Dougie has his birthday in very close vicinity to the baby Cheezus, but despite everyone suffering a big bucketload of rich food ennui from multiple Christmas dinners and parties I couldn’t resist working up a couple of special treats for the boy.

His request for a ‘record’ cake resulted in a Bruce Bogtrotter Heroic Chocolate Cake from Jane Brocket’s Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer (awesome book) layered with raspberry cheesecake and covered in dark chocolate ganache. Super rich and like the Birthday Boy getting better with age!

I doctored the label from an image of the label for Blue Suede Shoes

I also made a batch of Linzer cookies from eCurry

I found the flavour to be a little bland after all the hype, but how fonking pretty are these??

I am now taking at least a week’s hiatus from baking, and frankly eating. It’s been a big holiday season and I’ve got New Year’s Eve binge drinking and chip snarfing to get through yet.

Happy New Year!

Trial 2 was aiming for more flavor, a more exciting texture, and basically just more.

Improvements I was looking for included introducing lime to zing up the tartness of the raspberries, shredded coconut to add more texture, and trying out some almond meal in the cake to give it a heavier  and moister crumb, to make it a more solid ‘wedding’ cake that can be iced and moved around with less distress

I adapted a recipe for Raspberry and almond cake from Best Recipes and added coconut that I had infused according to Lisa Marietta Gianotti’s Italian coconut cake recipe.

First I took a cup of sweetened shredded coconut, which I had never used before but I thought I’d give it a crack. I simmered that with 2 cups of water and the zest of 1 lemon, drained and left to cool. On reflection this would have simmered out a good deal of the sugar and given plain dried shred the moistness I was looking for, so next time I’ll just use the regular shredded coconut.

Then it was the cake, a fairly simple but rich recipe. I beat the full stick of butter (and that’s an Aussie stick peeps, 250g of saturated goodness) then added the 2 cups of sugar. Once that was fluffy bunnies I added the zest of 1 lime.  I like to beat the flavours like zest or vanilla into the butter, as it infuses into the fat which means is permeates the whole cake better.

I then beat in the 6 eggs. I read somewhere, I think in one of my ‘wife’s companion’ cookbooks from the 1930’s, that beating the eggs and pouring in slowly, rather than one egg at a time, means it beats in better and reduces the chances of curdling. And it certainly does, I do this even if it’s just one or two eggs, but for 6 goggies this was an absolute necessity.

I sifted together half a cup each of SR flour, plain flour and bread flour. I’m not looking for light fluffiness in this cake, I needed gluten! I then whisked in the cup of almond meal, and then folded this in alternately with ¾ cup of sour cream (full fat, not fiddling around with low cal on a wedding cake!). Once incorporated I folded in the infused coconut and frozen raspberries. This was the point where I realized I forgot to check my raspberry levels, which were dismally low, so I also threw in a punnet of blueberries I had in the freezer.

There was an abundance of batter, too much for my deep adjustable cake ring at 16cm diameter, so I threw a few tablespoons into teacupcake molds as well

After baking for 1 1/2 hours at 160° the cake was done. It sank in a bit at the sides, which is a little funny, but that may be from cooling in the tin, I’ll have to investigate that one.
Preliminary scoffing of the cupcakes (which of course were only baked for 20 minutes) indicated that we could be on to a winner. I stuck the cake in the freezer for a few days to see how it would take it, as that’s what I’ll be doing with the real thing.

After 3 days I partially defrosted the sucker and iced him in a coating of white chocolate ganache. I discovered on the Planet Cake forums that sour cream is better that regular cream as it cuts the sweetness so I used some of the leftover sour cream from the cake. I do love an economy of ingredients.

 

The Verdict: Absolute Perfection! This is THE ONE

 

The crumb was deliciously heavy and moist, the shredded coconut had the right amount texture, and the citrus really lifted it up. Oh, and the ganache- my word! I’m not a huge chocolate eater, but this stuff was nastily good. Creamy and sweet but not sickly. I used one block of white cooking chocolate which as you see made not quite enough to cover the cake properly.

For the real thing I will use more lime and of course all raspberries. I forgot to toss the fruit in flour before adding to batter and they sank.

All the tasters at work declared this a total winner, it doesn’t taste too rich, but you only need a small slice. But on second thoughts they felt I should probably try it again, with more lime, just to make sure. Maybe a couple of times… you get the drift🙂

Hurrah! I still need to figure out what I’ll have for the third layer of the wedding cake. I’m thinking I’ll check if there are any Aunties in the family who’d like to make a fruit cake layer. That way most cake bases are covered.

I am now joining the ranks of the no-knead bread fan club, membership no. 2,384,373

After recent forays by bloggers Jane Brocket and Momofukufor2 how could I resist giving it a bash? I have this year been slowly improving my yeasty skills, spurred by a breadmaking lesson from my brother, who in turn took his lessons from the great book Dough by Richard Bertinet. I’ve been on a breadmaking hiatus while on a yeast free diet, but to celebrate the return of bread there’s nothing like a new recipe.

And it turned out great. I didn’t get as much rise as I’d wanted, so I was feeling pretty pessimistic when I put it in the oven, but it still came out crusty, chewy, light and delicious. I have another batch already fermenting in the kitchen🙂

I halved the recipe successfully, and definitely think the secret is in the steaming in the Dutch Oven, which I will have to also try with regular kneaded bread. Much easier than pantsing around with spray bottles and bowls of water in the oven

So, wedding cake decisions for a baking fan like me are not taken lightly. D-man of course immediately vouched for chocolate mud. Not at all surprising, and so zzzzzz. I’ve never gone crazy over chocolate cake.

So, even though I know the feasibility of making my own wedding cake is extremely low and a high risk venture into crazy town on the crucial lead up days to the wedding, I can’t stomach the idea of paying someone $400-800 for a cake I can do myself. The design (not being discussed here, a lady must have some secrets) is quite simple, so if I’m not paying for amazing tasting cake I ain’t paying.

So, after much deliberation, “my” layer of the cake will be a coconut raspberry cake. It needs to have:

  • a dense, moist crumb
  • nice coconutty texture, that doesn’t stick in your teeth
  • to improve with maturation- if I’m making it myself I can’t do it on the day
  • and it needs to be UTTERLY DELICIOUS!

So, I started with this recipe for ‘Southern Style’ Coconut Cake

Adaptions: I halved the ingredients, seeing as I don’t need a full cake for these tasters. I added some coconut essence and a cup of frozen raspberries tossed in flour stirred through last thing before being placed in the pan.

Verdict: Meh.

It was an ok cake, a bit bland with not much texture or coconut flavour. The coconut milk I think weighed it down, and absorbed the sweetness of the sugar and the zing of the raspberries.

On the up side, tossing the squishy defrosted raspberries in flour worked well in containing juice bleed in the mix. And this was the first time I’d used my Wiltshire adjustable cake ring and it worked a treat. With this little gem you can make a deep cake from 16cm to 28cm diameter. I need never buy another round cake tin again.

Next step: Next recipe I will add some lime zest and/or juice to spark the flavours, I’ll use shredded coconut instead of dessicated for more texture. I’ve come across some recipes using almond meal, which is an intriguing combination that will have to be tried.

Need a lift in your afternoon? Minted stationary company are running a photo competition with the theme ‘Joy‘.
There are some awesome photos being posted. They really put the fizz back in your blood. There are also a plague of wedding photographers plugging things up, the bane of my existence.
But there are enough real gems amongst the Swarovskis to give you smiles.

Thanks Joy the Baker (who is also a judge) for sharing  :)

Had a crappy day of that inbetween stage of being sick and getting better, when you’re starting to feel better, but don’t have the energy to actually do anything.
Not totally true, I finally finished off the thank you cards from the Black and White party (3 months, new record!), but I’ve spent the entire afternoon doing… nothing.
I got the excitement of starting an antibiotic with the rather alarming instructions of  ‘don’t lie down for half an hour after taking, it can cause a real burning sensation’. Super. I was also recommended to take it after a full meal, with a really big glass of water to make sure it really got washed down. Oh, and I have to avoid excessive sunlight, iron and calcium supplements and antacids while taking them. I may as well just sit in a box for the week.

You know what though? I was so bored that the command to not lie down meant that all I wanted to do after taking it was have a lie down, and I fell asleep sitting up in a chair. The straight-backed, definitely not reclining, chair. Like an old man.

I need stimulation, help me!

Here’s a random picture to liven up this post. If only it could liven up my day

It now appears to be the new trend for people to take the elements that are big with weddings these days and have them in overblown birthday/other parties, which really gets my goat. Once upon a time most parties were just parties that had the usual elements: chips and dips, booze, home made or cheesecake shop cake, maybe a theme and if it was a really good/big one, a dj.

And OK, so your wedding’s supposed to be IT, the biggest party you will ever throw, and there are lots of things that are discussed/advertised  in mostly terrifying and occasionally interesting blogs etc, to help you create a party that is distinctive, unusual, etc etc. Bigger and better than a normal party. Hey, everyone has birthdays all the time, but most of us don’t get married all the time (unless you’re Seal and Heidi Klum)

BUT

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of chicks who are well past that stage of their life are reading wedding blogs a lot which really creeps me out. The wedding industry in general was an unknown phenomenon until I got engaged, and the sheer size of it is terrifying. There are zillions of blogs and websites out there, often telling everyone to do pretty much the same stuff, most of it unneccessary and ridiculously expensive. And now I see all the stuff that’s being flogged as wedding party phenomena turning up at  other parties.
While a wedding is allowed to be quite formal and have a structured/designed approach to activities and decor (being the biggest party you can have in lower/middle class society. I like to think the upper class get to attend the occasional coronation), the same level of detail is being reproduced for smaller gatherings.  I guess somebody’s feeling the gap in their lives that only a wedding style party can fill. 

Recent trends that must confuse the hell out of people who thought they were going to a normal party:

  • Dessert/lolly bars. In the olden days we called it the cake table, but now you get a range of bits with pretty labels and designed displays. Makes it special-er see, and you can be charged more.
  • Photobooths. This is kind of cool, having props etc to take funny photos. Originally set up as a more interesting alternative to the boring group and table shots at weddings. Now available at lots of other parties. This bugs me as I was thinking about something similar, and I don’t think I can go there any more. “Didn’t they have this at Irene’s 43rd birthday party?” “Why yes Beryl, they did. I had a moustache on a stick. Better not do that again as I won’t remember which party the photo’s from in a couple of years, pass me the feather boa”
  • Bunting, pompoms and lanterns. I kind I like all these things, but getting done. to . death.
  • Drink stations. Really, is this necessary for less than 100 people?
  • Professionally decorated and layered cakes. These things can cost up to $500 people. At least lots of dimwits think they’re supposed to spend that much on wedding cakes because it’s just once.
  • Bonbonniere. 2 places they’re appropriate: kid’s parties as the lolly bag, or weddings. Don’t muddy the waters with special treats for guests in hand painted bags because you turned 43. Let’s be honest, no one cares when you turn that age, and chances are you’re lying about it anyway and pretending you’re still 41

I guess my big problem here is that people are copying wedding styling into their more mundane events, which raises the bar for special events and makes me think Crap, how far will I have to go to make my wedding special and wedding like??
And the wedding industry is already so insidious and heinously manipulative, making its living sucking vampirically on the dreams and aspirations of kids in love. It scares me that the same industry is starting to make inroads into other events, banking on the impressions it made into the soft minds of young women who got married, and now cashing in on them in middle age too.
Sweetie, if you still reminisce on your wedding day all the time, and miss the attention and the paraphernalia, go and renew your vows and have another party, and leave the wedding crap for wedding days. There’s enough of it already to wade through.

End Rant.

It irritates me immeasurably that the quest for a decent pot of tea outside one’s home is often bitter and fruitless.

Apart from the joyous flowering of tea houses across Brisbane in recent years, (of which Queenies Tea House was the first and is still the best IMO) regard or skill in making tea has been swept aside in the craze for coffee that has gripped this town. Sure, good coffee is a good thing, but you know by the way you see people wandering about every day prominently clutching their environment harming paper cups like little beacons of pseudo-sophistication that this isn’t about the beverage.
When your 60+ grandma who still eats tinned beetroot in salads orders a macchiato, you know something wacky’s going on.

But I digress. The point of this is that of late I have been continuously disappointed to pay for pots of tea that have been slapped together by waitresses who have no fonking idea about tea, and so make it like it’s a plunger of coffee. The result is usually completely undrinkable, and the fact that I’ll then get charged as much or more than a large coffee for the trouble really gets my goat. Even attempts to reduce the impact of bad tea making by going with herbal blends has backfired. I recently was served a tiny plunger filled 1/3 up with chamomile flowers, so that in the short walk from the counter to my table it was treacle dark and like swallowing pointy knives.

So, all you food and beverage service attendants out there who’ve never been shown how to make tea because who cares? it’s just tea, this is how you assemble a half decent pot of tea in cafe circumstances

  1. Tea is stronger by weight/volume than coffee. You don’t need a tablespoon per cup. In fact 1-2 teaspoons is sufficient for a whole pot. Seriously
  2. Fill the teapot to the top. The cost of water is minimal/zero in this equation, so why are you being so stingy and only filling pots halfway? Can you see that lid? It stops the water spilling out the top, it’s like magic
  3. Cold milk only please. Steamed milk is absolutely undrinkable in tea
  4. Figure out which teas need milk and which don’t. It’s not hard- sniff the tea. If it smells fruity or flowery you probably don’t need it
  5. And lastly for cafe owners, how about some teacups for a change? I’m tired of slurping tea in thick rimmed coffee cups with useless little handles you can’t stick your finger through. I would also ask for pots with internal filters, so you can remove the leaves once the tea’s steeped and they won’t stew and go bitter, but I don’t want to overwhelm you

I unfortunately lack the emotional capacity to tell you how I feel about being served a cup of hot water and a teabag on a plate, so here I will end my rant

Thank you

So, I have been somewhat preoccupied since getting engaged, and the blogging shrivelled up. Whoops

But the wedding/ being engaged process is a rather bizarre one, and so I’ll track activities and events here. For example, today I:

  • ordered my custom handspun and dyed 1 ply silk yarn
  • contacted a baker about the cake
  • applied for 4 weeks Long Service Leave (real adult innit?? as my cousin put it)
  • checked out a photographer that might do
  • sent the first person the link to the wedding website
  • tonight we will be writing thank you cards from the engagement party and slicing up the save the date cards with our big new guillotine

and how much work did I get done? Not as much as if I were a normal person who was either single, in a relationship or married.
Being engaged is a transitory state, nothing is settled and nothing is quite normal. Everything is focussed on the future, and everyone is allowed to have an opinion on how you get there. I presume pregnancy is a similar sensation, but your body’s in for the ride too.

I couple of years ago D-man and I snuck into the old Morningside campus of the Queensland College of Art, where a not inconsiderable chunk of our youths had been spent by both of us, especially him. The sight has simply been fenced up and left to its own devices, and it was a strange world we wandered into.

The place has an almost post-apocolyptic feel to it, vegetation and stray puddles of rubbish had taken over the whole site, on every level. There’s still a security patrol, so nothing much was smashed up or tagged. It was strangely intact.  The place felt full of ghosts, as if the energy of all the crazy creative  people who passed through that ugly brick maze had been left behind, and is still waiting for them to come home. I snapped these with my dinky phone camera

Usually when you move on to new parts of your life the old places continue to grow and change without you, and going back often makes you feel a little left behind, you have to look for the parts you recognise so you can reconnect. Nostalgia is tempered by balancing your own changes against the changes to the places of your past. But this was different, this felt like without you the place simply stopped cold. A very strange but wonderful experience.
I don’t know what’s happening to the site there, but I hope eventually something great goes in to bring life back to the place, and I don’t mean some hideous housing development of units with double garages to fit 4WD suburban wank machines, or a Nando’s

Oh, and we’re not that hard core. By ‘snuck’  I mean we drove past one day and saw the gates open, so we walked straight in. Sorry to break anyone’s illusions of fence scaling and security guard dodging if you’d had them

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