Monday, January 24, 2011

Hummingbird Cake

Dont worry, no hummingbirds were harmed in this recipe! :) But definitely my favorite recipe so far! This is the recipe that is in the front of the recipe book, so I have wanted to try this since I first got the book. I wanted this to be the first recipe I tried, but it didnt end up working out that way. But this was such a fun recipe to do, although time consuming due to the fact that it was three layers and I have a toaster oven only big enough for one layer at a time. That took the longest.

This recipe was so much fun to make, and called for some pretty fun ingredients. It had pecan nuts, mashed bananas, crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, plus all the normal ingredients for cake. The one hard part for me on this recipe was the icing. It called for full-fat soft cheese, which of course, I had no idea what that was. I forgot to google it before I headed off to the store, so when we got there, Matt asked the deli people if they had it. He pointed out this cheese that looked like a brie cheese. So we took it home, and I gave ti a try.

Remember how I said on my wish list is an electric hand mixer? Well, I havent gotten one yet, and again, I could have used it yesterday for this cheese. But, of course, I dont have one, so the mixing of the cheese with butter, vanilla and powdered sugar took quite a long time, and it still didnt turn out as smooth as it was suppose to. However, it did taste good, and that is what is important after all.

So all-in-all, this recipe had its challenges, especially in my tiny kitchen, but this was so much fun, and the best cake I have ever tasted! I am not usually one who likes cakes, but man! this was great! Super fluffy, and you could really taste the bananas, and the pineapple wasnt overwhelming at all. And for someone who usually hates pineapple and doesnt like a lot of nuts, my husband was a real trooper, and loved the cake! He doesnt want to share it at all. But there is no way we can eat that all just the two of us!

Well, I hope you enjoy the pictures of it, and sorry you cant taste some yourself :) It was great! By the way, isnt Matt a great photographer?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


This recipe has been by far (as if I have done a lot) the hardest recipe I have made. Yes, I do admit that I have a lot to learn, and I am definitely a beginner when it comes to baking, but I have not anticipated a recipe being as hard as they truly can be - such as the Sachertorte. I wish you could see the picture of what it is suppose to look like, but I can promise you, that it is not what you see in the picture below. Dont get me wrong, it was good (not that I had any), but I imagine that it could have tasted a lot better than it did. Let me tell you why.

I wanted to try this recipe, because as you can see, there was another birthday in Matt's office. I wanted to try a cake and I wanted to do a chocolate one. I made the mistake of looking through the book looking for the recipe with the least amount of ingredients that I would have to purchase. Big mistake on my part. Who knew that the one with the easiest looking ingredients would be the hardest to make?!?

It all seemed easy enough until it came to the park where you beat the egg whites (6 of them mind you), until they formed soft peaks. I can tell you that I have NEVER done this before, nor have I watched it being done with my knowledge, so I honestly did not know how hard this could be - particularly without a hand mixer! I have a whisk. A whisk. I am sure that anyone who reads this is already feeling bad for me - because most know that whisking egg whites until soft peaks are formed is very hard to do by hand! Yes, yes it is. It took me literally about ten minutes, and I had to keep stopping, one because I was tired, and two, because I wasnt entirely sure how long it should take and what they should even look like. I you-tubed it, and found that if you have an electric hand mixer, it takes all of two seconds! But no, sweet little ignorant Carla has a whisk. 

So, as I said, it took me about ten minutes to do this, and then it said to fold half of the egg mixture (after adding caster sugar) into the chocolate mixture that I had already put together. Well, it took me so long to whisk the egg whites, that my chocolate mixture was clumping together, and it takes forever to fold the eggs into it. By the time I successfully folded it in, I had to fold the rest of the eggs in, and of course, they started to separate again, but it was before I realized it that I was already adding it, so it was already in my chocolate mixture and too late to fix. 

So I baked the cake and it didnt raise; not sure if this was my fault or if it was one of those cakes that are not suppose to rise, but either way, I had already felt like I had ruined it. Next came the icing. Oh, how I should not be baking when I am tired (this was at 7:30 in the morning when I started this process, and it took until 11:30 until I was done). I was making the icing (melted chocolate, coffee and powdered sugar) seems easy enough. But not for tired Carla. When it called for 5 Tbsp of strong black coffee, anyone in their right mind would know that it should be brewed coffee, and that it would clearly state that it wanted coffee grounds if that is what it wanted, right?!? But, me being me, and being too tired and too early in the game to realize this,  put in 5 Tbsp of ground coffee, not brewed. I started adding the powdered sugar when I realized what I had done wrong, but it was too late, and I didnt have enough ingredients to start over, so I improvised and added some water, and let the icing be. Luckily, it tasted great, albeit probably not what it was suppose to taste like, and everyone in Matt's office loves coffee enough that they probably thought it was wonderful.

So, all in all, it was a success and the office had no complaints, so I didnt mind. I do plan to retry this recipe one day far from now, to see how it turns out a second time. I also veered from the recipe a bit, so it definitely wasnt a true Sachertorte, but it was still enjoyable to make, and although the picture was hard to take (too much going on at the time), it was still a fun celebration of a birthday, and no one complained about the cake - so success!

Blueberry [Mini] Muffins

The second recipe I decided to tackle was blueberry muffins, and of course, with the size of my oven, they ended up being mini muffins, for that is the only size muffin tray that fits in there. The recipe also called them low-fat muffins, and said to put in low-fat margarine and low-fat yogurt, which neither were put in mine; therefore, they cannot be called low-fat!

This recipe really ended up being an extremely easy recipe; I dont have much to say about it at all; I had a lot of fun making them, and I of course, watched Julie&Julia while making them. This was a good second recipe to make, and unfortunately, gave me more confidence than I should have had. Check in with my next recipe to see what I mean. That one was not an easy one by any means!

For now, here are my muffins. Check in for Sachertorte next!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Double Chocolate Brownies

Ok, so the first recipe I decided to tackle in this book was called Double Chocolate Brownies. I have to start out by telling you that I am not very good at making brownies on a normal basis, not even out of a box!, so this was not an easy recipe for me to start with. I decided to make these though, because it was one of Matt's coworkers birthday, and someone was already planning on making a cake for her, so I thought that it would be a good time to try some brownies. I also made some Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I figured, why not try out my first recipe for this occasion.

So this is the third time I have made brownies in this little oven, but the first time, I undercooked them, and they stuck to the pan, and the second time I overcooked them, and Matt had to force them down his throat just to make me feel better (I'm just kidding, but they were not very good in my opinion), and of course, these were both the boxed kind, so really, how do you mess those up?!? So needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about making these brownies, especially from scratch!

These brownies did look very fun to make, and on top of just the brownies, it also called for a fudge sauce, so I was very excited to try and make that. I thought that at least if the brownies turned out bad, at least we could just drink the fudge! I could handle that!

I also have to mention that with our little toaster oven, there are no temperature guages on there in F or C, it is just a guage numbered 1-10! Really?!? So on top of trying to work in a tiny workspace, I am also dealing with guessing how hot to make the oven! So there is challenge number 1 for this recipe. Challenge number two is going to the store to get the correct ingredients. It called for plain chocolate, and the store had only dark chocolate, called for golden caster sugar, there was only white caster sugar, called for white chocolate chips, only had melting chocolate (big buttons of chocolate, but at least it was white), and called for double cream (sort of like heacy whipping cream in the states) and there was only thickened cream at the store, so I was really working out of my element here, but with all that, I was still more nervous for burning them at the end! Challenge number three was actually just something I had to learn. Pretty much all the recipes in this book call to have the baking tin lined with baking paper. I have NEVER done this before (I know - sad!), but I figured if I was making brownies, I better do it right, so I lined the baking tin, and let me tell you, Ill never go back to not lining them again! It really helped - a lot!

So despite everything that I had to substitute in the recipe, it all flowed quite well. The dark chocolate made it very good, the thickened cream seemed to work well, and the caster sugar didnt seem to be a problem. I had to chop up the white chocolate buttons, but that worked well too! Everything went really well with the recipe, the only thing I have to say is that I need an apron. I was stirring in the cocoa powder that it called for and of course, it ended up on me. It wouldnt have been so bad, except that I was wearing a white shirt - of course! That was my own fault though I know :).  And on top of all that, I even cooked them just perfectly! And as I said before, Im never turning back on not having baking paper. When I pulled the brownies out, I pulled the baking paper off so nicely, and they were just perfect! I couldnt have been more happy about how they looked, and I have a new confidence for baking brownies, and Ill never make them out of the box again; I will always use this recipe, or Im open for some new recipes too!

So, here they are, and the picture looks so beautiful because I have a talented photographer for a husband. He is my food decorator and photographer. Everyone at Matt's work loved them, and they even gave a brownie to the one person in the place trying not to eat unhealthy, and he LOVED them too! My favorite part of baking is everyone enjoying them. I like eating some of the recipes, but the best part is sharing them with everyone else. Did I mention that I want to own my own bakery?

Monday, January 17, 2011


Hello there. My name is Carla and I am living in Auckland, New Zealand with my husband Matt, who got a job here as an animator.  We moved here in October, and since we got here, I havent been doing a whole lot with my time. I havent gotten a job yet (I was enjoying the vacation for a while), but I am now in the process of applying for some jobs, and for the most part, I just have a LOT of free time.

So how did I decide to do a blog about this? Well, since I was a freshman in high school, I have thought that I wanted to be a physical therapist (I know what does this have to do with cooking?), well I went through high school and college thinking that that is what I wanted to do, but in the back of my mind, I always had the thought that I would LOVE to one day own my own bakery, but that it was just a silly dream that couldnt happen, because that would just be too much fun! So this is what Im thinking all through high school and college, and I even graduate with a degree in Health Science. Then I get married and my sweet husband takes me 7,000 miles away from my home (much to the dismay of my parents - but dont worry, they still love him), and I am sitting here wondering what to do with my time. I start to make cookies because I just want something to do, and of course my husband loves them. So I make them, and Ill explain the challenges of that in itself in a bit, and I make so many of them that I take them to Matt's work to share with his coworkers. They all fall in love with them, and some of them say that I should think about becoming a baker. I know, I know, just because you can make some good cookies, doesnt mean that you can be a baker, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to pursue it. So I decided, that since we are here for a year, and so far, I really dont have a whole lot else to do, then why not?

One of our friends over here also suggested that I watch Julie & Julia. If I really loved it, that this movie would really be an inspiration. So I watched it, and I watched it again, and again, and again! I loved the movie! I have even watched it twice in one day - BACK TO BACK! What a great movie! Even if you dont care about cooking, it is just a cute and funny story! This movie is also what gave me and my husband the idea to do a blog (with the help of my father-in-law for the title), just like Julie Powell does in the movie. But anyway, so I have decided that this is the time to discover my passion, when I have so much time on my side. So that is what this blog will be about - me cooking in my place, which if you have read the title :), isnt much of a place at all! Let me explain all the challenges of cooking here.

Ok, well first of all, I am baking without a kitchen, not cooking, but cooking just sounds better. :) But challenge number one, is that you have seen the picture, that is all there is for my kitchen. It is TINY! Everything is tiny here, which is a challenge in itself. Next challenge, because the kitchen is so small, I dont have the room to store a electric mixer, or even an electric hand mixer, so right now anyway, it is ALL by hand! Also, the apartment that we are renting does not have an oven (not always like that in NZ, we just got unlucky), so ALL of my baking is done in a toaster oven that we bought at a store similar to Walmart here. Is that all the challenges? Oh no, there are many more, one including the fact that the recipe book I am working out of is in New Zealand measurements, which of course is the metric system, and the measuring cups I have are in cups, and tsp and Tbsp, so I am having a lot of fun doing the conversions before even getting tot the baking part! Apparently all the science I took in college didnt help with my conversions! The one part I was always bad at! But that's ok! Im having fun with that too! So, that is an overview of all the challenges, but I will continue to share the other challenges I am having as we go along.

The cookbook I am going out of is called The Big Book of Baking: Your complete guide to perfect baking every time. There are over 140 recipes in this book, but I am starting out with 55 of them that I picked out for this challenge. I will do more if I complete the 55, but that is what I am starting with. I have to complete at least the 55 in the year that we are here (we are leaving in October of this year, unless Matt gets an extension on his contract of course).

So thank you for following along with me on this journey! It will be fun and stressful, and most of all eventful! So thanks!