The first birthday cake

My daughter turned one last week. We took her out to brunch (mostly because we wanted to eat tasty foods) and she had avocado and banana, which she was very excited about, and we had a get-together with the grandparents that involved cute dresses, tasty lunch foods, presents, and of course there was cake. It took about 30 seconds of thought before I decided that she had to have the traditional number one cake. You know what I’m talking about – the cake shaped like a number one, covered in buttercream and smarties. It’s an Australian classic.

And for good reason. It’s simple, it’s effective, you can make the cake the day before, and everyone loves it.

I made a plain vanilla butter cake as the base, but I guess if you wanted to you could do something fancy. I don’t recommend that though, because if you have a one year old then they’re probably taking up most of your attention and sitting at your feet while you make this, begging to be picked up only to want to be put down again 30 seconds later, ad infinitum, so simple is best. My biggest tip would be: don’t overestimate your time or patience. Unless you’re making this for someone else’s kid, in which case do whatever you like. There were no tears, but there were swears, I’m not going to lie.

My second biggest tip would be: make the cake the night before. Refrigerate it and the next day it will be way easier to cut into shapes without crumbling everywhere. You can make the whole thing from a single large square cake. No need to double quantities or split it between tins or anything like that. Here’s the cutting technique I used:

IMG_0450

Stick the bits together with a dab of icing (there was some cake left over, if I’d had a larger cake board I’d have used all the cake but I didn’t have room):

IMG_0451

250g soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
3/4 cup milk

Cream the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until pale, add the vanilla and sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. Stir in half the flour and then half the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.

Pour into a greased square tin (I think mine is 22cm x 22cm) lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 1 hour. Cool the cake in the tin for 5-10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. Wait until it’s completely cooled before icing. Or, even better, follow my tip and refrigerate overnight first.

To make the icing, beat 125g-150g butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until pale, and then this is where I stopped measuring. I added a fair bit of icing sugar, maybe 500g, maybe a bit more. I also added a couple of tablespoons of milk – it helps make the icing a bit paler and fluffier and more spreadable. Basically with icing I just keep adding bits of things until it seems right and I have enough. Keep an eye on the texture and taste and you’ll be fine. You can add some colour to the icing if you want, but I didn’t.

Cut the cake up, and stick the bits together with a small amount of the icing. Then just go for it – buttercream all over the outside of that cake until it’s all nice and even and covered up. Make it as smooth as you can, but remember that the smarties hide a lot of mistakes.

IMG_0456

My daughter seemed to enjoy it, although I took the smarties off her piece so that there was no choking. She’d never had cake before, but honestly I think she would rather have had a banana. So I ate the rest of the cake myself over the next 2 days. It’s a lot of sugar. Now I jut have to decide what kind of cake to make next year!

 

Oaty choc-chip cookies of goodness

Amongst the many things I’ve learned over the last 12 months is that being a new mum can be tough and hungry work sometimes, and having decent snacks on hand is an excellent plan. So, I came up with these. These are choc-chip cookies. But they are not your average choc-chip cookies! Apart from being soft, chewy and delicious, these guys are packed with extra goodies that make them perfect for breastfeeding mamas. They are a great snack to grab when you haven’t got much time or free hands, they’re wholesome and milk-boosting, and you can freeze them for later. What more could you want?

IMG_9892

Now, some people find that the brewers yeast really helps boost their milk supply, but some don’t – I know there are differing opinions out there. My theory: if it works for you then keep it in, if not then leave it out. If you haven’t tried it then give it a go – you never know what might work for you. Either way the rolled oats, flaxseed and chia still make these a wholesome and delicious snack for everyone, and will help keep you going after a sleepless night.

On the off chance that you’re one of those strange people who doesn’t like chocolate, then you can substitute sultanas or raisins instead. I use a kitchenmaid mixer for the whole thing, which makes an easy recipe even easier, but if you don’t have one then regular beaters and a mixing spoon will work just fine. The dough needs to rest in the fridge for a while before being baked, otherwise they will spread out too much in the oven. It also makes the dough easier to roll.

115g butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled oats 
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tsp chia seeds
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp baking powder
15g brewers yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips or sultanas

Cream the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Add all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and stir until just combined.

Cover the mix and put in the fridge for about 2 hours. Roll into balls (put your thumb and forefinger together to make a circle, about that big) and place onto trays lined with baking paper. Press down each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 12 minutes, they should be slightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on trays.

They will last a few days in an airtight container, or you can wrap them individually (or 2-3 together) and freeze them.

Pistachio white chocolate chip cookies

Saturday afternoon. A hankering for chocolate chip cookies. Severe lack of recent grocery shopping. It’s experiment time!

For these cookies I used my regular chocolate chip recipe but with some major flavour alterations. Dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and a dash of vanilla became white chocolate chips, pistachios, a pinch of cardamom and some rosewater essence. I ate 4 in a row straight out of the oven so I’m calling these a success!

white chocolate chip cookies

125g soft butter
2/3  cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon rosewater essence
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Cream the butter and the sugar, add the egg and rosewater essence and beat until just combined. Stir in all the remaining ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto trays lined with baking paper, and bake for about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 180C. Cool on trays about 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

This made about 30 cookies.

Nanna’s Cinnamon Snaps

My strongest memories of my Nanna are of her in the kitchen baking something. She was the kind of nanna who always had home-baked biscuits, scones, or cakes in the house, ready for any unexpected visitors. She never used a written recipe, nor did she own any electrical appliances other than a very well loved kettle – all the creaming of butter and sugar was done by hand with a wooden spoon (she had forearms of steel!). She was old-school.

Nanna would write down a recipe if anyone ever asked her for it though. In amongst some boxes of her old stuff that are still sitting in my father’s garage, we recently found her recipe for cinnamon snaps. I remember making these with her, the sultanas going chewy after being baked, and using all different shaped cookie cutters.

cinnamon snap recipe

Here’s my version – just some slight changes/clarifications and also I figured out how long and how hot to bake them!

1 cup soft butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 cup sultanas or raisins
3 1/2 cups plain flour*
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and golden syrup and beat well. Stir in the remaining ingredients to form a sticky dough. Turn out onto a well floured surface, roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut out biscuits, re-roll the remaining dough and cut again until you have used as much of the dough as you can. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 15-18 minutes, depending on how soft/crunchy you like your biscuits. Cool on a wire rack.

IMG_3285

*I don’t know whether I lost count of the flour I was adding, but my dough ended up WAY too sticky so I had to add another 1/2 cup of flour. So I may have ended up using 4 cups of flour, or maybe just 3 1/2 because I undercounted to start with. Not sure.

cinnamon snaps

This recipe makes a LOT of biscuits. I think there were at least 50 in the end for this batch, so they’re excellent if you have people coming over for morning/afternoon tea, or of you have to ‘bring a plate’ to some kind of gathering.

Lime Pie Cheesecake Thing

It was my last day at work yesterday for nearly 6 months, because I’m about to have a baby, so of course I made food to take in and celebrate a totally different thing (Harmony Day) in order to take any focus away from me. This was an experiment. An experiment that turned out to be not really a pie, but also not a cheesecake. No cheese in it, for starters. Although it looked like a cheesecake. But only because I made too much of it to fit into a pie dish… Whatever it was, it was delicious and amazing and really easy to make. Because it needs to chill for a good few hours after baking this is ideal to make the night before you need it.

IMG_2531

There was an original recipe that I found on Pinterest, but I kinda just used it as a general guide to ingredients that I could mess with. Especially because it was a US recipe and therefore the quantities were all messed up anyway. Apparently a 14oz tin converts to 414ml and that is just never going to work. I had to google what a ‘key lime’ is. And I have no idea what a graham cracker is, but I do like a gingernut, and they make good pie/cheesecake/thing bases. So here’s my version:

1.5 x 250g packets of gingernut biscuits
melted butter
2 x 395ml tins sweetened condensed milk
250g light sour cream
zest of 3 large limes
Lime juice (I juiced 2 of the limes and that was enough, depends how juicy the limes are)

(A few notes here to start with. I started trying to use a tart tin, but as I was smooshing the base into it I realised there was going to be no room for the filling, so I switched to a round springform cake tin. Also, you could easily use the whole two packets of biscuits if you wanted, and run the base further up the sides of the tin than I did, because I had some filling left over that I had to just eat with a spoon from the bowl instead. That was a shame… A delicious shame. Also I have no idea how much butter I used – I just kept melting a bit at a time and stirring it in to the biscuit crumbs, but I ended up using too much because I then had to soak off a heap of buttery grease with a paper towel before I baked it. Oops.)

Whizz the biscuits through a food processor until they are a fine crumb, then pop them in a bowl and add enough melted butter that it all starts coming together and you can press the lot into the bottom of a cake tin without it being too crumbly. Bake in a 200C oven for 7 minutes. Leave it in the tin and let it cool while you make the filling.

IMG_2525

Beat together all the remaining ingredients. Because I squeezed the limes straight into the bowl I don’t know how much juice there was, but lots of bits of pulp ended up in there too which I think made the flavour just that bit better. Basically just taste the mixture and see if it’s good. The extra lime I think helped balance out the condensed milk, which I find can be overwhelmingly sweet. Pour the filling into the tin, and it should come up to around the top of the edges of the crust. Bake at 180C for no more than 15 minutes (the crust will start to burn if you leave it too long). Take it out, cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then put it all in the fridge for at least 3 hours before removing the tin.

IMG_2526

I was really surprised at how set it was when it came out of the oven, I really wasn’t expecting it. And again surprised at how well it properly held together while slicing it and eating it the next day. Everyone seemed to really love it too, so I’ll definitely be making it again!

Image 21-03-2015 at 3.23 pm

A Different (from my usual) Chocolate Cake

So I realised recently that the only recipe for a full sized chocolate cake that I’ve used in ages, and in fact the only one I’ve actually written about, is the Chocolate Stout Cake. It is definitely my go-to for a chocolate cake, and it’s great for decorating, it’s a crowd-pleaser… But sometimes I just don’t feel like a super heavy and intensely rich chocolate mud cake. This week I felt like something just a little lighter.

I always get a bit nervous trying a new recipe for a full sized cake – what if you go to all that effort and then when everyone is around and you cut it and it’s terrible? Oh, the pressure! Anyway, I bit the bullet, tried a new recipe, and it worked out🙂 Luckily, because it was taken to work for a team member’s birthday!

Originally I envisioned this cake with a fluffy chocolate buttercream icing all over it, and maybe even layered through the middle as well. But a late night and extreme tiredness got the better of me and I went with the lazy option when it came to icing and decorating. Lazy still equals delicious though, so it was all ok.

250g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
200g dark chocolate
1 1/3 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 cup milk

Melt the chocolate (I do this in the microwave, slowly so that it doesn’t burn) and set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat again, then add the eggs one by one, beating between each addition. Pour in the cooled chocolate and beat well. 

IMG_2395

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb soda. Beat in a third of the dry ingredients to the batter, followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until all the dry ingredients and all the milk is beaten into the batter. 

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round springform tin (mine is a 24cm tin) and bake at 160C for about 50 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn upside down onto a wire rack.

Now, if you were making a chocolate buttercream (and I still think this would be great, I mean, how can you go wrong with chocolate buttercream) you would need to cool the cake completely before making the icing and decorating the cake. But if you want to just dump a jar of Nutella on top of the cake instead and spread it around and let it ooze down the sides, then now is when you do that.

IMG_2398

 

Oh yes, that is what I did. Most of a 400g jar went on top of the cake. I saved some for eating with a spoon from the jar at another time, like right now as I’m writing this.

Nutella icing

While the cake is still warm, the Nutella goes a bit melty and spreads really nicely. Then you put it in the fridge so the Nutella doesn’t melt entirely off the cake. Or, even better, just before you put it in the fridge you also cover the top of the cake with hundred and thousands, to add a bit of fun colourfulness.

IMG_2401

Told you – lazy but delicious (and effective) cake decorating.

Valentine’s Day Coconut Cookies

I have so many different shapes of cookie cutter stashed away at home. I have never used any of them. I thought a pre-Valentine’s Day morning tea would be a perfect excuse to test out the heart-shaped cookie cutter!

Now, the last time I tried to make biscuits that involved rolling out dough and trying to cut out shapes was years ago and is referred to as the infamous gingerbread incident. It involved tears, screaming, throwing dough on the ground and locking myself in the bathroom. It wasn’t pretty. So this attempt had the potential to go badly…

IMG_3968

125g butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric mixer/beater. Add the egg and beat in well. Stir in the flour and the coconut in two batches. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead lightly until it all comes together and is smooth. Roll it out between two sheets of baking paper until it is about 5mm thick, then put that in the fridge for about half an hour.

Cut shapes out of the dough with whatever shape of cutter you like, lay them on paper-lined baking trays, and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 12 minutes. While they are baking, gather the remaining dough up, re-roll it, put it back in the fridge. Basically just keep repeating the process until you’ve used as much of the dough as you can to cut out and bake the cookies. You can do whatever you like with the last scraps – I like to eat the dough raw at that point🙂

IMG_3966

What I did to decorate these was to make a super basic icing from icing sugar, water, food colouring and a few drops of rosewater essence. I used a piping bag just with the end cut off to decorate, and my piping skills are far from great, but I think they ended up looking fairly cute anyway.

Valentine's Day cookies