Hidden Heart Cupcakes


Hidden Heart Cupcakes for my Wedding Day

I saw a picture on Pinterest showing hidden heart cupcakes and I fell in love with the idea. My mum and I catered my wedding on Saturday, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test this technique out.

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I tried two batches. The first batch I flavoured the heart cake batter with rose water and the cupcake batter with vanilla bean. Individually both cakes tasted great, but I found the rose flavour was lost in the vanilla. I tried this again and added more rose water and it worked out much better.

What you will need:

Cupcake recipe (flavour and recipe of your choice)
Food colouring (of your choice)

Heart shaped cookie cutters (It is important that you pick a heart shaped cookie cutter that will fit inside the patty liner)

Method:

1. Bake the cake batter you will use to make the hearts from. I used a square tin and cut into slices. I also used a rectangular pan on the second batch. Either works fine… Just work out how to you get the most hearts from each tin.
2. Once the cake is cooled, use your cookie cutter to cut out hearts. NOTE: I put the hearts into a Tupperware container and put them in the freezer overnight (a few hours will work to). I found this helped to keep the heart shape and prevented them from crumbling) – much easier to handle.
3. Line your cupcake pans with patty liners and place two tablespoons of cupcake batter into each liner.
4. Place a heart into each liner (pointy end down), and push to the bottom of the liner.
5. Put an additional tablespoon of batter over the top and bake for required time.
6. Allow to cool and decorate as you wish.

I did some sample cupcakes… Didn’t want to waste a whole batch and get it wrong. So tried out two ideas and wanted to share this with you so you can see the difference.
The cupcake on the left shows you how the cupcake would turn out if you put a tablespoon of batter over the heart… The cupcake on the right is how it would turn out if you didn’t put the extra batter over the top.

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Here’s a YouTube tutorial I found. This video includes a vanilla bean cake recipe you could use, but like I said, if using your own recipe, you can skip the beginning of this video.

Hope you have as much fun as I did with this! Let me know how you go.
Happy Baking!

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Here are some additional sites you can visit that demonstrate this technique
http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/537431/hidden-heart-cupcakes

Ombre Cakes


Petal Technique – Ombre!

One of my girlfriends is having her second baby…. a boy! I volunteered to make her baby cake and decided on everything blue.. Ombre style! I’ve put together this little tutorial for you all so you can also learn how to make these fabulously simple, but effective cakes! My main issue with the petal technique… I found my lines were not very straight. Even though I thought I was following the correct line, I had some “waves” happening. With more practice, I’m sure it would be easier to make each dot the correct size and length, etc.

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What you will need:
Cake(s)
Frosting
Teaspoon or spatula
Piping bag
Round piping tip

Cake Ingredients:
Depending on the number of layers you want to create, double this batch.
Melted butter, to grease
450g (3 cups) self-raising flour
150g (1 cup) plain flour
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
300g butter, cubed, at room temperature
310ml (1 1/4 cups) milk
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla essence
Desired food colouring

Crisco Butter Cream Frosting
Makes around 3 cups
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
additional 1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted icing mixture
2 tablespoons milk
Desired food colouring

OR

Classic American Butter Cream Frosting
Makes around 2.5cups
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
3-4 cups icing mixture, SIFTED
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Desired food colouring

Method (Cake):

  1. Preheat oven to 140°C. Position a rack on the second lowest shelf of the oven. Brush a round 25cm (base measurement) cake pan with the melted butter to lightly grease. Line base and sides with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place the self-raising flour, plain flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric beater to beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until just combined. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and all the butter is incorporated.
  3. Divide mixture in two (or if batch doubled, in four). Add desired food colouring to each batch until desired colour reached. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cool.

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Method (Frosting):

In large bowl, cream shortening (or if using American frosting all butter) and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add icing mixture, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all icing mixture has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.
For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.
For stiff consistency, add more icing mixture until desired consistency achieved.

Divide frosting into even batches (depending on number of colours you want to do). Add food colouring to each batch until desired colour achieved. Add more icing mixture if frosting becomes too thin!

Put a light coat of butter cream over the cake. This is your crumb layer and will give you a smooth, even surface to start decorating on.

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Here’s a cute tutorial I found on Cake Central by ‘The Hungry Housewife’. I’ve also included her youtube video which clearly shows each step!

http://cakecentral.com/b/tutorial/blue-ombre-petal-cake-tutorial

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Here’s my first attempt!! Hope you all enjoy this. X

Happy Baking

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References:
http://savorysweetlife.com/2010/03/buttercream-frosting/

DIY Worm Tower


How to make your own Worm Tower

When Matt and I started to put ideas together on how to re-landscape our back and front yards, we both agreed we wanted a practical, semi-low maintenance garden that was still gorgeous to look out on. What does this mean exactly?… we wanted to keep growing our own fruit, vegetables and herbs (or at least attempt to), add vibrant colours with suitable companion plants and plants that would attract bees, but most importantly… keep the cost of watering and fertilising to manage and cost effective levels. When we first purchased our property and added two raised gardens beds, along with the current retaining wall garden beds, we didn’t realise how much extra water would be required (in the heat of Summer) to maintain the plants. Well, that’s not to say we didn’t realise that the plants needed watering, more that we were shocked at how much water we actually ended up using when we received our quarterly water bill. So, with the house being renovated, this was our opportunity to create a more self-sustaining garden environment.

Since we couldn’t alter the front retaining walls, we decided to simply add several in-ground composting systems with worms. We wanted to try to modify a wicking bed system, but since the fruit trees are well established, we decided to leave this for the meantime and just stick with composting. We are still researching ways to minimise water usage… keep you posted.

We had been to a home show earlier this year and I recall seeing a lady selling in-ground composting systems. I tried googling this, but I could find what I was looking for. Instead, I stumbled across this website about Worm Towers and thought it was cheap to try, so if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t have spent a lot of money on it. I told Matt about my idea and that we would require some PVC piping to start the project. Well… my very resourceful hubby informed me that our local Leagues Club is under-going a renovation itself and he would speak with the site manager to see if they had any building materials they were discarding that we could use. We were in luck. They had metres of 100mm PVC piping. Perfect for our Worm Tower project.

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The Benefits of Worm Towers

Improves soil
Encourages earthworms
Takes kitchen scraps
Easy to make

What You Will Need

PVC Pipe about 100mm in diameter and 50-60cms in length
A drill to make holes in the pipe – at least 1/4 to 1/2 inches
Composting worms – recommended minimum 50 worms/tower
Shredded newspaper, aged manure, straw or other carbon rich organic materials
PVC Pipe Cover – same diameter as your pipe

I used 100mm piping at 60cm lengths. Matt did the handy work as I was very slow operating the drill and digging deep enough holes to bury the piping. I read a few posts on Worm Towers, and incorporated them together. You can find the links to these websites below.

We purchased our composting worms from Bunnings. They had two choices available and we ended up getting the
Dr Worms 1200 Essential Kit. Basically, we got 1200 live composting worms for $54.80.

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What To Do

Drill a bunch of small holes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter in the lower part of the pipe (lower 30cms). Dig holes to 30-40cm deep and bury the pipe (the end with the holes) in the garden bed, leaving the remaining amount above ground. Fill about one third of the tower with damp, shredded newspaper or other organic materials and add your worms. Add a few more inches of newspaper to bed the worms down, and cover with the lid. Let the worms settle in for a few days, then start adding handfuls of organic material to the tower.

The amount of organic matter the worms can handle at once will vary a little depending on the season and the temperature. If you consistently produce more organic waste than your worm tower can handle at one time, add another! Matt and I made six towers and placed them near each fruit tree in the retaining wall.

I haven’t been quite sure how much food waste to add to each tower, so I have been checking on them regularly to see how quickly the waste is being broken down and topping up bits at a time on a weekly basis. Seems to be going well so far! I’ve included a quick reference guide on what you should and should not be feeding your worms!

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I found this YouTube video posted by ‘Frank Gapinski’. This video features Leonnie Shanahan explaining how to build your own Worm Tower and keep your garden fertilised with worm castings the natural way. I found this extremely helpful when deciding how to add composting to our garden.

Hopefully this post helps you or at least points you in the right direction!

Sources:
http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/Build-a-Worm-Tower
http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/waste_services/documents/Worm%20Tower%20Guide.pdf
http://shaunsbackyard.com/535/worm-towers/

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Boeuf Bourguignon


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My brother, Michael, organizes a ‘world cuisine’ lunch or dinner were our friends and family can gather to catch up and enjoy good food. We pick a different theme each time we get together, the latest being French cuisine. We usually post on the Facebook page he created what each of us is going ot make, so we don’t make the same dishes. I choose to try the boeuf burguignon. Why did I chose this dish you ask?… well I forgot to prepare a meal and my husband kindly reminded me that the lunch was happening the Sunday just gone. Luckily, we were at the supermarket, so I quickly googled French cuisine and chose the first non-chicken based dish I could find (everyone else was doing chicken). I think this came out really nice. It is so simple to make and very tasty!

INGREDIENTS

1.2kg chuck steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 4cm cubes
1/4 cup plain flour
20g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
150g small button mushrooms
200g bacon, cut into 3cm cubes
12 eschalots or spring onions, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 cup red wine (such as shiraz or cabernet sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups beef consomme or stock (preferably home made)
1 bouquet garni
flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, to serve

METHOD

Step 1

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly coat meat with flour. Heat a large, ovenproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Add 10g butter and 2 teaspoons oil. When butter and oil are sizzling, add one-sixth of meat and cook for 6 minutes or until well browned on all sides. Transfer to a large plate. Repeat with remaining meat, adding more butter and oil as required.

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Step 2

Add mushrooms to casserole and cook, stirring often, until golden. Transfer to a plate and set aside until required. Add bacon, eschalots and carrot to casserole. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until golden. Drain away any remaining oil. Pour wine and consomme into casserole. Bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen sediment on base of casserole. Return beef to casserole with bouquet garni. Cover and place in oven.

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Step 3

Cook for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and add mushrooms. Return to oven, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Spoon casserole onto plates, garnish with parsley and serve with Pommes Anna (recipe published soon).

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Try this for yourself and let me know what you think? What other French inspired dishes do you like?

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Bouquet Garni


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The bouquet garni (French for “garnished bouquet”) is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption.

There is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most recipes include thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may also include parsley, basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon. Vegetables such as carrot, celery (leaves or leaf stalks), celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes included in the bouquet.

Sometimes, the bouquet is not bound with string, and its ingredients are filled into a small sachet, a net, or even a tea strainer, instead. Traditionally, the aromatics are bound within leek leaves, though a coffee filter (or cheesecloth) and butcher twine can be used, instead.

Dishes made with a bouquet garni include:

Boeuf bourguignon
Pot au feu
Brown Windsor soup
Poule au pot
Carbonnade flamande
Lapin chasseur
Blanquette de veau
Ossobuco
Bouillabaisse
Court-bouillon
French onion soup
Cassoulet

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquet_garni

Devil’s Food Cake Recipe


You can never go wrong with a Devil’s Food Cake… I came across this recipe a very long time ago and I love it! The trick with this recipe (as with all) is to read all the way through first.

“While you’re making it, don’t panic. The mixture will seem very runny for ages once the chocolate has melted and you will think you have a liquid gleaming glaze, beautiful but unfit for purpose; leave it for about an hour, as stipulated, though, and it will be perfect and spreadable. It never quite dries to the touch, but this is, in part, what makes the cake so darkly luscious. Goo here is good.”

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Recipe by Nigella Lawson

for the cake:
50g best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
100g dark muscovado sugar
250ml boiling water
125g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
150g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs

for the frosting:
125ml water
30g dark muscovado sugar
175g unsalted butter cubed
300g best-quality dark chocolate finely chopped
2 x 20cm sandwich tins

Method

Serves: 10 – 12

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line the bottoms of both sandwich tins with baking parchment and butter the sides.
  3. Put the cocoa and 100g dark muscovado sugar into a bowl with a bit of space to spare, and pour in the boiling water. Whisk to mix, then set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating well until pale and fluffy; I find this easiest with a freestanding mixer, but by hand wouldn’t kill you.
  5. While this is going on – or as soon as you stop if you’re mixing by hand – stir the flour, baking powder and bicarb together in another bowl, and set aside for a moment.
  6. Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar – mixing all the while – then drop in 1 egg, quickly followed by a scoopful of flour mixture, then the second egg.
  7. Keep mixing and incorporate the rest of the dried ingredients for the cake, then finally mix and fold in the cocoa mixture, scraping its bowl well with a spatula.
  8. Divide this fabulously chocolatey batter between the 2 prepared tins and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Take the tins out and leave them on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes, before turning the cakes out to cool.
  10. But as soon as the cakes are in the oven, get started on your frosting: put the water, 30g muscovado sugar and 175g butter in a pan over a low heat to melt.
  11. When this mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirling the pan so that all the chocolate is hit with heat, then leave for a minute to melt before whisking till smooth and glossy.
  12. Leave for about 1 hour, whisking now and again – when you’re passing the pan – by which time the cakes will be cooled, and ready for the frosting.
  13. Set one of the cooled cakes, with its top side down, on a cake stand or plate, and spread with about a third of the frosting, then top that with the second cake, regular way up, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides, swirling away with your spatula. You can go for a smooth look, but I never do and probably couldn’t.

 http://www.nigella.com/

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Restoring casement windows


House Renovation Continuation…

Matt and I decided to change the current windows (which are aluminium, sliding frames) and keep with the Queenslander look of the home. We started looking for casement windows and ended up purchasing a few different styles, ranging in price from $2 to $50 each. We ended up purchasing around 10-15, all requiring some serious TLC! We thought to put these windows in the second bathroom, main bedroom, garage and potentially in the current bedrooms. But honestly, we have I think, 4 different styles of windows, so it’s a matter of figuring out how many we can restore and reuse, to determine where we actually end up putting them. So here’s hoping it works out!

Now, as usual… We have fabulous ideas and no idea how to actually make it happen, so I YouTube some videos on how to restore casement windows. I’ve compiled a few videos I thought were the most helpful in terms of order of restoration, tools required, and how to reassemble. Hopefully you find these helpful with your project!

This YouTube video by ‘Garden Fork’ shows how to remove the old putty and refill.

This video by ‘Marc Bagala’ shows a full restoration from start to finish, however, there’s no talking so you really need to watch what he does. I thought this video was helpful in terms of showing me what needed to be done.

Now, this PDF is a couple of pages but lists the general tools you need to complete this project and a step-by-step written tutorial. Handy for those who can’t access YouTube or want to take some information away with them when they shop for the tools needed, et cetra.

http://www.familyhandyman.com/windows/repair/how-to-glaze-a-window-single-pane

My attempts at window restoration!

Now, before I watched all these YouTube tutorials, I thought, how hard could this really be. Matt and I knew what roughly needed to be done, so we went out and bought a heat-gun (how ironic that my first ‘power tool’ should turn out to be an industrial hair-dryer! lol). I got my work area setup and started to strip the paint. It was all going well until I had to strip the fiddly bits around the glass. Unsurprisingly, I ended up cracking 2 window panes. So… Matt and I re-evaluated our method and I jumped on YouTube.

Here’s my second attempt. 10-August-2013. I removed all the old putty and took the glass panes out. I only cracked 1 piece of glass and that was due to the putty being extreme resilient and I ended up putting too much pressure on the glass in my attempts to remove the putty. Needless to say… I was very proud of my efforts.

I then used the heat gun and started to strip the paint. Much easier when you’re not worrying about glass. And I used an orbitol sander to start finishing the prep. I still have to use a fine sand paper on the frame and hand sand the detailing around the glass panes. But… I’m getting there, that’s the most important thing!

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I’ll keep you posted with my progress and take pictures as I go… So looking forward to the finished product! It might take me a few months though…