On Apple Tea Cake, art making and embodiment

DSC_0979DSC_0987DSC_0991

I made this pretty cake a week or so ago for the lovely couple who couriered my electric scales from Sydney to Vancouver. It is an old recipe from a church community cookbook that my mum has had in our family collection since I was tiny. Simple but pretty with the cinnamon crusted apple slice topping, it has graced many an Election Day school cake stall. I doubled it – the original recipe fits one of those tiny 50s style cake tins you may recall from older Home Economics classrooms – and added the alternative apple stripe pattern. I also swapped milk for milk powder – otherwise it remains true to the version Margaret Lack shared with the St Mattew’s Anglican church community in my childhood. I was glad mum could find the recipe for me and imagine that it will be making a few more appearances in the next little while.

One of my classes at the moment is called ‘Christian Imagination’ – it is the first of the Arts courses at Regent. We have been reflecting on the Ash Wednesday call to ‘Remember that you are dust’ – considering the nature of our dusty-‘flesh’-clothed humanity. We are makers of art, collectors of ideas, broadcasters of beauty, fixers and joiners of ‘stuff’ – because first and foremost we ourselves are ‘stuff’. Embodied, we ‘do life’ in this world, interacting and engaging with other bodies, other things, other stuff. Food is just one aspect of our everyday-walking-around-lives, and this recipe is just one example of gratuitous* human creation … but I hope that you’ll try it and that it will bring you (and those you share it with!) nourishment and delight in all senses of the words! .

Ingredients:
2 cups plain or all-purpose flour (300g)
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup castor or fine granulated sugar (240g)
4 tablespoons of milk (80ml)
50g butter
2/3 cup water (170ml)
2 eggs
1 green apple (granny smith)
1 red apple (try and choose a variety similar in size to the green)

For Finishing:
20g butter
1 1/2 tbs castor or fine granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbs cinnamon

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350F).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar.
3. Melt the butter, and once cooled slightly, combine with milk, water and egg. Whisk to combine.
4. Gently mix the wet ingredients though the dry.
5. Grease (and line if that is your preference) a 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin. Pour the batter in.
6. Slice the apple very thinly (I quartered mine then sliced the quarters so they were still fine wedges but each slice was of a similar width). Arrange the slices on top of the cake alternating red and green slices.
7. Bake for 50-60 minutes or till golden and ‘done’ when tested.
8. Melt extra butter and paint over the surface of the cooked cake while it is still warm.
9. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the cake.

*things that are non-necessary, we do them ‘just because’

 

Advertisements

Erin’s Chocolate, Fig and Walnut cake

DSC_9896 DSC_9909 DSC_9917 DSC_9921 DSC_9925

Having moved southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere a few months ago, I understand the blessing of the ‘fall bounty’ more truly. Our local farmers market and grocery shops have been full of bright harvest for the last few months. Now, as both the birds and leaves migrate southwards, the abundance has begun to fade, now revolving, as it does late in the season, around squash and pumpkins. The fig trees around our new home fruited late too, we have been tripping over the fruit as it came thick and fast in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I feel a little guilty admitting to it, but neither Asher or I love fresh figs terribly. On the other hand, I really do not like fruit going to waste and so I had been gathering it up ‘to cook’ at a later date. Perishable as tender fresh figs are, Asher began to get frustrated finding my bowls of slightly fermented figs which were good only for adding to the compost. Anyhow, with a little (negative!) encouragement from him, I started trying to cook them up. I made chilli fig jam – a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. Erin’s birthday seemed like a good excuse to have a go at incorporating the jam into some baking. I played around with a few recipes to come up with the one below – the almond meal makes the batter it more dense than an average butter cake. I might keep playing with the recipe – I will keep you updated with any break-throughs!

Base
½ cup butter, softened (115g)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
¾ cup milk
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 cup almond meal
½ cup coco powder
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt

Crumblings
75g butter
2/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts (roasted)

1 cup fig jam

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs, beat till combined.
4. Combine the milk and yoghurt, and all the dry ingredients in two separate containers.
5. Begin adding a little of the milk mixture and a little of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mixing till combined, continue the cycle of adding the liquid and dry ingredients and the mixing till combined till all the ingredients are added.
6. Set aside.
7. Beat the butter and sugar for the ‘crumblings’, add in the flour till the mixture clumps together when you squeeze it with your hands.
8. Grease a bundt tin (or whatever tin you have decided to use!) and begin adding the batter, the crumblings, jam and walnuts to the tin, jam works better in the batter not at the edge near the tin. Spreading all the different components around equally will mean a more uniform result!
9. Bake it for about 50-55 minutes – just keep an eye on the browning – if it looks like its getting toasty round the edges and you want to let it go a little longer for the sake of a cooked centre – I use foil to protect it from over-browning-that-is-really-burning.
10. Serve with ice-cream or a little whipped cream – perhaps dusted with icing sugar.

Gifts given

DSC_9784 DSC_9785 DSC_9792 DSC_9797 DSC_9803 DSC_9806

“… What do you have that you did not receive? … ” (1 Corinthians 4:7b)

Not much really! I have been musing about the idea of sacrament, ceremony and celebration recently. Thinking about the way that God made a good world, full of good things that should remind us to turn our gaze to Him in gratitude. About formalising our thanks in ceremony. About expressing and sharing our thanks in celebration.

I have been thinking about creation and Eucharist, about feasting and joy, about thankfulness. About a good world, about bread. About cake and friends to share it with. About delight and welcome. These are the threads I am beginning to trace as I learn God’s word. I am beginning to see the story about a world made in love, about good gifts given. About a King and a feast, about coming home to dinner. About fullness of life, about joy, not fear. Oh, I want to be able to tell that story. I want to tell it with loaves of bread baked in precious new pots. I want to tell it with Funfetti cake topped with butter cream frosting and sprinkles.  I want to tell it slowly and carefully and with great joy.

The psalmist tells us that “He withholds no good thing …” Psalm 84:11 and I know it to be true. Sometimes the gifts are extra special though. This last week I was given a beautiful blue le Creuset pot, heavy with the hope of bread to break and dinners to share. Newly arrived in Vancouver, only few months ago, I had also been given an preloved Kitchenaid mixer and then, last week, the bowl finally arrived. Talk about stuff being sacred – my heart and my kitchen are full! So I baked in thanks. I baked basic-bread and a party-cake. The stuff of life and the stuff of celebration. I think we need both. We need the reminder that our earthy bodies are nourished both by the earth, and by the One who offers us Himself, the true Bread of Life. And once we have remembered, we need to gather and celebrate His Goodness and His abundant welcome.

Piece of cake, anyone?!

Cake, because …

DSC_9081 DSC_9083

I believe in cake.

As someone who cares about food I do try to eat healthily, to make wise choices. I know that cake is rich in sugar and fats. I know that it is a treat, a ‘special occasion’ only food.

But it is for these reasons that I believe in it. It is rich, it is a treat and a moment marked with cake becomes a special occasion. If sharing bread makes us companions, then sharing cake allows companions to celebrate!

My lovely sister-in-law recently announced her engagement. I made her a cake. A sweet, rich, special cake because we wanted to recognise the sweetness of love and new beginnings, as well as the richness of love and commitment.

Last year I wrote an essay on cake*. After examining its British-European history I reflected on the nature of contemporary cake culture in Australia. I found the whole enterprise completely fascinating. As I reflected on the way cake is bought, baked and shared – I began to reflect on the deeper meanings of this unique social phenomenon.

We share cake at special occasions, employ it to make a little moment in our everyday sweeter, offer it to extend friendship and hospitality. The type of cake and the context within which it is served can invoke both cultural and gender identities. There is just so much that some sugar, butter, egg and flour can say, can invoke, can express.

This link will connect you to the recipe that I reinterpreted for this sweet little morsel. I used a smaller tin; three 9cm tins worked instead of two 15cm ones, I changed the chocolate cake to an almond and rosewater Torte and completely muffed the swiss meringue buttercream recipe! In the end this was reinterpreted into a more regular buttercream icing instead. My embellishment was much more understated (I didn’t have the time or the patience for the original!) – the cake was topped with almonds and rose petals. I think I’ll keep tweaking the recipe for now, maybe one day I’ll share my better-documented-and-repeat-trialed version.

Despite the changes, it was an absolute hit and my thanks goes to Linda Lomelino at Call me Cupcake for sharing. My mum is not a ‘cake person’, my husband and his father prefer savoury treats to sweet … and they all liked this cake!!! The actual recipient now wants it for her wedding cake, I think my family will be returning to this recipe for many future celebrations, big and small!

*Here is a pdf version, if you are interested! CakeResearchProjectMorrisona1641657

Carrot Cake

DSC_2356

DSC_2361

DSC_2362

This recipe was originally given to my mum by a Canadian friend of hers. The clippings of recipes from Canadian Life magazines she gave to mum all those years ago (even before us kids came along!) had a subtle but significant influence on mum and her desire to bake things, which in turn modelled baking at home for me. Anyhow, back to the recipe at hand. The recipe specified one cup of oil as the main source of liquid in the mixture – I like moist cakes but felt that this was a lot of oil. So we tried it out with buttermilk instead. It is best not to completely replace the oil with buttermilk (the texture gets a little rubbery), but a ratio of 3:1, buttermilk to oil works to produce a deliciously light and moist cake. I had been lamenting the lack of a carrot cake in my recipe repertoire – so it was especially fun to work with mum over the holidays to modify this recipe – especially when it turned out so beautifully! So far it has surfaced as a weekly treat for lunch boxes, a birthday cake and a thankyou-and-thinking-of-you everyday type present. It is versatile and yummy and we hope you enjoy this lighter version of the classic carrot cake!

Ingredients:
… these ones go straight in the food processor … 
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup light flavoured cooking oil (sunflower or light olive oil work well)
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I’ve yet to try one with brown sugar but think that next time I will see how this works!)
2 cups roughly chopped raw carrots
1/2 cup currents (or sultanas, I just like currents better!)

… dry mix … 
1 1/3 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans (or other nuts if you prefer them)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
125mL cream cheese (I tend to use the lower fat versions, this does however make the mixture softer I think … requiring more icing sugar!)
2 tbsp softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar (this depends on the thickness of icing you desire!)

Method:
1. Add the buttermilk, oil, eggs, sugar, carrots and currents to the food processor bowl and blend till combined and uniform in texture.
2. Mix dry ingredients with wet ones in a large bowl till all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
3. Line a cake tin with baking paper or grease well and flour tin – I used a square one for these photographs but a lamington tin works well too and I imagine other shapes would also work well.
4. Pour mixture into the tin and bake at 180oC for about 45 minutes or till cooked through.
5. Make the icing while the cake is cooking by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl and using a hand held electric mixer to combine them. I would start by adding 1 cup of icing sugar, then adding more to adjust the texture till it reaches the thickness desired.
6. Once the cake has cooled, icing with the frosting and enjoy!

The birthday season continues …

DSC_0325

DSC_0333

DSC_0337

DSC_0346 DSC_0355

… and she’s the birthday girl!

In my family this is the ‘go-to’ cake. Need to cook something for visitors quick? Need to cook for the cake stall? Need to make a birthday special? Gwen Francis’ chocolate cake is the cake for the moment! A friend of my grandparents, she will enjoy immortality in our family for this tasty dessert. It is very simple (it’s a ‘melt and mix’ cake) making it very quick to throw together. You can dress it up (think cream and raspberries) or dress it down (think chocolate icing and smarties!) and it will still work. This one was for Ally for her birthday and was happily enjoyed by the whole family – even grandparents in another town a week later … with the help of freezer technology! Happy Birthday Ally!

80g butter
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3 level tbspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup milk
3 eggs

Optional decorations:
Strawberries
Strawberry Jam
Whipped Cream (with a little icing sugar and vanilla)
Chocolate glaze

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave (covered – for the sake of not cleaning the microwave afterwards).
3. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl (preferably attached to an electric mixer), add sugar, milk, eggs and slightly cooled butter to the bowl and beat on high for three minutes (assuming the mixer). If you are doing this by hand, stir briskly till combined.
4. Grease your chosen tin (heart shaped is pretty, circles work – a lamington tin will as well, the time of cooking may vary slightly however) and pour the batter in.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
6. Decorate your cake with which ever ingredients suit your taste and the occasion! We halved the cake with a serrated knife, whipped some cream, sliced some strawberries and then layered the bottom half of the cake with jam, strawberries and cream before covering with the top half. Chocolate glaze was drizzled over the top. Best served with a little more cream or ice cream!

 

Old fashioned date cake

DSC_6656

DSC_6666

DSC_6669 (1)

This is one of my grandma’s recipes. I’m actually not sure which grandma, I think Grandma, as opposed to Minnie. Anyhow. It is a very moist and delicious cake and looks great cooked in these old fashioned nut loaf tins. Although, a word of warning. The nut loaf tins are small. They do not need much mixture. They can’t take much mixture. Otherwise they have blow outs. I managed to rescue mine … but it was close. They make lovely gifts, see photo above. This particular one made its way to a Pre-Primary classroom to feed the teacher, the parent helper … etc. It looked pretty and apparently made morning tea a bit of an occasion!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dates
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bicarb soda)
2 cups self raising flour
1 egg

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Prepare baking tins (either grease and line a loaf tin or grease the inside of a cylindrical old fashioned nut loaf tin).
3. Finely chop dates.
4. Add dates, water, sugar and butter to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue cooking till dates are very soft and all ingredients appear to have combined.
5. Add the bicarbonate of soda and remove from heat (the mixture will froth and aerate).
6. Pour into a mixing bowl and allow mixture to cool (about 10 minutes).
7. Add the flour and egg, mixing well to combine.
8. Place in chosen baking dish – the nut loaf tins will take about 1/3 of this mixture. Remember not to over fill these, the tin should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full, any more and you’ll have an explosion (the pictures that didn’t make the blog post!).
9. Bake in a moderate oven till cooked through when tested with a skewer (at least 30 minutes … depending on your pan!).
10. Enjoy!