Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hi-hat Cupcakes

Wow these past couple of months have been crazy but fun. All the party and wedding planning that I've been doing recently has left me flustered with not much time for my blog. I've been baking up a storm but have never had the time to post. I don't know how much time I'll have over the next 3 months to sit down and write but I've missed my blog so much and will definitely make some time for it.

For a long time I had this recipe for hi-hat cupcakes sitting on the desktop of my laptop, sitting patiently and calling out to me. One day I decided to take some time out of my hectic schedule to make them and boy was I glad. These delicious cupcakes left my heart singing for joy. The velvety chocolate cake topped with creamy meringue and decadent chocolate was to die for.

These cupcakes are easy to make but time consuming - trust me to chose a recipe like this on a hectic day. First step is to make the cupcakes. For these cupcakes you can use your favourite vanilla or chocolate cupcakes. I decided to make chocolate blackout cupcakes for the chocolate lover in me. Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled to room temperature you would need to place them in the refrigerator to cool even further.

The next step is to make the meringue. It is the meringue that really makes these cupcakes what they are. If your meringue is good then it really doesn't matter which cake you use for the cupcakes because most people who eat these cupcakes really go crazy for the meringue and chocolate topping. It's not to say that that cake shouldn't be good but I feel that the success of the meringue will determine the success of these cupcakes.

The meringue used on these cupcakes is an Italian meringue made with egg whites and sugar. There are different ways to make the meringue but I find this method a lot better than others I have tried. For this recipe I used 4 egg whites, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp glucose syrup, 4 tsp cream of tartar and 1 cup of water. You could flavour the meringue with 1 or 2 tablespoons of your favourite extract or essence. I used strawberry.
First you will need to place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Place the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan and bring boil. Cook until the syrup registers 115C or 238F on a sugar thermometer. I don't have a sugar thermometer so I cooked the syrup until soft ball stage.
Before the syrup reaches the required temperature you would need to start whipping the egg whites to firm shiny peaks.

When the syrup is ready, slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the firm egg whites with the mixer is running on high. Pour the syrup in a thin stream so as not to curdle the eggs and be careful not to pour any of the hot syrup over the beaters or you could find yourself in hot water - or should I say hot syrup. Add your extract of choice and continue to whip the egg white mixture until it has reached room temperature.

The mixture will be fluffy and thick.

Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature spoon it into a large piping bag with a large plain nozzle. You could also just use the coupler. I used a large Ziploc bag with the tip of one corner cut off.

The next step would be to top the cupcakes with this luscious meringue. Pipe swirls of meringue onto the top of each cupcake - the same way that ice-cream is swirled on a cone. Pipe about 3 of 4 swirls depending of the width of your nozzle. Place the cupcakes in the refrigerator again to help the meringue set up a bit.

Now for the fun part, dipping the cupcakes into chocolate. Even after placing the meringue topped cupcakes in the refrigerator for some time I still had a bit of trouble dipping them into the chocolate. The meringue kept sliding off the cupcake as is evident in the picture below.

With images of men dressed in white coats forcing me into a straight jacket flashing over and over in my head I decided to pour the chocolate glaze over the cupcakes. It was a lot more messy than anticipated but keeping my sanity is far more important to me.

The next part was the hardest part for me - waiting for the chocolate glaze to set. I placed them back into the refrigerator to help speed up the process. I lined the shelves with newspaper because by then I felt I had my fair share of wiping up chocolate.

One bite from these decadent cupcakes and all my troubles flu out the window. It was sure worth it. The light dreamy meringue, topped with a delicious glaze had me floating one foot off the ground. Give these a try you won't be sorry.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Party Fit For A Princess

This past month has been one hectic month with very little room left for me to breath. Earlier in the month we celebrated the 7th birthday of my niece Tiana. She selected a Barbie Princess theme for her upcoming birthday and then it was all systems go.

I took on a lot, as usual, which left me trying to recover for over a week but it was all well worth it. The party was a great success and Tiana absolutely loved it.

I love kiddies parties and I loved helping my sister-in-law plan this one. I did almost everything from the party packs to the birthday party while by sister-in-law handled all the logistics. Did I mention we had a lot fun?

Her birthday cake was a pillow cake topped with a royal icing tiara. For the previous year I had baked her a princess cake so this year I decided to change it up and for the first time attempted a pillow cake and tiara. The tiara was very time consuming and at the end of the third day I had spasms in my right hand but I enjoyed every minute of it. My greatest fear was the tiara breaking into pieces and the day of the party it broke to several pieces. My sister and I managed to save a bit of it which we put back together to form a smaller tiara. It wasn't as big is the inital tiara but nobody could even tell the difference so we were satisfied. I had a few issues with this cake, mainly the fondant. I kneaded, rolled it but when I was placing it onto the cake it wasn't elastic enough so it begain to crinkle and tear. I think it is due to the fact that I was so rushed and didn't knead it enough to make it more elastic. Oh well I know for next time.

For the party food I decked the table in everything pink. From pink lamingtons to red velvet cupcakes with pink frosting. The cupcakes were a huge hit with the crowd and so were the lamingtons.

For the party packs we decided to create something pretty for the little princess attending the party. We even included little thank you notes which were addressed to each princess personally to make them feel more special.

At the end of the day after we had taken down the last balloon we sat down to a well deserved piece of birthday cake and I found myself wishing I could rewind time and start again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Banana Crumb Muffins

A couple of weeks ago I walked into the kitchen and all I could smell was bananas. The bananas that we had were beginning to ripen too and the aroma that they were giving off made me long for some sought of banana cake. I settled on banana bread. I took out my flour and…. no wait… hold that thought.

A few days prior to that I was visiting my SIL and she asked me to make a chocolate cake. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my chocolate cakes rich and chocolaty. All she had was flour and cocoa so I had to settle on a light chocolate sponge cake.

With my niece and nephew fighting over who is going to stand next to the bowl I started baking. I mixed everything up, poured it into a baking tray and placed it in the oven as usual. After twenty minutes or so I decided to check the cake. It had risen only slightly and was unusually flat on top. I pondered over what could have gone wrong and then I took one look to the right and saw the unopened tin of baking powder. No worries though my SIL rushed to the shop to get some fresh cream and we turned it into a good tasting “chocolate brownie” trifle.

I realized that day how important it is to plan and prepare when baking so I paused, took out my little ramekins and for the first time did my mis en place.

The banana bread turned out quite good but I wasn’t satisfied. Being banana bread it wasn’t as moist and fluffy as I normally like my cakes.

With that I decided to give it another go and this time decided to make banana muffins. I searched and found this great recipe for banana crumb muffins. These muffins didn’t disappoint. They turned out moist and fluffy and were great even the next day. A word about the crumb topping… I found that it was great the same day but became soft and sugary the next day. I think it was from the humidity, but if you have sensitive teeth you not going to like biting into the sugary crumb mixture on top.

· 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 3 bananas, mashed
· 3/4 cup white sugar
· 1 egg, lightly beaten
· 1/3 cup butter, melted
· 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
· 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
· 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Daring Bakers' Chocolate Flourless Cake with Vanilla Ice-Cream

When I saw the challenge for February I was rather excited, so excited that I finished it 4 days after it had been posted. It was a long wait for posting day and when the day came I was busy helping my brother move so I didn't even have enough time to turn my laptop on. It was disappointing for me since I couldn't wait to share my experiences from the challenge with the rest of you.

As I said I was rather excited when I saw that the challenge was all about chocolate and ice-cream my two favourite things in the world. I was even more excited to finally get the chance to make my very own ice-cream from home.

I started with the chocolate cake since I'm such a chocoholic. I've never attempted a flourless chocolate cake before simply because I've always been afraid to try it. I wish I'd tried it sooner because it is absolutely a divine cake - like eating baked chocolate. The only problem that I had with this cake is that I found it a bit too strong for my tastes. Next time I'll mix in some milk chocolate

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

  1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

  2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
  3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
  4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

  5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

  6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

  7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

  8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

  10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

For the ice-cream I decided to use Dharm's recipe and I don't regret it. The ice-cream was very successful for a first attempt and especially since I made it by hand. Next time I'm going to buy an ice-cream maker since the whole process was too aerobic for me. I was afraid that too many ice crystals will develop in the creamy custard base so I beat it every forty minutes for about 5 times before I left it to set completely.

This ice-cream was decadent, rich and creamy. I'm going to try different flavour variants using this recipe as a base. Absolutely decadent.

Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe - Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)


  • 1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)

  • 300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}

  • 5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}

  • 300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat){you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

  1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuseLift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.

  2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.

  3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time.

  4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.

  5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container.

    Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red velvet cake is not as popular in South Africa as it is in America. In fact the first time I heard of red velvet cake was a couple of years ago. My brother Jason, who had never baked a cake before, decided he was going to spoil me with a home made cake. He fervently sifted through a recipe book looking for the perfect cake to bake. His eyes settled on a strange red looking cake with cooked flour frosting which I kind of snubbed because it wasn't the kind of cake that I'd usually go for.

We argued and debated, he won, and for the first time in my life I tasted red velvet cake. It was hard for me too judge the success of the cake since I didn't know what red velvet cake was supposed to taste like. I do remember telling him though that it wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. That was the first and last time I had eaten red velvet cake up until a few days ago.

For a long time I've been wanting to bake this "strange red cake" but never had enough courage to give it ago until I watched a wedding show where the bridal party were swooning over a red velvet cake baked by Raven Dennis of Cake Man Raven for their cake tasting. It was that day that I decided to give it a go.

I googled Cake Man Raven and found that he actually has a copy the recipe for his famous red velvet cake posted on his website. One thing is for sure I'm glad that his recipe includes a cream cheese frosting - which I love since I haven't yet gathered to courage to try the traditional butter roux icing.

One bite of this cake and I knew why so many people have fallen in love with it. A light chocolate cake that is slightly dense, tender and so moist, what else can anyone ever want from a cake. I have to wonder though if all that food colouring is healthy. Oh well I don't eat it everyday.

I decided to make cupcakes since it's all the craze right now. Another thing I am sure of is that I will definitely be making red velvet cake again and again.

Find the recipe here.