I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday. I spent mine with my partner and his family, eating way too much food and trying not to eat all the chocolate too. His brother and sister-in-law hosted us all on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday his parents did. Both his mother and sister-in-law put on an amazing spread of food that we all ate too much of, and that was before we even thought about dessert.
I bought along a couple of baked goods for the occasion, baking most of it vegan so everyone could eat some. I made a batch of hot cross buns to bring because they’re lots of fun to make, but also because it’s next to impossible to find any here that don’t contain palm oil, especially not vegan ones. And then there was this Easter-themed cake.
Making chocolate cake vegan is so easy. There’s so many recipes that are already incidentally vegan or an easy substitute away from it. This time I decided to spice things up a little with a Mexican chocolate cake.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
It’s hard to pick a favourite cuisine. There’s so much amazing food offered from all corners of the globe. But Indian food is definitely one of them. Growing up, my family was very anti-Indian food. They were really anti-anything that wasn’t pasta, schnitzel or cooked on a BBQ. It wasn’t until I was out with Cam’s family celebrating a birthday that I tried it for the first time, and it was love at first bite. These days I cook a lot of it at home. I love learning about the different dishes from different regions and trying to recreate them. [And I’ll totally take up any suggestions you guys have for favourite Indian dishes to try at any time!]
Cam and I also often go out to Indian restaurants, looking for the most authentic-tasting food we can find. We have a few favourite places we find ourselves at. We’re never good at just ordering one curry, so we usually pick the banquet option and have a couple between us.
The dessert options at every place appear to be the same two options: gulab jamun or one of a variety of kulfis. By the time we’ve made it through the curries (during which I’ve usually made Cam finish off my plate too) the thought of squeezing in anything that requires chewing feels completely beyond me. I always go for the kulfi. Cam, on the other hand, simply engages what he calls his ‘dessert’ stomach and goes for the gulab jamun.
Invariably, they always serve one. Invariably, he is always disappointed by this. And invariably, I’m always left wondering how he could stomach more than one.
Since he loves them so much and always wants more, it was more than enough of an excuse to try making them at home. I was also keen to find out what all the fuss was about myself.
This was the post I was going to bring to you last week, but then I got really sick and haven’t been anywhere near my computer since the last post. So if you need a pumpkin puree recipe for the pumpkin cupcakes, you’ll find the follow up to that here.
While I making mountains of pumpkin puree and throwing them in desserts for the first time ever, I knew I couldn’t escape the pumpkin fest without baking pumpkin pie. This seemingly staple American dessert is practically non-existent here. Any time I’ve told an American friend I’ve never eaten pumpkin pie, I’ve received a reaction more akin to what I’d expect if I’d just confessed to being a centaur. Cam tried one on holiday in Canada some 8 years ago, loved it, and occasionally asks me to make one for him. I suppose it was about time I finally jumped in to see what all the fuss was about.
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve never tried pumpkin in a sweet dish before. With Halloween around the corner I decided it was a good change to change all that. I bought a stack of pumpkins on the weekend and started having some fun.
My first stop was incorporating pumpkin into cake. I absolutely love all the spices that make up pumpkin pie spice, so I just knew I was going to love these. But I also wanted to incorporate some of Halloween into them as well. Here’s where the ghosts come in.
Halloween is very much not a holiday celebrated in Australia. Yet we seem to go along with it anyway. We don’t really get into lantern carving thing, and Trick or Treaters are usually met with scorn, confusion or a mixture of both. I couldn’t even tell you what candy corn tasted like. Ask most Aussies, and they’ll tell you it’s an American holiday not to be celebrated here. There’s a clear divide between the lovers and loathers of Halloween.
But we still get a bit of the Halloween fever here. This is probably mostly driven by the commercial side, with supermarkets and retail outlets stocking heaps of Halloween merch and covering their stores in black and orange decorations. People throw Halloween parties, as will pubs and clubs. Some of my favourite local music events happen on Halloween, Creepshow at The Espy being my absolute favourite. It usually involves watching lots of my favourite Melbourne bands playing sets in crazy costumes to a mosh pit of us crazy fans in equally crazy costumes. Good times.
So while we’re not huge on Halloween and while there’s seldom an occasion to bake for, I find myself following my American friends and baking Halloween-themed stuff anyway. It’s well and truly Spring here, but I love being inundated with all the Autumn colours you Northern Hemisphere-ians are experiencing right now. Any excuse to pretend it’s Autumn.
Another thing we don’t do in Australia is sweet pumpkin food things. Pumpkin is the kind of thing we have with a Sunday roast. It’s a savoury fruit. The prospect of making it sweet seems utterly foreign. I keep promising myself I’ll try some sweet pumpkin dessert soon to see what all the fuss is about, but in the interim I thought I’d start with something more familiar inspired by the pumpkin pie.
I’m the kind of person who never read recipes first. I’ll be flicking through a cook book, see a picture of something that looks good, quickly browse the ingredients and if I have most of them get started straight away. If it’s a standard thing I’ll have trouble even following the recipe, I’ll just use the quantities and the general order of ingredients as a guide.
About three years ago I saw this recipe for apple confit and needed to make it. After dinner was done and people were washing up I started on this recipe. It obviously wasn’t a standard thing so I followed the recipe as I went along. I put the confit in the oven and referred to the next step to see what I had to do once it was out of the oven. Then I saw it: “Refrigerate overnight until firm”.
I announced we were eating it warm, unfinished and accompanied and resolved to return to it properly prepared one day. One day took quite a while to come around again. But when it did, I was prepared this time.