Wednesday, 21 June 2017
With a name this enticing, I'm amazed it took me so long to make this cake. It was possibly because the original recipe involved strawberry jelly crystals and boxed white cake mix. Leave it to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen to find a way to transform a cake beloved of little girls all over America into a more wholesome (in relative terms - the cake still contains a LOT of sugar) celebration of strawberries. I've just come from the northern hemisphere, where strawberries were sprouting in farmers' market for summer, and having returned to Sydney, spied the most juicy Queensland winter ones at my local fruit and veg. So within the space of weeks, I'd made this cake in each season, first for a four year old, then for a friend turning forty. It works for both ages. As much for the cream cheese icing as the pop of pink within. Speaking of pink - while the mixture just flavoured with fruit will be bright as can be, when baked - without an extra drop or two of food colouring - will be disappointingly beige. I found out the hard way, on the four year old's cake. For the fortieth (pictured here), I perhaps upped the colour too much, but who cares? The scent of strawberries comes through strongly, and, with a little help, you can see them too.
Wednesday, 3 May 2017
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
Winter is coming. And with it, citrus. On a sunny Saturday over Easter, I made this orange polenta cake and shared it the following day with family friends in Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden, a special Sydney spot over by Lavender Bay. It was perfect for picnicking - sturdy and transportable - extra lovely to eat outside, especially in such surrounds as it's laced with the delicate perfume of orange blossom.
Tuesday, 4 April 2017
When I moved to Sydney and, ultimately, out of home, my farewell present from my friends was a food processor. The same one is still going strong today, pulverising and puréeing like the day I got it, about eighteen years ago now. I used it last week to make an almond cake for a friend who's dairy-free. A little like a Middle-Eastern orange cake in that its keystone ingredients are whole, boiled citrus (in this case, lemon as well as orange) and almonds - both of which necessitate sharp blades to blitz and blend - it also incorporates olive oil and a small amount of flour, for leavening. Something a bit different for a kitchen work horse that I'm grateful remains exactly the same.
Tuesday, 7 March 2017
If you like to bake, birthday cake is the best. There is nothing nicer than making one for someone you love, unless that person is under ten and the cake in question has to resemble a Disney character or something similarly complex requiring graph paper, a work plan and multiple tins. I'm in awe of my friends with kids who routinely turn out these marvels. This cake was not for a kid but for a very good friend with a big double digit birthday, but there's no need for birthday cake to be grown up. All that matters is that it's sturdy (to hold up all those candles), sweet, and good enough to go back for seconds...
This one succeeds on all scores. As I gave as a birthday present, Hetty McKinnon's first cookbook Community, it was fitting that this recipe comes from her second, Neighbourhood. It's full of all sorts of good things (pistachios! orange blossom water! cardamom! yoghurt! cream cheese!) and presents the prettiest palette of pale orange, pink and green. I'm predisposed to orange as a cake flavour for birthdays - it's not just sweet but somehow joyful in its brightness, both in flavour and hue.
Though fittingly celebratory, this is actually quite a modest cake, requiring only two eggs, a small (but sufficient) amount of icing and seriously, no technique at all - the butter is melted, so it's just a matter of combining the wet ingredients with the dry and bundling the resultant batter in the oven. Minus the candles, it's an effortless everyday cake, good for lunchboxes and picnics, easily cut and carried. Equally suited to forks or fingers.
Monday, 20 February 2017
It's been way too hot. On days where the only way to survive is to seek out a cinema or shopping centre and its air-conditioning, on nights where the temperature doesn't drop below 30 degrees (86F), I can't even contemplate turning on the stove. In such times, these crispbreads have been my salvation. Topped with whatever you like - blue cheese and pear paste, goats' cheese and salmon, butter and Vegemite - they offer up something substantial and stunning for times when you don't even have the energy to eat. And they conjure up cold with their Scandi sensibility when you're in the middle of a stinking Sydney summer.
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Curiously, I've become a convert to carrot cake. Not so curious perhaps, when I report that this recipe comes from a café I consider possibly the most perfect in all the world - that of the Rosendals Trägåd, a beautiful biodynamic orchard on an island in Stockholm. If you find yourself in that city, you really must go, though June rather than January would be advised. In Swedish summer, it recalls a scene from a Carl Larsson painting - nut-brown blondes of all ages grazing on cardamom-scented cakes in the dappled light of apple and pear trees.
Made moist with oil and carrots, infused with Scandi staples cinnamon and cardamom, and lashed with creamy lemon icing, this is cake to convert anyone who believes (as was my firm opinion for most of my life) that vegetables have no place at all in baked goods. I have relaxed this stance once before, for the beloved Bourke St Bakery, whose carrot cake I've blogged already on this site. That recipe - though sublime - is somewhat fiddly. This one has the advantage of being made in one bowl, and once cooked, needs only to be cooled and icing slathered on top. Australian summers are a little harsher than Nordic ones, so keep it indoors unless you choose a mild day for a picnic. The icing is the issue and believe me, you don't want to skip that. One solution could be to keep it separately in an esky and pile it on just before serving. If it oozes a little, all the better.