Claire's Cake

Claire was a co-worker of mine who just left Compass Health. She was working there for 3 years, which is a pretty long time to keep a part-time job whilst studying! She made lots of friends at Compass because she's such a lovely person and there were lots of us sad to see her go. Lucky for her though, she's off to start the next stage of her life, being a nurse! So we had a morning tea for her at work, and my boss asked me if I could bake something for it, fitting for Claire to be leaving. I had seen this cake a little while ago, and I did modify it because unfortunately the Swiss meringue buttercream didn't work so well, but it turned out great in the end! I thought it was a really nice mix of fruit and chocolate and I thought the cake and icing balanced well together. All in all, it was a really nice cake, highly recommended.

PS: If you want to see Claire's blog, the link is here.

Dark Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Buttercream (Makes a 3 layer 20cm cake)

2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
2t baking soda
2t baking powder
1t salt
210mL buttermilk
200mL espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
100mL vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/2T vanilla essence

300g butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar
1 cup strawberries (or to taste), mashed or pureed

Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare three 20cm round cake tins with butter, baking paper, and flour or cocoa powder. Tap out excess. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh 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 out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool. When cool, cut off the tops of the cakes from edge, cutting straight across with a very sharp knife. (We tried a blunt knife, it wouldn't cut!) Frost the cake layers by putting a mound of frosting in the middle and spreading to the sides. Then do the same with the top and frost around the sides.

Strawberry Buttercream:
Whip the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar bit by bit and mix until the frosting comes together. Then add the strawberry mixture and beat for 3-5 minutes. If the icing is too runny, add more icing sugar.


New Year Cupcakes - Pt 2

The second type of cupcakes that I made for New Year's Eve, I thought some alcohol would be a nice touch! These ones are called Baileys Baby.

Chocolate Baileys Cupcakes

115g butter, softened and cut into cubes
50g dark chocolate bits
1/2 cup dutch-processed or other dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2t baking soda
3/4t baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1t vanilla extract
1/2t table salt
1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup Baileys

125g butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
2T Baileys

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line standard-size muffin pan with cupcake liners. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture at a lower power, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted. This is what I did.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of the flour, baking powder and baking soda over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, add the Baileys, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is and thick. Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Baileys Buttercream:
Beat butter in a stand mixer and slowly add icing sugar until crumbly. Slowly add Baileys until the desired consistency is reached. Add more Baileys if you need. Beat for 3-5 minutes until light, fluffy and creamy, but still firm enough to pipe.

New Year Cupcakes - Pt 1

I just realised that this is a bit out of order, because I remembered that I did want to post something else! Sorry! So for Christmas mum gave me the Miss Melicious Cupcakes book. It's really awesome, the flavours are very original and it was a very cool present! So I decided to try out two of them, and this is the first one. I made them mainly because Cam loves caramel and they looked really cool! In the book they're called, "At The Drive-In". :)

Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

110g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
125g butter, cubed
1/4 cup golden syrup
2/3 brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup caramel popcorn, crushed, plus extra to decorate

125g butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
1T milk
2-3T caramel sauce (homemade recipe here)
1t sea salt

Combine chocolate, butter, syrup, sugar and milk in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until melted, then cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170°C and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Sift flours and mix into the wet mixture. Stir in egg, incorporating well. Mix in crushed popcorn. Fill liners three-quarters full and bake for 25 minutes or until tops spring back when touched gently. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely before frosting. Decorate with caramel popcorn.

Salty Caramel Buttercream:
Beat butter in a stand mixer and slowly add icing sugar until crumbly. Slowly add milk, caramel sauce and salt until the desired consistency is reached. Add more sauce if required. Beat for 3-5 minutes until light, fluffy and creamy, but still firm enough to pipe.


A Weekend of Baking

I've been wanting to make these for a long time, but never quite got around to it. I think it was probably because, brioche is not one of those things that you can just quickly make. The recipe just seemed so long and involved, I really wanted to try making them, I just never found the time. Luckily, last weekend, I finally decided that I needed to give them a go! It was actually a beautiful weekend and I was baking the entire time... And now I'm being repaid with a crappy weekend and extremely windy at the moment... YAY. Oh well, I guess that means you can stay in your pyjamas and write your blog in bed! So I'm not exactly sure why my brioche didn't go exactly to plan, I have a feeling it was because I don't have dough hooks for my mixer, so the dough just ends up spinning around the beaters and up to the top of the mixer. Very inconvenient I say. So if you have a stand mixer that doesn't have dough hooks, then I would recommend using a hand mixer, as they all seem to come with them nowadays. The dough hooks work very differently to the beaters, they sort of knead the dough instead of spinning it, which is what the beaters seemed to do. So to me the snails didn't look exactly right, they were too flat, but they still tasted amazing so everything was fine in the end! You should give these a go if you have most of a weekend spare, I know it's a long time, but they are truly worth it! The recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker.

Brioche Raisin Snails (Makes 15-20, depending on how large you want them)

2t active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
3 3/4 cups plain flour
2t salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
350g butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

2 cups milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2t pure vanilla extract
3 1/2T butter, cut into bits at room temperature

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum

1/4 cup sugar
1t ground cinnamon

3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
3t water
1t vanilla essence


Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one, or use hand beaters with a dough hook. Toss a tea towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour, then remove the tea towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room. Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with baking paper.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 30cm wide and 40cm long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving a 2cm strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. With a decent knife (not like my $4 one from the supermarket...), using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds about 2cm thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them. Lightly cover the snails with baking paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. 
When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 190°CRemove the baking paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack. Put a piece of baking paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the icing sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Pastry Cream:
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, as I did, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Raisins and Rum:
Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. (One of my flatmates did this for me because I was a little wary of doing it with one of the small lighters, but it's actually fine as long as you're fast.) Stir until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

One less than the top photo... They were so good!