blooming anna is one!

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hello from christchurch! yes, that’s right, i’ve finished exams and left dunedin (for good!)
it was the strangest feeling saying goodbye to dunedin – a place i have been so happy and proud to call home for the last three years.

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i have a very lovely dunedin centred post coming for you, but this is not it. instead, we’re celebrating! there are many things to celebrate – one of my most darling friends turns 21 today, happy birthday Jess! my sister has also just begun her very first lot of bona fide, grown up exams (NCEA level one), my brother’s completed first year law school and i of course have completed three years of uni and a bachelors degree!

but there is one more reason for this cake – blooming anna is one year old today! i’m not going to say any platitudes about this blog changing my life, and i certainly haven’t had fame and fortune eventuate from it – but i’ve really enjoyed sharing my stories and recipes on this corner of the internet, and i hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as well!

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right, now for cake. this is quite the hodgepodge of various recipes – i spent a good hour scanning the internet for all the components i wanted! what we’ve ended up with is a tart, moist grapefruit cake, with grapefruit curd filling and a marscapone cream topping. it felt very summery and celebratory to us, and we enjoyed it sitting outside in the garden which is simply glowing green in the sun and the prettiest contrast to the blue sky.

as always, thank you for reading. any comments and compliments mean the world to me – it makes me so very glad to be a source of enjoyment.

Anna xxx

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ps – the very stunning photos were taken by my talented sister sarah. here’s hoping she agrees to continue to photograph for my posts – i’m sure you’ll agree her photos are a million times better than any i could take! xx

grapefruit curd (adapted from here)

3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
25g cornflour
40g butter, chopped
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest
3 egg yolks

Place 1/2 cup milk and the sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Place the cornflour and 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour into the milk and sugar mixture and stir. Add the butter and then increase the heat to melt. Take off the heat, add the grapefruit juice, grapefruit rind and egg yolks, and whisk vigorously until completely combined. Place back on medium heat and cook, whisking continuously, for 10 minutes or until thickened and beginning to boil. Pour into a bowl and place in the fridge.

grapefruit cake (adapted from here)

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup natural yoghurt
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
juice of half a grapefruit

Preheat oven to 160˚C (325˚F) and grease and line a 20cm springform tin.

Beat eggs, grapefruit juice, oil and yoghurt in a large bowl. Add sugar, flour and baking powder and stir to combine.

Pour into tin and cook at 160˚C for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until golden brown and risen.
Squeeze over half a grapefuit to moisten and add a tang.
When completely cold, using a serrated knife, carefully cut into three equal layers.

marscapone cream

2/3 cup cream
3 tbsp sugar
200g mascarpone cheese

Beat the cream and the sugar to soft peaks. Beat the marscapone in another bowl, then add the cream and beat again until stiff. Put in a piping bag.

to assemble

with a very large tip, pipe the marscapone cream around the circumference of the lowest layer, then spoon 1/3 of the curd into the centre. Repeat with the next layer. For the top layer, pipe bursts around 2/3 of the cake, then spoon the curd into the centre and swirl. Add flowers to decorate (mine were not edible – what can i say, i live on the wild side … and i took them out straight after!)

enjoy!

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rhubarb butterscotch layer cake

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so i’ve noticed on instagram this year there seems to have become this trend of making ridiculously beautiful layer cakes, strewn with flowers and glazes and gorgeous garnishes, that i just hadn’t seen before! a couple of student acquaintances have started up selling their services for 21sts and the like, and are really producing such stunning delicious creations!

me, i’m a home cook – i would never pretend to amazing, beautiful presentation skills – but these talented chicas inspired me to get ambitious during my time at home and make something that looked as good as it tasted!

my grandpa kindly obliged by having his 83rd birthday while I was home during the break, so a beautiful cake was in order.

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if you haven’t noticed, i really like rhubarb, and baking with rhubarb especially! it has such wonderful sour, tart quality that marries so well in baking, as you’re basically guaranteed to have it temper out however much sugar you throw at it! it goes well with custard, in crumbles, in cakes and muffins, in tarts, just any which way.

speaking of throwing sugar around, the sugar fast has clearly ended – with a bang huh! I am really glad i did my fortnight of no sugar and i’m definitely going to try moving forward to avoid the stuff.

i think i will continue to cut out drink sugary drinks (ie juice, hot chocolates, chai’s, sweet teas etc) because that’s how i often consume sugar in a flatting/day to day context, as we don’t really bake at the flat and i’m pretty good at not buying chocolate and lollies at the supermarket. a hot chocolate or heavily sweetened milky tea is thus how i get my sugar hit, so having a blanket rule against those will hopefully cut most of my sugar without feeling hopelessly hard done by and neglected!

this really is a beautiful cake: moist fluffy cake layers, creamy butterscotch icing, tart tender hits of rhubarb, and of course smooth luscious caramel. i adapted it from a lovely ripe recipe: i really adore these cookbooks and angela never steers me wrong! this was enjoyed by my grandpa and the rest of my extended family last night, and i’m currently eyeing up the last piece in the fridge as we speak!

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rhubarb butterscotch layer cake 

cake
250g butter, very softened
100g caster sugar
160g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 tbsp milk
250g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces (5 stems for me)

preheat the oven to 180ºC. prepare two 22cm springform cake tins with baking paper. blitz the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs in the food processor until fully combined and creamy. Add the flour and pulse to combine. add 2 tbsp milk and blitz again. fold through rhubarb bits (i took the sharp blade out and stirred the rhubarb in) then divide between the two cake tins. i weighed them to make sure they were equal, but you don’t have to! place in the oven and bake for 20-25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean – they will still feel fairly soft on top. allow to cool completely.

roasted rhubarb 
750g rhubarb, chopped into 2cm pieces (this was 9 stems for me)
2 tbsp sugar

line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the rhubarb on it. sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 15-20 mins or until tender.

caramel
300g caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup cream
place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. don’t stir, just tilt the saucepan to swirl the mixture. bring it to the boil and then let boil for another 10 mins or so – it will be a light golden, then a darker golden brown, at which point remove from the heat immediately. slowly drizzle in the cream, whisking the whole time. it will make a thin caramel sauce. set aside to cool

icing
250g cream cheese
1/2 cup caramel

beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the caramel. beat again until fully combined and no lumps remain.

note- the original recipe called for 400g cream cheese with 1 cup of caramel, we only bought one block of cream cheese so i scaled it down and nobody missed it. however, if you would like a really indulgent, decadent helping, feel free to make the original amount!

assembly
cut the two cakes in even halves, using a long serrated knife. assemble, using 1/4 of the icing and rhubarb and a little of the caramel each time. when you get to the last layer, swirl the icing over the top, mound the rhubarb in the centre of the cake and then drizzle the caramel on the edges as well as the centre so it drizzles down the sides. this would be lovely served with greek yoghurt. enjoy!

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baked cheesecake

hi kiddliwinks! i am back in dunedin which is pretty average actually – we are enduring freezing cold temperatures, snow (only settling on the hills though so without the fun part), rain and everything is just downright miserable! i am currently trying to organise papers – with this being the last semester of my degree i am having to take some papers which i frankly have no interest in, but are what it takes to finish the old girl off, which is a pain but just life i guess! i’ve done some browsing, visited a couple of different lectures and have now settled on a combo which will hopefully be manageable and even somewhat enjoyable!

we are cooking our own meals this week which i always struggle with, as i’m awful at cooking proper whole meals for myself – it just never seems worth it! so i’m casting my mind back to the scrummy meals i enjoyed at home – the very last one on saturday night in particular. we had almost the whole extended family around as my grandparents were in town and me and my mum spent much of the day cooking delicacies! we had a selection of cheese, salmon and nibbles, followed by fruity chicken casserole, beautiful blenheim baguettes, creamy potato gratin, pumpkin salad, vinegary coleslaw and green beans tossed with olive oil and toasted almonds, and for dessert baked cheesecake by mixed berry coulis! oh my mouth is watering just thinking about it, as i proceed to heat up some boring (by comparison) carrot soup for my dinner.

baked cheesecake is the recipe i want to chat about today – when we lived in Canberra, Australia, it was my mum’s trick up her sleeve for the copious dinner parties she hosted. A simple recipe – equal quantities of sour cream, ricotta and cream cheese, plus a couple of other ingredients – and simple method, just a blitz in the food processor, produces a beautiful creamy, complex, simply scrumptious cheesecake that even people who ‘don’t like cheesecake’ will fawn over and demand seconds. no persnickety crumbly crust, no gluggy gelatine, the easiest and yummiest thing i’ve made in a long time!

coming up: once we’re back to flat dinners, i really want to share my vegetarian lasagne with you all! think sweet pumpkin, juicy mushrooms, creamy cheese sauce … stay tuned!

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^^ yes the photo is super average, i promise it looks and tastes much better in real life!^^

baked cheesecake

250g cream cheese
250g sour cream
250g ricotta
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup cornflour
juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 160ºC, and line a 21cm springform tin. Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into lined tin and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set. Cool and serve.

mixed berry coulis

2 cups defrosted mixed berries
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp sugar, or to taste

Whisk the cornflour with some of the juice from the berries until smooth. Mix with berries in a medium saucepan. Add sugar to taste. Heat over a medium heat, stirring peridocally. the sauce is done when it clears and is fairly thick. cool and then serve with the cheesecake.

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syrupy mandarin cake

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hello! i am still home, still loving life and enjoying doing zero study besides listening to some cheeky chinese podcasts (slow chinese are brilliant if you’re in the market for one!)

so limitations when cooking – such a pain, am i right? being told someone is gluten/dairy/nut/egg free or only having a certain amount of money to spend on dinner – it makes us rack our brains and look at and discard so many recipes. but actually, when you think about it, limitations may actually help us find better recipes and become better cooks. i mean, if you have absolutely free rein on any set of ingredients, cooking method and so on, it’s so hard to come up with something you want to make because the possibilities are endless!

perhaps fortunately, limitations are almost always present when i cook. money is obvious, with being a student, but even at home with the relatively more luxurious budget, the limitations of tastes (luckily no allergies, but cooking with pesto would be dangerous for my health as my brother hates the stuff! i knooow, it’s crazy) as well as what’s in season, what’s currently residing in the fridge/pantry, are all things to take into consideration and narrow my field. the last one in particular is probably what inspires me most, and its crazy how often the meals made of things that need to be used up and so on end up being the yummiest and tastiest ones of all, while the meals i pick for their fun sounding name or luscious picture and require buying up the supermarket can be quite disappointing. perhaps a case of lowered expectations, but i do think that cooking from the contents of an empty fridge or pantry is a valuable life skill to have. as a child i loved the cooking show ready steady cook, where the cooks are given a random assortment of ingredients and required to make something out of them, so i suppose it’s no surprise that older, i love to do the very same!

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we are big fruit lovers in my house, but inevitably some is always left too long in the fruit bowl, or rolls around the back of the fridge, until it is no longer appealing as is and must be transformed! i roasted up a few of such apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, and served them with french toast for a yummy brunch, but the slightly wrinkled mandarins posed more of a problem – i never cook with mandarins! however, i’m a huge fan of flourless orange cake, so i presumed the same thing could work with mandarins. i searched the house high and low for a recipe book i knew had a good recipe to no avail, but my gal donna came to the rescue in the form of a recipe in a recent issue of her magazine (which my mum and sister adore and frequently buy!) what’s more, it even specifically called for mandarins – no citrus approximating required.

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my edits to the recipe were to get rid of the polenta and just up the ground almonds in its place, plus the simple syrup she prescribes, to me is just not worth it – cleaning crystallised sugar pots is one of my least favourite kitchen tasks, and a much simpler take is to just heat the mandarin juice with some sugar to form a slightly syrupy consistency which can then be poured over.

finally, i whipped up a lemony cream cheese glaze which is definitely optional – we had cream cheese in the fridge left over from these and i can never resist cream cheese icing! the cake doesn’t need it, being very sweet, flavourful and moist, but if you’ve got cream cheese on hand feel free to use it – if you don’t, i wouldn’t go for a regular lemon icing here as i think it would be too sweet and drown the delicate mandarin flavour.

it was devoured within a few hours of coming out of the oven, which is an excellent endorsement if you ask me! and, while this cake certainly is not appropriate for people with egg or nut allergies, with the glaze omitted it should be gluten and dairy free (probably pays to check the ground almond and baking powder packets for any traces though).

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syrupy mandarin cake

makes a petite 20cm round cake

2 mandarins
1 1/4 cups ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup mandarin juice
2 tbsp sugar (to taste)

cream cheese glaze
160g cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup icing sugar
juice 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
dash of milk, to loosen if needed

cover the mandarins with water in a small saucepan, and boil for 30 mins.

preheat the oven to 180ºC. line a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper. drain the mandarins, then puree in a small food processor. whisk the ground almonds with the baking powder and set aside. beat the eggs with the sugar until tripled in size and pale and creamy in texture (donna calls for 10 mins beating, but i think you can get away with less).

stir the mandarins into the ground almonds, then fold in the eggs in two batches, being careful not to deflate the mixture. pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. while it is cooking, microwave the mandarin juice with the sugar until sugar is dissolved. you can add more sugar for a more syrupy consistency (if you don’t have a microwave, just do this in a saucepan on the stove).

remove the cake from the oven, use the same skewer to punch about ten evenly spaced holes in it, and pour the mandarin syrup evenly over it. allow to cool completely.

to make the glaze, beat the cream cheese to a light creamy consistency, add the icing sugar and beat to combine, then the lemon juice and vanilla. if desired, add a dash of milk to loosen. when the cake is cooled completely, top with the glaze and decorate with a couple of thin slices of mandarin, if desired. enjoy!

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