Celebration Cakes

With lights dimmed, a cake is presented ablaze with candles.   A couple, surrounded by onlookers, eagerly clutch a knife that is towering over a cake.  A dessert table is spread end to end with elegantly decorated cupcakes.   These are celebration moments.  Birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.

Often my first recollection of a celebration is the cake.  (Somehow effortlessly), I remember what cake I created over the years for different birthdays and other occasions.  In my head, I can see the cake and ‘play back’ all the surrounding detail.  What was the event.  Who was there.  Where we were.  What we were doing.  For me, a celebration memory starts and ends with the cake.

This month has been quite a month of celebrations.  To commemorate these birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries, I have decided to put together some of my favourite celebration cakes.  There is nothing quite like a homemade cake to honour a special day.  What ever your flavour of choice – vanilla, chocolate, coffee, lemon, strawberry, caramel – hopefully there is something here for your next celebration. 

LM mini:: Lemon Meringue Cake ::
Simple yet striking.  I have made this cake numerous times.  If the lucky recipient adores zesty, tart sweets, this is for you.  Make sure you demonstrate the final blowtorching in front of a crowd for added effect!

FV mini:: French Vanilla Cupcakes ::
Understated yet complex.  Using the intense flavour of real vanilla bean, coupled with shiny Swiss meringue buttercream, this simple cupcake is revamped from everyday to special.

FCC mini:: Flourless Chocolate Cake ::
Chic and rich.  A more-ish cake to serve with the best thickened cream or homemade ice-cream.  Just the thing for any true chocolate lover.

 

 DFC mini:: Devil’s Food Cupcakes ::
Light and chocolately.  Ideal as a single serve cupcake or create a multi-layer cake – sandwiched together with lashings of Swiss meringue buttercream or chocolate ganache – for a more impressive presentation.  A true chocolate-on-chocolate experience.

CC mini:: Caramel Cheesecake ::
Stylish and sweet.  A foolproof recipe for baked cheesecake.  Use lashings of gooey caramel to fill the cake or your own flavour combination to make it your own.

W mini:: Wedding Cake ::
Impressive and inspiring.  A basic rich chocolate mud cake with seven minute frosting is transformed from an ordinary cake to a show stopper with simple tiering and an uncomplicated floral decoration.

R mini:: Rainbow Cake ::
Delicate and colourful.  Children will love the multi-coloured layers of surprise inside.  Chocolate.  Strawberry.  Vanilla.  It is like Neapolitan ice-cream, but better.  Light and dainty flavoured sponge cakes are encased in rich chocolate ganache.  Caution – there will be no leftovers.

coffee mini:: Coffee Cupcakes ::
Velvety and robust.  Any coffee lover will be mad for these cupcakes.  Create a layered cake with the same cake batter and frosting recipes.  Top with golden, roasted hazelnuts for an extra treat.

LACL mini:: Chocolate and Lemon Layer Cake ::
Zesty and creamy.  Lemon and chocolate are a refreshingly complementary union of flavours.  The multiple layers is impressive enough for impact, but not so overly sized to be out of place at an intimate gathering.

Coffee Cupcakes

It was a few months back when I thought it would be a marvellous idea to detox.  Rid my body of all those nasties lurking within.  There was one catch.  It required me giving up my beloved caffeine ritual.  Since drinking coffee back I late high school, I could not remember a day when it has not helped to facilitate consciousness of a morning.  How did I think I could manage without it?  How was I going to wake up?  How was I going to function?

Sometimes I display a fierce strong will, and this was one of those times.  I managed to push away any coffee urges.  Ignore them.  Turn my back on the cravings.  I was anticipating one of those hideous coffee withdrawal headaches, but surprisingly, none came (quite astonishing given there was quite significant daily consumption).

But towards the end of the week, I began to ponder how I would deal with this long term.  Would this mean I may no longer drink coffee – at all?  I actually like the taste of coffee.  In moderation, why would I not drink it?  So, as quickly as I stopped, I was back to my coffee consuming ways.

And I have not looked back!

My mother is also quite partial to coffee.  Especially in dessert form.  So as part of my “40th anniversary” cupcakes, I knew I had to features a coffee version in the mix (along with chocolate and vanilla – and lemon, to come!).

I adapted this cake from my basic vanilla cupcake recipe.  The substitutions were limited and simple.  1) Brown sugar instead of white sugar.  2) Including a shot of strong espresso and reducing the milk by the same volume.

I also used my basic butter cream frosting.  I added, once again, a shot of espresso during the final stages of beating to not only finish with a lovely latte colour, but subtle coffee flavour. 

{ Coffee Cupcakes }
If you love coffee desserts, you will love this little cupcake.

 * Ingredients *

1 1/2 cups of plain / all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar, packed tightly
2 eggs
100 ml milk
30 ml strong espresso

* Directions *

Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the side of bowl as necessary.  Beat in the espresso.  Mix in the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk.  Spoon into cupcake wrappers and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Allow to cool, and then top with your favourite frosting or ganache.

Makes 12 cupcakes

{ Coffee Butter cream }

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
250g or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
30 mls espresso

* Directions *

In a bowl over simmering water, whisk the eggs whites and sugar.  Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 160F or 70C.
Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and on a medium speed, beat until you reach firm peaks, about 5 minutes.  Slow the speed and add in the room temperature butter one piece at a time.  If the mixture appears to curdle, keep beating on medium speed until smooth again.  Add in espresso or any other flavour combination until smooth.

Makes 4 cups

Devils Food Cupcakes

Forty years ago my parents made the momentous decision to pack up their lives in the thriving metropolis of London, and migrate to the sleepy town of Brisbane.  The relocation was a culture shock to them both.  They went from living in one of the largest cities in the world, to one of the most provincial.

My parents were fortunate to travel by plane when they made the lengthy journey to Australia.  The vantage point from the air allowed them to take in the vast land that would soon be their home.

As a child, I remember hearing the stories about them flying into Sydney.  Their first glimpse of Australia.  My parents noticed, what they thought were, little garden sheds peppering every house lot.  As a couple that shared the enjoyment of spending a little time outdoors, they were impressed by the seemingly widespread passion for gardening.  They soon were to discover, however, that the little sheds were the ‘outdoor plumbing’, so to speak.

Even in my lifetime, Australia (and Brisbane in particular), has grown enormously.  Much has changed since 1969.  Most importantly, over that time, Australia has become home.

To celebrate, I wish to present 40 celebratory cupcakes to my Mother to mark the occasion.   This is my first cupcake trial.  I am actually planning four different flavours.  10 cupcakes of each flavour. First is chocolate. (Then coffee, vanilla and lemon.) 

This recipe for Devil’s Food Cake is a versatile batter. It can readily be converted from cupcakes to a single round cake. (Use the same amount of mixture and directions indicated, but bake for 50 minutes in 20cm tin.) The inclusion of cocoa produces a delicate, creamy flavour. The crumb is light without being too fluffy and airy. It is a great cake to make when you do not have time to let butter soften to room temperature – the butter is first melted with sugar.

I wanted a contrast for the frosting so instead of opting for the typical (yet more-ish!) chocolate ganache, I selected a Swiss meringue butter cream. I find this one of the most adaptable frostings around. To the basic recipe you can mix in vanilla, stir in melted chocolate, add a shot of espresso, fold in fruit preserve, or some citrus zest for your own distinctive flavour combination.

I hope to use Swiss meringue butter cream for all the “40th” cupcakes. I will simply make one large batch, portion out into four, then fold in my extra flavour to complement each cupcake.

{ Devil’s Food Cupcakes}

* Ingredients *

1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup of cocoa
1/4 boiling water
125g or 1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream

* Directions *

Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.  Sift the flour and baking soda and powder into a bowl.  Mix the boiling water with the cocoa to make a paste.  Heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Once the butter and sugar has completely melted, transfer to a mixer.  Beat until the mixture cools, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly.  Add the cocoa mixture until incorporated.  Mix in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream.  Divide the batter into 12 cupcake wrappers.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Stand for 10-15 minutes in the tin before turning out to a cooling rack.  Once cooled, frost with chocolate ganache or Swiss meringue butter cream.

Makes 12 cupcakes

{ Vanilla Butter cream }

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
250g or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Directions *

In a bowl over simmering water, whisk the eggs whites and sugar.  Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 160F or 70C.

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and on a medium speed, beat until you reach firm peaks, about 5 minutes.  Slow the speed and add in the room temperature butter one piece at a time.  If the mixture appears to curdle, keep beating on medium speed until smooth again.  Add in vanilla or any other flavour combination until smooth.

Makes 4 cups