What can I say? I love sweets, in all shapes and sizes! You only live once, so why not indulge once in a while? Or, in my case, most of the time...
I like to think of it as a sort of… occupational hazard, all the left over bits of chocolate blocks and chocolate chips etc that are the by product of my culinary conquests. Except that technically my occupation is teaching… but… well… nevermind. So I finally figured it was time to make use of all these chocolate offcuts that have been cluttering my pantry. And luckily for me (and mum!) I knew just the recipe to try.
I recently bought Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Express” after falling in love wither her dvds. Nestled inside this gem of a cookbook is her recipe for what she calls “Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies”. I prefer the simpler description of “Ultimate Chocolate Cookie”. I have been known to completely disregard the measurements for chocolate in most recipes, and this is definitely a recipe where chocolate amounts are rules that are made to be broken. In fact, the only rule you need to keep in mind when making these cookies is this, repeat after me –
You can NEVER have too much chocolate
So with that mantra in mind, I mixed up the dough. I used a little bit of Lindt, a few Chocolate Chips, a little bit of Nestle White Chocolate
and still something felt… unfinished.
so I added a few more snaps of dark chocolate. You know, for good measure!
And into the oven they go!
mmmm cookies and milk
In short, these are amazing. What more can I say?
The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie – Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Express”
125g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
75g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (Nigella says this should be cold from the fridge)
minimum 350g chocolate chunks or chips (any mix of white, milk or dark)
1. Melt the 125g chocolate
2. Cream the butter and sugars together and add the melted chocolate
3. Beat in vanilla and egg, then add the cocoa, flour, bi-carb and salt
4. Add the rest of the chocolate (feel free to go crazy here!)
5. I used a soup spoon to gouge hefty chunks of cookie dough but Nigella sings the praises of her ice cream scoop. Use whatever you like! I ended up making 18 (Nigella makes 12, but her cookies must be as big as my head to only get 12 from that mix!)
6. Cook for 18 (ish) minutes in an oven at 170 degrees celcius
7. Eat, eat eat!
After making a few different chocolate cakes and realising that none of them were any good, I thought I would make one last attempt. Enter – Donna Hay Magazine. I bought this magazine the other day after being droolingly drawn to the enormous chocolate cake gracing its front cover. This Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake would be the basis for the finally finished birthday cake for the Ginger Ninja.
I decided to do a test run on friday to make sure that it wasn’t another dud recipe. Worry I need not. It. Was. Amazing. So amazing that when my mum came home she said “oh…. wouldnt it be nice if there was one for me…” and, well, how could I resist? So after baking another cake and another batch of cupcakes, I have decided that the richness, glossiness, tastiness and sheer consistency of this recipe may have earned it the crown of Best Chocolate Cake Ever. Really. Donna Hay… amazing.
So without further ado, here are pictures of the completed African Jungle Cake! Hooray! P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINJA!
I decided to make the cake like a bunch of trees, so the figures on top are sitting in the branches! A bit rough, but you get the idea…
And here are a couple of pics of the cupcakes and their mini animals!
Hooray for mini African animals!
Have you met Lenny the Lion?
So my lovelies, what is the best birthday cake you have made for someone or someone has made for you? I would love to know!
Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake
Recipe – From Donna Hay Magazine
1 cup (250ml) water
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place water, butter and cocoa in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has completely melted and the mixture is smooth
2. Place flour, bi-carb and sugar in a bowl, and whisk in the cocoa mixture
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix until smooth
4. Divide the mixture between two 18cm round cake tins and bake for 40-45 mins at 160 degrees celsius (I took all my cakes out at right on the 40 min mark but it might vary depending on your oven)
NOTE: you can alternatively make these as cupcakes, they will make around 18-20 depending on how big your patty pans are and how full you want them to be. They will still be AMAZING!
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting – from Donna Hay Magazine
500g cream cheese
2 cups (320g icing sugar)
1/2 cup (50g) cocoa
1. Beat butter and cream cheese until pale and creamy
2. Add the icing sugar an cocoa and beat for 6-8 minutes until light and fluffy
3. Ice your damn cake!
NOTE: If you want to make your icing different colours, substitute the cocoa for another 1/2 cup of icing sugar then add the colour you require. This is how I did the green icing on top of the cake above
Well I dont know about you, but ive had an absolute cracker of a week! I went away for a long weekend break to the Southern Highlands and explored all around Bowral, Robertson, Kangaroo Valley etc, then I went further south to Ulladulla to spend some time at my Grandpa’s house. All a bit bitter sweet really.
However, a constant thought on my mind has been my cake toppers for the Ginger Ninja. Ive decided to elaborate on my design and include not only that cute little lion but also a figurine of the Ninja herself, alongside a hippo, elephant, bear and maybe a snake thrown in for good measure. Im pretty damn pleased with the results!
I think this cuddly bear just wants someone to hug!
Nelly the elephant packed her trunk…
(note the much smaller trunk! and apologies for the less than clear picture)
Henry the Hippo
So all was well in the animal kingdom until… I found out that almost twice as many people are coming to dinner than I previously expected! Disaster! So I had a bit of a think and came up with what is hopefully a idea. I have decided to make one cake with the big animals on it and make a series of cupcakes with mini animals on them. I started a batch of minis last night and im pretty damn happy with the results. Who thought mini animals would be even cuter!
Mini bears, mini lions, what more could you want?!
Uh oh… I think that snake is eyeing you off as his dinner…
Oh wait! It doesnt have a mouth! No snakebites today!
Now all I need to do is bake the cake, and decorate it, and get it to the restaurant in one piece… ah!
On a lighter note, I would love to hear about your latest baking/cake decorating conquests!
During a lovely night out with the girls, I found myself volunteering to make the Ginger Ninja a Lion Cake for her African themed birthday. Ive bought so much fondant over the years with every intention of practicing making cute cake toppers and decorations and somehow I never seem to get around to it. So today, I bit the bullet. The deliciously sugary fondant bullet! I decided that rather than make a cake that was a lions face, I would attempt to make a jungle cake and perch a cute little lion on top of it. Today marked attempt #1 at fondant cake toppers.
I used a packet of Orchard White Icing that I had left over from Christmas and coloured it with different food colourings. The only difficulty I had was with the softness of the fondant. I found it quite sticky and very very soft so that it was easy to model but often got quite droopy. See exhibit 1 – the Elephant trunk
Yes, he looks a little bit wonky but still very cute! I think I need to make the trunk smaller and try to get it to point up. Nothing cuter than a trumpeting elephant! Maybe next time i’ll make my elephant pink (think Nelly the Elephant!).
After the elephant, it was on to teddy bears. I am suffering from an extreme lack of brown food colouring so I thought I would just use what I had on hand. Yellow. Be warned, I think this ted had put away most of my easter trifle into that big belly of his. No more sweets for you big ted!
Finally it was time to try a little lion. I had a large amount of yellow fondant still on hand (surprising, considering how fat my teddy bear ended up!) so I decided that this sweet little lion would be yellow with an orange mane. And thus was born Lionel, my little yellow lion! Almost too good to give away….
Good grief. Ive been itching to post for a few weeks now but the mix of work, being ill and moving to this new blog has got me all in a whirl! So, im going to split my doings into two posts. This, being Easter.
A few years ago I was given the cutest set of easter cookie cutters and its taken me up until now to actually get off my butt and use them. So use them I did! To make easter egg sugar cookies.
Easter Egg Sugar Cookies (from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
200g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy
2. Add the egg and mix well
3. Mix in flour and cream of tartar
4. Roll out the dough and cut into desired shape
5. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for around 10 mins. Be very careful though, my oven cooks them quite quickly so I take mine out after about 7 mins, as soon as they start to go golden around the edges. They burn VERY quickly.
Unfortunately for my tummy, my easter cooking didn’t end with biscuits. Delicious Magazine had a particularly tasty looking Easter Trifle. So off to the shops I went (hoppity hop) to get myself some super sweet ingredients. Now, I eat some seriously sweet things, but its been a VERY long time since I last made something this sweet.
One chocolate cake, tin of caramel, carton of custard, bottle of cream and pot of mascarpone later (not to mention several packets of easter eggs and chocolate shavings) and I had my ultimate easter confection. Of course, the addition of a tin of pears means that some of the unhealthyness of the dish is cancelled out… doesn’t it?
(I thought I would just note that I wasnt that impressed with the cake/brownie that this recipe had so rather than reproduce it here I would instead strongly advise you to make your favourite cake/brownie instead!)
410g tin of pears in natural juice
380g can of Caramel
300mL Thickened Cream
1 Packet of Chocolate Eggs
1. Cut up cake or brownie into small squares and place in a serving bowl
2. Place sliced pears over cake squares and add half the easter eggs
3. Combine caramel, mascarpone and custard and pour over cake and pears
4. Add the other half of the easter eggs
5. Top with whipped cream and grated chocolate
6. Chill for 2 hours minimum (This trifle is magnificent the next day, so if you can hold out for 24 hours, its worth it!)
Yesterday I graduated from my degree. Hooray! It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed it much more than the graduation ceremony for my undergrad degree. The speeches were short and sweet and I wasnt totally freezing beneath my gown (my last graduation was on a particularly cold April day) so, all in all, it was lovely!
So today, in honour of ending another chapter of my life, I thought I would try a recipe ive been itching to have a go at. The CWA Lime Cake. Given my love for all things citrus, im sure this isnt surprising. I had a few limes that were about to turn and half a packet of almond meal left over from christmas, so this recipe seemed to tie up a lot of loose ends. Until I realised that the almond meal was slightly mouldy and filled with bugs :S ugh! So, instead I tried substituting more flour for the 1/3 cup almond meal required, and added about another tablespoon of lime juice. There was no real rationale for the extra lime juice, other than the fact that I just really love lime!
An hour later and all I can say is yummo! The cake turned out deliciously light and moist with a slight limy syrup sinking to the bottom. I would have liked a tiny bit more limyness but the recipe gave such a nice hint of lime that this cake definitely had me going back for seconds. Very very easy to make, this recipe was a success! One other thing to add, a bonus with this cake is that it was inordinately easy to get out of the tin. often I have real trouble with cakes sticking to the sides and breaking when I try to get them out of the tin, but this cake literally fell out onto the cooling rack when I turned the tin upside down. Amazing!
Adapted from the recipe by Gwyneth Watkins in the Country Womens Association Cakes Cookbook
180g softened butter
1 cup sugar
zest of one lime
1 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup self raising flour (Im terrible at fractions and couldnt work out how to add the two)
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons lime juice
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
2. Cream butter and sugar
3. Beat in zest and eggs
4. Fold in sifted flour, sour cream and lime juice
5. pour into 18cm tin and bake for one hour