Category Archives: baking

Mega Chocolate Cake and a Summer Picnic

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Mega Chocolate Cake
What do children of a food blogger want to do with their mom? They want to bake! Sounds simple , right, except that I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen and seeing flour, sugar and eggs being flung about is not an easy task for me to endure. ūüôā Well, one overcast afternoon we were running out of things to do and baking a cake seemed like a great plan. I am not going to lie, things were no less messy than I expected. There are no pictures of the process because I was too scared to bring my camera into the kitchen, but the end result exceeded everybody’s expectations. Hours of fun together and the most delicious, chocolaty fudgy cake to show for it baked entirely by Mitchell and Vika. This momma was so proud! I am going to shut up now and let the pictures tell the story of what went on after the cake came out of the oven.

PicnicMega Chocolate CakePicnic Mega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate CakeMega Chocolate Cake and a Summer PicnicSummer PicnicMega Chocolate CakeSummer picnicSummer PicnicSummer PicnicSummer Picnic
I am sure I don’t need to convince you how simple this recipe is since my 7 and 9 year olds mastered it. The entire cake is made in the food processor, poured into a pan and then baked. The most straightforward recipe ever, which is why the stellar results completely astounded me! This just goes to prove food doesn’t have to be complex to be delicious.
Ingredients:

  • Bitter-sweet Chocolate-7 oz/ 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • Butter-3/4 cup plus extra for greasing
  • Soft Brown Sugar-2/3 cup
  • Skinned Almonds (I used ground almonds)-2/3 cup
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Eggs- 4 large
  • Flour- 1 1/3 cup
  • Baking Powder- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • White Chocolate (roughly chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice cream for serving

Method:

Preheat your oven to 325F/160C

Break up your chocolate into squares and put it in the food processor along with butter, sugar, almonds, cocoa powder and salt. Pulse until smooth. With the motor still running crack one egg at a time, then add flour and baking powder. Done!! Just make sure the batter is smooth.

Grease a rectangular 9×13 baking dish and dust it with a bit of cocoa powder. Pour the cake batter into the pan and scatter the white chocolate chunks over it (The original recipe by Jamie Oliver called for soft fudge pieces but I didn’t have any.) Bake for 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with a bit of whipped cream or ice-cream. The warm cake was incredibly fudgy and gooey – as you can see on the picture below – so after being prim and proper and eating it from our own plates, we abandoned that boring business and dove right into the cake pan!

Mega Chocolate Cake
Note: The recipe was slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Food Revolution”.

Summer Berry Tart

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Summer Berry Tart
Berries are quite possibly THE thing I love the most about summer and the presence of berry desserts signals holiday for me more than anything else. As every Russian child that grew up in the city I loved going away to a “dacha” on weekends and getting lost in the garden picking or, more likely, eating copious amounts of plentiful fruits and berries.

I was quite disappointed when I first moved to the States to find that the “berries” were reduced to strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, and perhaps blackberries if you are lucky. In my world there were so much more! What about gooseberries, ¬†wild strawberries. black, red and white currants?

Summer Berry Tart
Thankfully, due to the resurgence of farmer’s markets and people’s general interest in gardening my little summer heros are popping up all over the place which means lots of desserts for me!

Summer Berry TartSummer Berry Tart
Ingredients:

  • Mixed seasonal berries- 600 gr
  • Meringue nests (broken)-4
  • Double Cream- 250 gr/1 cup
  • Creme Fraiche- 125 gr/1/2 cup
  • Icing Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla bean (seeds scraped out)-1
  • Rum (optional)- 1 tbsp.

For the tart:

  • Flour-250 gr plus extra for dusting
  • Icing sugar-50 gr
  • Unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)-125 gr
  • Egg-1 large
  • Milk- a little splash
  • Butter for greasing the tart tin

Summer Berry Tart

Method:

First off, if you can find a great tasting all butter pre-made tart and it’s blazing hot outside, go ahead and purchase one! I am all about shortcuts in the kitchen as long as it doesn’t compromise the taste.

If no such tart available here is what you will do:

Mix the flour and icing sugar in a large bowl, add cubed butter and work it in the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add your egg and a bit of milk just to bring the dough together, form it into a ball.  Wrap it in a plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 min.

Sprinkle your work surface and the rolling pin with some flour, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out big enough to fit a 9″ loose bottomed tart tin. Grease your tart tin with some butter, drape your dough over the rolling pin and transfer it into the tart tin making sure it comes up the sides, trim off the extra bits and prick it with a fork all over, cover it with a plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F. Take the tart dough out of the fridge and line it with parchment paper pushing it into the sides, fill the tart with baking beans or rice and bake it “blind” for 10 minutes, take it out, removes the baking beans and parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes longer until firm and golden, cool completely before filling it. (Note: Don’t be tempted to skip the blind baking step, otherwise your tart shell will shrink. I’ve learned the hard way.)

Before serving whip the double cream and creme fraiche with icing sugar, vanilla bean seeds and rum until soft peaks form. Mix it with broken meringue nests and fill your tart with the mixture. Top with mixed berries.

In the last week I’ve made this tart twice!

For this one I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Summer Berry Tart
Then a few days later I went to a farmer’s market and found red currants. So I had to make another Summer Berry Tart using a generous amount of red currants!

Summer Berry Tart
Dust with a bit of icing sugar for extra drama. ūüôā
Summer Berry Tart
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Sweden”.

Strawberry Meadow Galette for Brad {giveaway closed}

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Strawberry Meadow Galette
In the early days of my husband and I dating he told me that his name Bradley¬†meant “from a meadow” and that little tidbit just added to his allure. As if he needed any help I was already hopelessly in love with him. This past Sunday we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. Our night out in London was absolutely perfect-aimless wandering through the South Bank, crossing the Thames on our way to the West End with numerous stops in hundred year old pubs culminated in us being serenaded by a lovely street performer in Covent Garden along with a couple hundred other people. I couldn’t help feeling so blessed by having him by my side for the last 14 years.

A day later at home I made this Strawberry Meadow Galette which is dedicated to my Brad. ūüôā Throughout the years, no matter how busy we’ve been we’ve always managed to find time for a quick tea and a chat and I know we will have many more in the years to come, for which I am happy to bake for!Strawberry Meadow GaletteStrawberry Meadow GaletteStrawberry Meadow Galette
Ingredients: {For the Pastry} Makes 2 galettes

  • Flour-3 cups
  • Salt-3/4 tsp
  • Butter-3/4 cup/200gr
  • Sour Cream-3/4 cup/200 gr

Ingredients: {For the filling}

  • Strawberries (cut in half)- 2 lbs
  • Sugar- 1 cup (I used vanilla scented sugar for extra flavour)
  • Egg- 1 (for brushing)
  • Edible flowers for decorating (optional)

Strawberry Meadow Galette

I am a big fan of galettes as I love the rustic look of them plus they are so easy! Check out this Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette ¬†and Eggplant, Red and Yellow Pepper Galette¬†¬†that I’ve made in the past.

The pastry I am sharing is very special and comes from one of my favourite Russian cookbooks Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen. I’ve adapted it slightly for my own taste. Sour cream makes this flaky pastry pleasantly tart which contrasts the sweetness of the fruit fillings in pies and galettes.

Strawberry Meadow Galette
Method:

In a large bowl combine flour and salt, add the butter using a pastry blender, cut it into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add sour cream and work it into the mixture with your hands until it comes together. Knead briefly, divide into two balls, wrap them in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Dust your work surface with some flour and roll out your pastry 1o″ in diameter. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange half of the strawberries cut side down on the pastry leaving an inch wide border filling free and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of sugar. Fold the border over the berries while brushing the pleats of pastry with a beaten egg to hold the pastry in place and also to give your galette a beautiful golden colour. Sprinkle the pastry with additional sugar if desired.

Repeat with another ball of pastry.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 min.

Decorate with edible flowers to make it look like a meadow! ūüôā

Strawberry Meadow Galette
Giveaway:

A couple of months ago kind people of Lurpak sent me a nice package which I would love to share with my readers. If you are not from Europe and not sure what Lurpak is click on the link above. I am giving away a beautiful apron!

Lurpak apron

This apron is not only useful to keep your clothes in top shape while you are busy in the kitchen but also is a brilliant cheat sheet for a novice or a seasoned cook alike! From recipes to useful tips this apron is full of helpful information.

Lurpak apron
And if it’s not enough I am also throwing in a Lurpak kitchen towel!

Lurpak kitchen towel

So what do you do to receive these items?

  1. “Like” Vikalinka on Facebook.
  2. “Share” Vikalinka Facebook Page with your friends.
  3. Leave a comment on my Facebook page that you’ve shared.
  4. For an additional entry, share this post on Twitter and include Vikalinka in your post  and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.

That’s it!!

The contest will close on July 31 st. 

Good luck!

Rhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted Cream

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Rhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted Cream
As much as I love chocolate when the summer months come around all I want is to indulge in fruit and berries- blueberry smoothies for breakfast, peaches and apricots for snacks, strawberries and cream for dessert, rhubarb and blackberry cobbler for tea time. Fruit galore! Who’s with me?
Rhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted Cream
The tea time in England is nearly a sacred ceremony and I couldn’t feel more at home with it. A love for tea and tea cakes is something the Brits and the Russians have shared for centuries. And it turns out the same goes for rhubarb. The rhubarb in Britain is said to be cultivated from the seeds imported from Russia in the 17th century, which in turn were brought over from China and were considered a prized possession along with tea and opium. The name¬†rhubarb¬†is believed to originate from a combination of two words “Rha”, an ancient name for the Russian River Volga on the banks of which rhubarb grew wildly and “barbaros”-foreign. There you have it-even the humblest of things can have very exotic roots.

The rhubarb blackberry cobbler I am sharing today is something I’ve made for years and we never get tired of it. ¬†Whenever I bring it to a party without a fail I get asked for the recipe. It’s that good. Oh forget modesty. It’s utterly brilliant! Warm and delicious with natural flavours of tangy rhubarb and sweet blackberry this cobbler is only made better by a touch famous Cornish Clotted Cream or Cornish Clotted Ice Cream for hot summer days.

Rhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted CreamRhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted Cream
Ingredients:

  • Fresh Rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces-5 cups/1.250 kg
  • Blackberries- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Sugar- 1 cup/250 ml

For the Topping:

  • Flour- 1 cup/ 250 ml
  • Baking Powder- 1 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar- 1/4 cup/60 ml
  • Salt-1/4 tsp.
  • Butter- 1/3 cup/75 ml
  • Rolled Oats (not instant)-1/2 cup/125 ml
  • Milk- 2/3 cup/150 ml
  • Granulated sugar for sprinkling (optional)-1 tbsp.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C (180C for a fan assisted oven)

Put diced rhubarb with blackberries in a baking dish or a deep cast iron skillet and pour sugar over, stir to combine.

For the topping, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly, then add oats and combine everything together, add milk and stir until just moistened. Drop spoonfuls on the rhubarb blackberry mixture leaving spaces here and there. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes until the rhubarb is cooked and the top is golden and crusty. Serve warm at tea time with a dollop of Cornish Clotted Cream or Ice Cream.

Rhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted CreamRhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted CreamRhubarb Blackberry Cobbler with Cornish Clotted Cream Blackberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Frasier Torte or Happy Birthday Mitchell and Canada

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Frasier Torte
Happy Canada Day, eh!

Like all Canadians I am patriotic but never more than when I am away from Canada which is why ¬†this maple leaf cake is the first ¬† one I ever baked in honour of the national holiday. In our family July 1st is more known as our first born Mitchell’s birthday but today it’s about both. There is a huge party on Trafalgar Square today and my little Canucks can’t wait to go and celebrate with the rest of the ex-pats in London. We hear the Mounties are making an appearance. I hope they are brining their horses!

I couldn’t think of a better cake for the occasion than a classic Frasier Torte- a layer of lemon and vanilla scented sponge topped with a light and silky strawberry mousse. A perfect cake for a perfect summer day for my beautiful boy. I still can’t believe he is 9!!

Mitchell

Ingredients for the sponge:

  • eggs-3¬†large at room temperature
  • sugar-1/2¬†cup
  • lemon juice-1/2 lemon
  • finely grated lemon zest- from 1/2 lemon
  • flour-1/2¬†cup
  • salt-1/4¬†teaspoon
  • unsalted butter, melted-1¬†tablespoon
  • vanilla extract-1/2¬†teaspoon

Ingredients for Strawberry Mousse:

  • Eggs (separated)- 2
  • Superfine sugar-4 tbsp.
  • Strawberries (processed in a food processor to a pulp)- 3/4 cup
  • Gelatine-4 tsp.
  • Water-3 tbsp.
  • Whipping Cream- 1 1/2 cup
  • Strawberries, cut in half (to line the sides of the cake) -2 cups plus extra for decorating the top of the cake

Frasier Torte

Method for the sponge:

Preheat the oven to 325F/ 160C. Line your 9-inch springform cake pan with parchment, don’t grease the sides and set aside.¬†Whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until they are white and more than triple in volume, then add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Sift the flour and salt together, add both to the egg mixture. In a small bowl melt a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and stir vanilla into it. ¬†Spoon a cup of the batter into that bowl and stir everything together, then add this all back to the full batter and stir gently until blended, don’t over mix as it will result in a cake that won’t rise very much. ¬†Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Cool the cake completely in the pan.

While the cake is cooling prepare the mousse.

Method for the mousse:

Beat the egg yolk and sugar until light, then whisk in the processed strawberries. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl and allow to go spongy, then put in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until the gelatine has dissolved. Stir in the mousse.

Whip the cream until holding its shape and fold into the mousse. Whisk the egg whites until standing in soft peaks, then fold in. Let stand in a cool place until starting to set for about 30 minutes.

To assemble the cake:

Run a knife along the side of the pan to loosen the cake and take it out, peel the parchment off. Wash the pan and dry well and put the cake back in the pan. Cut the strawberries in half and arrange closely together alongside the walls of the pan with a cut side touching the pan. Pour the mousse in the pan and smooth the top. Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours.

Before serving un-mold the cake and decorate with remaining strawberries. I went for the maple leaf design in honour of Canada Day at my son’s request.

Frasier Torte- Vanilla Sponge and Fresh Strawberries set in Strawberry Mousse
This cake is truly beautiful and impressive but if you prefer chocolate over vanilla you can try Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake I baked a few months ago.

Note: The sponge recipe was adapted for Anna Olson’s Frasier Torte

Spicy Turkey Burek

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Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Some smells and tastes are so nostalgic that even the mere memory of them create instant longing. Sometimes it’s the taste itself but more often it’s the time of our life that is linked to certain food experiences-happy childhood memories, flashbacks to the dizzying early days of a first love or late night eating with your girlfriends in a college dorm. Life is inevitably connected to food we eat and people we share it with. That’s what makes some things truly unforgettable.

One of the best parts of my childhood were summer travels with my parents to the South of Russia. We often went to the Black Sea for a much needed beach holiday. It was a day and a half travel by train which was surprisingly fun for my brother and I. I really loved Russian trains or “mobile hotel rooms” as Brad calls them with their endless tea drinking ceremonies usually accompanied by adults passionately discussing everything from the history of football to the flaws of the government structure and the children watching the expanse of Russian landscape stretch for hours on end. The highlight of the journey was the moment the food vendors would knock on our door with their cart full of wonderfully smelling food. To our utter disappointment, their food never passed my mom’s standards for health and nutrition but once in a while she’d be out of the compartment and my dad would buy us a burek or¬†a¬†cheburek¬†as it is known in Russia.¬†

Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Cheburek is a popular street food commonly sold throughout Russia. It’s Crimean Tatar’s national dish that is loved and accepted in Russia as their own. Different incarnations of it exists in parts of Eastern Europe and also in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and is more commonly known as Burek or Borek.¬†Deep fried pastry filled with spicy minced meat and onions, cheburek is a lovely snack but not the healthiest thing in the world. I am sure you can see my dilemma as I’ve been on a quest to shed a few pounds for a couple of months, burek just didn’t fit into my diet but the need to make it grew stronger every time I passed the Turkish shop on my way to pick up the kids from school. Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Lo and behold, I present to you-Healthy Burek. Spicy minced turkey breast wrapped into delicate filo pastry and baked in the oven. I served it with hummus and fresh veggies for dipping. Although creating guilt-free burek was hugely experimental, the end result was a keeper and equally loved and enjoyed by husband and children alike. Win-win.
Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek with Hummus
Ingredients:

  • Minced Turkey Breast-500 gr
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Cilantro- 1/2 bunch
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Dry Coriander- 1 tsp.
  • Chili Flakes(optional)-to taste
  • Salt and Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Filo Pastry sheets- 150 gr.
  • Olive oil or oil spray

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250C/450F.

Chop onions, cilantro and parsley, mince garlic and combine with turkey, add salt and pepper and mix well. It’s very important to make sure your filling is properly spiced or you will end up with something bland and uninteresting, pinch a small amount off and fry it, taste it and add more spices if necessary.

Take one sheet of filo pastry and keep the rest covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. My filo pastry came from a Turkish shop and was already cut into triangles, if yours is not you can do it yourselves. I prefer the triangle shape because you end up with less pastry to meat ratio and therefore crispier burek.

Put 2 tbsp. of filling on the wide end of the filo sheet and wrap it towards the tip of the triangle tucking the sides in. Place it on the parchment lined baking sheet making sure that the tip of the triangle is on the bottom, then either brush it with a bit of olive oil or use an oil spray. Repeat until the filling is gone- approximately 8-10 bureks.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning them over at a half time point to make sure they crisp up evenly.

Spicy Turkey and Filo BurekSpicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Additional links of this tasty treat are found below. Enjoy!

Russian Pastry Chebureki by Mom’s Dish

Borek or Burek (with spinach and cheese) by To Food with Love

Turkish Sigara Boregi with Minced Meat by Eating Out Loud

Banoffee Tartlets

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Banoffee Tartlets
If you are not from England chances are you’ve never heard of Banoffee Pie before and it’s a real shame. I reckon the invention of Banoffee Pie should stand on equal footing with industrialisation and discovering of DNA and other great things that came out of England. Well, maybe not quite as equal, maybe just a teensy bit lower. Banoffee Pie is the magic combination of everything that is good and true. Sweet and silky Banana plus rich and indulgent Toffee equals Ban+offee. Throw in some chocolate and you get the picture. Pure bliss.
Banoffee Tartlets
The best thing is they are EASY to make and even easier to enjoy. I served them for dessert last weekend for my giant dinner party because when you cook a big meal the last thing you want is to fuss over a dessert as well. A snap to make but do they ever look impressive! Here is my version of the  famous Banoffee Pie. I made a couple of changes but nothing major that would alter the taste. I filled the tarts with dulce de leche instead of toffee and added mascarpone to the cream in order to create a more stable frosting that could be piped.Banoffee Tartlets

Ingredients:  {for 8 Tartlets}

  • 8 all-butter pre-made tartlet cases (You can of course make your own)
  • Sweet and condensed Milk- 1 can
  • Banana, sliced-2
  • Mascarpone- 1/2 cup/ 100gr
  • Whipping Cream/Double Cream- 1 cup/ 250 ml
  • Icing Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla-1 tsp.
  • Rum-1tbsp. (optional)
  • Chocolate for chocolate curls or cocoa for dusting-50 gr or 1tbsp of cocoa

Banoffee Tartlets

Method:

Remove the label from the can of sweet and condensed milk and put it in the pot completely submerged in water. ¬†Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 1.5-2 hours. Make sure your can is completely covered in water through the duration of cooking or it will explode. ¬†Cool until it’s ready to use. When you open it you will discover that your “ole” plain can of sweet and condensed milk got transformed into glamourous and silky dulce de leche.

This step could be done well in advance. I had mine stored for a couple of weeks before I got around to use it. On a side note, ¬†I have to brag about the fact that Russian babushkas have been making dulce de leche¬†for years before it became trendy all over North America, so the taste of “sgushenka” is the taste of childhood for every Russian child.

Whip mascarpone with double cream, icing sugar, vanilla and rum until it’s the right consistency for piping roses.

Spread your dulce de leche equally among 8 tartlets, top with sliced bananas. Pipe the mascarpone cream frosting on top and dust with cocoa or decorate with chocolate curls.

For Chocolate Curls:

Melt the chocolate in the microwave and spread it thinly on a baking tray, pop it in the fridge for 3 minutes to set. Take it out and let it stand for a couple of minutes to soften a bit. Drag a knife or a cheese slicer like I did  along the surface of the chocolate to make the curls. When you have enough curls, put them back in the fridge for a couple of minutes to harden.

Banoffee Tartlets
Leave one or two of your tartlets curl-free to show off that gorgeous rose, just a little of cocoa dusting will do.

Banoffee Tartlets
Banoffee TartletsBanoffee Tartlets

Wild Things Cupcakes or Happy Birthday Vika!

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting I am so excited to finally being able to blog about the cupcakes that made my little girl’s birthday extra special.
Creating something new for my children every year on their birthday is not just fun for them but also an enjoyable challenge for me. Every year when they present me with a request (like a Sonic the Hedgehog or Hello Kitty cake) I am never sure if I can pull it off but after a little bit of research and trial and error I seem to end up with something we all love.

This year was no different except that Vika couldn’t settle on ONE cake ¬†she wanted. I also lacked the inspiration and skill to deliver on her requests until I stumbled upon something very special by Sweetapolita who is my number one stop for anything cake and confection related. Vika is a huge animal lover and has a really soft spot for puppies so when I saw these hand stamped cupcakes by Rosie of Sweetapolita I knew exactly what I needed. Rubber stamps! The great thing about these cupcakes is that depending on a stamp you can create a great variety of cupcakes toppers. You never have to repeat yourself.Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions
I was delighted with how they turned out. All my hard work paid off when I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes! These cupcakes were just perfect for a little girl’s birthday party as the cake toppers themselves evoked images of a child’s drawings. Don’t you think? And the tea towel that served as a back drop was made using the “self-portraits” of ¬†the children in Vika’s class! Here is one done by Vika.:-)

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

You can use any cake recipe and any frosting recipe but you do need fondant, never used rubber stamps, paste food colours and a small brush to make these. Here is what I did.

A day (or a week ahead) ahead:

Roll out fondant as thin as you can on an icing sugar dusted surface and cut out medallions to fit the diameter of your cupcakes. Make sure you dust your surface well with icing sugar as fondant tends to be pretty sticky. Lay them out and dry overnight. I live in England where it’s often rainy so I really struggled to get my toppers very dry, and at one point I had a humidifier going for a while to draw all the moisture out!

As soon as your fondant toppers are dry you can stamp them. I used paste food colour (Dusky Pink by Sugarflair) with just a drop of water in it, then I painted each stamp with a small paint brush and stamped the toppers. Rosie of Sweetapolita made a great tutorial on her website if you would like more details. If you have ever used a rubber stamp before you can quickly master this technique.

Ingredients for the cupcakes {Makes 24}:

  • Cake Flour- 2 1/2 cups/275 gr
  • Baking powder- 1tbsp.
  • Salt- 1/2 tsp.
  • Kefir or Buttermilk (I used Kefir)- 1 cup
  • Eggs-1 large at room temperature
  • Egg whites- 2 large at rooms temperature
  • Vanilla Bean (seeds scraped out)- 1
  • Sugar- 1 1/2 cups
  • Butter- 8 tbsp/115 gr at room temperature

Note: Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

The wild things cupcakesThe Wild Things Cupcakes

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 F/160 C. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, in a separate bowl mix together the egg, egg whites, kefir or buttermilk and vanilla seeds.

In a large bowl whip together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. To the bowl with butter mixture add flour mixture and egg mixture in 2 or 3 additions alternating them, starting with the flour mixture and finishing with the flour mixture.

Fill your 2 lined muffin tins with cupcake batter about 2/3 full and bake for 15-17 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • Mascarpone (chilled)- 8 oz/250 gr
  • Cream Cheese(chilled)- 8 oz/250 gr
  • Butter(at room temperature)- 1/2 cup/125 gr
  • Icing sugar- 1 1/2 cups
  • Vanilla- 2 tsp.
  • Paste food colour (Dusky Pink by Sugarflair)

Method: 

Combine mascarpone, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, sugar and food colouring if using in a food processor and pulse just until smooth and creamy. Do not overprocess. It’s important that your mascarpone and cream cheese are cold from the fridge and butter is at room temperature, this way you will have nice and stiff frosting that is easy to pipe. (This frosting could also be made using a hand mixer or a stand mixer.)

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes using a star tip and place your stamped medallions on top.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Fondant Medallions

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey

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"Tvorog" Cheesecake
My dear friends, I’ve been holding out on you and for that I am sorry. I made the most delicious cheesecake this past Easter but just posting the recipe today. The good news is that cheesecake is not seasonal, it’s welcome for any occasion. The recipe for this culinary delight was a bit of a gamble-part tradition/part speculation and experiment but the result was nothing short of divine.

As I wrote in one of my previous posts Easter is one of the biggest holidays in Russia and I wanted to keep the traditions alive in my own family. The least I could do was to cook all the Easter treats. Paskha, Kulich and Coloured Easter Eggs are the three musts for every Russian household. Check out the links to Paskha and Kulich from my talented fellow bloggers, the treats are as delicious as they are beautiful!

I coloured eggs with my children this year but ended up buying Kulich or something similar from a Polish shop nearby instead of making my own. I really wanted to make a sweet cheese Paskha but I didn’t have a proper mould so I opted out for a modern day Paskha. Paskha with a twist.

Traditionally Paskha is made from a farmer’s cheese called “Tvorog” in Russian, eggs, sugar, vanilla and dried fruit and candied orange and lemon peel. ¬†I thought it would be fun to try to use the same ingredients but make it into a cheesecake instead. Russian Cheesecake is called “Zapekanka” which translates as “Baked”, it doesn’t have a bottom crust and the cheese is often held together by eggs and semolina. I have vague and not the fondest memories of ‘Zapekanka’, something that was served for school lunches- heavier on semolina rather than cheese yellowish squares with burned top. It tasted far from stellar, so I successfully avoided eating it whenever possible. Needless to say, I set out to create different memories for my children.

My efforts were worthwhile because what they got as a result of my experiment tasted lighter than a cloud and looked… Actually, a picture is worth a thousand words so judge it for yourself!

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey
The recipe for this beauty is not too different from a standard cheesecake recipe but includes a couple of Russian twists.
Ingredients:

  • Farmers’s Cheese- 750 gr/24 oz
  • Eggs- 3 large
  • Sugar- 1 cup
  • Semolina-3 tbsp.
  • Lemon zest- from 1 lemon
  • Vanilla Bean seeds- from 1 bean
  • Digestive biscuits crushed( you can use graham crackers, unfortunately they are not available in England)-125 gr
  • Butter- 1/4 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 325 F/160 C

Zest the lemon and set aside…or take a picture like I did.

Lemon Crush the biscuits (I equipped my children with a rolling pin and a large bowl and told them to “go nuts” on those biscuits, they happily obliged.) then mix the crumbs with melted butter. Line the bottom of a 21″ springform pan with the crumbs and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, set aside and cool.

Separate your egg yolks from the egg whites. Mix together farmer’s cheese, egg yolks, sugar, semolina, lemon zest and vanilla bean seeds with an electric mixer until well blended. In a separate bowl whip egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the cheese mixture.

Pour the mixture into your springform pan and set it inside a larger roasting pan filled with 1″ water. This technique called “bain marie” helps to evenly distribute heat when cooking delicate foods like cheesecakes and custards. I find it produces much lighter texture in cheesecakes as it infuses them with additional moisture which also helps with preventing cracks.

Bake at 320 F/160C ¬†for 60-65 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the centre is nearly set. Turn the heat off and leave in the oven for additional 20-30 minutes. If your cheesecake still cracks, don’t worry and cover it up with something pretty! Cool completely in the refrigerator.

I used fresh figs instead of dried fruits that are traditionally used in Easter Paskha and drizzled them with a touch of ¬†dark and deep flavoured chestnut honey I brought from my last trip to Italy. An experiment that turned out to be a true winner. I couldn’t be happier with the end result. ūüôā

Lemon Vanilla Cheesecake with Figs and Honey

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey

Strawberry Mousse Cake

Standard

Another friend’s birthday passed, another cake made, eaten and enjoyed. I know I get excited about every cake I write about but this one was truly special and quite different from the usual – cake + frosting deal. ¬†Imagine dark chocolate sponge sandwiched together with a light, cloud-like, creamy strawberry mousse, topped with fresh strawberries and cream. Sounds like a dream? It was pretty close to perfection in my opinion and fortunately a snap to make at home.

Strawberry Mousse Cake

I made this cake years ago following the recipe from the Chocolate cookbook I have and although I liked it I knew a few changes had to be made to perfect the recipe. Many English baking recipes call for self-rising flour and this cake was no exception. I am not a big fan of self-rising flour as I find it produces cakes that are too heavy and compact. In this particular cake the texture of the dense sponge didn’t match the light and fluffy mousse.
Fortunately I have my trusty chocolate sponge recipe that I swapped for the original and voila…Perfection! Two layers of delicate chocolate cake filled with light and creamy strawberry mousse made that birthday delight irresistible.
Strawberry Mousse Cake
Ingredients for the cake:

  • Flour -1 3/4 cups
  • Cocoa- 3/4 cup
  • Sugar- 2 cups
  • Baking powder- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • Baking soda- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Eggs- 2 large
  • Milk- 1 cup
  • Oil- 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla essence- 2 tsp.
  • Strong hot coffee- 3/4 cup

Method:

Note: The recipe I used here makes two cake layers or 1 cake layer and a dozen of cupcakes. I made 1 9″ cake and a dozen cupcakes for my kids to enjoy as the cake was for the adult party and I didn’t want them to feel left out.

Preheat your oven to 325 F/160 C and grease your 9″ springform cake pan and line with parchment paper. (Instead of using parchment paper I dusted mine with flour but it was a bit of a mistake as flour shows on the dark sponge. It’s usually not a big deal but because this cake doesn’t get covered with frosting you want the layers to look attractive.)

Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl until combined. In a separate bowl mix eggs, milk, oil and vanilla essence. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and beat with an electric mixer until well incorporated. Now make your coffee and pour  3/4 cup of it in the ingredients ( enjoy the rest!) and quickly mix everything together. I promise you the cupcakes don’t taste anything like coffee but it is a magic ingredient :-).

Pour half of the mixture in the prepared pan and level the top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minuted or until cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. Le the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a knife along the sides of a springform pan, release the sides and turn the cake out on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile , make the strawberry mousse.

Ingredients for the Mousse:

  • Eggs (separated)- 2
  • Superfine sugar-4 tbsp.
  • Strawberries (processed in a food processor to a pulp)- 3/4 cup
  • Gelatine-3 tsp.
  • Water-3 tbsp.
  • Whipping Cream- 1 cup

For Decoration:

  • Strawberries (sliced)- 200 gr. for decoration
  • Cream 1/2 cup
  • Icing sugar-2 tbsp.
  • Vanilla- 1/2 tsp.

Method: 

Beat the egg yolk and sugar until light, then whisk in the processed strawberries. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl and allow to go spongy, then put in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until the gelatine has dissolved. Stir in the mousse.

Whip the cream until holding its shape and fold into the mousse. Whisk the egg whites until standing in soft peaks, then fold in. Let stand in a cool place until starting to set for about 30 minutes.

Cut the cake in 2 layers. Place the first layer back in the springform pan and pour in the mousse and let it set for 2 hour in the refrigerator. Place the top layer directly on the mousse layer and continue chilling for 2 more hours or until ready to serve. Whip the cream and icing sugar and vanilla. Decorate the top of the cake with fresh sliced strawberries and pipe cream rosettes around the edges.

This cake is incredibly light and not overly sweet due to the absence of frosting yet the silky mousse layer makes it feel like a great indulgence. Double win!

Strawberry Mousse Cake

Note: Because the eggs in the mousse are not cooked, however tempered by the hot gelatine mixture, I have used free-range and organic eggs to be on the safe side.

Note: The mousse recipe was adapted from Chocolate cookbook by Practical Cooking. I substituted orange for strawberries.