Monday, 2 July 2018

Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Biscotti

When I looked up the original recipe for these biscotti, I skim read through the method and completely missed the instruction to halve the chocolate  (50g of chocolate was intended for melting and drizzling over the baked biscotti).
It had been a busy week, and making biscotti was a last minute thought before we left for our Mozambique holiday.

 But when is too much chocolate ever an issue?! (Unless it's being consumed by your three year old before bed-time... Of course I don't have toddlers anymore, so S.E.P ... someone else's problem πŸ™Š)

So, I have kept the chocolate volume un-halved in my version. And added some almond flour too.

My son did make pretty short change of these biscotti while we were away, but seeing as his days were filled with swimming, snorkelling and digging huge trenches in the beach, I wasn't too worried that he'd battle to fall asleep.
Plus they're loaded with dark chocolate (have I mentioned that?), and almonds - so they're essentially a health food...! 

Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Biscotti 
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver 

Pre-heat the oven to 180'C
Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.


200g cake flour
40g almond flour
60g unsweetened cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate
60 g raw almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 medium orange
3 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together.
Roughly chop the chocolate and the almonds.
Place all the above ingredients into a food processor and pulse several times; the chocolate and almonds should be in smaller pieces now.
Add the 3 eggs and vanilla, and pulse again until the mixture just starts to come together.
Remove from the food processor and mix by hand into a ball.
Divide the dough in two. Sprinkle a little caster sugar on your work surface and roll each half into a log approx. 28cm long.

Bake at 180'C for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool.
Use a serrated knife to cut the logs diagonally, into 1.5cm slices.

Place cut-side down on baking trays, and return to a warm oven (120'C) until dried out and crispy. 
Cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

Try different variations - Jamie Oliver's recipe called for cranberries and pistachios; and I made a batch with a tablespoon of ground ginger instead of the orange zest. 
Let me know what flavour combinations you use, and how they turn out. 

Happy baking!


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot - The Cupcake Version

In my original post of this recipe, I wrote that the orange zest was (optional). 
It isn't really. 

Now, I have a friend who would walk away from this cake - yes, walk away from a dark chocolate carrot cake with a cheesecake swirl! - if she heard that there was orange zest in it. 
But, as long as citrus is not your nemesis, I strongly encourage you to include it in this recipe. 
There's just something about the combination of dark chocolate and orange that titivates the tongue; not to mention how sublimely it combines with the cheese cake component in this mix. 
Convinced? Yes!

So, obviously now you want to make this Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake, but perhaps the Bundt cake version is a little intimidating.
No problem: It converts perfectly into cupcakes!

Here's how:

Follow the recipe for the Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake, but forget the Bundt pan. 
Instead, prepare 2 x 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases (preferably the slightly larger "American" muffin cases).

Use a 30ml measuring cup (1/8th cup measure)*, to place chocolate carrot cake batter into the bottom of the cupcake case. 

Top with a scoop* of the cheesecake mix; followed by another scoop of the chocolate carrot cake batter.

*Ideally, use two separate 30ml measuring cups for this.
*Not all muffin trays are created equal - there's a range of "standard" sizes. I used my larger ones for these cupcakes, ( they're large but not giant muffin tins.)
*You only want to fill the muffin case approx 2/3 full in total with all three layers, so do one and then judge the rest of your scoops accordingly. 

Bake at 175'C for approx. 30 minutes, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. 
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the muffin tin and placing on a rack to cool completely. 

If you want to simplify and omit the cheesecake part of this recipe, the dark chocolate carrot cake is great just on its own. But don't leave out the orange zest πŸ˜‰
Dust with icing sugar before serving, or - if you have omitted the cheesecake layer, try them with a swirl of cream cheese icing.



Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake

Ever have one of those days where you can't decide between carrot cake, cheese cake or chocolate cake?
Well, why choose one when you can have them all?!

I made this "Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake" for the Lancewood Cake-off competition, and I want to thank everyone who went across and voted for it.
 It was one of those competitions, though, where you had to go campaigning for votes, which is so not me. (Clearly no political careers in my future!)
I do think, however, that if it had been up to taste, this cake would certainly have been up there with the winners πŸ˜‰

Unlike most of my current recipe posts, this one uses cup measures, because I took the "use Lancewood products " message to heart, and not only used the contents of the cream cheese tub, but the tub itself! 
Bonus points! ... or not πŸ™ˆ

SO, anyhoo - the tub is a substitute cup measure. 

Cheesecake Swirled Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Pre-heat the oven to 175'C
Grease a large Bundt cake pan


Cheesecake swirl -
1 ½ tubs  medium fat plain cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake -
2 cups cake flour
2 cups caster sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

1 cup canola oil
½ cup buttermilk
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrot
zest from 1 orange  (optional)
½ cup boiling water

Cheesecake Swirl -

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat until soft. Add the remaining swirl ingredients and beat until smooth. Set aside.

Dark Chocolate Carrot Cake -

Using the tub as a cup measure, measure out and sift together the dry ingredients.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

Crack both eggs into the empty tub, put on the lid and shake - lightly beaten eggs!
Top up the tub containing the eggs with buttermilk.
Pour the eggs and buttermilk mix into the well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
Measure out a tubful of canola oil, and pour that into the well, followed by the vanilla extract and the tubful of grated carrots, and orange zest, if using.
Briefly mix the ingredients together before stirring in the boiling water. Mix well.

Spread half the chocolate carrot cake batter into the bottom of a large, greased Bundt pan.
Pour and spread the cheesecake swirl mixture over the cake batter; followed by the remaining cake batter.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175'C fot 70-80 min. (This cake will take a while to bake because it is large and moist. Cover the top of the cake loosely with aluminium foil if it is browning too quickly). It is done when a wooden cocktail stick inserted into the cake comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Once done, remove from the oven, and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before turning the cake out from the tin.

Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

Yes, it's a lot of ingredients and a bit of effort, but it isn't a difficult cake to make. 
And it certainly is worth it!

I'll be posting tips on a cupcake version soon. 

Happy baking!


Friday, 8 June 2018

Toadstool Fairy and Modelling Pastes

When I first started modelling fondant figurines, I remember being so proud of my creations, but looking back they weren't very good at all! I even made some dodgy tutorialsπŸ™ˆ
 (No, please - that is not a cue to go back and look up anything I posted before 2014!)

 Back then, I used a modelling paste made from adding tylose / CMC powder to fondant, which is a very quick and easy way to get a firmer paste (1 tsp powder kneaded into 250g fondant). 
While that works, it doesn't have the flexibility of the modelling chocolate /fondant blend which has become my preferred modelling medium. 


Modelling chocolate/ fondant blend - is a 1:1 ratio of fondant and modelling chocolate. 
 i.e. if I have 100g fondant, I'll add 100g modelling chocolate to that to make the blend. 

To create a firmer, drier paste (especially useful in high humidity months) I also add CMC / Tylose paste to the mix. It has to be the paste, not simply the powder because the powder when added to a modelling chocolate blend, doesn't seem to be as effective as it is when added to plain fondant. 

What amount of CMC paste do I add? About 25% of the weight of the blend. 
100g fondant and 100g modelling chocolate (200g together) will need about 50g tylose paste. But you can play around with those ratios depending on your requirements. 

I avoid having to separate eggs, wherever possible and always have meringue powder available for making royal icing. So this is my recipe for CMC /tylose paste using meringue powder (locally called Actiwhite) instead of fresh egg white. And it uses an electric mixer... because getting my hands sticky is also something I prefer to avoid!

 CMC  / Tylose Paste with Meringue Powder

80ml water
3 tbs meringue powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbs CMC powder
500g icing sugar + extra
1 tbs Holsum / Crisco (white vegetable fat)

Whisk the meringue powder in the water to form a paste.
Add in the cream of tartar and 2 cups of the icing sugar. Use the paddle attachment of your mixer to beat on low.
Add in the CMC powder and another 2 cups of icing sugar. Mix well.
You might want to change over to the dough hook at this stage, as the paste begins to firm up.
Mix well on low speed. If the paste is clumping, take out of the mixing bowl, and knead until it comes together.
The paste should not feel sticky and moist. If it does, knead more icing sugar into it.

You can halve the ingredients for a smaller batch of paste. Just be careful to measure out your water volume correctly - a little too much water, and you'll be struggling to reach a final dry paste consistency. I usually weigh the water for this recipe - 80ml water = 80g.  

Happy modelling!


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Birdcage Cakes with Edible Lace

These vintage birdcage cakes have a lovely romantic feel, don't they?
One would make a beautiful top tier to a wedding cake.

Don't analysed that too deeply, though: caged birds might not be the most appropriate symbol to start a marriage ...?!
(Perhaps it's a good thing that wedding cake trends are moving away from fondant, towards buttercream and fresh flowers instead!)

So, while edible lace isn't quite as trendy as it was a year or two ago, it is still handy to have in your cake-artist arsenal. ( And a big bonus is that it can be made in advance and stored.)

I've tried a couple of the commercial lace mixtures, but have had great success with this homemade brew:

Home-Made Edible Lace Mix

125ml (1/2 cup) water
15ml (1 tbs) tylose / CMC powder
15ml (1 tbs) icing sugar
30ml (2 tbs) corn flour
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) meringue powder
5ml (1 tsp) liquid glucose
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) glycerine
Gel food colour - white or other
Corn flour or luster dust

Mix the water and CMC powder together. Use a handheld electric beater and beat on med-high speed until the mixture is clear. (It will be jelly-like).
Beat in the dry ingredients. When well mixed, add in the glucose, glycerine and a few drops of gel colour.
This is a thick mixture, the consistency of set custard!

Dust a lace mat lightly with cornstarch, or alternatively with lustre dust.

Use an off-set palette knife to spread the lace mixture onto the lace mat. Keep the mixture in the pattern, and scrape off any excess.

( I only needed the swags part of this lace design, so I blocked off the rest with masking tape, to save on wastage and to ensure a neat edge to the lace.)

Place in an oven for approx. 10 minutes at 70'C.
When non-sticky to touch, spread a second layer of lace mixture over the first.

Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Leave to cool before peeling carefully from the mat.
When the lace has been sufficiently "baked", it is easy to remove from the mat. If it is still sticky, place in the oven a little longer.
If it is too dry, it will crack as you remove it from the mat. In this case, either cover with a slightly damp cloth, or spread another layer of the lace mix over it, return to the oven again - but check regularly and remove before it over-dries again.

Depending on the design, if you gently lift swags and delicate areas from the mat first, it makes it easier to peel off the rest of the lace.

Apply to the cake with a little edible glue.

Store lace that isn't being used in plastic sleeves in a sealed container. 
Away from humidity, edible lace has a very long shelf life. 

Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Wedding Cookies

Through absolutely no planning or foresight, I managed to coincide the scheduling of the Bride-to-Be Cookies Class with a royal wedding. Royal icing and royal wedding - splendid, what?! πŸ˜‰

I distinctly remember sitting around a TV  in the school hall the day Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married. It was pure magic for a 6 year old little girl! 
Then roll the clock forward a couple of decades, and I only managed to catch glimpses of the next big royal wedding (William and Kate) while looking after a small baby and a toddler. 
I had a little more time to watch this one now. 
Did you see any of it? What did you think? I enjoyed the simplicity of it.
(Although I'm sure it was 100 times more complex behind-the-scenes than your average wedding!) 

So, in the spirit of simplicity - here's two gowns for the price of one ...

Just cut and trim.
No expensive designer price tags!

See a recent post on how to make the bouquet cookie here:

Happy decorating!


Monday, 14 May 2018

Letter Cake Cookie Cake

How gorgeous is this latest cake trend - "cookie cakes"?

It's one of those ideas that's so simple, yet so beautiful that you think - Why didn't I think of that?!

But I didn't! So I'll just follow the trend instead...

I made this one for my niece's birthday. It's not strictly a "cookie cake" because it's layers of cake - vanilla pound cake - not cookie. 
Same same, but different... πŸ˜‰

One of the things I love about it is that you can make most of the elements in advance. Just add the fresh bits on the day of assembly. Winner!

 As an aside: I always prefer to work with cold cake; it's not as fragile and there's less crumb to deal with.
(Another reason to make the cake in advance!)
Once baked, let the cake cool down, then wrap it in a double layer of cling-wrap and freeze.

Cake doesn't take long to defrost, but I don't wait for that, anyway - preferring to slice it when it's semi-thawed.

If you are worried about the cake drying out, use a simple syrup to keep the sponge moist. Or select high-fat recipes, that freeze well.

For this particular cake, I was tried out a new pound cake recipe - this one from 

But you could use this delicious cream cheese pound cake recipe, or this hot milk vanilla sponge.

Use a plain round-tip icing nozzle, e.g. an Ateco 806, to pipe on your buttercream ...
try get your lines straighter than mine!

Place another layer of cake on top, and repeat piping rounds.
Decorate with meringue kisses, macarons, chocolates, berries, edible flowers, etc.

The possibilities are endless, and I can't wait to try another version ... a boy-themed one perhaps?

Happy baking!