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Crazy for Cupcakes

21 Oct

Cupcakes seem to be the fad in Melbourne as of late… it happened a little slower than everywhere else in the world but we did eventually catch on. Not sure how long it will last for but for now… I’m enjoying it. They’re just too cute to resist and the deco in the little shops that sell them are just as lovely. YE and I went to a brand new outlet that just popped up. When we walked into the shop, it felt like we had shrunk down into two 5 year olds and were walking right into an Enid Blyton storybook. We loved it.

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Strawberry Sponge Cake

13 Aug

The winter is slowly coming to its tail end and there is slight warmth in the air. I must say though that I haven’t totally hated this year’s winter since I was throughly traumatised by the series of 4o degree weeks over the summer months. In fact, I seem to have embraced the colder months this year, with the exception of having to shower in icy cold water yesterday because our hot water system is broken.

If you take the time to look around, there are redeeming and beautiful things about winter.

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For me, there are the 2 possums cozying up in a little wooden house next to the air conditioning vent just outside of our office,

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the apple that has hung on to our apple tree all throughout the autumn and winter months, while the rest of his friends fall off the branches to nourish the ground,

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and sitting in warm cafes in snuggly winter wear sipping creamy coffees with old friends.

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And then, there’s the month of Jason (as he calls it) – my special boy’s birthday that also falls over the winter. I baked him this strawberry sponge to take to work last week. According to the people that got to eat it, the sponge turned out really nicely and the textures were soft and light. I wish someone could’ve saved me a piece.

Method:

  1. Simply follow a basic sponge recipe (it is preferable to make the sponge a day in advance so it has enough time to fully cool down before you spread the cream).
  2. Cut the cake in half, lengthwise.
  3. Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam on the inside of the sponge.
  4. Whip up some cream chantilly (i.e. cream with icing sugar and a little vanilla essence).
  5. Arrange the strawberries on the side like I have (see above) *Tip: It is best of place the sponge in a removable cake tin so that strawberries can be arranged nicely against the tin.
  6. Pipe in the cream chantilly, press more chopped strawberries into the cream and smooth over with a metal spatula.
  7. Cover the cream with the top of the sponge.
  8. Add more cream to the top of the cake and smooth over with a metal spatula.
  9. Decorate with strawberries, slivered almonds and dust with icing sugar.

So here’s to the last 2 weeks of winter…

Hello spring. Hello new beginnings….

Weekend at the wineries

22 May

It was Erin’s 30th down at the Mornington Peninsular last the weekend. It’s been a year since we last visited the region, so I have been looking forward to that weekend for weeks. If you are a food and wine lover, a visit to the Mornington Peninsular is a must. In order to make the most of it, we drove down on Friday night, straight after work, which probably wasn’t the best idea, since we had to drive in what felt like torrential rain for close to 2 hours.

However, we did arrive. Alive… And next morning we were rewarded with visits to the region’s wineries and breweries, a chocolate shop and a neat little cafe that sold gourmet foods, local produce and the loveliest cakes and tarts.

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It was a really lovely time to be in that area because it was the middle of autumn – the air was fresh and crisp, the rain had washed all the heat and dust away and the trees have all turned red, yellow and orange.

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Nutty Banana and Coconut Friands

11 Feb

For quite a while now, I have been dreaming of one day having a little Tuscan-like cottage cafe where I would bake aromatic cookies, warm tarts and cakes and brew fragrant coffee for people that come to visit. Something not too far off from the little bakery that you see in ‘Stranger than Fiction’. I really like that little set up. Sometimes, I think I should pull my head in and do the “adult” thing and stop dreaming. But then again… you really only live once and what would life be if one did not take chances.

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Monday was my first day at pastry school. Nothing too exciting to report yet… just the usual orientation slash induction spew to get the ball rolling. I got my tool kit and uniform, which was pretty cool.

On Sunday, I put together some friands with the ingredients I had in the pantry – banana and coconut friands with an assortment of nuts. Quite a lovely and comforting combination I thought. I prefer friands to muffins. Muffins are awesome…. but friands are so good cos it’s like eating a whole muffin top (which is the best part of the muffin anyway).

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Makes about 12 friands

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 and 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup moist coconut flakes / dessicated coconut
  • 3/4 cup nut & seed assortments (I added sunflower seeds, chopped pecans and chopped cashews)
  • 180 grams melted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas mashed up
  • 1 banana (to press on top of the friand)
  • 5 egg whites
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degree celcius.
  2. Put off the dry ingredients, nuts and coconut into a large bowl and mix it all up with your fingers.
  3. Melt the butter in the microwave and cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir the butter into the mixture of dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the mash banana to the mixture.
  6. Beat the egg whites with a whisk till slightly foamy and fold it into the mixture.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the friand/muffin pan. (You should get about 12)
  8. Slice the remaining banana and press down gently on each friand.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Allow them to cool a little in the pan, then turn over and place them on a cooling rack.
  11. Dust with icing sugar.