Recipe: Lemon and Ruby Cakepops

You probably thought I was done with rainbow-wedding-cake related posts, didn’t you?  Nope.  Not a chance.  I’m actually writing this a month before you are reading it (and a good thing, too, because right at this very moment I am almost certainly collapsed into an incoherent heap after running a conference all week) and if I dared look into my fridge right now, I would see, in addition to these cake pops, a large box full of chocolate cake crumbs, a big ball of white chocolate ganache the size of my clasped hands, a bowl of lavender whipped ganache, and half a carton of cream – ooh, and I’ve just realised what I should make next, but I’m not going to tell you what that is because that would be cheating.

In short, you would not believe how many leftovers that wedding cake generated, so having spent the last few Sundays reviewing the individual cake recipes, we are now starting on the Leftovers Chronicles.

(And yes, I’m milking this for as long as I can, because I do want to start blogging regularly again… but I don’t trust this current burst of energy and ideas to last, so I want to try to blog well ahead of time while I can so that if it all goes to hell for a month or two, there won’t be such a long gap between posts…)

Anyway, cake pops.  Cake pops are traditionally made from cake crumbs and icing mixed together and dipped in chocolate or candy melts.  I usually find them horrifically sweet, to be honest.  But I also didn’t have many other ideas for what to do with epic amounts of cake off-cuts.  So I thought I’d see what happened if I mixed them with the lemon curd that I also had leftover, and the results were actually pretty good, and not too sweet at all. 

As for the ruby chocolate… yes, of course I pre-ordered some from the first shipment in Australia.  If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s quite an interesting taste – I think it’s like white chocolate, but with an acidic bite to it.  It is not, to be honest, my favourite kind of chocolate, but it does go very well with lemon, which most other kinds of chocolate do not.  If you can’t get your hands on ruby chocolate – which is not cheap, in any case – white chocolate would work just fine, but the overall result would just be a little sweeter.

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Recipe: Vegan Sacher-cupcakes

Calling these cupcakes Sacher-cupcakes is probably an insult to Austrians everywhere and they will never let me go back to their country, let alone that hotel, but I do think it’s a fair description. 

Sachertorte is a light chocolate sponge covered with apricot jam and chocolate glaze.  These cakes are also light and chocolatey, filled with apricot jam and covered with chocolate ganache, and they are really delicious.  I’ve made this recipe quite a few times in the last year or two for work events, because it’s incredibly easy and fast to make, works with gluten-free flour mix if it needs to, and once you fill it with apricot jam and load it with ganache nobody will believe that it’s vegan.

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Recipe: Lavender Butterfly Cakes with Blackberry Jam and Whipped Ganache

These are really quite basic cupcakes with a little bit of lavender in them.  If you’ve ever made a plain butter cake, you probably used this recipe, but without the lavender.  The only slightly complex part is the whipped ganache, which is a bit fiddly, but actually very easy. Once you’ve made the ganache once, you’ll probably want to make it again, because it gives you a delicately flavoured cream that holds up much better than whipped cream if it needs to sit around for a few hours.

The only thing to remember is that you need to start the ganache at least 7 hours before you plan to serve the cupcakes.  Making it the day before is fine.

Also, I just love the flavour of lavender, but usually I make it either too strong or not strong enough.  For me, this whipped ganache is in the magical Goldilocks zone – noticeably lavender, without making you think about soap…

Your shopping list

75 white chocolate
125 + 160g cream, both chilled
3 blackberries, crushed
1 tsp dried culinary lavender + 2 tsp for the cake
12g liquid glucose (yes, I know, I know.  This recipe is usually made in a much larger batch.  This is about 1 1/2 teaspoons, I think.  Just think how much worse it would be if I’d only made a dozen cupcakes!)
250g butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
4 eggs
370 g self-raising flour
160 ml milk
500g blackberry jam

Now what will you do with it?

First, make the ganache.  Chop up the white chocolate and put it into a bowl.

Put 125g cream in a small saucepan with the blackberries and 1 tsp of lavender, and heat until boiling point.  Switch off the heat and leave for five minutes.

Pour the cream through a seive into another bowl.  Press the blackberries into the seive with the fork to make sure their juice comes through.  Return the cream to the saucepan.

Add the liquid glucose, which is, yes, a pain to use, but it does somehow make the ganache more stable.  What I recommend doing is rinsing a teaspoon and your hands in cold water, then using the teaspoon to scoop out the glucose and your finger to push it off into the cream – the cold water makes the glucose stick less.  And I’m sorry about the quantities.  This is the halved version of the recipe, and even with 24 cupcakes, you are going to have more than you need…

Bring the cream and glucose back to the boil, and pour the mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  If you’ve made ganache before, you are probably worried about these ratios, because this is a very thin ganache and about to get thinner.  Don’t worry – think of this as whipped cream thickened with chocolate, and it will make more sense.

Stir in the rest of the chilled cream.  You might add a drop of purple colouring to the mixture to make it more inviting if you like, but this is optional.  Cover the ganache with clingwrap, which should be directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate for at least six hours or up to two days.

When you are ready to make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 180°C, and line two twelve-hole muffin tins with paper cases.  (Or do this in two batches, one tin at a time.)

Grind the lavender in a mortar and pestle (you can grind it with some of the sugar if you find this easier) until it is somewhat broken down.

Put the lavender into a medium-sized mixing bowl with the butter and sugar, and cream together.  Add the eggs one at a time, then mix in the flour and milk, alternately.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, and put into the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes feel soft and springy when you poke at them gently.  You might want to swap the trays around at the 15 or 20 minute mark, depending on how they are doing.

Remove from their tins, and let cool on a rack.  Get out your ganache, and whip it as you would cream.  The ganache has a higher fat content than cream, though, so it will whip up much faster – don’t put on a stand mixer and wander off to hang out the washing or something, this is probably only going to take a couple of minutes.

Use a small knife to cut a conical circle (I’m sure that is terrible geometry, but the right words escape me) in the middle of each cake – basically, you want a nice, round, section of cake, slightly pointed in the middle, which you are going to cut in half to make the butterfly wings, so don’t eat it!

Place a small spoonful of blackberry jam in the centre of each hole, and pipe or spoon the lavender ganache over the top of it.

Gently place the two ‘wings’ into the cream, pushing slightly inward as you do, to help raise the cream.

Dust with icing sugar or little purple stars.

Feed to the people you love.

Variations

Well, there’s no reason this has to be a lavender cake, I suppose, but isn’t that rather a waste? You might make the cakes with raspberry jam and a little rosewater in the ganache (add half a teaspoon with the cold cream, then taste and see if you need a little more), in which case I’d keep the cakes plain vanilla, because it is far too easy to wind up with overly-perfumed rose cakes.

You could replace 50 grams of the flour with cocoa, and then fill the cakes with cherry jam and add kirsch to your ganache.  Apparently, I’ve decided that black forest is the variation I want for every cupcake I’m doing.  Or just go ultra-chocolate – I bet this would be amazing with dark chocolate whipped ganache and a caramel filling, or a raspberry one, or maybe you could add peppermint essence to your whipped chocolate ganache, and have a choc-mint cupcake.  At which point you should probably decorate it with shards of Peppermint Crisp, because that is the law.

In terms of dietary requirements, I don’t think you are going to be able to avoid dairy here, but if you have a good, basic vegan vanilla cupcake recipe you could certainly make this ensemble eggless.  It is obviously free of nuts.  It would work just fine with my gluten-free self-raising flour mix, and the result should also be low in fructose, though certainly not in lactose.

Recipe: Rainbow cake

So, judging by the reaction I’ve had every time I’ve shown anyone any photos of this cake, this is probably the first recipe I ought to be sharing. Because, let’s face it, that was one spectacular-looking cake.

It’s also a lot easier than it looks.  Seriously, if you can make a passable marble cake, and have access to good-quality food colouring, you can make this.

I actually found the prototype for this recipe online, and I’ll share the YouTube video below, because I didn’t actually take photos of the various steps, being as I was engaged in just trying to get the thing to work.

I changed a handful of things for this recipe.  For one thing, I made it gluten-free, using a modified version of my gluten-free flour mix.  For another, I decided to flavour it with orange flower water instead of vanilla.  Using orange blossoms in the bouquet or bridal wreath is a very old bridal tradition, and I thought it would be nice to give a nod to that, especially given how interested one of the brides had been in my use of rosewater and lavender in cupcakes.  I kept the flavour pretty subtle, because too much orange flower water can be very much like eating soap.

But you know what was the big thing I did that changed this cake into a proper rainbow cake?

I baked it in a smaller tin.

That’s it. 

And the smaller tin meant that the arch of the rainbow was raised, giving a much more impressive rainbow effect than it might otherwise have had.

I’m going to suggest two different decorating ideas for this – the one I used in my practice run, and the one I used for the actual wedding cake.  It really depends how formal you are feeling…

 

Your shopping list

150g butter
160g sugar
3 eggs
270g gluten-free flour mix
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
120g yoghurt
60g milk
1 tsp orange flower water
red, yellow, green, blue and purple food colouring pastes (these are far more vibrant than liquid food colouring)
200g white chocolate
65 ml cream
500g white icing OR lots of hundreds and thousands

You will also need a 5 inch (12.5cm) round tin with tall sides.

Now what will you do with it?

Grease the tin with butter, and line the bottom and the sides.  You really don’t want all your good work to come to nothing when you turn the cake out! Preheat oven to 170°C.

(Also, you need to know now that you are not going to use all this mixture in a cake tin this size.  You need somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4.  You can make the rest into really psychedelic cupcakes, if you want.)

Cream the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one by one.

Beat in the dry ingredients, then the yoghurt and the milk.  Mix in half a teaspoon of orange flower water, and taste to see if it’s strong enough.  Add the other half teaspoon if you think it needs more (I’ve found that some brands are stronger than others).

Divide the mixture between six bowls, and colour them red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Orange requires only a tiny amount of red compared to yellow, and I strongly recommend that you buy a purple colour if you can – you can never get a really vibrant purple from red and blue colour.

Make sure the mixture is super-bright.  Now is not the time to worry about the chemicals in food colouring – you don’t want a pastel rainbow, and baking will bleach the cake slightly.

Now for the fun bit!  Get a big dollop of the red mixture – about 2/3 – 3/4 of what’s in the bowl, and plop it carefully into the middle of the tin.  Bang the tin really hard on the bench to make the red mixture spread out a bit.  It won’t go all the way to the edges yet, and that’s fine.

Get a similarly sized dollop of the orange, and plop it carefully into the very centre of the tin on top of the red.  Bash the tin on the bench again – the orange will spread out with the red spreading out further under it, so you have concentric circles.  Well, circle-ish things.

If this is confusing, have a look at the video below.  This is where I got the recipe from – so thank you Emma, for this fantastic method.

Dollop the yellow on top of the orange, and repeat the banging bit, then do the same with the green, then the blue, then the purple.

If you are miraculously good at this, you should be able to see a little bit of red, a little bit of orange, a little bit of yellow, a little bit of green and a little bit of blue, all in concentric circles under the purple.  I wasn’t that good, but it still worked pretty well.

If you are about 2/3 of the way up the tin, you can stop here.  If it’s only half full, go for a double rainbow.  The next layers will be a bit smaller, but that’s OK.

Put the tin in the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.  If, after 45 minutes, it’s browning too fast but still wet in the middle, reduce the temperature to 165.  It will bake eventually, I promise, but deep cakes are a bit tricky.  This one should pass the skewer test when it’s done.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the cake is cool, your next step is to make the cake nice and flat on top, because you want to serve this cake upside down from where it was in the tin, so that you have a rainbow rather than a series of colourful smiles. I have no tips for this.  My cakes almost always turn out looking drunk.  I fluked the wedding cake, and it was still a tiny bit crooked, frankly.  Just do your best.

My practice cake looked very drunk, but nobody cared once I covered it in sprinkles.

Now you are going to cover the cake in ganache and then either white icing, or sprinkles.

To make the ganache, chop the white chocolate finely and put it into a bowl.

Bring the cream to a boil, and pour over the ganache.  Cover the bowl with a lid for a minute or so, to start the chocolate melting, then stir the mixture until it is smooth.   Use a spatula to coat the cake thinly in ganache.

If you are looking for a nice, formal cake, you want the white icing.  Sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar, and knead the icing firmly until it is soft enough to work into a smooth ball.

Use a rolling pin to roll it out.  It wants to stick to the surface, so what you do is this.  First, sprinkle more icing sugar on the work surface, and roll the rolling pin over the ball twice, away from you, so that you have an oval.  Pick it up, and turn it over, and then rotate it 90 degrees and roll the rolling pin over it twice more.  Turn it over and rotate it again, and keep going until the icing is about 3-5 mm thick, and big enough to cover the cake with several centimetres to spare on each side.  So about 35cm diameter, maybe?  The reason you are turning it over constantly, by the way, is that this helps the icing not to stick to the work surface, so don’t forget to do that bit.

Now you need to drape it over the cake.  This is a pain, and the trick is not to stretch it.  Pick it up carefully and place it gently over the top of the cake.  Use a spatula or smoother (or your hand…) to smooth down the top of the cake only.

Now smooth the cake down the sides with downward strokes, a little at a time.  If you are about to get wrinkles, gently pull the bottom of the icing outward, being careful not to stretch it, while you smooth down the side from top to bottom.  If you are lucky, this will result in no lumps or wrinkles.  I strongly suggest watching some YouTube videos (look up ‘covering a cake with fondant’) until you think you can replicate the method.  That’s what I did…

If this sounds like way too much faffing around, go with the sprinkle topping instead!

To do this, cover the cake with ganache again, but this time, get out a big metal skewer and skewer the cake from bottom to top.

Make a layer of 100s and 1000s or other coloured sprinkles on a long, flat tray or your working surface, and use the skewer to place the cake on its side at one end of the sprinkles.  Carefully push the skewer all the way through the cake, and use it to roll the cake along the layer of sprinkles until it is completely coated.

Now draw back the skewer a little, and use it to lever up the cake and place it face down into the sprinkles (or alternatively, get the cake back onto a cake plate, and leave the top white, or cover it with sprinkles by the more traditional, sprinkling method).

Carefully lever the cake up onto a cake plate.

Serve to someone who needs more colour in their life!

Variations

This is a gluten-free cake, obviously, and it is also low in fructose, and nut-free.  You could probably make a vegan version – just start with a vegan cake recipe that has a fairly wet, but not liquid, consistency.  You don’t want something that is too pancake-batterish, but you don’t want something really stiff, either.  I’m sorry – I don’t have any recommendations for this one.

If you just need it to be gluten and dairy free, you can, of course, use a good dairy-free margarine like Nuttelex, and a soy or coconut milk and yoghurt.

I’m sure you could use natural food colours for this, but I think you’d have to work hard to stop your rainbow from being too pastel – though that could be pretty, too, in the right circumstances.

Cake for a rainbow wedding

Hello!  It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?  There were several reasons for this – I got interested in fiction writing, which meant that I had less time to spare for food writing; my wrist kept getting worse, which made baking and typing both painful; I discovered Indian cooking, which meant that I was using recipe books a lot, and not creating many new recipes.  Also… I’ve had kind of a bad patch in the last year or so where I haven’t felt like doing anything creative at all, but this seems to be getting better.

Anyway.  None of this is important compared to the much more exciting fact that I got to make my first ever cake for a same-sex wedding yesterday!

(I’ve been calling it my first Big Gay Wedding Cake, but since I do not, in point of fact, know what the cake’s personal preferences are, I should probably stop calling it that.)

Much has been made in the media (ooh, alliteration!) of gay weddings and Christian bakers and how it’s terrible, awful, so bad, that we might be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings.

But I have to say, I was so incredibly thrilled when the sister of one of my dearest friends was finally able to get engaged to her long-time partner, and immediately asked my friend to relay the message that I’d love to bake their wedding cake, please, pretty please…

I mean, those of you who have met me in the flesh know how I feel about bright colours.  I have rainbow glasses.  I have rainbow ear-rings.  I have rainbow tops and rainbow skirts.  My wedding dress had rainbow chiffon on it.  Let’s just say that when I went to a marriage equality rally last year, I really had no difficulty whatsoever in finding something appropriate to wear, and indeed, at the rally I looked around me and thought, now, THIS is my aesthetic.  I want to go to more rallies like this one.

Anyway, to my great delight, they said yes, and that they would love a cupcake tower, with a cuttable cake on top.

At which point I got super nervous because what if the cake wasn’t PERFECT enough for this very special wedding, and warned them that while I could guarantee cakes that were pretty and delicious and catering to all allergies, I couldn’t promise something that looked, you know, like a perfectly smooth, white, professional wedding cake.

But that was OK, because they wanted rainbows too.  In fact, I was specifically told to make the cakes as bright and colourful as possible.  OK, then. I could do that.

The saturation adjuster on photoshop (or, as I like to think of it, the oversaturation button) was made for occasions like this one…

(And I have to note in passing that while I’m sure there are Christian bakers out there who don’t want to do gay wedding cakes, I suspect that they are in the minority.  Every single cake decorating place I spoke to, without exception, was as excited at the idea of gay wedding cakes as I was.  A couple of people told me that they absolutely couldn’t wait to do their first gay wedding cake – all those colours!  So I think that even if you wanted a proper, professional looking cake, you wouldn’t have trouble finding one.)

One of the brides can’t eat gluten, and we had the usual array of vegan guests and guests with egg allergies, nut allergies, etc.  But that’s what cake towers are for – you can have a different flavour on each layer, and make each one cater to a different set of dietary requirements!

(When I first asked one of the brides what flavours they had in mind, she seemed taken aback and said… “Vanilla…?”  To which my response was equally taken aback.  “Well, I could do that, of course.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a plain vanilla cake…”  I then brainstormed a list of flavours.  Needless to say, we did not go with vanilla…)

With at least six colours in the rainbow and only four layers in the tower, some doubling up was required.  I decided on red and pink for the bottom layer, orange and yellow for the next, green and blue for the next, and purple for the layer below the cuttable cake.

Ready to start baking…

This necessitated a remarkable amount of sourcing of cupcake holders – anywhere that stocked orange did not stock purple, and if they had purple, they didn’t have green.  It was bizarre.  I also spent way too much time at Spotlight looking for the right coloured ribbons with which to decorate the cake boards, and then half an afternoon carefully glueing the ribbons to each other to get a two-coloured effect, and then to the board.

I wanted to make sure that at least half of the cakes were gluten free, so the bottom layer was raspberry, pistachio and rose cupcakes.

I made roses out of marbled red, pink and white fondant in fondant molds, and a pale green lemon icing to hold them in place.

The second layer was lemon meringue cupcakes, which I made gluten-free with my standard gluten-free flour mix.  I have made these cupcakes many, many times before, so while I was a little concerned about their structural integrity with the gluten-free flour, I was pretty confident that the rest would be easy.

Ha. The day started well – I successfully separated twelve eggs in a row, which is practically a miracle, and the lemon curd and cupcakes came out beautifully.  And then the meringue failed.  Repeatedly.  It took me an hour and five bowls to successfully make my meringues, and I ended up with meringue all over the walls and myself.

But they were done, so that was good.  I thought.

Then the weather changed overnight and when I got up on the morning of the wedding, all my meringues were weeping.  I had been planning to decorate them with little rainbows, with the meringues representing clouds.  I momentarily considered pretending that the weeping meringue represented entirely intentional raindrops, but I couldn’t do it.  I scraped all the meringues off and started again.

There aren’t a lot of photos of these cakes. This is because they were very naughty cakes and did not deserve to be photographed.

Suffice it to say, this made my nice, relaxed cake baking plan for the morning of the wedding a little bit less relaxed – in the end, by the time I’d got everything done or re-done, got to the venue, assembled everything on the table, and hidden away the rest of the cupcakes, I was just squeezing out from behind the table when the first guests walked in.  (And this is why I always add two hours of contingency time into my planning for events like this – I needed every second of them!)

See that box on the side of the table? Yeah. I basically heard the guests coming and chucked it off the table right after taking this photo. This was really, really down to the wire. Never trust a meringue, that’s my advice.

Layer three was my vegan sachertorte recipe, which I’ll share on this blog next week.  This, thankfully, is a tried-and-true, nearly failproof recipe, and it worked just fine.

I topped these cakes with vegan chocolate ganache, and little buttons that I’d made out of bright blue and green gum paste.

The gum paste was a bit of a surprise – I hadn’t used it before, and when it arrived in the post, I realised that it contained egg-white, which wasn’t going to be great for my vegans and egg allergies.

So, since I had four people who couldn’t eat eggs and 48 cupcakes, I decided to keep the green and blue buttons for 36 cakes, and make twelve lots of buttons out of pure white fondant, which I painted with gold lustre dust.  That way the vegans would have something that was clearly identifiable, but in a way that looked extra special rather than sad…

When I’d been throwing out ideas for flavours, one of the brides had been very interested in the lavender and blackberry cupcake idea.  I was initially planning to just make lavender butterfly cakes with blackberry jam and whipped cream, but when I was at the Ruby Chocolate demonstration at Savour a couple of weeks ago, one recipe that was demonstrated was a whipped ganache – a whipped cream enriched by white chocolate, which made it a little heavier and more stable.

So I decided to see if I could make a blackberry and lavender-infused whipped ganache for these cakes, and it worked really beautifully.  (You’ll be getting that recipe, too, in a week or so.)

For the cuttable cake, I was a bit anxious on several counts.  For one thing, I have done precisely one white wedding cake in my life, and it was the first wedding cake I did, and frankly, it wasn’t very good.  I had a lot of trouble rolling out the icing, and it showed.  But I really did want a proper wedding-cake looking cake if I could manage it.  Fortunately, while I haven’t rolled out icing in the last eighteen years, I’ve somehow improved in the interim – just more cooking experience generally, I suppose, plus the magic of YouTube videos, and it covered the cake beautifully.

I also wanted to make figurines out of fondant, something else I hadn’t done before.  Alas, my first attempt was not auspicious.  The brides started off tall and elegant, but sank, slowly and inevitably, into themselves, and then began tilting drunkenly to the side and backwards.  And their lips protruded like fish lips.  And their arms kept falling off.  It wasn’t a good look.

(Nope, you’re not getting photos of those ones.)

I decided that I could get away with a perfect white cake with rainbow ribbon, and would have another crack at the figurines on Friday and see how that went.  My second try at the brides was informed by the first attempt – I made each batch of colour before I started, and made the bodies short and sturdy, like pawns from a chess set.  I then refrigerated them after each step, to make them get more solid.  The faces still weren’t quite right, and I accidentally switched the heads so that the wrong bride had the wrong dress, but the arms stayed on almost entirely – I had to re-attach one at the venue, and then reattach it again after we removed the brides from the cake for cutting.

But this was a rainbow wedding, and it had been a very long time coming, so I really wanted to make sure that when the brides cut the cake, they got something really special.

This was rather nervewracking, because as you can see, the rainbow is baked into the cake, and I had no way of knowing until they cut it whether it had actually worked.

But it had, and it was a great hit, both with the brides and with everybody under the age of five.  I made this cake pretty plain – and gluten-free – and flavoured with with orange flower water, since orange flowers are traditional for a wedding.

I have to say, I am very, very proud of this cake.  I do think it’s the most beautiful wedding cake I’ve done yet, and one of the tastiest, too.  And I am so extraordinarily happy to have been part of this wedding – I missed the ceremony due to the meringue disaster, but when they got us all lined up to form a living rainbow based on our outfits, and the brides came dancing in to the reception hall the strains of ‘I do, I do, I do, I do, I do’ with their son running ahead of them trailing a rainbow ribbon, I had tears in my eyes.  I have tears in my eyes again writing this.

I mean, this is a food blog, so this post has been all about the cake and how delighted I am with it.  But I am so very thrilled that my LGBTQIA friends can finally have the weddings they’ve been waiting for, that their relationships are recognised by the government (and even by the Uniting Church!), and that we can all come together and celebrate that.

It really was the most joyful gathering I’ve ever been a part of, and it was such a privilege to be there.  Congratulations, Kathryn and Rachel!  May your years together be many, and as full of joy as yesterday was.

P.S. – I don’t know if I’m going to be back here regularly at this stage.  A lot of the factors above still apply, in addition to the fact that dealing with photos on my computer is becoming increasingly time consuming and annoying – and you can’t really have a food blog without photos.  But there will definitely be recipes up for various bits of this wedding cake over the next few weeks, as well as some recipes for the things I did with the leftovers.  After that?  Who knows.  We’ll just wait and see what happens…

Wedding cake without a top layer, representing the uncertainty of the blogging existence…

 

Travel Post: Football, Animals, and the road home

I had planned to attend A’s church on Sunday, but in the end, sleep took priority, and I instead rose in a more leisurely fashion to begin contemplating packing and what I might need to post home, before meeting A for lunch along with her friend I, last seen in costume at Barockfest two years ago.   It was really great to catch up with her again, though as she is still working with scientists, lunch quickly degenerated into scientist and grant stories.

church

With my flight home only two days away, we had earmarked Sunday well in advance for a very important cultural experience.  I refer, of course, to the football again.  Not the France versus Ireland game, which we watched on A’s computer while I weighed my luggage and wondered just when I had acquired so many toys for my niece (answer: constantly and at every town I stopped in across three countries), but the far more exciting German game against… (oh that’s nice.  I didn’t bother to write who their opponents were in my diary.  Clearly, the cultural immersion.  Sorry, whichever team you were.)

Anyway, watching football at home while saying ‘Oh la la, c’est pas possible’ a lot and commenting on the attractiveness of the respective goalies (we both tend to barrack for the goalies) (this might be why we watch so many nil-all draws?) is all very fine, but this is clearly not the proper way to do things.  No, to watch football properly, one must go to a beer garden, ideally in the grounds of an old castle.

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Travel Post: Back in Mainz, and a Feast

Saturday was a massive cooking day.  A couple of years ago, A showed her friend R my cooking blog, and he started following it.  When he heard I was visiting, he asked if I could come to his house and make a feast. (This is a little less opportunistic than it sounds – he volunteered himself, his wife K and my friend A as kitchen hands and bought all the ingredients. And provided all the wine and other drinks.)

This sounded like fun, so I said yes, and he got very excited and started inviting his friends to a feast cooked by ‘a famous Australian food blogger’, at which point I started feeling a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype.

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Before we left for Dresden, A and I started to plan a menu, and R promised to order us a chicken from a local farmer.  A had told me that the farmer’s chickens are always huge, so I had planned to stuff it with rice and fruit and nuts and serve it with lots of different vegetable accompaniments, which I felt would be ample for the 6-7 people likely to be in attendance.

I relayed this to R, who immediately texted back ‘are you sure there will be enough food?’

Oh, R.  You read this blog.  You should know better.

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Travel Post: Germany, with Dresden, Opera and a trip on the Elba

Thursday dawned atrociously hot again.  We started the day with a quick cherub poll, before heading out to meet with another of A’s friends near the statue of Friedrich August der Starker (who we suspect fathered all those cherubs – he apparently fathered quite a few non-cherub people, and his statue is suspiciously gold, so it’s plausible.)

We had breakfast outside and in the shade, and talked rather too much about Australian politics and refugee policy, which apparently the German right likes to hold up as an example of what to do (ugh).  Then we talked about German politics.  Apparently, we had chosen a good time of the week to come to Dresden – Mondays are when the neo-nazis like to protest outside the Opera House.  Lovely.  The Opera House has struck back at this by putting up huge banners saying ‘Offnen Augen, Offnen Herzen, Offnen Grenzen’.  So now every photo of the protesters is effectively surtitled with the slogan ‘open eyes, open hearts, open borders’.  Nice one, Dresden Opera House.

A’s friend grew up in the DDR and used to be the principal flautist in one of their top orchestras.  When A shared our conerns regarding the cherubs of Dresden, he immediately started coming up with theories about hidden cameras and microphones, which was both unsettling and illustrative of the kind of imagination living much of one’s life in the DDR endows one with…

It really was dreadfully hot and sticky, but we wanted to visit the rebuilt Frauenkirche.  This was burned to the ground during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, and was only restored in the last decade or so.

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They tried to replicate the old building as far as possible, and even used some of the bricks that survived, putting them back in their original locations on the building.  You can see them quite easily, as they are burned black, while the new bricks are white. Continue reading

Travel Post: Germany, with Dresden and so many cherubs

Wednesday morning dawned bright and hot.  My friend had a physio appointment in the morning, so I decided to stay home and write some postcards.

That was when I first noticed the cherubs.

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To be accurate, I had, in fact, noticed a cherub or two (or five) in our apartments the night before.  They were a little hard to miss.  But I had excused them on the grounds that cherubs are what happens when you get baroque, or even pseudo-baroque.

But there were more than five cherubs.

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Travel Post: Germany with Naumburg and Leipzig

With the music festival over, Monday was our day to explore Naumburg properly.

We had our sights set on the cathedral, but on our way there, we visited a rather special plush toy shop, called Kösen.  The are known for their highly realistic plush toys, and their toymakers sketch the animals from life, going to zoos or even overseas to find the animals in the wild and observe how they move.  The toys are then designed based on these sketches – and (alas!) priced accordingly.

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The shop was rather spectacular with highly realistic jungle animals, farm animals, and birds.

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