german chocolate cupcakes

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I made cupcakes. And lemme tell you, they were goooood. After a long, hard last day of a long, hard week, all it took was some baking for me to de-stress. Yes, I’ve been away, but for legit reasons – we started seeing patients! A particularly noteworthy, much dreaded milestone was reached Monday morning when, at 9am, I led my first ever living, breathing human patient into my allocated little cubicle. Not gonna lie, for the entire appointment I thought I was going to shit my pants and run out crying, swearing to leave dentistry for good. It was extremely nerve-racking, which given the circumstances is perfectly normal, but I tried my hardest to put on my most professional face, instead of doing the whole eyes staring wide in horror thing that one tends to gravitate towards under extreme stress.

Other than a lot of waiting for my supervisor to come by and check every step, and a few minor brain-farts, it was fine – I did it! No manslaughter was committed, no one got jabbed by a bloody needle; although a nervous breakdown was imminent…

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Of the million things that Australia has yet to catch up to the rest of the world with, German chocolate cake is certainly one of them, in my experience. Ever since I heard of it, I’ve been intrigued by the supposedly amazing gooey coconut-pecan filling. I finally went down to business with them last time after spotting pecans that were on sale, and you can guess how many times I resisted the temptation and failed to sneak bits of that caramelly filling while I was making the batter. I even poked holes in the centres of each cupcake and filled them with leftover caramel from the marshmallows I made before (that recipe will eventually get up on the blog… one of these days… maybe), but even then they were overly sweet, thanks to the dark chocolate and the other complex flavours from the roasted coconut and pecans.

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German chocolate cupcakes (makes 12)

For the chocolate cupcakes:
125g or 2 extra large whole eggs
60g white sugar
20g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12g cocoa powder
60g just-boiled water
56g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter, softened
100g flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
118g buttermilk (or 50% milk, 50% plain yogurt)

For the filling:
50g sugar
25g water
45g sweetened condensed milk
50g glucose1 tsp vanilla
25g butter
pinch of salt
25g toasted flaked/shredded unsweetened coconut
48g chopped pecans

For the chocolate buttercream:
110g unsalted butter
60g icing sugar
pinch of salt
40g dark chocolate
20g heavy cream

To mix the batter, whip the eggs with the sugars and vanilla until the foam barely drips down when you lift the whisk (ribbon stage). Pour the hot water over the cocoa and stir, then add the chocolate to melt. To the chocolate mixture, whisk in the soft butter until combined. Stream into the egg mixture while folding gently but efficiently, using big strokes from the bottom of the bowl, being careful not to deflate the eggs too much. Sift the dry ingredients together and add about 1/3 of it to the batter, again being very gentle. Add in half of the buttermilk, fold to combine, add 1/3 of the flour again, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Scoop evenly into lined cupcake holes and bake in a preheated oven at 175C for 21-22 mins or until springy to the light touch. Leave in pan until cooled enough to touch, then cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling, boil the sugar, water, condensed milk, glucose and vanilla together until it thickens a bit, approximately 3 mins. Then add the butter and salt and boil for a further 30 seconds before adding the coconut and pecans. Cover and cool completely before using.

For the buttercream, whip the butter by itself for a few minutes until the colour lightens, then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Boil the cream and add it to the chocolate to make a ganache, and add it to the butter-sugar mixture once it’s completely cool (can place in freezer for a minute to speed up process), along with the salt. Beat until the mixture is a homogenous, glossy, chocolatey, delicious cloud.

Scoop about a tablespoon’s worth of filling onto each cupcake, then pipe a ring of buttercream around it. Homemade chocolate sprinkles to serve.

coconut layer cake

A.K.A white coconut cake with orange-lemon curd and raspberry preserves covered with cream cheese icing and toasted coconut, but that would be less catchy and to the point.

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tis a very messy job

White cake is my sexuality. Just kidding, it’s chocolate, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t deliberately cut off more of the domed top than necessarily for a little (or a lot) taste test.

After the melty drama of my sister’s birthday cake, I decided to go a safer but no less delicious route this time. A coconut layer cake with not one, but two fruity surprises between the layers in the forms of lemon-orange curd and raspberry preserves.

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Actually, I’m not sure mum (the intended recipient and birthday gurl) likes coconut cake. It’s a bet, but a safe one I hope. She does cook with coconut cream quite a lot, and enjoys drinking right out of one, so maybe this’ll go well. I’ll report back.

(Update: I think it went down okay; we were all too engrossed in TV to pay much attention to the taste and before we knew it the whole thing was gone. My sister sang happy birthday while I played the recorder, for some reason.)

I’m preparing the components in advance because a) uni results are released tomorrow 6am and a depressed baker equals shit cake; b) I’ve just finished binge-watching 4 shows and need to return to normalcy.

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optional: sprinkle more desiccated coconut on top for a crunchy top

Like a lot of white cakes, this uses the reverse creaming method which is known for making the texture velvety and tender. In fact, with the addition of cake flour, this turned out so tender I had to be extra careful moving the layers around. Flavour-wise, I don’t have and therefore didn’t use coconut extract, but from what I sampled the cake had a pleasant mild coconut flavour, not too on-the-nose and artificial.

 

Coconut layer cake (makes a 5″ 3-layer cake)

For the coconut cake:
136g cake flour
136g granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
90g unsalted butter
95g unsweetened coconut milk, shaken
2 egg whites
45g milk
25g unsweetened desiccated coconut

For the cream cheese coconut frosting:
90g cream cheese
45g unsalted butter
150g icing sugar, sifted
~3 tbsp coconut milk

To assemble:
unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1/4 of the citrus curd recipe
raspberry preserves or jam

Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F, and prepare a 5″ tin. To make the cake, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into the mixing bowl. Cut the room temperature butter into small chunks. With the mixer on low speed, drop in the butter chunk by chunk until the mixture is a fine crumble (no visible butter). Trickle in the coconut milk and mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.

Lightly whisk the egg whites until frothy, then add the milk. With the mixer on low, drizzle in this mixture until batter is smooth. Scrape the bowl and paddle if you need to, then mix the batter on medium-high for about 30 seconds. Fold in the coconut.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes. At the same time you can toast the shredded coconut for about 10 minutes until golden. Check the cake at 30 minutes to see if the centre is done. Once done, cool in the tin until okay to handle, then remove from tin and cool on a rack. Slice into 3 even layers.

To make the frosting, beat the toom temperature cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the sifted icing sugar in several additions, beating well in between. Depending on the consistency, add the coconut milk a teaspoon at a time so that it’s not too runny and still holds its shape.

To assemble the cake, make sure all components are cooled completely. I like to freeze the cake layers as they’re then less likely to break apart. I brushed the layers with a little more of the coconut milk, which is optional. I spread the frosting on top of the first two layers, followed by curd and preserves. Depending on the status/stability of the cake, you may want to give it a thin crumb coat first, or just slather the frosting all over. Press the toasted coconut onto the sides (and top if you like) to decorate.

coconut macarons

 

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I wish macarons tasted disgusting so I wouldn’t try to make them so much. Unfortunately they unequivocally live up to their prestigious reputation in the pastry world, the crème de la crème of French pastries if you will. The little dainty princesses also have a reputation for being extremely difficult and fastidious. I couldn’t count the times I’ve failed on both hands and feet, I might as well be making macawrongs. Some 70% of the time the top will crack no matter how long I dry them, other times the top will be browned and the underside gummy and stuck to the paper, or they don’t develop feet at all, or they spread like hell, etc., etc. I may have crumpled to the floor in defeat a few times and leaked fluids out of my eyes, ahem.

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Now that I think about it, most of those failed attempts can be attributed to simply not being bothered to follow through the procedures. Whether it’s cooking the sugar to the right temperature if I’m using the Italian method, or drying out the shells, or spacing them far apart enough during piping; one little mistake is more than likely to ruin the entire thing. And that would be easier to swallow if not for the costs involved, not to mention the time and effort. I mean, almond flour don’t grow on trees (ok technically it does but that stuff is why storebought macarons cost a fortune).

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I’d principally like to thank Sift & Whisk and her picture-perfect macarons for inspiring me to take the ill-fated leap today. I wanted to make something also coconut flavoured to go with the cake, and so the idea for these were born. I made a pastry cream with the leftover coconut milk to fill these with, and to be honest, the whole thing turned out pretty great. It must’ve been the pressure from the prospect of publishing a post (<– dat alliteration).

The tops of the shells turned out a little uneven because of the drop in temperature when I pulled them out of the oven from drying them (it was raining so I dried them in a very low oven to accelerate the process). But even then I’d call this a triumph, you would too if you’ve seen some of the atrocities that have happened in my kitchen *traumatic flashbacks*. And there was a scary moment when the pastry cream threatened to split, because there were no more eggs, but thankfully it was all good after a chill and it came back together.

The next step is to master the French meringue method now that I’m finding the Italian much more reliable but having a denser interior. But for now, it looks like I’m on my way to breaking my own record of eating dozens of macarons in a row.

 

Coconut macarons (makes 40 smallish filled cookies)

For the shells:
104g almond meal
104g icing sugar
1 large egg white or 35g (1)
104g caster sugar*
26g water
1 large egg white or 35g (2)

*I’ve used raw or golden caster sugar to great results. It doesn’t tinge the natural white colour of the batter.

For the coconut pastry cream filling:
1 large egg yolk or 20g
15g caster sugar (1)
12g corn flour
125g coconut milk, unsweetened
15g caster sugar (2)
20g butter

Sift the almond meal and icing sugar together a few times. Using a food processor would give rise to a finer mixture but sifting alone works for me. To this almond and icing mixture add the first portion of egg white, and mix until you have a very thick, uniform paste.

In a pot bring the caster sugar and water to a boil and wait for it to reach 115ºC/239ºF. Then simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg white to soft peaks. When the sugar syrup reaches 118ºC/244ºF immediately take it off the heat and pour over the egg whites while still whisking. It’s possible to tell the right stage by spooning a little syrup into cold water and feeling the consistency with your fingers. If it forms a firm ball that can still be squished, it’s ready. Keep whisking on high speed until the mixture is about 50ºC/122ºF, or when the bowl is warm but not hot to the touch.

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busting the myth that hand beaters can’t do Italian meringue (just be v careful)

Take about half of the whipped whites and fold into the almond paste mixture, then fold in the other half. Now we need to do le macaronage (sounds like a dance), where you fold some 20+ times until the consistency thins a little and just flows back into the bowl like lava. I like to scrape around the bowl then press down in the middle with a spatula.

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heyy macarena! I mean macaronage…

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Transfer as much of the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round tip as you’re comfortable holding. Pipe out equal amounts of batter in desired shapes/sizes, spacing any two at least 2cm apart on a lined baking sheet. Glue down the baking paper with a dab of the mixture if you like.

Then bang the sheets down on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Even after a long hard spank ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) mine still retained unpopped bubbles at the surface, so I took a toothpick to them.

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If you’d like to add insurance that the tops won’t crack, you can leave them to dry until the tops are no longer wet to the (very gentle) touch. Alternatively turn the oven on very low, turn it off and dry the shells inside. Take them out before you preheat.

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Now, everyone has their own way of baking; starting out on a higher temperature and gradually decreasing it is my preferred way, because otherwise I get short feet, burned tops and gooey insides. Also, I tried not insulating the bottom with a second sheet, and it helped crisping up the bottom as opposed to a wet one.

Bake at 160ºC/320ºF in the middle of the oven until they start developing feet. Then turn it down to 150ºC/302ºF to continue cooking. If they start browning you can put a sheet of foil on top. Lift up one of the shells in the centre to see if the bottom comes away clean, if so they’re ready; if not keep them in a while longer.

Cool them down before peeling them off the paper, I learned this the hard way. Match pairs of similar sizes and set aside until ready to fill.

To make the coconut pastry cream, heat the coconut milk and one part of the sugar till almost boiling. In the meantime whisk together the yolk and sugar until pale, then add the corn flour. Pour in a little of the hot milk at a time and keep whisking until the yolk mixture is tempered. Pour the entire mixture back into the pot and continue to whisk on medium heat to bubble for a minute. It should be thickened and leaving tracks when you whisk. Sieve the mixture onto the butter and mix to melt the butter. Put cling film on the surface and chill in the fridge until completely cool and set.

Pipe out or spoon the filling onto one of the shells, top it with the other shell and gently sandwich them together.

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They’re darn good now but even better when the flavours mature and the filling moistens the interior, about a day refrigerated. Bring up to room temperature when ready to eat.

baked cheesecake w/ blueberry compote

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I am officially out of exam hell. Well, not officially because whether I passed this year remains to be seen, but for the moment I am done with studying. *Inserts Frodo “It’s Over Sam” meme* After weeks of SWOTVAC and 4 exams in awkwardly spaced succession, freedom and guiltless procrastination welcome me as an old friend. In the 6 hours following our last exam, we’ve grabbed Korean food, watched a movie and I’ve made my first cake in what feels like forever.

Can you be horny for baking? I certainly was frustrated and experiencing internal turmoil, ready to burst out a whisk and give birth to cake. Don’t even ask. I actually struggled not being able to decide what to make; it was a toss between blueberry braided bread and orange cardamom rolls. Yesterday I was seriously craving cinnamon buns too, or as I call them, SINnamon buns. But my mother, the ultimate cheesecake lover, had already seen cheesecake topped with blueberry sauce being made on TV and demanded that I replicate it. Suits me just fine.

I was reviewing some of my existing posts and to my dismay, so far I’ve failed to admit the mishaps and little accidents, and how I attempted to amend them. That would be completely missing the point of documenting my adventures as an aspiring home baker. So I’ll be forward and say that I, despite making mental notes, totally forgot to prebake the crust. Honestly, it turned out fine and quite flavourful, but I felt like an idiot the second I poured the filling onto the raw biscuit base. I blame the brain cells I’ve lost to all the last-minute cramming sessions in the past month.

With the addition of lemon zest and juice, as well as using yogurt for the dairy instead of the more commonly used cream or sour cream, this is definitely more tangy than the average vanilla cheesecake. Which is a welcome personality considering the sweet fruit topping.

As you can see from the single photo above, the cheesecake barely looks baked with its smooth sides and lack of browning. Does anyone else prefer their cheesecakes to be more custardy in texture than floury? I have nothing against a cheesecake with a beautifully golden crust and puffed rim, this is just the way I prefer as I think baking low and slow ensures creamy texture every time.

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Baked cheesecake w/ coconut biscuit base + blueberry compote
(makes one v tall 5″ cake)

For the coconut biscuit base:
55g flour
15g unsweetened desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter, softened

For the cheesecake filling:
250g cream cheese
80g white granulated sugar
2 eggs
200g full-fat plain Greek yogurt
zest & juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the blueberry compote:
150g blueberries (frozen works fine)
1-2 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
zest & juice of half a lemon

Before starting out, make sure to bring all the ingredients to room temperature, which only took a minute under the 34°C heat today. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F.

For the biscuit base, mix together the flour, coconut and salt until evenly distributed. Then add the softened butter and mix until a dough/paste forms. Press it into a buttered and bottom-lined tin (but not floured) tightly in an even layer and bake for about 10 minutes until slightly browned. Set aside.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Avoid beating at too high a speed as it could lead to cracking. Add the vanilla, lemon and eggs one at a time and mix until the batter is homogenous and glossy. Scrape down the sides if there are unmixed bits clinging to the bowl, and give it one last quick spin just to even out the lumps.

Pour the batter into the tin onto the baked biscuit base. Bang the tin gently a few times so the air bubbles can rise to the top. Place in the middle of the oven. On the bottom rack place a pan with hot water so as to retain moisture and gently cook the cheesecake. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the outside is set and the centre is wobbly and jelly-like when you gently shake the tin. In the last 10 minutes you may like to turn off the oven and keep the oven door slightly ajar so there’s no rapid drop in temperature which can make the top sink down.

Once it completely cools down, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled and set, about 2 hours. Don’t remove from the tin until set as soft filling can easily collapse.

To make the compote, simply stew the blueberries with lemon and sugar on low-medium heat until the juice thickens and the blueberries are soft. It takes about 10 minutes. Leave to cool then cover and refrigerate.