Sunday, 25 June 2017

Mermaid & Ocean Creatures Cookies

There's merit in being prepared, but it also has its downside, as I've discovered.

This is what happens when you prepare a little too far in advance, and land up making way more than needed for a class because you bake the cookies before you confirm final numbers!

You just have to decorate them yourself ....
 (these are probably  just a third of the extras 😩) 

... and  then sell them at bargain basement prices at school cake sale!

So, if you're planning a mermaid themed birthday party anytime soon, pop over to my kids' school on Thursday morning and pick up a few dozen of these ocean creature cookies at half the price they'd normally be sold for! 

And in case you can't get there, and want to reproduce them yourself:
SweetSugarBelle has a great tutorial on making mermaid tails and Sweetopia has a lovely post on making Seaside cookies (including a jellyfish.)

As for the rest, well... next time come join us for the class 😉

Happy decorating!


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Chocolate Pancakes with Rum Poached Mandarins

We're not big celebrators of the minor holidays in this household. (My husband comes from a family that aren't big celebrators of any holidays, so I've had to re-educate him a little!)
When it comes to Mothers Day and Fathers Day, we're happy with just the cards and notes the kids bring home from school for us and a day spent together as a family.
But, I do like to bake (you may have noticed), so I'll take the excuse of a Fathers Day and try something new...

Here's my breakfast suggestion for Dad this year:
Chocolate pancakes with rum poached mandarins.

Rum Poached Mandarins
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

6 mandarin oranges
30ml water
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs rum
1 cinnamon quill

Peel, then slice the mandarin oranges into rounds.
Place in a saucepan with the other ingredients and gently simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove  the orange segments, and continue simmering the liquid until it becomes a light syrup.

Chocolate Pancakes
Recipe from Food & Home Magazine

(Halve these quantities for a smaller batch of pancakes)

Sift together:
240g cake flour
30g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together: 
500ml buttermilk
1 tbs white grape vinegar
2 large eggs
80g melted butter
2tsp vanilla extract

Combine the  wet and dry ingredients and mix well.

Heat a lightly oiled non-stick pan on medium/high heat.
Pour or spoon in the batter (approx 1/4 cup per pancake).
Tilt the pan in a circular motion to evenly spread the batter.
Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Serve warm with poached mandarins and a spoonful of double thick yoghurt.
Drizzle the syrup from the poached oranges over the yoghurt.

Or change it up and try these chocolate pancakes with strawberries and vanilla ice-cream as a great desert option.



Monday, 12 June 2017

Emoji Cookies


Emoji cookies are not as easy as they look!

I had this idea that they'd be simple. And quick.
But began to realise I was wrong when I went to make the colours - just yellow and black, right?
Wrong! ... I needed white. And red. And blue. Oh, and pink too!
I stopped there, although I was sorely tempted by then to add brown for a 💩... which kind of summed up what I was thinking at that stage!

Then, of course, there's the fact that emojis are perfectly, computer-generatedly symmetrical.
And we all know the problems I have with symmetry.

So anyway...
Don't look too closely!

I started with the mouths, wanting them to be a little recessed in the yellow (only if they were the great big grins, little smiles went on top.) Let those dry; then flooded with yellow, and followed with the other features.

The trickiest things were the mouths.
And eyes.
It was all tricky - getting the spacing/ positioning right. And symmetry!

Next time I'll print out a template. But I was determined to keep it quick and simple, dammit!

It might have been simpler with a template...

Is there an emoji for tearing your hair out?!

Happy decorating 😁


Friday, 9 June 2017

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cut-Out Cookies

I can't count the number of times I've made this roll-out cookie dough (basic butter cookies) since I posted the recipe in 2013. Or how many thousands of cookies I've made with it for our classes.
There's nothing about it that I'd change. Add yes, change no.

It's the basis for this chocolate cookiethis spiced one, and a bunch of other subtle variations (whose creation depends on my mood and the theme we're decorating - like the spotty choc-chip cookies we had for our pet-themed Valentines class this year).

And now... here's a lemon and poppy seed version:

Lemon & Poppyseed Cut-Out Cookies**
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

250g butter, at room temp. 
300g caster sugar 
2 XL eggs 
620g cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 tbs poppy seeds 
zest of 1 medium lemon (use 2 if you want it extra zesty) 

Cream together the butter and sugar
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl between additions. 
Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and poppy seeds.  
Sift in the flour and salt. Mix until just clumping, (if the dough seems too crumbly add a dash of milk) then form into a ball by hand. Place in cling-wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 

Roll-out and cut out cookies on a surface dusted with cornflour. (See here for some tips).

Bake at 180'C for 8-10 minutes until the edges are just starting to turn golden. 

(**What's in the name: Cut-out or roll-out cookie dough is ideal for - you guessed it! - rolling out and cutting out cookie shapes for decorating with royal icing. The cookies hold their shape well and bake flat. They may not be as melt-in-your-mouth as shortbread cookies, but they're an ideal canvas for decorating. And they're great tasting, too!)

If you like the combination of lemon and poppy seed, here's a cupcake recipe

And here's a poppy seed kugelhopf:

Happy baking!


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Clementine and Ginger Macarons

Winter might be a good time to cocoon, but it is also a great time to try macarons!
The drier weather here in KZN means that these fussy little confections are easier to make now than in the humid summer months. And macarons ARE easy... once you've figured out their foibles!

These ones are filled with ginger & clementine dark chocolate ganache.
It's a rich and zesty combination of flavours that pairs wonderfully with a cup of strong mocha java!


3 egg whites (100g-110g), at room temp. Aged for 2-3 days.
2 Tbs (30ml) caster sugar
200g icing sugar
125g finely ground almonds/ almond flour
A few drops of orange gel food colour

Prepare 2 large baking trays with parchment.
Make sure that the parchment is flat and that the trays aren't warped.

Put the almond flour and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse until well mixed and finely ground.
Sift into a bowl. Discard the large granules which don't pass through the sieve.

Whisk the egg whites at low speed with an electric beater until frothy, then add the caster sugar.
Beat until soft peaks form; mix in the gel colour.
Beat until the colour is mixed in and the meringue is thick and glossy.

Sift the almond flour / icing sugar mix into the meringue in two batches  - folding in between.
Once again discard any large granules of almond flour

Use a spatula  to gently fold the batter until it is loosened and falls in "ribbons" from the spatula. (It is worth watching a few YouTube videos to see the consistency you're aiming for).

Transfer  the mixture to an icing bag with the tip cut off or one fitted with a large plain round icing nozzle (not more than 1cm diameter).

Pipe small dots of batter beneath the corners of the baking parchment, to keep it in place on the baking tray.

Pipe your macaron rounds - about 3-4cm diameter, about 2cm apart. Pull your piping tip to the side - this leaves a tiny tail, which should settle. 
Rap the tray twice on the counter to release any hidden air bubbles. 

Leave the macarons to stand for 15-30minutes until they form a "skin" - ie. when touched with a clean, dry finger they aren't sticky.
Turn the oven on to pre-heat to 150'C during this time

Bake at 150'C for 15-20 minutes.
Check that they're not browning as the end of the baking time approaches.
Remove from the oven.

Leave to cool for 5 - 10minutes, then remove the shells from the trays. If the macarons are undercooked, they will stick to the parchment. You can pop them back into the warm oven for a few minutes just to dry out a little more.
(Macarons are best after being filled and left for 24hrs - the filling rehydrates them a bit.) 

Clementine & Ginger Ganache
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

160g dark chocolate, cut in small even sized pieces
80ml fresh cream
Zest of 2 small clementines
1tsp ground ginger.

Heat the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler or in a microwave on low/medium power.
Stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Mix in the ground ginger and clementine zest.
Allow the ganache to set at room temperature until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
Spoon or pipe onto a macaron shell; place another shell on top.

Refrigerate filled macarons overnight (the flavours are even better once matured).
Bring to room temperature before serving.

And after reading all of that, if you're not feeling up to the challenge of making macarons, at least try this ganache. It would be great as a tart filling; poured over a rich chocolate cake, or spooned into a glass of warm milk to make a decadent and zesty hot chocolate.



Monday, 29 May 2017

The Princess and the Troll

Whenever I write one of these Then & Now posts, it does occur to me that I'll probably look back in another few years and say Eeeeuw! to both the pics.
I'll just have to edit this post with a then, then and now picture.
But for now now...

This is Princess Poppy from a recent class...

And this was a princess topper I did 5 years ago....

Notice the patchy glitter on that perched crown; the spot of pink for her ?lips, and the head that's merging with her shoulders... 😂
I thought she was lovely at the time! 
(I think I made this for you, Lauren. You have my humble apologies. If you ever move back to the country, I promise I'll make you something better!!) 

The question is ... which one is the real troll?! 

Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Icing

By now you'll know that I like to keep things simple. (A far cry from my early baking days when I'd make door-stopper muffins that contained every ingredient known to man!)

So I use the same recipe over and over, with minor variations, if I know that it's good and easy.

For this one, I've used my go-to chocolate cupcakes (you only need one bowl - can it get any easier ?!  Well, yes ... box-mix!); topped with cream cheese icing that has a delicious addition: crumbed Oreos.

 And then you can give it all a fancy-smancy name like Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies&Cream Icing 😋

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from the Hershey's chocolate cake recipe. 

Preheat the oven to 180'C
Prepare 2x 12 hole muffin trays with cupcake cases. (Plus an extra 6 if you aren't using larger "American"-style muffin cases) 

320g cake flour
400g caster sugar
80g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 
180ml vegetable oil
250ml buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml boiling water 
1tsp vanilla extract

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine. 
Make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. 
Mix well. 
Add the boiling water. Mix until combined.  

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cases.
Bake at 180'C for approx 20min, or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. 
Remove cupcakes from muffin trays and cool. 

Cookies & Cream Icing
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

100g butter,  at room temperature
80g sifted icing sugar
250g cream cheese, chilled 
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g finely crushed Oreo biscuits

Beat together the butter and icing sugar, until smooth and creamy. 
Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. 
Stir in the Oreo crumbs
Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

Top with a mini Oreo or sprinkle with crushed Oreos.

You may need to double the icing ingredient quantities if you want to pipe large swirls on all the cupcakes. 
I usually freeze half the batch of cupcakes and ice the rest. Yes, these chocolate cupcakes freeze well, and so does the icing (just freeze the two separately, though ... don't freeze the iced cupcakes in the unlikely event of any leftovers!)

Happy decorating!