Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Clementine and Ginger Macarons

Winter might be a good time to cocoon, but it is also a great time to try macarons!
The drier weather here in KZN means that these fussy little confections are easier to make now than in the humid summer months. And macarons ARE easy... once you've figured out their foibles!

These ones are filled with ginger & clementine dark chocolate ganache.
It's a rich and zesty combination of flavours that pairs wonderfully with a cup of strong mocha java!


3 egg whites (100g-110g), at room temp. Aged for 2-3 days.
2 Tbs (30ml) caster sugar
200g icing sugar
125g finely ground almonds/ almond flour
A few drops of orange gel food colour

Prepare 2 large baking trays with parchment.
Make sure that the parchment is flat and that the trays aren't warped.

Put the almond flour and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse until well mixed and finely ground.
Sift into a bowl. Discard the large granules which don't pass through the sieve.

Whisk the egg whites at low speed with an electric beater until frothy, then add the caster sugar.
Beat until soft peaks form; mix in the gel colour.
Beat until the colour is mixed in and the meringue is thick and glossy.

Sift the almond flour / icing sugar mix into the meringue in two batches  - folding in between.
Once again discard any large granules of almond flour

Use a spatula  to gently fold the batter until it is loosened and falls in "ribbons" from the spatula. (It is worth watching a few YouTube videos to see the consistency you're aiming for).

Transfer  the mixture to an icing bag with the tip cut off or one fitted with a large plain round icing nozzle (not more than 1cm diameter).

Pipe small dots of batter beneath the corners of the baking parchment, to keep it in place on the baking tray.

Pipe your macaron rounds - about 3-4cm diameter, about 2cm apart. Pull your piping tip to the side - this leaves a tiny tail, which should settle. 
Rap the tray twice on the counter to release any hidden air bubbles. 

Leave the macarons to stand for 15-30minutes until they form a "skin" - ie. when touched with a clean, dry finger they aren't sticky.
Turn the oven on to pre-heat to 150'C during this time

Bake at 150'C for 15-20 minutes.
Check that they're not browning as the end of the baking time approaches.
Remove from the oven.

Leave to cool for 5 - 10minutes, then remove the shells from the trays. If the macarons are undercooked, they will stick to the parchment. You can pop them back into the warm oven for a few minutes just to dry out a little more.
(Macarons are best after being filled and left for 24hrs - the filling rehydrates them a bit.) 

Clementine & Ginger Ganache
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

160g dark chocolate, cut in small even sized pieces
80ml fresh cream
Zest of 2 small clementines
1tsp ground ginger.

Heat the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler or in a microwave on low/medium power.
Stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Mix in the ground ginger and clementine zest.
Allow the ganache to set at room temperature until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
Spoon or pipe onto a macaron shell; place another shell on top.

Refrigerate filled macarons overnight (the flavours are even better once matured).
Bring to room temperature before serving.

And after reading all of that, if you're not feeling up to the challenge of making macarons, at least try this ganache. It would be great as a tart filling; poured over a rich chocolate cake, or spooned into a glass of warm milk to make a decadent and zesty hot chocolate.



Monday, 29 May 2017

The Princess and the Troll

Whenever I write one of these Then & Now posts, it does occur to me that I'll probably look back in another few years and say Eeeeuw! to both the pics.
I'll just have to edit this post with a then, then and now picture.
But for now now...

This is Princess Poppy from a recent class...

And this was a princess topper I did 5 years ago....

Notice the patchy glitter on that perched crown; the spot of pink for her ?lips, and the head that's merging with her shoulders... 😂
I thought she was lovely at the time! 
(I think I made this for you, Lauren. You have my humble apologies. If you ever move back to the country, I promise I'll make you something better!!) 

The question is ... which one is the real troll?! 

Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Icing

By now you'll know that I like to keep things simple. (A far cry from my early baking days when I'd make door-stopper muffins that contained every ingredient known to man!)

So I use the same recipe over and over, with minor variations, if I know that it's good and easy.

For this one, I've used my go-to chocolate cupcakes (you only need one bowl - can it get any easier ?!  Well, yes ... box-mix!); topped with cream cheese icing that has a delicious addition: crumbed Oreos.

 And then you can give it all a fancy-smancy name like Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies&Cream Icing 😋

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from the Hershey's chocolate cake recipe. 

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Prepare 2x 12 hole muffin trays with cupcake cases. (Plus an extra 6 if you aren't using larger "American"-style muffin cases) 

320g cake flour
400g caster sugar
80g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 
180ml vegetable oil
250ml buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml boiling water 
1tsp vanilla extract

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine. 
Make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. 
Mix well. 
Add the boiling water. Mix until combined.  

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cases.
Bake at 180'C for approx 20min, or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. 
Remove cupcakes from muffin trays and cool. 

Cookies & Cream Icing
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

100g butter,  at room temperature
80g sifted icing sugar
250g cream cheese, chilled 
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g finely crushed Oreo biscuits

Beat together the butter and icing sugar, until smooth and creamy. 
Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. 
Stir in the Oreo crumbs
Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

Top with a mini Oreo or sprinkle with crushed Oreos.

You may need to double the icing ingredient quantities if you want to pipe large swirls on all the cupcakes. 
I usually freeze half the batch of cupcakes and ice the rest. Yes, these chocolate cupcakes freeze well, and so does the icing (just freeze the two separately, though ... don't freeze the iced cupcakes in the unlikely event of any leftovers!)

Happy decorating!


Thursday, 11 May 2017

(Another) Unicorn Cake

Jeez, my life...
I had set aside an afternoon to finish the details on my niece's birthday cake (she's an avid horse rider and star show-jumper in-the-making, but I figured: horses/ unicorns ... I'd personally choose the unicorn...!).
My thinking had initially been a cotton candy mane. But it turns out, cotton candy doesn't like being exposed to air - even dry, autumn air.
So plan B was buttercream rosettes.

And then I got called back to theatre for an emergency (back 'cos I'd already been there the whole morning).
So, to plan C...
A few twists of modelling chocolate/fondant; flowers and stars (made the previous day, thankfully) and the unicorn was done.

And no - I didn't have time to take photo's along the way. The collage is a mock-up I did later,  just for you.

All in a days work 😅

Happy decorating!


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Cupcake Cookies

It's a learning curve, I tell people that come to my classes. 
Don't expect to get it perfect the first time, I say. 
We're not pursuing perfection - that's something reserved for astronautical engineers and neurosurgeons. 

It's just cake. If you mess up, eat the evidence. 

Or you could just decorate on top of the hole your finger made in the drying icing  (see the heart on that cupcake, bottom row? Yes, something like that...)  No-one will know. 

These were cupcake cookies I made a few years ago. I thought they were great at the time...


                                           I 'd like to think that I've improved a bit since then...
 Learning curve. I tell you.  Steep learning curve! 

So take every opportunity to practice. 

This batch of cupcake cookies is one I did now for my niece's birthday. 
(It's great that family gives you the opportunity to practice your skills for free!)


Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Zucchini Cake

If you don't like mixing your greens and sweets, this one probably isn't for you.
But let me try twist your arm - you just don't know what you're missing!

I have been wanting to make a zucchini cake for a very long time now.
And this one definitely gets the green-light  😋

It's very similar to carrot cake - you actually don't taste the zucchini.
You get lovely flecks of green throughout the cake, though; and if you add pistachios, they give a great extra dimension of flavour.
(I'd say, go with the pistachios unless you have a particular aversion to them).
And, like carrot cake,  it pairs beautifully with cream cheese icing.

I also made the batter into muffins, and popped them into my kids' lunch boxes - no returns, and no questions about why there were green flecks in them, either!

FYI: Zucchini = baby marrow = courgette

Zucchini Cake
Recipe adapted from

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Grease and line 3 x 7inch round baking pans *(or 2 x 8inch)

360g cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
250ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
475g finely grated zucchini  (squeeze out excess moisture if necessary), no need to peel.
100g chopped pistachios (optional/ substitute with pecans)


Sift the flour, spices, salt and raising agents together; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla extract and oil.

With the mixer on low speed, stir in the sifted dry ingredients, followed by the zucchini and pistachios, if using.

Divide the mixture equally between the baking pans.
Bake at 180'C for approx 30min or until the centre of the cake springs back when touched.
*Baking time depends on the size and number of baking pans used.
 If baking as muffins, 20 minutes should be sufficient.

For icing a cake you'll need a double batch of cream cheese icing - recipe here .
If you're going to just fill between layers, though, a single batch should be sufficient.

And I had this idea that a zucchini cake should be decorated with a succulent ... so there it is!

Happy baking!