cake

SUNDAY / 49

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Home yesterday, and baking today. Just the way I like to settle back in. 

It was a case of a sleep-in, coffee with a friend, and a go at the carrot and ginger cake from Everything I Want To Eat, the Christmas gift I have loved and poured over for the past two weeks.  The recipe did not disappoint - carrot and ginger, with cinnamon, almond milk and apple sauce (though I used pear instead). It was nice to be home, to not wear shoes and water my plants and enjoy the afternoon light. 

A friend came over with a couple of pale ales (as all nice guys should), and we ate cake and talked and before you know it, the day was gone.

 

YEAR THREE.

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE. 

 

SUNDAY / 19

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Have I got a story for you! Or a recipe, anyway. Well, some vague instructions since I adapted the whole thing from two recipes and the memory of some muffins I made a few years ago. I got the new Nigella book from a friend for my birthday, and was taken by a sweet sounding pumpkin bundt cake - and it's autumn, so you know, the season for that kind of thing. But I don't have a bundt tin, and without the bundt it's just a pretty plain cake. So I adapted it with a streusel recipe I had, so it would be softer, and added a pecan crumble to the top because I just felt like it needed it. That and some extra ginger and nutmeg to give it a kick. And an orange zest / juice syrup at the last minute. It was quite something.  

After a morning of yoga and a late breakfast, I pulled this out of the oven just after 12 and made a pot of Monk Pear and spent the afternoon researching NYC, LA and Mexico for October.

INGREDIENTS

* 300g brown sugar
* 125 ml of vegetable oil
* zest and juice of half an orange
* 3 eggs
* 1.5 cups of pureed pumpkin
* 400g plain flour
* 2 teaspoons of bicarb soda
* 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
* half a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
* 40g of butter
* three tablespoons each of flour and brown sugar
* handful of pecans, diced
* juice of half an orange
* half a cup of icing sugar

METHOD

Lightly grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Steam and puree the pumpkin and while it's cooling, mix together the brown sugar, the orange zest and juice and the eggs. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, bicarb soda and the spices (instead of sifting, I use a whisk to break up the clods). Once the pumpkin has cooled, add it to the wet ingredients and beat softly until combined, then slowly add the flour until the whole thing is smooth and creamy (don't over mix). It makes a fairly wet batter, and there's quite a bit there so make sure you use a full sized tin.

In a small bowl, mix together the last of the flour and brown sugar and rub the butter in till you get a crumble, then add in the diced pecans. 

Pour the batter into the tin, add the crumble to the top and bake at 180 celsius for about 40 minutes, checking at 20 and 30 to make sure it's browning evenly. Mine rose quite a bit and took an extra ten minutes to firm up all the way through the middle. 

Once it is cooked through, allow it to cool on a wire rack while you mix together the last of the orange juice and some icing sugar - drizzle over the top of the crumble* and serve with tea. Happy Sunday folks!   

* I know what you're saying - drizzle cake or crumble, make up your mind Meg! But dammed if you can ever have too much of a good thing when it comes to cake. 

YEAR THREE.

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE. 
 

CAKE DREAMS

20140202-143740.jpg Another baking post, because it's been that kind of week.

This is actually one I've been meaning to share for a while. It's such an easy and lovely cake, I come back to it all the time. It is also a nice and dense, flavourful gluten-free option, if you have anyone in your life that is troubled by flour. My friend Addy has been GF for years, and this one is good to pull out in all kinds of dressed-up and dressed-down ways. It's a take on a Nigella Lawson lemon and polenta cake, which I use for dinner parties as more of  pudding - served warm with the lemony syrup and a big dollop of Greek yoghurt. It's easy and fresh, but still feels like an indulgence.

The below I have adapted a bit to suit my tastes - coconut instead of the semolina for a smoother texture and a richer flavour, and orange instead of lemon, because, well, I just like it. I would say that it is worth doing a double-batch, or using a small tin, as GF cakes never give much in the way of rise. For Addy's 30th, I did three times the quantity, iced it with a zesty orange and passionfruit buttercream and piled it high with lisianthus.

INGREDIENTS * 175 grams of unsalted butter, softened * 1 cup of white sugar * 2 cups of almond meal * 3/4 of a cup of desiccated coconut * 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder (GF options available) * 3 eggs * zest of one orange

METHOD Beat down the butter and sugar till they are a soft, creamy paste. In a separate bowl, mix the almond meal, the coconut and the baking powder and add the mix slowly to the butter and sugar, a little at a time, alternating with the eggs. I used a Kitchen Aid but you'd be fine to beat it by hand. Grate in the orange zest and mix thoroughly before baking in a moderate oven (180 celsius or so) for about 45 minutes. It will brown quite quickly with all that butter, so I recommend turning the oven a little lower for another ten minutes, to make sure it is cooked through nicely. I always line a springform pan with baking paper, to avoid any issues once the cake has cooked and cooled.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson.

THIS IS A THING

20140202-143650.jpg Oh golly. I warned you about this the other day, and gave full and colourful hints over on my Instagram and now here we are. Brown butter baked doughnuts.

Yep, BROWN BUTTER BAKED DOUGHNUTS are actually a thing - and of course it took Joy to tell it to me. No one cares like Joy. I'm not going to detail the recipe here, I'll direct you right to the source because it's important you get this right. But I will say that it took 5 weeks for my doughnut tin to arrive from ebay and it was worth every damn day.

The funny thing is, I would never buy a chocolate iced doughnut from the bakery. It wouldn't occur to me - I'm always distracted by glossy pastries or chewy biscuits. So this was a bit of a revelation.

POUND CAKE

20130804-202619.jpgAgain with the  cake. Again on a Tuesday, as it happens. I don't quite know what came over me, but sitting at my desk at work, just after five, writing a list of what vegetables I needed to pick up for dinner, I found myself adding ingredients like 'cream cheese' and 'sugar' and 'dark chocolate'. Evidently I'd been spending far too much time over at Joy the Baker (again). Good thing I had too, because this cake took my week from normal to just lovely.

The recipe was an easy one, and I loved Joy's idea to flavour the sugar with the orange zest, instead of just throwing them both in the mix. I used a bowl to rub in the zest and infuse the whole pile of sugar, and have to say my hands and the kitchen smelt like sunshine (if that is even a thing). I'll definitely be using this technique again, and may even modify the recipe with greek yoghurt in place of the cream cheese, and leave out the chocolate, for a dense and zesty tea cake. Anything to get more of that zesty sugar in my life.

NOTE: I do think you need a Kitchen Aid or some kind of electric mixer for this one, to get the best blend out of the cream cheese and butter, and to give the volume to the eggs as you go.

INGREDIENTS * 2 cups of plain flour * 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder * 1/2 a teaspoon of salt * 1/2 cups of white sugar * zest of one orange * 220 grams of cream cheese (I most certainly did not use low-fat) * 175 grams of butter * 4 eggs * 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence * 1 cup of dark chocolate pieces

METHOD Pre-heat the oven to 180 or so and lightly grease and line a loaf tin. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Use another good sized bowl to blend in the zest and the sugar with the back of a spoon. I took my time with this step - mostly to make sure there was an even mix of zest and sugar - so the colour and flavour were alive throughout - but also because it smelt so damn lovely.

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, beat the cream cheese and the just-softened butter for a few minutes. It takes a while for them to combine nicely, as they're both so thick. Add in the zesty sugar mixture and continue beating. With the setting down a little lower, add one egg at a time, waiting till each is thoroughly mixed before adding the next. Include the vanilla essence with the last egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl a little before beating for another minute. Add the dry ingredients all at once and allow to combine before folding in the dark chocolate.

The batter is lovely and thick, and will rise beautifully with all those hard-beaten eggs. Pour into the cake tin and bake for a good 50 minutes (depending on your oven). I always prefer to go low and slow, and add a little foil to the top if it is browning too early.

It's a golden, delicious cake that sure added some sunshine to my working week.

 

GOOEY ST LOUIS

20130716-215255.jpgThis is not how my standard Tuesday night looks. Tuesdays for me are usually all about grey marle track pants and an episode of Law and Order if there's any going. But this week, THIS WEEK, I dreamed big and baked up a variation of the Gooey St Louis butter cake I went mad for last year (so mad I made it three times in one month)(which is pretty mad, when you consider the ingredients). Deb had made a few changes to the recipe for her Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which I very graciously and hungrily got for Christmas, and I had been meaning to give it a try. In the interest of research, of course. This version is more of a cake batter as it doesn't use yeast, and the addition of cinnamon - which got all caramelly and creme-brulee-like on top - was a delight. My house smelt like love.

It's a little busy with all the dishes, and uses far too much sugar than is good for you, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'd note that my oven runs quite hot, mostly just at the base, so it can easily be over-cooked. And this is a big issue - the charm of the Gooey St Louis is in the gooey. It feels wrong to get it out when the top layer is all a-wobble, just lightly set on the surface, but make sure you do. If overcooked the base dries out and you lose all the joy of the gooey part, till it's just plain old cake. Remember that it will set as it cools, so you really just want a little depth or firmness at the sides, and a whole lot of soft batter in the middle.

I took it to work to share for a pot-luck lunch and it didn't last the day. Which is to be expected, really...

Adapted (very vaguely) from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

INGREDIENTS (BASE) * 115 grams of butter (soft) * 1 1/2 cups of flour * 1 teaspoon of baking powder * 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda * 1/4 teaspoon of salt * 3/4 cup of white sugar * 1 egg * 1/4 cup of milk (GOOEY BIT) * 1/4 cup of maple syrup * 1/4 cup of heavy cream * 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (though I used essence - I'd ran out of the good stuff) * 170 grams of butter (soft) * 1 cup of white sugar * 1/4 teaspoon of salt * 1 egg * 1 1/4 cups of flour (TOPPING BIT) * 1 tablespoon of white sugar * 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

METHOD Preheat the oven to 180 and grease and line a large baking dish. You will need a little height on the dish and a rectangle is the best for cutting once it's baked.

To make the base, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl (or an electric mixer if you play like that), mix together the soft butter and sugar with a whisk until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg and milk to the mixture and beat until combined. Then add in the dry ingredients and beat for a further few minutes until the mixture is thick and even. Pour into the baking dish and spread to the edges (the batter is quite thick and sticky).

Next, mix together the maple, cream and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In a bowl (or that fancy mixer), beat together the butter and sugar for the gooey layer and then pause. Take a moment to appreciate just how much butter and just how much sugar you are about to ingest. Be grateful for the chance to indulge so widely and gooey-ly, then beat in the egg and the salt. Once it feels rich and even, slowly add part of the flour and part of the creamy maple mix, stir some more, and repeat until everything is just combined. Dollop over the base and spread out to the edges of the dish with the back of a spoon.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the gooey layer in the baking dish. This makes for the caramel / creme-brulee-like business.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, keeping your eye on the oven the whole dang time. If needs be, turn it down a little to make sure you get the base cooked without the top drying out. Once golden, allow it to cool for at least ten minutes before serving. It's lovely warm, but will be a runny mess if you try to share it straight out of the oven. Have a little patience and, if you like, a little cream on hand to cut the richness that is the GOOEY ST LOUIS.

OH MY GOODNESS

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The first thing you need to know is that it is pouring rain and terribly cold. Sydney is her least-lovely self about now. My wonderful housemate Camille landed just a few hours ago from London, and my brilliant friend G braved the weather on his bike for a long overdue cup of tea and hello, so it was really quite the occasion. I've also had a fairly obsessive interest with pumpkin of late, usually roasted, and was looking for a way to expand on the seasonal goodness in sweet form. I had some pecans I knew would go well, and of course nutmeg and ginger and brown sugar. So after much searching online and in battered cookbooks, I came up with the below plan of attack.

I have to say, the cream cheese was a revelation. I was worried it would dry-out in the baking, but it was nothing but sweet and moist and just the right amount of rich when you bit in. And the streusel was a lovely touch, made the pecan subtle and cosy and just overall amazing. A little bit of work, but well worth it in my book...

PUMPKIN AND NUTMEG MUFFINS WITH PECAN STREUSEL

INGREDIENTS * 120g of cream cheese * ½ cup of icing sugar * 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence * ½ cup of wholemeal flour * ¼ cup of brown sugar * ¼ cup of pecans * 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter * 1½ cups of wholemeal flour * ½ teaspoon of nutmeg (or a whole, if you are anything like me) * ½ teaspoon of Dutch cinnamon * ½ teaspoon of ground cloves * 1teaspoon of ground ginger (I love ginger) * ½ teaspoon of baking soda * pinch of salt * 2 eggs * 1 cup of white sugar * 1 cup of pureed pumpkin * ¼ cup of vegetable oil * ½ teaspoon of vanilla essence

METHOD I steamed the pumpkin the night before, pureeing it till smooth in the blender. I also mixed the cream cheese, the icing sugar and some vanilla to make a thick paste. I put plastic wrap down on the counter and rolled the cream cheese mix into a 7 inch long piece to store in the freezer overnight.

This morning I pre-heated the oven to 180 or so, and greased and lined a muffin tray. I made the streusel first in a small bowl by combining the flour, brown sugar, pecans, butter and cinnamon till they made a nice crumbly mess. I tend to use a box-grater to grate the cold butter straight in - this helps with any kind of biscuit base or crumble as it mixes so easily.

I then whisked together the rest of the flour, spices, baking soda and salt in a larger bowl and set it aside. In my Kitchen Aid, I mixed the white sugar, pumpkin, eggs and oil (go easy with the oil and only add what you think it needs), and a little vanilla. I then combined it with the dry ingredients and slowly stirred by hand, folding it through till the batter was thick and a beautiful speckled-orange.

I filled each muffin paper about half way, then added a teaspoon of the frozen cream cheese mixture (which stays quite soft and easy to work) and filled with another tablespoon or so of batter, covering the cheese. I added the streusel crumble last, patted it down a little to set, then threw them in the oven and hoped for the best. They took about half an hour and came out all golden and warm, with about the best just-baked smell I’ve ever known. Seriously. The house smells like Christmas in story books and they taste like warm-wintry heaven - spicy and sweet and a lovely dense filling. I ate three and could have gone further (but was trying to be 'polite' and 'a good host').

I got 12 out of this batch, but think I'd double the amounts next time and aim for about 18 much bigger muffins. They only just reached the top of the papers and I think they'd be best with a bit more volume, spilling out all that sugary streusel.

 

A HAPPY MEAL

20130616-201108.jpg It's no secret I love cooking. For myself and for my friends and often just for the sake of it. I like the time it takes and the love you put in.

A little while back, about a year ago I suppose, I put together a very sweet little zine with my dear friends over at AHD Paper Co (A Happy Death as they're sometimes known). They were headed off to Melbourne for yet another Finders Keepers fair and wanted to put a little something together for passers by to keep. Some pictures from their amazing artists, and some stories and recipes from, well, me. Ramblings, we called them.

I'd tell you they sold like hot cakes - like the strawberry shortcake I described so lovingly inside - except that they were free and we gave them away to anyone who fancied. We bound them in pink and orange card, and in red, blue, green and yellow too. I was so glad that the whole rainbow of our print run went home with someone different, and hope a few recipes have been recreated in the months since. At the very least the strawberry shortcake. It really is that good.

But we got so carried away with folding and packing for the fair that we forgot to keep a few aside. I have some card left and think I'll print just a few more, for friends and family and one for my bookshelf.

SUNDAY / 17

20130519-195052.jpgBetween washing sheets and clothes and reading the paper in the glorious early sun, I found some time this morning to bake. As usual, when I think of baking, I think of Joy the Baker. Joy is my go-to when it comes to all things sweet. She's prolific and adventurous in the kitchen, and also happens to be smart and kind and one hell of a writer. I stalk her blog, her Instagram and giggle along with her brilliant podcasts when I'm walking home. She's totes maj (totally major).

I'd fallen a bit in love with her cranberry, orange and pecan cake a while back and had grand plans for it this week. Sadly, I couldn't find fresh or even frozen cranberries at my local so ended up with blueberries. And since I didn't think the orange juice / zest would quite have them singing the same way as cranberries, I opted for lemon. Blueberry, lemon and pecan cake and a delight at that. My batter was a little dry, so I added some sour cream I had on hand and was pleased I did.

The cake was dense, soft, had a nice tang and a lot of bite. I brewed myself a pot of coffee and had two crumbly pieces, just because I could.

INGREDIENTS * 2 cups of flour * 1 cup of sugar (I used white) * 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder * 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda * pinch of salt * 50 grams of butter * 2 eggs * juice and zest of one lemon * 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla * 2 tablespoons of sour cream * 1/2 cup of roughly chopped pecans * 1 cup of blueberries (I used frozen) And for the topping... * 4 tablespoons of butter * 1/2 cup of flour * 3 tablespoons of sugar * pinch of salt * 1/4 cup of pecans

METHOD Grease and line a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180 celcius. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and work in the cold butter with your hands. The mix should be coarse, like breadcrumbs. In another bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla and lemon juice and zest. Fold into the dry ingredients along with the sour cream and the pecans. Add the blueberries last and fold through lightly so they don't bruise or burst. To make the topping, combine all the ingredients, rubbing the butter together till you get a rough, crumbly, sugary mess. Sprinkle over the batter in the loaf tin and bake for between 40 and 50 minutes, until golden and firm. I let mine cool on a rack and added an easy milk and icing-sugar glaze to sweeten it up just a little bit more.

Adapted from the lovely Joy the Baker.