Sweet sweet Friday: White Chocolate Plum Mousse Cake

I don’t know much about parenting but I have learned in the last 18 months that it’s not a good idea to attempt complicated kitchen manoeuvres when the Small Girl is awake. So I don’t know what came over me a couple of Saturdays ago, when I decided to make a cake I’d spotted in Cuisine magazine for a dinner party we were going to that night. The Boy Wonder was hanging around, having breakfast and reading the paper, and I figured he and the Small Girl could amuse themselves while I played happily on the other side of the island.
They both have an unerring talent for choosing their moments to really need me when I really need them to be not needing me, if you get my drift – and so I made more than a few cock-ups along the way because I wasn’t concentrating on the task at hand. But even though I fretted about it all the way to the party, this cake was a winner. Six adults demolished it in seconds and hailed me as some kind of kitchen genius. Perhaps I should cook with the Small Girl around more often.

White Chocolate and Black Plum Cake
This cake, which I have adapted from one by Ginny Grant in the September 2010 issue of Cuisine, is like a softly set mousse. It contains no flour, making it ideal for the gluten-intolerant.
It might look a little flat when you turn it out of the tin, but the incredible combination of lightness and richness soon makes up for that. Good with a generous dollop of whipped cream (who says your thighs need to have a gap between them?)
Black Doris Plums are a very New Zealand ingredient – the sort of thing that you can’t buy from orchards any more, only in tins. If you can’t find a suitable plum to substitute, I suggest trying tinned apricots.

850g can Black Doris plums (a dark purple plum, similar to an Omega), drained, halved and stones removed
250g good quality white chocolate
150g butter
150g caster sugar
4 eggs
zest and juice of one orange

Preheat the oven to 120C. Line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper and grease with butter. Line a large roasting dish (big enough to hold the cake tin and around 5cm deep) with a tea towel and put the prepared cake tin on top.
Place the plums in the prepared cake tin, cut side down. Set aside while you make the batter.
Place the chocolate and butter in an ovenproof bowl and put in the low oven to melt. Keep an eye on it – about five-10 minutes should be enough. Remove from the oven.
In the meantime, put the orange juice into a measuring cup and top it up with water if necessary to reach 75mls. Pour this into a small saucepan and add 100g of the sugar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has come to the boil. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes, then add this to the chocolate and butter mixture.
Beat the eggs with the remaining 50g of sugar until very light and fluffy. Pour in the chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Carefully pour this batter over the plums in the prepared cake tin.
Pour just-boiled water from the kettle into the roasting dish (that the cake tin is sitting in) until it comes halfway up the sides of the tin. Carefully put this in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake has just set. Let cool in the water bath before turning out onto a plate. If you’re making this in advance (which is advisable, unless your guests are fine with being ignored for about half an hour), then put the cake in the fridge and turn it out just before serving.

Do you have a favourite end of the week baking treat? Add it in here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…

A lovely bunch of coconuts

Some things get lost in translation, especially in recipes. After a year in New Zealand it appears I have assimilated a little too much and am now causing a wee bit of confusion by referring to ‘coconut’ in recipes and expecting you to know what I’m talking about. So – a quick tutorial.

Desiccated coconut

The coconut referred to in the Best Ever Vegan Friendly Chocolate Cupcakes is supposed to be desiccated coconut (or ‘desecrated’ as an old flatmate once called it).

Long thread or shredded coconut

The coconut used in the super-decadent Raspberry Choc Nut Bars is what I call long thread coconut, but you may know it as shredded coconut. It’s just a longer, thinner version of ordinary desiccated coconut, kind of like its supermodel cousin, with better hair. Desiccated coconut is better in the cupcakes, but I think the long thread or shredded version works best when you need a bit more texture. Hope this helps. Happy baking!

Sweet sweet Friday: Vegan Cupcakes

I’ve been making lots of cupcakes this week – the Boy Wonder took some to work and I froze the rest for Erin the Amazing Babysitter. Erin came into our lives when I started making cupcakes for a local craft market and she became my unofficial tester. I try to have some on hand whenever she comes over, which seems especially important now that we’re leaving town. I asked her mother if we could take Erin with us and she said “No! You’re not taking your daughter and mine away from me!” Oh well. Maybe I can send them some cupcakes from our new kitchen.

Best Ever Vegan-Friendly Chocolate Cupcakes

Once upon a time I had a brief flirtation with veganism. It didn’t last (I didn’t miss meat or eggs, but a life without butter, yoghurt or ice cream? No thanks!) but I discovered lots of my favourite cake recipes were vegan-friendly anyway.
This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. It’s dark, moist, quick to make and freezes brilliantly. The flavour improves the day after baking (if you can resist them for 24 hours).

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups cold coffee (or water)
3 Tbsp vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put cupcake liners in two 12-hole muffin tins.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and sugar into a large bowl, then stir in the coconut.
Mix the wet ingredients in a jug, then pour them into the dry. Mix well. Pour the mixture in the cake tin, or divide equally between the cupcake liners (I usually get around 22 cupcakes out of it).
Bake for about 20 minutes. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
This can also be baked in a 23cm cake tin, for about 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to crack a decent vegan icing – butter is just TOO important! These are fine dusted with icing sugar, but most of the time I use the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It’s almost worth the price of the book by itself – a silky, voluptuous frosting that adds a very decadent touch. Just beat 75g very soft butter, 30g sifted cocoa and 200g icing sugar until very light and fluffy (easiest in a mixer or with an electric beater). Add 150g fridge-cold cream cheese and beat until even lighter and fluffier. Try not to eat it all before you get some on the cupcakes.
Have a sweet weekend, everyone!

A Zombie Ate My Cupcake

We get plenty of scary things in the post (our last gas bill was like something from a horror film), but nothing as frightening as this…

Run, don’t walk, it’s A Zombie Ate My Cupcake by Lily Vanilli!

Now, neither sugarcraft or zombies are really my cup of tea. In fact, I’d rather eat cupcakes that look like these ones at LouLovesFood, and I dream of making ones that look as good as these ones at Adventures in Cake, but there’s no denying that Lily’s little cakes have something about them.
Ms Vanilli (real name Lily Jones) is a graphic artist-turned-cupcake-queen from east London (where else?), who has a suitably chic back story. She started from humble beginnings, selling her wares in a little-visited market off Brick Lane, and is now the darling of the cupcake eating set. She makes all sorts of fancy cakes for the rich and famous and even stars in a Levi’s ad. The press release with the book calls her a ‘cake sculptor’, which is a pretty cool title.

But what I like about this book is that beneath the (fake) blood and gore lie some really good cake recipes, like Honey and Almond and Pecan, Nutmeg and Cinnamon, along with more usual suspects like Chocolate, Red Velvet and Vanilla. I’m not about to attempt ‘Zombie Hands’ or ‘Sweeney Todd’s Surprise’ just yet, but Hallowe’en is just a month away…