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Recipe: Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Cake for a Three-Year Old

Just when I was thinking about what sort of cake to make for my niece’s birthday, my friend in Germany sent me this photo of a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake.  Now, that is a spectacular cake, but I don’t really love decorating with fondant – and also, frankly, I’m nowhere near good enough at it to make anything that pretty.

On the other hand, it did make me think about caterpillar shapes and whether a very hungry caterpillar might fit nicely on a cake shaped like a 3.  After all, he is an arch-plus-a-bit, once you count his head, and a 3 has two arches.  I figured I could decorate the rest of the arch with the three plums he ate on Wednesday.

My niece is both fascinated by the idea of birthday cake and a VERY picky eater.  She likes banana cake, but if it doesn’t look like banana cake, she might not be willing to eat it, because you just never know.  Also, banana cake must be banana and nothing else.  No rogue pineapples or dates or anything like that are allowed.

So I found a very plain banana cake recipe, and used it to make one ring cake and the little cakes.  Since I needed chocolate cake crumbs for my brother’s cake, I made the other ring cake a chocolate cake, but for the purpose of this recipe, I’m going to recommend making a double batch of the banana cake.  It’s easier, and you don’t have to worry about the icing tasting odd with one of the cakes.

A few notes.  You will need two 20 cm ring tins (or one ring tin, which you wash in between, which is what I did) for the 3, a miniature madeleine tin (about 3x5cm for each cake) for the plums, a big friand tin for the head, and a gem scone tin (like a patty tin, but all the indentations are round rather than pie-shaped) for the body.  Or rummage through your cupboard and find something roughly the right size, and use tin foil to make it closer to the shape you want.  That’s what I did with the friand tin.

Unless you have a very large oven, I suggest you halve the recipe below, and make the cakes in two batches.  I’ve provided the full shopping list below, with the halved amounts next to them for those who don’t like mental arithmatic.

You will also want food colouring pastes if possible – they give a good strong colour without having to use enormous amounts, which is what you want.

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Recipe: Chickpea Meringues (Vegan! Gluten-Free! Eggless! Amazing!)

So, I think everyone on the internet is now aware that you can make meringues out of chickpea cooking water, right?  You take the water from a can of chickpeas, or just the water from cooking chickpeas from scratch, and then you add a pinch of cream of tartar and whip it like egg whites until it goes all soft-peakish.  Add sugar, and hey presto – you have a meringue!


I read about this on Thursday and I am now OBSESSED with chickpea meringues.  So far, I have made one batch of meringues which didn’t work too well (I had the heat too high, and I don’t think I beat them long enough, and then I had to leave Andrew in charge of them when I went to choir, and he was overly cautious about making sure they had dried out, so they wound up burnt), one batch of chickpea macarons which looked fantastic until about halfway through the cooking process, when they collapsed in a hilarious mess, and one batch of absolutely perfect chickpea meringues.

The trick, it seems, is to remember that chickpea foam is weaker than egg-white foam – less protein, presumably – and so they need longer beating, longer to absorb the sugar, and a longer time under lower heat in the oven than their eggy relatives.  Which, I realise, might make chickpea meringue an excellent candidate for the Forgotten Pudding treatment.  In any case, I have a head full of experiments (Chickpea meringues made from the water leftover after cooking saffron chickpeas!  Chickpea souffle!  Actual successful macarons! Black bean meringues – will they turn out grey?  The possibilities are endless…), so you can expect to see a lot of chickpea-related recipes on this blog in the near future.

Vegan dessert platter, featuring chickpea meringues and salvaged, but not really successful, chickpea macarons

Vegan dessert platter, featuring chickpea meringues and salvaged, but not really successful, chickpea macarons

But let’s start with a fairly simple recipe, so that you, too, can make vegan meringues in the comfort of your own home…

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Recipe: Slightly Cheaty Lemon Meringue Surprise Pie

I am so proud of this recipe.  It came about because I realised a while back that, actually, I make pretty good lemon curd and I know how to make meringue, so theoretically, lemon meringue pie should be within my grasp.  And guess what?  It turns out that it is.  Pretty exciting, don’t you think?

The cheaty part is that I don’t like making pastry, so I just made a ginger-biscuit crust – the kind one makes for un-cooked cheesecakes – which was lovely, except that then the butter tried to make a break for freedom all over the oven, fridge and table.  Learn from my example – make sure you line the outside of the tin with foil.

The surprise part is a SURPRISE!  Oh, alright, you’re reading the recipe, you probably deserve to know what it is.  It’s fresh raspberries.  Because everything is better with fresh raspberries, don’t you think?  Especially cheaty lemon meringue pie…


Your Shopping List

250 g gingernut biscuits
125 g butter + 40 g
125 g fresh raspberries
4 eggs
75 g sugar + 200g sugar
zest of two lemons
juice of one lemon

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Flemington Farmers’ Market – Berries, vegetable mandalas, and a little present for you!

Hooray!  The new year has started and it’s back to the farmers’ markets for us, just in time for all those lovely tomatoes and long peppers and the last of the season’s apricots (already?  How did this happen?).


Saturday was too hot for anything, and I wasn’t able to figure out whether any farmers’ markets were even on (not all of them start directly after New Years), but Flemington sent me an email promising berries and stone fruit, and that was good enough for me.

A symbolic representation of Saturday's weather.

A symbolic representation of Saturday’s weather.

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Travel Diary: Triers and Wackernheim

In which our heroines investigate Roman ruins, discuss theology-based card games, and fail to see the wolf.

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In My Kitchen, March 2014

I missed last month’s In My Kitchen deadline due to excessive grant applications at work, so it seems only right to start with the absolutely most exciting things ever installed in my kitchen, even though they were really installed in early February.

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Food dioramas

Just a quick post to point you in the direction of some rather gorgeous food art.

Happy Sunday!

World Vegan Day

Is anyone else from this corner of the blogosphere going to the Princes Park event?  It would be nice to meet some fellow bloggers.

Slow cooker, pressure cooker, other cookers…?

Kitchenware Direct is trying to make me buy kitchen gadgets. It’s being quite blatant about it, actually.

I’m immune to the allure of roasting tins – I have quite a nice one, thank you – and while I adore Le Creuset it’s so far out of my budget that I am fairly safe.  Also, I do have reasonably good fake Le Creuset for my general cast-iron pot needs.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of a food processor for a while – the one I have is not really heavy-duty enough for the sort of things I inflict on it – but the really good ones are so expensive that I remain un-tempted.

My current problem is with slow cookers.  And possibly pressure cookers, since some of the slow cookers come with a nifty little pressure cooker option.

Let’s face it, the concept of the slow cooker is pretty appealing – you put things in the cooker in the morning, leave it happily stewing away on the benchtop during the day, and when you come home, dinner is ready.  Fabulous!  And just the thing for using all those interesting cuts of meat that need long cooking.  Then, if you have a pressure cooker too, you have the option of instant meals!  Instant meals with *legumes* even!  This does have a certain appeal.

On the other hand, I’m not actually a morning person.  Would I seriously be getting up early enough to set my slow cooker going on a regular basis?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I suspect this would depend on just how good my first few slow-cooked meals turned out to be.

Also, while the idea of using a pressure cooker for legumes is possibly the most appealing thing ever (I’m not actually a snob about legumes from tins, but for one thing, not all legumes are readily available in tins, for another, it’s fun sometimes to infuse my own choice of flavours into things, and for a third, dried legumes are *really* cheap), I can’t help wondering if the pressure cooker might, in fact explode.

I mean, all that pressure has to go somewhere.  Theoretically, I imagine that they are not designed to explode, but I am not wholly convinced that explosions would not be a likely occurrance.

And if I want to be really paranoid, will my slow cooker set the house on fire while I’m at work?

(on the other hand… imagine slow cooking quinces overnight for a lovely stewed fruit breakfast.  Or rice pudding cooked overnight – I’ve heard you can do this.  Or… oh, believe me, I’m very tempted)

So, O my readers, do any of you meddle with slow cookers or pressure cookers or machines which are a combination of the two?  Do they work well?  Do they produce good meals, or does everything start to taste the same after a while?  Do the pressure cookers explode every day, often, sometimes or never?  How do you clean legumes off the ceiling when they do?  Is there a brand you recommend, or one you hate?  Do you have any truly spectacular things you use them for that I haven’t thought of?

Talk to me!


This time last year…
Recipe: Lemon coconut buttercream
Review: Serving Up The Harvest, by Andrea  Chesman
Recipe: Arroz Con Pollo with Peas



Am I the only one who gets excited about leftovers? Not eating them as they are, cold from the fridge, but their promise, their potential, that lovely sense of having lunch or dinner taken care of, or of having a short cut ready made for some future meal…

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