Tag Archives: cream

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.


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: Apricot Mousse, or possibly cold soufflé – a reconstruction

Happy Easter! I have heard the words ‘Christ is Risen’ in at least twelve languages, and have learned how having faith in the Resurrection is quite a lot like barracking for the Melbourne Demons, except that one’s hopes are more likely to be fulfilled in the former case.  (Apparently, our minister has been a Melbourne supporter since the mid-sixties.  During that time, Melbourne has won precisely zero premierships, and is mostly found holding up the ladder, or, as my father would have it, ‘lulling you into a false sense of security which may well turn out to be a true one…’).

Also, I finally got to sing a descant, so now I really feel like it’s Easter.  You can’t have a resurrection unless you spend serious time above the stave, that’s what I always say.  It’s possible that my doctrine is a little suspect…

My family used to have a big get together every Easter, with roast lamb and all the trimmings, followed by some sort of spectacular dessert, always provided by my Oma.  The year I was ten or so, she produced this amazing cold apricot soufflé, a beautiful, light, pale orange concoction, made even more exciting to my ten year old mind by the little Easter Eggs decorating it.


I’m not sure why this recipe, of all the recipes Oma ever made, stayed with me, but it did.  And, of course, I have no idea what the recipe was.  I had hoped it would be in Margaret Fulton (I have found a number of Oma’s recipes, suitably adapted, in the pages of my Margaret Fulton cookbook), but the only apricot soufflé in her pages was a baked one – not ideal for when one is expecting guests, really.  I did, however, have a recipe for Apple Nougat Soufflé in a Family Circle cookbook from my childhood, and the combination of whipped cream, egg-whites and gelatine sounded about right for the effect I remember. (No, this recipe is not vegan.  Not even a little bit.  Sorry.  In fact, this might well be the least allergy-friendly recipe I’ve ever done – oh no, wait, it *is* gluten free, so that’s something!)

So it was just a matter of changing a lot of flavours.  And some of the method.  And… well, you know by now what I’m like with recipes.  The result is not Oma’s soufflé – I don’t think Oma would have used orange flower water, and she certainly wouldn’t have used peach schnapps or made a praline garnish – but it is light and fluffy and apricot-flavoured, and it does have little pastel Easter eggs on top.  The spirit is right, even if the actuality is a little altered.

(We lit candles at the service today for those who were no longer with us, and were told of the Latin American tradition of saying ‘presente’ as the names of the dead were read out, to indicate that they were still with us.  This is a tradition I like very much, and I hope it will be continued.  But for me, Oma is far closer to me in the making of this soufflé than in the lighting of a candle.  Presente!)


Your Shopping List

1 1/2 cups of dried apricots
90 g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3 tsp gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup cream
small chocolate eggs in foil

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Recipe: Foolish Mess

I am posting this recipe solely for the sake of being able to use this title.  Really, who wouldn’t want to eat something with such a silly name?  But it is also a logical name, because Foolish Mess is essentially a cross between Eton Mess and Rhubarb Fool – or it would be if I could bear to use that much cream.  It’s essentially a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream with puréed rhubarb, fresh strawberries and pieces of meringue.

Which is another way of saying, it’s basically the perfect dessert.  Enjoy.


Your Shopping List

500 g  rhubarb
75 g vanilla sugar
350 g low fat Greek yoghurt
150 g thickened or double cream
150 g strawberries, sliced
50 g meringues, crumbled

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Recipe: Creamy Decadent Quince Ice-Cream

closeI am so proud of this ice-cream – it’s the creamiest, softest, most beautifully textured ice-cream I’ve ever made, and it really is a total and utter fluke, because it was inspired by leftovers.

Every year at quince time, I find myself totally unable to resist buying more quinces than I can eat in a reasonable time frame.  I use them in sweet recipes, in savoury recipes, baked, poached or slow-cooked, and incorporate them into cakes, crumbles or tagines.  Which is odd, because I am never quite sure whether I like them – I’m just totally seduced by their scent.

Nigella Lawson has a wonderful recipe for roasted quinces in her cookbook, Feast.  You basically take a kilo each of water and sugar, make a syrup, halve the quinces, and bake the whole lot for a few hours (the recipe is on the internet, but since it isn’t from Nigella’s own site, I’d rather not link to it).  It’s incredibly sweet – in fact, you’ve pretty much just candied quinces by the time you are done – and you are left with these totally decadent, deep-red quinces in a thick, quince-infused syrup with an almost jammy consistency from the pectin in the fruit. You can only really eat it in small doses. 

Which is why I always end up, weeks or months after the quince season ends, with a little bowl of candied quinces and syrup in the fridge.  They don’t go off – that’s how much sugar we’re talking about – but the quinces do eventually start to harden a bit.  And you have this glorious syrup, which, I know, is just the thing to drizzle over cakes or ice-cream or whatever, except that I just don’t do that.  In fact, I don’t know what to do with it.

quince syrup

Well, I know now.  It makes the most *amazingly* flavoured and textured icing.  I think something about the way the sugar crystals are dissolved and the pectin thickens things changes the way the ice-cream freezes so that you don’t get ice crystals.  In a less fraught week, I’d look up what Harold McGee had to say on the subject, but at the moment, I’m mostly concerned with preserving this recipe while I remember it.

Because this is hands-down the best ice-cream I’ve ever made. I’m already looking forward to next year’s quince season.

Your Shopping List

300 ml milk.  I used low-fat milk and it worked just fine.
1 vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
100 g sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom
300 ml cream
2/3 cup thick poaching syrup from Nigella’s quinces
1 cup chopped candied quinces or caramel apples or both, if that’s what your fridge looks like, or neither, because this ice-cream needs no help

Now what will you do with it?


First, you need to make custard.  Scary!  No, not really scary, because I know you already know how to make lemon curd and this is really no harder than that.

Split your vanilla bean lengthways, scrape out the seeds into a small saucepan, and pop the bean in, too.  And then try to figure out how to get the rest of the little, sticky seeds off your knife and fingers, where they now reside.

Heat the milk until it is nearly boiling, then remove it from the heat, and let cool for 15 minutes, so that the vanilla can infuse.

You could spend this time separating your eggs, actually.  Keep the whites for meringues or macarons, because you only need the yolks today.

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar and cardamom until they are pale and fluffy.  This won’t take very long.  Pour the milk slowly into the egg mixture, beating constantly as you go.  You don’t want to cook the eggs, so do make sure the milk isn’t still boiling hot (and if it is, you also haven’t infused it long enough, so be patient!).

There are two ways you can make the custard at this point, because the objective is to heat everything slowly until it thickens, which is just before boiling point.  You want to go slowly so that you don’t get accidental scrambled egg custard, which pleases nobody.  Or at least, nobody that I know.  Traditionally, one whisks the egg mixture in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  I started off doing this, but it was taking *forever* so I got bored and decided to try a microwave method, similar to the one I use for lemon curd – basically, you put the microwave on at 50% power, and heat the proto-custard, taking it out every 60 seconds and whisking it like mad, until it starts to get thick.  Usually the point where you get one big, gloopy bubble and pull the whole thing out in a hurry is what you are aiming for.


Lay a piece of gladwrap directly on the custard (this prevents it forming a skin), and put in the fridge until the custard is cold.  If you are impatient, like me, you can put it in the freezer, but do check on it every twenty minutes or so – you don’t want to freeze it yet.

Add in the cream, and stir it together well.


Scrape in the quince syrupy-jam, and try to mix through, but don’t worry if the cold makes it all clump up a bit, because the churning seems to magically take care of that.  I have no idea how, but it does.


Now you get to churn it!  And I’m afraid I am presuming for this purpose that you have a machine.   I’m sure the still freezing method would work, but my freezer doesn’t get cold enough for it.  Also, I’m lazy.  So.  Churn your ice-cream in your ice-cream maker until it’s beginning to look like soft-serve.


You can use the churning time to cut up fruit, if you plan to put chunks in.


If you are planning to put in quincey chunks, do so now.  Mine still had syrup attached to them, and the ice-cream promptly un-set, but it didn’t seem to matter, because I wound up freezing it from quite soft, and it still wound up amazingly creamy.


Freeze the ice-cream for an hour or two, until solid.  This will never be a very solid ice-cream, it definitely has a soft-serve consistency and starts to melt pretty quickly at room temperature, but that’s OK, because it’s delicious.  It’s also quite sweet – one only needs a small serve.

One is happy, regardless.



I can’t actually think of too many flavour variations, I’m afraid.  I mean, this recipe is born out of a fairly unique set of leftovers, and if I had anything else quite like it, it would be a different recipe.  It would be interesting to make something similar with a conventional jam, however.

In terms of food allergies, this is of course nut- and gluten-free and vegetarian, but not low-fructose, low-GI, or egg or dairy free, and certainly not vegan.  You might be able to replace the dairy with almond or soy milk and some sort of soy creamer; I’d certainly go with almond rather than soy if possible, for the flavour.  I would not use coconut milk here.  I’m afraid this would be a whole different ice-cream without the eggs, so I can’t help with that one.

This would be lovely paired with a pistachio cake or shortbread; a sprinkling of toasted pistachios over it would also be lovely (especially lightly salted ones, come to think of it).  But it’s beautiful alone, too.



Two years ago: Recipe: Steph’s Sticky Date Pudding Cupcakes with Caramel Sauce

Recipe: Pink Scones!

Today was our work Christmas Party.  We went to the Zoo.  Which was mostly a gallery of sleeping animals, but I’m here to tell you that the meerkats are the cutest and most active animals in the zoo, and that the seals are very good at explaining the importance of not littering…

Today was also a landmark achievement in my culinary life: I made more scones than my Division could eat.  I actually didn’t know there was an upper limit on how many scones my scientists could consume, so I feel rather pleased with myself about this…

(Also, I now have a lot of leftover scones.  A lot…)

I’ve been muttering about scones ever since we went to the Grand Hyatt for yet another work Christmas Party (the advantage of my job is that I get to go to pretty much all the Christmas Parties… the disadvantage is that by the last couple of weeks of December I have to start turning them down be cause I can’t keep up with my actual work).  I was fairly vocal at the time about the general awfulness of their scones and the stinginess of their portions.  Also, the discussion at our table turned to lemonade scones, which instantly made me realise that I needed to try making lemonade scones with other soft drinks.  

I wasn’t going to do that for today, since I was being given money and the morning off to be the official main caterer, but when I mentioned to the two postdocs who sit near me that I had decided against red lemonade scones on the grounds that Weird Experimental Scones were probably not what I was being paid to make, they both looked so sad at the prospect of no pink scones that pink scones became inevitable.

That meant, of course, that I had to make ginger beer scones, too, as I had promised this to LePetitPrince.  And then I had to make cheese scones, because one of our PhD students really doesn’t like sweet things.  Which meant that of course I had to make Hungarian Paprika and Celery Salt butter to go with them.  And then I had to make plain scones, of course, because what if people didn’t like the weird ones?

In retrospect, making nearly 130 scones for 32 people was possibly a little excessive.  But how was I to know that the pink scone batter would make so *many*?

Anyway, these scones are basically your lemonade scone recipe, but with red lemonade.  Or ginger beer, if you prefer.  They taste pretty much like scones, though they do have a faint reddish-raspberry sweetness to them.  And they are pale pink.  They are also ridiculously easy to make, so you should give them a try.

Your Shopping List (makes about 30 scones)

1 kg self-raising flour
500 ml red lemonade (room temperature!)
500 ml cream (room temperature!)

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Recipe: Pretentious but actually sort of justifiably so strawberries and cream

I try not to do the foodie thing, really.  I mean, I don’t try to avoid the totally obsessed with food thing, because I am absolutely in favour of that, but the organic quail eggs with sea salt drifting like snowflakes over a bed of ethically raised zombie truffles (now you know why they smell like that) thing is a bit much for me. Good food is one of the great pleasures of life, and making it into a source of one-upmanship and anxiety is, I think, against its life-giving spirit.  And now I sound like I’m inventing some strange food-based religion, though one could argue that food is in fact central to most religions, not least because it is life-giving, and I got 5 hours of sleep last night so I really need to get this post under control before it rambles off into theology land.  Though a food philosophy post may be on the agenda soon.

ANYWAY.  Having said all that, this recipe is a bit food-snobby, because it really does require truly wonderful ingredients.  I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it – when there are only three main ingredients in this recipe, and basically no method, those three ingredients have to be really, really good.  So this isn’t a recipe to make with strawberries that are kind of blah but you are in a strawberryish sort of mood – it’s a recipe to make because you found these amazing strawberries and (ideally) lovely, fresh cream today at the market or the greengrocer or maybe even the supermarket, and you want to just sit back and let them do their thing without interference, because their thing is wonderful.

Of course, I will fiddle around and give this recipe a few frills, because that’s who I am – I like to sprinkle my berries with just a splash of kirsch or strawberry syrup or raspberry liqueur, but it’s fine if you don’t have those things.  And I think strawberries and cream want something a bit crunchy and waferish to go with them, but again, this is just decoration.  And speaking of decoration, everything tastes better when you pile it into a tall sundae glass and sprinkle it with little edible stars.  Or grated chocolate.  Or what you will…


Your Shopping List (makes 3 glorious servings)

(No!  Not a shopping list!  This is serendipity – you make the dessert because you have the ingredients, you don’t buy the ingredients to make the dessert…)
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Recipe: Unnaturally Blue Curaçao Tart for Eurovision

Well, that was really rather a satisfactory Eurovision.  I actually liked Sweden quite a bit, and while I still feel that Turkey and Iceland were robbed, there was a very pleasing mix of the truly bizarre (moonwalking bagpipe players?)  with the unexpectedly good, and not too many power ballads, either.  And for once neither Italy or France embarrassed me (and I did approve of France’s decision to garnish their number with attractive and topless gymnasts).  No costume reveals, but other than that, it was a very good effort, and definitely one of the best Eurovisions I’ve seen

I’m in the throes of a horrible lurgy, so I haven’t been feeling very inventive, culinarily (hence all the desserts with nary a savoury dish in sight.  Savoury is much harder to be creative with).  This meant no painstaking research of Azerbaijani cuisine with a view to feasting thematically.  Instead, I made up a giant pot of vegetarian chilli, cooking the beans in my new pressure cooker (and this deserves a post of its own, because I am so very excited about being able to cook beans without soaking them first), baked a lot of potatoes, and put out salsa, guacamole, grated cheese and corn chips.  Simple.

Still, a Eurovision gathering, however small, requires a suitable dessert, and I believe I may have found, if not the perfect Eurovision dessert, certainly one of the most apt.  This dessert was born when I looked at Nigella’s recipe for Grasshopper Pie and thought – yes, but how can I make this *more* unnatural? (I suspect I am the only person in the world who would ask that particular question…)

For one thing, it’s quite unnaturally blue.  For another, it is exceedingly alcoholic (thus obviating the need for a drinking game – you can simply take a bite of the tart any time there is a key change, or an all-white costume, or a wind machine…).  For a third, it is ridiculously sweet, a bit tacky, and has absolutely no redeeming nutritional value.  (I will leave the parallel to the reader). In short, it embodies the magnificent excess, silliness, sweetness, artificiality and need for alcoholic stimulation that encapsulates Eurovision.  And, in case that wasn’t enough,it has a costume reveal!  Not a very good one, but I can’t blame Eurovision for that.

Also, it’s really easy to make.  And rather tasty, in a my God, I am eating blue curaçao mixed with marshmallows and coated with chocolate kind of way…

Oh, and one last thing.  I should probably confess that I actually like Eurovision.  I even watch it sober (blue curaçao tarts aside).  You may all feel free to laugh at my terrible taste now.  But it’s not about the singing – it’s about the outrageous performances and the sheer strange variety – you really never know what you are going to get – baking grannies, red-cordial-fueled twins, or bat-dancers forming themselves into a boat.  It’s sheer delight, even when it’s horrific.  How could anyone not love that?

Your Shopping List

300 g chocolate ripple biscuits
200 g granita biscuits
75 g dark chocolate (Lindt 70% cocoa cooking chocolate is my favourite) + 125 g for topping
100 g softened butter
200 g white marshmallows!
165 ml milk
185 g blue curaçao
500 ml double cream
smarties, sprinkles, silver cachous, or any other colourful sweets to decorate the top

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