Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Most delicious birthday cake + birthday present ideas

Yesterday it was my husbands turn to celebrate a birthday...we are quite busy with birthdays in the beginning of the year, as February, March and April are the months our little family celebrates them. I mentioned couple of times already, that we love celebrating birthdays, mainly due to the fact that we always would spend the whole day together, doing whatever we are feeling for. Shall the birthday fall on a working day, we would take the day off from work and kindergarten, which would make the whole birthday experience even more special.

The cake is a very important part of a birthday celebration in our family and I am always looking forward to try something new and special. This time I made a chocolate mascarpone cake with berries, a recipe from Linda Lomelino (Here). I am following her blog for some time now and am always amazed by her work. The pictures are unusual and so incredible special, you will simple fall in love, I promise.

I do admit my pictures are not as gorgeous as the original, but I can assure you the cake was just amazing. The combination of chocolate, mascarpone and fresh berries is incredibly good, a match made in heaven if I could say so. The cake is done quickly, the decoration takes literally just couple of minutes, the outcome however is more than amazing. 


Next to the cake, we would also spoil each other with some presents for the special day. I have to admit, when it comes to presents Pablo seems always to win, probably because it is so easy to find presents for him (for now at least). When it comes to my husband, it is exactly the opposite, I always struggle to organize him a present. He would not tell me what he needs or wishes for, as according to him, he does not need anything but us.  Can you see my dilemma?!?

This time he got a "wellness weekend at Costa Brava" coupon, something I really love to give away. I know that this is not only a present for him, but then again if he says he needs nothing but us, a weekend with us seems to be just perfect. Experience presents is something our family does appreciate and cherish a lot, this is also something we would give away on a regular basis.

Another small present he got, was a personalized photo book named "I love you". A book with many pictures of him and Pablo spending time together. Fitting to the picture there was a small sentence saying, why Pablo loves him so much....e.g. I love you, because I can fall asleep in your arms when I am tiered", the picture would show Pablo sleeping in the arms of my husband or "I love you, as you try to copy my style and we always look so alike" on the picture you would see the two most important men in my life wearing almost the same shirt. I believe you got the idea of the book by now. My husband just loved it, he was touched and so happy about the funny sayings to the nice pictures. Personal books are something you can always give away for different occasions...having a small sentence here and there, makes it more personal and special.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Another classical cake you all might know.....

Finally Friday, I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward for the weekend to come. The week was a bit "crazy" and the fact that I will go for a "wellness weekend" with a friend tomorrow, without kid and husband, has certainly contribute to the whole "weekend excitement"...

Yes, you read correct...I am going away for a wellness weekend all by myself, leaving Pablo and my husband behind. This would be the first time I am leaving home overnight, since Pablo was born, you probably can imagine how I feel...the feelings are mixed, but still I am really looking forward for the nice break and some girly quality time. The hotel we are going to is located at the beach, the little seaside village should be a charm and the wellness program promises some magical treatments...I will report if all these promises could be held.

Enough of bragging! Before I leave for my well deserved get away, I would like to share another classical recipe with you, which can be tried out on weekend. Classical cake (as I am still on the classical path) with a modern twist so to say. I have to admit the twist came out of necessity, rather then out of creativity, but the outcome was just lovely and I think this is what finally counts.

You probably recognize the cake on the picture already...yes, I was talking about a classical Swiss Rolle. My husband surprised me with another box of fresh strawberries and the moment I saw and smelt the berries I could not help myself but thinking about a Swiss Rolle for dessert...As you probably know the classical Swiss Rolle is done with strawberry jam and whipped cream. Exactly this day however I run out of cream, but had another package of mascarpone cheese in the refrigerator and this is how I came to the twist. The cream got replaced by mascarpone cheese and the strawberry jam by fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Swiss rolle with mascarpone filling

  • 80 g sugar
  • 1 fresh vanilla pod (or vanilla sugar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 80 g flour
Preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking sheet with baking paper. In a big bowl beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds till double in size and light in the color (use either electrical or stand mixer). Sift the flour and add it to the egg-sugar mixture, fold it in gently with a spatula. Pour the batter on the baking sheet, spread it equally and bake for 10-12 minutes, till golden brown. 
Wet a clean kitchen towel, put the cake layer (still hot and together with baking paper) on it and roll it together. Put it aside. This step is crucial and ensures the cake can be rolled to the role in the later stage without breaking apart.

  • 250 g mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 package vanilla sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 -3 handful fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Wash the strawberries take one third of the berries and blitz them with sugar in a food processor. Put the bowl into the refrigerator. Cut the remaining strawberries in small pieces. Add mascarpone cheese, vanilla sugar and powdered sugar in a small bowl and whisk together till smooth and can add some milk if the cream appears too tight.

Roll out the cake layer and take away the baking paper, be careful not to tear it apart. Spread mascarpone cheese filling over the layer, pour strawberry puree over and spread equally too, finally top it with chopped strawberries and roll it together. Decorate it with some powdered sugar and strawberries slices.

The cake tastes fresh and early summer at the country side....late afternoon tea in the garden with sun high up and light wind breeze, bringing all the nice odors from the field flowers around the house...well this is at least what I am dreaming about, while eating the cake.

Try it out and tell me what you were dreaming about when you were eating the cake?


Sunday, 12 April 2015

The beauty of the simple vanilla sugar cake

Today I am going to write about the classical "sugar cake" and share my recipe and tips how this simple cake can be lift up to something super delicious, special and gorgeous.

There is a story I would like to share first however. The day my husband and I decided to move to Spain, back then we both were living in Germany, I made a promise to him...a promise to show him a bit of Germany before we leave the country (remember my husband comes from Sweden). And so we did, nearly every weekend we would spend our time in a different city, driving to some famous places around Stuttgart area, enjoying the country we were about to leave. We saw so many nice and beautiful places and had a time of our lives. My husband learned to love the country, while I felt in love with this country all over again...I realize that Germany offers so much and wondered why would we always would like to go abroad for vacation, why would we always have the feeling we have to see other countries, while your very own country is so beautiful and offers you so much...

I find myself in the same situation when it comes to simple classical coffee cakes... these days the cakes should taste and look exotic, the more exotic the better. The classical butter cream frosting got replaced by the fancy "mascarpone cream cheese lime" frosting, there is fondant in all the colors you can image which will be used for all the extraordinary cake decoration and the cake itself should be done in rainbow color or ombre look, so everybody just goes in "ahhh" and "ohhh" when you cut the cake open. To me those cakes represent the foreign countries....exotic, colorful and so different. While the simple classical coffee cake represents the home country...humble, modest and so familiar.

Both options are perfect and depending on what you are looking for or how you feel at that exact moment, the one or the other will just made your day...

These days I am feeling more for the classical baking and any time I feel like this, I tend to make my favorite vanilla sugar cake. On top I got a super cute baking form for my birthday, which needed to be tried out (can be ordered Here in Spain or Here in Germany or Here in UK ). The form is smaller than the traditional gugelhupf baking form and is just perfect for our small family.

Vanilla sugar cake:

  • 150 g butter softened
  • 150 g sugar
  • 1 fresh vanilla pod
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g flour (or 100 g flour + 50 g cornstarch)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease+dust your baking form. Beat the butter and sugar together till fluffy and light in color. Cut the vanilla pod open, take the seeds out and add it to the butter sugar mixture. Mixed quickly. Add the eggs, one at the time, beat till the egg and butter a well combined, then add the second one. Sift together flour, baking powder and cornstarch (if using) and add to the butter egg mixture. Mix till everything is well combined. Pour the batter into the baking form, distribute it evenly with a spatula and bake for 25-35 minutes till golden brown. Make the stick test. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes on the cooling rack. Take the cake out of the form.

This cake is done with very simple ingredients as you can see, follow the tips for a phenomenal outcome:
  • all ingredients should be at the same temperature - take the eggs and butter some time in advance from the refrigerator
  • use fresh eggs - fresh from the farmer if possible
  • use fresh vanilla pod, instead of vanilla will taste the difference. Do not through away the empty vanilla pod, put it in a jar with some sugar to get homemade vanilla sugar
  • use full fat butter, not half fat - to get the cake taste rich and buttery
  • cornstarch makes the cake more fluffy...adding some cornstarch will make your cake taste fluffy and light

I love this cake not only for the simple preparation and ingredients, but also for the diversity it offers
  • Sprinkle some powdered sugar over a the cake and serve it with a big cup of cafe au lait for breakfast. 
  • For dessert the cake can be served with some fresh fruits or berries. Put one piece of the cake on the plate, sprinkle some powdered sugar, add some fruits or berries aside, top it with a spoon of plain yogurt.
  • For the late afternoon tea, the cake can be served either plain with some powdered sugar or some melted chocolate over it or with some beaten double cream aside.
The cake is also perfect to be given away. Depending on the occasion the cake can be brought to brunch, afternoon tea or dinner invitation:
  • put the cake in a nice box or on a cake plate, bring some berries or fresh fruits with you (fresh whole pine apple goes very well) and a nice dessert has been provided
  • give the cake away in the baking form, along with fresh vanilla pods, recipe and nice box of tea. Goes perfect as a birthday present for a friend who loves to bake or as a give away for a friend who just moved to a new house
  • for a late afternoon coffee invitation, bring the cake nicely packed along with a nice/exotic box of coffee


Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Sunday + Salsa verde and roasted chicken

I am not aware of any special dinner or lunch meal for Easter, besides that we always do an Easter brunch...We eat a lot of eggs, prepared differently, but besides of this I have no clue what would be a typical Easter lunch or dinner meal for Easter with the family.
So being quite open to everything I decided to do a roasted chicken and early potatoes with salsa verde. Seemed to fit somehow to Easter and we certainly do love roasted chicken. Salsa verde was something I wanted to try out, since I saw the "30 minutes meal with Jamie Oliver" the other day, where he priced the salsa for being the most incredible salsa you can use for anything....He did not exaggerate, this salsa is incredible, so incredible that we now have another favorite potato dish in our house, we...who are not really a potatoes lovers as you remember....

Last summer I got some coriander seeds from our friends, whose parents have a herb garden in their summer house. I am not a gardener at all, really, I always dream about a herb garden which I start every year, but I always end up seeing the herbs die. I do use a lot of herbs in my cooking, so having a "green thumb" would be handy, but obviously you cannot be good in everything. I took the seeds with no hope or expectation and just through them into a pot...the result couple of month later was just incredible. By now I have the biggest coriander pot ever, big enough to make salsa verde and being admired by my friends when they see it...

Salsa verde:

  • big bunch of coriander
  • small bunch of mint
  • 1 garlic glove
  • 1-2 anchovies + some of the oil
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Put everything in a food processor and blitz till everything is combine to a smooth paste...Add more olive oil to get the right constancy. Season with salt and pepper. 

Try this salsa with early potatoes. Cook the potatoes (Tip from Jamie Oliver..early potatoes should be always put in a boil salt water, this way you will keep the structure and prevent them from falling apart). Cook for 15-20 minutes, if the fork is going through easily the potatoes are done. Take the potatoes and mix them with couple of tablespoons of salsa verde and some coarse see salt.

I served the roasted chicken with homemade baguette, mixed leave salad with honey-balsamico dressing and early potatoes with salsa verde. My boys just loved it and we all agreed that this dinner was a perfect end to a nice Easter Sunday and might be our family Easter dinner for the future...

Homemade baguette:

  • 125 ml warm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 pack dry east
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 400 g bread flour
  • olive oil
Put warm water, sugar and east in a bowl and give it a stir. Put it aside for 10 minutes, till foam starts to build and you can smell the east. Add flour, salt and a good splash of olive oil. Mix well for at least 5 minutes in a kitchen machine or 10 min by hands. Put it back into the bowl and let it raise for 1 hour or till double in a warm place. Knead the dough couple of times and share it 4 equal parts. Roll each part in a baguette shape and put it on a baking sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it raise for another 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the baguettes for 20-25 minutes, till golden brown. You shall hear a hollow sound when you tip on the baguette. Let is cool completely....

Roasted lemon chicken:

  • whole chicken
  • 1-2 lemons
  • lemon+garlic butter (homemade)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200 C (grill function if you have). Wash the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Cut the lemons in big chunks and fill it in the chicken. Take some of the lemon+garlic butter and push it under the skin of the chicken. Rub the chicken from both side with salt, pepper and olive oil. Put it on a roasting dish into the oven. The roasting time depends on the size of your chicken, the usual rule is 1 hour per kilo. Turn the chicken couple of time during the preparation, to ensure a crispy skin from both sides. Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes on a serving plate covered with tin foil, before serving (Tip: put the chicken breast down, so all the juices are collected in the breast, otherwise you will end up with a dry chicken breast)
Lemon+garlic butter: put butter, lemon zest, garlic and salt into a food processor, blitz till everything is well combined. You can freeze the rest of the butter and use it any time for anything you want.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Chocolate Pavlova cake...I finally did it!

I finally did it....Pavlova cake!!! I always wanted to do it, but I have to admit that I am having a huge respect for meringue. Pavlova cake has been introduced to me by my husbands grandma, a lady of over 90 years, who made this delicious cake for us some years ago. I never heard anything about this cake till then, but felt in love with it directly. According to her, this is a very simple cake to do, but then again she is a very experience baker and everything she is doing seems to be so easy. It is always a pleasure to spend time with her in the kitchen, I love to watch her preparing things, she on the other hand watches me when I prepare cakes or cookies. She would take a small sample of a frosting I would use for a cake and would tell exactly what is in it, which proves again how experience she is. The most nicest things about this however, is the fact that we both do not speak the same spoken language, she is from Norway I am from Germany, but still when it come to baking we seems to understand each other perfectly....

Coming back to my Pavlova... my husband surprised me with fresh blueberries and raspberries the other day and so the idea was born to make a Pavlova cake. I just love it when he surprises me with something special, which I did not put on the shopping list, giving me the opportunity to be spontaneous and prepare something sensational.
It is Easter time, time for getting nice treats and I think Pavlova cake is indeed something perfect to treat yourself or others in a special way...

I decided to make a chocolate Pavlova, the outcome was just amazing (I know you shall not really price yourself, but the cake turned out just perfect)...

Chocolate Pavlova with berries

  • 50 gr dark chocolate melted + cooled
  • 4 white eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 180 g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder unsweetened
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 2 pack. vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon curd (optional)
  • fresh berries
Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the chocolate and let is cool. Put the white eggs and pinch of salt in a bowl, beat till soft peaks starts forming, Add gradually the sugar while continuing beating the egg whites. Beat for couple of minutes, till stiff peaks are formed and the sugar is resolved. Sift cacao powder and cornstarch to the meringue, combine well. Add the vinegar and blend it in. Finally add the melted chocolate and stir gently.
On a baking paper, draw 3 circles (15 cm big), turn the baking paper to the other side and put it on the baking sheet. Put the meringue batter into a pipping bag and divide the batter equally between the 3 circles (which will indicate the placement of the meringue). You could also divide the batter with a spoon, I found it easier to do it with a piping bag.
Put the baking sheet into the oven, reduce the heat to 120C and bake for 60-75 minutes. The meringue layers should be crisps around the ages, but still sticky in the center. Take the baked layers and let them cool completely before assembling the cake.
In a bowl beat the double cream and vanilla sugar, till stiff peaks starts careful not to over beat it.
Assemble the cake by starting with one meringue layer, then couple of spoons of vanilla cream and fresh berries, continue with the remaining meringue layers and cream, finishing with the berries. If you are using the lemon curd, put it on the last layer on the top of the cream (marble it with the spoon). The cake is best eaten the same day.

I also made carrot cake cupcakes, you can find the recipe HERE - divide the batter in muffins tins and bake for ca. 20 minutes.


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