Giant Cookie Cake

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For my birthday this year, I decided to bake something a little different. As much as I have enjoyed making (and eating!) my layered drip cakes (here and here) over the last couple of years, this year I was after something simpler. Enter the cookie cake.

I have admired the brightly coloured array of delicious looking cookie cakes on Sally’s Baking Addiction (my baking porn website of choice) for years, and finally got around to making it. Boy, am I glad I did! As promised, this ‘cake’ is so quick and simple to make and produces a deliciously chewy and flavoursome giant cookie. The recipe is also very easy to adapt – you could use M&Ms, or mix up the choc chips depending on your taste.

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Ingredients (serves 12-14)
170g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + an extra yolk
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
Chocolate frosting for topping (optional)

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Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Spray a 23cm (9-inch) pie dish or cake pan thoroughly with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for about a minute or until combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla on until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours and baking powder. On a low speed, gradually mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Add in 1¼ cups chocolate chips and mix for until evenly dispersed.

Gently press the cookie dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown (use a skewer in the centre to check it’s cooked). Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, use a sharp knife or metal spatula to loosen the sides of the cookie cake from the pan and transfer to a cake stand or serving plate.

Decorate as desired (I made a quick chocolate buttercream using butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder and piped it on using my Wilton 1M tip), top with the remaining chocolate chips and serve with vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from ‘Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake’ on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Silky Chocolate Mousse

This is one of my favourite desserts because it takes so little effort and you can make it well ahead of time – the perfect set and forget dinner party dessert. I like a hint of Bailey’s Irish Cream in my mousse, but this can be omitted if you’re serving it to children or swapped for any other liqueur of your choice – creme de menthe for a choc-mint or Cointreau for a choc-orange mousse would both work well.

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Ingredients (serves 8)
300g good quality dark chocolate
50g butter
3 eggs, separated
1-2 tblspns Bailey’s Irish Cream (optional)
¼ cup caster sugar
300ml thickened cream

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Method
Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat until smooth. Remove from heat.

Stir in egg yolks, one a a time, and Bailey’s liqueur. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating until it dissolves between additions.

Beat cream until thoroughly whipped and thick. Gently combine with the chocolate mixture and then fold in the egg white mixture in two batches, taking care not to over-mix the mousse.

Divide mousse among eight ½-cup serving dishes (I use glasses). Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours).

Serve with fresh raspberries. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Best Food Desserts.

Chocolate & Mint Drip Cake

I made this cake for a combined Birthday/Bon Voyage dinner last weekend. I love the combination of chocolate and mint and am always keen to try out large layer cakes when cooking for a crowd.

Keep pieces small to ensure it’s not overly rich – maybe try out this technique from the genius Katherine Sabbath!

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Ingredients (serves 16-18)
Chocolate Layer Cake
2 boxes Betty Crocker moist devil’s food cake

Mint Buttercream Frosting
200g butter, softened
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 cups icing sugar
2-3 drops peppermint oil (or to taste)
a few drops of green food colouring

Dark Chocolate Ganache
170g dark chocolate melts
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons corn syrup

Toppings
2 x Flake bars
3 x Peppermint Crisp bars
3 x double Aero bars
1 x packet Darrell Lea BB’s chocolate mint balls
1 x packet dark Maltesers

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Method
Make 4 cakes, according to packet instructions, by halving the batter from each cake mix and baking in 20cm cake tins. Carefully trim cooked cakes where necessary to ensure they are perfectly flat, and use the best 3 (freeze the 4th for another time).

To make the frosting, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the peppermint oil and food colouring and beat for a further 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Attach your base cake to a cake board or serving tray by using a small amount of frosting as glue. Spread a layer of frosting onto the top of the cake and then top with the next cake layer. Repeat.

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Spread frosting onto the top and sides of the cake – don’t worry if you get crumbs in it, this is called the crumb coat. Using a spatula or protractor (as I did!), scrape off excess frosting so you have a thin smooth layer. Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes or until frosting is firm.

Add a second layer of frosting onto the top and sides of cake, again scraping off the excess and creating a smooth finish.

Place chocolate melts into medium bowl and set aside. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat just until it almost starts to simmer. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in corn syrup. Allow to cool until slightly thickened.

Use a spoon to add a few purposeful drips over the top edge of the cake. Then spoon more ganache on top of the cake, allowing it to drip at varying points around the cake.

Top cake with Flake pieces, peppermint crisp shards, Aero pieces, Maltesers and bb’s. Alternate Maltesers and bb’s and make a ring around the base of the cake.

Serve by cutting into small pieces. Enjoy!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve always been fascinated by red velvet cake, probably since seeing the memorable bleeding armadillo groom’s cake in Steel Magnolias! Red velvet isn’t a very common flavour in Australia (although this is changing), and so finding a strong enough red food dye can be challenging. I used Wilton red no-taste colouring paste, but have heard Dr. Oetker works well too. These cakes are light and fluffy, and due to the buttermilk are not overly sweet. I served mine with cream cheese frosting, but a vanilla buttercream would also work well.

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Ingredients (Makes 24)
Cupcakes
150g softened butter
⅔ cup caster sugar
2 tspns vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ⅓ cups self raising flour, sifted
4 tblspns cocoa, sifted
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tblspns of good quality red food colouring (I use Wilton’s, you may need to adjust the amount depending on the brand you use)

Cream Cheese Frosting
500g cream cheese, chopped
100g butter, softened
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tblspns milk

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Method
Preheat oven to 160°C. Place butter, caster sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, beating until well combined. Add the flour, cocoa, buttermilk and food colouring and beat on a low speed until just combined.

Divide mixture into cupcake tins lined with patty pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Once the cupcakes are almost completely cool, start making the cream cheese frosting. Place the cream cheese and butter into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes or until completely smooth. Add the milk and beat until just combined.

Top each cupcake with a thick layer of frosting and, if desired, break up one of the cupcakes and sprinkle its crumbs over the remaining cakes. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe ‘red velvet cupcakes with sugared cranberries’.

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Profiteroles with Vanilla Crème Pâtissière and Chocolate Sauce

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! Today I celebrated with one side of my family for a delicious brunch and then had dinner with the other side of the family, and I served these profiteroles for dessert.

Choux pastry has a nasty reputation as being very difficult to make, but Mum has been making this recipe for over 20 years and it has never failed for her. I was surprised by how easy it was to make and using this simple base recipe you can make profiteroles, eclairs or Paris-Brest. If you’re pressed for time you could easily swap the crème pâtissière for sweetened whipped cream, or for a different flavour, you could add a liquor such as Bailey’s Irish cream or Grand Marnier to the filling (although to me, nothing beats a homemade vanilla crème pat). The chocolate sauce could also be changed to berry, lemon, or caramel, or you could dip the profiteroles in toffee à la croquembouche. Basically, the options are endless!

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Choux Pastry (makes ~35 profiteroles or 20 eclairs)
1 cup water
60g butter
120g plain flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 extra egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Crème Pâtissière
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
140g white sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 heaped dessertspoons flour
2 heaped dessertspoons cornflour
500ml milk
70g butter

Chocolate Sauce
300g dark chocolate melts
400ml pouring cream

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Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper and add a 1cm nozzle to a piping bag. Preheat oven to 205°C.

In a medium saucepan, bring water and butter to the boil. Lower the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth, sticky mass. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

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Stirring with a wooden spoon, add eggs one at a time, ensuring your mixture is smooth and fully combined.

Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe mounds of pastry about 2cm in diameter, 2cm apart. Sprinkle lightly with water (the humidity helps the pastry rise) and then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 150°C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave to dry in the oven for approximately an hour.

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The odd misshapen profiterole is inevitable!

To make the crème pâtissière, mix together the eggs, yolks, sugar and flours. Bring the milk to the boil. Carefully pour it into the egg mixture, whisking well together. Add in the vanilla bean.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a time, the mixture will thicken quickly – make sure you keep stirring so the mixture on the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Beat in the butter a little at a time.

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Pour into a bowl, top with cling film and allow to cool.

Once profiteroles and crème pâtissière are fully cool, cut almost in half and fill with crème pâtissière.

Just before serving, make the chocolate sauce by combining the chocolate and cream in a medium saucepan and stirring on a low heat until melted and smooth. Add more cream or chocolate as required until desired consistency is reached.

Serve profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce and berries. Enjoy!

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Phew, 10 servings with 4 profiteroles each is quite exhausting!

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Choux pastry recipe adapted from Gabriel Gaté’s ‘Sweet Treats’ (1995).
Crème pâtissière recipe adapted from Vogue’s ‘Grand Finales’ (1988).

Nutella “Freakshake”

Ever since the cafe Pâtissez opened in June 2015 in my home town of Canberra, I have been desperate to try one of their famous FreakShakes. Clearly I’m not alone, because their FreakShakes garnered media attention from Toowoomba to Tokyo to Timbuktu, and copycat versions have cropped up all over the world.

I feel a particularly strong urge to go there, not only because their food and drinks look almost illegally delicious, but also because we have known one of the owners, Gina, for years as she previously owned a school uniform shop and worked with my Mum to develop a uniform for Jerrabomberra Public School (which Mum helped start) in 2001. It has been awe-inspiring to see her success.

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A selection of Pâtissez’s world-famous FreakShakes. Image: pattisez.com.au
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How flipping amazing do these doughnuts look?!?! Image: @pattisez Instagram

While I’m still hopeful I’ll get to visit Pâtissez in the not too distant future, for the time being I’ll make do with some homemade versions, starting with this easy Nutella and pretzel shake.

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Ingredients (serves 1 very hungry person)
2½ tablespoons Nutella
400ml milk
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 scoop good-quality vanilla ice-cream

To decorate: 
8-12 pretzels
Whipped cream
Nutella (extra)

Method
To make the milkshake, combine chocolate syrup, Nutella, ice-cream and milk in milkshake shaker and shake until bubbly and combined.

Using a metal spatula or butter knife, spread Nutella generously on the inside of a mason jar and around the outside of the rim. Stick pretzels on using extra Nutella so they line the rim. Pour the milkshake into the prepared mason jar. Top with a generous amount of whipped cream, a drizzle of Nutella and 4 extra pretzels. Enjoy!

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Inspired by Pâtissez’s ‘Pretzella’ FreakShake

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

This banana bread is super simple to make and is a perfect way to use up ‘dead’ bananas. It travels well so is great in kids’ lunch boxes, and will last for ~2 months in the freezer.

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
125g butter, softened
¾  cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 overripe bananas
1 ¾ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
½ cup milk chocolate chips (optional)

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Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and line a 1-litre loaf pan.

Cream the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer until pale and thick. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and banana, followed by the flour and bicarb soda, beating until just combined. If desired, stir through the chocolate chips until evenly dispersed.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, smooth over the top and then bake for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the thickest part of the bread comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy! I love mine fresh for the first few days and then toasted with a bit of margarine.

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Adapted from Matt Preston’s “Rock Star Banana Bread” from his Cook Book.

5 Minute Chocolate & Peanut Butter Fudge

This fudge is so easy it almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe. 5 ingredients. 5 steps. 5 minutes. Good as gold!

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Ingredients (makes ~30 pieces)
¾ cup good quality peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will work)
225g white chocolate
225g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

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Method
Line a 12 x 22cm loaf pan with baking paper.

Melt dark and white chocolate in separate bowls in the microwave.

Combine half of the peanut butter with the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and sea salt to taste. Combine the remaining peanut butter with the dark chocolate. Allow both mixtures to cool slightly.

Drop alternate spoonfuls of white and dark chocolate mixtures into the pan and shake to level the mixture. To get the swirly marbled effect, pull a skewer through the mixture.

Refrigerate until set. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Easy Peanut Butter Fudge’ from Cadbury Kitchen.

 

2 Minute Nutella Mug Cake

You know when it’s 9pm in the middle of winter and you have a hankering for something sweet? You don’t feel like going to much effort but something comforting and warm and chocolate-y would really hit the spot? Well, have I got a recipe for you!

This mug cake is deliciously warm and chocolate-y with a heavenly layer of oozy Nutella goodness in the middle and, as a bonus, is gluten free. It also doesn’t have that springy, rubbery texture you often get in mug cakes because of the almond meal. The real clincher for me though, is that it only takes about a minute to throw together and then a further minute to cook in the microwave. Washing up is also minimal – hallelujah! Need more convincing? See below:

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Ingredients (serves 1)
¼ cup almond meal (hazelnut would also work well)
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons Nutella
Icing sugar, to dust
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

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Method
Combine almond meal, cocoa powder and caster sugar in a medium bowl. Add coconut oil, egg, milk and one tablespoon of the Nutella, and stir until smooth.

Spoon ¾ of the mixture into a 310ml capacity microwave safe mug. Spoon remaining tablespoon of Nutella into the centre, then cover with the remaining mixture.

Microwave on high for 1 minute (this is for a 1000 watt microwave, adjust as necessary).

Serve dusted with icing sugar and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Adapted from a Sunbeam recipe on taste.com.au

Chocolate Mint Sundae Cupcakes

Chocolate and mint are a match made in heaven and these cupcakes combine them in one deliciously compact package. The cupcakes are a dark chocolate mudcake which, to me, are the perfect blend of light and rich. They are then topped with a generous layer of fluffy mint buttercream (which tastes exactly like peppermint ice-cream I might add), melted dark chocolate and a crumbled Flake bar – what’s not to love?! These are also a gorgeous shade of green – perfect for St Patrick’s Day!

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Ingredients (makes 12)
90g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
⅔ cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
⅓ cup almond meal
⅔ cup water
60g dark chocolate melts, melted

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
125g butter, softened
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Peppermint essence
Green food colouring

To decorate
1 large Flake bar, crumbled
30g dark chocolate melts, melted

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Method
Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced). Line a 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans.

Beat butter, sugar & eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in sifted flour and cocoa, almond meal, water and melted chocolate.

Fill each patty pan approximately ⅔ of the way full. Bake for around 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Stand cakes in tin for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Once cakes are fully cool, you can make the frosting. Beat butter in a medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in icing sugar and milk and a drop each of peppermint essence and green food colouring  (or until desired colour and flavour reached).

Ice cupcakes with a generous layer of frosting. To decorate, dollop each cupcake with dark chocolate and spread it so that it looks as though it is dripping slightly down the cakes. Top with crumbled Flake.

Enjoy!

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Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Cupcakes by Colour’ cookbook