A Kiwi Christmas Special!

Now, this post doesn't actually have any recipes and I didn't actually make anything for once! But I really wanted to try out my new camera, (Nikon Coolpix, I'm so excited to finally have a proper camera! It even has a food setting!) so I thought I would share our Christmas table with you all. I was very sick just before Christmas unfortunately, and still a bit off on the day (not enough to stop me from eating all the wonderful food!) so I wasn't allowed to help with food preparation, understandably... I thought it could be interesting for those not in New Zealand what food we eat for a summer Christmas! So it was still amazing and I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as mine!

One of the green salads - from my uncle
A bean salad from mum

Dad carving the Christmas ham!
Some sausages from the Blackforest Butcher in Tauranga
Scalloped potatoes made by mum
Pavlova bought but decorated by my aunty
Trifle made by mum - the best ever!
Christmas mince pies and jam tarts made by my aunty
Lolly ice cream!! We make it every year, vanilla ice cream and you mix it in a bowl with
crushed oreos and cut up lollies and marshmallows and chocolate and then refreeze it.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Preparation for Christmas - Pt 2

So, this was the second thing that Jess helped quite a bit with actually. Made for the Christmas morning tea thing at Compass. I actually really wanted to make a gingerbread house for Christmas, but unfortunately I just didn't have enough time to do that this year! I thought the next best thing would be to make some gingerbread men. They were a little bit soft because I left them sitting on the bench all night by accident... Don't do that... But they still tasted amazing and had a bit of colour which was cool! I didn't bother making a royal icing because I didn't think they needed it, but you could if you wanted more control over the decoration and if you wanted to more than just a face and buttons. I have a recipe here. This recipe was from Exclusively Food.

Gingerbread Men (Makes about 16-18)

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1t baking soda
2t mixed spice
3t ground ginger
140g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 egg yolk

Hot water
Icing sugar

Sift flour, baking soda, mixed spice and ginger together in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters, beat butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Stop the machine occasionally and use a spatula to scrape down the side and base of the bowl. Beat until the butter and sugar are well combined and the mixture is creamy. Add golden syrup/treacle and egg yolk to the butter mixture. Beat for about 30 seconds, until the ingredients are well combined. Using a spoon or the electric mixer/beaters on very low speed, incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Using your hands, bring the dough together into a ball. Divide the dough in half. Place one piece of dough between two large sheets of baking paper and roll out until 4-5mm thick. Leave dough between sheets of baking paper and place on a large flat tray or chopping board and put in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The dough will be very hard to work with if it is not thoroughly chilled. Repeat the rolling and chilling process with the second piece of dough. (It's not absolutely necessary to do this step, you can just start working the dough like I did, but it is very difficult because it's very soft. Still works though!) Once dough is cold and firm, remove from refrigerator or freezer, transfer to kitchen bench or leave on chopping board, and remove top sheet of baking paper. Working quickly, use a gingerbread man cutter to cut shapes from the dough. Transfer dough shapes to the lined baking tray, placing them about 2cm apart. As soon as the tray is filled, place it in the preheated oven. We recommend baking the biscuits one tray at a time. If you wish to bake more than one tray at a time, you will probably need to extend the baking time and may need to swap the positions of the trays halfway through for more even baking. Bake biscuits for about 10 minutes. The longer the baking time, the crisper/harder the gingerbread will be. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. While biscuits are baking, form the dough offcuts into a disc and repeat the rolling and chilling process. Cool cooked biscuits on tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cool, frost as desired. You can add M&M's or Smarties as buttons like we did as well!

Decorative Frosting:
All you have to do is mix as much icing sugar and hot (boiling) water together until you A) have enough to decorate all the cookies and B) the frosting is thick enough that it won't just slide off the cookies. Also you don't want it too thick so that it's not smooth. Just have a play!

This is Drew's gingerbread man. You can see that I have very mature flatmates!

Preparation for Christmas - Pt 1

At Compass we had a secret santa Christmas morning tea thing, so we were all given a name to buy a present for and also asked to bring something to share for the morning tea. So Jess and I decided we should make two things to bring. Well, I should make them and she should help! So the first thing that we made were cupcakes which I altered quite a lot from the recipe and they turned out very well! They're lovely and summery and they were a hit! All gone in about 20 minutes, although the colour of the actual cupcakes was a bit dull, maybe some red food colouring wouldn't go amiss! The original recipe was from Love and Olive Oil, but I think especially my icing recipe worked a lot better because it didn't separate at all. :)

PS: Yay I finally make them again (in miniature) so I have photos! But strawberries are now out of season and I couldn't find any frozen ones, so I substituted raspberries. It was a good choice!

PPS: This photo was published on FoodGawker and Taste Spotting! :D

Strawberry/Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes (Makes 12)

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1t baking powder
1/4t baking soda
1/2t salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 cup milk (any kind)
2t vanilla essence
1t lemon zest
1t lemon juice
Red food colouring (optional)

5-8 strawberries, depending on size

200g butter
2 cups icing sugar
2T lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1t vanilla essence

Chop the strawberries into small pieces into a large metal bowl and then mash them until they are pulpy. I actually did this because I didn't have a food processor at the flat and just thought I would try it out and it worked really well! So when they are pulpy, put them in a sieve and push out all of the juice possible. Then tip the pulpy bits into another bowl.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sugar and brown sugar and mix. Whisk together the strawberry juice, oil, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Add red food colouring here if desired, to make the cupcakes pinker. Mix until relatively smooth. Full the cupcake liners until about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden (or pink)  and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. When cool, use a piping bag to frost as desired.

Strawberry Lemonade Frosting:
Either leave the butter in a warm place to soften to room temperature, or soften in the microwave. Then beat with a stand mixer until whipped and airy. Add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and stawberries and mix until well combined. Then taste and be amazed!


Oscar's Faux Birthday and Friends From Austria

Quite a lot has been happening this week really! Part of the reason why I baked 3 things in two days was because Oscar had his "faux 21st" on Saturday. He was one of the selection co-ordinators for AFS but he's going overseas for a year and doing two university exchanges! Very exciting for him, but seeing as he was going to be away for his real 21st, he had an early one that was also a leaving party. And because he loves my baking so much, I thought I'd bake his a few last treats before he left. :) Also, the reason why I wanted to make lolly cake was because two of my friends, Julia and Stephan, are here from Austria for 2 weeks! It's so exciting, I haven't seen them in nearly 2 years and it's been weird and awesome having them in New Zealand. We've been speaking lots of German, which has been cool, but I've also been showing them New Zealand things, like lolly cake! Next week we're going on a little tour around the North Island and seeing different cities and also different beaches! Yay! So this recipe was really easy, and you can either use digestive (wheat) biscuits or malt biscuits, it works with both.

Lolly Cake

120g butter
250g malt or wheat biscuits
200g sweetened condensed milk
1 pkt (190g) eskimo lollies or fuit puffs (you can use marshmallows if you're desperate)

Line a 20cm square pan (or something close to that) with baking paper. Melt butter and condensed milk together in the microwave. Cut up the eskimo/marshmallow lollies into bite-sized chunks. Put the biscuits in the food processor and process until crumbs. Add the butter and condensed milk mixture and process until it all comes together. Tip into a bowl and mix through the marshmallow lollies. Tip the mixture into the prepared pan and press down and into the corners. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set. Easy!

A Long-Awaited Cake

I have wanted to make this cake for quite a long time but could just never find the time or an occasion. To be honest, it probably wasn't even a fancy enough occasion for this cake, I should have just had it as a flat-warming cake! But everyone still enjoyed it and I did finally get to make it! I altered the recipe quite a lot though, because the cake is supposed to be quite small but tall, so I used bigger cake tins with only 2 layers. You couldn't really taste the caramel that much, so if I made it again, I would probably double the cake recipe and keep the frosting recipes as they are. So this recipe as it stands would make a double layer 20cm cake or a 15cm triple layer cake, but with a tonne of chocolate frosting left over from a 20cm cake. So I would either halve the chocolate frosting or double the cake recipe, and the amount of salted caramel buttercream would be enough. It still tasted great and I would definitely make it again sometime. We did have a ridiculous amount of frosting left over however, and the tops of the cakes I cut off, so I broke them up and called it cake pieces and dip for our party that night! :) The recipe comes from Sweetapolita.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake


1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2t baking soda
1t baking powder
1t salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
2t vanilla essence

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt
340g butter, softened
4 large egg whites
1t vanilla essence

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
341g butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
Pinch of salt
454 g good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare three 15cm round cake tins or two 20cm round cake tins with butter, parchment paper rounds and cocoa powder. Tap out excess. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients and add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer, or just put your arm around the top) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use a digital kitchen scale and weigh divided batter in pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean–approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife and gently invert onto racks until completely cool. Trim any doming from the tops of your cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife and place first layer, face up, on your cake board, pedestal, or plate. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 3/4 cup of the caramel buttercream evenly on the top. Repeat this 1-2 until you come to the final layer, which you will place face down on the top of the cake. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of chocolate frosting to crumb coat (seal in crumbs). Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). Repeat step 4, and, for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady–let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife. Chill cake to set. Bring to room temperature before serving–about 2+ hours. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the swiss meringue buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce to the buttercream as the very last step. Place 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter and bubble, so be careful. Whisk in sea salt and vanilla. Let cool. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering water (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160° on a candy thermometer. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5-6 minutes). Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel, and beat until smooth (about 3-5 minutes).

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:
Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until cocoa has dissolved. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy–about 5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated.

Thanksgiving in New Zealand

I really should have taken more pictures for this. I also should have posted it about 2 weeks ago, so sorry for the slackness! I do have the excuse of exams, then moving out of home and having no internet... But still, here we go. Because dad is American, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year. We celebrate it with another family, the Griffiths, because Zoe went on exchange to America for a year and it's cool to have people to celebrate with. Mum always cooks a huge turkey and we always have candied yams and scalloped potatoes and then other yummy things. We also always have pumpkin. Every year. But dad and Alex decided that this year they didn't want pumpkin pie. Who doesn't want pumpkin pie?! Instead they wanted peanut butter cheesecake. Which is very, very nice still, but... Pumpkin pie! Earlier on mum told me about these pumpkin pie cupcakes that she saw online, and seeing as we weren't going to have a real pumpkin pie, I decided it was my mission to find a recipe and make these cupcakes. The only problem is, in America you can get pumpkin pie filling in a can. Now, I do love America and all, but really? How can you call yourself a baker if you just buy a pie crust from the store, fill it with a can of pumpkin pie filling and then add some cool whip on the side. No, I decided (and the fact that New Zealand is too small to sell such things decided for me) that I would make my own pumpkin pie filling to replace the canned one in the recipe and then add a cream cheese frosting to the top. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the finished product, only the frosting-less cupcake but let me tell you, they were amazing! Even my flatmate who doesn't like pumpkin, and Becca my friend who doesn't like frosting liked them! They were that good. So it might be a bit late for Thanksgiving, but either just make them for autumn or put them on your list for next year, because you won't regret it!

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes (from scratch)

Makes 24-30 cupcakes


2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2t baking soda
2t baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs

800g pumpkin pieces (any type, or a small pumpkin that weighs that much)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1t nutmeg
1t cinnamon
1/2t salt

400g cream cheese (remember - only Philadelphia in New Zealand!)
160g butter
3 1/4 cups icing sugar

Directions:Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line muffins tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated. Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely before frosting how desired.

Pumpkin Pie Filling (from scratch):
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a tray with sides with baking paper. If not using pumpkin pieces, then cut off the top of the pumpkin in a circle and quarter them from the top down. Then scoop out the seeds and tendrils. Cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, either halves or thirds. Smear the inner surfaces of the pumpkin with the butter. Rub with brown sugar and spices and salt. Use your hands to make sure they well seasoned. Bake for 30 minutes, or until you can easily stab through the middle with a fork. Let stand and cool (or if you're impatient like me, just let it stand for a minute) then pull/cut the skin away from the flesh. Put the pumpkin pieces in a bowl and mash until very liquidy.

Cream Cheese Frosting:In a mixer, blend together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar gradually and continue mixing until well blended.