Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raspberry Marshmallow Rainbow Girl Cake

One of our colleagues was finishing up work today and true to form when afternoon tea was discussed I offered to bring a cake. Originally I had planned to make a banana cake with chocolate cream cheese icing. Oh, said M, what's the other option?

I took the hint and tried to come up with something a bit more glamorous. There are many many rainbow cakes on the internet to take inspiration from, however I decided to keep mine in appropriately 'girly' hues.

I made an enormous quantity of vanilla cake using a Magnolia recipe, split the mixture into three parts and then coloured with yellow, rose pink and pillar box red.

The trick with layered cakes is to make the layers the night before you intend to split and fill them. Try to split a super fresh cake and you will end up with moosh. After refrigerating the layers overnight I was able to successfully split them, and then fill and stack them. The filling is Haigh's raspberry dessert sauce and a little teeny bit of marshmallow icing*. The dessert sauce was great, keeping the cakes very moist and well flavoured.

And of course it's marshmallow icing on top.

This kind of cake is not for the faint hearted. Including the icing it contains a whopping 6 cups of sugar, and it tastes like it!

* Which is also known as Seven Minute Frosting, but everyone who eats the stuff refers to it as 'that marshmallow icing'

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge Jan 2010: Nanaimo Bars

January 2010's challenge was making graham crackers, and then using said crackers to make nanaimo bars. Interesting given that I had never eaten a graham cracker, and never heard of nanaimo bars, so had no idea what these treats should look or taste like. Thanks to the interweb I had some idea, but little details like the right thickness and texture of graham crackers remained (and still remain) a mystery.

Graham cracker dough is a sticky bastard. I had some extreme moments of frustration when it persisted in gluing itself to the benchtop despite copious amounts of flour being used to prevent such sticking. I worked out that the freezer is my friend. If you blast the dough in there frequently for 5 minutes or so it seems to become less tricky.

The first batch I baked turned out to be way too thick and slightly glued together, resulting in this:

Thankfully, in a rare moment of good sense, I had decided not to roll all the dough out at once just in case something went awry. I switched to round cookie cutters and rolled the dough thinner and had some success:

These ones developed some serious crunch, making them perfect for whizzing in the food processor to become crumbs that formed the base of the nanaimo bars.

The nanaimo bars themselves were fairly straightforward to make, I've made a few slices in my time and it turns out that the American term 'bar' is what we in Australia would deem a 'slice'.

I did find the finished product incredibly sickly and sweet, so I can see why other bakers include cherries or other bits and pieces in the recipe, as it would probably cut the richness of all the butter. So I wasn't a fan of the bars, but the graham crackers are pretty lovely.

Thankfully R and the other nanaimo bar consumers thought they were delicious!

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This weekend

Some eggplants began to appear in our garden.
I took a break from fondant covered fancy pants cakes and returned to a more relaxed style, icing slathered on with abandon, a few holes and gaps here and there, and lots of pretty sprinkles and decorations on top. Deliciously imperfect. And popular with my eaters! (By the way it's a three layer devil's food cake with white chocolate cream cheese icing.)

I also finished my first Daring Baker's challenge, the details of which I can only reveal on Thursday. The results of the challenge became gifts for my nearest and dearest.

R and I made 6 litres of chicken stock and froze it.

And we watched a scary amount of Grey's Anatomy on DVD.

So all up it was a pretty damn good time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buttermilk muffins: two ways

Last weekend we had our lovely friends N & K around for brunch. Being a hot summery kind of day I thought that a perfect brunch menu would be chunks of watermelon, slices of pineapple, orange juice and some muffins straight from the oven. I found a recipe for Raspberry Lemon Muffins over at ButterSugarFlour which looked most wonderful, and it was.

Once I'd made the batter I split it in half and added a cup of raspberries and chopped 80% cocoa chocolate to one part, and a cup of blueberries and the zest of one lemon to the other.

Sadly this is the only picture of the raspberry and chocolate combination that I have left, due to some serious scoffing. What you can take from that statement is that raspberry and chocolate was the winner! Baking with buttermilk is fantastic, it adds a certain richness to cakes but without being heavy. And it keeps cakes moist.

Hurray for buttermilk!! Recipe hero(ine) of the week. (I think I might be overtired.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Recipe 9

As a kid I hated tomato. Thankfully my tastes have changed and I can now admire and consume (with pleasure) tomatoes of any kind. Our 2010 challenge is going well and we are now up to our 9th recipe, Green Tomato Pie with a Polenta Crust from the Cook's Companion. Interestingly the challenge with this recipe has been locating green tomatoes, which is odd given that every time I seek super ripe tomatoes there is always a multitude of green-reds and few juicy bright ones. So the tomatoes in our recipe consist of green cherry tomatoes (we conducted a raid on our garden) and a lovely lovely heirloom selection.

The recipe is straightforward. Make a polenta crust in the food processor, divide into two and refrigerate for half an hour. Roll out half and place it in a pie dish. You add the tomatoes in layers, sprinkling in between with a mixture of vinegar, sugar, basil and spices, and dot with butter.

Roll out the other half of the pastry, pop it on top and make it pretty.

Bake it. Gosh it is delicious!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planet Cake Basics 102

First up, square cakes are damn hard to work with. The rumours are true. I am exhausted but very proud to have turned this:

Into this:
Buttercup yellow is my new favourite colour, possibly because it is a similar hue to my coveted KitchenAid.

Basics 102 builds on Basics 101 (tick!) so layering, covering in ganache and creating smooth flat sides and good corners wasn't totally foreign to me. New skills taught in Basics 102 are covering a square cake (so many more corners, so many more edges, so many more opportunities to panic), as well as making a ribbon bow and basic figurine modeling.

As you can see below there is a lot of room for improvement - the figure has rather cracked skin (perhaps she is 90?) and appears to be chinless. With flat feet. Poor lass.

As always I really recommend the Planet Cake courses. They make scary things seem quite possible. And I got some tips on the chocolate mudcake recipe that caused me such angst back in September.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holy heck!

I discovered this morning that my Uncle David and Auntie Sylvia and their family bought us a KitchenAid as a belated engagement gift. We are seriously lucky ducks!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A year of new recipes

2009 was a year in which I baked a lot of cakes and sweet treats. It was fun and my family, friends and work mates very much enjoyed all the creations. I learned how amazing the texture of a cake becomes when butter and sugar are properly creamed. And I learned how to make choux pastry. And lots of other stuff.

But Rahul and I have decided that 2010 is the year of expanding both of our repertoire and so we have made a resolution - no recipe will be cooked twice. We will have to say goodbye to some of our favourite never fail recipes which is a pretty major big call given that these recipes appear on the menu all the time. So please wish us luck.

Tonight we are cooking Penne Norma from The Silver Spoon Pasta Book. Already we have met a new ingredient, ricotta salata, plus the more usual pasta requirements of passata, garlic and eggplant. I had anticipated a struggle to locate this cheese which I'd not seen previously but Norton Street Grocer proved to be amazing and not just in relation cheese - gelatin strips, Birds' Custard Power, Karo corn syrup, walnut oil - I suspect it will be our friend on this cooking journey.

So what is ricotta salata? According to wikipedia ' in addition to its fresh, soft form, ricotta is also sold in three preparations which ensure a longer shelf life: salted, baked and smoked. The pressed, salted and dried variety of the cheese is known as ricotta salata. A milky-white hard cheese used for grating or shaving, ricotta salata is sold in wheels, decorated by a delicate basket-weave pattern.' Rahul reckons it tastes like an Italian feta. Try it.