Lavender: to eat and smell!

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Vanilla cupcakes with French Buttercream

Making the perfect cupcakes make me happy. Eating the perfect cupcake makes me even happier. Cupcakes are the beautiful balance of tasty cake and gorgeous, but still delicious, frosting. Aesthetics are a big part of cupcakes but one can never sacrifice taste for looks. This is probably why I prefer buttercream over fondant. It wasn’t until I had started making the French buttercream did I feel like my cupcake game had peaked. I had managed to master a lovely vanilla cupcake thanks to taste.com.au. But I kept struggling with the buttercream.

I’ve had many struggles with buttercream. Buttercream that split or cream cheese frosting that would not thicken. French buttercream is the only one that has never failed me.

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Lemon and Rosemary cake

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When I started making this cake I thought I would be coming out with a delicious recipe. But despite recipe testing, due to the various trials and errors I faced, I ended up mostly writing about what not to do when baking a cake.

As my chef friend Fathun said ‘Cheffing or being a cook is about fixing disasters too, as you have learnt from Masterchef’. I had Fathun’s help throughout this cake-making process. I can say Fathun is one of the people who is most enthusiastic and supportive of my cooking adventures. She’s always excited about new ideas I have and we both have so much fun planning dinners together. We both tend to go over-board when planning these said dinners, and a simple catching up meal will almost end up with a main, sides and dessert.

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Doughnut Time

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Galaxy Doughnuts

I love doughnuts, but I hate frying things. So when I saw that I could make baked doughnuts with a doughnut tray I went on a hunt for one. It was actually quite hard to find it and stumbled on it completely by accident. I was shopping with a little friend E that day and the 6 year old was almost excited at the prospect of me buying it. Since E wanted to make it with me (she didn’t even want me to just make it for her, she wanted to help) I made sure to invite her to come help me decorate the doughnuts.

We decided to try and do galaxy doughnuts and they were so cool! E was very excited to help and she came up with different colour combinations. We had a lot of fun mixing colours, dunking the doughnuts into the glaze and licking the glaze off our fingers.

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Doughnut glaze
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Galaxy doughnuts mixed colours

It was an interesting experience giving E free reign to decorate. I had certain ideas about what I wanted, but E too, had ideas about what she wanted. I think she was more eager to just try new things. I had set colours I wanted to use, but E wanted to try a little bit of everything and the colours turned out great! To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about putting the chocolate sprinkles on the galaxy doughnuts. I thought E would put them on a plain white one or a single coloured one. My mind was fixed on the Instagram pictures I had seen, but E was too happy to play with the chocolate sprinkles in new ways. A learning experience from E; letting myself have fun and experiment, rather than stick to what I know.

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I made 7 doughnuts using this recipe.

Ingredients:
Doughnuts:
– 1 cup flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 egg
– 65 grams brown sugar
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
– 30 gram butter
– 100 gram dark chocolate

Vanilla glaze:
– 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2-3 tablespoon milk
– Food colouring and sprinkles to decorate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (150 degrees in fan-forced oven). Grease a doughnut pan.
  2. Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with butter. Sit over a saucepan of barely simmering water, until the mixture is melted and smooth (stirring occasionally). Keep a close eye on the mixture, you don’t want the chocolate to burn!
  3. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and leave it to cool.
  4. Mix the flour, baking soda, bicarb, salt and sugar in a seperate bowl.
  5. Mix the egg into the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. The mixture will seize up, but don’t worry, it’ll become nice and smooth when you keep whisking. Add the milk and yoghurt and whisk until smooth.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the chocolate mixture. Stir it until it’s just mixed. Don’t worry if the batter is thick, we want the doughnuts to be a bit doughy.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Alternatively, what I did was to put the batter in the piping bag (a makeshift one with a ziplock bag and cutting the corner) and piped it into the doughnut holes.
  8. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack. You can store these in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
  9. Make the glaze. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Add more milk if you think the mixture is too thick. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze and top with sprinkles.

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Happy eating!

 

Catching the glitterbug

I love having the time to embark on big craft projects. So when I got the chance to plan a floral surprise birthday party, I jumped on Pinterest for some inspiration. The glitter jars I made were so simple, while being somewhat time consuming. But they were so pretty with colourful flowers in them and made for the perfect giveaway present too!

I absolutely love glitter. My husband was less enthusiastic and just shook his head and said ‘You’ve got glitter on your face!’. This only made me less inclined to go and wash my face. You can never have too much sparkle. Be warned though, we had gold glitter absolutely everywhere.

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What you need:
– Jars
– Mod podge gloss
– Brushes
– Glitter
– Newspapers
– Masking tape

What to do:
– Make sure the jars are washed with soapy water, clean and dried thoroughly.
– Put masking tape to make sure you have a nice and even cut off point in the area where you apply the glue.
– Apply a thin layer of mode podge and then sprinkle glitter on top. Give the bottle a shake to get rid of excess glitter.
– Leave to dry for at least 2 hours. I left them overnight.
– Apply another thin layer of mod lodge over the glitter. This is to seal the glitter so that it doesn’t go everywhere. The mod lodge dries clear so don’t worry about the initial white colour.
– I decorated with red and purple ribbons. You could do the whole bottle too or use different coloured glitter.

The surprise party turned out to be a success. I spent two weeks before the party making the glitter jars. The night before was spent on making the cakes. I made a naked floral cake with a vanilla french buttercream, and since I had some buttercream left over, I also made some vanilla cupcakes. Yum.

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Tackling a formidable french gateau

Baking is fun but the fun is doubled when I have a baking partner. My friend Sheeni decided to make the formidable Opera Cake for her husband’s birthday. To be honest, we didn’t think it was all that colossal until we started making it. We watched Gary Mehigan make it on Masterchef so many times we basically could relate the recipe by heart. Plus he made it look so very effortless.

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We encountered our first hurdle before we had even begun the actual baking. Sifting the almond meal turned out to be very slow and laborious and we had to take turns as our arms got sore from all the sifting.

After this, we seemed to sail through the steps. We joked about being able to keep up with Gary (we weren’t really) and made plans to open our own little Italian café serving Italian biscuits and coffee.

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I think our biggest success was the coffee buttercream. It was the best buttercream I had ever tasted. I quite dislike making buttercream and making this seemed very daunting. Bringing the sugar syrup to temperature seemed rather dangerous (Sheeni kept talking about how someone she knew got badly burnt due to hot sugar syrup) and we were worried the eggs would scramble when we poured the sugar syrup in. But even before we added the coffee syrup, the buttercream tasted absolutely amazing and afterwards it was an amazing heaven of coffee! Go us!

Assembling the cake, our layers looked less even, compared to Gary’s cake and we may have sneaked in an extra buttercream layer, but everything combined, it still tasted pretty tasty.

The real challenge of the cake was the gold leaf! Sheeni had her friend run all around Melbourne trying to get these for a spectacular finishing touch for the cake. Gary just took a big rectangular piece and lay it down on top of his cake. I told Sheeni that our placement would be more aesthetic. What I didn’t know was, as soon as my fingers touched my fingertips, it just dissolved! It stuck to anything and everything and it was impossible to get it off the tweezers I was using, I basically had to grab a chunk and plop it on, hoping it landed on the cake.

And because the cake was dusted with cocoa powder, the gold leaf would not stick to it. If I or anyone in the vicinity breathed or laughed too loudly, the gold leaf went flying everywhere…and I was back at square one.

Another highlight of the night was these yum sliders! The brioche buns were so tasty!

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One complicated french gateau down, we can now start planning for the next one. Any birthdays coming up?