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.

img_1342

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.

IMG_6693

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.

IMG_6721

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.

IMG_6718

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.

IMG_6709

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?