Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Raspberry Passionfruit Cupcakes

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived in a house that had a massive backyard (well it seemed that way at the time). In that backyard my parents took great delight in planting things that would yield food for us to eat. We had banana trees, which the cat enjoyed using as his personal scratching post. We grew strawberries and green beans in the veggie patch, which the dog enjoyed eating straight off the stalks. We had a peach tree, which never produced a peach worth eating. But we did have a lemon tree that fruited magnificently (which Mum frequently made lemon meringue pie from – a story for another day) and a passionfruit vine, which I regarded as my personal fruit supply.

I would watch with anticipation as the passionfruit flowers bloomed and bees buzzed around them, working their magic. Soon after, green fruit would bud in the middle of the flowers and I would conduct daily checks to monitor their progress as they fattened and ripened. The second the passionfruit turned purple, I’d pluck them, bite off their tops and scoop out the seeds and pulp with my tongue – then throw the empty skins on our compost heap.

As an adult, I have lamented the limit city living places on childhood pleasures such as these. But at last I’ve taken up residence in a house where suddenly a passionfruit vine is possible! This spring I’m putting up a trellis around a dangerous barbed wire fence designed to stop idiot tenants walking on the garage roof, and I’m planning on planting passionfruit vines at its base. I cannot wait to show my baby son the magic of growing our own fruit. Nor can I wait to taste the tangy sweetness of freshly picked passionfruit pulp on my tongue!

Raspberry Cupcake
250g salt reduced butter, cubed
2 cups caster sugar
1 tblsp vanilla essence
3 cups self raising flour
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking powder
350g frozen raspberries

Passionfruit Butter Cream
1.25kg pure icing sugar
175g salt reduced butter, cubed
120ml full cream milk
Pulp of 3 fresh passionfruit
Mauve Corella food colouring (or purple or even dark pink)
Silver cachous

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius (160 for fan faust).
2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a large mixer. Mix on low speed until combined.
3. Add the flour, eggs and buttermilk, then mix on low speed to combine. Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl sides down thoroughly to incorporate any of the butter and sugar mixture stuck to the sides. Add the baking powder, then start the mixer again, beating on high speed for 3 minutes.
4. Gently fold the frozen raspberries though the batter – do not over mix or the raspberries will end up mashed and the batter stained!
5. Line two 12-hole muffin trays with white cupcake papers and drop spoonfuls of the mix into each, ensuring the raspberries are even distributed. Fill the cups to two-thirds full for a good sized cupcake.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cake tops are golden brown and the cake is firm to the touch. Allow to cool on a wire rack before icing.
7. Combine the icing sugar, butter and milk in the large bowl of a mixer. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase speed to high, beating until all ingredients are well combined (about 2 minutes). Mixture will be quite stiff at this point.
8. Stop the mixer and add the passionfruit pulp. Mix on slowest speed to incorporate through the icing – if it appears a little wet, add a dessert spoon of extra icing sugar one at a time to bring it back to a thick spread consistency.
9. Set three or four heaped dessert spoonfuls of passionfruit butter cream aside. Spoon the remainder into a piping bag fitted with a round piping tube. Pipe icing anti-clockwise around the top of each cake in a beehive shape.
10. Add three to five drops of mauve food colouring to the remaining icing. Mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star tube. Pipe star shapes of mauve icing on the peak of the passionfruit icing. Top with a single silver cachous in the middle of the star.
11. This recipe makes at least 24 cupcakes. They’ll keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big cakes are fun!

More and more we’ve found ourselves turning to big cakes for fun, and with our son’s first birthday approaching, Mark and I decided to put our imagination to the test.

It started back in March when our friend Noah turned one. We begged his Mum to let us make him a jungle cake – a four tier high chocolate cake with fondant shaped like a canopy of leaves on top, sugar tree trunks up the side and animals looking out through the tree branches. It was such an easy and fun cake to make, we knew immediately we could adapt the design to lots of different ideas.

We had a chance to repeat the jungle cake shortly after for a friend’s fifth birthday – albeit it without dairy. We were delighted to find replacing the butter in both the cake and icing had no impact on flavour or shape-ability. We swapped out the fondant tree tops for a piped royal icing instead and voila, our cake began to evolve.

For our boy’s birthday, we knew we wanted an under water theme. I envisaged a blue cake with mottled blue and white icing on top to emulate waves, a wrap around the bottom to indicate sand, and a host of sea creatures plastered round the sides. It was so much fun shaping starfish and an octopus out of fondant. We used fish lollies for extra fun, and shaped dolphins out of pastilage for the top.

It was so much fun making a cake like this, I’ve decided to hold a “Build A Birthday Cake” class next year. It would be a four week class – three to make the various decorations, and a final one on one tutorial and people’s home to help them build their final cake. Stay tuned for more info further down the track!

Update: we finally had a chance to try this design out on what we've dubbed the Fairies of the Forest cake. A friend's little girl was celebrating her birthday and christening on the same day. Her grandmother was baking the birthday cake so we were charged with creating a christening cake big enough to feed 80 people! Enter the Fairies in the Forest, complete with toadstools, dragonflies and a multitude of butterflies!

Continuing on with the stacked cake theme, we were lucky in December to land an order for a Batman cake. Since my husband is a mad Batman fan, he had a personal stake in the outcome of this cake design. We put our heads together and came up with this cake for a little boy's fifth birthday celebration:

We also made a bunch of mini cupcakes for him to share with his friends at school. Apparently he found it hard to give the Batman rings to his friends - since it was his birthday, he thought they should all be his!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Cupcake classes at last!

I've been talking about it for years and finally it's happened - Kitchen Alchemy's first cupcake classes took place in June this year. With the help of a very organised friend, 11 ladies attended at classes presented by yours truly to learn how to decorate cupcakes.

Because time was of the essence, no baking was included. However, cupcake recipes were provided for vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes and raspberry almond gluten free cupcakes. Each recipe was extensively explained to ensure when attendees tried their hand at baking at home, they had every chance of success.

Since many in the class were Mums whose kids were approaching a birthday, two of the designs demonstrated were kids cupcakes. A tiger in the grass for boys, and a butterfly design for girls. But I also demonstrated how to decorate my double dutch chocolate cupcake, now that chocolate snaps are available again. And we finished off with a simple white glaze on the gluten free cake, dcorated with silver cachous and almond flakes.

It was a fun night for me - imagine having 11 people sitting around PAYING to hear me talk about cupcakes for two and a half hours. I'll post here again soon when I know another class is going to be scheduled.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inca Kola

There would be few people in Western civilisation who haven't heard of the cola juggernaut, Coke. But how many of us have ever heard of Inca Kola?

My husband and I stopped at the markets in Bondi Junction this morning to show off our baby son to some stallholder friends who sell South American food. Displayed amongst the cans of Coke on their counter was a gold can labelled "Inca Kola". I asked what it was and my husband spouted some wise crack that's not worth repeating here. I can't resist trying something curious and new, so I laid out $2.50 for a can of Inca Gold and cracked it open.

I peered in through the hole in the top of the can and what do you know - liquid gold in a can! I took an eager sip and was surprised to find that Inca Gold tastes a lot like creaming soda. It is neither black, nor has that acidic, tooth decaying, gut destroying quality of other colas we all know and drink from time to time.

I looked Inca Gold up on Wikipedia and discovered it was in full swing production in Peru by 1935, and is the most popular soda drink in South America. While the producer is part owned by the Coca Cola company, Inca Gold is the only drink to ever out sell Coke in a given market. Apparently Coke has thrown buckets of marketing dollars at South America to correct this anomally, to no avail.

In Sydney, you can buy Inca Gold from Tony and Elizabeth's Chorizo stand at Bondi Junction Markets, Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, on Thursdays, Friday and Saturday. It's worth a trip there just to taste this very unique drink.

Raspberry Sauce

It's not often that I will plug someone's product on this blog. But when you find something really good, I don't think I should hold back.

While shopping at Campbell's Cash & Carry this week, I checked the freezer for their bulk buy cakes and found something new - Chef's Pride Raspberry Dessert Sauce. Sold frozen in a 500ml squeezy bottle, you simply snip the top of the squeezy tube and squeeze onto what ever you like.

I immediately saw applications for my husband - he continues to be obsessed with raspberries and yoghurt. Since the cost of the raspberry sauce is comparative to a 500g box of frozedn raspberries, I thought we'd give the raspberry sauce a try.

I fully expected, since it is labelled as a dessert sauce, that the tart raspberry flavour would have been destroyed with sugar. Not the case! This little beauty couldn't have tasted better if I had made raspberry coulis myself. I tried squeezing it around a plate with a chocolate cupcake on it - the look is stunning (and of course the raspberry flavour combined with Dutch Chocolate is always exquisite).

Good one Chef's Pride - I'm impressed!