Category Archives: Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache filling

I love having a family with good taste. It means I get to spoil them with experiments and I get to enjoy the benefits, both of actually putting together something delicious, and of enjoying it (I am still trying to figure out which one I enjoy more… thankfully it’s not important to figure out, otherwise I would be in a major quandary and dilemma and I would probably end up not doing either of them. I’m weird like that).

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I have a problem with reading, and I have lost my excuse since finishing University. While at school and while studying at University, I got a bit lazy to read. I absolutely love reading though, I always have, every since my Great Gran taught me how to read the children’s bible when I was 5! I got a Dictionary for my 6th birthday. Which I decided I would try and read when I was 11. Thankfully I didn’t get very far, that would have been a waste of time!

But that is my problem with reading: I feel that it is such a luxury past-time, that if I have something more “important” to be doing (such as assignments, studying, thesis, etc.), then how could I allow myself to indulge in reading? As a result I didn’t do my reading at Uni. Which isn’t to say that I got much of the other important stuff done in that time instead though, I would actually end up not doing either activity. So it really was a terrible excuse.

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Now, I can’t even use that excuse because I am no longer studying! I have free time which is actually free, and it is beautiful. You could say that the free time actually adds up to the endless holidays that students get. Or at least I can tell myself that so that I don’t feel so jealous about all their time to travel and explore…

The beautiful birthday girl

The beautiful birthday girl

I suppose what I do do instead of reading or studying now is bake. I am ok with that. Sometimes baking requires planning and organisation and grown up things like that, so for this cake for my cousin’s 18th, I had to make a practice version of the cake. You know, to make sure it worked out alright (nothing to do with sampling or ensuring that we had our own personal “leftovers”…

 practice cake
For the cake

Ingredients

  • 230g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 240g flour
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 125g butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Prepare two round baking tins.
  2. Place eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk on high until lighter in colour, thick and frothy
  3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt together and fold into the egg mixture until all ingredients are just wet
  4. Melt down the butter into the milk in a pot on low heat. Add the vanilla essence once mixed together
  5. Add butter-milk mixture to the batter and stir until it reaches a smooth consistency. Mix carefully so as to not lose any of the air in the whipped eggs
  6. Divide batter equally between the two cake tins and place in the preheated oven. Leave to bake for 30 minutes
  7. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

Note: for this cake, I completely flattened off both tops using a bread knife. This was so the strawberries could sit safely

For the Salted Caramel

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup caster sugar
  • 100g butter (cubes)
  • 60ml cream

Method

  1. Place the sugar in a pot on a medium-high heat and allow it to melt. Do not stir. Shake the pot to mix the sugar and allow the top dry sugar to get to the heat under the molten sugar
  2. Once a golden colour is reached and all the sugar is dissolved, add the butter and stir until melted and mixed in
  3. Remove from heat and add the cream, stirring vigorously until all is incorporated
  4. Place in a bowl/container and allow to cool before using in this cake
For the Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 120g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
  • 80ml cream (pouring or heavy cream)
  • 30g butter

Method 1:

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Just before all the bits are melted, remove and keep stirring until the heat of the melted chocolate melts the remaining chocolate
  2. Add the butter and allow it to melt into the chocolate
  3. Mix in the cream until a smooth and consistent glossy chocolate mixture forms. Allow to cool slightly before use

Method 2: 

  1. Heat the cream on a stove top. Once simmering, remove from heat and pour over chocolate and butter. Ensure the chocolate has been chopped into small pieces so that it melts easier.

 

caramel ganache layer

For the Chocolate Buttercream frosting

Ingredients

  • 110g butter softened
  • 220g icing sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 40ml cream (or until desired texture is reached)

Method

  1. Cream the butter (electric whisk on low)
  2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together, and cream together with the butter
  3. Add the cream in small doses to help the mixture come together and continue to do so until desired consistency is reached
  4. Only frost cake once cake is coooled
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Achievement Unlocked – Level Macarons!

achievement

Macarons have been my biggest challenge to date. Generally I am quite satisfied with my ability to follow a recipe and get my expected result. With macarons, however, this was not the case.

Christmas Macarons

[Let me just clarify something quickly: macaroon vs. macaron. Think: coconut vs. almond flour.

Quick recipe for a macaroon: condensed milk and desiccated coconut, mixed in a ratio that lets you form little balls and place on a baking tray to bake at 180º until the edges start to brown and the biscuit is pretty firm]

My first attempt at macarons used a recipe from Dan Lepard‘s cookbook, Short and Sweet, which has proven delicious and basically perfect every time… until now. Then I tried Mary Berry and Great British Bake Off‘s chocolate macarons. I followed the instructions to a T, and they ended up burning anyway.

I figured it was time for a troubleshooting guide, when I stumbled upon this absolute gem. She even linked to her step by step guide to making macarons, which I tried after re-attempting Dan’s recipe using some of her advice. This was my result:

Her recipe was the first to start coming out right. But surely I didn’t have to follow all of her steps? Who has time to wait overnight for egg whites to mature? As it turns out, it is important, and it makes a substantial difference.

What also helped, was this guy. I absolutely love his work! His tutorials on macarons showed me that I might have been over-beating my eggs, and maybe I was “not overmixing” too carefully. Fully incorporated, people!

Red Christmas macarons

Eventually, I ended up with these bad boys, which I made for our Christmas party. Aren’t they beautiful! And added bonus was that they were gluten free, so everyone, even the fussies (though not the Banting folk), could enjoy dessert.

They were accompanied by vanilla cupcakes with green cream cheese frosting, and cute little marshmallow reindeer that my little cousin thoroughly enjoyed.

Marshmallow reindeer

Marshmallow reindeer

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Macarons

Makes about 30 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp creme of tartar
  • 210g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 125g ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
  • 30g caster (granulated) sugar

Method

  1. Separate the egg whites. Leave overnight to mature in the fridge, and remove from fridge well ahead of time to allow to come to room temperature
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together. Place this into a food processor and blend together until very fine and resembles a flour. Do this in stages, and make sure you’ve scraped down the sides of the food processor to break everything up. Also don’t go for so long that the mixture starts to heat up (we are making macarons, not over-sweetened almond butter)
  3. Sift the icing sugar-almond mix back into the bowl. If there are any remaining chunks of almond, remove them, they will make the mixture lumpy – DO NOT PUSH THEM THROUGH
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and creme of tartar until very soft peaks form – peaks should hold their shape for long. Add the granulated sugar here in two stages, beating until stiff peaks form (but not hard peaks – they should have some movement to them still). Colour your meringue mixture now, using powder or gel food colourings – don’t use liquid colouring
  5. Add one third of the almond mix and fold in gently. Once it has started to combine, add the second third, and repeat with the final third. Ensure mixture is of the same consistency and there are no dry patches
  6. Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle about 0.5-0.8cm in diameter. Pipe this onto a stencilled mat or template, taking care not to put too much mixture for each biscuit as they spread quite a bit. Tap the baking tray firmly onto your working surface to remove any air bubbles. If there are remaining bubbles on the surface, give these a pop with a tooth pick
  7. Leave to form a shell at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just before that time is up, preheat oven to 160ºC
  8. Place baking tray in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140ºC and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with filling. I filled mine with canned caramel (boiled condensed milk trick) sprinkled with some salt (salted caramel), a coffee buttercream, and some leftover green cream cheese frosting from the cupcakes

Alice in Wonderland Party – Red Velvet Queen of Hearts

The person that wrote Alice in Wonderland was definitely cooked off his rocker. But, some of the best things in life are just that: cooked! (Or “Mad”, if we want to go full-on Alice in Wonderland reference)

Mom’s “hat braai” had me wanting to do a real mad-hatter theme party. Actually, my mini steampunk hat made me want to do a Mad Hatter’s party. I couldn’t go straight “Hat”, though – can’t be copying my mother – so I went with the whimsical land of Alice, with all of it’s crazy tea-parties and glam of the Queen of Hearts.

It turned out quite well: everyone was dressed up, and the theme actually lent itself to great decorations. See my Pinterest board for inspiration.

Red Velvet Cupcakes 3

Following the carrot cupcakes of the other day, I needed to make that cream cheese frosting again. Emphasis there on the word needed. It really was that good. The red velvet cupcakes came out so cute as well! I may have left them out in the open for a bit long, however, so they weren’t as moist as they should have been. The flavour, though, was great, really does the iconic red velvet cupcake.

Red Velvet cupcakes

I have to admit that there is a disappointing amount of cocoa in the red velvet mixture. 1 Tbsp? What’s the point!? Either way, apart from some of the random ingredients (don’t be put off by the smell of the mixture or the consistency of some of the ingredients), these cupcakes are really easy to make (mix mix mix everything together!). Though you might not want to eat the cupcake batter, you will definitely want to dig into the finished product (some may argue that there isn’t even a point to making the cupcakes if you can’t enjoy the batter, but bear with me for that little red gem of joy). Again, I used this recipe from One Sweet Appetite, because her carrot cupcakes were so good, there was no doubt that the red velvet ones would speak to me on the same level.

Red Velvet cupcakes 2

Red Velvet Cupcakes – makes 24

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ C cake flour
  • 1 ½ C caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ C vegetable oil
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp red food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider because that’s what we had, and it’s an acceptable vinegar substitute for most recipes, which is good to note)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC
  2. Prepare your cupcake tin (liners or greased)
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  4. Whisk all the wet ingredients together until well-combined
  5. Mix the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients until the mixture is of even consistency. Note to self: do not lick the batter spoon
  6. Divide evenly, about ²⁄³ full
  7. Place in the oven on the middle shelf, for 15 minutes, or until the sounds of wet-baking have disappeared, and a skewer comes out the centre of the cupcake dry
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting

 

Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes (and eat the leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 5 tsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ C icing (powdered/confectioner’s) sugar

Method

  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together until soft (this makes it easier to mix the sugar in, instead of having the chunks of dairy flying around)
  2. Add the icing sugar and mix slightly before beating until well-combined and of a desired consistency (like whipped cream or a solid buttercream frosting)
  3. Pipe onto your cupcakes

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

Chocolate Wasted Cake

Chocolate is my thing. I am a complete addict. So when I found this cake, I immediately decided that I wanted this to be made for my birthday. And it was, as chocolate always is, amazing! I’m pretty sure I was just Google Image searching for chocolate when I came across this recipe, but it most certainly delivered.

Look at all that chocolate-y goodness!

Granted, it was very rich, and VERY chocolate-y. It was also quite thick and stodgy. This was probably because the recipe is egg-free, so, yay if you’re into that kind of thing. Me? I like my eggies, so I probably would have preferred this cake if it had used them. I used crumbled Flakey instead of chocolate chips because I don’t have great access to delicious chocolate chips, so I decided I’d go the safer and guaranteed-delicious route of Flake. It was a good decision.

The cake was also a little bit on the large side, which put off some of my healthier guests: there is no such thing as a small slice with this baby!

It was fun to make, and with a few alterations, it would be my absolutely perfect kind of cake!

Freshly brewed cake

I am finally in England, and I finally have my degree! Could that be any more exciting?

Brace yourself

Winter is certainly not coming, it is most definitely here. Feel it! It is wonderful. Before I tell you anything about the most perfect cake in my life right now, I need to give you some advice, especially if you are not from a cold country. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you need to be cold too! I arrived with my South African winter coats, bracing myself against the cold. I expected the cold, and I was ready to deal with it. Little did I know that you can actually wear a genuinely warm jacket, and you don’t have to feel the cold at all. You can also get really stylish jackets too (fancy that…), so there is no excuse! This revelation has saved me, and I look forward for my next few weeks in this bitter yet beautiful city.

Another great thing about being here in the big city is all the new coffee opportunities. I can continue to hone my skills in the brewed art, however finding a good cup of coffee has been surprisingly difficult thus far. And my English Granny complains about the coffee in SA? She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. One coffee that does not fail, however, is this delicious and delectable coffee cake.

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

As I must have mentioned before, this blog is largely about me learning to cook and bake, and become a better food photographer. You are joining me on my learning experience, my delicious food-journey, venturing into the unknown as I experiment with new foods and techniques. Obviously, this learning takes some proactivity, so I started an online cooking course, which turned out to be super handy and educational! It was kind of basic, but there were definitely a few technical tips in there that I picked up and they did have some great recipes that you had to complete as part of the course before you could move on. That includes this amazing coffee cake, which has literally become my favourite cake recipe ever thus far, and some amazingly simple sugar/butter cookies that are easier and simpler than mine.

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits. Hi Pam

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits – delicious. Hi Pam

The coffee sponge is so light and fluffy, with just enough coffee that it’s not overpowering but that you still get sufficient coffee flavour. The instruction video describes the ‘beautiful caramel coloured cake batter’ but I thought it looked basically the same as normal cake batter. It was still a very tasty cake batter (had to make sure there was enough coffee in there of course… There was).

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in - it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in – it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

I made this cake during my final exams, and it certainly kept me going for a portion of my studying. Unfortunately, it sat beside me, smelling wonderful, and it didn’t keep me company for long enough. Made for a good study snack of course at least.

Make sure to let your cake cool...

Make sure to let your cake cool…

The other problem with a single layer cake was that there was just too much icing for it, but there would have been just too little for a double layer one. I topped the cake with toasted walnuts the first time, but was disappointed by their flavour (which I was pretty new to), so I used pecan nuts the second time. I need to find a way to use pistachios, those are amazing (and addictive…).

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The cookie recipe is one for the books; or one for your mental recipe book, as it is that easy to remember and execute. They use a really basic 3-ingredient cookie recipe, that works according to a ratio, and can be adapted to your tastes. In these, you add a dash of lemon zest, which gives them a perfect dash of flavour. The cookies are straightforward and reliable, as a genuine cookie should be.

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Happy Christmas indeed!

The recipes are both from my favourite online shopping site, and they can be found here and here. Enjoy!