Happy Birthday Jonno Round 2: or another cake

DSC_8454

an honest picture of all the trimming and extra ingredients

DSC_8452

Turning twenty one seems like a good enough reason to have two birthday cakes. After celebrating on the day with Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolate (but the vanilla version), Jonno’s 21st party seemed a good reason to pull out the faithful white chocolate mud cake recipe that we’ve used and adapted from the Women’s Weekly Wicked Desserts Recipe book for several 21st-and-special-occasion-cakes. We made the 8x recipe (yep, you heard right, 8x the original recipe!) and this did for a large rectangular cake and two trays of small cup cakes (plus off-cuts). Enough to feed to a smallish sort of party gathered in celebration. I say ‘we’ because in our family, birthday cake baking has long been considered a team sport. When we were tiny, it was our grandparents who would come and help mum and dad pull off amazing feats of icing and butter cake inspired by the infamous Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday cake books. While it is no longer “Minnie and Brown* and the eleventh hour [the night before the party]”, we still like to make something special to mark milestones and I have more or less stepped into the role of Birthday cake project manager. A project-manager-come-baker who ropes in all the helpful apprentices I can get; mum, Asher, dad, even my talented-baker-friend Kate if she’s around. I love cooking but I am definitely not a solo flyer in the kitchen – perhaps too many cooks do intensify the kitchen experience, but I think that mostly you get more done and stay more sane if you cook in community.

Family history and philosophy of kitchen comradery aside, with this particular cake, you cook it very long and slow with the cake tin wrapped up in newspaper to ensure it cooks as evenly as possible. It is so large that you really don’t want to start cooking this baby too late at night – you may well be waiting up till the wee small hours if you do (don’t worry, its been done!). Attempting a cake this large is less of a risk if you trust your oven. This particular cake was the first one to be cooked in the new oven at home and possibly one of the last – the oven proved itself rather unpredictable and, although we managed fine in the end, the larger cake could have safely been labelled a caramel mud cake while the smaller cup cakes turned out more successfully – tiny white mud cup-cakes as expected. In the end, it is really all about how you sell a thing isn’t it?! Once the cake had (finally) cooked, I then set to work stressing over the decorating. Jonno is a keen muso so we had decided to create an edible version of his Nord synthesiser. With some cutting, puzzle work, ganache spreading, a bit of nifty fondant icing work and some chocolate and lollies – I managed to pull it off with a tonne of support from Mum and Asher (in particular).

Ingredients:
2 kg butter
1.2kg white chocolate melts
3.52kg caster sugar
2 lts milk
2.4kg plain flour
8 tsp baking powder
8 tsp vanilla essence
16 eggs
8 tbsp malted milk extract (or powder)

Decorations:
red fondant icing
chocolates of various sizes and shapes (for keys and buttons)
white icing in a tube for the piano key divisions

Ganache Ratio:
1 cup white chocolate
1/3 cup cream
cocoa to taste (for the brown icing on the cup cakes)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160oC.
2. Grease and line the large rectangular cake pan with baking paper. Wrap the outside of the tin in a thick layer of news paper to protect the cake while it cooks. The cup cakes were baked in free standing cardboard cup cake wrappers which were laid out on a baking tray.
3. Heat the butter, white chocolate and sugar milk together in a very large saucepan  (or two medium sized ones) till the butter, sugar and chocolate melt into a shiny, slightly thickened liquid.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder and malted milk powder over the cooled butter mixture and mix to combine. Continue to mix till the flour has been distributed evenly throughout the mixture and any lumps have been smoothed out.
5. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl to combine, add these to the mixture, ensuring the residual heat from the melting is not high enough to ‘cook’ the eggs on contact with the mixture.
6. Pour mixture into the large cake tin and bake for several hours until done all the way through. The small cup cakes took much less time to cook – more like 20-30 minutes. The time taken for each will vary with the oven used.
7. Make the ganache by slowly melting the chocolate and cream together in a saucepan (if you have an induction stove top, if you have a regular one, try a glass bowl over the saucepan – French name ‘bain marie’ – so the chocolate doesn’t cook). Refrigerate till it reaches spreading consistency.
8. The large rectangular cake was then trimmed (the hard crust is removed) and the pieces cut to construct a longer thinner rectangle. This was then iced with white chocolate ganache and the red fondant icing, rolled out to resemble the red sections of the Nord.
9. The keys (KITKAT chocolate bars cut to size), buttons, dials and knobs were added using a variety of different chocolate pieces and icing as cement. Bought ‘white fudge icing’ in a tube was used to define the keys (a pre-prepared food compromise I was so willing to make at about 10am on the morning of Jonno’s 2pm-start-time-party!)
10. The crotchet cup cakes were iced with the remaining white chocolate ganache turned brown with cocoa. Peppermint sticks were used as the stem.
11. Finally we sang, celebrated and shared this symbol of Jonno, his musicality and his birthday.

*[pet names for my grandparents]

DSC_8530

Advertisements

The birthday season continues …

DSC_0325

DSC_0333

DSC_0337

DSC_0346 DSC_0355

… and she’s the birthday girl!

In my family this is the ‘go-to’ cake. Need to cook something for visitors quick? Need to cook for the cake stall? Need to make a birthday special? Gwen Francis’ chocolate cake is the cake for the moment! A friend of my grandparents, she will enjoy immortality in our family for this tasty dessert. It is very simple (it’s a ‘melt and mix’ cake) making it very quick to throw together. You can dress it up (think cream and raspberries) or dress it down (think chocolate icing and smarties!) and it will still work. This one was for Ally for her birthday and was happily enjoyed by the whole family – even grandparents in another town a week later … with the help of freezer technology! Happy Birthday Ally!

80g butter
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3 level tbspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup milk
3 eggs

Optional decorations:
Strawberries
Strawberry Jam
Whipped Cream (with a little icing sugar and vanilla)
Chocolate glaze

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave (covered – for the sake of not cleaning the microwave afterwards).
3. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl (preferably attached to an electric mixer), add sugar, milk, eggs and slightly cooled butter to the bowl and beat on high for three minutes (assuming the mixer). If you are doing this by hand, stir briskly till combined.
4. Grease your chosen tin (heart shaped is pretty, circles work – a lamington tin will as well, the time of cooking may vary slightly however) and pour the batter in.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
6. Decorate your cake with which ever ingredients suit your taste and the occasion! We halved the cake with a serrated knife, whipped some cream, sliced some strawberries and then layered the bottom half of the cake with jam, strawberries and cream before covering with the top half. Chocolate glaze was drizzled over the top. Best served with a little more cream or ice cream!

 

Rising to the Occasion: Pavlova

DSC_8642

DSC_8643

DSC_8648

DSC_8654

DSC_8655

My mum-in-law had a birthday a while back and now, with a uni course on celebrating with food, and having enjoyed cooking a couple of other desserts recently, I decided it was really time to post these lovely pictures of the Pavlova I made for the family dinner held in honour of her day!

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp white vinegar
300mL thickened cream
250g strawberries
2 nectarines
2 plums
1/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup water

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Line oven tray with baking paper, dust with cornflour.
2. Ideally you would beat eggwhites with electric mixer until soft peaks form, then start to gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves. I forgot this in the heat of the moment and was relieved to discover that when I beat them up anyhow a meringue still formed! This doesn’t always happen though … best to do it as the recipe prescribes! Once all the sugar has been beaten in, add extract and vinegar; beat a little more until combined.
3. Spread meringue in an attractive looking circular shape on the baking paper, building up a disk of meringue with an even thickness and smoothing the ‘walls’ making decorative grooves round the sides of the Pavlova.
4. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours and then let the Pavlova cool in the oven with the door ajar.
5. Slice up the strawberries, nectarines and plums. Combine and set aside till serving time.
6. Add the jam and water to a small pot, stir over a medium heat till jam has disolved and melted into the water making a runny pink sauce.
7. Just before dessert time, whip the cream to soft peaks, spread over the pavlova, sprinkle with fruit and drizzle over with raspberry sauce. Enjoy with a few other hungry friends or family!