Friday, 30 December 2011

Been and gone

Christmas has been and gone! And now all I have left to show for it is a few extra kilograms around my waist and wonderful food memories.

This year, Brendyn and I spent Christmas down south with his family where my sister-in-law (who is a self acclaimed Perth based food critic and blogger, The Fat Cow, check out her blog when you get the chance) dished up an amazing breakfast and my mother-in-law cooked a mouth watering turducken (turkey stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a chicken). Four words: yum to the yumma.

We then celebrated Christmas with my side of the family a few days later. Every year my uncle's employer gives all their employees a turkey amongst other goodies and every year he kindly contributes it to our Christmas meal. Although I am not the only 'cook' in the family, I seem to have inherited the role of cooking the traditional Christmas meal for my family. I guess since we are all Asian (my family that is) our preference is Asian cuisine and this is reflected in our style of cooking. As I married a whitey, westerner, caucasian or whatever you like to call him, I seem to be best suited to cook a traditional "white" Christmas meal. Although my sister, Gina, also married a fellow whitey, her cooking abilities are some what limited. However, she is a fantastic cleaner though - sorry for selling you out Gina!

So my traditional "white" Christmas menu consisted of the following:
Entree - Bacon and cheese potato skins
Main - 4.5kg turkey with apricot and pistachio stuffing
         - Roasted pork belly and veal
         - Grilled mango chicken and couscous
         - Capsicum and cashew pasta salad
         - Simple humble garden salad
Dessert- I decided to take a risk and only make cupcakes as a plan B, if my risky plan A was a complete disaster. Plan A was a 6 tier zesty strawberries and cream almond sponge cake. I worked from a Gourmet Traveller recipe that I varied a great deal. The almond sponge cake was almost like a macroon inspired cake using the likes of almond mill, sugar and egg whites. The strawberries were soaked in lemon and lime juice for a few hours to create a zesty tang. And finally the cream was a combination of lemon, lime, cream cheese, sugar and whipped cream! It was delicious - although I do think the 6 tiers was a little excessive. I think I will vary this recipe into a cupcake recipe in the near future. So watch this space.


A few weeks ago Gina made bonbon Christmas crackers with Zac and Mini. Zac and Mini wrote their very own jokes. My favorite joke of the evening was Mini's joke and it went a little something like this:

Question - What do get when you cross a cup and a cake?

When the family heard this we all sighed and said the obvious "cupcake" but Mini sheepishly smiled and said no.

Answer - An Aunty Tina Cupcake.

When the answer was read out Mini just smiled with glee. A smile that nearly brought me to tears!


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Monday, 12 December 2011

Flourless cake (I know, crazy right?)

The internet never ceases to amaze me. The internet has truly transformed our lives. We have access to so much information at the touch of our finger tips. Not only that, but the internet connects people all over the world – family and friends can communicate on facebook and celebrities can communicate with their fans on twitter. It is seriously mind blowing! I mean two weeks I became friends with Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry on facebook. Yes, I am friends with the Glee fictional characters on facebook - I mean, seriously how cool is that?!

Whenever I am keen to try a new cupcake recipe the first thing I do is look up recipe ideas on google. I have a countless number of cupcake recipe books but nevertheless I turn to google before I even glance at a recipe book! And last week was no exception.  

Last weekend was the engagement party of a very close family friend. Sadly, Brendyn and I were not able to part take in the festivities as the party was hosted in Melbourne and we both were unable to take leave to make the trip. Although we could not make the grand event, our cake pops made the trip (courtesy of my in laws)! The bride-to-be requested that the cake pops be made of flourless chocolate cake. At that point in time, I had never ate flourless chocolate cake before, let alone bake it! But wanting to play it cool, I told the bride-to-be “Of course I could make flourless chocolate cake pops!”

I must admit, my first reaction to the notion of flourless chocolate cake was “WHAT THE?!” How can a cake be flourless and if it is flourless, it must taste disgusting. Given that this was the first time I was exposed to this crazy notion of flourless cake, the first thing I did was google “flourless chocolate cake recipe” and was presented with this link. So I gave this recipe a go and to my surprise this flourless chocolate cake recipe was delicious! I particularly enjoyed the texture of cake and its moistness. I think it was the almond mill that gave it the wonderful rough texture. I will definitely give this recipe a go again!

The cake was so moist that I did not even need to add frosting to the cake to make cake balls for the cake pops! All I had to do was crumble the cake, roll it into balls and stick a lolly pop stick into it. I then dipped the cake balls into white chocolate that was coloured yellow and green. The next day, I added the finishing touches to the cake pops – I drizzled white chocolate over the top of each cake pop. The engagement party invitation were yellow, green and white. So to keep to theme, the cake pops had to be the same colour…of course!


This recipe was seriously all things delicious. If you ever keen to give flourless chocolate cake a go, let it be this recipe. You will not regret it!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Recipe release: FML Vanilla Cupcakes

As you know, I love a good FML cupcake (Fluffy, Moist and Light). I especially love a good old fashion FML vanilla cupcake. I find that vanilla cupcakes are cupcakes in its rawest form. A vanilla cupcake is either good or bad - there is no in between. There is no hiding a bad vanilla cupcake, no matter how you dress it up with sprinkles or toppers. Although a bad vanilla cupcake is very disappointing, a good vanilla cupcake is overwhelming delicious! Nothing beats a yummy vanilla cupcake with a hot English breakfast cuppa! Ladies and gents, am I right or am I right?!

It has taken me a while, but I think I have discovered the perfect FML vanilla cupcake recipe. This recipe has yet to fail me, so in my books it's pretty much near perfect. The search for me is finally over and hopefully for you too. So have a go at this vanilla cupcake recipe and let me know what you think.


VANILLA CUPCAKES
Recipe makes approximately 16 normal sized cupcakes

Ingredients
120 grams of salted butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste (which is quite expensive, so for a cheaper alternative use vanilla extract)
150 grams of caster sugar
2 large eggs
185 grams of self-raising flour
1/2 cup of milk
16 normal sized cupcake patties

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (or 160 degrees Celsius if you are using a fan forced oven).
  2. Beat butter on full speed until it turns a pale shade of white.
  3. Add vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract to the butter and continue beating.
  4. Gradually add caster sugar to the mixture and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. This can take a while, so I tend to sift the flour a few times as I let the beater do its thing.
  5. Add one egg at a time into the mixture and beat well on full speed.
  6. Turn the mixer speed down and add half the flour and milk to the mixture. Beat until the flour and milk is combined. Add the remainder of the flour and milk to the mixture and beat until combined.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the patty pans. Fill the patty pans 3/4 of the way full if you would like the cupcakes to rise above the cupcake patties or 1/2 of the way full if you would like the cupcakes to rise to the rim of the cupcake patties.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven. Check that the cupcakes are cooked with a skewer.
  9. Take the cupcakes out of the oven and cool.

Baking tips I have learnt over time:
  • When it comes to baking, always buy full cream, full fat, full goodness ingredients! Otherwise, you may end up with bland tasting baked goods and let's face it, no one likes bland tasting bake goods, especially bland cupcakes!
  • You can never over beat the butter, sugar and eggs. However, once you have added the flour and milk to the mixture, you want to beat it as little as possible.
  • Under cook the cupcakes, i.e. when you use a skewer to check whether the cupcake bases are done, take the cupcakes out of the oven when the skewer comes out with a little bit of crumbs (basically not when it is entirely clean). Then leave the cupcakes in the tray for 10 minutes to cool. The cupcakes will continue to cook in the cases but will not cause it to dry out. Thereby creating and nurturing a perfect FML cupcake environment.

A cupcake is not a cupcake without icing. So one must always ice their cupcakes! Here is the recipe for a vanilla buttercream icing I tend to use. Once again, this recipe has yet to fail me.


VANILLA ICE-ICE-ICING

Ingredients
125 grams of salted butter
250 grams of pure icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk or cream
Pinch of salt

Method
  1. Beat butter on full speed until it turns a pale shade of white.
  2. Add the vanilla extract, milk or cream and salt to the butter and continue beating.
  3. Sift icing sugar thoroughly to ensure no lumps! No matter how slack you are feeling, you must sift the icing sugar thoroughly.
  4. Gradually add the icing sugar to the mixture and beat until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.

And that's all folks! Simple as one, two, three, A, B, C.  Like I said, if you give this recipe a go, let me know how you get on with it.

Here is a photo of some FML vanilla cupcakes I made for a 50th birthday.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

cupcake toppers in every store!

I just adore Christmas and everything it stands for - not just because I am a Christian but because I love the quality time spent with family over the Christmas period. Nothing beats over eating, getting your belly rubbed because you over ate and spending some quality time with family while eating left overs of course! I also appreciate the opportunity to show off my cupcaking skills! Because let's face it, I look for any excuse to make cupcakes.

This year is no different. Check out my Christmas topper collection for this year:







My favourite it the rudolph! Not only does he have a red nose, but it is a glittery red nose at that! On the scale of 1 to 10 for cutest, it definitely scores a 8.2 in my books!

I put these toppers to good use and made Zac's pre-primary class cupcakes for their end of year Christmas party. Check it out:


When I asked Zac what the boys in his class said about Aunty Tina's cupcakes, he said "Nothing because they were too busy enjoying your delicious cupcakes!" What a smart little boy ... he definitely knows all the right things to say.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The secret to making a cupcake bouquet

I have finally discovered the secret to making a cupcake bouquet! After two failed attempts, I have finally mastered the secret to a cupcake bouquet. There are two key things needed to successfully produce a cupcake bouquet these are:
  1. Making sure the icing is not too dense but also not to runny; and
  2. Ensure the foam sphere is not too angular, i.e. not too steep.
If the icing is too dense, than by the natural forces of gravity, the icing will fall off the cupcake. Therefore, the icing must be somewhat runny, so that it is not too dense but also sticks to the cupcake. Similarly, the foam sphere must not be too angular, otherwise once again, by the natural forces of gravity, the icing will fall off the cupcake.

To hold the cupcakes in place, I used tooth picks. I pierced the foam sphere with tooth picks and stuck the cupcakes on top. I filled the gaps between the cupcakes with scrunch up tissue paper. The final product looked a little something like this:



Last week, I made five cupcake bouquets - three for Zachy’s school teachers and two for my colleagues. I thought the hardest part of making a cupcake bouquet was making it! But it turns out I was wrong, so very wrong. The hardest part is actually transporting the cupcake bouquets. After many attempts, I have discovered that the best way to transport cupcake bouquets is on the floor of the passenger seat with beach towels wrapped around each bouquet. Also, I used a few boxes to wedge the cupcake bouquets together. Here is a photo of how I transported the cupcakes. Yes, I took a photo of the passenger seat while driving, well not exactly, I was at a red light – so it does not count!


So did the cupcake bouquets make the trip? They certainly did. The beach towels and boxes did the trick.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Bro, bro, bro, bro ... bro ...

I  think it is safe to say that I am my brother’s number one fan! Afterall, he is a my bro. I think my family (including my brother) find it very odd how much I idolise him. There is a 12 year age gap between us, so he is more like a third parent to me. He did alot for my sister and I when we were growing up and still continues to look out for us – he is the bestest!

It was his birthday yesterday and of course I volunteered to make cupcakes! He is not very into sweets or desserts, so I made carrot cake cupcakes and cream cheese frosting! I used an online recipe for the carrot cake cupcakes but I free styled the cream cheese frosting. The cake itself was alright but the cream cheese frosting was YUM to the YUMMA! My sister Gina described the cream cheese frosting as “Delicious – I could swim in it!” In all honesty, the frosting was quite spectacular! It really isn’t fair that I talk up this cream cheese frosting and not share the recipe with you, so here it is:

Ingredients
250 grams of spreadable cream cheese
140 grams of sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method
Beat all the ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

Simple. Easy. Delicious!

As you know, cupcakes are nothing without toppers! So I also made toppers for the occasion.  My brother grew up watching Astro Boy and absolutely loved the cartoon show. He also kind of looks like Astro Boy, being an Asian with spikey hair and all! So I made a few Astro Boy fondant toppers to put on top of the carrot cake cupcakes.