Decedent Chocolate Fudge

I came home from a trip to Tasmania having one cooking ambition and that was to find a simple but perfect chocolate fudge recipe. It took a couple of experiments but this version adapted from Repeat Crafter Me is the closest one to the perfect fudge that I fell in love with at Chudleigh, Tasmania. I wanted to make it quickly and yet ensure that it is silky smooth. I hit the jackpot with this combination. Try it. I am so convinced that you will love it too.


 

MICROWAVE CHOCOLATE FUDGE


680g (2 bags) milk chocolate chips
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the chocolate, condensed milk, vanilla and butter in a microwave safe bowl & microwave for 2 minutes stirring once or twice, then zap in 15 second increments until the chocolate is melted. Be careful not to let it seize. Allow it to cool a bit (30 minutes) and then beat until the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened about 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully pour the mixture into a lightly greased tart lined with non-stick baking paper and smooth over with the back of a spoon.
  3. Set aside until set . A couple of hours at least, overnight if possible.
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into 4cm squares and wrap each piece in non-stick baking paper. Makes 16 squares

VARIATIONS:

Do you want to try different flavuors? Use different flavoured chocolate chips.
Or when you pour your fudge into the pan, first add a layer of candy or cookies
Try some sieved rasbpberry couli!
There are lots of different ways to add to this recipe!

MY NOTES:

My 1st attempt: I first tried it in the slow cooker: as per repeat crafter me. The original recipe calls for 30 minutes in the slow cooker, mine had been going for 60 minutes and there was still tiny blobs of un-melted chocolate about the size of a pearl head on a pin or smaller. I was scared of it over cooking and took it out at this point. It was still delicious and had a little texture of minute chocolate bits in it which didn't detract from the fudge as a whole. Beaut flavour.
My 2nd attempt: I decided to use the microwave and beaters as per above instructions. I used 100% milk chocolate. Beautiful texture - so smooth though I tried to 'pretty' the top and thus I disturbed the crusty skin so it didn't look as good.
Next time I want to try 50:50 dark:milk chocolate with or without some Raspberry couli


What flavours would you want in your fudge? One son wants caramel fudge and another says his wife adds crumbled honeycomb to hers and he loves it.

Some simple handmade cards

I have so many card making supplies left over from when I was teaching and publishing cards. I found I had lost a lot of motivation with being sick for months after the cancer diagnosis and then travelling in our RV when I was up and about at last.

Twisted Easel Card and co-ordinating envelope

Eventually I had to try and sort out my craft supplies and found I have so many half made cards and many beautiful background papers that I have made using various techniques. Both of these will make it very quick to make a bundle of cards in next to no time at all. As much as I generally prefer to make flowers and three dimensional cards, sometimes, it is just not practical nor appropriate. I will be looking for some charities to gift these cards to as I have far to many for my own needs and gifts and I doubt I will hold any more markets stalls in the future but certainly not any time soon.

Twisted easel card 'flat' for posting

So take a gander and see the variety that is possible even with simple quick cards especially once the background papers have been made. Feel free to ask any questions re techniques.

background is paint dry brushed with embossing powder effects


Lavender layer is from the side of a tissue box. "Love" is stamped under the vellum

Multiple stamped background on fabric dyed coloured card

Simple ripped card for a distressed effect

Pretty scrapbooking papers make cards very quick to do. I love my cuttlebug for dry embossed backgrounds too!

White Chocolate Mud Cake with Raspberry Coulis Swirl - the ultimate Wedding Cake & Recipe

This special cake is so delicious. It is extremely moist and very rich...it almost melts in your mouth and that swirl of raspberry coulis through it, is just inspirational. Here are the promised recipes: the white chocolate mud cake, the raspberry coulis as well as the lemon buttercream that we use for incing the cake. I have given the recipe for a regular size cake. For  Camille's wedding cake, the final quantity was six times this recipe in the end! I've given the quantity for a 8 inch cake.

Camille's wedding cake

CAMILLE'S WHITE CHOCOLATE MUD CAKE

adapted from Nigella's recipe

 Ingredients

250g chopped butter
450g caster sugar
150g chopped white chocolate
1 cup milk
225g plain flour
85g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 lightly beaten eggs

Camille helping me make the trial version

Method

Line base and sides cake tin with baking paper.
Combine butter & sugar in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolved. Do NOT boil.
Add chocolate and keep stirring until melted.
Add milk and mix together.
Set aside to cool. (I found that takes quite a bit of time - like an hour or two.)

Now turn your oven on 170oC.
Back to the mixture: Add flours slowly, mixing continuously.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Pour mixture into your prepared 200mm cake tin. If you are adding coulis as I did, then do that at this point and swirl around through the cake mix with a knife edge
Cover the tin with foil.

Bake for  2 hours.

Cake just out of the oven


HINTS:

  • If you make extra quantities may these size tins and associated baking times be a guide to you. Each oven may differ so watch your cake carefully.
  • Bake 130mm size cake for minimum 1 3/4 hour. - takes approx half the recipe
  • Bake 300mm size cake for minimum 2 3/4 hour - takes approx double the recipe
  • I found the use of wet Bake Even Strips which are basically insulator strips around cakes helped prevent over cooked edges which is especially helpful with such long cooking times. (It definitely also increases the cooking time needed.) You could use a towel wrapped around the tin. It doesn't need to be dripping wet, but it needs to be quite wet. 

You can just see the Bake Even strip on this tin and in the back left corner

RASPBERRY COULIS RECIPE

250g frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup sugar.

Heat the sugar & water in a saucepan on the hotplate stirring from time to time, until the sugar dissolves completely, about 5 minutes
Add the raspberries. It is quicker if the raspberries are defrosted but it is not necessary for success.
Give it a quick whizz in a blender to break up the larger pieces of fruit & puree it. For this cake I didn't sieve the sauce to remove the seeds - I like the seeds!
Swirl tablespoonfuls through cake mix before baking, ensuring that the coulis doesn't come too close to the edge of the cake as it makes it harder to ice afterwards.
The sauce keeps well, covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and freezes perfectly for several months. Raspberry coulis is the red sauce that chefs often use to decorate your dessert plate with either with swirls or a brush of sauce across the plate.
Any left over sauce is easily used in a multitude of applications: drizzle it on breakfast foods like oatmeal, granola, yogurt or pancakes. Spoon it into your smoothies. Add it to the top of a bowl of ice cream. Also makes a terrific dipping sauce for sliced fruit.

Do not add coulis too close to the edges of the cake as shown

LEMON BUTTERCREAM RECIPE


125g copha
125g butter * See note
500g icing sugar sifted (powdered sugar)
4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Melt Cohpa in microwave until just soft and cool. Add room temperature or soft butter to the copha which you've allowed to cool and whip together until well blended.
Add  about a quarter of the sifted icing sugar gradually and blend into the butter mix.
Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Mix just enough to blend. Keep alternating more sugar and juice.  Ideally you want the buttercream to be the consistency of heavy whipped cream where it holds it's shape without collapsing. You can add more icing if it is too runny or more juice as desired.

If a decorative finish required then you especially need to crumb coat your cake first. This is where you apply a thin coating of buttercream over all the cake. Do not worry too much about crumbs spoiling the look, as this gets covered later with a second coating of buttercream after the crumb coating has had time to dry a little and harden. Spread the buttercream thickly over cake preferably using a palette knife.

Cakes wrapped awaiting the crumb coating.

Approx. quantities needed for icing a cake

130mm (5 inch) cake: 225g buttercream
200mm (8 inch) cake: 600g buttercream
300mm (12 inch) cake: 1.5kg buttercream

I made some thing close to 5kg buttercream with leftovers which I took to the wedding reception for touch ups if needed!


 NOTES: 

*If whiteness is not important to you, then double the butter and forego the copha. I really didn't notice a drop in flavour when it was half and half.

 

Trial Cake: Maybe you can see how yellow the buttercream was before the copha adaption!

 

Gluten Free Cake

It is easy to make this gluten free with the appropriate GF flours. My middle tier was Gluten Free as we had several guests that required GF if they were to join us in celebrating with cake. All my icings are done with Pure Icing Sugar (powdered sugar). Also each layer was physically separated by a cake board which not only ensured lack of contamination but also help support the various layers!

Freeze:

Did you know that most cakes freeze well when iced with buttercream especially if you follow these suggestions!
  1. Wrap with plastic cling wrap after it is frozen.
  2. Defrost cake completely wrapped so as no moisture escapes.
  3. Defrost cake naturally overnight.

Make in advance & storage:

Buttercream icing can be made as much as a week in advance and it doesn't need to be kept in a fridge. You will however need to ensure it is airtight to stop the buttercream 'skin' from drying and crusting. I like to place a couple of layers of plastic cling wrap right down touching the buttercream as well as  sealing off the bowl or container.Once it is on the cake it will 'seal' the cake and stop the air from aging or drying the cake out. The buttercream itself will form a crust which is why I advise that you wrap the cake in plastic cling wrap after this crust forms or after freezing.

The happy bridal couple with their cake

Rustic Wedding Cake

I made my daughter’s wedding cake and used a lemon buttercream to ice it. I believe buttercream icing is both simple and delicious. I find it is so much tastier and the tartness of the lemon just offsets the sweetness of the icing just wonderfully without taking away from the cake itself.

The rustic wedding cake made for one of my daughters.


There was basically only 4 requirements from the bridal couple:
1/. White chocolate mud cake
2/. Raspberry coulis swirled through the cake
3/. Three tiered cake
4/. White butter cream icing in a rustic look.

My daughter seems to believe I can make anything, but cake decorating at the 'professional' level for a wedding was pushing me way out of my comfort zone. I haven't done much cake decorating over the years and certainly nothing close to a wedding cake level.
 
The bride helping me make the buttercream

We had a trial run. Each layer had homemade raspberry coulis swirled through just like any rainbow swirled cake mix.  I quickly realized that having the coulis come close to the edge when I swirled it, made the edges break away easily thus making it very difficult to cover with the buttercream, so that was my first lesson learnt. We then crumb coated the 3 layers.
 
The coulis is too close to the edges on the trial cake

We then layered the cakes on top of each other and put them on a lazy susan so we could practice the icing technique to try and achieve something close to the rustic look the bride found & liked on Bridal Musing Site.

Our inspiration

My trial cake looked nothing like the one above but when we scattered some strawberries I just happened to have in the fridge over the layers, it really made a huge difference. The bride was worried that it wasn't big enough, so we determined that the real wedding cake was going to have double layers on each tier!

The trial wedding cake

Since I am still having periodic bouts of fatigue so we experimented with freezing our trial cake after it had been iced, so that it could be done on one of my good days. I found that it defrosted without any deterioration in quality of the cake itself or the buttercream icing providing that it was wrapped in plastic cling wrap after it froze solid and kept it wrapped as it slowly defrosted overnight.


I start freaking out about how was I going to transport it over an hour away, without damaging it and how to decorate it. I decided to transport each tier separately and finish assembling at the reception venue. I didn't weigh it but I am sure it was at least 15kg collectively. It was jolly heavy that's for sure!

Thankfully my sister was willing to adorn the cake with beautiful red roses making this the gorgeously rustic yet romantic three tiered wedding cake it turned out to be.

Finishing the cake I am on the left and my sister on the right!

I will post the recipe in the next post in case anyone is interested to try it for themselves. It did take quite a bit of time both the baking and the assembling/icing. No wonder wedding cakes costs a packet but it is something many of us can do given a little time and practice! I can bake but believe me when I say I am not a cake decorator!

The bride and groom cut the cake


Super Easy Apple Cake

You wont believe just how easy this cake is to make and it is so moist & delicious it is almost sinful.

Ooops! Half of it was gone before I took the photo - it was THAT good!

This cake is so easy and no one is likely to know that it started with a boxed cake mix. Generally speaking I make my cakes from scratch, however this is so simple and quick and tastes great, that it may just become my go to cake more often. It is my cheat's take on an apple cake a friend's father used to make, who was a Dutch Pastry Chef!

Having a packet cake mix on hand is great for quick unexpected guests or if you rarely bake. You will have no excuses from now on not to have a 'homemade' cake when ever you feel like it and one that will impress your friends and your mother in law! ;)

Just add a egg and a little water to these ingredients and you have a great cake

 

Ingredients:

1 packet butter cake mix
1 egg
1/3rd cup water
800g tinned apples
Cake ready to cook and with the left over apple in the bowl next to it.

  1. Preheat you oven 180C (350 F)
  2. Line your cake tin with baking paper. I used a square tin.
  3. Add cake mix, half the liquid and just one egg and half the and apple pie filling to your mixing bowl.
  4. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Pour the cake mix into your prepared tin. I used a square tin.
  6. Top the cake batter with slices of apples and then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes
  8. Test with toothpick in between apple slices.

It is lovely served warm with whipped cream for dessert or cold with a lovely cuppa.

It is half gone already!


* I did have some apple slices left over, which I just blended together with a good sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and heated it up to serve on the side with mashed potatoes at our next dinner for my husband. Appelmoes (Apple mousse) is a common Dutch custom to accompany grilled meats.

Enough is enough - life is good once again

That's it! I have had enough. These last 18 months have been terrible and I think I am finally through with all the crap that life can dish out. It's time to turn it around! I can say it again 'Life is great.'

In the last 18 months...
  • I've been so very, very sick...a rare form of cancer called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. You can read part of my cancer journey starting here.
  • I've had numerous operations (7 in 14 months!)...some for the cancer and some for kidney stones.
  • I've been badly hurt by people & had some terrible personal challenges to work through...
  • As part of my recovery, my husband & I have recently spent 4 lovely months cruising Tasmania in a motorhome.
  • I've had to replace my laptop & thus had to learn a whole new interface (and at a time when my brain wasn't functioning the best).
  • My sewing machine died and needed replacing.
  • Life has made me too tired or dispirited to bother with the little things such as taking & editing photos and writing up my blog posts for a long time.

Oh well that's enough of the bad stuff. Let me say it again: Life is good once again.

I am sorry that I don't post on this blog more often, but I want this blog to be something I enjoy doing not something that I have to force myself to do and thus resent or feel that 'have' to sew or blog or what ever.

Gardening, crafting and traveling are stress relievers for me. As such they are things I love to do and thus if I don't want to sit down and write and such for what ever reason then that's just the way it is. I really do enjoy crafting and I enjoy blogging too. I would like to keep on 'liking' them rather than making it a chore. :)

So our good news?

Rob and I have enjoyed our 5 months leave traveling including 4 months in Tasmania, a little island off the south coast of Australia in our motorhome. You can follow our journeys in Tassie or any of the other places on a separate travel blog that I keep which also includes details of our bus to motorhome conversion.

We came home in time for our beautiful youngest daughter's wedding. She is getting married  to a lovely young man at the end of May and there's some things we wanted hand-made for their wedding.
I promise that I will go into more details with proper photos after the wedding as we don't want to spoil the surprises for anyone attending the wedding.

So far..
  • I have helped with the pop up portion of the wedding invitations.
  • I have cut & redesigned the wedding veil from my old wedding veil.
  • I have made the wedding cake.

Now I am currently working on the hair clips for the flower girls to match the comb part of the wedding veil.
Still to come are table centre pieces, flower girl baskets, wedding favours and maybe the cake boxes.

All these are being done in between general life and catching up with friends and family let alone 6 months worth of weeds. I swear the weeds grow faster than any plants! Grrr!


So thanks so much for stopping by my blog! It is great to be enjoying life again.
I am certainly blessed in so many ways, especially in my husband and my family.
I have so much to be thankful for.


I also love the little notes you guys leave me as well as it gives me a chance to get to know many of you via my blog, so leave me a comment if you will! 

Face the Music Card

I have the time to join in a card challenge again. The card theme on Simply Less is more this week is "Face the Music and Dance".



Not having any dance style stamps,  I have chosen to make a simple but dramatic black & gold card with just music as my theme.


I have aged the torn music sheet with coffee and used multiple layers of Ultra thick embossing enamel on some broken CD tiles as a anchoring point.

It is rather different to what I normally make, but hey it's good to stretch one self from time to time.

Designing a card using a sketch

Whether you are new to card making or an experienced hand, following a sketch when making a card can make you more creative as you can concentrate on different elements. It is like when we were choosing a name for our babies. By limiting the starting letter A for the 1st child, B for the 2nd etc, acutally made it easier and freed us up as instead of having 10,000 names to choose from we limited to 1,000 names. (We ended up having 4 kids Allan, Benita, Camille and Dean. They didn't have to be unique, they just had to not be common for that age. We didn't want half a dozen heads to turn when we called one of our kids!)

Now back on topic, card sketches make it very simple by suggesting a design layout. The card sketch will have basic shapes and designs drawn on the layout but no other instructions are given. You are free to interpret it however you like. You can use your favourite stamps, papers, color schemes etc to create your cards for any occasion you choose. You can even turn the sktch around mirror image it and so forth. Take this week's Simply Less is More challenge: "Week 186"




This single card sketch will be interpreted in so many ways. Just look at all the variations you will see other participants have come up with at the bottom of the blog page. You will be blown away at so many ways to interpret it.

So without further ado, here is my take on it this week.


I have rotated the sketch and used a feather stamp on which I had marbled the inks before stamping  and then fussy cut it and used that for my main image in place of the rectangle and my greeting as per the sketch. As you can see from the lighting and the angle I have embossed the feather with a poly sparkle glitter embossing powder.

I hope you like it and will think of joining us now or in the near future on another challenge at Simply Less is More

More Owl Heat Packs

These cute sleeping owls I made for the Illawarra Cancer Carers Craft Group to sell at one of their many market stalls. The owls also fill a practical purpose. Heat packs certainly don't need to be boring. They can be all sorts of fun shapes.

I prefer heat packs to be filled with low allergenic rice instead of the more common wheat. You can heat them in just the same manner.


I have a tutorial instructions written with lots of photos on how to make the minky owl as shown below on an earlier post here.   These instructions will be easily adaptable for the even simpler owl design I made as shown above.


Here are some other heat packs I have made in the past. I am sure they wont be my last. At the time of writing I have just one zebra one left for sale at $15 plus postage if you are interested then drop me a line.


My Hexagon Bag

I have been keeping busy making QAYG hexagons by hand, generally just keeping my hubby company at night watching TV together.


I had become quite reclusive after my cancer operations and so with the advice of my cancer psychologist, I joined a very active craft group that supports Illawarra Cancer Carers  by having frequent craft stalls. It has been very therapeutic and I feel that what I am doing is worthwhile.


One of the donations to the craft group was someone else's UFO (Un Finished Object) which was a QAYG hexagons. The fabrics were all cut and just a couple of patches were complete. I offered to give it a go. I basically followed the excellent tutorial by knitsnquilts found on the Always Quilting blog, though I had to make a couple of adjustments being someone else's pattern and cutting. My bag is different, but she is the one that gave me the inspiration to make a bag instead of a quilt.


The bag minus the handles


I think the original purpose of the hexagons were to make them into a quilt but I decided to make at least one bag with some of the patches. This is how it turned out. Making the handles were very challenging. I couldn't find any fabric that was close to the colours without over whelming the bag. In the end I decided to twist his cord that was also a donation to the Carers and make my own rope.


I am quite happy with how it turned out! I am happy to make more bags if there appears to be a market for them.




Meal planning: is it a good fit for you?

I have always struggled with meal planning.  I just hate the idea of being tied down what I am going to be cooking or eating on any day let alone in 7-14 days time. What if I don't feel like eating that day's designated menu that night, let alone whether I am up to it now that I have frequent attacks of fatigue after my cancer diagnosis?



On the other hand, I have a wonderful friend who home-schools her 5 wonderful kids and who makes up a yearly meal plan covering 6 different meal categories. If your want to or need to be super organized then I recommend Simone's plan here. Whilst I admire her talent and may even desire to emulate it a bit, but it just doesn't suit my personality, even more so now that I have only my husband at home to cook for aside from myself. If you need to learn the whys and how to then I recommend Meal Planning Magic blog which also gives you weekly meal plans to follow until you get into your own groove.


Over the years my 'meal planning' attempts have changed along with my circumstances. In an effort to save dollars, I bought half a side of beef once only to discover that I truly didn't save that much money as I didn't like a lot of the cuts of meat. Next I tried a hind quarter of beef since that gave me more beef for my dollars (taking into consideration the waste of bone, fat and offal - which I absolutely detest the idea of cooking.) The hind quarter was much better value for us and I went down this road for a few years. My hubby loves steak and I love mince and casseroles and I certainly made good use of my slow cooker back then as I do now except I tend to use my Dream Pot both in my RV and at home now days. However I can only eat so much beef in any given month! I crave variety!


For most of my 30 odd years of marriage I have been a stay at home mum but one with a family business. As the kids grew up, I became more and more involved in our business. The 'office' was just 3km away and I go past a big name grocery store with a decent butcher and greengrocer next door to them, to get to work and back each day. I ended up making use of this and picked up food every few days in small amounts especially fresh milk, bread and cut deli meats. I found that by sticking to my 'shopping list' and not buying much more than what was on my list I rarely went over my weekly budget.  The only exception would be when I bought bulk orders of some items that were on special that wouldn't spoil before I got around to using them. This way does take up a little extra time each day, but really not much more than the 90 minutes or so that a 'big shop' when I did it every 2 weeks. I also found that I didn't end up spending more than if I did my fortnightly 'big' shop.
Another way to save money is to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables only.  In these days of a global economy, you can usually find whatever produce you want any time of year, however if the items aren’t in season locally, you’ll end up paying a lot more for it.

A selection of food magazines


I have always cooked more or less from scratch without out using 'packet stuff'. In the early years, I felt more confident using a recipe but as time and confidence increased, I tended to use a recipe as a kicking off point and for inspiration rather than adhering to them religiously.


So just how do I do my meal planing? We do prefer fresh steak, fish and chicken and so occasionally I will pick up something when I am out & about, knowing that I will cook something with that item within the next few days! I also have a well stocked pantry and I have all the meats that we tend to have on a regular basis in the freezer. I would hate to have to run down to the store just for a single item at the last minute.One thing I have introduced in the last few years, is that I aim to try one new recipe per week. Now the reality especially with me being sick these last 7 months is that this generally happens only once every two weeks, but still we try something new every now and then.


Now that my kids have left home and that most of the time there is only my husband and myself, I find that I am cooking too much and so I need to freeze left overs (or we'll consume too much in one sitting - that's a huge part of why we are struggling with a weight issue!) On the days when I am too tired to cook and Robert has to take over, he knows that in addition to the 4 or 5 meals he is comfortable with cooking, he can choose to pull out a pre-made meal to defrost in the microwave oven and dinner is done!

Image from Raw Food for Life
It's much healthier and often tastier than saying you'll pop down & get takeaway tonight and a whole lot cheaper too. So do think about how you plan meals. There is no right or wrong way, as long as you are giving your loved ones healthy, balanced meals from as many raw and 'real' food basics as possible rather than relying on takeaways (takeouts) or package foods including convenience foods.