Julie’s Lemon Diva Cupcakes

100g unsalted butter, softened
185g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
2 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
Zest of 3 lemons

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160C fan-forced). Line muffin pans with paper cases of your choice.
2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste with electric mixer until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Add the flour and milk in alternate batches and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add flavourings of your choice ( this was where Julie added the zest of 3 Lemons).
3. Spoon some mixture into paper cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Smoked Chicken and Sundried Tomato Cheesecake

Serves 10

Base:
250g crushed savoury cheese biscuits
90g melted butter

Filling:
10g butter
2 large leeks, sliced
250g Philadelphia cream cheese, softenend
300g sour cream
5 eggs
200g smoked chicken breast, roughly chopped
150g sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g grated cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish:
Fresh thyme leaves and semi-dried tomatoes

1. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter and press into base of lined and greased 23cm spring form pan. Chill.
2. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan and sauté leeks until softened. Cool.
3. Beat Philadelphia cream cheese using an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the sour cream then the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Stir in the leeks, chicken, tomatoes, cheddar, thyme and seasoning.
4. Pour mixture into prepared base and bake at 160°C for 45-50 minutes until just set. Cool slightly in ov en with door ajar before removing from tin. Serve warm or at room temperature garnsihed with thyme and sundried tomatoes and a fresh salad.

Sun Sparkle Cheesecake

Basic Cheesecake Mixture:
1 x 440g can condensed milk
375g cream cheese or sieved cottage cheese
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 large lemons)
2/3 cup whipped cream
1 Tbsp gelatine dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water

Basic Crumb Crust:
1 generous cup corn flake crumbs or crumbed biscuits (about 11 butternut snap biscuits)
60g melted butter
Pinch nutmeg

Fruit Mixture:
1 x 450g can crushed pineapple plus liquid
2 oranges, juiced
2 passionfruit, pulped
Arrowroot to thicken (or cornflour)

1. Mix the ingredients of the Basic Crumb Crust. Press firmly onto base only of greased 20cm spring form tin and refrigerate
2. Combine the ingredients of the fruit mixture excluding the arrowroot and set aside.
3. Beat softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add condensed milk, beating well, and then add lemon juice gradually. Whip cream and fold into mixture. Add dissolved gelatine.
4. Add 1/3 fruit mixture to Basic Cheesecake mixture. Pour into prepared spring form tin. Allow to set.
5. Heat remaining 2/3 fruit mixture, thicken with arrowroot. Spread over cake. Refrigerate till firm.
6. Decorate with cream.

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Biscuits

Makes about 4 dozen

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup quality dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2–3/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (equates to about 175g butter)

1. Whisk flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Put sugar, vanilla, and egg into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add butter and continue to beat on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes more. Using your fingers, work flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is just combined. It looks like thick, but gooey chocolate frosting.
3. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 9″ log. Wrap each log in parchment paper, twisting ends tightly to make a uniform cylinder. Freeze dough logs for at least 8 hours and as long as overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap dough and slice each log into rounds about 1/3″ thick. Place rounds 1/2″ apart on parchment paper–lined cookie sheets. Bake cookies until slightly puffed and tiny cracks appear on surface, about 8 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to let cool.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Pavlova

5 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups caster sugar

1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

# Preheat oven to 200 C.
# Beat egg whites and salt until stiff in a clean, dry bowl. Gradually add sugar and beat until thick and creamy. Add remaining ingredients and beat until just combined.
# Spray oven tray with oil, and cover with baking paper. Arrange meringue mixture on baking paper, forming into a circle about 16cm in diametre, and smooth sides and top with a spatula. Place in centre of oven and immediately turn oven down to 120C and bake for 1 1/4 hours.
# The pavlova will increase in size to about 22cm in diametre and rise.
# Turn off oven and allow pavlova to cool before removing.

Small Pavlova

2 egg whites
pinch of salt
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp white vinegar

# Follow above instructions but form into a smaller circle and bake for 45 minutes.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley