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Cakes, Food, Recipes

Guinness Layer Cake with Whiskey Ganache and Baileys Icing

My favourite chocolate cake ever is my Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake that has been going bonkers on the internet lately (last count it’s been shared over 177,000 times on Facebook alone!).

As it’s St Patrick’s Day this week, I wanted to rework my beloved Guinness Cake into something better. Is it possible? Why yes, I think it is.

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Imagine a layer of dark and moist Guinness chocolate cake, followed by a layer of dark chocolate whiskey ganache, topped with Baileys cream cheese icing. Then repeat that step another 3 times.

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Guinness Layer Cake with Whiskey Ganache and Baileys Icing
 
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Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake
  • 250ml Guinness beer (1 cup)
  • 250g butter (1 cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 100g cup cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
  • 400g caster/superfine sugar (1¾ cups)
  • 140ml sour cream (2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour (2 cups)
  • 2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
Irish Whiskey Ganache
  • 225g dark chocolate (8 ounces)
  • 140ml heavy cream (2/3 cup)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp Irish whiskey
Baileys Cream Cheese Icing
  • 500-600g sifted icing sugar/powdered sugar (4-5 cups)
  • 100g butter at room temperature (1/2 cup)
  • 250g cream cheese at room temperature (8oz)
  • 4-6 tbsps Baileys Irish Cream (to taste)
Instructions
Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake
  1. Preheat oven 180°C/350°F and butter and line 2 x 23cm (9") springform tins.
  2. Melt the butter into the Guinness in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar and take the saucepan off the heat.
  4. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl until combined, than add to the beer mixture.
  5. Whisk in the flour and bicarb until combined.
  6. Divide the cake batter between the two tins and bake for 35-45 minutes. The middle of the cake may still be slightly wet when you take the cake out, but it will firm up as it cools down.
  7. Leave to cool completely in the tin as it is quite a damp cake and could collapse.
  8. Since these cakes need to be sliced horizontally, I wrap both cakes in cling wrap and store in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. It makes slicing the cakes easier.
Irish Whiskey Ganache
  1. Heat cream up into the microwave until warm (not boiling) and then add finely chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and combined.
  2. Add in the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick and spreadable.
Baileys Cream Cheese Icing
  1. Cream the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed.
  2. Add the cream cheese in cubes slowly until incorporated.
  3. Add in Baileys. Continue mixing for 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.
To assemble
  1. Slice both cakes horizontally using a serrated knife so you have 4 layers of cake.
  2. Place your first layer on the cake stand and spread around 2 tablespoons worth of ganache over the top of the cake.
  3. Dollop on a generous portion of Baileys icing and spread out evenly with an offset spatula.
  4. Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat this process. Remember to take the ganache and icing right to the edges so it peaks out the sides of the cake when assembled.
  5. Top the final layer of cake with the ganache and Baileys icing and voila!

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This cake is oh so rich and delicious. I usually try and exercise some kind of restraint with my baked goods, but I must have eaten at least 4 generous servings of this beauty. #dietstartsnextweek ;)

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I was worried using 3 different types of alcohol in the same cake would be overpowering, but I was restrained with the amounts I used and the flavours complement each other well.

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And to make your cake even more festive, I have a free shamrock bunting printable for you!

Follow the steps at the bottom of this post here on how to create the bunting yourself. I had run out of stripey straws so I ended up using disposable chopsticks to hold the flags up. Works a treat.

st-patricks-day-printableWhat are you baking for St Patrick’s Day?

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Cupcakes, Food, Recipes, Single Serve

Microwave Chocolate Cupcakes for Two

After the success of my Microwave Mug Cakes series, I knew there were a lot of people after single/double serving recipes that can be made in the microwave. Whether they lacked self control with a large batch of baked goods (me!) or they didn’t have an oven in their small apartment, these types of recipes were very popular.

So I decided to focus my attention on the cupcake. Let’s say you’re craving a homemade cupcake but you don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen. Maybe you don’t have the time, or it’s a boiling summers day and slaving away in front of a hot oven is your idea of hell. Not to mention you then have to resist eating all 12 cupcakes you just baked!

So what’s my solution? How about a rich chocolate cupcake that takes 2 minutes to prepare, 2 minutes to cook and serves 2?

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I’m not pulling your leg, this easy recipe produces delicious tasting chocolate cupcakes using your good old friend the microwave!

It’s literally a matter of whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl, dividing the mixture between 2 large baking cups (the sturdy, freestanding ones, not cupcake liners) and cooking the cupcakes for 1 minute each.

I found the cupcakes cooked more evenly if you positioned them right in the middle of the microwave and cooked them separately.

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I included an egg in my initial recipe, but I found omitting it actually made the cupcakes lighter and fluffier. I honestly wonder if anyone would notice you cooked them in the microwave.

Microwave Chocolate Cupcakes for Two
 
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Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
Microwave Chocolate Cupcake for Two
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 ½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted (or flavourless oil)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • Splash of vanilla extract
Chocolate Frosting for Two
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 5-6 tbsp icing sugar
  • Dash of milk, if needed
Instructions
Microwave Chocolate Cupcake for Two
  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl or mug until combined.
  2. Add in melted butter (or oil), milk and vanilla, and stir with a small whisk or fork until smooth.
  3. Separate batter between 2 large baking cups (approx 6cm diameter).
  4. Place first baking cup in the middle of the microwave and cook for 1 min on medium-high.
  5. Remove the cupcake once cooked, and repeat the process with the other cupcake (the best way to obtain evenly risen cupcakes).
Chocolate Frosting for Two
  1. Using a small spatula, mix the butter well in a bowl until smooth.
  2. Add in the cocoa powder and stir until there are no more lumps, then gradually add in icing sugar until the frosting is creamy and thick.
  3. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add in a dash of milk to loosen it up.
  4. Transfer frosting to a small piping bag with your chosen nozzle attached, and pipe onto the 2 cupcakes, alternatively just ice by hand with a small offset spatula.

**Vegan Variation**

This recipe is easily made vegan as it has no eggs in it. Use oil instead of butter and soy/almond milk in the cupcake batter. For the frosting use Nuttelex. Easy peasy!

2-minute-chocolate-cupcakes-for-two3Will you give my microwave cupcake recipe a go?

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Chilled Desserts, Food, Recipes

Mango and Strawberry Ice Cream with only 2 ingredients!

This is the perfect recipe to make when you want an easy and quick dessert. Or if a vegan or dairy/gluten-intolerant friend drops by for dinner. Or if you’re feeling hot and bothered and don’t want to turn the oven on for a sugar fix. Or even if you’ve got a few too many overripe mangoes hanging around!

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This ice cream probably sounds too good to be true, but I would never lie to you. It requires no dairy, nor an ice cream machine. The simple magic of blitzing frozen mango chunks in the food processor until smooth and creamy is what creates this delicious and allergy-friendly dessert!

I had leftover strawberries floating around the freezer, and the 2 ingredient mango and strawberry ice cream was born. Feel free to throw in any fruit you desire.

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Mango and Strawberry Ice Cream with only 2 ingredients!
 
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Serves: 1 large serve or 2 smaller serves
Ingredients
  • 1 large mango, peeled and cut into chunks and frozen
  • A small handful of strawberries, hulled and frozen (or a fruit of your choice)
Instructions
  1. Place the frozen mango chunks into a food processor with a metal blade.
  2. Blitz the mango for around 3-5 minutes, or until the mango becomes smooth and creamy.
  3. Add in the frozen strawberries and continue blitzing until everything is combined.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a freezer-proof sealed container and allow to firm up in the freezer for around 30 mins.
  5. Scoop and serve! I served mine in mini ice cream cones with extra chopped strawberries on top.

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Stay tuned for a magic banana ice cream recipe coming soon!

What’s your favourite ice cream to make at home?

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Biscuits/Cookies, Food, Recipes

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

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I love using dried fruit in baking for an easy and quick dose of flavour and texture. Cranberries add an extra layer of tartness to any dessert, which is why I love pairing them with white chocolate.

The lovely folks at Ocean Spray sent me some dried cranberries and cranberry sauce recently to get creative with, and this is what I came up with!

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I had a hankering for cookies lately and wanted to perfect the ultimate cranberry and white chocolate cookie. I contemplated a cranberry drizzle over the top, until I realised you honestly can’t get better than a cookie sandwich.

The slightly salty cream cheese used in the cranberry filling balances out the sweet cookies well, making them highly addictive.

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Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches
 
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Author:
Serves: 10 cookie sandwiches
Ingredients
Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies
  • 140g butter (room temperature)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 125g white chocolate chips
  • 125g Ocean Spray Dried Cranberries
Cranberry Cream Cheese Icing
  • 50g cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 3 tbsp Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar
Instructions
Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Cream the butter and sugars for at least 5 minutes until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
  3. Add the white chocolate, cranberries, flour, baking soda and baking powder. Beat on low speed until just combined (don't overwork the mixture or it can become tough).
  4. Dollop tablespoon sized balls of cookie dough onto lined baking trays.
  5. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, around 12-14 minutes.
  6. Allow cookies to cool completely on a baking rack.
Cranberry Cream Cheese Icing
  1. Combine cream cheese and cranberry sauce in a bowl with electric beaters until thoroughly mixed through.
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating until thick and creamy.
  3. Use a small offset spatula or a knife, spread a generous amount of icing on half of the cookies, and then sandwich them together with the remaining cookies.

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I must admit I got a bit excited with my portion control of the cookie batter and created HUGE cookie sandwiches (not that’s really a problem, let’s be honest). But for health’s sake, I suggest you stick to my rule of a tablespoon-sized ball of dough per cookie.

ocean-spray-cranberry-white-choc-cookies4What’s your favourite way to bake with cranberries?

And don’t forget to swing by the Ocean Spray facebook page – they’re currently running a competition to win one of five $1000 grocery vouchers, by answering the question, ‘What is the most creative cranberry dish you would love to cook and what would you call it?’ in 30 words or less. Get those creative juices flowing!

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This post is part of a Nuffnang native advertising series.

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Food

Baking Bad: The Most Common Baking Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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I often hear a lot of people saying they’re bad at baking. They may be a whiz in the kitchen with savoury foods, but the second desserts come onto the scene it’s a disaster. Baking is often referred to as a science, meaning you can’t just throw in ingredients to taste and hope for the best. But if you learn and follow some important baking rules, you are well on your way to more successes in the kitchen!

♥ Ensure your ingredients are at the right temperature

The right temperature for you ingredients can sometimes make or break a recipe. For most cake and cookie recipes, ingredients such as butter, eggs and milk need to be at room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients ensures the batter comes together smoothly and the components are incorporated evenly. Using cold ingredients in your batter often results in clumpy mixtures and dense results. I also take my ingredients out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before starting to cook.

If I forget, or want to do some impromptu baking, I put my eggs in a cup of warm water to speed up the process and cut my butter into small chunks to expedite the warming process.

HOWEVER sometimes using cold ingredients produces far better results. For example, cream whips far more easily when straight out of the fridge. In fact I even pop my mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the fridge for 10-20 minutes before starting. Conversely, eggs whites whip better when at room temperature.

And when making pastry, once again you want to keep your ingredients cold. Not only does this slow the development of gluten when making your dough (overdeveloped gluten = a tough result), the little bits of cold butter in your dough create pockets of air and a beautifully light and flaky pastry when cooked.

Any good recipe should specify if an ingredient needs to be room temperature or chilled, but these examples are a good rule of thumb to keep in mind next time you bake. It really makes a difference.

♥ Don’t overmix… or undermix

Gluten plays an important role in baking, and understanding how it reacts is vital to ensuring the best possible result. When making cakes or pastries, you want as little gluten as possible. Gluten doesn’t form until flour becomes wet, which is why adding the dry ingredients last and carefully stirring everything together is your best chance of your cake being light and airy.

A lot of my recipes state to mix ingredients “until just combined”. This is because mixing your batter too much over develops the gluten and results in dense baked goods. On the flip side, if you don’t mix the batter enough, your cake may bake unevenly or have clumps of flour or eggs throughout. Yuck.

The only time when developing the gluten works in your favour is when you’re baking bread or making pizza dough. You want as much gluten as possible to give the end result good structure and texture, which is why bread making involves so much mixing, stirring, kneading… you name it!

♥ Accurately measure, always

As baking is a science it’s important to measure everything carefully. Simply “eyeballing” portions can result in a disaster further down the track. Also pay attention to your ingredient conversions, for example if you’re an Australian adapting an American recipe from ounces to grams. I have always used the conversion calculators on this ugly looking site and it’s been a lifesaver!

And last but certainly not least, consider investing in a set of digital scales. A lot of pastry chefs list their ingredients in grams (it’s more accurate than cups) and having a set of digital scales where you can place you empty bowl on your scale and “zero out” you weight is such a huge help.

♥ Be careful when substituting ingredients

Sometimes I get emails along the lines of “Hey! I made your peanut butter cookies and I substituted the butter for yoghurt and replaced the eggs with chia seeds and they tasted terrible”. Well, derr.

I’ve seen a lot of recipes suggest you can replace the fat in baking with apple sauce or greek yoghurt, the eggs with a mixture of a blend of ground flax seeds and water and so forth. The first thing to note is that you really have to know the science behind each ingredient and what action it performs before you replace it. For example, butter acts as moisture and flavour, and apple sauce has similar properties. But apple sauce can’t create flakiness and richness like butter. So always weigh up the pros and cons before substituting ingredients.

Secondly, substitutions are not always like for like. For example you would replace 1 cup butter with 3/4 cup vegetable oil. I would always suggest you select a tested recipe, or be prepared with some varied results, when making your own substitutions. I have found this page to be immensely helpful with substitutions.

And remember, if you’re replacing the butter and chocolate in a recipe with the likes of greek yoghurt and carob, you have to prepare yourself for the fact it will probably never taste as good as the real deal.

♥ Know your oven.. and don’t annoy it

When a recipe says “bake at 180°C for 40 minutes”, that doesn’t mean your cake will be perfectly cooked at 40 minutes. It could be overdone, still raw in the middle or cooked at the front and burnt in the left back corner. Why? Because all ovens are different. If you’ve just moved into a new house, pay careful attention to and learn the quirks of your oven. I have a hot spot in the top back left of my oven, meaning whenever I bake cakes/cookies/cupcakes I always rotate the trays 180 degrees and swap the positions halfway through the cooking time. I generally set my timer for 5-10 minutes less than the suggesting cooking time and keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t overcook.

And how do you avoid annoying your oven? Don’t repeatedly open and close the oven door. This drops the temperature of the oven causing your baked goods to cook unevenly. And always remember to preheat your oven so it’s at the correct temperature when you place your pan in!

I hope these tips have been useful and you put them to good use next time you’re baking up a storm!

Do you have any more baking tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

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Cupcakes, Food, Recipes

Eton Mess Cupcakes

One of my favourite desserts to make whenever I need to whip something up last minute is Eton Mess. I can dash to the store, buy some berries, cream and meringues and have dessert on the table within 10 minutes.

I decided I wanted to transform this classic English dessert into a cupcake for Valentine’s Day. Not only is it the perfect colour scheme, you can easily transform fresh strawberries into heart-shaped cupcake toppers.

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I took my basic vanilla cupcake recipe and filled each cupcake with homemade strawberry filling. Once baked, the cupcakes are adorned with freshly whipped cream, crumbled meringues and more of the strawberry sauce. They are finished off with a little meringue and heart-shaped strawberry. Delicious and romantic.

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This recipe can be as simple or as complex as you wish. If you’re short on time, by all means swap the homemade strawberry filling and mini meringues for store-bought.

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Eton Mess Cupcakes
 
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Author:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
Strawberry Sauce
  • 1 punnet strawberries, finely chopped (around 2 cups)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar (tailor this depending on how sweet your strawberries are)
Cupcakes
  • 230g butter, softened
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups self-raising flour
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
Whipped Cream Icing
  • 600ml thickened cream (cold)
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
To Decorate
  • Strawberries
  • Mini meringues
Instructions
Strawberry Sauce
  1. Finely chop strawberries and place in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add in lemon juice, cornstarch and icing sugar and let bubble over the heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Push mixture through a fine sieve to discard the pulp and seeds. Set aside while you start the cupcakes.
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Cream the butter with an electric mixer until smooth in a large bowl.
  3. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Sift the 2 flours and salt into a separate bowl.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Do not overmix!
  7. Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full with mixture and add a teaspoon of the cooled strawberry sauce to the centre of each cupcake (it will sink as the cupcakes bake).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Whipped Cream Icing
  1. For best results chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  2. Pour the (chilled) heavy cream into the bowl and whisk on medium-high speed until it starts to thicken.
  3. Slow the speed down to medium and gradually pour in the sugar. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
To Decorate
  1. Dollop a generous tablespoon or 2 of whipped cream on the top of each cupcake and smooth with a palette knife.
  2. Drizzle a little of the leftover strawberry sauce over the top and swirl gently with the back of a teaspoon.
  3. Crumble over a mini meringue and then top the cupcake with a whole meringue.
  4. Halve the strawberries length-wise and cut a little notch out of the top so it resembles a heart.
  5. Arrange each heart strawberry on the top of each cupcakes.

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To create the strawberry hearts, hull your strawberries and then slice each one length ways. Cut out a little triangle at the top of each strawberry and voila! A heart!

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Strawberries and cream is one of my favourite flavour combos, and I’m not going to lie, I ate 3 of these babies in one sitting. Oops.

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I hope you enjoy these cupcakes, I certainly had a great time creating them and then subsequently making a huge mess during the photoshoot :D

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Food, Travel

Vegas Eats – Swah’s Best Places to Eat in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas is a magnificent, glitzy, tacky and terrible place, all at the same time. I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t the heart of culinary delights in America (although I am sure they would like to think they are). Vegas is chockfull of celebrity chef-endorsed restaurants that are overpriced and generally of average quality. Having said that, there is a lot of good food to be found in Las Vegas if you do your research. Which is where I come in!

This is a round up of my favourite places to eat in Vegas, ranging from decadent buffets and fancy dinners to cheap and cheerful sandwiches and fried chicken. I deliberately chose places that were on Las Vegas Boulevard (ie The Strip) as that is where the vast majority of travellers stay.

And don’t forget to check out the rest of my America posts here!

♥ Bacchanal Buffet, Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

I had heard legendary things about the buffets in Las Vegas hotels, and it just so happened that the most highly rated buffet was at our hotel, Caesars Palace! Bottomless mimosas and champagne, mini hot dogs, a cheese buffet, sushi, the most amazing truffled potato gratin and the list goes on. And on. And then wait until you see the dessert bar! There is even a crepe and sundae station. Prepare to queue for this buffet, but it’s worth it.

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♥ Poolside, Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

The perfect hangover cure for Vegas is waking up mid-afternoon, tottering down to the hotel pool and flopping on a beach chair. Proceed to snack on fried chicken and the odd bit of fruit and commence people watching.

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♥ Mon Ami Gabi, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

This French bistro serves up all the classics including steak frites and onion soup. We dined on the patio, right near the famous Bellagio fountains. Vegas restaurants are notoriously overpriced, but the price point here is good for what you get. My favourite meal was the warm Brie with croutons and garlic! Ooh la la!

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♥ Spago, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

Spago isn’t cheap, but if you want to spoil yourself, then this restaurant by Wolfgang Puck is my pick of the lot. Every course was impeccable, the service attentive and the wine list surprisingly affordable. This lamb dish was stunning!

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♥ Bouchon, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

Give brunch a go at the Bouchon buffet and you won’t be disappointed. All the standard breakfast trimmings (eggs, bacon, sausages, granola etc) but make sure you save room for the jam-filled donuts and pastries dipped in either Nutella or caramel!

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♥ Hash House a Go Go, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

If you’re sick of fancy, overpriced “gourmet” food at the plethora of hotels Vegas has to offer, give Hash House a Go Go a try. Featuring American classics such as chicken and waffles, smoked chicken chowder and biscuits and gravy, you’ll get a huge serving for a small amount of money. Plus, Adam Richman from Man V Food ate here.

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♥ Earl of Sandwich, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas

Another cheap and cheerful option, this Earl of Sandwich store is located at the Planet Hollywood hotel and does a huge range of hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts. Service is quick and the prices are low, plus they’re open 24 hours a day meaning it’s a great midnight snack!

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And don’t forget to check out my San Francisco Eats and Los Angeles Eats guides too!

What is your favourite place to eat in Vegas?

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Food

Feeling the Love – 5 Dessert Recipes for Valentine’s Day

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I think one of the most thoughtful gifts you can give your loved one (apart from a puppy) is a homemade present. Specifically, dessert.

I’ve rounded up my 5 favourite love-themed desserts to prepare you for the rapidly approaching Valentines Day. Even if you think it’s just a marketer’s shallow attempt to sell more greeting cards, who doesn’t love an excuse to eat chocolate and strawberries?

1. Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Cupcakes

These intensely dark chocolate cupcakes are paired with the classically romantic flavour combination of strawberries, which provides a nice sweet/tart balance to the cupcakes. You’ll definitely be in the good books if you make your partner these.

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2. Rosewater and Pistachio Heart Cupcakes

If you don’t get roses, you can at least incorporate the flavour into your cupcakes. I love this Middle Eastern flavour combination of rosewater and pistachio, and the icing on the cake (so to speak) is the little rosewater-flavoured heart hidden inside each cupcake. Cute!

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3. Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes

When I think of Valentines Day, I think of Lindt balls. It’s basically the “sorry I forgot to buy you something thoughtful” gift, but fortunately they taste great. So I took a delicious red velvet cupcake, added white chocolate icing and then stuffed a Lindt ball inside each cupcake. Heaven!

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4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce

Dipping strawberries into chocolate sauce has long been promoted as the height of romance, but those store-bought chocolate dips are pretty terrible. This homemade version uses real dark chocolate and condensed milk as the base and is flavoured with peanut butter for extra romance.

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5. Bleeding Heart Cake

Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps a cake that you wouldn’t initially associate with romancing your bae. But if you both appreciate a bit of tongue-in-cheek behaviour or are Valentines Day cynics, then this bleeding heart cake is for you. Layers of red velvet cake and cream cheese icing are adorned with a morbid amount of raspberry blood and a knife pierced through the middle. That’s true love!

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How will you be celebrating Valentines Day this year?

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Donuts, Food, Recipes

Super Easy 3 Ingredient Nutella Donuts for World Nutella Day

Today is a very important day. It is World Nutella Day, an homage to my favourite spread! Thanks to Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso, every year we celebrate this delightful treat and I incorporate it into a new and delicious recipe.

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Want to give any of these Nutella recipes a go? Head along to this link and prepare yourself for Nutella Nirvana.

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And so what have I decided to create this year? Nutella donuts of course. This donut recipe is almost embarrassingly easy to make, it only has 3 ingredients!

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There is something magical about using Nutella when you bake, as it takes on the role of fat, moisture and flavour so you don’t have to add the standard ingredients of butter, milk or cocoa powder. You literally mix the Nutella with some eggs and a tiny bit of flour and voila. Nutella donuts within minutes!

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Super Easy 3 Ingredient Nutella Donuts for World Nutella Day
 
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Author:
Serves: 30
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup Nutella
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp plain flour
  • Extra Nutella to ice the donuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C and grease your donut pan with flavourless oil OR turn on your donut maker (you won't need any oil if you use the latter).
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the Nutella, eggs and plain together until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Transfer mixture to a medium zip lock bag and cut the corner tip cut off. Pipe the mixture into the donut pans until each is approximately ⅔ full.
  4. If using a donut pan, bake in the oven for around 10 minutes until they spring back when pressed. If using a mini donut maker, bake for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Allow donuts to cool completely before icing with extra Nutella

nutella-donuts2

I find some baked donuts can taste a little dry and “cakey”, but the Nutella ensures these babies stay moist, dense and rich. This is definitely my new favourite donut recipe.

nutella-donuts3

Because there is no such thing as too much Nutella, I also iced the donuts with extra Nutella. And now I am scheming up more Nutella recipes… Stay tuned!

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Food, Travel

The Best Sweet Stuff in Sydney

My final section of my Sydney Eats guide is here and it’s all about sugar! For your reference, here is part 1 The Best Breakfast and Brunch Spots in Sydney and part 2 The Best Lunch and Dinner Spots in Sydney.

As previously noted:

– I have lived in Surry Hills, Redfern and Balmain and work in Chippendale, so most of my selections revolve around these areas. Fortunately, this is where the best food is (in my humble opinion).

– I will update this list as I visit more places, so feel free to bookmark it and come back later.

sweet-stuff

Eastern Suburbs

Kürtősh – 604 Crown Street, Surry Hills (full of Hungarian “chimney cakes” – get the Nutella one, plus a huge selection of cookies, slices and cakes)

4Fourteen – 414 Bourke Street, Surry Hills (while all their desserts are great, I lose my mind over the white chocolate sandwich)

La Paula – 214 Anzac Parade, Kensington (this bakery is chock-full of amazing South American treats, the alfajores are great but you simply MUST try the tres leches cake)

la-paula

Bourke St Bakery – 633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills (the ginger brulee tart is my favourite, with the lemon curd tart and chocolate croissant tying for second place)

bourke-st-bakery

Gelato Messina – Locations in Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Bondi and more (there’s a reason why there is a queue snaking out the door of these gelaterias, with flavours like salted caramel and white chocolate and drool-worthy weekly specials, you’ll have to go again and again)

gelato-messina

Love Dem Apples – 454 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills (an entire store dedicated to toffee apples?! You heard me. Tooth-aching flavours include Pretzel Caramel, Cherry Ripe, Popcorn and Rocky Road)

love-dem-apples

City

Aqua S – 501 George Street, Sydney (you’ve probably seen this image a million times on Instagram, but the good news is it tastes as good as it looks. I think fancy soft serves are the new dessert trend of 2015 – goodbye Froyo!)

aqua-s

N2 Extreme Gelato – 43/1 Dixon St, Sydney (gelato, made with liquid nitrogen! By people in lab coats with test tubes! And it’s not just a gimmick, the gelato is delicious)

n2-extreme-gelato

Inner West

Black Star – 277 Australia St, Newtown (Black Star is a tiny cafe producing a large amount of delicious sugary things. Try the chocolate eclair and their famous watermelon cake!)

black-star-watermelon-cake

Brewtown 6-8 O’Connell St, Newtown (Grab a cup of coffee and treat yourself to a Cinnamon Brewnut or Nutella Cruffin. Or both, no judgement)

brewtown-cronut

The Pie Tin – 1 Brown St, Newtown (Ahhh these pies are what dreams are made of, huge slices of freshly made Snickers pie, Oreo cookie pie and brown butter pecan pie)

pie-tin

Doughbox Diner – 137 Enmore Road, Enmore (A huge selection of retro treats including crepes, waffles, cinnamon doughnut flavoured milkshake (!!) and giant sundaes)

doughbox-diner

Adriano Zumbo – 296 Darling Street, Balmain plus other locations (he’s famous for his macarons, but try his amazing white choc and raspberry muffins, a zonut or.. well basically anything in the store. All heavenly)

zumbo-zonuts

Hartsyard – 33 Enmore Road, Newtown (no matter how full I am after a meal at Hartsyard, I always have to order the peanut butter and banana sundae. Also give the weekly soft serve special and pie a go. Andy Bowdy is a genius!)

hartsyard-sundae

Places still to try:

Pasticceria Papa, Haberfield

Stix Desserts, Surry Hills

Sweetness the Patisserie, Epping

Brewristas, Glebe

Fika Swedish Kitchen, Manly

What’s your favourite dessert spot in Sydney?

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Food

Happy Australia Day! My Favourite Australian Desserts

happy-australia-day

I hope all of my fellow Australians are enjoying the long weekend and celebrating Australia Day the best way we know how – with food!

I’ve rounded up my favourite Australian-inspired desserts to share with you for some patriotic baking inspiration today. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel and Tim Tam Cheesecake

Tim Tams are possible our nation’s favourite biscuits, and they make a delicious and easy base and topping for this cheesecake.

salted-caramel-cheesecake

Chocolate Pavlova with Nutella and Strawberries

Whether it’s technically an Australian or New Zealand creation, we love pavlovas, especially ones with Nutella!

choc-nutella-pavlova

Tim Tam and Milo Truffles

Buzzfeed described this recipe as “It doesn’t get much more Australian – or delicious.” and I have to agree!

tim-tam-milo-balls2

Chocolate Joys – A Chocolate Crackle/Honey Joys hybrid

This recipe takes two of my favourite Aussie childhood sweet treats and reinvents into a tasty hybrid treat with an adult twist.

choc-crackle-honey-joy

ANZAC Biscuits

These ANZAC biscuits were traditionally baked by anxious wives and mothers during World War I and sent to the Australian soldiers in the trenches, and are now a staple in any Aussie baker’s repertoire.

anzac-biscuits1

Pavlova with Cream, Passionfruit and Kiwi

A green and gold pavlova! Pure patriotism! Plus it tastes great too.

pavlova

Lamington Cake with Milo Icing

And last but certainly not least, is my Lamington Cake with Milo icing. You beauty.

lamington-cake-with-milo-icing

What are you baking for Australia Day?

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Food, Travel

The Best Lunch and Dinner Spots in Sydney

I’m back with part 2 of my Sydney Eats guide! Here is part 1 The Best Breakfast and Brunch Spots in Sydney. I’ll have the final instalment, desserts, up next week!

I tried to narrow this list down but we are so spoilt for choice this list has grown to 38 places and counting.

As previously noted:

– I have lived in Surry Hills, Redfern and Balmain and work in Chippendale, so most of my selections revolve around these areas. Fortunately, this is where the best food is (in my humble opinion).

– I will update this list as I visit more places, so feel free to bookmark it and come back later.

Onwards!

lunch-dinner-spots-sydney

Chippendale

Ester  – 46-52 Meagher Street (Ester is really helping the revitalisation of Chippendale, and their Modern Australian menu with a Mediterranean influence is sensational. You must try the bone marrow!)

ester-bone-marrow

Autolyse – 28 Broadway (this eat-in bakery serves up a huge array of soups, salads and sandwiches. The slow cooked lamb sandwich is divine)

autolyse

Darlinghurst

Phamish – 248 Palmer St (seriously delicious Vietnamese food, there’s always a queue but it’s worth the wait!)

Lucio Pizzeria – 248 Palmer St (in the same courtyard as Phamish, this pizza place always hovers at the top of my “Best Pizza in Sydney” list)

Hinky Dinks – 185 Darlinghurst Road (a great 1950s vibe, lovely staff who make amazing cocktails and the perfect American diner snack food to complement it)

Buffalo Dining Club – 116 Surrey Street (this is the place where you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Ask the waiter for their recommendations and they will bring you plate after plate of cured meats, cheese and pastas. And it’s never very expensive!)

buffalo-dining-club

Mr Crackles – 155 Oxford St (if you’re stumbling home after a big night I highly recommend you swing by Mr Crackles. Giant pork rolls, cups of crackle, chilli fries etc. Always amazing)

mr-crackles

City

♥ Menya Mappen 537-551 George St (it’s kind of like a “build your own noodle dish” bar, where you choose your base stock and noodles, and then pile on as many tempura/vegetable items as you wish)

Frankies Pizza – 50 Hunter St (a dive bar serving up margarita slushies and delicious pizza until the wee hours of the morning. It’s super loud, but that’s the appeal, right?)

Hot Star Fried Chicken – 96 Liverpool St (a small Taiwanese takeaway shop serving up huge portions of deep fried chicken the size of your head. They also have great sides – also deep fried. Don’t go when you’re on a diet)

Chinese Noodle House/Restaurant – 8 Quay St (both these restaurants are located in the same area, have grapes hanging from the ceiling and hustlers out the front trying to get you to come in. Both have delicious and cheap dumplings! I still haven’t made up my mind who wins the Chinese Noodle House vs Restaurant dumpling war)

Rockpool Bar and Grill – 66 Hunter St (the best steak, duck fat cooked chips and gorgeous desserts, housed in a beautiful Art Deco building. For when you want to get a little fancy)

rockpool

Alpha – 238 Castlereagh Street (top notch Greek food, especially the spanakopita, platter of haloumi and slow cooked lamb)

alpha-haloumi

Happy Chef – 401 Sussex Street (my FAVOURITE laksa in Sydney. I get serious cravings for this on a regular basis, especially when sick)

happy-chef-laksa

Ramen Ikkyu – 401 Sussex Street (in the same food court as Happy Chef, this is one of the best ramens I’ve had in Sydney)

ramen-ikkyu

Bowery Lane – 1 O’Connell St (New York-inspired dining with excellent burgers, slow cooked meats, oysters and a bangin’ cocktail list)

bowery-lane-burgers

Inner West

Hartsyard  – 33 Enmore Rd, Newtown (the best buttermilk fried chicken with sausage gravy I’ve ever had, along with delicious American desserts and weekly changing soft serves from pastry-master Andy Bowdy)

hartsyard

The Stinking Bishops – 63-71 Enmore Rd, Newtown (Ugh this place. The cheese, oh the cheese. Try it in grilled cheese sandwich form or on a platter with some cured meats)

the-stinking-bishops

Mary’s – 6 Mary St, Newtown (home to some legendary burgers and fried chicken, and they recently opened a takeaway branch in the city for more temptation!)

marys

♥ Mantecato – 85 Reynolds St, Balmain (A risotto restaurant. That’s right, an entire restaurant dedicated to one of my favourite dishes. The staff are super lovely, the risottos are spot on and the Italian desserts are magnificent. I can’t wait to return!)

mantecato

Jasmin1 – 116 Marion St, Leichhardt (delicious and cheap Lebanese food with platters of haloumi, felafel, garlic sauce and meat on skewers!)

jasmine1

Paddington

♥ Four in Hand – 105 Sutherland St (fancy pub food, great service, I really need to return for the Sunday roast!)

♥ The Nighthawk Diner @ The Unicorn Hotel – 106 Oxford St (one of my favourite burgers in Sydney and they do great shakes as well!)

nighthawk-diner

Surry Hills

Spice I Am – 90 Wentworth Ave (my favourite Thai food in Sydney, closely followed by Chat Thai. Beware, this places is SPICEY and will make you cry. In the best way)

Toko – 490 Crown St (fancy Japanese food, done impeccably well. Yes it’s expensive, but well worth the price)

♥ Porteno – 358 Cleveland St, temporarily closed due to the fire (South American food means huge hunks of meat slow cooked over coals, empanadas and the best brussels sprouts you’ll ever eat!)

♥ Longrain – 85 Commonwealth St (a modern take on upmarket Thai food, one of my favourite date night places)

♥ Yulli’s – 417 Crown St (my favourite vegetarian place in Sydney, I highly suggest you go with a group and get the banquet so you can try as much as possible!)

Vacanza – 414 Bourke St (this place gets crowded early so be prepared to wait, but it’s worth it for the huge pizzas and generous antipasti boards)

♥ 121BC – 50 Holt St (a cosy Italian restaurant with a fantastic menu and great wine list. I just want to spend a rainy night in here eating pasta forever)

♥ Maya Vegetarian – 468 Cleveland St (I love popping in here for a quick and cheap Thali, a selection of various curries, bread and condiments)

Nomad – 16 Foster St (housed in a huge converted warehouse, the decor is gorgeous and the food and wine list even better)

nomad

Lucky Pickle – 509-511 Crown St, enter via Holburn St (this tiny hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop has the BEST lunch options. Get the chicken katsu or pork belly rolls and be very happy)

lucky-pickle

Madame Nhu – 82 Campbell St (fresh and flavourful Vietnamese food, efficient service and delicious Asian-inspired cocktails)

madame-nhu

♥ Ko and Co – 6 Hunt St (I never knew Korean/Mexican fusion could work so well. Amazing fried chicken and Korean tacos and a great cocktail and soju list)

ko-and-co

West

I realise my list is woefully neglectful of the delicacies out West, but I rarely go out there. Some highlights include:

♥ El Jannah – Locations in Granville, Blacktown and Punchbowl (huge servings of charcoal chicken, lebanese bread, the best garlic sauce of your life, pickles, hot chips… oh god I love EJ!)

♥ Circa – 21 Wentworth St, Parramatta (my favourite brunch out west, Circa serves up great coffee and delicious servings of breakfasty goodness. Be prepared to wait as everyone else has discovered this gem!)

♥ Vietnamese Food – John St, Cabramatta (I couldn’t make up my mind for the best Vietnamese food in Cabramatta, so just walk down John St and you won’t be disappointed!)

Places still to try:

LP Quality Meats, Chippendale

Burger Project, City (I am like the only food blogger who hasn’t been)

Pei Modern, City

Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst

Red Lantern on Riley, Darlinghurst

Brewistas, Glebe

ACME, Kings Cross

Papi Chulo, Manly

Silva’s Portugese Chicken, Petersham

The Oxford Tavern, Petersham

Billy Kwong, Potts Point

Chester White Cured Diner, Potts Point

Cho Cho San, Potts Point

The Apollo, Potts Point

The Butler, Potts Point

Da Mario, Rosebery

Dragoncello, Surry Hills

Goro’s, Surry Hills

Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills

Mama’s Buoi, Surry Hills

Pub Life Kitchen, Surry Hills

Tokio Bird, Surry Hills

What do you think of my (lengthy) list? Where’s your favourite place to eat lunch or dinner in Sydney?

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Cakes, Food, Recipes

Lamington Cake with Milo Icing for Australia Day

This weekend is the Australia Day long weekend, which means a day off work, listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 while day-drinking and the bastardisation of Australian desserts. Which brings me to the Lamington Cake with Milo Icing.

Lamingtons are a well-know and loved Aussie treat that are traditionally made with old sponge cake that was cut up and dipped in a runny mixture of icing sugar, cocoa and milk and then rolled in desiccated coconut. Milo is an iconic chocolate and malt powder developed by Thomas Mayne in Sydney back in 1934 and sits in the pantry of most Australian households (I presume).

I wanted to create a sort of deconstructed lamington (how on trend!) in the form of a naked cake (ie that’s a cake without the sides iced, another trendy thing in baking at the moment). I baked 2 sponge cakes and horizontally sliced them into layers, then topped the slices of sponge cake with generous dollops of strawberry jam and cream. The final touch was an icing made out of Milo and sprinkled with coconut.

To get ultra patriotic, I also designed, printed and made my own Australia flag cake bunting – and you can make your own too! Scroll down to the bottom for the DIY printable and instructions to make your own.

lamington-cake-with-milo-icinglamington-cake-with-milo-icing6lamington-cake-with-milo-icing5

Lamington Cake with Milo Icing for Australia Day
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
Sponge Cake
  • 225g butter, at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Filling
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 200g jam of your choice (I used strawberry)
Milo Icing
  • 2 tbsp milo
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp boiling water or milk heated in the microwave
  • Coconut to decorate
Instructions
Sponge Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease 2 x deep, 20cm round cake tins.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add in the flour and baking powder and beat until just combined.
  5. Divide the mixture between prepared tins and bake for 15-20 mins until lightly golden brown.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before assembling.
Milo Icing
  1. Put all the dry ingredients into a small bowl and stir together.
  2. Add in the boiling water or hot milk a little bit at a time, stirring well, until the mixture becomes a spreadable consistency.
  3. Set aside to cool while you start the assembly.
Assembly
  1. Whip the thickened cream until light and fluffy using electric beaters.
  2. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each cake horizontally so you have 4 cakes.
  3. Place the first layer of cake on your cake stand and spread 2 tablespoons of jam evenly across the top, followed by 2 tablespoons of whipped cream. I find it easiest to use a butter knife to spread the jam, followed by an offset spatula for the cream.
  4. Put the next layer of cake on, and continue spreading the jam and cream between each layers.
  5. When the top layer has been placed, spread the cooled Milo icing over the top of the cake (it may drip over the sides, don't worry!) and finish with a sprinkle of coconut.
  6. Enjoy!

lamington-cake-with-milo-icing2lamington-cake-with-milo-icing4

Make your own Australia Day cake bunting!

australia-day-cake-bunting

Step 1 – Download the free printable here and save to your computer.

Step 2 – Print out the file at 100% on paper slightly heavier than standard office paper. I used 100gsm.

cake-bunting1

Step 3 – Carefully cut out each flag using sharp scissors.

cake-bunting2

Step 4 – Fold each flag in half over a piece of twine. Secure each flag closed using either glue or double sided sticky tape (for a cleaner finish).

cake-bunting3

Step 5 – Make sure to trim off any overhanging tape on your flags, then tie each end of twine to a straw.

cake-bunting4

Step 6 – Voila! You have made your own cake bunting!

cake-bunting5

What are your plans for Australia Day?

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