Thursday, December 29, 2011

pink ruffles

My baby turned 4 yesterday! Yes, I know, F O U R! :)

Every year I say I will organise a party for her early in December, away from Christmas and before it gets overlooked.... and every year life goes crazy and all of a sudden it is the 28th December and we haven't had a party... and, as you know, everyone is always away!

Well, I'm afraid to say that this year was no exception, but, we did manage to have a lovely day, pikelets for breakfast, friends to play, bike riding, dinner out, and a very pink ruffly chocolate cake to mark the occasion. And you never know, I may just get my act together and throw a party later in January... maybe!!

I saw this cake recently on the Maisy & Grace blog and knew it would be perfect. It is also super easy (honestly) which in my books is a sure winner.


I also used the Chocolate Cake recipe from Annabel Langbein's 'The Free Range Cook'

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 
Serves: 12-16 (1 big cake or 2 smaller cakes)
3 cups self-raising flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda, sifted
200g butter, softened
1 cup milk or unsweetened yoghurt
3 large eggs
1 cup boiling hot coffee
Heat oven to 160°C. Grease the sides and line the base of a 30cm round cake tin or 2 x 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.

Place all ingredients in a bowl or food processor and mix or blitz until the ingredients are combined and the butter is fully incorporated. Pour mixture into prepared tin or tins and smooth top.

Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.
* If not using at once, the cake will keep for about a week in a sealed container in the fridge. You can also freeze it uniced.

Buttercream Icing (from Maisy & Grace)

400g softened butter
1kg icing sugar
Vanilla extract
A few tablespoons hot water
Few drops of food colouring/gel/powder

Cream the butter using electric egg beater or cake mixer, slowly add icing sugar and keep on creaming, adding hot water only a tablespoon at a time just to help with the blending, and not too much as to make the mixture runny.  Just keep beating and beating until it's a smooth creamy mixture.
Test it by putting some through a piping bag, make a shape and wait a while to see if it holds its form.

To Ice

Join the two cakes together by 'gluing' them with some icing. Then cover the whole cake with the buttercream icing using a spatula/knife. This is the crumb layer, just to cover the cake and provide a good surface to pipe the ruffles onto, and needn't be flash.

Then, follow the tutorial on the clip below for the ruffles... honestly, they are that easy!

Good luck x

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday projects

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was filled with family, friends, good food, laughter, swimming, kayaking and maybe the occasional wine.

Not being one to sit still for long, I am already into my list of holiday projects!

I bought some old wooden chairs recently (actually, months ago!) that I intended to sand back and re-upholster. They've sat in the garage gathering dust and cobwebs, making me feel very guilty. But yesterday I finally pulled them out and made a start. I will show you them once I have finished....

But I did manage to start (and finish!) a quick and easy project recovering a little stool for Bella. I can't remember where it came from, but have been wanting to recover it for ages... I didn't sand the wood back or do anything tricky, so it was literally a 5 minute job. I had a small remnant of a pretty blue rose fabric from Kokka which was perfect, and I even had enough to sew up a small cushion for her bed. Easy!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

christmas baking

Only 3 more sleeps! I love Christmas, and it is even more exciting with kids in the house.

We are almost through the first week of the summer holidays, (how did that happen?!) and have been lucky with some gorgeous weather this week, so have been enjoying our days at the beach.

Last night I finished off the Christmas baking - well, I still have meringues to do! So thought I would share some of the recipes here:

Chocolate Peppermint Creams (Jo Seagar):

1 egg white
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 1/2 - 3 cups sifted icing sugar plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp peppermint essence
375g (1 packet) dark chocolate melts
5-6 mini candy canes for decorating

Lightly whisk the egg white in a bowl. When slightly foaming, add the lemon juice, 2 cups icing sugar and the peppermint essence. The mixture will get too tough to mix with a spoon. At this stage start to knead the mixture and slowly incorporate the rest of the icing sugar until you have a firm mixture that looks like royal icing.

Roll out on a clean icing sugar dusted surface to 1.5cm thick. Using a 3cm round cookie cutter, cut out shapes  and place on to a tray to dry out a little.  * I couldn't find a round cookie cutter, so actually ended up rolling the mixture into a 3cm round 'log' and slicing 1cm rounds off.

Gently melt the dark chocolate and dip the peppermints in. Using a chocolate dipping fork makes this easier. Drip off excess chocolate then turn out on to a sheet of non-stick baking paper to set. If desired, sprinkle the melted surface with crushed candy canes.

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti (Donna Hay)

2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lighly beaten
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios

Preheat oven to 160°C. Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla, orange rind, cranberries and pistachios and mix until a smooth dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll each portion into a 20cm-long log. Flatten slightly and place on lightly greased baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm. Set aside to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to cut the logs into 3mm-thick slices and place the slices on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.

Bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Allow to cool on trays. Makes 80.

Raspberry and Lemon Shortbread fingers (Donna Hay)*

120g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
raspberry jam

Place butter and sugar in an electric mixer and beat for 4 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour, baking powder and lemon rind and mix until just combined.

Step 1: Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll each portion out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to make 2x 16cm x 22cm rectangles, using a ruler to ensure the rectangles are the correct size. Place on trays and place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until hard.

Step 2: Spread the jam over 1 rectangle and top with remaining rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for a further 1 hour or until very firm, which will make it easier to cut.

Step 3: Preheat oven to 180°C. Trim the edges of the dough and discard. Using a ruler as a guide, cut 1cm-thick slices and place on lightly greased baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, leaving room to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on trays. Makes 20.

* Donna Hay's recipe actually uses a sour cherry jam, but I just used what was in the pantry!