M&M Cookie Dough Macarons

Ever since I’d laid eyes on this cookie dough buttercream recipe from Raspberri Cupcakes and Annie’s Eats, I’ve wanted to make something a little out of the ordinary with it and I’ve had quite a few ideas. Due to of the colour of the buttercream, I really wanted to make something super bright. I thought a bright blue macaron shell and M&M’s would do the trick. So, here we are.

Often when I make bright macaron shells, the colour can bake out a little, but these babies stayed nice and blue, albeit a slight green tinge. It worked really well though, because of all the different colours of the M&Ms.

I used my usual macaron shell recipe, and added about half a teaspoon of Wilton’s colouring gel. I was careful not to go too crazy with the colouring – I wanted to avoid what happened with the Salt and Vinegar Macarons. As the blue gel is so concentrated, it was perfect 🙂

I lovvvvvvvvvvved the cookie dough buttercream! It is really easy to make, is so versatile (can’t wait to make cookie dough cupcakes!), and it doesn’t have scary raw egg (which is a bonus for me because I’m allergic!).

I totally recommend making this buttercream, because it is sooo easy! The list is endless with what you can make (think filled cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, layer cakes or even ice cream – or just eat it out of the bowl?), and you can a million types of chocolate and/or lollies 🙂 Yum!

Excuse the small post, but stay tuned for a nice big one for next week! 🙂

Lamington Macarons

This is my second attempt at Lamington macarons. If you are unfamiliar with lamingtons, they are a delicious Australian treat – a vanilla cake that often has rapberry jam in the middle, and is rolled in chocolate sauce and covered in coconut. Sounds pretty good hey?! Thankfully this time, they actually do look like macarons, instead of pancakes (see Vegemite macarons)! I love the idea of using a flavour or a product that is completely non-macaron related, and making a macaron with these flavours and products in mind. That is the great thing about macarons – they are a blank canvas. You can colour them however you like and you can fill them with whatever flavour you like whether it be fruity, creamy or rich and chocolatey like this one.

I love the dark chocolate and raspberry combination, and with the addition of coconut, these macarons were so rich, hence why they are teeny tiny! This is also the first time I have made proper chocolate shells, and with a little tweaking with the recipe, they mostly turned out well. The chocolate shells were like mini mud-cakes with a meringue crust – so good. They were a lot denser than a normal shell, but were still airy and carried the chocolate flavour really well.

Chocolate Macarons: (this recipe is adapted from Adriano Zumbo’s book and is a bit different to the recipe I usually use)

You definitely need kitchen scales (preferably digital) to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa
  • 55g egg whites, x2
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 45g water

Grease and line 4 oven trays with baking paper, and preheat the oven to 160c. Place one lot of 55g egg whites in a large, dry and clean bowl and set aside. Sift together the almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa four times, and set aside, along with the other lot of 55g egg whites (I usually place egg whites in a ramekin, on top of a paper towel in the bowl with the dry ingredients – otherwise I tend to forget them :P). Combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and syrup is hot – keep testing with your tongue until sugar is dissolved. Begin beating 55g egg whites in the large bowl, and slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. This will create an Italian meringue. Beat until soft peaks form – you do not want to overbeat your egg whites. The mixture should be thick and very glossy.

Pour the 55g egg whites in the ramekin into the dry ingredients. Carefully spoon the Italian meringue mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and stir to combine. Once combined, fold mixture (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left – this will usually take 30-40 seconds if you are folding non-stop. Make a spread with the spoon on top of the mixture, and it should subside in 15-20 seconds.

Using a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle, fill the bag 2/3 way with the macaron mixture (TIP – if you do not have a piping bag set, never fear. In the baking aisle of most Australian supermarkets you will find a small orange box – they are ‘Multix’ brand and have 5 piping bags and 5 piping tips. I am sure most supermarkets in the USA would have a very similar product). To lock the bag, spin the top around 4 times. Gently pipe small circles onto prepared baking trays. When you have a finished a tray, tap it hard against the bench – this will get rid of the air bubbles. Leave trays for about half an hour, or until they are dry to the touch and a crust is formed. You need this crust for the macarons to rise properly so that they form their little feet.

I had a bit of trouble with this next part. I’m not sure if it was my oven or the difference of having the cocoa in the shell mixture, but quite a lot of my shells cracked, especially around the edges of the tray. I found that these chocolate shells cook a lot quicker than regular shells, so this is what I did and most of them turned out pretty well. Only cook one tray at a time. Place tray in preheated oven for 7 minutes. Turn tray around and bake for 3 minutes. You may need to check early on in the cooking process whether you shells are forming properly or they are cracking. If they are cracking, I would recommend removing them from the oven and cooling them down, as they may already be cooked. If not, follow the times I have suggested. Let shells cool on trays for 5-10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack. Repeat process with remaining trays.

Chocolate Ganache:

This is a basic chocolate ganache. I have doubled the recipe I usually use.

  • 200g chocolate (I used half milk, half dark), chopped
  • 1 cup cream (doesn’t really matter which type but I use thickened or lite thickened)

Place chocolate and cream in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Constantly stir with a metal spoon until completely melted. Pour into container/bowl/whatever and refrigerate until firm enough to pipe. I often make this ganache the day before and take it out of the fridge in the morning. Sometimes it may need 5-10 seconds in the microwave.

Assembly:

Match up likely pairs of macaron shells. Fill one piping bag with chocolate ganache and another piping bag with raspberry jam – I didn’t make mine this time, but if you want to, check out this awesome recipe by Matt Preston. Pipe a small dollop of ganache on the shell, pipe an even smaller dollop of jam on top, and then another dollop of ganache to encase the jam. Sandwich with another shell and gently sprinkle around the edges of the macaron with dessicated coconut.

 

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 🙂

 

My First Order – Choc and Vanilla Cupcake Tower + Layered Musk Cake

I was a bit nervous about doing this! It was my friend Nikki’s 21st Birthday Party, so even more reason not to stuff up. My time management skills are close to non-existant, so it took a lot of careful planning and timing over 3 days for this to eventuate. Anyhow, we got there. And I was so happy with the end result, as was Nikki. I can’t believe I actually produced this!

Nikki wanted 70 cupcakes, half chocolate and half vanilla bean with pink and purple icing and white fondant hearts. It was also decided that I would make the Musk Layered Cake for the top layer, too. I was excited and up for the challenge! This is the first time I’ve ever properly done a cake for a party, and I really enjoyed it. Everything came together nicely and ran smoothly, with minimal disasters (there were still a couple!). The one thing I really wanted to nail were the cakes themselves. So many times at parties, the cakes, in particular cupcakes, whilst looking amazing, are often horribly dry, tasteless  and crumbly to eat. I desperately wanted to achieve a tasty and fluffy cupcake as well as perfectly swirled buttercream icing. I was lucky I found 2 fantastic recipes that worked beautifully, and the cupcakes were so delish!

I used recipes from Taste.com (best website ever!) for both the vanilla cupcakes, and the chocolate cupcakes. I made another half of the vanilla cupcake recipe, and doubled the chocolate one, and they both made around 38 cupcakes each. A tip for the vanilla cupcakes – don’t substitute vanilla bean paste for extract or essence, or god forbid imitation essence!! I think the paste really made the cupcakes, plus I love the little flecks of vanilla bean, too.

For the fondant hearts, I simply used a small heart cutter from West’s, an amazing cake supplier in Burwood, Victoria. All you have to do is roll the fondant with a rolling pin between two sheets of baking paper until it is about 1cm thick, then cut away. I brushed a tiny amount of edible glitter on each heart, which I also got from West’s. Oh, and my fondant supplier, who also made the ’21’ on top of the Musk Cake, is amazing, check out her awesome cakes here!

For the buttercream, I just beat 350g of softened, salted butter until pale and creamy, and slowly added 5 cups of icing sugar mixture. Once all that is combined, then add your colouring/flavouring. I ended up making 2 batches of pink buttercream for the vanilla cakes, and another half of the recipe for the purple icing for the chocolate cakes. For the musk buttercream, I just added 3 drops of musk essence, and 4 rolls of crushed Musk Lifesavers. If you leave the buttercream in the fridge overnight like I did, make sure you take it out for it to come down to room temp about 2-3 hours before. Although, you can always buzz it in the microwave for 20 seconds.

I really enjoyed piping the cupcakes, and they weren’t as difficult as I expected them to be. Because I was SO over washing dishes, this time I just used the Multix disposable piping bags, which are available at most supermarkets, and come in a bright orange box in the baking aisle. However, I used a  good quality large star nozzle, which worked perfectly. When you are piping a swirl, the key is to overlap the previous layer by about half, otherwise you will end up with big gaps and it will be uneven 😦

I can’t wait to make these cupcakes again, and if you ever want/need to make them, PLEASE use these Taste recipes. You won’t regret it I promise!!

Happy Birthday Nikki!

Chocolate and Caramel Cake with Salted Caramel and Choc-Orange Pisatchio Macarons

Whilst this cake/macaron combo turned out relatively well in the end, it wasn’t what I originally set out to do. It was my Dad and Nanna’s birthdays and I envisioned this amazing sky high macaron tower as the centrepiece of the dinner table. Unfortunately, that was not to be L I began assembling the tower, and all was going well until I got about half way up, and they all started falling off. Boo L What to do with 30 half butchered macarons? Time for Plan B!

I didn’t actually make the cake part myself – Mum did! It’s a pretty simple and really nice chocolate cake, and we just jazzed it up a bit. So we made some salted caramel to smother inbetween the cake, and some chocolate ganache to cover the whole cake with.

As my Musk Layer Cake looked great with the macarons standing on top, I decided to do the same with this one. Although I had so many macarons that I fully covered the top of the cake, as well as the sides. I had a bit of trouble making the macarons stick to the ganache, hence the millions of skewers in the photos. If I was doing this again, I would probably make the ganache the day before to make sure it is really thick.

It was yummy, although this chocolate cake is quite light and more of a sponge cake. A richer, more of a mud style cake would also work really well, and this chocolate cupcake recipe from Taste.com is pretty awesome – just bake in a round tin instead of a cupcake tin.

Mum’s Chocolate Cake: (we doubled the recipe and made 2 cakes)

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tbs cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

For the ganache:

  • 200g chocolate (we used half dark, half milk), chopped
  • 1 cup cream

For the caramel, boil can of condensed milk for 2 ½ – 3 hours. To make the ganache,  combine chocolate and cream in a saucepan until melted and smooth. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 190c (180c fan forced). Grease and line a round or ring baking tin. Place cocoa, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, sugar and milk in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over all the other ingredients. Beat for about three minutes, or until well combined. Pour mixture into tin, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin for 5 minutes and turn onto a wire rack.

Once the caramel is done, let the can cool down then pour contents into a bowl. Add 2/3 tsp salt flakes and stir to combine. With a round edged knife or spatula, spread a thick layer of caramel on top of one of the cakes, preferably while it is still warm.

Sandwich the other cake on top. Once ganache is set, gently cover the cake with a round edged knife, or a spatula. The ganache will probably drip a little bit down the sides of the cake.

Gently push the edge of macarons onto the edges and the outside of the cake. I had a few problems with my ganache being a bit too runny and the macarons falling off occasionally. However, as I said before, I think if you make the ganache a day ahead, it would be a lot thicker and you may not have that problem.

Macarons: (obviously I made 2 separate batches for this recipe)

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
  • Food colouring and flavouring (optional) In the pistachio ones I used a tiny bit of Wilton’s colouring gel, and in the Salted Caramel, half a tsp of cocoa.

Preheat oven to 170c (160c fan forced). Line three oven trays with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 4 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 until it is hot and syrupy (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If white, powdery bubbles begin to form around the edges, start again!

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 colouring/flavouring, now’s your moment. 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 $5. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 4-5cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier(I usually make them smaller, about 3cm, but I thought bigger ones would look better on top of the cake). Gently tap the bottom of the trays and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch.

Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn tray around in the oven and bake for another 7 minutes. To test, 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 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons.

Macaron fillings and toppings:

Choc-Orange and Pistachio – crush a teaspoon of pistachio nuts in the food processor or with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle on top just after macarons have been piped onto the baking trays. For the filling, combine 100g of good quality dark chocolate, ½ cup of cream and the zest of half of an orange in a saucepan until smooth. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Fill macarons with a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe half a teaspoon on the macaron, sandwiching it with another.

Salted Caramel – Boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for 2 ½ to 3 hours to make the caramel.When the can has cooled down, pour into a bowl and add 2/3 tsp of salt (sea salt flakes are best)and stir to combine. Spoon ½ teaspoon of caramel onto a macaron and sandwich with another.

So, whilst it wasn’t what I was hoping to do, it didn’t turn out too bad at all 🙂

Happy Baking!