Being that it’s Diversity & Inclusion week at work one of the events that we organized was a Cultural Pot Luck. I have to say, I love pot lucks – it’s really up there with my passion for buffets. Not sure what it is but walking into a room with tables and tables lined with foods to pick and nosh from just makes me so happy! I’d almost say it makes me giddy. Yes, I’m that girl.
The idea of the pot luck is for everyone to bring a dish that represents their cultural origin and it was a great way to get everyone talking to each other and food truly is the ultimate ice-breaker! I only needed to think back to my childhood days and for some reason the first thing that came to mind was my grade 7 camping trip to Anvil Island in Vancouver. I remember we had a night telling ghost stories with our camp counsellors and huddled together making s’mores. S’mores – truly goes to show that the best things in life are the simple ones!
S’mores Cupcakes (adapted from iambaker.net)
Recipe makes 3 dozen cupcakes
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups good unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 100 grams of unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup instant coffee
- 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 cup crushed vanilla/honey cookies (use graham crackers if you want the original flavour!)
- 70 grams unsalted butter (melted)
- 36 large marshmallows (just get the large bags since you will be munching them while you make these!)
- Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl and mix until combined.
- In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry including the coffee.
- Fold in finely chopped chocolate.
- Prepare cookie crust. Add melted butter to cookies and combine until moistened. Spread about 1 tablespoon of crumbs into bottom of cupcake liner. Press down flat (I used a metal spoon).
- Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans (fill just 3/4 full) and bake for 18-20 minutes at 180 degree C i.e. 350 degrees F. Use toothpick test to make sure it’s well cooked.
- Transfer onto cooling rack.
- Line the marshmallows on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place in the over for 1 -2 minutes, or until the marshmallows start to puff up and turn brown – don’t walk away, keep your eyes on them!
- Remove from oven and slide a spatula under the marshmallow and set on cupcake. Press gently to flatten.
- Obvs best served warm on the spot but I covered these bad boys with tin foil at room temperature overnight and brought them to work the next day and they still looked and tasted amazing!
To be honest, I never really knew how to interact with kids until my nieces came along, namely my first – Megan (aka Meg Pie). On a random side note, I’ve recently been told by a line manager that he felt he couldn’t trust a candidate because she kept on saying “to be honest” whereby my manager then points to me and said SHE SAYS IT ALL THE TIME!! For those of you that don’t know, I’m in the recruitment business and combined with my Psych background, I’m always keeping my ears open on these little things that makes people jump to conclusions. Yes, you shouldn’t but we really all do!
RIGHT, that was totally my ADHD moment kicking in so back to CAKE. It’s Meg Pie’s 5th birthday and this year she has requested for an Olaf cake. She’s into a blue phase (after the pink phase, of course) so this fits in just right.
This is my first attempt at making a 2 tier cake and I was told (by the cake supplies store lady) that since the cake is relatively small (9” and 6”) that I can simply buttercream the layers, drape it with fondant, stack em’ and call it a day.
So, since working in Hong Kong doesn’t come equip with short hours and long with trying to fit in my yoga and body combat sessions (yes, need to burn off the cake!) and getting together with friends (yes, happy hours are my thang), I went for a simple vanilla cake, easy buttercream frosting and store-bought white fondant (using food colouring) for the decorations. My inspiration for Olaf came here.
It went perfectly along with the rest of the Halloween-themed party – enjoy!
Today’s been a heck of a productive Saturday!! Had an amazing night before watching Grease picnic-style in an outdoor cinema (loves!) and it was so much better than I thought. There were burger stands, popcorn and I even saw some cotton candy and we were seated comfortably with our bottles of wine. Blissful indeed. I feel like I get old school movies more…like the jokes, the romantic scenes as supposed to some newer movies….DEFOS a sign of aging. BLEH. ANYWAYS! I diverge again….long story short, had myself a tamed night (pat on the back) and woke up at 8am this morning to start my Saturday morning baking for one of my dearest friend’s baby shower. On the list was: bake the cakes, whip the frosting and make a batch of homemade buttercream fondant.
Sigh – I wish these cupcakes had more of a pink in-your-face punch, but limited time and ran out of pink food colouring so had to improvise. Thank god I still had yellow left…hey it’s an asian baby so there we go. To slightly compensate for the lack of ‘pink’, I added a bit of strawberry flava-fav into this incredibly simple, fool-proof and delish vanilla cupcake recipe. Boom.
Vanilla Cupcakes with a Strawberry Slap (recipe adapted from spoonful.com)
(recipe makes 24 cupcakes)
- 2-1/2 cups self-raising flour
- 1-1/3 cups sugar
- 1 cup skim milk
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons strawberry flavoured gelatin (dissolved in a bit of hot water)
- Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Prep your cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, eat the sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about 1 minute (ideally this should be done with an electric mixer unless you want to work those arms out).
- Add milk, oil, vanilla, strawberry gelatin (dissolved) and flour (sifted) to mixture and continue to beat for another minute or so, just until the batter is smooth and creamy. Don’t overbeat – just ensure everything’s well combined.
- Scoop batter into cupcake liners 3/4 full (as it will rise and you want a nice level surface for decorating).
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the tops are golden and the centre passes the toothpick poke test.
- Let cool before decorating.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com)
(recipe makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes plus more for licking)
- 1-1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon whipping cream
- In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low-speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla, cream and icing sugar (sifted) and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more. You can continue to add more milk to achieve desired consistency.
Simple Homemade Buttercream Fondant (recipe from allrecipes.com)
(Recipe makes a decent sized batch of fondant so depends how crazy you want to go with the decorations and you can always save it for next time)
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound icing sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl (again, electric mixer recommended), stir together the butter and corn syrup.
- Mix in the salt and vanilla, then gradually mix in the icing sugar (sifted) until it becomes a stiff dough. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook; otherwise, knead by hand. If the dough is sticky, knead in more icing sugar until it is smooth.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.
- To use, roll out on a clean surface that has been dusted with icing sugar. Drape over frosted chilled cakes or cut/mould/bend into whatever decorations you desire!
There you have it. Go wild!
It’s Halloween again and that means time for blood and all things gory. I was seriously planning to do some blood dripping cupcakes with knives and the works but after going through these suggestions with my soon-to-be-four-years-old niece, she settled for green and blue monsters. Only request? Teeth!
As much as I love a good chocolate cake, I seem to be having WAY too much of that lately, though I’ve noted to myself next one I need to make with chocolate mint frosting. Recently had one for a friend’s bday from Seva and is was AMAZE BALLS. Loves.
Back to topic. So, I went back to my tried-and-tested red velvet cake recipe but seriously with my new job and trying to also fit in my happy hours, yoga zen sessions as well as good ol’ family quality time, I’m all for altering recipes and just making them as simple as ever. My alterations below for a revised, super buttery, moist and irresistibly easy cake recipe:
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 30 – 40 cupcakes depending on the size
- 1 cup margarine (you can substitute with butter or shortening)
- 2 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1/2 ounce red gel icing coloring (or 2 ounces red water-based food coloring as per original recipe)
- 2-1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup 2% milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar (original recipe called for 1 cup buttermilk but it’s not something staple I have in my pantry!)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons baking powder (original recipe called for 1 teaspoon baking soda + 1 teaspoon vinegar. I realized at the last minute that I was out of baking soda! So I did the sub and omitted the extra vinegar below in the recipe with this substitution- it still came out great!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the margarine, eggs and sugar.
- In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa and food coloring. Add the paste to the margarine mixture.
- Sift the flour and salt into the mixture. Start the mixer to blend and slowly add in the milk & vinegar/ buttermilk mixture. Then add the vanilla extract and baking powder.
- Pour the batter into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a cooling rack. Invert the cakes from the pans.
When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Well lemonade’s not bad but I’d much prefer a down-and-dirty chocolate cake on days when I just need that pick me up. White Spot’s deep dark chocolate fudge chocolate cake used to be my hands-down ultimate fix but as I get older I’ve noticed I’m starting to enjoy other tastes aside from just sweet, sweet and sweet. Hence this new chocolate cake recipe I’ve been trying which includes coffee which adds that bitter rich element and counter-balances the sweetness of the cake. I also altered the recipe a bit as the frosting more than makes up for the less sugar I used for this cake.
Note: Due to the different voltage of Canada and HK electronics (thanks dad for the heads up) my KA mixer was defeated. Epic fail but meant I had quite a bit of work out since had to mix everything but hand. Hence jelly arms for the rest of the week!
Chocolate Birthday Cake (recipe slightly altered and adapted from addapinch.com)
Recipe makes 2 x 8” pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¾ cup cocoa
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee
- 1 cup skim milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350º F (i.e. around 177º C but since ovens varies in temperature, I actually found it worked best to bake at 200º C in my HK oven).
- Prepare two 8-inch cake pans by spraying with oil or butter (or in my case with only one pan, I baked one after the other).
- Mix all the dry ingredients together. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking power, baking soda and add sugar, salt and instant coffee powder.
- Add wet ingredients to dry – add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix together until combined.
- Once combined, add the boiling water to the cake batter and continue mixing until fully incorporated and ensure to mix long enough (5 minutes or so by hand/ 1 minute with mixer) to add air to the batter.
- Pour cake batter into pans. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (if the cake is thicker, bake longer).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Using a knife just rim the edge to ensure nothing is sticking to the pan and invert it out to continue to cool.
- To speed things up, you can wrap the cooled cake in cling wrap and put in freezer as this will make it easier to frost the cake later.
This cake was very moist and very much more of an “adult” type of chocolate cake. Since I had two birthday cakes to bake this weekend, I decorated the same chocolate cakes in two very different ways (one was with a vanilla buttercream tinted with green and blue food colouring and the other using chocolate buttercream) and I realize how much I’ve missed baking for the past four months! So many changes in life, work and all things aside, I finally feel like having a breather. My tendency is to run with ideas but I need to learn and slow down – which is why cake baking completely calms me. Well, that and my new love yoga🙂 The wonders of downward dog….lol
Simple Vanilla Buttercream (recipe from wikihow.com)
Recipe makes enough to frost a two tiered 6” cake with enough for the piping details as well
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (room temperature)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (sifted – you can add more to get desired consistency)
- 1/4 cup skim milk (again you can add more to adjust the consistency)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
Chocolate Buttercream (recipe adapted from addapinch.com)
Recipe makes MORE than enough to frost a 2 tier 8” cake with extra for licking🙂
- 2 cups butter, softened (room temperature)
- 1 cup cocoa, sifted
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (you can add more if needed to achieve right consistency)
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
Directions for both frostings:
- Using spoon or spatula (and of course a mixer if you have that handy!) cream the butter until smooth consistency and no lumps.
- Sift powdered sugar and add bit by bit to the butter and continue to mix until fully incorporated. The mixture will appear slightly dry and crumbly.
- Add milk a bit at a time along with vanilla to get the right consistency.
- Add salt and ensure everything is mixed well.
- Sift in cocoa powder for the chocolate buttercream version.
- Taste test – Done!
AND I’ve realized there’s so much potential for this cake and filling. My friend suggested crushing maltezers into the filling (genius!) and I can imagine using a chocolate ganache on top of this to make it even richer. Cherries, nuts, white chocolate swirls – I can’t wait for the next chocolate cake I will bake! ALTHOUGH I must say – time for a break as all the cake scraps and licking the frosting spoons has put me into an OD-ed phase. Bleh.
But please enjoy🙂
It’s been a while since I last posted and long story short. 2013 has proven to be an intense year and the start to this year has been a rocky one. Finally settled back in Hong Kong, I go back to what I love best: baking🙂
I’m sure everyone will agree that no one can really resist a chocolate chip cookie and what better than the fattest, most chewiest cookie?! I HAVE FOUND IT so here’s my now keeper recipe to share with you all:
The You-Cannot-Just-Have-One Big, Fat, Chewy Cookie (recipe adapted from www.allrecipes.com)
Recipe makes 12 cookies
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted in microwave
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line with parchment paper or aluminium foil.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In your mixing bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
- Beat in vanilla extract and egg into mixture until light and creamy consistency.
- Mix in the sifted dry ingredients until just blended.
- Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a spoon.
- Scoop and drop cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Ensure to space them about 2 inches apart as they will spread and rise as they bake.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven so be sure to keep checking on your first batch!) or until the edges are lightly browned. Then cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to rack to cool.
I assure you these will NOT last long🙂