It’s nearly that time of year again. Now, Cam and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s, especially because our anniversary is 2 days later. But I do love the excuse to bake to a theme. Last year I made a set of cookie embossers in the style of Love Hearts, known elsewhere as Sweet Hearts or Conversation Hearts. The embossers are still available for purchase here.
Last year I made cookies with them. This year I decided to switch it up by using them to make little cupcake toppers instead!
[PHOTOS AND RECIPE AFTER THE JUMP]
When you bake as much as I do, you have regular recipes you whip out for special occasions. Of course, I always ask for preferences among the group, but the answer is almost always ‘chocolate’. Chocolate is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, but there’s chocolate cakes and then there’s this. This is the fudgiest, richest mudcake I’ve ever had. It’s the kind of mudcake that makes me disappointed in other mudcakes. So when an occasion demands chocolate, oh boy do we bring the chocolate.
The best part is this cake is flourless, or gluten free. The cake itself is dairy free. This time I made a chocolate ganache for the top, but I’ve definitely used dairy free fudge recipes for the icing instead. I’ve even served it with no icing at all, cause this cake is delicious enough that it doesn’t need it. That makes it super versatile for occasions where you might need to cater for a range of dietary requirements.
This is a little recipe I turn to often when I’m looking for a dessert everyone can eat. I’ve shared a similar mousse before that I used in this Easter Cake, but this is a little version without the setting agent you can whip up in a hurry. Especially if you are serving this to someone who is vegetarian and don’t have the time to be trying to find agar-agar.
Now, while this recipe is great for handling dietary requirements, its also a great recipe if you’re looking for a healthier alternative. It is texturally different from standard chocolate mousse; without the whipped egg whites its going to be denser. But avocado does a wonderful job of bringing that light, creamy texture to the mousse. And no, it doesn’t taste like avocado!
This next cake was a small cake order I received. Well, small was the operative word until a last minute change of heart moved it closer into regular cake territory. This customer had recently moved to Aus with her husband and was celebrating her husbands birthday for the first time here together. She said she wanted something special, a homemade ‘Aussie’ cake.
We went over a few ideas and settled on a simple naked sponge with a smattering of chocolate ganache.
“Don’t go to too much trouble.” These were the instructions handed to me when it came time to make a Father’s Day cake. Dark chocolate, light, fruity, and not too much trouble. I’ve never liked easy. But my favourite thing about mousse cakes is that they look a lot more complex than the actually are. The same can be said for mirror glaze. Most of this cake just involves pouring things on other things, but it looks like so much more than that.
The renovations at my rental are finally coming toward an end. I’ve spent much of it being without a kitchen or a computer or much of any of my belongings really. Half of my house is still in boxes, and with full time work spare time is definitely at a minimum. Which has meant I’ve been doing little to no cooking most nights, let alone anything fancy. I’ve definitely been missing it, and missing having usable space. But we’re slowly reclaiming the house and getting everything into some semblance of order. I have some usable spaces now, and no more yellow benches and green walls — massive yay! I’m definitely going to try to spend more time in my [new — more yay!] kitchen and in turn make more time for sharing it with you guys.
Speaking of work, though, over the last few months we’ve had a number of people being shifted to new locations or moving on to other things. We’ve celebrated last days with sadness and, of course, with cake. I’m fairly sure I’m getting a ‘the cake lady’ reputation now. A few weeks ago I made a ferrero rocher cake and had a pile of biscuit crumbs and hazelnuts that needed to be used up. The easiest thing to use a pile of biscuit crumbs on is definitely cheesecake (if not truffles), and the hazelnut definitely leant itself to another favourite: nutella.
The fact that it’s endlessly simple definitely helped in the decision making process. You don’t even need to bother with gelatine for this one!
Christmas baking is definitely my favourite kind of baking. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m a Christmas-a-holic (though it undoubtedly fuels the fire). There’s just something about the whimsical nature of treats, and the sheer quantity of excuses to create them that’s so exciting. The recipients always seem that little bit extra excited to eat the treats when they’re Christmas-themed, too.
I’m kicking it off early this year by bringing you a how to for one of the first cakes I did. Over the last year I’ve received a number of requests for a tutorial on it, so I decided to make a little version of this old thing to show you how it’s done (also wow, how horrible were my fondant skills back then?) Here’s the mini version for the tute:
It’s all achieved by carving, so you can use any cake recipe and make it as big or small as you like. I’ve used two of my favourite mud cake recipes to achieve this, but do feel free to use your own if you prefer. Here’s how to do it:
A few weeks ago my dad turned 60. Many would view this as an excuse to party and celebrate, but my dad loathes being the centre of attention. Knowing he would hate a surprise party, we decided to opt for a simpler affair and took him out to lunch instead. Behind his thinly veiled protests that he didn’t want to do anything lay an actual excitement at getting to spend time out with his immediate family. If there was any doubt as to his desire to mark the occasion, his incessant talking since about how much he enjoyed it enough to put that to rest.
Amidst all his protestations, I did manage to get him to decide on a cake. In fact, the cake was the one thing he agreed to with no hesitation. His cake choices are usually fairly predictable: either sponge or mudcake, but mostly mudcake. I couldn’t even feign surprise then when he asked for a mudcake.
The recipe I used is one I reserve for special occasions as it’s a comparatively expensive cake to make. I made it for an order once: the 35cm version has a whopping 2 and a half kilos of chocolate in it. So when I say this cake is chocolate heavy, I really mean it. But the result is completely worth it.
Every so often I’ll invite Cameron’s parents over to my place for dinner, wherein I unleash a three coarse feat upon them. Aside from just enjoying their company, it’s also a little way of saying thanks for everything they do for me in the best way I know how. I also just love cooking for Cam’s immediate family in general because they love such a wide variety of cuisine and will try just about everything, quite unlike my family. This time we moved the dinner to lunch time, as it’s the middle of winter here and the long drive between my place and theirs is less appealing of a night time. So when it came to planning the dessert portion, I started hunting for something that would feel more on the refreshing side. Dessert-induced food comas are just less fun at lunch time.
I immediately decided on something citrus-ey. The rest of the dessert followed from there and focussed largely on taking quite sweet things and balancing them to make them feel much less so.
A few weeks ago I was chatting to my sister about cake, as we do. We were discussing previous cake orders and I mentioned how every toddlers birthday cake I’ve been commissioned to do was for a little boy. I kinda missed pink. Pink and frills and all those other things customers will say they absolutely do not want on a cake for a boy. Not half an hour later, my cousin messaged me asking if I could make a cake that ticked all those boxes.
Her niece’s birthday was approaching and she wanted something Minnie Mouse. I was so excited! These are the kinds of cakes I can’t make for customers because of copyright law, so when someone in the family wants one we can go nuts with ideas.