The past month has seen a fair bit of baking happen at my house, for no reason other than I’m bored.

As these haven’t filled the brief of ‘What shall I have for dinner?’ I haven’t been posting them, but today I was bored (and baking) and thought a nice little round up of my month in baking might be in order. Another benefit of actually posting as I’m baking? When someone asks for the recipe “for those delicious oat cookies you made the other day” I’d actually know where the hell it came from! (I suffer from a rare disorder – recipe amnesia.)

Please excuse the lack of photos for some of the offerings – it can be hard to handle a camera when you’re busy stuffing your face with baking!

So, brace yourself for an onslaught of sugar…

First up, Bread, Butter, Berry Teacake and Brownies. Does butter count as baking? I’m not sure, perhaps it should be put in the slightly more broad category of Farmyard Fixin’s?

Berry Teacake with Macaroon Topping
Recipe from Weight Watchers magazine March 2010

This one was a tough call when deciding what to bake, as I don’t actually like coconut, and what else is macaroon topping if not coconut. However, I’m a big girl, and I’m open to trying new things. Sometimes. I don’t really want to know about it if it involves a stripper and whipped cream. Anyway…

60g margarine
75g caster sugar
1 egg
185g self-raising flour
200g  berry yoghurt (I used plain yoghurt with a spoonful of boysenberry jam, because I like to be difficult)
2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used chopped up strawberries, because I’m cheap – honestly $7 for a punnet of blueberries?!)
1 egg white
2T castor sugar
50g shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line and grease a spring-form cake tin.

Beat marg, first lot of sugar and egg for a couple of minutes until well combined, then stir in flour and yoghurt. Gently fold in berries, then pour into tin and smooth top.

For the macaroon topping: whisk egg white until frothy, then stir in remaining sugar and shredded coconut. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. (NB. don’t be tempted to taste test this. It’s gross.)

Bake 40-45 mins until skewer comes out clean.

Mmmm, PacMan cake...

Unfortunately, I thought this cake suffered the eternal problem of all low-fat cakes – it was just a tad chewy and bland. My friends didn’t complain (well, come on, who the hell complains about free cake!), but I thought that the best thing about it was the macaroon topping. Which is saying a lot. Warmed up and covered in cream though, it made a pretty good dessert.

In case the Teacake wasn’t a success, I decided that I needed a back up, so at the last minute I whipped up a batch of low-fat brownies, originally known as Chocolate, Orange and Almond Slice, also from a Weight Watchers mag.

Deceptively chocolate looking slice

90g self raising flour
30g cocoa
27g ground almonds (just in case you didn’t know, Macro make the best almond meal, and it’s really cheap, around $5 for 400g, which is about a third of the price of other brands. It just means you have to shop at Woolworths or Thomas Dux)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g caster sugar
4 tubs of Nestle Chocolate Mousse
1 orange, juiced and zested OR a couple of big spoonfuls of jam, if the person you’re making it for happens to be allergic to citrus
80g dark choc bits
20g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to that ol’ favourite, 180°C (honestly, I don’t know why my oven even has other settings, this is the only one I ever use), and grease and line a 26 x 16cm slice tin.

Mix flour, cocoa and ground almonds together. In another bowl, beat eggs and castor sugar until white and fluffy, then gently fold through chocolate mousse.

Fold chocolate mixture into the flour, along with juice (or jam) and chocolate, then pour into tin. Sprinkle with ground almonds and bake for 20 mins. Once cool, cut in to 15 squares.

Again, we encounter the curse of the low-fat baker – edible, but nothing to write home about.

So, why was I baking cakes, and backup brownies, anyway? For quite some time now, there’s been a recipe that my friend and I have been dying to try. We saw it on a blog we both follow – it led to the following conversation:

J: “Did you see…?”
N: “The post on…”
J: “With the…”
J&N: “Hell yeah I did!”

What could inspire such a disjointed, sentence finishing conversation? What, exactly, could have us trying to rearrange schedules so that we could get together and try it out? Really, there can be only one thing. Butter. Yup, homemade butter. To be served, of course, with homemade bread. And a vegetable and tofu soup. We felt so provincial, sitting at the table, eating our “good honest fare”. Too many cooking shows, mayhap? Don’t worry, we dumbed it down by watching Bring it On 5 on DVD (why they bothered making this movie, I don’t know. Why Nikla spent good money buying this DVD, I also don’t know).

This one was more of a spectator sport for me, as Nikla is as much of a baking addict as I am, and she already had the bread proved (is that a word?) and ready to go in the oven when I arrived (with just one cake!). She got the recipe from Vanilla and Lace, and it was delicious. Being a perfectionist, Nikla commented that she had slightly undercooked it, but I, being a white bread connoisseur, gave it two thumbs up (I might have also made grunty noises of approval. I can’t guarantee that I didn’t).

And now for the butter. Why were we a) so excited about making butter, and b) bothering to make butter when you can buy it for under $1 at any supermarket in the world, practically? A) Because we’re Baking Geeks who like to try new things, and b) because it tasted about a million times better than store bought butter (I don’t actually eat butter, ever. On the rare occasion that I have something on my bread, it’s a low-fat margarine imitation of butter).

And c) it was so freakin’ easy, that I don’t know what all those dairy maids were complaining about! They all had Mix Masters, right? Because all you do is chuck some double cream in a food mixer and turn it on. Seriously, that’s it. For an actual recipe and directions, you could see Joy the Baker, but you don’t need any more than what I just said: Cream + mixer = butter. Oh alright, you need to chuck in some salt if you’re being truly pedantic about directions. But you’ll figure that out for yourself.

Cream being butterised

So, fresh homemade butter spread on fresh homemade bread? Let’s just say there wasn’t much change from the loaf of bread.

Ok, enough of baking as a spectator sport. On to the good stuff. The oat cookies. I made these because I was bored, and they sounded healthy: Golden Oaty Carrot Cookies – what could be unhealthy about that? Oh, right, the golden part. And maybe the cookie part. But who wants a plate of oats and carrot?

Recipe adapted from AWW Macaroons and Biscuits.

125g softened butter
220g light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
70g coarsely grated carrot
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1t ground cinnamon
90g rolled oats
1/2c dried currants, raisins or sultanas
1 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Beat butter, sugar and egg with an electric mixer. Stir in carrot, then sift in flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in oats and currants, and enough milk to make a firm dough.

Roll heaped teaspoons of dough in to balls, and place about 2cm apart on lined baking trays. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake 15 mins until golden, then cool on trays.

Take to work to get in good with co-workers, and to stop yourself from eating the entire batch. 44 cookies is an awful lot for one girl to get through!

I honestly forgot that these had carrot in them, and when people were saying “Do these have orange in them? Then what are these orange flecks?”, I had to say “Um, I don’t know. Just shut up and eat it before I take the cookie back, ok?”

There are no photos. I could take a photo of my puku, where most of the cookies now reside, but no-one really wants that.

And finally, for the good of animals everywhere (and perhaps a teensy-tiny little bit as a competition between the known bakers of my company) I introduce to you: RSPCA Cupcake Day. No, we don’t feed cupcakes to all of the animals to make them happy. We extort money from co-workers by forcing them to buy multiple cupcakes that they possibly don’t want, in order to raise money for the RSPCA. Simple really.

So, my offering was Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Mocha Meringue Icing (from Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache. P17. After the Ginger Millies and before the Orange Squash Cupcakes. Buy this book.)

3 medium eggs
180g raw sugar (the recipe states Demerara sugar, but none of my supermarkets – and yes, I have multiple – stocked it)
250g finely grated carrot
2 Tbsp strong coffee
120g rice flour
50g ground almonds
40g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
150g dark chocolate melts

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tray with cases.

Beat eggs and sugar for 5 mins until quadrupled in volume and extremely fluffy.

Mix in carrot and coffee until fully incorporated, then beat in flour, almonds, cocoa, baking powder and salt until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon in to paper cases to around 4/5 full. I’ve recently discovered that using an ice-cream scoop makes filling muffin trays waaaay easier.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 mins, then cool in the tin for 10 mins, then on a rack until cool.

So tempting! But don't be fooled - they taste like veggies when they're hot! Veggies and chocolate. Interesting.

When they’re cooled, ice with Meringue Icing with strong coffee mixed in.

Not coffee coloured vomit, I promise you

They’re supposed to be chocolate-covered coffee beans on top, but do you think I could find them for under $16 a packet? So they’re chocolate-coated peanuts instead. And really, the chocolate-coated is the important part. Of course, two days later I found coffee beans (at the chemist of all places) for $2.95. So I bought a packet and ate them, as a big up yours to the universe. That’ll teach that stupid universe.

I’m about ready to give up on meringue icing. Twice it hasn’t worked (while tasting delicious, it looks a little bit like someone threw up on my cupcakes), and that’s about my limit. I think I’ll stick with butter-cream icing from now on. Mmmm coffee butter-cream icing…

Anyway, I shall leave you with my colleagues contributions to Cupcake Day. And yes, I did sit down and make name cards for everyone’s cupcakes. I very cleverly combined their pet’s name with the type of cupcake. Sometimes I took a little creative licence – our family cat, Teapot, died when I was 11. But dammit, Jinx just didn’t go with anything, and mocha and Teapot was just so tempting!

A Berry Kiss for Bailey - I happen to know Bailey, and I wouldn't let him kiss me if you paid me.

So much effort in her Chocolate Labradors - and she didn't even have a pet to name them after! No surprises these were the first to go.

Fat Cat Dreams of a Rainbow - I was forbidden from naming these Fatty's Rainbow Dreams. Apparently he takes offense to being called Fatty.

Jetty is a Marmalade Marvel - or at least an Orange and Almond one.

Lucy Loves a Pumpkin - I desperately wanted to try one of these, but there are only so many cupcakes a girl should eat in one day.

Rupert's are better than Curtis' - Curtis being Curtis Stone of course. This recipe is to die for. Although I usually make mini cupcakes as they're chocolatey enough to trouble even the most dedicated among us.

Smalldog's Smallcakes - chocolate cupcakes, with chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles. Smalldog would be proud. And very ill.

Vanilla Monsters under Lucy's Bed - you'd think in an office environment, the grown up cupcakes would go before the ones with lolly faces on top. You'd be wrong.

All up, we had something in the realm of 120 cupcakes. We don’t have that many people in our office. There weren’t many left. Which is good news for the animals, who got $200! But bad news for the waistlines of House of Cakers.

Happy baking! (And eating, naturally)


P.S. If you made it through all of that in one sitting, you deserve a prize! Because I have to admit, it took me a week to write. So, tell me your hearts desire, and as long as it’s bakeable, I’ll bake it. And blog about it.

P.P.S. Please don’t ask for low-fat brownies, because none of us want to go down that route again. Feel free to ask for chocolate bread.