Coming Up Carrot Cupcakes with Chocolate Cinnamon Soil

How is Easter almost here already?! It scares me how fast time flies these days, but hey, any excuse to bake, really. I found the idea for these awesome coming up carrot cupcakes on the ever-inspiring Pinterest. Unfortunately, I only saw them once and couldn’t find them again, so I don’t know whose idea they originally were, but they are pretty awesome.

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I first thought of crushing up dark chocolate biscuits for the soil, but I found this recipe to make your own by making a sugar syrup and adding dark chocolate. I was a little sceptical, but it worked really well, tasted great and added a nice crunchy texture to the cake. This was the first time I had ever make carrot cake, and I can’t really say I am a huge fan, but the cream cheese icing makes it all worthwhile!

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Carrot Cupcakes: (from Taste.com)

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes

  •  160g butter, softened, not melted
  • 2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 cup grated carrot (I used 2 medium sized carrots)
  • 75g crushed pecans (original recipe calls for walnuts, but I am allergic, and I like pecans better anyway)

Preheat oven to 180c, and line cupcake tins. Beat the butter, sugar and nutmeg until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Stir in self-raising flour until well combined, and then stir in the buttermilk until well combined, and then the plain flour until well combined. Stir in the carrot and the nuts. Spoon batter into cupcake cases, and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted, and comes out clean. Leave in tins to cool for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto wire rack.

Chocolate Soil:

I really love this recipe. It’s so clever – I never even thought of this combination actually working. The recipe is from The Lone Baker, and I would really recommend you try it, especially if you are familiar with making sugar syrups. Chocolate soil is so versatile, and could be used for a variety of novelty cakes and desserts.

  • 100g caster (white) sugar
  • 75g 70% dark chocolate, chopped (ensure you use dark chocolate, because you need that little bit of bitterness when combined with all that sugar!)
  • - 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Place sugar with 2 tbs cold water in a small-medium saucepan, and heat on low-medium until the sugar dissolves, and starts to go slightly yellow around the edges – this can take a while, it took me about  8 minutes to get to this point. Once the sugar begins to go yellow, take it straight off the heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate and cinnamon with a balloon whisk. The consistency of soil will appear very quickly, and some of the mixture will stick to the sides of the pan. You can just scrape this off with a butter knife. Pour soil out onto prepared oven tray.

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Cream Cheese Icing: (see Parisian Red Velvet Cupcakes)

  • 225g butter, chopped and softened, not melted
  • 340g cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • Orange colouring gel/liquid

Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together until pale and creamy, approximately 3 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar. I use 2 cups, as I think that is sweet enough, but you can add more or less if you want to. Place 5 tablespoons of icing in a separate bowl, and colour with orange colouring gel/liquid.

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Assembly:

With a small sharp knife, carefully carve out a small circle in the top of the cupcakes, leaving a hole to pipe in the carrots. Place the icing in a piping bag fitted with a wide round nozzle, and pipe circles around the hole made in the cupcake. Dip iced cake in the chocolate soil. You can add more soil to the cupcake with your hands if dipping it doesn’t cover the icing enough. Once all the cupcakes have soil on them, place the orange icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle. Pipe ‘carrots’ into the holes in the cupcakes, piping up so that the icing is approximately 1-2cm above the top of the cupcake. For the tops of the carrots, I used the green part of a sour strap, cutting them with scissors, with an incision of the middle of the strap. Place it in the carrot, far enough that it will not fall over.

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You can find my previous Easter posts here. Happy Baking!

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Cupcakes

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day to you all, and top of the morning to ya! ;) I have seen these super cute cupcakes many times on Pinterest, so I thought it was time to give them a go. They’re so adorable :)

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I used my trusted vanilla cupcake recipe for these, and once again, they worked a treat as always. To get the rainbow effect throughout your cake, you just need to divide your batter into separate bowls, colour them, and spoon them separately into the cupcake cases before baking.

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I also loved the sour strap rainbow. As cute as it looked, it also gave the cupcake a nice sour tang and cut through the buttercream. Deeeeeeelicious.

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These little gems are really easy to make, too, and would be fun for kids to have a go at. You obviously don’t have to colour the batter, either. And you don’t have to pipe grass on the cupcakes, which I discovered is quite time consuming to get right!

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Happy Baking, Guinness drinking and potato eating! Hope you all have a great weekend :)

White Chocolate and Maple Macadamia Baked Cheesecake with Candied Bacon

Happy Birthday to me! I decided to make myself a cake resembling a pizza/cheese and bacon roll this year. Although, it was not my first intention, I’m quite happy with how it looks, it’s a little rustic, not the prettiest, but it tastes good ;) I was very excited about this cake, as it was something I had in my mind for a while, and I thought, what better occasion to make it than my own birthday! I am a very big fan of baked cheesecakes, and I have made a few in my time, but the only thing that puts me off baking them more often is that they are time consuming, and soooo expensive. Especially when you put a big packet of macadamias in it, and real maple syrup, which costs a small fortune on its own. Nonetheless, it was very delicious.

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I have used this recipe before to make a raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, and it’s really great. You can play around with flavours, too, which is always good. Aside from the cheesecake itself, I kind of made the other bits up in my head, which is a sure fire sign of a great recipe!

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Baked Cheesecake: (adapted from Taste.com.au)

  • Melted butter, to grease tin
  • 250g plain, sweet biscuits (I used Arnott’s plain Teddy Bears)
  • 100g hazelnut meal
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 3 x 250g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g block good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 250g macadamias, quartered
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 cup streaky bacon, chopped into rough 1cm pieces

Grease 22cm springform baking tin with butter. Use a food processor to crush biscuits until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the hazelnut meal and melted butter and process until all well combined. Place mixture into prepared tin, and spread evenly. You can use a straight sided glass to evenly spread the base mixture evenly around tin. Cover with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. If you are not using base straight away, just make sure you take it out 30-40 minutes prior to baking.

Preheat oven to 160c. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until each is well incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the white chocolate, macadamias and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Pour mixture into prepared tin, and bake for 1 hour, or until just set in the centre. For me, 1 hour was perfect, but you can wobble the tin a little to test if the cake is cooked throughout. For 2 hours, leave the cheesecake in the oven, with the door ajar. I just a wooden spoon to keep the door open. This will prevent the top of the cheesecake from cracking.

Place bacon and 1/3 cup maple syrup in a bowl together and mix until well coated. Spread evenly on an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper, and bake for approximately 20 minutes on 180c, or until bacon is crispy and sticky. Let bacon cool on tray, then spread across the top of the cheesecake. If not serving the cheesecake straight away, ensure it is stored in the rerigerator, and brought down to room temperature to eat. If the cake is still cold, it is a nightmare to cut – I made this mistake!

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One of my favourite parts of this cake was the candied bacon. People often balk at the idea, but it really works well and the maple/bacon combination is becoming quite popular. You can see the recipe for my Maple Bacon Macarons here, which I posted a couple of years ago. They are just as yummy! Happy Baking :)

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Lavender and Blueberry Macarons

I came across this flavour combination flicking through Zumbo’s ‘Zumbarons’ book, and at first, I wasn’t really sold. I can’t say I’ve ever really been a fan of the smell of lavender, and the thought of eating it, ergh. However, I first thought the same thing about the Vegemite Macarons, another genius brainchild of Zumbo’s, and I really loved them. So, I thought I would give them a go, and it turns out, they aren’t so bad after all!

Lavender and Blueberry Macarons

Zumbo’s ganache recipe calls for white chocolate, however, I boldly decided to change things up a little! I decided to make a buttercream instead of a ganache, I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this, but it worked, I think. I put as little sugar as possible into the blueberry jam, to counteract the sweetness of the buttercream, and with  little bit of salt with the butter, it was nice. I literally used like three drops of lavender oil because I was so worried it would be too strong. The idea of eating flowers doesn’t really excite me. Three drops was definitely enough. Enough to get the aroma of the lavender, with the hit of blueberry and sweetness of the macaron shell. Would I make them again? Maybe, if they were requested, but other than that, probably not. It would be interesting to taste the white chocolate ganache version, though. And, yay! For awesome shells.

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Macarons:

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • 1/4 tsp colouring gel, violet
  • Food colouring liquid, blue

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around the edges, and line with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, over a low-medium heat, until the sugar completely dissolves (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If you do not want to burn your tongue, Zumbo suggests investing in a candy thermometer and heating the syrup until it reaches 118 degrees C (244 degrees F). If the syrup becomes thick and powdery in appearance, you will need to start again. This is because the sugar has been heated too much, too quickly, and instead of dissolving, it has cooked.

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add flavouring/colouring, now’s your moment. So add the colouring now. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Tap the bottom of the trays on the kitchen bench and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 145c (135c fan forced).

Place in oven and bake for 16-20 minutes. Check macarons at 16 minutes, and to test if they are cooked, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 -15 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons.

Macarons

Place all of the macaron shells on wire racks. My needed two. Place paper towel underneath, so your kitchen bench does not come into contact with the blue colouring. Place approximately 15 drops of the blue liquid colouring in small dish. Gently dip a pastry brush in the colouring and lightly flick the macaron shells, resulting in the blue dots like my shells have. Leave shells to dry – this won’t take long.

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Macarons keep really well (about 5 days in the fridge) and some say that the longer they are refrigerated, the more the flavour is likely to develop. Macarons taste best when they are stored in the fridge, then brought down to room temperature to eat.

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Lavender Buttercream:

  • 100g salted butter, softened, not melted
  • 3 drops lavender oil (edible, of course – FYI, I bought mine from http://www.bakingpleasures.com.au)
  • 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Beat the butter until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until well combined. You can add as much sugar as you like, really. It depends on how sweet you like your buttercream. Add the lavender oil – you can always add more to taste.

Blueberry Jam:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup caster (white, granulated) sugar
  • 2 tbs water

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until mixture begins to boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer until thick. Pour into a bowl, and let it cool completely. If you are not using immediately, store jam in the fridge once it has cooled.

Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Place lavender buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe round onto one shell, and spoon a very small amount of blueberry jam on top of the buttercream. Sandwich together. Store in airtight container in the fridge. Bring down to room temperature to eat.

I really wanted some fresh lavender sprigs in my photos, but unfortunately it was not to be. I was desperately trying to find some, madly roaming my local neighbourhood at 10km/ph on the hunt for lavender! Tis’ not the season.

Happy Baking! And…please come and follow me on Instagam – @gemmaash :)

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Ferrero Rocher Mini Cupcakes

In the last few weeks, it has been so hot and sticky here in Melbourne. The type of weather that sucks the energy right out of you, it’s not fun. And in this weather, baking is the last thing anyone would want to be doing! With a slight cool change earlier in the week, I jumped at the chance to make these little babies, and boy, I am glad I did. They are very yummy. I guess they are kind of my (belated) Valentine’s Day post. I have always loved Ferrero Rocher chocolates, but they have always been something I have had on a special occasion. Plus, my boyfriend loved them. So, there we have it.

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The chocolate cupcake recipe I used, is the one I have used many, many times before. It is fantastic, and works really well every time. I cut the Ferrero Rocher chocolates in half, which is not easy to do! You will probably get a really messy half and a neater half. Place the messier half inside the uncooked cupcake, and leave the other half for decorating. You can find the cupcake recipe  here. I halved the recipe for this batch, and it still made close to 30 mini cupcakes.

Cupcakes

Nutella Ganache:

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 250g good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 75g salted butter, softened, not melted

Melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl, in the microwave in spurts of 20 seconds. At the end of each stint in the microwave, stir chocolate with a metal spoon. When completely melted, stir in Nutella until well combined. Leave at room temperature to cool. When mixture is at room temperature, it may have become a little solid. If so, just run some lukewarm water around the outside of the bowl to soften up a bit. In a separate bowl, beat butter until pale and creamy. Spoon the butter into the Nutella mixture and beat altogether for a couple of minutes until whipped and smooth.

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To decorate: Spoon Nutella ganache into a piping bag fitted with a round wide nozzle. Pipe one single round onto each cupcake, and place halved Ferrero Rocher on top. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. If it’s really hot, you can place the cupcakes in the fridge, but bring them down to room temperature to eat. I am very reluctant to put cake in the fridge, and people always think this is weird. When you put cake in the fridge, the fat component of the cake (butter) becomes harder, so the cake becomes drier and often crumbly. By the way, you can freeze these cupcakes, too. Just do it as soon as they are decorated, and obviously, bring them down to room temperature to serve, preferably overnight.

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Here are some I made with Malteasers. Equally as delicious!

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Lamington Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Happy Australia Day to all you Aussies! I hope everyone is having a relaxing long weekend :) As a country, Australia does not really have a defined cuisine of its own. I guess it has something to do with being derived from Britain, and not really having a whole lot of history of our own. However, there is one sweet that we do claim do be our own (aside from the humble Pav, of course!). It is the delicious Lamington. If you do not know what a Lamington is, you are missing out, big time! They are slices of sponge-y cake, filled with jam, and covered in chocolate icing and coconut. Yum! I had actually never made a Lamington before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I decided on a cake version for my Mum’s birthday, and I must say, it was delicious, and a big hit.

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I was going to use the recipe from the ‘BAKE’ book, from the Australian’s Women’s Weekly (AWW are the go-to’s for great recipes for many Aussies), for normal Lamington’s. However, I just had to look on my favourite site, Taste, of course, to see if they may have had a recipe for a cake. Luckily, I found the perfect one with great reviews, so I went with that, with a few of my own additions. I guess I could be more sure of the measurements this way, instead of having to adapt a slice into a cake. Anyhoo, the recipe was great – easy to follow and not ridiculously time consuming, either. Winner :)

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Lamington Cake: (recipe from Taste.com)

  • Cooking oil spray, to grease
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 2 cups coconut
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract

Preheat your oven to 180c/356f. Grease two 20cm round springform baking tins with cooking oil spray, and line with non-stick baking paper. Set aside.

Sift all three flours into one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat all of the eggs, and the sugar, for approximately ten minutes, or until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy. Then, sift half of the flour mixture into egg mixture, and  gently fold it in with a metal spoon until well combined. Repeat with the remaining flour. Make sure the flour is all combined as it can be difficult to see in a large bowl – the flour will just sink to the bottom. And remember to be gentle as you don’t want to knock too much air out of the sponge.

Divide the mixture evenly into the 2 prepared tins. Smooth the surfaces with a metal spoon to ensure the mixture is even. Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14, but ensure you check at 12). Insert a skewer to ensure cake is cooked – the skewer will come out clean. Leave in tins to cool, then place on a wire rack.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl together, and add the water. Mix well until combined and smooth. Pour the icing into a large, shallow dish. Pour the coconut out onto a large baking tray.

Place one side of the sponge cake into the icing, cover the sides, then dip the other side of the sponge in the icing. Cover in coconut and place on a large cake stand. Repeat with remaining sponge cake, except place this one on a plate or another baking tray. I found this process super messy and it took me a while, but I got there in the end!

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Balsamic Strawberry Jam:

  • 1 medium punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract
  • 1 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Splash of water

Place strawberries and water (I literally used a splash, just to moisten the strawberries) in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a medium heat until the berries begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and sugar, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until strawberries have broken down. Add balsamic vinegar, and continue cooking on low until mixture becomes a sticky, jam like consistency. Pour into a bowl, and leave to cool. If you are not using the jam on the day of making it, cover with cling wrap and place it in the fridge. I made my jam two days beforehand.

Lamington Cake

Assembly:

Whip up 250ml thickened cream, with 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste/natural extract. With one sponge cake already on the cake stand, cover with whipped cream, ensuring you spread the cream right to the edges of the cake (if you want to decorate it like my cake, leave a little bit of cream behind to pipe on top). Then, spread over the strawberry jam – although this time don’t spread it right to the edges, leave about 1cm. Place the other sponge on top of the cream and jam. Decorate as desired :) EAT!

Messy goodness

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! (check out my past Australia Day posts here.)

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Coconut and Lime Ombre Cake

Happy slightly belated New Year to you all! I can’t believe it is 2014, and January the 1st marked whiskitforabiscuit’s second birthday. Yay :) The beginning of the year is always a bit of a baking whirlwind for me, because almost every member of my family has their birthday in January. So, here is the first of the birthday cakes:

CoconutLimeCake

I love the combination of coconut and lime. It’s really fresh and summery, which is nice when you’re in the middle of the horrible heatwave Melbourne is experience at the moment! The last thing you feel like doing is forcing down a piece of heavy mud cake down your pie hole, so this cake, I thought, was ideal.

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As you may have seen, I enjoy making layer cakes with different colours and gradients; it just makes it a bit more fun, especially when kids are around. I also decided, instead of covering and filling the cake in buttercream, I used a fresh and tangy lime curd to sandwich the layers, and whipped cream to cover the cake, with some coconut, too. Buttercream does not go down well in heat!

Layers

For the cake, I used my trust vanilla cake recipe I have used many times before (which is originally a cupcake recipe, but it works just as well for larger cakes), and just added a bunch of lime zest, lime juice and coconut. It’s so easy and it works perfectly every time, especially when adding different flavourings. I only had a couple of hours to make this cake, so the layers are not quite as even as I’d like them to be. Oh well, it still tasted pretty awesome!

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I hope you all had an amazing New Year, and that 2014 is everything you wish it to be! Happy Baking :)