My Love Affair with Melbourne

Let me tell you what I love about Melbourne.

I love the weather. I love how it can go from hot to cold and then cold to hot in an instant. Something that can change so instantly and so thoroughly must be some sort of magic. That cool change on a summer's day at the beach. Or that random warm, bright day in a week of rain and umbrellas.

I love the cafes and restaurants. So many to choose from! If I were an avid coffee drinker I'm sure I would love the coffee too. But the food. The range of breakfast dishes, from Eggs Benedict to Roast Pork Baguette and so, so many choices. A range of cultures to choose from including Vietnamese Pho on Victoria Street, Spanish Tapas at Movida and Korean BBQ in China Town.

I love the streets and roads people walk up and down to do their shopping. I love the relaxed pace people use to browse shop windows, and how the shopping strips are crowded with smiling people on sunny days.

I love the people I meet. The laid back, friendly attitude that is so stereotypical but so true. The random conversations with people on public transport. The fact that no one pushes in when you're lining up. That people are willing to help others when in need. That my smile can be met with another, or that a stranger's smile can brighten my day.

I once took the tram up chapel street. The trams going up and down this street are the extremely old school ones. With brown leather seats and leather ropes to pull for the next stop. They go extremely slowly and create many traffic delays. On this particular day the tram was going especially slowly, but it was still fun to watch the world go by and wonder if people knew I was watching them on the street. Then suddenly the tram stops and there is an announcement on the speaker, "I apologise but the tram has come to a stop. Could someone please help me push it so we can get it going again?"

At this there is a pause. Really? Getting out and physically pushing the tram? It was just too much. As a few men step outside to give the tram driver a hand, my eyes lock with the girl sitting opposite me. A smile slowly spreads and before we know it, we're laughing from the bottom of our stomachs. It was just so ridiculous and random we couldn't help it. The tram gets going again and everyone steps back on. We stop laughing but there are still huge grins on our faces. Only in Melbourne.

Along church street, there is also a bar named Maeve Fox. We celebrated my good friend Ivy's 21st birthday here and it was an eventful night full of alcohol, dancing and laughter of course. I was entrusted with the task of making cupcakes and it was super fun to do. I originally planned to bake the cupcakes the night before, seeing as there were going to be pre-drinks at my house, but I'm not quite sure where that idea went. I had also planned to stay home all day to prepare, but my university assignment had other plans. However in the end they were (by some beautiful miracle) all finished! All 80 mini cupcakes. So proud.

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes Recipe
Adapted from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas
Makes 16 regular or 48 mini cupcakes

These cupcakes were made for Ivy's 21st Birthday to match her "Purple theme."
I made two batches of mini cupcakes and then one and half batches of the icing to make it work out evenly.

115g dark chocolate 70% cocoa
85g unsalted butter. at room temperature
175g brown sugar
2 free range eggs, separated
185g plain flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
250ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius fan forced and line a a couple of 12 hole muffin trays or four 12 hole mini cupcake trays with cupcake cases.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt. You can do this by putting it into a microwave safe container or bowl and heating it for thirty second intervals, mixing between each interval. Make sure that you don't burn the chocolate. Alternatively, you can put it in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure not to touch the water itself, and melt it slowly stirring gently. Leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and smooth. This will take about 3 - 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment. In a separate bowl with a clean set of beaters, beat the egg yolks for a few minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the yolks gradually to the creamed mixture and then add the melted chocolate to the mixture and beat well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Put the milk and vanilla extract in a jug. Pour in one third of the milk mixture to the chocolate mixture and beat well. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat well. Pour in the next third of milk mixture and beat. add in the next third of flour mixture and beat. Pour in the final third of milk mixture and beat. Add in the final third of flour mixture and beat well.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. gently fold in the egg whites into the batter with a spatula. Try to retain as much air in the mixture as you can.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases to about two-thirds full. (For this step I used a piping bag to pipe the mixture in, it is much faster when you're making multiple batches) You could also pour the runny batter from a jug or use an ice-cream scoop with an in-built scraper.

Bake regular cupcakes for 20-25 minutes and 15 minutes for mini size cupcakes. A skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle of a cake should come out clean when the cakes are ready to come out of the oven. Take them out and leave them in the tray to cool for about 10 minutes, and then remove and leave to cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing Recipe

Adapted from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas
Makes enough to ice 15 - 20 regular or 60 mini cupcakes

175g dark chocolate 70% cocoa
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g pure icing sugar, sifted

Melt the chocolate as instructed above either by microwave in 30 second intervals or with a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Leave to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth. Use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a electric hand mixer. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until it thickens up and is nice and creamy.

Ice the cupcakes and decorate to your liking.

Hoping everyone else had a good weekend too,

From Jen.

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