Monday, 20 August 2012

Sky Diving Themed Birthday Cake


This cake was made for my friends 21st birthday. He originally wanted a churro cake, but after attempting such a task, I knew it would fail. So with the element of surprise, I decided to make a sky diving themed cake (as we went sky diving for his birthday), and to continue with the theme, I made it with 7 layers (the colours of the rainbow). I have always wanted try making a rainbow cake, and this was the perfect occasion. 

Here are a few tips and things I learnt:
1. This was the first cake I have ever made using fondant, and from this experience I now know not to apply too much oil on the fondant or the fondant will crack when travelling.
2. Next time, double the recipe so I can cut bits off to make the layers more even and consistent.
3. Make and use butter cream on the day of cake preparation. If you do make it prior, refrigerate, and when you want to use it, re-whip the mixture using an electric mixer until it returns back to the normal consistency. (quite a tedious task)
4. Buy a cake base that is the size of the cake, and another for the cake to sit on, so the base of the fondant has a cleaner cut.
5. I only have 2 cake tins, so after each time, I quickly cleaned the cake tin, dried, and re greased.
6. Bake cakes a day before you plan to ice them, just so they are stable and easy to work with.

Rainbow Cake Recipe

**NOTE: I used 20cm cake tins
3 cups plain flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
226g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups caster sugar
5 egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature

Colouring paste (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet)
Baking cocoa
Food colouring (blue and red)

1. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until combined.

2. Gradually at the egg whites and mix until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. Add flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture. Alternating between the 2, ending with the milk until all combined.

5. Add vanilla extract and stir with a spatula.

6. Divide the batter into seven bowls (roughly a cup of batter in each bowl)

7. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree Celsius.

8. Add colouring to each bowl, until desired effect. Here is how I got my colours.

Red: Add a teaspoon of cocoa and a few drops of red food colouring.
Orange: Using the toothpick, dab some of the orange colouring paste, and add to batter.
Yellow: Same as orange, but with yellow colouring paste
Green: I had two shades of green colouring paste, so I used a few dabs of both until I got the colour I wanted.
Blue: Add a teaspoon of cocoa, dabs of blue colouring paste and few drops of blue food colouring.
Indigo: This was quite a fluke, but it was composed of cocoa, blue and red food colouring. (I advise to combine blue and red food colouring in a separate bowl and testing a few bits of batter with the colour produced to see if you obtained the right colour)
Violet: Same as orange, except with violet colouring paste.

9. Transfer each colour into an individual cake pan of same size (or in batches like I did).

10. Bake for 13-15 minutes until a skewer comes out cleanly.

11. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla Butter cream
454g unsalted butter, softened
6 cups of icing sugar, sifted
7-10 tablespoons of milk
**NOTE: This was just the right amount to fill my layers.

1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix the butter with 2 cups of sugar.
2. Once combined, slowly add more of the icing sugar until all has combined.
3. Add milk by tablespoons full, and continue mixing until desired consistency is achieved.

Sorry but I have no photo of my butter cream, but consistency should look similar to cream cheese icing, just slightly thicker.

Chocolate Ganache
500g thickened cream
350g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate

1. In a saucepan on medium to high, heat the thickened cream until just boiled.
2.Take saucepan off heat, and add chocolate ensuring all chocolate has melted. (If necessary put back on heat, but ensure chocolate doesn't burn)
3. Pour in a bowl and set aside.

Assembling the cake
1. Line cake board with pieces of baking paper (a tip I got from my sister in law), and a dollop of the ganache so the cake sticks and doesn't move.

2. Lay the first layer of the cake (violet) and brush off any crumbs. Top with butter cream. Continue this process until the last layer (red) is placed. 
**NOTE: During the layer process, try to make the cake as even and levelled as possible.

3. Pour about half the chocolate ganache on top of the cake and run along the edge of cake to create a crumb later, and fill in any craters where there is no butter cream. Refrigerate.

4. Using the rest of the ganache, create another coat on the cake, ensuring it is smooth and levelled. Refrigerate.

5. Gently remove the pieces of grease proof paper.
**TIP: Run a knife under and along the ganache, so that when you pull away the paper no ganache gets taken with it.
6. Place fondant over cake, and decorate as desired.

Using fondant
- Knead the fondant on a clean bench top, using corn flour. (Make sure you don't over work it, or then it becomes to warm and hard to work with)
- Roll out the fondant to about 3mm.
- Wrap the fondant loosely around the rolling pin, and place on top of cake.

- Using your hands, lightly pat the fondant against the cake, smoothing around the edges.
- Trim the fondant.

- To remove the corn flour, slightly spray the cake with oil.

- Once fondant is on the cake DO NOT REFRIGERATE! 
- Keep cake and any fondant in a cool dry place away from any sunlight or fluorescent light.


Good food, good times!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Home-made Baked Churros


I was approached with a challenge to try to make a churro cake (that would have to travel 1.5 hours and still taste good) so as a test to this challenge I wanted to bake churros. The baking of churros was a success, but they still would not last a 1.5hour drive, so instead for that person I am making them another cake (stay posted). But, I have no conquered churros!

Please note, that this batter can also be used for frying churros , but I chose baking as a healthier alternative. Furthermore, the amount of churros the batter makes depends on how many people you are serving and the size/length of them. I ended up making 2 batches, to serve 10 people, and each churro was about 15-20cm long.

1 cup water
75g unsalted butter 
1/2 teaspoon fine seasalt
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 loose, levelled cups / 220g plain or all-purpose flour, sifted
2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1. On medium to high heat combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a deep saucepan. Allow the butter to melt without stirring and ensure it doesn't burn (if bubbles start to appear before all butter has melted, remove from heat). Continue to let butter melt.
2. Once the butter melts, allow to boil and then take off heat.
3. Add in flour, and combine with a wooden spoon and place back on heat.
4. Stir continuously with wooden spoon, until the batter is incorporated and looks similar to mash potato. Take off heat. (I started with a whisk, realising it was a bad idea and used a spoon)

5. Leave dough to cool for 10 minutes.
6. Add eggs to the dough, and incorporate using an electric mixture on low speed until dough thickens. Leave to cool.
7. Pre heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
8. Once dough has cooled, place in a piping bag with a star shaped tip, and squeeze straight onto a tray lined with baking paper.
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly brown.

10. Brush lightly with melted unsalted butter and dust with cinnamon sugar.

I served mine with some melted milk chocolate on the side. They were nice and crunchy on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside.

Good food, good times!

Circa Expresso @ Parramatta


This cafe has been on my eating list for a very long time now, and since it was uni holidays it was about time I went (which resulted in me going twice). Circa Expresso is located in an alley way outside of Westfield shopping centre. It is a quirky cafe with a painted wall upon entry, a bike hanging on one of the walls, and little bits and pieces everywhere (definitely not what you expect in Parramatta). 


Baked eggs with sujuk, Danish feta, diced tomato & chilli and toast served in a pan

This is what I call a great breakfast (that isn't bacon and eggs). Sujuk is a spicy Turkish sausage which I found similar to a spicy chorizo sausage. This entire dish was delicious, all the bits and pieces were beautiful, and the eggs had a runny centre. A slight hint of chilli to the dish bound everything together. To me, there was not one bad thing to the dish.

Breakfast granola: Poached rhubarb, yoghurt and fresh fruit

This was my vegetarian friends dish. I don't eat granola, or yoghurt, so this dish isn't a very me dish. However, I did like the poached rhubarb.



A mocha to start a lovely brunch with a good friend and it was the first coffee I have ever finished. I have always given coffee a chance, but never been happy or pleased with the taste. But this time, I was very happy.

Penne with portobello mushrooms, pork & fennel sausage, baby spinach and parmesan

One of the specials of the day, pasta for only $12. This was a great pasta dish with simple yet strong flavours that complemented each other. For the price, it was a great pasta, even better than some pastas I have tried in high end restaurants.

Pork and fennel sausage served with caramelised onion, pickled cucumber, baby spinach 
served on sourdough bread

We all love a good sandwich, and this is one for the books. The pork and fennel sausage were juicy and filled with flavour. I really enjoyed the pickled cucumber, it added a saltiness that was balanced with the caramelised onion. 

French toast with poached rhubarb, labne and pistachio

After our savoury part of brunch, we turned to the sweet and seeing French toast on the line of specials, was an offer not to be refused. The French toast was different to how I make it at home, using bigger bread that soaks in more of the batter. The poached rhubarb, with the subtle labne and crunch of pistachio. Nothing wrong with this dish, it was just spoonfuls of tastiness. 

Banana bread with passion fruit butter

This was so tasty, I could eat it every day. The banana bread was served slightly warm, but the passion fruit butter is what makes it great. It was smooth and delicious. It was just gloriously wonderful! Possibly my favourite thing on the menu.

Both times at Crica Expresso were exquisite, with friendly staff and even better food. Definitely hits the spot for a great brunch!

Good food, good times!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Dan's House @ Haymarket


We all love a good meal deal, and one of my uni friends found a great one for Dan's House which is a Chinese Cuisine restaurant with a speciality in peking duck, and other duck based dishes. It is a new restaurant that has been open since Late April 2012. The deal allowed us to pick 2 entrées with peking duck as the main dish, and a dessert to share.
Sugar cane smoked duck breast with lychee and mango jelly

As soon as I saw this on the menu I wanted to try it, the idea of lychee and mango with duck sounded tantalising. The result, was good but not great. I found that the texture of the mango jelly was too hard, which didn't quite work with the soft duck. However, the lychee sauce with the duck and the cucumber worked extremely well. If the mango jelly was a bit softer, it would have made the dish great.
Sichuan numbing chicken with fresh fruit salad

Now this entrée was tasty! After doing some quick Google research, the term 'numbing' comes about due to the use of Sichuan pepper as an ingredient. The chicken was cooked with perfection, but the marinade is what made the dish. It had a perfect balance of sweetness and spice. That marinade could accompany any meat. The strange part of the dish was the fruit salad for 2 reasons, first we were unsure how to eat it with the dish, and secondly the fruit purée at the base. 

We ended up just blowing the fruit salad into our bowl and eating it with the chicken (which was a good result). However, the ingredient of the purée was difficult to figure out (I was supposed to ask the waiter, but I forgot too). It tasted like rock melon, but at the same time it didn't, and it had a slightly rough texture. We were both confused.

Peking duck with complimentary soup

Mmm peking duck. We both love peking duck, and this definitely hit the spot. No words can really describe how good peking is. In summary though, soft duck meat with a slightly crispy skin and vegetables all wrapped up results in a great main.
Chilled mango sago cream with pomelo and vanilla ice cream

When this dish came out I was actually unsure on how to eat it, lucky for me, my friend knew how. We split the sago cream into 2 portions, and dumped a spoonful of ice cream into each bowl. The sago cream had bits on mango, but the pomelo is what made the difference where it added the bitterness, resulting in a bittersweet dessert.

The overall dining experience was exceptional, where the wait staff reminded me of people you would see at Yum Cha. This means, that as soon as they saw any dirty plates on the table they would take it away.

Good food, good times!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sugaroom @ Pyrmont


The last of my birthday gifts had finally came about where 4 of my closest girl friends took me out to a lovely lunch at  Sugaroom  in Pyrmont. The view from the restaurant looks out onto the waterfront and parkland of Pyrmont (I somehow forgot to take a photo of this view).


Tea smoked salmon, fennel, celery heart and orange salad, with lemon aioli
My entrée provided a fresh start to the whole dining experience. All the components accompanied each other perfectly, and the addition of dill added an extra kick to the dish. The salmon had a subtle tea smoked taste. 

Shortcrust tarte a l'onion, parmesan creme friache
This dish had a strong caramelised onion taste. So if you don't like onion, this isn't the dish for you. The parmesan creme friache was very interesting, where is had a creamy texture with a slight garlic and cheese taste.
Beef carpaccio, shaved peccorino, oregano and extra virgin olive oil
Nicely thin slices of raw beef topped with a vinaigrette. The bread sticks on top added a crunch against the soft beef and cheese.
Shiraz and eschallot chicken liver pate, cumquat jam and croutons
The pate was soft and seasoned perfectly, not too salty or peppery. The cumquat jam was interesting, as it contained a strong taste of cumquat, yet there was a slight sweetness.


Chargrilled beef fillet, olive and sage gnocchi, confit tomatoes, with red wine jus
This dish was great where in most cases the beef was cooked to how people wanted them cooked. The gnocchi was delicious, which was a down side as the dish didn't have enough of the wonderful gnocchi.

Prosciutto wrapped chicken breast, red pepper and marjoram quinoa, topped with asparagus
This was my main. The chicken was cooked great as it didn't become dry, especially considering it was a breast piece. The prosciutto was wrapped tightly and was crispy. The quinoa has a strange texture that I find hard to adjust too, as it looks like rice, yet isn't. Perfectly cooked asparagus provided the crunch.

Mushroom, pine nut, thyme ravioli
This ravioli was filled with blue cheese (and some other things that I don't remember), which resulted in a huge blue cheese flavour. I don't like blue cheese, so after trying my friends dish I ran back to mine.


Passionfruit pavlova, chantilly cream, toffee chard with fairy floss
Definitely not a traditional way in which pavlova is normally displayed, but still the same great taste. With the caramel goodness of the toffee chard. This dessert was extra sweet but was helped with the sourness of the passion fruit.

Pear and cinnamon tarte tatin, honeycomb ice cream, with butterscotch sauce
More caramel goodness with the pears, honeycomb and butterscotch. The ice cream was nice and smooth, and the chards of honeycomb worked really well.
Chocolate creme brulee, raspberry marshmallow, with macerated strawberries
My dessert was amazing. The crack of sugar on top already sets a start to a good creme brulee. The macerated strawberries (strawberries that have been sitting in juice - usually orange) added a great touch to the dish. The creme bruleee was smooth and chocolatey and lip licking tasty!

It was a wonderful dining experience where the staff are very nice and friendly. The lovely view makes it an exquisite place to dine for any part of the day. I just want to thank my lovely friends for giving me a gorgeous lunch out in a beautiful location. Thank you! <3

Good food, good times!