Powder Puffs with Strawberries and Cream

This is probably my most requested recipe and I feel terrible for having kept it in the Bills/Payne/James/Hockney family vault for so long! My Mum (and her mother and grandmother before her) makes powder puffs for special occasions and they are always incredibly popular. They’re dead easy to make and the “sponge biscuits” keep in an airtight container for ages**. The only trick is to fill them with cream far enough in advance so they soften up – then they’re like eating sweet, fluffy clouds. I love them filled with strawberries and cream, lightly dusted with icing sugar, but you could fill them with just about anything.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 45 sandwiched powder puffs)
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon bicarb soda

To fill
Whipped, sweetened cream flavoured with a drop or two of vanilla extract
Strawberries, thinly sliced

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Method
Preheat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C fan-forced). Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper (you will fill approximately 6 trays due to spreading, but I just rotate and re-use the trays).

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixers until light and fluffy. Add in sifted flours, cream of tartar and bicarb soda and mix until just combined.

Drop ½ teaspoons’ worth of the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving plenty of room to spread (I usually fit 12-15 on my large trays). Bake for 6 minutes* and then leave to cool slightly, before removing from the tray with a metal spatula and letting them cool completely on a wire cake rack. Repeat this process with the remaining mixture.

2-3 hours before serving, match each sponge biscuit with another of approximately equal size. Spread each ‘biscuit’ generously with thickened, sweetened cream and add sliced strawberries to one half before sandwiching them together.

Dust with a little icing sugar just before serving. Enjoy!

Notes:
*They will harden like a biscuit (they’re supposed to, don’t worry), but will soften when you add the cream later.
** Store in an airtight container with grease-proof paper between each layer so they don’t stickthumb_IMG_1897_1024.jpg

Adapted from a very old family recipe.

White Chocolate Mud Graduation Cupcakes

These cupcakes are super cute and very simple to make. They are perfect as a gift for someone graduating or to serve at a graduation party!

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Ingredients (makes ~20 cupcakes)
2 cups plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
250g butter, chopped
1 cup milk
2 cups caster sugar
150g white chocolate melts
2 eggs, whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

White chocolate ganache frosting
½ cup cream
300g white chocolate melts
~ 2 cups icing sugar

To decorate
20 squares of thin dark chocolate
20 Maltesers
20 small pieces of black liquorice, cut to look like tassles

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Method
Fill cupcake tins with 20 large patty pans.

Sift flour & baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and set aside.

Put butter, milk, caster sugar and white chocolate into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate and butter have melted, and the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove from heat and cool until just warm.

Preheat the oven to 155°C.

Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the well in the flour, and gently mix until combined.

Divide mixture evenly between cupcake cases (filled almost to the top, they don’t rise much). Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool completely on wire racks before icing.

While the cakes cool, divide your chocolate squares (if needed) and cut the liquorice to make tassels of an appropriate size for your chocolate squares.

To make the frosting, melt the white chocolate and add the cream. Stir to combine. Add the icing sugar, half a cup at a time, until desired consistency reached.

Ice the cupcakes with the frosting and then top with a Malteser just off-centre. Attach a liquorice tassel to each chocolate square using left over frosting (make sure you wipe away any excess that may leak out) and then sit the ‘hat’ on an angle on top of the Malteser.

Enjoy!

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Recipes adapted from the ‘Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook’s.
Decoration ideas from the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Classic Cupcakes’ cookbook.

Neapolitan Easter Layer Cake

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This cake is surprisingly quick & easy to whip up and makes the perfect centre piece to an Easter celebration. This cake is very rich so small pieces are recommended, especially when consumed in addition to chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday!

Of course, this cake doesn’t need to be Easter-themed at all, just omit the mini eggs and decorate as desired.

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Ingredients (layer cake serves up to 20 + 6 cupcakes out of the vanilla cake mix)
For the white & pink layers
190g butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
410g caster sugar
4 eggs
1½ cups plain flour
¾ cup self-raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
¾ cup milk
Pink food colouring

For the chocolate layer
60g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g caster sugar
1 egg
100g self-raising flour
¼ cup cocoa
80ml water

For the vanilla buttercream
200g butter, softened
½ cup milk
1 tblspn vanilla extract
8 cups icing sugar

To decorate
150g dark chocolate
1 ½ bags Cadbury mini eggs, or easter eggs of your choice

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Method
Grease & line three 20cm cake tins and line a 6-hole muffin tin with patty pans. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced.

To make the vanilla cake layers, add the butter, vanilla, caster sugar, eggs, flours, bicarb soda and milk to a large bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes with an electric mixer until completely combined and lighter in colour.

Fill the 6 patty pans approximately ¾ full with cake batter and set aside.

Divide the remaining vanilla batter into halves and colour one half pink with food colouring (this time I only used a couple of drops, but in future I will put in more for a more vibrant colour). Spread white mixture into one prepared tin and pink mixture into another, and set aside.

To make the chocolate layer, add butter, vanilla, sugar, egg, flour, cocoa and water into a large bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes with an electric mixer until completely combined. Spread into remaining cake tin.

Place the three large cakes into the oven and bake for ~40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. When they are half way cooked (i.e. after 20 minutes), put the cupcakes into the oven and let them cook for ~20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool cakes for 5 minutes in their tins, then gently turn out onto metal cooling racks to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, you can start on the frosting. Cream the butter for 1-2 mins in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 mins (until the mixture is light and fluffy). Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Spread frosting over the top of each of your cupcakes and top with a mini egg if desired.

To assemble the layer cake, put a small amount of frosting in the middle of a cake stand (or plate/cake board/ whatever you want your cake to be displayed on) and gently place your chocolate layer on top. Top the cake with a generous layer of frosting and smoothe it out to the edges so you have an even layer. Gently place the pink layer directly on top, ensuring that it is flat and in-line with the chocolate layer (if the cake is wonky at all, shave some of the cake off with a knife so it sits flat, or add more frosting where it is thinner). Top the pink layer with a generous dollop of frosting and, again, smoothe it out to the edges so it’s evenly spread. Gently place the white cake on top, again making alterations if necessary so that it is flat and even.

Coat top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting and don’t worry if you get crumbs in this layer (it is known as the ‘crumb coat’). Put the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes or until set. Top with another layer of frosting and smoothe with a palette knife so you have a neat, even surface. Return to the freezer for a further 10 minutes to set.

While the cake is in the freezer, melt your chocolate ready for the drizzle. Once your cake’s frosting is set, pour the melted chocolate onto the top of your cake and allow it to run down the sides. Make sure the entire top of the cake is covered in chocolate. Once the chocolate has set slightly (but not completely!!) top evenly with mini eggs. Leave it for a few further minutes until the chocolate has completely set and then serve. Enjoy!

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Cake recipes adapted from the ‘cut and keep butter cake’ and the ‘one-bowl chocolate cake’ in the Australian Women’s Weekly Classic Cakes cookbook.

Decoration inspiration from Sainsbury’s Magazine.

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

Chocolate Berry Meringue Nests

These meringue nests are the perfect conclusion to a summer dinner party or BBQ. They are light, flavoursome and not too sweet when paired with fresh berries and whipped cream. I especially love that they look like you’ve gone to a lot of effort (when they’re really very simple to make) and they don’t heat up the house too much while baking!

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Ingredients (makes 4)
3 egg whites
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
1 tablespoon dark dutch cocoa powder
300ml thickened cream, whipped
Fresh berries, to decorate (I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C (~100 degrees C fan-forced). Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer or mixmaster until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves between each addition. Add in vanilla essence and cocoa powder.

Divide the meringue mixture into 4 roughly equal sized dollops on the baking tray, and spread into circles approximately 11cm in diameter.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until meringues are firm. Turn off the oven and let meringues cool for 5 minutes, before letting them cool completely with the door ajar.

Top meringues with whipped cream and berries. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Chocolate Berry Meringues’ in The Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook ‘Best Food’, 2005 reprint.

Brown Sugar Pecan Praline Cookies

These cookies are soft and buttery, topped with a brown sugar frosting & crunchy pecan praline. I made these ready for having with tea & coffee at out ‘Chrisgiving’ celebration tonight and I must say I am pleasantly surprised – they are very more-ish and feel appropriately Thanksgiving-y.

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Ingredients (Makes around 35-45 cookies)
For the cookies
250g butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup finely chopped pecans

For the praline
1 cup pecans
½ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the icing
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup milk
1 tbsp butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
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Method
In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add the flour and baking soda and beat until combined. Gently stir in the chopped pecans.
Cover the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30mins.
While the dough is chilling, make the pecan praline. To make the praline, combine all ingredients in a frying pan over a moderate heat and stir well. Continue to stir as the water evaporates and the pecans become covered in white sugar. Continue stirring as the sugar melts to form a toffee around the pecans. Once all of the almonds are coated in toffee, pour onto a tray lined with baking paper to cool. Once cool, cut up with a knife or blitz in a food processor to make a fine crumb.
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I then blitzed these in the food processor for a few seconds to get a finer crumb
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan-forced. Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper. Shape dough into roughly golf-ball sized balls, flatten them with the palm of your hand and place them approximately 4cm apart on the lined baking trays.
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Bake for 10-15 mins or until fully cooked and lightly browned at the edges. Cool for 10 mins on their trays before transferring to a cooling rack.
To make the icing combine brown sugar and milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for approximately 3 mins, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in butter.
Add in the icing sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. If the frosting is too thin, add more icing sugar (but leave it for a few minutes before doing this as it will thicken over time). If too thick, add more milk.
Spread icing on each cookie and top with praline. Let the icing set fully before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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Adapted from ‘Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies’ from The Recipe Rebel

Quick & Easy Indian Flatbread (Roti)

This recipe really gets a workout in our household because 1. we love Indian food, 2. we especially love having it with bread to soak up all the curry sauce deliciousness, & 3. this recipe is incredibly quick, easy & non-scary as it doesn’t involve yeast. We make rotis particularly when having butter chicken, but it’s great with all kind of curries. Thankfully, it only takes about 15-20 minutes from start to finish so is perfect for while your curry is simmering away.

It also travels really well as I discovered last week when we took butter chicken & rotis over to my grandparents’ house for dinner (see pic below), and will keep in cling wrap at room temperature for a couple of days (perfect for any leftover curry!)

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Ingredients (makes 12 rotis)
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
200ml water

Method
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, water and oil until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a flat, floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable (around 10 minutes).

Preheat frying pan on medium-high heat.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts, form into rounds and then roll each out to 15-20cm rounds with a rolling pin.

Cook the roti for about a minute on each side, or until it has some dark brown spots on each side. Serve warm.

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Recipe adapted from ‘allrecipes.com.au’.

Crispy Skinned Peking Duck Pancakes

I’ve wanted to start the savoury baking section of my blog for a while now, but unlike with sweet baking, my savoury baking is almost never planned (and consequently not photographed). Finally, after months & months of struggling to decide which recipe to put up as my first in the section, I decided on one of my all-time favourites: peking duck pancakes.

If I’m honest, they are a bit time-consuming to make, and duck breasts certainly aren’t cheap, but considering how much you can pay for these babies in a restaurant, it’s certainly worth your while having a go at home, and they’re absolutely delicious!

The recipe I have written here is enough for a main meal for 4, but feel free to halve it if it’s just for an entrée, or double it to make it serve more.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 40 small pancakes)
For the pancakes:
4 ½ cups plain flour
1½ -2 cups boiling water
Sesame oil

For the duck:
4 duck breasts
Salt

To serve:
1 large cucumber, cut into batons
The green tops of 2-3 spring onions, julienned
Coriander/cilantro
Hoisin sauce (aka the greatest thing ever)

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Method
To make the pancakes, place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the boiling water. Knead until the dough is smooth.

Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a clean,damp cloth and allow to stand for at least 30mins.

Knead again for about 5mins, then divide into approximately 40 balls.

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Dip one side of a ball into a little sesame oil. Press the oiled ball together with another (unoiled) dough ball, oiled side towards the centre, and roll out to form a 15cm circle. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Fry the pancakes in a lightly oiled pan over a low heat, turn and lightly cook the other side. Both sides should be only very little browned (sort of like a mini tortilla).

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Carefully peel the pancakes apart (careful not to burn yourself!) and keep warm until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 200°C and 2 frypans to a medium-high heat. Prepare the duck by scoring the skin with a sharp knife and lightly salting it.

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I know I said 4… and this is 6. But I had 2 left over for another time

Place 2 breasts in each pan, skin-side down and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the skin is golden. Turn and cook for a further minute.

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Transfer the duck breasts onto a lightly oiled baking tray and cook in the preheated oven for a further 8-10 minutes.

While the duck is cooking, prepare your vegetables.

Once the duck is cooked, rest it for 5 minutes and then slice.

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To assemble the pancakes, put approximately a teaspoon of hoisin sauce onto the middle of the pancake, top with 2 slices of duck, some cucumber, spring onion & coriander and roll. Enjoy!

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Pancake recipe adapted from ‘The World’s Finest Food’ by Ann Creber, Elisabeth King & Phil Wymant

Tangy Lemon Tart

Since moving to Adelaide, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to an abundance of homegrown lemons. In our rental house in 2013, our lemon tree provided perfect fruit almost all year round, and my Aunt & Uncle also grow outstanding citrus and always seem to have plenty to give away. This has meant lots of experimentation with lemon desserts and this one has to be one of my most popular! This tart has a strong, slightly tart lemon flavour and  gorgeously short, melt-in-your-mouth pastry. Serve dusted with icing sugar and with thickened cream or ice cream for a perfect dinner party dessert.

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Ingredients (Serves 12)
Pastry
2 cups plain flour
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
180g cold unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

Filling
5 eggs
3 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
200ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
250ml pouring cream

Icing sugar, to dust
Double cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

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Method
To make the pastry, process the flour, icing sugar & butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and process until the mix just comes together. Form the pastry into a disc, wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Spray a 27cm tart pan with a removable base with cooking oil. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 4mm thick and use to line the prepared pan. Trim the edge, then line with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (or dried rice). Bake for 15mins then remove weights and paper and cook for a further 5mins until golden. Set aside.

Reduce oven to 150°C.

To make lemon filling, place eggs, yolks & sugar into a bowl and stir until just combined (try to avoid creating bubbles). Gently stir in lemon and orange juices. Pour cream into a small saucepan and bring almost to the boil, then stir it into egg mixture. Using a fine sieve, strain lemon filling into a jug. Place tart shell onto an oven tray and pour in the filling.

Bake for 15mins, then carefully rotate to ensure even cooking. Bake for a further 10mins or until just set. To check, gently shake the tart; it should be slightly wobbly in the centre.

Cool the tart to room temperature, then dust with icing sugar and serve with double cream or ice cream.

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Adapted from Matt Moran’s Lemon Tart featured in MasterChef Magazine – Issue 3, July 2010.

Vanilla Raspberry Layer Cake

Well.. I lied. I completely intended to blog more in the last few weeks (as evidenced by my last post!) but I’ve just been too busy. I had my 21st Birthday to plan, uni assessments galore, the Psychology ball to organise, and now Laura’s 18th is coming up in a couple of weeks. Yikes, I get exhausted just thinking about it all! However, while I haven’t been blogging, I have been baking.

Here is the cake I made for my 21st Birthday afternoon tea – triple layer vanilla cake with a tangy raspberry filling & super glossy meringue frosting, topped with vanilla bean macarons. The raspberry filling was perfect as, otherwise, this cake was going to be too sweet, so I would certainly recommend leaving it (or perhaps substituting it for a tangy lemon curd if you’re not a raspberry fan) to cut the sweetness from the frosting.

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Don’t worry, the empty plates in the background didn’t stay empty!

For my 21st birthday cake, I used 2 packets of Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist Vanilla cake mix, with some extra vanilla added so they tasted more ‘home-made’ divided into 3 20cm lined pans. I did this for 2 main reasons; it saved a lot of time (and time was precious as I had so much other cooking to do!), and because it reliably produces an even, stable, fine-crumbed cake that is easy to work with. If you don’t want to use cake mixes, just make a double batch of your favourite vanilla/butter cake and that will work as well 🙂

The raspberry filling needs to be made at least a day ahead but keeps well in the fridge so can be made up to a week ahead.

I also made the macaron shells a couple of days ahead to save me some stress on the actual party day.

The frosting should be made the day of serving as it does not keep particularly well.

Ingredients

For the raspberry filling (make at least a day ahead)
340g frozen raspberries
⅔ cups water
½ cup white, granulated sugar
1 tblspn lemon juice
2 ½ tblspns cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup of water

For the cake
2 boxes Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist Vanilla cake mix (made following instructions, so add the eggs, milk, butter etc. as specified by the box)
½ tablespoon vanilla extract

For the meringue frosting
6 egg whites
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
2 tblspns liquid glucose (or light corn syrup)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the macarons
https://bakerholicsanonymous.wordpress.com/recipes-2/cookies-biscuits-macarons/vanilla-bean-macarons/

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Method
To make the raspberry filling:
In a saucepan combine the raspberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to boil and simmer for 15-20mins  or until the raspberries have broken down.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain with a fine mesh sieve. Return the stained mixture to the heat. Dissolve the cornstarch in water. Whisk the cornstarch mix into the raspberry mixture.
Bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Refrigerate overnight to set.

To make the cakes: Line & grease 3 20cm cake pans. Set oven to temperature specified by the cake mix boxes. Make cakes according to box instructions, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to each cake mix & divide mixture among the three pans. Bake for specified time, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To assemble the cake: Carefully place a cake layer on your serving platter. Top with a generous amount of raspberry filling and spread gently using a spatula to make an even layer. Top with another cake layer and repeat. Finally, top with the final cake, ready to be frosted.

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To make the meringue frosting: Add egg whites, sugar, liquid glucose and cream of tartar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 54°C on a thermometer (be patient, it does get there eventually!).
Beat heated mixture with electric beaters on a low speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat until it is very thick and glossy, about 5 minutes.
Add vanilla and beat to combine.
Frost cake immediately by piling the frosting on top of the cake and, using a metal spatula, gently spreading from the top down. Smoothe as much as possible with your spatula.

Top with 6 macarons, 3 of each colour and a candle (if desired).

Serve each piece with a macaron & enjoy!

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Raspberry filling recipe adapted from: Pinterest (various sources with the same basic recipe)

Meringue frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita’s ‘Perfectly Pink Angel Food Cake’ http://sweetapolita.com/2015/05/perfectly-pink-angel-food-cake/