Tag Archives: cakes

Recipe: Vegan Sacher-cupcakes

Calling these cupcakes Sacher-cupcakes is probably an insult to Austrians everywhere and they will never let me go back to their country, let alone that hotel, but I do think it’s a fair description. 

Sachertorte is a light chocolate sponge covered with apricot jam and chocolate glaze.  These cakes are also light and chocolatey, filled with apricot jam and covered with chocolate ganache, and they are really delicious.  I’ve made this recipe quite a few times in the last year or two for work events, because it’s incredibly easy and fast to make, works with gluten-free flour mix if it needs to, and once you fill it with apricot jam and load it with ganache nobody will believe that it’s vegan.

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Recipe: Lavender Butterfly Cakes with Blackberry Jam and Whipped Ganache

These are really quite basic cupcakes with a little bit of lavender in them.  If you’ve ever made a plain butter cake, you probably used this recipe, but without the lavender.  The only slightly complex part is the whipped ganache, which is a bit fiddly, but actually very easy. Once you’ve made the ganache once, you’ll probably want to make it again, because it gives you a delicately flavoured cream that holds up much better than whipped cream if it needs to sit around for a few hours.

The only thing to remember is that you need to start the ganache at least 7 hours before you plan to serve the cupcakes.  Making it the day before is fine.

Also, I just love the flavour of lavender, but usually I make it either too strong or not strong enough.  For me, this whipped ganache is in the magical Goldilocks zone – noticeably lavender, without making you think about soap…

Your shopping list

75 white chocolate
125 + 160g cream, both chilled
3 blackberries, crushed
1 tsp dried culinary lavender + 2 tsp for the cake
12g liquid glucose (yes, I know, I know.  This recipe is usually made in a much larger batch.  This is about 1 1/2 teaspoons, I think.  Just think how much worse it would be if I’d only made a dozen cupcakes!)
250g butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
4 eggs
370 g self-raising flour
160 ml milk
500g blackberry jam

Now what will you do with it?

First, make the ganache.  Chop up the white chocolate and put it into a bowl.

Put 125g cream in a small saucepan with the blackberries and 1 tsp of lavender, and heat until boiling point.  Switch off the heat and leave for five minutes.

Pour the cream through a seive into another bowl.  Press the blackberries into the seive with the fork to make sure their juice comes through.  Return the cream to the saucepan.

Add the liquid glucose, which is, yes, a pain to use, but it does somehow make the ganache more stable.  What I recommend doing is rinsing a teaspoon and your hands in cold water, then using the teaspoon to scoop out the glucose and your finger to push it off into the cream – the cold water makes the glucose stick less.  And I’m sorry about the quantities.  This is the halved version of the recipe, and even with 24 cupcakes, you are going to have more than you need…

Bring the cream and glucose back to the boil, and pour the mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  If you’ve made ganache before, you are probably worried about these ratios, because this is a very thin ganache and about to get thinner.  Don’t worry – think of this as whipped cream thickened with chocolate, and it will make more sense.

Stir in the rest of the chilled cream.  You might add a drop of purple colouring to the mixture to make it more inviting if you like, but this is optional.  Cover the ganache with clingwrap, which should be directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate for at least six hours or up to two days.

When you are ready to make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 180°C, and line two twelve-hole muffin tins with paper cases.  (Or do this in two batches, one tin at a time.)

Grind the lavender in a mortar and pestle (you can grind it with some of the sugar if you find this easier) until it is somewhat broken down.

Put the lavender into a medium-sized mixing bowl with the butter and sugar, and cream together.  Add the eggs one at a time, then mix in the flour and milk, alternately.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, and put into the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes feel soft and springy when you poke at them gently.  You might want to swap the trays around at the 15 or 20 minute mark, depending on how they are doing.

Remove from their tins, and let cool on a rack.  Get out your ganache, and whip it as you would cream.  The ganache has a higher fat content than cream, though, so it will whip up much faster – don’t put on a stand mixer and wander off to hang out the washing or something, this is probably only going to take a couple of minutes.

Use a small knife to cut a conical circle (I’m sure that is terrible geometry, but the right words escape me) in the middle of each cake – basically, you want a nice, round, section of cake, slightly pointed in the middle, which you are going to cut in half to make the butterfly wings, so don’t eat it!

Place a small spoonful of blackberry jam in the centre of each hole, and pipe or spoon the lavender ganache over the top of it.

Gently place the two ‘wings’ into the cream, pushing slightly inward as you do, to help raise the cream.

Dust with icing sugar or little purple stars.

Feed to the people you love.

Variations

Well, there’s no reason this has to be a lavender cake, I suppose, but isn’t that rather a waste? You might make the cakes with raspberry jam and a little rosewater in the ganache (add half a teaspoon with the cold cream, then taste and see if you need a little more), in which case I’d keep the cakes plain vanilla, because it is far too easy to wind up with overly-perfumed rose cakes.

You could replace 50 grams of the flour with cocoa, and then fill the cakes with cherry jam and add kirsch to your ganache.  Apparently, I’ve decided that black forest is the variation I want for every cupcake I’m doing.  Or just go ultra-chocolate – I bet this would be amazing with dark chocolate whipped ganache and a caramel filling, or a raspberry one, or maybe you could add peppermint essence to your whipped chocolate ganache, and have a choc-mint cupcake.  At which point you should probably decorate it with shards of Peppermint Crisp, because that is the law.

In terms of dietary requirements, I don’t think you are going to be able to avoid dairy here, but if you have a good, basic vegan vanilla cupcake recipe you could certainly make this ensemble eggless.  It is obviously free of nuts.  It would work just fine with my gluten-free self-raising flour mix, and the result should also be low in fructose, though certainly not in lactose.

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: 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: 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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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
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: Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Tofu Mousse and Scream de Menthe

I made these cakes for a Big Number Birthday yesterday.  The brief was that they had to be gluten-free, low-FODMAP and vegan, which does, in combination, take a lot of the fun out of things – but fortunately, nuts were allowed, giving me a bit more leeway in terms of flavour and texture.  They are based on my insanely spicy Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes with Smoky Chipotle Mousse.  This time, instead of insane heat, I went with insane alcohol levels. 

Apparently, there’s just something about these cupcakes that brings out the insanity in me… 

I have no idea why he filling is called Scream de Menthe, but for some reason there is no other possible title for it.  None whatsoever.  Some things just are, and one cannot deny them.  I suspect it has something to do with the positively poisonous green colour and the undeniably alarming alcohol and sugar content.

The really important thing to know here is that these cupcakes were yummy.  And alcoholic.  And should probably be kept out of reach of children…

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Your Shopping List

1 cup cashews (raw, or at least, not toasted)
1 1/3 cups almond milk + 30 ml for the mousse
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar (or cider vinegar, if you are less worried about FODMAPs)
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3/4 cups rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2/3 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
pinch of salt
3/4 cup crème de menthe
225 g dark chocolate
250 g silken tofu
30 ml crème de cacao

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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!

Your Shopping List

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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Recipe: Yoghurt and Almond Cake with Lemon and Rhubarb

I’ve been haunted by this cake all week.  It’s been calling to me from my fridge (where the beautiful new yoghurt sits), from my fruit-stand (where the tiny, perfumed lemons are placed), from my vegetable box, where half a bunch of rhubarb is awaiting its destiny.  I can almost taste it in my mind – the perfumed sourness of the lemons and rhubarb, the mellowness of the almond and the syrup and the yoghurt, the softness of the drenched cake…

… the warmth and cosiness of my bed, which is much more appealing than baking in my current tired and rather depressed state…

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But who could be depressed while contemplating this beauty of a cake?

I can’t claim that this cake sprang, fully-formed and Athena-like from my brow, but it has certainly evolved into quite a precise recipe without much effort on my part.  As I write this, the syrup is simmering on the stove and the cake is still in the oven, but I *know* this cake now, I’ve thought about it in between meetings and grants and before going to sleep.  I’ve even dreamed about it.  I know it’s going to be good.

PS – Oh, it really, really is.  Wow.  It’s like a lemon delicious pudding in moist, glorious cake form, with rhubarb.  It almost makes up for Australian politics.  Almost.  It’s definitely one of my best cakes, anyway.

Your Shopping List

200 g self-raising flour
110 g ground almonds (conveniently packet-sized, see what I did there?)
100 g caster sugar + 3 tsp (for the tin)
50 g brown sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
375 g rhubarb
2 large eggs
250 g plain thick yoghurt (Greek is good, but any well-set yoghurt will do)
150 ml olive oil
3 small lemons
80 g white sugar
water

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Recipe: Spiced Chocolate Honeycake

I may have mentioned once or twice that my workplace takes its cake very seriously.  Indeed, for about a year, we even had a weekly cake roster, so that even in months without many birthday, we could be assured of plenty of cake.  Of course, this rendered months like April, with ten lab birthdays, more than slightly insane, but sometimes you just have to make these sacrifices.

One of our PhD students was half-Japanese, and when it was her turn, she brought in this amazing honeycake.  It was the softest cake I’ve ever eaten – entirely crustless and pillow-like and perfect.  She said it was the only cake she knew how to make, but I’d have happily eaten it all year round.  I asked for the recipe, which she duly gave me, though it was missing one or two details like cooking times and such, but my own versions, while good, have never been so delectably tender.  Still, I keep trying, because it’s an amazing cake.

I’m sure you will have noticed a certain key word in this recipe title – honey!  As someone who is now invested in finding every possible use for honey, this recipe is clearly just what the doctor ordered.  Looking into my pantry, I also spied a container of ‘chocolate spice‘, a mixture of dutch cocoa with winter spices like cassia and nutmeg and allspice. 

(And now I have become totally distracted by the discovery that Gewürzhaus does cooking classes, including one in conversational German on making traditional cookies, and it’s on the one day I can’t go!  Not fair!)

(Oops, no, actually it’s on a day when I am very much free.  Though it is at an ungodly hour of the morning.  Never mind, German conversation and cooking classes are not to be missed…)

cakeWow, I really did get side-tracked, didn’t I?  I’m actually now sitting here with Gewürzhaus open in the other browser, trying to figure out whether I can justify any of their other classes.  Bad Catherine!  Get back to the recipe!

Anyway, here I was with this honey and this spiced cocoa mix, and I thought, actually, that’s rather a nice combination.  So I put it in a cake.  The result is a lovely, moist afternoon-tea sort of cake that tastes a bit like Lebküchen.  I could probably have skipped straight to that part, couldn’t I?

Your Shopping List

4 eggs
130 g caster sugar
60 ml canola oil
60 ml orange juice
80 ml honey
120 g plain flour
30 g spiced cocoa mix, or go with about 20-25g cocoa, and make up the rest with all your favourite sweet spices
 

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Recipe: Bleeding Heart Cupcakes for Halloween

I don’t really do Halloween, to be honest.  I sort of like the idea, but it isn’t big in these parts (not being a festival generally favoured by the Greek Orthodox or Muslim communities), and my mother always disapproved of it. She cunningly told us for years that we were too young to go trick or treating… until suddenly one year we were too old to go!  Which is not really playing fair, if you ask me (but as you can see, I’ve totally got past this and I certainly don’t take the opportunity to grumble about it every time trick or treating is mentioned in my presence.).

But, ashamed as I am to admit it, I succumbed to peer-group pressure.  What can I say?  I like spooky pancakes.  And skull-shaped pumpkin damper, for that matter.  Or maybe I just like an excuse to be silly…

It’s not really pumpkin weather here, which is a pity, because I’ve never tried pumpkin pie and keep meaning to and then forgetting when it’s autumn.  So that was out.  But then I remembered my little heart-shaped cupcake pan, and the idea of little pink heart cupcakes that oozed blood  when you bit into them became instantly irresistible.  I intended that they would be intensely pretty and cute, thus making the bleeding a bit more appalling, but then I managed to accidentally tint my ganache a sort of fleshy pink which looked like melting skin and seemed hideously appropriate, so I went with it.  These cupcakes, then, are not pretty (decorating never was my strong suit), but they are delicious and also mildly disgusting to look at, which is surely in the spirit of Halloween.

Be warned – the raspberry filling is quite runny and wants to go all over your benchtop, so let it cool a bit and have your finger ready to block the nozzle, or your kitchen will look like it has been visited by Titus Andronicus.  Only with fewer severed hands.  (There’s a biscuit for that, you know.)

Oh dear me, and I just thought of the most hideous pun imaginable, and you guys are just lucky that I don’t have foot-shaped cookie cutters or I would be absolutely *compelled* to make All Soles Day biscuits tomorrow.  Maybe next year…

Your Shopping List

125 g butter, softened
110 g dark brown sugar
55 g caster sugar + 25 g for the filling
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
300 g self-raising flour
50 g cocoa
200 ml milk
60 g dark chocolate
100 g frozen raspberries
1/4 cup blood orange juice
90 ml thickened cream
175 g white chocolate (either little buds or chopped) (225 g if you want a less runny ganache)
red food colouring.  Because it isn’t Halloween without food colouring…

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