We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches in New Zealand. I can count 6 that are all within a 10 minute drive from my home in East Auckland. I don’t often make it to the Western beaches as it takes around an hour to get to one, but they sure are worth the drive! The other week my friend and I made a day trip out of it and drove to Bethells Beach, a surf beach which also boasts a couple of caves. Bethells Beach is perfect for exploring and getting your daily exercise due, in part, to it’s sheer size- my calves sure felt it the next day!
Inside one of the caves
I’ve been making carrot cakes for years, it’s my Mum’s favourite cake and it’s one of mine. I say ‘one’ because nothing can come between me and my chocolate cake. Since I’ve made so many carrot cakes over the years, I’ve experimented with different ingredients and quantities, and in this recipe I believe I’ve nailed it: a triple layer cake that’s not too wet nor dry, filled with chunky walnut pieces and the perfect blend of spices. I think the spices take it to a new level. Often carrot cakes are too bland, with the only spice being cinnamon. This recipe has cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. A lot of carrot cakes have pineapple in them. It’s completely personal preference, but in my opinion the pineapple just doesn’t belong there! Of course if you disagree, feel free to add it in! The cake is topped off with a delicious cream cheese icing; an absolute must-have with carrot cake! And I’m sure nobody disagrees with that😉
1 & a 1/2 cups of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 & 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup walnut pieces
Cream Cheese frosting:
4 cups confectioners sugar
2 8 ounce packages (450g) of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162 degrees Celsius). Line 3 9-inch-diameter pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the sugar and the oil and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
- In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Mix well.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula, fold in until just combined. Then fold in the carrots and walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool pans on racks for 15 minutes then remove pans and allow cakes to cool completely. Once cooled completely, place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (this will make it easier to frost).
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Mix in the butter and beat until smooth. Sift in the confectioners sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add vanilla. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Milk can be added if frosting is too thick.
- Assemble: Using a long, serrated knife, layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Place one cake layer on serving plate or cake stand and evenly spread with frosting. Repeat with next 2 layers. Spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with chopped walnuts.
*Store frosted cake in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Unfrosted cake remains fresh if covered tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Happy Easter everyone!
This year I really wanted to make some macaroon nests and fill them with chocolate eggs. They just look so cute and I love pretty much anything with coconut! I experimented with the egg whites. The first batch was a runny disaster, as I didn’t beat the egg whites enough and added the sugar at the beginning. So the next time I beat them without the sugar until they were stiff, and then gradually added the sugar. You want to be a bit light-handed with this step, as dumping the sugar in all at once will deflate the peaks, so the best way is to add it like a fine rain. I like to put the sugar in a measuring jug, so it’s easy to pour little by little. This batch was a success, and I highly recommend toasting the coconut first, as it adds more flavour. These nests paired with chocolate eggs are pure bliss. Enjoy!
4 cups shredded coconut (not desiccated) temperature
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mini chocolate eggs (I used M&M’s crispy speckled eggs)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coconut out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then take out and stir to prevent burning, and bake for another 5 minutes. Set aside on a rack to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed using an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and keep mixing for another 5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the toasted coconut.
- Using an ice cream scoop (about 4 tbsp), place the balls onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart and gently press your thumb in the centre to create a nest. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
- Remove from baking sheet immediately and allow to cool completely on a rack. Once cool, fill each nest with mini chocolate eggs.
Note: Macaroon nests will keep covered at room temperature for 3 days or up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
I have been wanting to try my hand at making a caramel cake for quite some time, and after some research I decided to go with this recipe from Grandbaby Cakes. It’s an authentic, true Southern recipe and everything is done from scratch with no shortcuts, including the caramel. So you definitely don’t want to make this if you’re in a hurry! All the time and love put into this cake however, pays in dividends as you take that first bite of your masterpiece. It consists of a moist yet slightly dense yellow cake and a gooey caramel that is cooked on the stovetop for 1 and a half to 2 hours. This was my first time making caramel with evaporated milk and I started to get worried that it didn’t seem to be getting thick enough. Have faith though! In the end it thickened and turned out perfect. I made the cake the day before the caramel, which made things a little easier time-wise. If you’re looking for a cake that’s going to impress, this is the cake!
For the cake:
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 & a half cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour, sifted
6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
For Aunt Bev’s Caramel Icing:
3/4 cup (170g) butter
2 (12 ounce or 340ml) cans evaporated milk
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Make the cake: Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Spray 3 9 inch round cake pans with baking spray and line with parchment paper.
- In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil and sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale in colour and light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs and yolks one at a time and mix until well blended. Mix in the vanilla extract.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternate the flour mixture with the sour cream, ending with the flour and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.
- Pour batter into the 3 pans evenly and bake in preheated oven for 23-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. DO NOT OVER-BAKE THE CAKES (test them early). Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes in pans, then remove and allow to cool completely before icing.
- Make the caramel icing: Over medium heat, add butter, evaporated milk, and sugar to saucepan until everything has melted together. Mixture will come to a boil. Leave over medium heat, stirring periodically, for 1 and a half to 2 hours. (keep a watchful eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn). The caramel is ready once it has thickened and is a deep golden brown. To ensure thickness, it should coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and add vanilla. Cool for 15-20 mins before icing the cake.
I’ve been using coconut oil for a while now, I originally bought it as I heard it made a great face cleanser and I’ve recently starting including it in recipes. Chocolate cake is and always will be my favourite cake and I had a thought the other day when I went to make one, that I’d try replacing the vegetable oil with coconut oil. The result was a decadent, slightly denser cake with just a hint of coconut. I used ‘The Perfect Chocolate Cake‘ recipe from I Am Baker and simply switched the oils. I love this recipe because although it uses cocoa and not chocolate in the cake, it still tastes rich, which is not always the case with cocoa-based bakes. It also contains coffee, which helps to enhance the flavour of the chocolate. You can’t taste the coffee at all, so don’t be afraid to use it even if (like me) you hate coffee. To decorate this cake I used raspberry powder (which also lent a delicate flavour) and roses from the garden.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs (room temperature)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee (don’t skip this ingredient)
1 & 1/3 cup (8 oz or 225 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used 72%)
1 cup heavy cream
- Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (175 degrees celsius). Line and grease two 8 inch pans or one 10 inch pan.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add the sugar and salt and mix to combine.
- In a medium bowl, add the buttermilk, melted coconut oil, eggs and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir until just combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Make the ganache: chop chocolate into small pieces and place into a large heatproof bowl. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the cream until it’s just starting to boil. Pour over the chocolate and let stand for 10 minutes. Then stir the mixture gently, incorporating the cream steadily without overworking. The mixture should begin to appear glossy. Pour over cake and enjoy!