moist carrot cake with butterscotch cream cheese icing

29 Jun 2015

Last month's Australian Gourmet Traveller featured a carrot cake on it's front cover. I made the carrot cake last weekend and although it tasted lovely it was very dense and chewy and not quite what I was after.

It tasted a little too earnest and worthy to me so I decided to revisit my old carrot cake recipe, however making some butterscotch flavoured cream cheese icing to top the cake sounded like a mighty fine idea.

I baked the cake on Saturday; made the glazed pecans on Saturday night and made the butterscotch icing on Sunday. That gave me time to ice and photograph the cake in time for work on Monday to celebrate some more June birthdays.

I've made the maple glazed pecans before but last weekend I tried making the glazed carrot slices for the first time. I really like the way the edges of the carrot ruffle when they're cooked turning into carrot flowers. The carrot slices do tend to stick a bit to the baking paper so you need to be careful when removing them from the tray.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a 16 cm layer cake. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. To make a 23 cm layer cake, double all the ingredients and follow the instructions. The baking time will stay the same.

I had about ½ cup of icing left over so the quantity of cream cheese icing should just about stretch to a 23 cm cake. If you're worried it might be a bit stingy use all the butterscotch mixture and 50% more butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

Moist Carrot Cake
170g (1 cup + 2 tbl) self-raising flour
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
¼ cup canned, unsweetened, crushed pineapple, lightly drained
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
¼ cup (40g) brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g (2 oz) pecan nuts, roughly chopped
2 eggs
cup vegetable oil
1 cup peeled, grated carrot

Butterscotch Cream Cheese Icing (Inspired by this recipe from AGT)
30 g (1 oz) butter
30 g (1 oz) brown sugar
30 mls cream
2 tsp golden syrup
125g (4½ oz) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
60 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Glazed Pecans and Carrot Slices
½ cup pecan halves/half a carrot, very thinly sliced
¼ cup maple syrup or maple flavoured syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan forced). Line base and sides of a 16 cm spring form pan with baking paper.

Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Mix in the pineapple, sugars, vanilla, nuts, eggs, oil into the flour mixture. Mix together until lightly combined then add the carrot and mix well. The mixture should be quite runny.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake on centre shelf of oven for 60 minutes. If not cooked when tested then cover the cake with a sheet of baking paper and cook for a further 10 minutes or until centre of cake is firm. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Allow cake to cool completely before decorating with the butterscotch cream cheese icing, the nuts and carrot slices. You can also top the cake with a handful of coarsely chopped toasted pecans if you don’t feel like making the candied version.

Butterscotch Cream Cheese Icing
First make the butterscotch. Combine the butter, brown sugar, the cream and the golden syrup in a small saucepan. Cook over a low heat until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Cook for a minute or two until the mixture thickens then add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool. You’ll need to use 2 tbl of the butterscotch for the icing.

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, the butter, icing sugar, the vanilla extract and 2 tbl of butterscotch. Beat the mixture until it’s soft and creamy.

Glazed Pecans and Carrot Slices
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (conventional).
Toss pecans and sliced carrots in maple syrup then spread out in a single layer on a baking paper lined baking tray. Keep the carrots separate from the pecans. Sprinkle the pecans with a few flakes of sea salt. Bake until maple syrup is caramelized and pecans are toasted and carrots have developed a frilled edge, about 10 minutes. Normally I check the carrots after 5 minutes, and then turn them over. Let cool completely on baking sheet before storing the carrot slices and pecans in separate airtight containers.

This recipe makes a lovely old fashioned moist carrot cake and the addition of butterscotch flavoured icing adds a modern touch to an old classic.

See you later in the week.

Bye for now,



24 Jun 2015

When I arrived at my hotel in Kyoto, I was taken to my room by a lovely young lady who suggested a few must see places while I was in Kyoto. She suggested I visit Gion, the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama. As it happened they were all on my list of must-see places. On my second day in Kyoto I decided to visit Arashiyama. It was a bit of a cold, wet day so I briskly walked to the Tenruji Temple

The temple is set in beautiful gardens. I meant to buy a ticket which included entry into the temple but instead managed to buy a ticket for the garden only.

In the end I don’t think it mattered much as the gardens are the most beautiful part of the temple complex.

The temple overlooks a lake and I imagine the gardens would look spectacular during autumn when the leaves change colour. 

The temple backs onto the Bamboo Grove so there are plenty of bamboo trees in the garden. 

You can access the Bamboo Grove directly from the temple grounds. 

Now in my mind, I was walking through the Grove on my own and enjoying the wind rustling through the leaves. The picture on the right is in fact the reality.

As you walk along the Grove there’s a sign pointing in the direction of the Okochi Sanso Villa, the former home of a movie actor. 

The villa, which is not open to the public, is surrounded by gardens.

The garden is green, lush and very quiet looking out over the hills of Kyoto.

After the crowds along the Bamboo Grove, I really enjoyed the solitude. As part of the entry fee you’re given Japanese tea and a Japanese sweet. That was my first taste of matcha tea but it wasn't going to be my last as I went to a Japanese tea ceremony later that day. 

I don’t have any photos of the ceremony at the En Tea House, but I can tell you although I’m not much of a fan of matcha tea (way too bitter for my taste buds) I found the ceremony very graceful and balletic. I bought some matcha tea from Ipoddo and now have a tea scoop and whisk as a memento of my time in Kyoto. I’m sure there will be some matcha flavoured goodies on the blog in the future.

I walked back to my hotel and passed by this cute little shop. I planned a return visit to buy some goodies but ran out of time. They don't have a website, so I guess I might just have to go back Kyoto.

See you all again next week with some more baking, I think. I just have so many recipes I want to try and not enough time to bake.

Bye for now,


lemon dream cake

22 Jun 2015

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and to celebrate all the June birthdays at work, we had a big morning tea today. I wanted to make something a bit special for the occasion, so I made a Lemon Meringue Cake also known as a Lemon Dream Cake.

I made this cake a few years using a different recipe and it was a disaster. The cake was really dry and with the meringue layer on the bottom as suggested, the top layer slid off the bottom layer in a slick of lemon curd and cream. I don't like to be defeated so when I saw a picture of this cake by Nadine Ingram in the April issue of Gourmet Traveller I decided to give it another go.

I downsized the recipe to fit my mini cake tins and changed the recipe just a little to up the lemon quotient. I added some grated lemon rind to the cake mix instead of the vanilla paste and substituted lemon juice for the milk. I used my own recipe for the lemon curd, which I made in the microwave.

This recipe makes a double layer 16 cm cake. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. To make a 22 cm layer cake, double all the ingredients and follow the instructions. The baking time will stay the same.

Lemon Dream Cake, adapted from
this Nadine Ingram recipe

Lemon curd
2 egg yolks
⅓ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup lemon juice
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
60 g (2 oz) softened unsalted butter

125 g (4½ oz) butter, softened
125 g (4½ oz) sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
112 g (4½ oz) self-raising flour
13 g (½ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
½ tsp baking powder
1 - 2 tbs lemon juice

2 egg whites
150 g (5 oz) caster sugar

To serve
150 ml (⅔ cup) cream
Lemon curd (recipe below or good shop bought)
Icing sugar

Lemon Curd
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, juice and rind in a heatproof bowl until just combined. Place bowl in the microwave and cook on medium high for 5-6 minutes, whisking every minute, until the temperature of the curd reaches 85ºC/185ºF when tested on a sugar thermometer or thickens to the consistency of whipped cream. If you like you can also cook the curd in a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Strain the curd through a fine sieve. Add butter to the lemon curd a little at a time, whisking well between additions. Cover the curd with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill and set (at least 4 hours or overnight).


Line the base and sides of two 16 cm-diameter springform cake tins with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180ºC (conventional) or 160ºC (fan forced).

In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and lemon rind until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating between additions and scraping down sides of bowl, until all incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and then add to egg mixture in batches. Add enough lemon juice to make a soft batter, then divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins and set to one side.


In a large bowl whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until the mixture forms soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking until meringue is glossy. Dot half the meringue evenly over each cake, and swirl the meringue on one cake to make a decorative top layer. Bake both cakes on the middle shelf of the oven until the meringue is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through the cooking time. Test the cake is done by inserting a skewer or cake tester through a crack in the meringue into the layer below. Cool completely in tins (3 hours).

Remove cakes from tins and carefully peel baking paper off. Spread lemon curd evenly over bottom cake (you won't need to use all the curd. I did and there was a bit of a volcanic eruption when I placed the second layer on top), top with whipped cream, then place second cake on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

The cake is pretty delicate as you can see, so if you can I'd assemble the cake just before serving. If you don't want to make a double layer cake I think this would be just as nice made as a single larger cake, perhaps baked in a 9 inch tin, topped with the lemon curd and dollops of cream. You'd need to cook it a little longer though, maybe 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I made this cake on Sunday, stored the cake in the fridge overnight then took the cake into work where it somehow survived the train journey. The cake was surprisingly easy to slice and it was deemed delicious by all. I had a sliver and it was pretty yummy but how can you go wrong when you combine lemon curd with meringue and cream?

See you all bit later in the week.

Bye for now,



kyoto - northern higashiyama

17 Jun 2015

Much as I don't enjoy getting sick, it did give me some downtime. I spent my sick days languishing in bed with my laptop working on my photos of Kyoto. Kyoto is such a photogenic place I took loads of photos so narrowing the selection was a bit of a challenge. As there were so many photos, I'll split the images across a number of posts. 

I spent Day 1 in the Northern Higashiyama area as that was where I was staying. I started the day early and arrived at my first destination, the Nanzen-Ji Temple, before opening hours.

This is the imposing main gate

with it's massive doors.

Nanzen-Ji is a Zen Buddhism temple. A service was taking place which we watched in silence and here are some of the participants leaving. The temple is surrounded by beautiful lush greenery.

There's an imposing aqueduct on site with some amazing light streaming through the trees.

I decided it was a vision worthy of a black and white image. From Nanzen-Ji I stumbled around searching for the Path of Philosophy.

It's a beautiful quiet tree lined walk, home to many cats.

It's where I found this elderly lady taking a stroll. The Path of Philosophy led me to the Honen-In Temple.

The Honen-In Temple is another of the lovely quiet contemplative green temples, my favourite kind.

So green!

The temple is set in lush greenery which manages to out lush the Nanzen-Ji Temple.

Time for reflection before returning to the Path of Philosophy for the short walk to the Gingkaku-Ji Temple.

Now this temple is a very popular one in Kyoto, which means it's also very crowded. I couldn't get a clear shot of the famous sand sculpture so I concentrated on a detail shot instead.

The Silver Temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a lake. I was too late for cherry blossoms but I was right on time for the azaleas.

Beautiful gardens require maintenance and I found this gardener hard at work.

Next time I blog about my trip to Kyoto I'll be posting photos from Arashiyama but I'll be back before then with some baking.

See you all again next week. 

Bye for now,


marcella hazan's potato soup with split green peas.

15 Jun 2015

Last week was one of those weeks. I spent the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend in Brisbane and flew back to Sydney with a cold and no energy to cook or go shopping. The cupboard was pretty bare. I knew I wanted soup and I'd planned to make some lentil soup when I spied this recipe for potato soup with split green peas in 'The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' by Marcella Hazan. I checked the cupboard and the fridge and found I had all the ingredients I needed, so set to work making the soup.

When you read the recipe, the soup has hardly any ingredients and very few processes. 

You know how I love to change things up, well I didn't with this recipe at all. I just added a garnish of fresh oregano and some green peas.

Here's the recipe for you.

Potato Soup with Split Green Peas - from Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

2 medium potatoes
250 g (8 oz) dried split green peas
1.25 litres (5 cups) homemade meat broth or 1 cup canned beef broth and 4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut them up into chunks. Rinse them under cold water and drain. Rinse the split peas under cold water and drain.

Put the potatoes and peas in a soup pot with 750 mls of broth, then cover and cook over medium heat, at a gentle boil, until the potatoes and peas are both tender (about 30 - 45 minutes). Turn off the heat. Purée the potatoes and peas with a stick blender or put through a food mill.

Warm the butter and oil in a small skillet, then cook the onions and until the onions are golden. Pour the contents of the skillet into the pot with the potatoes and peas, add the remaining broth, cover, and turn on the heat to medium. Adjust the heat so that the soup boils at a steady but slow boil. Cook until all of the butter and oil has become evenly distributed into the broth.

Before turning off the heat, swirl in the grated parmesan, then taste and correct for salt.

A steaming bowl of hot soup, served with bread and lashings of butter. Just what the doctor ordered!

See you all again next week,


pear ginger hazelnut crumble cake

8 Jun 2015

As you may have gathered by now I love baking with fruit and nuts and I love a good crumble. If you look through the archives, there are a fair few fruity crumble topped cake recipes and here is yet another one.

When I returned home from Japan is was pretty obvious the seasons had changed while I was out of the country. Plums, peaches and berrries had disappeared from the fruit shop and in their place were apples, pears, quince and citrus fruit.

As the temperature had also plummeted I decided to make a pear ginger hazelnut crumble cake which I served warm as a pudding one day and cold as a cake the following day. Don't you just love a versatile recipe?

I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard but I had to stock up on hazelnut meal and whole hazelnuts. Well that proved more challenging than I expected. I checked the local supermarket near work and there wasn't a hazelnut in sight, nor were there any in the local deli or the nut shop. I found hazelnut meal in Bondi Junction but those convenient roasted hazelnuts were nowhere to be found. I roasted what I had left in the freezer and now I'm back on the hunt for whole roasted hazelnuts. Is there some kind of hazelnut shortage in Sydney that I don't know about?

There is nothing delicate about this cake. It's jam packed filled with stuff and whilst I made it in my 17 cm tin it took so long to bake (1½ hours) I think it's better suited to a 20 cm/8 inch tin.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Pear Hazelnut Crumble Cake (makes a 20 cm/8 inch cake)

Crumble Topping 
¼ cup (55 gm) brown sugar 
¼ cup (35 gm) plain flour 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
30 grams (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped 
35 g (2 tbs) finely chopped glace or crystallised ginger

Crumble Topping 
To make the crumble, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until just combined. Stir through the chopped nuts and ginger. Place the crumble topping in a small bowl and refrigerate while making the cake. This makes more crumble than required so you can store any leftover crumble in the freezer.

1½ cups (2 medium pears) diced peeled pear
1 (20 ml) tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup plain flour
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
¼ cup hazelnut meal
100 g (3½ oz) melted, unsalted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tbl ginger marmalade or apricot jam
1 egg
35 g (2 tbs) finely chopped glace or crystallised ginger
A few tbs milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (conventional). Grease and line the base of a 20 cm round tin with baking paper.

Combine 1¼ cup of the diced pear and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Set to one side for 20 minutes.

Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a small bowl. Stir the hazelnut meal through the flour and set to one side.

In a medium size bowl combine the melted butter, the sugars and the ginger marmalade. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the flour and gently fold in the diced pear and juice and the finely chopped ginger. This should make a soft batter so if not then add a few tablespoons of milk. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Generously sprinkle the top of the cake with the crumble and stud with the remaining pieces of pear. Place the cake tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips and place on the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 50 - 60 minutes at 180°C/350°F or until the cake is cooked when tested.

If the cake is browning too quickly you may have to cover the top with a piece of greaseproof paper.

Place the tin on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool. When the cake is cool, remove it from the tin and carefully invert the cake discarding the lining paper, then turn right side up.

This can be served warm or cold. If serving warm, top with cream or custard or both.

In case you think my custard is something fancy made with egg yolks, you'd be wrong. I just love old fashioned custard made from custard powder. I used brown sugar when I made this batch and added some vanilla extract to the custard just before serving.

I hope you enjoy making this.

Bye for now,


Hiroshima and miyajima

3 Jun 2015

I know what you're thinking, Hiroshima and the atomic bomb. Well yes, Hiroshima is never going to be able to escape it's past but really the bomb site is a very small part of Hiroshima. 

Hiroshima is a lovely leafy city, compact, easy to get about on foot or by tram and quite attractive.

I stayed in a hotel not far from the Peace Park so as soon as I arrived I walked over to the park and the A-Bomb Dome.

The bombed out building is a pretty powerful symbol. I decided it needed to be captured in back and white film so I stopped by the next day with my film camera.

Hiroshima is not all gloom and doom though. This cafe is just a short walk from the A-Dome site.

You have to agree all those oranges are pretty jolly.

Memorials are dotted along the river front in addition to the Peace Park. One of the most moving monuments is the Children's Peace Monument in the shape of a crane.

I watched a crowd of school children present this bundle of cranes to the memorial.

The Peace Park Cenotaph was designed to frame the A-Bomb Dome. 

From there it's a short walk to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which is presently undergoing renovation.

Once I'd made a pilgrimage to these sites it started raining pretty heavily so I decided it was time for a change of pace. The following day I caught the ferry to Miyajima to see the famous Itsukushima Shrine and it's tori gate floating on water.

I timed my arrival with high tide so I could see the tori gate in all it's glory.

The shrine is a 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal and I enjoyed all the greenery on the island. There's a lot of concrete in Japan.

I made sure to visit the shrine only to find another Shinto wedding ceremony taking place. 

May must be wedding month in Japan.

Another feature of Miyajima are the deer which roam the island freely. Take a look at this cheeky fellow getting into the school photo

This coming weekend is the Queens Birthday Long Weekend so I'm heading home to Brisbane. I've been back in the kitchen so next week I'll have something sweet to share with you. When I next post about Japan, I'll share some photos from my time in Kyoto. Kyoto was my favourite destination so I took loads of photos and I've yet to narrow down my selection.

See you all again next week,

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