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.

My Capital Plate

I started this little blog of mine, some 8 years ago. We were living in our ‘original’ house (ie. before it was knocked down and re-built) and kids were still quite some years away. I liked to cook, yes, but not with the passion I now hold.

Canberra,  was a place I resided. But not necessarily a place I called home.

But here I still am, after all those years.  Now in our not-so-new house, two beautiful children to call our own and home-cooked meals making their way onto our dinner table most evenings.

And Canberra is most certainly the town I call home.

So for a while now, I’ve felt that I’ve outgrown my little “Bake Bike Blog” slice of the online world. I tend to walk or run instead of biking, and find myself cooking more than baking.

Insert: Blog Overhaul!

I’d planned to do a full re-do in the New Year, but once the momentum started…well here I am. Still cooking in the Capital and still with a lot on my plate, but with a new online outlet for all things food and frolics!

I hope you’ll bear with me as I smooth out the inevitable glitches that a big change like this can bring, but I can’t wait to start the New Year with a bang!

Welcome to….

My Capital Plate!

Stay tuned….

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.

Roasted vegetable crustless quiche

This recent meal got me wondering…

“What is the difference between a frittata and a crust-less quiche?”

I guess it has something to do with the fact that a frittata is generally started off in a frypan then finished in the oven, while this ‘quiche’ was simply poured into a baking dish and cooked in the oven? Yes that might just be it….

But in any event, we had ourselves a winner of a weeknight meal when we turned to a favourite ingredient.

The humble egg!

Humble, yes, but so very versatile. Be it scrambled or poached for a quick breakfast, an omelette for a speedy lunch or perhaps a couple boiled eggs thrown atop a salad… yes our house is rarely without a carton of eggs.

On this occasion I roasted a selection of vegetables – zucchini, capsicum and sweet potato.

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Placed in a greased baking dish, and covered with some eggs, milk, fresh herbs and goats cheese. Baked for 40 minutes or so, or until set in the middle.

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We kept things simple, and served slices of the ‘quiche’ with a green salad and some sourdough – finished with a good dollop of chilli jam.  It made for a delicious dinner, and also an easy lunch to take to work the next day.

img_1060 Roasted vegetable crustless quiche (serves 4 to 6)

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 yellow capsicum, diced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, basil…)
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled
  • chilli jam, salad leaves and sourdough to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Place vegetables onto tray, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  2. Lightly grease a baking dish, and spread the roasted vegetables in the bottom.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk together. Stir through the fresh herbs.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, and scatter the goats cheese over the top.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set in the middle and golden. Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices to serve.
  6. Top with a dollop of chilli jam, and serve alongside the salad and sourdough.

Chilli Beef and Eggplant Lettuce Cups

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Eggplant is a vegetable that  I don’t eat nearly enough. I seem to overlook it when I’m at the greengrocer, which is unfortunate as I always enjoy it when it makes an appearance in a recipe that I’ve come across.

Once such recipe was for these chilli beef and eggplant lettuce cups that I discovered in a recent Healthy Food Guide edition (you can also find the recipe online here).

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I loved how the eggplant effectively ‘bulked’ out the meat component of the dish, while adding lots of flavour and texture.

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And while I normally tend to roast eggplant, this turned out to be a nice alternative cooking method. I was a tad sceptical at first that the eggplant would be cooked, but after 10 minutes or so in the pan it had softened beautifully.

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The chilli beef and eggplant filling was served in crunchy lettuce cups – resulting in a nice new take on an old favourite – san choy bau (another favourite of mine!). The added bonus being that aside from chopping the vegetables (and their modest cooking time), the whole meal came together quickly and easily – which is always perfect for a mid-week meal.

What about you? Are you a fan of eggplant?

Herbed Yoghurt Potato Salad

img_0521As the warmer weather approaches, so does our tendency to put “BBQs” on the menu for dinner. Mr BBB is usually in charge of the meat, while I take care of the sides – the ‘regulars’ being a green salad or oven baked potatoes.

But recently I went for another potato option…potato salad!

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An Aussie favourite – that is usually loaded with mayonnaise and bacon. But on this occasion, I created a ‘lighter’ version. Still packed with flavour, yes, however in place of mayonnaise I went with natural yoghurt – and left out the bacon all together. Instead, the salad was given a flavour kick with lots of fresh herbs and another one of my favourite – dill pickles!

It didn’t take too long to prepare, and was far from difficult. With the added bonus  that I could make it in the morning and let the flavours develop throughout the day.

img_0517A nice take on an old classic indeed!

Herbed Yoghurt Potato Salad

  • 1.5kg potatoes (desiree or something similar) I left the skins on, but you could peel them if you prefer.
  • 3/4 cup natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 100g dill pickles, chopped
  • 3 green shallots, sliced thinly
  • Handful chopped herbs (I used dill and mint, but parsley would work nicely too)
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender, then set aside to cool slightly. Dice.
  2. Combine the yoghurt, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard, and season to taste.
  3. Add the dressing to the potatoes (while they are still slightly warm), along with the remaining ingredients. Stir gently until combined.
  4. Cover and place in the fridge until required.

Turkey Avocado Cobb Salad (and how I cook perfectly boiled eggs)

img_0468It’s no secret that I am a fan of loaded salad bowls for dinner. Not only do they generally hit the ‘health’ target – they are a great way to use up leftover ingredients in the fridge (particularly at the end of the week when I find myself with lots of bits and pieces in the crisper drawer).

And so this Turkey and Avocado Cobb Salad came to be!

img_0460Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, capsicum, avocado and tasty cheese. With some chopped turkey breast, a little bacon and a boiled egg for protein. A long ingredient list, yes, but so very easy to throw together at the end of a long work day. With the only things requiring any real attention are the boiled eggs and bacon!

As for a dressing – well this was pretty simple too. A little mayonnaise, jazzed up with some lime juice and chilli sauce.

img_0467And just like that – dinner was served.   I’d give you a recipe – but there really is no need. Just go with what you have, and enjoy!

Although I can share my method for boiling eggs with you – as I think I’ve now mastered it…

Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, turn off the heat and leave your eggs in the water for 4 minutes (covered). After 4 minutes, place the eggs in a bowl of iced water and leave for 5 minutes or so. Peel and enjoy!

Merry Christmas

It appears I am being forced into taking a little blog break, with some ‘technical’ issues making getting draft posts onto the blog difficult.  

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to THANKYOU for your support and ‘bloggy’ friendship over this past year. And what a year it has been! From being pregnant to having a loud, crawling 10 month old. And we can’t forget the ever-energetic 3.5 year old!

But I really do enjoy having my little piece of cyberspace, and can’t wait to return to blogging more regularly in the New Year.

So the plan is to try and work some blog-technology magic over the holiday period, and come back better and brighter in 2016!

Until then, I wish you all a magical Christmas and a splendid New Year.

Happy Baking!

Salted Caramel Baked Doughnuts #SweetenYourSummer

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A little while ago I was approached to by Equal to create a recipe using their product. And, while artificial sweeteners may not be everyone’s cup of tea, you can’t really go wrong when the end product involves both doughnuts and salted caramel!

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In fact, my recipe is now included in their free #SweetenYourSummer e-Cookbook, which is a tad exciting too.

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You can download a copy of the free cookbook here: https://www.equalchoice.com.au/sweetenyoursummer/

What about you? What is your favourite doughnut ‘flavour’?

“Honey, its crunch time” Cake

It is no secret that I favour quick, healthy and easy food. Meals that are fresh, and that can be thrown together with relative ease. This cake is none of those things.

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For it involved multiple steps, a few days to make, and is positively laden with chocolate and calories. But the whole process was rather fun. From an idea, to a finished product, created mostly while the kids slept. All with a sense of gratefulness that I had found myself with some spare and un-rushed moments to get creative in the kitchen once more.

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However the hidden story behind this cake starts with peanut brittle. And the distinct lack thereof in the finished product. For when creating this cake in my mind, I had envisaged that it would be topped with peanut brittle shards (although I didn’t feel like making the peanut brittle myself…yes I am still a bit of a sugar-making-gumbie). First shop – sold out. Second shop – none to be found. Third shop – sold out. And even a fourth mercy dash to another supermarket at 7.00am proved fruitless. Seriously! There is apparently a peanut brittle shortage in Canberra!??

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Anyway I went with plan B, and created some white chocolate / honeycomb bark to decorate the cake instead.

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Then later that day, while innocently standing in line at the post-office – there it was. A bag of peanut brittle on the shelf beside me. One lonely little bag. Taunting me. And with my cake already decorated with the ‘plan B’ white chocolate bark,  it appeared that Murphy had struck again. But the end product was a little different to what I had envisaged, I was still really pleased with the overall result. Inspired by the iconic crunchie bar, this chocolate cake has a thick layer of rich honeycomb buttercream, and is covered with a silky dark chocolate ganache outer layer.

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Finished with a sprinkling of crushed crunchie bar and, of course, that white chocolate honeycomb bark.

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No peanut brittle in sight.

“Honey, its crunch time” Cake This cake is best started the day before, as it involves quite a few elements. I *cheated* and used a packet chocolate cake mix (gasp!) but you could, of course, make the chocolate cake element yourself too.

  • 1 rich chocolate cake, cooked and cooled. Then split into two even layers horizontally.
  • 150ml cream
  • 300g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 200g crunchie bars, crushed
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 380g caramel sauce (such as top n’ fill)
  • 2 cups icing sugar (+ extra until desired consistency is reached)
  1. To make the chocolate ganache, place the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until almost simmering, then pour onto the chocolate. Allow to sit for a minute or so, then stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is rich and glossy. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  2. To make the white chocolate bark: Line a tray with baking paper. Melt the white chocolate, and pour onto the baking paper, spreading out to desired thickness. Top with 50g of the crushed crunchie, and place in the fridge to set overnight. Break into ‘shards’.
  3. To make the buttercream: Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy then add the caramel sauce. Gradually add the icing sugar, until the buttercream has reached a good consistency (you want it to be quick thick). Stir through 50g of the crushed crunchie bars.
  4. Begin to assemble the cake, by lining a round spring-form pan (use the one you cooked the cake in) with cling-wrap. Place one of the chocolate cake halves into the bottom of the pan. Cover with the buttercream, then place the other layer of cake on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. On the day of assembly, remove the ganache from the fridge and allow to come to ‘peanut butter’ consistency (you may need to give it a short burst in the microwave.) Carefully remove the cake from the pan and place onto your serving dish. Cover lightly with ganache to form a crumb layer, then refrigerate for 5 minutes (no more). Place another thicker layer of ganache over the cake, using a palette knife to create swirls around the edges. Top half the cake with the remaining crushed crunchie bars, and the white chocolate bark. Place in the fridge – and remove 15 minutes before serving.

What about you? What is your favourite chocolate bar?