Pretty little cakes

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity: my daughter’s 21st in Melbourne, a farewell afternoon tea party for her and a family dinner at home the weekend after (with a broken dishwasher to boot) as well as an exam for uni in the middle. Mim departed for her latest adventure – university in New York City for a year – last week and appears to have landed on her feet… Phew!

For the farewell afternoon tea party I made my absolute favourite – mini butterfly cakes with lemon curd. They look so pretty, are always a hit and are the perfect size – 2 bites and they are gone. I have used the lemon curd recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s the cook’s companion for many years, much to the delight of my friend Sue who is quite a fan. I cook the curd in a heatproof bowl over simmering water rather than in a saucepan directly on the heat, adding all the ingredients at once, purely because you can leave it and not worry about it curdling or burning. The cup cake recipe I use is from my 24 year old copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly  Cakes & Slices Cookbook.

Lemon mini-butterfly cakes

makes 48

48 mini cupcakes

1 cup lemon curd

1 cup whipped cream

icing sugar, to serve

When the cakes are cold, cut out a circle from the top, cutting down to a depth of about 1cm. Place a small amount of lemon curd in the cavity, top with a dollop of whipped cream then the “wings” made from the halved circles of cake. Dust with sifted icing sugar.

Lemon curd

from the cook’s companion by Stephanie Alexander

Makes 2 cups

2 large lemons

100 g unsalted butter

175 g sugar

3 eggs, whisked and strained

Finely grate zest and juice the lemons. In a heavy-based saucepan combine butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir constantly over heat until the sugar has dissolved . Add eggs off the heat and stir to mix well.

Cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle.

Pour straight into small, hot sterilised jars or into a bowl if using immediately.

Cup cakes

makes 48 mini cupcakes

125 g unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3/4 cup caster sugar

 2 eggs

1 1/2 cups SR flour, sifted

1/2 cup milk

Cream butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl until light and fluffy; beat in eggs one at a time, beat until combined.

Stir in half the flour and half the milk, then stir in remaining flour and milk.

Spoon into mini patty pans and bake in 180C oven for 10 mins or until cooked. Cool on a cake rack.


Chocolate heaven

My chocoholic daughter is home for a few nights so it was a logical decision to make a chocolate dessert for Sunday Dinner, on the off chance food really is the way to the heart. It is the second last time Mim will be home before she leaves to study in New York City for a year.

So we had a full complement of 6 for Sunday Dinner this week, although dinner was on Monday night rather than Sunday night due to it being a long weekend. For main course we had slow cooked Greek lamb  which I totally forgot to photgraph so I won’t include the recipe. We all felt for Elyse who was off to work after dinner…night shift is the pits.

For dessert I made Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache from the November 2011 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I had no hazelnuts on hand when I started making this cake so used ground almonds which worked very well. I’d like to try it with hazerlnuts though as they are not as bitter as almonds.  If I make this recipe again I will use 90 grams of 55% and 90 grams of 70% dark chcolate for the ganache as the ganache was pretty intense. I didn’t have any chocloate liqueur and chose not to substitute it with anything else. The raspberries were worth the expense – they were the perfect accompaniment. 

Don’t be daunted – this cake was not the challenge it looks, despite having 3 layers. It is well worth the effort.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

From Gourmet Traveller November 2011

Serves 10-12

Cooking Time Prep time 30 mins, cook 55 mins (plus cooling, chilling)

6 eggs, separated
330 gm raw caster sugar
180 gm hazelnut meal
20 gm Dutch-process cocoa, sieved, plus extra to serve
160 gm softened butter
250 gm dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), melted
30 ml espresso-strength coffee
Espresso ganache
160 ml pouring cream
20 ml espresso-strength coffee
180 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
20 ml chocolate liqueur

  Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk eggwhite and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes). Gradually add 165gm sugar, whisking until stiff and glossy (3-4 minutes), then fold in hazelnut meal and cocoa. Meanwhile, line base and sides of a buttered 25cm-diameter springform cake tin with baking paper, spoon hazelnut meringue mixture into prepared tin, smooth top and bake until a skewer inserted withdraws clean (15-20 minutes), then set aside.
  Beat butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4-5 minutes), then add yolks one at a time, beating well to combine. Stir in melted chocolate and coffee, then pour onto meringue and bake until centre is firm (25-30 minutes). Refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours).
  For espresso ganache, bring cream and coffee to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, remove from heat, add chocolate and liqueur, stir until smooth. Pour over cake, smooth top. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours).
  To serve, remove cake from tin, remove paper and serve topped with raspberries.

Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

This is one of the most delicious cakes you will ever taste, no doubt about it.

When I was volunteered to make a cake for a good friend’s surprise 60th birthday dinner, I decided this was the cake for the job. I knew I’d be very short on time and wouldn’t be able to make a cake that required icing. As it turned out, I made the cake after work on Friday then drove the cake mixture, in the cake tin, to Irene’s home in the next suburb where we were having dinner, and cooked it in her oven. I had the syrup ingredients in a container, poured it into one of Irene’s saucepans and cooked it while the cake was cooking. Voila!

This is a slightly varied version of the recipe in flavours, published in 2000 when Donna Hay was food editor for marie claire. My version makes a larger cake and uses whole eggs instead of eggs and egg yolks. The quantities in the recipe below can be decreased by one quarter for a 20cm (8 inch) square cake.

Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

adapted from marie claire’s flavours by Donna Hay

Serves 12-16

240 g unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

6 eggs(or 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks)

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup milk

vanilla syrup

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups water

1 1/3 vanilla beans, split and scraped

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs (or eggs and yolks) one at a time and beat well. Sift the flour over the butter mixture and fold through the milk.

Pour the mixture into a large greased kugelhopf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

While the cake is cooking, place the sugar, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 6 minutes.Leave the cake in the pan for 5 minutes before unmoulding and placing on a serving plate. Slowly spoon three-quarters of the hot syrup over the hot cake. Serve with the remaining syrup and think cream.

Peach & Caramel Cake

Sunday Dinner began in January 2010 as my attempt to see my 2 children, together, for a meal, once a week. My brother’s son, who is 8 weeks older than my son and is at university here, was a welcome addition. The fact that the boys both have great girlfriends is a bonus!

Two years on, my regular Sunday Dinner guests are “the 22 year olds” – my son and his girlfriend of 4.5 years and my nephew and his girlfriend of 2.5 years. The boys are very different but have a strong bond; they travelled together through South America and Europe for 5 months in 2009 and had some great experiences, many of which I will probably never find out about. The boys bounce off each other wonderfully and are usually very entertaining.  My 20 year old daughter is at university in Melbourne and plans her visits home so that she makes a Sunday Dinner. Her 21 year old boyfriend often joins her. My mum is always a welcome guest when she is in town.

Tonight it was the regular five – me and the 22 year olds. My oven has been out of action for way too long. It was replaced this week, so tonight was the first Sunday Dinner for weeks where I could cook using an oven… Hooray!

Because the end of the stone fruit season is closing in, for dessert I decided to try the Peach and Caramel Cake from Cuisine NZ Issue 150.

The recipe specifies 4 large peaches. I could only fit 3 peaches on the bottom of the cake tin so perhaps the peaches I bought were extra-large.  Instead of yoghurt as an accompaniment, I made custard – an absolute favourite of my nephew’s and my son’s girlfriend. I was lucky to have been given 6 eggs from my friends’ chickens on Friday night (as well as 6 quail eggs, 2 of which I used for the custard) so the eggs I used were super fresh.

The cake was really easy and delicious – definitely worth making again (although I will buy a new 24cm springform cake tin as my old tin leaked, onto my new oven!). It was a hit with the kids, especially the chewy caramel edge bits. 


Peach and Caramel Cake (by Celia Harvey)

For the caramel
175g caster sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
4 large peaches, halved, stoned

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Butter and line a 24cm springform tin with baking paper.

Place the sugar and vanilla seeds in a heavy-based frying pan (you need a pan with a thick base to prevent the caramel from cooking too quickly). Add 6 tablespoons of water then place the pan over low heat and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved to create a clear syrup. Increase the heat and boil the mixture rapidly – don’t stir it but carefully swirl the pan as the mixture begins to colour, until it has reached a light mahogany shade. Quickly pour the caramel into the lined tin then place the peach halves, skin side up, over the caramel.

For the cake
150g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
4 tablespoons ground almonds
4 eggs, lightly beaten
yoghurt or cream to serve

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the soft butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, almonds and beaten eggs.

Beat until the mixture is smooth and blended – you can use a hand-held mixer or simply a spatula – then spread the cake batter over the peaches. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake has slightly pulled away from the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool a little, though not completely as the caramel will set. Turn the cake out on to a serving platter and remove the paper. Serve slices warm or at room temperature with yoghurt or cream.