my blueberry birthday

blueberry birthday cake with a light cream cheese filling

This is my birthday cake.

I am absolutely, 100%, not ashamed to say that I baked my very own cake.

Mel’s been making fun of me since last week. He keeps telling me that a person absolutely should not be making their own cake. He might be right.

I on the other hand absolutely insist that it’s not a birthday unless there is cake. Which presents me with a problem. There are no gluten-free bakeries on the island, & other peoples ovens make me nervous. I want a reaction-free cake. Then there’s the problem that Mel’s no baker. Which leaves me with my one & only options of….. You guessed it… ME!

I had wanted a cherry & amaretto cake since I’m absolutely addicted to the combination at the moment…. but I’m a moron & forgot that cherries were out of season. Didn’t want chocolate. I feel like all I ever do it use chocolate. Carrot cake I’ve made countless times. So, what else? Banana? No, Eirini doesn’t like banana. Vanilla? Too boring. Fruity. But not peach.

Lucky for me, I love the colour purple & always have blueberries in my freezer. Problem solved. Blueberry cake for Lauren.

Don’t make fun. I put my age on it too. Yeah, I’m a bit of a strange one. Enjoy the recipe!!!

As for me, I special ordered the harvest moon tonight & it should be arriving here in an hour. How’s that for a birthday present!

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chocolaty cake for the sports lovers

basketball & soccerball cake with the NIKE logo & "JUST  DO IT" slogan.... with a chocolate cake in side & a mascarpone filling... gluten-free

I think the thing I like most about making cakes, is the reactions of the people receiving them!

This girl who ordered this, wanted to give the cake as a gift to two of her friends who had their nameday on Monday. One friend was heavily into basketball, the other was a lover of all things NIKE. You can’t see it in this picture, but the side of the cake had a football (soccerball for you Americans) pattern on it!

Eleni, the girl who ordered it loved it so much, she ran up to me & hugged me!

That’s the kind of reaction that always makes me endlessly happy.

Any way, there’s a rich chocolaty cake in the middle of all that decoration, & a mascarpone filling to it….. It’s a little sweeter than my usual cake, but that’s also because I was making it for teenagers… and you can never have enough sugar when you’re a teenager!

gluten-free designed cake

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almond & strawberry roulade

gluten-free almond & strawberry roulade

During our trials the other day, Eirini & I also tested out a recipe for a cake that the Bride & Groom (for one of the three events) had requested.

I’m not going to lie… it was completely disastrous, & nothing like what they had specified.

What they had told us they wanted was something that wasn’t actually a cake. At least not in the traditional sense. They didn’t want chocolate. In fact, they wanted it light, fruity with strawberry, not too sweet, and a layer of almond nougat somewhere in the middle.

What we ended up was this very dense layer of vanilla-caramel custard which was quite sweet, a layer of almond meringue which didn’t really stand up against the other flavors, and a very sticky layer of strawberry. It was miles off.

I assure you, we were not discouraged.

We decided to divide & conquer! Eirini undertook the task of pulling apart & reassembling the recipe to achieve exactly what they asked for. I on the other hand decided that maybe they didn’t actually know what they wanted (sometimes we have an idea, but don’t know how to visualize it). With that in mind, I decided to take the specifications & flavors that they   had outlined for us & give them a new edge.

In my mind, the roulade was the perfect way to go. Technically it’s a cake, but the majority of it is whipped egg whites & yolks which gives it this wonderfully spongy & light texture. I also did half the dry ingredients with almond flour & added a touch of bitter almond to really bring out the flavor. Not overly sweet, not too cakey, kind of perfect. Then there’s the chantilly cream filling, light, fluffy, very little sugar, perfect to add a hint of vanilla too. & lets not forget the light layer of strawberry to add some intensity to those more subtly flavors & textures.

It took me three attempts to get it exactly the way I wanted it, but overall I think I hit the nail on the head. Eirini & I will be presenting both options to them on Wednesday at the tasting along with the rest of the menu. Wish us luck!

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creamy coconut & almond chocolates

milk chocolates filled with a creamy almond & coconut filling

Every muscle in my body aches.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to dig a hole in the dirt, when the dirt is basically hardened clay & lots of rocks??

I’m not talking about some pathetic little hole, either. I’m talking about a full on trench!

No one told me that organic gardening would be hard. That the soil could basically be barren of anything resembling nutrients. That weeds would thrive, or snails would reign terror. No, I wasn’t given the 411 before I started my little adventure into exploring my green thumbs.

Going away to Athens for a week because we were let-go from our previous employment? Bad idea.

Not that we didn’t have fun, we had a ton of fun. My garden has run rampant in my absence however & it’s taking a lot of very labour intensive work to get back into shape.

Pruning. Weeding. Burying compost. De-snailing. Re-potting. Cleaning up.

There’s been a full workload the past two days & now it’s time to treat myself to chocolate. Lots & lots of little milk chocolate bites filled with a creamy almond & coconut filling. I’ve been storing them in the fridge too so they have this slightly refreshing feeling whilst you’re eating them.

Tonight is a night for “Mad Men” & chocolate. I’ve already had my long, pampering shower so I no longer smell like a man, & now it’s time to relax. Maybe even a spot of knitting.

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beurre noisette & sea salt brownies

beurre noisette (browned butter) & sea salt brownies - gluten-free

I’m a creature of habit. I find something that works & then I find a way to incorporate that success every which way possible.

Case in point, I recently discovered the power of browned butter (or beurre noisette in French) when I made a batch of browned butter cornbread. I was so impressed with the rich, nutty, yet subtle flavor of the butter that I had to use it again (and probably there will be an again, again later on).

Here I stand before you. Repeating the addition of beurre noisette in a batch of extra dark chocolate & sea salt, gluten-free brownies.

beurre noisette (browned butter) & sea salt brownies - gluten-free

I screwed them up the first time. I’m not ashamed to say it. My butter separated right out of them whilst they were baking & laid in a lake on top of them. It eventually absorbed back in during the baking process, but I knew I couldn’t live with that.

I’m not saying they weren’t delicious… after all, between Mel, myself, Naz & her mother, we practically ate the lot. Ok fine, Mel & I ate the lot… the other two only had a piece each. Still, I couldn’t possibly put them down as a success knowing what had gone on.

Back to the drawing board I went, turns out an addition of an extra egg & a little xanthan gum to tie up the mix was all it took.

I stand before you now a proud baker.

….possibly a little heavier too than when I initially started.

If you make them, you’ll understand.

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