Vanilla Sponge Cake

Howdy folks! I hope everyone’s had a great Halloween. Now that Halloweens over, I figure its safe to start actively working on Christmas. And in an attempt to get a headstart, I’ve decided to post one of my favorite cake recipes. This one is a basic sponge cake recipe. Now I know, this is not a very Christmassy recipe, but I know a few people who don’t like fruit cake and actually request for a sponge cake instead. While this recipe is basic, there’s nothing basic about the end result. It uses simple ingredients and results in a really flavorful cake. While you can use this cake as a starting point for a number of cake creations and other desserts, this cake can hold its own as a tea cake too. Infact, my husband enjoys this cake so much, that when he asks me to whip one up, he justs wants it as is, no frosting or anything.

If you’re someone who wants to learn how to bake, this is a great place to start. I’ve actually filmed the recipe too and I’ve included some of my tips and tricks to help out novice bakers. I will link the video at the end of this post.

Vanilla Sponge Cake


250g butter, at room temperature
250g sugar (Use either a really fine grain or powder your sugar in a dry grinder before using)
250 all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract / vanilla bean paste
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line the base of your cake tin and grease the base and the sides and set aside.

Separate the eggs.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage and set aside.

In a large mixing bow, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla till light and creamy.

Mix the flour and baking powder.

Sift the flour mix into the butter and sugar mix in 3 stages, folding the flour into the batter only until just incorporated, with each addition.

Add a couple of scoops of the stiff egg whites to the cake batter and gently mix to loosen the batter. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter till it is well incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes or till a cake pierced through the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool down in the cake tin. When it has reached room temperature, carefully take it out of the tin.

You can now use this cake in any recipe that calls for a vanilla sponge cake or serve it as it is.

Enjoy!!!

The Best Chocolate Brownies

Hi guys! Today’s post is a special one. It’s my favorite chocolate brownie recipe that I’m going to share with you. It’s my go to recipe for chocolate brownies and I’ve used it for years now. It yields, what I consider, the perfect Chocolate Brownie. You get a beautiful crust on the outside and a fudgy, gooey center.

It’s the perfect baking option for holidays or when you’re baking for a crowd because of its simplicity. The recipe can be doubled if you like. And when simple recipes yield such fantastic results, you know you’re on to a winner.

So I do hope you try these brownies out.

The Best Chocolate Brownies 


110g all purpose flour
185g salted butter
175g dark chocolate (either buttons, or roughly chopped bars, both would work)
175g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
A pinch of salt
50g chocolate chips.

Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a heavy bottomed pan on low heat. Once everything has melted, take the pan off the heat and set it aside to cool.

Halfway through the cooling process, turn the oven on and preheat it to 180ºC. Line an 8 inch square baking tray with some foil and leave an overhang on the sides. The foil makes clean up so much easier and the overhang helps take the brownies out of the try very easily.

Crack one egg into a small bowl and lightly whisk it. Add it to the melted and cooled butter and chocolate mix and whisk to incorporate. Repeat this with the second egg.

Add the vanilla, salt and sugar and whisk well, making sure everything has mixed well.

Now add the flour and whisk until just combined.

Add the chocolate chips and fold it through the batter with the help of a spatula.

Pour the batter into the foil lined tray and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Take the brownies out of the oven and let them cool completely.

You can now cut them into squares and serve. 

Pin now and try later!

French Strawberry Cake

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One of the best things about the onset of spring and the weather warming up, is the abundance of fresh fruit and veg in my part of the world. This year we’ve already seen an abundance of beautiful strawberries in the market. And the blueberries are close behind. I’ve only just come to realize that I haven’t baked much with fresh fruit in a very long time. So during the last grocery run, I picked up a few punnets of strawberries. Though I think the best way to enjoy them is eating them straightaway, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to try baking with them.

After a bit of searching, I found just the sort of recipe I was looking for – a French Strawberry Cake. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the strawberries after baking and I’ve often found cake recipes either bland or just sweet with very little going for it in terms of flavor. Not this cake though. It was really easy to make, full of flavor and really delicious. I’d fo as far as saying it had a personality of its own. This recipe sure is a keeper. I made a few minor modifications to the recipe and was really happy with how it turned out. This would be perfect for morning or afternoon tea. It makes quite an impression in a simple, elegant way just in case you’re expecting people over. I love having such recipes on hand. 

French Strawberry Cake
Yields: A 9 inch cake
Adapted from: Foodtastic Mom
350-400 gms fresh strawberries
115g butter, at room temperature / softened 
1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp extra
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plain, unflavored Greek Yogurt
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Line and grease a 9 inch round cake tin and set aside.
Hull and slice the strawberries.
Whisk the butter and 1 cup sugar till pale and fluffy.
Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla and beat till incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder to mix well and set aside. 
Now alternating between the two, add the flour and Greek yogurt to the mixing bowl, beating till just incorporated before adding the next. (I divide the flour into 3 parts and the Greek yogurt in 2 parts. Start with one part of the flour, next one part of the yogurt and continue till it is all added to the batter.)
Fold in the sliced strawberries, setting aside a few of the outer side slices.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. 
Now place some of the reserved side slices of strawberry on the top of the cake and lightly press into the cake batter. (This step is optional and you could just add all the strawberries in at one time and fold into the batter. But I think this makes the cake look prettier.)
Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar over the top of the cake evenly.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes till a skewer pierced through the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan itself.
When completely cool, slice and serve.
If you need any more strawberry-licious inspiration, here are some of my previous posts featuring strawberries –
Strawberry Lassi

Banana Fritters – another great way to use up over-ripe bananas

If you’re like me, you always have bananas on the kitchen counter. I personally love bananas and we always have bananas in the house. This means that every once in a while, I find myself left with a couple of bananas that are a little too ripe to eat as is. Do you? If you do, don’t fret and definitely don’t throw those bananas away. There are the perfect ingredient for these banana fritters.

I remember my mum and Nana (maternal grandmother) making us some of these fritters just in time for an after school snack. To tell you the truth, I had kind of forgotten about these fritters till my husband whipped up a batch more recently. And I absolutely loved them. They come together in minutes with literally 3 ingredients and no sugar. Now we make these fritters quite often. Sometimes, I leave a couple of bananas to get over ripe just so I can make these fritters.

In the past, we’ve made these fritters using either whole wheat flour (atta) or all purpose flour (maida). They turn out really well using either of the two. So feel free to use what you have on hand. I don’t like my sweets too sweet, so I just use the bananas to sweeten these fritters. Since they are over-ripe, they tend to be sweeter. However, if you don’t find them sweet enough, you can drizzle them with some honey or some maple syrup. You could also add some sugar/honey/maple syrup to the batter. The recipe below is the one I use without any sweetener. I think these fritters would work very well in place of pancakes for breakfast too.

Banana Fritters


2 over ripe bananas
1 egg
2-3 heaped tablespoons whole wheat flour / all purpose flour
1-2 tsp oil, for pan frying (I use olive oil. You could use any oil that you use for cooking.)

Mash the bananas till no big lumps remain.

Whisk in an egg. Whisk till the egg has incorporated with the mashed bananas well.

Lastly add 2 tablespoons of either whole wheat flour or all purpose flour.

Whisk till the flour has just about mixed in. Do not over mix. You will end up with a batter that looks like this.

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan over medium heat.

Pour a heaped tablespoon of batter onto the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, you can fry more than one fritter at a time.

After a minute or so, or when the bottom is golden brown (use a spatula and slightly lift one edge of the fritter to check for doneness), flip them over and cook on the other side.

At this stage if you find the batter is too delicate and hard to turn, add a spoon more of flour to the batter and whisk through. This should make it easier to flip over.

When it is golden brown on the other side too, remove from the pan.

Repeat till the rest of the batter is over, adding a little more oil to the pan between batches, as required.

Serve hot with a hot cup of tea.

Enjoy!!!
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Banana Fritters
A delicious tea-time snack and a great way to use up over ripe bananas.
Ingredients
  • 2 Over ripe bananas
  • 1 Egg
  • 2-3 heaped tbsp Whole wheat flour / all purpose flour
  • 1-2 tsp oil, for pan frying
Instructions
Mash the bananas till no big lumps remain.Whisk in an egg. Whisk till the egg has incorporated with the mashed bananas well.Lastly add 2 tablespoons of either whole wheat flour or all purpose flour.Whisk till the flour has just about mixed in. Do not over mix.Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan over medium heat. I use olive oil. You can use whatever oil you use for cooking.Pour a heaped tablespoon of batter onto the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, you can fry more than one fritter at a time.After a minute or so, or when the bottom is golden brown (use a spatula and slightly lift one edge of the fritter to check for doneness), flip them over and cook on the other side.

At this stage if you find the batter is too delicate and hard to turn, add a spoon more of flour to the batter and whisk through. This should make it easier to flip over.When it is golden brown on the other side too, remove from the pan.Repeat till the rest of the batter is over, adding a little more oil to the pan between batches, as required.

Details

Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 10 mins Total time: 15 mins Yield:

Rice Pudding (Kheer) with a hint of Saffron – #MyWarOnWaste

Hello! It’s me. I’m so glad you are still here. I’ve been missing on the blog recently as we’ve just moved house. But I’m happy to report that after a couple of insane weeks of packing, cleaning and unpacking, we are mostly settled in and I’m back to my regular routine. While this was happening, winter seems to have well and truly set it. You won’t find me complaining, because I LOVE winter. Its the season for soups, stews, warm puddings and lots of baking – all my favorite kind of things.

Speaking of warm puddings, I have a list of them I want to make this winter and hope the next few weeks will give me an opportunity to share them with you here. I have always wanted to try making some rice pudding (known as kheer in India) at home. Each time I walk by the frozen dessert section at Coles, I’m tempted to pick up a pot of rice pudding. But I don’t, because surely it couldn’t be too hard to make some at home. The problem is, I just never got around to doing it. Until now.

Usually rice pudding is made using uncooked rice. I recently found myself with some leftover plain Basmati rice from lunch and I didn’t want it to go to waste. Waste not, want not, right? So I decided that I was going to try and use it to make some rice pudding instead. After a little searching, I found just the recipe I was looking for. A no-nonsense approach to a rice pudding that used leftover rice. You’ve probably ended up with some extra rice from an Indian takeout lunch / dinner on occasion. Don’t throw that stuff out. Transform it into this glorious, rich and creamy rice pudding in no time with a few pantry staples.

 BTW has anyone seen the latest mini series on ABC called War on Waste. Such an eye opener. It is shocking how much food is wasted regularly in households, among other wastage. This is a great way of reducing household food wastage. I love finding ways to reduce wastage. Do you have any recipes that use leftovers and cut down on food wastage? Tag them on Instagram using #MyWarOnWaste and lets help inspire people to reduce waste.

So go ahead and try it out. You can serve it as a beautiful tea time treat or as dessert. Any leftovers can be refrigerated. You can enjoy your rice pudding both warm or cold. Personally, I prefer mine warm, which works really well on colder days. I’m really glad I tried making this pudding at home. Who knew that something this tasty and satisfying could be this simple to make.

My rice pudding has a yellowish tint because I added a few strands of saffron to the pot while cooking it. You can leave it out and it will look like regular rice pudding.

Rice Pudding
Adapted from: Fatima Cooks


1 cup cooked rice (I used leftover Basmati rice)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
A few strands (4-6) saffron (optional)
A few raisins
A few almonds, roughly sliced / chopped

Place the rice, milk, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron strands in a pot.

Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously but gently. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the pan regularly. Cook till the milk has reduced and has become a thick, cream like consistency. It is okay if some of the rice grains break down. It helps thickening the pudding. But don’t mash the rice completely. You want a little texture in there.

How thick you want the pudding to be, is upto you. Just before it is done, add the raisins. Turn it off the heat when it has thickened to your liking. I find that heating the raisins through the pudding plumps them up a bit and makes them extra yummy, rather than just placing the raisins on top.

Serve in bowls and top with some sliced / chopped almonds.

Enjoy!!!

If you want more ideas like this to help reduce food wastage and save money, follow me on Pinterest here.

First Monday Favorites – My June 2017 Favorite

We’re halfway through 2017 folks. It seems to have gotten here at an alarming pace. Before you know it we’ll be well on our way to prepping for Christmas. But we still have a little time before that happens. This, I believe, is a fantastic opportunity for you to re-visit your goals for 2017 and see how you’re doing. If you haven’t started work on any of them, now is the time. You still have half a year to achieve it.

One of my goals this year has been to post on this site with some amount of regularity. I have made some effort with this, but I have a long way to go. So hopefully, these next six months will have me do better. With that in mind, I’m going to share with you a new blog party that I’ve been part of for the last couple of months. I’ve participated before, but haven’t posted about it. But today, that changes. It’s called First Monday Favorites, hosted by the lovey Sid of Sid’s Sea Palm Cooking. The first Monday of every month, a group of us bloggers come together to share our favorite recipe from the previous month. It is a lot of fun and I hope you’ll join us.

My favorite recipe from June has got to be the Mawa Cake I posted about here.

You can check out what the others have shared here.

If you have a blog and would like to participate, just get in touch with Sid and she’ll send you the details.

Mawa Cake … with a recipe for Instant Mawa

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So last week I shared with you a lesser known, but extremely yummy recipe for a biscuit found in the Pune-Mumbai region – Shrewsbury Biscuits. If you haven’t seen that yet, go check it out, I’ll still be here when you get back.

Okay, so you’re back. Today, is the turn for another lesser known recipe, this time for a cake called Mawa Cake. Again, as far as I know this cake is found in the Pune-Mumbai region. Kayani Bakery in Pune and Merwan’s Cake shop in Mumbai are popular for their Mawa cake, though you will find quite a few other shops selling this cake. They are usually sold in packs of 6 – 6 muffin sized pieces. This simple cake is so very special. It is not much to look at, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. If you’ve never heard about this cake before, you should put it on your list of recipes to try out. Mawa is nothing but milk solids and this is widely used in a lot of Indian sweets.

A lot of people cringe at the thought of making their own mawa and just buy it from the local Dairy shop in India. This is because, while it is a simple process of reducing milk, working with about a litre of milk could take you about an hour to process. In the past, I have made Mawa the traditional way a couple of times. But for this cake, I decided to try out a cheat’s version of Mawa. This method takes literally 2 minutes at the most, and you would never be able to tell that it is an instant version.  I’m so happy that I found this method. I have a whole bunch of recipes for Indian sweets that I’ve been ignoring, simply because it calls for Mawa. But that has changed, so you can expect to see some more Indian sweets / Mithai recipes, just before the Indian festival season starts.

Back to the cake. If you have your Mawa sorted out, the rest of the recipe is like a simple pound cake one but with a serious flavor profile. The Mawa adds a richness to the cake and it is mildly flavored with cardamom powder, resulting in a very exotic tasting cake. This time around my husband made the cake, which I guess made it even tastier (lol). He chose to bake this in an 8″ round cake tin, but you could bake it in a cupcake tray too. I do hope you try it out.

Mawa Cake
Yields: an 8 inch cake or 15-16 cupcakes

1 portion of homemade mawa (recipe below) or 200g unsweetened mawa
200g all purpose flour
300g sugar
200g butter
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder (Seeds of about 10-12 green cardamom pods, powdered)

Preheat the oven to 160ºC.

Grease and line an 8-Inch Round Cake Pan with parchment paper / baking paper. Alternatively, if you are baking them in cupcake sizes, line a Cupcake tray with paper liners.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the whites to a stiff froth and keep aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks till light and creamy.

Add the mawa, cardamom powder, baking powder and flour and mix till well incorporated. (If the mawa in store bought or is a firm block, grate it before adding into the batter)

Fold in the beaten egg whites gently till just evenly incorporated in the batter.

Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes (if using a cupcake tray, bake for 15-20 minutes) or till a bamboo skewer inserted near the middle of the cake come out clean.

Cool completely, cut and serve. Don’t get fooled by the look of the cake. It tastes a whole lot better than it looks. And don’t forget, if my husband (who has probably not baked more than a handful of times so far), can whip this up, so can you.

Enjoy!!!

How to make Instant Mawa?


1 tbsp ghee / clarified butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup full fat milk powder

Warm the ghee and the milk together. You just want this mixture warm, not hot.

Add the milk powder and stir and cook till it comes apart from the pan and starts forming a ball.

Use to make mawa cake.

Notes: If you are baking the cake in a  regular cake tin and not a cupcake tray, in some cases, the milk solids may cause the cake to brown quickly. This is normal, but if you think it is browning too fast and may burn, cover the tin loosely with aluminium foil and continue baking till the cake is done. 




Bombay Street Food Special #9 – Deep-fried Lentil Fritters

After what seems like forever, I’m back in the blogosphere. And I just have to share this little treat with you. It is a South-Indian delight. We’ve been missing the readily available street food in Mumbai an awful lot lately, so I’ve decided that instead of whining about it, I was just going to have to put my big girl pants on and learn how to make it myself.

So off I went, to scour the internet for recipes easy enough for a beginner in South Indian food to get right. You might wonder what I’m on about. You see I love South Indian treats, but a lot of them call for the perfect ratio of ingredients, overnight fermentation and consistency of the batter, to name a few pressure points you might come across in a recipe. I wanted something that wouldn’t take as long. After a little looking, I found a recipe for Deep-fried lentil fritters. It requires a little planning in advance, since the lentils have to soak for a while (you could make the Chutney and the prep the other ingredients in the meanwhile), but other than that its fairly simple to prepare. The fritters turned out fantastic. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and they packed some lovely flavor. I should tell you at this point, that the first time I made these fritters, the batter was a little thinner than it should have been. The resulting fritters were tasty but absorbed a little oil while they were being fried. I knew at once that I needed to make some changes. When I made these a second time and watched the water content closely. The batter was a lot thicker than the previous time. 
And since then I’ve made these a couple of times and they hit the spot every single time. So until I learn to make a few more Indian street food delights, I will make these bite sized treats everytime the we’re hit with the craving for some South Indian food.
I’ve used a bit of chillies with the seeds since we like our food with a little bite. But you can either cut down on the chillies or leave them out completely. Serve this hot with some Coconut Chutney on a wet / cold day or any other day really coupled with a piping hot cuppa tea and you’re in for a real treat. 

Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you how to use these fritters to make another yummy snack. 

Deep-fried Lentil Fritters
Recipe from: Cooking is Easy
1 cup Urad Dal, black lentils (skinned and split)
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. freshly crushed black pepper
1 sprig curry leaves, roughly torn or chopped
2 tbsp rice flour
Salt, to taste
Oil, for deep frying
Wash the dal a couple of times in water and drain.
Soak the dal in water for 20 minutes.
Drain the water. Rinse the dal through with fresh water again and drain.
Grind the dal with a tiny bit of water to a smooth paste. Remember, to not add too much water. You don’t want a thin runny batter.
In a bowl, mix the paste, salt and rice flour. Add the onions, chillies, pepper and curry leaves and stir through, to mix the ingredients evenly.
Heat the oil in a wok to deep fry.
When the oil is hot, ladle the batter carefully into the oil one tablespoonful at a time and keep the oil on a medium heat. Fry the fritters till golden brown.
Drain the fritters onto some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. 
Enjoy hot with some Coconut Chutney and a hot cuppa tea.