Jelly Slice

When we’re doing the grocery shopping, we’ll inevitable turn down the aisle with all the jellies. Next to all the various types of jellies is a shelf full of box-mix chilled desserts, amongst them a packet for jelly slice. Without fail, every single time Cameron will ‘notice it’ and mumble some variation of ‘mmm, jelly slice’. This is always a not-so-subtle hint towards me that next time I’m thinking of making a dessert, I should make jelly slice. Or even if I’m not thinking of making dessert, I should make jelly slice. Or basically that jelly slice should spontaneously happen pronto. So I decided to surprise him with a batch one weekend.

Cakecrumbs' Jelly Slice 00

Jelly slice isn’t something that was a part of my childhood, or even adulthood, but it was very much a part of Cam’s. It was a dessert his Oma used to make for them all, and has continued on to be one of his favourite things. I was yet to try it for myself, so it seemed like as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about.

Jelly slice is a tri-layered Australian dessert. It consists of a biscuit base, a cream, custard or cheesecake centre, and a layer of jelly on top. It’s delicious and incredibly simple to make.

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Lolly Bag Cake

I often get told from friends and family, and sometimes even people I don’t know, that I should go on MasterChef. I kind of imagine that this is how people with voices like tortured cats end up on Australian Idol or X-Factor and end up embarrassing the hell out of themselves: well meaning people want you to follow your hobby to wonderful goals, but it takes more than a passion for singing or food to make the grade. I’m okay at baking, but I don’t have the skills in a lot of mediums necessary to avoid total annihilation. I’m also insanely indecisive, slow, messy and I always think I know better than the recipe. Knowing me, I’d be an hour into the challenge and still standing in the pantry trying to work out what to cook.

Cakecrumbs' Lolly Bag Cake 00

But there is one thing that makes me entertain the idea for a moment: pressure tests. These contestants get to not only meet, but be mentored by the most accomplished pastry chefs in the world. They then get to attempt these wonderful recipes with every ingredient and tool right there at their disposal in a professional kitchen. I always watch those episodes with the deepest sense of longing. I’d jump at the chance to get to create all those stunning desserts that are practically impossible to make at home.

This year, one of the first such pressure tests was provided by Bernard Chu, an accomplished Melbournian pastry chef of LuxBite. It was Kids Week on MasterChef, and he bought in a cake that perfectly fit this bill: his Lolly Bag cake. This layered beauty was the perfect nostalgia trip of many of the lollies we grew up with as kids. As soon as I saw it, I knew I just had to make it.

Cakecrumbs' Lolly Bag Cake 000

I’ve had moments like this after many Pressure Tests or other dessert challenges. The recipe goes up on the MasterChef website, I go to look at it and quickly become dismayed by the ingredient list. Or the required equipment. Or the cost. Or all three at once. I almost had that same moment while reading through this recipe and doing the maths. But no, I finally decided, I was not going to be defeated by it. I was going to save it up for a special occasion and tackle this beast of sugary goodness.

I don’t know if I wanted to bake it or taste it more. Mostly I was skeptical that all those flavours could go together and not confuse the palatte, so I had to try it. I suppose I could have made the trip to LuxBite and just paid $7.50 for a slice, but that’s just not my style.

Cakecrumbs' Lolly Bag Cake 0

The post that is going to follow is going to be enormous, I should warn you. As you may have guessed from all those layers, it’s a long and involved multi-step process. It will look intimidating, but when you break it down you’ll find it’s really quite easy. It’s a relatively technical cake, though not the worst. Having experience with things like making sugar syrups, whipping meringue to perfect soft peak, making ganache and baking sponges will help a lot. If you’ve never done any of these things you may want to have a play around with individual components in easier desserts before taking on the whole lolly bag cake.

I made a number of changes to the recipe to make it home-kitchen friendly, as well as a few other preference changes. This is as specialty-equipment free as possible, but you will want a candy thermometer and a stick blender at the very least. You will also need enough freezer space to freeze at least one layer at a time, preferably enough for the whole cake to sit in later. I’ve documented every step along the way to give you a visual guide of what bits and pieces are supposed to look like and will be providing plenty of anecdotes in the hope of guiding even the most beginner of bakers through this challenge. So hit the jump to read all about it!

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Crêpes Dentelles [Pailleté Feuilletine]

Pailleté feuilletine is a common ingredient in a lot of chef-ey recipes. All it is is crushed up pieces of crêpes dentelles, or lacey crêpes. The crêpes themselves are more like a tuile or a biscuit than the pancake-type dessert I imagine when I hear ‘crêpes’. These incredibly thin layers of sweet, caremelised crêpe are rolled up into a cigar shape, either with an opening large enough for a filling or no.

Cakecrumbs' Crepes Dentelles

I needed pailleté feuilletine for a cake I’m making soon, a cake with a massive list of obscure ingredients. I’ve resorted to making as many of the ingredients on my list as I can, both to cut costs and because it’s good fun.

In many places, crêpes dentelles, or the crushed form of them, are not difficult to find. But here in Australia, they are fairly obscure. It’s an item found almost exclusively in specialty food shops and is certainly not cheap for what you get. Making it at home was not only preferable for my hip pocket, but it produces a beautiful dessert along the way.

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Peanut Butter Slice [Vegan]

One of the very first things I ever made for Cameron was a peanut butter slice. It was mostly born of a couple of chocolate failures in my early baking days. The chocolate I was working with seized and I didn’t want to waste it, so I whipped it up into some sort of icing. I raided the cupboards for whatever else I had on hand and made a peanut butter slice to go beneath the icing. I thought it was a bit rubbish, but he loved it and regularly nags me for another.

Cakcrumbs' Peanut Butter Slice

This weekend just gone was Father’s Day in Australia, and we’d planned a gathering with Cam’s immediate family. We had a gorgeous lunch at an Indian restaurant and went to his brother’s place for dessert and chatter. All the ladies usually bring some dessert or munchies along. I was making a mudcake for his dad and figured I should also bring something vegan so his brother and sister-in-law could eat it too. Veganising a basic peanut butter slice seemed an easy way to finally give Cameron the slice he wanted while creating something everyone could enjoy.

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Davy Jones’ Cheesecakes

I’ve got a jar of dirt. And guess what’s inside it?

Davy Jones'  Cheesecakes

I love jar food. It’s so quirky and cute and rustic and just ticks all my aesthetic boxes. It used to be so rare to happen across but now it’s everywhere. It’s even all over MasterChef, and once MasterChef is doing it you know everyone is going to be doing it.

But I have a serious problem. Every time I see jar food, I get a particular sing-song voice stuck in my head. I’ve got a jar of dirt. I’ve got a jar of dirt. And then it’s stuck in my head all day, until I start singing I’ve got a jar of dirt and it gets stuck in everyone elses head. There was only one way to deal with it, and that was to replicate it with food.

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Melktert

Every so often, Cameron will randomly pipe up with something he wants me to bake him. Something I usually forget about 20 minutes later. So I got him to join Pinterest, set up a board and asked him to pin things he wanted me to make. And then, like a devoted girlfriend, I forget to refer to it ever.

So when I’m excitedly chattering away about the next dessert idea I’m conjuring up in my head, he’ll subtly nudge me about the thing he really wants. The last few times the dessert of choice has been a milk tart. Last weekend we were both off doing different things and I got home before he did, so while I had some time to myself I thought I’d surprise him by finally knocking this pastry off of his wishlist.

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Milk tart, or melktert in Afrikaans, is a dessert that hails from South Africa. He first tried when a South African colleague of his bought one to work for the Big Cake Bake, a charity event they were hosting at work. Ever since, he’s intermittently nudged me about making one.

Part of the reason for my being so slow in fulfilling this wish was how bland it sounded. I don’t know about you guys, but any treat with milk in the name that isn’t a milkshake doesn’t really inspire my appetite. Dilute and bland were the first words that struck my mind upon the mention of it, so I procrastibaked and found something else to try.

I was more than happy to discover how wrong I was.

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Lemon and Passionfruit Sponge

It was Cameron’s uncle’s birthday just recently, so I got another excuse to make cake. If trying to get my partner to decided on a cake is a task, getting the same from his uncle is umpteen times that. We’re an indecisive bunch. My only brief was to make something ‘plain Jane’. In a way, that’s more difficult for me. I find it too easy to over-complicate something. Doing something plain? It’s not really my style. I’m not sure I even know what plain is.

Cakecrumbs' Lemon and Passionfruit Sponge

For these instances, I tend to default to simple flavours and classic recipes. It doesn’t get much more classic than a sponge in my book. A sponge is also usually a pretty safe option in Cam’s household, and a relatively regular appearance at birthdays. I’m fairly sure the first time I ate a sponge was at one of his family celebrations. So all that was left was the fill it with flavours I find reminiscent of previous occasions spent with his family.

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Chocolate Tacos

A while ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of chocolate avocado mousse. I had my first play with it with this mousse cake. But the moment I heard about it, this is the dessert I instantly conjured in my mind. I’ve just been waiting for the excuse to do it: a wait that’s stretched to well over a year, but the wait was certainly worth it.

Cakecrumbs' Chocolate Tacos

I starting having a look around the net for hard-shell chocolate taco recipes, but there really wasn’t one. Most were just covered in chocolate, or were more pancakey. So I had to come up with a way to create a hand chocolate taco shell on my own. There was one obvious solution: chocolate tuiles.

I’ve steered clear of tuiles after my first attempt with them many years ago went horribly. They were sitting in my ‘Too Hard’ basket waiting for the day I became brave enough to try once more. Necessity forced this reunion.

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Daring Bakers: Chocolate Marquise

I’ve had a slight hiccup with the Jupiter cake tutorial: I have the video done but it just won’t save! All my attempts at troubleshooting haven’t worked so I’m having to sort that out. I’ll have it for you soon!

In lieu of that, it’s time to move on to the Daring Baker’s challenge this month!

This month’s challenge was entitled ‘Eenie Meenie Miney Moe!’ In a celebration of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we’d like. The real challenge was picking which delicious recipe to try!

I set about trying to find the hardest recipe I could. I was going to challenge myself to the most ludicrous challenge I could find. But I struggled to find something that scared me. The most fearsome challenges I’d heard about from other bakers were things I have or now regularly bake: french macarons, joconde, croquembouche. The desserts I hadn’t tried all used techniques I’m familiar with. It was actually a nice moment to reflect on how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned over the last 3 years.

I couldn’t find something as challenging as I’d wanted, but there was one…

Cakecrumbs' Chocolate Marquis

The chocolate marquise. It was the challenge from May 2011. I’d never heard of it before and it looked divine. But the recipe was massive and had a bunch of pressure points that seemed difficult, so I decided to take it on.

I discovered as I made it that it wasn’t that scary, but it does force you to plan ahead. You need to be organised and to think through the components, particularly during plating. You have to have a plan of attack and stick to it. I’m a hot mess in the kitchen so perhaps this was the biggest challenge of all…

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Molten Chocolate and Pear Pudding

There’s seldom a wrong time for a molten chocolate pudding. But being in the middle of winter makes it all the more welcome. Winter warmers are the ultimate comfort food. The colder the day, the sweeter the moment.

Cakecrumbs' Molten Chocolate and Pear Pudding

This molten pudding is combined with one of my favourite fruits: pears. There’s so many varieties available in the fruit shop at the moment, but this is made with the common Packham pear. You can use most any variety available to you as this recipe doesn’t demand a particular flavour profile — chocolate goes with everything!

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