Saturday, 25 February 2012

Monster High & Turning 10

I was really pleased to make a wonderful Birthday Cake for a special girl who turned 10 this past week.  Her party is on this Sunday.

She likes Chocolate, Purple, Books and Monster High.  I had no idea what to do but a little google work and surfing through the wonderful internet and hey presto ideas galore.  Monster High was going to be the easiest theme to run with.

She was having a very "grown up" birthday party at Max Brenner (a chocolate desert restaurant) so the cake needed to be quite sophisticated too.  I created a large Chocolate mud cake using the recipe from Planet Cake with the addition of some extra chocolate pieces inside the cake.

After baking I froze the cake for 48 hours to aid in making the cake even muddier.  It was then halved and trimmed to remove any hardened edges from the baking process.

I then made a chocolate ganache with dark chocolate and pure cream and this was used in between the two layers and to seal the entire cake.  It was then returned to the fridge overnight to harden so it could be finalised the following day.

The cake was tall and elegant and the sides and top came out beautifully smooth.  Instead of hot knifing this time I used a small paring knife and gently trimmed the hardened chocolate to really crisp up  and neaten the edges - this worked well.

I then applied a black rolled fondant by Pettinice over the entire cake and smoothed and eased this into position.

Once the black fondant was in place I set to work cutting out the template pieces for the Monster High skull logo and the 2cmx2cm pink and white 'tiles' to make the harlequin decoration for the side of the cake.

I used the photocopied templates to cutout the skull with bow from the white fondant using a very sharp knife and left to dry slightly.

I then began applying the pink and white diamonds to the side of the cake.  Its important to accurately measure the height of your cake etc to get the right sized tile.  I then worked around the cake to create the wonderful harlequin effect.  I love it - I think it looks just wonderful.

Once the skull had firmed up a little I carefully transferred it over onto the top of the cake and eased it into position - this was much harder than it looked.  Then the bow was put in place.  Im very pleased with how it turned out but as always can see many little flaws in it myself.

I then just had to place the finishing touch on the top - the name - and it was complete.  I hope it makes her smile and I hope it tastes absolutely delish - It is gluten but not dairy free - it is definitely moist and gorgeous and I hope it sends the girls into chocolate overload !


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Banana Bread with Chia Seeds

OMG Have we talked about Banana Bread yet ?  Cake, Bread, Muffins whatever its all pretty much coming from the same place recipe wise just depending on whether you bake it in a loaf tin, cake tin or muffin cases.  I use the same recipe for all.

My Grandma's recipe actually - it NEVER fails works beautifully gluten free keeps well, freezes well and everyone loves it.

Its a horrid wet dismal day in Queensland this Friday morning - what can I do to cheer myself and you all up ?  Ohhhhhh Banana Bread or a cake ?  Who knows, but heres the batter thats gonna get us there and its going to transform the house into one big beautiful smelling banana heaven ready for my recorded episode of Private Practice which I need to catch up on.

Novice bakers cannot, I repeat cannot stuff this up its easy peasey and everyone loves it.  If you choose to ice it ( and it really doesn't need it - especially if you do it as a loaf or muffins) and a cake sometimes does cry out for a finishing touch, your choices are a cream cheese icing or chocolate whatever takes your fancy.

I have made an addition of Chia Seeds to the loaf this morning.  I have plenty in the house and I just love them.  They add extra fibre to the recipe, added protein and Omega oils.  This ancient seed with a texture thats hard to describe, but has me happily finding them in my teeth for hours afterwards, adds another dimension to the recipe and one which I hope you will like.  You can just leave them out if you don't have them.  This is a forgiving recipe.  Add other things to it if you wish, nuts, other fruit, other seeds - go crazy and experiment.

So here's how it goes...

125g Unsalted Butter
1 Free Range Egg
3 Tablespoons Milk
1.5 Cups GF Flour
1/2-3/4 Cup White Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Very Ripe Mashed Bananas
1.5 teaspoons GF Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds

Set your oven to approx 160 Celsius if Fan forced or 180 if conventional and grease and line either a standard cake tin or loaf tin.

1. Using an Electric Mixer cream the room temperature butter and sugar.  If baking for children or if your bananas are very sweet use the lesser amount of sugar quoted above.
2. Add the egg and beat well.
3. Warm the milk slightly and add the baking soda and stir until dissolved then add to the mix and combine.
4. Stir through the Mashed Banana and Chia Seeds until well mixed
5. Fold through the GF Flour and Baking Powder.
6.  Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for approx 30-40 minutes or until done when tested with a skewer.

Allow to cool completely before icing with your choice of icing or leave plain and it will still be wonderful.  These make an awesome mini muffin to pop into school lunchboxes.  I cling wrap mine and put them into the freezer and pop one straight into the lunchbox frozen - it is perfect by lunchtime.

Enjoy yours with a cuppa like Im going to do.  The rain is still pouring and the housework can wait.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Peace Love & Cake - Yeah Baby!

This week things have taken a turn for the 'hippy' and Ive gone all peace love and flower power on you.  The cake was created for a 60th with the theme being obviously - Hippy, 60's, Flower Power - you get the general idea.

The cake board is covered in a colour swirled light green fondant and each of the flowers was made from tinted fondant.

The large sheet cake is a chocolate mudcake again covered in a pink swirled fondant.  The grass around the cake is made using the Wilton "Grass" tip to create the effect.  It does so very well but I find it so incredibly hard to pipe as the holes in the tip are so small its a serious arm workout to get that icing out of the nozzle.

The Combi Van is not quite as smooth and polished as I would like but that said in the flesh it looks quite groovy baby.  I made a chocolate mudcake in a loaf tin. Cutting off a little from the end and using to make extra height for the van.

It is covered entirely with tinted fondant and fondant flowers.  I used the silver powder mixed with a little vodka to create an edible silver 'paint' which I painted the hubcaps and front lights with.

I used the piping bag to edge the windows and in hindsight I wish I had used fondant now as my hand was not very steady due to the awkward height and angle and I think it would have been a slicker finish without my wobbly lines - ah well, always something to learn for next time.

To complete the cake I sprayed an edible clear lacquer over the lake and board to add a little gloss and sheen.

I hope the Birthday girl likes her surprise cake and her surprise party tomorrow night.



Saturday, 11 February 2012

Chia Seed & Coconut Bliss Balls

Ooooh I love a Bliss Ball - there are so many different varieties around and they're so easy to whip up - crikey 5 minutes and you can have a whole plate full created in front of you.  The beauty of these healthy little balls masquearding as a truffle is their healthy ingredients, their dainty size and energy packed punch.

Im visiting a friend tomorrow who has just had her third baby girl.  What do you take a woman who is a fitness and health freak, already has two beautiful girls and a mountain of friends and family who have undoubtably showered her with beautiful baby gifts ?  I know, something for HER.  Healthy beautiful Bliss balls - easy to nibble to keep energy levels up between breastfeeds.

I had a good look in the cupboards plenty of beautiful dried fruits.  You need something thats going to form a sticky and sweet base and dates are perfect.  Sultanas, dried cranberries, figs anything you can find is good.  You can also add other exciting ingredients to add a little moisture such as peanut butter (assuming no allergies), apple concentrate, honey etc.  Seeds or nuts are also great for texture and crunch - almonds, sesame seeds, macadamias whatever you have to hand - I had Chia Seeds.

Heres the recipe blend I made today and after having nibbled three of them myself this arvo for lunch can honestly say they are gooooood.

3/4 Cup pitted Dates
8 pitted dried Prunes
1/2 Cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
1/2 Cup Sultanas
1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup  Dessicated Coconut in mix
3 Tablespoons Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Manuka Honey
1 Tablespoon Apple Concentrate
Dessicated Coconut to roll balls in to coat them.

  1. Place all ingredients into your food processor and blitz until a smooth paste forms and it pulls together nicely.  If too wet add more coconut.  It needs to be able to form a firm ball but not be 'wet'.
  2. Make teaspoon sized balls of mixture rolled into balls, then place in a plastic bag filled with a little coconut and shake to coat.  
  3. Place the coated balls in individual mini cupcake wrappers and refrigerate.

Voila !

Healthy, Energy Packed and brimming with fibre and goodness.  This recipe will make between 16-24 balls depending on the size you roll them.

Store them in the fridge - perfect with a cuppa.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Disco Queen

I have managed to rustle up a cake for a friends daughter's birthday this week also.  She requested a disco mirror ball for her party as that was the theme.  Well that was gonna be a cool challenge.

I created a chocolate cake for the base cake and covered it in chocolate buttercream and then 'hot pink' fondant.

I created the ball by making 2 dome shaped chocolate cakes and sandwiching them together to make a sphere.  This was then coated in a vanilla butter cream.  I knew I was going to have to tile the cake with tile squares of fondant to create the mirror ball effect and buttercream would provide a better 'stick' than ganache which would harden too quickly.
I wasn't worried about the small gaps in the mosaic as I knew I was going to fill with silver sugar 'sand' to provide the glitter.  So the cake was tiled in the fondant mosaic then painted with an edible silver paint and then the silver glittery sand was sprinkled over the ball.  The photographs don't pick out very well the glittering of the ball but it does sparkle nicely.

It was a tough one and it is perhaps a little more Lego Death Star than mirror ball but I have a feeling the 6 year old girls will love it all the same.  How could they not ? - hot pink, chocolate cake and glitter - its all good.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Summertime Peach Jam

Well its been a funny old week.  After making the Peach and Almond slice I went in search of some inspiration to make a Peach Jam.  Surprisingly not many recipes for it and those that I found all talked about it being a difficult fruit to make jam from as the pectin levels  are so low in peaches. Pectin is the stuff that makes a jam get a nice 'set'.   I was sure I remembered beautiful, flavourful peach jam that set nicely and burst with the flavours of summertime peaches.  I could do this.

Firstly choose your peaches wisely.  Too soft or over-ripe and and they will struggle to have enough natural pectin to set.  So slightly firmer fruit works better.  I like yellow peaches - call me old fashioned but thats the colour of a peach in my opinion.  When you weigh your fruit you're weighing the whole fruit skin, stones and all.  This recipe made 3 Jars of jam and I calculated it out to about 0.67c per jar.  It is refreshing to know that in this day and age of mass production that it can still be cheaper to crank out a few jars of beautiful - all natural - jam from your own kitchen and put them away for the dreary wintery days ahead.  Believe me when I say you do not need to slave over the stove to make jam - its remarkably straightforward.

Please don't forget to sterilise your jars and lids - you can either heat them in the oven on high heat for about 10 minutes - or you can put them through your dishwasher on hot - lids and all.  You can also use the plastic preserving tops you can buy from the supermarket in the baking aisle instead of lids.  Store your jam in the fridge.

1.5kg of firm yellow Peaches
750g White Sugar
Peel of one Lemon
Juice from 1-1.5 lemons (add to taste)

  1. Firstly you need to stone your fruit and give it a wash.  Run your knife around the middle of each peach twist and pull.  One half will come away and you will have to cut the flesh of the remaining half.  Its quicker than you think.  Don't chop it up too small 1/4 or 1/8th size pieces.
  2. Place all the fruit into a large saucepan.  You are looking for a big pot where the fruit will only take up about 1/3 of the pot if possible.  OK - add nothing else at this point - fruit only in the pot then turn your stove onto a medium head and let the fruit being to cook down in its own juice.  I think this is key to getting the peach jam to set not adding any water.  You will need to keep stirring at first to prevent any sticking until the natural juices begin to flow from the fruit and provide some moisture in the pot.
  3. Add your lemon peel (careful no pith - use a very sharp paring knife)
  4. Cook the fruit until it is cooked and tender.  At this point my fruit was still quite chunky and so I got out my potato masher and gave a few mashes to squash up the fruit a bit to release the juices and create a bit of pulp as well as chunks.  If you don't want a chunky jam you could attack it with a stick blender at this point to make it smoother.  
  5. Add all of the sugar to the pot on top of your fruit.  Don't be too appalled at the amount of all that sugar - thats what jam is!  Stir stir until the jam dissolves and you will see the moisture levels increase. Take the heat a little higher to a med-high heat where it should start to bubble away.
  6. At this point place a saucer into your freezer - you will use this to test if the jam has set and is ready for your jars.
  7. As the mix is bubbling add your lemon juice - start with the juice of one lemon and taste.  You want enough lemon flavour to bring out the flavour of the peaches and make them 'pop' but not enough that it tastes like a marmalade.  I found one and a half lemons juiced was just right but will depend on the size and juiciness of your lemons.
  8. After a rapid boil of about 10-15 minutes - take your saucer from the freezer and spoon about a tablespoon of jam onto it and place it in the fridge for a minute or two.  After a couple of minutes remove the saucer and see if the jam has set.  If its still runny continue boiling another 10 minutes then re-test. and keep doing so until you get the set you want.
  9. When you see the set you want - turn off the heat and using a ladle - fill your sterilised jars with jam.  If using the plastic jam seals as I have above these must be applied to the hot jam jars straight away as they tighten and use the heat to seal themselves.
I hope you enjoy the jam - I hope you give it a try.  Its isn't hard, it doesn't take long and its so satisfying looking at them lined up on your counter and in your fridge and knowing you made it.  


Friday, 3 February 2012

Summer Peach and Almond 'Shortcake'

Can Summer really be coming to close already ?  School's back and Peaches are in the shops at .99c/kg so I guess it must be so.  How often do we equate peaches with the tinned perfectly sliced crescents we see in the supermarket ?  I love the smell of a fresh ripe peach, its warm slightly fuzzy coat and the sweet delicate aroma that just whispers 'Summertime'.

I brought home a little over 3 kilos of fresh ripe peaches from the fruit market today.  Im going to make some Peach Jam ( yes it can be done - thank you Maggie Beer for telling the world)  Thinking about some Peach chutney and today I baked some wonderful Peach and Almond 'shortcake'.  Its not a traditional shortcake by any means.  It IS cakey but not very short.  It is NOT a slice so a shortcake was the best fit.  It is made with Almond Meal and GF Flours and yes there is butter and eggs involved and the beautiful fresh peaches.  This could be made with tinned peaches by all means.  Great for a lunchbox, coffeetime nibble or it would work perfectly as a large warmed slice for desert teamed with a big dollop of fresh cream.

It is moist - not overly sweet - which allows the peaches to really be the over-riding flavour of the dish.  If you prefer a sweeter cake feel free to add more sugar.

Approx 8-10 Medium Sized Yellow Flesh Peaches
120g Caster Sugar
4 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
100g Unsalted Butter - room temperature
2 Large Free Range Eggs - room temperature
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract (or 1 tsp Vanilla Essence)
1/2 Cup Almond Meal
1/2 Cup GF Self Raising Flour
1/2 Cup GF Plain Flour

1. Place a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Preheat oven to 180C or 160C if Fan Forced.  Fill one bowl with some ice cold water. Grease and Line a 'Slice' tin - shallow small sheet tin (approx 16x24cm)
2. When the water has come to the boil, place the peaches in it and leave for about 2-3 minutes, then remove and place into the ice cold water bowl.
3.  Remove the peach skins by peeling with a sharp knife and slicing  and placing in a bowl for use later.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the Vanilla Extract.
5.  Add one egg at a time to the ix beating well after each.
6. Measure and add the flours and almond meal to the mix along with the cinnamon and fold through with a large spoon until combined.
7. Spread the mix evenly over the tin then press the sliced, blanched peach slices onto the top of the mix pressing it down into the mixture.  Lightly sprinkle the brown sugar and extra cinnamon if you like over the top of the peaches then place it into the over and bake for approx 30-45minutes.
8.  Cool completely before cutting into squares - large or small.