Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kids' Cooking - Butterfly Cakes

Butterfly cakes are a classic childhood memory for me. Delicate cupcakes topped with cream (or buttercream) with wings made from the tops of the cupcake, and dusted all over with icing sugar. So cute, and so delicious. They pretty much featured at every kids' birthday party I ever went to as a child. And I'm glad they did; they were definitely one of the top treats, alongside my other favourites fairy bread and chocolate crackle. So I guess it was no surprise that they popped into my head when I was trying to think of baking ideas for my four-year-old niece.

Making them again was like a flashback to my childhood, and it was extra fun teaching a new generation how to make them. If you've never heard of them you should give them a go, they are an ideal treat to make for, and with, kids. Or if you remember them from your childhood, why not give them a go, you never know what memories will come flooding back.

Do you have any favourite kids' party treats you remember from your childhood?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kids' Birthday Cake: Dora the Explorer!

My niece just turned four and I made her this Dora the Explorer cake. I decided to put it on my blog because besides being cute and delicious, it's also very customisable and not too difficult. I made all the decorations on it except for the actual Dora figurines, and they could easily be replaced with other figurines/decorations to suit your needs. I could see it easily being adapted to become a fairy cake, or a smurf wonderland etc. Anything that would suit sitting atop a green hill. It was the first time I've used fondant on a decent scale, so I wanted to share that it can be fun and that even beginners can get decent results.

The steps involved include baking the cake, frosting it with buttercream icing, colouring/rolling out fondant, covering the cake with the fondant and creating fondant decorations. It may seem like a lot of steps, but none are particularly difficult and the cake and decorations can be made in advance, so it is not too overwhelming. I spent a couple of hours during the week playing around with making the decorations, and then two days before it was needed I completed the entire cake in another couple of hours. This way the process was not at all stressful, and the product didn't suffer from being made in advance.
The cake itself is a Madeira Cake, a simple lemon cake and serves 16.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kid in the Kitchen - Pavlova

I'm in a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. The husband has just got a job in the North Island so we've moved out of the South Island after living there for a few years. We're still going to be living in a forest location (Tongariro) so I'm so excited to be living in a beautiful setting once again. Problem is the job doesn't start for a couple of months so I'm stuck in limbo living in the city (Hamilton) until the official move. Not that I dislike Hamilton, it's my home town and I have family  here. It's just weird to be living in a city again. But cities can be beautiful too, the diverse culture, architecture and even just noticing all the new smells has been an interesting experience. Things I had taken for granted.

Catching up with my family has been amazing. I have a niece and nephew whom I hadn't seen for a year, and wow kids grow up fast in short spaces of time. My nephew is now talking and I can interact with him so much more. My niece is almost four and has such an energetic and curious nature. I help my mum to babysit them during the week while their mum is at work. So it's been great to be getting some amazing quality time with them.

I noticed my niece started to follow me like a shadow into the kitchen, always asking what I'm making and if she can help. Whether it's my porridge for breakfast or a salad for lunch, this little girl wants to get stuck in assist. It's super cute and she's pretty capable for a 4 year old,  so I love to indulge her. There's always something a kid can help you with, whether it's just stirring a mixture, counting how many spoonfuls something needs, helping you cut things, watching reactions between ingredients, or just plain helping you lick the bowl at the end. Cooking can be educational and fun on so many levels.

So a few days ago I remembered I had egg whites leftover in the fridge from making the croquembouche. I decided to use them to make a pavlova, another dessert I have never made (shame on me!). So of course when my niece spotted me wandering to the kitchen she immediately wanted to help. She helped me collect all the ingredients, helped with measuring and mixing, and she got super excited to  see how much the egg whites grew in size as they got whipped up. And best of all, she got to help me lick the bowl! I can see we are gonna be great buddies in the kitchen.

As for the pavlova, it was delicious, can't go wrong with an 'Edmonds' recipe can you. Next time I won't make the circle as large though, as I like my pavs to be a bit higher. The pav was still as it should be though, crunchy on the outside and soft moist and marshmallowy in the middle. It was a great end to a great day.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

When bored: make a Croquembouche!

If you've ever watched any of the finals of MasterChef NZ you'll have probably seen or heard of the dreaded croquembouche. It's touted as being a rather difficult challenge, and not something you'd want to do on a whim. So against our better judgement, my sister and law and I did exactly that. One day we randomly decided we'd give it a go using the original MasterChef NZ recipe. Thankfully the dreaded croquembouche was actually achievable, and we didn't have any disasters. If you have a bit of common sense, patience, and can follow a recipe, you'll be sweet! The only problem was, it does take time and to be honest, the taste was nothing mind-blowing. I don't know why but I expected more. Sure it was yum, but if I was to do it again I'd probably want to try a different filling. The vanilla custard was nice, but it was nothing special. And I think for a dessert of this calibre, it warrants something with a bit more zing. Or perhaps I'd make a couple of different fillings, for variety. Anywho I just wanted to make this quick post to share the knowledge that if I can do it, then so can you. If you've ever been curious to make one, don't be intimidated, just do it!

Here's a link to the recipe that we used:
Masterchef NZ - Croquembouche

TIPS: we halved the recipe so it was easy to create a smaller stable tower, it will still serve a lot of people (approx 10). We also skipped making the caramel base. And of course we didn't have a cone to form it in (who has one of those lying around?) so just create free-form towered stack. It's going to be a homemade job, so don't worry about trying to make it perfect. Just play around with their positioning before you dip the balls into the caramel.