Chocolate brownie “Hat” cake

Winter babies are the best. (And to me, there are only 2 seasons in the year: Summer, and Winter. Don’t worry if you’re a summer baby, though, it was winter somewhere). So lately there have been a lot of awesome birthdays, all starting with my mother dearest’s. We always have family braais (BBQs) to celebrate things, so this time we decided to spice it up a little by adding a theme: it was a hat braai. My mother is so creative (I am being sarcastic but also not… You will see why next week).

One of mom's friends went to the effort of making a personalised fun hat

One of mom’s friends went to the effort of making a personalised fun hat

This mother dearest of mine requested a hat cake for her birthday party. I was up for a challenge, but on Pinterest, all the hatness was made out of fondant, which I am really NOT a fan of. I decided to try find an alternative, but would settle for that sweetened playdough if I had to. I came across this recipe for marshmallow fondant. I love marshmallows. It was surely going to be a winner.

Alas, my marshmallow fondant did not hold together as it was supposed to, and I ended up having to scrap that idea, though the cake mountain was already cut and moulded, buttercream layer ready for its coating of neatness. It was too late to go the fondant route now, though, so I just drizzled my remaining milk chocolate ganache over the top of the buttercream frosting. The cake was also presented on a conveniently shaped (though subtle) plate, so the whole ‘hat’ effect was not entirely lost.

Happy birthday mumzicle

Happy birthday mumzicle!

The cake recipe I used was one that has “failed” in the past for me (the taste was amazing then too). It turned out a bit differently this time, a little less fluffy and moist, more like a decadent brownie (though less fudgy than a brownie). I am going to put this down to the altitude, because this is the second time my cake has come out slightly more dense than when I made it down in Grahamstown.

Chocolate brownie "almost-hat" cake. Dense and moist chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate ganache, with chocolate buttercream frosting, and milk chocolate ganache drizzle

Chocolate brownie “almost-hat” cake. Dense and moist chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate ganache, with chocolate buttercream frosting, and milk chocolate ganache drizzle

Chocolate brownie cake 

For the cake

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 150g dark chocolate – melted (as usual I used my Bournville favourite)
  • 150g butter
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml milk (as needed for mixing)
  • ¼ cup strong coffee (room temperature)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together
  4. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until combined
  5. Mix in the dry ingredients. Once they are incorporated into the mixture, add the vanilla, melted dark chocolate and coffee
  6. Mix well. Use milk to loosen the batter until it is of semi-pourable consistency
  7. Divide into 3 pre-greased cake tins, and place on the middle shelf
  8. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake is springy to touch
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the cake tin
  10. Assemble

 

For the Ganache

  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 60ml cream

Method

  1. Place the chocolate and cream in a heat proof bowl. Place this bowl on top of a pot of steaming/simmering water. This is called a bain-marie
  2. Melt the chocolate and cream together, stirring until smooth
  3. Allow to cool slightly before pouring between the cake layers, and especially before pouring on top of the buttercream frosting

 

For the Chocolate buttercream frosting 

  • 150g softened butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 30ml milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. Cream the butter and add the icing sugar. Mix until well-combined, smooth and creamy
  2. Heat up the milk and add the cocoa powder. Mix until dissolved. Allow to cool before adding to the icing, as this will melt the butter
  3. Add the chocolate milk to the icing, and mix until well-combined and creamy
  4. Ice your cake

Maybe I do like carrot cake

Obviously, as a chocolate and sweet-things lover, I am not particularly fond of adding healthy things like vegetables to my delicious treats, not even cupcakes. It’s part of the reason I struggle so much with trying to be healthy: Zucchini brownies? No thanks! So this was my first experiment with vegetables in a not-vegetable thing. And it wasn’t half bad (actually, they were amazing!). I do have to admit, though, that these cupcakes are really not any healthier than a regular cupcakes (maybe just because they have some extra vitamins, but as far as Macros go, these are just as bad as any other).

Cutesie little carrot cupcakes with the world's greatest cream cheese frosting

Cutesie little carrot cupcakes with the world’s greatest cream cheese frosting

I was pretty impressed with these babies, but I won’t be making them again any time soon. The  cream cheese frosting on the other hand… Now those I am absolutely making for Merry Unbirthday Party on Saturday! It’s going to be a treat (or much more!) and I will share the frosting recipe with you once I’ve got some other exciting photos. You know, keeping you in suspense and stuff! Trust me, it’s worth the wait – and I never even liked cream cheese frosting before I had this.

Maybe I got a little bit overenthusiastic when I used my new piping bags... Doesn't it remind you of a huuuuuuge ice cream? One day I'll show you just how much I thought it did...

Maybe I got a little bit overenthusiastic when I used my new piping bags… Doesn’t it remind you of a huuuuuuge ice cream? One day I’ll show you just how much I thought it did…

Carrot Cupcakes

makes 24

Ingredients

  • 6 medium (±12cm) carrots, grated
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups caster sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Prepare your cupcake liners
  2. Sift and mix together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (save the sugars). Add your grated carrot and mix together until carrots are evenly distributed
  3. Mix the eggs and sugars together until they start to foam, then add the oil and mix well
  4. Add the wet mixture to the carrot-flour mix, and mix until there are no dry patches
  5. Distribute the mixture evenly between the cupcake liners
  6. Place the cupcakes in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 15-20 minutes
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before frosting

 

Peach smoothie

So, I made a smoothie today. Well, it was supposed to be a smoothie. It’s delicious and super simple, but I don’t know if it has a weird texture because I’m used to drinking smoothies with a straw and not a spoon or if it is just super thick.

20140709-104200-38520650.jpg

It would make an awesome pudding, like some sort of healthy custard. Or if you froze it, it would make an amazingly creamy ice cream… But I felt like a smoothie, so I put it in a glass and ate it with a spoon and pretended it wasn’t 4 degrees outside (does that weather honestly even look that cold? It’s so deceiving!).

Peach smoothie – serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 can of peach slices (in syrup), prefrozen the day before (decanted and frozen, not frozen in the can)
  • 2 bananas
  • Some milk – about 100ml or more, depending on the consistency you’d prefer (add slowly to figure this out for yourself)

Method

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy
  2. Yum (that’s a step right?)

Peanut butter granola bars #healthynothealthy

So I’ve decided I want to be healthy. But not really. I like the idea of being healthy, all the wonderful benefits you get from it, and those Insta-fit-foodies make their #healthy food look so damn delicious! It almost makes you want to live off fruits and veggies and protein brownies made from zucchini or chocolate mousse made from avocado. I type that and I cringe inside. Being healthy /sounds/ awful.

As a result, I am trying to weed out the delicious recipes from the ones who are trying too hard. I’ve been working on some granola bars, and they’ve turned out ok, but they’re not quite right yet. I experimented with other granola bar recipes, and, surprise surprise, it’s the unhealthy ones that work out the greatest! They are a dream to make, and they taste fabulous. I made them once, and by the end of the same weekend, I had to make a few extra batches for my brother to take to school and the household supply was finished. These things are like little bars of heaven.

They’re not all bad: they do have oats in them, which is a nice substitute for flour. But there is also flour. And a lot of (brown) sugar. But there’s dark chocolate, so that should counteract the sugar, I rate. And of course the star of these bars: peanut butter. Peanut butter just makes everything healthy. Even if it is the whole jar – in one sitting. Totally healthy, I swear! Trust me, I’m a biokineticist (with no scope for nutritional advice just by the way; make of that what you will).

Granola bars aren't exactly a pretty thing. But they are super delicious bars filled with goodness, and if they make you feel healthy, maybe you'll be motivated to do some exercise too! Even I had to move some weights to take this photo. #liftingbru

Granola bars aren’t exactly a pretty thing. But they are super delicious bars filled with goodness, and if they make you feel healthy, maybe you’ll be motivated to do some exercise too! Even I had to move some weights to take this photo. #liftingbru

I’ve adapted (South Africanised) this recipe from my favourite blogger. Her food is amazing.

 

Peanut butter granola bars

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 Coats
  • 1 C Rice Krispies
  • 1/3 C flour
  • 1 C desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn cinnamon
  • 2/3 C brown sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1/2 C melted butter
  • 2/3 C crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped up Bournville works beautifully too

Method

  1. Mix all your ingredients together (don’t use a mixer, this will break up the Rice Krispies and you’ll lose all your texture)
  2. Press the ‘batter’ into a dish lined with baking parchment (or foil would work too). Make sure you press it all together quite well, or it can crumble a bit a lot when you cut it
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 180  degrees for 30 minutes or until the edges start to go brown (cooked brown, not burnt!)
  4. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Maybe go for a run while you wait – see: healthy granola bars!

 

Africa Part 1: The Beach

So it turns out that travel agencies are actually really good marketers. When I heard we had an opportunity to go to Zanzibar, I was like, “Score! Tropical island beach holiday, get in my face!” The posters make it look like Phi Phi island in Thailand, or Boracay in the Philippines. Maybe I didn’t go at a very good time of year, but it was fairly dull and muggy.

It's amazing what a few effects can do to a place - so maybe I'm not that great at editing photos, but it still looks like a pretty idyllic place to visit

It’s amazing what a few effects can do to a place – so maybe I’m not that great at editing photos, but it still looks like a pretty idyllic place to visit

Actually, I know I didn’t go at the right time of year – we were literally the only foreigners in the little village of Jambiani. It was a quaint little village, where you can really get in touch with the culture there, especially if you go when it’s only local cultures around.

When I told my English Grandmother that I was going to Zanzibar, she warned me of all the dangers that have been broadcast on British television; I was warned to cover up (which I completely respect: it is a Muslim island after all), and that I should be prepared for violence towards foreign women. It was quite dramatic. The truth is, when you go to a foreign country, it is more than polite to respect their culture and traditions, so I’m glad I at least found out what they were, and packed a pair of longer trousers for the Zanzibar leg.

It is most definitely one of those lands of bicycles - the likes of China

It is most definitely one of those lands of bicycles – the likes of China

We may have gone at the wrong time of year, but at least wearing trousers in that weather was still somewhat bearable (any hotter would have been unpleasant). It was incredibly muggy, just heat and humidity clinging onto your skin, and it had the vegetation to go with it. There was lush green jungle pretty much everywhere. We went on a “village tour” which included the guide showing us his veggie patch in the jungle behind the village, and we were taught all the medical properties of plants we will never see again. I didn’t learn about any history of the village or anything else you may expect from a guided village tour. But hey, that’s an experience in itself, I guess.

You know when your "village tour" happens alongside the main road next to some veggie patches that your preconceptions are not going to be met

You know when your “village tour” happens alongside the main road next to some veggie patches that your preconceptions are not going to be met

On our last day, before we took our overnight ferry back to Dar Es Salaam, we took ourselves on our own little walking tour of Stone Town, the other side of the island. There was life there, so much life bustling through the truly cultured little spice town. There were children boys playing in the ocean and in the parks, workers milling around, shop owners offering “good price” on an endless amount of boho/gypsy/comfy pants in every pattern imaginable. And, of course, the African artwork that you will never see the end of if you go anywhere tourists may be passing through anywhere in Africa.

As is custom, there weren't girls running around in their swimming costumes, but the boys were having a blast doing backflips and somersaults into the (shallow) sea

As is custom, there weren’t girls running around in their swimming costumes, but the boys were having a blast doing backflips and somersaults into the (shallow) sea

The remains of the old Mosques and ancient architecture from Zanzibar’s ‘Spice Island’ days were stunning – it is definitely worth seeing if that’s what you’re into. Beach holiday – not so much, building appreciation – gorgeous!

We got caught in an unexpected cloudburst, and this was the result once the rain had cleared

We got caught in an unexpected cloudburst, and this was the result once the rain had cleared

Hidden South African Gems – Port Alfred

I officially graduated from Rhodes University. I am no longer a Rhodent, I now part of the upper echelon of Old Rhodians. Supposedly. But #Rhodent4Life!

My gran was supposed to come down to South Africa from the UK to celebrate my grad, but her goat attacked her. How’s that for an excuse? It was a pretty bad injury, and I’m glad she stayed home and rested and recovered, though it did make some of our “grad-weekend” plans seem a bit dull…

Port Alfred

We figured we could make a beach weekend out of a weekend in Grahamstown, so we booked in a B&B in Port Alfred that was absolutely stunning, right on the beach front. PA is only 40 minutes away (30 if you’re one of the students I tutored last year who did the trip daily), so it seemed convenient at the time. It wasn’t really, because we spent most of our time in GHT, so it was a little bit wasted. But gorgeous nonetheless.

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it's her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it’s her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit PA again, as beach trips were seriously under-utilized in my time at Rhodes. It made for a great day trip, though one that was difficult to over do, because it was just that little bit too far away. I do regret not spending more time checking out Bathurst as well, which is a quaint little place.

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not...?

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not…?

Port Alfred is basically just another one of those gorgeous small towns along the South African coast. It is especially beautiful because it is situated in the Eastern Cape, and somehow most places there are beautiful. It’s a stunning coastal visit that still holds it’s small-town simplicity.

Rock pools

The kind of place that makes you want to attempt to capture each crashing wave and the incredible rows of shells, and the crystal clarity of the water, but its just too beautiful to ever adequately do it justice

We got a local’s recommendation to check out the Three Sisters rock formation just up the coast from Port Alfred, about a 15 minute drive. We were about 45 minutes too late, but if you ever get the chance, make sure to go just before and for the duration of low tide. It truly is a wonder to behold.

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back...

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back… I promise I didn’t Photoshop that sky either.

Port Alfred is just another one of those places that reminds you just how beautiful South Africa is, and how lucky we are to have such simple yet breathtaking places right on our doorstep, and a reminder to take advantage of it before we as humans do the inevitable.

“Kendra” brownies

That is, “Kendra” after me, not the Playboy bunny, in which case these brownies might be more appropriate..

Just: chocolate <3

Just: chocolate <3

These brownies are SO me – can you say 4 (FOUR!) different types of chocolate in these babies?! It’s no wonder they came out tops at my brownie bake-off last year, even though they got a bit burnt in a dodgy oven (thankfully, Pam has since had that fixed).

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

I made these for my classmates because I promised I’d make them these peanut butter brownies from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom. They looked incredible in the photo, but in all honesty, they are not to everyone’s taste, since they have basically no sugar in them. They are healthy (well, healthier) though, so I want to rework the recipe a bit, then I’ll be sharing it away with them. In the meantime, I had kept them waiting far too long, and it was time to deliver some baked goods to my class of Biokineticists (people who are supposed to promote health and wellbeing… Good job, guys!).

This recipe is from BBC Good Food, but their instructions are so detailed, it’s a bit difficult to follow. So I have simplified it for you, because everyone needs this much chocolate overload every now and then (/as often as possible).

 

Best Chocolate Brownies ever! 

Ingredients

  • 185g dark chocolate (Bournville works pretty well
  • 185g salted butter
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 50g milk chocolate chunks
  • 50g white chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees in a fan-assisted oven)
  2. Melt butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave (stirring often) or over a pot of simmering water. Leave to cool.
  3. Sift flour and cocoa powder together into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat sugar and eggs together until thick and creamy – mixture must be pale and will have doubled in volume.
  5. Fold the chocolate-butter mixture into the egg-sugar mixture, until it the two become a mottled brown colour. Careful not to over-mix and lose the air you just beat into the eggs.
  6. Resift the flour-cocoa mix into the wet ingredients mixture, and fold in until just combined with no dry patches.
  7. Stir in the milk and white chocolate chunks.
  8. Spread mixture out evenly into a 20cm square tin that has been prepared with non-stick spray or baking parchment.
  9. Set on middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes. If the brownies wobble in the middle when you try take them out, put them back in for a few minutes, though take care not to overdo them.
  10. Once removed, leave to cool for as long as you can bear it, and then devour them as gracefully as you can manage (that’s a challenge!)
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