Sponge, I have conquered thee


Thanks to this recipe, I no longer fear the sponge! Instead, I laugh in the face of sponge! Manically! Can’t be bothered clicking through? Cornflour and custard powder (and eggs and sugar).

This one is sandwiched with birthday-gift lemon curd and cream.

Here’s how they came out of the oven:


… so I was pretty happy right from the start. Although if anyone can tell me why this happened, I’d be ever so grateful:


(They left their bottoms behind. Too little greasing perhaps?)

The cake was very well received at work. It was, in fact, devoured.

Camping food

So we went camping for about ten days recently, and we managed to make dinner on the fire every night. Which was ace. We’d done a lot of prep beforehand, which stood us in good stead.

We did a few pretty normal things: eye fillet and lamb backstrap on the grill. A whole lot of roast potatoes. We’d marinated some lamb with onion, garlic, and ginger and then vac-sealed it; we cooked that with a tin of peas and it was quite good! We took many tins of vegetables – easier to transport, especially when our trip involved running the quarantine regulations of travel between Victoria and South Australia. We had some that were just boiled, and they were just… average. So I decided to change it up by warming them in a pan with some butter and herbs. Herbs were courtesy of a Gewurzhaus gift from a friend and they really lifted the veg.

In terms of dessert, we did two experiments. One, I discovered that you can buy packet mug cake! Which is so wrong but so awesome. And we decided to make them in the sandwich maker and they worked brilliantly. Two, we decided to try and make a proper cake too. My beloved was convinced that we could do it in a cast-iron cauldron. I thought we should put alfoil in the bottom. And… well, the bottom burnt, which was sad, but probably not a surprise. We still ate the cake, and it was ok – I mean, it was cake in the middle of the Flinders Ranges – but it did have a burnt tang. Which was sad. Next time we might try a pot-inside-a-pot… or just take a cake tin with us. Or, easiest, just rely on mug cake packets.

Breakfast was mostly pancakes and bacon and egg wraps. There was also a lot of tea and aeropress coffee. Lunch was wraps, or occasionally using the sandwich maker for its actual purpose.

Duff till Dawn

My mother has Foxtel and whenever I’m there I watch food programmes, of course. When I’m really lucky, there are episodes of Ace of Cakes to watch.

I adore Ace of Cakes.

Unknown.jpegSo imagine my joy at discovering that in SBS’ baking October, they’re showing a new show with Duff Goldman: Duff til Dawn. I don’t really do cooking challenge shows, but Duff has managed to make this feel less like competition than I feared. Maybe because it’s just two groups competing, maybe because it’s happening overnight so they’re all a bit mad, maybe it’s because they’re not always referencing the clock, maybe I’m willing to put up with elements that I otherwise wouldn’t when there’s awesome cake-decorating skillz on display.

Could be all of the above.

Unknown-1.jpegAnyway, the premise is just what I’ve outlined: two teams of cake-decorators come in and, overnight, in Charmed City Cakes, they design and decorate a cake.

No biggie. Except that Duff always throws in a curveball at about the four hour mark – an additional element that must be included. And of course cakes break and fondant cracks and you’re doing this at three AM. In fact at 3am you have about another 3 hours to go. Because that’s not going to make anyone nuts.

They’re judged on design and taste, which makes me very happy since half the time those decorated cakes I’ve seen on other shows just seem like they’re all fluff and no substance. (The one I just watched had a Baileys Irish Cream creme brûlée buttercream. WOAH.)

I’ll be watching the heck out of this show, and dreaming of being one of the judges.

In Australia, it’s on SBS’ Food Network; episodes are available on their catch up service until the end of October as far as I can tell.

Acts of Kitchen 8: cooking for dozens

AoK_logo_v2In which I discuss CAKE and Gillian discusses cooking for the masses.

The first cake mentioned (sponge)

The second cake mentioned.

The third cake (chocolate and beetroot) is similar to this one. I made the version in Annabel Crabb’s Special Delivery. 

The fourth cake (I call them mandarines, Nigella calls them clementines…)

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I hate sponge

Or it hates me, who knows.

On the weekend, I supervised a sponge being made by my niece (3) and mother in law (of episode 7 fame). We used a recipe from Taste, and we weighed the eggs because homegrown eggs are larger than store-bought ones. We had to increase all ingredients by an eighth, which we did, and the result was AWESOME. Fluffy sponge! So I thought, Hey, now I know the secret! I can do this!


This was the result today of using Anneka Manning’s recipe in BakeClass. I am very disappointed. Especially since I have also been challenged to Sponge by my own mother (she of episode 1). So next time I will be making the version from the website, and if that works… well, I won’t feel like this is quite my fault.

ETA: it doesn’t look quite so bad when on top of one another. I filled it with apple butter that I made today, as well as cream (obviously).


Acts of Kitchen episode 7: learning to cook and teaching to cook

AoK_logo_v2In which Robyn discusses baking for her grandmother, cooking with small children and letting teenagers choose menus, and changing food availability.

And then, We Make Sponge.

Email your comments to acts of kitchen at gmail dot com!



This is the recipe that we tried to follow. As you can see, not a whole lot detail!


Above is what the cake looked like when it came out of the oven. Not a complete failure, but still far from perfect… of course, we still ate the whole lot.


Two kitchen failures

I’m feeling a little glum.

To be fair, they weren’t complete failures – like, they were edible, eventually – but still. Sad.

First: if you crowd chicken and potato together in a too-small container, the potato doesn’t cook completely. I thought I was doing the right thing putting it close-ish together because I was roasting it all with a couple of lemons, but it turns out that nope. Bit more space is important for potatoes. NOTED. (Ended up nuking the potatoes briefly, which was a bit humiliating.)

The second was a cake failure, which WOUNDED me. It was an apple butter cake. I made the ‘apple butter’, not completely following the recipe I’ll admit – that was an accident but it didn’t turn into a failure, because it was still tasty, a very concentrated apple. Anyway I decided to make the cake in a ring pan, because that makes it easier to cut up for sharing. I tested it, and the skewer came out clean… I turned it onto a rack after a bit, and then a bit after that I noticed that it had SUNK. It was still doughy! So I put it back in the oven for a bit. It seems ok now. At least it hasn’t sunk again.


Desserts #2: the reckoning


And when life hands you the inability to make Swiss roll, MAKE TRIFLE.

With thanks to Tansy and Ju over on Twitter, that’s what I did. TA DAH.

I had used JAM’s In the Library for the Swiss roll – it’s plum and cardamom – so I used blood plums that I preserved in summer; I made the most basic custard ever (milk and whole eggs and sugar); and I cut up that roll and layered it, baby.

So now I hope it will taste ok.


ETA: boy was it ever ok. The jam in the roll had cardamom in it, and it came through beautifully – I would add a bit more to the custard next time; the plums were scrumptious (not a huge plum fan but NOM), and the custard wasn’t very rich but that was ok. Polished off by five adults, with a small amount being tried by the young godson who was diplomatic but not in love with it.

The Saffron Tales #2

Yesterday I talked about the book itself; today, it’s the recipes.

UnknownThey, too, are great.


Sour cherry and dark chocolate biscuits: the first time I made these I couldn’t find sour cherries; that has since been rectified. That first time I used dried blueberries, and they were ok. I really like them with sour cherries – these are some new favourites.

Persian love cake: even though I had no rose water, so I used orange blossom water, this was fantastic. And as Khan herself notes, the cake keeps quite well – I think we ate it over about five days and it didn’t go stale just under plastic wrap in the fridge.

Mains Continue reading “The Saffron Tales #2”

Maple pecan cupcakes

IMG_0922.JPGThese were meant to be maple pecan cupcakes.

But I didn’t have any pecans (that’s PEEcans, as far as I am concerned), so I decided to substitute walnuts.

I didn’t have as many walnuts as I thought (uh… hardly any), so I mostly used almonds.

The icing was also meant to have candied pecans on top but sadly for their recipient I lost my desire to candy nuts somewhere and I haven’t found it again.

The icing does have butter, icing sugar, and maple syrup – and it has a wonderfully smoky sweet flavour as a consequence. The cupcakes themselves did not have the greatest texture; they really stuck to the paper, which made me a bit sad. Still, tasty enough.