Summer Strawberry & Vanilla Cupcakes

I made these cute little cupcakes for two of my friends joint birthday this week, and am quite satisfied with how they turned out! My friend suggested the idea of putting strawberry into the plain vanilla bean cupcake, and it worked really well. They added a nice touch of summer and broke up the sweetness of the vanilla and rich creaminess of the buttercream. Yum!

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes1

I know it sounds a bit lame, but I LOVE piping cupcakes. I find it strangely therapeutic, but only when the buttercream swirls exactly the way I want it to :p Which definitely doesn’t always happen!

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I used my trusted vanilla bean cupcake recipe that I have used countless times. The great thing about this recipe is that you can double it, halve it, add anything you want to it (ie. Strawberries!), and the cakes will still be super moist and fluffy 🙂 Unlike macarons, where you can make the slightest of adjustments and every single shell will crack!

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Tower!

Cupcakes always look so pretty in photos, especially when they’re cute girly pastel colours like these ones. I love adding ribbon and cachous and other colour co-ordinated bits and pieces to the photos to brighten them up and to try and make a bit more of a story out of my food. I’m not sure if I’m any good at it, as I know next to nothing about photography, but it’s definitely fun to play around 🙂

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Parisian Red Velvet Cupcakes

Before I say anything else, I believe red velvet cupcakes are the world’s greatest invention. Ever. I. Love. Them. So. Much. I’m not sure exactly what it is, maybe the cream cheese frosting or the fact that the cake itself isn’t too sweet, or the combination of the two. Whatever it is, I love it!

It was my best friend’s birthday, and she loves all things Paris-y, so when I saw this kit with the cases and the little toothpicks, I knew exactly what I was going to use them for! I have tried a few red velvet recipes in my time, including the one for the giant cupcake, but I think this is the best one I have come across. It was delish-i-ohso.

Red Velvet Cupcakes: (by Martha Stewart):

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (if you don’t know what cake flour is, read this)
  • 2 tbs good-quality cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (yes, you read that right!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Wilton’s red colouring gel
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 175c (350F). Line two cupcake trays with cases. Place the flour, cocoa and salt together and mix, then set aside. With an electric whisk or a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and the oil until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is fully mixed in. Beat in vanilla and red food colouring gel.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches, and the buttermilk in 2 (3 dry, 2 wet additions – begin and end with dry). Whisk well after each addition. In a separate small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar – it will foam. Add mixture to the batter, and whisk all together for about 10 minutes. Fill each cupcake case about 3/4 of the way. Place in oven for 10 mins, then turn tray around and bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tins for 5 mins, then transfer to wire rack. Makes approx. 22 large cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Icing:(also from Martha Stewart):

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 340g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia), softened slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar mixture (confectioner’s sugar)

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until pale and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar to taste, I used just over 2 cups, but you might want more if you like it sweeter – it’s really upto you 🙂 Beat in the vanilla.

Fill  piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe a swirl on each cupcake. Decorate however you like!

I was originally a little worried about the amount of oil in this recipe, because you could really taste it in the batter before it was cooked. However, these cakes were so fluffy and moist – seriously one of the best I’ve ever tried. If you’re a fan of red velvet, definitely give these a go…you will not be disappointed 🙂

Have a great weekend and happy baking! X

Pink Champagne & Strawberry Layer Cake + Mini Cupcakes

I had always wondered what Pink Champagne would taste like in a dessert, as I had heard many stories and seen many recipes, but still wasn’t one hundred per cent convinced. As was it was my Nanna’s 81st Birthday coming up, I thought it would be the perfect time to try something Pink Champagney-cakey, because my Nanna lovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvves Champagne, more than anyone else I know. I began my search for an inspiring recipe and stumbled across a Pink Champagne Cake Pop number from the ever-amazing Sweetapolita. I knew then I had to make it, because when it comes to cake, Sweetapolita is up there with the best and I knew it would be fantastic!

Unfortunately, when I made the cake I was running quite low on time (nothing ever changes!), and it wasn’t as pretty as I hoped it would be. So, it was definitely a rustic looking cake. The photos don’t do the cake justice either, I literally finished icing it and had to run out the door in my ten-inch heels, so the fact that the cake survived the journey to the restaurant is a miracle in itself! Lucky it did though, because it was really, really yummy. There was just enough booze to counteract the amount of butter and sugar in the icing, and the tang of the soaked strawberries in the middle certainly made it one delightful biteful!

My favourite part of the cake was definitely the Pink Champagne soaked strawberries in the middle. I cooked them down with some vanilla and a bit of sugar, and they were soooooo good! I could have happily eaten them all there and then.

Pink Champagne & Strawberry Layer Cake: (adapted from Sweetapolita)

  • 3 cups cake flour (if you don’t know what Cake Flour is – read this)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 170g butter, chopped and softened – not melted
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Pink Champagne
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat a fan forced oven to 175c (350F), and grease and line two 22cm spring form pans. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, about 5 minutes. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) together and set aside. To the butter and sugar mixture, gradually add the egg whites, followed by the vanilla. Add and alternate the dry ingredients and the champagne – make sure you begin and end with dry (3 dry, 2 wet). Stir in chopped strawberries. Mix until fully combined, but ensure you do not over mix. Evenly distribute the cake batter (use scales to ensure they are exact) into the two prepared tins. Place in preheated oven, and cook for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. The cakes should spring back slightly when done. Do not open the oven until the cakes have been cooking for 25 minutes. Leave cakes in pan to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

 Pink Champagne Buttercream: (this can be made a few days in advance and stored in the fridge)

  • 350g salted butter, chopped and softened, not melted
  • 2 cups icing sugar mixture
  • 1/3 cup Pink Champagne
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract

Beat butter until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the Pink Champagne and sugar. After buttercream is fully incorporated, beat for another 5-8 minutes.

Pink Champagne soaked Strawberries:

  • 1 small punnet strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup Pink Champagne
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp caster sugar

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and leave to soak for up to an hour (you could leave it longer if you wanted to). Pour ingredients into a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until mixture is boiling. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until mixture is thick and syrupy. Let strawberries cool before you put them on the cake.

Assembly:

Place one layer of cake on a stand or board, or whatever you’re using. Spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the first cake, and evenly pour the soaked strawberries, and sandwich with the second layer of cake. Cover the entire cake with a layer of buttercream, using a round edged knife. I find the easiest way to do this is to get a cup of warm water, and to regularly dip – it just goes on smoother and won’t break the cake. Top the cake with a handful of strawberries for decoration and freshness 😉

I also made some mini cupcakes with the leftover Pink Champagne buttercream I had. I managed to get some better photos of these ones…

I used the foolproof recipe I always use for Vanilla Cupcakes, they work perfectly every time and are so easy!

 

 

Cupcake Madness!

The vast majority of my time in the past week has been spent making over 100 cupcakes, and a heck of a lot of buttercream! 100 may not seem like much, but when you have never done that many before, it is certainly a challenge. But lots of fun too!

I had to make three different flavours for a 21st order – chocolate, vanilla bean and red velvet. The chocolate ones had the yellow buttercream, the red velvet ones had the bright orange buttercream and the vanilla bean ones had the bright red buttercream, and all cakes were sprinkled with gold glitter.

I was really happy with how all the cakes turned out, and the colours of the buttercream were really effective. The vanilla bean with the red icing was my favourite to look at because it was so bright and the gold  glitter looked great on it.

I’m not going to write out the recipes for this one, but here are the links for the Red Velvet and the Chocolate cupcakes. I used a different recipe for the vanilla bean, and I will post that up when I make them again soon 🙂

TIP –   when you want to make bright red buttercream, you need to use soooooooooo much colouring gel to make it intense. If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, colour it in batches and then mix them because it is a lot easier to control the colour that way. I tripled my recipe, and needed a good 3 1/2 tubs of Wilton’s gel (Rojo red I think it was). I was really unhappy with mine at first, but weirdly enough overnight in the fridge it brightened from a crimson red to an intense red! This is what it was like first:

 

And after:

And these were just some circusy-themed ones I made for my sister and her friends 🙂

 

The Rainbow Cake

make a gif at gickr.com

Well, what can I say about this cake?! 7 layers of delicious vanilla bean cake and buttercream, it probably could of fed about 100 people, no joke. This mountain was made for my beautiful little sister’s 8th birthday, and it certainly got the reaction I was after! The gasp from my sister and her little friends (and the adults too!) was priceless, and it’s what makes the hours of slaving away in the kitchen well worth it! I hope you enjoy the gif too, it’s not the best, but I think this epic cake deserves it.

Whilst this cake took a long time to finish, it wasn’t very difficult at all. The cake is quite a basic vanilla butter cake, and the recipe I used was huge, and on it’s own made 4 and 1/2 layers. I must say, I am quite proud of this creation 🙂

Vanilla Butter Cake: (I made this quantity, which made 4 1/2 layers, and another half quantity, which finished the layers and also made 8 medium sized cupcakes too)

I found this recipe from my bible website, Taste.com.au. Even though I have posted the link, I am going to write out this recipe as well because I have a few notes and helpful hints that will make life a little easier.

  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 cups caster (white, superfine) sugar
  • 300g butter, chopped, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp vanilla bean paste)
  • Food colouring gel – I used Wilton’s as they are very concentrated and achieve an amazingly bright colour. I buy mine from West’s.

Note: I know the recipe on Taste says to combine everything in the one bowl, then beat, but I found this quite difficult. My bowl was so full I was worried it would topple over, and it took me forever to get the little buttery lumps out. Here is my method:

Preheat the oven to 140C. Grease and line two 22cm springform tins with baking paper (obviously, if you only have 1 tin, it will take you a lot longer to make the cake. For this recipe, the more tins, the better! I had 2 and that worked perfectly. You can usually pick them up from Coles for under $10). Place butter and sugar in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, and cream until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Once combined add the flour and the milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until a smooth batter forms. Carefully weigh the batter into batches of 300g. Stir in the colouring gel until you achieve the desired shade, and pour into cake tin. Smooth mixture with the back of a spoon until mixture is evenly spread throughout the tin. Place in preheated oven, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in tin for 10 minutes or until cooled. Remove from tin and wrap individual layers tightly, in cling wrap. Repeat process with 6 other layers. Until you have this…

If you are not icing the cake straight away, refrigerate them. I made my cakes 2 days in advance and it was perfect. Just make sure to remove cakes from fridge 1-2 hours before decorating.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

  • 700g salted butter, chopped, at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar (I prefer to use icing sugar mixture, a plus is that you do not have to sift it)
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract – NO imitation vanilla allowed!! It is full of chemicals and artifical flavours.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or if you don’t have a stand mixer, a very large bowl, beat butter until pale and creamy, about 5-7 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar and vanilla to taste (I used between 3-4 cups – I actually can’t remember the exact amount! Although you want it to be nice and sweet, you also still want that slightly salty hit that comes from the butter). Beat on high for about 8-10 minutes.

If you are not  icing the cake straight away, place buttercream into an airtight container, in the fridge. Buttercream keeps really well, up to 2 weeks in the fridge, and 6 months in the freezer. Just make sure that you take the buttercream out of the fridge or freezer the night before you ice the cake, so it can come down to room temperature. I had mine in the fridge, and the next morning it still needed 10 seconds in the microwave. TIP – when putting buttercream in microwave, do it in small bursts as you do not want it to become runny. You want it to be pliable, but still have its thickness and creamy texture.

Assembly:

Once cakes have come down to room temperature, you can start building. You will need a round-edged knife, and a small bowl of hot water to smooth the icing. Unfortunately, our round-edged knife is broken, so I had to use really small cheese knives! Place the bottom layer of cake on the stand, and top with about 2 tablespoons of buttercream. With the knife dipped in hot water, smooth out the icing until it covers the circumference of the cake, and is about 1-2cm thick. Repeat the process with the remaining 6 cakes.

To ice the outside, make sure you keep dipping the knife in hot water, to cover the whole cake with buttercream. For now, don’t worry about smoothing out the icing, you just want to get the cake covered first.

To clean up the icing, ensure the knife is dipped in the hot water regularly. Carefully smooth the icing with the round-edged knife.

As the cake was so colourful and intense in the middle, I wanted to keep the decoration on the outside to a minimum. I had bought these brightly coloured sprinkles from Baking Pleasures, and they had every colour I wanted to have in the layers, so I decided I would completely cover the top of the cake in these sprinkles, and leave the rest of the cake. I was pretty happy with how it looked.

There are many ways you could decorate a cake such as this. I love these gorgeous Rainbow Cakes from Sweetapolita and Whisk Kid.

Orange and Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

These cute little cupcakes were requested from my boyfriend for his birthday, as he loves lemon curd and this awesome orange cake – so why not combine the two and add some delish toasted meringue? Yum!

I made this orange cake in a large ring pan with some toffee syrup for Easter last month, and it was a really lovely dessert. Plus, it is so easy to make – just throw everything in the food processor and off you go! Definitely one to keep in the repertoire.

I used this great recipe from Taste.com for the orange cake. Obviously I did not make the toffee syrup this time around (however, it is great if you’re making one big cake!), and as these were cupcakes I simply spooned 1 1/2 tsp of mixture into each cupcake case, and baked for 15 minutes on 160c, fan forced. After they have been cooked, let cakes cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then place on wire rack to cool completely. This mixture made 26 medium sized cupcakes, but if you wanted more or less, it’s fairly easy to double or half. To toast the meringue tops, you will need a chef’s blowtorch. You can buy them for about AU$25-30 at most homeware stores.

Lemon Curd: (also from Taste.com)

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80g) chilled, chopped butter

In a small saucepan, whisk eggs, yolks and sugar until smooth. Place the saucepan over a low heat. Add the butter, juice and zest and whisk until thickened. Strain through a sieve, let curd cool, then refrigerate.

Italian Meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup caster cugar
  • 50g water

Have egg whites ready in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a bowl with the hand mixer ready to go. Over a low-medium heat, combine sugar and water in a saucepan to make a sugar syrup. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is very hot. If thick, white bubbles begin to form, start again. Begin beating egg whites, and slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, and the mernigue is thick and glossy. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round or star nozzle – I used a star nozzle but the meringue was not thick enough to take the shape, but they still looked nice enough 🙂 (TIP – don’t make the meringue until you are ready to pipe it. If it is sitting for over 5 minutes, it will begin to deflate and will lose its glossiness).

Assembly:

When the cupcakes have cooled, gently hollow out a small circle at the top, about 3-4 cm deep. Fill the holes with lemon curd. Gently pipe a swirl of meringue on the top of each cupcake. Once you have completed the topping, gently wave the blowtorch over the meringue – leave about 10cm, otherwise it will burn. You only want to lightly toast the meringue 🙂 Store cupcakes in airtight containers, but do not refrigerate, otherwise they will lose their fluffiness. They will keep for 4-5 days. You can definitely freeze the cupcakes with the lemon curd inside, although only top with the meringue when you are ready to serve.

Citrus and meringue is a classic combination that always works beautifully. You could mix up this version with a lemon cake and lime or orange curd, or even a blood orange cake and curd. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy! X

Salted Caramel, Chocolate Mousse and Brownie Stackers

Some may call it sad, but I made my own birthday cake. I decided it was just a chance to try something new and different, and new and different this certainly was. I combined my three all-time favourite desserts/flavours/textures – salted caramel, chocolate mousse and rich, chocolate brownie to create this mouthwatering mini tower.

It was the first time I had ever used a ring mould, and it actually worked quite well. It all sounded great in my head, but when I started stacking the pieces together I began to slightly freak out because brownie was breaking, caramel was sticking to everything and I was becoming covered in mousse! Uh oh. But they worked, a bit messier than I had imagined, but that’s okay.

The taste of these ‘stackers’ was seriously out of this world! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but they were so good. The mousse was quite bitter, as I mainly used 70% chocolate, but when combined with the sweet and salty, thick caramel, it really worked. I also used 70% chocolate in the brownie, so the cake on a whole was still extremely rich and decadent, but it was far from sickly sweet which is what I wanted to achieve.

I simply used three different recipes (doubled the quantity for the brownie and the mousse) and stacked away. It did take me a while, but it really wasn’t that difficult. It’s definitely well worth it if you’re a chocolate and caramel feind like me 🙂

Janelle Bloom’s Chocolate Brownie Base: (this recipe is from Janelle Bloom’s ‘Fast, Fresh and Fabulous’ – a great book. This is actually the base for an amazing New York baked cheesecake). Makes 8-10 stackers.

  • 200gm dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200gm butter, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 4 tablespoons self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 185c fan forced. Grease and line 2 oven trays 1-2cm deep. Although, you could really use any oven proof dish, just spread the mixture 1-2cm thick. Place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in flours, sugar and eggs until well combined. Spread mixture evenly over base of prepared trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Don’t worry if the mixture is still a little soft. Cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate while mixture is still in trays. Tip – make sure the mixture is completely cold before the circles are pressed out. There is a LOT of butter in this recipe, so it really needs to be hardened otherwise it will crumble to pieces (yes, this did happen!).

When brownie mixture is completely cold, press out circles with the ring moulds. There should be about 16-20 circles. When finished, refrigerate in an airtight container.

The Chocolate Mousse I made is from Taste.com, and it is really yummy and fairly simple. I doubled the quantities of the recipe, and it made HEAPS! If you don’t want mousse for lunch for the next week, maybe just do another half of the recipe. Obviously, I did not use the extra cream or the cherries.

Salted Caramel:

  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Remove paper from condensed milk cans, and place them in a large saucepan, lying down. Cover with boiling water and simmer for 3 hours, occasionally topping up the water to ensure cans are always covered. Remove cans from saucepan and let cool for 20-30 minutes. Open with a can opener, and pour caramel into a large bowl. Add salt flakes and stir to combine. You can use as much or as little salt as you like, but I usually stick to half a teaspoon per can of caramel. If using on the day, make sure caramel is completely cooled. Otherwise, refrigerate overnight.

Assembly:

Now for the fiddly part! To begin assembling, place a brownie circle inside the bottom of the ring mould.

Place two teaspoons of salted caramel on top of the first brownie and smooth evenly. Place another brownie on top of the salted caramel layer.

Place 2 generous teaspoons of mousse on top of the second brownie layer, and smooth evenly.

Now cross your fingers and toes! To release the cake from the mould, gently tap cake on the bench until it begins to slip out from the mould. Once this has happened, you can either very gently pull the brownie further and further until it comes out, or keep tapping. It should look a little something like this…

They were a bit messier than I would have liked, so I tied a ribbon around each stacker in an attempt to make them neater! If you’re a perfectionist like me, use a round edged knife or a cheese knife and some warm water to smooth the tops and the edges.

Happy Baking! X