Fish birthday cake

So, I was flicking through the camera the other day and came across Mae’s 2nd birthday cake. If you are looking for a dead easy birthday cake to make for your child’s birthday, surely this is it!_MG_3317

Two round cakes, some clever chopping, some icing and smarties and voila – a fish birthday cake. I dread the day Mae asks for the dump truck or some equally difficult cake out of the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook!

I made a delicious chocolate mud cake and some butter icing for the top. The cake was moist, rich and delicious. Way too delicious for a two year old – at least that is what I told myself as I ate my second and third piece.

I have to admit, our attempt at bubbles (if you can’t tell, those random shapes near the fish’s mouth are supposed to be bubbles) and the stripes on the fish fin were pretty dodgy. But what two-year old complains about cake. It got a big tick from my nephew as well, and that is what matters after all…. the kids… right?!?!?

What you need…

  • Two round cakes (any variety will do)
  • Sharp knife
  • Double batch butter frosting
  • Food dye
  • Smarties

The how to…

  1. Cut one-third out of one of the round cakes and trim to a fin shape.
  2. Arrange the cakes with the cut third at the bottom of the whole round cake (making the fin) and the two-thirds of the remaining cake on the side of the whole round cake (making the tail)._MG_3315
  3. Mix up your butter frosting in a couple of colours and generously lather your cakes in the design you want.
  4. Add smarties for decoration and for the mouth.
  5. Maybe skip the bubbles!
  6. Try to keep the little hands away while you sing happy birthday and make sure to have seconds and thirds!IMG_3328
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Delicious carrot cake with cream cheese icing

Are you like me? Do you try to delude yourself into the idea that there are some cakes out there which are healthy for you because they are vegetable or fruit based?

This carrot cake from Curtis Stone is one of those recipes. It has 300g of carrot it in so it must be healthy right? Actually, I suspect that the cake itself isn’t too bad. It is the cream cheese icing that is the real problem here…

carrot cake!

Regardless of whether or not it is healthy, I think this is going to become one of my go-to recipes as it is easy to make and, as Mae would say, yummy. The only let down for me (and this is due to the fact I never leave enough time for anything) is that it takes quite a while to cook.

Also – make sure you make it when others will be around or you will have a hard time stopping yourself from munching through the whole cake!

What you need…

  • 300 g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 250 g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 100 g cream cheese, softened
  • 45 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

The how to…

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease a loaf tin.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until well combined.mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add to the egg mixture. Stir until well combined.
  4. Add the carrot and the walnuts and mix gently until just combined.add carrots and walnuts
  5. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 85 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean. Leave to cool completely. (Yes beer is required here… 85 mins is a long time to wait!)pour into baking tins
  6. Add all the icing ingredients to a medium sized bowl and then beat with electric beaters until smooth and creamy. Ice your cake and try to avoid licking the utensils clean (or is that just me ?! ).carrot cake
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Lemon slice

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Ah lemon slice, my old friend. My mother loves lemon anything and I think that she has passed that love onto me. When I was trying to decide what kind of sweet to take to my sister-in-law’s baby shower I just couldn’t go past lemon slice. I don’t think I have made one in about 20 years but it was just as easy as I remembered. I borrowed this recipe from Taste – but I think I could have almost done it from memory….

I added coconut and lemon rind to the top of the slice just because this is one of my favorite flavour combinations and I can never get enough. I think as Mae grows up, lemon slice may become a bit of a staple in our household.

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Lime and coconut cupcakes

Last week my colleague returned from maternity leave and I thought it was definitely time for a celebration. I wanted something easy to eat at work and so settled on cupcakes (no need for plates or spoons!).

cupcakes

I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked so I mixed and matched a little from the ever reliable Women’s Weekly Cookbook and from the back of the icing sugar packet!

The icing was sweet but I thought the cupcakes were pretty delicious!

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Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Cookbook cake

As a kid I was amazed by all these special cakes that other kids had at their parties. The dump truck, the cricket pitch, a doll with a cake skirt and so they went on. Little did I know they all came from the one book – the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Cookbook. The Vintage Edition.

When I was writing the kitchen domestic goddess list I decided that a cake from this cookbook definitely had to be on the list so I bought myself a copy of the recipe book. I intend to make it a bit of a tradition and when Mae is older she can choose the cake she wants and I will (attempt) to make it.

ladybird cake

However, I decided that my first ever birthday cake needed to be relatively easy so I chose the ladybird for Mae’s birthday in December. While my family played golf on Boxing Day, I made Mae’s cake (with some sage advice from my sister-in-law).

The recipe called for either a packet cake (which would have been wrong for a domestic goddess, right?) or a butter cake. However, I decided to make an orange butter cake and it was delicious.

There were a couple of rookie errors…

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Mince pies – the big finale

Christmas is coming way too fast don’t you think? I have this long list of things that I wanted to make before Christmas and while I am slowly working my way down the list, there still seems so many things to do… There are also quite a few I have done but haven’t got to blog about yet as its hard to find the time to sit down and type it all out. Yes, yes, First World Problems.

mince pies

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Last week I made the fruit mince for my mince pies. Boy did it smell like Christmas as I lifted the lid to stir it everyday. I seriously could have just put my spoon in and eaten it all up.

This week, I made the pastry and my first batch of mince pies. They were absolutely delicious, even if the pastry was a little on the crumbly side. I still have at least half of the fruit mince left so I will be baking another batch this weekend, just in time for Christmas.

In terms of how it went, I think I worked the pastry a little bit too much and that it is why it was a bit crumbly. Actually this was the advice from my brother. He claims he knows it from all of his baking experience but we know the truth – he heard it on MasterChef! So this weekend I will try not to play around with it so much. I don’t think it affects the taste, just the portability.

Below is the ingredients for the pastry. The how to section includes the information on making the pies using your prepared fruit mince (with thanks to Margaret Fulton, The Age and Pete’s mum).

What you need… for 24 small tarts

  • 160g softened butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a little milk for glazing tops of pies

The how to…

1) In a food processor, blend together the butter, sugar and essence.

2) Add in the flour and pulse until crumbly.

3) Pulse in the egg yolks.

add egg yolks

4) Tip the mixture out onto your bench and knead (very briefly) until it forms a dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

knead dough

5) Grease your patty tins (I used a muffin tin as I didn’t have a patty tin) and heat your oven to 180 degrees.

6) Quarter your pastry dough and roll it out until it is about 3 – 5mm thick. Cut out rounds in two sizes (a larger one for the base and a smaller one for the top).

cut rounds

7) Line the patty tin with the larger circles and then moisten the edges with a little milk.

8) Add a tablespoon of fruit mince to each circle. Place the smaller pastry circle on top and press down on the edges to seal. Make a small cross or slit in the top of each pie.

fruit mince

9) Brush the top of each mince pie with a little milk.

pies

10) Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale brown.

11) Dust with icing sugar and try your hardest not to eat the whole lot!

dust with icing sugarmince pies

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Mince pies – stage 1

I used to absolutely hate mince pies. I hated fruit cake. In fact I hated anything with dried fruit in it. How things have changed. I now love mince pies. So this year I decided to make my own. I asked Pete’s mum for her recipe as hers are absolutely delicious and last night I made the fruit mince for the pies (stage 1).

Okay, when I say “I”, I really mean we. The Kitchen God helped me by zesting the lemon and the orange, squeezing the lemon juice and adding the all important booze. As he later commented, “now when people tell me how delicious they are I can say I made them”!

So stage 1 is completed. The fruit mince is in the fridge and I will stir it everyday for a week. Next week, the pies will happen – home made pastry too…eeeekkkk.

PS. Big thanks to Margaret Fulton for the recipe – you can’t go wrong with Margaret on your side

What you need…

  • 170g raisins
  • 55g orange peel
  • 140g sultanas
  • 230g apples (peeled and cored)
  • 55g blanched almonds
  • 170g currants
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 85g melted butter
  • 45ml brandy

The how to…

1) Chop raisins, peel, half the sultanas, apples and almonds. (I put the almonds through the food processor which seemed to work pretty well – the dried fruit didn’t at all).

2) Add remaining sultanas and currants.

3) Stir in the brown sugar, zests, lemon juice, spices, butter and brandy and mix well.

4) Cover and put in the refrigerator. Stir it every day for a week (it can be kept a few weeks in the fridge).

 

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The never-fail Pavlova

Pavlovas are on my Kitchen Goddess hit list. I love a great pav, but frankly, the thought of trying to make one scared me. I have never been any good at separating eggs. It goes with the habit of being a bit slap dash in the kitchen. I always end up with a bit of yolk in the bowl and the whole thing is ruined.

So, don’t judge, but I remembered that I went to a Tupperware party a few years ago and got an egg separator thingy-ma-bob. Bingo, perfectly separated eggs. Next time, I will try doing it the old fashioned way but the recipe was called the NEVER-FAIL pavlova and I really didn’t want to be the first to fail at the never-fail pav. In the end, my pavlova ended up a bit flat. I made it a bit too big I think, or maybe I didn’t quite beat the eggs for long enough. I did tip it over my head (literally) and came out squeaky clean but Mae was crying and I was in a hurry to get it into the oven so I stopped at that point.

The pavlova got the thumbs up at lunch on Sunday – that is right – it didn’t fail. It was crunchy on the outside and soft, marshmallowy and squishy on the inside – perfect – if a little flat!

Anyway, I feel invigorated in the kitchen and I am now not going to run a mile every time I see a recipe that says “separate your eggs”. As Jamie Oliver would say – Happy Days.

What you need…

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1.5 cups caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • cream
  • berries
  • chocolate
  • or your topping of choice!

The how to…

1) Heat the oven to 130 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2) Add the egg whites, sugar, vinegar and cornflour to a bowl. Make sure it is very clean or you will have issues!

3) Add the boiling water and then beat with electric beaters until very stiff. You should be able to tip the bowl over your head and the mixture shouldn’t move. You may want to start by tipping the bowl on the side before you get to this point or it might get very messy!

4) Pile the mixture onto your baking tray in a circle shape that is about 18 cm across then level out the top with a spatula.

5) Bake the pavlova for 15 minutes at 130 degrees. Then turn the temperature down to 100 degrees and back for a further 45 minutes.

6) Let your pavlova base cool completely then top with cream, berries, chocolate, passionfruit, banana or whatever takes your fancy.

7) Eat and enjoy the sweet, sweet goodness (with some ice cream and wine in our case)!

Adapted from: Sally Wise, Out of the Bottle

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Ginger crunch slice

When I was little I always looked at the kids who had home made cakes, slices and cookies with envy. Sorry Mum! Mind you it was pretty easy to swap my chips or lamingtons for a piece of cake or slice. So it got me thinking, surely all domestic goddess’ can make a good slice (especially as the 1950s are back in fashion!).

As we are going camping this weekend I thought it was the perfect time to bake a slice to take with us (in a container with a tight fitting lid…). Back to Donna Hay, my old faithful, for a recipe. There were so many choices  but I decided that since there would be no kids wanting to eat the slice I could make something for a more adult palette – ginger crunch slice.

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Banana and coconut muffins

The day of the disaster with my fruit and nut bread (see here) I had friends coming over for a play date with our little babies and so I decided I had to whip something up quickly for morning tea that would be a little more edible! I looked at my kitchen goddess list and realised that muffins were still on there. A quick consultation with my latest Donna Hay magazine revealed an easy basic muffin recipe so all I had to do was add some yummy additions – banana and coconut in this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time I made muffins, a few months ago, they were like little dry rocks. These by contrast were heaps better, they must have been, they got demolished during the week… They were also very easy to make and so they will be a stand by for a quick and easy morning tea. The basics are nearly always in your cupboard and you can mix and match the additions – berries, banana, chocolate, coconut – depending on what you have on hand.

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