Blogging Reflections and Paula Deen’s Fresh Apple Cake

When I started blogging I did for a few reasons, first it was a creative outlet and it filled a part of my life that was missing. As a stay-at-home mom it was a distraction that took me away from baby stuff that didn’t take me out of the house. My posts were shared only with friends and family. There was no Facebook page, Twitter account, or Pinterest boards to promote my blog. It wasn’t about the numbers. It was for me; a way to experiment with baking and a way to share my experiences.

I can’t recall when I made my accounts for all these social media sites (I’m sure they would all tell me if I could be bothered to look), but it changed the way I blogged. All of the sudden it was about trends, shares, and likes. I started making things I thought might do well on the blog instead of things I wanted to actually eat in hopes it would get shared and liked. When I realised I wasn’t enjoying blogging or baking any more following this behavior, I backed off and went back to doing what I liked and relished in any views or likes I did get, not the ones I didn’t get.

It’s changed again, but now it seems to be all about the free stuff and/or being paid. There are bloggers out there that have amazing blogs with amazing stats and they deserve to get paid for their work. However, I’m not there yet and I don’t know that I ever will be.

There was a time where I was actually quite flattered and said yes to every “free” sample offered to me. It didn’t long before I didn’t recognise my blog and realised the hard way that nothing is free. I have politely said no to 98% of the opportunities sent my way in the last year or so. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out, but I’m not ready, as I mentioned above, to make it a job.

It’s something I do besides everything else I do. It’s something I do for me.

Blogging 101 - Get to the Point.

I do ramble a lot. To the point or to the cake.

I taught myself how to bake by using other people’s recipes and then as I became more confident adapting them one way or the other to make them more my own. There are debates on this method of sharing recipes, but I’ve never considered nor claimed myself to be a recipe developer. My blog is to share my adventures in learning to bake and how it’s become a part of my life and changed it.

There are still many times I still just follow a recipe and a lot of the time these baked goods don’t make it on to the blog. This time I thought I would share it by linking to the recipe online. I found the recipe in a book who had permission to republish it, but it’s also available online. The recipe for Paula Deen’s Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia can be found on the USA Food Network website.

First you have the cake with the apples, coconut, and pecans but to take it that step further you pour a warm butter mixture into/onto the warm cake and let it sit to soak in. There are no words. It’s amazing! Follow the link above and make it for yourself. You will want a slice right away as the whole kitchen fills with the smells of autumn spices!

notes: or I should say disclaimer! I was not asked to make this recipe or to promote it, Paula Deen, or Food Network in anyway. It looked good and so I made it and I liked it and now I’m sharing with you! Enjoy!

Pistachio & Cardamom Madeleines (inspired by The Hundred Foot Journey)

It’s funny how in life just one journey, wether it’s 100 foot or 23,321,760 foot, can change your life forever. The first step is what really matters though. Without the first step the journey cannot begin. Do you have a moment ingrained in your memory as the start of something new. That perhaps you didn’t know it at the time, but looking back you’re like that one decision, that one choice, that one step lead you to where you are now?

That’s what this story is about. The story does start at the beginning with a tragedy in Hassan Haji's youth that changed everything, but that's not where it really starts. It really starts when Hassan makes the choice to walk those 100 feet and start something new.

It’s the tragedy that takes his family first to England, then to France where they decide to make a new home. Once in France they move to a small town across the street from a classic French restaurant run by one Madame Mallory. She discovers that Hassan has a natural ability when it comes to cooking. Learning under the scrutiny of  Madame Mallory will he have what it takes to make it in Paris as a chef? You will need to read the book to find out!

There is a scene in the book where Hassan is having tea with Madame Mallory and he talks about the pistachio madeline’s they are enjoying with said tea. Having only used my madeline tin twice I thought it was about time I dragged it out to use again! Instead of just pistachio madeline’s I added cardamon as well to represent the different cultures that are brought together in this book. I also dipped mine in some melted white chocolate and chopped pistachio nuts!

They turned out good, the perfect balance of salty and sweet. If you’d like to try making these for yourself to eat with a cup of tea (or coffee) while reading this amazing book here’s how I made them!

Pistachio & Cardamom Madeleines

1 large egg
60g caster sugar
60g plain flour, sifted
40g pistachios, ground to a powder
60g butter, melted
3-4 cardamom pods, spilt open and seeds ground up
75g white chocolate, melted
40g pistachios, roughly chopped

Grease a plastic pipping bag with butter, leave to the side. Beat the egg and sugar together with the whisk attachment in a free standing mixer or a hand mixer until it’s tripled and has reached ribbon stage, the batter dripping from the whisk should remain on the surface for a minimum of 3 seconds. Gently fold in the flour and ground pistachios until just combined before adding the cooled melted butter. Again gently fold it in being careful not to knock any of the air out! Place the batter into your prepared piping bag and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, but ideally 4 hours.
When you are ready to bake heat the oven to 210C. Grease the madeline tin with warm butter and sprinkle with flour, knock off any extra flour (over the sink) and pipe the madeline batter into each mould. Bake in the heated oven for 7-9 minutes. They should spring back when pressed gently with your thumb. These you do not want sitting around in the tin! Wearing oven mitts give it a sharp rap on the counter to release the madeleines. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Once cool to the touch dip in the melted white chocolate and then dip in the chopped pistachios. Enjoy!

notes: This post is part of my #storybookbakes series. 4,417 miles is approximately the distance between The United States and The United Kingdom. I borrowed The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais by a friend before obtaining my own copy. All opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page above for more information. Recipe is adapted from John Whaite’s Pistachio and Cardamom Madeline’s found here. The recipe is missing the amount of butter so I made an educated guess and it as far as I am concerned turned out okay! I am entering these madeline’s into this month’s Treat Petite hosted by Cakeyboi & The Baking Explorer. These madeleines are also being entered into the Perfecting Patisserie blogging challenge hosted by The Baking Queen!

Chocolate Truffle Muffins - To Heal Broken Things

Update time. A week ago I missed the last step at the bottom of our stairs which I have done before and been fine. This time I feel straight down and made a noise that at the time I thought came from somewhere or someone else! Turns out I rolled my foot in such a way it swelled up and turned my toes purple. Yay!

Been hobbling around for about a week now and it’s slowly getting better. I am still working and chasing after my girls, but resting it as much as possible! It’s not like me to take things easy. It was all my sisters fault anyhow. Both of them were talking about their injuries and after chiding them for not being more careful I went and hurt myself. Typical!

So, to cheer myself up I made these chocolate truffle muffins. I mean how better to heal your foot by standing on it baking? Lucky for me muffins are super easy and quick and a great place to start baking. Forget cupcakes/fairy cakes when baking with kids get them to make muffins! In fact it’s a great idea for when hobbling about on a strained (possibly broken) foot.

Chocolate Truffle Muffins

200g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
200g self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Food Thoughts cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
150ml milk
3 eggs
chocolate caramel bar (Mars) 4 snack size or 1 large, cut into 12 pieces

Heat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tin. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan. Stir until melted and take off the heat. 
In a large bowl dry whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and sugar together. In a measuring jug gently beat the eggs in with the milk using a fork until just combined. Pour into the dry ingredients along with the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Using a medium ice-cream scoop, scoop the batter into the lined muffin tin. Place a piece of chocolate bar in each one and gently press down with a spoon or something until submerged. Just don’t push too hard or it will sink to the bottom. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before eating so you don’t burn yourself on the melted chocolate middle.

notes: Food Thoughts sent me a sample of their finest organic 100% cocoa to try. Cocoa powder is something I always keep on hand in my baking cupboard as a baking staple! All opinions are my own, no other payment was received please see my contact/policy page for more information. Recipe inspired by Felicity Barnum-Bobb’s 100 Magnificent Muffins & Scones.

Apple Season Link-Up

We've had an awful summer, but instead of being annoyed about that I am going to embrace my favorite time of year autumn!

One of the reasons I love this time of year is the food! Summer food is good lots of refreshing salads and loads of fruit, but autumn and winter bring in the root vegetables and comfort food that I love! That and it's apple season! 

I miss the days going to an orchard to pick apples! I remember going as a fund raiser for my church youth group and having a blast! So, this linky is all about the apples! Unlike my last apple linky (see here) it's not just about baking! If you have any recipe to do with apples or if you have written about apple picking or apple fashion basically anything to do with apples link it up! I want to see it all! 

How to Join in! 

- Follow the instructions to link up 1-5 new or old apple posts with the inlinkz widget/gadget below. 
- Tweet me @unitedcakedom with the hashtag #appleseason and I will like and RT. 
- In your blog post please link back to this post so others can easily join in too! If you want to use the image above please do so, but it's not mandatory. 
- Again not mandatory but linky's are all about sharing the love so if you have a moment please have a look at some of the other links and comment/share/like/RT or however you like to share the love! 

What to expect from me! 

- Already mentioned above I will RT/like any tweets I see with the above criteria. 
- I will also add links to my Pinterest board Apple Season! which currently has 537 followers (please follow or have a look for ideas!)
- There will be a round-up post sometime in October where I will link back to your posts. An image from your post will be used so please let me know if this is not okay with you. 
- I will attempt to comment on every post as well, but please be patient as I might only do it once a week! Same for adding to Pinterest I will do it as soon as I can! 

Now all there is to do is link up! It's a one off linky which starts today and will end 6 weeks today, plenty of time to join in! 

Chocolate Coconut Upside Down Banana Cake

Chocolate. Coconut. Upside. Down. Banana. Cake. That’s a mouth full to say, but I call it as it is when it comes to cake. In fact I call a lot of things as they are … in my head. This thing called tact keeps me from just saying whatever I am thinking at the moment.

Only children and old people get away with saying whatever they want. Luckily with cake nothing holds me back. If it’s good I shout it from the roof tops. If it’s not good aka bad then you will hear about that too. Mediocre cakes don’t even get mentioned! It’s the thing about being in the middle most of the time you get ignored. I would know I am a middle child.

What I’m getting at is that I am going to tell you straight how it is with this Chocolate Coconut Upside Down Banana cake. No messing about here.

This cake is deliciously interesting.

First you have the super soft cake made with coconut oil that becomes more moist with the caramel topping that soaks into it. Plus nicely baked banana slices to make you feel a little less guilty about the super rich cake.

Recently VitaCoco set me a sample of their coconut oil to try and after a few trial and errors this cake was made and I was pleasantly pleased with it.

Going along the lines of telling someone what is what, I can say that you should make this cake and if you don't you're a bit of a dumb dumb.

Chocolate Coconut Upside Down Banana Cake

110g dark chocolate
240ml boiling water, measure after boiling
225g sugar
195g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g light brown sugar
120ml coconut oil
110g sour cream
2 medium eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 180C.
Place the chocolate, broken up, in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over so that the chocolate is completely covered and leave to the side. Gently whisk the sugar, flour, salt, and bicarb together and leave to the side.
Weigh out 250g of the coconut oil and gently heat to melt it down (250g is approximately 250ml) leave it to cool slightly.
Go back to the chocolate and water and whisk until smooth. Then add the brown sugar -whisk, coconut oil - whisk, sour cream - whisk, eggs one at a time whisking after each one. Last add the vanilla and whisk until combined.
Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture mixing until just combined - repeat two more times until it’s all mixed together!

Upside-Down Bananas 

1 large or 2 medium or 3 small, bananas - sliced
75g butter
100g brown sugar
50g desiccated coconut or flakes

In an 8 inch or 9 inch deep cake tin put the butter and brown sugar at the bottom of the tin and leave in the heated oven to melt. Once melted give a little stir and add the sliced bananas to the bottom in any pattern you like! Sprinkle the coconut (add more or less if you like) over the bananas before very gently pour the cake batter on top. Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the cake tin. If it’s not completely baked bake longer with five minute intervals and cover with tin foil if you are worried about the top/bottom being burnt. Once it’s baked gently put a knife around the edges to release it from the tin and place a plate over the cake tin and tip it upside down.

Eat as soon as it’s cool enough to eat. The caramel sauce will soak in and make the cake very moist (I hate that word, but it’s the only one to describe it) and make it look slightly under baked. Delicious!

notes: VitaCoco sent me a sample of the VitaCoco Coconut Oil to try out, no other payments were made. All opinions are my own. For more information please see my contact/policy page above. Recipe was adapted from various sources one being Bake! by Nick Malgieri and by googling upside down banana cake!

The Pastry Challenge September Link-Up (plus August round-up)

There is a little guilt putting the link up and round up together. However, last month was a bit of a bust with neither myself or Jen really getting a pastry entry in! Jen having a much better excuse then myself.

I did make mini gypsy tarts which were suppose to be my entry but as they didn't turn out exactly how I wanted I was a bit weary about sharing them. It seems that a lot of my pastry attempts haven't been working out all that well!

This month my intentions are to try making from scratch puff pastry. It's notorious for being tricky! Any tips out there please let me know!

If it wasn't clear yet I will be hosting again this month as Jen is very busy taking up a new adventure and move! I am happy and excited for her, but a little sad as she's moving away from me! As for the pastry I will be keeping it open again this month with any thing goes!

Before I go over the ground rules again here is last month's entries:

Here are some of our ground rules and below is the button to add your link!

First bake a pastry that fits the theme (anything goes)!
Second blog about it! Be sure to link back to both myself Lisa and Jen.

If you tweet use the hashtag #thepastryhcallenge and be sure to include us @unitedcakedom & @jensfood we like and retweet any we see!

Please feel free to use the image above in your post as a way to help spread the word. I will be adding the entries to the official Pastry Challenge Pinterest board that you can follow here!

Lastly link it up below, following the instructions on the widget/gadget below.

A few reminders we are looking for new or re-posted posts following the instructions above. Feel free to enter more then one entry. Also if you have a few minutes check out the entry before yours and leave a comment!

Any questions please feel free to contact either Jen or myself! We look forward to seeing all your amazing pastry creations!

There are lots of other blogging challenges so overlapping is encouraged and if you have one we haven't heard of please let us know by email or leaving a comment below!