Hydrangea Cake

It’s been a while since I have been creative in the kitchen. My new camera has been taking up most of my attention and I have been photographing everything except food – supposedly the reason I got the camera was to take better photos of my kitchen creations, but oh no, the creations of my camera lens have been luring me away from culinary exploits.

So today I got back in the kitchen. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wanted to photograph this cake, I would have been wandering far and wide with my beloved Canon snapping photos of rusty wire, lichen covered fences and cows instead.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Cake.


Glorious Cake.


Is there ever a time when a slice of good cake is wrong?


Didn’t think so.

I have had this hydrangea cake on my mind for a while. Ever since I saw this cake on Pinterest.


As soon as I saw it I thought of two things. Firstly, these cute little sweets.

Sweet as

And secondly, these.


So pretty.

Today was the day, so armed with a piping bag, unreasonable amounts of butter and icing sugar, and oodles of food colouring I started work on the Coconut cake I baked last week.

First, make buttercream. You may need to multiply the recipe 2 or 3 times depending on the size cake you are icing. The quantities I used today were 375g of butter, 4.5 cups icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of cream, and I had quite a bit left over.

Because I wanted the cake to have two layers with a filling in between, and I don’t like the filling to spill out and ruin the icing, I first piped a dam of buttercream around the bottom layer to contain the filling, like so.


Now it’s time for the filling. Sometimes I make my own passionfruit curd, but this time I opted for a store bought version which is rather delicious.


Spread filling inside the dam you created with the buttercream


Resist the urge to lick the spatula clean, then place the other layer on top.


See how the sides of the cake cinch in the middle? Don’t worry. We can remedy that with buttercream.


Observe how the application of buttercream has evened up the sides so they are now (more or less) straight up and down. That is good.

Eating buttercream has the same effect on my waist. That is not good!

Anyway… what I have done here is the ‘crumb coat’. It is not particularly important for this cake is it is more dense and doesn’t really crumble. I have done it mainly to even up the shape of the cake and provide a bit of a background for the flowers. But, you know when you are trying to ice/frost a really crumbly chocolate cake and crumbs go all through your buttercream and it looks really messy? What you need to do first is a crumb coat to seal in the crumbs, then refrigerate for half an hour or so until it sets hard and then do top coat of frosting. The crumb coat doesn’t have to be neat and it doesn’t have to be thick, in fact it should be very thin. It just has to be enough to seal in the crumbs and even up the shape.

Moving on. When I made the buttercream, I put a few drops of lilac food colouring in to provide the colour for the lightest ‘flowers’. Using a #21 Wilton tip in the piping bag, I piped ‘flowers’ randomly over the cake.


I then squeezed as much of the buttercream that was left in the bag, back into the bowl and added more food colouring to get a slightly darker colour, and then piped more flowers…


Then repeated the process with the addition of a few more drops of food colouring to the remaining buttercream…


And again…


Gradually filling in all the gaps until the cake is completely covered and you have used almost an entire bottle of food colouring.


It really is an easy way to decorate a cake, especially when using graduated colours as I have done. If you were to use different colours like the cake that was my inspiration for this, you would have to divide the buttercream into separate bowls. add the different colourings to each bowl, and use different piping bags for each colour or, if using a reusable bag, wash and dry the bag between each colour. That sounds very fiddly to me.

Because I am lazy of the overall effect I was trying to achieve, I wasn’t too concerned about the colours mixing. I just kept refilling the bag with the ever darker mixture.


And I am quite pleased with the end result.

What about you? What colour/colours would you like to try with this technique?

coconut cake

My mother is the best source of recipes. In fact, she should be running this blog. She out bakes anyone I know. Including me. Now that my boys aren’t at home with me, I probably only bake once a month and even then it only gets eaten if I take it to work.

I tried this cake for the first time last year when she made it for my birthday. I loved it so much I have made it for my birthday again this year. It’s slightly dense and moist, not light and fluffy but it is divine and will keep well for up to a week without drying out. The flavour reminds me of summer even when it is dreary and cold outside.

Summer in a cake. I like it!

If the quantities in the photos look larger than the ingredients suggest, it is because I made a double batch – some for the dozen cupcakes featured in this blog post today, and two round cake layers to be assembled in a week or so for my birthday cake. Stay tuned for photos of that.

The cast of characters for this episode are:


125g butter
1/2 tsp coconut essence
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
80 mls milk

Start by preheating your oven to 150 C and grease and line your cake tin(s). This is my least favourite part of the whole baking process but don’t wait until you have already mixed the ingredients before preparing the tins. You really want to get the mixture straight in the tins and into the oven rather than leaving it sitting while you prepare the tins.

Trust me. I know these things.


Or if you are making cupcakes, simply place liners in the cupcake tin.


Cream the butter, coconut essence and sugar until light and fluffy.


This is what light and fluffy looks like. See? Light … and fluffy!

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.


With the eggs added the mixture should now look glossy.

Place half the coconut and flour, and half the sour cream and milk in the mixer and slowly mix.


Then add remaining flour, coconut, sour cream and milk and mix until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners only until 1/2 or 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes-20 minutes. Many cupcake recipes recommend a higher temperature and quicker baking time however I usually find this results in a volcano shaped cupcake. I recommend baking at this lower temperature for longer as the cupcake will bake nice and flat. Perfect for decorating.


If baking a cake with this mixture, use an 8 inch square or 10 inch round tin. Ensure the mixture is spread evenly in the tin to ensure it bakes flat.


Because I was making two layers, I weighed each layer in the tin to ensure they were roughly the same weight. Baking time for the two layers was about 35 minutes, but if making one thicker cake, bake for approximately 40 minutes then test for done-ness with a skewer and adjust baking time if necessary.

Fill cupcakes (optional) and then pipe frosting on top. I filled my cupcakes with passionfruit filling and piped buttercream frosting on top, but they would also taste great with a cream cheese frosting.


High tea anyone?

‘tis the season to bake a christmas cake

About a week ago I was walking through town and passed a shop that was already decked out for Christmas. It was still October, but it got me thinking about how fast this year has gone by, and how quickly the next few weeks will disappear and it really will be Christmas!

I have not given a thought to gifts, Christmas Day plans or written a letter to Santa, but I had put some thought into the Christmas Cake. Last week, on our way back from an overseas trip I made sure I stocked up on booze in the Duty Free store. Purely for the Christmas Cake. Honest!

My mother has always made Christmas Cakes for family and friends but I never liked it as a child and consequently, never gave it another chance until a couple of years ago. Now, I love it. All that heavy fruit. And alcohol… well it is the season to be jolly!

The ingredient list for this cake is long and it’s not exactly cheap to make if you don’t already have most of the ingredients (especially the alcohol) but the result is a dense, moist, rich cake totally unlike its dry counterparts for sale in supermarkets. It makes a large 10” square cake (about 80 – 100 servings as a small piece is sufficient) which will last for weeks or months afterwards when stored in a cool place. Which is a good thing because there is no way in the world one of these cakes will disappear in one sitting!

Also note, traditional fruit cakes such as this one are best made a few weeks in advance as they require at least 2-4 weeksbefore cutting to mature and develop that rich, decadent, christmassy flavour. So get cracking!

Now I would like to introduce the cast of characters.


I did say there were a lot of ingredients…

In a big pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring now and then.

250 g butter
1.2 kg mixed fruit
400 g sultanas
1.5 cup water
1.5 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 dessertspoon glycerine



Once the mixture has come to the boil, remove from the heat and leave to cool.



When cool(ish), add …
2 tbsp brandy
½ cup sherry
or you can just make it all brandy (like I did)!

Leave until cold (overnight if necessary), and then add the dry ingredients.

500 g flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp cinnamon

Stir well, then add the wet ingredients.

1 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp rum essence
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp almond essence
5 well beaten eggs
1 cup thick custard


Decorate with cherries and almonds before baking if cake will be un-iced. Bake in a double lined 10” tin for half an hour at 180 C, then 3.5 hours at 120 C.


Within half an hour of placing the cake in the oven your house will be filled with the most delicious aroma. Enjoy!

As soon as cake comes out of the oven, liberally sprinkle rum over the top. I used about 1/4 cup. I can guarantee, if you thought the aroma was great while it was cooking, you will be in heaven after pouring over the alcohol.

Now we come to the most difficult part of the whole process – wait at least 2 weeks before cutting.

Just a few points about some of the ingredients. Firstly the mixed fruit. You can buy fruit mix especially for fruit cakes in the supermarket. It looks like this…


It is a mixture of sultanas, mixed peel, and cherries but is heavier on the sultanas than the other fruits. As we are also adding another 400g of sultanas anyway, if you want to vary the fruit mix a bit with say, more mixed peel, cranberries or dried apricots, then put those in first and make up the balance of the 1200g with the standard fruit mix.

Then there is this.


Glycerine. It’s not used a lot these days and although it is used as a baking ingredient (it sweetens, keeps the cake moist and also has preservative properties), some supermarkets do not stock it in the baking aisle. Due to its medicinal properties, it may be found in the first aid/medicines aisle. If you have trouble finding it in the supermarket, visit your friendly pharmacist. Even unfriendly pharmacists may stock it!

As far as the alcohol content is concerned, there are a few different variations you can use. I just used brandy to add to the pot after boiling the first lot of ingredients, but you could use sherry, or a mixture of the two. I actually made a second cake and used Cointreau in the mixture and sprinkled brandy over the cake when it came out of the oven.

For the custard, I used ready made custard from the supermarket chilled foods section, but feel free to make your own if you wish.

Simple! Fruit cakes are more time consuming to make than lighter cakes, but Christmas only happens once a year, although there is no law (as far as I know) about eating it at any other time of the year if you choose!


(And thanks to my awesome Mum for letting me share this recipe.)

in the pink

Today I made a cake. You may not think that is unusual for me given past posts on this ‘ole blog of mine, but in recent months I have not ventured into the baking zone very often. Today though, I had the urge to create something pretty. And tasty. There was also the realisation that my mother’s 70th birthday is looming and I needed to test a couple of recipes before I inflict them on her party guests!

Also, Mr INTJ’s daughter turns 16 on my mother’s birthday and I have been informed cake will be required for that occasion too. So it’s time to get back in the kitchen.

Today’s efforts have produced this little beauty. Isn’t it gorgeous?


2012-10-13 16.06.30


It’s a double layer vanilla cake, sandwiched with Lemon & Passionfruit Patisserie Filling from Barkers and generously coated in Swiss Meringue Buttercream.


And then I added some sprinkles.


2012-10-13 16.13.29

Because sprinkles make me happy.

And I may, or may not, have sprinkled a little pink sugar on it as well.

It’s almost too pretty to cut!


2012-10-13 17.38.01

I said almost!


Now, down to the nitty-gritty. Although I have a lot of recipes, I still needed to find a good all-rounder birthday cake that wasn’t chocolate so I decided to try this one from Smitten Kitchen. Now, if you look at recipes from USA they often list ‘cake flour’ as one of the ingredients. I’ve looked in every supermarket I have been to for cake flour and never found it. But not to worry. Joy the Baker comes to the rescue and explains how to make it yourself here.

The Lemon and Passionfruit filling was easy – it’s a store bought one from Barkers that I have been eyeing up for months. When I went to get some yesterday it was on special (yay!) but unfortunately it appears Barkers may be deleting it from their range as the links on their website no longer work. I hope I am wrong as it is delicious and so much easier than making passionfruit curd from scratch.

And the Swiss Meringue Buttercream… ahhhh. It’s soft, and light, and fluffy, and not overly sweet like regular buttercream. I had been avoiding trying to make it for years thinking it was doomed to fail – I had read about people giving up because it just turned into a curdled mess. But apparently the secret it to whip it. Whip it good! And it comes back together beautifully. Mine seemed to just work without the curdled stage. Thank goodness for my Kenwood mixer! Anyway, the recipe is here – again from Smitten Kitchen.

Now that the taste testing has been completed, I can confirm today’s efforts have been a success and I will be making this again. And again.

And again.

lime, poppy and pineapple syrup cake

I am a bit ‘over’ chocolate at the moment. Even my kids are. The scrummy Chocolate slice that usually disappears within a day or two of making it has lasted four days in the fridge so far – and there is still over half of it left. Very strange indeed.

When I saw this recipe on ‘Food In A Minute’ (watch it here) it instantly grabbed my attention. Tropical fruity flavours are very refreshing after chocolate overload. And no frosting either – again, with all my experimenting in the kitchen we are a bit over frosting too.

The USB cable for my camera is AWOL so I cant post a photo, but mine actually looks just like the one on FIAM website. TRUELY!!!

So here we go. You will need…

125g softened butter
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup lime marmalade
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups self raising flour
½ cup pineapple juice
2-3 tbsp poppy seeds

½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 20 cm round tin.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and marmalade.

Fold in sifted flour alternately with pineapple juice. Lastly stir through poppy seeds.

Spread mixture in cake tin and bake for 40 – 50 minutes.

For the syrup place pineapple juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, simmering for two minutes.

The original recipe said to pour hot syrup over the cake straight out of the oven while it is still in the tin then remove from tin when cool. However I didn’t read the recipe and took cake out of tin straight from the oven, put it on a plate and stabbed it all over with a toothpick before pouring the syrup over the top. And it was still good!

Mainly I did that so I could have a slice while it was still warm.

I have no patience.

Happy Baking :)

coconut cake

125 g butter
1/2 teaspoon coconut essence
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
300 g sour cream
80 mls milk

Preheat oven to 180 C

Grease square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper

Beat butter, essence and sugar until light and fluffy. beat in eggs one at a time.

Stir in coconut, sifted flour, sour cream and milk in two batches.

Spread mixture in tin. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

** I have also been told this mixture makes lovely cupcakes. Haven’t tried it yet though.

mars bar brownie

This is incredibly delicious!
400 g butter, chopped
400 g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups caster sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2 x 60 g Mars Bars, chilled & chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a 4cm deep, 22 cm x 28 cm base pan. Line bottom and two sides with non-stick baking paper.

Combine butter and chocolate in large heatproof microwave safe bowl. Microwave uncovered on Medium High for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute, or until almost melted. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth.

Add sugar and mix well. Add one third of egg and stir to combine. Repeat with remaining egg. Sift the flour over chocolate mixture . Stir gently until just combined.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle Mars Bar over batter and press in slightly. Bake for 60-65 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre has moist crumbs clinging.

Cool completely in pan (this is the hardest part of the entire recipe! It requires great self control not to devour it immediately) then cut into squares. Very nice on its own, or served slightly warm with whipped cream.