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Magic Vanilla Cake

This is a picture from the week I first landed in the US, exactly one year ago.

 

First week in NY

 

I was jet-lagged and yet crazy excited to begin my new life in a new country with a new husband (only husband 😛 ) and new everything!

 

And here I am one year later.

 

Easter

 

What a whirlwind this year has been. It’s had its ups and downs but I would have never guessed how perfectly things would come together in the end.

 

I won’t lie – it’s been a BIG adjustment. Moving away from everyone I know and love, from friends and family, from a wonderful job, from all things familiar. The furthest I been away from Mom and Dad is a four hour flight. Now that’s 18 hours. That is still the absolute hardest thing to stomach.

 

But this has certainly been a year touched by magic. Setting up a new home, learning what it means to be married (it means sharing bacon and blankets and it can get tough), finding a job I love, travelling to some gorgeous places I’ve never seen before and meeting amazing people.

 

magic

 

This year has taught me that making that big change can be terrifying, but if you take the leap, whatever comes of it, you will be better, stronger and happier at the end of it.

 

There’s magic to be found in the most unlikely places.

 

Like even in this cake! It has some relatively basic pantry ingredients but once you bake it, it magically becomes three delicious layers – light and fluffy top, custard-y center and dense, cake-y base! Whaaaa?!

 

The cake itself isn’t very sweet, and is rather light. It’s not egg-y either! Just make sure you use good quality vanilla extract.

 

Here’s how you pull the rabbit out of the hat 🙂

 

Magic Vanilla Cake

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Serves: 8-10

 

Magic Cake 1

 

Ingredients:

 

115g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus a little more for greasing

4 eggs, separated

150g/ 1 and 3/4 cup icing sugar

115g/ 1 cup flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

475ml/ 2 cups milk, slightly warm

 

Magic Cake 2

 

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF and grease a 8 by 8 inch baking tin with butter. Using an electric whisk, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then set aside.
  2. In a different bowl, beat the egg yolks and icing sugar until pale and well combined. Add the melted and cooled butter with a tablespoon of water and mix again. Add the flour and combine well.
  3. Add the vanilla and then gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the time. Now gently fold in the reserved egg whites a little at a time. Once everything is well combined, pour into the tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes. The center will be slightly wobbly once done but will harden as it cools once removed from the oven. Serve warm.

 

Happy weekend! Love you’ll! 😀

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I had heard about the wonderful extravaganza that is the Kingdom of Dreams.


I’d seen a few pictures and read some articles, but nothing in the world could prepare me for the experience I had.


Let me take you on a journey.


The entrance itself was glittering and golden.


Entrance


There were huge elephant sculptures, men in colourful clothes, and festive music.


Music men


For the adventure junkies, there is a reverse bungee jump you can try. I was feeling like a chicken that day, so I decided to just enter the main building instead.


Reverse bungee jump


The Kingdom of dreams is a celebration of all things larger than life.


Everywhere you lay your eyes, there is something impossibly beautiful looking back at you.


Like this serene Sleeping Buddha, that reminded me so much of the one in Thailand.


Sleeping Buddha


Or this wall of reflecting mirrors that catch the light in the most delicate, dreamy way.


Wall of mirrors


Take a look at this bejeweled entrance.


Bejeweled entrance


You can see the thought in every little detail.


Details


The Culture Gully was my favourite section. It is, very simply, where the food is at.


You’ll find a restaurant representing almost every state in India, and it’s impossible to not find something you’ll love to eat here.


Decorated to showcase the culture of the region, each restaurant also has a shop where you can buy trinkets and curios that you’d traditionally find in those places.


Here’s Bengal. It made me homesick.


West bengal


Here’s the stunning Chennai. (This also made me homesick. I’m all mixed up okay, so it’s possible.)


Chennai


Bombay had a local train motif going, which I loved.


Mumbai local


The interiors were even more stunning.


This was inside the Kerala restaurant. Aren’t the colours magnificent? (Homesick yet again. Sigh)


Kerala


A wall of cups and saucers in the Assam section. Perfection!


Assam


There are also some fun activities to indulge in like face reading, palm reading, and foot massages!


We checked out this very cool Bollywood Lounge bar with huge movie posters, and lots of red carpet to walk around on.


Film lounge


The whole Culture Gully area is covered with a false sky – so any time of the day or night, it’s always a cheerful blue at Kingdom of Dreams.


False sky


Here’s a look from above.


View from above


Once we had looked around, we went to the beautiful Rajasthan restaurant.


Rajasthan


This very charming Maharaj ji regaled us with his stories, and made us feel as though we were eating in a family home.


Maharaj ji


The food, although vegetarian, was outstanding.


This Raj Kachori was the best I’ve ever had. It was stuffed till it burst, and had a delicious sweetness from pomegranate seeds, crunch from the bhujia, and a silken creaminess from the yogurt.


Raj kachori


We also tasted the thali which was a mix of some traditional and some unsual Rajasthani offerings. We were given advice on how best to enjoy every dish, what to mix it with, and which items to eat first.


Thali


We were fed with not just the food, but with unbelievable amounts of care. That is what made it so very memorable.


Stuffed till we could eat no more, we headed off to Nautanki Mahal, a venue for Bollywood style musicals and theatre. It was here that we watched Zangoora- The Gypsy prince – the most amazing Bollywood show ever. It had FANTASTIC dancing, beautiful costumes, and amazing sets. There were acrobats and hanging gliders and other magical stunts. The music was only popular Bollywood numbers and we couldn’t stop ourselves from singing along. Sushmita and I even got a chance to dance with some of the performers at the end of the show.


Unfortunately photography was prohibited during the show. Otherwise I’d have got at least one picture of the very talented Hussain who plays the main lead. (Ladies – he took his shirt off. And his abs are a sight to behold. Just another reason to go watch the show :P)


Kingdom of Dreams is a celebration of all things Indian. It is magical, colourful, musical, bright, delicious, and very, very happy making.


We had an unbelievably fun day! Here’s a picture of some of us still grinning after the show.


Sangeeta, Sushmita, and me


I went home feeling like child – with my hope in all things good, restored.


Doesn’t this lion make you believe in magic?


Lion


Head over to Kingdom of Dreams as soon as you can. I promise you’ll have the most memorable time.


Here’s what the other bloggers had to say:
Sangeeta from Banaras ka Khana
Himanshu from The White Ramekins
Parul from The Shirazine
Sushmita from My Unfinished Life


*Giveaway winner alert*: By a random draw, the winner of my 100th post giveaway is Priyanka Banerjee! Congratulations sweetie! Email me at charis1984@gmail.com with your address please 🙂


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“…they saw a light rain of tiny yellow flowers falling. They fell on the town all through the night in a silent storm, and they covered the roofs and blocked the doors…So many flowers fell from the sky that in the morning the streets were carpeted with a compact cushion and they had to clear them away with shovels and rakes…” One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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This month’s book club pick was this magnificent novel.

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An epic story about a family spanning several generations, the magic realism is what makes this one of my favorite books.

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A cloud of yellow butterflies follow a man around wherever he goes.

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Flowers fall from the sky incessantly.

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A beautiful woman floats into thin air.

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Magical things happen.

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Something like that happened when I tried my hand at roast pork for the very first time.

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It all began with a glorious hunk of pork. It had the perfect ratio of fat to meat, and lovely skin.
I could foresee some crispy crackling in my future 🙂

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After almost four hours, the roast was ready to cut into and it was tender and flavourful and had all the other wondrous qualities that pork always has. The veggies and potatoes I baked with the roast were sweet and caramelized- the perfect accompaniment along with some gravy (unashamedly out of a packet).

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Leftover slices of roast pork are great in sandwiches as well. If there are any leftovers that is 😉
Magical, magical pork 🙂

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Roast pork with caramelized winter vegetables
(Masterchef Australia hangover recipe name)

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Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 3-4 hours
Serves: 6-8
Eat this with: Some bread and gravy

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Ingredients:

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500 g pork, a large piece with skin, fat and meat
salt, for drying
50 ml apple cider vinegar
2 carrots, halved lengthways and cut into 3 large chunks each
4-6 medium potatoes, skin on
6-8 bulbs of garlic
2 onions, peeled and quartered
warm water

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Method:

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1. Preheat the oven to 200º C. Score the skin with a sharp knife. Cut through, but not too deep and aim for criss crossy look. Rub salt all over the skin. This will dry it out, making for extra crispy crackling 🙂
2. Place the pork on a baking tray. Put all the vegetables and potatoes around the pork. Drizzle the apple cider vinegar around the veggies and add a little bit of warm water.
3. Place the tray in the oven. Leave inside for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Check every half an hour and add a few teaspoons of warm water every time the tray seems dry. Rotate the pork and the veggies at least twice during the baking time. Spoon some of the juices from the tray onto the pork a few times, to keep it moist throughout the process.
4. You will be able to tell when it is cooked. The top will be beautifully crisp and when you cut into the pork, it won’t be red inside. Take out the tray and leave it to rest for about half an hour before you eat.

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“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
Harriet van Horne

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When I say love, what food do you think of?

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Strawberries and champagne.

Anything chocolate (y).

Fresh watermelon.

A rich soup, and some crusty bread.

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(Wait, was that last one that weird?)

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Food and love are so deeply connected.

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I cook when I’m in love.
I cook for people I love.
I love what I cook.
I love when I cook.

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Don’t you?

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These cupcakes are special. They’re not everyday. They’re not ordinary.
They’re beautiful. Magical. Lovable.

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They’re rich, yet light.
Their gorgeous deep red colour makes me smile every time I lay my eyes on them.
They resound with love.
They make me believe in love.

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Make some, won’t you? Share some love 🙂

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Red velvet “love” cupcakes
Adapted from: Joy the baker

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Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes: 6

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Ingredients:

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2 tbsp butter
45 g ground sugar
1 egg
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp red food colouring
½ tsp vanilla extract
60 ml buttermilk
70 g plain flour, sifted
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar

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For the cream cheese frosting

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1½ tbsp butter
30 g cream cheese
60 g icing sugar, sifted

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NOTE: This is for a moderate amount. If you like your cupcakes smothered in frosting, by all means up the quantities.

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Method:

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For the red velvet cupcakes

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1. Preheat the oven to 180º C. In bowl mix the butter and sugar together well. Crack the egg in the mixture, and stir vigorously.
2. In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, food colour, and vanilla extract together. Put this into the egg mixture and stir well again, removing any lumps.
3. Add half the buttermilk and stir. Add half the flour and mix again. Add the remaining buttermilk and flour, and stir until you have a smooth batter.
4. Add the baking soda and vinegar, and mix well one last time.
5. Pour into a tray lined with cupcake liners and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

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For the cream cheese frosting

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1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste, and add more sugar if you like.
2. Put into a piping bag with a simple rounded tip, and pipe small circles in the centre of the cooled cupcakes.
3. Devour! 🙂

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“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.”- Neil Gaiman

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Do you remember the 8-year-old you?

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Did you read Enid Blyton?

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Did you long for a dog like Scamper?

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Did you create a very secret detective group with your friends (password included)?

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Did you try looking for the Faraway Tree?

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Did you scrape your knees searching for pixies in gardens?

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Did magic seem possible?

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And most importantly do you remember the food?

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Did you ask your mother to make you a shiny trifle or a wobbly jelly?

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Did you wonder what scones with clotted cream tasted like?

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Do you remember how cookies and cucumber sandwiches sounded like the most delicious things ever?

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Today let’s go down the rabbit hole.

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Let’s eat some cookies and recall that feeling.

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The feeling that anything was possible.

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It all begins with black and white. Doesn’t everything?

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How glossy and perfect is the chocolate?

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Then it becomes a gorgeous brown.

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Pack it up. BTW Don’t you just love bags you can label?

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Get your instruments ready.

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Line ‘em up.

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They look good, don’t they?

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Say hello to them just out of the oven.

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These are not safe to keep around the house. They vanish. I don’t know how 🙂

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Chocolate Cookies

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Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen’s Brownie roll-out cookies (adapted slightly)

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 12 mins

Makes: depends on the size of the cutter you use. I made 32 from about half the dough.

Eat this with: A mug of hot chocolate or a light coffee

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Ingredients:

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400 g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

220 g butter, melted but warm

300 g brown sugar (granulated)

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

90 g cocoa powder

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Method:

  1. Put the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and dry whisk them together. Set aside.
  2.  In another bowl, mix the warm melted butter and sugar together. The butter will melt the sugar granules slightly. This is good! Now add the eggs, vanilla extract and cocoa powder and mix well.
  3. Add the flour mixture (a little at a time) to the cocoa mixture, stirring well to incorporate. Do the final mixing by hand. You should have a pretty solid chocolate dough at this stage.
  4. Wrap in cling-wrap or zip-lock bags and chill for about one hour. The dough freezes well at this stage. I like to make little bags, so I can take them out even weeks later and bake small batches whenever a sugar craving comes calling.
  5. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180º C. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out gently to about ¼ inch thickness. Dust with a little flour so it doesn’t stick. Use cutters to cut into whatever sizes or shapes you wish.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment and line up the cookies on it. They don’t spread at all, so you can fill up the tray with just a little space around each. Bake these for about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
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