Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMy youngest son turned 8 in November. Birthdays are, of course, the biggest of big deals when you’re that age. Like all our sons, Asher is obsessed with skateboarding, so we promised him a skateboarding themed party at home with all his friends skating our backyard half-pipe.

It didn’t quite work out that way…

 

Moss cupcakes 1As life would have it, his birthday fell on the same day as one of the year’s biggest skateboarding events here in Melbourne – the annual MOSS jam. MOSS (Melbourne Old School Skate Sessions) are a group of guys who were, in their heyday, the pioneers of skateboarding in Australia. These days, they catch up regularly for social bowlriding sessions and as an extra bonus they raise money for clean water systems in Swaziland. Their big event of the year is the bowl jam, this year held at the brand new Noble Park Skatepark, an amazing venue designed by legendary skater Johnny (Primate) McGrath.

There was never any doubt in my little grom’s mind – party at home or at the jam? He figured (correctly) that he’d have waaay more people to celebrate his birthday with him at Noble Park. And so, we did. But then came my own dilemma…what would I do about a cake?

Cupcakes to the rescue! I asked permission from Rob (Wedge) Francis, the president of the MOSS Foundation if we could bring along some cupcakes to share on the day, and decided to make them in a MOSS theme. He kindly sent me over a few jpegs of designs I could use. And then it dawned on me…there would be hundreds of people at the event from all over Australia.

I’d need at least TWO HUNDRED CUPCAKES!

Moss cupcakes 4Logistically, how was I going to make that many cupcakes, decorate and transport them to the event? I also knew there would be a few kids attending who have nut allergies, so that had to be taken into consideration too.

Here’s how I did it:

For the cupcakes themselves, I baked almost every day the week before and then nervously froze them in batches of a dozen. I used pre-packaged cake mixes, because in cases like this, cheating is allowed. Betty Crocker were the only nut-free brand I could find in Woolworths (not ALL their recipes are nut-free. Always check the allergy warnings on the box) I double checked ingredient lists with the mums of the kids who are anaphylactic. I made half of them chocolate, the other half vanilla, into which I mixed some frozen raspberries.


For decoration:

Armed with my jpeg designs, my local cake decorating suppliers printed off pages and pages of edible images for me. Usually, you’d have them printed directly onto fondant, but due to the allergy issues, we went with rice paper instead. I cut the designs out by hand, then attached them with fondant glue to a special nut-free fondant I’d pre-rolled and cut into shape with a cookie-cutter. As long as they were kept moisture-free, the designs could be made up a few days prior, which is what I did. I used two different designs, one for the chocolate, one for the vanilla and raspberry.

I defrosted the cakes the evening before the event. They were fine. Great, in fact. Still soft, fluffy and delicious. Phew! Thank you, Betty Crocker!

moss cupcakes 2The morning of Asher’s birthday, I rose at stupid o’clock and, with help from my eleven year old son, got to work. For the frosting, I used another new product – RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH. Seriously, this stuff is AMAZING! It’s stored in the freezer, but won’t freeze. To use, you just whip it with an electric mixer for about ten minutes, and not only is it stable, ridiculously simple to work with, but also delicious. I piped – very quickly – a circle of frosting onto each, half in chocolate, half in vanilla. Mr Eleven years followed behind me, placing the rice paper/fondant designs on each. As each cupcake was completed, we placed them single layer into one of those plastic under-bed storage containers, the things we keep Lego in at our place. Each fit 110 cupcakes each. We did it!

The day was an enormous success. The sun shone, the vibe was electric, the skateboarding utterly spectacular, the venue and huge new bowl perfect. My little 8 year old was sung happy birthday to by a live rockabilly band and a few hundred of his closest friends, and all the cupcakes were polished off in a blink. But best of all, from that single day, a whole lot of money was raised, and now life-changing, permanent clean water schemes can be built for around 500 people.

A quick re-cap:
I used BETTY CROCKER cake mix, and RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH Frosting.
Use your local cake decorating shop. Pick their brains for advice on specialty products. Most will have the equipment to be able to print any design you choose on edible fondant or rice paper.
You can find the MOSS Foundation and more information about the amazing things they do on Facebook.



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnWith Father’s Day imminent here in Australia, I thought I’d make one of my own Dad’s favourites for this month’s Cook Club – Mum’s Sponge Kisses. Now, mine didn’t turn out quite as soft and fluffy as Mum’s (what IS that phenomenon that makes your mother’s cooking better than anything, ever?) and they did collapse a little as they cooled…but hey, it was my first go and my family still gobbled them up, so I’m going to take small successes where I can.

Sponge Kisses are basically two small rounds of sponge cake sandwiched together with jam (any flavour. You pick) and whipped cream, then dusted with icing sugar. Kind of an old-fashioned treat, I guess. They’re quick, easy and make minimal mess in the kitchen.
sponge kissesWHAT YOU NEED:

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs, separated

3/4 cup caster sugar

Whipped cream and jam to fill

Icing sugar to dust

 

HOW IT’S DONE:

Pre heat oven to 200c, line oven trays with baking paper

With your electric mixer, whip egg whites until they have stiff peaks. Gradually add caster sugar, then egg yolks one at a time.

In a separate bowl, sift plain and corn flours together, along with the baking powder. Gently fold this mix through the egg mix.

Cooking in batches, spoon heaped teaspoons of mix onto lined trays allowing room for them to spread. They only take 4-5 minutes, or until you notice them beginning to change colour. Remove carefully using a spatula – they’ll still be very soft – and place on a rack to cool.

Sandwich together using jam and whipped cream (or just cream if you prefer). Some people like to add the Kisses to the fridge at this stage for a couple of hours to soften up. Personally, I prefer to serve immediately after adding the filling, with a generous dusting of icing sugar. If needed, you can store the unfilled Kisses in a sealed container until serving time.

Next time, I might try tweaking the recipe a little by adding a touch more plain flour and baking powder.

 

Bel answers the challenge:



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMandy Wrangles – sometimes known as Amanda – has lived by the beach on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula most of her life. She likes to grow food and bake cupcakes and write about murder and monsters and steampunk ships. She likes big action superhero movies, and movies that make you cry. Her home is filled with boys, dogs, skateboards and books. Lots and lots of books.

 

MandyHow long have you been writing for MDPWeb, why did you join the group, and what do you like about being part of it?

I’ve been with MDPWeb since late 2010. I think?

I love being part of such a like-minded group, and have made some cherished friends from the team over the last few years. We’re a really eclectic mix of people, all with different areas of specific interest, but we all share the same passion – great stories.

Also having the opportunity to read and meet some of my all-time favourite authors has been pretty amazing…did you hear about the morning I had breakfast with Charlaine Harris, creator of Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood? Yep. For real.

What creative piece are you working on, and which author would you liken your work too?

I’m currently working hard on a couple of short stories for competition, so can’t say anything about them right now. I’ve also recently dived back into a SF novel that’s been burning away in my bottom drawer – and my heart! – for a couple of years. Thanks to awesome feedback and encouragement (you rock, MDP and AG) I think it might actually get finished this year.

I don’t know who I write like!? That’s a really tough question. I do know my style has changed a lot over the last couple of years to be more lyrical than it used to be. I’m influenced by a bunch of incredible Australian authors: Alison Goodman, Margo Lanagan, Isobelle Carmody and of course our own Marianne de Pierres.

Lanagan_Sea HeartsWhat book have you most enjoyed reviewing for MDPWeb?

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan.

It was a difficult book to review – quite daunting actually – it’s just so beautiful. I always worry if my reviews can ever do a book like that justice. Sea Hearts is one of those books I just can’t get out of my head. It’s breathtaking. Read it!

What’s your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

With three sons, I rarely get downtime. As well as being a hairdresser and dive master, I’m a qualified bookbinder, so I used to spend a lot of time in my art studio making leather-bound journals or painting in oils to chill out. These days, most afternoons and weekends you’ll find me by the bowl at one of Melbourne’s skateparks, watching my boys do their thing. I love it. I also really enjoy growing edible plants and baking – but again, more time sitting at skateparks than anything else lately!

Is there somewhere else online/in bookstores we can find your work?

Umm…yes.

You can find me – and lots of yummy food – over at www.mandywrangles.com and on Instagram where I go by mandy_wrangles.

I’m also one half of writing duo A.K. Wrox, with Kylie Fox. Our novel, fantasy spoof ‘Arrabella Candellarbra & the Questy Thing to End All Questy Things’ can be found at  http://www.clandestinepress.com.au/paperback/arrabella-candellarbra

It’s available as both paperback and ebook.

You can find A.K. Wrox on Facebook and sometimes Twitter.

Clan Destine Press also publish ‘Scarlet Stiletto – The Second Cut – Award Winning Thrillers’ where my Scarlet Stiletto winning short story ‘Persia Bloom’ appears. Again, pb and ebook available at http://www.clandestinepress.com.au/paperback/scarlet-stiletto-second-cut

My short crime story ‘Plotting Jasper/A Forgiving Kind of Nature’ is published in ‘Hard Labour’ by Crime Factory. You can get your copy here:

http://www.thecrimefactory.com/shop/

aiden turnerAll these books should also be available through Amazon etc, your local library or bookshop. If not – you could always order them in 🙂 I also have a couple of things on the horizon – an ebook collection of my short crime stories, and an appearance in an upcoming Spec Fic anthology.

What’s your favourite TV series?

Of all time? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without a doubt. I was with Buffy and the Scooby Gang right from the start, and still watch the entire series at least once a year. It’s like comfort food for my brain. More recently, Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead.

 Who or what is your current crush?

I don’t think I’ll ever lose my crush on Joss Whedon’s brain. I’ll also happily watch anything with Charlie Hunnam in it. Or Aiden Turner.

Shout out to big-time Hollywood blockbuster producers: Can you please organise a Whedon/Hunnam/Turner mega-project in the near future? Yeah? With Jessica Morais as a fabulously strong, intelligent lead? Thank you.

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnCHEESYMITE (or whatever-you-mite) SCROLLS

I’ve made these scrolls three times over the last week for my little family. Cheese and vegemite is definitely the winning combination for my sons, followed closely by cheese and bacon. Normally I’d make life easier by making the dough in the breadmaker, but sadly mine died a sudden death a couple of weeks ago (gasp! I know, right?) Of course, you could use any combination of toppings that tickle your fancy – let me know what you come up with!

 

vegemite scrolls

 

Dough

450 g / 3 cups plain flour

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

250 ml water

2 tbs olive oil

3 tsp yeast

 

Toppings

Vegemite / tasty cheese

Bacon pieces / tasty cheese

Shaved turkey / Camembert cheese / cranberry sauce Salami / spinach / tomato chutney / mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, place measured ingredients in the order listed above. Bring together and mix with your (clean!) hands until you form a dough. Remove from bowl and place on a flat, floured surface and knead for ten minutes…you can thank me for the workout when you’re done. Place back into the bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Tip: olive oil in spray form on Glad Wrap works brilliantly. Place in a warm spot for aprox 30 minutes, or until your dough has doubled in size. After rising, punch the dough down with your fist and repeat the kneading and rising process.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

To make, divide your finished dough into two equal pieces. With a floured rolling pin, roll each piece out into as much of a rectangle as possible, around 1/2 cm thick. Keeping the widest part of the rectangle dough closest to you, spread generously with desired toppings. Carefully roll the dough up away from you, and then cut into 2cm thick slices. Place each scroll onto a greased oven tray and brush with egg. Bake for aprox 20 minutes, or until your scrolls begin to turn golden brown or cheese is bubbling.

Best eaten immediately!

turkey scrolls

 

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSo, a couple of weeks ago, the most fabulous Marianne de Pierres made a request for Cook Club. MdP doesn’t make too many requests. In fact, I pretty much get to do whatever I want for this column. So, of course, I agreed.

Cheesecake. Cheesecake! Of course, why hadn’t I thought of doing one before now? Well, that would probably be because…shock, horror…I’ve never made one. Okay, there was that fairly disastrous attempt for Christmas dessert about 18 years ago, but otherwise – nope. Cheesecake virgin. For a first real attempt, I’m happy with the result, though I’ll make some changes next time (see note at end of this post). It was demolished by my family, who are honest – if at times, harsh! – critics of anything new that comes out of my kitchen.

 cheesecake 2 2

What You Need:

I used a 22cm spring-form cake tin for this recipe.

Butter to prepare the tin.

 

Crust

350g Arnott’s Nice biscuits, which is about a pack and a half.

175g butter, melted.

 

Filling

3 x 250g packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature.

¾ cup of caster sugar.

1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Zest of 1 lime.

Juice of 1 lime.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

1 tablespoon of plain flour.

3 large eggs.

 

Topping

2 packets of passionfruit flavoured jelly crystals.

Cream for whipping (or err, if you’re slack and in a hurry and can’t find your piping bag… use the fizzy tinned stuff. Not that I’d know about that. Nope.)

cheesecake

How it’s Done:

Prepare your spring-form pan by greasing it with butter. You can line it with baking paper as well, but I didn’t bother. Then, break up your Nice biscuits and add them to your blender. Give them a quick blend until they resemble breadcrumbs. Slowly add the melted butter. Using your fingers and the back of a spoon, push the biscuit/butter mix over the base and up the sides of the pan, trying to keep as much of a uniform thickness as possible. I had a little mix left over. Refrigerate.

Pre-heat your oven to 175 C, or if you have a fan-forced oven like me, drop the temperature to 160 C. Using an electric mixer (I have a KitchenAid stand mixer. Best. Kitchen Toy. Ever.) on low speed, beat cream cheese and caster sugar until blended. Add the lemon and lime zests and juices, along with vanilla. Mix well. Then add the flour and blend again. Add the eggs one at a time, being careful not to overbeat. Remove prepared crust from the fridge and pour the cheese mixture into it.

Before you put your cheesecake into the oven (middle shelf), add a small bowl of warm tap-water to the bottom shelf. This is to help the crust from drying out too much. Bake for aprox. 35 minutes, or until the centre is *almost* set. Remove from oven and cool completely before carefully removing the rim. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

While your baked cheesecake is chilling, mix jelly as per packet instructions. Once set, chop roughly with a butter knife and spoon onto the top of your cheesecake. Add passionfruit pulp and decorate with whipped cream around the edges – it hides a multitude of sins! If you do (ahem) use the canned whipped cream, remember it does tend to dissolve quickly.

Confessions: Next time, I’m going to bake cheesecake for 25 to 30 mins rather than the full 35, as it was a teeny bit dry. My oven also has ‘hot spots’, and I had to be careful it didn’t bake faster on one side than the other. I also found I had nowhere near enough mixture compared to how high up the tin I’d made my crust, which is why I added the layer of jelly, rather than just candied citrus like I’d originally planned. I will however, be making it again soon after such a great reaction from my family.

Looking forward to seeing how your versions turn out, Cook Clubbers!

 



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