.

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Is it not beautiful?  Does it not inspire meditation?  Or, indeed, imitation?

Or even levitation?  This brownie is not, in fact, levitating, but you wouldn't know it to look at this photo.

Or even levitation? This brownie is not, in fact, levitating, but you wouldn’t know it to look at this photo.

The good news is, you can plan this brownie ahead of time and eat it whenever you like.

This brownie mix grew out of the fact that at certain times of the month I desperately, desperately crave chocolate cake and brownies, but am generally feeling far too unwell to do the culinary work required to create them.  This leaves me with the option of buying brownies made by someone else  – and I don’t have any good sources for those in my vicinity – or resorting to packet mixes (I use the Donna Hay ones because the ingredients are actually proper cake ingredients).  Only then I feel guilty about resorting to packet mixes, and then I need to eat more chocolate brownies.  This cycle serves nobody (except, perhaps, Donna Hay).

But I am breaking the cycle!  I am breaking the cycle by creating my own packet mix, that can be put together on days when I actually feel like measuring stuff, and then stashed in the pantry, ready to be made up when I need it.

This packet mix is gluten-free, and can be made in a variety of flavour profiles.  I haven’t yet figured out how to veganise it, but I suspect this would not be too difficult for anyone with practice in the matter.  That will be my next brownie experiment.

In the meantime – enjoy!  Enjoy very, very much. Continue reading

Recipe: Turkish Delight Gateau

I know, I know.  I said I was going to write about carrot cake and crackling chocolate crackles.  But then I realised it was my choir friend’s birthday, and because I am on holiday, I actually had time to make a cake!  And I had this beautiful recipe for a turkish delight layer cake, with rose-flavoured cake in pink and white layers with rose flavoured cream in the middle, very simple, very lovely.

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But then I thought, that’s going to be rather sweet, isn’t it?  So I decided to make the pink cake rose, like the recipe suggested, but make the second cake pistachio.  Which also makes it green, definitely a bonus.  And then I thought – wait, whipped cream, in a four layer cake that has to travel for half an hour on public transport or, best case scenario, in a car.  Hmm.  Probably not a structurally sound idea…

So I decided to make a white chocolate and rose water mousse on a crème anglaise base instead.  Because that is a totally rational thing to do.

After all, rational is what gets you the best cake result, don’t you think?

And this is an excellent cake result.  It’s almost, but not quite, too sweet, with layers of rose and pistachio and mousse.  The white chocolate is subtle, and somewhere along the way the mousse acquired a hint of cardamom.  I have no idea how this happened, because I didn’t actually use any cardamom.  I can only assume that the mousse knew that cardamom was required, and thus it created some through kitchen magic.

(Incidentally, I did an absolutely shocking job on the sponge cakes, mostly because I was too lazy to follow the recipe properly, but the nice thing about a layer cake like this is that nobody can tell because it’s all covered in happy happy rose and white chocolate mousse.  Which is another win-win situation, really.  So don’t be intimidated by this recipe.  But maybe do try following it a little bit.)

Hooray for kitchen magic!

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Recipe: Choc-Mint Birthday Cupcakes for Andrew

It’s Andrew’s birthday today!  Happy birthday, Andrew!  Every year, I ask him what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, and every year, I get a slightly terrified look (you want me to make a decision?  About food?), followed by a sheepish acknowledgement, after some discussion, that yes, he does want something chocolatey and minty.  Again.  Because being an Andrew means wanting choc-mint everything all the time.  (He knows what he likes…)

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The problem with Andrew having a birthday at this time of year is that he never gets a truly elaborate birthday cake, mostly because I am in the middle of grant season.  This grant season has been particularly diabolical, too, what with the NHMRC compressing all the due dates so that all the grants are due a week apart, changing the rules twice (so far), and then our finance department providing the coup de grace by introducing new costings for all our internal services the day all the budgets were due to the grants office.   It’s all rather exhausting, not to say demoralising, and while it’s awfully early in the year to be losing the will to live, I, for one, am getting close to that point.

(The good news is that I’m getting a lot of singing work, which is always a balm to the soul.  Though not conducive to blogging.  So yes, there is a significant chance that I will be disappearing off the radar quite a bit over the next couple of months.  And I’m sorry about that lengthy whinge.  As I said, I’m feeling rather demoralised.)

Here, have some cupcakes to un-demoralise you.

Here, have some cupcakes to un-demoralise you.

Anyway.  Cake!  So, as you may have gathered, my priority for Andrew’s birthday cake is to produce a cake that is on the one hand suitably choc-minty and decadent, and on the other hand really, really fast to make.  Which, oddly enough, tends to mean vegan or nearly-vegan, since most of those cupcake recipes are very straightforward.  As a bonus, of course, this means that I can easily cater to my sister-in-law, who prefers to avoid dairy if possible.

These cupcakes, then, are just a nice, simple, vegan cupcake, flavoured with really good cocoa, and an optional (non vegan) cube of mint-filled chocolate in the centre.  I’ve topped them with a really basic peppermint-spiked chocolate tofu mousse, which is, frankly, easier to make than chocolate ganache, and not a lot more complicated than chocolate buttercream, and much tastier.

Not elaborate, but entirely delicious.  Which is really all you can ask for from a cupcake…

Your Shopping List (Makes seven big cupcakes – one for everyone in the family, plus an extra one for the birthday boy)

2/3 cup almond milk + 20 ml for the topping
3/4 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
3/4 cup plain flour or plain spelt flour
1/4 cup really good Dutch-style cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
7 squares of Cadbury Peppermint Block, or similar (optional)
125 g silken tofu
2 tsp creme de cacao (optional)
115 g dark chocolate
6 drops peppermint oil, or peppermint essence to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)
Green sugar, optional

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Recipe: Sunken Blueberry, Macadamia and Lime Cupcakes

I always have my suspicions when a recipe calls itself a ‘sunken cake’.  I am sure that this is meant to convey a sense of dense, richness, almost of decadence – the sense of a cake that is so full of wonderful things that it sinks under its own weight.

But I’m pretty sure what it means is that the cook in question made this awesome, delicious, moist cake, and yet, through some accident of culinary alchemy, the rotten thing came out of the oven with a canyon in the middle.  But naturally you can’t tell your visitors or customers that, so you pretend that this was what you were aiming for all along.  “Oh, that’s just my famous sunken chocolate cake.  It’s simply divine with cream.  Would you like the recipe?”

Of course, it’s possible that my suspicions are founded entirely on the fact that this is what happened to these cupcakes.  I decided to experiment with macadamia meal (which does not, thank you so much, Sunbeam, behave exactly like almond meal in a cake), and thought I’d start fiddling around with a recipe loosely based on another one of those beautiful things from Red Velvet, Chocolate Heartache.  And of course, the macadamias turned out to brown much faster than almond meal, and then it’s possible I put in too many blueberries, and the whole thing sank like a stone.  Well, stones.  There were 14 cupcakes, so that makes 14 little valleys of the shadow of culinary disaster…

I wasn’t going to post the recipe, because they looked so disastrous, but they actually met with a fair bit of enthusiasm at this morning’s meeting, so there you go.  Which is another way of saying that the photographs on this recipe are rather minimalist.  I’m sorry about that.  If I could think of a way to make that sound intentional and appetising, I would…

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150 g macadamia meal
50 g white rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
zest and juice of 1 lime
200 g zucchini, peeled, topped and tailed
2 medium eggs
120 caster sugar
125 g blueberries, plus 12 for decoration
250 g icing sugar
a teeny tiny drop of green colouring

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Recipe: Accidental Teff Gingerbread Brownies

I freely admit, this recipe did not start off as brownies.  I had been given some Teff flour, originally with bread in mind, but my wrist ganglion won’t really let me knead dough at present, so that was just not going to happen.  So then I  was planning to make cookies, on the generally sound principle that when experimenting with a new kind of flour, cookies are a fairly safe bet (they are small enough to maintain structural integrity even with a fairly non-sticky flour).

But then I realised that I kept on using things in measures of 1/3 cup, and I got all excited about making a recipe based on everything going in 1/3 cup measures and had to keep going come hell or high water… and then I realised that this recipe wanted a bit of a gingerbread personality, which means treacle instead of sugar, and then with oil replacing the butter (and I still don’t know why I did that, given that I then went and replaced the egg with yoghurt, so it isn’t like this recipe is dairy-free in any case), the whole batter started looking very cake-batter-ish, and indeed, soon took on that shiny texture I associate with brownies.

I know when I can argue with a recipe, and I know when a recipe is going its own way.  This recipe knew what it wanted, and I did not have the strength of will to stop it.

The result?  Well, it’s somewhere between brownie and cake.  Teff flour, it turns out, has quite a distinct flavour – wholemeal and nutty and something else I can’t quite identify.  It is also a little on the powdery side, though the denseness and moistness in the cake rescue it somewhat.

But do you know what’s really weird about this brownie? It tastes like a rum and raisin brownie with walnuts, despite containing none of those ingredients.  Bizarre.  Don’t get me wrong – the flavours are lovely.  They just aren’t the ones I was trying to put into the cake…

As culinary experiments go, I think it’s a success.  Though if I were writing this up as a paper, I’d probably fudge my initial aims and hypothesis a bit, to match my results.

(Come to think of it, I wrote more than one history paper as a student where I had to go back and re-write my introduction once I was done, because during the course of writing, I had argued myself around to a completely different point of view.  So perhaps this brownie is actually an essay about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Stranger things have happened.)

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1 1/3 cups Teff flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp gingerbread spice (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg)
1/4 tsp dried orange peel powder (optional, or use zest of one orange)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup yoghurt
1/3 cup treacle
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/3 cup chopped glacé ginger

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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: 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 Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

I promise I’ll figure out an egg-free Herman next, but this Herman was made quite literally in self-defense.  You see, on Saturday while I was at choir, Herman got out of his container and went on a rampage across the benchtop, spreading chaos in his wake.  I like to think of this as Aggravated Battery – the bench was batter-y, I was aggravated.

(He is a very, very enthusiastic Herman.  I’ve fed him with barley flour, which seems to have curbed his unseemly verve a little bit, but I suspect the hot weather is only going to bring him back, bigger and batter than before.)

And, of course, my Herman is still producing far more batter than I can give away, so on Cup Eve, I decided to make another Herman cake for my colleagues and the colleagues of my husband, since both of us are working on the day itself.  We clearly deserve cake.

Also, this meant I could use up some more batter.

This Herman was, I think, far more successful.  The cocoa calms down the fermented flavour, so it tastes a bit less like eating a brewery, and I think we all know how I feel about the combination of chocolate and raspberries.  You really can’t lose. 

Actually, I’m underselling it.  This is a gorgeous, gorgeous cake.  I’m actually regretting giving so much of it away, because it was so perfectly to my taste – not too sweet, nicely chocolatey, and with plenty of raspberry goodness.

Fortunately, I have plenty of Herman left.  I can make more.

(No cake photos, because I was in a mad rush and forgot.  But here’s a portrait of Herman shortly after his eruption from the jug.  As you can see, I have removed a quarter of him, but he is already bubbling back up in a slightly alarming fashion.)

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Your Shopping List

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
2/3cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup almond meal
3 eggs
160 ml canola oil
200 g dark chocolate, chopped
300 g frozen raspberries

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