Raspberry almond cake with mascarpone cream icing

I hate missing out on a party. The idea that all the people I know, or, a whole lot of cool people I don’t know, are having fun somewhere without me drives me batty.

I especially like birthday parties because it combines presents, food and cake. Total win-win.

I like throwing parties too. Especially ones where I make my guests dress up. Then I get to feed them all heaps of colourful punch and food. My favourite trick is to put party food in the oven, then attach the timer to a merry guest, and tell them to come and find me when they start beeping. Simple things…

It’s my friend’s Derek’s 30th and I can’t go to his party.

Derek’s raspberry and almond birthday cake

You see his party is in Melbourne, which I call home. (Quiet in the cheap seats, Perth, it’s not me, it’s you.) But I am currently on an extended holiday – it’s a tough life – and am living and working in London.

So I can’t go.

So this lovely cake, full of raspberries, almond meal and topped with rich mascarpone cream icing, is to say happy birthday. As I am a good friend, I have made you this cake Derek, and eaten it on your behalf. Happy Birthday!

I halved the below recipe, as even sharing it out with the girls at work and an Irish house guest, it was a lot. But don’t worry, I finished if off! No cake goes to waste in my house. The original recipe comes from my friend Felicity, so this was a team effort.

The raspberries in London at the moment are unbelievably lovely, so I used fresh ones. But frozen works just as well with these things.

The cake is rather heavy so you only need to eat a little, but the good thing is it lasts in the fridge for days so you can savour some later.

Preparation time: 20 minutes to prepare
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: Serves 10 or more

Ingredients
250 grams butter, softened
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
6 eggs
1 cup (150g) plain flour
½ cup (75g) self raising flour
1 cup (110g) hazelnut meal
2/3 cup (160g) sour cream
300 grams fresh or frozen raspberries
fresh raspberries, extra, for serving

Note: If using frozen raspberries, don’t thaw them; frozen berries are less likely to ‘bleed’ into the cake mixture.

Mascarpone cream icing
1 cup (250g) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (80g) icing sugar
2 tablespoons Frangelico (any nut flavoured liquor would work, or maybe just a tablespoon of vanilla essence if it is what you have)
½ cup (120g) sour cream
½ cup slivered almonds, put in the oven for 10 minutes to brown

Note: I upped the amount of icing sugar from the original recipe (1/4 of a cup to 1/2 a cup as above) as it just seemed too runny. Friends have also substituted this icing with lemon buttercream icing with great success too.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a deep 22cm-round cake pan; line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar in medium bowl with an electric mixer (or, as I did, go crazy with a wooden spoon because I refuse to buy an electric beater while living away from home) until light and fluffy; add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined between additions. (The mixture will curdle at this stage, but will come together later.)
  3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, stir in sifted flours, almond meal and sour cream. Fold in raspberries and spread mixture into pan.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.

Mascarpone cream

  1. Combine mascarpone, icing sugar, liqueur and sour cream in a medium bowl. Stir until smooth; stir in nuts.
  2. Place cold cake on a serving plate.
  3. Spread cake all over with mascarpone cream. Top and serve with extra fresh raspberries, if desired.

Healthy? Raspberries are healthy? It’s a cake, just enjoy.

Gluten free? I’m pretty confident that switching out the self-raising flour for GF flour would work well. Especially considering how moist it is and all the eggs.

Storage: Icing the night before works well. Store covered, in refrigerator. Unfrosted cake can be frozen for up to 3 months.

This recipe is adapted from a Raspberry hazelnut cake from Australian Woman’s Weekly. I like almonds better.

Banana and chocolate chip muffins (how to make muffin)

It’s time for a how-to post, meet my test subject, banana and chocolate chip muffins!

I’ve had a bit of feedback that ‘fold in all other ingredients’ isn’t that helpful if you haven’t been cooking much. So it’s time for a step-by-step guide. I’m going to use banana and chocolate chip muffins as the example because it’s a pretty normal recipe with the usual mix-dry-ingredients-add-wet-and-fold instructions.

Clever muffin, eh?

I think I take for granted cooking basics. I was lucky, in my house while I was a young’n’ cooking, I could always ask my mum for clarification.

10 year old me: Hey mum, the recipe says cream the butter and sugar together*, what does that mean?
Mum: Oh, no one actually does that darling. Just melt the butter and put it straight in.

Priceless motherly advice. Especially as her ‘it’ll be fine’ philosophy taught me not to be daunted by fancy-pants recipes. Not that I tend to make too many of them anyway.

*please note that although sometimes creaming butter and sugar is a grand old waste of time, for some recipes, like chocolate chip cookies, it makes them fluffier and is worth the effort. Just soften the butter on defrost in the microwave (but don’t let it melt!) and use electric beaters to beat the sugar and butter together until it’s pale in colour and fluffy, or work your arm muscles and do it yourself with a wooden spoon. Both will work.

This post will soon be followed by a basic muffin recipe you can adapt. But for now, let’s talk banana and chocolate chip.

Ingredients
Dry
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
Wet
60 grams butter, melted
2/3 cups mashed banana (about 2 medium/small bananas)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips (about 100 grams)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. In other words, turn the oven on when you start preparing your muffins.
  2. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin – either spray the tin with oil spray, or rub paper towel in some margarine or butter and grease each muffin cup. If using patty pans, spray lightly with olive oil.
  3. Place flour and caster sugar (your dry ingredients) in a bowl and mix together. Form a bit of a well in the middle.
  4. In a medium bowl or jug, mix up all your wet ingredients. If there is butter, melt it. Hold off on the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into the well you have just formed.

Add wet to dry

Then add your chocolate chips, make sure you eat a couple to check they’re OK.

Then, using a large wooden spoon, in a single action, run the spoon around the side, then along the base of the bowl. Now fold the mixture over onto itself.

Start at the side, run along the base, and over the top.

The point of this is to combine the ingredients without knocking the air out of it. Air keeps it fluffy. Fold until the ingredients are JUST combined. It’s OK if there is still a bit of flour not mixed through. Muffins are supposed to be rough, and if you over mix, they get chewy and tough. Just give it a go, but if you want further instructions, then you can always watch an American girl called Casey on You Tube stirring some egg whites into a chocolatey thingy to get the technique down.

…just a little flour left showing, so two more folds ’till done.

Spoon your mixture in to your prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes, turning the tin around half way through the cooking time so they cook evenly. I should add here that this recipe makes about 12 small muffins, or 10 better sized ones.

Muffins are done when either one, or all of these things apply:
1. you give it a poke with your finger and it bounces back instead of indents
2. it is golden on top
3. you stick a skewer or sharp knife in it and it comes back clean. By clean, it means no raw looking dough. A bit of melted chocolate chip doesn’t apply.

As a general rule, if you think muffins are done, give them another 2-5 minutes. Anywhere before burning point is OK in my books. Note that with biscuits, the opposite applies, if you think they need two more minutes, pull them out there and then. Over cooked biscuits are only good for lobbying at siblings, whereas soft chewy biscuits are an art form.

Using tongs, remove the muffins from your pan and move to a rack to cool. This is important otherwise the muffins steam themselves in their little cups and go soggy. If you haven’t used patty pans and they’re a bit stuck, try giving the muffins a gentle twist, then use a knife to leverage one side out before grabbing it with your tongs.

Allow muffins to cool completely before putting in an airtight container, or yet again, they’ll steam themselves straight to soggy-ville.

Eat them!

These muffins are especially fun served sliced, with banana and whipped cream inside. Faaancy.

Healthy? 185 calories if you make 12

Gluten free: I’ve used GF flour and these work well, though slightly crumbly. Could do with an extra egg white if converting.

Storage: In an airtight container, or freeze well.

Megan’s Tomato, cheese and herb muffins

Savoury muffins are an awesome thing. Especially heated up a little, when the cheese melts and all the herbs get aromatic. Mmmm.

A couple of calm tomato, cheese and herb muffins

I didn’t make these muffins. I made apple and white chocolate chip cookies. And I am so mad, they’re not a cookie, they’re like a mini-cake thing. They’re all soft and squishy.

I actually yelled at my cookbook. It was new, and the first thing I’d tried, and now we’re not talking.

As a lovely coincidence Megan the Vegeterian, who you may remember from such posts as Moroccan lentil soup, emailed me this recipe and some pics. Which means I can let go of the bad cookie incident and instead drink wine and eat potato chips while writing up this blog. Neat, huh?

Take it away Megan!…

This muffin recipe comes via The Weekly Times from Joanne Heard in Cobrico. Yes, I am that person, who cuts out the recipes from the Tomato, cheese and herb muffinsnewspaper and cooks them,

Cobrico is a small town in Western Victoria. There are plenty of cows and dairies in the region, which may account for the reasonably large amount of cheese in this recipe.

Ingredients
2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
50 grams butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups milk
50 grams coarsely grated parmesan cheese
50 grams cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped semi-sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or dried mixed herbs

Method

  1. Prepare a 12-pan muffin tray.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add cheese and rosemary and then mix.
  3. In a second bowl, mix milk, egg, butter, tomatoes and pesto.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mix until just combined.
  5. Fill greased muffin pans to three-quarters. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins spring back when lightly touched.

Healthy? Somewhere between Homer Simpson and ‘are you kidding me?’

Gluten free? Muffins with cheese usually translate to GF well if you swap out the plan flour for a GF substitute, as the cheese is an excellent binding agent. But check your pesto, baking powder and any other additives to packaged goods as you usually would.

Storage: In an airtight container. Or in your stomach. They also freeze really well. I find freezing them means I don’t eat 12 muffins in two days.

Mum’s ANZAC biscuits

Here are three things you NEED to know about ANZAC biscuits.

1. The typical ANZAC (that’s the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) biscuit recipe was created during WW1 so wives could send these biscuits to their soldier husbands abroad. The lack of eggs means they keep well during transport.

rolled into balls, waiting patiently to be cooked

2. The term ANZAC is protected under Australian law (stick with me here, this gets interesting) and shouldn’t be used without permission from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs… There is an exemption granted for ANZAC Biscuits, as long as they remain true to the original recipe and are referred to and sold as ANZAC Biscuits and never as cookies.

Yep. They take this stuff really seriously. They even made Subway drop them from the menu for not making them to the original formula – you can read about it in full here.

3. They are deliciously, lovely, chewy goodness.

Now, this recipe fits the bill of the traditional ANZAC biscuit – except for the sultanas. So in risking having the Department of Veterans Affairs come down on me, please understand it’s an optional, voluntary extra. My mum used to do it, and I think it’s a welcome addition to the traditional biscuit. Try it. I dare you.

P.S. As it’s my mum’s recipe and I’m just the messenger shall we all agree she is legally responsible? Good. I feel better now.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
½ cup sultanas
125 grams butter
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
1 teaspoon of bi-carb soda
2 tablespoons of boiling water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Put the oats, flour, sugar, coconut and sultanas in a large bowl, mix.
  2. Pop the kettle on. Then put butter and golden syrup in a saucepan and get it to a high simmer (almost boiling). The butter should be completely dissolved
  3. Put two tablespoons of boiling water in a mug, dump in your teaspoon of bi-carb, give it a quick stir, then pour it into the hot butter mixture. As the whole thing starts to froth up, as it will rather quickly, remove from heat and pour the saucepan full of frothing liquid into the bowl with the dry mixture. It’s pretty cool. I even took a picture. Simple things…
  4. Then eat the cookie dough. No, no, that’s not right.
  5. Make into balls, press down a little. Leave room for them to spread, and bake each tray for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on tray for 5 minutes then move on to wire rack. Makes 30.
pouring butter mixture into bowl

low and behold the power of bi-carb soda!

Healthy? 100-ish calories an ANZAC biscuit

Gluten free: I’ve made them with GF flour mix and it worked fine.

Storage: In an airtight container.

Warning: The type of coconut you buy in American supermarkets is not desiccated coconut. American supermarket coconut is very moist, dessicated is dried (which is what you get in Australia and the UK). While in the US I made these with the moist version of coconut and the biscuits still worked, but spread a heap and are super chewy. At least that’s what happened to me. They’re not really ANZAC biscuits anymore in the true sense. American’s can buy dessicated coconut from healthfood stores, or dry coconut via this method.

References:
1. My mum
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANZAC_biscuit

Healthy vegetable bake

I went ahead and made you all a vegetable bake for dinner. But then I got real hungry so had to eat it. It was so good. The best vegetable bake ever. You would have loved it. I know how you love vegetable bake. You might have to make you own dinner now. Sorry. My bad.

You see, I saw all these lovely vegetables sitting in my fridge draw.

And I thought, we should do this! We should eat more vegetables!

But then I thought, bacon is tasty, we should put that in too.

So I did. And then I remembered that binding ingredients were probably necessary lest we just sit down to bacon and grated veggies. So I found some good healthy binding things. And now you should make it too.

And you know what? It’s healthy! Double bonus.

Preparation time: 20 minutes preparation, 50 minutes in the oven.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

No Kevin Bacons were harmed in the making of this vegie bake.

4 rashes of shortcut rindless bacon, diced
½ onion, diced
1 ½ cups grated zucchinis (courgettes) – about 2 medium zucchinis
1 cup grated carrot – about 1 large carrot
200 gram tin of whole corn kernels, drained
¾ cup of lite cheese, grated (80 grams)
1 cup flour/rice flour/gluten-free bread crumbed
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs lightly beaten
¼ cup skim milk
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin/loaf tin/whatever you’ve got, or line with grease proof paper.
  2. Fry the bacon and onion in a saucepan until bacon is cooked to your liking (I like mine very crispy).
  3. Combine all other ingredients together in a large bowl, and add bacon and onion.
  4. Pour into prepared tin. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean, is golden on top and bounces back to touch. Cut and serve! Nice with a bean salad. Lovely cold as a picnic snack too.

Healthy? Look at all those lovely vegetables! It’s about 320 calories a serve. 250 without the bacon (booo).

Gluten free? This is very adaptable. I’ve made this with gluten free flour, crumbed up gluten free bread (while travelling and short on supplies) and wholemeal flour. All work well.

Storage: I usually eat this over two nights, it keeps well overnight, and is great to make the night before a picnic too. I’ve never frozen it, let me know how it goes if you do.

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