Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en

So, we have gummi "horror mix" lollies for the guests, a bagful of marshmallow eyeballs for trick-or-treaters (yeah, just the one bag - not that many people celebrate The Spooky Season here. We'll probably have significant leftovers), and the Muffin is getting about in a witch hat.

It must be All Hallow's Eve.

Huzzah! Yet another excuse for baking!! The Muffin and I made these cute ghostie cupcakes - chocolate mud cake with an oozy strawberry filling (made by pureeing fresh strawberries and adding a little gelatine), chocolate frosting, and a sugarpaste spook (made with a cookie cutter).

They bleed in a very satisfactory manner when you bite them.

We also made fruit mince pies with little pumpkin faces on. See? Pumpkin faces = not Christmas food! Really!! (that's what I'm trying to tell myself, anyway...)

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Cupcake Hero, Honey!

And the roundup is up. So head on over to I Dream In Buttercream to check out all the sweet-as-honey entries, and to cast your vote!
My entry is my "Sunny Honey" lavender & honey cupcakes, inspired by my very own garden - check them out here.
You only have until the 27th of October to vote, so get to it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A bit of Springtime Sunshine...

Yes, while the Northern Hemispherical blogging world buzzes with pumpkins and falling leaves, down here in Australia we are halfway through Spring, and the weather is glorious!

As I look out my window, I see our lime trees springing once more into flower (seriously, these things do not let up - anyone have any New And Interesting ideas for using up lots of limes??). I see our rhubarb plant growing stronger, leaving behind the puny, spindly stalks that freaked me out so much in the chilly days of Winter. I see the dove that has its egg-filled nest in our kaffir lime tree, picking its way around the base of the tree for seeds (or bugs?) to eat. I see sunshine, blue skies, and butterflies. And dancing joyfully in the breeze, sending its heady scented invitation out to all the butterflies and bees that frequent its plentiful blossoms, I see this:

Lavender. Lots and lots of beautiful French Lavender. It looks beautiful, it smells wonderful - and if you're thinking dry, dusty pot pourri, that's not what I mean at all. You haven't really smelled lavender until you've smelled it growing in full flower on the bush, bathed in sunshine. It also attracts a delightful number of bees, and we love bees, not only for their cute fuzziness and lovely buzzy humming, but also for the work they do in producing the warm liquid gold that is honey. I loooove honey.

Which brings us, funnily enough, to Cupcake Hero: October. Melissa of I Dream in Buttercream is this month's host, having won the Caffeine contest. And she has chosen Honey as this month's theme ingredient.

Well, what could I do? Who am I to argue with an army of bees? Lavender and honey it is!


Cupcakes (adapted from this recipe by Chockylit)

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers
125g butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1 fresh lavender flower head (optional - it gives the syrup a nice freshness, but isn't 100% necessary, so don't panic if you don't have it growing)

Modus Operandi
Process sugar with lavender flowers in a food processor until lavender has been powdered and dispersed amongst the sugar.
Cream butter with 1 1/4 cups lavender sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolk. Add honey and beat well.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and add this and the milk to the butter/sugar mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and mixing after each addition.
In a clean dry mixing bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks.
Fold egg whites gently into cake batter until incorporated.
Scoop batter into cupcake papers, and bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/4 cup of lavender sugar into a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water, and bring to the boil, stirring. Add the fresh lavender flower, if desired, and remove from heat. Allow to cool until cakes are out of the oven but still warm, and then brush a little syrup over each cupcake. Note: this recipe makes MUCH more syrup than you will need. How much syrup you use will determine how prominent the lavender flavour is in your finished cupcakes, so if you're not accustomed to using lavender in cooking, go easy the first time (or even better, do one and eat it to test how lavender-y it is, before going ahead with the others!) Reserve the leftover syrup as some will go into the frosting, and the rest you can use for something else. Hmm... lavender sorbet? Ooooh, now there's a thought...

Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Lavender & Honey Buttercream (all mine)
250g butter
250g icing sugar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp milk
Lavender syrup, to taste.

Modus Operandi
Cream butter and sugar until very pale. Add honey and continue to beat well. Add milk and a couple of spoonsful of lavender syrup, and beat until fluffy. Taste and add more syrup if desired, remembering that you want the lavender flavour to be subtle in the frosting, as you already have it in - and on - the cupcake.
Pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake, and sprinkle with picked lavender petals if desired.

Et voila!

Now, it might seem I've been going on about lavender a lot, and you might well be thinking "yeah, but the theme ingredient is honey". But the truth is, these cupcakes would make Winnie the Pooh proud. They are a very honey-ey affair indeed: warm and sweet, with the lavender playing a lovely fresh floral counterpoint.

To me, they Taste Like Sunshine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pirates & Princesses (something for everyone...)

I know, two posts in two days - what can I say? I've been busy.

So this year I decided to do something a bit mad. I entered a cake into the Royal Show. Not a wedding cake, because I'm not completely insane. In the Amateur Novelty section, because I decided it would be More Fun. But it did mean it had to be carved out of fruit cake. Now this is something I was very stressed about, as I've made fruit cakes before, but never carved them. In the event, whilst certainly more trouble than carving mud or madeira cakes, it was doable.

And here is the finished product:

And again, from another angle:

The cake was covered first in black sugarpaste, then in brown (which I then "woodworked"). With the exceptions of the window frames and the seaweed (piped royal icing), all the bits and pieces (including the masts) were made from modelling paste. In the case of the masts, this did not turn out to be the best idea, but more on that later.

And check this out:
I was awarded a "Highly Commended" certificate! Woo hoo! Very chuffed about this for my first show entry! And yes, you may also notice that in this photo (post-Show), one of the masts has parted company with, well, the rest of itself. This mast had developed a terrible case of "brewer's droop", as my mother so charmingly put it, by the time I visited the Show, and by pick-up day it had snapped. Oh dear. Note to self: learn how to make pastillage. But still - Highly Commended!!

But wait - there's more! Just in case I didn't have enough to do, I entered in the Decorated Cookies section too, with my usual lemon-scented sugar cookie recipe, done in princessy shapes:
And I won!!How awesome is that? Very exciting.

So a big thankyou goes to Husband and the Muffin, who have had to put up with the house being taken over by sugar (again), and also to anyone else who has babysat/chauffered/sat through lengthy explanations of Why It Is Important To Have The Correct Size Board (and other equally fascinating topics).

And congratulations to everyone else who entered the Cookery competition this year - there are some amazingly talented people out there in Perth. I was in awe of some of those cakes.

Now, what shall I enter next year???

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cake Pops!

Okay, so everyone who has ever been on any baking blog or website has heard of Bakerella and her cake pops. If they haven't, they should have. She - and they - are awesome.

So I was inspired to try out some of my own, and I decided to make mice. Now I must say, I fully expected this to be a debacle of massive proportions. But in the event, it was actually easier than I thought it would be. It did take some time, but weirdly enough, the hardest part was finding the lollipop sticks. I ended up having to order them online. Are you listening, Australian retailers???


Firstly, the balls themselves are just crumbled cake mixed with frosting...

...which is then rolled into balls...

... before having a stick inserted, some freezer time, and in this case a choc chip added to each one (to create the shape of the mouse's snout)...

Then each pop has some more freezer time, before being dipped quickly into white chocolate. I also added a pink cachou to each little nose...

... as well as carefully-cut-up white melts for the ears, and pink chocolate tails (which I had piped onto baking paper and refrigerated until hard), all by gluing on with more white chocolate.

Finally, I tried my hand at drawing faces on with an edible marker, but I have this to say on that topic: either the brand of marker Bakerella uses is significantly better than the brand I have, or I am just really rubbish at drawing with it. Seriously. I gave up after drawing two mouths, and quickly melted a bit of dark chocolate to make the eyes. In future I'll stick with my piping bag.

And that's it - enjoy! If you are interested in trying these out for yourself, I highly recommend you visit Bakerella's site for more detailed instructions (although I used a lot less frosting than she does - probably just a difference in cake density, as you can use any cake you like).

Also, I must admit I wasn't really expecting to enjoy the taste of these all that much - it looked to me as though they were going to be tremendously overly sweet. But they actually weren't - they were yummy!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...