Friday, 20 January 2012

Best of 2011

Better late than never eh? :) These are the bakes that stood out for me in 2011. Either because they were challenging, or new, or particularly enjoyable to bake and more importantly, particularly enjoyable to EAT!

Please let me know which of my recipes you tried in 2011 and how they turned out. Which ones made you go 'wow!' (hopefully there were some ;p), and what you want to see me bake more of in 2012 and I promise to try and oblige as many of you as I can.

Thanks for your support in 2011!
I made this cake for my 'Great British Bake off' audition and both Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood loved it :) It's Guinness chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and frosted with Baileys buttercream frosting. It's yummy! Even if I do say so myself.

I swear I'm not just tooting my own horn - these brownies really are amazing! And trust me, I've eaten A LOT of brownies - ahem, only in the name of research of course. Obviously *cough*. I intend to experiment with them a lot, throw some cookies in them (like in the entry below), swirl some peanut butter and throw in some chopped Snickers bars (coming soon) etc so watch this space.

I tried some cookies and cream brownies but I was left underwhelmed. And let's be honest. 'underwhelmed' is a word that shouldn't even feature when we're talking about brownies AND Oreos! Together! So when I saw a recipe for Oreo Stuffed Brownies, I decided there and then to just adapt my recipe slightly and throw some Oreos in them and voila! A friend told me two days ago that whenever he goes to markets and sees a brownie stall, he goes up to them and starts telling them all about these amazing Oreo brownies that his friend Vickii made - that's how cool these brownies are! And easy! Try them!

2011 will go down in history - well, my history anyway. The history in my head which is oh so important to me and I'll recount to my kids over and over again - as the year when I discovered how amazing pumpkin in baking tastes! And also that when you cook butter till it melts and starts to burn slightly, it's an actual technique that makes everything taste amazing; brown butter! I also used brown butter in these Snickers cookies.

Red Velvet Cake Pops
Cake pops were 2011's cupcakes. Remarkably easy to make and not to mention smooshing a cake you've just baked is strangely satisfying :) I need to make some more in 2012!

Triple Layer Oreo Cake
The natural choice of cake for my mum's birthday as she is a chocolate fiend. There's no such thing as too chocolatey in her book! A vanilla sponge layer speckled with Oreo cookies sandwiched between two layers of intense, rich chocolate cake with the aid of a light and creamy filling containing large Oreo pieces. All covered in a rich fudge frosting and decorated with Oreos ... *sigh* ... sorry, I just had a moment there recalling the taste - it was kinda like chocolate and Oreo heaven.

Mojito Cupcakes
A cupcake inspired by my favourite cocktail - what's not to like? ;p

Puffy Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip and Golden Oreo Cookies
This had to be the year of the cookie for me! Turns out I'm not genetically incapable of baking cookies afterall. In fact, I'm pretty good :) I made Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Lemon Sugar Cookies, Lofthouse cookies and Snickers Cookies but these were my favourite! They were also the easiest to make and the most versatile. You can throw whatever you want in them!

My Beautiful Cupcakes
I'm still in love with how amazing Onada made my cupcakes look so of course they made the list! The recipe for the Snickerdoodle cupcakes (the ones with plain white frosting and a dusting of cinnamon sugar) will be posted next week.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy New Year all!

I made this cake twice for Christmas gatherings a week apart. I'll let the reviews I got do the talking ;)

"I dare say your pumpkin cake is currently my most favourite thing in the world.
The sweetness of the caramel frosting perfectly counterbalances the pumpkin moistness and density of the cake with a little bitter chaser" (She should be a food writer right?!)

"I thought Hummingbird was good but ... this cake, oh my God"

"Possibly the best cake I've tasted of yours so far"

"Had a slice, smuggled out and carried across state lines. One word; sublime"

"Someone just screamed OH MY GOD. Can you get me her details?"

I'm not touting my own horn; it's the cake!

This incredible recipe (changed very slightly) is from Food & Wine.

Ingredients

Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
170g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons double cream
455g cream cheese, cut into small cubes

Cake
2 cups plain flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 425g can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup whole milk

For the frosting
1 - In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the pan.
2 - Cook over a medium-high heat without stirring until a medium-dark amber caramel forms, about 15 minutes (Don't worry if it takes longer). Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and double cream. (Don't worry if the butter separates). Discard the vanilla bean.
3 - Transfer the caramel to the large bowl and using a mixer, beat at low speed until the caramel cools slightly and comes together, about 5 minutes.
4 - With the mixer, beat in the cream cheese, 1 cube at a time and beating well between additions (until the cube you've just added has completely disappeared into the mixture), until silky. It should be cool by the time you've incorporated all the cream cheese. Transfer the frosting to a bowl and refrigerate until very firm, at least 6 hours.
For the cake
5 - Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas mark 4 / 350F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. (Note: I made 1 1/2 half times the recipe to make a triple layer cake).
6 - In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
7 - In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the oil, then beat in the pumpkin puree. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 batches, beating well between additions.
8 - Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 - 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
9 - Let the cakes cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes, then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
10 - Place one layer on a plate and spread with 1 cup of the caramel cream cheese frosting. Top with the second layer and frost the top and side.

Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours before serving.
Make ahead: The cake can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Notes: The cake can be garnished with candied nuts

Thank to Philippa Brady for the lovely Christmassy photos!