vanilla musk mini cupcakes

Everyone loves red velvet cupcakes right? Well what if you created something that looked like red velvet but tasted like something else delicious?
I’d been wanting to play around with colouring cakes since I made red velvet cupcakes and thought this would be a fun idea.
The frosting was flavoured with musk essence and the cupcakes are vanilla. You can flavour the cupcake batter if you wish but I find when you’re baking something the flavour fades, whereas it stays fresh and vibrant in frosting – this is a helpful thing to remember when making macaroons too, I always flavour the filling rather than the macaroon shells. But you can have a play around and do whatever works best for you.
So when I put these little beauties down, I got the reaction I wanted, “Are these red velvet?”
As everyone tucked in, they looked at me in surprise as they tasted the musk and were expecting a red velvet flavour.
It’s nice to surprise people with your cooking, that’s something I’ve learnt while watching endless cooking shows on television. Cooking elevates the senses, why not throw a tasty spanner in the works?

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Ingredients
90g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
190g vegetable shortening
400g icing sugar
40ml water
musk essence
pink food colouring

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C and place 24 mini patty cases into a cupcake tin.
Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, milk and vanilla essence into a bowl and mix with an electric beater until ingredients are well combined. Add in some food colouring until you get the desired colour.
Spoon the batter into the patty cases and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool.
To make the buttercream frosting, cream the vegetable shortening with an electric mixer until it becomes light and white, then add the sifted icing sugar, water and musk essence to taste. Mix until well combined.
Pipe the buttercream frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and decorate.

pear and frangipane tart

In the corner of my kitchen, my fruit bowl sat full of pears, calling my name.
Since peaches are now out of season, I have moved on to being obsessed with pears and I thought a pear and frangipane tart would work a treat.
I’d made a similar tart once before, except with peaches, and it was divine, so I was keen to have another go.
With all ingredients for the pastry in the mixer, I started combining them until they came together to form a ball.
Cling wrapped that and popped it in the fridge and moved onto making the frangipane filling.
Then disaster struck.
I am known for working my appliances VERY hard and this time my mini food processor gave in.
About two-thirds into mixing the frangipane filling the motor was working slower than usual and I thought perhaps the mixture was too thick (which it wasn’t but it was the only reason I could think for the machine’s behaviour).
Then I noticed a small trail of smoke coming out of the stick mixer. Uh oh I’d done it again.
To be fair, I use it all the time and had it for about five years. That’s pretty good right?
Anyway, I had no choice but to finish the mixing with my hand mixer.
The only plus side to the mixer dying was I didn’t have to wash it up (always looking on the bright side!)
This time I decided to make the tart in a smaller and deeper dish.
I should have known better – the centre took FOREVER to cook and the outside was fairly well done by this stage.
It still looked gorgeous and tasted delicious, but needed a scoop of vanilla ice cream to moisten it a bit. I also spooned some caramel on top – delish.
So the instructions below are still correct, just make sure you use a 24cm baking dish.

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Ingredients
filling
100g almond meal
100g plain flour
150g raw caster sugar
100g butter
4 eggs
4 ripe pears
pastry
250g plain flour
100g raw caster sugar
100g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg

Method
To make the pastry, put the flour and icing sugar in a food processor and mix until combined, add the butter and process until the mixture looks like sand. Add the egg and continue processing until the mixture comes together to form a smooth ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out and line a 24cm loose-bottomed pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place the almond meal, flour, icing sugar, butter and eggs in the food processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate the almond mixture until ready to use.
Cut the pears in half and take the seeds and stalk out. Then slice each half into four slices.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spoon half of the almond mixture into the tart shell and gently place half of the pear halves onto the mixture to create a fan. Spoon the rest of the mixture on top of the pears and repeat with the remaining pear slices. I sprinkled with a bit of sugar to crystalise, but you don’t have to do this. Bake for one hour. Set aside to cool.

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