Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sugar High Friday - Spice Up Your Life - Spicy Banana Cake; Yum-Yum Award

Pastrygirl of Dessert First is hosting Sugar High Friday (created by The Domestic Goddess) for October, with a theme of Spice Up Your Life. It's simple - make a sweet dish containing one or as many spices as you like.

I had quite a few overripe bananas living in my fruit bowl, so I wanted to incorporate them into my recipe. A quick Google search brought me to this recipe for Spicy Banana Cake - perfect! It contains cinnamon and cloves, along with bananas, raisins and nuts. I used a combination of hazelnuts and walnuts instead of pecans, because I had some that needed using up.

Here is a photograph of my finished cake, which I baked in a 9 inch springform pan instead of a 10 inch tube pan:

This is a wonderful, moist and huge cake! (The strange looking bit on one side is where a clump of banana rose to the top.) I don't like a heavy banana flavour, but this was not overwhelmingly banana-flavoured. The bananas and the raisins made the cake moist, and the nuts added a fantastic texture.

To spice up my life a little more, I added cinnamon to the water icing that I iced the cake with. Here is a slice of the cake (displayed on a plate instead of a napkin for a change!):

Mmm, mmm - don't you love the chunkiness and texture? I would gladly make this again (if I weren't so buy making new recipes all the time).

Don't forget to watch out for the roundup of recipes to spice up your life on Pastrygirl's site after the end of October.

In the meantime, I have been cross-stitching again, and made another baby album banner, this time for my work colleague Matt and his wife:

This teddy bear pattern came from p38 of the October 2008 edition of Cross Stitch Crazy.

Finally, my blogging pal Ivy from
Kopiaste has awarded me the Yum-Yum Award:

Thanks Ivy!

There don't appear to be any rules attached to this award, so I will pass it on to the following people, whose blogs I find "yum-yum":

Tammy of
Wee Treats by Tammy

Susan of

Arfi of

Do visit these blogs if you haven't already - they all have great photos and recipes to enjoy.

Daring Bakers - Pizza

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore

Jack Brooks

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is pizza, chosen by our host, Rosa, of Rosa's Yummy Yums, in honour of Sher, who was to be her co-host with Glenna before tragedy struck.

The challenge was to make our own pizza dough using Peter Reinhart's recipe, and to attempt to toss it to make the base for a pizza. You can find the recipe for the dough on Rosa's site. I had never made pizza before, let alone tried to toss the pizza dough, so this month's challenge was once again a learning exercise for me.

The recipe made enough for 6 small pizza bases. I made two pizzas and stored the rest for a rainy day.

I did try the tossing method to make the bases:

but unfortunately it did not quite turn out as planned:

Not being the patient sort, I then turned to the rolling pin to flatten out the bases.

My first pizza was an Aussie classic - the Hawaiian, with tomato paste as the sauce, topped with shredded ham, pineapple pieces and grated cheese:

The second pizza that I made was a tandoori chicken pizza, with a mango chutney and yoghurt sauce, topped with caramelised onion, chicken strips marinated in yoghurt and tandoori curry paste then cooked with the onion in a frypan, zucchini strips, capsicum strips and grated cheese:

Both pizzas were delicious, but my favourite was the Hawaiian. (There are critics who say that pineapple on a pizza is just wrong - they don't know what they're missing!!)

I subsequently made a beetroot and pumpkin pizza, using yoghurt and mango chutney sauce, cubed baby beets, cubed roasted pumpkin and fresh coriander:

Thanks to Rosa for hosting this month's challenge. You can check out all the other great pizza topping combinations, and have a laugh at everyone's attempts at tossing the dough,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD - Trick or Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

This week's Tuesday with Dorie is hosted by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought, who has chosen Dorie's chocolate-chocolate cupcakes and encouraged us to dress them up for Halloween.

Here are the cupcakes pre-decorating:

I really liked these, because they were chocolatey without being OTT, rich, "I contain a family block of chocolate" flavour. There was only 150g of chocolate in the whole batch, including the frosting. I made my cupcakes as patty cakes (half way between a muffin and a mini muffin) so that I had enough to go around the troops.

Halloween is not an event that is traditionally celebrated in Oz, although I am informed that children now do go trick or treating. However, I wanted to join in the fun, so I coloured some ready rolled fondant orange using gel colours, and cut out Halloween shapes using the mint-condition cutters that I bought with grand (but unrealised) intentions last year. The features were drawn on using a food colouring pen.

Thanks to Clara for hosting TWD this week . You will find the recipe at her site. To see other interpretations of these cupcakes, please visit the TWD blogroll.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh my, Apple Pie - Sweet Pies Event

My friend Ivy at Kopiaste is hosting a Sweet Pies Event - all you have to do is make a sweet pie and post about it during October. So come on all you budding "Waitresses" out there - bake a pie and join the fun, and you will be entered into the draw to win some Tupperware.

A little while ago, some people that I met at a professional dinner introduced me to the Britain's Best Dish website. One of the dishes featured on the site and in the TV show that it accompanies is a Traditional Apple Pie, which along with Apple Crump, was the most popular dish on the site last year (although neither of them won the prize as Britains's Best Dish). Having already tackled the apple crump (although not a fan - too sugary and buttery for me!), I decided that the apple pie would be perfect for Ivy's event. You can find the recipe for this Traditional Apple Pie here.

This apple pie is not like my Mom used to make, because it uses lard in the pastry. This sounds rather gross, but I am willing to give things a go, and it tasted OK. Lard is not commonly used in Australian pastries, although old cookbooks suggest that it may once have been, and lard is certainly not easy to buy. However, in the spirit of adventure and compromise, I used Supafry as a lard substitute, as it is, after all, tallow (that is, clarified beef fat), and lard is rendered pork fat. One important difference that I noticed between the pastry in this apple pie and my usual pastry is that it was much crisper - perhaps this is attributable to using half butter, half animal fat in the pastry?

Although I didn't realise until I started, some of the directions in the recipe are quite vague. For example, it says to peel, core and chop the apples, but not how finely to chop them. I just used my you-beaut gadget to core and cut each apple into eighths in one go, which seemed to be fine enough for the purposes of this pie. The recipe also says to cook the apple with sugar and lemon juice "to taste". Unfortunately, if you taste the apples too much, you'd have none left for the pie. For the record, I used two tablespoons of lemon juice and a third of a cup of sugar, which made my tart Granny Smith apples quite sweet. Where the recipe says to dot the pastry with extra margarine when making the lid of the pie (without saying how much extra margarine), I totally ignored it, as there was enough fat in there already, and it didn't seem to affect the final outcome.

While the recipe calls for quince marmalade with which to cook the apples, I used good ol' orange marmalade, which did the job nicely. I also used butter instead of margarine. Finally, there was no way I was leaving a carton of milk on the bench for two to three days to create sour milk - the potential health issues are mind-boggling. Instead, I used buttermilk, which I thought may be a fair substitute, given that you can "fake" buttermilk by adding lemon juice to ordinary milk, which sounds pretty sour to me.

Despite its odd ingredients, I really liked this apple pie - it beats the commercial ones hands down, and I liked the unusual crispness of the crust (even though I have divorce myself somewhat from the fact that it contains animal fat).

Don't forget to check Ivy's site in early November for the Sweet Pies roundup - thanks for hosting Ivy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two birthdays - Primavera cake and chocolate mud cake

It was a busy week for birthdays in our office last week - which meant there was a lot of baking, but not much blogging, at my end. We had two birthday boys to follow up Sue - there was Luke on Wednesday and Lee on Thursday. Because I am seconded two days a week, I made both cakes for Wednesday so that no-one misses out (and nor do I ;)).

The cake pictured at the top of this post is the Primavera - genoise filled with pastry cream, soaked with rum and topped with fruit, and finally glazed with apricot jam. I chose this cake for Lee because it is not only beautiful, but low fat (although apparently Lee has given up the dietary concerns). I was a little heavy-handed with the rum, so it was stronger than I expected (and blew poor non-drinking Valar away!), but was still a very nice cake.

It's a bit fussy to make, but visually is worth it. You could easily skip the alcohol with no ill effects (it may even improve the taste, depening on what your preference is). The recipe, from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts, is as follows:


2 1/2 tabelspoons butter
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pastry cream

3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons plain flour
4 teaspoons cornflour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup skim milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To finish

6 tablespoons rum (or in my case, a little more)
2 cups berries or sliced soft fruits (eg kiwi fruit, mango)
1/2 cup strained apricot jam

To make the genoise:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.

Melt the butter in a sacuepan and simmer until the sizzling subsides and the butter turns golden brown, and strain the mixture through a paper-towel lined strainer, and keep the mixture hot until needed. (For the record, I used olive oil spread instead of butter and I didn't strain it.)

Mix the sifted flour with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside.

In a heatproof mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites and 1/2 cup of sugar together, then place the bowl over a saucepan full of simmering water on the stovetop and heat until the mixture is lukewarm. Remove the warm eggs from the heat, then beat with an electric mixer at high speed until the mixture cools, lightens and triples in volume. While this is happening, reheat the melted butter to ensure it is hot and stir the vanilla extract through it.

Sift one third of the flour over the egg mixture, and fold it through with a rubber spatula. Next, fold through half the remaining flour, and then the remainder of the flour. Put one cup of batter into a large bowl into which the melted butter has been poured and fold it through, then fold the remainder of the batter into the mixture.

Scoop the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for abouit 25 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack, then unmould it. The cake may be stored on the bench wrapped well for about a day, but be careful - I wrapped mine in cling film, and when I unwrapped it, half of the surface crust of the cake pulled away.

To make the pastry cream:

Mix the flour, sugar and cornflour together in a small bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat until the mixture is pale and thick.

Warm the milk until nearly but not quite boiling in a saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave, then pour it over the egg mixture, whisking constantly to ensure the eggs don't cook. Put the resulting misture in a saucepan and stir it over mnedium heat on the stovetop until it becomes a thick custard, whisk in the vanilla extract, then place the mixture into a clean bowl to cool, then cover and refrigerate until needed. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead.)

To assemble the cake:

Cut out a cardboard circle the same diameter as the cake, and place the cake on the cardboar circle. Using a saucepan lid, plate or other round object about 7 inches in diameter as a guide, cut a ring from the centre of the cake, leaving a 2 inch wide "donut" shaped outer cake.

Cut the small inner cake into 3 layers (I cut it into just 2, and it was fine for levelling purposes). If you have three layers, keep 2 only. Put one of those layers into the hole in the cake, and soak it and the inner sides of the cake ring with rum using a pastry brush.

Reserve one third of the pastry cream and set aside, then spread the rest over the well in the centre of the cake, including up the sides. (My pastry cream was way too thick to do this without wrecking the delicate cake, so I just spread it on the bottom.) Moisten the second cake layer with rum, and plac the moist side down on top of the pastry cream, and press down on it to level it out. Spread the remaining pastry cream over the top of the second layer, but do not spread it on the outer ring of cake. Moisten the top and sides of the cake with rum.

On serving day, arrange the fruit on top of the inner circle of cake where the pastry cream is spread so as to conceal the join, but leaving a visible outer ring of cake. Simmer the apricot jam then strain it to make a glaze, and brush it over the top and sides of the cake and the fruit. Refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours or until ready to serve.

For Luke, I made chocolate brandy mud cake:

I have made this cake before, and you can find the recipe

Ultimately, there was something for everyone, and I enjoyed both cakes (although taste-wise, I found the rum in the Primavera little over-powering!). Happy birthday guys!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chicken, pumpkin and basil stir fry

Sometimes it would be nice if I could subsist on the things that I bake - life would be delicously sweet indeed! However, the reality is that my baked goods are often missing a few food groups, and I would no longer be able to fit through my doorway - sigh ... I have been feeling rather flabby after winter, and although this has not held me back in the baking and tasting department (hell no!), it means that I have been turning to lighter alternatives for dinner.

The dish pictured at the top of this post is a lovely chicken, pumpkin and basil stir fry that featured in the October issue of BBC Australian Good Food. I thought that the recipe was too light in the sauce department, and I was fully prepared to go a little more heavily with the sauce - but I tasted it as is, and it was just perfect. There is no runny sauce, just a surprising amount of flavour.

If you would like to try this, you will need:

1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
400g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
300g trimmed green beans
650g chicken breast, sliced into strips
1 sliced chilli
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tabelspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large wok, and once hot, add the pumpkin and stir fry for roughly 10 minutes until soft, adding the beans half-way through to cook concurrently. Remove the pan from the heat, and put the veges aside, covered, so that they keep warm.

Add the 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the wok, and once hot, and the chicken and stir fry it until browned, then add the chilli and half a cup of basil, and stir fry for one further minute. Finally, add the vegetables, fish sauce and sugar to the wok mixture, and stir it through to coat the veges and meat with the sauce. Serve with the rest of the basil leaves and lime (if desired).

I really liked this - basic but good. The only slightly palaver-part about making this dish is peeling and cutting the pumpkin (never my favourite thing), but the result is worth it. Bon appetite!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sue's Birthday - Lemon Blueberry Cake

It was Sue's birthday last Saturday, and her first day back from maternity leave on Monday. To celebrate, I decided to make her a cake that I have been eyeing up for some time, the Marbled Lemon Blueberry Cake from Sky High - Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

You are meant to start this cake off by making blueberry jam; however, I didn't have any blueberries, and instead substituted some quality bought blackberry and apple jam.

You make the cake in three separate layers (no tricky cutting!), and colour part of the batter with the jam, which is then swirled through each layer for the marbling:

You then "glue" the cooled layers together with jam:

before making a lemon buttercream (which I had to start twice, because the first time I ended up with toffee in my mixing bowl due to overheating the sugar syrup):

and cover the whole cake with the buttercream. I then decorated mine with rolled fondant daisies with piped buttercream centres.

You can find the recipe for this cake in the book, or online
here at Leite's Culinaria.

What can I say - this cake is yummy, so if you have the 9 eggs needed to make it, go for it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday with Dorie - Pumpkin Muffins

It's Tuesday with Dorie again, and this week, our host is Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! Kelly has chosen Dorie's Pumpkin Muffins, a recipe which Dorie in turn borrowed from Sarabeth Levine.

These are large, puffy muffins full of pumpkin, spices, walnuts and raisins, and decorated with a smattering of sunflower seeds for texture. When I saw the quantity of batter, I couldn't believe that I would only get twelve muffins out of it, but sure enough, I did. The muffins puffed out over the top of the muffin holes just a tad during baking, giving them a charming, old-style, rustic look.

They don't sell canned pumpkin here, but I had pumpkin puree left over from the pumpkin cranberry bread that I had made for The World Day of Bread, and that worked just fine. I made the muffins exactly as it said in the recipe, just to see what they would be like as intended - I can always play later.

I liked the flavour of these muffins - I enjoyed one au naturel at room temperature, and it was good as is. The flavour was not overly sweet, and I am a fan of both raisins and pumpkin, the flavours of which were enhanced by the spices, and they were pleasantly moist inside. A few people of my acquaintance claim not to like pumpkin or raisins or both, so I don't know if they would even try these, but that would be their loss! In any event, these muffins are all mine - I am not sharing on this occasion. They will be my workday morning tea until they run out.

These muffins would be perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving, if you are in the US, being orange and full of harvest-style goodness. However, as an Australian, I am more than happy to enjoy them for no better reason than TWD. Bon appetite!

Thanks to Kelly for hosting TWD this week. You can find the recipe for these muffins on her site or in Dorie's book, and you can check out the variations on these muffins by visiting the TWD blogroll.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Party #39 - Gross Anatomy - Eyeball Mini Cakes & Vampire's Blood Cocktail

Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness is holding another Blog Party this month, with the theme of Gross Anatomy. Bring scary anatomically-themed finger food and a beverage to join the party.

For my finger food, I have brought eyeball mini cakes - little gory red velvet cakes topped with a bloodshot Koolmint eyeball.

To make the cakes, I halved Gail Wagman's recipe for July 4th Red Velvet Cupcakes from Cupcakes Galore. The recipe is as follows:

150g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
65g butter, softened
150g sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon red food colouring
120ml buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and spray 2 x 12 hole mini muffin pans with cooking oil.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until "creamed", then beat in the egg. Add the vinegar, vanilla and food colouring and mix well.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beating well between each addition.

Put a heaped teaspoonful of batter into each muffin tin hole (I had some batter left over which I made into standard sized cupcakes), then bake the cakes in the preheated oven for around 15 minutes. Remove the cooked cakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make the eyeballs, I drew pupils and veins on Koolmints using edible food colouring pens. I then iced the cakes with water icing to "glue" the eyeballs onto their gory red backdrop.

For my beverage, I have brought a Vampire's Blood Cocktail (aka a Kir Royale). Pour 15ml of Creme de Cassis into a champagne flute, and top it up with sparkling dry wine.

I am looking forward to the party - thanks Steph!!

World Bread Day - Oatmeal Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Zorra of Kochtopf is hosting World Bread Day again this year. To participate is simple - bake or buy bread and post about it on 16 Ocotber 2008.

I wanted to try something a little different to what I have made previously, so I selected Oatmeal Pumpkin Cranberry Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Zoe writes that this bread is great to make for Thanksgiving, because it goes well with turkey and contains the flavours of the season.

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia, but the flavours of pumpkin and cranberry appealed to me, as well as the fact that this bread contained a whole lot of different flours that I have never used before. I stuffed up in that I thought that grinding buckwheat would give me whole wheat flour. When I subsequently Googled it, I found out that "whole wheat" flour is the equivalent of our wholemeal flour, and that buckwheat is actually a seed that does not contain gluten. Oh well, I already had the buckwheat, and its lack of gluten content didn't seem to affect the final product. This bread was delicious with a dab of olive oil spread.

To make it the way that I did (goofs and all), you will need:

half a small Japanese pumpkin (a US pie pumpkin)
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
75g melted butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup oats (not instant)
3/4 cup rye flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour (or whole wheat flour in the recipe)
4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cranberries
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (the recipe called for pepitas)
spray oil
1 beaten egg to "wash" the unbaked loaf

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicone mat, and bake for 45 minutes. When the pumpkin is done, it will be soft and scoopable. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and start by scooping out the seeds, then scoop out the flesh and puree it or mash it. Keep one cup of puree for the bread, and store the remainder for another recipe.

In a stand mixer bowl, mix the yeast, salt, melted butter and honey. Add the oats, pumpkin and flours, and combine the ingredients using the dough hook attachment on your mixer.

Cover the dough, and allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours or until the dough rises then flattens on top. Place the dough in a covered container in the fridge until baking day.

On baking day, spray a loaf pan with cooking oil. Take one third of the dough of the dough, dust it with flour and shape it into a ball. Flatten the dough nto a disc, and roll it out into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle the seeds and canberries over the dough and roll it up, then fold it over once more to encase all of the seeds and cranberries.

Mould the dough with your hands into a small loaf shape, place it in the oiled loaf pan, and allow it to rest and rise for 2 hours. Twenty minutes prior to baking time, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and place an empty deep baking dish on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Brush the risen loaf with egg wash, and place it on a centre rack of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the empty baking dish in the bottom of the oven, close the oven door and bake the loaf for approximately 45 minutes, until brown and firm.

Remove the baked bread from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Makes 3 small loaves.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD - Lenox Almond Biscotti

It is Tuesday with Dorie again, and this week, Gretchen of Canela & Comino is our host. She has chosen Dorie's Lenox Almond Biscotti, with the Lenox being the name of the establishment where these biscotti were created.

I have never made biscotti before, and I was a therefore a little unsure of what I should be looking for at various stages of the baking process to ensure that it was all going OK. For example, when baking the logs during the first round of baking, Dorie said they should be "springy" at the 15 minute mark - mine seemed a little wobbly, so I left them in for another 5 minutes, but the logs were still soft in the centre rather than springy at the end of that time. I am also used to very thin biscotti, so I was a little trepidatious about the fact that Dorie's biscotti seemed to be rather wide (3/4 inch). However, they tasted good - I ate the offcuts from the first round of baking, as I could not bear to throw such delicious produce away.

To add a bit of interest, I added 1/3 cup dried sour cherries to my biscotti as well as the almonds. Overall, t
hese are very good, although I think that I would make them thinner next time.

Thanks to Gretchen for hosting TWD this week. You can check out all the other TWD members' biscotti at the blogroll

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Avast, me hearties - Rum & Raisin Cupcakes

The mention of rum instantly makes me think of pirates of old - yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum and all - which inspired the title of this post. I had been asked to make cupcakes again by the crew at my second job, so I asked what kind of cupcakes they would like. While the vast majority said "any", Aaron, my across-the-cubicle neighbour, suggested rum cupcakes. I was unphased, because I knew that in Gail Wagman's Cupcakes Galore, there was a nice selection of cupcakes containing rum.

I chose to make Gail's Rum and Raisin Cupcakes, because I rather like rum and rasin icecream, so my logic was that a rum and raisin cupcake has also gotta be good.

I wasn't let down - here are the cupcakes pre-frosting:

My cakes don't fill the papers as I stretched the 16 cupcake recipe into 24 cupcakes. The frosting is made with rum straight up - so it is very rummy!!! I was a little concerned that the powers that be may consider this a little inappropriate in a work setting (although obviously you couldn't get very much alcohol from eating one of these), but it was all OK - much to my relief. The frosting in particular was delicious - I think these would be great for a very adult after-dinner treat with coffee.

To make these cupcakes, you will need:


100g raisins
60ml dark rum
185g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter, cubed
150g brown sugar
3 lightly beaten eggs


60g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons rum
raisins for decoration (optional)

Soak the raisins in the rum for about 30 minutes, then drain and set aside, reserving the rum used for soaking to use in the frosting. (I had limited time, so I cheated a little by "nuking" the rum and raisin mixture in the microwave oven for about 20 seconds to increase the rum absorption by the raisins in the time that I had.)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 2 x 12 hole muffin pans with cupcake papers (or only 16 holes if you want bigger cakes).

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.

Melt the sugar and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring all the while, and once the sugar has dissolved, pour the melted sugar and butter into the centre of the flour mixture and combine well.

Add the raisins and eggs and combine well. Fill the cupcake papers with even quantities of mixture, then bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, cream the butter, sugar and salt using an electric mixer, then add the rum and continue beating. If the mixture doesn't reach spreading consistency, add more rum if too thick, and more icing sugar if too thin. (I ended up using a lot more rum - and no, that was not on purpose!) Frost the cupcakes and decorate each cake with a raisin, if desired.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pad Thai and Spring Racing Carnival

Spring is here in Oz, and I am very excited about it. I hate the cold, and even worse, I hate the grey, overcast days that often accompany it. Along with spring comes the
Spring Racing Carnival. I am not a huge fan of racing itself, but I love all the froth and bubble that goes along with it - it's a time when women and men dress up in gorgeous fashions that they never wear at any other time, and I love watching the rich and famous on the race telecasts, decked out in their finest. Many shops blossom like exotic flowers, filled with brightly coloured dresses, hats and fascinators, like The Best Dressed Hat, a new shop in Toorak Road, South Yarra:

I purchased a gorgeous headband by Millunacy (created by Doreen Torkomyan of Toorak), consisting of navy ribbon folded in such a way that from one angle, it looks like a 1940s hat, and topped with a diamante clip. It is incredibly elegant - I love it!!

With spring here, I am also hunting around for lighter meals to match the season, full of fresh produce. When I saw a recipe for my favourite Thai dish, Pad Thai, in the October 2008 edition of BBC Australian Good Food, I knew that I had found the perfect spring meal. I love the wonderful colour and texture of this dish, and it contains 5 different veggies, so that I get my recommended daily dose of veggies in one hit!

To make this delicious Pad Thai, you will need:

200g dried rice stick noodles
1 teaspoon oil
1 sliced onion
300g chicken breast strips
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup grated carrot (~1 large carrot)
1 head of broccoli, sliced into florets
2 sliced capsicum
150g halved baby corn
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tabelspoon brown sugar
160g alfalfa sprouts
4 sliced shallots
1 cup chopped coriander leaves
50g toasted peanuts

Soak the noodles on hot water for 20 minutes until softened, then drain and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large wok, and cook the onion until soft. Add the chicken, and cook until the chicken has browned, followed by the garlic and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the carrot, broccoli, capsicum and baby corn and stir fry until the vegetables are just softened.

Add the fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, brown sugar, water and noodles to the wok, and toss with the other ingredients to combine. Add the alfalfa sprouts, shallots and coriander and cook for approximately 1 minute, until heated through.

Remove the wok from the heat and divide the dish between 4 plates. Top with the toasted peanuts and extra chopped coriander. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Claire's baby cake

Claire, our wonderful and efficient payroll officer, left us on maternity leave yesterday. She is going to have a little girl, so I decided I was going to make her a girly-pink baby-themed cake for her last day.

The pink base cake was made from the cupcake recipe used by Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella in her breath-takingly beautiful Ispahan cupcakes. The cake formed a macaron-style crust on top as it baked, which I loved.

My inspiration for the cake design came from Cuppycake Digital Designs, who makes the sweetest little baby cupcakes ever (blog now removed). However, not having the patience to make 24 of the little sods, I converted the design to a single large cake.

As no-one wants to eat a massive ball of rolled fondant, which I would have needed to make for a pure fondant head and body big enough for this cake, I instead used part of the cake batter to make two patty-cake sized small cakes that I iced together for the head, and a half-size mini loaf cake for the baby's body. I iced the cake and the body parts with water icing, and stuck the head and body in place while the icing on the cake was still wet.

I created the blanket, dummy and bow from rolled fondant, with the blanket binding picked out with a fork and the blanket design embossed using a small butterfly cookie cutter, and stuck those on the cake while the water icing was almost but not quite dry. The baby's eyes and nose were painted on using black liquid food colouring on the tip of a skewer.

I was also a little crafty for Claire, and created this cross-stitch photo-album wrapper from a pattern in Issue 198 of CrossStitcher:

I bought the materials before I knew whether Claire was having a boy or a girl, hence I played it safe and made it green. I even hauled out the sewing machine from hibernation to sew on the ribbon!

I wish Claire and her family every happiness for the pending birth of Claire's second child.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

Hello to all TWD members - this is my very first Tuesday with Dorie, even though I have owned her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, for about 12 months now. As luck would have it, my first TWD is hosted by my great blogging friend, Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy. She has chosen Dorie's Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake as this week's recipe, which I admit to having eyed up previously a few times without making.

Luckily for me, this seemed to go off without a hitch. My cake did not sink as Dorie warned it might:

After sweating about whether my caramel would ever turn dark amber, it did, and I didn't burn myself with all the pop and crackle when I added the butter and cream to the toffee syrup:

And the end result was not unlike an ooey-gooey but delicious inside-out Snickers bar:

This one stumped the troops - a few were not brave enough to try it, and worried about putting on weight just looking at it. I for one have put on a bit in the last year or so, but was more than happy to risk life and limb to try a piece of this - and it was good! At the end of the day, there was a couple of pieces left, which when put up for grabs, were quickly snaffled by our Network Operations staff. Hooray!!

Thanks to Tammy for hosting TWD this week, and do go and check out the other takes on the Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake at the
TWD blogroll.