Tag Archives: cream cheese frosting

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
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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

What happens when you don’t let your cake cool

One of the perks of being a student is that you get a free adrenalin rush every time you have an assignment to hand in that you obviously only finished at the last minute. Man, that buzz!

Oooo the buzz!

To live life even more on the edge this morning, I decided I wanted to bake a cake. I had finally figured out my recipe for MY chocolate cake, and all its icings and frostings, and it was going to be wonderful, and in the true nature of spontaneity, I wanted to make it NOW! As in, today. Imma have cake for breakfast man, I don’t care that I have to hand my essay in two hours from now. Cakes are quick to make, right? Well, they are. The thing that takes the time is the cooling.

The cake came out delicious: perfectly fluffy. I just need to make it even more chocolate-y, because you can never have enough chocolate! But, like I said, that cooling time… Sigh, I gave up waiting when we had to leave in 10 minutes and I hadn’t even assembled anything. It’s kinda cool, right? Wrong. The thing completely broke – a crack right down the middle: it was wonderful to watch.

Toughest part of making the cake: using a manual hand-mixer - I literally had to crank it to get them to whisk

Toughest part of making the cake: using a manual hand-mixer – I literally had to crank it to get them to whisk

I started out so well!

I started out so well!

It was too late to do anything about it, however, so into a plastic container it went to be rushed to Uni so I could submit my essay. Best breakfast ever!

It is a delicious mess, that will be rectified and properly shared in the near future. When I can buy more 70% dark chocolate (it was on sale this weekend – that shtuff’s expensive!). Oh, and who needs spoons?

The cake worked very well in theory, and many components were delicious and successful indeed. I must say, however, that I am not sold on cream cheese frosting, so that will definitely change in my next attempt.

Perhaps I could pass this off as some kind of pudding rather than a layer cake? It doesn't matter, it tastes delicious anyway!

Perhaps I could pass this off as some kind of pudding rather than a layer cake? It doesn’t matter, it tastes delicious anyway!