Thursday, 24 October 2013

Chocolate Overload Cake with KitKats and M&Ms

A few weeks ago for my sister-in-law's birthday I made her a chocolate cake that was surrounded by KitKats and topped with red M&Ms (red being her favourite colour). It was chocolate heaven! I don't know if these cakes have an official name but I'm going to call it Chocolate Overload Cake. Here's a pic of the finished cake:

I have been looking for a good chocolate cake recipe for a while, so this was a good excuse to test out a few different recipes in advance of the official cake baking. The first one I made was moist and had a good chocolate flavour but it reminded me too much of a packet mix chocolate cake - and if I'm going to spend time measuring and mixing then I want it to taste like I've made it from scratch. However, the chocolate icing from that recipe was fantastic - definitely a recipe to keep and use again (see below). So like Goldilocks I moved on to recipe number two, an almond-meal based cake which was quite dense. Because of the height of the KitKats I would need to layer two cakes together and I thought that two layers of this particular cake would be a bit too rich (even for a chocolate lover). I needed something that was light but still had a big chocolate flavour. Then I came across a recipe for David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake. I had never made a devil's food cake before so I wasn't sure how it would go, but when I made this one I was really happy with the way it turned out and knew that this would be my new favourite chocolate cake recipe. Goldilocks had found the one that was just right.

For the KitKat cake, I made two separate cakes as per the recipe. I used water instead of the coffee as I'm not a fan of coffee flavour. I used chocolate icing (see below for recipe) for the outside of the cake (rather than the ganache from David Lebovitz's recipe). I also made a raspberry buttercream icing (see below for recipe) to put between the two layers of chocolate cake, just to offset some of the chocolate and also incorporate a bit more red (well, pink actually) inside the cake. It tasted delicious and has a natural pink colour without needing food colouring.  

This is the fist layer with the raspberry buttercream icing :

Raspberry buttercream icing

Recipe from Raspberri Cupcakes:

125g (about 1 stick) butter, softened
250g (about 2 cups) icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
125g (1 punnet) fresh or frozen raspberries, pureed and strained
If using frozen raspberries, allow them to defrost (either at room temperature or in the microwave) before pureeing.
Place butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until combined. Add raspberry puree and beat until combined. You want your icing to be stiff enough to hold it's shape but soft enough to spoon or pipe.
Once the raspberry buttercream was spread on the first layer, I added the second layer of cake. I put the cake in the fridge at this point so that the raspberry icing could harden a bit while I made the chocolate icing.
Chocolate icing
Recipe from The Caramel Cookie (Hershey's cocoa recipe)
125g unsalted butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt the butter in the microwave in a large microwave-safe bowl. Mix in the cocoa. Add in the icing sugar a cup at a time, alternating with half the milk. Add in the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more milk. 
I then iced the whole cake with the chocolate icing and then it was ready to decorate!
I had bought 4 of the large family packs of KitKats which have 11 bars in each. I used 3 whole packs plus two extra bars to go around the cake. I started by breaking the KitKats by hand but quickly discovered that I wasn't getting a clean break, so I switched to using a knife to cut between the bars - this was much better. When I got to the end, I couldn't quite fit a whole KitKat in the remaining space, so I trimmed the edges of the last bar to fit snugly. I could have spread the other bars out a bit more instead, but I wanted the solid look of the bars right next to each other.
Once the Kit Kats were all in place, I tied a red ribbon around the middle - this both covers the indent in the middle of the KitKats and keeps them all secure.

Then the last job was to sprinkle the M&Ms on top. I found single colour M&Ms at a confectionery store in Brisbane (they had lots of different colours to choose from, including silver and white) and used about 350g. I chose red as this is my sister-in-law's favourite colour, but you could also use the multi-colour packs from the supermarket, or occasionally you can find other colour combinations at supermarkets around Christmas and Easter.
I was very happy with the end result and I think my sister-in-law liked it too, which is the most important thing! It was very rich though so a small slice was more than enough.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Miniature passport as a cash gift holder

Recently my sister-in-law and her husband both celebrated milestone birthdays just before they jetted off for a 6 week holiday in the USA. My SIL suggested that the family put some money towards some special holiday experiences as a gift (and it was our job to suggest what those experiences might be). So my other SIL and I came up with a few suggestions of things to do with some US dollars (eg visiting Alcatraz and the Statue of Liberty) and while my other SIL organised the US dollars, I was in charge of making a card for the birthday boy and girl.

As well a as birthday card for each of them, I decided to make a little passport for each of them with pockets in each page where I could slip in each US dollar bill and then on the outside of the pocket show the "Condition of Visa" which was our holiday activity suggestion.

I found a photo of the cover of an Aussie passport on Google and then I also found a picture of the inner page of the passport which shows all the person's details. If I had access to the real passports I would have just taken a photo of them but I was short on time so I decided just to modify the Google image with a photo and text.

For the text, Google told me that OCR was the font used in passports so I downloaded a copy of the font and played around with the text in Word to get the right size and spacing.

For the other pages, I found some passport-type stamps (also on Google - love that website!) to use for each city that we had an activity for. I used Courier New for the font on those pages.   

The finished passport (when closed) measured about 6.2cm (2 1/2 inches) wide and about 8.5cm (3 3/8 inches) high. I think the small size really gave it a unique look and it was just the right size for a folded dollar note.

I was so happy with how the passports turned out - and I think my SIL and BIL loved them too!

Here are some photos of the project in progress:

These are the pages just after I had printed and trimmed them to size. I used white cardstock for the cover and normal A4 paper for the inner pages.


 A close-up of the cover:


And a close-up of the inner page:

When I did a test run of the pocket for the inner page, I found that using the full width of the glue runner didn't leave enough room inside the pocket for the folded dollar bills. I hate wasting things so I put two pages side-by-side and glued both in one go so each page had only half the width of glue on it.

You can also see in the photo above that I used a 1 inch circle punch to make a semi-circle at the top of the left hand side of the page - I did this on each left page to give a tab to easily get the money in and out of each pocket.
This is how the pages looked once they were glued together (before I attached the cover).


And another view:


The money in the pocket:


All pockets filled and ready for gifting:


The finished passport:


If you make your own version of this passport, I would love to see what you have made - leave me a comment and I will get back to you.