Wednesday 9 September 2020

Lemon coconut snacking cake

Cakes that contain sour cream are almost guaranteed to be good. I first heard about this one on the Home Cooking podcast. Samin Nosrat was raving about it so I paid attention. Samin - of chocolate midnight cake and Ligurian foccacia fame - is someone to be taken seriously. In addition to the sour cream and Samin's seal of approval, this cake also had going for it that it was super simple and featured lemons, which are cheap and plentiful right now in Australia. When I made it I wasn't disappointed - it's zippy with citrus, unbelievably soft from the coconut milk and sour cream, and in squares, easily transportable. I made it one weekend to take up to the Blue Mountains on a day trip, and the very next weekend to take across town on the train for dinner at a friend's. Its other advantage is that because it's an oil-based cake, it keeps really well and I imagine would freeze well too. Should you have any left over. I can almost guarantee you won't.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Ginger cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting

Winter cakes should be cosy. Ginger, with its warming qualities, falls squarely into this category, the edible equivalent of a woolly jumper. That doesn't sound very appetising at all but this cake certainly is. It's been the hit of Melbourne's lockdown, after the recipe was published on The Design Files. I think we're all feeling a little anxious right now and comfort food is a good way to offset all the numbers and news reports and rules defining our lives. So don't deny yourself cake. Especially when it's this delicious.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Pistachio and lemon loaf

Since my success with Nigella Lawson's lemon tendercake, I've looked to expand my range of reliably delicious cakes that just happen to be vegan. I'd come across this recipe, from Ochre Bakery in Detroit, some time ago, and it was every bit as good as I hoped. Moist and nutty from the ground pistachios, puckeringly sour sweet with lemon and in loaf form, it's an easily made and transportable picnic cake. 

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Pantry crumb cake

Sometimes there is no story. Sometimes it's Saturday and you just want to make a cake. So it was last weekend. I'd had this bookmarked for a while because I love any cake with sour cream in it, Melissa Clark is reliably good and this recipe is made for these times - infinitely adaptable to whatever you happen to have on hand. So I guess I do have a story after all. Especially as friends spontaneously dropped by - as we now have the privilege to do in Sydney in small numbers - and we all had cake together. It was sunny. It was Saturday. It was glorious.

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Flourless chocolate, buttermilk and raspberry cake

A week or so ago a friend of mine had a birthday. Here in Sydney, as in so many places around the world at the moment, anything but essential travel is banned so though it was possible for me to make him a cake, it wasn't possible for me to deliver it personally, even though he was just across the bridge. In any case, there suddenly wasn't any flour to be found seemingly in all of Australia so cake too seemed impossible. But then, in an effort to distract myself from the news, I strayed across this recipe for a chocolate, buttermilk and raspberry cake. Miraculously it was flourless. And all the ingredients were store cupboard staples, or could be crafted from them with a bit of ingenuity. The recipe was from (the ironically-named, given my dilemma)  Flour and Stone, a beautiful bakery in Woolloomooloo. Buoyed by this discovery, I made the cake and booked a courier... because if you have to be alone on your birthday in the apocalypse then there should at least be something sweet and celebratory you can stick a candle on. It turned out beautifully - luxuriously dark and fudgey, studded with soft, sour-sweet berries, the prettiest pops of red. It arrived a day late and smashed to smithereens, but I'm told still tasted good, and I guess was an even bigger surprise for all that. Best laid plans... If this interlude has taught us anything it's to throw them out the window... and adapt! See recipe head notes for useful hacks on the other key ingredients, should you need them.

Monday 30 March 2020

Beatrix hot cross buns

Honestly, I thought I might be done with this blog. But then all of a sudden, the world turned upside down and all I can do to stay calm is cook. On Saturday I made hot cross buns. I left some outside the apartment of my 85 year old neighbour, tossed a ziplock bag containing four to a friend across our authorised divide of 1.5m on an exercise walk, and continued on to deposit another care package on the doorstep of someone dear to me who's self-isolating  on the other side of the park. I can't do much in the face of a global pandemic, but I can do that. 

I firmly believe there's no such thing as a bad hot cross bun. Squidgy or fluffy, sparsely fruited or dense with sultanas, I don't care, I like them all*. There may be, however, a superlative sort of hot cross bun and this is it. I'll say upfront I'm very partial to anything orange-flavoured - in colour and taste it's just so bright and friendly. These buns have not just a sweet citrussy glaze on top, but are made with a dough containing one whole puréed orange. The recipe comes from my favourite bakery, Beatrix, in Melbourne. As luck would have it, they just published a cookbook and it arrived in my letterbox as a gift on my birthday two weeks ago, back when everything was still sort of normal. I'm always nervous about anything involving yeast, but this worked out beautifully. Right now there's something soothing about a baking project that takes time: waiting for the first prove, and the second, then the immediate gratification of the buns freshly out of the oven. And the great pleasure that comes from sharing them, even when you can't do it in person.

If you're lucky enough to live in Melbourne, Beatrix is currently doing takeaway cake (as well as delicious sandwiches) so you might like to support them by ordering online and picking up, or popping in to see what's available. Check their Instagram for their latest offerings. 

* Actually, not true! I have no time for chocolate chips in hot cross buns. I know the sultana-averse are fond of them but I guess I'm a purist.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Lemon tendercake

If you're a baker, words that will strike fear into your heart are "I'm a vegan". A cake without eggs or butter, or any sort of dairy at all seems somehow lacking in essential joy, not to mention texture or taste. At least that's what I would have said last week. 

A good friend of mine recently had a birthday. She had also recently become vegan. As luck would have it, I'd just seen an episode of one of Nigella Lawson's cooking shows in which she'd made something she called a lemon tendercake. It looked absolutely delicious and amazingly, happened to contain no animal products whatsoever. Better still, it called for no strange substitutes, featured flavours I loved and honestly couldn't have been easier to make. The miracle ingredient here is coconut. The creamy milk binds the batter and a yoghurt made from it (you don't have to make it yourself - it's readily available in supermarkets) serves as a sort of icing, adding an thick tang to the lighter than air lemony cake below and the sharp sweetness of the blueberries above. All together, it really does look quite spectacular and it made my friend very happy. This is a great cake not just for vegans but for all of us trying to reduce our dependence on animal products in the midst of this climate crisis. And an extraordinary cake in its own right.

Monday 13 January 2020

Simple summer cake

It's been a sombre summer in Australia. Here in Sydney, we're safe from the fires but have been under a thick cloud of smoke since November. That's nothing to complain about compared to the rural and coastal communities north and south of us who've borne the brunt of this climate crisis but I lately haven't felt much like baking or writing about it. With all the footage of fires, and daily reminders of the devastation (awaking to ash blown in with the wind, birds flying indoors in search of water, a blood red sun, people in masks in the streets), it's impossible to be unaffected emotionally by all this. Baking has always been something that makes me feel better. So in an effort to do that recently I made this simple summer cake. I'm glad I did. For the short time it took to make it felt good to be doing something normal when the world right now feels anything but. In times like these it's important to be grateful for the small things. So make cake, share it with people you love, and start a conversation about what you can do.