chocolate peanut brittle cake

29 Aug 2016

I saw a photo of this popcorn and peanut butter cake in an old copy of the Australian Women's Weekly and thought I'd like to give it a try. The cake was topped with peanut butter icing and some crunchy nut popcorn. 

I couldn't find any crunchy nut popcorn in the store so I swapped it for some home made peanut brittle adapted from this recipe. I found a very yummy looking peanut butter icing online so decided to use that to top the cake.

I reduced the original recipe a little and baked it in my 17cm tin. The cake rose like crazy so I think it I should have used a slightly larger tin, perhaps a 7-8 inch tin or maybe a rectangular slice tin. As you can see, the peanut butter icing covered a multitude of sins.

If you're allergic to peanuts I'm sure it would be fine to swap the peanut butter for another nut butter and use popcorn or a different nut brittle to top the cake.

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 gas oven, so if your oven is fan forced, you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Peanut Brittle Cake

Cake Ingredients
⅓ cup dutch process cocoa powder
⅓ cup boiling water
125g butter, softened, chopped
1 cup caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup buttermilk

Peanut Butter Icing
80g unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup sifted icing sugar
¼ cup cream
Pinch of salt

To Serve
Peanut brittle, crumbled
2 tsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced). Grease, flour and line the base of an 7-8 inch round tin with baking paper.

Combine sifted cocoa and boiling water in a large bowl and mix until smooth. Add butter, sugar and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer until batter is smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add sifted flours and buttermilk, in two batches; beat on low speed until just combined. Spread mixture into pan.

Bake cake for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave cake in pan for 5 minutes before turning, top-side up, onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing, cream together the peanut butter and butter until pale. Add the icing sugar, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until combined. Pour in the cream and beat until smooth then mix in the salt. Beat on high for a few minutes or until the buttercream has become light and fluffy.

Place the cake on a serving plate; spread the icing on top and store in the fridge until serving time. Just before serving, arrange the crumbled peanut brittle on the icing, then dust with sifted icing sugar. 

I'm new to this whole chocolate peanut combination so wasn't sure if I'd like the finished product.

So what did I think? The peanut butter icing was absolutely delicious but because I'd used such a little tin, the icing to cake proportions were a bit out of whack. 
The icing made a very generous amount - enough to cover the top and fill the cake as well so if you made the cake in a larger tin there would be plenty of icing without any adjustments. 

Next time I think I'd either make it in a slice tin slathered with the peanut butter icing or I'd make an 8 inch layer cake. That peanut butter icing was just too good to waste.

See you all again soon.

Bye for now,


my concept store - mini shopshoot

25 Aug 2016

When I was in Iceland I was hoping I'd find an interesting shop to shoot. As Iceland is so small I figured that shop would probably be found in Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a small city and the shopping is catered towards the tourist end of the market. I didn't want to photograph Icelandic sweaters, puffin themed goods or adventure gear so my options were limited. 

Thankfully I stumbled upon Myconceptstore and as I had my camera with me, I did a mini shopshoot. Myconceptstore has a bit of everything - clothes, record players, jewellery, glasses, paper goods, globes of the world. The list goes on. The only drawback? The interior is painted entirely in black which made it a bit hard to shoot. I don't have a flash for my Fuji XE-2 and really to do the store justice some artificial light is needed.

Not surprisingly, as it's unique in Reykjavik, the store was really busy most times I visited except during a torrential downpour when I was the only one in the shop.

I'd ordered a piece of jewellery and walked through the rain to collect it before my flight back home to Sydney. I looked like a drowned rat by the time I made it back to my apartment and had to drape my jeans over the heating pipes so they would dry in time for the flight to Dusseldorf. The things we do.

Back to the shop. The interiors painted in black made the coloured paper goods really pop.

I just loved this cushion and globe.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to photograph any of the clothes in the shop. The clothes were in the back room where there was no natural light. It was just too dim for photography.

A parting image. You can find Myconceptstore at Laugavegur 45 in Reykjavik and when I was there, it was a puffin free zone!

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,


iceland part v - reykjavik

22 Aug 2016

As my trip to Iceland was dovetailed by a conference and a weekend in Zurich catching up with friends, I had little time to explore Reykjavik. I booked an apartment and arranged to have 2 days in Reykjavik after the trip ended and before the long journey home (32 hours or so and trust me it felt like it).

Unfortunately the weather was a bit dreary for those 2 days, the worst weather I experienced in my 11 days in Iceland. I had half a roll of film to finish off so as well as pops of colour I was looking for opportunities to shoot in black and white.

I stayed in a guesthouse with the tour group which was near the Hallgrimskirkja where I found the grafitti whilst the single glove project can be found in Laugavegur, the main shopping street.

My lovely apartment was on the other side of town close to the old marina but quite a walk from the Hallgrimskirkja. The Catholic Church was a local landmark and I walked past it a few times each day.

The architecture in my new district was strikingly different from the houses near the Hallgrimskirkja, much more substantial and affluent.

It's where I found these roses, heavy with rain.

Once I was settled in my new place I went for a walk down to the old marina.

Naturally being by the waterfront, fish restaurants abounded. I had some fish soup while I was in Reykjavik but compared to the vegetable soups I'd enjoyed I was a bit disappointed.

I kept walking until I reached Harpa, the concert hall and convention centre.

Harpa sits suspended over the water.

It's a glass block like structure with a honeycombed appearance.

A statue of the Danish cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson sits outside the concert hall.

From there I walked back up to the hill towards the shopping district where you can find this tie artwork.

I could spy the Sun Voyager sculpture from there so I walked down to where it was located, crossing the double lane highway illegally to do so. There's not much traffic in Reykjavik.

How do I get my images free of people? I wait very patiently!

Shooting film also forces you to slow down and think clearly about the process.

As well as cats, daisies are a feature of Reykjavik.

I was on my way to the Einars Jónsson sculpture garden when I could smell something very delicious coming from this building.

I entered Braud and Co and a short time later I left with a cherry scroll and half a loaf of bread. It was so good I returned the next day for one of their cinnamon scrolls. So if you're ever in Reykjavik, then do yourself a favour.....

It was a short walk up the hill past Reykjavik Roasters to the sculpture garden.

As it was a Monday the museum wasn't open so I walked around the garden. This sculpture was my favourite one.

City Hall was another landmark building. If I found it I knew I'd be able to make my way home.

Another landmark on my journey home to my apartment, the Apotek Hotel. This image was taken earlier in my stay when the sun shone. I'd love to have been able to stay there but Reykjavik prices made an apartment stay a much more affordable option.

We had dinner one night at Le Bistro. The following day I found this elderly gentleman busking outside the restaurant. How sweet that he was given a carafe of water. Hands down this is my favourite image from Reykjavik.

I'll be back later in the week with my mini shopshoot from Reykjavik.

Bye for now,



ginger cake with salted caramel sauce

18 Aug 2016

I love all things ginger especially ginger cake. When I came home from Iceland the cake tin was bare and I was a bit too jet lagged to bake anything complicated. I found this ginger cake recipe from April Bloomfield and this Cider Five Spice Cake with Caramel Sauce recipe from Nigella Lawson and wondered what would happen if I combined the two recipes. This cake is the love child from those 2 recipes topped with some caramel sauce from the lovely Belinda Jeffery's book Mix and Bake.

It's an easy cake to make. You spend more time weighing and measuring the ingredients than you do mixing the cake. I've made the cake twice now, once in a bundt tin and I won't lie when I say it was a struggle to get the cake out from the tin. The second time I made it in a loaf tin lined with baking paper and of course getting that cake from the tin was a breeze.

I upped the ginger quotient so the cake does have a bit of a kick. If you're not so keen on ginger you could reduce the ground ginger by a teaspoon. The cake tastes great as it is or you could top it with a simple lemon icing. Or you could do as I did and serve the cake warm as a dessert topped with some stewed apple, caramel sauce and a dollop of Greek yoghurt. Absolutely delish.

Here's the recipe for you adapted from recipes by April Bloomfield and Nigella Lawson. 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 gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Ginger Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce - makes a 16 cm round cake/small loaf or bundt cake.

Cake Ingredients
125 mls ginger beer
125 mls golden syrup or treacle
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1¼ cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch salt
⅓ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup (50g) firmly packed brown sugar
3 tsps finely grated fresh ginger
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 170C°. Grease a small bundt tin or grease and line a 16cm cake tin with baking paper. Set the tin to one side while you prepare the cake.

Warm the ginger beer and golden syrup or treacle in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a microwaveable bowl until the golden syrup melts. Carefully stir in the bicarbonate of soda as the mixture will froth up. Set to one side to let the mixture cool a little.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a medium size bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the oil, the brown sugar and the grated ginger. Mix in the egg and beat till smooth. Mix a third of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternating with the ginger beer mixture until you have added all the flour and liquid, beating as you go to make a smooth batter. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl well to make sure there aren’t any pockets of flour.

Pour the batter, which will be quite runny, into the prepared tin. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes if using a bundt tin or approximately 50-55 minutes if you're using a regular cake tin. When the cake is ready, it will start to come away from the sides of the tin and a cake tester should come out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack for about 30 minutes before turning out. If you baked a bundt cake, you may have some trouble getting it to release from the tin. You can use your fingers to help prise the cake away from the edges of the tin and turn out. Leave the cake to cool completely before wrapping in baking paper and cling wrap as it tastes best if eaten the following day.

If you like, you can serve this cake with some salted caramel sauce (Belinda Jeffery recipe).

Caramel sauce
½ cup cream
110g firmly packed soft brown sugar
35g caster sugar
30ml maple syrup
30ml golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

To make the caramel sauce, put all the ingredients except the sea salt into a smallish, heavy-based saucepan. Sit the pan over high heat and stir the mixture just until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring it to the boil. Let it bubble rapidly until a sugar thermometer registers 108°C. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool for at least 20 minutes then add a pinch of sea salt to balance out the sweetness. You can use the sauce warm, or store it in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks. It tends to separate a little when it’s cold, but just give it a good stir and it comes back together. Makes about a cup.

If you'd like to make a large bundt cake or a 8-9 inch cake, double all the cake and the sauce ingredients. The cooking times will remain the same.

See you all again next week with some images from Reykjavik.

Bye for now,


iceland part IV - the snæfellsnes penisula

15 Aug 2016

The last part of our tour around Iceland took us north to Akureyri then over to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and back to Reykjavik. We began the day with a visit to a massive waterfall called Godafoss. I won't even try to describe the crowds of people at this waterfall.

We then returned to the bus for the drive to Akureyri. We were all looking forward to Akureyri as we had free time to roam but unfortunately the weather had other ideas. It started raining during the night and it bucketed down all day. I was determined not to spend my time in a cafe eating and drinking, so off I wandered to the Botanical Gardens.

The gardens were a 10-15 minutes walk from the downtown area.

Inside the gardens I found some traditional cottages painted black, fountains, a cafe and a rotunda and flower beds, of course.

I have no idea what this flower is called, but I liked it so I took a photograph.

I was taken by this water fountain and was challenged by a passer by to test it's functionality. I tried it out and it worked like dream.

There were lots of pretty vistas in the gardens.

The gardens were lovely but pretty damp and eventually I relented and returned to the downtown area. I did the teeniest bit of shopping (rhubarb jam and glacier salt); found a cafe downtown for lunch and camped there until it was time to get on the bus for our journey to Siglufjörður.

Siglufjörður is a pretty fishing village.

It was a thriving herring fishing centre until overfishing decimated the herring population. Now it's known for it's brightly coloured houses and a museum devoted to herrings.

I did manage to sneak in a few black and white photos.

Last stop of the day was Hofsos.

Hofsos is home to these tar coated buildings and has a small cafe serving traditional Icelandic pancakes which the rest of the group enjoyed before we stopped for the night at a horse farm. The next morning we set off towards the 
Snæfellsnes Peninsula stopping first at Stykkishólmur.

Stykkishólmur is another pretty village with colourful wooden houses and a pretty old church. 

Then it was off to Grundarfjörður to see Kirkjufellfoss, our waterfall for the day.

From there we drove on Djúpalónssandur Beach. It's a very pebbly beach and home to 4 lifting-stones of varying dimensions from huge to tiny. The lifting stones were used to measure the strength of fishermen. If the fisherman couldn't lift the designated stone he wasn't allowed to go out on the boat.

Debris from a 1948 boat wreck left untouched on the beach, in tribute.

As we walked to the next beach I turned around to take a final shot of the fresh water lagoon.

I snapped this shot of the beach before we walked to Hellnar.

There's a small cafe at Hellnar and that's where we started our walk to Arnarstapi.

Arnarstapi is home to an amazing bird colony and we watched transfixed by the birds swooping and calling in the basalt arches.

We walked past the Gaklettur Arch to the end of our walk.

Our final stop for the day was the tiny hamlet of Budir, home to the famous black church and the only white sandy beach in Iceland.

A few years ago I saw some beautiful wedding photos of a couple who'd eloped to Iceland. They were married in this church and had their reception at the local hotel, the only other building in Budir. Those photos inspired my trip to Iceland so I indulged myself by taking a few photos. This one was taken towards the sea.

I took photos in black and white.

I took a few close ups.

And I took photos facing the mountains.

Later on when I looked through the images I realized I hadn't managed to get inside the church even though it was open. I ran out of time. I waited and waited for people to enter and exit the church so I could get a clear shot of the church in all it's stillness. I'm glad I did because by the time I returned to the church from the beach, a bus load of people had arrived and the moment was gone. I'd kept how important that image of the church without a soul in sight was to me. Can you imagine how I'd have felt if I hadn't been able to get the shot that had brought me to Iceland, after a 32 hour air journey and 9 days travelling around Iceland crammed into a mini bus??

The following day our tour guide Jens departed and was replaced by another tour guide, another driver and another bus. We had a few things to see and do before returning to Reykjavik, one of which was to climb the Grabok Crater. 

This was the view down into the crater.

We had 2 more waterfalls to view before the tour ended. Hraunfossar and it's companion waterfall, Barnafoss or the Children's Falls.

On the way to the Children's Falls a stray tourist suddenly pulled out in front of our bus and in trying to avoid an accident, our driver ran into the gutter. A panel came loose and fell off the bus and in the interest of safety, our trip was curtailed and we limped back to Reykjavik and just like that the trip ended. All in all it was a bit of an anti-climax but as I had allowed myself 2 extra days in Reykjavik there was more exploring to come but this time solo.

See you all again soon with some photos of Reykjavik and a mini shop-shoot I did while there.

Bye for now,


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