Sunday, 29 December 2013

{Happy New Year} 2013 in Review

As this year draws to an end, I find myself reflecting on the year that has been. I am sure many of you are finding yourselves in the same position. For me it has been a busy year and a bit of a wild roller coaster. now I'm not going to focus on the doom and gloom parts of my year, except to say that those parts are the parts that we learn the most from. So it's important to take some time to look back on the hard times and even failures to see what we can learn from them.

In January of this year I started my little baking blog. It's so exiting to look back at my first posts and see how much I've grown over the year: in baking, photography and writing. I also have a stronger sense of the type of baking that really brings me joy: creating delicious cakes and watch the way they light up the faces of the people I share them with.

Ok, enough of the soppy, deep stuff. Let's get into the cake! Here are some of my favourite baked goods over the last year.

January: Naughty Nautical Cupcakes
These I baked for a themed bachelorette party. I was so happy with how all the toppers turned out!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

{Christmas Eve} Dark Chocolate Truffle Gingerbread Cupcakes with Chocolate Bourbon Buttercream

This is my second Christmas post for the year. If you missed it, make sure you try out this home-made eggnog recipe I posted yesterday; I am an eggnog convert! These are seriously the most decadent and delicious cupcakes. They’re perfect for the Christmas season, but I can’t say I’ll be able to hold out and only have these once a year! A delicious gingerbread cupcake with a Lint dark chocolate truffle filling and a chocolate Bourbon buttercream. I mean, come on!

Monday, 23 December 2013

{Getting in the Christmas Mood} Eggnog

I've been somewhat MIA for the last few months. Aside from things just being crazy busy in general, I've also been working on a really exciting project that I will be sharing with you all in January. Keep your eyes peeled for more developments!

Due to the general craziness and of course the very sad passing of a man who has been monumental in recent South African history, the Christmas spirit has somewhat eluded me this year. With only a few short days left to go until the big day, however, I am determined to rectify this! I even went today and stocked up on tinsel, candy canes and all sorts of Christmassy items.

Starting now, with eggnog. Eggnog isn't as much of a thing in South Africa as it is in the States: we don't get eggnog in the stores and most of the people I've spoken to have never tried it. For years I've been curious about this drink that seems to be the centrepiece of the American Christmas festivities. Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker recently posted a recipe for old-fashioned eggnog and it's been on my mind ever since then. Subsequently a number of other recipes have been popping up. So now I HAVE to try it. This is the year.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

{Remembering Mandela} Rainbow Cake

On 5 December 2013 South Africa lost one of the greatest leaders of our time. Nelson Mandela was a man who forever changed the course of South African history and was a true South African hero. He, like many of his time, lived through such terrible times and endured so much, but came out of it a better man. Madiba did not have any hatred for the people who had put him through so much; after leaving Robben Island he said: "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison". 

Nelson Mandela’s Top Five Contributions to Humanity
(Photo from Liberty Voice)

Friday, 29 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Pumpkin Oatmeal Cream Pies

In South Africa, we don't celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. However I really like the concept of taking one day off to appreciate all the amazing things we have in our lives. Although things may not always be perfect, that doesn't mean we should lose sight of the great people around us and special things happening in our lives.

I found this quote online, that I believe is from Gerard Way:

What are you thankful for in your life? I would love to hear!

Ok, so enough with all the deep stuff. For the last month or so the bloggosphere has been FLOODED with pumpkin recipes in every shape and form. I got to the stage that if I saw another pumpkin recipe I thought I would have a break-down. But then I saw pumpkin in the shops and got really excited; we seldom see pumpkin around these parts. Suddenly I felt the need to join in this orange vegetable craze!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

{Cape Town} The Roundhouse

It's been a little while since my last post and all I can do is offer my sincerest apologies for that. It seems the end of year panic has set in in both my work life and personal life. It feels as though our weekend in Cape Town was a lifetime ago! But never fear, I took pictures to document the experience (albeit with my iPhone - pardon the quality). This post also turned out a bit long, so hopefully that should make up for it!

The next part of our trip that I wanted to share with you is a very special evening my boyfriend and I spent at The Roundhouse. This restaurant sits on the slopes of Lion's Head, overlooking Camps Bay. The building has a long history and has been used for many purposes from a guardhouse for the Dutch East India Company in 1786 to a hunting lodge for Lord Somerset in the eighteen hundreds to the beautiful fine dining "epicurean" restaurant it is today. The Roundhouse follows a philosophy of exceptional hospitality, which is evident from you step foot on the path leading up to the restaurant doors. Our every need was catered for throughout the evening and the staff were professional, but friendly; happily explaining to us some of the culinary terms that were a bit beyond our comprehension.

We had booked the evening as a somewhat delayed celebration of our eight year anniversary. It was the perfect location for the celebration! Even our menu had been customised for us! We enjoyed an amazing four course meal with wine pairings. As each wine is served, the sommelier explains the wine flavours and the combination of that wine with the food course.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Cape Town: The Old Biscuit Mill

When I shared with you the delicious Chocolate Pinotage cupcakes that I made for my birthday, I promised that I would share some more information on the long weekend we spent in Cape Town towards the end of September.  Cape Town is probably my favourite city in South Africa: a coastal city with beautiful beaches, an hour or two's drive from wine farms, whale watching and penguins. And the biggest draw: it has many of the top restaurants in South Africa. This will be the first of a few posts sharing all the eating and sight-seeing we did in our short visit.

I had been in Cape Town for work during the week and my boyfriend flew down on Friday evening. He arrived rather grumpy and exhausted after his flight was rather significantly delayed and the weather that evening was rainy and windy and miserable! However, nothing a good night of sleep wouldn't fix.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things!

Wow its been a CRAZY few weeks. Tons of deadlines at work, a horrible bug that knocked me down harder than a taxi on Jan Smuts (for the foreigners...think bus on a free way), my birthday (YAY!) and then a trip to Cape Town for work followed by a long weekend of fun, food and whale watching!

We had so much great food in Cape Town, I've decided to write a few posts on some of it. Cape Town really is an amazing city! But more of that to come...

Friday, 6 September 2013

Shana Tova! Decorated Cookies

This week was the celebration of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana. While I myself am not Jewish, my boyfriend and his family are. This year I wanted to venture away from the typical platter of dried fruit nuts and chocolate when it came to gifts.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Snickers Marshmallow Cookies aka "Little Bites of Heaven"

OMG these cookies are DELICIOUS! Cookie dough with bits of melted marshmallow, chocolate chips and Snickers bars. The caramel from the Snickers also melts a bit and oozes good. When I asked my taste-testers for a name for these cookies, Little Bites of Heaven was decided on. If you get one of these bad boys fresh out of the oven you'll know why.

Do you see the gooey marshmallow? And that little piece of melted caramel? And all the chocolate chips in the dough? Now that's a cookie :)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Ahoy There Matey's! Treasure Chest Cake

Last weekend, the cutest kid I know turned four. This special occasion was celebrated with a pirate themed birthday party. Now, every party needs cake and this pirate themed party needed a treasure chest cake. When I was first asked to do this, I thought "you must be out of your mind! I can't do that!". As it turns out I was wrong.

After a brief period of panic and some Googling, I had a bit of an idea where I wanted to go.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Oh SO Easy Passionfruit "Souffle"

I say "soufflé" and not soufflé, because this dessert isn't technically a soufflé. It lacks the standard soufflé base of crème patissiere. It's just a bit of cleverness with egg whites. But it looks just as impressive as a soufflé and takes about a tenth of the effort to make! It also translates perfectly across all seasons: the fresh passionfruit flavour for summer and the hot-out-of-the-oven pudding for winter.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Milestones and Milo Cupcakes

Six months ago when I started up this blog, it was mainly for my own enjoyment: a place to express myself, share my love of baking and track my progress. This last week, I reached 1 000 hits on my blog. Now I know for some bloggers this is a tiny number that they reach each morning by 9am, but for me it's an achievement and something I am very proud of. Thank you to you all for taking the time to read my posts, pin my pictures and enjoy my baking (hopefully) as much as I do.

I also took a few steps in the social media realm and created a Facebook page and Twitter account; you can now follow my baking adventures here, via subscription, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter, or on Instagram. I'm still working on figuring out how to get the links for those setup nicely on my page, but watch this space!

To mark this occasion I would like to share with you my new favourite cupcake: Milo cupcakes with condensed milk icing. OMG these things are amazing! I had to stop myself eating the batter just to make sure I got a few into the oven. And man am I glad I did. Fresh out of the oven they were even better! Once topped with condensed milk icing they were unbeatable!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Snickers Birthday Cake

Last week was my boyfriend's birthday. We had decided earlier this year that our birthdays would be on a budget because we are planning the trip of a lifetime in early 2014: we are going to Sweden and Norway to see the Northern Lights!!!! I am SOOOO excited! So even though I love birthdays, the holiday is worth putting them on a budget. But this doesn't mean that we can't celebrate at all, it just means putting in a bit more effort to make a special day for the most amazing boyfriend.

Photo courtesy of Victoria Pilcher Photography
A little while ago, Brown-Eyed Baker posted a Snickers Cake recipe. Snickers are my boyfriends favourite chocolate (well, maybe with the exception of Chuckles), so I knew it would make the perfect birthday cake! What I didn't know at the time was how much work actually needed to go into this cake! Especially since we don't get marshmallow fluff easily in South Africa and so every element needed to be made from scratch. I put in some serious hours, starting on the weekend and getting home from work a bit early each day so I could have a bit more time to work on the cake.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Chocolate Sprinkles Cake

This week my cousin, Amanda, is visiting South Africa from Australia. She moved there a couple of years ago and any opportunity we have to see her is a special occasion. This visit especially so as it is only a week from her birthday. We had a dinner at my parents house earlier this week to celebrate her birthday and getting to spend some time with her. Of course, I had to make a cake!

During on of my many blog-hopping experiences, I found a Gummy Bear Layer Cake on Raspberri Cupcakes. Being naturally drawn to anything with sugar, cream and bright colours, this cake REALLY appealed to me! I started off making the cakes a week or so ago, but then life happened and I didn't get a chance to finish it. I stowed the cakes in the freezer, wrapped thoroughly in glad wrap, ready to stack when I got the chance. This is a great celebration cake and I knew I had to get it finished for the dinner.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Happy Father's Day: Apple Crumble With an Orange Twist

Father's Day this year happened to coincide with a long weekend, so my family and I headed of to my parents game farm.There is something magical about being in the South African bushveld: it completely calms  and refreshes you. It is completely peaceful and has a beauty that I haven't seen anywhere else in the world.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Vanilla Funfetti Cake

In South Africa we call funfetti vermicelli, but somehow it just doesn't sound as exciting. Cutting into this cake to see a beautiful vanilla cake with bright spots of colour is better described  much better by funfetti than vermicelli! Since I first saw this cake I thought it would be a great treat one day when the niece and nephew came over. Last weekend we had some of the family over, complete with nieces and nephews. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring some funfetti to Joburg.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Happy Mother's Day: Palet D'Or

Mother's Day in my family is celebrated by myself and my two siblings making lunch for my mom. My brother makes the starter, my sister the main and, of course, I make the dessert. Now Mother's Day needs to be celebrated properly, with a dessert that shows all the love you have for your mom. This year, my chosen dessert was the Palet D'Or from the Bouchon Bakery book.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Quick and Easy No-Bake Cheesecake

Last week Friday, my boyfriends parents came to our house for dinner. We had a very busy week, so I couldn't prepare any food in advance and needed a quick and easy dessert that I could make on Friday when I got home from work, that didn't need the oven that the roast chicken would be occupying and didn't need to set overnight.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

St Paddy's Day Celebrations - Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I'd been eyeing the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes of Brown-Eyed Baker for a little while and decided that St Paddy's day 2013 was the day I would finally make them. So I combined these with the Chocolate Guinness Cake to make for one great St Paddy's day for me!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

St Paddy's Day - Chocolate Guinness Cake

St Paddy's day isn't widely celebrated in South Africa; well, other than university students who will welcome any excuse for a party. Nonetheless, being of Irish descent, I felt like I couldn't let this opportunity to do some baking pass up.

A while ago I made this cake and it was just so delicious and moist. The cream cheese frosting perfectly complements the richness of the Guinness and the chocolate.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

White Chocolate Mousse with Lime

My favourite part of having friends over for dinner, besides quality time with friends, is the chance to make an awesome dessert. I'll spend as little time as possible figuring out the first two courses and then spend days pouring over my recipe books narrowing down the list of exciting possibilities. The latest dinner included a lamb shank main, so I was looking for something that wouldn't be too heavy as a dessert, following such a rich main course. This mousse was just that!

Trixie with her dessert

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

New Year's Celebrations 2012-2013: Red Velvet Cake

For New Year's Eve I had the perfect excuse to do some baking and make use of the new recipe books I got for Christmas. I decided on a red velvet cake, but had a few recipes to choose from. I finally settled on the recipe from the Cake Boss recipe book. I also decided to try pipe a message on the top with royal icing. I've tried this a few times before with awful results and this time things turned out much better! It seems the real trick is all about the consistency of the icing: too runny and you end up with a puddle, to thick and it's a nightmare to pipe. The best consistency comes through trial and error.

I use the royal icing recipe from Cake Journal, you can find it here.

The recipe for the red velvet cake and the cream cheese icing came from Buddy Valastro's Baking with the Cake Boss. I was hesitant to use the recipe as it didn't mix the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda before adding to the recipe, as most red velvet recipes do. It was delicious though and an easy cake to make. I adapted slightly because of conversions to grams and certain ingredients not being readily available in South Africa.

Monday, 18 February 2013

New Years Celebrations 2012-2013: New York Cheesecake

This post (and the upcoming one) is a bit overdue, but I loved my New Year's Eve bakes, so I am including them anyway.

For Christmas of 2012, I got given the Cake Boss recipe book and New Year's Eve presented the perfect opportunity for me to try it out! We live in Johannesburg, which is pretty quiet around Christmas and New Years: all Jo'burgers migrate to the coast for fun, sun and sea. So New Year's celebrations being in short supply, we invited some friends over for a braai (or barbeque) to bring in the new year.

This not only gave me an opportunity to make something for dessert, but also to bake a cake! So this entry will be about the dessert I made and I'll write another about my celebration cake.

In the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve I had had a crazy craving for some cheesecake. Conveniently, I also had a few recipes lines up! I decided on a New York baked cheesecake by Michel Roux: the father of beautiful desserts. It's very rich, but delicious.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Pink Macarons

One of my closest friends at work welcomed her beautiful baby girl into the world last year. We had a baby shower for her at the office for which we all brought eats and given my slight penchant for sugar, I volunteered myself for sweet treats.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Victoria Sponge

I've been wanting to make a Victoria sponge cake for a while now. They just look so light and elegant and delicious. The Victoria sponge is traditionally served with a filling of fresh cream and raspberry jam, but I opted for fresh berries instead. We're very fortunate in South Africa to have the most amazing fruit, so I love using it whenever possible.
The Final Product

Decadent Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Although these may not have been the prettiest treats I've ever produced, they were absolutely delicious! So chewy and the peanut butter and chocolate just work together perfectly.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Naughty Nautical Cupcakes

My sister's best friend recently got married. For her bachelorette, my sister and some of her very talented friends put together a Naughty Nautical Bachelorette.
Place Settings at the Tables