My Famous Guacamole

It feels a bit cheeky to call this a recipe as it’s so easy and basically impossible to mess up, but it’s been my most requested ‘recipe’ among my friends and it’s about time I shared it. Adjust it to suit your palate (no two guacamoles I make are exactly the same), but here is the basis of the guacamole that features prominently at most Bills gatherings. We usually serve it with salted corn chips, but it also works well with flavoured Doritos, crackers, veggie sticks, or my sister’s weird but delicious favourite, salt and vinegar chips. Of course it is also a perfect addition to tacos, burritos and nachos.

Warning: once you make it for your friends, you will never be allowed to bring anything else to a party… ever!

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Ingredients (makes enough for 1 packet of corn chips)
2 ripe avocados
1 medium sized clove of garlic, finely diced
2 teaspoons tomato, finely chopped
3 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
Salt
Pepper
Coriander leaves, to serve
Corn chips, to serve

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Ft. Adelaide Crows scarf in the background because it’s AFL Grand Final Day!!

Cut up the avocados into small cubes and scoop into a medium sized bowl. Mash gently with a fork until mostly squashed but with some lumps (I prefer the term ‘texture’) remaining.

Dice the garlic (making the pieces as small as possible) and tomato and add to the avocado. Gently stir through with the fork.

Add in the lime juice, sweet chilli sauce and tabasco sauce (if desired). Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it and add more of any of the ingredients until it’s balanced and to your liking.

Transfer into a small serving bowl, top with a couple of coriander leaves and enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Emma, my neighbour from Canberra.

And because it’s always stuck in my head, enjoy the horrendously catchy ‘Guacamole Song’ here!!

Funfetti Cupcakes

These delicious vanilla cupcakes are made even better by the addition of sprinkles! Perfect for birthdays, baby showers or any time you feel like celebrating.

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Ingredients (makes 24+ cupcakes)
2 ¾ cups plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tblspn vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup rainbow sprinkles

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting 
200g butter, softened
½ cup milk
1 tblspn vanilla extract
8 cups icing sugar
A few drops of food colouring as desired
Sprinkles, to decorate

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

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). Add in the sprinkles and gently stir through until evenly dispersed.

Spoon mixture into the patty pans (filling each about 3/4 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 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. Add colouring and beat in until combined and the desired colour has been achieved.

Using a piping bag with a Wilton 2D tip, pipe buttercream in a swirl on the cupcakes and decorate with extra sprinkles.

Enjoy!

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Recipes adapted from The Crabapple Cupcake Bakery Cookbook.

Honey Joys

Also known as honey jumbles or honey crackles, these delicious sweet treats were a staple birthday party food of my childhood. They always bring back wonderful memories and I really should make them more often as they require incredibly little effort & take about 10 minutes to make from start to finish.

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Ingredients (Makes approximately 40 small or 16-20 large)
1 heaped tablespoon of good quality honey
60g butter
90g sugar
125g cornflakes

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Method
Preheat oven to 150°C.

Melt butter, sugar & honey in a small saucepan over a medium heat.

Pour gradually over cornflakes in a large bowl, and stir until well mixed.

Place dessert spoonfuls of mixture into small paper patties, and bake for 6 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Recipe from my amazing Mum, Anne Bills

Giant Chocolate Cupcake

I love giant cupcakes. They’re so much fun to make, decorate and, more importantly, to eat. This recipe is for quite an intricate giant cupcake but it is easily adaptable – if you don’t want the bother of working with fondant you can just double the buttercream and ice the cake with that. The cupcake case is also optional (but I think makes the end product look so much more professional). Of course, you could also make the cake batter from scratch but do keep in mind that it is quite a time-consuming process already and the box mixes are relatively stable and so good for cutting and shaping.

The cupcake easily serves 10 adults and would be perfect for a kid’s party serving up to 20 children who have eaten other party food.

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Equipment
Silicone giant cupcake kit
Turntable
Serving plate
Pastry brush

Ingredients
Wilton candy melts
2 boxes chocolate mud cake mix

400g sifted icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
2 tspns vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter

White fondant icing
Blue food colouring
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Large sprinkles (pre-made using fondant)
1 red gumboil

Method
Make cupcake case by pouring a small amount of melted melts into the silicone bottom case and, using a pastry brush, spreading it until the entire inside of the case is thinly coated. Refrigerate for 20mins and repeat. To remove from silicone once completely set, loosen by pulling  & pinching edges away from the chocolate & then gently peel down the sides of the mould.

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Make cake according to packet instructions and fill greased (spray oil) cases 2/3 full. Bake in moderate oven (175°C) for 40-70 mins (bottom will need longer than top) or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in silicone moulds for at least half an hour or until cool. Then carefully peel off silicone, ensuring the cake is supported at all times.

Using a serrated bread knife, trim around bottom cake so all crunchy edges are removed. Level top (of base) and then cut base in half. Cut off bottom layer off top piece. Level base (of top).

Make buttercream by beating ingredients until light and fluffy.

Put a 1cm thick coating of buttercream between 2 bottom layers of cake and then between the base and top (ensure level – cut if necessary). Then put a thin layer of buttercream on the inside of the chocolate case and gently ease cake into it.

Cover top of cake liberally with buttercream to form a protective barrier against crumbs.

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Transfer cake onto a cake board on a turntable. Make a thin sausage out of white fondant (or a thick one for a really cartoon-ish soft serve effect) and put on cake in a spiral manner to achieve a ‘soft serve effect’ in the end.

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Roll out fondant until thin & large enough to cover top of cake and gently place on the cake. Gently massage fondant onto cake, hugging the curves & taking particular care not to pleat the fondant. Cut off excess if necessary and tuck the bottom up so all buttercream is concealed. Decorate with giant “sprinkles” made from red, yellow & blue fondant icing and place the gumball as a cherry on top.

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Rainbow Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

As I’m sure you all know by now, rainbow cakes are in. To surprise my family at my 19th Birthday party, I decided to make one and keep it top secret. While it was time-consuming and challenging and, I admit, I had a few diva moments where I wanted nothing more than to throw the darn cake out the window, it was definitely worth it for the squeals of surprise and delight and the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me. I had, ambitiously, pictured it covered with perfect snow white roses. But it wasn’t to be when my rather overpriced Wilton star tip exploded and I was left with a huge mess and a 2-minute noodle effect. Still I persevered, and when topped with some flowers it didn’t look too bad. I have attempted to make this recipe idiot-proof (if I can do it, you can!) and so have used a packet cake base and converted all measurements. Good luck, this cake isn’t for the faint of heart!

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Ingredients (serves 12-16)
Rainbow Cakes
2 boxes Betty Crocker SuperMoist vanilla cake mix (cheating, I know!)
Milk (as directed on the cake box x2)
Eggs (as directed on the cake box x2)
Red, yellow, green & blue edicol food dye powders

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
12 egg whites (split over 2 batches – 6 per batch)
480g caster sugar (split over 2 batches – 240g per batch)
600g unsalted butter (split over 2 batches – 300g per batch)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract (split over 2 batches – 2 tspns per batch)

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Method
1. Heat oven as directed on the Betty Crocker cake box. Spray three 20cm round cake pans with cooking oil spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix and other ingredients as directed by the cake box (I have stupidly thrown mine out and can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure there were eggs, unsalted butter and milk) *remember to double the quantities as you’re using 2 boxes worth* until well combined.1170685_10151734990259463_1454942815_n

3. Divide batter evenly among 6 bowls.

4. Using food dye and a small quantity of water, make a red, orange (using red & yellow), yellow, green, blue and purple (using red and blue) paste. Add one colour to each bowl and mix until all the dye is incorporated. It might take a few goes to ensure your colours are really vibrant, but it is definitely worth making sure they are for the finished product.

5. Refrigerate the green, blue and purple batters until ready to bake. Pour remaining 3 colours into the 3 prepared cake pans.

6. Bake for 18-20mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake has started to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans and gently place onto cooling racks to cool completely.

7. Wash and dry cake pans. Lightly spray with cooking oil and then pour in the remaining 3 batters and repeat the baking process.

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8. To make the first batch of buttercream, add egg whites and sugar to a large metal bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly but gently until the mixture reaches 70 degrees C or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

9. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip the eggwhites until the meringue is thick, glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (NOT WARM).

10. Switch to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time until incorporated and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if it curdles, keep mixing and it will eventually come back together).

11. Add vanilla, continuing to beat on a low speed until well combined.

12. Trim rounded tops off cakes to level (if necessary). Place the purple layer on the plate you wish to serve the finished cake on. Spread with buttercream to within a quarter of an inch of the edge. Place blue cake on top and repeat. Then add green, yellow, orange and, finally, red.

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13. Spread a light coat of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake to seal in crumbs. Then place the entire cake into a freezer while you make the second batch of buttercream.

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14. Repeat steps 8-11.

15. Remove cake from freezer, prepare a piping bag with a Wilton star tip (I used 2D) and fill piping bag about 2/3 full with frosting.

16. To make buttercream roses, starting at the bottom of your cake, hold your piping bag perpendicular to the surface you are icing, starting the centre of your desired rose and with a small amount of pressure, pipe in clockwise spiral around your centre, about 1 1/2 rotations or until your rose is of the desired size.

17. Repeat for the whole bottom row and then start a new layer, with the centre of your roses between the two roses below. Continue until the cake is fully frosted. Alternatively, just spread the buttercream thickly over the cake and decorate as desired. Enjoy!

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe adapted from Dessert Design Life.

Chocolate Praline Cake

This has been my favourite cake for as long as I can remember. A rich, fudgy brownie-like base topped with a crunchy, sweet praline topping – what more could you want? I love serving this with fresh raspberries and double cream.

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Ingredients
Cake
180g butter, chopped
200g dark chocolate melts
3 eggs
250g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
50g plain flour

Praline Topping
100g butter
100g caster sugar
1 ½  tblspns golden syrup
60g flaked almonds

Method
Melt butter & chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, stir until smooth.

Beat eggs and sugar until creamy and changed in colour.

Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture and stir to combine.

Fold sifted almond meal and flour into mixture and mix well.

Pour mixture into a greased and based-lined 19x29cm rectangular slice pan & spread evenly. Bake at 175°C for 30mins then cool in tin.

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For the topping, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, boil for 2 mins. Spread topping over cake.

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Bake at 175°C for a further 10-15 mins or until topping golden brown. Cool in tin (topping will harden on cooling).

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Cut into desired shape and size and serve with berries and whipped cream.

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Keeps for 5 days in an airtight container.

Adapted from the Australian Gourmet Traveller, November 1996.