When life gives you lemons…

…make lemon loaf!

Lemon Loaf

I have always wanted a lemon tree but have never had one of my own. The thought of having to pay for lemons abhors me so I have only ever made lemony treats when I have been able to score a bag (or two) of them from a friend or neighbour with surplus on their trees.

When I first went to look at my new house my eyes were drawn immediately to the fully laden lemon tree in the yard. Even before seeing inside the house I was mentally flicking through lemon recipes in my head and deciding what I would make first.

This lemon loaf recipe is very similar to the Crunchy Lemon Muffin recipe but, obviously, made in a loaf tin. It is lovely as it is and especially nice when still warm. A few months ago I made a couple of these but they didn’t get eaten as quickly as I thought they would and after a few days the last of it was a bit stale. Thinking stale bread is still OK for toast, I wondered what this would be like toasted. I popped a slice in the toaster then when hot and golden, spread with butter… hot, lemony, buttery…delicious!

Try it, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Ingredients

2 eggs
100g butter, melted
2-3 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Syrup

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C

Grease and line the bottom of a loaf tin (21cm x 9cm)

Beat eggs and butter. Add lemon rind and sugar and beat until creamy.

Mix in combined dry ingredients and milk until combined, then pour into loaf tin.

Bake 45-55 minutes until cooked.

Just before taking loaf out of the oven. mix the lemon juice and sugar together. Pour syrup over the loaf immediately after removing from the oven.

Cool a while in the tin then remove. The lemon juice will have soaked into the loaf giving extra sweet lemony flavour, while any undissolved sugar will have formed a slight crust on the top of the loaf.

IMG_3165

Now does that look good or what? Mmmm Mmmmm…

Enjoy!

caramel oat slice

IMG_1791

This has got to be one of the most delicious baked slices I have ever tasted! You can kid yourself into thinking it is healthy because it has rolled oats in it (oats are a superfood you know!) but the truth is, it really should be served with a defibrillator on standby.

I was given a copy of the Jo Seagar book “It’s easier than you think” for Christmas a couple of years ago and this recipe caught my eye immediately.  I think it had something to do with the gooey caramel layer in the centre. Anything with a visible layer gooey caramel gets the thumbs up from me!

I tweaked the recipe a bit, using the dulce de leche I have in the pantry rather than making the caramel as per Jo’s method (see below) which made the recipe even simpler than the original, but no less delicious, and probably no more healthy… but as a treat for special occasions (e.g. any day ending in Y), it’s perfect.

Get those ingredients ready! You will need…

2 cups plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups rolled oats
2 eggs
300g butter
2 cans dulce de leche
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 25 x 35 cm slice tin with baking paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. It really does have to be large. There are 9 cups of dry ingredients in that list.Yes… NINE! Then add the beaten eggs and melted butter and mix well. Press two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin.

Open two cans of dulce de leche and spread over the base. Add the chocolate chips to the remaining crumbly mixture and sprinkle over the sweet caramel layer.

Bake for 30 minutes.

IMG_1779

Jo recommends you let it cool in the tin and refrigerate a few hours or until the next day before cutting it. Good luck with that! I swear, nothing I bake is ever allowed to cool properly before cutting. Unless I bake at 9am when the rest of the household are at school or work. And to tell the truth, it really is even more delicious when still warm… but then, most baking is, right?

Enjoy!

(If you don’t have any ready-made dulce de leche on hand, you can make the caramel layer as follows. Melt 400g butter, 2 x 400 cans sweetened condensed milk and 4 tablespoons golden syrup together. Mix well and add 1 teaspoon vanilla. )

Google

Hydrangea Cake

Google
It’s been a while since I have been creative in the kitchen. My new camera has been taking up most of my attention and I have been photographing everything except food – supposedly the reason I got the camera was to take better photos of my kitchen creations, but oh no, the creations of my camera lens have been luring me away from culinary exploits.

So today I got back in the kitchen. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wanted to photograph this cake, I would have been wandering far and wide with my beloved Canon snapping photos of rusty wire, lichen covered fences and cows instead.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Cake.

IMG_1586

Glorious Cake.

IMG_1588

Is there ever a time when a slice of good cake is wrong?

IMG_1583

Didn’t think so.

I have had this hydrangea cake on my mind for a while. Ever since I saw this cake on Pinterest.

6a00d8341c7dce53ef016766ea6244970b

As soon as I saw it I thought of two things. Firstly, these cute little sweets.

Sweet as

And secondly, these.

IMG_1213e

So pretty.

Today was the day, so armed with a piping bag, unreasonable amounts of butter and icing sugar, and oodles of food colouring I started work on the Coconut cake I baked last week.

First, make buttercream. You may need to multiply the recipe 2 or 3 times depending on the size cake you are icing. The quantities I used today were 375g of butter, 4.5 cups icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of cream, and I had quite a bit left over.

Because I wanted the cake to have two layers with a filling in between, and I don’t like the filling to spill out and ruin the icing, I first piped a dam of buttercream around the bottom layer to contain the filling, like so.

IMG_1547

Now it’s time for the filling. Sometimes I make my own passionfruit curd, but this time I opted for a store bought version which is rather delicious.

IMG_1546

Spread filling inside the dam you created with the buttercream

IMG_1548

Resist the urge to lick the spatula clean, then place the other layer on top.

IMG_1549

See how the sides of the cake cinch in the middle? Don’t worry. We can remedy that with buttercream.

IMG_1551

Observe how the application of buttercream has evened up the sides so they are now (more or less) straight up and down. That is good.

Eating buttercream has the same effect on my waist. That is not good!

Anyway… what I have done here is the ‘crumb coat’. It is not particularly important for this cake is it is more dense and doesn’t really crumble. I have done it mainly to even up the shape of the cake and provide a bit of a background for the flowers. But, you know when you are trying to ice/frost a really crumbly chocolate cake and crumbs go all through your buttercream and it looks really messy? What you need to do first is a crumb coat to seal in the crumbs, then refrigerate for half an hour or so until it sets hard and then do top coat of frosting. The crumb coat doesn’t have to be neat and it doesn’t have to be thick, in fact it should be very thin. It just has to be enough to seal in the crumbs and even up the shape.

Moving on. When I made the buttercream, I put a few drops of lilac food colouring in to provide the colour for the lightest ‘flowers’. Using a #21 Wilton tip in the piping bag, I piped ‘flowers’ randomly over the cake.

IMG_1555

I then squeezed as much of the buttercream that was left in the bag, back into the bowl and added more food colouring to get a slightly darker colour, and then piped more flowers…

IMG_1556

Then repeated the process with the addition of a few more drops of food colouring to the remaining buttercream…

IMG_1564

And again…

IMG_1566

Gradually filling in all the gaps until the cake is completely covered and you have used almost an entire bottle of food colouring.

IMG_1567

It really is an easy way to decorate a cake, especially when using graduated colours as I have done. If you were to use different colours like the cake that was my inspiration for this, you would have to divide the buttercream into separate bowls. add the different colourings to each bowl, and use different piping bags for each colour or, if using a reusable bag, wash and dry the bag between each colour. That sounds very fiddly to me.

Because I am lazy of the overall effect I was trying to achieve, I wasn’t too concerned about the colours mixing. I just kept refilling the bag with the ever darker mixture.

IMG_1586

And I am quite pleased with the end result.

What about you? What colour/colours would you like to try with this technique?

coconut cake

My mother is the best source of recipes. In fact, she should be running this blog. She out bakes anyone I know. Including me. Now that my boys aren’t at home with me, I probably only bake once a month and even then it only gets eaten if I take it to work.

I tried this cake for the first time last year when she made it for my birthday. I loved it so much I have made it for my birthday again this year. It’s slightly dense and moist, not light and fluffy but it is divine and will keep well for up to a week without drying out. The flavour reminds me of summer even when it is dreary and cold outside.

Summer in a cake. I like it!

If the quantities in the photos look larger than the ingredients suggest, it is because I made a double batch – some for the dozen cupcakes featured in this blog post today, and two round cake layers to be assembled in a week or so for my birthday cake. Stay tuned for photos of that.

The cast of characters for this episode are:

IMG_0874

125g butter
1/2 tsp coconut essence
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
80 mls milk

Start by preheating your oven to 150 C and grease and line your cake tin(s). This is my least favourite part of the whole baking process but don’t wait until you have already mixed the ingredients before preparing the tins. You really want to get the mixture straight in the tins and into the oven rather than leaving it sitting while you prepare the tins.

Trust me. I know these things.

IMG_0865

Or if you are making cupcakes, simply place liners in the cupcake tin.

IMG_0851

Cream the butter, coconut essence and sugar until light and fluffy.

IMG_0879

This is what light and fluffy looks like. See? Light … and fluffy!

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

IMG_0882

With the eggs added the mixture should now look glossy.

Place half the coconut and flour, and half the sour cream and milk in the mixer and slowly mix.

IMG_0886

Then add remaining flour, coconut, sour cream and milk and mix until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners only until 1/2 or 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes-20 minutes. Many cupcake recipes recommend a higher temperature and quicker baking time however I usually find this results in a volcano shaped cupcake. I recommend baking at this lower temperature for longer as the cupcake will bake nice and flat. Perfect for decorating.

IMG_0887

If baking a cake with this mixture, use an 8 inch square or 10 inch round tin. Ensure the mixture is spread evenly in the tin to ensure it bakes flat.

IMG_0891

Because I was making two layers, I weighed each layer in the tin to ensure they were roughly the same weight. Baking time for the two layers was about 35 minutes, but if making one thicker cake, bake for approximately 40 minutes then test for done-ness with a skewer and adjust baking time if necessary.

Fill cupcakes (optional) and then pipe frosting on top. I filled my cupcakes with passionfruit filling and piped buttercream frosting on top, but they would also taste great with a cream cheese frosting.

IMG_0353

High tea anyone?

Baking Basics–Preparing your tins

OK, so not the most interesting of topics but I thought it would be good to get a series of baking basics posts together for absolute beginners.

I have detailed below the steps to preparing round cake tins as square ones are so much easier to figure out than the round ones with their curvaceousness.

The first step is to grease the tin. I prefer to use butter as the aroma that fills the kitchen is so much better than when you use an oil based cooking spray. I use a paper towel scrunched up with a small amount  of softened butter on it, like so. Or you could melt some butter and paint it on with a pastry brush. Your call.

IMG_0860

Then wipe all over the inside surfaces of the tin…

IMG_0861

Until it looks like this.

IMG_0862

Just a thin coating. Enough to hold the baking paper in place.

Ah… baking paper. That is the next step. Now there is one very important thing to know. Baking paper and greaseproof paper are two very different things. When it comes to baking, use B A K I N G  P A P E R! I cannot stress enough how important it is so don’t confuse the two. A big clue is in the name. Baking paper is for baking. Greaseproof paper is for, I dunno, I haven’t used it in years. Except that one time I had run out of baking paper so used greaseproof and it was a total disaster.

Baking paper. Got it?

If you haven’t, get some. Today. I don’t want you coming back here saying “oh Kate, your method sucks cos my cakes stuck to the paper”, OK?

Baking paper.

OK. Moving on. Place your tin on top of the baking paper and trace around with pencil, then cut out the circle. You don’t have to be super accurate so if you failed cutting and sticking in primary school there is hope for you yet. Now, you should have a circle roughly the size of your tin. Like this.

IMG_0854

This will be the base. Now we need to cut a long rectangle to line the sides of the tin. Cut a piece of baking paper long enough to wrap all the way around the tin on the outside, but no more than a centimetre longer than that as the circumference inside the tin is smaller so we will have enough overlap.

Then, we need a strip about 10cm wide. Because the standard width of baking paper seems to 30cm we fold the piece of baking paper lengthwise into thirds and cut – leaving us with three strips. We only need one, so you can save the other two for the next baking session.

OK, the strip you have cut should just wrap around the outside of your tin, and poke up a couple of centimetres above. Like so.

IMG_0853

Make a fold along one edge about 2-3 centimetres in. Like so.

IMG_0855

And then make angled cuts up to the fold line.

IMG_0858

Then place the strip, cut edge down, around the inside of the buttered cake tin, smoothing as you go. You should have a couple of centimetres overlap. Add a little extra butter here to seal the overlap. It should now look like this.

IMG_0864

Next, place the circle of baking paper you cut earlier into the tin and smooth it down.

IMG_0866

Voila! You now have a lined cake tin and angels will sing your praises when you turn your cakes out easily at the end of their cooking time.

Easy huh?

If you have any questions, or any other basics you want covered in a future post, let me know in the comments.

Happy Baking!

P.S. Baking paper!

‘tis the season to bake a christmas cake

About a week ago I was walking through town and passed a shop that was already decked out for Christmas. It was still October, but it got me thinking about how fast this year has gone by, and how quickly the next few weeks will disappear and it really will be Christmas!

I have not given a thought to gifts, Christmas Day plans or written a letter to Santa, but I had put some thought into the Christmas Cake. Last week, on our way back from an overseas trip I made sure I stocked up on booze in the Duty Free store. Purely for the Christmas Cake. Honest!

My mother has always made Christmas Cakes for family and friends but I never liked it as a child and consequently, never gave it another chance until a couple of years ago. Now, I love it. All that heavy fruit. And alcohol… well it is the season to be jolly!

The ingredient list for this cake is long and it’s not exactly cheap to make if you don’t already have most of the ingredients (especially the alcohol) but the result is a dense, moist, rich cake totally unlike its dry counterparts for sale in supermarkets. It makes a large 10” square cake (about 80 – 100 servings as a small piece is sufficient) which will last for weeks or months afterwards when stored in a cool place. Which is a good thing because there is no way in the world one of these cakes will disappear in one sitting!

Also note, traditional fruit cakes such as this one are best made a few weeks in advance as they require at least 2-4 weeksbefore cutting to mature and develop that rich, decadent, christmassy flavour. So get cracking!

Now I would like to introduce the cast of characters.

004

I did say there were a lot of ingredients…

In a big pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring now and then.

250 g butter
1.2 kg mixed fruit
400 g sultanas
1.5 cup water
1.5 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 dessertspoon glycerine

012

 

Once the mixture has come to the boil, remove from the heat and leave to cool.

 

014

When cool(ish), add …
2 tbsp brandy
½ cup sherry
or you can just make it all brandy (like I did)!

Leave until cold (overnight if necessary), and then add the dry ingredients.

500 g flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp cinnamon

Stir well, then add the wet ingredients.

1 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp rum essence
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp almond essence
5 well beaten eggs
1 cup thick custard

 

Decorate with cherries and almonds before baking if cake will be un-iced. Bake in a double lined 10” tin for half an hour at 180 C, then 3.5 hours at 120 C.

002

Within half an hour of placing the cake in the oven your house will be filled with the most delicious aroma. Enjoy!

As soon as cake comes out of the oven, liberally sprinkle rum over the top. I used about 1/4 cup. I can guarantee, if you thought the aroma was great while it was cooking, you will be in heaven after pouring over the alcohol.

019
Now we come to the most difficult part of the whole process – wait at least 2 weeks before cutting.

Just a few points about some of the ingredients. Firstly the mixed fruit. You can buy fruit mix especially for fruit cakes in the supermarket. It looks like this…

009

It is a mixture of sultanas, mixed peel, and cherries but is heavier on the sultanas than the other fruits. As we are also adding another 400g of sultanas anyway, if you want to vary the fruit mix a bit with say, more mixed peel, cranberries or dried apricots, then put those in first and make up the balance of the 1200g with the standard fruit mix.

Then there is this.

021

Glycerine. It’s not used a lot these days and although it is used as a baking ingredient (it sweetens, keeps the cake moist and also has preservative properties), some supermarkets do not stock it in the baking aisle. Due to its medicinal properties, it may be found in the first aid/medicines aisle. If you have trouble finding it in the supermarket, visit your friendly pharmacist. Even unfriendly pharmacists may stock it!

As far as the alcohol content is concerned, there are a few different variations you can use. I just used brandy to add to the pot after boiling the first lot of ingredients, but you could use sherry, or a mixture of the two. I actually made a second cake and used Cointreau in the mixture and sprinkled brandy over the cake when it came out of the oven.

For the custard, I used ready made custard from the supermarket chilled foods section, but feel free to make your own if you wish.

Simple! Fruit cakes are more time consuming to make than lighter cakes, but Christmas only happens once a year, although there is no law (as far as I know) about eating it at any other time of the year if you choose!

Enjoy!

(And thanks to my awesome Mum for letting me share this recipe.)

in the pink

Today I made a cake. You may not think that is unusual for me given past posts on this ‘ole blog of mine, but in recent months I have not ventured into the baking zone very often. Today though, I had the urge to create something pretty. And tasty. There was also the realisation that my mother’s 70th birthday is looming and I needed to test a couple of recipes before I inflict them on her party guests!

Also, Mr INTJ’s daughter turns 16 on my mother’s birthday and I have been informed cake will be required for that occasion too. So it’s time to get back in the kitchen.

Today’s efforts have produced this little beauty. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

2012-10-13 16.06.30

 

It’s a double layer vanilla cake, sandwiched with Lemon & Passionfruit Patisserie Filling from Barkers and generously coated in Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

 

And then I added some sprinkles.

 

2012-10-13 16.13.29

Because sprinkles make me happy.

And I may, or may not, have sprinkled a little pink sugar on it as well.

It’s almost too pretty to cut!

 

2012-10-13 17.38.01

I said almost!

 

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. Although I have a lot of recipes, I still needed to find a good all-rounder birthday cake that wasn’t chocolate so I decided to try this one from Smitten Kitchen. Now, if you look at recipes from USA they often list ‘cake flour’ as one of the ingredients. I’ve looked in every supermarket I have been to for cake flour and never found it. But not to worry. Joy the Baker comes to the rescue and explains how to make it yourself here.

The Lemon and Passionfruit filling was easy – it’s a store bought one from Barkers that I have been eyeing up for months. When I went to get some yesterday it was on special (yay!) but unfortunately it appears Barkers may be deleting it from their range as the links on their website no longer work. I hope I am wrong as it is delicious and so much easier than making passionfruit curd from scratch.

And the Swiss Meringue Buttercream… ahhhh. It’s soft, and light, and fluffy, and not overly sweet like regular buttercream. I had been avoiding trying to make it for years thinking it was doomed to fail – I had read about people giving up because it just turned into a curdled mess. But apparently the secret it to whip it. Whip it good! And it comes back together beautifully. Mine seemed to just work without the curdled stage. Thank goodness for my Kenwood mixer! Anyway, the recipe is here – again from Smitten Kitchen.

Now that the taste testing has been completed, I can confirm today’s efforts have been a success and I will be making this again. And again.

And again.