Category Archives: food memories

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.  (Recipe here!)

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: 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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Recipe: Apricot Mousse, or possibly cold soufflé – a reconstruction

Happy Easter! I have heard the words ‘Christ is Risen’ in at least twelve languages, and have learned how having faith in the Resurrection is quite a lot like barracking for the Melbourne Demons, except that one’s hopes are more likely to be fulfilled in the former case.  (Apparently, our minister has been a Melbourne supporter since the mid-sixties.  During that time, Melbourne has won precisely zero premierships, and is mostly found holding up the ladder, or, as my father would have it, ‘lulling you into a false sense of security which may well turn out to be a true one…’).

Also, I finally got to sing a descant, so now I really feel like it’s Easter.  You can’t have a resurrection unless you spend serious time above the stave, that’s what I always say.  It’s possible that my doctrine is a little suspect…

My family used to have a big get together every Easter, with roast lamb and all the trimmings, followed by some sort of spectacular dessert, always provided by my Oma.  The year I was ten or so, she produced this amazing cold apricot soufflé, a beautiful, light, pale orange concoction, made even more exciting to my ten year old mind by the little Easter Eggs decorating it.

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I’m not sure why this recipe, of all the recipes Oma ever made, stayed with me, but it did.  And, of course, I have no idea what the recipe was.  I had hoped it would be in Margaret Fulton (I have found a number of Oma’s recipes, suitably adapted, in the pages of my Margaret Fulton cookbook), but the only apricot soufflé in her pages was a baked one – not ideal for when one is expecting guests, really.  I did, however, have a recipe for Apple Nougat Soufflé in a Family Circle cookbook from my childhood, and the combination of whipped cream, egg-whites and gelatine sounded about right for the effect I remember. (No, this recipe is not vegan.  Not even a little bit.  Sorry.  In fact, this might well be the least allergy-friendly recipe I’ve ever done – oh no, wait, it *is* gluten free, so that’s something!)

So it was just a matter of changing a lot of flavours.  And some of the method.  And… well, you know by now what I’m like with recipes.  The result is not Oma’s soufflé – I don’t think Oma would have used orange flower water, and she certainly wouldn’t have used peach schnapps or made a praline garnish – but it is light and fluffy and apricot-flavoured, and it does have little pastel Easter eggs on top.  The spirit is right, even if the actuality is a little altered.

(We lit candles at the service today for those who were no longer with us, and were told of the Latin American tradition of saying ‘presente’ as the names of the dead were read out, to indicate that they were still with us.  This is a tradition I like very much, and I hope it will be continued.  But for me, Oma is far closer to me in the making of this soufflé than in the lighting of a candle.  Presente!)

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Your Shopping List

1 1/2 cups of dried apricots
90 g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3 tsp gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup cream
small chocolate eggs in foil
 

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2013 in Review

Peer group pressure is a terrible thing!  Here I am reviewing 2013, and I don’t really know what to say about it, because it really was a very mixed year on many levels.  (Sometimes, it’s just best to stick to thinking about food.)

One absolute and undoubted highlight of this year, however, was getting to meet some of my fellow food bloggers at picnics and pot lucks throughout the year.  And, in the first half of the year (before my life descended into mayhem with conferences, exams, politics, crises in my social circle, and extreme tiredness), I really enjoyed the opportunity to ‘meet’ more of you online, through the In My Kitchen posts by Celia, blog challenges such as Food on Fridays by Carole, Pasta Please by Jacq, Allergy-Friendly Lunchbox Love by Lisa, and of course my own monthly Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food Challenge.

I don’t like posting New Year’s resolutions, because they tend to rapidly turn into just one more thing to feel guilty about, so I’m just going to list a few foodie aspirations for 2014.  If they don’t happen, that’s OK, too, because they aren’t resolutions!

  • Resurrect the Vegetarian Food Challenge.  Stay tuned for January’s challenge tomorrow!
  • Participate in at least one food blog challenge a month.  I like meeting fellow food bloggers!
  • Plan and eat vegan meals more often.  I have huge numbers of these recipes – why do I never do anything with them?
  • Actually invite my fellow food bloggers to hang out and do food stuff.  This shouldn’t be scary.  Why is it scary?  (Why are people scary?  Who knows?)
  • The aspiration that dares not speak its name.  This one is too big and exciting to even admit to thinking about publicly yet, because I don’t know if I can do it.  But I know what it is, and that’s what counts.

Last year, I made my review into a gallery of my 12 favourite recipe posts for 2012.  This year, in keeping with my theme of enjoying the company of other food bloggers, I’m going to double the fun, and feature two favourite recipes for each month – one of mine, and one from another blog.  I hope you enjoy the links, and maybe find some more foodie friends to read…

I wish you every joy in 2014, and may there always be Enough Food!

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Planning and Pizza

I was hoping to write more here while I was on holidays, but the combination of my usual December activities, plus confectionery, plus the funeral, all followed up with several days of drainingly hot weather have left me more exhausted than I could have imagined.  The notion that I might, at some point, not be tired doesn’t even seem possible.

Still, tomorrow is a Shakespeare evening, and having been completely uninspired all week, I’ve decided to simply celebrate the last of Shakespeare’s Italian plays (we still have Coriolanus, of course, but that is Roman, which is a whole different cuisine) by doing a proper Italian-style feast in the manner of my Nonna or my aunts.

Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.

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Gallery

The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book – An Illustrated and Nostalgic Review

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The Australian Women’s Weekly has released a 20th anniversary collector’s edition of their original children’s birthday cake book, just in time for those of us who grew up in the 1980s to be having cake-aged children.  A shrewd marketing move, … Continue reading

Recipe: Pasta Carbonara, my way

My father’s family is from the Basilicata region of Italy, and even after moving to Australia, my Nonna and Nonno would make their own sausage every year.  I think one of my great-uncles kept pigs, or maybe just one pig each year, who was the source of said sausages. I never enquired. Nonna’s sausages were big, cured, salami-like things that would hang from the garage roof or from a hook in our pantry for weeks or months without going off.  They were fairly highly spiced, I think with chilli and fennel seed, but I could be making that up, and you had to slice them thickly and cook them to render the big chunks of fat before eating them.

Pasta carbonara, in my family, was made with chunks of this sausage, and not  with ham – if there was no sausage, my mother would use ham or bacon and add paprika to the dish, because the important thing about carbonara was that it had to be spicy.  If it was not spicy, we were told, it was not proper carbonara.  We never put cream in the recipe, either – it was all held together with eggs, ideally from Nonno’s chooks.  Nonna’s sausage and mum’s carbonara were two of my favourite foods as a child, and I was terribly disappointed the first time I ordered carbonara at a restaurant and got this weird, bland, creamy thing with ham.  Not the same thing at all.

The recipe is not my mother’s, though it started there.  It has since evolved to fit the ingredients I can get, with a few ideas from Rachel Ray thrown in.  It goes without saying that my carbonara does not taste anything like the carbonara you get at restaurants, though it is clearly a related dish.

I maintain that this is the only true and authentic way to make pasta carbonara.

Your Shopping List

250g spicy soppressa or Calabrese salami, whole, not sliced
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
150g parmesan cheese, grated (the real stuff, please)
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup white wine
4 eggs
400g pasta (penne or penne rigate are my favourite kind for this)
black pepper
3 big tomatoes
2 capsicums
lettuce or cucumber
balsamic or red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
 

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