Vanilla cupcakes and a Christmas giveaway

I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS!

Yesterday was officially the first day of Summer, which means I am positively squirming at the prospect of Christmas. In my house, the first day of December also means that we can start putting Christmas decorations out.

The decorations have surfaced, our little nativity babushka has been positioned…all we need is a tree.

I’m not talking those little, neat, plastic ones that most Australian families trot out year after year, I’m talking full blown, real life Christmas tree. They shed everywhere and the dogs pick fights with the low hanging branches, but I would not have it any other way.

Very vanilla cupcakes (6 of 7)

I’m hoping we get a tree this weekend…I’ll keep you updated.

So, to kick off this exciting time of year, I’m sharing a perfect, simple little festive treat and a giveaway!! I used Heilala Vanilla in these cupcakes, and I could not recommend them more highly. Their vanilla products are amazingly delicious, and if you follow their Instagram you actually learn things. For example, did you know that vanilla has to be hand pollinated?

Just let that sink in a little.

Those delightfully fragrant stalks take A LOT of work before they make it to your kitchen.

To celebrate this time of year, Heilala (pronounced hey-la-la) have made up these cute little Vanilla Posh Popcorn Packs valued at $31.95.
CO+SYR+KERN+BOX_on white
To win this pack (which includes 150ml Heilala Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 100ml Heilala Vanilla Syrup and 250g organic corn kernels) just email baking withgab@gmail.com and tell me who you’ll share your Posh Popcorn Pack with and why. One extra entry for people who tag their mate in the WIN post on Facebook.
This competition is only open to Australian residents (sorry, international friends!) and closes on December 20th, 2015. The prize pack may have to be enjoyed after Christmas, depending on warehouse closures and the ability of the posts system close to Christmas, so winner, please be patient. This competition is completely down to chance, the winner will be chosen at random.
Good luck!!

Vanilla cupcakes

Makes 24

  • 220g butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tspn Vanilla
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup milk

Perfect vanilla buttercream

  • 180g butter
  • 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1.5 tsp milk
  • Sprinkles, to decorate

Preheat your oven to 170°C and line your cupcake tins with patty pans.

Cream together your butter and sugar until pale. Add in your vanilla and egg whites. Sift in your flour and bicarb and mix well. Add in the milk and mix until just combined. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until very lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the cupcakes cool, whip your icing up. Put your butter and one cup of icing sugar into your mixer and mix well. Add in the remaining icing sugar, followed by the milk and vanilla bean paste.

Very vanilla cupcakes (2 of 7)

Scoop your buttercream into a piping bag and pipe onto your cupcakes. Apply sprinkles liberally and serve with a nice hot cuppa.

It’s worth noting that these cupcakes have no bicarb in them – if you want them to be a little taller, add 1 tsp bicarb to them.

Very vanilla cupcakes (3 of 7)

Very vanilla cupcakes (4 of 7)

Very vanilla cupcakes (7 of 7)

Chocolate beetroot cupcakes and adventure

Beetroot cupcakes (10 of 13)

Before you think “ew, beetroot in cupcakes”, please read this! I’m going to try and convince you that these adorable little suckers deserve a place in your heart AND your baked goods.

Beetroot cupcakes (1 of 13)

I love a good adventure. Every now and then, something in my brain just clicks and I feel the need for a change. The last time it happened, I ended up in Europe on a whim (which was a completely magical result that I still need to post blogs about). My little brain snaps usually happen on a smaller scale, though. They’re not usually as costly as last-minute flights!

Easter cupcakes and less than

groupI love these little cupcakes. So much. The icing is one of my favourite icings ever. It’s cream cheese and chocolate – it’s so delicious that it should almost be illegal. Part of what I love about the cupcakes is that they’re not quite perfect. The batter is simple and not too sweet, the icing is delicious, but lends itself to a more rustic look. They’re a little bit less-than-perfect…and that’s completely fine. As someone who is constantly striving to achieve perfection, sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that being “less than” is not always a bad thing. Perfect isn’t always fun.

Banana sundae mini cakes and sweetness

wholeI wrote in my last blog post that everything seemed to be going swimmingly. I had a wonderful weekend. It just so turns out that the luck is continuing! My work week is plodding along steadily, I received a gloriously vanilla-scented parcel from Vanilla Queen, and I just realised that the Cake Bake and Sweets Show is rolling around again this year.

Life is sweet.

I think I know what started all this sweetness.

Vanilla, fig & honey cupcakes and fig deliveries


sneak peek
It’s not very often that one gets an offer of free figs. So when a very generous friend of mine messaged our group of friends offering free figs, everyone jumped at the chance. She even delivered them to our doorsteps!

image1Clearly she is a saint. If you’d like to see what this saint’s instagram looks like, click here. It’s full of beautiful photography and enviably delicious cooking dates with her Nonna.

Mini mango cupcakes and Summer flavours

Mango is Summer to me. It is impossible to imagine one without the other. When I was at school I always knew that the holidays were close when mango prices had fallen enough for us to buy a box of them. To this day, the thrill of buying a box full of mangoes brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.

image2Which is why long road trips up (or down) the NSW coast also bring me great joy – there are countless roadside fruit vendors! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my mango haul.

We bought them about four hours into our trip, and the sweet, syrupy smell filled our warm car, becoming increasingly enticing over the remaining two hours.

Ginger spice cake and excitement

above sliceThe closer it gets to Christmas, the more excited I get. The more excited I get, the more I crave clichéd Christmas foods – give me pudding and rich spiced cakes, mince pies and roasts. It’s funny that Australians indulge in Christmas foods inspired by their northern hemisphere counterparts. Even though Christmas day can be stinking hot, we still want to have delicious cooking smells filling the house.

Christmas day is supposed to be humid and rainy this year, but that’s not going to stop me.

Choc-banana walnut bites and Saturday morning recipes

sceneSaturday mornings are made for baking. Mainly because you’ve then got the whole weekend ahead of you to eat your baked goods! The best Saturday morning recipes are speedy and satisfying – you don’t want to be in the kitchen for hours when you’ve got chores to finish/people to see! (By the way, Saturday mornings are also a great time to instagram you pets. Did anyone see the model poses Norman was striking this morning?)

Halloween recipes and squeamishness

Blood spattered meringues

I don’t rate horror movies. I’m a massive wimp. I startle easily and I make involuntary “eeps” when frightened. I don’t like doors slamming themslevs, and I’m awful at being home alone.

Choc chip pumpkin bundt
So Halloween is not really my thing. I don’t delight in gore. In fact, I’m almost the complete opposite of everything Halloween-y.

Vanilla caramel crisp cupcakes and unlikely combinations

packetHalloween is all about the creepy and unusual. These babies are in no way creepy (they’re mostly delicious) but they are unusual. I’m bucking the Halloween trend of faux blood and ghouls and doing my own bright and airy, Australian Halloween. Check out my non-spooky pumpkin bundt and choc-pumpkin cupcakes.

So, before you judge the combinations of flavours, have a think about the salted caramel craze. It’s huge. Salted caramel milkshakes, salted caramel sauces, salted caramel fudge, it’s everywhere. The beautiful mixture of salty and sweet just works.