Tag Archives: chocolate

the great malt ball debate: a clash of cultures

“What do you mean malt balls? What are malt balls?”
“Malt balls.. you know, powdered malted milk balls covered with chocolate…”
“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell…”
“What? Of course you know malt balls.. like maltesers, you love maltesers!”
“Yeah, I know maltesers. But not malt balls. No one calls them malt balls.”
“What??! But that’s what they are! Maltesers ARE malt balls. Like kleenex are tissues!”
“That’s crazy talk.” (or something like that).
“What?! You’re crazy! That’s exactly what they are, what else would you call them?!”
“Maltesers. But anyway, she’ll like the cake, whatever it is.”
“That’s not the point now! And some people DON’T like them! Just ask her, she’ll know.”

This was the conversation that ensued when I asked my British other half to find out if his sister liked malt balls.  It was her birthday and a cake was called for, but as usual, I was paralyzed with indecision as to which underused cookbook/impulse buy to draw on.  I’ve managed to make one recipe out of Baked before – and although that cake put me through hell, it was damn good.. So I figured their Malt-ball Cake deserved a go too.  Having read a few reviews by parties claiming to be less than keen on the malt flavour after all, I just wanted to be sure the birthday girl would appreciate my pick…

[phone call made]
“She doesn’t know what malt balls are. But she said she’ll like whatever you make.”
Argh.

i need a spirit level

The cake turned out beautifully – pure white with a meltingly soft texture and what I’d describe as a tight (but certainly not dense) crumb.  While the Baked boys opt for a simple chocolate ganache frosting, I decided to double up on the malty magic by using a malted milk chocolate frosting from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  Be warned, it’s very rich.  But very good. The texture threw me a bit actually, as it seemed slightly.. tacky (if that makes sense to anyone?).. in the bowl, but that might have been the milk chocolate I used and it tasted delicious nonetheless.

And the combination was killer.

You can find the recipe for the Baked cake here, but in respect for the SMS enterprise, I’m going to hold out on posting the Sweet Melissa frosting recipe.. (I’m happy to email it though if anyone is in desperate need!) xx

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SMS: Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

Retomber comme une souffle

This edible idiom , which I found on Clotilde’s beautiful blog Chocolate & Zucchini, literally translates as “falling back like a souffle”.  It describes an abrupt loss of interest after an enthusiastic start, which sort of sums up my experience with this cake.  It’s not a bad recipe by any means, just not for me…plus umm I think I made some bad baking calls, which probably added to the disappointment.  Firstly, I think I overwhipped the egg-whites and, having opted for a 9-inch springform pan instead of the recommended 10-incher, I added about 5 minutes to the baking time because I was worried the middle would be undercooked.  I was wrong.  The end result was a very good looking cake with a perfect fallen centre.  The texture was light and fluffy, but not really my cup of tea.  I like my chocolate cakes to be rich and fudgy – just over the brownie/cake border – so this didn’t really deliver in my opinion.  My tasters, on the other hand, swore it was delicious – so don’t let me put you off..

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I took the cake to my friend’s fabulous housewarming party, where it made a perfect centre piece, all dressed up with fresh blueberries & strawberries soaked in syrup… We had it with ice cream and..er.. some of us also spooned on hefty globs of leftover cream cheese frosting. Because everything tastes better with cream cheese frosting.  (Don’t judge me).

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It was a fancy dress do (meaning everyone threw on their tackiest bling) and that cocktail was the first of MANY.. so by the end of the night, the cake was just as tarted up as the rest of us..

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Even though I didn’t love this one, I’d consider giving it another shot and reducing the baking time to see if that adds more moisture.  In any case, I’m really happy to have finally tried making a souffle – so big big thanks to Sarah, the Blue Ridge Baker, for choosing this one!! Head over to her lovely blog for the recipe, and check out the SMS blogroll to see how others have fared!

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blinged-up tasting posse (and me in the leopard print)

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Filed under cake, chocolate, souffle, sweet melissa sundays

MSC: Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini-cupcakes

“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them” (Anonymous)

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I’ve always felt a bit… dubious, I guess… about Martha Stewart.  Having grown up overseas (without access to the cable channels I so desperately craved as a member of the MTV generation), I wasn’t  fed on daily episodes of Martha and I’ve never read Living. I remember being vaguely aware of her stealthy build towards world domination, but Martha really only came into focus for me when she swapped fame for infamy as news of the ImClone scandal broke.  For a long time, this association reigned and I didn’t bother to disentangle images of prison stripes from gingham prints when references to the home ec. guru cropped up.  But I’ve become aware of a shift in the past few years –  Martha-bashing has fallen out of fashion and recently I started to wonder why I’ve never tried any of the lauded MS recipes.  To be fair, I got the impression that Martha (actually ‘Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’) is a bit like marmite – whether you’re a lover or a hater, she’s a trademarked tradition that you’ve got to try. (Or so my boyfriend keeps insisting, in the case of marmite).

So I’m trying!   I splashed out and bought Cupcakes in a spend-happy moment, and promptly signed myself up to the brilliant new MSC baking group – brainchild of the stunningly talented Betty of EAT MY CUPCAKE.

…and I’ve been giddy with excitement about our inaugural bake since Betty announced that we’d be kicking off with Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes!  See, I recently experienced a gastronomic ephiphany  while on holiday in France – On our last night, we stopped by the most charming ice cream parlor ever in a little town called Maussane (near St Remy and within throwing distance of Nimes).  Naturally, I went for a king size cone with heaps of Nutella ice cream, but my Uncle also convinced us to try a scoop of their Salted caramel flavour too..  and thank god he did.

I know salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of chocolate, and although I haven’t yet got round to chucking salted peanuts in my peanut-butter blondies as Dorie advises, I was willing to believe that the combo might work…  But now.. after that phenomenal scoop.. I am a genuine believer.

So armed with newfound evangelical fervor, I dove into Martha’s recipe with high hopes.

Unfortunately, things went a bit pear-shaped..

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I made the full recipe and although it’s technically titled ‘mini-cupcakes’, I decided to make 12 standard sized cupcakes to take to a friend’s birthday, which left enough batter  for about 20 mini-cupcakes… or so I thought..  In retrospect, given the overflows, maybe I should have reigned in the pouring, eh?  My boyfriend described these as looking “like smurfs… in high wind”.

I do wonder though why the extreme lopsided-ness often seems to arise when I make chocolate cupcakes.. I admit I have a bit of a freehand and I do overfill my cups, but the overflows usually seem more balanced with vanilla and carrot cupcakes, for example… mysterious, no? hmmm

Anyway, back to the recipe ..
Mixing these babies up was a dream – the cake recipe was a simple, straightforward one-bowl wonder.. hallelujah, no extra dishes! My taster tried a naked minicupcake and described it as a bit dry – Personally, I found them moist and rich enough – but not quite as good as my usual GO2 (post on this later).  When it came to the caramel though, disaster struck.. and then struck again..

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I made 2 batches and managed to bugger them both up . The first one tasted a bit undercooked – the flavour and colour were far too light, as you can probably tell from the picture..  Then the second batch tasted way too overcooked – I basically ended up burning the bottom layer of sugar before the temp actually reached 360.. My caramalizing skills leave a LOT to be desired.

The frosting though, was amazing – incredibly rich and silky. In fact, I’ve just had several spoonfuls sans cake, and unfortuantely, I’m still going back for more despite how sick it’s made me feel.. It had a beautiful sheen when I first mixed it up, but after an overnight refrigeration and second beating, things dulled a bit.. still tasted great though!

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All in all, I’d say the cupcake recipe is worth trying and the frosting is a new personal favourite for sure.  I’m also gonna keep trying with the caramel because I’m sure the problems I had were more to do with my skills/anxieties/concentration difficulties than Martha’s recipe.

Thanks SO much to Betty for selecting such a brilliant, unique cupcake to kick things off with!! Please take peek a what everyone else has concocted too! (You can find the blogroll on Betty’s lovely site.)

I’m really looking forward to baking up another batch next month, see you all then!

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Going nuts over filberts & frangelico

Bonjour! actually it’s bonne nuit I guess – past midnight here in the UK.. I got back from a gorgeous holiday in the south of France yesterday and the come down has been excruciating.. it just feels wrong not to be sitting pool-side (or burning, in my case) sipping rose while munching on cheese & olives every eve.. instead, it’s back to sweating myself silly on London tubes, getting drenched by thunderstorms and cursing the relentless gray skies. yay.

SO to distract myself from wallowing in too much self-pity, I turned to the monthly You Want Pies With That? challenge.  I’ve been following this amazingly talented group of bakers since they set up shop about a year a go – and after drooling over their luscious creations for so long, I was really excited to have a go myself. This month’s theme, chosen by the fantastically talented Jacques at Daisy Lane Cakes, was ‘Nuts about Pie’ – meaning the mission was to come up with a one-of-a-kind pie to showcase any kind of nut in any (edible) way that took our fancy..

I’m slightly embarrassed by how long I spent obsessing over – er, I mean dreaming up – my entry, but I really enjoyed the creative challenge.  So big big thanks to Jacques and the rest of the YWPWT bloggers for letting me join in!

…And I now present my nutty take on this month’s theme:

Tipsy Truffle-Nut Tart

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As a big fan of pecans (it’s those Texan roots I suppose) and a lover of anything peanut buttery, I had a tough time choosing my nut.. But I wanted to try something new, so I opted to make the not so humble hazelnut my star performer this time, and decided to go all-out with something nutty in every layer..

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I made a toasted hazelnut pastry shell, a rich hazelnut truffle filling, and topped it all off with a mascarpone-frangelico mousse sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts..  I threw in quite a lot of frangelico – in the truffle filling as well as in the topping – hence the ‘Tipsy’ title..   (Because frangelico is just that good.)  The tart shell smelled amazing from the moment I started baking & the filling was luscious.. The whole combination was deadly to be honest, so even I came away satisfied after just 1 piece (and that’s unheard of)… well, it was 1 1/2 if I’m being totally honest..

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The tart shell was based on a recipe for ‘Rich Nut Pastry’ by Regan Daley from In the Sweet Kitchen, while the mascarpone frangelico mousse was adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Cherry Brownie Torte’ topping in Baking: From My Home To Yours.  The filling was adapted from a lovely recipe for hazelnut truffles by Melissa Murphy, which is soon to be a Sweet Melissa Sunday challenge so I won’t go into details it here – you can check out the SMS  blogroll in a few weeks..

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Being a relatively new baker, I  usually try to stick to recipes pretty closely, but I really loved coming up with my own random combinations for this event – so big big THANKS again to the lovely YWPWT group for this fantastic call to creativity! From what I gather, the roundup of entries will be posted August 8th, so check out the blog then to see what these amazing bakers have come up with!

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PS. Apologies for the quality of the pics – I was playing photographer this time and the lighting was rubbish… unfortunately, that’s not just an excuse – it’s crappy weather..boo

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Soya subs take over my fridge

At this moment I’m stuffing myself with some very un-vegan scones, clotted cream and AMAAAAZING strawberry preserves that I made for tomorrow’s Sweet Melissa Sundays post.  I’m ecstatic- it’s my first SMS post…well, my first bakealong post ever actually, woohoo! But even though it’s past midnight here in the UK by my watch, I’ll have to contain my excitement until the light is better for snapping pics because this stuff is worth it.

But while I’m sitting here in a food coma unable to move, I figure it’s a good chance to write about those vegan cupcakes I mentioned before…

Since my boyfriend’s sister, Ana, went vegan about 9 months ago, I  started looking around for good i-can’t-believe-it’s-soya recipes that didn’t call for bizarre ingredients I’d have no chance of finding here in the UK. The chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream recipes I came across on Baking Bites were absolutely yum, so I really recommend stopping by whether you’re vegan or not.  Both the cake recipe and the frosting recipe are definitely keepers in my book, but I also decided I’d need a good, basic vanilla cake recipe to play with and flavour as I liked.. so the search continued!

Ana has been away saving the world over the last few months, but in anticipation of her return I decided she couldn’t live without ‘Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, and neither could I.  Unfortunately (only for me and my buy it seemed), Ana’s best vegan intentions had been squashed during her month long stay in Ghana, and she returned much more open to the joy of eggs and cream.. doh..

BUT I still had a go at some of the recipes in this book – and I’m really glad I did! I tried the golden vanilla cupcakes and the chocolate buttercream recipe, both of which were fantastic.  I admit I was a bit worried when I first took the cakes out of the oven because they looked a bit.. umm..shinier (perhaps?) and more dense than other dairy-full cupcake recipes I’ve used..plus, my boyfriend accused them initially of tasting dry.  But I promise that when paired with the chocolate frosting they’re gorgeous-  slightly moorish and definitely moist enough within the first few days.  (I only say that because I just ate the last one today, 5 days later, and it was admittedly nearing the slightly stale – but I’m sure any cupcake would be by this stage!)

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vegan golden vanilla cupcakes

The basic golden cupcake recipe calls for vanilla and almond extracts, which sound gorgeous, but since I was out of almond I decided to sub 1 tsp orange extract . I also added 1 tsp orange extract to the chocolate buttercream, and although it’s a bit out of character (because I’m generally not a huge fan of the combo – never really took to Terry’s chocolate orange sweets..) I’m glad I did because the flavours were gorgeous – there was a nice contrast between the light not-too-sweet cupcakes and the rich fluffy chocolate frosting, with a subtle orange pulling everything together.

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To be honest, this  frosting was so good that I may have to add it to the Go2 collection..  If anyone wants the recipes, have a google or send me a message!

See you in the morning for SMS!!

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Cupcakes to kick things off

Righto.

So I’ve done it………………finally!

After poring over so many amazing baking blogs in the past few years, I finally jumped on the blogging bandwagon.  And so far I’ve spent the whole evening sorting out a profile, previewing themes, playing with font colours and cropping candidate headers.  So while I meant to write about these babies, (which I’ve chosen reprezent up top too)

ccakes 18.7.09 purple focus edited

…it’s already midnight and I’ve run out of time to actually write anything meaningful (read: intelligible).

So much for the triumphant first post.

But I’ve got a pile of  photos and recipe reviews ready to share (well.. er, some..) – so more to come soon!

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