Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

A moist, buttery vanilla cupcake topped with a divine chocolate frosting. There's no better way to start the new year.

Happy New Year! 2015 is finally here. I am super excited. This is the year I sit my final examinations and the year I graduate. 
A brand new year to try out a whole bunch of new recipes, to improve my photography, to try new thing, to visit new places,read new books, to watch new movies, to make new friends. 

To live life as fully as possible :)

2014 has been awesome but I'm ready to start afresh.

I spent a good part of last year perfecting this recipe. After about eight batches it's finally ready just in time for the new year.

The cupcake is of course my Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. It is full of buttery goodness and comes out perfect every time.
I chose to top it off with a chocolate buttercream. This buttercream is very chocolate-y but not overpowering. It took me a few tries to find the perfect balance. At first the chocolate flavour wasn't coming through enough. Adding more cocoa powder made it too intense. I realized it needed something to counteract the chocolate flavour and really make it shine. The salt and vanilla in the recipe do this but the star player is the coffee. It gives the chocolate some real competition but the chocolate wins simply because there is much more of it. 

This icing is so good you don't even think that there is actually no real chocolate in it, only cocoa powder. It's perfect for me because, most of the time, I eat all the chocolate in the house before I can use it any recipe! 

Enjoy :)

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
Makes 12

Ultimate Vanilla/Yellow Cupcakes
188g (1 1/2) cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
113 g (1/2 cup, 4 oz) soft,unsalted butter
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and soda into a bowl and set aside.Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar till really light and fluffy, for about 3-4 minutes with a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer.
Add the eggs yolks,one at a time, beating well before each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over-mix or the cupcake won't be as light (trust me,I would know).
With a large whisk, beat the egg whites until they are foamy and holding soft peaks. 
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. It's about 1/4 cup of batter per cup.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin before taking them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream

230 grams/ 8 oz unsalted butter, softened 
440 grams/ 3 1/2 cups/ icing sugar, sifted
45 grams/ 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 tablespoons coffee (I used a teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in some warm water)

Using a handheld or stand mixture on high, beat the butter until really light and pale, for 2 to 3 minutes. This will make sure the frosting is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to a low speed and slowly add the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Once they are incorporated add the salt,vanilla, milk
and coffee. Turn the mixer onto a high speed and beat for about a minute so that everything is well mixed and the frosting is very smooth.
Pipe onto the cupcakes. (I used an open star nozzle.)

Notes on the recipe:
-The butter must be softened to room temperature. It should be slightly soft, still a little firm but not cold. It should not be over softened so that it's greasy. This will affect the consistency of the frosting.

-The coffee should be cold when added to the frosting. Using warm coffee will make the frosting greasy. 

Here is another quick and easy way to frost the cupcakes. Just take a little frosting onto a small palette knife and swirl onto the cupcakes.  (I often do this when I'm feeling too lazy to pipe.)
Top it off with a few sprinkles.Always sprinkles! Life would be dull without them :D
For this method you will only need half the amount of icing the recipe above makes.

But do this only if you want a little frosting. But trust me, once you taste this frosting you will keep wanting more and more.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

There's nothing as comforting as a warm, delicious bread pudding. It's made even better by the little nuggets of chocolate buried in its creamy depths.

Here I am, in the middle of my last ever December vacation. I'm enjoying myself. I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking various things (cupcakes!) which I plan to post next year since I won't have much free time for baking and taking photos.

But something has changed. Normally vacation time is when I spend blissful weeks doing nothing. I eat, sleep, watch TV, read and bake. That's all I do. This time, however, I find myself studying. One reason for this is my parents who never let me forget that I have just four months left for my exams.

But actually, I've changed. I'm realizing that as you grow up there's no such thing as an irresponsible existence. You have to work for what you want. It's as simple as that. It's like having cold water thrown over you when you realize this. But that's life. The grown up thing to do is to study when you have to, even if it means spoiling your vacation. It will pay off in the end.

This bread pudding is seriously good. No joke. It's one of Nigella Lawson's recipes and after seeing her make it on TV, I had to make it. It's the perfect way to use up leftover, slightly stale bread. This is so easy to make. Just soak bread cut up into cubes in a custard, sprinkle over choc chips and sugar and bake! Easy as that.

The chocolate chips elevate this to another level. It probably would not be half as good without them.
I made a few changes to the recipe. Nigella adds a little rum to the mixture but that is optional so I didn't use any.
I also heated up a little of the milk and dissolved the sugar in that, just so that it dissolves properly.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding 
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen

40 grams (1.4 oz) brown sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
250 grams stale bread (2-3 days old)
500 ml (2 cups) cream
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
100g (4 oz) dark chocolate chips
4 teaspoons brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Grease a 23 cm pie dish or any oven-proof dish and set aside.
Heat the milk in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. It doesn't have to be piping hot, just hot enough for the sugar to dissolve in the milk. Add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Cut the bread into medium-size cubes and arrange evenly in the pie dish. Scatter over the chocolate chips, distributing evenly.
Whisk together the milk and sugar mixture, cream, vanilla and eggs. Pour this custard over the bread, pressing down on the cubes to soak them properly. Leave the bread to soak for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile. preheat the oven to 170C/350F.
Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bread and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top in golden brown and the custard is lightly set.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Purple Rose Ombre Cake

A simple yet stunning cake decorated with piped roses. It's much easier to make than it looks! Makes a great birthday cake.

This November was a dismal month, Weeks and weeks of rain ( I love rain but when it rains day and night it just gets depressing), extremely cold nights, and to top that all of exams! I haven't had time to bake much less blog.
This is usually how it is every year. October, for me, is an awesome month because my birthday(!) is at the end of it. Following the excitement of that November is pale in comparison.
So maybe you an guess what this cake was. That's right. My birthday cake!

I normally don't make my birthday cake. But this year, I just had to. 
Looking at these pictures, you could probably also guess what my favorite colour is. PURPLE!
Which is why this cake has 3 shades of it!

Piping these roses is not as hard as it looks. You just need a Wilton 1M tip  and this tutorial on the rose frosting technique. Couldn't be easier.
The cake underneath all these gorgeous roses is a simple white cake. Most of the white cake recipes available on the internet use only egg whites, I felt this was a complete waste of eggs, so I had to do quite a bit of searching to find a recipe that used whole eggs. I finally found one at Add a Pinch. It was perfect! Using whole eggs gives much better flavour to the egg and although this cake is not completely white, it's still pretty white (not yellow).
The cake is filled and crumb coated with a Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream frosting. The roses are done with the same frosting but with a lot more icing sugar in it.

Here is how I made this gorgeous cake. The colour of the roses can be changed if you like :)

The Best White Cake adapted from Add a Pinch
(Makes a 3 layer, 9-inch cake)

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened
113 grams/4 oz/ 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I substituted with margarine)
600 grams/21 oz/3 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temp.
375 grams/13.2 oz/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 ml, 1/2 cup milk, at room temp.
125 ml, 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temp.(1/2 cup milk+ 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F. Grease and line three 9-inch round cake tins, coating the sides with a little flour.
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour the milk, buttermilk and vanilla into a jug and stir with a fork to combine.
Cream the butter and shortening with an electric whisk, for about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, making sure each cup is fully incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (you can add a spoonful of the flour to make sure the mixture does not curdle).
With the electric mixer on lowest speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk mixture,beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Evenly distribute the batter between the three prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minute until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened*
375 grams/ 13 oz/ 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

With an electric mixer on the highest setting, beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until pale and smooth.
Turn the speed to low and slowly add the icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add the salt, vanilla and  2 tablespoons of milk and turn the mixer to a high speed and beat for another minute or two.
If the frosting isn't at the right consistency for spreading, add the third tablespoon of milk and beat a little more on medium speed.

*To make this frosting very fluffy a lot of air must be incorporated during the beating process. For this to happen , the butter must be just softened and still a bit firm but not cold. It should not be over-softened so that its greasy. You should be able to press down on the butter and leave an indent easily without your finger sliding anywhere. If the butter is too soft, you won't be able to incorporate enough air.

Firm Buttercream (for the roses)

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened*
625 grams/ 22 oz/ 5 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Purple gel food colouring*

With an electric mixer on the highest setting, beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until pale and smooth.
Turn the speed to low and slowly add the icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add the salt, extracts and  2 tablespoons of milk and turn the mixer to a high speed and beat for another minute or two.
If the buttercream is too thick add the rest of the milk and beat again.

How to pipe the roses.....

Prepare 3 piping bags fitted with Wilton 1M tips.
Take roughly a third of the buttercream and  colour it with enough food colouring to make the deepest shade of purple you want (it's entirely up to you).
Pipe the bottom of the cake with rosettes and if there are little spaces, fill those up with a star.
Once you are done with the bottom layer of roses, squeeze out all the remaining purple buttercream into a bowl, add some more buttercream and a little more colouring to make the second shade of purple. This way, no frosting is wasted!
Pipe the second layer of roses. Squeeze out the frosting in the bad and add it to the rest of the buttercream. Colour it the lightest shade of purple and pipe the top of the cake, filling up any gaps with stars as you go.(you can see how I've done this in the pictures)

*Gel food colouring gives a good intensity of colour without diluting the frosting.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nutty Chocolate Oat Cookies

 Filled with nuts and chocolate, this oat cookie is a healthier snack to satisfy your cravings. Keep a jar of these for those times when only a cookie will do.

Tomorrow I'm going to see my grandparents. I'm excited because I haven't seen them for quite a while. The only bad part about visiting my grandparents is the travelling. It is made worse by the occassional  frequent pangs of hunger my sisters and I have.

Stuffing your face with snacks, although delightful, is not exactly the best thing for your health. But having something to eat with you when travelling is absolutely essential.
While I was pondering over this, I wondered into the kitchen and my eyes fell on a huge box of porridge oats. So I thought "Why not make some oat cookies? They should be healthier than any other cookie"
And that's exactly what I did.

Nutty Chocolate Oat Cookies (Makes 18)

4 oz/110g butter or margarine
2 oz/55g light brown sugar and extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons golden syrup
4 oz/110g plain flour
4 oz/110g porridge oats
1 1/2 oz / 40g almonds, chopped
3 oz/75g dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt

Into a large bowl, sift in the flour, salt and raising agents. Add the chopped nuts and chocolate and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
In a saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter or margarine, brown sugar and golden syrup until the sugar has sort of dissolved into the butter.While the butter is still hot, pour it into the dry ingredients and mix together.When you do this the chocolate will start to melt.You may have to use your hands to bring everything together.
Divide the mixture into 18 balls.On a wooden board or a clean work surface, flatten each ball of dough with your fingers and using, a palette knife, transfer them to a baking sheet.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookies are firm and just starting to brown. Transfer them to wire rack to cool. While they cool, the cookies will continue to cook further and harden a little more.

Notes on the recipe
  1. I didn't use blanched almonds in this recipe. This is because leaving the skins on gives the cookie a much better flavour. You could use pretty much any kind of nuts you wanted or even a mixture of them. (I'm going to try them with peanuts next time)
  2. Butter or Margarine would both work fine here. I used margarine because it's the "healthier" choice.
  3. You can use chocolate chips instead of chopping up dark chocolate (to make life easier)

Once all the ingredients are mixed, the mixture should look something like this.

Divide the mixture into 18 balls flatten them out and bake!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

Intensely chocolate-y with a gorgeous, gooey molten centre. Absolutely foolproof!
(Just follow this step-by-step recipe)

There's nothing like chocolate to help you take a break! This is the story of how a five minute break from studying turned into three gorgeous chocolate lava cakes.

Normally when I take a break, I read through my steadily growing collection of recipe books or as I've mentioned before, take a look at food related posts on Google+. If I need a longer break I watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy(with which I am obsessed). These days I've been watching past and present episodes of The Great British Bake-Off (this year's series was epic!). But today found myself wandering into the kitchen......
(My head is always in the kitchen but these days I haven't been baking much because I need to study. So I've stuck to baking stuff in my head) 

I spent a lot of time last year trying to perfect this recipe. I eventually did it but this was before I got my camera, so I don't have any photos of my failed attempts to share with you.
This recipe is combination of several, from my recipe books and the internet. I was extra good today and took photos of all the steps. Don't worry about making this cake. It will turn out just fine if you follow the recipe exactly right.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake
(makes 3)

100 g (4 oz) Dark Chocolate
85 g ( 3 oz/ 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
30g (1/4 cups) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules (completely optional)

Grease 4 ramekins with butter and preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F.
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or in the microwave. The chocolate should be chopped up roughly or you could use dark chocolate chips to make life a lot easier.

If you're melting in the microwave, do it in 30 second increments, stirring in between. This is to make sure the chocolate does not get too hot and start to seize (this has happened to me a few times before). If the chocolate seizes, it will become grainy and you won't end up with a smooth and glossy chocolate and butter mixture, like this.

Stir in the coffee granules and salt into the chocolate while it's still hot. This will make sure the coffee dissolves properly.
Let the chocolate cool. Meanwhile, beat the sugar and eggs on high, in a stand mixer or with a handheld electric whisk, until they are thick and mousse-like. They should be fluffy and really pale and will have almost tripled in volume. This will take around 4 minutes ( I haven't really timed it).
Beating the eggs like this makes the cake really soft and also helps it rise a little.

Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the eggs and sugar mixture, with the mixer on a low speed.(The chocolate and butter should be completely cooled when you do this. DO NOT do it when the chocolate is still too warm), You can put it into the fridge to speed things up.Add in the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour over the mixture and gently fold in until just incorporated. Take care not to over-mix.
By this time the volume of the batter will have reduced a little and that's okay, but you should be careful so that it doesn't reduce too much.
The mixture will be slightly thick and glossy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins. Each will get about one cup of batter.
Bake the cakes for 12 to 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them.They should still be a little soft in the middle ( this means they are molten inside ) and a little firm around the edges.
Check them in 12 minutes. If they're not done, keep checking every 30 seconds. It's very easy to overcook them.

The longer the cake sits, it cooks more inside, so it's better to eat them while they are still a bit warm ( Not piping hot, obviously!). When the cakes have cooled slightly, run a knife around the edges. Then gently push the cake towards the middle.This is to release it from the bottom of the ramekin. Turn the ramekin over onto your serving plate and gently tap the bottom of the ramekin. The cake should fall out.

Give the cake a dusting of icing sugar. Eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or just on its own!

Notes on the recipe
  1. The instant coffee granules are for an added boost of flavour. You can leave them out, if you prefer.Make sure to add the vanilla and salt though, because they really enhance the flavour of the chocolate.
  2. A common problem with lava cakes is that they are difficult to turn out. I fact, I hardly ever do this. I eat them straight from the ramekin or I bake them in teacups which look very pretty.

These lava cakes are proof that a little extra effort goes a long way. Tell me what you think about this recipe. Is it worth a try?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Funfetti Mug Cake

A soft, light and fluffy cake loaded with sprinkles and topped with vanilla frosting, that takes only seconds to bake! The sprinkles give you an explosion of colour as you dig into it.

I found this recipe by accident. An extremely lucky accident, I should say.

This morning I was having trouble keeping awake. Studying chemistry naturally puts me to sleep so I had to find a way to wake myself up. So I turned to my treasure trove of food-related posts on Google+. I was instantly awake and alert and also filled with a craving for something baked. A cake perhaps.....Then the words 'mug cake' caught my eye.

I watched the video where Gemma Stafford makes 5 different kinds of mug cakes (you can find it here). It looked so quick and easy, I knew I had to make one right away!

I used a Vanilla Frosting but you could use pretty much any kind of frosting with this cake. It's up to you =)
Gemma uses a Bubblegum frosting with this cake that looks pretty good too! You can find the recipe in the link above.

Funfetti Mug Cake (Makes 2)

2 tbsp (2 oz/60g) unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp milk
4 tbsp (50g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

In a heat-proof bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Let it cool.
Whisk in the egg, then the sugar, milk and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Add the sprinkles.
Divide the batter between two mugs and microwave for 50 seconds. Be careful not to overcook them as they can go dry (One of mine did because I left it in for a minute)
Let the cakes completely cool before you frost them.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever.

I've found it. The perfect choc chip cookie. I have to thank Sally who is the creator of the most awesome blog, Sally's Baking Addiction. Her recipes are so innovative and her photos make them so much better.

These cookies really are soft and chewy and thick as she describes.She explains the whole process of making this cookie here, with the science behind each step which I found extremely helpful and I learnt a whole lot about my friend the Chocolate Chip Cookie and the love that goes into it. You don't need to use a mixer but that doesn't make them tiring to make. These cookies are way too easy to make and what's more, you really enjoy it.

Lately I've been making Nigella's Choc chip cookie recipe because it used melted butter which was much easier for me. I found that it made the cookies just a bit more chewy but they never came out soft, the way I like it. Sally's recipe uses cornstarch, it gives the cookies a very soft consistency. You also have to chill the dough for a good 2-3 hours if you want the perfect cookie. I got very impatient and almost put the dough into the freezer so it would chill faster. But I was afraid it would affect the texture of the cookie so I left it alone. Later I left a comment on Sally's blog asking her if it's okay to chill the dough in the freezer and she said this would create some frozen spots of dough with some chilled. So no, I am never going to chill any kind of cookie dough in the freezer. Sometimes being patient gives you the best results =)

Get the recipe for this awesome cookie HERE.

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