Easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

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“I’ve never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn’t fix.” 
~ Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet

 

Don’t you love Bert’s sweet little face sneakily captured in the cupcake photo above? He was seriously hoping that I would turn my back for just one moment…

That’s how much everyone wants one of these cupcakes!

This is a standard, moist vanilla cupcake that will decorate well. The icing(frosting) I made for these cupcakes has a sweet caramel-maple flavour which is rich without being overpowering. Best eaten within 24 hours of making, and they do freeze well too, but honestly, they won’t last that long.

Ingredients to make 12:

125g softened butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or make with these ratios: for every 1 cup of all purpose flour add 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup milk

Method:

*Preheat oven. For a smooth top cook at 190 degrees celcius (375 degrees fahrenheit) and for a peaked top cook at 210 degrees celcius (410 degrees fahrenheit)

Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake papers.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until the mixture is pale, light and creamy in texture. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Make sure your butter is soft, or this step will take all day.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Lastly, fold in (that means add to the mixture and gently mix with a spoon, rather than beating madly) half the flour and milk, and the repeat with the other half of the flour and milk. Folding the flour and milk in gently will keep the mixture light and fluffy.

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Spoon the mixture into the cupcake papers.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Lick spoon and bowl clean while you wait. (The best bit!)

Remove from heat and cool cupcakes on a wire rack.

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Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup Buttercream Icing Recipe

Ingredients:

125 grams softened butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1/3 cup of soft brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of boiling water.

Note: For a plain vanilla icing, omit brown sugar and maple syrup and add one teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops of colour of your choice.

Method:

Beat butter until whipped and then gradually add icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. If mixture becomes too thick, add up to a tablespoon of boiling water, beat well and then continue adding sugar. You may not need all of the boiling water. When the icing is very thick and creamy add the brown sugar and maple syrup and continue to beat until icing is very thick and smooth. Spoon or pipe onto top of cupcakes.

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You can also decorate these cupcakes with small candy decorations, sprinkles, nuts or choc-chips. We used pirate decorations today, because… well… PIRATES! :)

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Chocolate Beetroot Cake Recipe – Gluten Free

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
Charles M. Schulz

 

Although at first this might sound like a strange flavour combination, I can assure you that this cake tastes sublime. The beetroot adds an earthy sweetness to the chocolate cake, giving a moist but surprisingly light cake with good keeping qualities.

And this recipe is so simple that even non-cooks or the kids can whip it up!

You can enjoy the cake plain, but the cream cheese frosting really does compliment the cake well. If you’re feeling truly decadent, double the quantity of frosting! 2014-05-01 15.30.01 Ingredients: 1 cup raw grated beetroot, 3 eggs, 1 cup of plain gluten-free flour (you can use ordinary flour too), 1 cup of almond meal, 1/2 cup of soft brown sugar or your favourite sugar substitute, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 250 dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 cup of oil, 1/3 cup of your favourite milk (I’ve used cow, soy, almond and coconut and they have all worked out fine!)

Method: Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit) and prepare a large 9 inch/22 centimetre round or an 8 inch/20 centimetre square tin by lining it with baking paper.

Place the flour, almond meal, cocoa and baking powder in a bowl and stir well to combine.

Then wash and peel the raw beetroot and grate a generous cup full. 2014-05-01 12.30.55 Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, or microwave on low until melted. Cool slightly.

Combine the eggs, oil, beetroot, milk, sugar, and melted chocolate in a large bowl, beating well. You can do this with a whisk or wooden spoon. No need for fancy equipment for this recipe.

Tip in the dry ingredients and mix to combine, and then pour into your paper-lined tin.

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Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until cooked. You can tell if cake is done because it will spring back when touched in centre, or a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will come out clean, with no mixture clinging to it. Cool in tin for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cake can be served plain, with icing sugar sifted over the top, or with a good dollop of cream, yogurt or ice-cream.

I also like this caked iced with cream cheese frosting. (Ignore that my cake looks tiny and my spoon humungous – I somehow skilfully gave it that perspective using my iphone one-handed for an action shot…)

See frosting recipe below.

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Frosting ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter, 125g softened cream cheese, 1 cup icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chocolate sprinkles or grated chocolate optional.

Method: Beat the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar (powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar) and vanilla until thick and creamy. Spread over top of cooled cake. Add sprinkles or grated chocolate if desired.

I would have used grated chocolate on top of my cake BUT someone seems to have eaten my stash. I’d always used the vegetable crisper as a safe hiding place.  Looks like I’m going to have to come up with somewhere new. :) Still, the sprinkles are yummy and give a celebratory feel.

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Zucchini Bread Recipe – Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free

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“When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.” ~ Gwyneth Paltrow

 

I should have titled this post The Great Zucchini Loaf Challenge! I have a friend who is always telling me that they positively hate zucchini. This friend last ate zucchini thirty years ago at boarding school. They tell me often that it is a waste of a vegetable, that it tastes like soggy watery nothing and that no-one in their right mind should enjoy it. Boarding school ruined many culinary experiences for my very food-unadventurous friend.

However, I have witnessed this same friend gorging on stuffed deep-fried zucchini flowers with no idea what they were eating! They maintain that they positively hate beetroot but once gobbled down almost an entire chocolate beetroot cake I’d made. When I explained that beetroot was the main ingredient they just shrugged their shoulders and smiled as they stuffed the last crumbs into their mouth. I knew they’d eat zucchini in a cake, so I decided to bake some zucchini bread to prove my point.

But I’m back on my Lyme drugs, and following a fairly strict diet. It seemed so unfair that I would make a delicious cake that I then couldn’t eat! So I have modified the ingredients so that this cake is healthy, delicious and suitable for people like me who are on restricted diets. Let me assure you that the modifications in no way limited the yumminess.

Some people don’t like the taste of gluten-free flours, but the spices and flavourings I’ve added totally mask them. This cake is moist, flavoursome, full of nutritional value and so scrummy that people who cringe at the words ‘gluten-free’, let alone ‘sugar-free’, shall chomp it all up in happy oblivion.

As predicted, my zucchini-loathing friend adored this recipe and even asked if I could make it for them again once they knew what was in it!

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Ingredients:

1 cup of plain gluten-free flour mix, 1/2 cup of almond meal, 3 teaspoons of baking powder (I use Wards, which is gluten-free),1 cup of grated raw zucchini, 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts, finely grated zest of one lime and 1 tablespoon of lime juice (a lemon can be substituted), 3 heaped tablespoons of Natvia or your favourite sugar substitute (if you are happy to use sugar use 2/3 to 1 cup of raw sugar – to your taste), 2 large eggs (vegans – use your favourite egg substitute or 1/2 cup of mashed banana), 1/3 cup of oil of your choice (olive, coconut, rice-bran, vegetable etc), 1/4 cup of coconut milk (or soy, almond etc), pinch of good quality salt (I like pink Himalayan), 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 level teaspoon of ginger powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste.

Notes: If you need this recipe to be tree-nut free just use more gluten-free flour instead of the almond meal, and omit the walnuts. A nice variation would be to replace the walnuts with finely chopped dried apricots.

The lime tang is quite prominent in this recipe. If you don’t like a citrus flavour swap the lime or lemon out and use an extra tablespoon of coconut (or your favourite) milk.

You can also make this recipe with conventional wheat flour if you prefer.

Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper.

Place the flour, baking powder, almond meal, walnuts and spices in a large bowl and mix well to combine.

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Put the grated zucchini in some paper kitchen towel and gently press the liquid out of it, then place it into another large bowl. Add the natvia or sugar, the two eggs, the oil, vanilla, lime zest and juice, and the coconut (or other) milk. Stir until well combined.

Now add the wet mix to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. The mixture will look quite wet. Don’t panic.

The picture below shows my wet mix BEFORE I added turmeric, which was a last-minute flash of inspiration.

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Pour the mixture into your prepared tin. (See what a gorgeous colour the turmeric gives the batter!)

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Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake springs back lightly when pressed in the centre, and a skewer inserted in cake comes out clean.

Cool in tin for five minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Serve with a mug of your favourite beverage. The bread will keep for about a week (if it lasts that long) and toasts well after it is a day old.

You could get fancy and ice or glaze the zucchini bread, or serve it buttered (or use your usual non-dairy spread). It is also lovely served slightly warm with a dollop of yogurt or coconut cream. Enjoy! :)

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Apple, Pear and Chia Seed Warm Pudding Recipe

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“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” ~Ernestine Ulmer

 

I came home to our farm last night, too exhausted to cook dinner.

Problem was, I was hungry.

The thought of a salad, or anything cold and raw was completely off-putting. I needed warmth and nurture.

Solution? A lovely bowl of warm pudding – healthy and delicious but creamy and sweet enough to feel like an indulgence. This easy-to-digest meal is gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. Perfect for those with dietary restrictions, to tempt a fussy eater or for someone who’s unwell. And the coolest thing about this recipe is that it makes an outstanding breakfast too!

The apple and pear give sweetness and texture to this comforting pudding.

Chia seeds are often touted as a superfood. I have to agree. They are high protein, high fibre, gluten-free, packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, Vitamin C, iron and anti-oxidants, plus they help heal the digestive tract and stabilise blood sugar. Win!

Ingredients for four serves:

Two ripe pears; two apples; 2 tablespoons of water; 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon; zest of a lemon; juice of half a lemon; 2 teaspoons of natvia, honey, maple syrup or other sweetener of your choice; 2 heaped tablespoons of chia seeds; 1 and a half cups of water; coconut cream and a little extra maple syrup to serve.

Note: It’s also fine to use four pears or four apples, depending on what’s in your pantry or on your list of available foods if you are working with dietary restrictions.

Method:

Place the chia seeds and the cup and a half of water in a bowl. Stir and leave to swell for twenty minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid clumping. The seeds will absorb the water and produce a jelly-like substance. (Try not to think about the fact that right now it looks like a bowl of frog spawn!)

chia_seeds_in_liquid

Dice pears and apple. Add to a saucepan over medium heat with two tablespoons of water and the cinnamon, lemon zest and juice. Stir for a few minutes until the fruit softens. Now pour in the chia seed mixture, which will have a runny jelly-like consistency.

Stir well over medium heat until the mixture is thick and warm – about five minutes. Add a little sweetener to taste.

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Spoon into serving bowls and add a generous dollop of coconut cream. Drizzle a little maple syrup over the top.

Devour happily.

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Any leftovers can be stored in fridge for up to three days. Try spooning the mixture into glasses, layering with a little yogurt or coconut cream to enjoy cold tomorrow as a breakfast parfait. The pudding also reheats well. Just use gentle heat and add the coconut cream in before you heat it!

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Quick Guava Tea Cake Recipe

2014-03-15 19.19.00

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

Henry James

 

Afternoon tea is a popular time in our household. In fact, it usually attracts visitors hopeful of a cuppa, a chat, and a small slice of something tasty.

I love this tea cake recipe. You can whip it up in under ten minutes (plus baking time), and it makes a moist cake that goes well with a robust cup of tea or an afternoon coffee.

Tea cake was one of my Nana’s favourites. Traditionally it is topped with apple, but it seemed the perfect way to use up some of my bumper guava crop! The guava topping is fragrant, sweet and slightly exotic.

Paired with a hearty cup of Irish Breakfast Tea it truly is a little piece of heaven on a plate.

Cake Ingredients:

65g x (5 tablespoons) softened butter, 2 x teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 x egg, 1/2 x cup sugar, 1 x cup self raising (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 1 x 20cm round cake tin, paper lined.

Guava Topping:

2 cups of sliced fresh guava, plus the sieved pulp from the fruit’s centre, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, zest of half a lemon, 1/3 cup of sugar

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Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Wash the guavas and remove the tips of both ends. Halve and scoop out the seedy centre.

Press the centres through a sieve. Discard seeds. This should yield about half a cup of pulp.

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Slice the guava flesh and place the flesh, the pulp, the lemon juice, zest and sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for two or three minutes until the fruit is soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

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Place butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in bowl and beat until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes).

Fold through the yoghurt and flour until combined, and then spread the batter into your paper-lined baking tin.

Spoon about a cup of the gauva compote over the top of the batter.

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Cook for thirty minutes.  Check your cake by poking  a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean it is ready. Leave in a little longer if batter still clings to skewer.

Serve warm with cream or ice-cream and the remainder of the guava compote. I apologise that this is the only picture I have of the cake being served but it got eaten before I could get a better one!

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The cake can also be enjoyed served cold, sliced and spread with butter. It is best eaten on the day it is made, but kept covered or in an airtight tin will last for three days. It freezes well too.

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Quick Apple and Blueberry Tart

fresh apple and blackberry tart

“Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
~ Yogi Berra

This simple berry and apple tart is quick to make and tastes fruity and delicious. I use variations of this recipe all the time to whip up a speedy afternoon tea or dinner-time treat. Shop-bought pastry means all you need to do is a little chopping and mixing and then pop the tart into the oven. Five minutes preparation, 30 minutes cooking and you’re done.

Both the apples and blueberries were grown locally. The lemon is from the Meyer Lemon tree in my backyard.

Here’s the farmer whose family grew these delectable blueberries. His name is Otto Saeck and you can find out more about their farm here: Blueberry Fields

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Maybe when you’re next visiting the Byron Shire you could call in at one of our fabulous Farmers’ Markets and buy some of Otto’s blueberries to take home. (If they get that far!)

Anyway, back to tart baking…

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 sheets of frozen ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (or your own favourite pastry recipe), 2 cups of fresh blueberries (frozen are fine too), 2 cooking apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, zest and juice of one lemon, one heaped tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch), 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon, teaspoon of milk, a little extra sugar.

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Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate heat (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Find a suitable tin to bake your tart. I used a 36cm x 12 cm (14 inch x 5 inch) non-stick rectangular quiche tin with removable base, but you could use any small spring form or quiche dish. A removable base makes removing the tart easier, but it will still work in a conventional pie tin. Just grease it well!

*Hint – If you’re in a hurry you can use a pre-baked sweet pastry case.

2014-01-30 15.54.02Now take your partially defrosted pastry. Don’t let it get too warm or it becomes difficult to handle. Lay the pastry into the tin pressing an overlap of about a centimetre (half inch) at any joins. If you are using a conventional pie dish grease it lightly first to prevent the pastry sticking.

Use a sharp knife to trim away any overhanging pastry, and neaten the edges with your fingers. Reserve the pastry scraps for later. And be okay about your tart looking a little rustic. I promise it will still taste awesome.

Return the pie crust to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Peel and core your apples and cut them into small pieces. Combine with the washed blueberries, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, sugar and cornflour and stir well.

2014-01-30 15.59.52Dump the fruit into your tart case.

Now to pretty things up… Take the remaining scraps of pastry, cut into lengths and roll some thin dough sausages between your hands. Lay them diagonally across the tart, and then go back in the other direction. Feel free to make or cut out any other pastry shapes from the leftover scraps and use them to further decorate your tart. As you can see, I made a quite dodgy-looking flower. Did I say RUSTIC? Yes I did!!!

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Dip your finger in a little bit of milk and rub it over the pastry. Sprinkle sugar on your decorations. Then place into hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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Serve warm or cold. It goes smashingly well with fresh cream or ice-cream too. :)

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Mango and Fig Meringue Nests Recipe

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“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.” ~ Mother Teresa

This is a VERY easy dessert. Just a little chopping and stirring, but the results are pleasing and the flavours elevate it to a whole other level.

There is usually a packet of little meringue nests in my pantry. It’s amazing how many yummy desserts you can whip up with them in a culinary emergency, like yesterday…

I had a wretched Valentine’s Day on my last day of this round of horror Lyme drugs and spent most of the day in bed, but with the help of a friend I still managed to make dessert for what ended up being a ‘romantic’ backyard candle-lit dinner: just me, Ben, our neighbour Sheryl who’d come to help Ben with some farm work, our three dogs, and all the cows who came and stuck their heads over the fence.

Apparently if you light candles and put a flower behind your ear it’s classed as ‘romantic’. If only I’d known that years ago…

And the moo-ing cows really added to the elegant atmosphere. As you can see from the picture below we all got very dressed up!

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Anyway, dessert! We were gifted a few juicy mangoes from a neighbour, and I had two fresh figs and a couple of passionfruit from our own farm. Add  a little white chocolate, and a honey and cardamom infused cream and suddenly we have dessert magic.

Ingredients:

4 pre-prepared meringue nests, 1 large ripe mango (or 2 small), 2 passionfruit, 1 large or 2 small ripe figs, 1/4 cup chopped white chocolate, 150ml thickened cream, 1 teaspoon sweet sherry or vermouth, 1 scant teaspoon cardamon powder, 1 dessertspoon of honey

Method:

Chop the mango flesh and fresh figs and place in a bowl. Stir through the passionfruit pulp and then add the white chocolate chunks.

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Pu the cream, cardamom, sherry and honey in a small bowl and whisk together. (You could beat it until whipped and thick, but really, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary effort.)

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To serve, place the meringue nests on a plate and spoon in the fruit topping. Drizzle some of the honey cream over the top. Garnish with a sprig of mint if you so desire.

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In honour of Valentine’s Day we also made some naff little hearts from chocolate and strawberry fondant icing pens to adorn our plates too – that’s how fancy we are! :)  I swear this entire dessert took less than five minutes to make and assemble.

As we sat in the backyard eating dinner (food!!!) Bert was his usual devoted self. What a wonderful dog.2014-02-14 19.13.10 HDR

And Harry was fixated on my every mouthful me just because he loves me! Luckily they both had a Valentine’s Bone to munch on too.2014-02-14 19.16.40 HDRI’m so glad I made the effort to get out of bed for a few hours. Happiness is sharing time and food with the people (and dogs, and cows…) that you love.

Lots of love to you too, Nicole xx

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