1 Year Blog Celebration {+ Victoria Sponge Cake}

At the beginning of grade 10, we needed to write a letter to our “future selves” – meaning that we would receive this letter by the end of grade 12.  So the only memory of what I wrote, which is ingrained in my mind, is having the courage to one day start a blog or YouTube channel. But little did I know, about 2 months after this, that Beyond Our Sky was going to be born. So here is a collection of photographs from over past year that have become some of my very favourites, as well as a Victoria sponge cake to celebrate! brownies5-2.jpgMarch 24th 2016 seemed like just a normal day. I was 15 years old, the school term was almost finished, the holidays were about to begin, and I made the decision to just do it. The process seemed a lot more daunting in my mind, but I simply needed to create a WordPress account, choose a domain and theme, then after I got that part set up – I basically started cooking, photographing writing and posting. Most of the time people ask me why I started a blog since I’m only 16 years old, and it’s always so hard to explain because, quite truthfully, it was like the dream found me.  macaron9So the best way I can describe this feeling is like fishing (not that I know much about fishing!). You’re standing out there on a jetty, waiting for a fish but not really expecting anything, then suddenly there’s something pulling on your line. Boom. You just caught a fish. But out there, in the vastness of the sea, this fish managed to find your line similar to how the opportunity/dream finds you. So what were you doing to attract this fish? 1) You were being patient and 2) there was bait on your fishing line. And this basically explains the law of attraction – where we are able to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on. french-toast2So you were focusing on catching a fish and you caught a fish. Simple. But the crazy thing about opportunity is that it is often unclear; like when you are fishing, you can hardly see the fish swimming in the water. To me, the opportunity to start a blog was clearly present at the time but in my head and through me eyes, I just couldn’t see it. cake7The law of attraction, in my case, works because I’ve been cooking for a long time now. I used to be obsessed with making cupcakes and I took photos of them on my iPhone 4. At the time, it seemed like something fun to do and was a hobby during the holidays, but I was unconscious and unaware to the fact that I was attracting this dream. protein balls12.jpgI was focusing on cooking, learning everyday through YouTube videos and other blogs until one day, unexpectedly, the fish managed to find my line. The opportunity was always present, like the fish are always swimming in the ocean, and I could have started a blog when I was 12 or 14 (it wouldn’t be very good though!) but it was only until 1 year ago that I realised it. cake26The whole essence and purpose of Beyond Our Sky is to make you realise your full potential. To open your eyes to world before you,  to see the beauty in your life and to live everyday as best you can. Make the most of what you have. Don’t be afraid. The sky is truly the limit. cake48.jpgSo why Michelle, why did you start a blog? …. because, why not?

Thank you everyone, in all sincerity, who has been there from the very beginning. It truly means the world to me and I never imagined Beyond Our Sky coming this far. Thank you for all the wonderfully kind comments, likes, follows, and compliments – I wouldn’t be here without every single one of you!

 

Victoria Sponge Cake

  • 250g softened butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 500mL cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • Strawberry filling (recipe below)
  • 350g fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
  • Icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line 4 x 15cm (or 2 x 20cm) circular cake tins.
  2. In an electric mixer on high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in colour. About 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each addition. Then add the vanilla extract. On the lowest speed, fold in the flour and add the milk. Beat until just combined and do not over mix.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Then allow to cool completely and transfer to wire rack.
  4. Assembly: Whip the cream and vanilla bean seeds to medium-stiff peaks. Place the first layer of cake onto platter/stand. Spread with cream and strawberry filling, and add a generous amount of chopped strawberries. Repeat with remaining layers and decorate with more cream, strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar.
Strawberry Filling
  • 1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 35g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  1.  In a saucepan, combine the raspberries, 3 tablespoons of water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally and crushing the berries with the back of a spoon.
  2. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the berries have broken down. Dissolve the cornflour in the remaining 1 tablespoons of water. Whisk the slurry into the strawberry mixture.
  3. Bring the mixture back to a boil and whisk continuously for 1-2 more minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl. Then refrigerate to cool completely until ready to assemble.

 

 


White Chocolate and Raspberry Macarons

I know it’s been a while since I last posted and I am very sorry. I’m not a lazy blogger or anything, it just gets a little difficult sometimes with school (especially in grade 11!), assessment and sport. I can’t say that it was the most enjoyable first term because, quite truthfully, it was one of the hardest. But you can only go up from here, right? Right (hopefully).macaron10.jpgMacarons have never been easy for me. If you read my previous post on the Mocha Chocolate Cake + Mocha MacaronsI explain the common misconceptions vs. truths and some tips to achieve the perfect macarons. Please keep in mind that mine are not at ‘French patisserie’ level yet,  and I’m still working on consistency and perfecting the feet so I am no expert!macaron8.jpgIf you’ve been following me closely, you may know that it was Beyond Our Sky’s first anniversary on March 24th, but I did not have time to make a cake and complete a celebration post in time for that specific day! I made an oreo/cookies and cream cake last week, but I was not confident with the pictures and thought it was best not to post it. macaron12I do have another cake planned however, which should come out by the end of next week (if it turns out, that is). And on a another note, I turned 16 a few weeks ago!!! I’m not a “15 year old blogger” anymore but a “16 year old blogger”. Wow, shocking I know. I don’t feel any older or more mature, I still feel like a “kid” I was 5 years ago to be honest. It’s not really a new age (or year), new me situation. macaron9
But each day as get older, grade 12 becomes closer and I will actually have to decide what career I want to pursue. Of course, I have thought about it; everyday in fact. And it scares me to be honest, the idea of doing the same thing for the rest of your life. I can’t keep avoiding though it because it naturally comes, I can’t stop time nor can anyone. I can’t stop growing up. macaron.jpgI have so many, so so many things I want to achieve but I’m worried that I won’t do it time. I watched this Ted Talk (find it here!) about gaining control of your free time, and the message which really stood out to me was: by saying you don’t have enough time simply means that it is not your priority. macaron3.jpgI have so many ideas for blogging/video projects…but I haven’t even started putting them into action. Probably because they’re not my priority at the moment since I need to finish school first. But there is this one thing however, that I want to complete by the end of the year and I don’t want to tell you about it yet. I can’t stop thinking about it and if I put the hard work in – it will be a huge accomplishment!

So these macarons are probably the best ones I’ve made (even though bright pink is not my favourite colour any more). The sweetness of the white chocolate ganache is balanced by the raspberry jam-like filling. I think my photography is improving as well, and I hope to do a tutorial one day on how I take my photos i.e. the lighting, angles, editing etc. Stay tuned! x

 

White Chocolate and Raspberry Macarons 

I used Ann Reardon’s recipe for the shells and made a few adjustments. You can make the shells any colour you prefer, but do not use liquid food colouring! And since macarons are a bit finicky, I suggest reading my previous post for some hints and tips!

White Chocolate Ganache
  • 200g good quality white chocolate, chopped (I suggest one that is not overly sweet)
  • 100g heavy/thickened cream
  1. Microwave method: In a microwave safe bowl, add the chopped chocolate and pour over the cream. Microwave on high at 30 seconds intervals, stirring well in between until everything has melted (if there are small lumps of chocolate, only microwave for 10 seconds).
    Stove top method: Place the chocolate into a bowl – set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer (almost boiling). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Then mix gently until smooth and chocolate has melted.
  2. Once you have made the ganache, allow it to thicken at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Raspberry Filling
  • 1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 35g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  1.  In a saucepan, combine the raspberries, 3 tablespoons of water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally and crushing the berries with the back of a spoon.
  2. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the berries have broken down. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the strained mixture to the heat.
  3. Dissolve the cornflour in the remaining 1 tablespoons of water. Whisk the slurry into the raspberry mixture.
  4. Bring the mixture back to a boil and whisk continuously for 1-2 more minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl. Then refrigerate to cool completely until ready to assemble.
Macaron Shells
  • 220g icing sugar
  • 120g almond meal
  • 120g or 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 80g caster sugar
  • Pink gel food colouring, optional (I used Wilton Pink)
  1. In a food processor, combine the icing sugar and almond meal. Process until smooth and there are no obvious lumps. Alternatively, sift the ingredients 3 times using a coarse sieve. Set aside
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and whip to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar in a steady stream and whip to stiff peaks. It should appear be very glossy and if you turn the bowl upside down, no meringue should fall out.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the meringue mixture and fold until it reaches a “lava-like” consistency. It should fall of your spatula and disappear into the batter in about 10 seconds.
  4. Transfer mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm-round nozzle (I used the Wilton #2A). Pipe macarons shells approximately 2-3cm in size onto a lined baking tray (optional: use this template). Make sure you leave about 3cm of space in between each one as they will flaten.
  5. Bang the tray the 3 times on the bench to remove any air bubbles. Let macaron shells sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour to form a dry skin.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at  160° C 10-12 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely on baking tray then transfer onto wire rack.
  8. Pair the macaron shells with ones of similar size. Paint one side with more food colouring in any preferred design.
Assembly
  1. Transfer thickened ganache into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle (I used the Wilton #12). And transfer the raspberry filling into a piping bag with a small corner cut off (piping tip is not needed!)
  2. Pipe the thickened ganache in a circle close to the edge of the shell (like a donut) and fill the hole with raspberry filling, then sandwich together with matching shell. Repeat with remaining shells to complete the macarons. Then serve and enjoy!