Five ways with cheese

Smile, it’s National Cheese Month! I know these things (National Donut Day, anyone?) are spurious at best, but if the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association wants us to dedicate October to the noble activity of eating cheese, I’m not about to argue.

Instead, I humbly offer you five of my favourite cheesy recipes…

 Secret cheese and onion bread – soft, white, pillowy dough, with a molten cheese middle. Blissful.

Roasted cauliflower cheese – exactly what it says, but with spices (and optional potatoes, or greens, or both).

Jenny’s cheesy potatoes – an absolute Corry family classic (no one can make them like Jenny can, but with practice, you can nearly reach cheese and potato nirvana).

Bermuda salad – a Moosewood Cookbook number, in which cheese plays an important but not overpowering role. I was dubious too, but it’s very good.

Sara Lee cheesecake – looks just like a bought one, tastes a million times better (and is about as easy to make as pulling one out of a packet).

What’s your favourite thing to do with cheese?

Creme fraiche and chocolate nut truffles

Last Sunday my sister-in-law turned up on my doorstep with a huge chocolate cake, a tub of Zany Zeus creme fraiche and a jar of Fix and Fogg chocolate peanut butter.

We anointed the cake with dollops of both – such a good activity on a winter Sunday afternoon, sitting around, eating cake with chocolate peanut butter on top – and then they left. “I expect you to do something creative with that peanut butter,” she called over her shoulder as they left. “No chance,” I said. “I’m just going to eat it out of the jar.”

But it turns out there’s only so many spoonfuls of chocolate peanut butter and creme fraiche you can eat in a week. Here’s what you should do with the rest.

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter And Creme Fraiche Truffles

Creme fraiche and chocolate nut truffles
If you’re not in the habit of having either of the main ingredients lying around, you could always make your own creme fraiche AND make your own salted chocolate nut butter. Then you can whip these up whenever you like, rather than for the rare occasions when you have some going spare.

1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/3 cup chocolate peanut butter
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (about 10 squares of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana)
a good pinch of sea salt

For rolling:
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1 Tbsp cocoa, sifted

To make the truffles, put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well combined.
Mix the second measure of ground almonds and cocoa together in a shallow bowl.
Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls, then roll them in the almonds and cocoa. Leave in the fridge to set for 30 minutes before eating. Store, covered, in the fridge. Makes about 22 balls, depending on how much you eat in the process.

Have a great week, everyone!

Chocolate cakes with citrus cheesecake centres

Cupcakes – so 2007, right? Depends who you ask. Personally, I’ve made about 50 in the last month, so I think they’re quite 2015 too. They’re brilliant if you’re doing any kind of baking for charity because they’re so easy to portion and transport. And children, who are less affected by trends, love them.

Cupcakes are also the flavour of the month for June’s We Should Cocoa and Tea Time Treats blogging events, so perhaps they’re not quite out of fashion yet.

Secret citrus and cream cupcakes
This is my go-to, all-time, never-fail chocolate cake recipe, upcycled with a touch of cream cheese and marmalade to make chocolate cupcakes with a secret gooey middle. Imagine something like a dark sticky chocolate cake wrapped around a citrus cheesecake filling and you’ve got the idea.

1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
100g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cream cheese
2/3 cup thin-cut marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180C and put cupcake cases in 18 muffin tin holes.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, milk and eggs and beat furiously with a wooden spoon until well mixed (you can also do this in the processor or in a mixer).
Fill each cupcake case until it is about a third full, then put a teaspoon of cream cheese and a teaspoon of marmalade on top. Top with more cupcake batter, until each case is about two-thirds full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cakes are springy and a skewer plunged into them comes out clean.
Remove to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Coconut, chocolate and vanilla cake

When I rule the world, I’m going to introduce a law banning vanilla-flavoured perfumes and all forms of fake vanilla extract.

Real vanilla has such a beautiful, delicate scent, but it’s been ruined by the synthetic variants wafting through a home near you.

Vanilla soap, vanilla perfume, vanilla moisturiser, vanilla candles, they’ll all be banned. Fake vanilla extracts will be outlawed, too. Instead, we’ll feast on real vanilla-scented cakes, like this tropical number.

 

 

Coconut, chocolate and vanilla cake

This has a triple dose of vanilla, but it’s not overpowering. Just make sure you use the real deal. The combination of chocolate and vanilla – a powerful duo – makes this just right for this month’s We Should Cocoa, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

 

125g butter, softened

1 cup caster sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 cup flour

‘1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

 

For the syrup:

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla

 

For the icing:

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tsp butter

2 tsp pure vanilla

2 tsp boiling water

 

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 23cm ring tin (or similar).

Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating furiously. If it looks in danger of curdling, add a little of the desiccated coconut. When the eggs are all in, add the coconut and vanilla. Beat to combine, then fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in the chocolate. Scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, until a skewer comes out cleanly. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then stab with a skewer (very satisfying!) and pour over the syrup (just stir together the boiling water, sugar and vanilla to make it).

When the cake has cooled, carefully remove from the tin and set on a plate.

Make the icing by beating together all the ingredients – you may need more boiling water to make it the right consistency – and drizzle it over the cake.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone x

How to fake a wedding cake

This is the wedding cake that nearly wasn’t.

Pandoro Black Doris Plum And Mediterranean Orange Wedding Cake

When one of my oldest and dearest friends announced she was getting married, I immediately offered to make the wedding cake. She accepted the offer and that was that.

When their wedding was delayed to May, I breathed a sigh of relief and put the cake on the back burner.

Then all of a sudden it was April, the bride was talking multiple layers, chocolate ganache, and the merits of chocolate mud versus chocolate and fig, I had a million other things on my mind and I was lying awake at night, panicking about The Cake.

It was then I remembered that I’d been in this situation before. Five years ago, with a small baby and ideas above my station, I offered to make the wedding cake for some dear friends who’d blown into New Zealand from London to get married.

“Oh yes please,” they said. “Don’t go to any trouble, but we’d like it to have three layers and have licorice allsorts exploding out the top.”

Making the cakes – one chocolate and fig, one chocolate mud and one banana (the groom’s favourite flavour) – was easy. Doing the decorating was not. Not for the first time, I recalled a school report in which my teacher said I was often frustrated when my grand plans for artworks didn’t come to fruition. I handed the baby to my mother-in-law and spent 24 hours wrestling with kilos of white fondant icing, alternating between wanting to cry and wanting to cheer.

On the afternoon of the wedding, my beloved and I balanced the cake on our knees while my father-in-law drove as slowly as he could around corners. We screamed every time the cake lurched towards my silk dress, more for the sake of the cake than my outfit. By the time we got to the venue the cake had several dents in it and I needed a strong drink to settle my nerves.

It nearly killed me, but the lovely bride and groom were happy and lots of guests said nice things about the cake. Still, I swore that it was the last time I would ever do it.

With those memories flooding back, I rang the bride. “I can’t do it,” I told her. “I’m too afraid it will be a disaster and you’ll be even more disappointed in me than you feel right now.”

Like the good friend she is, she took this news on the chin. Instead of making the cake, I decided to redefine my role as chief cake wrangler. I set about getting cake quotes and set up a wedding cake Pinterest board to gather ideas. When they baulked at the quotes – a two or three tier wedding cake is in the region of $400-$500 – I came up with plan B.

Instead of requesting a wedding cake, I asked Pandoro Bakery to make us two large cakes – one a 14″ Black Doris Plum Chocolate, the other a 10″ Mediterranean Orange, which they present on gold foil cake boards. I got them to ice them identically with chocolate ganache, with the sides rolled in white chocolate shavings.

The day before the wedding, my fellow bridesmaid and I picked them up and took them on a two-hour car ride (mercifully, on very straight roads).

Later that night, the groom helped me engineer the two together, inserting dowel rods to keep the top layer from collapsing into the bottom. With no storage option, we carefully manoeuvred the cake into a beer fridge and prayed it would survive the night.

The next morning, I returned to the venue, rescued the cake from the fridge and plopped some white roses on top. Just like that, the job was done.

The cake looked beautiful, my 22-year friendship with the bride is still intact and my mental health is sound. I may never make a special occasion cake again.

Are you prone to making special occasion cake promises? Do you have any secret tips?