Category Archives: Cakes and cupcakes

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes

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One of my favourite things to bake is cheesecake. I’m not really sure why. I guess it happened to be one of the first things I learned how to bake once I graduated on from cupcakes. I have a classic New York Cheesecake recipe that I tend to make at least once every few months because it is unbelievable. And don’t they say that by the time you’re in your thirties you’re supposed to know how to cook a couple things really really well? Not that I’m thinking much of being in my thirties but I do like the idea of being the master of a handful of dishes.

Cheesecake can be a bit tricky- if you don’t have the temperatures right or if you overcook the cake the top will begin to crack or the sides will burn and you’ll ruin the texture and the taste of the entire dessert. Not only is it important to follow the recipe, it’s also pretty important to get to know your oven. In the past few years I’ve had to deal with a gas-lit oven that you had to basically throw a burning match into to turn on, a fan-forced oven in a brand new apartment that liked to shut itself off every once in a while, and an oven in a much older apartment that seems to be changing temperatures from minute to minute. But once you get used to the quirks you can handle pretty much anything.

Luckily I was at home when I made these cute little treats and I know that oven extremely well. This is a great recipe for party treats as you can make heaps of little cupcakes very easily. They keep well for a few days and taste amaaaazing.

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes
Makes 24 normal sized cupcakes
Recipe from Cooking Classy

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers (from 18 sheets)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
7 Tbsp salted butter, melted
4 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salted Caramel Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together crushed graham crackers with 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir mixture until evenly coated. Divide graham cracker mixture among 24 paper lined muffin cups, adding about a heaping Tbsp to each. Press mixture into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar with 3 Tbsp flour until well blended. Add softened cream cheese to a separate mixing bowl and pour sugar mixture over top. Blend mixture on low speed until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time and blend on low speed, while scrapping sides and bottom of bowl and mixing just until combined after each addition. Add vanilla, sour cream and heavy cream and mix just until combined. Tap mixing bowl against counter top about 30 times to release some of the air bubbles. Divide mixture among muffin cups filling each cup nearly full. Bake in preheated oven 20 – 23 minutes, centers should still jiggle slightly, don’t overbake (if they begin to crack they are starting to become overbaked). Remove from oven and allow to cool 1 hour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled with a spoonful of Salted Caramel Sauce  (note: for best results spoon topping on just before serving). Store in an airtight container in refrigerator or freeze.

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Salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:
1 1 /2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
6 Tbsp salted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream*
Maldon or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions
Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over moderately high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Wait 3 seconds then carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow caramel to cool several minutes then pour into a glass jar to cool. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt after spooning caramel over cheesecakes.

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Banoffee pie

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I’ve always wondered about banoffee pie. The only time I had ever really heard about it is in that scene in Love Actually where Keira Knightley’s character shows up at her husband’s friends house looking for a wedding tape and offers him a slice of banoffee pie or ‘munchies.’ Many people probably don’t remember the scene in this much detail but as it’s my favourite movie I could probably recite the whole thing backwards.

Anyways, I always wondered what banoffee pie is, I also wondered exactly what ‘munchies’ are but in America they cover a pretty broad range so I didn’t spend as much time contemplating that. I finally had the chance to try banoffee pie earlier this year when my roommate made it for a going away party. And it was show stopping amazing. This recipe is a little untraditional since there are pretzels in the crust but they provide a great salty balance to the sweet caramel. There is also crème fraîche in the topping which offsets the sweetness of the pouring cream as well.

Albeit an amazing dish, it’s not the easiest. It’s mostly straight-forward but this recipe doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining just how to caramelise the sugar. And it turns out caramelised sugar is a bitch.

Maybe it’s just my ineptitude in the kitchen but it took me three times to get it right. On my first attempt it burnt- filling up my kitchen with the smell of gross black caramel. The next time the sugar seemed to dissolve and then somehow magically turned back into sugar from liquid. To be honest, I almost scrapped the whole thing after that. But I was not about to let caramel best me. It seemed to be finding all sorts of different ways to laugh at me. I think the problem was that I had the heat too high so the sugar didn’t have time to fully dissolve before the mixture started bubbling. 

I used this tutorial after the first two attempts and the photos are really helpful.

No matter how tricksy caramel may be, this recipe is perfect for any special occasion.

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Banoffee pie
Serves 10

  • 3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
  • 300 ml pouring cream
  • 400 gm crème fraîche
  • Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • To serve: shaved dark chocolate
  • Pretzel crumb base
  • 240 gm digestive biscuits, coarsely broken
  • 90 gm salted pretzels
  • 75 gm caster sugar
  • 200 gm butter, melted
  • Salted toffee
  • 200 gm caster sugar
  • 80 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 125 ml pouring cream

Method

  • For pretzel crumb base, process biscuits, pretzels and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form, add butter, pulse to just combine, press into base and up sides of a 5cm-deep, 24cm-diameter pie dish and refrigerate until set.
  • Meanwhile, for salted toffee, stir sugar and 50ml water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook until caramel (6-8 minutes). Add butter, cream and ½ tsp sea salt flakes (be careful as hot caramel will spit), stir until combined, then pour over crumb base and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Arrange banana on top of caramel and set aside. Whisk cream, crème fraîche and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Spoon on top of banana, scatter with chocolate shavings and serve.
This recipe is from the June 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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Tie dye cupcakes

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The word “groovy” isn’t really heard that much anymore. I can’t really say it’s a shame, it sounds outdated no matter how you use it. That doesn’t mean people like Patrick Monahan from Train will stop using it. Despite the fact that they’ve been around since 1994 they’re still trucking on. Anyone remember “Calling all Angels” and “Drops of Jupiter”? Well, their new annoyingly addictive single “Drive By” is all about a groovy little guy trying to get his girl back by driving around in circles and dancing like a four-year old. I dare you to listen to this song and not dance. But if it still doesn’t get you in the groovy mood, these awesome little tie-die cupcakes might just do the trick.

Tie Dye Cupcakes:

Vanilla cake mix in a box and ingredients for that

4-5 colors of food coloring

Mix up the cake mix until it’s ready. Divide your cake batter into four or five bowls. Add a couple drops of food coloring into each bowl of batter and mix. Add spoonfuls of each color to cupcake liners until the liner is ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes according to the directions on the box of cake.

For the frosting:
From http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/super-duper-vanilla-or-funfetti-cupcakes/

375grams/13 ounces unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3.5 cups (400g/14oz) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons (45mL) milk

1 tablespoon (15mL) pure vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for about 8 minutes on medium speed until the butter becomes very pale and creamy.

Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. It takes a little while but it’s sooo worth it!

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Red Velvet cake

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When I think of velvet I think of fancy fat kings sitting on thrones in giant castles in England. They’re usually wearing capes or manly dresses (as manly as fancy men in the 18th century were). These garments are made of velvet, and the velvet is usually purple. Or dark green.

I don’t know why velvet conjures up that specific image in my head. It’s just what happens.

But I don’t think red.

And usually I don’t think baked goods.

So that chef in that fancy hotel that came up with red velvet cake was apparently on a whole other wavelength.

But luckily for him, he was a genius.

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is both of our go-to when we’re in the mood for these devilish, discolored delights. That is, in cupcake form.

But when one little cupcake just isn’t enough, and you need a whopper of red velvety joy you can use this recipe. It’s super moist and super tasty.

Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake
From Let Them Eat Cake and Ice Cream

Who adapted it from Bakerella

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
60 ml red liquid food colouring
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa

For the frosting:

500g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 175C fan-forced. Spray two cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, gently whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, vanilla and food colouring until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cocoa until combined. Add wet ingredients and mix on medium speed for one minute. Pour batter into prepared pans, and thump on the counter a couple of times to release air pockets.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:

Sift sugar and set aside.

Beat the cream cheese and butter on high until creamy. Add vanilla.

Add the sugar in batches. Scrape down the sides in between each addition.

Frost away.

 

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New York Cheesecake

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Cheesecake is one of those things that can actually feed your soul. As dumb as that sounds I really believe it is impossible not to feel happier after eating a bite of perfectly creamy, delicious cheesecake.

The other day was one of those days where things seemed to be piling up and weighing down on my shoulders without reason or warning. To cure this and make that stress load feel a little lighter I decided to ditch studying for the day and bake a cheesecake instead. And it was a great idea.

The other day my roommate made a Japanese cheesecake which was a new experience for most of us, it was delicious but it wasn’t the kind of cheesecake I am used to.

It’s never good when eating cheesecake makes you yearn for even more cheesecake. Isn’t it supposed to be a very special treat that you have once every few months and have to savor and dream about until the time comes round again that you can justify eating heaps of sugar and cream cheese and biscuits?

I decided to ditch that common sense and instead declared it Cheesecake Week in Apartment 1834. And I headed off to the supermarket to buy my supplies.

As I’ve said before baking is never the cheapest option for a student but this recipe wasn’t too bad, I also was missing a few necessary tools but I made do with what I had and everything turned out fine.

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Recipe from Good Taste, May 2008:

New York Cheesecake

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes

Cooking time: 90 minutes

Ingredients (serves 10, supposedly, we managed to let 9 people get a taste of this so I guess that’s about right. )

1 250 gram packet of plain sweet biscuits ( I used Arnott’s Nice)

125 grams unsalted butter, melted

750 grams of cream cheese, at room temperature (Philadelphia cream cheese is undoubtedly the best kind to use for a cheesecake but since it was pretty expensive I used 500 grams of Philly cream cheese and 250 grams of a store brand lite cream cheese, I figured that as long as the majority was good quality it would be fine and it was)

215 grams (1 cup) caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp finely grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons plain flour

4 eggs

1 300ml container of sour cream (again I used a cheap store brand one to save a few bucks)

Instructions:

First of all, make sure all of your ingredients are on the counter on your workspace so that they will be room temperature when you use them.

Preheat oven to 160°C. (I was using a fan forced oven so I lowered it to about 145°C because apparently you’re supposed to do that). Grease the inside of a 23cm springform pan with butter or Pam.

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely crushed. (I don’t actually own a food processor so I just put the biscuits in two ziploc bags and pounded them with a frying pan until they turned into a ‘finely crushed’ powder. The act of destroying the biscuits with a frying pan was also extremely beneficial in making me feel better and more relaxed.)

Add the butter and process (or just stir with a spoon) until well combined. Transfer to the pan. Use a straight-sided glass to spread and press the biscuit mixture firmly over the base and side of the pan, leaving 1 cm at the top of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind in a large bowl until just combined. (I also don’t own a grater, which I really should because it’s quite practical, but I decided not to spend the $4 at the grocery store out of principle, for some reason I thought it would be horrendous to spend an extra $4 on this cheesecake, anyway, I just used a sharp serrated bread knife and basically grated the rind off the lemon that way, it was pretty successful except for the fact that it took quite a while, I would probably recommend just buying a grater, the one at the supermarket was even on sale when I went, I don’t know what I was thinking.) But to get back to the recipe, beat the flour into the mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until combined. (But make sure you don’t beat too much since you’re not supposed to overbeat the cream cheese or it’ll get too many airpockets.) Stir in the sour cream until just combined.

(You can tell I’m such a neat and organized chef.)

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the base. Place the pan on a baking tray and bake for 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours or until just set in the center. (It is actually a bit tricky to tell when your cheesecake is done but if the sides are firm and the middle is still a bit wobbly then it is done and will set while it is cooling off.)

Turn the oven off. Leave the cheesecake in the oven, with the door ajar, for 2 hours or until cooled completely (this will prevent the cheesecake from cracking). Place in the fridge for 4 hours to chill. (Though good luck keeping hungry roommates away for that long).

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Double-chocolate lamingtons

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These awesome lamingtons were made last Australia Day. It was really great to be able to celebrate Australia Day in Australia once again. Last year I was melting in the sun at Big Day Out and unfortunately didn’t really get up to very much ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ chanting. So this year I made sure to have a few Aussie beers, listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 and of course buy a pack of the mandatory Australian flag temporary tattoos to plaster on my arms. Unfortunately I did have to work, which got in the way of my drinking celebrations, but only for a few hours.

When there’s celebrations, there must always be cake. So I decided to make lamingtons, something I believe to be classically Australian. Many people are unsure of Australia’s cuisine. Maybe unsure is the wrong word, but many people seem to lament the lack of purely Australian dishes. I always associated meat pies with Australia but turns out Britain seems to have claim to them. Pavlova is supposedly Australian but if there’s a Kiwi in the room when you mention it there might be a bit of a scuffle. I don’t think it matters if you have a dish that’s pure ‘Strayan. The main thing I love about Australian cuisine is just how diverse it is. We have dishes with Malaysian influences, Irish, British, Greek, Italian, you name it. Salt and pepper squid is found all over Australia, in Thai restaurants, Italian cafes, Belgian restaurants. They all do it differently and that’s what makes it great. Some might even say that these double-chocolate lamingtons aren’t pure Australian because of the extra cocoa added to make the sponge chocolatey. Some have even called it ‘sacrilegious.’ I think that’s going a little far seeing as the essence is still the same and it’s just giving it another influence, another twist. Australian cuisine is unique in the influences that have come from all over the world. In last week’s Good Food David Chang of Momofuku pretty much summed it up, “If any country can get away from asking, “What’s our tradition?” and say, “Let’s just eat good food,” it’s definitely Australia.”

Double-chocolate lamingtons
Recipe from Dan Lepard

Ingredients

300g castor sugar
50g cocoa
75ml milk
50g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate
50ml sunflower oil
4 medium eggs
100ml low-fat natural yoghurt
3 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder

For the coating (makes 750ml)

15g cocoa
50ml cold milk
175ml boiling water
200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
450g icing sugar
1-2 250g bags coconut (that is, much more than you would think)

Method

1. Line the base of a deep, 20cm square cake tin with non-stick paper and heat the oven to 170C (150C fan-forced). Put the sugar and cocoa in a bowl and beat in the milk. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan, and add to the sugar mix along with the oil. Beat in the eggs until smooth, stir in the yoghurt and vanilla, and mix in the flour and baking powder. Pour into the tin, cover with a slightly domed sheet of foil and bake for an hour. Lift off the foil for the last 15 minutes. Remove, cool in the tin and, while warm, cover with cling film to keep them moist.

2. For the coating, mix the cocoa and milk until smooth, whisk in the boiling water, then stir in the chocolate until melted. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved and pour into a deep, wide jug. Cut the cake into nine, dunk each piece in the coating and fish out with two forks. Roll in coconut and leave to set.

Note: Lepard advises putting foil over the cake because it helps the cake rise more evenly. You’ll have about 250 millilitres of coating left over – just the stuff, he says, for lamington milkshakes with ice-cream and coconut.

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German Chocolate Cake

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While I was home for the holidays I was lucky enough to see a lot of my family members. And while we were all together we decided to have an impromptu surprise birthday dinner for my grandfather. We’re rarely all in the same place for his birthday so when I was asked to make the cake I wanted something decadent, something extravagant. Something that no one was going to forget for a while. And thus, I started searching for the perfect German Chocolate Cake recipe. German Chocolate Cake is one the richest desserts I’ve ever had. Whoever decided they wanted a moist, decadent chocolate cake, smothered in chocolate buttercream and topped with sweet, sticky coconut and pecans, was a genius.

Some people aren’t big fans of German Chocolate Cake, I think it may be due to the sugar overload, but somehow this recipe was loved by all, even the previous skeptics. My mouth is watering just looking at the photos and I am beyond disappointed I don’t have a slice hanging out in my fridge for me to nibble on. But, considering how much sugar is in it I think this is a once-a-year type cake.

This recipe takes some genius shortcuts, making the process a bit easier. Instead of having to splurge on those ridiculously expensive blocks of good quality chocolate this recipe calls for a box of Devil Food cake mix. I’m sure there are people out there with an aversion to cake mix but it’s really not the end of the world. And I swear no one will be able to tell there is boxed cake mix in there. In fact if I hadn’t been careless and left the empty box on the top in the trash bin, instead of cleverly concealing it, none of my family would have believed it wasn’t completely from scratch.

So next time you have a big occasion coming up, or just feel like treating your friends to some insane chocolate-y goodness, I recommend trying this recipe out.

German Chocolate Cake
Yields 1 double layer cake or 24 cupcakes
Recipe from Your Cup of Cake

For the chocolate cake:
1 box Devil’s food cake
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup sour cream

For the German chocolate frosting:
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

For the chocolate buttercream:
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsn. milk or cream, if needed

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and line two cake pans, set aside. In a large bowl, combine the oil, eggs and vanilla. Sift about 1/3 of the cake mix and mix until combined. Add the buttermilk and stir until combined. Add another 1/3 of the cake mix, stir to combine. Add the sour cream, then the remaining cake mix and stir until combined. Fill the cake pans and bake for 18 – 22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

To make the frosting, over medium heat in a saucepan, constantly stir the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks and butter until thickened (basically until it boils, about 15 minutes). Stir in the vanilla, pecans and coconut. Let cool. To make the chocolate buttercream, beat the cream cheese and butter for 4 minutes, add the cocoa, powdered sugar and vanilla. Let beat for 3 minutes. If it is too thick, add some milk. If it is too thin, add some more powdered sugar. Place one layer of cake on a plate and cover the top with 1/2 the frosting. Place the other layer on top and frost the sides of the cake with the chocolate buttercream. Cover the top of the cake with the rest of the frosting and pipe the remaining chocolate buttercream along the edges.

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