Blueberry Yogurt Cupcakes

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I know that berry season is technically over, but I have two issues with that: firstly, frozen varieties are available pretty much year-round and frozen berries are perfect for baking, which means the end of summer is really no excuse to stop putting them in cakes and cookies. And secondly, I baked a lot this summer but never got around to posting about the recipes I tried, and now I don’t want perfectly good blog content to go to waste.

Maybe it’s time we broke down the barriers that dictate that summer-acceptable food suddenly becomes taboo during the fall? I, for one, would not be the least bit offended if someone fed me a blueberry cupcake even in the dead of winter. If anything, it would cheer me up immensely and I really think you should give it a shot.

These blueberry cupcakes are absolutely delicious, ridiculously easy to make and as a bonus – they’re healthy. There isn’t a pat of butter in there (it’s substituted with olive oil, which I’m told is better for the heart?) and the recipe calls for yogurt in the batter, making them light and springy. I loosely adapted this recipe to make the base, and added a few flavors to complement the berries.

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Ingredients

(Makes 15 cupcakes)
250 g frozen blueberries
2 cups flour
1 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
250 g yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 pods of cardamom

Method:

In a large bowl, beat together the olive oil, sugar, vanilla essence and cardamom until everything is combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat the mixture until it’s pale and silky.

Scoop the yogurt into the mixture and beat for another two minutes.

Sift in the flour in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating in between each to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Grease the cupcake tins well and place the blueberries at the bottom of each. You should get around 5-6 blueberries in each tin. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of the blueberries.

Spoon the batter over the blueberries (about a ladle-full per tin). Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 C (350 F). The cupcakes will be pale even when they’re done, but you can insert a toothpick into each to check whether they’re firm all the way through.

Allow it to cool completely before inverting them.

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Oatmeal Brown Butter Bars

DSCN2502 Full disclosure: I don’t like oatmeal. I really don’t understand why so many people automatically categorize it in the breakfast-of-champions category (my first and only choice for breakfast of champions? Beer.) Most supposedly healthy and nutrient-packed bowls of oatmeal just translate to cold, lumpy spoonfuls of goop in my mouth and it seems to me that nothing – absolutely nothing – can distract me from the fact that it essentially tastes like soft brains with a smattering of sugar on top (as the metaphor should imply, I am not a fan of eating brains). DSCN2515 But apparently there is a way to make oatmeal a touch more palatable and that is by incorporating it into a baked good. The funny thing is, what I hate most about oatmeal is its texture (or lack thereof – didn’t the brain reference tip you off?). But when you bake it into cakes, cookies or bars, that’s exactly what it lends to the entire affair: a lovely, chewy texture and slight nuttiness in taste. I know there’s this huge, healthy, get-on-the-nut-oils bandwagon thing going on, but most of the time I think oatmeal goes best with brown butter: smoky, dark, caramel-colored brown butter, which – in this recipe – you stir into a base of oatmeal and wholewheat flour. The whole thing is topped off with some sugar, spices and pecans and then baked. When you slice bars off the finished product, they will crumble slightly and smell really fragrant because of the spices – not in the lush, decadent way that some desserts do but as a sweet, snacking option that isn’t altogether too unhealthy. DSCN2480 DSCN2488 Makes: One 9 inch-by-6 inch baking dish of bars Time:
Prep (20 mins) + Cooking Time (15-20 mins)

Ingredients
1 cup of wholewheat flour
1 cup of raw oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup pecans (whole or chopped)

Method
Pre-heat your oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch-by-6 inch baking dish.

In a shallow pan, heat the butter until it melts. Continue heating until it turns a dark shade of brown, bubbles slightly and smells nutty. Keep this aside to cool.

In a large bowl, sift together the wholewheat flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the oats and keep aside.

Pour the cooled brown butter into a bowl and add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat until all three are well combined. Make a little well in the bowl with the dry ingredients and pour the butter-egg-vanilla mixture into it in three batches, beating in between.

Empty the batter into the greased cake pan – it shouldn’t be too runny. In fact, it should be fairly on the dry side. Press the pecans on to the surface of the batter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until done. Once it’s out the oven, let it cool before slicing off bars.

Perfect for late afternoon snacking and maybe even a picnic?

Carrot Cake

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How do you guys feel about carrot cake?

Growing up, I was not a fan. I simply didn’t understand the point of mincing and baking carrots into a flour-butter-sugar combination that could just as easily be packed with, oh, I don’t know, shall we say chocolate or mocha? – both much more acceptable flavours to the below-13 palate? My mother made carrot cakes on and off but the lack of hit-you-in-the-face sweetness and rich frosting put me off completely.

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When I first started baking, I was too enamoured by all the pretty possibilities that cakes presented – has anyone seen this, or this? Stunning – and didn’t really bother with earthy, carroty goodness. For some reason, carrot cake does not, in my mind, represent glamour. If anything, it represents mild weather and perhaps a game of Rummy over tea.

All of this changed when I came across this blog post, which sort of elevated the definition of carrot cake in mind. Yes, carrot cake can be sexy – it just needs the necessary trimmings. I adapted the recipe to include some of my favourites – dried figs, which work wonderfully with the chewy carrot base, handfuls of currants, walnuts and pecans, a dash of toasted coconut – and the result were three layers of some pretty good cake.

Which I left out on the kitchen counter to cool. When I returned half an hour later, it turned out that our dog had been as appreciative of carrot cake as me and all that was left were a few crumbs and the empty cake pan.

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Obviously, I was too lazy/tired/disgruntled to bake up another one right away but I did manage to do so after a couple of weekends and the result was everything you’d want in a carrot cake – one that’s undeniably sexy. This one is packed with flavour from the oils, nuts and touch of coconut, has a moist, dense crumb and is topped with a rich cream-cheese frosting that manages to seem more creamy than sugary. It’s a favourite as a not-too-sweet dessert, an accompaniment to tea, and with dogs.

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Ingredients

(I halved the below recipe and got a two-layer, 8-inch cake that was more than enough for five of us).

Carrot Cake:

2 cups wholewheat flour
1 cup toasted and shredded coconut (follow this recipe if you want to make your own)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
4 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1 cup dried figs

Frosting: (refer to original recipe)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease 4 8-inch pans.

Line the dried figs at the bottom of one of the pans (this will be the top-most layer). You can also sprinkle some dried currants on the base.

This cake follows a regular wet ingredient + dry ingredient approach. Start with the wet ingredients: finely shred your carrots, with a grater (if you have the willpower and knuckles of steel) or with short pulses in a blender until they are torn into shreds. Keep aside.

Whisk together all the wet ingredients (olive oil, coconut oil, banana and eggs) with the sugar until well-combined and fluffy.

Add in the dry ingredients (wholewheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg) and give the batter a brisk beating to combine the two. Then, stir in the nuts, dried currants and coconut.

Divide the batter into four greased 8-inch pans (or two, if you’re halving it) and bake for around 45 mins. You might need to keep it in the oven for an additional five minutes (I did) – you can check whether the cake is done with a toothpick.

Prepare frosting as per original recipe (halving if you are halving the cake batter) and slather it between the layers – it isn’t too sweet, so too much shouldn’t be a problem although carrot cake-enthusiasts might find it detracts slightly from the earthiness of the actual cake.

Keep well away from dogs, please.

This is one well-fed, carrot cake-stuffed labrador

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Rich Honey Cake

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Apparently, I am honey illiterate. When I first decided to make a honey cake (for my grandparent’s anniversary, no less), I had no clue about the true potential of honey. I envisioned something like a slightly spruced-up sponge cake, with a light texture and a faint undertone of molten sweetness. What I did not imagine was a moist, rich cake that combined a whole bunch of ingredients, each adding a wonderful complexity to each bite while still allowing that straight-from-a-beehive goodness to shine through.

Obviously, I did not think it through.

But thankfully, we live in an age when even extreme stupidity can be corrected through the internet. A little bit of browsing turned up this gem of a recipe, which fascinated me because of the rather odd (but surprisingly perfect) combination of flavors. Honey and orange juice? Weird. Orange juice and coffee? Even weirder. All of that drowned in whiskey? Okay, that makes sense.

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The beauty of the finished product – I adapted the recipe based on personal preference – is exactly this. All the flavors come together in a sort of triumphant medley, with a boozy kick. I topped it off with a thin sheath of honey and a generous sprinkling of flaxseed, which adds a bit of crunch to the whole deal. It’s a pretty rich cake, but not cloyingly so and it’s absolutely perfect for the holiday season.

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Ingredients

3.5 cups flour

1.5 cups brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup olive oil

1 cup honey

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh brewed coffee

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup whiskey (woohoo!)

1/4 tsp salt

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground clove

2 tsp all spice

2 tbsp flaxseed

Extra honey for drizzling on top

Method

The list of ingredients might be a little fussy but preparing this cake is a breeze – simply sift together all the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and then pour in all the wet ones. In other words: sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, clove and all spice. Then add the olive oil, honey, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and whiskey. Pour it into a well-greased pan (I used a 9 inch circular one) and bake at 170 C for 55 minutes to an hour.

When the cake is done (you can carry out the usual rigmarole with the toothpick to check if it is), let it cool for at least half an hour before trying to tip it out. The final texture should be rich and dense, but not sickeningly so. The syrupy-sweet honey flavor is predominant, but all the other ingredients – especially the whiskey – have their own part to play.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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I have a secret to share. It isn’t very professional, but I love to cook (or read, or – I don’t know, work?) with alcohol. There’s nothing quite so therapeutic as cracking open a chilled beer before getting into the hot, steamy mess that is my kitchen. Sometimes, when I’m feeling super fancy, I take it a step further and pour myself a glass (or two?) of red wine.

When I’m in a particularly indulgent mood, I complement the wine with some chocolate. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about either wine or chocolate – from an expert’s point of view, that is. What I do know is that I my wine red and full-bodied; that I like chocolate that is dark and has a slightly salty aftertaste; and that the combination of the two is absolute perfection.

Not surprisingly, when I came across this recipe I was determined to try it. In fact, I tried it the very same afternoon that I stumbled across it and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. I tweaked it very, very slightly by cutting down on the sweetness and amping up the chocolate/saltiness and the result was a cake made of dreams, sunshine and possibly a bit of heaven. It was moist and rich without being too heavy, crammed with all the bittery-chocolate taste in the world and finished off with a boozy kick. Perfection.

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Ingredients

2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (the darker the better)

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

225 g unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups red wine (preferably dry)

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar until it turns pale and fluffy. Crack the eggs in one at a time, whisking to ensure that everything is well-incorporated.

Stir in the vanilla and red wine. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg-butter-sugar mixture in three batches, beating to ensure that everything comes together well. Then, add the chopped dark chocolate for an extra kick. The batter should be rich and velvety.

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Bake at 170 C for around 45 minutes, checking to see if the cake is done by sticking a toothpick in the centre. Give it around 15 minutes to cool before turning it over. Top it with grated dark chocolate and a light dusting of sugar.

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Coconut Cream Tart

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Who here does not love Calvin and Hobbes?

Calvin and Hobbes

No, I mean really.

As far as I’m concerned, Calvin is right about everything (school is a boring waste of time and YES, the world would be better with dinosaurs) but not about coconut. Because as wise and profound as that six-year old kid is, he does not understand coconut.

Coconut can be delicious – it can be toasted, creamed, strained into stews and pressed into oil that’s sweet and flavorfull all at the same time. This coconut cream tart has a rich filling, with mixed-in coconut milk that laces it with a pronounced, but not overwhelming, flavour. The texture is buttery and soft, perfectly complemented with the crisp crust.

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The crust: it has oats, mixed with browned butter, sweetened with brown sugar and given an additional nuttiness and crunch with flaxseed. The flaxseed actually lends a lot to the flavour and texture, somewhat like a subtle seasoning that goes surprisingly well with the coconut.

Even better: it does not take time. You can assemble the entire thing in 20 minutes, pop it into the oven and forget about it. And while it certainly is creamy, it isn’t as rich as a more traditional dessert, which makes it perfect for a really heavy dinner or even a teatime snack.

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Coconut Cream Tart

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 cup oats

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flaxseed

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup softened butter

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

For the topping:

A handful of fresh grated coconut

Method

For the crust:

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Heat the cup of butter on a low flame, until it melts. Stir it occasionally and continue heating. Eventually, it’ll start to bubble and then brown. Wait till it turns a dark shade and starts to smell nutty, and then take it off the flame and cool.

Stir together the brown butter and oats. Add the sugar, flaxseed and salt and mix. Transfer the entire dish to a pre-greased 6″ flat dish, and press it down with a spatula/spoon until it evenly coats the bottom of the vessel.

Bake at 170 C for 10 minutes.

For the filling:

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

Beat the butter until it turns pale. Add the eggs one by one, beating as you do so that it’s well incorporated. Then, add the sugar, the coconut milk and cinnamon.

Pour the coconut milk mixture into the flour in three batches, stirring with a spoon so that it’s well incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the baked oats crust, and bake for another 20 minutes, reducing the temperature to 160 C. When it’s done, the filling should be firm but have a slight creaminess on the inside.

Sprinkle the grated coconut over and serve.

Tell people not to believe everything that Calvin says.

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Upside Down Peach Cake

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I love upside-down cakes for many reasons.

For starters, there’s always this exciting sense of drama that comes with flipping the cake, crossing your fingers and marveling when it comes out whole and perfectly-baked (when it doesn’t, you sit down in front of the TV and shovel buttery, broken pieces of cake into your mouth in one go so nobody can see how much of a failure you are).

There’s also the moment of delight when you first see the pretty mosaic of fruit (because what else would you use in an upside-down cake, I ask?) – even if you were the person who, half an hour earlier, cut and arranged the fruit in that exact same pattern.

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But mostly, I love the combination of thick, sweet pieces of fruit and soft, buttery cake. Really, it’s a match made in heaven. Just look at this upside-down peach cake.

I could have sliced the peaches before layering them on the bottom of the cake pan but let’s be honest – large, soft, golden chunks of peach are so much better to bite into. They’re sweet and juicy enough to texture and flavor the cake around them.

And yes, the cake. This cake is just the most velvety, melt-in-your-mouth cake you could ever eat. Spoon it into your mouth when it’s hot out of the oven and it’s perfection on a plate. Keep it in the fridge overnight so it’s a just a bit denser, and the flavor of peach would have intensified and taken over – delicious. 

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Basically, you can’t go wrong with it.

And it’s EASY. It’s such a basic and forgiving recipe that you can fling in some peaches, toss in some batter and bung it in the oven without too much stress. 

What makes it even better? This delicious butterscotch sauce, which took about five minutes to make and tasted like all the candy I’ve ever eaten in a single bowl.

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Upside-Down Peach Cake

Ingredients

230 g flour

230 g unsalted butter

200 g powdered sugar

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tin peaches + 1 tbsp syrup

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pinch of cinnamon

Method

Grease a 9″ cake pan and pre-heat the oven to 170 C

Drain the peaches (reserve a tablespoon of the syrup) and line the halves against the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over them.

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Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Melt the butter for a few seconds (so it’s soft and just a bit runny around the edges) and add. Then add the sugar and vanilla and stir them in till combined.

Crack the eggs into another bowl and beat until pale and frothy. Pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture and add a tablespoon of the peach syrup – this will give the entire cake a peachy flavor and a touch of sweet moistness. Continue beating the batter until it is silky and has a slight sheen to it. 

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Pour this over the peaches and bake for 35-40 minutes. You can do the whole toothpick thing to make sure it’s cooked on the inside. Personally, I like the tops of the cakes to be a bit spongy but if you’d prefer a harder version, five extra minutes shouldn’t hurt too much.

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Vanilla Chiffon Cake Platter

DSCN1551 Exotic cakes may be alluring but in terms of stolid, delicious, classic comfort, few things can beat a vanilla chiffon cake. It’s simple, has just the right blend of ingredients and is both sweet and light at the same time. The best thing about vanilla chiffon cakes, though, are their versatility – they can be chopped up into bread-and-butter puddings, paired with fruit, layered in trifles or smothered in pretty much any kind of frosting and still hold their own. In fact, they make a perfect base for slightly more experimental or quirky desserts. The other day, we had some family over brunch and I was trying to decide what dessert to make (my new-found enthusiasm in the kitchen has given me an almost permanent access to this department). I knew I wanted something classic, but I also knew I wanted a fun twist to it; two hours of baking, creaming and garnishing later, I had this pretty cake platter and I couldn’t have been happier. DSCN1556 DSCN1572 A cake or pastry platter is a great way to make desserts more interesting. The individual pieces are small and light, and you can incorporate all kinds of variations into the platter based on the tastes of the people eating it. Oddly enough, I chose my platter ingredients based on color: I wanted the palette to have elements of cream and apricot. In terms of flavor, I decided that the safe base of vanilla chiffon would lend itself well both to fruitiness as well as a subtle spice: which is why I decided to incorporate a marmalade-almond cream, pineapple, cinnamon and clove into the platter.

A lot of people prefer boxed vanilla cakes to homemade recipes, mostly because they’re pumped with enough soda and preservatives to retain their fluffiness long after they’re sealed in plastic packets and shipped hundreds of miles. But the cake recipe I used for this platter (which I dug out of one of my mother’s old cook books) not only produces a fine, fluffy cake but is also remarkably easy to make. DSCN1513 DSCN1516 Vanilla Chiffon Cake: Basic Recipe

Ingredients

4 eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 cup olive oil

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Method DSCN1487 Note: The key to getting a fluffier chiffon cake is to sift the flour multiple times before adding it into the mixture. I passed mine through a sieve three times before I lost patience (the ideal, I think, is supposed to be four).

Beat the sugar into the egg whites in 3 batches until it forms a glossy meringue with stiff peaks and keep aside.

Beat the egg yolks until they turn pale, then pour in the olive oil and milk and beat again till well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla essence.

Sift the flour (for the fourth time) into the egg yolk mixture and make sure it’s combined. This recipe doesn’t use a lot of flour so the batter should still be velvety and fluid.

Pour the egg yolk mixture into the meringue in two batches, folding it in gently till it’s incorporated. Don’t over-beat it.

Bake it at 150 C for around 25-30 minutes. When you think it’s done, stick a toothpick into it to make sure the insides are cooked.

(I read online that after you take a chiffon cake out the oven, you’re supposed to let it cool upside down. I haven’t tried that but it sounds like fun, no?)

Once you’ve got your cake out of the oven, let it cool and then stick it in the refrigerator for about half an hour. This will make it easier to cut and the individual pieces will hold their shape. You can work on the cream while it’s chilling.

Marmalade Almond Cream

Okay, so this is something I’m insanely proud of. I went with the ingredients on a hunch and they worked out beautifully together; a slight tartness, subtle spiciness and refreshing booziness, all folded into the goodness of whipped cream. Seriously, even if you’re not thinking of making a cake, put together a batch of this and spend a day licking the bowl clean – it’ll be well worth it.

Ingredients

250 ml fresh cream

3 tbsp marmalade (if you have the kind with scotch in it, so much the better)

2 tbsp Amaretto almond liquor/toasted, ground almonds and any alcohol of your choice

1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp cinnamon

Method DSCN1506 DSCN1509 DSCN1501 Whip the sugar into the fresh cream in two batches. You have to keep at the cream till it becomes light and fluffy. Add all the other ingredients and simple whip till well incorporated (as simple as that).

Assembling the Platter

Now comes the fun part – actually putting the platter together. The first step is to decide what elements you want in it. Generally, try and incorporate some fruit, some spice and some nuts. If you like, you can even opt for a dash of some other form of liquor. Like I mentioned, I opted for a particular color palette (it sounds weird, I know, but it actually worked). So my platter had cashew nuts, raisins, figs, cinnamon, cloves, pineapple and papaya (which I got out of one of those fruit cocktail cans). DSCN1491 Chop the cake up into squares/rectangles and then do whatever the hell you want. Frankly, there are no rules to assembling the platter. You can make cake ‘sandwiches’ or simple pile toppings on to a single slice. Try making sure that every slice has a generous dose of the cream, because it’s the perfect complement for the vanilla flavor of the cake. Fruits will lend tartness and juiciness, while nuts and spices will add texture and an unexpected punch. DSCN1566 DSCN1568 You can also spruce up your platter with whole fruits and flowers. Again, I flung a few frangipani and whole pomegranates in there, only because I thought they went well with the color scheme. Serve the platter for dessert and you’re guaranteed to get some appreciation. DSCN1576    

White Cake with Toasted Almonds

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This might be an acquired taste, but I really, really like messy cakes.

You know the kind I’m talking about: tall pillars of sugary, crumbly goodness, topped off with a mountain of roughly patched together frosting. They come apart beautifully when you dig a fork into them, and dissolve into light, airy deliciousness in your mouth.

Anyway, my sister’s birthday was a few days ago and I decided to make her a ‘messy’ cake. She likes classic flavors, so I opted for a white cake (minus egg yolks, with a little extra sugar). I used this recipe for the cake, with some minor changes: swapping three layers for two and sandwiching a layer of toasted almonds between them. This was topped with approximately a bowlful of buttercream frosting, which I colored a pale pink in keeping with the celebratory theme. The finishing touch? – white chocolate chips and some rainbow sprinkles (and some dark chocolate, if you feel like it).

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As most classic cakes go, this recipe was based on simple ingredients and death-like precision – which is not my forte. All things considered, though, I’m quite pleased with the result. I used a slightly modified version of this recipe for the cake and the end result was moist but still fluffy, with the flavor of vanilla stealing the show. It isn’t a very sweet cake, so you can get away with heaping on tons and tons of frosting, and the layer of almonds added a surprising crunch to each bite.

White Cake, Toasted Almonds and Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup softened butter

1 cup milk

2 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp baking powder

5 egg whites

1 cup toasted almonds

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Rainbow sprinkles

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Method

Stir the milk and vanilla together and set aside

Beat the butter and sugar together until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift together the baking powder and flour.

Combine the flour mixture and milk mixture into the butter and sugar, alternating between the two – I took two heaped tablespoons of the flour, blended it in and then poured in just enough of the milk mixture to combine it. The recipe calls for starting and ending this process with the flour mixture.

Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks and then combine it into the batter.

(I found that the resultant batter was a little thicker than normal, so I added another 2 tablespoons of milk to soften it)

Divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans and bake at 170 C for exactly 18 minutes (trust me, this is the perfect time).

Buttercream Frosting

You can find the recipe here. I added two drops of red food coloring and beat it for about 30 seconds to get that pearly pink shade.

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Trim the cake around the sides so it’s even and straight-ish. When assembling, frost the bottom layer of cake and then sprinkle the toasted almonds on top. Add a dollop of frosting on top of the almonds, and then place the second cake layer above it – the frosting will automatically flatten out around the sides.

 

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Then, cover the entire freaking thing with as much frosting as you like – and as messy as you like it. Sprinkle the white chocolate chips and sprinkles over the cake.

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Bread-and-Butter Pudding

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I’ll be honest: it is very difficult to impress someone with a bread-and-butter pudding.

This is probably not the case in restaurants, where gallons of booze and cartons of whipped cream are used to spruce up the dessert. But when made at home, it does not come out looking ‘fancy’. In fact, it looks like exactly what it is: chopped bread in custard.

None of this changes the very important fact that bread-and-butter pudding is delicious. I’ve eaten variations of it (with cream, with jelly, even the decidedly Indian shahi tukra) for years now, but my interest in the dish was piqued a few years ago by one of Vir Sanghvi’s Rude Food pieces on nursery desserts (for anyone who cares, I love pretty much all his pieces on food, though not so much the politically-inclined Counterpoint column). The basic premise of the article was that although bread-and-butter pudding is stolid and simple, it is delicious and lends itself very well to adaptations – which is exactly what I’ve tried doing with this version. I spruced up the dish with raisins, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, an extra splash of vanilla and a slug of Advoccat egg liqueur, which gave the dish a creamy, alcoholic texture that really brought out the sweetness of the custard. Of course, any slightly alcoholic addition will lend some punch to this dish to the egg liqueur can be substituted with a brandy or any other drink of your choice.

In terms of time, it takes about ten minutes to mix and around fifteen minutes more to bake, which makes it ideal for a quick dessert. It might not be the right option to follow up a multi-course fancy dinner, but it’s perfect for a simple Sunday evening. It’s delicious while hot, but can also be cooled down in a refrigerator and eaten with a fruit preserve.

Bread-and-Butter Pudding

Ingredients

4 slices of bread

2 tbsp of lightly-salted butter

1/2 cup raisins

600 ml milk

50 g sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon powder

3 tbsp Advoccat egg liqueur (or any alcoholic drink of your choice)

Method

Chop the bread into quarters, spread with butter and line the pieces at the bottom of a greased baking dish.

Sprinkle raisins and the egg liqueur over it.

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Beat together the eggs, milk and sugar and heat them in a pan till they’re combined. Add the vanilla.

Pour the egg custard over the bread, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake. Fifteen minutes at 160 C did it for me. After it’s done baking (the bread would have risen to the top and the custard would be lightly set) take it out and let it cool. Personally, I like to wolf down bread-and-butter pudding straight from the pan; but it can also be smeared with fruit conserve, doused in more alcohol or paired with chopped fruit.

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