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    Entries in baking (62)


    Jingle Bells cupcake pick

                                          jingle bells cupcake picks

              Jingle bells, jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way.

    Oh! what fun it is to ride

    In a one-horse open sleigh.

    Jingle bells, jingle bells,

    Jingle all the way

     Jingle Bells; written by James Lord Pierpont,  first published in 1857 as a Thanksgiving song.

    I've officially start my Christmas baking this week :) Usually I start *cough *splutter... Septemberish (though there was one June when I made puddings) but with the landscaping business running this year the schedule is a little tight.

    Yes, I am one of those annoying "organised" people and the presents are wrapped and ready to go. Though, I still like a handful of emergency quick things just in case and cupcake picks fit the bill.

    I do love a cupcake pick and I love SilverCrow Creations a online store full of all sorts of odd assortments and sundries like the "jingle bell bottle caps" I used today :)

    The *caps are pins that you can wear, (scoff now but after three of those cranberry cocktails and you'll be wearing light up reindeer ears!!) and double as a Christmas keepsake. 

    Whether you decide on a message bottle cap or another Christmas pin that takes you fancy, attach to a toothpick with a little ball of fondant. Let dry, dust or paint over the fondant piece with edible colour and voilà you have yourself a cupcake pick!! 

    Happy Baking :)

    *search "jingle bells" on SilverCrow Creations to find the bottle caps

    You might also be interested in Tia Maria mini pudding cupcakes


    Brownies, Brownies, Brownies

    Come join me on Facebook  Competition day today, scroll down for you chance to win 'Cookie Swap'!!

    It's official, I never want to eat a brownie again!! Well, at least for a month or two... phew, all this brownie taste testing was tough, but someone's gotta do it. 

    Brownies are so subjective aren't they? Fudgy, cakey, with nuts or with out. Are you a purist or perhaps you prefer to add choc chunks, caramel swirls or fresh raspberries. Then there is the edges, do you always go for the gooey centre bit or do you like the sugar crisp edges? And yes, some of you will even prefer your brownies frosted.

    Lets have a look a few different brownies... all recipes were baked on two separate occasions, all brownies improved after resting/refrigeration period... in other words "yummier the next day". 

    'Robert's Absolute Best Brownies' is from David Lebovitz's excellent 'Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes', I baked it once with nuts as per the recipe and once with chocolate on top for my hubby. This was my favourite brownie, albeit I think more of a chocolate slice than what I'd consider a true brownie. A little piece with coffee was "just right". 


    Then on to Australian style brownies where we go tend to forgo the sugary crust for soft brown sugar finish. Ideal if you need a flat top to decorate your brownie. Pop over to Donna Hay's official site for her brownie recipe or try Gary Mehigan's Triple Chocolate Brownies from Australian MasterChef ...

    Gary Mehigan’s Triple Chocolate Brownies
    MasterChef magazine March, 2011

    150g (5.29 oz)  unsalted butter, chopped
150g (5.29 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped
    plus an extra 150g (5.29 oz) dark chocolate, cut into chunks
    100g (3.5 oz) milk chocolate, cut into chunks
    100g (3.5 oz) white chocolate cut into chunks 
    4 eggs, room temperature
    330g (11.64 oz) brown sugar
    1 tsp pure vanilla essence (extract)
    150g (1 cup) self raising flour (self rising)
    Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
    Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm (approx 8 x 12 inches) slice pan.
    Place butter, finely chopped dark chocolate and tablespoons of water in a small pan.
    Stir over low heat for 3 minutes or until melted, then transfer to a bowl.
    Whisk in eggs, sugar and vanilla. Sift in flour, then fold in the remaining chocolate.
    Spoon batter into pan and then bake for 35 minutes, or until firm around the edges but soft in the centre.
    Cool for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.


    With brownies being quintessentially American, then that would make peanut butter and jam (jelly) triply so, or so I thought but not all family members agreed.

    'Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy melt in your mouth cookies' isn't just a fabulous book title, it's written by a fabulous cook 'Alice Medrich' author of 'Pure Dessert' and the gorgeous 'Chocolat: extraordinary chocolate desserts' amongst others. 

    I've made several of the brownies from this book, all good... the cocoa brownies I baked to the recipe the first time and the second time I decided to swirl through some peanut butter and raspberry jam.

    My husband Mark loved these!! My step son Daniel thought "they were just wrong" and picked away the peanut and jam to eat the fudgy chocolate brownie. Can't please them all ;)



     the unassuming brownie voted "best" by my husband and step son

    Almost didn't buy 'Cookie Swap', Amazon kept putting it in my recommendations where I'd glance at it and think "don't like the cover", "don't have cookie swaps in Australia". Then it triggered (in my brain that is) where I knew the name 'Lauren Chattman' from, she is the co-author of 'Dessert University' one of my favourite dessert books by Roland Mesnier former White House pastry chef. So I popped it in the cart and I'm glad I did, because from page 55 of this book comes a brownie recipe that they both my husband and step son voted "best" brownie. We have made the 'Incredibly Fudgy Brownies' numerous times, so has my best friends daughter Emma, we all love it.


    Would you like to win a copy of 'Cookie Swap'? I have three copies up for grabs...

    For you chance to win just leave a comment here on the blog or on facebook:

    25 words or less "Your favourite brownie and why?" or perhaps a killer brownie recipe I should try? Competition drawn Monday 14th November.

    If you missed the 'Fat Witch Brownies' book review it's here 

    or Choc Orange Brownie Cupcake

    Happy Baking :)


    Seahorse cupcake and bubbles in silicone moulds

                                         seahorse cupcake

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    Goodness, sorry I'm sooo behind in answering mail... I'm answering one today, and I can hear many saying "about time!!!". It's a question about using a gas torch to remove the bubbles created in pieces of isomalt when you are using silicone moulds. 

    hi, I tried to use a butane torch like you did on the butterflies on my isomalt pieces but I couldn't get rid of the all the bubbles and created a melted mess. What am I doing wrong? 


    Hi, Vicki you didn't say what moulds you were using but I presume it's something small or with finer detail? I thought I do an example piece today to illustrate... 

    An isomalt seahorse straight from the silicone mould. Tiny air bubbles cover the surface of the piece. 

    To remove the air bubbles wave the flame of a chef's gas torch over the surface of the piece.

    You can see in this shot I'm part way through torching, I've lost a little of the detail but not much. The fin of the seahorse is thin, I give it another quick flash of flame but I won't keep going to remove all the bubbles as I would be risking melting the piece. 

    Note the photo on top of page, I photograhed in front of white card so you can see how there still is few small areas of bubbles. However to the naked eye they are difficult to see. 

    Finally, my torch is very small it is possible your torch is more powerful? If that is the case, perhaps invest in a small chefs torch as they are relatively inexpensive nowadays. Hope this helps you Vicki.

    Happy Baking :)

    You might also be interested in Sugar Glass Butterflies 


    Blossom Cupcake Toppers

                                 sour cherry cupcake with blossom toppers

    It's raining, it's pouring... it must be Spring in Melbourne!!

    Today we are making blossom toppers, a little bit fiddly but easy to make. You can go for a natural look or try a more Asian approach with a glossy black finish. 

    You'll need:

    black modelling paste/or black fondant with CMC added

    white modelling paste/or white fondant with CMC added

    leaf flower glaze

    lustre dusts 

    Roll out small "snake" shapes from the black modelling paste (I've used brown modelling paste in the demo because it was easier to see the steps). With a small pair of sharp scissors cut nicks into the snake shapes, move the shapes to replicate branch shapes. Allow to dry. 

    branch shapes drying

    Once dry paint on leaf/flower glaze with a small brush, allow to dry and repeat. You may need to repeat this step several times until you have a high gloss finish. Allow to dry.

    glazed branches drying

    To make a blossom, roll six small balls of white fondant. Five of the balls will become petals, the sixth the centre of the blossom. Squash a ball lightly with your finger and in forward pulling motion to form a petal. Once you have your petals made, join together by squeezing together the narrow ends with dampened fingers. Add the centre. Repeat until you have desired amount of flowers. Create buds with small balls of modelling paste. Allow to dry. 

    squash a ball lightly in a forward motion to create petals

    Once dry dust the blossoms with lustre dusts of choice, attach the to branches with a small of amount of dampened black modelling paste. Allow to dry before using to top your frosted cupcakes.

    For those who ask about where do I find "inspiration", it really is all around you... today's toppers were inspired by my kitchen tissue box.

    Happy Baking :)

    You might also be interested in Green Tea White Chocolate Cupcakesor go savoury with Bacon and Egg Noodle Omelette 


    Mum's Vanilla Slices

    Even though I call these "Mum's Vanilla Slices"; Mum never made them. My mum loved to clip or copy out recipes by hand, then over coffee she would  *hint *hint "oh, if only someone would make that"... and of course I always would  :) 

    Many countries have versions of a puff pastry with custard cake, in Australia it's the 'Vanilla Slice' that rules. Puff pastry base, covered in creamy custard and topped with more pastry and then iced or perhaps just a dusting of icing sugar. The vanilla slice is so popular thousands compete each year in the 'Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph". With categories for professionals, amateurs and juniors, the baking competition attracts the best of best in classic vanilla slices in the country.

    You're thinking I'm going to segue into the best of the best classic recipe now don't you?? Wrong... my family and friends do love this thoroughly nice recipe, but Mum's handed down recipe is an odd version of a vanilla slice in that it is egg free, the custard is made up wholly of custard powder (sorry to all MasterChef purists) and uses gelatine as a setting agent. 

    *custard powder; is a sweetened flavoured cornflour product that when milk is added and heated to correct temperature it becomes a custard sauce. Also used in baking, particularly shortbread type biscuits (cookies).

    I suspect many years ago Mum must have acquired the recipe from a brand name product as she names all the brands on the hand written scrap... wish she was still here to tell me about it, but I can still share the recipe for "Mum's Vanilla Slices" :)

    Mum's Vanilla Slices

    Makes 12

    23 cm square cake tin (9x9 inch) sides and base lined with foil or baking paper

    I haven't "poshed up" this recipe at all and it is as it was written, albeit minus the brand names of the products. The completed slice needs to be refrigerated overnight for ease of slicing.


    2 sheets of ready rolled puff pastry

    *5 tablespoons of custard powder

    1/2 cup caster sugar (superfine)

    600ml of milk (20 fluid ounces)

    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatine

    1/3 cup hot water

    250ml of cream

    2 tablespoons of sour cream

    1 tsp pure vanilla essence/extract


    1 1/2 cups of pure icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

    1 1/2 tablespoons of water

    1 tsp pure vanilla essence/extract


    Preheat oven to 230C (450F)

    1. Place pastry sheets on greased baking trays and prick well with a fork. Bake for 6 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Whilst still warm and using the base of your tin as a template trim the pastry to the size of the tin. 

    2. In a saucepan blend the custard and powder and sugar with sufficient milk to make a smooth paste. Add remaining milk. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until milk boils and becomes thick. Cook 1 minute before removing from heat.

    3. Sprinkle the gelatine onto hot water and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Stir into custard and place a piece of wetted paper on top to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool.

    placing wetted paper on top of custard will prevent a skin forming

    4. Place both creams, vanilla and custard in a mixer bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until well blended. 

    beat together creams, vanilla and prepared custard

    Place a prepared pastry sheet in the bottom of your prepared tin, pour over custard and top with remaining pastry. Press down firmly with your hand. Set to one side.


    Place icing sugar and water in a saucepan and warm over a low heat, stirring constantly until a good spreading consistency is reached. Add vanilla. Pour over pastry. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into 12 squares and serve.

    Happy Baking :)

    You might also like Vanilla extracts, essences, pods and pastes


    Donna Hay Packet Mix Reviews

                                       donna hay packet mix macarons

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    Donna Hay has a range of cake mixes available in Australia,  today we are looking at the chocolate cupcakes mix and the almond macaron mix. One is a nigh on perfect example of a great packet mix, the other.... well, the other is photographed above!! 

    Bit nervous about making macarons and thought you might give a packet mix a try?? This part of the story is sub titled "Mark makes macarons" because my non-cooking hubbie Mark thought he would in fact give it a try!

    Mark Makes Macarons

    Donna Hay Macaron mix

    We bought a pack of the Donna Hay Almond Macaron Mix for $7.99 at our local Woolworths supermarket. 

    Inside the box you will find, the almond mixture, an egg mixture and a sachet of dark chocolate pieces. You only need water for the macaron itself and 2 tablespoons of cream for the filling.

    Mark was looking confident when he set about pre heating the oven, lining the baking tray and still confident at the whipping the egg white mixture and sifting over the almond mixture; it's at this point it started to go awry with "gently fold through".

    The egg mixture after the 4 minutes beating on high is very stiff.

    When Mark did "gently fold through" the almond mixture into the egg mixture he ended up with billowy clouds of raw almondy meringue; when Mark "dropped" one tablespoon at a time as per the instructions this is what you end up with...

    After baking, Mark turned temperental chef and didn't want to fill his oversized cracked macarons with the chocolate ganache filling (which was set firm by this stage). Instead I warmed the ganache and I drizzled it over the macarons, topped with berries and a scoop of ice-cream. Slightly placated Mark was still grumbling "told you I can't cook" far into the night. Mark didn't make a mistake, he followed the instructions as many novice macaron bakers would. 

    Too much fuss for a packet mix?? There is a .pdf that I downloaded from Donna Hay's website, because this packet mix comes with alternative step by step instructions. 

    Step Four on box says to "Drop 1 tablespoon of mixture at a time onto baking trays"... this changes in the .pdf to Step Five where you are dropping in a "circular motion". The filling is made at the end of the process rather that the beginning like on the box.

    Neither way results in an attractive (normal?) macaron, you'll have to pipe the macaron mix for that. Break down the meringue a bit by firmly folding, until the mixture drops off your spoon looking "lava" like... then you will have a greater chance of getting the "foot"on your macarons.

    You really should be aiming for this.... here almond macarons I made last week (from scratch) are ready to go in the oven. 

    how piped macaron mix should look on trays

    Donna Hay Chocolate Cupcake packet mix

    Donna Hay Chocolate Cupcakes packet mix $7.99 Woolworths Supermarket


    In the box... the cake mix, frosting mix and plain dark brown cupcake cases.

    Quick, easy and as close to home made as you can get from a packet.... just add butter, eggs and milk. The Donna Hay Chocolate cupcakes baked perfectly, frosting was good and everyone that tasted these loved them.

    My step sons Mum made these too... same result, great cupcakes with a home made taste. 

    Donna Hay Macaron and Cupcake mixes available in Australia from Woolworths supermarkets and online at Donna Hay   and for Donna Hay's step by step instructions on how to pack packet mix macarons download the .pdf here.

    You might also be interested in TAKE 5... five packet brownie recipes tested including Donna Hay Molten Chocolate Brownies. 

    warm Donna Hay Molten Chocolate Brownie


    Cupcake Cases, Liners, Papers & Wrappers

    Cupcake liners can match your theme, act as an inspiration or just be pretty like these pink and black toile cupcake cases by Meri Meri 

    "Pretty Pretty" applies to everything made by Meri Meri the designers and publishers based in the UK and US. Probably most well known for their cupcake kits, Meri Meri also produce an equally beautiful range of paper party-ware to match your theme.

    I love these pink and black toile cases, the paper is medium weight and best used with light coloured cake batters.  Whilst the boxes do hold a single cupcake I think I'll use them to package pink macaron's.  

    Happy Baking :) 

    Cupcake cases only available from Glasshouse Cakes and Supplies (AU)

    Cupcake cases and single and double boxes available from Meri Meri (UK)

    Cupcake cases and boxes available from Amazon (US)



    "Weep now or Never more" cupcake

                                        weep now or never more cupcake

    Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
    Let the bell toll! -a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river - 
    And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear? -weep now or never more!
    See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
    Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! - 
    An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young - 
    A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.

    first stanza 'Lenore' Edgar Allan Poe

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    My Nan was the cutest elderly woman who also had a penchant for horror stories, with a particular fondness of anything by Edgar Allan Poe. With Halloween just around the corner (or should that be "dark corner"?) my thoughts were of Poe and a quick cupcake pick technique that can be used for any occasion.

    Give your guests a small take home token in the form of a cupcake pick. Today I'm using miniature skeleton cameos for Halloween but it could be any charm, token or small costume jewellery piece to suit your occasion.

    Tiny Cameos 1.9cm x 1.27cm  (3/4 by 1/2 inch)

    Take your cameo or charm and colour a toothpick with food colour to match your theme. Attach a the toothpick (cut the toothpick if it's too long for your charm) to the cameo with a small piece of black fondant. Leave to dry overnight. 

    attach toothpick with black fondant

    Place picks in prepared cupcakes. The fondant is easily broken away leaving your guest with a reminder of the event. 

    Oh, a tip on black icing whether it's the glace icing I used to ice today's mini cupcakes or fondant... start with chocolate icing that way you won't have to use anywhere near as much black food colour as you would if you started with white. 

    Happy Baking :) 

    Sweet skeleton day of dead cameo charm with oxidised silver frame from Silver Crow Creations (US)

    You might also be interested in Gothic Cockroach Cupcakes


    Scary Dollies and Bat Candles

                                              scary dollies cupcakes

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    Yesterday my step son Daniel tried to tell my husband and I that a spider was trying to enter his car to "kill him"... I say "tried to tell" because we were laughing so hard once he mentioned the spider had murderous intentions we didn't hear the rest of the story. 

    For Dan, spiders are the ultimate in "creepiness"; for me it's dollies... dollies with eyes that open and close. 

    Near death to dead from fright?? I was seven years old and literally dying from post surgery complications. The powers to be (namely my parents) had a secret surprise for me they told me to rest and everyone left the room, including the last rights priest. I was laying in my hospital bed when a giant blinking eyed doll popped up beside me, when it spoke I started screaming. And, I screamed and screamed and screamed!! 

    I was lucky enough (so I was told!!) to be have visited by the famous Australian ventriloquist Ron Blaskett and his doll 'Gerry Gee'. 

    Gerry Gee and Ron Blaskett

    Today's blog post is super easy "ideas" for Halloween treats, let them be a springboard for your creations.

    Simple cupcakes baked in Halloween cases are spread with frosting, sprinkled with crushed cookie crumbs then topped with moving eye baby dolls. I cut the heads off some of the dolls, melted bits, pulled off limbs to make my scary doll cupcakes. 

    Baby dolls from SilverCrow Creations (US)

                                             Happy Halloween Cupcake

    A resin skull treat box (I got these a few years ago) holds lollies and then is topped with a simple frosted cupcake, edible glitter and bat candle. The cake is attached with a dab of melted chocolate.

    skull treat box

    I coloured the toothpick on the bat toothpick candles with food colour to match the theme.

    Bat candles by Ramona Ramona, I got mine from Little Betsy Baker (AU). 

    Happy baking :)


    Cocoa nibs

                "Oh my, chocolate cream pie" one bite mini cupcake with cocoa nibs

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    Continuing my love affair with cocoa, today we are looking at cocoa nibs...

    Cocoa nibs are small pieces of shelled raw, or more likely roasted cocoa beans. Nibs are often used as a garnish for plated desserts, they also can be used in your baking and sometimes even accompanying savoury foods. 

    Raw dried criollo cocoa bean, shell this and chop it and you will have nibs.

    If you're a fan of chocolate coated coffee beans, you should enjoy nibs. Texturally the nibs are crunchy, but have some give; they are chocolately and slightly bitter with a "wine like" aftertaste due to the fermentation process used in production. They suit an adult palate. Cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder all come from the bean/nibs.


    top to bottom: sweetened coated cocoa nibs, cocoa beans, cocoa nibs

    Uses; in your brittles to replace nuts, in your chocolate bark, as a garnish for cupcakes or plated desserts, sprinkled over sundaes, yoghurt and pavlovas, finally chopped in pie and tart bases, in cookies or your favourite choc chip cupcake recipe (replace one cup of choc chips with 1/3 cup nibs),  and the like. Join renowned food blogger and author David Lebovitz and go "savoury"; he uses cocoa nibs in his lamb sausages. Any savoury recipe where game is involved or walk on wild side and try grinding the nibs to us as a coating for fried squid. 

    Nibs are available in speciality delicatessens, some supermarkets and markets. Mine today came from Power Super Foods in Australia.

    Happy Baking :)

    I baked today's tiny chocolate cream pie in a cute teeny tiny pie tin made by Fox Run available from Amazon.


    You might also be interested in dutch processed cocoa powders...

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