The first season of MasterChef coincided with two other significant events for me: the first cake decorating book my dad bequeathed unto me, and the time around which my dessert-loving boyfriend and I stopped spending every waking hour at live music concerts and more time hanging out at home and, subsequently, cooking for him.
It reignited a love of food and baking that I’d had flashes of as a child, but had lost touch with as other things filled my life.
Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first MasterChef, won many hearts during a competition throughout which she often appeared out of her league. She was so lovely I couldn’t be upset when she beat my favourite contestant, Poh, in the Grand Final. But I think the moment she won the most hearts was when, during one of the final challenges, she revealed the idea for her cook book. Every chapter to tell of a chapter in her life. It would be filled with stories and photos of her family and their favourite recipes. But the final chapter would be left blank, for us to fill with out of tales, photos and recipes.
Win she did, and with her publishing deal she released exactly the book she’d promised on the show, titled “Our Family Table”.
The book is full not with the new and contemporary, but the old and classic. It contains many basic recipes that are true to home cooking, yet the book is not without excitement and novel ideas. I have cooked so much from this book, it was difficult to find one I hadn’t tried yet. I finally settled on this:
Her Sweetheat Torte. The description of the following recipes is best left to Julie:
“What’s in a name? When my boys were little I used to introduce them to people as my little dasrlin’s. (They would kill me if I did that now.) I didn’t realise how literally they took me until I heard Joe very seriously asking a friend of mine, ‘How many little darlin’s do you have?’ I don’t know the origin of the intriguing name of this cake but whatever it is, the meringue on top and sweet cake base make it something to bake for your sweetheart – or your little darlin’s.”
Well, mine came out nothing like hers.
When I cut into it, I realised my cake had risen so much more than hers. I am unsure why, but it probably has something to do with me having to ditch the cake half way through to take care of an emergency. Perhaps the leavening started acting whilst it was waiting for my return.
But what’s aesthetics when you have flavour? I loved the base, and if I loved nuts more, I probably would have loved the nutty meringue. But, despite how much I attempt to convince myself otherwise, I’m just not a fan of nuts.
Most others, however, seem to be.
Here’s Julie’s recipe if you want to give it a try:
60g unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
¼ tsp cream of tartar
¼ cup (40g) chopped blanched almonds
2 tsp caster sugar, extra
¼ tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 20cm round springform tin and line the base with a non-stick baking paper. Using electric beaters, beat the butter with half the caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the yolks and vanilla and beat until combined
2. 2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then fold into the butter mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Spread into prepared tin.
3. 3. Using electric beaters, beat the eggwhites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining caster sugar, beating constantly until combined and the mixture is thick and glossy.
4. Spread the meringue over the cake batter. Combine the almonds, extra sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the meringue, then swirl with a knife. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the meringue has risen and is lightly browned. Cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge of the tin before releasing the sides. Cool on a wire rack.