baking – cake

Melt and mix banana bread


Is Spring coming? I walk past this tree every day on my way to/from work and noticed last week that it has started to produce flowers. There’s only flowers on this one so far – the trees next to it are still bare. I sure hope Spring is coming!

Banana Bread

Bro and I spent some time in the kitchen in the weekend. Bro made soup and sour cream dumplings while I did some baking. I neglected to photo Bro’s creations – sorry!

I felt like making some banana bread – merely so I could use a new tin! I recently got a mini loaf tin to add to my burgeoning tin collection. In my defence, some tins were presents – at least, that’s what I say to ease the part of me that longs for an uncluttered life!

Banana Bread

I googled for a banana bread recipe, and came across one by Bill Granger for a melt and mix banana bread (there’s also a coconut bread on that page that I’m keen to try soon). I was pretty faithful to the recipe – the only variation I made was to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup. I was worried that it would be too sweet, but to be honest, the full cup of sugar would probably have been okay.

Banana Bread

I found that the banana breads rose A LOT and my mini loaves weren’t so mini by the time they had finished baking! The breads were also very moist and the crunchy almond topping on top was super scrumptious. I ate all the topping that had fallen off the breads and found myself picking extra bits off!

It was a pretty good recipe, but if you have bananas lying around, I’d recommend this banana cake before it. Banana bread is pretty much cake anyway, right?

Chocolate cake


Yet another cake post. It’s starting to look like all I do is eat cake! I assure you it’s not the case.

These cakes were for a special occasion – one of my “pod mates” at work had a birthday recently. Not just any birthday, but his 65th birthday! He is the loveliest person, so I couldn’t let his birthday go by without cake. Everybody deserves cake for their birthday – particularly for such an important one!

Chocolate cakeLime and poppyseed syrup cake

I had thought that the chocolate cake would be more popular, but surprisingly, the rather large lime and poppy seed syrup cake disappeared first. The recipe for the lime and poppy seed syrup cake came from (surprise surprise) the Australian Women’s Weekly’s “Bake”. It has become my baking go to book, but I’m making a resolution to use some different books for a while.

The chocolate cake recipe came from a colleague at my previous job. The recipe is brilliant because it’s the easiest cake in the world. All the ingredients are mixed up in a bowl, and then it goes into the oven. The only thing you need to be aware of is that it can take a while to bake as the batter. But for so little effort, it’s a great cake. It looks like it might be dry, but it’s surprisingly moist and with a light texture. It’s also not too sweet, which I really like.

With the cake pictured, I topped it with chocolate ganache, but it’s just as good with just icing sugar sifted over.

Chocolate cake

Easy peasy chocolate cake

200g self raising flour
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
250g brown sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
160mls water

Preheat oven to 170°C. Brush tin with butter and line 20cm round cake pan.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 2-4 minutes or until mixture is pale and smooth. (I’m not sure whether the butter should be melted, or just softened – I normally melt it and it turns out okay).

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

Lime coconut syrup cake

Lime coconut syrup cake

A few years ago we lived in Fitzroy, in a little house with a little courtyard. There wasn’t much to the courtyard out back: a few bushes, brick paving, and a lime tree. We never looked after the tree – didn’t even water it – but it seemed to thrive on neglect. When it fruited, there were so many limes I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. I kept forcing limes on people; bags and bags and bags of the bloody things.

At our place now, I have another lime tree, but mine hasn’t fruited yet. So it’s back to buying limes for us. I bought a bag the other week, and haven’t found much to do with them apart from putting wedges in a drink. To ease my guilt over having so many limes sitting around, I decided to use up a few in a cake.

The cake is a fairly simple butter cake with lime syrup poured over it while still warm. While some of the syrup is absorbed, I think it would’ve been better if I had poked some holes in the cake first. I also think it would’ve been better if half of the syrup had been reduced down further to be used as a glaze. Ho hum. We went over to our friends’ place for pizza and took the cake for dessert. Everyone seemed happy with it. I left the rest of the cake there, and I was told later that a piece was eaten for breakfast. Hearing that made me strangely happy!

(The garnish on top is shredded coconut tossed in a few drops of red food colouring. The plate that the cake is sitting on was a Xmas present from my boss a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful plate, but when I took it out for the cake I saw there was a scratch on it. Boo.)

Lime coconut syrup cake

Lime coconut syrup cake

From Australian Women’s Weekly Bake

Serves 8

125g butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups (260g) self raising flour
1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut
1/2 cup (125ml) yoghurt
1/2 cup (125ml) milk

Tangy lime syrup
1/3 cup (80ml) lime juice
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) water

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease 2cm baba pan well.

Beat butter, rind and sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in sifted flour, coconut, yoghurt and milk, in two batches. Spread mixture into pan.

Bake cake about 45 minutes or until cooked through. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes; then turn out onto a wire rack over a tray.

Make the tangy lime syrup; drizzle hot syrup over the hot cake.

Tangy lime syrup: Stir ingredients in a small saucepan over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Simmer, uncovered, without stirring for 3 minutes.

Middle eastern orange cake / flourless orange cake

Flourless orange cake

This flourless orange cake is really quite amazing. The cake is unbelievably moist and has a wonderful, deep orange flavour that is quite surprising. Once the oranges have been boiled, it’s very quick to put together (The recipe says to boil the oranges for two hours. I only did about one, and they were fine).

Flourless orange cake

Rather than making a big cake, you can see that I made little cakes. Half of the mixture I poured into heart shaped moulds, but the bases stuck when I turned them out and they all broke! Damn delicate things!

On top of the cakes is candied rind (recipe below). Unfortunately, I had too much of the pith and the rind was quite bitter. Well, at least it looked cute.

Flourless orange cake

Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Orange Cake

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds
250g sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Boil oranges, barely covered with water, in a covered saucepan for 2 hours. Allow to cool, then cut open, remove pips and chop roughly, including the rind.

Preheat oven to 190°C and butter and flour a 24cm springform tin. Blend oranges and eggs thoroughly in a food processor. Mix ground almonds, sugar and baking powder in a bowl, then add orange mixture and whisk to combine. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. If cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in tin before gently turning out.

Candied citrus peel and syrup

From Donna Hay’s Modern Classics 2

Place 1 & 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/2 cup shredded orange, lemon or line rind, increase the heat and boil for 6-8 minutes or until the rind is glossy and transparent. Use the rind on its own for decoration or pour over with the warm syrup for deliciously moist cakes.

Banana Cake

Bananas are breeding in my freezer.

Looking inside my freezer recently, I realised I had almost a dozen ripe, blackened bananas in there. The problem is, I don’t like eating bananas once they have passed that perfect yellow stage. So they get stashed in the freezer.

After I realized that bananas were taking over, I had to make something with them. After a pot roast one Saturday night, I made this banana butterscotch pudding for dessert. I read through the recipe quickly and had in my head that it was a self saucing pudding. After pouring the liquid topping over the batter, I suddenly had second thoughts. Had I read the recipe correctly? Was it a self saucing pudding? Or was it a cake with syrup poured over to serve? Uh oh. I had already closed my laptop at that stage (and I had poured the liquid over already!) so I threw it in the oven and hoped that my memory wasn’t failing me.

Banana pudding

Fortunately, the ole memory held up and it was a self saucing pudding. Unfortunately, it was so so sweet that we couldn’t eat much of it. It would’ve been good if we had cream or ice cream to cut through the sweetness, but we didn’t have anything of that sort in the house. It was a bit of a shame – if it hadn’t been so sickly sweet it would’ve been really good!

Banana cake

My stash of frozen bananas also yielded two banana cakes. The first one I made for us, and we (mostly I) enjoyed it for morning tea over a few days. The second one I took into work. We constantly have morning tea at work – any excuse will do – staff leaving, staff starting, staff getting engaged, staff having babies, staff having a birthday, and even staff going on leave (seriously!). So my colleague and I decided that we would bring in cake one day – just because. Our pod got a lot of visitors when people slowly realised that there was cake on offer!

Banana cake

The recipe that I used is from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics 2. It’s probably the cookbook I’ve used the most. Not all the recipes in there are good – in fact, I have made a couple that are absolute duds – but the banana cake recipe is brilliant. The cake is soft and moist, with a pleasant banana flavour and a hint of cinnamon. I always reduce the total amount of sugar to 1 cup, but have left the recipe below as is.

Banana cake

Banana Cake

From Donna Hay’s Modern Classics 2

Serves 8-10

125g (4 oz) butter, softened
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sor cream
1 cup roughly mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture. Add the cinnamon, sour cream and banana and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into a greased 26cm (10 in) fluted ring tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Blacksmith’s tea loaf

Blacksmith's tea loaf

This so called loaf is basically a cake. It’s pretty quick since all the ingredients get thrown into a saucepan before being baked. Chock full of dried fruit, it’s very moist, rich and rather sweet. As you can see, mine looked like it was rather dense, but it didn’t taste heavy, possibly due to all the fruit.

Blacksmith's tea loaf

You could use any dried fruit – I used a mixture of apricots, sultanas and dried apple. I didn’t have any mixed spice either, so used a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

I took some to work, and popped them into the sandwich press before spreading the slices with butter. It smelt SO GOOD and was a great morning tea snack, particularly with a strong cup of tea. I thought the loaf was a touch too sweet, but spreading on loads of butter helped!

Blacksmith's tea loaf

Blacksmith’s Tea Loaf

From Linda Collister’s Quick Breads

Makes 1 medium loaf

300ml strong black tea
115g unsalted butter
350g mixed dried fruit
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
100g light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
225g spelt flour or plain wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 450g loaf tin.

Put the tea in a non-reactive saucepan that is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the butter, fruit, spice, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Add the flour and baking powder to the pan and mix briefly, then stir in the eggs. When thoroughly mixed, scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

Bake for about 40 minutes until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool, then turn out and remove the lining paper. Cute into thick slices to serve.

Best eaten within 4 days. Can be frozen for up to one month.

Chocolate and Cherry Ricotta Cake

Chocolate and ricotta cake

The second sweet item for the inaugural barbeque was a chocolate and cherry ricotta cake. I adapted it from a recipe on which was for a Chocolate and Raspberry Baked Ricotta Cake. Essentially, it’s the same, except I used cherries instead of raspberries (der).

I had long ago eaten my frozen berry stash from last summer, but I did have a jar of cherries that I bought in a moment’s madness in Aldi. We hardly ever go there, but whenever I do I’m always amused by the weird stuff you can buy. Last time we were there, you could buy a petrol generator, or a portable foozball table, in case you needed more than just groceries and alcohol! Totally random, and that randomness must’ve influenced me to buy a jar of cherries that I didn’t need.

The cake itself is a contender for the ugliest thing I’ve ever baked. It was so ugly it was beyond ugly. It was fugly. I found the “batter” very thick, and had trouble smoothing it down. When I pulled it out the oven, I had concerns that it would be dry – it certainly looked dry! After we dished it out though, I was happy that my fears were unfounded. It had quite a dense texture, and you could certainly taste the tang from the ricotta. I didn’t think it was quite sweet enough, or taste chocolaty enough but it was still tasty. I would love to play around with the recipe and try it with some melted dark chocolate.

Chocolate and Cherry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from

Ingredients (serves 8)

3/4 cup (165g) ricotta cheese
2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
100g butter, melted
1 cup hot water
1 cup pitted cherries (I used ones from a jar)

Cherry sauce
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup pitted cherries


1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line base and sides of a 6.5cm-deep, 22cm (base) round cake pan with baking paper.

2. Sift flour and cocoa into a bowl. Add sugar, butter, water and ricotta. Mix well. Gently fold through cherries. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

3. Make cherry sauce: Combine sugar and 2 tablespoons cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Add cherries. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Cut cake into wedges. Place on plates. Spoon over cherry sauce & serve.