Tag Archives: dairy

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

24 Aug

Everything’s been a little bit stressful and crazy lately. The Husband has been working especially hard and has been completely exhausted, so I thought I’d bake him a little something to cheer him up.

These are a complete comfort food: dense, rich chocolate brownies studded with milk chocolate chunks and marbled with swirls of velvety cream cheese. It’s like two desserts in one! Try to resist. Seriously.

The basic brownie recipe comes from Marian Keyes’ wonderful Saved By Cake cookbook, which I’ve altered to add the milk chocolate chunks and cream cheese swirls.

CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BROWNIES

225g dark chocolate (70%)

225g butter

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

100g brown sugar

100g caster sugar

170g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

100g milk chocolate

For the cheesecake swirl:

200g cream cheese

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 egg

1. Grease and line a square cake tin and set aside, then preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (that’s 325 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 3).

2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter, either in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water or in the microwave, until all the lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth and silky. If microwaving, do so in thirty second blasts, stirring between each zap in the microwave.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the 2 eggs, both the egg yolks, the caster sugar and the brown sugar with a stand mixer or handheld beaters until the mixture becomes thick and is the colour of light toffee.

4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and gently fold together to avoid the mixture congealing.

5. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold into the chocolate mixture.

6. Break up the milk chocolate into pieces/chunks and gently fold into the brownie mixture.

7. To make the cheesecake mixture, beat together the cream cheese, caster sugar and the egg with electric beaters or a stand mixer in a new bowl for 1 -2 minutes until thick and creamy.

8. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.

9. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter.

10. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese dollops.

11. Spoon more of the cheesecake mixture over the top of the brownie batter in large dollops and marble using a flat bladed knife.

12. Bake for 28 -30 minutes, until the cream cheese swirls have started to firm up. Allow to cool in the tin for approximately 2 hours before turning out the brownie and cutting it into squares.

Store in an airtight container – though I have to say, I don’t think these will be sticking around for long!

As a side note, this post is also dedicated to my wonderful friends Tarryn and Pete, who are celebrating the safe arrival of their first child, a beautiful boy named Percy. Congratulations guys! Sending lots of love and hugs across the seas to you and the bubba! ❤

You can view Tarryn’s lovely blog Butter & Buntings here.

Enjoy! xx

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Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

18 Aug

I’m back! Sorry for being MIA lately – The Husband and I have recently moved into our own home (!), and between moving, unpacking and trying to get settled, I’ve hardly had time to get into the kitchen. I needed an excuse to get me back in there, really.

And the excuse came in the form of request for a birthday cake. Perfect! I was specifically asked to make a carrot cake, which I was really excited about. Carrot cake is one of my absolute favourites, and honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t posted about it before. There’s just something about that moist, dense cake coupled with creamy frosting that’s absolutely irresistible. In fact, I think I love carrot cake so very much because it’s an excuse to make copious amounts of cream cheese frosting. Adding maple syrup to the cream cheese gives the flavour a whole other, deeper dimension, and it works with so many cakes – red velvet, pumpkin spice, carrot (of course!)…the list is endless! All I can say is trust me, it’s worth it.

This is a very simple carrot cake recipe, which is slightly adapted from the original found in the Australian Women’s Weekly 100 Classic Cakes cookbook. The maple cream cheese frosting recipe is my own, which has sprung from about five different variations all merged together. The carrot cake is moist, dense and bursting with spices, and topped with the creamy, maple-infused frosting makes it the perfect cake for birthdays, desserts or an afternoon tea with friends. I was sad to give it up once it was baked and decorated!

CARROT CAKE WITH MAPLE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

For the cake (note that I doubled the recipe):

250 ml vegetable oil

1 1/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar

3 eggs

3 cups firmly packed grated carrot

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 4) and grease and line a 22cm or 23cm round cake tin.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and brown sugar with an electric mixer until the the mixture becomes thick and creamy.

3. Add the carrots and nuts and the sifted dry ingredients and mix gently with a wooden spoon until combined.

4. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, though you ought to start checking the cake after 45 minutes in the oven. The cake is cooked when it is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.

For the Maple Cream Cheese frosting:

90g butter

200g cream cheese

1/3 cup maple syrup

6 cups icing sugar, sifted.

1. Beat the butter, maple syrup and cream cheese on high speed with an electric mixer for 2 – 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Add 1/3 of the icing sugar and beat again to incorporate. Repeat the process until all the icing sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is thick and creamy.

3. Place the frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes to help it thicken up.

4. Frost the cake however you like – I placed frosting between the layers and over the top of the cake and decorated using extra chopped walnuts and sugar carrots. If you’d like to pipe, simply colour some of your left over frosting and fill a piping bag with an attached writing tip.

Enjoy! xx

Jubilee Tart & Banoffee Cupcakes

9 Jun

Where has this week gone? I was supposed to write this post on Monday, but the days have just slipped away!  I’m on ‘half term’ at the moment, which is British for ‘a whole week off from work in the middle of the school term’, and I’m not complaining one bit. Half term coincided with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which for all you non-Commonwealth folk is the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. You could hardly walk out your front door here in England without seeing Union Jack flags, bunting, and blue, white and red balloons waving in the breeze. The Husband and I were invited to a Jubilee barbeque/party on Sunday afternoon, and I thought I’d get in on the Jubilee action and make some Union Jack-inspired treats myself.

I was in an enormous hurry while I was baking these, mainly because *cough*I-forgot-to-buy-eggs-and-had-to-run-back-to-the-supermarket-halfway-through*cough*, so by the time I was back I was majorly running out of time to get everything done. I ended up using store-bought pastry (come on, you’ve done it too) and a tin of ready-made caramel filling for the cupcakes, because I didn’t have time to deal with making the caramel and waiting for it to cool down. Nevertheless, we got there in the end!

I decided on Banoffee cupcakes because I figured I should do something quintessentially British, and I was relatively sure that people would have eaten their way through enough Victoria sponge cakes already. Banoffee pie was supposedly created in East Sussex (which is actually where The Husband and I currently live), so it fit the bill perfectly! It’s a gorgeous mix of banana and toffee, and I was really excited to put it into cupcake form. Plus, I’d bought this ridiculously adorable cupcake decorating set the previous week, which I was desperate to use:

First up, let’s look at the Jubilee Tart. I saw this on the cover of a magazine at my local supermarket and I couldn’t resist! The recipe is ridiculously quick and easy (especially if you use ready-made pastry) and the tart itself is light, fresh and fruity. Yum!

JUBILEE TART

1 sheet shortcrust pastry

375g mascarpone cheese

225g low fat creme fraiche (or sour cream, if you can’t find creme fraiche)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 – 3 tablespoons icing sugar

400g strawberries, hulled

150g raspberries

300g blueberries

1. Place the sheet of shortcrust pastry, lightly pricked all over with a fork, on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 5) for 15 – 18 minutes, until cooked and light, golden brown in colour.

2. Remove the pastry from the oven and allow to cool.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone and the creme fraiche until smooth and combined. Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (start with 2 tablespoons and taste it before adding a third!) and whisk to combine.

4. Dollop heaped spoonfuls of the mascarpone mixture onto the cooled pastry and spread it out with a spatula, leaving a 1 – 2 cm gap around the edge.

5. Arrange the berries into the shape of a Union Jack: use the strawberries for the centre cross, raspberries for the smaller arms and blueberries for the blue background.

6. Enjoy!

And now for the Banoffee! The banana cupcake recipe is a slight variation on the one from the lovely Marian Keyes’ Saved by Cake, and the cream cheese frosting recipe is my usual one.

BANOFFEE CUPCAKES

125g butter, softened

125g caster sugar

125g self raising flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 – 5 ripe bananas, mashed

1 x 397g tin of ready-made caramel/dulce de leche

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 3) and line a muffin/cupcake tray with 12 cupcake papers.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the caster sugar together until they’re fluffy and light in colour.

3. Add the beaten eggs and mix well to combine.

4. Add the mashed bananas to the mixture and mix gently.

5. Add the sifted flour and fold into the mixture.

6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes (the banana seems to make the cakes take a bit longer to cook!), checking after 15 minutes and removing when the cupcakes are lightly golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7.  Once the cupcakes are cooked and having completely cooled, you need to hollow them out to fill them with caramel.

8. Take a sharp paring knife and cut a cone-shaped circle out of the middle of each of your cupcakes.

9. Place a dollop of caramel into the hole.

10. Replace the top of the cupcake so that it acts like a lid to hold the caramel in.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

125g butter, softened

225g cream cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups icing sugar

1. Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 – 4 minutes, until light, fluffy and combined.

2. Add the vanilla and half of the sifted icing sugar and beat for 2 – 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

3. Add the remaining sifted icing sugar and beat again for 2 – 3 minutes.

4. Place the frosting into a piping bag and attach a large, open star tip. Pipe swirls of frosting onto your cupcakes and decorate however you like. I added some red, white and blue sprinkles and used the cupcake toppers from my decorating kit.

5. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

14 Feb

A few days ago, I got a very exciting package in the post. It was enormous, and I couldn’t figure out what it was – it was addressed to me and came in a big box from Amazon UK, which was all fine…except that I hadn’t ordered anything. I opened it up, though, and sitting on top was a note…

 

…and inside was this little beauty.

 

 

I officially have the most amazing dad in the whole world! No offence to your dad, though. I’m sure he’s completely lovely, too.

I was honestly far too excited to wait to use it, so I had to find an excuse to bake. And what better excuse is there than Valentine’s Day? I ended up making a small batch (12 cupcakes instead of the usual 24) and gave six of them to my mother-in-law to take into work to give to her team today, and left six at home for The Husband to eat at his leisure.

Before we get cracking with the recipe, though, there’s something I need to confess. I got a little bit ahead of myself and was inspired by this wonderful post on Alison’s Wonder Scraporium, which I was desperate to try; I mean, what could be more perfect for Valentine’s Day cupcakes than finding a heart inside the cupcake?

I really should have followed Alison’s instructions more carefully, though. I forgot to buy red food colouring (I only got pink, as I knew I wanted to do pink frosting), and that was a huge rookie mistake. Pink is all well and good when you’re doing frostings and light coloured cakes, but once the cake is baked it’s really difficult to get that depth of colour that red brings. The pink tends to fade a bit in the oven, so although you might get a lovely coloured buttercream, pink coloured hearts baked inside vanilla cupcakes very quickly become almost totally invisible. Bah, humbug.

Nevertheless, we can learn from my bad decision making skills, and next time we’ll get it perfectly right. As long as you use red food colouring for the hearts and add enough of the colour to get a very strong, deep shade before baking, then it should work an absolute treat. Winner!

I’ve included pictures of my botched heart attempt, but other than that slight devastation, the cupcakes turned out wonderfully. This is my absolute favourite vanilla cupcake recipe in my own words and VERY slightly modified (it comes from the ever-amazing The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook – if you don’t have it, you have to get it. It’s worth absolutely every penny!), which I’ve teamed with my modified version of the same book’s vanilla buttercream to create a strawberry frosting instead.

The cupcakes are light, fluffy and packed with vanilla, while the frosting is smooth, creamy and bursting with strawberry flavour. The perfect Valentine’s Day treat! Happy baking!

 

VANILLA CUPCAKES WITH STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM

These are dedicated, of course, to my wonderful husband – thank you for everything. I love you.

VANILLA CUPCAKES

2 3/4 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

200g softened butter

1 3/4 cups castor sugar

5 eggs (or 4, if you’re using especially large ones)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons strawberry essence

Pink food colouring (red, though, if you don’t want it to fail like mine did!)

1 cup milk

Firstly, preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius (that’s 340 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 3 – 4), line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake papers and grease a non-stick a 20cm round cake pan.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and set it aside.

Then, in a large bowl (or the bowl attachment of your stand mixer), cream the butter for 2 minutes on high speed.

Add the castor sugar 1/3 at a time, beating on high for 2 -3 minutes after each addition. Once all the castor sugar is in, beat the mixture on high speed for at least 2 minutes, until the sugar has almost totally dissolved. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until the mixture hits a light and fluffy consistency. Now add the vanilla extract and beat thoroughly.

Pour 1/3 of the sifted flour in the butter mixture and mix together using the lowest possible speed until just combined.

Then add 1/2 of the milk and continue to mix together on low speed until just combined. Repeat this, making sure that the last ingredient you add is the flour and that the mixture is smooth. It’s really important to not to overbeat during this stage – you’ll end up with dense, tough cupcakes if you do!

Now’s the time that we deviate from the regular recipe. Grab a separate bowl and spoon around 1/2 of the cupcake mixture into it, and set the bowl aside. With the mixture that’s left in the original mixer bowl, add the strawberry essence and the food colouring and beat on low speed until combined and the food colouring is evenly distributed.

Pour the coloured batter into the greased cake pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the cake is coming away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Once you’ve pulled out the coloured cake, leave it to cool (I won’t lie, I jammed it in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool it down faster because I have literally no patience). Once cooled, remove it from the cake pan and set about cutting little hearts out of the cake, small enough to fit inside a cupcake. If you’re super-organised then you probably have a tiny little heart-shaped cookie cutter, so use that. If you’re disorganised like me, you’ll have to cut them out yourself. I used a small, sharp knife and just cut them freehand – they’re obviously all slightly different because of that, but never mind!

Once you’ve cut out your hearts (and yes, I did cut out too many – I kept trying to get them as perfect as possible, so I ended up with extras!), spoon a heaped tablespoon of the plain vanilla cupcake mixture into the bottom of each cupcake paper. Then gently press a heart into the middle of each, so that the hearts are standing upright.

Very carefully spoon enough cupcake mixture over the top of the hearts to cover them.

Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for 20 minutes (but start checking after 15 in case your oven runs hot!). The cupcakes are done once they’re springy to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool to room temperature before frosting.

STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM

8 cups icing sugar, sifted

200g salted butter

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons strawberry essence

Pink food colouring

Cream the butter on high speed for 2 -3 minutes until light and fluffy.

Then add the milk, strawberry essence and half of the sifted icing sugar and beat, starting on low speed until the sugar is just combined and then turning it up to high speed for 4 -5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost completely dissolved.

Add the remaining sugar and beat again for 3 -4 minutes until the frosting is soft, fluffy and spreadable. Add a bit more milk if it’s too dry, or a bit more icing sugar if it’s too runny.

Now add the food colouring a little at a time, beating between each addition until you get the shade of pink that you want.

Frost the cupcakes using your favourite piping tip (I used a big open star tip, about twice the size of Wilton’s 1M) and decorate however you like – I used white and pink sprinkles and white chocolate hearts.

And here’s a picture of the failed hearts. Boo!

Enjoy, and happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

8 Feb

It feels like ages since I last posted, but it’s actually only been two and a half weeks. Weird! You may notice that Cloudberry Dreams has had a bit of an image overhaul – it’s still a work in progress, but I’m definitely a little happier with the current header than I was before.

The Husband and I are in England (we arrived on the 26th Jan) and we’re still adjusting, really. It’s all been pretty full on; I study at university via correspondence (my uni is in Sydney) and I had an essay due this past Friday, so that added a bit of extra stress onto all the joys that moving (including the inevitable, scary and endless job-hunting) brings.

I’ve honestly been feeling so stressed and unsettled that I pretty much hit breaking point on the weekend and I thought, ‘I need to bake. I needneedNEED to bake,’ as baking really is one of the only things that I find to be theraputic when I’m stressy and anxious (oh, along with watching trashy TV. I’ve watched 15 episodes of The Only Way Is Essex over the last two nights alone. Don’t judge.), so I just needed to find an excuse to do so. I mean, let’s face it – when I’m sitting around all day, cruising job websites (why does that sound vaguely creepy?), the last thing I need is an entire batch of cupcakes at my disposal. Hello, weight gain!

And so, my friend/ex-housemate-from-long-ago, Jo, became the willing victim of my baking extravaganza. She’d mentioned months ago that she wanted to try my choc-mint cupcakes (she’s a choc-mint fiend), which suited me perfectly…except, her boyfriend is not a choc-mint kinda guy. Problem. Her boyfriend is, however, a choc-orange kinda guy.

Solution: make both kinds of cupcakes. Done and done.

The only hitch is that I’ve never made choc-orange anything, so I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to make it work. In the end, I decided to go the relatively safe route and follow my choc-mint recipe, but modify it along the way. I was pretty pleased with the end result, in all honesty. Think Terry’s Chocolate Orange/Jaffas, and you’ve basically hit the flavour nail on the head. The cupcakes themselves are lovely and moist, the ganache centre is oozy and packed with rich chocolate and orange, and the buttercream is silky and packed with chocolate-orangey deliciousness with real flecks of orange zest. Yum!

If you’re liking the sound of the choc-mint originals, head over here. If you’re more interested in the choc-orange variety, please excuse the terrible photos. I didn’t pay any attention to the weather today until I started baking, and then I realised: England in February isn’t exactly an ideal place to be attempting food photography. Lack of natural light = dodgy photos. Boo, hiss!

CHOC-ORANGE CUPCAKES

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

(The same base recipe as the choc-mint variation)

3 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons instant coffee granules

1 cup hot water

1 cup cocoa

1 cup cold water

200g softened butter

2 ½ cups castor sugar

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

50 mL orange juice (used after cooking)

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (that’s 340 degrees fahrenheit or Gas Mark 3 -4 for all you international folk!). Line two 12-hole cupcake/muffin trays with 24 cupcake papers.

Sift flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Then place coffee granules, hot water and cocoa into a separate bowl and whisk until well combined. Once the mixture has become a smooth paste, add in the cold water and mix until well combined.

Using the bowl from your electric stand mixer (or using a separate bowl if using a hand held mixture), cream the butter for at LEAST 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Once the butter has become creamy and light in colour, begin to add the castor sugar 1/3 at a time, beating for 2-3 minutes between each addition. After adding the final third of sugar, beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy and most of the sugar has dissolved. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to combine. Then add the vanilla extract and mix well.

Add a quarter of the sifted flour into the creamed butter mixture and beat on the lowest speed setting to combine. Add a third of the cocoa mixture and beat in. Continue this process, alternating between the flour and cocoa mixtures, making sure that the flour is the final addition. Beat the mixture on low until thoroughly combined, while being careful not to overbeat – it’ll make the finished cupcakes tough and heavy!

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake papers, filling the papers 2/3 full (this mixture rises quite a lot!). Bake for 20 minutes (though I’d recommend checking on them after 15 if your oven runs hot like mine does!). Cupcakes are done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Once cupcakes have cooled slightly, take a skewer and pierce holes in the top of each cupcake, being careful not to push through the bottom.

Carefully spoon 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of orange juice over each cupcake, allowing the juice to soak into the skewer holes. This will keep the cupcakes moist and add some extra orangey goodness. Winner!

CHOC-ORANGE GANACHE FILLING

3/4 cup heavy cream

200g dark cooking chocolate, chopped

50g butter, cubed

Zest of 2 oranges

Juice of 1 orange

Place butter and chocolate into a bowl and set aside.

Pour cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil, allowing it to boil for 30 seconds before removing from heat.

Pour hot cream over the chocolate and butter and leave to sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir the ganache until the chocolate and butter are fully melted and the cream is well combined. Once ganache is smooth and silky, add orange zest and slowly add the juice, stirring gently to combine.

If the ganache becomes quite runny after adding the orange juice, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes to thicken.

CHOC-ORANGE BUTTERCREAM

120 g dark chocolate

70 g salted butter

2 cups icing sugar

Zest of 1 orange

1 – 2 teaspoons orange extract

Using either a double boiler or a microwave, gently melt the cubed chocolate until smooth and silky. Once fully melted, set it aside and allow it to come to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter using an electric mixer on high speed for 1 – 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest and extract and beat again for 1 minute.

Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and beat again for 2 minutes until fluffy.

Add the sifted icing sugar, 1/3 at a time, beating well between each addition.

Once the cupcakes are at room temperature and you’ve skewered them and poured over the orange juice, take a small paring knife and cut a cone shape out of the centre of each cupcake. Fill the hole in the cupcake with the choc-orange ganache and cut off the end of the cone so that you’re left with a flat lid shape. Place the lid back on the cupcake to cover the ganache, and repeat this process until each cupcake has been filled.

Frost the filled cupcakes with the Choc-Orange Buttercream (I used a large open star piping tip).

Enjoy!

As a side note, today was the first time I’ve ever packaged up my cupcakes (or any other baked good, for that matter!) before giving them to someone. I have vague dreams about one day turning baking into a bit of a business, so it was fun playing pretend bakery today. I bought a cupcake box and did a quick, basic tag design on photoshop (nothing fancy, I don’t pretend to be any good at photoshopping!):

but I’m pretty pleased with the overall result. Jo was also suitably impressed, so that’s a plus! I felt so…I don’t know…professional, carrying my little wrapped box of baked goods around. It was fun!

Summer Berry Tart

19 Jan

The Husband and I are officially moving to England in six days (yes, SIX. Where has the time gone…?), and we’re therefore taking full advantage of our last week in decent, Australian summer for what may be a long time.

The thing about summer is that you’re never really in the mood for heavy, dense food. You want to feast on things which are light and colourful, and I think this tart is the perfect summer treat. It can be eaten in late in the morning with a cup of tea, during the afternoon when a vistor drops by, or after dinner, sitting outdoors in the warm evening air. Or, you know, jammed into your mouth as quickly as possible during a midnight fridge raid. Whatever works for you.

No matter what time of day you eat it, you’re bound to fall in love. The pastry is buttery and delicate – almost like shortbread. The custard is silky and packed with vanilla, and the summer berries add a beautiful, tart juiciness to the creamy custard. Even if you’re up in the Northern Hemisphere, shivering your way through January, give this tart a try – one bite and you’ll be transported straight into summer. June will be here before you know it…

SUMMER BERRY TART

SHORTCRUST PASTRY

250g plain flour

125g butter

2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar

Iced water

1. Place flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Add iced water, a tablespoon at a time, and process until the pastry has come together. You should only need between 2 and 4 tablespoons of water.

3. Remove pastry from the food processor and knead lightly into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before use.

CUSTARD

1 cup cream

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornflour

1/3 cup caster sugar

1. Combine milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until steaming hot but not simmering. Remove from heat.

2. In a separate metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar until well combined.

3. Whisking constantly, pour the hot milk mixture into the egg and whisk well.

4. Quickly pour the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to a low-medium heat, stirring continuously until the custard becomes thick. Don’t let it boil as the custard will curdle.

5. Chill finished custard in the fridge until cold.

ASSEMBLY

I used frozen berries for the topping – I find that they hold their shape better than fresh and often have more flavour. Suit yourself, though!

2 tablespoons raspberry jam

100g raspberries

100g red currants

100g blackberries

100g blueberries

Juice of ½ an orange

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit).

2. Roll out chilled pastry on a floured bench top until it is the size of the pie/flan tin you’re planning to use.

3. Use the rolling pin to gently lift the pastry and place over the tin. Press down lightly to fit to the shape of the tin and cut off any excess.

3. Pierce pastry all over with a fork and then bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Once the pastry has cooled, warm raspberry jam in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften. Spread softened jam over the bottom of the pastry case.

6. Pour chilled custard into the case, on top of the jam.

7. If using frozen berries, remove from the freezer and place in a bowl to defrost for five minutes. Skip straight to step 8 if using fresh berries.

8. Once slightly defrosted, squeeze the juice of ½ an orange over the top of the berries stir gently to coat them.

9. Lightly sprinkle berries over the custard and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately if you want to avoid the colour of the berries running into the custard! Otherwise, return to the fridge and eat whenever you like.

Lemon & Passionfruit Sponge Cake

14 Jan

It’s my lovely friend Sarah’s birthday on Monday, and tonight we’re all going out to dinner as a group to celebrate by eating our body weights in dumplings. We’ll be heading home for dessert, though, so I figured a birthday cake might be in order.

I was a little slow off the mark today. I meant to be impressively organised and wake up early to have the cake baked and decorated by lunch time.

This did not happen.

I ended up sleeping through my alarm and racing around to the supermarket at 11:30am in a mad dash for ingredients. I wasn’t home until almost half past twelve, and by the time I’d unpacked all the shopping bags and turned the ovens on to preheat, it was creeping up towards 1pm. Argh!

The result is that I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to decorate, and so the icing isn’t as smooth as I’d like and I didn’t spend enough time getting everything to sit perfectly. Never mind, though – I think it’ll still taste pretty good!

I got the recipe out of my favourite recipe book, The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. Jennifer Graham’s recipes are generally so good that there’s no need to change a thing, so here’s how I did it in my own words…

LEMON & PASSIONFRUIT SPONGE CAKE

6 eggs

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup self raising flour

1/2 cup plain flour

1/4 cup custard powder

1/4 cup cornflour

1. Firstly, preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (that’s 340 Fahrenheit) and grease and line three 20cm (8 inch) cake pans.

2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat on a medium speed for 2 minutes.

Crank the speed up to full power and beat for 15 – 20 minutes until the eggs have become thick and fluffy.

3. Add the sugar gradually in 3 lots, beating for 2 minutes after each addition to allow the sugar to dissolve. Beat on high for a further 10 minutes once all the sugar is in to allow the egg mixture to become thick and fluffy.

4. Mix together the flours, custard powder and cornflour by sifting together three times. Gently fold into the egg mixture until just combined, making sure that all the flour pockets are gone.

5. Evenly divide the mixture between the three cake pans and bake for 18 – 20 minutes, until lightly coloured.

6. Remove from the oven and remove the cakes from their pans immediately and allow to cool for around half an hour before decorating.

Meanwhile, as the cakes are baking and cooling, you can whip the cream and get on with the rest…

LEMON CURD FILLING

4 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

85 ml lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon essence

70g butter, cubed

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, juice and essence and sugar over a low-medium heat until combined. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and is starting to simmer.

2. Turn off the heat and add the butter, one cube at a time, stirring to melt and combine.

3. Place in the fridge until cold and firm.

PASSIONFRUIT SAUCE

2/3 cup passionfruit pulp

¼ cup orange juice

1 ½ tablespoons caster sugar

3 teaspoons cornflour

2 tablespoons water

1. Mix the passionfruit, sugar and orange juice together in a medium sized saucepan and place over a low-medium heat. In a cup, combine the cornflour and water, stirring until smooth.

2. Add the cornflour mixture into the saucepan and stir continuously over the heat until thick and simmering.

3. Remove from the heat and place in the fridge to cool.

PASSIONFRUIT FROSTING

50g butter, softened

½ cup passionfruit pulp

4 cups icing sugar4

1. Make sure the butter is very soft, then add the passionfruit and half of the sifted icing sugar. Beat well by hand until smooth.

2. Add in the remaining sifted icing sugar and continue to beat by hand until thick and smooth. It should be easy to spread.

DECORATING

1. Once the cakes are cooled, place one on a plate and pipe large whipped cream rosettes around the outside edge.

2. Place a heaped tablespoon of lemon curd filling into the middle of the cake and gently spread towards the whipped cream rosette border.

3. Pipe more whipped cream rosettes on top of the lemon curd to cover.

4. Gently spoon some of the Passionfruit Sauce over the centre rosettes.

5. Place another sponge cake gently on top and repeat the process.

6. Then place the third cake on top and gently spread with passionfruit frosting, allowing the frosting to drip over the edge and down the sides of the cake.

7. Sprinkle with coloured cachous and gently press lilies (or a flower of your choice) into the top of the cake.

8. Press halved strawberries into the gaps between the cream rosettes on each layer of the cake.

Enjoy!

Happy 24th birthday, Sarah! xxx