Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's hot out there!

It is crazy hot outside.

The haze is gone for now, so I really shouldn't be complaining.
But it is HOT.


5 ways I recommend staying cool:

1) Walk around with ice packs in your shirt
This works, I'm not kidding. The only problem - the weirdest looking wet patches, which confines this idea to people who work from home. Or a cave. Or in permanent darkness.

2) Build a nice little igloo and never step outside
Theoretically a good idea, but your food will soon run out. Plus you'll have to take a course on How To Build Igloos first. A little more commitment than I'd care to make in this heat.

3) Put your bedsheets in the fridge
This one's not from me, it came from Lifehacker. You pop your sheets into a bag, leave them in the freezer/fridge, viola - nice cool bed linen for some sweet dreams. The cold is very temporary though, which makes this too-much-work-for-very-little-rewards.

4) Run away
North pole, Estonia, Russia, Canada - take your pick. You just have to be able to afford the ticket. And like to eat pickled or smoked food all the time. And love skiing.

5) My fave - load up on fruits
This is probably the only sensible idea on the list. 
Hey, I bake - don't claim to be a rocket scientist :)

Vitamin C is a fantastic way to build up immunity. 
You'll need it in this insane heat, help your body fight the soaring temperatures and not fall ill.

As I said earlier, I bake. 
So of course there must be a way to infuse fruits + desserts.

These are guaranteed ways to have your cake (or vit C in this case), and eat it!

FRUITY MILKSHAKE
Two best things about making milkshakes: they're SO 
easy to do, and uses ingredients you probably already 
have in your kitchen. 

So many, many variations you can have, and so simple - 
you don't really need a recipe, really. Ok, but it 
does help with estimating proportions, so here's a quick recipe 

All you need is good quality vanilla ice-cream,
strawberries, milk and a blender.

Blitz till smooth, and it's ready to go!

Top L: Upping the indulgence with drizzled Nutella.
Bottom L: Desserts taste more fun in a cute cup or an adorable bowl. Truth.
R: Best way to use ripened bananas - in a velvety Banana Shake!


CHIFFON CAKE WITH FRUITS AND CREAM

I love the light, bouncy texture of chiffon
 cakes, it goes fantastically with fruits. 

So wonderfully summery.

And though I'm usually not a fan of cream, with this 
cake it acts as a rich, moist blanket bringing the 
chiffon and fruits together in a merry mouthful. 

For a superb chiffon, here's Martha Stewart's fail-safe recipe.

 It's pretty good as is, I've just cut the sugar to 1 1/3 cup for
a lighter taste. I didn't have cream of tartar on hand, so I
replaced with the same amount of white vinegar, which worked
as well in stabilizing the egg whites when whipping. 

The lovely dark wads from the vanilla bean pod gradually break
up as the egg whites build, forming minute black speckles
that give the cake its aroma and vanilla depth. 

L: The cold heavy cream needs to hold up to peaks, that's
when it's ready. Since this is a smaller 7" round cake
(Martha's is a 9.5" tube), 1 cup is sufficient to fill and top the cake.

R: Don't skip this step. Letting the strawberries stew in a bit of
lemon juice and sugar takes away its sour bite.
Unless you're using Japanese berries. In which case, I'd definitely
go with the strawberries as is, they're so sweet and succulent. 

Best to assemble the cake about 1 hour before serving, don't
 forget to drizzle all that strawberry juice over the sponge.

It will keep for several hours in the fridge
without drying out too much, if you need it to.

All set to impart good ol' vit C and help save the world.


DEEP CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE WITH FRUITS

Much as I like light chiffony cakes, 
my true love lies with deep, dark chocolate

Like an unyielding siren, it calls out to me. 
I find it extremely hard to say no to chocolate.

I may need help.

But I digress.

So of course, I have to make a fruity chocolate cake. 


There are countless chocolate cake recipes, all with their merits.

I love making Martha Stewart's Chocolate Torte,
but if you want a less dense cakey sort of cake, try Bakerella's.


Fill the cake with chocolate ganache (recipe here),
 pack it with sliced strawberries in the middle.
Oh, and drench the cake in ganache on the outside.

Just for good measure.

You know... in case there isn't enough chocolate ;)

Dress the cake up with any fruits and toppings you like.

I love to see contrast of colors, and the eye-popping red
strawberries go beautifully with the more muted dark blueberries. 

Stay healthy and happy, everyone!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The best cure for Monday blues? Hilarious Pinterest laughs! (ok, this post IS about a rock-climbing cake too)

Unless you've been living under a rock (yes yes, a pun! ;), there's no escaping the magnetic draw of Pinterest.

We've all been inspired by the amazeballs cake pops, jaw-dropping cakes, must-have-'em cupcakes.

We've all looked to the Pinterest Oracle for ideas when we get stumped.

We've all been convinced at some point - we can recreate what we see, just as well!

I love a sense of humor, and a good laugh at yourself is essential - especially when you've "nailed it", somewhat like this:

Photo from Sunnyskyz.com

Check this hilarious post out and you'll see what I mean.
(sagging Cookie Monster has to be my favourite lol!)

I've had countless Pinterest Fails of my own, but since it's a Monday, we could all use a little positive reinforcement.

So here's one of my Pinterest projects for an aspiring sports star, who had an awesome rock-climbing birthday party.

More birthday parties:
> Color me happy, it's 2014
> A very lovely elephant day
> A busy day at the construction site


Left: Pinterest cake (and photo) by SimplyCakesMelbourne
Right: My spin on the rock-climbing cake,
with my little Asian climber to match the birthday girl

Start off with the rock wall base, a 2-layered
chocolate cake covered with white fondant,
embedded with edible candy 'rocks'.

Mold and pinch parts of the cake wall to
create little nooks, mimicking a real wall.

I find it best to push the candy rocks in
right after covering the cake, so the fondant is
still pliable and will dry around the rocks.  

Sculpting humans are kinda challenging -
proportions, color, posture - you don't want to end
up with a Hobbit or an awkward dangling giant.

Reinforce figurines with toothpicks or skewers
for support, especially the limbs and head.
Just remember to remind eager guests
to be careful when they chomp on her!

Black hair made out of royal icing goes on, and
viola - the little girl doesn't look like a psychotic
jawbreaker-on-legs anymore.

Attach birthday girl with royal for extra security,
and pipe on climbing rope with black food gel.

Rock-themed chocolate cupcakes to
match the cake, everyone goes home happy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolatey love



Friends-giving or Love-giving, Valentine's is a wonderful time to laugh a little, love a lot, be grateful for the people in your life.

I like celebrating with chocolate. 

The decadent molten darkness is just too good. 
I want to crown it Nectar of Happiness.

Everyone should have a bar, a stash, some slivers - on their person at all times. 
You never know when you need to celebrate.  

And if you should ever have excess chocolate lying around (I don't know why you would, honestly), here are a couple of sweet ideas you can use them in:


DECADENT CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO TORTE

Martha Stewart is a kitchen goddess.
I love the glistening, dripping chocolate ganache in this creation, it looks irresistible and tastes amazing. 

But this torte is not for the faint-hearted. 

It packs a decadent punch, and my version below uses bitter chocolate - be prepared for a bit of bittersweet nosebleed (so worth it)!

You can see the greedy baker that I am at work  -
double-stacked cake layers instead of the skinnier
torte Martha meant it to be!


SALTED BAILEY'S MINT CHOCOLATE PIE

This pie needs a bit of an age clearance, a grown-up's pie if you will ;)

I'm not usually fond of Bailey's - as a drink. 

But its signature milky sweetness works beautifully in desserts, imparting a soft richness that works nicely with my usually (deliberately) under-sweetened cake bases.

This luscious pie recipe is from She Wears Many Hats
I've just swopped the Bailey's Caramel for Bailey's Mint in mine below, and you can use a graham base or an oreo base - both are equally scrumptious. 

Add whatever toppings/decor you like after
the pie's set in the fridge for a while and semi-firm,
so they don't sink under Titanic-style.


BOOZY CHOCOLATE RUM BALLS

These little darlings make perfect gifts, and are oh-so-versatile.

You can make these out of cake or brownies, just crumble and roll.

And of course, for that special Valentine's day touch - a good splash of rum. 
Mmm yum...

The alcohol acts as the binder in these balls, and I like to add mix it up with a bit of Bailey's as well. The sweetness balances the slightly edgy taste of the rum, and you get a good ball of happiness at the end. 

Substitute with Grand Marnier or Cointreau - all good.

> How to make cake balls

Pick sprinkles/toppings that contrast well with the dark
chocolate. Sanding sugar sprinkles and white sugar granules
are a no-no - they sink into the chocolate and disappear.

In a tin, lined up in a box, on a tray - these
lil' rum balls are delightful and delicious. 


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE (CHIP) SHORTBREAD

I love making chocolate chip shortbread. 

The kitchen smells heavenly as it bakes. 
The recipe is forgiving (dosen't seize up and sulk if my measurements are a bit off!).
Keeps so well.
And I just love the slight crunchy buttery chocolate bite.

Our weather is harsh on desserts. 
Heat and humidity: bitter bedfellows for cakes, buttercream, fondant, trifles - you name it. 

Shortbread though, holds up beautifully. 
Shortbread doesn't sweat it (yes, literally).

The recipe I use is from one of my baking books Mmm Chocolate, a little hard to transport it here. But this recipe from the Food Network is very similar, and will set you straight.

Chocolate chips with chocolate ganache - what's not to like?

Hope you'll get to try some of these out this Valentine's Day - chocolate is the source of universal happeiness ;)

Oh and if you're enjoying these at home, dig in to Spotify's Valentine's playlists to set the mood.
Extra sweet ;)

Other sweet bakes you might like:
> Red velvet cake
> Sweet, sweet strawberries
> Sugar & spice, all things nice