Shiraz Chocolate Cake

It's been a very stressful last few months; with my boyfriend getting so sick and the awful university study catch up that came with it. Luckily it's all done now and Simon is getting better. We're actually spending a week in the Coromandel which so far has been so nice to just unwind forget about the stresses of life and remember what really matters. During my rough ride through Simon's illness I've realised a few things;

1) I should not take my health for granted - truth is you only start to appreciate it once someone close to you almost loses their's...
2) Who my real friends are 
3) To not take life quite so seriously 

I finished my exams last Friday and started off my summer by baking my Dad a Shiraz Birthday cake on Sunday. I'm really pleased with how this turned out! Its a monster cake, prepare for richness.

How to make this rich Shiraz Chocolate cake:

The cake:
  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed sea salt
  • 1 cup of extra light olive oil (you can also use sunflower or canola)
  • 2 whisked eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • ½ cup of your favourite Shiraz (I used Talyors Promised Land Shiraz)
The buttercream:

  • 1 cup of Shiraz
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 225g of softened butter
  • 3 cups of icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • An extra slash of Shiraz
To finish:
  • 500g of good quality dark chocolate (I used Whittaker's 72% cocoa Dark Ghana)
  • Half a punnet of blackberries
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and sea salt. 

One at a time, in this order mix in the olive oil, eggs, wine and vanilla essence. 

The mixture needs to be added to a 9 inch round baking pan thats approximately 1.5 inches deep. Grease the pan and bake in the oven at 180C until its done. I never usually specify a time because all ovens are different and depending on your oven and the pan you chose the time to cook the cake will vary, I usually go and check the cake when I can smell it around the house. Then I stick a knife inside and see if its clean. If so, take it out and allow it to cool completely. My cake took about 45 minutes to cook. 

All my cakes that I use oil in end up with this cracked effect on the top. It's fine if its going to be covered in frosting anyway and it adds a real gooey-ness to the cake so its worth it :) Also better for you!

To make the Shiraz buttercream:
  • 1 cup of Shiraz
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 225g of softened butter
  • 3 cups of icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • An extra slash of Shiraz
Pour the 1 cup of Shiraz and the caster sugar into a saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and form a syrup. This now needs to completely cool or it will melt the butter later.

Once cooled the butter and the icing sugar to create the buttercream. Add the syrup you made so you get a pink buttercream. Also add the extra splash of Shiraz. 

Assuming the cake is cool, cut it in half (preferably with a cake cutter so you have even layers). Take the bottom layer and add all of the Shiraz buttercream onto it. The idea is to get a very even and thick layer onto the cake. It takes some effort to get it even - it needs to reach the edges!

Next put the other layer of cake on top to make a sandwich. Because you made sure the buttercream was all even it should lie flat on top of the Shiraz buttercream. 

Break the dark chocolate up into chunks and melt over a low heat in a saucepan. Once melted and cooled just slightly, pour over the cake. I put the cake onto a cooling tray over the top of a plate to I could cover the sides without it building up at the bottom. It takes some effort and a bit of time to get the chocolate all evenly coating the top and sides of the cake. Once you've run out and the plate if getting full, pick the tray up and transfer to another plate and use the used plate to pour the chocolate back on. 

Once the cake is all evenly coated stick as many blackberries as you like onto the cake. I chose blackberries because I think they go really well with the Shiraz. Especially this one which I find to be quite blackberry like in flavour. 

The cake needs to set if possible. In the New Zealand summer this is hard to I needed to put it in the fridge for 10 minutes. It didn't totally set but I found that slightly melted is easier for cutting and gives the cake an extra gooey-ness. 


Lemon and poppyseed drizzle loaves

The weekend just gone was a fairly miserable one in our household. Everyone has a cold, its cold outside, and its the end of the holiday...ohh no. Time to make cake and eat it.

I really didn't want to go out to the supermarket to get ingredients so I just used what I had at home to make these. Not a bad creation I have to say :)

You will need:

For the cake:
170g of Flora
170g of Caster Sugar
3 large eggs
170g of Self-raising flour
2 teaspoons of poppy seeds
The zest of 2 lemons

For the drizzle:
120g of icing sugar
The juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon of poppy seeds

I've used this recipe of equal fat, sugar and self-raising flour for fairy cakes and realised that flora, not butter, just tastes so much better. Its really true. When you think about it, the idea of eating a margarine cake sounds gross because margarine is quite gross on its own, as oppose to butter which just tastes great wherever. In a cake though, the margarine gives it a much lighter texture and you feel slightly better in that it won't clog up your arteries either. So may we call this a guilt free cake considering its a cake? :P

Take the Flora and caster sugar in one large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Crack in the eggs next, stir and then add the flour. Mix until you get a uniform mixture. Zest the lemons over the bowl and add the poppy seeds. Once stirred thoroughly pour into one large loaf mould or a pan of mini loaves like I used. This mixture makes one large loaf and 8 mini loaves.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 mins but keep an eye on it as it will depend on your oven and what kind of cake mould you used.

When they're done and cooling slightly you can make the drizzle. Just combine the icing sugar, lemon juice and poppy seeds. While the cakes are still hot and in the moulds still, poke the cakes with a skewer to dot a few holes on each one. You can then pour over your drizzle and let the cakes to cool  allowing the drizzle to set.



Skinny carrot fritters

Vegetable fritters are awesome. Filling, healthy and almost no calories :D win win win

I loved Rosie Londoner's greek courgette fritters and I make them every few weeks but I decided to try create my own. I am very pleased with this recipe and I encourage you to try it too.

You'll need:
3 large carrots
1 large cucumber
1 spring onion
1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of paprika
sea salt and black pepper to season
3 eggs
some oil for frying

Start by grating your carrots and cucumber into a colander over a bowl or saucepan. This may take some time but see it as burning more calories  :P it'll tire your arms. Sprinkle liberally with the sea salt and leave for half an hour while the water drains out. After half an hour you'll have to get your hands in and really force out the water. the more water you can get out the better and you can always save the carrot and cucumber juice for a drink later? when the mixture is thoroughly squeezed out you can start adding the other ingredients. Chop up the spring onion finely and add it along with the garlic, sesame seeds paprika and black pepper. Mix it up so its all even. Beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mixture when you're ready for cooking the fritters. Heat up some oil in a pan and when it gets really hot  you can start adding small mounds of the mix. Cook evenly on each side for a few minutes each and slide them all onto a plate to share. These are quite sweet naturally from the carrot so you could serve them with a kind of tangy sauce or just lemon juice to balance it out. 

Simon and I made ours ready to watch X factor New Zealand. Theres only 4 acts now!


One Tree Grill

Since I wasn't (going to) be able to go to Lisa's 21st on Wednesday, and neither was Jennie, we decided to take Lisa out for dinner so we could have our own 21st for her. I'm now able to go to her 21st and am pretty excited for it but I was also pretty keen for a meal out anyway. We've all seriously earned this after exams :)

Jennie picked out One Tree guessed it, One Tree Hill, in Central Auckland for those that aren't familiar. It was gorgeous. Probably the most expensive meal I've had to pay for yet but it was so lovely and I'll be wanting to go back again.

They had these really cool menus on iPad minis. When you clicked on the dish it would show you a photo! We took forever to decide...

Raspberry and Rose Mojito,

Caribbean sunsets...

Lisa and I both ordered  the duck and Jennie ordered the Serloin with a bernaise sauce

Cool menus came back for dessert!
we chose ice creams, creme brûlée and petit fours. 

Time to give Lisa her present :) 
Together Jennie and I picked out a bracelet from Coast and I also got her a little silky makeup bag with 4 hand creams from L'Occitane.

My bill came to $83 something...for main, dessert, cocktail and me paying for our extra bread rolls. Its kind of fried my bank account but thats okay, its the holidays :) and the duck was soooo good. I'd go back for that same dish :P


Lemon Melting Moments for Mother's Day!

These are so quick and easy to make, and they're also great for a gift.

Perfect for Mother's Day!

Mum went out in the morning so I took the opportunity to quickly make these and then try to conceal the evidence. Unfortunately I couldn't hide everything as the bowls were drying from washing them up but at least she doesn't know what I made :P

You'll need:
250g of butter
1/2 cup of lemon flavoured icing sugar
1.5 cups of high grade plain flour
1/2 cup of Bird's custard powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
zest and juice of one lemon

And for the filling:
150g of butter
1 cup of lemon flavoured icing sugar
zest and juice of one lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C.
Start by softening the butter in a large bowl and combining with sifted icing sugar, vanilla essence lemon zest and juice.
Mix with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
In another bowl, sift the flour and custard powder together and stir to make sure they're mixed.
Add the flour mixture to the fluffy butter mixture and combine until you have an even, lemony dough.
With clean hands, take the dough and roll it into small balls and arrange them slightly spaced apart on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Once you have all the balls arranged on the paper, take a fork and press into each one. This will squash the ball down and also imprint it.

Bake them for 30 minutes, 15 on each side.

While you let them cool completely you can make the filling.
Combine the butter with sifted icing sugar and add the lemon zest and its juice.
Stir until its warmed up slightly and easy to manage.
Once the biscuits are cool you can add the filling.
Add about a tablespoon of filling to one biscuit and then sandwich together with another biscuit.
If you're making them for a gift you can find a pretty box like I did, lined with baking paper to absorb any grease and to protect the box.

Purple Almond Milk Mini Cupcakes

Why only make red velvet when you can make any colour -velvet cakes? My favourite colour is purple so I thought why not...this time using my super cute mini cupcake pan. 

This is quite similar to my Red Velvet Buttermilk Cupcakes infact I used the leftover icing which I froze. There are some differences however; the size (obviously) and I swapped buttermilk for almond milk since its what I had. I also changed the vanilla essence for some natural strawberry essence - which really came out when I tried one :)

You'll need:

A mini cupcake pan
mini cupcake cases 

Dry ingredients:
2.5 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Liquid ingredients:
1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar
2 eggs
1.5 cups of Extra Light Olive Oil
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon of natural strawberry essence
1 tablespoon of Queen's Rose pink food colouring
1 teaspoon of Queen's Blue food colouring

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C.
Sift all the dry ingredients and stir in together well in a large bowl.
Take another bowl, a large one you can whisk in, and add all the liquid ingredients.
Once all whisked and blended together you can start to slowly add (whilst whisking) the dry ingredients. 
Once the mixture is all evenly mixed you can start filling the cupcake cases.
Cook each batch for 12 minutes.

This recipe makes about 50 so you can divide/mulitply the quanities of ingredients as appropriate :)

I used the icing I used for the red velvet cupcakes. It was brilliant to have frozen this...
I was able to put the whole lump into my icing piping bag easily with my Wilton 2D nozzle.
I had another practice at making rose swirls and also tried out some of my own cupcake artwork.

I should really be catching up on some study...