xmas month 2021 - gingerbread christmas tree

29 Nov 2021


Welcome to Xmas month 2021. Normally I do Xmas week because I work full time and only bake during the weekends so I need all the time I can get to complete 5 bakes in time for Christmas. This year I'm on leave and have had plenty of time to bake so I'll be spreading the posts out over a few weeks.

I often make gingerbread at Christmas but I've never attempted a gingerbread house or tree before. This year I threw caution to the wind, picked up my star shaped cutters, whipped up some gingerbread, made a batch of royal icing and made a gingerbread Christmas tree.

Making a Gingerbread Christmas Tree is a labour of love. None of the steps involved are difficult but they all take time, so in total it was a three day process. Day 1, I made the gingerbread stars then let them cool. On Day 2 I decorated the stars then Day 3 I assembled the tree.


I think this would be a great family activity. Once you’ve made the gingerbread you can be as creative as you like with the decorations. I went classic with white royal icing but you could use sprinkles, candy canes, Smarties or coloured fondant.


Here’s the recipe for you which makes one large tree. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan-forced oven you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C.

Gingerbread Christmas Tree, adapted from this recipe 
50g butter
100g (½ cup) firmly packed brown sugar
125mls (½ cup) golden syrup
1 egg, lightly whisked
300g (2 cups) plain flour
75g (½ cup) self raising flour
1 tbs cocoa powder
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Royal icing 
1 egg white
2 cups sifted icing sugar
½ tsp lemon juice

To decorate 
Decorations of your choice – sprinkles, candy canes, Smarties, icing sugar

Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Combine the butter mixture and egg in a large bowl. Sift the combined flours, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and bicarbonate of soda over the butter mixture. Stir until well combined.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until smooth. Shape into a disc, divide into 2 portions then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour to rest.

Preheat oven to 180ºC conventional. Line 4 large baking trays with baking paper or if you only have 2 trays, then cool the tray a little before reusing. Roll 1 portion of dough out on a lightly floured sheet of baking paper until 4mm thick. Use graduated star cutters to cut out four 3cm stars, six 5cm stars, six 7cm stars, six 9cm stars and six 11cm stars from the dough, re-rolling the dough as necessary. I used the handy Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin to do this step.

Place the stars 2 cm apart, graded by size, onto the prepared trays. Use the tip of a plain piping nozzle to cut out a hole in the centre of 2 of the smallest stars. I normally place the unbaked gingerbread in the fridge whilst one of the trays of gingerbread is baking. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light golden and crisp. The smaller stars will need the least amount of time, the larger stars the longest. Set aside on the trays to cool completely.

To decorate 
Place the egg white in a bowl and whisk a little to break up the egg white. Add the icing sugar a few tbs at a time, whisking continuously until all incorporated. Add lemon juice and continue whisking until the icing is thick enough to hold stiff peaks and is smooth and shiny. The lemon juice will extend the setting time of the icing.

If the icing is too thick and stiff to pipe, add a little hot water and whisk again to loosen up slightly. Place icing in a piping bag fitted with a 1-2mm plain nozzle and decorate the points of the stars with icing then decoratively pipe around the edges, flooding a few of the stars with the icing for contrast. Set aside for 3-4 hours or until set. Place the remaining icing in a sealed container and place in the fridge.

To assemble
Place one the largest stars on a serving plate then add the stars one at a time gluing each layer with the reserved royal icing. Rotate the stars slightly as you go to form the branches of the tree. Continue stacking and gluing the remaining stars in decreasing size, finishing with two 3cm stars. You may not choose to use all the stars.

To top the tree, glue the last 2 small stars together and then glue upright. Pipe extra icing on the stars to create a snowy look and add any additional decorations at this time. Set aside to set and then dust with icing sugar just before serving.


The undecorated gingerbread will keep for 1 month in an airtight container. The decorated tree should last for 2 weeks depending on humidity.
It's a bit of a showstopper, isn't it?  
See you all next week with some more baking for Christmas.
Bye for now,



flour and stone old fashioned vanilla cake

21 Nov 2021

Whilst browsing through YouTube, I found a video of Nadine Ingram from Flour and Stone presenting a masterclass for Carriageworks markets. I watched Nadine make her old fashioned vanilla cake sandwiched with mascarpone custard cream and fresh berries.

I have a copy of Nadine's book and in the book the cake was sandwiched together with mascarpone custard cream and berry compote. Coincidentally I'd made berry compote the previous day and with some just about to expire mascarpone in the fridge I decided then and there to make a smaller version of the cake the very next day.


I found the video really helpful. I was surprised to see how soft the butter was that Nadine used and also the length of time she spent creaming the butter and sugar.


I had to do a bit of maths first then followed Nadine's instructions only altering the oven temperature and bake time to suit my oven. As I'd used some egg white in the batter, my cake once baked was only lightly golden and each layer was perfectly level so I didn't need to trim the layers.

Here's the recipe for the Flour and Stone old fashioned vanilla cake which makes a 3 layer 16cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan-forced oven you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C.

If you'd like to make a 23cm/9 inch cake double all the ingredients, using 5 or 6 whole eggs in the cake. You can watch Nadine making the cake here in which she shows you how to make the cake using two 9 inch cake tins.

Here are some of Nadine's recommendations.
'Make the pastry cream and berry compote at least 4 hours before the sponge. Ideally this cake should be baked on the day you wish to eat it; however, if you really must bake it the day before due to time restraints, you have to promise me you will not fill the cake until the day it is being eaten. 

When baking a day ahead you will get best results if you cool the cakes, remove them from the tins and wrap them snugly in plastic film. This will preserve the moisture and flavour of the cakes until the following day. Store at room temperature, not in the fridge or they'll dry out'. 
Flour and stone old fashioned vanilla cake
Pastry cream  
125 mls milk 
1 egg yolk
25g caster sugar
10g plain flour
Berry compote 
200g frozen berries 
55g caster sugar
Juice half an orange  
185 gm very soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing 
185 gm caster sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 eggs and 1 white, lightly beaten
165 gm self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
25 gm cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
50 ml milk
Mascarpone custard filling
100g mascarpone 
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
200 mls pure cream
To decorate
Icing sugar
Pastry cream 
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale, then add the flour and whisk until well combined.

When the milk comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low. Remove 60 ml of the milk from the pan and pour it over the egg yolk mixture. This warms it a little in preparation for being added to the scalding milk. Give the yolk mixture a quick whisk, then pour it into the boiled milk (still over low heat), ensuring you scrape all the yolk from the bowl with a spatula. Stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula for 2 minutes or until the cream starts to thicken. As soon as it does, swap your spoon for a whisk and continue to cook the pastry cream for 1 minute longer to ensure the flour is completely cooked. Remove from the heat and spread out the cream on a flat tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until cold.

Berry compote 
Place all the compote ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the berries don't catch on the base of the pan. The compote will thicken a little but the consistency you are looking for is not jam. You want to retain as many of the whole berries as possible so that when you cut the cake you will see the berries studded through the layers. Remove the compote from the heat and leave it to cool for a few hours. The compote can be made well in advance of when you want to assemble the cake and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease three 16 cm-diameter cake tins, line with baking paper, then grease paper and dust with flour. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy. Add egg, a little at a time and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until incorporated.

Meanwhile, combine flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt and sift twice. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk, until just combined. Turn off mixer, scrape down sides of bowl and the paddle, then beat on high for 2 seconds to aerate batter. Divide batter between tins and smooth tops. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140°C and bake until centre of cakes spring back when lightly pressed (5-10 minutes). Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.

Mascarpone custard filling
Place all the filling ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand whisk). Whisk for 1-2 minutes or until the creams are stiffly whipped, being careful not to over-whip them.

Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and loosen it first with a spatula then add it to the bowl of whipped cream and whisk on low speed for just 20 seconds - you don't want to whisk the pastry cream for too long after it has been added to the whipped cream as it will destroy the fluffiness of the filling. This filling can be prepared the day before you want to assemble the cake and stored in the fridge.

To assemble  
Trim off any dark crust from the top of 2 of the cakes. Lay out the cake layers in front of you so that you have two cut layers and one with the crusty top. Check that all your layers are the same thickness and make adjustments by trimming them if necessary.

Spread half the mascarpone custard filling over one of the cut layers and then spoon half the compote over the mascarpone. Place the other cut layer on top and spread with the remaining mascarpone and berry compote, as you did for the first layer. Place the crusty-top layer of cake on top and dust with icing sugar to finish. This cake needs no accompaniment - it is perfect just the way it is!

This was honestly the lightest, fluffiest butter cake I have ever made or eaten. This will be my go-to recipe from now on.

See you all again next week with the first of  the Christmas bakes for Xmas 2021.

Bye for now,



rum and maple pecan pie

15 Nov 2021

With Thanksgiving around the corner the internet has been flooded with recipes for pies. I haven't made a pie in months so I thought the time had come to make a pecan pie. When I saw Danielle Alvarez's recipe for her bourbon and maple pecan pie I thought I'd give it a try.

I used Danielle's recipe as a starting point but then made a few changes along the way. I browned the butter for the filling as per the recipe then I pre-baked the tart shell, something I don't normally do. I was interested to see whether this extra step would make a difference to the finished tart. 

I used my favourite vintage metal pie plate and as the pie plate is deeper than a flan tin, it holds 
a little more filling so I adjusted the quantities. There also isn't any bourbon in my house so I used what I had on hand which was rum.

I kept my fingers crossed that the pecan pie would turn out okay because I was taking it to a friend's house for dessert.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 23cm/9 inch pie. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan-forced oven you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C. 
Rum and Maple Pecan Pie 
170g plain flour 
2 tsp caster sugar 
¼ tsp table salt
110g cold unsalted butter, chopped 
2 - 4 tbs ice cold water

200g pecans 
70g unsalted butter 
2/3 cup white or brown sugar or a mixture of both
1 tbs cornflour or plain flour 
Pinch salt 
1 tsp vanilla 
2 tbs rum 
¾ cup maple or corn syrup 
3 eggs

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process until the butter is pea sized. Gradually add sufficient water until a dough just starts to forms around the blade. Shape the dough into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry out thinly to fit a 20-23 cm pie plate, cut off excess pastry leaving a 1 cm overhang and reserving the trimmings. Fold the overhang back under itself and crimp the edges. Return the pie to the fridge for another 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place a large piece of baking paper onto the pastry shell and cover with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to becomes golden. Remove the baking paper and the pie weights and return the pie to the oven for a further 10-20 minutes until the case is golden brown.

If your base is puffing up, poke a few holes in it using a fork. Remove the pastry case from the oven and allow it to cool. If you see any cracks or holes (including ones you made with a fork), press a small piece of the reserved pie dough to seal it shut. This step can be done a day or two ahead.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Divide the pecans into two - 125g for the filling and 75g for the topping. Toast the 125g pecans in the preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes. Allow to cool before roughly chopping.

While the pecans are cooling, place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter is deeply caramelized and smells nutty. Allow the butter to cool a little.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cornflour, salt, vanilla, rum, maple syrup and the eggs. When the butter has cooled, measure out 3 tbs of browned butter, add it to the remaining ingredients then stir in the chopped toasted pecans.

Place the par baked pastry case onto a baking tray. Pour the mixture carefully into the pastry case then arrange the remaining pecans decoratively on the top. Place the tray on the centre rack then bake the pie for 45 minutes at 180°C or until the filling is well browned, slightly puffed and just set. 

Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before serving to allow the filling to set. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream.


Would I make this pie again? Probably not. I've been making pecan pies for years and I prefer the flavour of pecan pie made with corn syrup. I guess it's the taste of  the familiar. The addition of flour set the filling a little too much for my liking. I also found the addition of alcohol overpowered all the other flavours. The pie was well baked though with no hint of a soggy crust so in the future I might pre-bake the pastry shell.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



apricot walnut and lavender cake

6 Nov 2021


It's not quite apricot season in Sydney but I had the foresight to stash away some apricot halves in the freezer. Freezer space is at a premium at the moment, so the time had come to use them. When I weighed the apricots I had just the right amount to make a small Ottolenghi apricot walnut and lavender cake. 

The recipe can be found in Plenty More and during the Northern Hemisphere summer, many photos of the cake appeared on Instagram. 

I changed the recipe just a little. I've made many an apricot cake before and these were very large apricots so I knew the apricots would sink into the cake batter. There isn't much flour in the recipe so instead of plain flour I actually used some self raising flour. I figured the small amount of rising agent would barely make a difference and I was a bit short on plain flour.
I used some of the sugar to sprinkle over the apricot halves as they can be very tart. The recipe calls for fresh or dried lavender as an ingredient and with none in the garden I had to sneak a few flowers from the council flower box. Rather than using the flowers in the cake batter I chose to use them for decoration.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17cm cake. If you'd like to make a larger cake please refer to the original Ottolenghi recipe. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan-forced oven you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C. 

Apricot walnut and lavender cake
90g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
1 tbs walnut or olive oil
110g caster sugar, reserve 1 tbs to sprinkle over the apricots
60g almond meal
2 large eggs, beaten
60g ground walnuts
45g plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
pinch salt
375g apricots, halved and pitted

30g icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp lemon juice

To decorate 
few lavender flowers, fresh or dry

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, conventional. Grease then line the base and sides of a 17cm cake pan with baking paper.

Put the butter, oil, sugar and almond meal in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. 

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge. Sprinkle with the reserved sugar.

Bake for 70-80 minutes in the preheated oven – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test if the cake is done, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.

While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your taste).

As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the lavender flowers and set aside to cool completely before slicing.

This smelt so good when it came out of the oven and the cake received a thumbs up from my neighbours, always a good sign. I've been nibbling away at my piece which I stored in the fridge and it's still delicious a week after baking. I think plums would work really well in this cake.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



confetti layer cake

1 Nov 2021

My dear friend has twin girls, who just celebrated their 2nd birthday. Now that lock down restrictions have eased for the double vaccinated here in Sydney, we met for a birthday celebration. Of course I made the birthday cake, specifically a confetti layer cake inspired by Claire Saffitz with some confetti crumbs pinched from the Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake recipe. 

The cake is made using the reverse creaming method, a technique I've not used before. It made a light creamy batter, which didn't rise a great deal but that meant less work levelling the cake layers.

I made the cake 2 days before we ate it, so I added a milk soak just to make sure the cake was still delicious at the birthday party. The cake is sandwiched with cream cheese icing and I sprinkled the layers with a few confetti crumbs.

Of course it was 35°C the day I iced the cake so my piped border did slump a bit. I decorated the cake with a banner from Paperboat Press (no longer available) to hide the dodgy piping.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 16cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 g eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan-forced oven you may need to reduce the temperature by 20°C. Please refer to the original recipe for quantities and bake time for a 9 inch cake.


Claire Saffitz Confetti Cake – makes a 3 layer 16cm cake
225g plain flour, minus 1 tbs 
1 tbs cornflour
145g (⅔ cup) caster sugar 
1 tsp baking powder 
pinch salt 
¼ tsp baking powder
1 egg at room temperature
2 egg whites (70g) at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
112g unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup buttermilk 
25 mls neutral oil,
30g store-bought rainbow sprinkles, plus more for decorating

Confetti crumbs (optional) 
⅓ cup plain flour
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tbs light brown sugar
1 tbs rainbow sprinkles
¼ tsp baking powder
pinch salt
30mls neutral oil
7 mls vanilla extract

Classic Cream Cheese icing 
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g cream cheese at room temperature
Pinch salt
250g icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp (1 tsp) vanilla extract

Milk soak 
30 mls full cream milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of three 16cm layer cake tins with baking paper.

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pulse a few times to mix.

Mix the egg, whites and vanilla together in a bowl to break up the egg whites. Set to one side.

Add the softened butter, buttermilk and oil to the flour and mix until combined. Add the egg mixture to the batter and mix until combined then increase the speed to high and beat for one minute. Finally fold in the sprinkles before measuring out 1/3 of the batter into each pan. Smooth the top of each cake before arranging on the racks in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes before rotating the layers. Total bake time is 20-25 minutes for the layers, which should look golden and spring back when pressed in the centre. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. When cold remove the cakes from the tins and remove the baking paper.

Confetti crumbs
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking paper or a silicone mat then set aside.

Combine flour, caster sugar, light brown sugar, sprinkles, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and vanilla, and using your hands, mix until no dry spots remain and large clumps form when the mixture is pressed together.

Break the mixture up into clusters (some small, some large) as though you were making a crumble topping and spread onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the crumble is light golden brown and crunchy, 10–12 minutes (it will firm up as it cools). Let cool completely. Wrap crumbs tightly in plastic and store at room temperature up to 5 days.

Cream cheese icing
In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is completely smooth. Turn off the mixer, then add the salt and all of the icing sugar, and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel (to shield you from the icing sugar). Pulse the mixer on low several times to incorporate the sugar, then remove the towel and beat frosting on medium-high, scraping down the sides once or twice, until the icing is light, thick and very smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla. The icing is now ready to use. Whilst I made a naked cake, there should be enough cream cheese icing to fully ice the cake.

To assemble 
Level the cakes if needed. Using a pastry brush gently dab the cut surface of each cake with some of the milk soak. Place a single cake layer upside down on a cake round, serving plate or cake stand. Using a small offset spatula spread about 1/3 cup of the icing across the surface. Sprinkle some of the crumbs over the top of the icing (if using). 

Place another upside-down layer on top, centering it and pressing gently to level, then repeat with another 1/3 cup icing followed by some crumbs. Place the third layer upside down on top and press gently. Cover the top of the cake and fill in any gaps between the layers with remaining icing. Top with extra sprinkles or confetti crumbs then refrigerate until the icing has set. 

The twins Dad had 2 pieces of cake and the girls ate more cake than landed on the floor  so I think it was a success.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.
Bye for now,


© DELICIOUS BITES • Theme by Maira G.