food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘cakes & desserts’ Category

sultana and sour cherry fruitcake

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Almost all fruit, this simple one-bowl cake has a nice tartness and a good hit of rum.

Preheat your oven to 160ºC (320ºF) and line a 22cm (8″) tin with baking paper. Measure 500g (17½ oz) of sultanas and 250g (8¾ oz) of sour dried cherries into a mixing bowl. Gently heat ⅓ of a cup of good dark rum and pour it over the fruit. Stir well, making sure all the fruit is moistened. Add 125g of melted butter, ½ a cup of dark brown sugar and 2 eggs to the bowl and stir to combine. Lastly, to bind the fruit, add 1 cup of plain flour and ½ a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix well and transfer into the prepared tin, spreading evenly. Bake for 1½ hours or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cover the tin and allow to cool.



Written by michelle picker

March 7, 2018 at 12:56 am

gluten free raspberry and lemon cake

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Don’t wait for your celiac friends to come over to try this amazingly delicious cake. No gluten means the mixture can’t be overworked and mashed potato makes the cake really moist. Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Butter and line a deep 20cm (8″) round cake tin. Beat 250g (8¾ oz) of caster sugar and 200g (7 oz) of softened butter together until light and fluffy then gradually add 4 eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in 175g of ground almond meal, 250g (8¾ oz) of cold mashed potato, the zest of 2 lemons and 2 teaspoons of (gluten free) baking powder. Spread  half of the mixture into the tin, dot with some fresh or frozen raspberries and cover with the rest of the mixture, levelling the top. Bake for 40-50 mins or until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack. For the glaze place a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add 80g (2¾ oz) of raspberries, 80g (2¾ oz) of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Warm through for 4-5 minutes until the raspberries have softened and the sugar has dissolved. Strain through a fine sieve. With a small stick blender or a mini food processor add ⅛ of a teaspoon of xanthan gum, preferably while blending. This will thicken the raspberry glaze immediately. When the cake has cooled pour the glaze over the top, letting it drip down the sides a little.

Written by michelle picker

February 14, 2018 at 12:24 am

mint chocolate and pistachio cake + fresh mint ice cream

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A wonderful combination of dark mint chocolate, crumbly biscuit and crunchy pistachios takes this hedgehog-style cake to the next level. And fresh mint ice cream is the perfect addition. Thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for the cake recipe and to Deborah for making it! The ice cream recipe is from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer.

For the cake soak 100g (3½ oz) of sultanas in 2 tablespoons of rum for 30 minutes. Line a 28cm x 18cm (11″ x 7″) baking tray or glass dish with greaseproof paper. Set a large heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and add 100g (3½ oz) of mint-flavoured dark chocolate, 200g (7 oz) of dark 70% cocoa solids chocolate (both roughly chopped into 3cm pieces), 100g (3½ oz) of golden syrup, 120g (4¼ oz) of unsalted butter cut into 2cm (¾”) cubes and ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt. Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water or the mix will get too hot and split. Heat and stir for two to three minutes until melted and combined. Add the sultanas and their soaking liquid, 170g (6 oz) of roughly broken digestive biscuits and 75g (2½ oz) of roughly chopped pistachios and mix until everything is well coated. Transfer it into the lined tray and smooth the top. Sprinkle with an extra 25g (¾ oz) of crushed pistachios and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Cover the tray and refrigerate for two to three hours. When set, cut into strips and store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Serve cold. For the mint ice cream measure 2 cups of milk. Take out 2 tablespoons of the milk and make a slurry with 6 teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch). Heat the remainder of the milk in a saucepan with 1¼ cups of heavy cream, ⅔ of a cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of glucose (in Australia I use this in place of light corn syrup). Bring to the boil and allow it to simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour in the cornflour slurry. Stir, return to the heat and allow to thicken. In another bowl whisk 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese with ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt. Pour in the hot milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Now tear a bunch of fresh mint leaves into the hot mixture and cool the mixture down in an ice bath. When the mixture is cold strain out the mint leaves and freeze with an ice cream machine, sorbetiere or even over ice and salt. If you have flexible silicone moulds, transfer the nearly set ice cream into them for ready-to-serve portions.

Written by michelle picker

January 24, 2018 at 12:35 am

lemon and mixed berry cake

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This cake, baked with my sister Eve, made an impressive and festive Christmas dessert. From SWEET  by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, the light and fluffy lemon sponge and berry buttercream are assembled into a sort of swiss roll on it’s side.

Preheat your oven to 205ºC (400ºF) and line a shallow 30 x 40cm (12 x 15″) rimmed baking sheet with baking paper. For the cake separate 8 large eggs and place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer along with 180g (5½ oz) of sugar and 3 teaspoons of lemon juice. With the whisk attachment beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes until pale and thick. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt. Sift in 135g (4¾ oz) of all-purpose flour in two batches, folding through with a rubber spatula after each addition. Sprinkle ¾ of a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest on top and set aside. Now place the 8 egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add in 4½ teaspoons of sugar and continue to whisk until your have firm peaks. Fold one third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until incorporated then fold in the rest until combined. Transfer to the baking sheet and even out the surface with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before dusting the top lightly with powdered sugar. Place a clean kitchen towel on top of the cake and flip it over so that it is now lying on top of the kitchen towel. Carefully peel away the paper and straighten the very edges of the sponge. Starting at the shorter edge of the cake, carefully roll it up (along with the kitchen towel). This will train the cake to roll when assembling later. When cooled, unroll the cake and cut into 3 equal strips lengthwise (we opted for 2 to make a narrower, taller cake). Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside. For the purée place 300g (10½ oz) of mixed berries and 80g (2.8 oz) of sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Warm through for 4-5 minutes until the berries are soft and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a food processor to purée and then strain into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve. For the buttercream add ¼ of a cup of light corn syrup (I used glucose), 135g (4¾ oz) of sugar and the seeds scraped from ½ a vanilla bean into a medium saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. While the syrup is cooking place 4 egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and beat on medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow in colour. Now stir the sugar syrup again and increase the heat to medium until bubbles begin to appear. Swirl the pan gently and continue to simmer until there are large bubbles all over the surface of the syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and with the mixer on low carefully pour the hot syrup in a slow, steady stream into the beating yolks. When all the syrup has been added increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat for about 10 minutes until cool. Gradually add 255g (9 oz) of softened unsalted butter, one spoonful at a time, allowing it to be incorporated into the mixture before adding the next. When all the butter has been added scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute until very smooth and light. Add a scant ½ cup of the berry purée and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. To assemble the cake spread each of the strips of sponge with about 85g (3 oz) of the buttercream. This should leave enough for the top and sides of the cake. Take one strip of sponge and roll it up. Position the exposed end at the beginning of the next strip and keep rolling. Add the last strip at the end of the second and roll again until you have a whole cake. Transfer to your serving plate standing the cake on a flat end. Smooth the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake with a spatula. Drizzle the remaining berry purée over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh berries (we chose blueberries). Set aside for 1 hour at room temperature (or in the fridge on a warm day) before serving.

Written by michelle picker

January 3, 2018 at 12:28 am

almond and strawberry trifle

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On the first Tuesday of November, everything in Australia (and particularly Melbourne) stops for the Melbourne Cup, a prestigious annual thoroughbred horse race. Everyone dresses up for the occasion and hats or fascinators are almost compulsory. For those who don’t go to the races it’s a great excuse for a party, usually involving sweeps on the races of the day. This dessert was perfect for our Spring Carnival celebrations. Easy to make ahead and transport and a perfect combination of decadence and freshness.

Take an 8″ (20cm) square pound or madeira cake and cut it into thin slices, leaving them out to dry for an hour or two. Meanwhile make your custard. Whisk 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1½ tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch) and 3 egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Carefully whisk in 2½ cups of milk in a thin stream. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat, whisk in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and allow it to cool. Meanwhile mix strawberry jam with lemon juice to taste. This cuts the sweetness and makes it a little thinner and easier to spread. When you’re ready to assemble, spread the jam onto ⅔ of the cake slices and make triple sandwiches. Cut the sandwiches into cubes and arrange or scatter them into your serving bowl. Coarsely crumble 1 cup of amaretti biscuits and scatter them amongst the pieces of cake. Drizzle with 1 cup of Marsala and then pour the cooled custard over everything. Now whip 2 cups of cold whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and continue to whip until stiff. Pipe or spoon the cream onto the trifle. Cover and chill at least overnight or up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve decorate the trifle with a lot of fresh strawberries and some toasted sliced almonds.

*adapted from a recipe in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Written by michelle picker

December 13, 2017 at 12:08 am


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I was researching sous vide cooking when I came upon some information on Serious Eats about tempering chocolate by that method. I had to try it. It was certainly easy but not absolutely necessary, as you can see in Three Ways to Temper Chocolate. My first attempt was nice and crunchy, melted nicely in the mouth and had a good shine.

My moulds were small round silicone ones and I painted the chocolate in with a brush which was not too wasteful and worked well. I decided on two different fillings. For the first I soaked dried cherries in vodka for a day or two and then added some shredded coconut. The cherries were quite sour and needed some sugar. The second filling was made from natural salted crunchy peanut butter, sweetened a little with powdered sugar and watered down to a good consistency. When the chocolate shells were set, I heated a small frypan and used the bottom to melt the first half of each chocolate flat. When I’d mounded in as much filling as I could I melted the second half and stuck the halves together. The only problem was that the chocolates were a little too large, if that’s a problem!

Written by michelle picker

November 22, 2017 at 12:19 am

sour cream panna cotta with berries

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Cindy made this panna cotta (Italian for ‘cooked’cream’), the perfect dessert to follow our home-made pizzas. It’s a great make-ahead recipe that’s always elegant and delicious. She followed this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.

For the panna cotta pour 1 cup of milk into a saucepan and sprinkle with 2½ teaspoons of unflavoured gelatine powder. Allow the gelatine to soften for a few minutes then place the saucepan over low heat and, without boiling, stir until the gelatine dissolves. Now add 2 cups of whipping cream, ½ a cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Continue stirring, still without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes. In another bowl, whisk 1 cup of sour cream then, while whisking, pour in the warm cream mixture. When this mixture is smooth divide it into 6 – 8 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until fully set. For the berry sauce combine 1 cup of raspberries with 1 cup of halved strawberries. Place half of this mixture (1 cup) in a saucepan with ½ a tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy. Add the remaining berries and immediately remove from the heat. Allow the berries to cool completely before spooning them onto the chilled panna cottas to serve.

Written by michelle picker

November 1, 2017 at 12:12 am