Vanilla bean cupcakes with dreamy creamy frosting!

Vanilla is much underrated… we use the term ‘vanilla’ to describe something that’s bland, boring, mundane, run-of-the-mill. Please do not dismiss these gorgeous little cupcakes as any of those things, they are sweet, charming, and ever so elegant! Imagine light, silky cake crumb flavored with the tropical tang of Tahiti, topped with a delicate cream cheese frosting made even better by the addition of good quality white chocolate – now you’re getting the idea, right?

So, the cupcakes are the vanilla cupcake recipe from Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days book (yes, I’m a total Hummingbird fan, just hope I get to try the real thing some day!). They only take a few minutes to make, and are super simple – the vanilla bean is my own addition, and I also double the amount of vanilla extract. You might as well TASTE it, right?

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The little specks of black in the cake are not something that fell in the mixing bowl while I was making them… I swear!

The frosting recipe is from another one of my favourite cookbooks – Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s ‘Rose’s Heavenly Cakes’ (and for anyone that hasn’t read it, let me attest to the heavenliness of her cakes!)

Rose’s Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting

85 gm white chocolate, chopped
115 gm cream cheese, softened
30gm butter, softened
1/2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Gently melt the chocolate, and leave to stand while you process the cream cheese, butter and sour cream for a few seconds until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the chocolate and vanilla. Pulse it a few times, until it is smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.

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This recipe makes about 1 cup. As you can probably tell from the ingredients, it results in a looser frosting and I don’t think it holds its shape so well for piping, so I added approx 3/4 cup of icing sugar too, just to make the mixture slightly stiffer.

And being the vanilla fiend that I am, I also added vanilla bean to the frosting too. Enjoy!

A girly slice – Pecan and Raspberry Blondie

After much debate with my children this morning we made a group decision – this week’s lunchbox treat would be a Blondie. Not something I have tried baking before, but my girls assure me they have eaten plenty of them (when and how they found the time and opportunity to do that escapes me). Now I love Deborah Harry, Parallel Lines is one of my all time favourite albums (not to mention album cover!) but the idea of the kind of Blondie you eat just doesn’t inspire me. Where’s the chocolate? White chocolate is just sweet fat… I need a minimum of 70% cocoa solids at all times, well – nearly all times.

I took The Hummingbird Bakery’s Blondie recipe, and added some frozen raspberries, and I have to say the result was pretty damn good! And prettily, perfectly pink…

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So please try:

150gm good quality white chocolate
125gm butter 150 gm caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200 gm plain flour
A pinch of salt
120 gm pecan nuts, chopped
120gm raspberries (frozen worked fine, but fresh would be great too)

Preheat oven to 170c. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Leave until smooth, then remove from the heat.

Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. The mixture starts to look a bit split, but don’t fear, it’ll all come together soon enough. Add the eggs and vanilla stirring briskly so the eggs don’t scramble if the mixture is still hot. Add the flour and salt, and fold into the wet ingredients until smooth.

Finally add the nuts and stir through then pour the mixture into a 33cm x 23cm baking tray lined with baking paper and sprayed lightly with oil. Gently spread the mix out, then sprinkle the raspberries evenly over the top and lightly press into the mix. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Leave to cool in the tray, then turn out and cut into squares once the slice is completely cool.