Christmas Baking 2016

I was a little bit ambitious for Christmas this year, and wanted to showcase a variety of cakey snack things for my friends. I like to give cake because it’s relatively cheap while still being something people can appreciate and not be some tacky knick-knack that will eventually contribute to landfill. With that in mind, everything I made I packaged either in takeaway containers that I’d washed and reused, or paper bags that could be recycled. It really bums me out that candy canes have to be individually wrapped in plastic, but I’m hoping since Coles supermarkets recycle soft plastics, they can recycle tiny bits of candy cane wrappers.

I think if I had more time or thought about it a bit sooner, I’d look into pretty jars/Tupperware to put treats in. 

Anyway, this year I made a few things for my family and friends that have really looked out for me this year. Everything was vegan since I have many vegan friends/friends allergic to dairy. I made blondies using a recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra, and topped with peppermint candy canes and Sweet William white chocolate.

I also made chocolate truffles dipped in dark chocolate. They were originally going to be rum balls, until I remembered a lot of my friends are parents. Haha.

Finally, I also made some gingerbread, using a recipe from the same Isa Chandra book. I think of all the cookbooks I have, I use hers the most! I did my baking over a couple of days rather than all at once. Well worth the effort! This is probably the last baking I’ll do for the year, so looking forward to more baking in 2017!

Nick’s Birthday Cake

I’ve been really slow with updating, which is a hallmark to my tendency to put things off as long as physically possible. I have no excuse, I’m just the worst.

Anyway, Nick’s birthday was back in November, and his cake was essentially just a vessel for a pile of chocolate. My boy loves chocolate, and who can blame him! So this time, a cookies and cream cheesecake number with some of the best of the $1 chocolate bar special at Woolworths had to offer.

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Also some strawberries for like, nutrition, or something.

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Stylistically, I was going for the chaotic whimsy of the team at Unbirthday Bakery (check ’em out on Instagram). Their cakes just look so insane and amazing, and they have a strict no fondant policy which I admire because fondant is gross. I myself try to avoid as much as possible (but am also not very good at that). I’m also not very good at piling chocolate together in as artful or skilful a way as they do, but they’re professionals so whatever.

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And that is how to give your loved one a trip to the dentist for their birthday.

Snickers Cupcakes

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Edit: found some photos from the event of my cupcakes! So I added them in. Credit to May K for the photograph.

Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures but I was in a rush making these. So last night I went to a Black Milk Clothing meet up here in Perth, at Luxe Bar, Mt Lawley. Black Milk is an Australian-based (made and designed in Brisbane), internationally successful clothing company, most well-known for their leggings and swimsuits. Probably one of their greatest strengths is their community built through social networks – there are hundreds of groups around the world based on BM, one of which is the Perth BM group.

It was a great opportunity to meet the creators behind the company, as well as the admins that run the Perth group, and the countless women (and men) that are a part of the Black Milk community.

But anyway, cupcakes. I wanted to bake something nice, basically because it’s what I do, but also because I hoped cake would make up for my lack of social skills.

Totally works, right?

I didn’t actually get to try these but from what I’ve heard they were good. Haha…

They’re a combination of three delicious elements: chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter frosting, and caramel sauce. The caramel sauce was a bit thin so I think it was more or less unnoticeable, sadly. Otherwise they turned out exactly how I wanted them to (at least visually, will have to assume they tasted good too).

Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:
3 tbs butter/margarine (I used Nuttelex), softened
1 cup caster sugar
~1 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
2 cups self raising flour
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 175°C.
Cream margarine, sugar and vanilla until combined. Sift in dry ingredients. Stir in milk.
Divide into cupcake pans. Bake for approx. 10 mins or until cooked all the way through. Allow to cool.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
2 tbs butter/margarine, softened
Water, as needed

Method:

Combine the two butters. Sift in icing sugar and combine thoroughly (I mashed it with a fork; there are probably more efficient ways to do this).
The frosting will be quite thick, so you can either add more butter or margarine to thin it out so you can pipe it, or add small amounts of water. I did the latter because I felt guilty about the calorie content.
Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

You can stop at this point, or go the extra mile like I did and add a caramel drizzle (I also stuffed the cupcakes woth caramel sauce but its thinness caused it to just soak into the cake itself). I also melted some dark chocolate amd drizzled that on top too. 🙂

Rum Balls!

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Making a pinata cake was a lot more disastrous than I’d previously let on. My first cake worked out perfectly, but while transferring the second out of the cake tin it completely fell apart. Not good. I set it aside to make a third cake and try forget it ever happened. (If I grieved for every cake I’ve ever botched I’d just be crying, like, all the time).

So nearly five days later, I still have bits of cake stashed in some Tupperware and it’s starting to go stale. Something has to done. I could’ve just eaten the cake as is (I’d already picked at bits of it. I’m not ashamed.), but even I can only eat so much cake.

So rum balls! Yay! I feel like rum balls are the forgotten older cousin of the flashier cake pop world. They’re essentially the same thing, but with rum. And therefore good times. This was also a fun excuse to use up some of the leftover cake toppings I had from the cupcake station 🙂

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To make rum balls you really only need 3 ingredients: chocolate cake crumbs, dark rum, and frosting. People like to add stuff like dessicated coconut or chopped sultanas, but I like to keep mine simple.

Like cake pops, the texture is really important – too dry and they’ll fall apart. You don’t really need the frosting either, but it helps moisten the cake without accidentally adding too much rum. I kind of winged the ratios here, but it was roughly two cups of cake crumbs, 1/4 cup of rum, and 2 tbsp frosting. I mixed together using my hands (gloves are really handy here); it gives you a better feel for the texture – you can test by rolling a ball together and seeing if it’ll fall apart.

Roll all the balls up, coat in some melted chocolate, then place on a tray covered in cling wrap. Spoon some toppings on before the chocolate hardens (crushed hazelnuts and sprinkles in this case), then stick in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set.

There you have it! Now you have a million delicious treats you can palm off to your friends! Hooray!

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Avocado and Zucchini Chocolate Cake

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Pretty proud of this one! I’ve been reading a lot of Poppy’s blog lately (bunnykitchen.com). I really like her innovative use of ingredients that you wouldn’t really expect otherwise, and pushing the boundaries of vegan food. Even though I’m not vegan myself I love a lot of vegan food, especially when it involves a lot of fresh produce (and cake).

My parents are market gardeners, and after I visited them a couple weeks ago I had a heap of produce leftover that were destined for the bin if I didn’t use them up! Like most cakes, it doesn’t matter too much if your veggies have turned for the worse a little, so it’s a great way to use up large amounts of veg in one go. Brilliant!

This cake is inspired by Poppy’s beetroot and avocado cake. I swapped out a few ingredients and it still came out deliciously moist and rich. The avocado acts as a healthy replacement for margarine, which isn’t all that great for you. It’s great for vegan cakes where butter is obviously not an option.

The dark chocolate ganache is super simple but really rich. It can be a bit bitter, so I added agave nectar to sweeten it (you can use any kind of sweetener really).

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Avocado and Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I used self-raising)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 cup zucchini, grated
1/4 cup sunflower oil (any flavourless oil is okay)
1 cup liquid sweetener (I used half cup agave nectar, and half vanilla sugar syrup I just happened to have in my fridge haha)
2 tsp vanilla extract/essence.

Method:

Preheat oven to 175°C.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour through to salt).
Add wet ingredients (everything else), and mix until combined well.
Spray a 20cm springform tin with olive/canola oil and spoon cake mix into tin, smoothing down the top as much as possible (I didn’t do this and as a result the top of my cake was really lumpy and ugly).
Bake for about 45 mins, checking every 10-15 mins with a skewer. Cake is done when the skewer comes out cleanly.
Put cake on a rack to cool for 5 mins or so, then take it out of the springform tin on the rack to cool completely.
Decorate with ganache and sprinkles of dessicated coconut.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

300g dark chocolate (I used 200g of 70% and 100g 85%)
100g coconut cream
2 tbsp liquid sweetener (optional)

Method:

Melt chocolate down in a small pot on a very low heat, stirring often and taking care not to burn it (you can microwave, but I find that really erratic and potentially messy).
Once completely melted, take it off heat and add coconut cream and liquid sweetener (if using), stirring quickly until it forms a thick ganache.
Spread on cake while warm as it hardens as it cools.

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