Chocolate & Strawberry Birthday Cake

I’ve made a lot of ugly cakes over the years. They always taste great, sure, but the whole layers thing has always been a bit of an issue for me. Do you have any idea how much cake you have to cut off to make them level?? It just seems like a waste, really. And so I end up with crooked cakes that fall apart almost as soon as I ice them. Fortunately everyone is always just happy to have cake, so it’s not like it’s ever been a huge issue, but it’s something I wanted to work on.

So last week I made a triple-decker birthday cake for my friend Jen, and I was determined to get it right. Which I did. More or less. It’s a decadent cake: rich and chocolatey, with dark chocolate ganache and strawberry jam between the layers, and the whole thing coated with my favorite (Magnolia Bakery) chocolate buttercream. Yum.

crooked

(See? Almost totally not-crooked.)

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Shortbread Cookies & How Not To Make Lemon Curd

I’ve had a fair few baking disasters in my time. I’ve thrown away whole batches of cookies, entire saucepans of caramel. But nine times out of ten, when I think I’ve had a baking disaster, I’ve just had a small hiccup and the results end up being more or less just as tasty as usual. Prime example: the lemon curd I made for this week’s cookies.

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Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

Before I came to the other side of the world, I was lucky enough to visit New York City several times. And like any good tourist, I stood in a very long line for a very overrated (though, to be honest, phenomenal) cupcake. Yes, I’m talking about the famous Magnolia Bakery, and yes, that is where I get most of my favorite cupcake recipes (and one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes, but we’ll get to that). Whatever you might think about the place itself, they’ve yet to lead me astray.

lone cupcake

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Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate 2

I have a few different go-to recipes – cocoa brownies, Magnolia-inspired cupcakes, peanut butter blondies – but chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorite. They’re simple, familiar, and nearly everyone likes them. For years I swore by the recipe from the back of the Ghiradelli’s chocolate chip bag, which I still love, but then I stumbled across the famous New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe and never looked back. Turning a simple classic into something extraordinary is the best sort of baking success.

baked

But the real reason I’m baking these cookies this week is because it’s so easy to make a double batch and end up with a borderline insane quantity of the things. Because this weekend brings us Wellington Rugby Sevens: beloved kiwi piss-up, winner of the Guinness World Record for the biggest costume party, and far and away the busiest weekend my coworkers and I will have this year. We’re going to need sugar. Lots of sugar.

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