Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Long Weekend in the Avon Valley

WA celebrates the Queen's birthday apart from the rest of the country..... why exactly, never fails to baffle me.

On saying that, long weekends are extremely welcome, especially as the weather is fine and spring is in the air.
Without a cloud in the sky, it was decided we would take a road trip to York.

                             York is a little town on the edge of the Avon Valley intersected by the picturesque Avon River (home of the annual white water marathon race - the Avon Descent), it was the first inland settlement in the wheatbelt WA.  Settled in 1831, and named after York in England, the architecture reflects the strong influence of the time.  York soon became the gateway to the mining towns of Kalgoorlie and the surrounding farming areas.

If it weren't for the would've thought you'd landed in 1850!
First on the agenda, was the Old Mill Markets.

Organic jams, oils, olives, cookies, cakes and chocolates all produced locally.

And of course, you just cannot go past the terribly charming Penny Farthing Sweet Shop on the main street.

It was simply impossible to leave the shop empty handed....just impossible.  So charming and filled with interesting antiques and all sorts of imaginable sweets, its one of those places that make you feel like you are 8 years old again.

Next on the list was some food at the Imperial Hotel, which happens to be right next to the Town Hall

It was a most curious experience.  Sitting on the verandah, it feels rather strange.  The pace is slower, 3 cars is a traffic jam and the atmosphere is so relaxed.  Looking down the street, I feel like I'm in a pub somewhere in rural England......or at least that is what I imagine it might be like.....

The distinct European feel of the interior of the tastefully refurbished hotel.

How can you not love the place, when the mascot enquires about cake??

Sunday was also the day of the start of the York races and it was heralded with great fanfare that included a parade of vintage cars.  To be sitting on the verandah with a pint of pale ale, a ploughman's lunch (with homemade wholewheat breads with fruit and grains) and watching the cars go by, well, it was just so....colonial.

After we had had our fill of cheeses and beer, and had browsed the antiques market as well, we piled back into the car and headed back to Perth.

Canola fields - Northam 
enroute from York.


While I still have your attention,

Featuring our own Jess Pedemont as well Adam from Materchef and of course Adriano naturel - bet you'll look at macarons differently after that!!


We are also in the process of organising some classes before Christmas.  Send us an email and let us know what you might be interested in learning!  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Longing for apple cake

The Germans have got it right.  They have their apple cakes (aka Kuchen), crumb cakes, strudel and of course the famous black forest cake, just to name a few.

Last weekend, at a reputable Western suburb cafe, I spied a Sicilian apple cake.  I'm not one to go past an apple cake, or any other extremely moist looking cake....and so my equally cake obssessed friends were kind enough to order me a slice. 

The Delectable Jo then declared that the cake was not as good as the apple spice cake she had eaten the day before en route back from Broome.  Well, I dont think I could justify travelling ALL that way for cake...but it did give me a very acute longing for a decent apple cake.

Enter Vogue Entertaining.

The Making of
 the Creme Fraiche Apple Cake with Honey Toffee


Don't ask me what edition it was......I must've had the recipe sitting in my "to make" file for at least a year.

Apple & Honey Toffee Cake

750g Apples
180g Butter
1/4 cup Apple juice
180g Caster sugar
3 Eggs (60g)
190g Self Raising Flour
50g Plain flour
1/2 cup Creme Fraiche
1/3 cup Honey

Grease and line a 20cm springform tin.
Peel and core apples.  Slice into even sized slices.
Melt 30g of the butter in a pan on medium heat.  Add apples and cook for a few minutes without browning the apples.  Add the apple juice and cook until all the liquid has evaporated.  Set aside to cool completely.

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, try not to curdle the mixture.
Stir in Creme fraiche once eggs are mixed in.
Add half of the cooked apples to the batter
Stir flours to combine and sift into batter mixture.
Fold in flour until combined.

Bake at 170 degrees Celcius for about 45-55 minutes.  Test with a cake tester or skewer after 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cake sit in tin for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
Heat the honey in a saucepan until it starts to simmer.  It is ready when its just starts to turn colour and smells like honeycomb. 
Remove sides of springform tin and pour hot honey toffee over the cake evenly.

Serve cold or warm with a sprinkle of icing sugar and extra creme fraiche as desired.

my critique;
The cake has an incredibly light crumb, but stays amazingly moist from the creme fraiche and honey syrup.  Coming out of the oven, the cake has a delicious crispy crust which should be savoured whilst warm.  Next time I would add a touch of cinnamon to the cooking of the apples. Oh, and the honey toffee!  Oh my, its amazing..... I used Pohutukawa honey, which is one of the worlds' whitest honeys.

If you can't get hold of it, then a good quality honey would be fine.  Now I have to think of more uses for honey toffee! 


I also had the great pleasure this week to make a cake for Isabella's First Holy Communion.

A lovely pink bible cake along with rosary beads, the chalice and little Isabella.

I hope Isabella had a memorable day!


And last but not least, a big CONGRATULATIONS to Mel and Dave on the arrival of their babies, Caleb and Landon.  A very big welcome to your two perfect bundles of joy.

photo coutesy of Mel via facebook

I look forward to being their offical birthday cake maker!

Congrats Mel & Dave, the boys are so lucky to have such great parents!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Born in Spring

For some reason, lots of people I know have their birthdays in Spring.  Growing up, my birthday always inconveniently fell during the school holidays (this was back when school in WA consisted of 3 school terms a year).  So I never got the big cake and all my little classmates crowded around and signing happy birthday or that extra half hour of recess time the class was allowed for special occassions..... I suppose, nor did I have the political problems that came with who got or didn't get an invite to my birthday parties!

When you reach a certain age.....birthdays, well, they come by pretty quick.  Those were the words of my dear friend Leona who turned an impressive 40 this weekend.  40 is the new 30 after all!  

I've known Leona since...well, lets just say, a long time.  I'm so proud of everything she has achieved and I'm so glad she's a part of my life!  Of all the cakes she could've asked for - her favourite pastime (other than shopping), naturally had to make an appearance. 

To the next 40 birthdays darling and wonderful things yet to come!! 


Right on the other side of the spectrum, little Chloe turned 1.

A big 1 banana and dark chocolate cake with Elmo marked the occassion.  I can hardly wait for the photos of Chloe eating cake!!


I also made a longevity peach cake.  A present from a daughter in law to her mother in law, as with Chinese tradition, the peach signifies long life and good health as betowed on mortals by the Empress of heaven.

and the Chinese character (if it's legible) for longevity in crystals.


And then somewhere in between, Susan and Aimee turned a very sweet sixteen.  Susan and Aimee both attend my alma mater.  Making this cake certainly bought back memories of my high school years and I hope that the girls have an equally memorable time at school.  The friends you meet in school - are some of the friends that stay with you for a lifetime.

Live life to the max girls!!


And finally there is one more cake......
My birthday cake. 

I was adamant that I didn't want candles and a birthday cake this year.... in fact I got 2 cakes =)  One cake was a delectable chocolate cheesecake my gang organised for a cosy dinner, but this cake was extra special.  It was made by my brother.  For someone who has never made a cake in his life and didn't know what cake flour was, this banana marscarpone roll was truly remarkable.  

To my family and friends:  Thank you for the support and love over the years.
I couldn't have done it without you!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dreaming of L'Opera

For 2 months I have been dreaming of Opera cake.  In fact, our whole Master class 2010 was dreaming of Opera cake.....after being wooed by the deliciousness of Clare's L'Opera.

So, I set out on my mission to reproduce the cake that has captivated so many.  Where to look for a recipe though?  I remember the Daring Bakers had an Opera cake challenge a while back but the creativeness of the daring bakers had changed the recipe so much that it wasn't the same cake I was dreaming about.

Dorie Greenspan to the rescue...well sort of....

Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops

As you may know, L'Opera is a layered cake filled with coffee buttercream, chocolate and sandwiched with an almond sponge called Jaconde.  Dorie's recipe is adapted from the original source of L'Opera, Dalloyau in Paris.  The recipe can be found here.

Having no almond meal at home, I thought, why not do a hazelnut dacquoise?  Hazelnuts, coffee and dark chocolate are all good friends, right?  I figured....I made plenty of those at Savour...... and Clare did say she made a pistachio Opera......

First out was the hazelnut dacquoise.  A flourless sponge made with a fluffy meringue and hazelnut meal.  When first made, dacquoise has a chewy texture.  Fear not, as once L'Opera has been completed and allowed to mature overnight, it will be moist and soft.

Brushing the cake with coffee syrup as depth of flavour as well as moisture to the dacquoise.

And then the butttercream....oh.... the buttercream.......

Made with a pate a bombe (pouring hot sugar syrup over fluffy egg yolks), it was the buttercream of my dreams!!  And of course the natural progression of things.....

This continued for about 2 mins..... and some general arrogance that I just made the world's best buttercream......  until of course I realised I might not have enough buttercream for the cake.....
Note to future self:  Make a double mixture of Dorie's coffee buttercream!

Et Viola!  Noisette L'Opera.

Assembly notes:
Dacquoise/ Jaconde base
Brush with coffee syrup
Spread a generous layer with the world's best buttercream
Another layer of Dacquoise/ Jaconde
Brush with more coffee syrup
Spread a generous layer of dark chocolate ganache (Belgium preferred of course)
Another layer of Dacquoise/Jaconde
Brush with coffee syrup
Spread with a thinish layer of the world's best buttercream
Glaze with chocolate glaze or ganache.
Trim the sides (which you can eat right away)
Decorate with some crisp pearls or gold leaf as desired

Let mature overnight and your tastebuds will be singing L'Opera's praises in no time!

My critique: almond jaconde is the better companion in comparison to the hazelnut dacquoise.  Hazelnut will overpower the taste of the delicate buttercream.  And visually, the contrast of colour of the finished product is perhaps better with the delicate jaconde.  Oh well, there is always next time!

A little room for improvement allows one to continue to dream - so, I will continue to dream of that perfect Opera cake that Clare made!!


One of the great things about having a blog is that it forces you into keeping up with what is happening in your little niche.  Mine, of course is all things related to delicious and beautiful things....which keeps me pretty busy.

Jessica who produces the most beautiful flowers is now taking orders for every special occassion

I worked with Jess a couple of months back and just adore her work.  You can find Jess at the House of Flowers.

On a completely different note, check this one out.

They Draw and Cook is the most charming site!  They post a recipe a day submitted by artists all over the world.  I never knew so many people liked drawing food!  It makes me feel much more normal but also a whole lot less confident about my food drawing skills!

Have a wonderful food week!!