Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A bit nostalgia, a bit curiosity

It was the smallest cookbook in the San Carlos library (shocking, I know), but my daughter is a Brit through and through and is craving her favourite London meals - Fish and Chips, Sausage and Mash, etc. - and when I scanned the cookbook and saw a recipe for Bubble and Squeak, I knew I had to check the book out.
There are some 'pudding' recipes, but my favourite, Sticky Toffee Pudding, is nowhere to be found :(.  However, I'm sure I can entertain you with something from this cookbook.  Stay tuned.

Heavenly Lemon Bars with Almond Shortbread Crust

Similar to my coconut craving, I had a hunkering to bake something lemony and found this scrumptious recipe on Pinterest as well:

Heavenly Lemon Bars with Almond Shortbread Crust

Makes 9 large or 16 small squares
For the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond meal (or flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the lemon curd:
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest from 5 to 6 lemons
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Line an 8"x8" baking dish with parchment, letting the excess parchment hang over the sides of the pan.
First, prepare the shortbread crust. Beat together the butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium-high speed until they are completely combined, turn pale yellow, and resemble creamy frosting. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed while mixing.
Add the all-purpose flour, almond flour, and salt to the bowl. Beat on low speed just until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture comes together into a dough. The dough will seem fairly crumbly, but should hold together when squished in your hand.
Press the dough into the baking dish. Use the bottom of a cup to make sure the layer is as compacted as possible and in an even layer. Prick with a fork all over. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges of the shortbread turn golden-brown.
While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the lemon curd. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a small (2-quart) saucepan, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to form a smooth, liquidy mixture. Set a small strainer over a mixing bowl and place next to the stove. 
Place the pan with the lemon mixture over medium heat. Stir, gently but continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers about 155°F on an instant-read thermometer. This should take 8 to 10 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan as you stir. If you notice the mixture starting to coagulate and clump up, immediately remove the pan from heat.
Strain the lemon curd into the bowl, removing the zest and any clumps from the curd. While the curd is still warm, stir in the butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted.
When the shortbread crust is ready, remove it from the oven and pour the curd over top. (It's ok if one is finished before the other, though ideally, they will finish at close to the same time.) Bake at 350°F until the edges of the curd are set, but the middle is still jiggly, 10 to 15 minutes.
Cool completely on the counter, and then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight). To slice, run a knife around the edge of the bars and then lift them onto a cutting board using the flaps of parchment paper. Use a chef's knife to cut straight down into bars; wipe the knife clean between cuts. Bars will keep refrigerated for several days.

Recipe Notes:

• Lemon Curd On Its Own: To make just the lemon curd, cook it on the stovetop, strain, and stir in the butter as directed. No need to bake. Transfer the curd to a lidded container and refrigerate. Eat within a week.
• Shortbread On Its Own: To make just the shortbread, prepare the dough and bake as directed, but bake an extra 5 to 10 minutes until the top of the shortbread is also slightly golden. Cool completely, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into rectangles or squares.

Coconut heavenliness

I had a hunkering for coconut and found this recipe on pinterest (don't you just love pinterest?).  I, for once in my life, made the recipe EXACTLY as it is written. It was incredibly coconutty, and positively divine.  A coconut lovers dream. And folks are STILL raving about this cake.  This is an absolute keeper.  And pretty simple too! 

Incredible Coconut Cake Recipe

Incredible Coconut Cake Recipe

  • Ingredients:
  • CAKE:
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups flaked coconut, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 2 packages (one 8 ounces, one 3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 4-1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 2 cups flaked coconut, toasted


  1. Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°. In another large bowl, beat sugar, butter and oil until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Stir in coconut.
  4. Add cream of tartar to egg whites; with clean beaters, beat on medium until stiff peaks form. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites.
  5. Transfer to three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. For frosting, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and extract; beat until smooth.
  7. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting and sprinkle with 1/3 cup coconut. Repeat. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake; sprinkle with remaining coconut. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 16 servings.

Shamelessly stolen from: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/incredible-coconut-cake/print#ixzz3VzhFVoZl

Frozen Inspired Birthday Cake - Complete!

I'm really very bad about writing up my cake experience as I go, or immediately posting about it afterwards (clearly I'm exhausted afterwards!). Apologies.

If you're wondering whatever happened to the Frozen cake I was supposedly banking, here's the final result (at least I grabbed a picture of it!):

I actually did write up this experience immediately after I made it, I just left it in draft form and never completed it (that exhaustion/career thing must have gotten in the way...).

The experience:
I ended up quadrupling my cake recipe which yielded the 3 cakes you see above - a 6", 8", and 10", as well as 40+ cupcakes that ended up looking like this:
I wasn't planning on making cupcakes, but it turned out perfectly in that I sent the cupcakes to school with my daughter the following morning to celebrate her birthday at school.  Her favourite colour is purple, and, well, a little violet colouring goes along way along with some sprinkles to add that little sparkle ;).

So let's get into the details with the timeline:
Tuesday: Printed off templates for the snowflakes.
Wednesday: Made the royal icing (using royal icing sugar here in the UK - whoop whoop - where only the addition of water is required) and piped snowflakes; Made the marshmallow white chocolate fondant;
Thursday: Made the cakes, cupcakes, and frosting;
Friday: Covered the cakes with fondant and decorated;

As I said, I quadrupled my cupcake recipe.  It worked out that with the leftover batter I made cupcakes for Olivia's class.  However, if I only wanted to make cakes, I would have only tripled the recipe.  I modified my icing slightly to include white chocolate (YUM!).  I made my own fondant which was a marshmallow white chocolate fondant (taste was significantly better than the store bought stuff, but the process of making it wasn't terribly exciting).  I also made the snowflakes out of royal icing sugar.

After I made the cakes (see recipe below), I let them cool for a few hours, then cut them to obtain their shape, and for the 6" & 8" cakes I cut them in half.  The 10" just wasn't tall enough to cut in half and fill with frosting.  I brushed the cakes to remove crumbs, then filled and put a crumb coating on the cakes, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 20 minutes.  Removed them and added another layer of frosting, rewrapped and refrigerated overnight. 

I then baked the cupcakes with the remaining cake batter, and iced them with the remaining frosting (that I then dyed purple) with the wilton flower tip and sprinkled with purple sugar.

With the remains of the cakes (from cutting them to obtain their desired shapes), Silvia (my au pair) made cake pops that were DIVINE!  She refrigerated the cake remains, then rolled them into balls, froze them, then dipped them in melted chocolate and rolled them in sprinkles, then froze them again.  This is why cake pops were invented...to use up the cake remains!

The next morning I dyed the marshmallow white chocolate fondant blue,which proved to be very arduous.  Dying fondant by hand is time consuming and requires great strength as the fondant is like taffy.  Needless to say, I ran out of both time and strength and settled on a marbled blue fondant (which was suprisingly quite nice, though not what i had originally intended).  I covered the cakes with it, and then decorated the cake with the royal icing snowflakes and a bit of buttercream frosting for the dots around the cakes, the name, and age.  I applied the figurines to the cake with a bit of frosting as well.  Voila!


  • It wasn't EXACTLY what I was preparing to make, but I was pretty happy with the end result.
  • The cake was delicious and moist and produced a wonderful flavour as well as raving reviews.  The homemade fondant was key.
  • The white chocolate swiss buttercream was DIVINE!
  • Fondant is difficult/time consuming to dye
  • The royal icing snowflakes were fragile indeed, but were quite easy to pipe and added a lovely touch.
  • The figurines saved me from having to create handmade figurines (thankfully!).
  • It was time consuming, though not complex, and I imagine becomes easier with every attempt.  
  • My daughter was elated - which was most important :).
The recipes and methods:

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes:
For the cakes - I quadrupled the recipe to make 3 cakes (16 cups of batter):
6 cup cake flour
6 cup all-purpose flour
10 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cup (8 sticks/900g) unsalted butter, room temperature
7 cups granulated/caster sugar
16 eggs
6 cup milk
8 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    Make the cakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees F.
  2. Grease cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper rounds
  3. Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  4. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar.  Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy ~ 4 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well-combined.
  6. Combine the milk and vanilla extract & bean paste in a measuring cup.
  7. On a low speed, alternating, add the flour mixture and milk emulsion to the butter mixture. Beat until just combined ~ 1-2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix again until the mixture is well blended (30-60 seconds).   
  8. Fill cake pans 3/4 full with batter, and bake for 35-40 minutes - until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Start checking at 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven when done and let cool in pans for 5 minutes.  Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely before icing.
White Chocolate Swiss Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups sugar
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
680g/1 1/2 pounds unsweetened butter (6 sticks), softened but still cool
227g/8 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

  1. Place the sugar and egg whites in large metal mixer bowl set over simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar melts and the mixture is very thin and warm.
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
  3. Continue beating on low speed until cool, about 15 more minutes.
  4. Beat in small pieces of the cool but soft butter on low speed. The mixture may curdle before coming together. Gradually beat in the melted and cooled white chocolate.
  5. Re-beat occasionally while frosting the cake to maintain a smooth texture.
Tips of the trade:
Make sure the bottom of the mixer bowl does not touch simmering water. Your egg whites may become a sweet scrambled breakfast dish!
Finished buttercream may be kept covered and refrigerated for a week. Professional chefs prefer to use pasteurized egg whites - no need to separate fresh eggs, no wasted yolks and safer all around.
Buttercream also freezes well for up to 6 months.
Chilled buttercream must be brought to room temperature before beating, otherwise it will curdle. If such a disaster strikes, do not panic! Keep beating over simmering water and eventually the mixture will come together again.

White Chocolate-Marshmallow Rolled Fondant
Ingredients for Fondant:
12 ounces (about 2 cups), 340g white chocolate
16 ounces/454g white mini-marshmallows
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons clear vanilla oil flavoring or vanilla extract
About 8 cups (2 pounds)/900g sifted confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

For Kneading:
Vegetable shortening
Additional confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

For Rolling:
2 to 4 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar Or
2 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch Or
Mixture of both powdered sugar and cornstarch

Instructions for Fondant:
In top of a double boiler over hot water, melt chocolate. Or, melt chocolate in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat; stir constantly until melted so chocolate does not burn. Remove pan from heat. Or, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, use 50% power and stir frequently just until the chocolate is melted; do not overheat as chocolate will burn easily. Set aside to cool slightly.

Tip: Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a simmer. Turn the heat off and place a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl on top of the simmering water, the upper pan should not touch the water.

Place the marshmallows and water in a large microwaveable bowl. Heat on full power for 30 seconds and then stir the mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Heat and stir every 30 seconds until the marshmallows are melted, about 2 minutes total.

Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in the corn syrup and vanilla.

Add about 4 cups of the sifted powdered sugar to the marshmallow mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Add the melted white chocolate to the marshmallow mixture and stir until well blended.

Add another 3 cups of sifted powdered sugar and stir to incorporate as much of the powdered sugar as possible.

Kneading: Turn the fondant mixture out onto a pastry mat or pastry board, or clean counter-top greased with vegetable shortening. Lightly grease your hands with vegetable shortening and knead the fondant until it is smooth and pliable, 5 to 8 minutes. You may need to add additional shortening to the work surface and your hands if they start getting sticky.

Tip: If the fondant feels sticky, knead in additional powdered sugar using about 1 tablespoon at a time. If the fondant feels too dry knead in a bit of shortening. Kneading fondant is like kneading bread dough; however fondant is much stiffer and heavier than dough.

Shape the fondant into a thick disk and rub a thin coating of shortening over the entire surface to keep the fondant from drying out. Wrap the fondant disc tightly in at least two layers of plastic wrap and then place in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container and store at room temperature to rest and cure for at least 8 to 12 hours or overnight.

Tip: The fondant can be used immediately but it is easier to use if left to cure for at least 8 to 12 hours. Fondant can be stored up to 2 months at room temperature if it is wrapped tightly. When ready to use, remove the cured fondant from the plastic and knead for several minutes to warm the fondant until it is smooth and pliable. You probably won’t need any vegetable shortening on the rolling surface for this kneading, however if it starts to stick use a little shortening on the rolling surface and your hands. If the fondant is stiff and difficult to knead, microwave for about 15 seconds to warm it up. If the fondant seems too dry you can knead a small amount of vegetable shortening in, or if it seems too sticky knead a small amount of powdered sugar or cornstarch in. After kneading, the fondant temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees when checked with an instant read thermometer.

Rolling: Roll the fondant with a rolling pin on a clean and smooth countertop, marble board, pastry board, or non-stick pastry mat. Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch or a mixture of both. When rolling the fondant, be sure to lift and turn the fondant frequently to make sure the fondant is not sticking to the rolling surface. As you lift and move the fondant you will want to frequently redust the work surface with more powdered sugar or cornstarch to ensure the fondant doesn’t stick. Once you start rolling don’t flip the fondant over. Roll the fondant in a circle, or the desired shape that is large enough to cover the cake and sides along with a little excess that will be trimmed off at the end.

Roll the fondant ¼ inch thick for covering cakes as it will be easiest to handle. Fondant dries out quickly. Once the fondant is rolled, don’t let it sit, immediately place and smooth on the cake before it has a chance to dry out and harden. - See more at: http://thebakingpan.com/recipes/chocolate/white-chocolate-marshmallow-rolled-fondant/#.U6ikJDNwZAg

Royal Icing Recipe (for snowflakes):
  • Royal Icing Sugar             
  • 5 tablespoons warm water             
Makes about 3 cups of icing.


Step 1

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).

Step 2

NOTE: Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
**When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.