29 July 2011

Fun Times

We had a very special group of visitors yesterday.
Not only was my special blog friend Simone from Greatfun4kids coming for a visit, but her three children as well. One of whom was celebrating her 7th birthday today! Happy Birthday Miss Ab Fab!

Anyway, it was so lovely to see them again after I missed the last blog catch up at Simones house. So after the kids had a play and something to eat we took a trip down to the beach. Luckily I managed a photo for Simone before the kids got to the water. Because this is was before....

and this was afterwards.

Ahh yes...this is what happens nearly every time we go to the beach. Even in winter. Lucky they can all jump in a warm bath afterwards. As for Dash...I think he's fantastic and had my girlies giggling at him the whole time. He's got a bit of a fan club here now. Certainly Miss Fab and Scrag were the most sensible of the lot however and gave the others these looks here...

"nah...glad that's not me"

Well I think they enjoyed themselves. There was lots of laughter, lots of happy faces. And the best part...a little bit of sunshine and scoffing down cakes in the kitchen with Simone before the kids caught us! Nothing nicer than a freshly baked and iced cupcake eaten messily and naughtily for a bit of a laugh.

Here's to friends...and hopefully some warmer weather.

Have a wonderful party tomorrow Miss Fab (awesome work Simone!).

Super fun times with these guys!

28 July 2011

More Cupcakes

Here are yet some more cupcakes done these school holidays. An order for a 7th birthday tea party.
I love doing these orders as I love the prettiness of tea parties and the girlie pretty cupcake papers add to it, with the baby pink icing.
The cupcakes were vanilla with a strawberry swiss meringue buttercream.
Simple but delicious and pretty!

22 July 2011

The Elvis Cupcake

Oh boy this is exciting (for me anyway!). I found a tutorial for making swiss meringue buttercream the other day and have been meaning to try it out. I attempted Italian meringue buttercream the other week and something went terribly wrong and I ended up scrubbing hardened sugar off my kitchenaid whipping attachment. Suffice to say it didn't work and tasted awful and not at all salvageable.
Italian meringue buttercream requires pouring a sugar syrup into whipped fluffy egg whites and then adding butter to the cooled mixture and mixing and mixing until you get a nice glossy buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream requires sugar and egg whites to be heated over a bain marie and then whipped up into a thick glossy meringue before adding the butter. Same ingredients, different techniques and some prefer one over the other. I prefer the swiss method. Either way, done correctly its absolutely divine to use and eat!

For these cupcakes I used my favourite banana cake recipe. I added peanut butter and manuka honey to the buttercream to give it a honey and peanut butter flavour and it worked amazingly!! I've added honey to a regular butter and icing sugar mix before and it was just way too sweet, but this was perfection. So smooth and so easy to keep eating! Did I already mention that?

So here you are. Banana cupcakes with Honey and Peanut Butter Buttercream. Sprinkled with a bit of peanut praline for good measure. Elvis would be proud.

The red ones have a bit of nutella in the centre also.

Here's the recipe for the cake and the buttercream - this made more than enough batter and buttercream for 18 cupcakes.

Banana Cake
125g butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 180deg C. Prepare cupcake tins with papers (makes roughly 18)
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until creamy. Then add the vanilla and mashed banana and beat well. Sift flour and bicard soda and add to creamed mixture along with the water. Mix well. Spoon into cupcake cases filling about 1/2 way.
Bake for 15 mins or until skewer comes out clean.
Let cool and then pipe or spoon buttercream icing.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
250g butter, softened but cool still (I know! Alot!)
pinch salt
1 teaspoon manuka honey (the taste is nice and strong)
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl (preferably metal) and place over a simmering pot of water. Whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is free from grains (rub some between your fingers, it should be hot but not grainy). Remove from heat and with a whisk attachment beat until thick and glossy. Keep beating until the bowl is neutral to touch. If it is too hot then the butter will melt...and we don't want that. Once cool add the butter one cube at a time while on a low speed. Keep beating until well incorporated. Then add a pinch of salt, honey and the peanut butter and mix till all combined.
And you are done. You can use this right away, or refrigerate for later use. Just make sure you chuck it back in the mixing bowl and beat it again before using.
And remember if you don't want peanut butter then you can use any flavour or colour combination you like.

Have fun!

21 July 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've never made these before and I've wanted to for so long. The light and moist sponge, combined with the lovely smooth cream cheese icing makes for a delicious, velvety and easy to eat treat.
This recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery recipe book which is a divine book full of delicious treats from the famous bakery in London. On the top, for an extra zing I used my new Equagold cocoa nibs grinder (with chilli!). This is so much fun to use and can be used as a topping for any dessert or cupcake for a bit of excitement!

My talented friend Jude made us the most incredible Hummingbird cake on Tuesday which now has me addicted to cream cheese icing like never before!

11 July 2011

My week off

Sorry y'all, since my portfolio has been sent in I've been spending my week relaxing and taking time to do nothing. I did spend most of Thursday baking with Zara (niece) as she is on a semester break from her Cookery class down in Nelson. So she's taught me a few things...like don't cut the roots of the onion till last then you won't be crying so much. Oops. Didn't know that one.

So we made these cupcakes on Monday.
Chocolate caramel filled cupcakes with crunchy peanut butter frosting. Yum!

On Thursday it was ginger and lemon slice and an assortment of cookies courtesy of the AWW Cookies and Slices book. Peanut butter has featured heavily this week, along with butterscotch drops and some fancy italian biscuits which required me to make peanut praline. I tell you what  I hate making the sugar. I burnt it 3 times before passing the job to Zara. Its not as easy as it looks.

But more successfully yesterday I made the most divine tart, which was eaten far too quickly to get a picture of. What I will say though...Thank you Annabel Langbein! Her caramelised onion and feta tart is the most delicious and simple thing I have eaten in ages (apart from The Stone Oven spinach and mushroom pies). I urge you all to source her cookbook The Free Range Cook and try this recipe, its superb. The pastry is OH so buttery, the onions are perfect (and I don't usually like onions), the feta just tops it off nicely and most of all its smells divine when it comes out of the oven! I'm tempted to make it again this week just to show you how delicious it looks. And its an excuse to eat it again!
And today its a simple lemon ricotta cheesecake that Zara is whipping up in the kitchen right now. I can't wait to eat it already. Already have the camera on standby.

My next two papers start today so I'm back to being a student. Ahhh it was nice to have a week's break.

01 July 2011

Picnic in the Park

Finally I have finished my portfolio for my first semester of my photography diploma.
Not all of these were in the portfolio as I was only allowed 10 (sooo hard to choooooose!) but I've included lots as I really really love them all!