In addition to being an architect and an excellent road trip companion, my dad does linocuts. A couple of Christmases ago, I asked him to make me a bookplate. It didn't turn up under the tree that year (largely because I vetoed his original concept of an image in my likeness - who wants to open up a book and see their own face staring back at them?) but this May, Australia Post delivered a lovely surprise to my letterbox.
I could have made a pavlova but it felt all wrong to be eating that in front of a roaring fire, a bit like what northern hemisphere people feel about Christmas in summer. I could have made curd, but I'm still swimming in jars of lime from my baking adventure of a few weeks ago. So, with a morning tea organised for the Queen's Birthday public holiday, and my friends with small kids coming over, I made fairy cakes. Unusually, this recipe calls for you to strain the distinctive seeds from the passionfruit pulp, leaving only the sweet, bright orange juice to flavour both the cake and its frosting. This results in a beautifully smooth batter, a particularly perfect crumb and a glossy, glowing top. The flavour of the fruit is right there, in every bite. Modest, but unmistakable, just like the Glasshouses, and my home state.
Adapted from a recipe by the always-reliable David Herbert, as published in The Weekend Australian Magazine
If you don't have any use for mascarpone beyond this recipe, you could make an alternative - and equally delectable - icing by combining some softened butter with the juice (or juice and flesh) of one passionfruit and adding sifted icing sugar until it reaches a consistency you're happy with.
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (or 1 1/2 cups flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)
125g butter, softened
185g (3/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs, beaten
80ml (1/3 of a cup) milk
65g (1/4 cup) mascarpone
2 tablespoons icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases.
Scoop flesh of three passionfruit into a sieve set over a bowl. Press on seeds with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Sift flour a large mixing bowl. Add butter, sugar, vanilla essence, eggs and milk. Beat with an electric beater (or in food processor) on low speed for 2 minutes, or until combined. Stir in the passionfruit juice. Spoon mixture evenly into patty cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre of a cake should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
While they are cooling, make icing by scooping flesh of three passionfruit into a sieve set over a mixing bowl. Again, extract as much juice as possible. Add mascarpone and sifted icing sugar to bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Chill for about 45 minutes, then drizzle over fairy cakes.