Pumpkin Nutella Swirl Muffins

It may not feel like fall yet but summer is definitely over. College starts tomorrow and I am, needless to say, already heading towards depression.

Last year of college! Can you blame me?

Oh the jitters. Which would justify why I’ve been hankering down in the kitchen everyday all day long. Nothing like some good fall baking to make everything better.

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist. You won’t be able to stop at one!

 

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. Bursting with fall flavors, these muffins will make your house smell like the most glorious bakery in Italy.

 

Pumpkin and Chocolate were meant to be together and when that chocolate is in the form of luscious Nutella, you know the muffins are bound to be out-of-this-world good.

They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist.

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You won’t be able to stop at one!

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist. You won’t be able to stop at one!

For my fellow Pakistani peeps who aren’t accustomed to the pumpkin ecstasy, let me tell you that it is d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s!

Pumpkin puree makes everything silky, soft and extremely moist. It doesn’t have a very distinct flavor which is why you add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to amplify it.

I have yet to see pumpkin puree being sold here in the supermarkets of Islamabad, which is why I made my own pumpkin puree from scratch. I’ll do a step by step post on it if you like. It’s very simple, just slice a pumpkin up, de-seed it, and roast in the oven till fork-tender. Cool and then scoop out all the soft bits. Chopperize or blend till smooth. Fill up disposable Ziploc bags with it and freeze. It lasts for up to a year.

Be it the classic Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread or Pumpkin Fettuccine, homemade pumpkin puree can be used for all sorts of things; both sweet and savory.

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist. You won’t be able to stop at one!

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist. You won’t be able to stop at one!

Give pumpkin a try. You won’t regret it. 🙂

Pumpkin Nutella Swirl Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes                                                                        Yields: 18 muffins
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (read description above)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Nutella spread
Directions:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease the tray well with cooking oil.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs, and oil until well-combined. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture and milk to the pumpkin mixture alternatively, starting and ending with the flour, until everything is just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Spoon batter into the muffin tray cavities, filling about 3/4 of the way full.
Place the Nutella into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds or until it thins out. Using a teaspoon, drop a spoonful or two of Nutella onto the top of each muffin and swirl with a knife.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set and golden brown. Best served warm!
*Store leftovers in an airtight container. Warm in microwave before serving.
Recipe source: Inside BruCrew Life

These pumpkin Nutella swirl muffins are the BOMB. They’re soft, tender, and extremely moist. You won’t be able to stop at one!

Baking 101

Today, instead of a recipe, we are going to do a Bake Like Noor 101. (Three cheers! Woohoo!)

Finding the perfect recipe (only on Spatula in My Pocket, yo) is only the first step in the magical world of baking. Since I know the struggle of a beginner baker, I’ll be guiding you through the basics, There is a lot to know and I am really excited to share all! So, I’ve divided it into various sessions:

  • Basic Baking Tools

  • Bakeware

  • Baking ingredients

  • Baking hacks and DIY stuff

First off, we have the basic baking tools that every single one of you should have; regardless of the fact that you’re a die-hard baker like me or just an occasional one timer. It’s a small list of relatively inexpensive items that will be an investment for years to come. You don’t need fancy equipment for baking, sometimes just a faithful whisk and a good ole bowl does the work. I still use my mum’s shaadi-wala (more than 25 years old) hand beater and cake tins. Plain and simple. Nothing fancy and over the top.

Baking 101

I am not saying that you should go all out and buy all of these tools at once. When I started baking, I admit, I hardly had any of this stuff and didn’t even know about them. It’s with time that I learnt and started investing.

All these tools are brought from either Pakistan, Saudi Arab, and America. I will give you an in-depth detail of each tool. Links to where I bought them and the prices are mentioned at the bottom. Hopefully you’ll find them or even better alternates.

Measuring Tools

Basic Baking Tools

I started off using mugs that we use for tea as the measuring cups and the normal tablespoons and teaspoons that we use to eat as measuring spoons. It is with baking over and over again that I leaned that baking is not art but more of a science. Precision and accuracy in measurements is paramount to a good baked product.

Basic Baking Tools

I used to use the measuring cup for wet ingredients too, and that is so so wrong. Liquids are different from dry ingredients. They weigh different, and if you forget that, it can all go wrong from there. So use a pyrex measuring cup for liquid ingredients. Proper measuring cups for dry ingredients. And for smaller quantities use actual measuring spoons and not the spoons you use to eat dinner with.

Basic Baking Tools

This measuring jug is plastic, which I wouldn’t recommend. It’s near to its end, doesn’t clean up that nice either. A nice pyrex one is on my to-buy-list. It should be on yours too.

Electric Hand Mixer

Basic Baking Tools

An electric hand mixer for all the mixing and beating, yielding perfectly smooth and fluffy frostings and batters. It dates back to before I was even born. It’s my mum’s and I’ve been using it for years, and it works perfectly fine.

Spaaatooolas

Basic Baking Tools

YOU MUST BUY THESE. These beautiful, magical, man-made creations. They wipe your bowls so clean that not a spick of batter is left hanging there. They glide ever so smoothly, making mixing a dream; smoothing and delicious. And they cost near to nothing! My favorite is the orange one. It broke. Split in two. Like my heart.

Silicone Brushes

tbrushes-3

Excellent for greasing pans with butter or oil, perfect for egg-washing and glazing, easy to clean; overall perfecto!

Cupcake liners

Basic Baking Tools

No you cannot grease a cupcake tray and then pour in the batter and bake cupcakes straightaway. You need paper liners. Why? Because cupcakes are not muffins. Cupcakes are soft and moist and much more delicate than muffins. They’ll stick like glue to your cupcake tray and you’ll be left with trying to scour out each cupcake out and scratching it while scrubbing it clean. Cupcake liners not only help make eating a cupcake easier, they also help the make the handling of the cupcakes so much easier. Also how pretty do they look… Tiny polka dot, bright pink ones with hearts, pink check boxed ones… totes adorbs.

Offset Spatula

Basic Baking Tools

An angled or an “offset” spatula is very useful for frosting cupcakes and cakes, and loosening cakes and cookies from their pans. I have a large 10” one for smoothly frosting large layer cakes and a non-stick one of loosening cookie and brownies from the parchment paper.

Basic Baking Tools

A palette knife like seen here is also helpful for the same reasons.

Baking pans

Basic Baking Tools

Baking pans are obviously a necessity. Round pans for cakes. Loaf pans for breads. Loose-bottom pans for cheesecakes. Muffin trays for cupcakes. Donut pan for donuts. You name it, you need it. There a pan out there for everything and IWANTTHEMALL. Baby steps. Start with a basic 8-inch round cake pan, a square 8-inch pan for brownies, and a standard 12-sized cupcake tray for cupcakes. Also, if you’re into homemade pizza, then a round pizza tray would be needed.

Prestige and Wilton are the top-notch brands for baking ware. Prestige is easily available in every big supermarket here in Pakistan. Wilton bakeware can be ordered online (link mentioned at the end of the post).

Parchment Paper

Basic Baking Tools

It not only helps prevent cakes or anything for that matter from sticking to the pan but also for stacking and storing cookies or even frozen parathas in the freezer.

Ice cream Scoop

Basic Baking Tools

An ice cream scoop is not just meant for scooping ice cream. Trust me when I say I’ve hardly ever used it for ice cream. This is the most versatile tool in my baking tool box. I use it for:

  • Scooping out perfectly proportioned cookies

  • Scooping out cupcake batter leading to same sized cupcakes

Sifter:

Basic Baking Tools

For light airy cakes, and smooth frosting without any sugar or cocoa lumps…that’s where a sifter comes in.

Piping Tips and Piping Bags

Basic Baking Tools

Wilton piping tips and plastic piping bags for those beautiful swirls and piped roses on cupcakes and cakes. Bought them from Amazon, got them shipped here through a friend. A set of four basic tips, comes with 12 piping bags. Extremely good quality. I recently bought more piping tips through a Facebook page (I’ll leave the link down below), and let me tell you that even though they are nowhere near Wilton, they are pretty darn good.

Whisk

Basic Baking Tools

One of the most inexpensive tools I reckon in my kitchen and most definitely in yours too. It is the most effective and invaluable. Perfect for mixing both dry ingredients and liquid ingredients. If you don’t have an electric beater, then the whisk is the way to go.

Basic Baking Tools

If you bake, you will need a cooling wire rack. Great for:

  • Cooling cookies and cakes

  • Catching the drips off of donuts and cookies

Wooden spoons

I swear by these. They’re hard and sturdy. Make mixing cookie dough so much easier. Perfect for dealing with hot caramels as well.

Basic Baking Tools

All these products have been bought from either:

  • Al-Fatah, Islamabad

  • Hyperpanda, Madina

  • Amazon, Seattle

  • Baking Tools, Facebook Page

Prices: all below Rs. 1500 excluding the electric hand beater (which in my mum’s time, I’m sure, cost below Rs. 1000…but they’re pretty dang expensive now)

Basic Baking Tools

 

Mini Pizza Pies

The recipe I am sharing today is a Family FAVORITE.

All families have certain dishes they love to cook and eat. Mine goes gaga for these mini pizza pockets! Put 12 dozen in front of them and they’ll still demand more.

I am sure you will face the same situation with your siblings, cousins, random guests when you try these magical pockets of dough and cheese and everything nice. (unless they are gluten intolerant. Oops)

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

 

This recipe is especially handy because it makes A LOT of mini pizzas pies (3 dozen to be exact). So they are the perfect, fuss-free party food. Easy to make, fun to eat.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

The chicken mixture is a scaled down version of the filling in the Chicken Bread I posted eons ago. A very simple, creamy chicken filling made with loads of butter, milk, and cheese. Divine. (calories, what calories?)

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

 

Also, these pies feature:

  • fresh bell pepper

  • sweet corn

  • tomato

You can customize the vegs according to your own taste. Leave out the corn if it makes you gag. Add mushrooms instead, or even olives would be lovely.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

The recipe is super fun to make. Get your kids or siblings involved and make a kitchen party out of it like we did!

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

 

I rolled out the dough, got my sisters to cut it out in circles, place them in the cupcake tray, and then fill em up.

First the pizza sauce or chili garlic sauce, then comes the chicken filling, then the vegetables, all topped with shredded mozzarella. Bake till the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly on top.

Dip into a bowl of this sweet and sour imli chutney and I dare you to stop at one.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

 

If making for a party, you can prepare them beforehand, cover the cupcake tray with foil, and keep refrigerated till you’re ready to bake them. They take literally less than 20 minutes to cook. They also freeze well. Line the unbaked versions in a airtight container or a ziplock bag and freeze for upto 3 months. The day you need to use them, leave to thaw till the oven gets preheated and then bake as you would normally.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

You’ll be the Queen/King of the household after you make these… Or their pizza pie slave forever.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

 

Try the recipe and let me know how they turn out by sharing a picture on Instagram with this hashtag #spatulainmypocket!

Happy baking!

Mini Pizza Pies

Yields: around 3 dozen
Ingredients:
Homemade pizza dough (for the recipe click HERE)
CHICKEN FILLING
1 Tablespoon butter
4 Tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1 Tablespoons flour, heaped
½ teaspoon salt, leveled
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon mustard powder (optional)
¼  cup whole milk
1 teaspoon dry oregano
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 green chilies, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Storebought pizza sauce
TOPPINGS
Tomato, chopped
Sweet corn
Green Bell Pepper, chopped
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Directions:
Prepare the dough and allow it to rise according to the instructions mentioned HERE.
For the filling: In a pan melt the butter and add the onion. Fry till the onions become soft and transparent. Add the chicken, flour, salt, black pepper, and mustard powder. Mix till combined. Take the pan off the heat and add the milk. Turn on the heat again, at low to medium flame, and stir constantly with the help of a wooden spoon. Add the oregano leaves, ketchup, green chilies, and coriander. Allow to cool completely.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and grease a cupcake tray lightly with cooking oil.
On a floured counter top, roll out half the dough in a rectangle. Cut out circles using a round cookie cutter.
Fix each round of dough in the cupcake tray. Add a dollop of pizza sauce in each, followed by a spoonful of the chicken filling, the vegetables. Top with cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes till its golden brown.
Repeat till all the dough and filling is used up.
Notes:
·         Best served fresh out of the oven. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Warm in the microwave before serving.
·         You might end up with leftover dough. You can freeze it or use it to make pizza pockets filling them up with sausages and cheese.

Mini Pizza Pies. The perfect snack idea!

Black Forest Cupcakes

Father’s Day is just two days away!

I get really ecstatic when such days come near… getting rolled up in their preparations and planning, coaxing my sisters into making beautiful cards and water paintings, getting my brother to go get flowers. Planning the perfect celebratory cake is my part, and obviously, the most fun part.

I had planned out what I’d make for Father’s Day 2016 ages ago!

Something seasonal. Something mango. First attempt. We’ll see how it turns out. You can keep me company and see it being created in all its(hopeful) glory on Snapchat. Follow me @noora559

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

When it comes to baking for my father, fruits are a must. No fancy schmancy, monstrous, chocolate dripping cakes for him. He’s more of a keep it light and simple type of person. His favorite creation of mine so far is this Strawberry and Cream Cake I made in March. Along with the cupcakes I am sharing today!

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

 

Black Forest Cupcakes is what we surprised our father with last year. He had bought in a box of black cherries and I had leaped at the chance to make something Black Forest.

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

Sharing with you this year because every father deserves to be surprised with a batch of these stunning cupcakes. Just talking about them is making me want to grab some cherries and make them right away!

 

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

The intense chocolate flavor was perfectly balanced by the tart cherry compote and paired with the light and airy whipped cream frosting…they were divine.

You can obviously skip the cherry compote filling, but then they’ll just be plain dark chocolate cupcakes (delicious but not with the magic that is Black Forest).

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

 

I studded the tops with whole cherries, plucked in a Baba ❤ topper, and voila! Ready to surprise the best man I know and love.

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

They are quick and simple, and a perfect way to use fresh cherries.

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Make these and show your dad how much you love him.

Black Forest Cupcakes

Yields: 15 cupcakes
Ingredients:
CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
1 and ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
8 Tbsp. (113g) unsalted butter, melted1
1 and ¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature2
½ cup hot coffee3
WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING (for the recipe click here)
CHERRY COMPOTE FILLING
3/4 cup fresh cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Directions:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar till the sugar dissolves. Add oil and mix well. Now add the egg and vanilla extract and beat for a minute, scraping off the sides. Whisk in the in the buttermilk.
Fold in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients gently till just incorporated. Do not over mix. Add hot coffee to the batter and whisk well again.
Divide it into cupcake pan filled with cupcake liners till ¾ full.
Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool completely before filling.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make your cherry compote by combining the cherries, honey, and the lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer for 15 minutes until the cherries are soft and much of the liquid has evaporated. It will thicken as it cools.
Using a knife, remove a quarter size piece from the top of the cupcake. Don’t cut in too deep or the filling will ooze out the bottom..
Fill each cupcake with a tablespoon of the cherry filling, then pipe or spread the whipped cream over top.
Top with some whole cherries.
Notes
1.       If using salted butter, then omit the salt in the recipe
2.      DIY Buttermilk: ½ Tbsp. vinegar and enough milk to make ½ cup.
3.      Coffee just help intensify the chocolate flavor. You can sub with plain hot water. I used ¼ tsp instant coffee mixed in ½ cup boiling water.

 

 

 

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes + Cherry Compote + Whipped Cream = YESPLEASE

 

M&Ms Cookies

If you follow me on Snapchat, then you must know how crazy I am about cookies nowadays. Oh wait. You guys haven’t been able to see my Snapstories these past few weeks. Minor glitch. Add me again @noora559

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

 

Anyhoo. Cookies! It’s all I’ve been doing! White Chocolate chip cookies, Nutella Swirl Cookies, Choco chocolate chip cookies, and then these deeevine M&M Cookies aka Rainbow Cookies.

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

I have no idea why I’ve shied away from baking cookies for so long.

They are super simple, super fun to make! And they only take minutes to prepare, like literally 8 to 10 minutes in the oven.

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

These cookies are soft cookies, none of that crispy crunchy stuff here people, and are studded with M&Ms. I also threw in some chocolate chips for good measure, a little extra chocolate never hurt anyone. And then studded the top with more M&Ms! That’s how I roll 8|

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

 

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

Certain key pointers you need to know so as to make perfect cookies every single time:

  • Chilling the dough is crucial! Crucial to prevent cookies from spreading too much, and to help retain their softness and thickness. Chill the dough for an hour or up to 5 days for best results.

    Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

  • Both brown sugar and regular white sugar are needed for this recipe. Brown sugar helps make the cookies extra chewy.

  • Cooking time is the next most important thing, this is the part where it can all go wrong, trust me, I’ve had my fair share of bad cookie experiences. Under-bake them and end up with a sloppy doughy mess. Over-bake them and end up with extremely chewy pieces of charred dough. 8 to 10 minutes is exactly what you’re looking for! The cookies should be still soft in the middle but starting to brown at the edges, that’s when you need to take them out of the oven and let them cool completely before digging in. Attempting to handle straight out of the oven cookies can pulverize them, as they’ll be too soft. Cooling them; helps set them.

    Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

Follow these tips, and you’ll master the art of cookies in no time.

Give these a go, and Instagram me your creations using the hashtag #spatulainmypocket.

Follow me on Instagram @spatulainmypocket

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

 

M&Ms Cookies

Yields: 32 cookies
Ingredients:
3/4 cup (170g) butter, softened to room temperature1
1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) castor sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons (266g) flour
1 teaspoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200g) mini or regular size M&M’s

 

Directions:
Beat the butter for a minute using an electric beater till creamy. Add in the brown sugar, and castor sugar; beat together on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix on high until combined, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and mix on high until combined. Scrape down the sides of the owl using a spatula. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cornflour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined.
Gently fold in the M&M’s.
Cover the dough with cling wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 5 days.
Preheat oven to 180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper*do NOT grease it. Set aside.
Roll balls of dough (about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough per cookie) and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until very lightly browned on the sides. The centers will still look very soft and pudgy. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on baking sheet before digging in.
Notes:
1.       You can use either salted or unsalted butter. If using salted butter, then omit the salt.
2.      These cookies stay fresh for weeks stored in an airtight container. Raw cookie dough can be frozen for upto three months.

 

 

Soft, chewy cookies studded with M&Ms.

Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake

Today I am sharing a childhood staple of almost everyone I know in Pakistan. Pretty sure it is the first cake we ever tasted. It’s the cake, I believe, we have blown candles out on at our birthday at least once in our childhood. Yuup, I am talking of the ‘fresh cream cake’… Or as I call it: the Mighty Sponge Cake. *drumroll*

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

Those light airy layers of cake, soaked in a saccharine pineapple syrup, filled with chunks of pineapples, slathered with freshly whipped cream, and topped with candied cherries. Sigh.

Sound familiar?

This “fresh pineapple cake” and it’s equally delectable chocolate twin (the “Black Forest”) are my favorite. In today’s culture of double chocolate, triple-tiered cakes, the sponge cake presents something simple and lovely. Or maybe it’s just the sentimental value.

So, when my mother requested this cake over and over again, I was a bit hesitant to make it. What if I created a disaster and spoiled all my happy memories?!

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

But I am not one to skip away from a challenge. I went on a Mighty Sponge research expedition.

I watched lots of YouTube tutorials and found some really interesting facts. (If you are not a baking enthusiast like me, feel free to skip the next bit). The sponge cake is of Japanese descent, and combined with strawberries it’s known as a Strawberry Shortcake. And because summer is here- baskets of fresh strawberries can be seen everywhere- I decided now is the perfect time to battle all sponge cake fears, and make it!

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

One recipe particularly caught my eye. Jon Jon’s beautiful step by step pictures and beautiful description to match made the recipe really easy to follow.

Here’s what I learnt about:

The Sponge Cake

The two things about sponge cakes that completely threw me off the hook though are:

  1. There is no butter or oil involved in the recipe. None at all.

  1. No fats means no greasing of pans! You bake the batter in an ungreased pan and technically the cake is supposed to pop out like a dream… My experience was slightly different.

  1. No leavening agents. No baking soda. No baking powder whatsoever.

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

 *the original sponge cake recipe does not involve any fat in the form of butter nor oil. But other kinds of sponge, like the British version “Victoria Sponge Cake” calls for butter in the batter. So don’t get confused.

The cake rises without adding in any leavening agents or fat, because of all the air you incorporate into the batter, for which the eggs need to be mixed separately:

  • Egg yolks together with the sugar; beaten till thick and pale

  • Egg whites whisked to stiff peaks

The vigorous beating of the two is what incorporates so much air into the batter, making it light and fluffy.

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

Also, the first time I made this cake, it stuck to the bottom of the pan and was a pain to get out. The second time I made it, I lined the pan with some parchment paper. I did NOT grease it, just lined it with paper. And the cake came out perfectly (phew).

The Syrup

I used the pineapple syrup you get from the can of pineapples to soak my cake in. You can substitute it with a simple homemade sugar syrup (reduced sugar and water). Just remember to brush the cakes liberally with syrup. You may think it’s alot when doing so, but trust me, the cake is dry because it is missing the moisture from the fats. It needs all the juice it can get.

The Whipped Cream

Here’s the thing, cream in Pakistan just won’t whip! You have to wait for the peak winter months to get them stiff peaks. Rest of the year? Just forget about whipped cream desserts.

To get it really whipped, here’s what I’ve learnt about cream:

  • Olper’s works better than Nestle (I’ve only just discovered this recently)

  • Make sure your cream is chilled aka VERY cold.

  • Pop your metal mixing bowl and your beaters into the freezer half an hour before whipping cream. The colder everything is; faster will the cream whip.

The Filling:

I’ve used pineapples in between the layers of the cake, and adorned the entire outside with fresh strawberries. You can skip the pineapples entirely and place strawberries in-between the layers instead. And use plain sugar syrup instead of the pineapple syrup. I just happen to like pineapples. Alot.

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

All in all, just remember to:

  • Beat the eggs well

  • Do not overmix after the flour has been incorporated

  • Line pan with parchment paper for easy removal

  • Soak the cakes in syrup well

  • Strawberries can be replaced with any fresh fruit; mangoes, peaches, cherries, more pineapples…

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

This is such a teaching post. I feel really proud of myself. So bake the cake! If you have too many strawberries or are simply nostalgic for the cream cake.

Caution: Make it before the strawberries disappear, and before it becomes too hot to whip cream (Ugh. Not looking forward to the drippy cream season.) Happy summer!

Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake

Yields: 2 9-inch layer cakes
Ingredients:
SPONGE CAKE:
  • 6 eggs, separated *at room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour1
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar2
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ kilo fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and sliced
  • a tin of pineapple chunks
WHIPPED CREAM:
  • 2 cups very cold whipping cream3
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
For the Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.
In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. Add water and vanilla extract. Beat again. Mix in the flour.
In another clean bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add cream of tartar and salt. Beat mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form.
Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, gradually and very carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites.
Pour the batter into two ungreased 9 inch pans lined with parchment paper.4
Bake for 60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool completely before inverting.
For the Whipped Cream:5
In a large metal bowl, pour the cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes. Once the cream starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form.
Assembling:
Place one of the layers on a serving plate. Brush on the pineapple syrup, that comes in the can of pineapples, evenly and quite liberally onto the first layer. Spread spoonfuls of the whipped cream and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the pineapple chunks over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the pineapple syrup. Now, using an offset spatula or a plain knife, cover the entire cake completely with the remaining whipped cream.
Decorate with sliced strawberries. Slice and serve. Store any leftover cake, covered, in the fridge. This cake is best served chilled.
Enjoy!
Notes:
1.  DIY Cake Flour: Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and place it back in your flour jar.  Replace the removed flour with 2 tablespoons of cornflour. Sift 2-3 times.
2.  Cream of Tartar substitute: ¼ tsp lemon juice or vinegar. You can also completely omit the cream of tartar, it just helps to stabilize the egg whites.
3.  I used and recommend Olpher’s Cream. 2 packs of it; 400ml in total.
4.  Spray a bit of oil on the bottom of you pan, so that the parchment paper sticks to it. But DON’T grease the parchment paper.
5.  The colder the cream, the faster it will whip. See tips above in the description on how to whip cream the right way.
Recipe adapted from: Candid Appetite

Baking Haul

I went out and bought some things for baking. To be honest, whenever I’m out, I’m on the lookout for baking bits n pieces. My baking cupboard is blooming, space is running out, so much so that I’m forced to keep some of the stuff in my closet. Yeah.

Baking haul

Anyhow. These are some of the bits and pieces I picked up. I will give you a rundown of the places where I got them.

The best places where you’re going to find baking things here in Islamabad are either Al-Fatah or D.Watson; because these two places will have everything you’ll ever need. These are, to be honest, my two most favorite places in Islamabad. Yep. Grocery stores are my favorite places. Do not judge.  I could literally spend hours and hours strolling down the aisles, reading all the labels, gazing awe-eyed at all the gorgeous pieces of cutlery and china, the rows and rows of chocolates, all the beautiful spatulas…

Ok. Enough jabbering. Let’s get going.

So first off we have, none other than a…SPATULAAA. Not just any spatula though mind you, it’s a PINK SPATULA. I’ve been out on a pink spatula hunt since ages, especially for these new ones with a wooden handle.

Baking haul

Found it at Al-Fatah. Costs round Rs. 175. So very pretty. A spatula is a kitchen-must people! You can never have enough spatulas.

Next thing I picked up is Cream of Tartar. It’s an acid used to stabilize egg whites. I’d never really seen the need to buy it before, since lemon juice can be used as a cheap substitute. But I saw it in D.Watson the other day, for the first time ever, it’s not available here in Pakistan, and had to buy it.

Baking haul

Next up, I bought hordes of chocolate. Not on one single trip though. We’d go to D.Watson to get like soap or toothpaste or something, and I’d return with a bag of Rolos or a bar of white chocolate.

Chocolate and caramel combination never fails to attract me. I bought this bag of Rolos a long time ago, but I can’t decide what to make; Rolo blondies or Rolo cookies?

Baking haul

And they finally have Hershey’s chocolate chips in Islamabad! Woohoo!

I’ve been struggling to get hold of these in any supermarket. I usually have to get my yearly stock from Saudi Arab or somewhere, but now I can just buy them from here. They are a tad bit pricier here. 800 something for a small bag of chocolate chips O.o

Anyhoo. I picked up some White Chocolate Chips for blondies and cookies and stuff.

Baking haul

And some mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.

Baking haul

Next up, we have Munz 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate. These were on a Buy-1-Get-1-Free offer at D. Watson, so obv had to buy them and give Munz a try.

Baking haul

Saw a recipe for triple chocolate cookies on youtube a while ago that called for white chocolate chunks, so bought this Milky Bar. Cost round 400 rupees. Have yet to make those cookies. Cookies scare me.

Baking haul

Also saw these Mini Oreo packs for the first time in D.Watson, but now almost every superstore has them. Aren’t they adorable? Mini Oreos, perfect for topping cheesecakes and my Cookies and Cream Cupcakes. Cost: Rs. 110

Baking haul

This next thing I bought was a Silicone Tart Mold. This is such a great alternative if you can’t find a tart pan with a removable bottom, or don’t want to spend too much on a pan which you will be using only once or twice. A bit hesitant to buy it at first, I found this silicone tart mold very affordable and very easy to use. The tart, as shown here, slid out very smoothly and baked perfectly. And it cost me half of what it would have cost to buy the normal loose bottom pan. Silicone works wonders!

Baking haul

And also from Al-Fatah, I picked up a round 9 inch cake pan. Cost around Rs. 885. Very useful for, obviously, making a round cake.

Baking haul

And this next pan here was a gift from my mother all the way from Saudi Arab. It’s a neat pan to have in your collection. Very versatile. Can be used as a water-bath, for making lasagna, brownies, to roast chicken in… love it!

Baking haul

I was in Al-Fatah the other day, and found a whole new array of sprinkles. I think, Al-Fatah in all of Islamabad has the best sprinkles. And so, I bought this tiny cute jar of red Christmassy balls. They are adorable. Perfect for topping cupcakes.

redpearls-4.jpg

 

And also a pack of hundreds-and-thousands teeny tiny round balls in a myriad of colors. I absolutely love them.

Baking haul

Also at Al-Fatah, I spotted a whole range of liquid food colors. Picked up Bright Blue, and Raspberry Red.

Blue Velvets and Red Velvets…YES.

Baking haul

I have noticed so many people using gel food colors and going on and on about how awesome they are, and how the bright and vibrant the colors are. Here in Pakistan, food dye isn’t that common unless its Zarda, in that case, yellow food dye powder FTW. In Pakistan here, we only, if lucky, get to find the liquid food colors, that too in a very limited number of color options, mostly just red, green, or blue. So, I had to have a box of these gel food colors, in a range of colors; pinks and purples and yellows. So, to start off I ordered this AmeriColor Junior Soft Gel Paste Food Color Kit from Amazon through my awesome friend’s awesome brother in America who just happens to work in Amazon. How cool is that? It cost around sixteen dollars.

Baking haul

Also, from Amazon, I ordered this Turntable by Wilton. This is cool for when you’re icing big layer cakes, and especially for when you want perfectly smooth frosted sides on your cake. It’s not really necessary. I feel like you can just go round a cake with a pallet knife, or spin a plate to frost all sides. But if you really want to amp up your icing level, get this. It cost around thirteen dollars.

Baking haul

THIS. I’ve been wanting this for the last I.Don’t.Know.How.Many years! You have no idea how many stores I’ve visited in search of this six holed thing, in not one, but TWO countries. And now thanks to that Amazon friend of mine, I now have this pretty thing in my pan pantry. Loads of baked donuts to come.

Baking haul

It’s a six cavity Donut Pan by Wilton. Priced round ten dollars. Very affordable I think, very smooth and shiny, it’s an investment I tell you, for many years to come.

Baking haul

This next thing was actually a gift given to be my lovely cousin. She gets given loads of chocolate every year from Britain by her husband to be. Most of it is super dark, so dark, in fact, that it is unfit for direct consumption. It needs to be used in baking, mixed in sugar. So she passed on three bars of bittersweet chocolate to me.

First one was Lindt 90% Cocoa. Always handy for molten lava cakes or for topping up your tarts or making a glaze for cakes.

Baking haul

She also gave me two bars of a British Brand Montezuma. First of all can we just look at the packaging? How gorgeous is it!

Baking haul

First one here is the Montezuma 73% Cocoa Very Dark Chocolate.

And then, my favorite, the very unusual, the Sea Dog, Dark Chocolate with Lime and Sea Salt. How weird is that. I have no idea where I’ll be using that, maybe sea salt brownies…?

Baking haul

That is pretty much everything that I have bought, that I have added to my baking collection recently. I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you have found some interesting baking bits, do tell me. I’d love to hear any recommendations you might have about baking utensils or any brands who do really good sprinkles that might be available here in Pakistan or anything else. Let me know in the comments.

That’s it from me now.

Till the next post, Ciao!

 

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Fudgy red velvet brownies swirled with cream cheese!

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?

Despite all the negative connotations surrounding V-Day here in Pakistan, I love Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s is responsible for providing endless amounts of cake, strawberries, and chocolate! And that’s why I love it.

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?

All the amazing recipes popping up on the internet.

Everyone striving to put forward the most creatively bizarre chocolate concoctions, and the best version of Red Velvet out there.

All the pretty pink treats and the beautifully captioned pictures all over Instagram.

Baskets of fresh strawberries being sold round the streets and the markets.

Rows and rows of dark chocolate truffles in the supermarkets.

And all the heart shaped cakes and customized cupcakes on sale at the bakeries.

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?

This brings me to my favorite recipe which highlights the Valentine train of thought and combines classic Red Velvet with…BROWNIES. Plus Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Yields: 16 brownies
Ingredients:
RED VELVET BROWNIES
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp liquid or gel red food coloring
  • 3/4 tsp vinegar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
CHEESECAKE SWIRL
  • 8 ounces (224g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 180C degrees. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
For the brownie layer:
In a bowl, beat the 2 eggs together. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in the sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar.
Whisk in the eggs, then fold in the flour until completely incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the brownie batter into prepared baking pan, leaving about 3-4 Tablespoons for the top.
For the cheesecake swirl: 
Beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until completely smooth – about 1 minute. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the prepared brownie batter. Cover with the last few tablespoons of brownie batter. Glide a knife through the layers, creating a swirl pattern.
Bake the brownies for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Red Velvet + Brownies + Cheesecake! Can it really get any better?