Layered chocolate and cherry wine cake : My most decadent cake yet

I have made this cake twice – once as a wedding present for a dear friend and once for my huband’s birthday – both in 2013, both decadent as anything and both having gone down an absolute treat with their respective recepients.

Weddings and wedding presents – always a tricky one for me. There are those people that tell me what they want and make my life easy. And then there are others who I care about, but I have no clue as to how my miniscule contribution could make a difference to there generally well set up lives. It is in the latter situation that I usually opt for cooking (usually baking) something for them so that they can remember the taste of it (and perhaps its maker) for many years to come.

I’m not a huge chocolate eater myself but I knew my friend was and I know my husband definitely is. It is his weakness and I often joke that he’d be easily kidnapped if someone dangled dark chocolate on a stick in front of his eyes. So, for me, this cake was a challenge on many levels – coming up with the right texture, appearance and taste for the occasion were very important. So I set about surfing the internet for inspiration and ideas and came across this lovely recipe by Lindsay & Taylor and I decided to give it my own twist.

Hope you like it and will give it a go.

Manasa

Triple-layer chocolate cherry cake with dinosaur

Triple-layer chocolate cherry cake with dinosaur

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Tiramisu alle fragole or Tiramisu with strawberries

I have been on holiday for a whole week as a re-energiser before starting my new job. Thus, I’ve spent most of the week doing what I like best – cooking. Earlier in the week, I cooked a festive South Indian meal for some friends of ours which is still being consumed 4 days on and last night, we hosted an Italian-food themed board games night with some other friends. While I had most of the menu sorted, I was umm-ing and ah-ing on the “dolce” or dessert course.

Given my enormous free time this week, I browsing through the travel section in the local library and I chanced upon a book called “Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons : Travels in Sicily on a Vespa” by Matthew Fort. This book’s contents are pretty much as the title claims – It contains several mouth-watering (and sometimes weird) Sicilian recipes, while giving the reader a feel for Sicilian people, life and customs as the writer explores this island on his Vespa scooter.

The one thing that really irks me about this book is the unecessary overuse of flowery language to describe things that can be done equally well with more accessible vocabulary. Despite that, I’m persisting with the book and it was in one of its pages that I came across a lovely recipe for strawberry tiramisu.

I have posted two previous tiramisu recipes – one regular and one with raspberries. However, back in the day, I didn’t actually have any pictures of this delicious Italian treat.

Inspired by this verbose but informative book, and my Italian-themed games night, I present to you – Tiramisu alle fragole with pictures.

It was so good that my guests were fighting over it !

 

Tiramisu with strawberries - Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl...

Tiramisu with strawberries – Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl…

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Semlor or awesome cardamom-spiced, almond paste and cream filled Scandanavian Lent buns

Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.

With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!

 

Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom

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Donna Hay’s Ricotta, amaretti and plum cheesecake

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m hoping that with this particular post, I can skimp on my usual blah blah and let the pictures do the talking.

It was a dear friend’s brithday last week and I thought I’d bake a cake for her as a birthday present. My friend absolutely loves cheesecake and I’d been looking for an opportunity to crack out Donna Hay’s issue 68 which has a whole section on cheesecakes. For those who don’t know Donna Hay, she is an amazing Australian food stylist and one can spend hours drooling and making interesting noises (as my husband pointed out) over her magazine. The best part is that her recipes just work – no need to change anything! Check her website out for some awesome recipes at http://donnahay.com.au/

Without further ado, I present to you the incredibly good-looking and delicious  РRicotta and amaretti cheesecake with a topping of plums baked in a syrup infused with vanilla and cinnamon.

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

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Mysore pak (Indian chickpea fudge) for my Madras ajji

WordPress tells me that it is my 100th post. I never thought I’d get here when I started writing on a cold winter’s night in December 2011. I also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the constant support and encouragement of my partner (now husband). To all others who have been with me from the time canwehavesomerasam started, I am eternally grateful. You keep my spirits up, encourage me and make me want to share my kitchen experiments with you. I hope you continue to do so and that I don’t disappoint you.

As this is a landmark post, I’d like to dedicate this post to my paternal grandma, Madras ajji who passed away a year ago. “Ajji” is the Kannada word for grandma and Madras, or Chennai as it is known as today, was where she lived most of her life. Despite being a diabetic for as long as I can remember, she still had a super-soft spot for sweets/pudding. The picture of her smiling in front of a large chocolate cake,¬†on her 80th birthday, is one I will always have in my head when I think of her. While Mysore pak may not have been her favourite dessert, it definitely ranked highly on her list and hence, the dedication.

What is Mysore pak ? Well it is essentially Indian fudge made with just 3 ingredients – chickpea flour (or besan), sugar (white, refined, caster sugar) and ghee (clarified butter). As you can see, none of these ingredients are meant to be healthy. The word “paka” pronounced as you would “parka” means a sticky syrup usually made from sugar or jaggery/palm sugar. Mysore was the capital of Karnataka for nearly six centuries until the end of the British rule in 1947. Legend has it that Mysore pak was invented in the royal kitchens of the Mysore palace and the royalty enjoyed it so much that they got the cook to set up a stall outside the palace so it could be shared with the common people. Today, it is one of the most popular desserts in the state and features on many a wedding, birthday, and anniversary feast.

Note: Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredients – Mysore pak is one of the hardest desserts to get right and timing is everything. I hope to demonstrate it to you with my good and not-so-good versions.

Good version of Mysore pak

Good version of Mysore pak : Soft and literally melts in the mouth

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