The birthday season continues …

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… 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!

 

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A spring celebration cake

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This gorgeous photo comes from Kristy who blogs at You and Me Naturally – thanks so much for sharing!

Unusually, not only did my lovely photographer ALG-M not take this photo, but I have to admit that I did not cook this cake. I did design it though, and a lovely friend of mum’s offered to do the baking and assembling so I could be doing something else at the time. It was based on an idea I had and part of another recipe (from the Australian Women’s Weekly Wicked cookbook; the base from the Raspberry Mousse Cake) and Ruth made magic happen bringing it all together!

It was lovely to have such a pretty cake as a focal point of our lovely wedding feast. Celebrating with community and in thankfulness is something I want to grow into more and more, I was so pleased this day was a good beginning!

Ingredients*:
4 egg whites
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (240g) almond meal
1/4 cup (35g) plain flour

Filling:
a ratio of half cream and half mascarpone
flavouring to taste (eg. icing sugar, vanilla …)
lots and lots of strawberries!

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
2. Grease and line with baking paper two (or more!) springform cake tins (about 22cm in diametre is good).
3. Separate eggs and set yolks aside for another recipe.
4. Place egg whites in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the foam has soft peaks.
5. Add the sugar gradually, a little bit at a time so that the foam does not lose its air! Beat till the sugar is dissolved before adding the next amount of sugar.
6. Sift the flour over the egg whites, and gently shake the almond meal in over the flour (again, gently so as not to lose the air you have carefully beaten in).
7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the meringue (egg and sugar foam) with a spatula.
8. Spread the mixture evenly between the two tins, smoothing the surface the spatula.
9. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or till golden brown.
10. Allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes in the tin before removing it and allowing it to cool at room temperature on a cake rack.
11. Whip the cream till soft peaks form and gently combine with mascarpone and desired flavouring.
12. Cut strawberries up – thicker is good as these allow the cakes to sit on top of each other without squeezing out the filling.
13. Assemble the cake carefully layer by layer. Dust with icing sugar and top with more strawberries!
14. Wow everyone and enjoy!

*(the original cake-base recipe … Ruth made a much larger quantity for our 7 layers of cake! This will make you two circle cakes 22cm in diametre)

Strawberries in season …

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Serving Icecream

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Queensland strawberries came into season a few weeks ago. What a lovely lovely thing this is! Big, red, shiny sweet berries for snacking are readily available and cost effective. I decided it was time to have a go at making some strawberry ice cream. I looked in the ice cream maker recipe book and online and found a lovely recipe by Laura at the Rookie Cook which was adapted by her from the Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert recipe book. It had more strawberries in it than the recipe I found in the ice cream maker booklet and I decided that could only be a good thing! Here is the process I followed making her recipe and some of the results. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, divided
1/3 cup sugar (for the strawberries)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar (for the cream mixture)
2 cups pure cream
1 cup milk (I just used skim, it was what we had in the fridge!)

Method:
1. Wash and dry the strawberries. Laura is insistent about ensuring that the strawberries are dry so the ice cream doesn’t become icy. I was careful and it worked.
2. Chop the strawberries and place in a bowl. Cover them with the sugar and lemon juice. chopping them increases their surface area, adding the lemon juice and sugar kind of allows all the strawberryness to escape into the ice cream! Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least an hour before adding them to the cream mixture.
3. Whisk the eggs in another bowl till they become light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, continue whisking and adding the sugar till the mixture is combined. Add the cream and the milk to the eggs and sugar, whisking again till combined.
4. Once the strawberries have begun to release their juice and you want to add them to the cream base, use a stick blender to puree them. Pour this strawberry puree into the cream mixture.
5. Use an ice cream maker to churn the ice cream mixture till aerated and chilled. Our machine did this mixture in two batches, churning each for 20 minutes (in an ideal world the bowl of the ice cream maker should have been re-frozen between each batch … I didn’t do this and it made for a much less aerated second batch!).
Optional: some of the strawberries can be reserved and not blended, then added as (drained) strawberry pieces so that the ice cream has fruit ‘chunks’ in it, but that depends on how you like your ice cream. I didn’t do this, I prefer a more consistent texture.
6. It is best to let this freeze overnight before enjoying. We found it was most delicious with one night of freezing, rather than leaving it in the fridge and saving it for special dessert the week later. Fresher is better even with strawberry ice cream!
7. Enjoy!