ANZAC mango cheesecake

In what can only be described as a momentary lapse in judgment, I decided to do our weekly grocery shop with three kids in tow today. You see, I normally do my weekly shop online. Items are ordered from the comfort of home, they arrive the following day and are delivered literally to my kitchen bench. How easy it that!?

I’m not really sure why I decided to ignore my weekly ritual today.  I did tell myself that it might be nice to do a little aisle wander, see what was on special and what new items had arrived on the shelves. How naïve was I!

For what actually ensued was 3 bored kids who argued and moaned the moment we selected a trolley,  and were well and truly over the whole experience before we even got through aisle 1. It also meant that way too many treats snuck their way into the trolley – and the bill at the end was much more than I would ordinarily spend.

One saving grace was the lovely mangoes we picked up – at a price indicative that the warmer months are coming. And they quickly reminded me of this lovely little cheesecake we made a while back for our Father’s Day linner.

With ANZAC biscuits as the base, this no-bake cheesecake was jazzed up with a jelly layer and topped with fresh mango and passionfruit. I followed this recipe , substituting the lime jelly for mango jelly, and foregoing the mint leaves (only because I didn’t have any on hand).

The result was a beautifully tropical dessert that was pretty easy to pull together – and that could be made a day in advance.

But yes, in case there is any doubt, I will be going back to my regular online grocery order from next week…

Lemon Meringue Pavlova Celebration Cake

I was walking through the shops with the family the other day, pacing ahead as I normally do. The kids were dawdling behind, as was my husband, all of whom are quite happy just meandering along.

But this is not all that unusual, for I do tend to operate at ‘hyper’ speed these days. My morning is spent running from one end of the house to the other, picking up clothes and toys, moving washing into the drier (then inevitably putting another load into the washer). Dishes are put away, lunch boxes are packed and school bags (often literally) thrown into the boot of the car. And that’s all before we leave at 7.30am.

And while this approach is mostly productive, it is tiring. It also means that I often start one task only to be distracted by another, as the seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list swirls around my head.

So I am trying to find time to slow things down, when I can. My morning walk helps, even if it means rugging up and bracing the frigid temperatures outside in the dark.

Baking also helps. For it is pretty impossible to speed up – unless you want to end up with a bit of a kitchen disaster on your hands!

And this pretty little cake that I made a while ago certainly could not be rushed. It was my husband’s birthday – and knowing he loves both lemon cheesecake and pavlova – it felt like the perfect opportunity to create something new to mark the occasion.

I started by making a pavlova base – baked in a round cake tin until firm (but still a little marshmalloey) on the inside. Once cooled, this was topped with a layer of lemon cheesecake, through which I swirled lemon curd. Baked again – until set – then allowed to cool.

Then it was time to decorate. Fresh raspberries, blueberries and cream, finished with a white chocolate decoration and a couple macarons I came across at the local bakery.

Yes, this was certainly not a cake that could be rushed – and the various elements meant that it took the better part of an entire afternoon to create. But it was fun to design, and to create, and I must say slowing down for a few hours was rather lovely too.

Tim Tam Slice

I wanted to try a new slice creation when asked to ‘bring a plate’ to a friend’s BBQ the other week. Normally I take my rocky road, or lemon slice, but with a packet of Tim Tams sitting in the cupboard – well I had my inspiration to try something new.

On the subject of Tim Tams – they really are quite iconically Australian, aren’t they. So much so that when we had Japanese exchange students stay with us when I was younger, they took back packets of Tim Tams by the suitcase-load.  They weren’t all that fussed about Vegemite, but they couldn’t get enough when it came to Tim Tams!

But I digress.

This ‘no bake’ Tim Tam slice was made simply with biscuits, Tim Tams (of course), condensed milk, butter, coconut and cocoa powder.

Combined, pressed into a pan, then topped with white chocolate and more biscuit pieces. Then it was into the fridge to set – no baking required.

Then, after a few hours, the slice was ready to slice and serve.

I’m pleased to report that the slice had all the hallmarks of their biscuit inspiration. Full of chocolate and crunch.

A word of warning though….you may find it difficult to stop at just once piece…

Print Recipe
Tim Tam Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a small saucepan, and heat over a low heat - stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the Marie biscuits, half of the chopped Tim Tams and coconut in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Press into the prepared slice tin.
  4. Melt the white chocolate, and pour over the slice. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped Tim Tams and place into the fridge for a few hours to set. Slice and serve.
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My favourite Lemon and Coconut Slice

When asked to “bring a plate”, I often lean towards creating a sweet treat. Rocky road is usually my “go to” sweet, and is generally well received, but on other occasions I like to bring a plate of lemon slice.  For it is easy to make, requires no baking, and the leftovers keep really well too.

Recently I offered to make a couple slices for a birthday party. I had a few chocolate based ones in mind, and figured my favourite lemon slice would work beautifully as a nice flavour contrast to those. And with some lemons leftover from the peach and lemon cake, well it was a no-brainer really.

So one dreary morning, my helpers and I got to work. Lemons were juiced and zested, biscuits were crumbed and condensed milk and butter were heated. And before too long we had ourselves a big tray of lemon slice, sprinkled with coconut, and ready to be sliced and served.

This was a great slice to make with the kids too. They had a lot of fun turning the food processor on and off, and stirring the coconut and melted ingredients into the biscuit crumbs. Bowls and spoons were licked not long after, and coconut was liberally sprinkled over the iced slice (and most of the kitchen benchtop, but let’s not talk about that…!)

Print Recipe
Lemon and Coconut Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
slices (or more depending on the size)
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
slices (or more depending on the size)
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Process the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl, add the coconut, lemon juice and zest, and stir to combine.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk and butter in a saucepan. Heat slowly, over a low heat, stirring until the butter has melted.
  3. Pour the butter mixture into the biscuit mixture, and stir until well combined. Press firmly into a slice tin (that is lined with baking paper), and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the icing sugar and extra lemon juice in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has melted and the ingredients have combined. Spread over the chilled slice, and sprinkle with extra coconut. Refrigerate for a couple of hours (or overnight) then slice and serve.
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Peach and Lemon cake

Do you have something that you like the idea of, more than you actually like?

For me, one such thing is  cake. Sure I love creating and baking cakes, but the eating part – yeah not so much. I tend to find them a bit rich and sweet, and after few bites, I’m generally done.

It’s not that I hate cake, it’s just not what I tend to choose when considering the dessert menu.

And it seems that Miss C also shares my ambivalence towards cake. At parties she will politely take a slice of birthday cake when offered, if anything not to miss out on the ritual of the celebration, but moments later she will inevitably ask me quietly if she actually has to eat it.

A lolly bag on the other hand? Well she can empty that in a matter of seconds.

This little cake, however, I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was rustic, light and lemony, and not overly sweet. The little pops of fresh peach throughout were also a nice flavour surprise.

In fact, I enjoyed this cake so much that I ate the whole slice. Who knows, I might even have another slice today…

Print Recipe
Peach and Lemon Cake
Course Baking
Cuisine Cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160C, and grease / line a round cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest for 5 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and yoghurt, and mix until just combined. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, and top with sliced peaches.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
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Lemon Meringue Tartlets

I am by no means a green thumb.

Gardening does not come naturally to me, and with the frosty Canberra winters, and hot dry summers, well needless to say – we have lost our fair share of plants over the years.

However, there are two plants I seem to be able to grow in abundance – rosemary and lavender.  In fact, I don’t seem to be able to keep up with their growth – resulting in a decent day of pruning the other week.

The other plant that has survived with relatively little intervention is our lemon tree.  I suspect we just got lucky when we planted it, for despite minimal work on our part, it has given us lots of lemons. Even if it is only still a small tree.

And there is something rather wonderful about being able to collect lemons from your own tree, don’t you think? Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago when asked to bring a “sweet” to share at a BBQ with our neighbours.

The lemons were soon turned into lemon curd, which was then used to fill homemade tartlet cases, and topped with a little meringue. It wasn’t the quickest of sweets to make, and probably not one that I would make if time was short, but over the course of the day the tartlets came together and the end result was quite pleasing.

I loved the vibrancy of the lemon curd, which on this occasion was not overly sweet and still a little tart. I decided not to go too overboard with the meringue either, stopping at just a few piped rounds – although I could have quite easily been more generous and covered the whole of the tartlet with meringue.

Here’s hoping our lemon tree continues to yield!

Print Recipe
Lemon Meringue Tartlets
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Instructions
Curd
  1. Start by making the lemon curd - a day in advance, if possible. Combine the lemon juice, zest, caster sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water, and heat slowly - whisking continuously. The mixture will slowly turn from a frothy consistency to a thick, velvety consistency - and you will know that it is ready when you can coat the back of a spoon and draw a clear line through it. At this stage, remove the curd from the heat, and whisk through the cold butter until the mixture is rich and glossy. Set aside until ready to use (or place in the fridge overnight).
Tartlets
  1. To make the tartlets, place the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor, and pulse until the butter has been cut in. Add the egg, and continue to process until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough gently. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C, and lightly grease 12 tartlet cases.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is around 4mm thick. Cut out suitably-sized rounds from the dough, and press into the tartlet cases - trimming off any excess. Prick the base of each case a few times with a fork. Place the tartlet cases on a baking tray, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove the shells and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the meringue, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, one spoonful at a time, continuing to whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  5. To assemble - pipe lemon curd into each of tartlet case. Top with meringue, and brown slightly using a kitchen blow torch.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have tartlet cases, you could make the tartlets using a mini muffin tray.

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Apricot and white chocolate bars

After the success of last week’s school snack baking session, I was eager to add another homemade treat to our list.

As Miss C, in particular, is a big fan of dried apricots, I hoped that an apricot treat would be well received. While she was a little hesitant to try these apricot and white chocolate bars at first, they did not return home when I packed a couple in her lunchbox – so I’m calling it a win (either that or a school buddy had an extra snack that day). Either way, the speed at which they are disappearing from our kitchen counter suggests that they may also be a hit with the older members of our family…

Somewhere between a bar and a cake, these treats are sweetened simply with a little brown sugar and white chocolate.  They may not be the ‘healthiest’, as such, but they are not overly sweet and the ingredient list is modest.

They slice nicely too, making them perfect to pack into little lunchboxes, and could easily be jazzed up with the addition of walnuts or the like (if you don’t have any school nut-bans to be mindful of, that is). 

Oh and in case you were wondering, I most certainly had my little kitchen helper on hand when making these too!

Apricot and white chocolate bars (makes 18)

  • 1 cup dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 120g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a slice tray.
  2. Place apricots and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer until the water has been absorbed. Add the butter and brown sugar, and cook over a low heat – stirring – until the butter and sugar have melted.
  3. Combine the flour and oats in a mixing bowl. Add the apricot mixture and stir to combine.  Fold through the chocolate bits.
  4. Press into lined pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice.

An “Under the Sea” 5th Birthday Party

This year it was Miss C’s turn to have a “big” birthday party, and she’s been planning it for months. Many months.  First it was going to be a Pirate Party, then a PJ Masks Party, but a little while ago she settled on an “Under the Sea” theme – and we ran with that.

Actually, it ended up being a lot of fun to put together. But then again, kids parties normally are!

Since Christmas we’ve been collecting lots of blue and ocean-themed decorations, mainly from the cheap party shops and e-bay. And with the help of Pinterest, a sea-filled party table came together in no time at all!

The food

The table was laden will lots of sea-themed party food – which despite appearances – were quite easy to throw together.

We had starfish sandwiches (some filled with jam, some with nutella and some with sprinkles) and mermaid munch (honey joys).  There were also blue jelly cups (jazzed up with mandarin boats and umbrellas), clam cookies (chocolate chip cookies filled with buttercream) and seaweed sticks (grapes threaded onto skewers). Most of these I made on the morning of the party so that they would be nice and fresh. I also made a big batch of sausage rolls in advance, which I was able to freeze then reheat during the party.

Oh and my favourite party treat? These adorable ‘crab-wiches’ – mini croissants filled with ham and cheese – made into ‘crabs’ with the help of googly eyes glued to toothpicks.

The Cake

I found inspiration on Pinterest for this grand blue cake, and was a tad nervous about trying the ‘petal’ icing for the first time. I loved how vibrant the buttercream turned out, and though the weather was warm, I managed to pipe something akin to what I had in mind without the buttercream getting too soft.

I “cheated” and bought Dory and Nemo toys as toppers, and then finished the cake with some starfish I made using candy melts and star moulds.

A little rustic, but I think it tied in with the overall theme.

Party Favours

I found some cheap buckets on e-bay and they turned out to be the perfect party favours.

Filled with lollies and some other little treats, and I’m hoping our guests can put the buckets to good use next time they are at the beach!

Entertainment

When I realised that we would have 25+ kids attending, I knew I would need some help in keeping them all entertained. I planned a big pass-the-parcel game, but also hired a party host (a Pirate!) to help with the other entertainment. There were games, a magic show, balloon making and even some face painting – certainly much more than I would have been capable of. And all the kids seemed engaged – so I’m calling it a win!

And so another year, and another big birthday celebration,  came to pass. And, as always, along with the sugar high, I’m left wondering just where the last few years have gone???

Happy 5th Birthday to our beautiful Miss C!  Always full of imagination, a lover of adventures and quite the sensitive soul.

Caramel chocolate celebration cake

img_1354It’s been a while since I put my ‘cake creation cap’ on. But when I was tasked with supplying dessert at a recent family dinner, well I figured it was well and truly time to dust off the ol’ cap and get to work.  Particularly when it was to be a birthday and “bon voyage” cake all in one.

img_1351I’ve seen lots of layer “drip” cakes doing the rounds, and decided to give one a try. I think my ganache was a little runny (resulting in rather drippy drips that were far from their picturesque pinterest cousins), but the flavour was still there. And I even went so far as to try my hand at Italian meringue buttercream in place of the usually sickly sweet American buttercream – and boy I’m glad that I did. For it worked just beautifully at mellowing out the otherwise rich caramel mudcake hidden inside – and meant that we reserved our sugar overload for the other goodies piled high on the cake – twix bars, jersey caramels, chocolate stars, malteasers and butterscotch popcorn.

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Yes, I think this was very appropriately dubbed a celebration cake – for it had a little of everything!        img_1358Caramel chocolate celebration cake

For the caramel mud cakes:

  • 400g butter, cubed
  • 400g white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over low heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place the cooled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the sifted flours and stir until combined.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the caramel Italian meringue buttercream:

  • 1 sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or more to taste)
  1. Place the water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over a low to medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of cream of tartar if you like. Start the mixer on medium-low to begin frothing the whites
  3. When the sugar begins to boil, increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. When the whites are at soft peaks, gradually add the 1/4 cup of reserved sugar. Continue beating until they become stiff peaks, then change to the beater attachment.
  4. When the sugar reaches 120C, turn off the heat. With the mixer running on a low speed, slowly pour the hot sugar in a fine stream down the side of the bowl with the egg whites
  5. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has almost cooled (this takes a good 5–10 mins).
  6. When the meringue has cooled, start adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is running on medium.
  7. When all the butter has been added, increase the mixer to high to beat until the buttercream forms and is smooth. Change to the whisk attachment, add the caramel sauce, and whisk for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Heat the double cream in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate. Continue to stir until the mixture is thick and smooth, without any remaining lumps of chocolate. Place in the fridge until the desired “drip” consistency is reached.

To decorate

  • Prepared buttercream icing and ganache
  • Leftover caramel sauce
  • malteasers
  • butterscotch or caramel popcorn
  • chocolate stars
  • jersey caramels, halved
  • twix bars, halved

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops off the cakes, so that they are even.
  2. Put a small dot of the buttercream on your serving plate, then place one of the cakes on top. Spread with a good amount of the buttercream, a little caramel sauce, then place the other cake on top.
  3. Using a palette knife, cover the cakes completely in the buttercream, starting with a crumb layer then a smooth outer layer. Place in the fridge for one hour to chill.
  4. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the ganache over. You can do this using a disposable piping bag , or by gently spooning the ganache onto the centre of the cake and encouraging drips to fall down the sides.
  5. Top the cake with the various edible decorations, and place back in the fridge.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge about half an hour before serving.

Mocha Brownie Cake

IMG_6714 When you have a one year old who is yet to sleep through the night, and someone offers to send you free coffee, well you are most certainly NOT going to say no.

Throw in an invitation to create a coffee-inspired recipe, and well it is pretty much a sure-fire thing.

The caffeine hero on this occasion was Di Bella Coffee, who treated me with some coffee beans and aromatic coffee capsules (that I was super pleased to find out fit into our trusty Nespresso machine just perfectly.

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Starting as a small coffee roasting business in Brisbane in 2002, Di Bella now has an international reach (although they still source 100% of their coffee beans “directly from the farmer”). I tested their Ari blend – touted to be “rich and strong with hints of raw cacao and a bright citrus finish” – and it did not disappoint. It was definitely smooth, and had a wonderful aroma.

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But I also wanted to test out its flavour in a recipe. And given that coffee + chocolate seem to be an appropriate combination when one has a little case of the sleepies, a mocha brownie cake seemed to be a logical solution.

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Rich fudgey chocolate cake, that was a little more “brownie” than your traditional chocolate cake. Completed with a little caffeine kick owing to the coffee contained within. On this occasion, we served slices of the cake as an after-dinner treat, although it would also work served warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream.

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Mocha brownie cake 

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 pods espresso (extracted / short poured)
  • 1 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a square baking tin (18  x 18cm).
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth.
  3. Add the sugar, oil, eggs and coffee, and whisk until well combined.
  4. Sift over the flour and baking powder, and fold in with a metal spoon until just combined.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.

A big thankyou to Di Bella Coffee for the opportunity to work with a new (to me) Aussie product (and for the caffeine kick!)

What about you? Are you a coffee fan?