Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The ‘Big Comeback’ Blog Post – Mulberry Pie and Making Pastry!

A lot of you may be wondering “what happened to Cake Mama?  Did she disappear off the face of the earth?  Was she plagued by some terrible disease?  Has she just STOPPED BAKING???”  The answer to all of these questions is simply, no. 

I jest…I’m sure that most of you couldn’t really care less!

But if you were wondering why I suddenly stopped blogging, I must confess that I suffer from a major affliction called procrastination.  It affects nearly everything I do, and I’m battling to fight it.  There was another perfectly simple explanation as to why I wasn’t overusing my oven as I usually do, but we’ll get to that another time, another blog post (if you care to guess why, you’re welcome to email me with your suspicions, I’ll be happy to tell you whether you’re hot or cold).

My daughter Zahra, excited about the season's pickings!
Anyway, I digress yet again.  It’s September already, can you believe it?  September is the beginning of spring here in the beautiful Cape, and for my household, it means that our mulberry tree hangs heavy with dark, sweet gems, waiting to be picked  before the birds get the lion’s share.   Last year, I was away in the UK and Amsterdam for 3 weeks, and I managed to miss the entire mulberry harvest (on my return, my husband boasted about eating them with ice cream), Miraculously, this year, the harvest has lasted waaaaaaay longer, and the fruit has been far more abundant – we’ve already picked well over 7kg so far, and there’s no sign that the season’s ending yet. 

Initially, we picked them and ate them with Greek yoghurt and honey, sprinkled with seeds (very yum).  Then we started picking for my mother-in-law, who wishes to make Mulberry jam.  But we still had so much…what to do with it all?  We could freeze them and use them for desserts and smoothies, which I’m sure I’ll end up doing, but I wanted to try something new.  I found a recipe for mulberry pie that looked simple enough, and decided to give it a go.

I made the pie according to the instructions given on  The filling was wonderfully easy and delicious to make.  The pastry was the bit that I was dreading.  You see, I love baking…I can virtually bake cakes, cupcakes and biscuits with my eyes closed.  But pastry???  That’s something for the professionals, I thought.  All those turns, and letting it rest in the fridge, then rolling out again…and keeping everything cold, not handling it too much.  Too many intricacies, not for me, so I always steered clear (ok, that’s not completely true.  I’ve made Danish pastries before with success, but it’s yeast-leavened so I had nothing to fear, it would rise!).  My mother in law makes wonderful pastry, and although I never tried it myself, I found myself subconsciously observing the technique over and over again, as they (mother and sister in law) make it quite often.

The pie crust recipe given on the website, however, was easy enough to make, and therefore very appealing to me (I like baking best when it’s done quickly)  and it left me with a sense of achievement.  I finally understood the old adage of a pie-crust promise (easily made, easily broken…watch Mary Poppins if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and I gleefully put my creation in a pre-heated oven of 220 degrees for 15 minutes, before reducing the heat to 180 and letting it bake for another 30 minutes.

But it wouldn’t rise, and it didn’t give me the flaky crust that it promised. 

This was the result. 
Tasted good, but it was as flat as a pancake

My brother in law, husband, and my husband’s eldest daughter assured me that it tasted delicious, but my dear oh-so-honest husband had to add that the pastry was all wrong.  Still, they gobbled it up without me getting so much as a sliver.

But I had to try again!! I’d started something now.  Those who had tried my first attempt went to go and tell the rest of the family about my mulberry pie, and I’d already promised to make it and take it down to my in-laws the following Sunday.  But I couldn’t use the same pastry recipe!  I had to use a tried and tested, never fail pastry.  I looked through my own battered, hand written recipe book, and saw that I had scribbled down my mother in law’s pie pastry recipe, copied from my sister in law’s recipe book.  I’d seen them do it a hundred times, and I had the formula in my hands…now I had to put in some effort.

Having started making the pastry the night before, and finishing it the following afternoon, I can gladly say that I’m no longer a ‘lazy baker’.   I even made a small sample pie for Fatima, my husband’s eldest daughter in order to just check that the pastry was all fine, before I moved onto the big guns.
That's more like it!  Puffed up with pride!

The results were as I’d hoped and the pie was a success!  

I’ll forgive you if you read the method for the pastry and think “no ways, I’ll just buy my own”.  I’ve done that myself in the past.  But if you’re feeling really adventurous, or if making pastry is like mother’s milk to you, try this out.  Once you see that pastry puff up in all its goldenness, it will leave you feeling warm and a little proud inside, that it was made with your own toil. 

Mulberry Pie (though I bet you could use raspberries too)



420g mulberries
200g sugar (you can even use less if you feel your berries are already very sweet)
30g flour
1 tbsp cornflour


Note:  This makes quite a lot, so use what you need for the pie, then cling wrap the rest and put it in the freezer to at a later date.  It freezes and keeps really well.

5 ½  cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
670g butter (divide in half)

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vinegar
1 ¾ cups iced water

¾ cup cornflour
1tsp cream of tartar


First, the pastry, as this needs to be made in advance.  Prepare as follows:

-          All of your ingredients should be cold, and ideally should be refrigerated before using, even the flour. 
-          Your ice water should be iced, as in slushy (for best results, put your water in the freezer until it starts to form a layer of ice.  Break it through, then leave it in again until it starts to re-form another layer, then break it again so you have some good ‘slush’.) 
-          Your butter should be divided equally in two, grated, and also left in the freezer until needed.
-          If you know your hands are usually warm, get a bowl of ice ready to dip your hands into when working with the pastry.  Coldness is key.

You will have noticed that the ingredients for the pastry have been divided into 3 sections. 
-          The first set of ingredients (flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and half of the butter – 335g) needs to be mixed together, by hand (try not to use a machine as it can easily overwork the pastry.
-          Next, combine the egg yolk, vinegar, and iced water together, and slowly add to the flour/butter mixture until you have a ball of dough.  DO NOT be tempted to knead – it needs to be lightly combined.  This is pastry, not bread dough!
-          Put in a bowl, cover securely with cling film (the plastic should be tight over the pastry, and tucked in at the sides, rather than wrapped over the top of the bowl.  Leave it to rest overnight.
-          Prepare your work surface by sprinkling it with a little flour.  Before taking out your cold and rested dough, put your rolling pin in the freezer for 5 minutes (put on your express freeze button now if you have one.  If not, don’t worry).
-          In a bowl, or in a shaker if you have one, combine the cornflour and cream of tartar, as you will be sprinkling this onto the pastry between folds. 
-          You should have 335g of butter left.  Divide this into 3 but keep it in the freezer until you need to use it, it should be frozen cold until the very moment it gets rolled in.
-          Take out your dough, and roll out a rectangle, as evenly as you can, to about 7mm thickness (I’m never completely sure, but so long as it’s less than 1cm but not very thin, you’ll be fine.  It should be sturdy enough to lift up and fold over without breaking or over-stretching).
-          Mentally, or by making slight indentations in the pastry, divide your rolled out rectangle into 3.  Distribute a third of your remaining butter onto the top 2 thirds of the pastry evenly, leaving the last third, the third nearest to you, empty.  Sprinkle with a bit of the cornflour/cream of tartar, then proceed to fold:
-          Start with the third closest to you, with no butter on. Fold it up over the 2nd third, leaving the top third open with the butter on top. 
-          Now fold the top third down, over the other 2.  You should have a thick rectangle now, like a double-decker sandwich, made up of (from the bottom) pastry/butter/pastry/butter/pastry.  I’ll have to include some diagrams as this is pretty difficult to explain.  I hope you’re getting it so far.
-          Press down the pastry with your fingertips to hold it all together, then wrap it tightly in cling film, and leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
-          After resting, roll out the dough to a rectangle again, and repeat the process of adding the butter, sprinkling the cornflour and cream of tartar on top, folding and resting.
-          Repeat the rolling and folding process again.  You should have finished all the butter.  Leave it to rest, then roll it out again, adding no more butter, but just giving it a final roll to incorporate the butter nicely.  Now cover and leave it to rest for an hour.
-          Take out your pastry, and get ready to line your pie dish, which should be about 9 inches in diameter.
-          You’ll be able to tell that this is way too much dough for just one pie, so to avoid rolling the entire thing out again, cut off a portion of the dough, about a quarter, put the rest of the pastry back in the fridge or freezer (if you’re not going to be using it for a while).  Roll the pastry out to about 6mm thickness again and place it in your pie dish, pressing down lightly along the bottom and sides, and trimming away any excess, making sure you have enough around the edge for a crust.
-          Put in your prepared pie filling (see below)
-          Top the pie as you please – either just cover with another layer of pastry, securing the sides with some brushed egg to help it stick and pressing down with a fork, or arranging strips of pastry into a lattice design, as I did in the picture.
-          Brush with beaten egg, and let your unbaked pie rest again in the fridge for 30 mins before baking it off.
-          While your pie is refrigerating, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.
-          Put your pie in the oven on a lower tray, baking it at 220 for 15 mins.
-          Reduce the heat to 180, place the pie higher up in the oven, and bake for 30 mins until the pastry is golden brown, puffed up wonderfully and smelling delicious.

Method for the pie filling:

-          Make sure your berries are washed and drained in a colander.  You can even leave the stalks on as they just go soft in the oven, although I prefer to snip them off with some scissors. 
-          Making the filling is as easy as mixing the berries with the sugar and flour.  That’s it.
-          Once you’ve put your filling in the prepared pie shell, you can dot it with 30g butter if you wish.  I didn’t, and I didn’t miss it, either.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Millie's Cookies!!

Due to popular demand...

First I need to explain something...not that anyone actually needs to explain cravings for Millie's Cookies, but I feel like I'm a special case here.  During my pre-married youth, there were certain things I used to do regularly.  I used to walk from our house in Langley into Slough High Street (even when I could drive) to do a little shopping.  I would also travel by train from Slough (again, walking to the train station, how I miss that!) into London Paddington occasionally too, when I had to go to Senate House Library (no, really, I would only go to the library, I would never, ever detour to Liberty's beauty department, or Hamleys, or Oxford St, or Convent Garden...I was an excellent student).  With all of that walking, I would deem it completely fair that I should reward myself with some Millie's cookies, which, conveniently, was (and I believe, still is) located en route to Slough High Street central in the Observatory Shopping Centre, and there was also a nice little stand in Paddington Station.

It was a treat that I didn't indulge in too often, and when I did, I always felt a little guilty, since the chocolate chunks in there were huge, the cookies were wonderfully buttery and squidgy and it always made me think that whatever's making them taste so good can't be weight-conscious friendly.

And now I've found a recipe for them, I realise that I was absolutely right.

I've been looking for something like Millies here in South Africa for ever, but I haven't come across it yet!  Most recipes for choc-chip cookies are of the hard, crunchy variety (like Maryland cookies).  Nice all the same, but not what I was looking for.

My advice is to exercise some serious will power so as not to eat the whole lot of these once you're done baking them.  These are particularly yummy with a glass of cold milk, and I don't even like drinking milk straight up but you see, Millie's Cookies make you do things!!

The recipe is very simple, but the rule of thumb is, don't bake these cookies till golden brown.  At the most, bake them till the edges are tinged light brown but that's all.  You can even take them out a little earlier - remember Millie's Cookies' trademark is that the cookies are squidgy, not crunchy like other biscuits.

Note:  I tried this recipe with demerara sugar and muscavado, and although they turned out good both times, I preferred it with muscavado.

Another note:  When you're portioning off your biscuits, if you prefer to roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut into slices for perfect rounds, put the dough in the fridge first for about 30 mins.  It will make it easier to roll.

This recipe was taken from Lauren's Recipe Book.  Check her out, she's got more great recipes.

Millie's Cookies
Makes approx. 40 biscuits (depending on size)


225g self raising flour
125g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
125g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
half tsp salt
200g choc chips (or chocolate, cut into chunks, milk or white, or even 200g smarties)

Nearly done!

- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
- Cream butter and sugars well.  Combine with egg and vanilla.
- Sift flour and salt into butter/sugar/egg mixture.
- Add choc chips/chunks or smarties.
- Either shape peices of dough into walnut sized balls, or roll the dough into a thick sausage shape and slice. (see note on rolling and slicing above)
- Bake for 10 mins (see above note on baking)
- Don't burn your hands as you reach to sample one right out of the oven.

These can be stored in an airtight container.  You can even freeze the dough and use it later.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday morning scones and tea (roses)

Happy Monday, readers!

It's been a long time since I posted anything, apologies for that.  Life has caught up with me and I've found myself snapping pictures of baked goodies, planning blog posts in my scrambled brain but never actually getting a chance to sit and type.  Finally, on a chilly Monday morning while the little one still dreams on, I can load up some pictures, do a little Picasa magic with them and post them up.

I originally wanted to post up the long-awaited Peppermint Tart recipe (still to come!) and a wonderful Family Chocolate Cake recipe (you'll just have to wait) but I had such a lovely morning yesterday, involving scones, strawberries, tea and roses, I decided to blog about it while it was still fresh in my mind.

When my husband and I lived in Canada, he used to come home with bunches of roses for me fairly often - about once a week.  When we moved into our house in Cape Town, South Africa a few years ago, he told me that he could no longer afford to buy roses regularly, but promised to plant me my own rose garden.  Well, my husband is not the impulsive type like me, and took time to research tea hybrid roses, and scented ones at that.  My garden still needs a lot of work and TLC, but today we're the proud owners of our own Mr. Lincoln, Casanova, Double Delight, Bushveld Sunrise, Just Joey, and other roses I've forgotten the names of!

Roses from my garden. Top: Double Delight.  Middle: Bushveld Sunrise.  Bottom: Casanova.

Anyway, my dear husband decided to surprise me with an impromptu show of love by presenting me with a beautiful Duftwolke rose.  'Duftwolke' apparently means 'fragrant cloud', which is a very apt description for the velvety tomato red rose which emanates a strong sweet fragrance.  Touched as I was, I decided to reciprocate by making my husband scones, which he loves so much but rarely gets to enjoy them.

I served the scones and tea on fine china, to add to the special sentiment.

A little note about scones:

You may have seen scones sold in packets at your local supermarket.  They're perfect in their regularity, soft, even, smooth-topped.  This recipe will NOT produce those kind of scones.  To be, the shop bought variety is very much like shop bought bread - it looks lovely but when you eat it, it has that irritating habit of sticking to the roof of your mouth.  It tastes 'mass produced'.  Home made scones may look irregular, even a little misshapen here and there, but you can really taste the love that goes into making it, as with anything home made.  It has a little crust so you're left with the delightful sensation of biting into a thin crust before getting to the warm, soft inner scone.

When my brothers and sister and I were younger, we would love waking up to the smell of baking scones on a Sunday morning.  We knew that it meant Mum was baking up a treat for us, and that when we trudged downstairs in our pyjamas we'd be welcomed with a batch of freshly baked scones, tea, and a big smile.  My Mum always worked, but still had the time to be a full time housewife as well, I don't know how she did it.  Anyway, here's the recipe.  Make them with tender loving care.

That's a real Duftwolke rose in the background, not a fake!  Isn't it stunning?

All-butter scones
adapted from a recipe from Joy of Baking


2 cups (500ml) self raising flour
50g sugar
2 tsp baking powder
75g butter, cold, and cut into cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 3 tsp vanilla essence)
1/2 cup cold milk

- Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
- In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking poeder, sugar).
- Add the butter, and work it through by crumbling it with your fingers, working lightly and gently until the   mixture resemble breadcrumbs.  Don't let the butter melt and try to keep your hands cold (run them under a cold tap before working with the mixture, taking care that you dry them well.)
- Add the liquid ingredients together.  Make a well in the centre of the flour/butter mixture and pour the egg, milk and vanilla mixture in.  The vanilla neutralises the soapy taste of the baking powder.
- Combining all ingredients with your hands, form a ball of dough, adding a little more flour if necessary.  DO NOT KNEAD.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Press it down lightly to about a 2cm thickness.  Do not use a rolling pin.  Cut out rounds with a cutter, measuring about 7cm in diameter.  Use all of the dough.
- Arrange onto a lined baking tray, and brush with beaten egg.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, turn the tray if necessary to bake scones evenly (I had to do this with my gas oven).  Try brushing a little melted butter over the scones about 2 minutes before you take them out of the oven.
- Once cooled, slice in half and fill as you please.

I served my scones with butter (not margarine), strawberry jam, whipped cream with a strawberry on top.  If you make home made jam, this is the time to get it out.  Alas, I have not yet made jam myself.  Someone once took the liberty to tell me, after I hosted a breakfast at my house, that they get 'angry' with people that buy jam from the shop - needless to say, this was said with a very pointed look at me.  I guess there's no pleasing some people!

If you can get your hands on Devonshire clotted cream, go the extra mile and buy it for this purpose.  It is the perfect accompaniment to these scones.  For South Africans, some branches of Woolworths do sell it, but check if they have stock as my local Woolies was sold out.

And yes. Tea really does taste better in fine bone china.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Perfect fairy cakes | Life and style | The Guardian

Sent to me by a dedicated blog reader, thanks!! Interesting little article discussing some definitions I was actually never aware of. American readers: apologies for the slight about American-style cupcakes. I didn't write the article and I actually love the American contribution to the cupcake/fairy cake world!

Perfect fairy cakes | Life and style | The Guardian

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thank you!

Thank You

Image by Cool Text: Logo and Button Generator - Create Your Own

Happy Monday morning all!!

I'm absolutely thrilled to see that I have reached 21 followers already, even though Cake Mama is scarcely a month old! Thank you to all readers and followers for your lovely comments (keep them coming) your endless support and the inspiration you have provided from your own wonderful blogs.

Keep telling your friends and family, or anyone who may be interested, about Cake Mama.  I've decided to do my first giveaway when I've hit the '100 followers' mark.  I don't know what it will be yet, but rest assured it will be something wonderful and fabulous - Cake Mama doesn't do giveaways by halves!

And hey!!! Don't forget that you can submit your own amazing recipes here too!  Just email Cake Mama and it'll be tested out and put up, accredited to the owner so you'll even get a little publicity for your blog too (if you have one).  I only ask that all recipes submitted should be true to the nature of this blog, that is, they should be bakes or desserts, and alcohol and pork free, thanks!

Look out for the Peppermint Tart recipe that I'll be posting shortly.  Happy baking, and peace to you all x

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comfort food for England fans - Banana Butterscotch Pudding

Oh, England.  Oh, boys!  What happened?

The dedicated readers of this blog will know that I'm not too fussed about football.  Still, it's a pity when England has 'flattered to decieve' (as my husband likes to say) yet again.  I really am sorry though, as I tend to romanticise about old Blighty, being so far away from home.  It's true that sometimes, even in this beautiful city of Cape Town, indeed one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in the world, I still think about the vast green land of England, even long for the grey skies in my worst bouts of homesickness.  But one of the things I think England really has to be commended for,undisputed, is the wealth of literature and the host of literary giants that have been born and nurtured within it's shores.  The English may not play great football anymore, but people, make no mistake, they have one of the best literary traditions in the world!!

What on earth am I talking about?  Well, as a prelude to the recipe I'm including in this post, I would like to cite C.S.Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia.  When I made this Banana Butterscotch Pudding last week, not only was I thrilled that this is a quick and easy self-saucing pudding (I mean, a pudding that  makes its own sauce - what more could you ask for??) but it made me think of Lewis' Chronicles and I smiled to myself, thinking how the author would incorporate a pudding like this into the book.  For those of you who don't know, C.S. Lewis writes about such English characters such as Peter, the strapping young man that England would have been proud of in the days of both World Wars, going off to battle, fighting bravely, and somehow always managing to come home victorious, in time for tea, and usually a few crisply burned sausages and home baked bread too.  I imagined, while sampling some of the pudding I had made, that the quotation would go something like this:

"They marched homewards from the battle, exhausted but jubilant.  Their worries about provisions for the way back were nullified, as Mrs. Squirrel had managed to prepare a Banana Butterscotch Pudding from the Bananas that Sgt. Monkey had hunted for them, and from the cane of a kind Sugar-Fairy they chanced to meet on their travels through the Forgotten Forest.  As they made camp that evening under the stars, Peter sat, deep in thought about about everything that had passed recently, how his life had taken such a drastic change so quickly, and he felt excited and nervous at the same time about his next meeting with Aslan.  Lucy handed him a bowl of Mrs. Squirrel's Banana Butterscoth pudding, and as he took his first bite, he suddenly felt as though he was back home in London.  The sweet warmth of the pudding melted into his tired mind and body, and he soon fell into a much needed deep sleep."

I had a lot of time to think about this, as you can see.   Whip up this pudding, England fans (or anybody, indeed) and reminisce about 'better days'.

Taken from the July issue of Your Family magazine.


For the pudding
210 ml cake flour
pinch salt
140ml castor sugar
1 tbsp (15ml) baking powder
1 mashed banana
1 cup (250ml) milk
90ml melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the topping
140ml soft brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) golden syrup
1 cup (250ml) boiling water

- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Lightly grease a 2.5l baking dish.
- Sift the flour, salt, castor sugar and baking powder together.  Add the banana, milk, butter, egg and vanilla essence and whisk until well combined.  Pour into the prepared baking dish.
- For the topping, place the brown sugar, syrup and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Carefully pour the boiling mixture over the pudding, then bake for 40 mins (time varies according to your oven) until it's cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Good with custard.  Great with créme fraiche.  Amazing with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lamingtons (or Lemingtons?)

I've seen these pretty fancies spelled both ways.

South Africa's Best Bakes, no.3!  You won't believe me if I told you that I made these within half an hour.  To be honest though, I took a generous short cut or two!  Cake Mamas like me obviously love our baking, but when there's washing to be done, ironing to be packed away, floors to be mopped and toddlers to be scolded at for continually drawing on the walls (!) we welcome short cuts when needed!  It's like having a little kitchen elf help you along the way!

In my case,  I paid my kitchen elf R45 to bake me half a sheet of plain cake.  His name is Marco and he's incredibly cheap, but his bakes are always excellent quality.  Yes, I can bring myself to order from others...I'll occasionally even indulge in baking from a box.

My needs over the weekend were completely justified though.  On Saturday we went to visit a poor lady whose husband had recently passed away.  Now in Cape Town, there's a beautiful tradition that's kept after a death, known as the '7 nights'.  Every night for 7 nights after someone has passed on, visitors and sympathisers come to the house of the bereaved to pray for the deceased soul.  It's customary to bring something along, and people usually bring large quantities so that the family (in this case, the widow) is not burdened with having to make or buy in food for her guests.  I needed something that would go a long way, that would keep if kept in the fridge for a few days, and that would be really quick to make.  My husband's sister in law Rezia (and my saviour that day) immediately phoned Marco (my knight in shining armour and kitchen elf) and in an hour I went to pick up my half sheet of plain sponge.

By the way, half a sheet is still huge.  It made about 50 lamingtons.

But what is a lamington?  It's simply a sponge, cut into a square, dipped in lamington dip mix ( shortcut no. 2, using instant mix as shown above) and rolled in coconut.  I'm told that if you can't get your hands on lamington instant mix, you can even dip the sponge in a crazily coloured fizzy drink (in South Africa, Creme Soda is Green and we also have crazy red Raspberry flavoured soft drinks).  If that doesn't float your boat, use warmed up smooth jam mixed with some boiling water, add a little colouring if you wish.  You just need some sweet liquid to for the sponge to be dipped into.  And the great thing is that since you've dipped the sponge, it won't dry up, even if you keep it in the fridge.

Oh, and did I mention that you can dress these coconut gems up with a little cream and fresh fruit?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Impossible Tart

Greetings, readers!

Please accept my apologies for not posting anything for a few days.  I so try and keep the blog updated regularly, but the chilly weather here in Cape Town has made way for cold and flu in the Cake Mama household.  Yes, it really does get cold in Africa, as you might have noted if any of you watched Monday’s match at Greenpoint Stadium.  I drove home from my in-laws that night amidst a hailstorm, and was reminded of the mother of all storms we once experienced when we lived in Northen British Columbia, Canada.  The only difference was that in Canada, it was so unbelievably cold outside that all viruses and bacteria carrying illness died (well, that’s my professional scientific opinion) so you couldn’t get sick.  Here, the wind is bone-shiveringly chilly but when you combine that with the strong African sun…well, it’s sick weather. 

I haven’t, however, forgotten my promise to supply you all with yummy South African bakes!  Here’s my next one, named ‘Impossible Tart’.  It should really be called ‘Very Possible and Extremely Easy Pudding’ because it’s laughably easy, and it’s not exactly what I’d call a Tart.  The term ‘tart’ is used very freely in South African cuisine – it basically refers to any kind of pudding that is set when either baked or refrigerated (you’ll meet the refrigerated version when I post up the recipe for ‘Peppermint Tart’, which is so mmmmmm).    Of course, only the English use the term ‘tart’ to describe a particular kind of woman.  I assure you, that I do not make reference to that kind of tart in any of my blog posts.

Finally, please excuse the lack of photos at the moment.  It seems that my little Cake Child has played with my camera’s battery charger and has somewhat misplaced it, bless her cotton socks.  Since I refuse to post up any pictures of recipes that are not my own, I’ll just have to hunt for the battery charger so I can get some more delicious pictures up!

Impossible Tart

4 eggs
50 ml melted butter
1 cup sugar
¾ cup plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch salt
1 generous tbsp apricot jam
1 cup desiccated coconut

-          Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
-          Mix all ingredients together and beat until well combined (by hand or with an electric mixer)
-          Pour into a dish which has already been greased with butter.
-          Bake for about 40 minutes (time varies according to your oven) until the top of the pudding is golden brown.  It should not be completely firm like cake, but it should not wobble when moved!
-          There’s only one way to serve this pudding, and that’s with some warm custard.  Enjoy while watching your favourite programme, or getting stuck into a great book.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Welcome to South Africa, world! Milk Tart recipe

Wooooo hooo!!!  The Fifa World Cup has come to South Africa!  The atmosphere's electric!  People are going crazy!  The traffic going into town is completey choc-a-bloc!  There's so much noise!  Yippee!

Alright, alright.  I'll settle down.  In fact, for those of you reading this that know me personally, you're probably confused already (that's if you didn't pick up the note of sarcasm).  I'm not remotely interested in football.  I was the weird girl in school because I didn't support a team like everyone else, and I once got chastised badly for pretending to support Turkey in a previous world cup match against England, in a very English high school.  Sorry, I'm just not very patriotic when it comes to sport (if ever).  I have dual nationality (British and South African) and I have nothing against either country, nothing at all.  I think that every country has it's beauty and charm.  I just fail to get excited about a bunch of highly overpaid men kicking a ball around trying to get it into a net.  I have no problem if you want to play the game to keep fit etc, but I can't really understand why people obsess over watching it.  All the time.

Take South Africa, for example. A country that straddles the 1st and 3rd world border,quite significantly.  On the weekends, my husband and I (along with his brothers and sister in law who totally run the project) go to a township in Cape Town called Delft. Here, only a mere 15 minutes drive from the safe and comfortable leafy suburb in which I live, is a vast area where people live in poor excuses for houses.  We're talking corrugated iron roofs, thin board-like walls, and in the area called Blikkiesdorp (small tin town) people live in so-called residences that resemble what you and I call a porto-cabin.  A mobile toilet, except, it's supposed to be a house.  They share a toilet with 5 other 'houses'.  The area's infested with crime.  Children can't go to school because it's become risky to walk. Most people have no other means of transport, meaning that unemployment is also rife.  How is this World Cup benefiting those people, and countless others?

Anyway, I'm digressing.  The football tournament is here now, and even if I'm not interested in the sport, I can still be a good host and welcome our foreign visitors into this beautiful land.  Welcome, visitors!  Enjoy your stay in South Africa.  Enjoy soaking up our gloriously diverse culture and eating our unrivalled sumptuous cuisine.  And here's my little offering - for the next few weeks, during the World Cup, I propose to 'pepper' my blog with what I'll call South Africa's Best Bakes (although some may not be bakes at all, as we're rather good at fridge desserts and deep fried things as well).  I'm kicking off now (haha-the irony) with Milk Tart (Melktert).  I think the first time I can remember having this was when my sister-in-law Ziemie made it for us when she was just a newlywed.  I thought it was fabulous then, and I have a soft spot for it because my Dad loves custard tarts, and this is pretty much the same thing.

This recipe has been slightly adapted from the original recipe in the Capetonian housewife's bible, Boeka Treats.


125g butter
125ml (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 small egg (or 1/2 large egg)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
250ml (1 cup) self raising flour
250ml (1 cup) plain flour

400g (1 tin) condensed milk
1tsp vanilla essence
Pinch salt
9 eggs (yes, 9)
3 1/2 cups boiling water
3-4 pieces stick cinnamon
3-4 pieces crushed cardamom
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter


Biscuit base:
- Cream the butter and sugar.
- Add the egg and vanilla and mix.
- Sift in the flour to form a firm dough.

- Line a pyrex dish (25x35cm) with the biscuit base dough, breaking off peices of dough and pressing it onto the the base and sides of the dish.  Refrigerate.
- Pour condensed milk into a bowl, add the boiling water, butter, cinnamon and cardamom. Add vanilla and salt.
- Allow to cool.
- Beat the eggs and add to the cooled off mixture. Mix well.
- Take out the lined dish from the fridge.  Strain the egg-milk mixture into the lined dish.  Sprinkle the top with a little ground cinnamon.
- Bake at 180 degrees until it's set (about 45 mins).


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Italian meringue

Most people know how to make a simple icing.  Cupcakes are blank canvases - they can be iced any way, and they'll always be a great hit.  The most popular icing for cupcakes is our old friend buttercream, which is simply made by taking some softened butter (not too soft), beat it up with twice as much icing sugar (sifted) and gradually add some milk, tablespoon by tablespoon until you have the consistency you desire.  Add colouring as you will.  

Then there's royal icing - not nearly as expensive as it sounds.  It's simply made by taking egg white (not trace of egg yolk at all) and adding icing sugar to it again until you've reached the desired consistency.  It can be runny to spread over the cupcake, soft peak to hold it's shape, and firm peak, for piping decorations and writing.

My favourite icing at the moment, however, is Italian meringue.  It sounds fancy, and it does take a little more time than other varieties, but it's light and fluffy and feels as though you're biting through a cloud, as I tried to illustrate above by adding a little soft focus to the picture displayed here - I made some of these cupcakes earlier today.  I even coloured the icing blue instead of my trademark pink, to add to the dreamy feel!  You need not be an expert baker or sugarcrafter to make this.  If you can read and follow a recipe, you can make Italian meringue.

This recipe is an adaptation from the original taken from The Way to Cook by Julia Child.  My version includes a smattering of rose water and a teaspoon of rose essence (optional).  You could even substitute the rosewater for lavender water, or orange blossom water.

Enough to ice 24 cupcakes.

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a saucepan, boil the sugar and water together.  Boil on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Keep a wet pastry brush handy to brush around the sides of the saucepan while the sugar and water boils, to prevent crystallising.  

Keep boiling it until it reduces and goes 'syrupy' (I usually judge by dipping a teaspoon into the mixture, then tapping the  teaspoon on a plate lightly.  If it doesn't feel sticky at all, boil it a bit longer.  
For those who want to do it 'by the book', the syrup should be about 112-116 degrees C on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage).  Just don't judge it by sticking your fingers in.  You'll burn like mad and scream for mercy.

While your syrup is happily bubbling away, whisk your egg whites and cream of tartar together either with a hand mixer or a stand alone mixer.  Keep it whisking away until you get soft peaks.  

Once your syrup is definitely syrupy, you have to pour it in (while it's still hot) to the egg white mixture.  This is the only really fiddly bit.  Carry on whisking the egg whites at a moderately slow speed, and pour the hot syrup in, trying to pour it from a little height, so that it pours into a long, thin stream.  (Try and picture the traditional way of pouring mint tea, like Arabs do.  That's what you want.)  Try to avoid pouring the syrup onto the wires of the whip.

Once all the syrup has been poured, keep beating the mixture and increase the speed until it's completely cooled down.  

Once the meringue can hold its shape, it's ready to use.  You can also add food colouring as you wish.  I prefer to use powdered or paste colouring as this doesn't affect the consistency of the icing as liquids do.  There's a great range at Squire's Kitchen, Sugarshack and Almond Art, and for South Africans, The Baking Tin and any baking retailer have a great range of Barco food colours.

Enjoy biting into a marshmallow-like dream.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The cupcake

What would a baker's blog be without mentioning classic cupcake?

In recent years, the humble cupcake has taken over the culinary world, evolving from being a kids birthday party staple, to getting a glamorous makeover in the form of stylish wedding cakes, cute baby shower favours, romantic treats and show-stopping centrepieces.  The reason for this revolution, in my opinion, is because a) they're super-cheap to make 2) they're far easier to decorate then big cakes 3) they look super-effective when piled up together 4) less waste - you want a piece of cake, have a cupcake to yourself instead to butchering a beautiful big cake and worrying about it drying out afterwards 5) they appeal to kids and adults alike

But to create such works of art, we need to start with the basics.  Here's a super easy, tried and tested cupcake recipe.  After trying many recipes (since I make a lot of cupcakes) this works the best, especially when baking in bulk.  I love it because it's a one-bowl recipe.  If you're lucky enough to own a stand-alone mixer such as a Kenwood or a Kitchen Aid, take it out, plop the ingredients in and get on with something else.

Some tips (and then I promise to stop babbling and get to the recipe)  use the best ingredients that your budget allows.  It makes a huge difference.  For example, use real butter instead of margarine.  Use vanilla extract if you can, the one that's thicker than the essence where you can see the beautiful tiny vanilla beans.  Make sure your eggs are fresh, as well as your milk!  These little checks will even make a simple cupcake more 'wow'.

Baking for my baby shower with my neice Aliyah, in chef's garb.


250g unsalted butter, softened*
250g caster sugar**
250g self raising flour
pinch salt
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
2 tsp vanilla essence, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 12 hole muffin tins, lined with paper cases

* If you can't find unsalted butter, or if you just want to use up your normal butter in the fridge, that fine, just omit the pinch of salt.
** I only say caster sugar because it's dissolves that much faster than ordinary granulated sugar.  It really does make a difference.  If you can't be bothered to make a special trip to the shops to buy the stuff, use ordinary granulated sugar but take care to beat it with the butter well so that it all dissolves.  Or you can blitz it in a food processor to make it more fine.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.
Soften your butter slightly by beating it in a bowl, either manually or with your mixer on a slow speed.
Add sugar, beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides so all sugar granules are incorporated and dissolved (this ensures a smooth and soft top to the finished product, instead of the dreaded hard crust)
Add the eggs, then gradually add the flour, and pour the milk in gradually to to make a smooth, but not runny, dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, leaving each paper case about 3/4 full.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Note that each oven is different, so get to know your own oven.  If you're unsure how fast or slow your oven bakes, keep an eye on your cupcakes.  Crucially, don't open your oven door until they are about 70 per cent baked (as a guideline the tops should be looking more firm and not looking like batter).  If you're baking them on different shelves, this is the time to quickly whip them out and swap shelves so both batches are baked evenly.  Please don't burn your hands, as I have done many, many times.

They should be golden brown when they're ready to be taken out.  Poke it lightly with the flat of your finger.  If it springs up without leaving an indentation, it's done.  If not, bake it a little longer, and maybe turn your heat down.

Take them out and smile with pride before deciding how to decorate your blank canvas!

 Aliyah displays our handiwork.

Note:  for chocolate cupcakes, omit 2 tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 tablespoons of cocoa.  Don't omit the vanilla essence, but you can also add a tsp of chocolate essence with it to make the flavour richer.  I also favour a teaspoon of good quality instant coffee dissolved in a few drops of hot water added to my chocolate cupcake batter, but that's up to you.

Recipe sharing

It may be one thing to take a deep dark family secret to the grave, but I don't believe that prized recipes should follow the same suit.  It's so sad when I hear people talk about so-and-so's amazing scone recipe, or a great aunt's fantastic caramelised nut cake recipe...but they died before they shared the recipe with anyone, or they were just unwilling to ever disclose that secret ingredient that made all the difference.  Or worse, in the community I find myself in now, it's not uncommon for people to share their recipes, but leave out a vital ingredient, or give the wrong quantities.  Why would people do such a thing?  Is it just to maintain bragging rights?  Can you really be that selfish?  Do your treasured recipes define you to such an extent that you begrudge the rest of the world a little know-how?  And what exactly do you plan on gaining by entering the Hereafter with your treasured recipe...imagine the delights of paradise (hoping we get there) being offered to you...divine offerings that we cannot even fathom in this world.

What will the stingy recipe hoard say on seeing these heavenly treats?  "No thanks, I bought my own recipe."

Here, I intend to share what I believe to be tried-and-tested, fantastic recipes.  Some are from my own collection of books and endless internet searches, tweaked here in there to my taste (and to the agreement of my chief taster and most critical critic, my husband) and some come from other generous recipe donors that have also confirmed their contributions to be honest and yummy!  All recipes are accredited to their original sources where necessary, so there's no plagiarism!

Finally, if you wish to contribute, you're more that welcome to e-mail me at with your recipe, and I'll try it out and put it up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baking cupcakes with a bun in the oven

Since I have dedicated this blog to my favourite pastimes, baking and motherhood, it seems fitting that my first post should pay equal attention to both.

This morning as I was looking for some suitable photographs to add to my blog, I came across these pictures of some cupcakes I made almost 2 and a half years ago, when I was just over 8 months blooming with my daughter. I was already living in Cape Town at the time, but I flew to England, 34 weeks and counting, to have my baby back in the motherland, where I was in the safe and reassuring hands of my own family. There, my wonderful sister and sisters in law planned a baby shower, and naturally, I took it as an opportunity to spend a disproportionate amount of time making tiny marzipan roses for cupcakes. Squint and you can see them in the pictures, on the bottom tiers.

To others, my time and effort spent making these little blooms is just, well, a waste of time, especially when you consider that they can be ready-bought for a reasonable price (Squire's Kitchen have a fantastic range). But for me, back then in particular, it was therapeutic. Sitting there, crafting miniature flowers in blue and pink for the baby that hadn't arrived yet took away the anxiety that most first time mothers-to-feel, amidst all the smiles and excitement. Of course I was quietly fretting about the impending pain of labour ("it's not called labour for nothing" my midwife soothingly told me) but the moments I took to enjoying my little hobby, breathing in the calm before the storm, helped me to think and look forward to all the beautiful moments to come, and whilst I couldn't exactly stop and smell the flowers, I got to eat them...with cake.