Seasons Greetings

24 Dec 2020


I don't know about you but this year felt very long. I'm looking forward to 2021, hoping it will be a better year than 2020.

Wishing you and your family all the best for the festive season. My thoughts go out to you if you're unable to spend the holidays with them due to border closures or lock-downs.

I'll see you all again in January with some more baking from my kitchen. 

Bye for now, 


gluten free tahini and white chocolate cake with blackberries - xmas 2020

17 Dec 2020

Welcome to Day 4 of Xmas Week 2020. As you know I became a big fan of Honey and Co this past year. When restaurants had to close in the UK the owners of Honey and Co, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, did a cookalong on Instagram. This tahini and white chocolate cake was featured and with a bottle of half used tahini in my kitchen, I thought I'd make the cake for Xmas week 2020 but I'd make it gluten-free.
Blackberries are in abundance at the moment so I filled the cake with the cream filling topped with a blackberry compote. If berries aren't in season, a berry jam will do the trick with a few white chocolate shards on top to make it pretty.
Here’s the recipe for you which makes a 2 layer 17cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.
Tahini and White Chocolate Cake with blackberries adapted from Honey and Co
160g caster sugar
150g plain flour or GF mix (¾ cup GF flour + ¼ cup almond meal)
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon
35g chopped white chocolate
1 egg
60ml vegetable oil
115g tahini paste
1½ tsp vanilla extract
120g buttermilk
90g boiling water
125g mascarpone
100g full-fat plain cream cheese
40g icing sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
100g double cream
1½ tsp rum
Blackberry compote
125 gm blackberries, fresh or frozen
35 gm caster sugar
Juice of ½ lime
150g fresh blackberries
Heat oven to 190°C conventional. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl mix the egg with the oil, tahini, vanilla and buttermilk, then combine the two mixes, before slowly adding the boiling water. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Grease and line the base of two 17cm cake tins with a round of baking paper. Divide the mix evenly between the two tins, place both in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate for an even bake and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. The cakes should feel lovely and bouncy and have a good golden colour all over. Remove from the oven and carefully flip the cakes to flatten the tops. Allow to cool upside down. Make the compote while the cake is cooling

Bring ingredients to the boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and stir occasionally until thickened (12-18 minutes). Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Mix the softened cheeses together with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the cream and using a small whisk, whisk until well combined and thickened. If you are using an electric mixer, use a paddle to avoid overworking the mix and splitting it.

Place the first cake on a serving platter, top with half the icing followed by ¼ cup of the compote then top with the second cake. Spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake then add some fresh berries.
If serving on the same day, it is best to avoid placing the cake in the fridge. If you are keeping it for longer do place it in the fridge, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
My tummy doesn't like mascarpone so I didn't try the cake but for those who do like it, the cake received a big thumbs up.

See you all again tomorrow with the last bake for Xmas Week 2020, which actually requires no baking at all. Perfect for a hot summer's day in Sydney.

Bye for now,


raspberry and lemon custard cake with torched meringue - xmas week 2020

16 Dec 2020

Welcome to Day 3 of Xmas Week 2020. I saw a photo of a raspberry salted lemon pudding cake with torched italian meringue on instagram and it looked so spectacular I searched and searched until I found the recipe. It required a dozen eggs so I took the concept and reworked it to create this recipe for you.
It was one of those recipes which was a challenge from beginning to end. I had barely enough batter to fill the tin; then the meringue topping collapsed in the heat. Despite all this it tasted delicious so I tweaked the recipe and made a second version and this one worked out perfectly. Just look at all that fluffy Italian meringue!

Here’s the recipe for you which makes a large loaf cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.
Raspberry & Lemon Custard Cake with Torched Meringue, inspired by this recipe 
Lemon Custard
2 tbs custard powder
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
300 mls milk
20 grams unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
Pinch salt

150g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
3 eggs
cup self-raising flour
¼ cup plain flour
Pinch salt
150g raspberries, fresh or frozen

Italian Meringue
100g caster sugar
100 mls cold water
pinch cream of tartar
2 egg whites
Fresh berries, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

To make the custard, combine custard powder and sugar in a small saucepan; gradually stir in the milk. Stir over heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat; stir in the butter, vanilla, the lemon rind and the pinch of salt. Press plastic wrap over surface; cool.

To make the cake batter, place the butter, sugar and lemon rind in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well, until combined. Sift the flours and salt together into a small bowl then add the flour to the butter mix and mix until just combined. Gently fold through the raspberries. If using frozen berries I stud the cake batter randomly with the still frozen berries.

Whisk the cooled custard until smooth. Spread the cake mixture into the prepared pan and then top with the custard. Level the top then bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, to make the Italian meringue, place the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the syrup reaches 115°C on a sugar thermometer.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form. When the syrup reaches 121
°C remove from the heat and with the mixer still whisking, gradually pour the hot syrup into the meringue. Whisk until the meringue is cool, about 10-15 minutes or until the meringue is cool and glossy. Spoon over the cake and torch the meringue until golden, using a blowtorch.
If you don’t have a blowtorch, set your oven to grill. Place the cake topped with the meringue on a baking tray and place under the grill for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the meringue is golden.
Ideally serve straight away but the cake will hold overnight in an airtight container in the fridge.

See you all tomorrow with more baking for Xmas Week 2020.

Bye for now,


woodland meringues - xmas week 2020

15 Dec 2020

Welcome to Day 2 of Xmas week 2020. Each year for Christmas I like to make cookies to give to my neighbours. These woodland meringues from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh looked very cute, so I decided to make a batch.

Each meringue is dipped in chocolate then either rolled in chopped toasted hazelnuts or finely chopped freeze dried strawberries. I decided to make both versions but I wasn't to know how fiddly they were. The recipe made fewer meringues than suggested and also required considerably more chocolate, chopped nuts and dried strawberries.
Here’s the recipe for you which made 60 meringues. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Woodland meringues
125 g egg whites (from 3 large eggs)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
240 g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornflour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Coating and White Chocolate Coating (halve the quantities if you are doing a mix of dark and white chocolate)

Dark Chocolate Coating
200 g hazelnuts
100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped into 2-cm pieces
40 g milk chocolate, chopped into 2-cm pieces
White Chocolate Coating
140 g white chocolate, chopped into 2-cm pieces
55 g freeze-dried strawberries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C. If making the dark chocolate coating, spread the hazelnuts out on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel, draw in the sides and then rub together to remove some of the skins. Chop the nuts very finely—it’s better to do this by hand, rather than in a food processor, where the nuts will become dusty—then set aside in a bowl.
To make the meringue, lower the oven temperature to 140°C. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until they appear foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until they are stiff but not dry or crumbly, about 30 seconds. Place the sugar in a bowl, add the cornflour and baking powder (adding both ensures a completely dry and crisp meringue), and gradually—a tablespoon at a time—add the sugar to the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then spoon into a piping bag with a 1.5-cm tip in place.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper (sticking each piece of paper firmly to the baking sheet with a bit of the meringue mix). Pipe small droplets—or kisses—onto each lined baking sheet; the base of each droplet should be about 2.5 cm wide. Raise the piping bag as you pipe, so that they are about 5 cm high and you create a fine tip at the top. Once all the meringues have been piped, place both baking sheets in the oven at once. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 120°C—you want it to be slightly hotter when they go in, to give the meringues a crunch—and bake for 2 ½ hours. The meringues are done when they look dry and sound hollow when tapped gently underneath. Turn off the oven but leave the meringues inside until they are cool, propping the door open with a wooden spoon.
To make the dark chocolate coating, place the dark and milk chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. One at a time, dip the base of the meringues into the melted chocolate, followed by the chopped hazelnuts, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set.
To make the white chocolate coating, follow the instructions for the dark chocolate topping, dipping the base into the dried strawberries instead. 

The white chocolate meringues coated with freeze dried strawberries were the clear winner. I'm still trialling cookies for this year's gifts, so I'll share the winner with you in Xmas week 2021.

See you all again tomorrow with some more baking for Xmas week 2020.

Bye for now,


pear hazelnut ricotta cake - xmas week 2020

14 Dec 2020

Welcome to Xmas week 2020. For Xmas week this year, much of my inspiration came from Instagram. A few people I follow featured versions of this pear hazelnut ricotta cake first made many years ago by an Italian pastry chef, Salvatore de Riso. With so many recipes online, some in English and some in Italian, I decided to use one from Phil Khoury.
The cake is a hazelnut sponge filled with a rum flavoured pear and ricotta cream filling. What's not to love?

The sponge cakes are delicate and probably best made the day before using for ease of handling. The candied hazelnut topping is an optional extra. I decided to get a little fancy for Christmas but they kept melting in my hot kitchen.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm cakeFor all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Pear, hazelnut ricotta cake - inspired by Sal de Riso
Hazelnut sponge
125g eggs
100g caster sugar
125g roasted hazelnut meal
50g plain flour
Pinch salt
40g melted butter, hot
Pear filling
175g ripe William pears (2 small pears)
50g caster sugar
1 tbs water
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped
7 ml dark rum
Ricotta Cream
250g ricotta, strained
250g whipping cream (35% fat)
50g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
To serve – icing sugar
Hazelnut sponge
Heat an oven to 180°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Grease and flour two 17cm cake tins then line the bases with baking paper. Combine the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until the mixture becomes very pale and fluffy and triples in size, about 5 minutes. Combine the hazelnut meal, flour and salt and fold in at a time. Lastly fold in the butter and mix until just incorporated.
Evenly pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and level off. Bake until browned and springy on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Oven temperatures do vary, so if you’re finding the cakes colour a bit early, cover the cakes with foil for the remainder of the bake
Pear filling
Peel, core and dice the pear into 1-2 cm cubes. Place the diced pear, sugar, water, vanilla seeds and the scraped vanilla pod and rum, if using, into a small pan. Place over a medium heat then simmer until the pears begin to cook and release liquid and soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the pears reserving the syrup, transfer the pears to a bowl, and cool completely.
Ricotta Cream
Whip the ricotta with 25g sugar until very smooth and creamy. Gently whip the cream with the remaining sugar and the vanilla seeds or paste until soft peaks form. Fold a third of the ricotta into the whipped cream mixture, then fold the whipped cream mixture back into the ricotta mixture until just combined. Gently fold through the cooled pears.
Line the sides of the same cake pan you used to bake the cake with baking paper or acetate. Place one cake in the cake pan, then drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of pear syrup evenly over the cake. Spoon over the ricotta mixture and smooth over with a spatula. Drizzle the rest of the reserved pear syrup over the base of the top layer of sponge and carefully place the cake on top of the ricotta filling.

You can chill the cake for several hours in the fridge. Remove the cake from the pan, dust with icing sugar, then cut carefully into slices with a sharp knife and serve.
I didn't get a chance to try the cake because it disappeared so quickly but I was assured it was delicious. 

See you all again tomorrow with some more baking for Xmas week 2020. 

Bye for now, 


raspberry ripple cake - xmas week 2020

7 Dec 2020

I recently purchased A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, having loved her first cookbook called Ostro. When leafing through the book I spied her version of a no-bake Raspberry Ripple Cake made with butternut snap cookies. I was sold but with a packet of Savoiardi in the cupboard, I decided to adapt the recipe to use what I had.

This is not too dissimilar to the mangomisu I made a few years ago, so I knew the sponge fingers would work instead of the buttersnap cookies. They are less sweet though so I've increased the sugar quantity in the filling accordingly. Julia's recipe didn't dip the biscuits in liquid but as that's what I've always done with sponge fingers I quickly dipped them in milk before assembling the cake.

Julia's use of crème fraîche instead of mascarpone in the cream filling was a brilliant move and one I'll be using again as this recipe is a keeper. Here’s the recipe for you which makes a large loaf (I used my favourite USA Pullman pan from Everten) which will serve 6-8 people.

Raspberry Ripple Cake - adapted from a Julia Busuttil Nishimura recipe.
600mls pure cream
200g crème fraîche
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
40g icing sugar, sifted
250g raspberries, fresh or frozen and partially defrosted
1 tbs caster sugar
The finely grated rind of 1 lemon
18 small sponge fingers or 250g of sweet biscuits
½ cup full fat milk
To serve
Raspberries and a selection of other berries if you like
White chocolate shards
Line the base and sides of a loaf pan with plastic wrap or foil, with plenty overhanging. Place to one side while preparing the filling.
In a large bowl whip the cream, crème fraîche, vanilla bean paste and the icing sugar until stiff peaks form.
In a small bowl combine the raspberries with the lemon rind and the caster sugar and crush with the back of a fork. Test for sweetness and add more sugar if your berries are very tart.
Spread a thin layer of the cream mixture over the base of the lined tin. Quickly dip the sponge fingers into the milk, draining any excess then place over the cream to form a layer. Top the layer of sponge fingers with another layer of cream followed by half the raspberry puree. Gently smooth. Spread over another thin layer of cream then repeat the layers until you’ve used all the sponge fingers finishing with a layer of cream. Hold back about ½ cup of cream mixture as you’ll use this to finish the cake. Enclose the cake with the overhanging plastic wrap or foil and place in the fridge overnight.

An hour or so before serving, place the cake still in the tin in the freezer to firm the layers to make it easier to cut. You might need to warm the outside of the tin with a warm cloth to make it easier to remove from the tin. Unwrap the overhanging plastic wrap or foil and place your serving dish over the tin and invert. Lift off the loaf tin then remove the plastic wrap or foil.
Use the remaining cream to cover the top and sides of the cake if you wish, but I preferred the look of the layers so left the sides naked. Decorate the top of the cake with the extra berries and white chocolate shards. Serve immediately.
Honestly this was as delicious as it looked - surprisingly light, creamy and fruity. Definitely a showstopper of a dessert. 

That was the final bake, if you can call it that, for Xmas week 2020. It's been a tough year for many reasons so I'll be taking a well earned break from the kitchen for a few weeks but will be back in the New Year.

Bye for now, 


devil's food bundt cake with blackberries and a chocolate ganache

2 of my workmates recently celebrated birthdays. Originally I'd planned on making a hazelnut sponge sandwiched with cream and blackberries for their birthday morning tea. However last Sunday when the time came to make the cake and with only 3 hours sleep under my belt, I couldn't face the thought of grinding up all those nuts so I decided I'd go with an easy to make chocolate cake.

Claire Ptak's Devil's food cake immediately came to mind which I fancied up by baking it in a bundt tin. In the batter I used hot espresso instead of hot water; topped the cake with some dark chocolate ganache and finished it off with some of those blackberries. It looked pretty fancy.

Here's the recipe for you adapted from here which makes a small bundt cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Claire Ptak’s Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache 
110g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g buttermilk or plain yoghurt
50g vegetable oil
112g hot coffee

Chocolate Ganache
60g cream cheese
¼ tsp espresso powder
60g dark chocolate (60%), finely chopped

To decorate
A few berries
Chocolate shards

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and flour a small bundt tin and place in the fridge while you make the cake batter.

Measure the dry ingredients, including the caster sugar, into a large mixing bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to distribute the salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder evenly throughout the other dry ingredients.

In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (except for the hot coffee). Once they are well mixed together, slowly whisk in the coffee.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in half of the wet mixture. Starting in the middle of the bowl, whisk in a clockwise, circular motion. Resist the temptation to switch direction or you’ll end up with lumps of dry ingredients. Gradually add the remaining wet ingredients until you have a smooth, liquid batter.

Pour the batter into your tin (s) right away and bake for 40 minutes until the top is springy to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before gently easing the sides away with a small knife. Place a small piece of baking paper onto the cooling rack and invert the cake onto the paper. The cake is quite sticky so the baking paper will stop the cake adhering to the cooling rack. Cool completely before topping with the ganache.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream to boiling point. Stir in the espresso powder and mix until it dissolves. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes until the chocolate starts to melt. Stir the chocolate until its smooth then put the ganache to one side to thicken a little.

To assemble
Place cake onto a serving plate. Drizzle the ganache decoratively over the cake. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes so the ganache firms a little before topping with the berries and chocolate shards. Serve the cake at room temperature.

Can you believe Christmas is almost here? I'll be doing Christmas Week again this year starting from Monday December 14. Expect 5 days of Christmas treats with an unintended berries and cream theme. 
See you all again next week. 

Bye for now, 

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