NZ Ninja Bake 2015

Last weekend, stealth ninja-bakers were diving over fences and behind bushes* in their missions to deliver baking to front doors and letterboxes unseen. Unsuspecting recipients were opening their doors and checking their mail, surprised to find baked treats waiting for them.

NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015This is the third Ninja Bake I’ve been involved in (check out 2012 and 2013), and the buzz of baking for deserving lovelies who have been nominated by their equally-lovely friends is yet to wear off. There’s something pretty special about secretly making a stranger’s day alongside other anonymous bakers. There’s something pretty special about being involved in an event that lets people know that what they do and what they are going through is acknowledged and not un-noticed.

One of my favourite parts of this year’s bake has been seeing the number of bakers who have also been nominees, proving that good people attract other good people. Reading about their surprise at leaving to get their ninja on and finding they’ve been “bombed” was a really inspiring part of this weekend.

NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015By some stroke of luck, the person I was to bake for required dairy-free treats, so I made my Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake into cupcakes (18 minutes cooking time for the medium-sized cakes, 13 minutes for the minis). I iced them with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting (diary-free, of course!), packaged them up with the Ninja Bake poem and a Random Acts of Kindness card, and set off to make my delivery. The container was too big to fit in their letterbox, so I had to get brave and deliver to the glass front door. As I raced up, I realised the curtains were pulled, so I’m pretty sure I got away unseen.

NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015 NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015 NZ Ninja Baking Drop 2015 NZ Ninja Baking Drop poemCheck out NZ Ninja Baking Drop on Facebook and Instagram, or check out the blog. The event was timed to coincide with the 11th NZ Random Acts of Kindness Day on Tuesday 1st September.

*No ninja bakers were harmed in the delivery of baked goodies

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Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was a dear friend’s birthday, and a few of us gathered for a playdate which also involved cake and bubbles. I offered to make the birthday girl a cake; my directives: it must be chocolate, and dairy-free.

I flicked through my trusty hand-written book of favourite recipes (collected over the past 13+ years), and found a recipe that could easily be adapted to become dairy-free; it was also considered low-fat, and suitable for those who can’t eat egg yolks too.

The result was, quite honestly, spectacular. I was really pleased with how light and fluffy the cake was, and it was damn tasty to boot. I was going to get a photo of the inside of the cake, but it didn’t last long enough for that kind of carry on.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

3/4 c caster sugar
4T dairy-free margarine
3/4 c boiling water
1 1/4 c self-raising flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 180degC. Grease and line the base and sides of a ring tin.

Completely dissolve the sugar and margarine in the boiling water.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda into a large bowl; add the liquid mixture and beat with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.

Add the egg whites and beat for a further 30 seconds. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin (it will be quite liquidy, but don’t worry!), and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar, or drizzle with melted dark, dark chocolate, or smother in a dairy-free buttercream frosting:

Melt 50g of dark, dark dairy-free chocolate and set aside to cool*. Beat 100g of dairy-free margarine until pale; gradually beat in 200g icing sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the cooled chocolate and splodge onto the cooled cake (fold in a little water if the frosting is too stiff).

*if you add the hot melted chocolate into the buttercream, it will harden immediately and you’ll end up with a still-delicious-but-not-quite-right chocolate chunk frosting. Trust me on this one – let that chocolate cool.

Zoo Party

We finally celebrated Pickle’s second birthday, just a few weeks late, with some of his little friends (and their families) joining us for afternoon tea and general hilarity. Given his love of animals, a zoo party was a logical – and incredibly simple – choice.

I made invitations featuring Pickle’s favourite noisy lion, RaaRaa, and used pictures of the same (free colouring pages from the internet) to make a simple bunting. Cups and serviettes featuring a menagerie of animals were on the table (paired with plain green plates), with a little zoo animal for each guest to take home. Add a few orange balloons and a zoo made from Duplo and our animal collection – done.

RaaRaa Invitation Zoo Party Zoo Party Zoo Party Party Balloon Zoo Party RaaRaa The Noisy Lion The food was simple too (a change for me, as I tend to go overboard and then get flustered because I have so many things to make), and chosen with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Sweets, crisps and fruit, cocktail sausages (of course), popcorn and homemade gingerbread panda bears and tigers.

Panda and Tiger BiscuitsI had an absolute cake disaster to begin with (trying a new recipe combined with a failure to measure my cake tin was the issue – lesson learned!), but my go-to chocolate mud cake recipe saved the day, and I’m quite happy with my decorating attempt. Again, simple but recognisable, and the birthday boy loved it.

Zoo cakeZoo PartyHe had a great afternoon, and was exhausted by the end of the day – at one point I’m sure he was close to falling asleep in his cot while his friends, and Tiny’s, leaped about in his room!

Pickle and ShortPickle is two!

Recipe: Easter Orange Cake

This deliciously-light, zesty cake is a nice alternative for Easter baking if, like me, you don’t like hot cross buns (I can’t be the only one, right? Right??). It is as simple as a cake recipe can be, and unusual in that the flour is mixed in with everything else right from the start. The batter is quite thick, but the resulting cake is surprisingly light.

Tall and I really liked the tangy icing, but it was a bit tart for the little ones. Next Easter, I think I’ll make a slightly less lemony topping, simply so I don’t end up eating half a cake!

Easter Orange CakeEaster Orange Cake – makes one 20cm square cake

150g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
3 eggs
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
Icing
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 2T juice)
175g icing sugar, sifted
Easter decorations (such as mini eggs and chocolate bunnies)

Preheat oven to 180degC. Grease and line the base of a 20cm square cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, flour and eggs until light and creamy. Stir in the orange zest and juice.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the top.

Bake for around 30 minutes, or until risen and golden, and firm to touch.

Cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes; remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, beat all ingredients together to make a smooth, runny icing. Drizzle over the cake and once partly-set, decorate with Easter treats.

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Recipe: Tana Ramsay – Market Kitchen Cookbook (2010)

A Lego Party

4 Balloons on the trampoline Lego Cake 4th birthday Lego cake Lego biscuitsM&MsStep 1: collect balloons, crepe paper and treats in the main Lego colours.

Step 2: bake your go-to chocolate mud cake. Press the bottom of a (brand-new) Lego board onto fondant icing to create those iconic “bumps” and decorate using Lego brick sweets and (clean) tool-wielding Lego people from the birthday boy’s collection.

Step 3: roll refrigerator cookies into rectangles and set overnight; cut into blocks for baking. Ice with coloured royal icing and corresponding candies to make Lego cookie.

Step 4: employ your other half and your mother to blow up 40+ balloons. Argue with OH about the quantity of balloons needed. As he walks out the door at 8pm to buy more, remind him that you want blue, red, green and yellow balloons only. Yelp in horror when he returns 20 minutes later with bags of mixed colours and attempts to add orange to the mix.

Step 5: Go to bed and dream about Lego cakes and balloons.

Step 6: make pizzas, decorated to look like cheesy Lego bricks with little slices of pepperoni arranged demonically perfectly atop the cheese.

Step 7: sit down and relax while your birthday boy has a blast with his little mostly-kindy friends.

Cake for a Cat

image  On Sunday afternoon, Tiny asked if we could bake a cake.

“Absolutely!” I replied. I love cake.

“For Cat’s birthday!” he called from halfway up the stairs.

The crocheted soft cat I brought back from Valparaiso when I was pregnant with him. The cat that sits on his bed before being tossed during the night. Oh.

Any excuse for cake, right?

I wanted to bake a cake that would be easy for him to help me with, so chose the One-Egg Chocolate Cake recipe I’ve been using since I was 11-years-old.

image

Except…Tiny chose to play with his toys and leave me to do all the hard work. Sigh.

When the cake had cooled and been iced with a frosting-that-almost-failed, he did help me decorate it with (a few too many) sprinkles, and nine of the candy-coloured Trade Aid candles I was sent by lovely Miriam.

Cat, Teddy & Jelly

We sat at the dining table with Cat, Teddy, Jelly and Pickle. We sang “Happy Birthday” over and over, and blew out the candles at least eight times. Pickle thought it was hilarious; Tiny thought it was the best party ever.

image

The cake was pretty tasty too.

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Fun with Food

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AND linking in with Miriam for BMWB 🙂

BMWB

Fun with Food: Chocolate Mud Cake

On Sunday we celebrated Pickle’s first birthday with family, a handful of friends, and morning tea.

IMG_3257I spent a couple of days making and decorating red velvet cupcakes, lemon shortbread bear cookies, pizza and a chocolate mud cake for my little bear.

IMG_3259This has become my go-to birthday cake recipe; this is the fourth time I’ve made it…and every time, I’ve dropped a spoon into the melting chocolate mixture!

The resulting cake is dense and fudgy, and chocolatey and rich without being sickly. It makes a decent-sized cake, and is easy to decorate and assemble.

IMG_3254

Chocolate Mud Cake – makes a 23cm round cake

200g butter
200g dark cooking chocolate
1 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c hot water
1 c plain flour
3/4 c self-raising flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 160degC. Grease and line base and sides of a 23cm cake tin.

Melt butter, chocolate, sugar and hot water in a large pot over a low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved and mixture is smooth. Cool completely.

Sift flours and cocoa powder into a large bowl, then fold into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs.

Pour into the cake tin; bake for 1 hour. Cool in the tin.

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Fun with Food
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