Orange cake with Mascarpone Buttercream & Gulab Jamuns

2018 granted us a silent, wintery Deepavali. Not that we don’t enjoy the festive ruckus that goes hand in hand with an Indian festival but an unruffled celebration is one we welcome as well.

Come sundown, little tealights were sprinkled all about the house, serial lights swayed on the balcony railing and after devouring a traditional homemade feast, we huddled in the glowing light watching romcoms whilst playing ‘fetch’ with Elaichi, our Labrador puppy. But that wasn’t all. I also gave into one of my fancy whims to create a dessert that not only celebrates and caters to Indian festivities but also one that dons the attire of a western dessert. One that in every spoonful appeased every single one of our sweet-desiring taste buds. Allow me to present to you my Orange Cake with Gulab Jamuns and Mascarpone Buttercream.

Let’s talk about the components of this gateau. Firstly, this EGGLESS cake employs fresh orange juice for its flavouring and I chose Mandarins which are only lemon-sized but brightly hued and slightly sweeter than the larger oranges. As the batter bakes and rises in the oven, you will find that your kitchen is verily a garden brimming with orange trees.


Next, the sweet saffron syrup. The cake is made moist with a warm saffron syrup which is essentially your Gulab Jamun syrup. I have shared the recipe for the syrup below but if you’re using store-bought gulab jamuns , just go ahead and use the same syrup that the jamuns are soaked in after warming it up a little. Then, we have a creamy Mascarpone buttercream that is slathered before two fragrant sponges are layered together.


I’ll admit I spent quite a bit of time debating if I should have gulab jamuns sandwiched between the cake layers or just adorned on top but I finally opted for the latter only because I wanted the best of everything in one bite: a burst of orange followed by a creamy, vanilla mascarpone and finally, the utter decadence of deep fried khoya and paneer. Again if you want a layer of indulgent gulab jamuns in the middle it can only be a good idea :). Either way, make sure every forkful has all the delicious components so you can get a complete, soulful dessert experience.

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE ORANGE, MASCARPONE AND GULAB JAMUN CAKE
Makes one 6″ 2-layered cake- serves 6
INGREDIENTS
For the Orange Cake
1 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice(I used Mandarins)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp orange zest
For the Saffron Syrup
10 strands of saffron
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
For the Mascarpone Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese at room temperature
2 cup Icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp Vanilla extract
3-4 tsp heavy cream
For Assembly
Atleast 6 gulab jamuns

DIRECTION
-First we make the saffron syrup(see notes). In a thick bottomed pan, add the sugar and water along with the saffron. Place on medium heat and let the sugar dissolve, which may take around 4-5 min. Then boil for 14-15 minutes and the syrup is ready.
-For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease cake pans with butter and place a round piece of parchment on the base. Dust the sides of the pan with flour.
-Zest the oranges and then squeeze fresh juice.
-In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, orange juice, canola oil and vanilla essence.
-Into the same bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: all purpose flour,baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix gently to combine with the wet mixture making sure there are no lumps.
– Finally fold in the orange zest and pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool for 5min, then transfer the them to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make a few holes on each cake with a toothpick and add 3 tbsp of syrup on each cake, 1 tablespoon at a time, using a pastry brush to gently spread it over the cake.
-Let the cakes cool completely.
-Meanwhile, make the Mascarpone Buttercream. (see notes)
You can either use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the butter, mascarpone, 3 tsp heavy cream and vanilla and whisk on medium until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Then add the icing sugar and whisk again for 3-4 minutes until nice and creamy. Add more heavy cream and whisk only if the mixture looks crumbly. Keep aside.
To assemble, place the cake board on the turntable.
-Place the first layer of the cake on the cake board with a little bit of buttercream so that the cake stays in place while you work on it.
-Pour 2-3 tbsp of syrup again(1 tbsp at a time)  and gently spread it on the cake with a pastry brush. Spread a generous quantity of the Mascarpone buttercream. At this point, I like to place the cake in the refrigerator for about 5-10min to allow the buttercream to firm up a bit.
-Then place the second layer of cake on it. (Alternatively, if you like, cut up a few gulab jamuns and place on the cake, top with buttercream and then the second layer of cake. The flat side of the cake should face top.
-Next add buttercream in excess on the top of the second layer and using an offset spatula spread it all around the top of the cake and push it down to the sides. Using the same spatula, gently slather the sides of the cake with the buttercream(adding more if necessary) until the cake is completely masked. I chose to mask it only partially.
-Finally place the gulab jamuns on top, with fruits(optional) and drizzle more syrup.

Notes:
If the buttercream is too loose, thicken it by whisking in icing sugar. If it is too dry, add a few teaspoons of heavy cream to make it creamy.

Godi Tambittu/Wholewheat Ladoos

Deepavali may have come and gone by in a flash this year but that doesn’t mean the celebrations must cease. The winter breeze,  the gentle dance of the diya(traditional oil lamps) flames, the warm luminiscence emerging from the serial lights swinging in our balcony and the myriad avatars of sugar: I want to desperately hold on to these feelings. Lights must continue to shine bright and sweets must be devoured without restrain, Deepavali must continue. This festive season, I indulged in a fancy whim and created a ‘best of both worlds’ sort of dessert that I will share with you very soon. But today, allow me to share with you a traditional sweet treat that shines in simplicity and one that makes its presence in our kitchen every week. At the moment it is serving to treat post-festival blues, one ladoo at a time.


Many years ago, I first made this in my mother’s kitchen under her guidance. It was conjured as an offering to the Lord(Naivedyam), as part of our pooja(prayers). After the pooja, the ladoos vanished at the blink of an eye: we as a family are terribly impatient when it comes to desserts.
Now, the husband and me continue to make this in our kitchen every week and every Saturday at dawn, the air at home is fragrant with the aromas of jaggery, cardamom and gently roasted wheat flour. Even, Elaichi, our excited little puppy turns restless, yearning for a taste which he ensures he gets immediately after the offering.


These tambittus or ladoos are mildly sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with ghee and cardamom. It comes together oh so quickly, without any fuss. Also, they satiate those sudden sugar cravings and like I said post-festival/post-holiday blues. Perfect left plain but I sprinkled them with ground pistachios, dry coconut and rose petals to jazz them up just a tad. I really hope you try this one and like it as well.

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RECIPE FOR GODI TAMBITTU
Makes 13

INGREDIENTS
1 cup Wheat flour
2/3 cup grated jaggery
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
4 green cardamoms plus a pinch of sugar
2.5 tbsp Ghee plus more to roll the ladoos

METHOD
-Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cardamom seeds and the sugar to achieve a powder. Keep aside.
-In a thick bottomed kadai/wok, add 1 tbsp of ghee and allow to melt over medium heat.
To this, the whole wheat flour and saute continuously until there is a nice aroma. This should take 3-4 minutes.
-Meanwhile in small sauce pan add the jaggery and water. Place on medium heat, let the jaggery melt and come to simmer, remove from heat. We are looking for a thin syrup. Also, in another pan, heat the milk separately and let it come to boil.
-Once the wheat flour is roasted, add the jaggery syrup, milk, ground cardamom and mix well until a dough like consistency is formed. Make sure there are no lumps.
-Remove from heat. Apply some ghee to your hands and immediately(but carefully) roll  into ladoos .
(I used a measuring scale and each one was roughly 21 gms)
-Optional- can be sprinkled with pistachios, coconut and rose petals.
-Best served immediately but they are good for 2-3 days if stored in an air-tight container.

Pineapple Gojju

A motley group of thoughts implore me to reminisce home. It’s not the squish of summery peaches or the engulfing aroma of warm cookies when I walk into a mall although they’re just as pleasing. It’s more the rhythmic clunk of a ladle and an iron pan when amma roasts groundnuts and jaggery to appease my dad’s sweet tooth,  the voice of Subbalakshmi spinning through a languid morning, possibly even the faint whirr of vehicles outside our window but mostly, delicious thoughts of a meal feasted on a gigantic banana leaf.


South Indian gatherings have a flair for conjuring a loud rumpus and I mean this in a good way. Palpable excitement, colour and good food served on a plate shaped by Mother Nature herself .This oblong and dramatically designed leaf is generously laden with traditional and authentic dishes like Payasa(kheer), a sundry of Palyas(dry curries), Pickles. Chutneys, Dal(lentils), Sambar(spicy lentil stew), Rasam fragrant with ghee,Gojjus & more. The flavours emanating from the leaf dance delicately with those from the food and elevate a mere lunch to an experience fit for the Gods. Among the plethora of foods that land on the leaf, the one I yearn for the most is the Pineapple Gojju.


A gojju is essentially a savory side dish with a delicious intermingling of sweet, spicy and tangy. Sometimes cooked to create a stew-like dish but many times(like this one), it is  not.  These uncooked gojjus are referred to as Hasi Rasas(raw gojju) in Kannada because the mixture is not simmered. Lemons, raisins, raw mango etc be used to make this gojju but pineapples always have been a personal favourite.


The tang and sweet essences from pineapples mingle with the spices to create a sensational experience which when mopped up with cold curd-rice transpires into bliss. Or if you prefer, gently mix it with some hot rice and a tiny bit of oil to drive away those dreaded Monday afternoon blues. Pairs well with chapatis too. In fact this dish tastes better the following day owing to the pineapples marinating in it, making it a little sweeter and a whole lot more divine.
Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR PINEAPPLE GOJJU
INGREDIENTS
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tbsp Urad dal
1/2 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp Dhaniya/coriander seeds
1 tsp Menthe/Fenugreek seeds
13 dried Kashmiri Chillies
2 dried Guntoor Chillies(see notes)
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
3/4 cup dry coconut slices/VaNakobri
1/2 tbsp scant, thick tamarind paste(I used store-bought)
1/4 cup grated Jaggery
Salt to taste
1 cup Pineapple- chopped and cubed into 1 cm pieces
1 + scant 1/4 cup water
For tempering-
1 tbsp oil
A small handful of fresh curry leaves
1 tsp  mustard seeds

METHOD
-In a kadai/wok, heat 1/2 tsp oil. To this , add Urad Dal, Chana Dal, Menthe/Fenugreek,  seeds, Coriander seeds, Hing and both chillies. Fry on medium-low flame until the lentils are a nice, deep golden. Transfer the contents to a plate and let cool
-In the same kadai, without adding any oil, roast the dry coconut slices in a medium-low flame, stirring constantly until they turn a light brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
-In a mixie jar/food processor, minimally grind the dal/lentil mixture, it should be half ground. Add the cooled coconut slices and grind completely until a coarse blend is achieved. Now add the salt, jaggery, tamarind paste and water so that a slightly loose but coarse paste is formed. Taste to check if any extra salt, tamarind, chillies or jaggery is necessary
-Pour the mixture into a bowl and fold in the pineapples.
-To make the tempering, in a small kadai/tadka pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Turn off heat and then add the curry leaves. once they crisp up, add this tempering to the gojju.
-Can be served immediately but even better if you let the pineapple marinate in the gojju for an hour or two, then serve.

Notes:

-I used store bought concentrated tamarind paste which is rather strong. If you’re using dried tamarind and making the tamarind pulp from that, you will need to use more than the amount specified above.
-Guntoor chillies can be quite spicy. If you want a less spicy gojju, just skip them.
-The gojju tastes better the following day(refrigerated) owing to the marinating pineapples, making it a little more sweet. I do not recommend using it beyond a day or 2.

Sweet Autumn- Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

It is that time of the year. The parasols have been shelved away, so are the sunscreens. It is the season of heeled boots, coats and scarves in plaid. The fluttering leaves of autumn scatter about the sidewalks as if after a long, desperate wait. And, our puppy Elaichi,  chases them like he does innocent sparrows in flight. But, it’s not just the romance manifested by the weather Gods. It’s also the food. The warm wafts of cinnamon and ginger, the velvety plush of a pumpkin pie, the heavily studded apple trees and the limitless cups of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.


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Today I want to share with you a sweeter, indulgent version of this autumn favorite: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes. Just to clarify, pumpkin spice does not contain any pumpkin, nor do these cupcakes. Pumpkin spice blend is a magical coming together of warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. While lattes take precedence in our home, the spice can be used for a variety of dishes and desserts.
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These eggless cupcakes & its buttercream are brewed with the richness of all these spices but to compliment it all there is a luscious coffee caramel filling that makes it a complete dessert experience. Just for fun, I made leaves using fondant & gumpaste, then painted them with warm hues to resemble autumn foliage and use as toppers for these seasonal delights. Hope you like and one & embrace it this season and after.

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE CUPCAKES
Makes 12

INGREDIENTS
For the cupcakes-
1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Pumpkin Spice(Recipe in notes*)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup buttermilk( made by adding 1 tsp of edible vinegar to 1 cup of milk)
2 tbsp instant coffee decoction

For the Coffee Caramel
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp Water
1/2 cup whipping cream/heavy cream
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp instant coffee granules

For the Pumpkin Spice Buttercream
1 cup Unsalted butter, softened at Room temperature
4-5 tsp heavy cream/milk
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp vanilla essence
3.5 to 4 cups icing sugar

METHOD

1) First things first, the Coffee Caramel.
We are essentially making regular caramel and infusing it with coffee.
To begin, place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan,  pour water on top and cover with a lid. Stove on medium heat.
Meanwhile, place the cold and cubed butter in a heatproof bowl and place a sieve in it. Microwave the heavy cream for a full minute or until bubbling. Carefully take the cream out(it will the hot) and mix it with the instant coffee granules. Keep the butter and this coffee cream close.
Once you hear the sugar mixture boiling, remove the lid. If sugar is crystallizing on the sides,use a pastry brush dipped in water to gently wash it down.
Keep watching the sugar and once in turns amber in once area, stir it around gently but quickly until the entire mixture is amber coloured. Put off the stove.
Very slowly and carefully, add the hot cream into the caramel, it will bubble boisterously, stir with a wooden spoon.
Then, sieve this mixture onto the cold butter and just set it aside to melt for about 5 minutes.
Finally, gently stir and cool completely.
Store in an air tight jar

2) To make the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake
First, we make the Pumpkin Spice by mixing all the ingredients listed above in a little bowl. (The remaining spice mix can be stored and sprinkled on a cup of coffee to make winter nights warm and cosy).
For the cupcakes-
Pre heat your oven to 350 F and line the cupcake pan with cupcake liners
Prepare your coffee decoction by heating water and adding instant coffee. Keep aside.
Next, measure a cup of milk and to that, add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and allow it to curdle and form buttermilk.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: All purpose flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and sugar.
Add to the dry ingredients- oil, vanilla essence and buttermilk. Mix gently ensuring there are no lumps. Stir in the coffee.
Fill the cupcake liners with your batter(2/3rd of the liner) and bake for 20-35 min OR until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

3) To make the buttercream
It is important that the butter is softened at room temperature. Place on your counter to let it soften.(I usually leave it overnight)
Once softened, place in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer along with milk/cream, pumpkin spice and vanilla essence. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter for a about 2 min on medium high speed until fluffy.
Add the icing sugar in parts and keep beating for about 4-5 minutes until the buttercream is soft and creamy.
-If the buttercream is too thick to handle, add heavy cream/milk. If it is too loose, add icing sugar.

To assemble the cupcake
Make a hole in the center of your cupcake using the back end of your piping tip or even just a knife, around 1/2 and inch diameter.
Fill the cupcake with the cooled coffee caramel.
Pipe the buttercream on top using a piping bag attached to a large size round tip

*Note- Pumpkin Spice recipe
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix the above and store in an air-tight jar.