Masala Chai Cake

At home all of us are such a big fan of masala chai that my 14 month old baby asks for tea after every meal. He gets his little toy cup and toy kettle and I have to pour 2-3 drops of tea into his milk. He sits and sips it slowly like his grandfather.

Chai cupcakes with basil flowers

And then I saw this cake in The Big Book of Treats by Pooja Dhingra. What a wonderful idea to incorporate masala chai flavours into cake. We have pots of lemongrass and basil in the window and use it regularly while brewing tea. So I added it to this cake and the frosting has basil seeds and flowers. Straight from the plant. It gives the cake a very refreshing taste. Something familiar and yet decadent.

Presenting The Masala Chai cake :

Chai cake

Ingredients

  • 150 gram maida
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 gram Amul butter – at room temperature
  • 200 gram castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 ml chai – freshly brewed without sugar and milk
  • Basil leaves and lemon grass while brewing tea

Chai cupcakes making

For the frosting :

  • 100 gram butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 225 gram icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Few basil (tulsi) flowers for decoration

Chai cupcake with periwinkle

What to do :

  1. Whisk the maida and baking powder together and sift it.
  2. In another bowl whisk butter and add sugar and vanilla essence.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating it well into the mixture.
  4. Add the brewed chai to the batter, mix well.
  5. Then fold in the flour mixture with a spatula.
  6. Preheat oven to 170 for 5 minutes.
  7. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Fill it with the batter.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  9. To make the frosting, cream butter and then add all the ingredients together and whisk well till it forms a smooth icing. Fill it in a piping bag with nozzle of your choice.
  10. Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. Decorate with basil flower stems.

Crumb of chai cupcake

Notes :

  1. The same batter can also be used to make cupcakes. It yields 12 cupcakes. And two small loaves.
  2. Basil flowers are totally edible and definitely use them if you can. The regular tulsi flowers can also be used.
  3. The crumb of this cake is very soft and melts in the mouth. the trick is to use room temperature butter and eggs.
  4. It can be stored for 5 days without frosting and upto a week further in the fridge.

Basil Chai cake

Edited to add on 17 May 16′ : In a hurry to bake the cake, I added hot tea to the eggs, and part of it caramelised to sticky toffee like structure. Not very pleasant. Note – Always add cooled tea.

Wonder what a book release feels like?

Sonali mami

To be very honest with you, I have always wanted to write. Ever since I was a little girl who had sent a silly eight-line poem to the Barbie magazine, I wanted to write. But I had no idea what I could write about. Someone once suggested that I write for the Chartered Accountant magazine, but I found that really boring. So for a long time I did nothing, except write in my diary occasionally and write a few letters and notes.

Then about two years back I started blogging about food. And little tidbits of life with it. As life went on, I searched my memory for fragments of story and wrote about it. Sometimes coherently, at times random little stuff stitched together with words. I am not sure what the reader gets of it, but I find great joy in writing.

Then about three-four months back came a period when nothing I wrote made sense to me. I read a lot of blogs online, columns in newspapers and literary journals. After reading those, my words felt insufficient. My ideas naive. I started thinking that everyone writes so much better than me; perhaps I should stop this part of the blog and only continue to write about baking.

Back when I was a teenager I nurtured the dreams of becoming a journalist. For a while. But at that time I could never write anything more than the school essays. My best friend Ketki used to write short stories and poems and I thought if I can’t write even that much, may be I should think of another career line. And eventually, I let it go and became a CA instead.

Then two months back, my husband’s aunt – Sonali mami had come to India from US with her two teenage kids. She is a published author and her second book is on the way. One evening while I was feeding Arjun, she asked me – “So you want to write a book?”.

I fumbled, and started thinking when had I told that to her? At the back of my head I have perhaps thought that I want to publish a book, sometime way in the future. I have no idea what it would be about. How did she find out?

Sonali mami realised that I am feeling embarrassed about it and she told me to relax. She said that I should not think that I am thinking of writing a book because she has. In fact if there has to be any connection, it should be a positive one. I should benefit from her experience in writing, editing and publishing.

She told me a story of how she wanted to be a journalist when she was studying, but the girl her elder brother dated was also a journalist. Afraid that everyone might say that she wanted to become a journalist just because of her brother’s girlfriend, she dropped the idea and went for architecture instead. But writing did not leave her mind and her heart. She did technical writing for a software company and simultaneously worked on her first book –  The Bollywood Affair, which got excellent reviews everywhere. Even from the industry bigwigs like Kristina Higgins, Nalini Singh and even my favourite Nora Roberts. It also got nominated for the RITA and the RT Reviews choice which are the two highest awards in the genre. 

Now her second book The Bollywood Bride was released last week and it is so beautiful. The entire weekend I lived with Ria and Vikram, their story, feeling their love and pain, their guilt and euphoria, and itched to finish the book so that I find out how it ends. But I wanted to linger, savour the lovely Indian-America wedding setting. The book reaches out to you, so much so that this Monday morning I am wearing a turquoise kurta like Ria wore in the book. 🙂

Sometimes it is difficult to imagine that a very close family member is really a published author, at an international level. Sonali mami’s best friend is the producer of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. (Remember that one? My friend and I watched it together when we were 18 or so and oh how we loved it!) and her sister-in-law is the fabulous Irawati Harsh- another stellar actress. Sonali mami has access to a lot of Bollywood gossip and I lurk around her to hear some of it. So it wont be surprising if these gorgeous books get made into movies. The story already has enough masala for a movie. 

And if that isn’t enough, she has beautifully raised two kids while having a full time job till now. When we were thinking of planning  a child my husband would often (reassuringly?) tell me that I will be as good a mother as Sonali mami is.

I don’t know about that, but several years later, if I ever write a book, she will be on my list of dedications. Sonali Dev is a living example of achieving your dreams while managing a job, two kids, a husband who is travelling 10 days a month and a cute little dog Simba.

sonali books

For now, let me snap out of the dream world I lived in for the last 2-3 days and get back to work 🙂

Cheers,

Rutvika

*******       *******       *******

Cupcakes or muffins are my favourite quick bakes whenever someone shows up suddenly. They are easy to whip up and still look festive.

I have made these chocolate chip muffin several times, sometimes using white chocolate chips, sometimes dark chocolate sometimes a mix of both. This one bowl recipe here is a winner and I have dolled it up with some slightly coloured buttercream.

White choco chip cupcakes

White Chocolate Chip cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 110 gram butter at room temperature (I use slightly salted Amul butter)
  • 75 grams caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 175 grams all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 110 ml milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Buttercream recipe is from here. Add some milk and a few drops of red colour or strawberry syrup in place of mango juice.

What to do :

  1. Beat butter and both sugars together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating fully before adding the next.
  2. Add vanilla essence and whisk.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together and keep it aside.
  4. Now add the flour and milk alternately to the butter and sugar mixture in 2 steps. Mix well with a rubber spatula.
  5. Always end with the dry ingredients.
  6. Now add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  7. Prepare a 12 case muffin pan and line it with paper cases.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the pan and preheat oven to 170C.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  10. Let it cool int he pan for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

White chcolate crumb cake

Notes :

  1. White chocolate chips caramelise beautifully to give soft crunch. Dark chocolate chips turn gooey and delicious.
  2. Is using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to balance the flavours.
  3. Use all ingredients at room temperature to avoid over-whisking which leads to cracked tops.

Cupcakes with white chocolate

Beehive Honey Cupcakes

I do remember.

I recently read an article which said that kids don’t remember anything before seven years of age.It was surprising because I do remember at least a dozen incidents which happened before I turned six. And I also clearly remember that it was before six, because we shifted into a new house at that time and then soon my brother was born. Before that it was just dad, mom and me in a dainty one room and kitchen apartment with big windows and a lot of sunshine.

I clearly remember the layout of the house. The kitchen was huge and we had a double bed along one side of the dining area adjacent to the windows. The morning sun shone brilliantly on that side and several mornings I would be sitting in that window and eating breakfast. Apparently to maximise the absorption of vitamin D in my body. And mom would be tinkering around in the kitchen. Such peaceful mornings, I would stare into the distance and imagine vivid things. Mom was not working at that point of time, and I would have her wholly to myself.

Sometimes it feels strange that the most innocuous incidents get lodged in your memory. My best friend then was a girl who lived next door, she was a year older to me, and at that time seemed so much wiser. She knew a lot of things I didn’t. And while we were a strictly vegetarian family, they regularly cooked fish. I was amazed at the way her mom cleaned and cooked the fish. We would also play a little game where her father would be bitten by a snake and we were doctors, curing him. I am sure, we must have played so many more interesting and awesome games, but that little snake bite act is the only game I remember.

My dad was a cop, and he always worked in shifts. So while most dads were not available to pick up and drop off kids at school, my dad would be there. In fact, (now this I don’t remember, I have seen the photograph), my dad was the one to drop me off in school on the first day. I loved sitting on the scooter with him, hugging him tightly at the waist and looking at the world left behind. And yes, imagine that we were on a horse, racing with other horses, and of course always winning. Even later on, he would take me and my brother on hour long rides. The fresh air constantly brushing on my face left me refreshed and sleepy at the same time. Those really were simpler times. Way fewer resources and comforts, but that was more than required.

I also remember two-three accidents where I hurt my finger or my lip got a tear and needed a stitch. May be the visible trauma of that incident gave it more importance.

Now when we are on the verge of having kids, I always wonder what they will remember when they grow up. We obsess over creating warm and cherishable moments for them, think and plan exotic and fancy events, so that they would have a store of great experiences. But there is no guarantee what would get registered in their tiny little brains. Perhaps the most mundane of activities, like having dinner with parents and grandparents everyday would be a highlight or the few minutes in the morning spent snuggling up to dad before going to school. Or may be just the way a stream of light comes in through the window every evening creating a mosaic of colors on the floor.

We have no idea. But that doesn’t stop us from weaving plans of ‘we will do this and we will do that once the kids are born’. I already imagine myself singing my favourite songs to the baby, and dancing with him/ her to a particular chirpy song playing on the radio.

The kid may not remember it, but I will. For them and for myself.

*******       *******       *******

Last week, I stumbled upon Donna Hays‘ website. She is a veteran Australian baker and most of her recipes use salted butter, which is the one we get here in India. And what beautiful photos! Go visit her sit, you will love it.

I tried her Beehive Cupcakes and they were a hit. The honey in the cupcakes caramelises beautifully to give a soft crunch at the base and on the sides. I added a bit of orange oil to get a nice flavor and yes made the meringue frosting without the cream of tartar. And it whipped up beautifully.

beehive cupcakes

Donna Hay’s Beehive Honey Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 125 gm softened butter
  • 165 gm caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 185 gm all purpose flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Meringue frosting

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar with some yellow food color, for decoration

What to do : 

  1. Pre heat oven to 160C.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and honey in big bowl beat until light and creamy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and milk and fold until just combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into paper lined muffin pans.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool it on a wire rack.
  8. For the meringue frosting, place sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  9. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. meanwhile start beating the egg whites till it forms soft peaks.
  10. Then while constantly whisking, pour the sugar syrup over the egg whites in a slow stream, incorporating the syrup int he egg whites.
  11. The egg whites will become hot and continue whisking till it cools down and becomes thick and glossy.
  12. To assemble the cupcakes, cut a round from centre of each cupcake with a melon corer or a cookie cutter.
  13. Place the frosting in a piping bag with 1 cm plain nozzle and pipe it into the centre of each cupcake. Sprinkle with colored sugar for decoration.

Coring and frosting the cupcakes

Notes :

  • If you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt with the butter in step 2.
  • The original recipe called for cream of tartar, so if you wish you can add a pinch of while boiling sugar and water.
  • Egg whites get cooked at the stage when boiling sugar syrup is poured into the egg whites, so don’t worry.
  • The unfrosted cupcakes stay well in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

honey cupcakes

Mango Cupcakes and what would it have been had I failed.

I have never failed an exam in my life.

Does that mean I am super brilliant? Heck no. That just means I haven’t taken up enough challenges in my life. It means that I have stayed in my comfort zone , doing things I have been sure about. I had even registered for some exams, and chickened out at the last-minute thinking I am not prepared, I am sure gonna fail. Hence there was no exam which I took and failed. But there is a major flaw in this system. It restricts my view of the world. Though not blatantly, but in my head it makes me think “Oh, I am quite cool”. And there goes that.

When I gave my Chartered Accountant (Indian CPA) exam, luckily for me, I cleared it all in the first attempt. But what if I had not? Would I have had the guts and the patience to take it again? or would I have chosen another career path? Would I have excelled far better at something else or become a sloppy worker, just going through the day? There is no way to know.

In school whenever anyone asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered heroic professions like a criminal lawyer, a journalist etc. And apparently, I answered with such conviction that even now when I meet someone from school, they are shocked to realize I did not pursue law or journalism. How and when accounting profession came in my life is kinda fuzzy in my head. I just registered for the first exam because I think everybody in my college was doing so, and cleared that exam, the next and the next and here I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am mighty proud of my profession and the security a valued degree provides me. But as I said, it put me in a comfort zone I am reluctant to get out of. But sometimes, I get a strong urge in my heart to do something extremely challenging. Something which I have an equal chance of failing at. Something which will make me sit up and be scared about. Something which brings out the edge in me.

My brother is currently taking entrance exams to get into the MBA colleges. In one exam he scored 99 percentile, which means he is better than 99% of the population taking the exam. You would think that life is set right? No. The day and age where we live, the college admissions are closing at a whooping 99.4 percentile. How can you beat that? It is so fucking crazy, that I feel I am luckier having passed all that and be here. So there is no room to complain, but there is this feeling of insufficiency in my heart. It feels I can do much better, I need some push. To do more.

But I also feel there was a time and stage in life to do all that. Now I am 28, married for 3 years and wishing to take personal life to the “next stage”. Yeah, yeah I know that shouldn’t change anything, considering how liberal and encouraging my husband and in-laws are. But it does. That does not mean it is lost on me. May be I will do something which will (pleasantly) surprise the hell out of me. But for now, I wonder “what would I have done had I failed in the CA exam?”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Do you ever wonder what you would have done, had you failed in one of life’s important stages and how different life would have been? Do write in the comments section, I would love to read.


Mango Cupcakes with Mango frosting:

Mangoes are back! Summer in India gets extremely hot, but it brings the luscious oh so sweet mangoes and hence I am not complaining. The color, the fragrance, and then the eclectic taste. Last year I made the no-bake mango cheesecake, and this year the vibrant super soft mango cupcakes.

Mango cupcakes

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup ripe mango puree (about 2 mangoes pureed)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2-3 tbsp mango puree

What to do :

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 170C. Line muffin pans with paper.
  2. Beat butter till it is pale in color and then add the sugar. Beat till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and fully incorporate.
  4. In a separate bowl, take flour and baking powder. mix it well together, to prevent biting into a chunk of baking powder.
  5. Fold the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.
  6. Add the mango puree, grated ginger and milk. Continue whisking till it is fully homogeneous.
  7. Pour it into a pan and bake for 20 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. To make the frosting, mix together icing sugar, butter and mango puree. Add more icing sugar if you want stiffer frosting and more mango puree if a smoother frosting.
  9. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and eat. 🙂

mango cupcake platter

Notes :

  • The cupcakes stay well at room temperature in air-tight container for upto 4 days. If keeping in the refrigerator, slightly heat in the microwave before eating.
  • You can skip the ginger, but it brings out the mango flavor beautifully.
  • Canned mango puree can also be used to make the cupcakes.

Drool worthy mango cupcake