Coffee & Walnut Torte

While the ingredients for this torte look a little odd (particularly the Jatz biscuits!) the end result is absolutely delicious – the torte is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside with a subtle coffee flavour. It’s a firm family favourite that always disappears far too quickly.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20 Jatz biscuits, crushed
⅔ cup walnuts

1 tablespoon icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee (dissolved in a small amount of water)
1 cup cream
Chocolate shavings (to decorate)
Walnuts (to decorate)

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Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line a 9″ pie plate with baking paper.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, vinegar and vanilla and beat until very stiff. Fold in Jatz biscuits and walnuts. Spread in prepared pie plate and smooth the top.

Bake for 35 minutes. Prop open the oven door and allow to cool in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Trim the baking paper so it can no longer be seen.

To make the coffee cream, add icing sugar, vanilla, coffee and cream to a medium bowl and bit until thickened and stiff.

Spread generously over the cooled torte and, if desired, decorate with chocolate shavings and extra walnuts. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Kaye Potter.

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.

Coconut and Raspberry Bread

This is a ‘bread’ like banana bread, in that it’s really more like a bread-shaped cake. Name aside, it’s super simple to make and perfect for brunch, afternoon tea or dessert. I like it because it’s deliciously moist and not too sweet, but feel free to dust it with icing sugar to make it extra decadent. thumb_img_2444_1024

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1 ¾ cups desiccated coconut
1 ½ cups coconut milk (I use Vitasoy unsweetened coconut milk found in the longlife milk section at most supermarkets)
¾ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 ⅔ cups self-raising flour
1 cup frozen raspberries

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Method
Add the coconut and coconut milk to a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover with Gladwrap and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Spray a loaf pan with cooking oil and line with baking paper, ensuring you have overhang at both sides to help get it out.

Stir sugar, egg and vanilla essence in to the coconut mixture. Gently stir in the flour and then fold through the frozen raspberries.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted come out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then lift onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar to serve if desired. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from a 2006 issue of Super Food Ideas.

Peanut Butter, Caramel & Chocolate Drip Cake

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This cake is highly over-the-top, but highly delicious. 3 layers of rich dark chocolate cake slathered in salted caramel sauce and peanut butter frosting, draped in chocolate ganache and topped with all things good: honeycomb, caramel macarons, peanut brittle, maltesers, snickers pods, jersey caramels and caramel popcorn.

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Ingredients (serves 16)
Chocolate Layer Cake
2 boxes dark chocolate cake ( I used Betty Crocker moist devil’s food cake)

Salted Caramel Filling 

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 ½ cups smooth peanut butter
375g butter, softened
6 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk

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

Toppings
1 x packet Snickers pods
1 x packet caramel popcorn
1 x packet jersey caramels (halved diagonally)
1 x packet peanut brittle
1 x packet Maltesers
Salted caramel macarons (optional)
Honeycomb

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Method
Make 4 cakes, according to packet instructions, by halving the batter from each cake mix. Carefully trim cooked cakes where necessary to ensure they are perfectly flat, and use the best 3 (freeze the 4th for another time, or add a 4th layer if you really want to impress).

To make the frosting, beat peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and slowly add the icing sugar. Add the milk and beat until just combined.

Spread a generous layer of frosting onto the bottom cake layer, and then top with caramel filling. Repeat with the remaining layer/s.

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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, using the protractor again to scrape off the excess and create a smooth finish. Refrigerate for a further 30 minutes.

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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.

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 honeycomb, caramel popcorn, maltesers, jersey caramels, pods and macarons. Enjoy!

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Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a colleague’s birthday using my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe for the cakes, topped with a generous helping of salted caramel buttercream frosting and then drizzled with some extra caramel. The frosting would be equally good on chocolate cupcakes (like my fudgy flourless chocolate cupcakes or these lighter chocolate cupcakes). To make these even more caramel-y, next time I might scoop out a teaspoon or so of cake from each cooked cupcake and fill it with extra caramel (I don’t like to do things by half, okay?!)

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Ingredients (makes ~30 large cupcakes)
Salted Caramel
250g caster sugar
75ml water
120ml pouring cream
200g salted butter

Vanilla Cupcakes
2 ¾ cups plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
200g butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tblspn vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting 
150g salted butter, softened
3 tablespoons salted caramel
6 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Sea salt, to taste

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Method
To make the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Without stirring much, watch over the sugar until it becomes a light-brown caramel colour (be patient, it does take a little while, but don’t be tempted to leave it as once it colours it colours quickly!)

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Add the pouring cream, little by little, while gently stirring (be careful while it foams up as it can spit).

Once the cream is fully incorporated, keep stirring on the heat for a further minute or two (if you want to be scientific, heat it until it reaches 108°C on a sugar thermometer).

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Remove from the heat and add the butter in small pieces. Stir until smooth and then set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C-ish fan forced). Line two 12-hole muffin trays with patty pans.

To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour and baking powder. In a different bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 mins. Add the caster sugar about a third at a time, beating for 2mins after each addition. After the last of the sugar has been beaten, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 min after each addition or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined.

Add approximately a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Add half of the milk and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all of the flour and milk is thoroughly combined but be careful not to overbeat (this will toughen the mixture).

Spoon mixture into the patty pans (filling each about ¾ full) and bake for about 18-20mins or until the top springs back when touched. Remove the cupcakes from the trays immediately and cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour before icing.

To make the frosting, cream the butter for 1-2 mins in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons of the salted caramel, a pinch of salt and half of the icing sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a further 2 tablespoons of caramel and the remaining icing sugar and beat until combined and of a spreadable consistency – add a splash of milk if too dry, more icing sugar if too wet, and add more salted caramel and salt as required until you’re happy with the flavour.

Add frosting into a piping bag fitted with desired nozzle (I used my Wilton 2B tip) and pipe a generous amount of frosting onto each cupcake. Drizzle each cupcake with the remaining salted caramel (I heated mine again so it was easier to drizzle) and enjoy!

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Salted caramel recipe adapted from ‘Secrets of Macarons’ by José Marechal.

Vanilla cupcake and base buttercream recipes adapted from the Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

These chewy, fudgy chocolate brownies, created by the domestic goddess Nigella herself, are my reliable go-to goodies when asked to bring a plate for morning or afternoon teas. They are best eaten on the day made (which often means I get up early on the day to make them) and are ridiculously good warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

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Ingredients (makes 16 large brownies)
200g good-quality dark chocolate
250g salted butter
1¾ cups brown sugar
4 eggs
⅓ cup cocoa
1¼ cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

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Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Line a 20cm x 30cm rectangular tin with baking paper.

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Place sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Pour in chocolate mixture and mix until combined.

Pour into prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes or until set on top (but should still be gooey in the middle). Leave to cool slightly in tin.

Cut into 16 evenly sizes pieces. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson.

NB: Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, but in my opinion, the fresher the better.

 

 

Mini Quiches

These delicious quiches are perfect for picnics, high-teas or parties. Here I’ve provided the recipe for cheese & bacon mini quiches, which are probably the biggest crowd pleaser, but you can add anything you’d like to your quiches – I love spinach and semi-dried tomato as a vegetarian option.

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Ingredients (makes 36)
2 sheets puff pastry
5 rashers shortcut bacon, with fat removed
185g shredded cheese
3 eggs
½ cup thickened cream

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Method
Defrost pastry sheets at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190°C fan-forced. Spray three 12-hole round-bottomed patty-pan/yorkshire pudding pans (see picture below) with cooking oil. Otherwise, muffin pans will work fine but you may need to adjust the size of your pastry rounds.

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Image Credit: Amazon.com

Dice bacon into 1cm squares. Cook until crispy (I tend to be lazy and use the microwave, but by all means cook in a frypan).

Once pastry has defrosted, cut out rounds with a 6cm cutter and press into prepared pans.

Divide bacon pieces evenly among quiche bases. Top with approximately 1 teaspoon of cheese per quiche.

Whisk together eggs and cream in a small bowl. Transfer into a small jug for easy pouring. Pour approximately half a tablespoon of egg mixture into each quiche base.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Let the quiches cool for 2 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Quiches can be served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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NB: Quiches keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container in the fridge, but are best eaten on the day they’re made so the pastry is crisp.

Recipe from my Mum, Anne Bills.

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.
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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.