Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Carrot Cake with Vanilla Mascarpone Icing

...or should I call it 'blackmail cake'. Why you ask? Well, because I have received a blackmail threat from someone. If I don't bake carrot cake, a certain email will be sent to certain someone about a certain discussion that never happened but would still cost me my dignity and reputation. Not that I have any of those left to be honest.

After several weeks of harassment, I finally gave in to the threat and I baked this carrot cake with vanilla mascarpone icing. I absolutely love how light this cake is and I always love a bit of citrus with carrot cake. Though I often go with orange when baking carrot cake, I happened to have some lemons at home and it worked just as delicious, if not more I say. I have tried it with limes too and it's really good.

Instead of the usual super sweet cream cheese frosting, I opted for mascarpone and vanilla seed icing which is utterly delicious. And because mascarpone cheese is less tangy than cream cheese, it doesn't need as much sugar which is always good. But do as you please, obviously.

The blackmailer was well happy and satisfied and now demanded a pecan pie... *sigh...

Carrot Cake with Vanilla Mascarpone Icing
Recipe by Me
Makes 16 slices

For the cake
175 gr golden caster sugar
150 ml olive oil (the regular stuff, not extra virgin)
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 gr coarsely grated carrots
200 gr self-raising flour
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing
250 gr mascarpone
250 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or use the seed from 1 vanilla pod
3 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 C and lightly grease and line the base of a 23 cm square tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth. Add the grated carrots and mix well. Sift the dry ingredients over the bowl and stir together gently. Pour the cake mixture to the tin and spread evenly and then bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until nicely risen, golden and springy to the touch. Remove the cake from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Make the icing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Make sure the cake has cooled completely before you begin to ice. Roughly ice the cooled cake, nothing too smooth and cut into slices as you desire.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Marshmallow Brownies

I think it's no longer a surprise that on Fridays, I bring sweet treats to work. And yesterday was no exception. I brought in marshmallow brownies which ruined the January diets for some people. I am not apologising because they do have the options not to have them, but honestly, who could resist?! They're just set on top and still squidgy underneath, just like what brownies should be. These brownies are quite rich and I find eating one portion of it with a cup of coffee or teat or whatever you fancy, is just enough to satisfy my sweet craving. Though I bet some people who had two pieces would beg to differ :)

To my surprise yesterday when I presented the brownies to my colleagues, my manager called everyone to her office and I thought we're about to have a meeting. And then I was presented with a home-made card, saying 'thinking of you'. I opened it and it was a thank you card from everyone and a rather beautiful picture of Queen Elisabeth II on a £50 note. I was shocked. I love bringing treats to work but of course, I never expected anyone to pay for it. When I see my friends' face expressions enjoying my home creations and when I hear them making delicious 'hmmm' and 'ahhh' noises, I am already happy and that's enough for me. But this is just a lovely gesture and to that I say Thank You.

Have a great weekend everyone! And if you celebrate Chinese New Year, Gong Xi Fat Choi! Have a wonderful celebration!

Marshmallow Brownies
Recipe by Me
Makes 16 slices

250 gr unsalted butter
200 gr good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
150 grams plain four
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
250 grams golden caster sugar
pinch of salt
150 grams mini marshmallow

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a 30 cm square tin with baking paper. In a heatproof glass or metal bowl, melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Once melted, let cool a little.

In another bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla. Then measure all the dry ingredients, the flour, cocoa powder, golden caster sugar and pinch of salt. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla to the cooled chocolate and butter mixture, mixing well, then followed by the dry ingredients. Fold most of the mini marshmallows, reserving a handful to sprinkle on top.

Pour the brownie mixture to the tin and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Though I'd suggest to check after 20 minutes as ovens do vary. The top should be set, but underneath still a bit gooey. Allow to cool a little before slicing and eating...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

If you've been reading this blog for sometime, I'm sure you've heard of my work colleague and dear friend Michelle who is often known as the girl who doesn't eat gluten (and has no dragon tattoo). Michelle comes around quite often to mine for dinner or just a cup of coffee and the best thing about having her around, apart from the wonderful company, is she'll then do all washing up!

Last Friday was her last working day as she got a new job at a different department. I am happy for her for getting the job, but sad at the same time though she's only moving to a different building. On her last day I baked this old-fashioned chocolate cake for her. For obvious reason that Michelle is allergic to gluten, I swapped the all-purpose/plain flour with gluten-free flour and I added a bit more sour cream for extra moisture and it worked fine. Also to really bring out the chocolate flavour, I added a couple teaspoons of instant espresso powder to the batter.

The sugar flower decorations are purely for aesthetic reason and there is no need for them; the cake is lovely as it is, but I just can't help it. In the book, Nigella puts some flowery decorations on the cake and I just had to do the same.  

Also not forgetting to mention, this is my entry for this month's Forever Nigella challenge hosted by Maison Cupcake.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Singapore-style noodles

Singapore-style noodles has got to be one of my favourite dishes when eating out at Chinese restaurant or when ordering Chinese take-out (yes, I order take-out sometime. Give me a break...). I don't know if this dish is actually originated from Singapore even though it's called Singapore-style. I've been there several times and never came across it there to be honest.

But never mind, I don't really care what it's called as long as it tastes delicious. I particularly love the addition of curry powder here which also gives the distinctive golden colour to the translucent vermicelli noodles. Some recipes call for ground turmeric, but I definitely prefer curry powder for the flavour.

Like many other stir-fry dishes, I suppose there is also no fixed rule what's in Singapore-style noodles. You can use any vegetables and proteins you like or have in the fridge. This is no doubt quick cooking, though you do need to prepare all the ingredients beforehand. But if I tell you, I bought the vegetables already cleaned, chopped and ready to cook in a bag called 'stir-fry mix', would you think less of me?

There is no exact recipe here because as I said, you can add anything you like but the general idea is: on a very hot wok, add a bit of oil. Groundnut or vegetable oil is fine, but I like to use the garlic infused oil for extra flavour. Then stir fry freshly grated ginger with finely diced fresh red chilli. I then add some chopped bacon, diced chicken breast (or prawns would be lovely too), salt and black pepper and the curry powder, and because I want a lot of flavour, I add a bit of garam masala. Cook for a couple of minutes. I then add the content of my lazy veg bag which includes thinly sliced onions, beansprouts, cabbage, red peppers and carrots. Stir-fry for another minute or so before adding the rice noodles, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stirring well to combine. If you want to add some beaten eggs at this stage, you may do so if you want to. Season with toasted sesame oil and taste if it needs more seasoning. I like to serve my Singapore-style noodles with some finely chopped fresh coriander. But if you're not a fan of coriander, perhaps some finely sliced spring onions, or simply just eat it as it is.

I admit the photo is not the best... I was starving and it was not the time to fiddle around. However, believe me, it was delicious.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Cappuccino Pavlova

I woke up this morning thinking today can't be the 4th already, meaning I have to go back to work. I hope I'm not too late at saying happy new year to all of you. Hope you all had a wonderful celebration with family and friends. My friends and I spent the new year in Edinburgh, Scotland and it was brilliant. We stayed in a beautiful apartment hotel and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with such nice company.

But I was glad to be back home. I love the comfort of my own bed. After days of eating out, I struggled a bit at deciding the first dish to cook in the new year. But at the end I decided to cook the exact same dish I had a year ago: poached chicken with lardons and lentils (find the recipe here). Reason number one, it's delicious, obviously; and reason number two, lentils signify good fortune, wealth and prosperity in some cultures. I had a pretty good year last year and I'm hoping 2012 would be an even better year to all of us.

And of course, I also have to start the new year with something sweet and this cappuccino pavlova is simply divine. I love coffee based desserts anyway, like tiramisu (all time favourite dessert), so this is heaven on a plate, in my mouth and my stomach. The pavlova base here is infused with instant espresso powder and then topped with softly whipped cream and dusting of cocoa powder which gives the pavlova the cappuccino look. I think you'll enjoy this.

Cappuccino Pavlova
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.