Naturally, I started flipping through it and I was immediately taken back with all the delicious recipes and gorgeous photos. Apricot upside down cake. Hazelnut gooey brownies. Chocolate strawberry cake. I had been denied all these delicious calories without knowing!
I immediately inquired about the book and was told it was from a cake shop in South Africa, where my aunt and uncle used to live. Crushing news. I figured it was for the best since the recipes used the metric system and I can't follow regular recipes without occasionally forgetting key steps like, oh say adding sugar to pumpkin pie. In case you were wondering, unsweetened pumpkin does taste exactly like soil. And soil pie wasn't exactly what I was going for.
I put the cookbook out of my mind until Christmas, when I received it as a present from my grandparents, who also live in South Africa. I encourage you all to acquire some South African grandparents so you too can receive cool South African cake books. You may also be so lucky as to befriend your tech savvy grandpa on facebook and read his status updates about how grandma was stalked by a baboon that day.
I don't know if it was more shocking that my grandma. Was stalked. BY A BABOON!! IN AFRICA!! Or is it more horrifying that my grandpa. IS ON FACEBOOK!!! AND WE ARE FRIENDS!!
Anyway. My first logical excuse to make some shmancy baked goods was Valentine's Day, when white chocolate cupcakes with smashed berry frosting was most appropriate.
And they went over resoundingly well. I manged not to run into any problems converting the metric recipe, although according to my calculations my oven was supposed to be at something like 353.27 degrees Fahrenheit. Joe declared them the best cupcakes ever in the histories of all things cupcake, so let it be known, amen.
I think the kicker here was the frosting, which was basically mascarpone cheese (a bit like cream cheese) mashed raspberries and a touch of powdered sugar. I tend to prefer cream cheese-like frosting over American buttercream so I loved this.
I decided not to participate in the Daring Baker's February challenge of homemade tiramisu because I wasn't really feeling it-- I'm not a huge tiramisu person and I couldn't justify going through the laborious process when I couldn't think of anybody who would eat. I did decide to do one aspect of the challenge, however, which was to make your own mascarpone-like cheese at home. It's really easy, actually. And the stuff tends to be expensive at the store so why not? Here it is:
(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.
It really was a breeze, the only thing is you need to start it the day before you need it, which I'm rarely good about. But makes an excellent frosting: I added about a cup of raspberries and powdered sugar to taste and it was glorious. Too thin to be pipped but a messy chic cupcake has its place too.