Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

This. This is everything. Cheesecake is my faaaaaavourite summer dessert. It’s winter right now, but the sun was shining so why not? Come hither old friend!

Everything about this recipe is addictive. The biscuit base is thick, crunchy and buttery. You’ll see I use extra biscuit – I like a thicker base. The cheesecake is creamy, velvety and smooth. I highly recommend using vanilla pods for this one, but you can use vanilla essence in its place. 2 teaspoons should do it.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:

Cheesecake ingredients

For the biscuit base:
150g melted butter + more for greasing the cake tin
300g Marie biscuits (or digestive biscuits)
75g caster sugar
For the cheesecake:
460g plain cream cheese, room temperature
200g caster sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons corn flour
250ml sour cream, room temperature
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod

Directions:

Cheesecake 1 21. Allow the cream cheese and sour cream to reach room temperature. Melt the butter in your microwave or on the stove. Break up the biscuits and blitz them in the food processor for 2 minutes until they resemble fine bread crumbs. Add the caster sugar and butter and blitz until well combined, about 30 seconds. Grease a 22cm springform cake tin with butter and pour the biscuit mixture into it. Level it with the back of a tablespoon until it’s smooth on top. Place the cake tin in the fridge for half an hour.

Cheesecake 3 22. After 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F). Slice the vanilla pod in half, lengthways, and, holding the upturned end or ‘hook’ down, scrape out the vanilla seeds. Set aside. In your food processor, combine the cream cheese and caster sugar and process for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Pour in the sour cream, corn flour and vanilla seeds and process for about a minute. Pour the cheesecake batter into your springform cake tin and bake in the middle shelf of your oven for an hour.

Cheesecake 5 23. Once it’s done, it will be golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. If it’s still too wet, bake for another 10 minutes. Once it’s done, leave the oven door slightly ajar and allow the cheesecake to cool down completely, about two hours, before transferring it to the fridge for a minimum of two hours but preferably overnight.

 

Cheesecake 6 24. You can serve it with an array of toppings – ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, strawberry compote. It’s up to you and it’s fun to be able to play around! You can also serve it as is. It’s packed with so much flavour that nothing is missing! Serve at room temperature.

 

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

Chocolate cupcakes 1 2The cat and I decided to bake. I had fully intended to have a very lazy day. I had it all planned out: curling up with a book on the couch with the Food Channel on in the background. Then I thought “why should I watch Cake Boss all day when I can bake my own cupcakes?”. Indeed. Also, the cat took up residence on the kitchen counter and would not stop meowing. I took that as another sign that I needed to bake!

This is a classic chocolate cupcake recipe but instead of using buttermilk or sour cream, I used Bulgarian yoghurt. You can use any of the above in equal quantities and the result is moist, delicious, chocolatey cupcakes. I topped them off with a basic vanilla frosting to balance the chocolate. This recipe makes 12 – 16 (there are, however, only 8 left 24 hours later!). I blame the cat. Had she not screamed at me from the kitchen counter, I probably would not have baked. That last part may or may not be true.

Chocolate cupcakes ingredients 21 cup (100g) flour
¾ cup (75g) cocoa
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup (80g) white sugar
½ cup (80g) brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons Bulgarian yoghurt
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Chocolate cupcakes 4 2Preheat your oven to 180°C (375°F).
Whisk the butter and sugar on high until well mixed.
Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk on low for 10 seconds. The batter will be crumbly.

Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom well.
Whisk in the yoghurt and vanilla essence, beat on low for 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom and give it one last beat, about 5 seconds.

Chocolate cupcakes 5 2Fill the muffin cups half full and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes our clear.

 

 

 

 

 

For the vanilla frosting:

4 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons room temperature butter
2 tablespoons Bulgarian yoghurt (or sour cream or milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Chocolate cupcakes 7 2In a medium bowl, sift the icing sugar and add the butter. Beat on high for 1 minute until fully mixed. Scrape down the sides and bottom. Pour in the yoghurt/sour cream/milk and beat again on high until fully blended and smooth. Add the vanilla essence, scrape the sides and bottom again and beat once more to fully mix in the vanilla essence.

 

Chocolate cupcakes 9 2Decorate as desired. I used blue food colouring and red sprinkles.

Again, for the cupcake batter, remember you can use buttermilk or sour cream instead of Bulgarian yoghurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been using this choc chip cookie recipe for years. It’s foolproof, creamy, chocolatey and chewy.  They are easy to make, don’t take long – 5 minutes prep, 15 minutes in the oven, and taste delicious. I use dark chocolate in my baking because it has a stronger flavour than regular milk chocolate. However, I was craving peanut butter, so I added half a cup. Be still my beating heart. Delicious! I will never make regular choc chip cookies again!

Yields: 12 large     Prep time: 5 minutes     Baking time: 15 minutes

Peanut butter choc chip cookies ingredients80g melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup peanut butter – I favour crunchy but you can use smooth
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Peanut butter choc chip cookies 2 1Preheat your oven to 170°C (340°F). In a large bowl using a whisk attachment on medium, cream together the butter, peanut butter and white and brown sugar until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.

Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be crumbly.

 

 

Peanut butter choc chip cookies 3 1Beat in the eggs and vanilla and stir until fully blended. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Peanut butter choc chip cookies 3 21Line your baking trays with parchment paper, put 1 large teaspoon of batter in your hand, form a ball and place on the baking tray. Leave a large gap between the cookies as they expand quite impressively! Bake at 170°C for 15 minutes until golden brown around the edges.

 

 

 

 

Peanut butter choc chip cookies 4 1Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Makes 12 large cookies (there aren’t 12 in this picture because we got hold of them and demolished a few!).

 

 

 

 

 

Peanut butter choc chip cookies 5 12

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I have a very good sweet tooth. Very. It’s good at demanding cake, cupcakes, tarts – anything sugary. The problem is that it’s just The Husband and I so when I bake, we end up eating ourselves into near-diabetic comas. I will look for any excuse or reason to bake. Oh look, it’s sunny, I should bake. The Stormers won the rugby, let’s bake! (I don’t follow rugby at all and have no idea who our captain is but it’s as good an excuse as any.) Do you see where I’m going with this? So when, last week, my step-mom was planning The Father’s 60th birthday, I jumped at the opportunity to provide the cake. I have a bit of a love affair going on with red velvet – I love it and, in turn, it loves my hips. No lies. Now, at the risk of sounding rather obnoxious, these red velvet cupcakes are the superlative choice for special occasions. They have a mild chocolatey flavour and the buttermilk provides a creamy taste and keeps them perfectly moist.

If you’re wondering why vinegar is used – it’s actually quite a common practice in baking. Vinegar, when used with baking soda, acts as a raising agent. Don’t worry about the cupcakes tasting weird, there are so many other flavours so you can’t taste it at all.

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Red velvet cupcakes ingredients120g/½ cup butter
1½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
½ cup cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
250ml/1 cup buttermilk
2½ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Red velvet cupcakes 1 1Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). In a medium-sized bowl, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high for about 2 minutes until it’s well blended and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low after each addition, until fully blended.

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 2 1In a large bowl, sift the cocoa and pour in the food colouring, mixing with a spoon until smooth. Add into the batter, scraping down the sides with a spatula and beat on low for 10-20 seconds. Stir in the vanilla. Stop beating and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, loosening the batter at the bottom.

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 3 1In a separate bowl, sift the flour and sprinkle half of it into the mixture, beating on low. Pour in half of the buttermilk, mix, sprinkle the remaining flour, beat, and finally add the remaining buttermilk, beating until fully mixed.

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 4 1Add the salt, baking soda and vinegar and stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon until mixed. Beat on high for 30 seconds – 1 minute until fully mixed.

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 5 1Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them ⅔. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clear.

 

 

 

 

For the frosting:

Red velvet cupcakes 7200g butter, room temperature
230ml plain cream cheese, also room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 10Cut the butter into small cubes and allow to reach room temperature. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on high until light and fluffy, 3 – 4 minutes. Sift in the icing sugar, stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until loosely combined, then beat until fully combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla essence and give the frosting one last beat. Decorate as desired. I used a large piping nozzle (thicker than my thumb) in a large plastic piping bag to make thick swirls, then sprinkled some edible glitter and hearts, but you can decorate the cupcakes however you like!

 

Red velvet cupcakes 8 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 9

 

Crêpes Suzette

Many wonderful things have come out of France – Champagne, Chanel and Crêpes Suzette to name but a few. In this recipe, I poured all of the ingredients into a medium-sized pot and simmered for half an hour. The results? A gooey rich caramelised sauce with bursts of citrus. You don’t need to pay constant attention to the sauce, only stirring occasionally as it simmers, so you can get on with other things like pouring yourself a tipple of Cointreau and making the crêpes while the sauce thickens to perfection. Drizzle the orange sauce over the pancakes, serve with ice cream and marvel at how such a simple pancake recipe can turn into a thing of beauty!

Crepes Suzette Ingredients 1 2For the pancakes (makes 4):
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Butter for frying

 

 

For the sauce:
Juice of 2 large oranges (± 250ml/1cup)
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
100g butter
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or any good orange liqueur)

Making the pancakes:

Crepes Suzette 3 2Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Slowly pour in the milk, beating as you do, then add the salt and vanilla and give it one last beat until thoroughly combined and batter is smooth.

Heat the butter in a pan on medium, pour in a quarter of the pancake batter and fry for two or three minutes until browned underneath. Flip the pancake and fry the other side until golden brown. Remove from the pan, heat some more butter and repeat.

 

For the sauce:

Crepes Suzette 4 2Pour the orange juice and zest into a medium pan. Add the butter, lemon juice and caster sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Crepes Suzette 6 2Add the Cointreau and simmer on low for 30 minutes,stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened to a rich dark orange syrup. Drizzle over the pancakes and serve with ice cream.

 

 

 

 

Crepes Suzette 8 2

I’m getting so hungry typing this! The sauce can be refrigerated for a few days and reheated in the microwave or on the stove top/hob.

 

 

 

Fried Banana Split with Salted Caramel Sauce

It’s Fried-day! Sorry, I couldn’t resist! You know when your guests think something took you hours but it didn’t? Yep. This recipe. There are two parts to it and each took me ten minutes. I made the caramel sauce the day before for convenience but you can make it first and while it’s cooling make the fried bananas. It’s the perfect summer dessert. Sweet, buttery bananas with gooey caramel sauce and creamy ice cream – sign me up! I added mixed seeds and nuts but you can add almonds, pecans, walnuts – whatever calls your name!

Prep time: 5 minutes      Cooking time for bananas and caramel: 20 minutes total      Serves: 4

Make the caramel sauce and set aside to cool.

Fried Banana Split Ingredients

4 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthways, then cut in half
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Nuts for topping

 

 

Fried Banana Split 1 2

On medium-low heat, add bananas to the melted butter, sliced-way down, and gently fry, turning as needed, until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle the sugar over the bananas at the five-minute mark and continue to gently fry. The whole frying process takes a total of ten minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Banana Split 2 2

Scoop some ice cream into a bowl, lay the fried bananas over it, drizzle with salted caramel sauce and sprinkle the seeds and nuts if you’re using them. That’s it! Really. That is it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Sauce

Chocolate brownies. Fried banana splits. Creamy vanilla ice cream. All delicious on their own but topped with caramel sauce, they are heavenly. This sweet, gooey sauce is made even better by adding a touch of salt and you just can’t get it wrong, it’s that easy and quick too! How quick? Ten minutes. That’s it.

Salted caramel sauce ingredients 11 cup brown sugar
75g (5 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 1 2In a heavy-based medium pot, melt the sugar over medium-low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon to prevent from sticking. The sugar will form clumps, continue stirring, and it will start to melt.

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 2 2Continue to stir until the clumps have melted.

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 3 2As soon as the sugar has melted, take the pot off the heat and add the butter, and, you guessed it, stir continuously.

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 4 2Stir in the cream slowly, sprinkle in the salt and add the vanilla. Wait for it to cool thoroughly before tasting!

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 5 2

Yep, that’s right, that’s all there is to it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Muffins

I don’t believe in wasting, so when I ended up with two overripe bananas and half a bottle of buttermilk, I decided to make muffins. Because I don’t like wasting. Possibly also because I can’t resist them! This recipe is easy and so versatile. You can add cinnamon, pecans or walnuts and adjust it to your liking.

Prep time: <10 minutes     Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes     Yields: 12 medium muffins

Banana muffins 1 (2)2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
100g softened butter
1½ cups flour
½ cup white sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ baking soda

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).

Banana muffins 2 (2)I never sieve sugar unless it’s lumpy so pour the sugar into a mixing bowl and add the softened butter. Beat, using an electric mixer on low, for 20 seconds. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully mixed into the rest of the batter. Add the mashed bananas beat until thoroughly combined. Remember to occasionally scrape down the sides throughout the preparation.

 

 

 

Banana muffins 3 (2)Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl, add the vanilla and mix well. If you’re adding cinnamon, sprinkle it in now.

 

 

 

 

 

Banana muffins 6 (2)Pour in the buttermilk and mix on low until fully combined and smooth. If you’re adding nuts, now is the time to do so and remember to scrape down the sides.

 

 

 

 

 

Banana muffins 8 (3)Pour the batter into greased muffin cups and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clear. You can freeze the muffins, serve them at room temperature or heat them up in the microwave for about 10 seconds, cut them in half lengthways and spread some butter over them. Oooooh!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

These brownies have saved my hide a few times when, say, the ‘rents decide to pop in and end up staying for dinner or friends come over for a quick chat and cuppa which turns into an all-day and all-night event. Lovely though it is to spend time with these special people, I’ve often found myself in an “oh no, what do I make for pudding?” predicament. Enter this recipe.

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

It’s easy and not very time consuming at all. The reason I’m able to whip it up with short-to-no notice is because these ingredients are always in my cupboard, and probably yours too. I also often make this when I’m cooking a very time-consuming main course. I usually make the brownies first and get it out of the way before tackling the several-hours-long mains.

Some brownies are too sweet and rich (is there such a thing?) but not this. The creamy chocolate-y-ness (that should really be a word; can you imagine the Scrabble points?) is just right. In fact, you can even serve it with ice cream. Some puddings make you feel uncomfortable, some even ill, but you can happily make this without worrying about that.

Here’s a tip. Initially I made the chocolate sauce (so easy; two ingredients, some heat and you’re done) when I was ready to serve dessert. What I’ve been doing lately is making the sauce once the brownies have cooled, then pouring it over them so they soak in it. You don’t have to do it this way. I actually happened upon this method when I had very little notice, got invited to a friend for dinner, quickly made the brownies and sauce and just poured it over them and reheated when ready. It. Was. Amazing.

It’s easier to use a square baking tray. I use a 9 x 9 inch silicone baking tray. The reason for this is because I prefer cutting the brownies into squares as opposed to slicing it like a cake. Having said that, it’s purely for my convenience and I’ve used a round tin many times, but I prefer the square tray for this recipe.

Something important to remember is that the universally-accepted toothpick test does not apply to this recipe. Because you’re making it chewy, you don’t want it to cook like a cake, so after half an hour, if you do the toothpick test, it should not be clear. It should be brown and gooey. Another thing is that my preference is always vanilla paste but you can substitute this for two teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Servings: 9     Prep time: 5 minutes     Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup butter, melted (170g)
  • 1 cup white sugar (200g)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar (100g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup flour (85g)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (50g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • non-stick spray

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).

Spray your baking tray with non-stick spray.

Using an electric whisk on high, beat the eggs and sugar until properly mixed, about 10 seconds. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and vanilla paste and beat until well-combined, approximately 30 seconds, scraping down the sides.

Pour the batter into your baking tray and bake for 30 minutes.

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

 

If you do the toothpick test at this point, it will come out gooey, so there is no need. After 30 minutes, take the baking tray out and let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting your brownies into squares.

Chocolate brownies

While you’re letting the brownies cool, make the chocolate sauce:

  • 90g chopped dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 150ml cream

On medium-high, heat the cream until warm but not boiling. Don’t let the cream boil, you want to heat it just enough to melt the chocolate. Chop the dark chocolate and add it to the warm cream, removing the pot from the heat. Stir with a whisk until it’s smooth and then pour over your brownies. You can refrigerate this dish until you’re ready to serve it, in which case reheat it and serve as is or with ice cream.

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?