cupcakes: how to edit your baking recipes for the altitude

Namrata Singh//carrot cake cupcakes and maple cream cheese frosting. 

i finally got around to baking here for the first time for some friends last week. the most exciting part about it was that i visited kadies and found neon pink dusting powder. i used my usual smitten kitchen recipe and they tasted delicious but didn’t look as delectable as they normally do because i was in denial that we live on the highveld and therefore should have adjusted my baking practices according to our altitude. 

Namrata Singh//carrot cake batter

because of the lighter air pressure foods (and my lungs, i can barely run 5 kilometres i can barely run) respond differently than us low altitude dwellers are used to. so, the first thing you need to do is decrease your amount of leavening agents by about 15-25% percent per 5,000 feet. in jozi we are at 5,751 feet so i now take out about a quarter of the baking soda (i.e. take out 1/4 teaspoon for every teaspoon the recipe calls for). you also need to increase the amount of liquid to counter the dryness….add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of liquid per cup of flour (note: in baking, eggs do not count as liquid but butter does). the internet also recommends decreasing the amount of sugar by 2 to 3 tablespoons per cup of sugar but i say ‘pshaw’ to that. 

the last recommendation is to raise the cooking temp by 20 degrees F or 11 degrees C (math people i know that 20 degrees F does not equal 11 degrees C in a direct conversion) and slightly shorten the cooking time. i can’t help you with that, you’ll just have to poke your cupcake with toothpicks to figure out exactly when to take them out. 

while they weren’t as lovely of a color or perky as they normally are i was able to hide the imperfections with the heavenly frosting.  and they were absolutely delicious which made up for what they were lacking in looks. and now i hope you can use my misadventure to avoid having one of your own!

ps. for you fellow americans baking soda is called bicarbonate of soda here and confectioners or powdered sugar is called caster sugar and both can be found in the plenty even at the most basic grocery stores (which is not the case for you poor berliners). 

24th october, 2011

baking recipes Johannesburg




fashion fridays.

Namrata Singh// in our living room

i realize that this outfit is a bit plain and a bit of a cop out since i already featured the shirt and necklace this week in a post about neighbourgoods. my reason for using it anyway is that i should focus on local african designers as much as possible. and to make up for my lack of creativity i have a little extra for you: my nails. in a pathetic heroic attempt to save money since we are dropping hard earned cash for cars sometime this month i decided to do my own nails, (p, my parade please).

i wore this outfit to lunch at my friend bing’s house (she cooked and hosted a delicious lunch with some other ‘real’ bloggers- heather, martina, sine and clare) and to my first photography class. i learned a ton at both. a very successful day in south africa.

glasses: garrett leight via shopbop

necklaces: ruby, skermunkil, and i don’t remember from an nyc flea market

shirt: take care clothing via neighbourgoods

black bandeau: h&m because see-through shirts need bandeaus

jeans: mavi via the mavi store in hackesher markt (berlin), they were like 2 for 1. i don’t really like them though because they get super loose after one wear.

and le manicure. i got my inspiration via this pin on pinterest. i think it turned out okay. it is a feat to properly photograph your own nails though.

Namrata Singh//homemade mani

grey: opi in moon over mumbai

gold glitter: opi in only gold for me

top coat: essie in no chips ahead (i only mention because it works preeetty well)

i am off to cape town for the week with p tomorrow and i am incredibly excited to see the city that the whole word talks about (and by ‘see’ i mean ‘drink my way through several wine farms’). i hope your weekend is fabulous and restful. bis nächstes mal meine kartoffelköpfe!!

21st october, 2011

fashion friday skermunkil design shopbop garrett leight Take Care Clothing manicures Johannesburg




things to do in joburg: wolves cafe (adorable, unlimited internet in an internet challenged country)

Namrata Singh//wolves cafe 

if you’ve ever lived or visited south africa you know this country is a bit internet challenged. never before had i had a thought about how many bytes of internet i use. i was blissfully sucking all the magical internet i pleased through my various apple devices. since arriving here we’ve been surviving on an overpriced stick (who uses internet sticks?) from vodacom. i had to think twice before clicking on each gawker recap video of real housewives of new jersey radiolab podcast. so you can see how pathetic my life was becoming. at present we have no stick and we are waiting for our relocation service to get its act together for proper internet at our house and i thought i was out of luck for a whole week. think about it. a week. without. internet. after having an existential crisis and deciding that yes, in fact if i do not have internet then life is meaningless i ordered p to set out to find a place with unlimited internet.

IF cafes here or even hotels have complimentary wifi they usually have daily limits on it. if you didn’t know how quickly you go through 75mb you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. never fear, wolves café to the rescue.  it is located in illovo on the corner of corlett and oxford road (right next to oliva).  first of all it is ADORABLE with adorable little bunting flags strung up everywhere and delicious baked goods. as you can see, i said f**k you to my newly slightly slower metabolism and had a red velvet cupcake and latte. best of all, i lazily sat for hours using the free, unlimited, delicious internet. they also sell some adorable wares including pieces by skermunkil design. they do sponsored movie nights sometimes and this week the film was Dirty Dancing, so in addition to having delectable treats it is clear that they are tasteful cinephiles. if you are looking for a charming (and yes, trendy) place to enjoy some solitude and internet then wolves is a good bet. 

20th october, 2011

wolves cafe Johannesburg internet




our first dinner party in joburg

Namrata Singh//caramel cake

in berlin we loved to entertain on the trusty long black ikea dining table and in joburg that hasn’t changed. so last week we decided that the house was in a state of ordered chaos ready for our first dinner party in south africa.  on sunday I spent the whole day cooking a french menu while p dutifully painted the bathroom and put up pictures.

i like this menu because if you have your sh*t together theoretically you can cook all of it beforehand and keep it warm which is perfect for entertaining. in fact, the coq au vin, mushrooms, onions, and soup all taste BETTER the more time they’ve had to stew. the menu:

soupe à l’oignon (french onion soup) from smitten kitchen

coq au vin (chicken in red wine) from the incomparable julia child

champignons sautés au buerre (butter drenched sauteed mushrooms) via julia

oignons glacés a brun (brown braised baby onions) via julia 

french mashed potatoes from tasty kitchen

caramel cake is from woolworths*. oh snap! that’s right i didn’t bake for our precious guests. and i bought a cake from a huge department store.  it’s ok i’ll they’ll get over it.

 *for people who don’t live in rsa, woolworth’s is a whole new world down here.

Namrata Singh//bud vases

i managed to clip a few flowers for our test tube bud vases (thanks mo). i could only get a few simple ones since i knew where they were in the dark and i didn’t have time to do the song and dance of turning on the outside lights on (our property is an acre!).  the french onion soup turned out well enough but since our day was chaotic i didn’t manage to heat up the broiler to a high enough temp by dinner time to get that delicious burned crispy look on top. 

Namrata Singh//soupe à l’oignon

we got use our wedding stuff for the first time so it was fun to set the table. (and um, we’re still working on our thank you cards. gulp.)

Namrata Singh//table setting

the other tragedy is after the first course i guess i started drinking a little too much wine (hehe)  and forgot to take pictures of the subsequent courses. so instead, i’ll leave you with one more gratuitous shot of that delicious cake.


Namrata Singh//good enough to eat 

the night was a success as our guests were hilarious, the food was gone and we were a tad hungover the next day.

19th october, 2011

OurHouse dinner party recipe Johannesburg




things to do in joburg: neighbourgoods market

Namrata Singh//neighbourgoods market sign

this weekend we visited the neighbourgoods market. it was just lovely! it is located on the corner of juta street and de beer street, in downtown joburg. it runs on saturdays until it dies out around 3 (we were there until 4). hot tip: when using a satellite navigator in joburg, typing in an intersection gets accurate results more consistently than entering a regular street address…but more on that in another post! it is not unlike the Arts on Main market, in that there are delicious foods and such.

Namrata Singh//plants in a bag at the neighbourgoods market

the crowd is sexy, the food is yummy, and after you’ve had a few belgian beers or margaritas you might find yourself dancing with some new friends. the market only opened a little over a month ago so you should visit before it becomes oversaturated and cliché soon. i heard from a new friend that renting a stall is only about three or four hundred rand per day, so i’m thinking of selling my cupcakes or other baked goods if i can ever get it together. i think an exploratory visit to kadies is in order!

Namrata Singh//sexy people at the neighbourgoods market

as noted, local fashion designers and artisans fill the stalls of these markets, so I found this white shirt from Take Care Clothing and that tube necklace from Skermunkil Design Studio, (you can find her blog here to find out where to buy her awesome pieces).

Namrata Singh//loot from neighbourgoods

i am so inspired by ladies like them…creating beautiful pieces for affordable prices, running their own businesses and not letting things like Fear of Failure stop them. for me, one of the biggest appeals of going to these markets is seeing people selling their wares…it is like they are baring a piece of their soul and saying: Hello. I made/designed/created this. I’m standing here and hoping that you like what I made and want to further my business and creativity by buying one. although the designers probably don’t think about it like that since they are used to doing this type of thing a lot, for me watching it is a profound experience. one of the reasons we made the decision to move to joburg was so that i could decide what it is i want to do with the rest of my life. i am forced to not work for a while as a holder of a dependent visa, and I don’t want this time to be for naught. i want to make the right decision for my career path, and not let fear keep me from making the right one.

17th October, 2011

Johannesburg Take Care Clothing baubles jhb neighbourgoods market skermunkil design fas fashion




springtime bonus post.

Namrata Singh//one of the many new blooms in our garden

it is springtime in the southern hemisphere so i thought i would share one of the many new flowers which are popping up around our estate yard. it looks like a veritable botany garden out there. i’ll share some of the more exotic flowers as summer gets closer. 

13th october, 2011 bonus post! 

johannesburg flowers OurHouse jhb




on finding usable public transportation in joburg (really!)

when you move to a new city (let alone country) it always takes some time to get your life ‘going.’ this includes taming your home, finding your favorite markets, your routines, figuring out some of the cities ‘secrets,’ and eventually instead of feeling like a newcomer in a city, you feel that the city has become yours. every time one of these things happens or something clicks you feel like it is a small miracle and then you are intangibly closer to calling the city your own. for example, i recently found out where i can find endless baking supplies in jozi. victory! in berlin this was a real problem for me, and i was constantly lugging back proper baking supplies from the states. our visitors got stopped in airport security to answer what the white powder (baking soda) was in their suitcases. (i didn’t figure out until the end was sold in pharmacies and not grocery stores). 

we have had one victory this week that can’t be overvalued. first of all in this huge, controversial, beautiful city it is was a fact that you cannot easily or safely use public transportation. everyone knows the only reliable, safe public transportation is the gautrain which takes you to Pretoria or the airport. but! the gautrain also has a safe, reliable network of buses that take people from their neighborhoods to the train stations. now, if you live across the street from a big shopping center and work across the street from a gautrain station… may be that you have nothing short of a miracle: public transportation to get you to work. in johannesburg. really. do you live and work reasonably close to a gautrain bus or train stop? find out, (make sure to click on the station closest to you physically and then look at their surrounding bus schedule) and tap into cheap public transportation. you can take a bus to a train station, or more likely just take one of the gautrain buses from your neighborhood stop to another. so go ahead, check out on your commute…read a book, zone out! it doesn’t matter because you won’t be driving (swoon!). normally, we are self righteous about take pride in not owning cars but living here forces you to buy one for each person. this really opens up the doors for us…if in our two person family one person can use public transport to get to work maybe we only need one? at least until I get a job. we’ll see, a girl can dream…

13th october, 2011 (happy birthday dad!)

johannesburg expat jhb baking supplies in jhb public transportation in johannesburg gautrain