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The Hummingbird

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Hi everyone, I hope you have all been enjoying the long week-ends we’ve been lucky enough to have here in S.A lately – I know so many people took full advantage and put in some well deserved leave in the odd days and was able to really enjoy some time off with extended days due to the public holidays. 

As you know Easter has just come and gone and I decided since I had a great deal of extra time on my hands I would get a little creative and try something different. I know I’ve seen pictures in recipe books and heard stories about how awesome this cake was, but until I tried it I was rather skeptical. I mean I’m not a fan of pineapples, fresh or out the tin and banana in the form of banana muffins/loaf/cake is a little boring in my opinion. However together these ingredients work magic in what’s known as the Hummingbird Cake. 

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It is a firm, but moist cake and I think what I love even more about it is the fact that it’s not overly sweet and really looks great in a modern rustic kind of way. A great Birthday cake that would wow friends and family alike, it’s something different in an awesome way.

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Like most cakes this one has a long history and it’s fare share of drama – as there’s a heavy debate as to where this cake originates; Jamaica or the USA…? Well that’s a fight I will leave to the foodie historians as its been re-invented so many times to suit the ever changing taste of society – so in my humble opinion tracing it’s lineage could prove to be rather difficult.

So to put any other doubters to rest, the Hummingbird Cake is really a show stopper and definitely a cake to add to your repertoire if you bake regularly and enjoy something other than the usual suspects (chocolate, vanilla or red-velvet). The other wow factor this cake has is that with these ingredient you could get away with selling it as a “healthy” alternative as it’s made primarily of fruit… hahaha so for the weight conscious crowd this cake would be an instant hit. 

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I got my recipe off the net, at the Southern Living site:

 http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/hummingbird-cake .

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I just loved the picture they had in the magazine back then and just couldn’t resist sharing.

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There are a few more public holidays coming up and if, like me you enjoy having family or friends over… why not try your hand at making this awesome cake. As always I would love to hear from you… thoughts, comments and suggestions welcome.

Till next time, happy baking everyone

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Easter Long week-end… A Good Friday Snapshot

Yip Easter 2014 Long week-end has come and gone. It once again proved to be an awesome time spent with the family, not to mention a great time to relax. Hubby made his Pickled Fish… which is the tradition for this time of year, but also for Hubby who is now dubbed the King of the Kitchen at Easter. I am sure you can recall from my post last year that I can not stand the smell of the onion and vinegar mix… I must confess that I have found an awesome little orange peel and cinnamon boil up which counteracts the odor leaving a great warm sent after the pickle fish preparation.

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This year I decided to make my own Hot-cross buns… I used the Paul Hollywood variation of this classic bun. I must say that it was a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort and the time. Like most of the comments on the online recipe I also added additional spices and fruit. My sister also doesn’t like raisins so I made her a chocolate-chip option using the same dough. I used this recipe:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2066661/hot-cross-buns and I was not disappointed… the other plus is that we had them fresh out the oven ready for lunch.

Homemade Easter Hot-cross Buns (2)

Homemade Easter Hot-cross Buns (1)

I also made some chicken pie, with an Easter theme and my mom did the veg – we had this as a second course which always compliments Good Friday lunch beautifully. Last year my mom was away so it was really nice to have her home this year to really enjoy the week-end together as a family. My cousin and his girlfriend also popped by for lunch, which made the day extra special to me!

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I feel a bit like an infomercial now… “but wait there’s more, if you sign up today you will also get” some dessert. Yip I tried my hand at the famous Hummingbird Cake. I have heard and read so much about this American classic I had to see what the fuss was all about. All I can say is that it is one of my new all time favorites. So easy to make and really just an awesome cake. So awesome I am going to dedicate an entire post to it… from recipe used to links to other blogs who have tried it, but for the curious few here’s a picture.

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I hope you all had a Blessed and safe Easter week-end. Let me know what you got up to or if you tried your culinary hand at some new cooking or baking recipe’s. I’m always eager to hear from you.

Happy Baking

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Not enough hours in a day…

Hi everyone, from the title you may have already guessed I am not going to apologies for being so scarce. Life happens and although I should be more dedicated to writing and sharing I just can not stretch the hours in my day, week or month any more than you can.

With this confession I really do salute working mom’s and dad’s who make it all look and sound so easy to work full-time and raise a family. So this post is dedicated to them. I actually have another reason for thinking along this path. Our Family had to say good-buy to a very dear friend earlier this month who’s life really was such an inspiration to those who were lucky enough to share it with him so Uncle Kieth here is to you: for all your hard-work, dedication and commitment to your craft, but more importantly your family I trust that where you are, you are able to just take a load off.

So with everything going on, the hustle and bustle of everyday life, both the planned and unplanned I often need to remind myself of what is important and re-focus my energies and attention… so I came across the quote:

Life Like a Camera

It is so true and I couldn’t help but giggle a little as I read it… because the irony of the quote is that we have become those people that do almost all of our learning and experiencing through the lens of other peoples camera’s we forget we have our own “lives” that need living. It’s like we have just stopped developing memories to remember our good times, everything is digital and equally moving at such a fast pace we are all feverishly trying to catch up too, so instead we become bogged down by the negatives and forget we can take another “shot”.

So in the time that I have been somewhat M.I.A I have decided to juts slow down my pace… enjoy life just a little more than usual and relax. I rekindled the joy reading a good book brings, and really took that to the next level. I have finished 2 trilogies and a 2-part series. Currently I am on the second book of a memoir series that I am absolutely enjoying. What good books have you been reading lately? I know I posted on my Facebook page in the week asking what you guys out there prefer… paper back or e-books. From the responses I’ve received sounds like the real deal still ranks very high up in the preference category. I have to admit I’ve gone the e-book route for all my non-baking books, it’s greener for the environment and saves a great deal of space.

So in keeping with taking things a little slower I had some time to take stock of all my many recipe books, from special techniques to all about chocolate, I was rather surprised at just how many I had, not to mention the few I’ve taken from my mom. So breaking away slightly from the norm and in keeping with my renewed connection to reading and the need to slow things down a notch, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite baking books and recipe’s.

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These 7 books are, but a drop in the ocean of my recipe and cake decorating book collection, but they are the one’s I probably use the most. For inspiration, refresher on a technique and or for a recipe. Most of my books are not local, so sometimes sourcing some of the ingredients can be a challenge, however on the positive side it’s also an opportunity to do something different and learn something new.

Step by Step Baking

Step by Step Cake decorating

These two Step-by-Step books are awesome, from the beautifully illustrated pictures to the shared techniques. What I also really love about them are the use of easy to follow instructions. If your a beginner and non-classically trained these will be super additions to your collection.

One of the many local authors is Katrien van Zyl who have a few books out, she is really good at sharing her skills and techniques in a very simple to follow guide. The step-by-step depictions really makes you want to whip something up just to try the new skill learnt.

Katrien's Mini Cakes

There was a stage that I would find awesome books and pin point them out to family so that when next I celebrated a birthday or they felt the need to spoil me I could get a cool book. 1 such gift was this cute little book of American style homemade favorites just like Aunt May next door would make.

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The very first cake I tried out of this book was the Rocky Road, this has always been something a little odd, but fascinating to me and it was really good, very sweet but oh so chocolaty. Tell me it doesn’t look gorgeous

Rocky Road

I took a picture of the recipe for you… if you decide to try it do let me know or if you have your own do share. I like to try different recipe’s and through it adapting each one as I go along until I’ve found the balance I like.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as have in writing it. Please do comment below if you would like to share some of the recipe’s you have found over the years or any cool tips on how you take things slow in this very busy life.

For those of you celebrating Easter have a Blessed one and for everyone able to have the time off, I hope you can enjoy it in good company.

Happy Baking and enjoy some pause time

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A Quiche for all seasons…

The mornings are becoming lighter later and the nights darker earlier… something tells me winter is coming, so with this in mind I’ve been working on yummy, but healthy winter meals.

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For the first installment Quiche was the idea that sprung to mind… no actually I guess it came to mind due to an order I received for some spinach and feta mini quiche’s. So it got me thinking, that actually depending on what you mix together you could make a quiche for every season. Summer you can enjoy it hot or cold with a salad and winter you can enjoy it with some warm veg, either way a really great lunch or dinner option and the great thing about it is you can literally pair any variety of ingredients together.
 
I have made these variants so far:
Baby spinach and feta
Baby spinach, bacon and feta,
Baby spinach, mushroom and feta.
As you can see I haven’t really ventured away from the spinach, partly because it’s a great green super food, but also because it gives such a great flavor. I like to use the Simonsberg Black Pepper Feta and the small leaf baby spinach also called English spinach.

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I must say I rather like the idea of the mini options as it assists with portion control – something I think we are all guilty of, if or when we are faced with a huge bowl or plate of anything. Again I slightly altered the recipe by using either wholewheat crust or making them crust-less and sub. the cream or milk (depending on your recipe) with low calorie coconut milk. This also gives the quiche a nice light flavor and seems to cut away a great deal of the oily/fattiness some times associated with quiche.

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I know I speak for myself when I say that quiche has often received a rather bad identity due to it’s egg like consistency and although it kind of is a loaded scrambled poached egg… if made correctly doesn’t need to be that way. I know when I heard quiche or saw it served at functions I would already feel poorly. I mean anyone who know’s me, know’s I’m not a great egg fan, and only very recently started eating it more regularly; not to mention trusting others to make it for me.

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So whats the secret… there isn’t one really, but I guess using a good mozzarella is a start. Yip you heard me… I add a bit of this gooey cheese into my mixture to act as a binding agent, that way I require far less eggs – results: a far less egg like quiche. The other key is to ensure that your other ingredients are more in quantity to the number of eggs used eg: 4 eggs to 5 or 6 cups of whatever ingredients you prefer… I’m sure you get what I mean.
 
I would love to hear what you enjoy in your quiche, and if you prefer to have it hot or cold, in winter or summer.  If you have any great winter dishes you’d like to share or that you would like me to try, send those over as well.
 
Happy Baking

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From Scratch

It is with much excitement that I am writing this post to share with you that after a few years of following recipe’s to the letter I have finally gathered the skill and the courage to make up my own.
 
As you know I have been on a bit of a health buzz lately so substituted a number of ingredients in the recipe’s I’ve been using and some how this has helped to unlock my own creativity and given me the confidence to write my own recipe from scratch.
 
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It really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but I think the trick is to ensure that you get your quantities correct – enough liquid ingredients vs dry ingredients. So recipe No.1 is done and dusted, very excited to share some more from the “Cupcake Couture Diary” – thought this would be a cool name for my own recipe creations.
 
So here they are… my Apple and Peach Oat and 4Seed strudel Muffins

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Not to toot my own horn, but they really were a great hit. You know what most people hate about health muffins  are how dry they are, but these mini bombs of flavor were moist and light. They also baked to a nice golden brown with a bit of a chewy crust. The fruit wasn’t overly visible and the 4 seeds gave a nice little crunch to every bite.

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If your keen to try them out, drop me a line and I’ll share it with you, they make +/- 24 units. Oh and 3 of the star ingredients is the Almond Milk, Organic or Regular Rolled Oats and the 4Seed Mix (Sunflower, Pumpkin, Flaxseed, Sesame). These seeds are so super healthy and give you an awesome energy boost you need, whether you enjoy them in the morning as a breakfast on the run or afternoon snack.
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Almond Milk, Rolled Oats and 4Seed Mix
 
I need to just add that I really appreciate all the support from all of you guys – for paying a keen interest in this blog, reading the posts and commenting really means a great deal; as I really enjoy getting feedback from you so please keep it up.
 
Happy Baking 

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Ps: If your in the Cape Town area I hope to see you at the Constantia Market this coming week-end, I’ll be making my first trading appearance for the new year, so let me know if you would like more info (date and time) – I plan on having a great table of treats for sale.

 

mmm…Breakfast Muffins

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I found this awesome easy to make breakfast muffin recipe – it’s especially useful to grab when you’re busy and on the run. Breakfast is statistically the most important meal of the day and these little gems ensure that when I have a busy day planned I don’t skip it. I know they look a little small and you’re probably wondering how they fill you, but trust me they do and they are slow release, which means 1 muffin gives you enough energy to sustain you till lunch.

http://www.foodinaminute.co.nz/Recipes/Peach-and-Weet-Bix-Muffins

I found the recipe on Food in a minute (link above) and although I changed the recipe up slightly, it still turned out perfectly. I did some subtle substitutions as I am trying very hard to lessen my gluten intake. So instead of the 1 cup flour… I used 1/2 Almond Flour and 1/2 organic rolled oats. I also substituted the 2%milk with low fat coconut milk. You can also substitute the peaches with any other variety of canned fruit – just make sure it’s the reduced sugar option.

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12 Muffins and 2 mini heart

Since deciding to introduce healthier alternatives to my diet without drastically changing my eating I’ve found I actually enjoy the whole lifestyle and would recommend that anyone wanting to lose a few extra kilo’s or wanting to improve their healthy foods intake use this method, rather than committing to a harsh diet that tells you it’s okay to enjoy cheat days… this way I don’t need a cheat day and I actually look forward to meals as I’m not being instructed to eating cardboard or drink flavorless soups.

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Valentines day is also coming up, so I experimented with making some heart shaped muffins in my pink ramekins, and for an extra bit of love I dusted them lightly with some icing sugar. If you’re keen to give this a try you can pretty them up with extra fruit on the side, some coffee/tea/juice and flours from your garden, for that special someone on valentines day!

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I hope you’re enjoying these posts… whilst business is quiet it gives me a great opportunity to share and connect with you guys on a different level.

 Happy Baking

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Summer Sun, Health Breakfast and the Beach…

Summer Sun, Health Breakfast and the Beach…

Hi everyone… 2014 is getting off to a very healthy start – I’ve decided to challenge myself to get back into my university fit body. Not just in terms of weight, but also to feel healthier, happier and more energetic so I can really take on 2014.

Before I get to the edibles just for interest sake I’ve been following Cassey Ho from Blogilates as she unpacks a month long daily workout routine for beginners. Although I’m no stranger to Pilates or exercise it’s been a while, and I’m a little out of shape; so starting off at the beginning is great. If your keen, you are welcome to check her out on her web page: http://www.blogilates.com or on her youtube channel:  I’ve got the first workout for the beginners monthly calendar below. 

Anyway now that you know what I’m filling my extra time with I must add that along with the fitness routine comes a whole new menu. Please don’t get me wrong – I am still in love with all things sweet, decadent and dreamy… but since I’m going with this, I’m going to do it full circle. I’ve found some awesome blogs that I’m following on my Facebook page; which I’ve been using for my meal inspirations.

If your keen I will be more than happy to share our evening meal calendar with you, as well as awesome links to some of the blogs I’ve tapped into for inspiration. As a little idea this was dinner for day one of our new year, new me start:

Tuna-Corn Green Salad

So Saturday past I spent on the beach… enjoying an early morning workout with bambi legs  – some interval running on the sand to get the cardio working and then squats, star-jumps and other cool nature type exercises that give you an all round full-body workout plus a super awesome view of mother nature.

Needless to say we worked up quite an appetite, so we popped over to mine where I whipped up some Oat-meal, almond and Greek Yogurt flapjacks with a variety of fruit and maple syrup as well as some dried bacon (less fat), poached eggs and cherry tomatoes in organic balsamic vinegar.

Note that the recipe I used for my flap jacks was adapted slightly from the original, which I got from Ambitious Kitchen

(http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/02/fluffy-greek-yogurt-blueberry-pancakes-with-strawberry-maple-syrup/#) as I wanted to accommodate my mom I made mine gluten free by substituting the 1 cup of flower with 1/2 almond flour and the other 1/2 with gluten free oatmeal. I also had some ready made cinnamon apples which I made a few weeks earlier so I figured instead of using the fruit she used to top her flap jacks, I I would use those, along with some other fruit for all to have their pick. 

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Apologies for some of the poor picture quality… the camera’s lens was a little steamed up and moggy from the fresh beach air from earlier the morning.

Saturday Morning Health Breakfast

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It was an awesome morning for mind, body and soul. I especially loved the time I spent with my precious family… getting fit and healthy together.

 Happy Baking Guys

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