australia day lamington cupcakes

26 Jan 2015

Happy Australia Day

A few months back I found photos and a recipe for lamington angel cupcakes on this website and decided to make some for Australia Day.

For those of you who've not made lamingtons before, it's a bit of a process. You bake a slab cake the day before which you freeze as it's easier to dip the cake if it's frozen. Each square is dipped into chocolate icing then rolled in coconut. You end up with as much icing and coconut on your fingers as you do on the lamingtons.

If you want to speed up the process you can make lamington cupcakes. You make cupcakes, remove the liners from the cakes, then dip and roll. It's as simple as that. I like to add some melted chocolate to the cocoa based icing to make it a bit more luxe before rolling in coconut. Plain old desiccated coconut is traditional but I only had shredded coconut in the cupboard so that's what I used.

The plan was to cut the cupcakes in half before filling with some berry jam and cream but that's when the plan came unstuck. When push came to shove I couldn't be bothered with all the fiddling involved, so the cream stayed unwhipped in the fridge and the jam pot, untouched. I hope you don't mind too much.

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

If you'd like to make traditional lamingtons, double the cake mixture and bake in a lamington tin (11 x 8 inch) for about 30 minutes. When cool, freeze the cake for a few hours before cutting the cake into small rectangles. Dip each square in chocolate icing before rolling in coconut. The quantity of icing and coconut should be enough for a batch of lamingtons but have some extra coconut on hand, just in case!

Lamington Cupcakes (Makes 6 - 12) 
Butter Cake
125 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter
100 grams (½ cup) caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup self raising flour
¼ cup plain flour
60 mls (¼ cup) milk

Chocolate icing
10g (2 tsp) butter
60g (2oz) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sifted icing sugar
¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (125 ml) milk

2 cups desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to moderate (180°C conventional).

Line a 6-hole Texas or 12-hole standard muffin pan with paper cases.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined well. Sift the flours together. Add the flour alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk. Divide mixture among cases; smooth surface.

Bake large cakes for about 25 minutes, small cakes about 20 minutes. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool. Remove cakes from cases and place in the freezer for an hour.

Make the chocolate icing. Dip the cakes in the icing; drain off excess, toss cakes in coconut. Keep topping up the coconut if it becomes too chocolate stained. Place cakes on wire rack to set.

Chocolate Icing
Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir sifted icing sugar and cocoa into the chocolate. Add the vanilla extract and enough milk to make an icing of a coating consistency. If the icing thickens too much thin it out with a little more milk or water or you can zap it in the microwave for about 20 seconds on high.

I hope you all enjoyed your Australia Day Long Weekend. I decided to take a little road trip and went down to Canberra for a few days. Today I'm painting the spare room so I'm covered in paint.

See you all next week with some photos from Canberra.

Bye for now,


a nectarine and blackberry cake

19 Jan 2015

Hi every-one,

it's summer in Sydney so we're in the midst of the stone fruit season. Plums, peaches and nectarines abound in the fruit shop. I just love this time of year! Last weekend I made this cake to bring into work, my first for the year. I was planning on making a nectarine and raspberry cake but when I spied punnets of blackberries in the shop, I changed my plans.

I adapted my regular butter cake recipe a little and replaced some of the flour with almond meal. It makes for a really moist cake.

I sliced the nectarines and placed a layer inside the cake and topped the cake with some more sliced nectarines, a few of the blackberries and a sprinkling of flaked almonds.

It's such a lovely simple cake and you can use any seasonal soft fruit or even frozen berries. I've made variations of this recipe using plums, blueberries, apricots, raspberries and even rhubarb and each version has been delicious. I snaffled a few slices for myself and as hoped, the cake was lovely and moist.

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. If you want to make a 9 inch/23 cm cake, double all the ingredients and bake the cake for the same length of time.

Nectarine and Blackberry Cake (makes one 18 cm cake)
Cake Ingredients 
3 nectarines
1 tablespoon caster sugar 
125 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter 
100 grams (½ cup) caster sugar 
Grated rind ½ lemon
1 egg
¾ cup self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond meal
60 – 90 mls (¼ - ⅓ cup) milk
150 g punnet blackberries or raspberries
Flaked almonds
Optional – icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F conventional oven. Grease and flour a 18 cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Slice each nectarine into quarters, put into a small bowl and sprinkle over the tablespoon of caster sugar. Set aside.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined well. Sift the flour and the baking powder together then mix through the almond meal. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk. Spoon half the batter into the greased and lined tin. Layer a few of the nectarine slices over the top of the batter then sprinkle over a few berries. Gently spoon the remaining batter over the fruit. Arrange the remaining nectarine slices over the top of the cake, scatter the remaining berries and top with some flaked almonds.

Bake the cake for 1 hour or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Some of the nectarines may sink to the bottom of the tin while cooking. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack. If desired, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

I'd planned to photograph this cake last Sunday on a funny tumble down bench in the garden but the weather changed and it poured all day. This happens every time I plan an outdoor shoot so instead I photographed the cake in my sun-room while the rain tumbled down outside.

I hope you enjoyed the weekend however it was spent.

See you all again next week,


a rustic plum tart

12 Jan 2015

Hi every-one,

When it's plum season I normally make a plum cake to bring into work. Last year I decided to make a plum tart instead. The images were shot for my September Delicious Bites column on decor8 but the column was cancelled before I had time to post the recipe. 

My workmates loved the tart so I put the images in a folder waiting for plum season to arrive here in Sydney. I was invited to a BBQ last weekend and as plums have recently appeared in the shops I decided it was time to remake the tart.

The pastry recipe is my own but the filling comes from Belinda Jeffrey's Plum Crostata recipe from Mix and Bake. Belinda made her crostata on a pizza tray but I decided to make mine in a pie tin.

As a pie tin is much smaller than a pizza tray but much deeper, you'll need to layer the fruit, which means the cooking time is close to double the 40 minutes mentioned in the original recipe. It's pretty easy to put together as it's really only half a pie and you don't have to fiddle around making a lid. If making pastry gives you the heebie jeebies, you could always buy some good quality shortcrust pastry and use that instead.

Here's the recipe for you -

A Rustic Plum Tart (filling adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Plum Crostata recipe in ‘Mix and Bake’)

Hazelnut shortcrust pastry
1⅓ cup plain flour
¼ cup hazelnut meal 
¼ cup icing sugar 
110g/4 oz unsalted butter, coarsely chopped 
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons of iced water

Place flour, hazelnut meal, icing sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. With the processor still running, gradually pour in enough of the egg mixture until the pastry starts to form a ball. Stop the processor, tip out the dough and form it into a disc. Wrap in plastic and pop in the fridge to rest for 40 minutes.

1 kg/2 lbs just ripe plums
¼ cup caster sugar
2 x 20 ml tbs roasted hazelnuts, finely chopped 
¼ cup caster sugar 
2 x 20 tbs plain flour 
1 tsp ground cinnamon

raw caster sugar for sprinkling

To serve
whipped or double cream

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F.

Halve the plums, remove the seeds and thinly slice. Place the sliced plums with ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl. Set to one side.

In a small bowl mix together the hazelnuts, sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Grease a 9 inch pie plate. Unwrap the pastry and roll out on a lightly floured bench to form a thin circle a few inches larger than the pie tin. Place the circle in the pie tin being careful not to trim the overhang as that will form the lid.

Spread half the hazelnut mixture over the base of the pie plate. Arrange half the plum slices, overlapping in concentric circles and liberally sprinkle with remaining hazelnut mixture. Arrange the remaining plums in a second layer and reserve any leftover juice.

Fold the border gently over the plums and brush the edge of the pastry with milk. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the plums and a little on the pastry. Place the plum tart on a baking tray to catch any drips while it’s baking.

Place the tray in the oven and bake the tart for about 1 hour or until the plums have collapsed a little and the pastry turns golden brown. If the plums are still uncooked when tested, cover the edges of the pastry with foil and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Place the leftover plum juice in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until it forms a syrup. Gently glaze the plums with the mixture. The pie can be served warm or at room temperature. The flour really helps the filling to set so you should be able to cut a clean slice once the pie cools.

Serve with whipped cream or double cream.

I bought a bucket of plums from the fruit shop to make the tart but unbeknownst to me, the top layer was close to ripe but the rest were a little unripe. When I served the pie, I found that unripe plums sure make for a zingy filling. 

Like most pies, it tastes even better served with a dollop of cream.

For all my Northern Hemisphere readers, I hope you get the chance to try this recipe when it's your plum season. 

See you all again soon,


chocolate cinnamon snails

5 Jan 2015

Happy New Year every-one. I've just had a 3 week break from work. I spent time in Brisbane with my family and have just had a week at home in Sydney doing stuff around the house. I assembled a piece of IKEA furniture on my own without swearing or shedding tears, which I consider a bit of a triumph. I finally buckled down and started to repaint my spare room which has been on my to-do list for a while. I've done plenty of painting in the past but I can't say it's my favourite thing to do especially in the middle of summer. To date I have more paint on the walls than on the floor or in my hair so it's coming along.

I received a few cook books for Christmas, one Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi was a Christmas gift from a friend, whilst the other, Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahneman was a gift to myself. You see I've been trying to track down a recipe since my trip to Copenhagen in May. I stayed in a little flat while I was there and each day I'd buy a chocolate cinnamon snail from the Emmery's on the corner. Emmery's have the recipe in their own cookbook but as I don't read Danish I decided not to buy the book. Once I arrived home I regretted my decision as the scrolls were delicious and I wanted to try making them at home. I was hoping Trine's book would unlock the secrets for me.

Unfortunately there wasn't a similar recipe in the book, but Trine gave very detailed instructions for the preparation of danish pastry. Using those instructions and a Claus Meyer recipe I found online, I cobbled together a recipe for chocolate cinnamon snails.

Making danish pastry is a bit of a process so the snails took me 2 days to make. As it's so hot in Sydney at the moment, resting the dough for 30 minutes didn't allow time for the butter to firm, so I needed to allow an hour's resting time in the fridge between each bout of folding and rolling. I let the dough rest overnight before rising early one morning to put the scrolls together. I used half the dough and the remainder is in the freezer waiting to turn into rhubarb danishes, my favourite kind.

Here's the recipe for you -
Cinnamon Snails - makes 12
500 g of cold flour (stored in the freezer overnight)
30 g fresh (15 g dried) yeast
60g sugar
7 g of sea salt
50 g softened butter
250 ml cold water
1 egg
200g cold butter

50 g almond meal
125 g brown sugar
125 g softened butter
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp golden syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon

12 chocolate buttons

Combine flour, yeast, sugar and sea salt in a stand mixer. Add 50 gm softened butter, the egg and water and mix for 3-5 minutes to form a smooth dough. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight. Meanwhile, beat remaining butter between two sheets of baking paper with a rolling pin to soften, roll into a 15cm square, ensuring edges are even, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 30cm square, stretching corners out slightly. Lay butter square in centre of dough at a 45-degree angle. Fold corners of dough over butter to enclose, pinch to seal, then roll out to a 25cm x 45cm rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold bottom third up, fold top third down to cover, wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate to rest (1 hour). Starting with a short side facing you, repeat the rolling, folding and resting twice.

Beat almond meal and brown sugar in a bowl ensuring there are no lumps. Add the softened butter, the lemon rind, golden syrup and cinnamon. Take care not to over mix the filling.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place the dough on a floured board and roll it out into a rectangle about 40 x 25 cm. Spread almond mixture evenly over pastry leaving about 5cm free at the top end. Start rolling up from the bottom end; just before you complete the roll, brush the top edge with a little water to secure it to the roll. Cut the roll into 12 slices. Place the snails on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Cover with a tea towel and set aside until doubled in size (1-2 hours).

Preheat oven to 220C. Bake the snails for 12-14 minutes. Take the snails from the oven and immediately place a chocolate button in the centre of the snail. Let the snails cool on the baking sheet. Adapted from this recipe.

I've had 2 of the snails now and whilst they're absolutely delicious they're not the same as the Emmery's snails. Maybe it's flour I used; maybe Emmery's use some sourdough as part of the raising agent; maybe they use marzipan in the filling. I'm not sure but at least now I've learned how to make danish pastry!

P.S I baked another snail for a special treat. Instead of topping it with chocolate, I iced it with some glace icing made with icing sugar, buttermilk and a tiny dab of butter. The buttermilk iced snail was absolutely delicious.

I hope you all had a good break from work and are feeling refreshed for the New Year.

Bye for now,

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