Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I love this cake, it’s so quick and effortless to put together and is absolutely delicious (also, because it contains carrot it’s basically a salad, right?!). It’s great at any time of year but is particularly good as a treat around Easter for someone who doesn’t like chocolate or for people who are chocolated out!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1 ½ cups grated carrot (lightly packed)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
40g (1 tablespoon) softened butter
60g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted

To decorate (if desired):
Extra chopped walnuts
The thin end of a small carrot cut into 2 halves
4 sprigs of coriander

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Method
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

Grease an 8″ round cake pan with margarine and line the base with baking paper.

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla & sifted dry ingredients  in a large bowl & beat on low speed.

Stir in carrots & walnuts. Mix well.

Pour mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for approx. 40 – 45mins or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, before placing it on a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make the cream cheese frosting, beat butter & cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add in the lemon rind and icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

If desired, decorate by placing the finely chopped walnuts around the edge of the cake and the carrot pieces in the centre of the cake with two coriander sprigs above each carrot. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Aunty Cynth

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.

Xmas Reblog: Easy Chocolate Yule Log

Today I’m sharing with you an incredibly easy yet delicious cheat’s version of the classic French Christmas dessert – Bûche de Noël.

For a traditional pudding-hater like myself, Christmas dessert has never brought much joy. Sure, you can smother your piece of pudding in custard (which I do) and that helps a bit, but somehow the fruity-boozy flavour that I hate so much still overpowers it. Anyway, fortunately I’m not the only pudding-hater in my family and so last year Mum made this Bûche de Noël (chocolate yule log) in addition to the pudding for dessert. This yule log is sweet (but not overly so) and very light – perfect for a hot summer’s day. It proved so popular last year that we’ll be making it again this year 🙂

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Ingredients (Serves up to 12)
1x 250g packet Arnott’s chocolate ripple biscuits (or equivalent)
600ml thickened cream
1 tspn caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
20g cocoa powder
Grated chocolate, to decorate
Spearmint leave lollies, to decorate
Raspberries, to decorate

Method
Using an electric mix, mix cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff.

Fold in the cocoa until combined.

Spread a small amount of the cream along a long, rectangular serving plate to make a base. Spread 1 biscuit with 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then top with another biscuit. Top with another 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then place biscuits on their side onto the cream base on the serving platter.

Repeat until all biscuits have been used, to form a log.

Spread remaining cream over entire log, reserving a small amount for the branch.

Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set.

Just before serving, cut cake diagonally about a quarter of the way in and use that piece as a branch off the main log.

Patch it up with the remaining cream so it looks attached.

Use a fork to make some lines along the branch to look natural and then sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Decorate with some raspberries and spearmint leaves and serve. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Arnott’s ‘Bake and Create’ Recipe booklet.

Xmas Reblog: Christmas Crinkle Cookies!

Gosh these are good. So good in fact that I’m reblogging them and I STRONGLY urge to make yourself a batch, stat! You can thank me later…

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Ingredients (makes approx. 36 cookies)
100g butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g dark chocolate, melted
1 ¼ cups flour, sifted
2 tspns baking powder, sifted
¼ cup cocoa, sifted
1 tablespoon red food colouring (depending on strength & desired colour, mine could have been a bit redder)
150g extra dark chocolate, roughly chopped
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup icing (powdered) sugar

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Method
Place butter, brown sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-5mins or until light and well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and food colouring and beat until a smooth dough forms.

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Fold through the chocolate chunks and refrigerate, covered, for an hour.

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Roll dessert spoons of the dough into the white sugar, shape them gently into balls and then toss in icing sugar. Place them on lined baking trays allowing plenty of room for spreading.

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Bake the cookies for 12-14mins or until the surface is cracked and the edges are slightly crispy. Don’t worry if the centre of the cookies looks undercooked, it will harden while cooling and be deliciously chewy. Enjoy!

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Adapted from the Red Velvet Crackle Cookies recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine Dec/Jan 2014

 

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

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Pic from Inspired Taste.net (mine got eaten too quickly!)
Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Even though Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday celebrated here in Australia, this year my family decided to get in on the action anyway as a number of us will be away over Christmas (and we like to party with or without good reason). So, in keeping with tradition, I made a pumpkin pie for dessert. I had no idea what to expect having never tried one before, but gave a highly rated recipe I found online a go and was really pleased with the result. If I didn’t know there was pumpkin in there (and it wasn’t orange) I wouldn’t pick it because it’s really the vanilla and spices that come to the fore, with the pumpkin providing a creamy, sweet back note. Pumpkin-y or not it was delicious and I’ll probably make it again when pumpkins are in season.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
Pastry
1 ½ cups plain flour
3 tspns icing sugar
140g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tblspoons water

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (made by roasting pumpkins, scooping out the flesh, blitzing it into a smooth paste in a blender and then putting it in a sieve for an hour or so to remove the excess juice)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A pinch of salt
1 quick grind of pepper (i.e. a really small amount, sounds odd but it works!)

Method
To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar, butter, yolk & water into a food processor and process until it just comes together. Press into a ball, knead gently on a floured surface until smooth & then refrigerate, covered in clingfilm, for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 23cm flan tin or pie dish.

When the pastry has chilled, roll dough on a floured surface until large enough to line the tin (I often have a bit left over). Lift pastry into tin, ease into the sides & then trim the excess.

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Cover the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, cream, vanilla and spices and stir until all incorporated.

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Pour mixture into pastry case (obviously remove the baking paper and pie weights first!!) and smooth over the top. I ended up having a bit of pumpkin filling left over that I might use in muffins or something (if I don’t eat it all first :P)

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Bake pie in the oven for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 160°C fan-forced for around 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

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Let cool completely before transferring to a serving platter and then serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

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Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Pastry recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe & Filling Recipe from Inspired Taste.net

Chocolate Mint Fudge

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St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us and so I am all about the green in my baking at the moment! This fudge is super quick and easy – taking only a few minutes cooking time from start to finish. I love this fudge as it isn’t too sweet (the major issue I have with most fudge), and I’m a sucker for the mint/choc combination.

Feel free to omit the chocolate drizzle on top if you wish, and if you prefer a marbled finish you can make the 2 fudge layers at the same time, and swirl them together in the tray instead of layering them.

Ingredients
1 ½ cups dark chocolate melts
400ml can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups white chocolate melts
Green food colouring
Peppermint essence
Approx. ½ cup dark chocolate melts (melted) to drizzle on top

Method
Line a rectangular baking tray with baking paper (a small tray will give you fewer pieces of thick fudge, larger will give you more pieces of thinner fudge – it’s up to you!).
In a small saucepan over a low heat, melt the dark chocolate melts with half of the condensed milk, stirring occasionally.

Spread evenly into the pan and chill in the fridge.

While the chocolate layer is chilling, melt the white chocolate and remaining condensed milk on the stovetop on a low heat.

Add peppermint extract to taste (I used 1 teaspoon) and a drop or two of green food colouring.

Spread evenly over chilled chocolate layer.

Put in the fridge to set.

After approximately 10 minutes in the fridge, melt the remaining dark chocolate melts and drizzle over the fudge.

Leave in the fridge until set and then cut into small squares. Enjoy!

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Note: can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a fortnight.

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Adapted from ‘Choc Mint Fudge’ on Grab Your Spork.com.

Caramel Slice

I love caramel slice but am constantly disappointed by the thick-bottomed, chalky and bland mass-produced stuff you buy at many cafes around the place. Instead, when I can be bothered, I make my own… and it’s amazing (if I do say so myself). The recipe originally came from my Mum’s high school cookbook and I am eternally grateful to the Annesley College Mothers’ Club for sharing it. It is very simple to make, using very few ingredients, and is perfect for occasions when you’re asked to ‘bring a plate’. The hardest part is not eating it all in one sitting (which is why I often make a double batch).

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Ingredients
Base:
185g plain flour
125g butter, softened
60g sugar

Caramel layer:
125g butter, chopped
125g sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
½ tin condensed milk

Topping:
150g dark cooking chocolate

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Method
To make the base, grease and line a swiss roll tin (or lamington tin – whatever you have, it will just alter the thickness of each layer) and preheat the oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan-forced). Rub butter into flour, add sugar and press evenly into the prepared tin. Bake for 20mins or until golden brown.

To make the caramel, put the butter, sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk into a heavy-based saucepan and boil for 5 minutes, stirring all the time (pay particular attention and scrape the bottom of the pan, otherwise it will burn).

Pour over the base. Leave to cool for about an hour.

Finally, to make the topping, melt the chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour over the caramel.

Once set, cut into even squares using a knife dipped in hot water between each slice (so it cuts easily and leaves the layers intact).

Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Caramel Slice’ in the Annesley College Mothers’ Club Cookbook

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

When my sister and I were younger we loved nothing more than “sticky tape pudding” on a cold winter’s night. Not much has changed, but (to our great relief) we now know that the secret ingredient to our favourite pudding is not sticky tape. This dessert is perfect served warm out of the oven, swimming in a pool of butterscotch sauce, with a good helping of vanilla ice-cream.

P.S. This butterscotch sauce is liquid gold. I sometimes make it just to go on ice-cream for the ultimate sundae & it never lasts long in our household!

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Pudding
1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
60g butter
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour, sifted

Butterscotch Sauce
125g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup golden syrup
300ml thickened cream

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Method
Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Combine dates and water in a small saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat & then add bicarb soda and stand for 5 mins.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; combine well. Fold in flour alternately with date mixture into the egg mix and gently stir until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan.

Make sauce by heating butter in small saucepan, adding the sugar and syrup (handy hint: spray your ¼ cup with a bit of cooking oil before adding the golden syrup and it will come out much more easily!) and stirring over the heat (without boiling) until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat & stir in cream.

Pour ¼ cup of sauce over the pudding and return to the oven for a further 5 mins (with foil over the top so it doesn’t darken too much).

Cut into desired size pieces and serve with lots of sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

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Recipe from Mum (originally adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly)

Quick & Easy Belgian Waffles

I recently purchased a Cuisinart 4 slice belgian waffle maker (not easy to come by as they’ve been discontinued, but they continue to get the best reviews world-wide) and have been making waffles almost non-stop in a quest to find the perfect recipe. The waffles themselves have to be golden brown, crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, preferably with a mild vanilla flavour. Ideally, they would also be quick to whip up (waffles are often made on a whim in my experience) and freeze well.

My first attempt was halfway there – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside (in fact texturally perfect) but they had a horrible flavour due to an incredible amount of baking powder. My second attempt tasted good but were flat and soft – not at all right. Finally, after much research, I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that I have adapted so they produce, in my opinion, the ultimate belgian waffles. While not strictly traditional (no yeast) these are super fast to make, use only one bowl, and are better for you than traditional belgian waffles as they are made with vegetable oil rather than butter. They also taste AMAZING! I dare you to stop at one 🙂

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Ingredients (makes 6-8 waffles depending on thickness)
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 ¾ cups milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Method
Heat waffle iron (I tend to use level 3½). Beat eggs in a large bowl with handheld beaters until light and bubbly. Beat in flour, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder & vanilla until smooth and incorporated.

Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking oil. Pour mix onto the waffle iron (I use a ladle and the spread with a silicone spatula). Cook until golden brown (I like to check every 3 minutes or so and tend to leave it in a little longer than my machine thinks – it beeps when it’s “ready”). Dust with icing sugar, cut in half if desired and serve warm with toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

thumb_IMG_1529_1024Adapted from ‘Waffles I’ – allrecipes.com