I will look at you with the focus I gave to my birthday candles

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Guess who’s back? But also about to leave again? But also perhaps, in a way, never really left at all? But perhaps, in a more literal way, literally did leave? Also by “back” I mean, back in the city of Wellington? The answer to all these questions – to any question ever, in fact – is me. Like a beloved TV character who moved away because in real life they started to get movie roles but is contractually obliged to make occasional appearances, I’ve returned for a big party, in this case my dear friend Kate’s Russian Doll-themed 36th birthday. The thing about leaving your full time bartending job to move far far away to a rural village is that you still end up seeing your friends roughly the same amount anyway, but this visit did feel especially special since it has been a relatively long time since we’ve all been in the same area code and I’ve been missing them so much it sometimes feels like my heart is trying to relocate under badly-managed witness protection to my elbows, or something.

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Though I lack initiative, I do love being useful – it’s a real rare treat for me – so I jumped at the chance to help out by making a birthday cake. As you can see, the cake is decorated very specifically, that’s because I was emulating the cake that was actually visible in Russian Doll, (which is, to clarify, an incredible TV show on Netflix that you should absolutely watch.) This cake is quite similar to the one I made for the eleventh anniversary of hungryandfrozen.com last year, but I tweaked and simplified it a little and also – I’ll be honest with you – I just wanted something to blog about while I was down here in Wellington so am happy to opportunistically shoe-horn this in.

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Birthday Cake (aka, a simple vegan chocolate cake)

A recipe by myself.

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or similar
  • 1/3 cup plain oil such as rice bran or sunflower
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider or malt vinegar, but balsamic goes beautifully with the chocolate)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or similar eg maple syrup)
  • 1 cup cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Use baking paper to line either one 22cm springform cake tin or two 20cm cake tins if you want layers. Or you can do what I did and make one big one, panic that it is overcooked, make a whole entire new one, realise the first one isn’t really overcooked, and then layer those up!

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the wet ingredients – I like to dig a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquids into it – and then whisk together to form a thick batter.

Spatula the mixture into your chosen cake tin or tins. Bake for about 25 minutes if you’re making two small cakes, or around 40 minutes for one big one. However, this will depend on your oven – you may need more or less time. When the top is firm and bouncy, the cake is ready to come out.

Allow the cake to cool thoroughly then ice however you wish. For the white buttercream I used four tablespoons of olive oil-based vegan butter, two cups of icing sugar, and the juice of half a lemon, plus a tiny splash of strawberry essence. It didn’t make the icing taste of strawberry, but balanced out the flavour of the vegan butter really well somehow. It was honestly just a guess on my part, but it worked. I then melted 200g dark chocolate to pour over the top, this does set very hard though so I had to use a skewer to make indentations for the birthday candles to sit in.

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This cake is extremely low-effort to make – a real one-bowl affair – and it gives you a big, friendly, old-fashioned chocolate cake, the sort that everyone is always pleased to have a slice of. It’s moist and springy and rich but not ridiculous, just an old-timey proper cake that you could give to your grandmother, in fact, I did make it for my own grandmother’s 85th birthday in July. The hardest part was writing “happy birthday” on the top, I kept making the letters all wonky and then taking them off and eating them and then writing them even more wonkily, growing ever more frantic and sugar-riddled, but as you can see from the photos, I…eventually stopped doing this. Fortunately the party was not only dark, it was illuminated by a series of different-coloured lights, as per the aesthetic of Russian Doll itself, which the cake – indeed, all of us – definitely benefited from.

It was a wonderful party, so so good to see so many people I care about in one place and to celebrate the sweet birthday baby Kate while having an opportunity to dress up fancy and glue great quantities of glitter to my eyes – not so much call for that in the rural countryside.

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Guess who else is back! Ghost the dog’s modelling career, that’s who!

It’s sweet and strange and kind of wildly over-stimulating being back in the city that I spent thirteen years in, not least because it’s really easy to drink like three pints of strong filter coffee without realising, and I know if I blink too hard I’ll suddenly be very far away from it again, and I haven’t achieved half the things I meant to, but I am so so happy I got to spend time with the people I love, and to feed them cake, and then to hear them say that the cake was really delicious. That’s what friendship is all about.

title from: Love Ridden, by Fiona Apple. She really knows how to make a song that crawls all over you.

music lately:

Mariners Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey. Hold onto your tear ducts, there’s a new Lana album. This song is so, so lovely and late-sixties sorrowful, it has these melodic echoes of numerous songs – one that leapt to mind was Never Learn Not To Love, the Beach Boys song that was originally a Charles Manson song. “They mistook my kindness for weakness” is a great line, “I’m your man” is a great line.

Waves, Normani feat 6LACK. This is dreamy and swoony and aerated and lush but with this crunchy bassline holding it down. It feels reminiscent of Mine by Beyoncé in its silky spaciousness, so if you like that song you’ll probably enjoy this, if you don’t like that song then I don’t know what to say to you to be honest!

The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), by Cher. The sheer ebullience coming off this song is unreal. My friend Charlotte showed me the 1990 film Mermaids, which is where this song is from, and even though I’d never seen the film before I also felt in my bones that I’d watched it once a week since I was five years old, you know those kind of instantly comforting films? I also recommend the original 1964 version of this song by Betty Everett, it’s gorgeous.

Next time: Not sure, but I’ll be back in the countryside, and I’m STILL looking for a good seitan recipe!

PS If you derive any particular enjoyment from my writing, there exists the shrewd business opportunity to support me directly on Patreon. A dollar a month gets you exclusive blog posts, two dollars a month gets you that plus further exclusive content and access to everything I’ve already written this year. It’s easy, and it’s extremely appreciated!

yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon

 

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If you thought my Old Fashioned Lemonade recipe a few weeks ago used up the bulk of the lemon supply then you are deeply mistaken; I live in the countryside now and lemons are like, how we communicate. If you shake someone’s hand and there’s not a lemon that has been furtively passed from person to person via that handshake it’s tantamount to a slap in the face. If you wake up and there’s not a bushel of lemons anonymously placed in your letterbox then you might as well move to a new province. People will give you lemons soon as look at you. People will give you lemons and then you’ll give those lemons back to the giver in the form of lemonade. I’m exaggerating for comic effect, but only slightly. Am I exaggerating about how slightly I’m exaggerating though? Slightly.

Anyway, when mum mentioned that it might be nice to have something baked for a quickly-pending afternoon tea drop-in; I was like right, that sounds like my idea of fun, but what: it has to be something reliable, delicious, and that uses existing abundant resources since there’s no shops nearby to get ingredients from. Naturally: the answer was lemons. To be specific, this lemon syrup cake, which is wonderfully delicious and impressively big, mixes together in five seconds, and can be served still-warm from the oven to your arriving guests – although given time to cool its flavour and texture is even better.

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This recipe is adapted from one I blogged about seven years ago; that recipe was adapted from one I found on a site that appears to no longer exist; so while today’s cake is basically my own I had some help getting there, I’m just not sure who from anymore. Since I first blogged about it in 2011 I’ve made numerous versions of it and have found it to be a most versatile and resilient cake – it can adapt to any tin shape or size, lasts for days and everyone always loves it. And it happens to be vegan, which like is not necessarily something I need to announce at this point aside from the fact that my Google SEO is already so woeful, so let me just be clear, person to algorithm: this is a vegan lemon syrup cake.

My aim with this iteration was to make a traditional style iced/lemon drizzle cake, but I was thwarted by the whole lack of proximity to shops thing: we only had a bare amount of icing sugar left, so I had to switch tactics and make a syrup instead. In the end I think it worked out for the best, because we could eat the cake right away and the syrup made everything stickily luscious, and once cooled the sugar granules formed a wonderful crunchy carapace on the cake’s surface.

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Vegan Lemon Syrup Cake

A recipe by myself

  • 1 x 400g can coconut cream (or coconut milk if it’s all you can find)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of a lemon, to garnish

Set your oven to 180C/350F, lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Whisk together the coconut cream, sugar, lemon juice and zest, oil and vanilla till combined. Sieve in the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to form a thick batter.

Spatula the batter into the caketin and bake for around 1 hour although you might need longer – I found this took precisely one hour and 5 minutes and I covered it loosely with tinfoil from around 50 minutes in to make sure the top didn’t brown too much.

To make the syrup, bring the lemon juice and sugars to a good robust simmer in a small pan, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Stab the cake with a skewer in several places and spoon over the syrup (you may not require all of it.) Sprinkle over the second lot of lemon zest. Ideally allow the cake to cool completely before serving, but it is good warm – just be aware that if you do it might get a bit crumbly/fragile, so proceed with caution. Once it’s cooled it becomes a lot more solid.

Although there’s an entire can of coconut cream in the cake the flavour is barely discernible, it’s just a lemon hegemony from first slice to last. However, you could point up this aspect by stirring through a cup or so of shredded coconut into the batter before baking; there are also any number of other directions you could take this in: lemongrass in the syrup, blueberries in the batter, different citrus juice – although if you’re using orange juice on its own I’d add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just to make sure the necessary acid content is present. If you have any food-grade citrus essential oils a drop of one or two of them in the syrup once it’s removed from the heat is a very good idea; you could also let the cake cool completely and pour over the lemon icing that I never managed to make. Finally, leftover slices are great heated up and served with ice cream, tasting comfortingly like a steamed pudding.

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Lemons!

Now that I have your attention; allow me to take you on a brief tour of where you can find me on the internet other than here: upon gloomily discovering that Campari isn’t vegan I wrote about some different options for fans of the classic Negroni cocktail for Tenderly; I also for Tenderly tried making the best mac and cheese that I could conceive of motivated entirely by the tweet of a celebrity. I also wrote a piece that I’m very proud of about Catherine O’Hara’s singular performance as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek for The Spinoff. Finally, I wrote a blog post about caramel walnut slice for my Patreon subscribers; if you wish to access it you can do so for one literal dollar, doing so will also directly support me and my writing.

title from:

Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, from their 2000 album Kid A which is my absolute favourite of theirs but also, I freely admit, the last new album of theirs that I’ve actually listened to. This song is amazing, somehow foreboding yet feeling like the sun rising at the same time.

music lately:

Young Ones Everywhere by Stephanie, as in, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, daughter of Grace Kelly. Turns out she was a singer for a while in the 80s and while I’m not sure if she’s the most technically gifted vocalist, her music is GREAT, like, with a dusting of highlighter this song – coldly synthy and vaguely yearning despite its fairly pointless lyrics – could literally be Carly Rae Jepsen.

Change The Beat, by Fab Five Freddy, and its famous b-side, both equally magnetic with languid French rapping over a lush, lush beat.

Give It To Me, Miya Folick. My dear friend Kate recommended this to me and it’s…perfect. Emotional in a combative way, sorrowful in a wild-eyed way.

Next time: I’m really keen on making my own seitan but can’t seem to find a definitive through line in the recipes I’ve seen online, so if anyone can recommend me one I would be most appreciative!

if you want a banana republic that much why don’t you go move to one

Before I get further into anything I extremely invite you to read Protect Ihumātao’s website to learn about the incredibly important occupation of the land happening right now; if you are feeling unfamiliar, this story by Leonie Hayden from 2017 for NZ Geographic is excellent for further background and context to this ongoing journey. There is also an ActionStation page where you can donate to the cause. Ngā mihi nui!

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Nigella Lawson often, when questioned, says that greed is her chief inspiration for recipe creation. I’m sure I must’ve been asked this at some point around the time my first cookbook came out, but these days I’m more at the daydreaming-potential-answers-to-future-interviews stage of renown, which is like, literally fine, although I wish I could apply my perpetual preparedness to be interviewed to being prepared in even one other aspect of my life. Anyway, if someone were to ask me, I completely agree with Nigella on the greed front, I just think of what I want to eat and then I make that a recipe. My secondary inspiration is probably that if someone on a TV show or movie that I’m watching mentions a food enough times I will get it in my head that I want to make it; but also significantly, I often derive inspiration from seeing people I am friendly with tweeting about food and being like “this is my BUSINESS,” such as the vegan carne adovada that I made earlier this year after seeing such a tweet.

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A few days ago my good friend Jen tweeted asking what the best vegan banana bread recipe was and I was like wow, I don’t know how to answer that, and I feel like I should, so I’m going to do something about it. (I’m only just realising now that I didn’t actually look at any of the recipes linked in other replies to her tweet, I instead just assumed I was the person to provide the definitive recipe and in turn response to her question. Upon reflection I guess I remain unchanged on that opinion?) The difference between a banana cake and banana bread is pretty much lost on me – aside from banana bread being made in a loaf tin – but if pressed for an answer – in an interview situation, perhaps – I would assert that it’s generally a little denser than the cake version and I wouldn’t expect it to be iced.

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This recipe has a fairly traditional-baked-good vibe to it, which is what I wanted – no dates masquerading as sugar content here, just actual sugar. No disrespect, but sometimes vegan baking recipes feel like they’re being blackmailed by a company that sells dates, you know what I mean? It’s light and moist but also firm with a springy crumb, and easily sliced into thick slabs – which are perfect alongside a cup of tea. You could consider folding in a couple of handfuls of walnuts or dark chocolate pieces, or the zest of a lemon, but I love it just as it is, with the sweetness of the bananas offset by the warmth of cinnamon.

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Banana Bread

A recipe by myself

  • 3 medium bananas (roughly 1 1/2 cups chopped banana)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. By which I mean just shove a large rectangle of baking paper in there as best you can.

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash them thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon or whatever. Mix in the sugar, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, and golden syrup. Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl, and then gently fold it all together. Spatula all this into the loaf tin, and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Note: the first time I made this I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, the second time round I put in heaps more and I think it tasted better for it but obviously your own feelings around cinnamon are perfectly welcome to override mine if you make this yourself.

I guess only future history books will tell us if this is indeed a definitive banana bread recipe but till then I am definitively delighted with it, which is hopefully enough of a push for you to make it too. It’s very easy, just a one-bowl affair, and it keeps well. If you don’t like bananas I can’t help you there but you should know that this isn’t overwhelmingly banana-y, just comfortingly delicious.

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Speaking of comfortingly delicious, if you wish to support me and my writing directly it’s very easy and minimal-exertion-y to do so through my Patreon account, where your assiduousness will be rewarded with content written just for you.

title from: Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys, this is an uncharacteristically long but nevertheless excellent song of theirs which ducks and dives through time signatures with lyrics which – sorry for being super obvious – are still timely.

music lately:

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, from her album On Dark Horses. I actually started listening to her music because Minka, who also inspired the vegan carne adovada, tweeted about it, and I am the highly suggestible type! I’m so happy I am though, this album is stunning, intense and metallic and hard and soft all at the same time, I love it. You Don’t Have to Cry is the final song on the album and it’s just lush, the sort of song you should hear while lying on the floor of a barn or in a car as the sun sets right in your eyes.

Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man, by Oscar-winning actress and singer Miyoshi Umeki. This is from her 1956 album Miyoshi Sings to Arthur Godfrey which features American standards and torch songs, sung in a mixture of Japanese and English in her gorgeous warm voice, including this truly beautiful interpretation of the Kern/Hammerstein classic.

Next time: I ordered myself Rachel Ama’s cookbook as a present to myself for reasons I will work out later – perhaps if asked during an interview context – and can’t wait to explore it. I imagine you’ll be seeing recipes from it on here before very long.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

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Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

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The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

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AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

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Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

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title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

hold on tight, hold on eleven, this is paradise

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This blog post marks a relatively special occasion: Hungry and Frozen, this very blog that you’re reading, turned ELEVEN years old on Sunday. I’m proud of myself, sure, but I’m also astonished. I mean, I’m always astonished by the passage of time, in that push-pull kind of way (y’know, HOW is it October already but also HOW is it only 8.03pm I swear the clock said 8.07pm before) but eleven years? Doing one thing? Were you even born eleven years ago? Frankly, I doubt it.

As I stand majestically upon this precipice, surveying all that I have done, I acknowledge there’s only so much looking back one can do – and don’t honestly have anything particularly deep or clever to offer you in summarisation of my life up until this point. But I did reread my first blog posts and was struck by how breezily carefree I was and just how much I cooked and blogged: in October 2007 alone I did twenty three blog posts in fifteen days, a hilarious quantity, really. It was hardcore stuff too: pavlova and steamed pudding and marinated ribs and choux pastry and madeleines. Present-day me could do well to be inspired by the sheer drive of then-me, time-rich though I was.

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In the first post I pressed publish upon I asked “does the world need another food blog? There are millions! With really classy photographs as well! What on earth do I have to offer the world?” This was before Pinterest, before Instagram, before influencers, before videos of anonymous hands making recipes all over Facebook, before chiaroscuro or people dropping crumbs everywhere in their food photography, before Momofuku Milk Bar, before the recession – in fact I’m not sure what actually was around, come to think of it. Polka dots were big, if I remember correctly, and we were all getting into cupcakes?

Since then I’ve learned so much: how to take a photograph; how to write through literally anything happening in my personal life; to not be so righteous or else I’ll regret that I called vodka soda “a sneeringly dry drink” nine years ago; that if I refer vaguely to us all “reeling from the events this week” I will have absolutely no idea what I was talking about six weeks later especially in this rapid news cycle life that we’re stuck in; that if you hear me say something amusing in real life you’re probably going to read it repeated here because I only have so much material; and to write like I’m the most relevant and celebrated food blogger on earth even if there’s only one person in the audience. I mean where I stand currently, on this relatively fallow ground, it’s by no means a high point in my blogging career and it does weigh upon me heavily sometimes. But I’m also feeling happy and creative for the first time in ages, and I think that’s what I should be inspired by from eleven years ago: neither the quantity nor the quality, but the sheer confidence that someone out there wanted to read my writing and therefore I was going to throw my heart and soul into writing nonstop for them. And if I kept writing like that, if it was that good, surely more people would want to read it. Something I hope is still true.

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What care I for the obviousness of a cake to mark a milestone; especially when it’s as incredibly delicious as this one. The champagne is a celebratory conceit but really does add something to the buttercream – a certain biscuity minerality (which sounds horrible but…trust me.) I tend to avoid putting inaccessible ingredients in my recipes and acknowledge that this one contains not just the champagne – which was a gift, I can’t imagine just owning some – but also freeze-dried passionfruit, which gives this eye-wateringly intense blast of sour passionfruit flavour and is almost irreplaceable. If it comes down to it though: I’d replace both the champagne and the passionfruit powder with a few tablespoons of strained passionfruit syrup, it won’t have the aggressive flavour but will undoubtedly still taste good.

Chocolate Maple Cake with Champagne Passionfruit Buttercream

A recipe by myself

Cake:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar non-dairy milk)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (not extra virgin – or just use plain vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Champagne Passionfruit Buttercream

  • 3 tablespoons good vegan butter (I used Nuttelex Buttery)
  • 4 tablespoons freeze-dried passionfruit powder
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons champagne
  • 3 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • a pinch of salt 

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of two 20cm springform cake tins with baking paper.

Stir all your dry ingredients together in a large bowl – the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda – so everything is completely dispersed and free of clumps.

Carefully pour in the water, golden syrup, oil, vanilla, almond milk and vinegar and fold the ingredients together gently till it’s just combined.

Divide this mixture between the two cake tins, using a spatula to scrape out every last bit. Make a swirl in the batter with the end of a spoon (or indeed, your finger) – apparently this helps it to rise evenly and flatly and I’m not sure if I truly believe it but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Bake the cakes for 25 minutes or until they’re both springy and a skewer prodded into the centre comes out clean.

Allow both cakes to cool completely.

For the buttercream, I find it easiest to use a food processor, but a bowl and spoon is by no means the end of the world. Blitz the butter, passionfruit powder, and icing sugar together, and then add the champagne and process again to make a thick, smooth, pale-golden icing. Add more champagne if it’s too thick, but only a little at a time.

Place one of the cakes on a serving plate, and brush half the maple syrup over it with a pastry brush. Spoon a large dollop of the buttercream onto the centre of the cake and use the flat side of a knife to spread it evenly over the surface. Place the second cake on top and repeat with the remaining maple syrup and most of the remaining icing, leaving some to patch up any spaces inbetween the layers. I do this by scooping up icing with the knife and running it around the curves of the cake’s sides. I then run the knife under hot water and run it around the sides again to make sure the layer of icing in the middle is thick and flattened while the cake layers themselves are relatively clean. It doesn’t matter though: the icing and cake will both taste good no matter how it looks.

Dot with sprinkles if you wish, and dust over a little more passionfruit powder. And that’s your cake.

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But nevermind what’s left out of it, let’s talk about what’s in it: this cake is rich and dense but fluffy and springy and moist and has an old fashioned taste to it – the sort of chocolate cake that storybook characters would tuck into. There’s a slightly nutty flavour from the oil and maple syrup (although hell, leave the syrup out too if you’re really strapped for cash, I know I am) and the dark, soft chocolate layers contrast beautifully with the shivers-down-the-spine tartness of the passionfruit. And it’s so easy to make – some idle stirring is all that’s required. While it uses a lot of cocoa powder this cake would be an ideal go-to recipe iced however you want – if you’re the sort of person that is in enough cake-related situations to require a go-to. On top of that, this cake really lasts – three days after making it, it’s still as soft and rich as it was on day one.

Eleven years ago I hadn’t yet met my two best friends Kim and Kate and I can’t even quantify in words or describe with statistics the effect they’ve had on me since. Needless to say there was no better people to share this cake, and the remaining champagne, with, so that’s what I spent the afternoon of this blog’s eleventh birthday doing. As far as reading about it goes though, why, there’s no one I’d want more to do that than you.

title from: Paradise, by Meat Puppets. I love the Meat Puppets so much and have absolutely nothing amusing to say about them.

music lately:

Cornelius Bros and Sister Rose, Too Late To Turn Back Now. That “I believe I believe I believe I believe” bit is just lovely.

The Sacred Harp Singers, I’m Going Home. I did not care for the movie Cold Mountain but it did at least introduce me to the Sacred Harp Singers, who perform – naturally – sacred harp singing, which is like…hymns but as discordant walls of sound crashing about your ears all at once. It’s hard to explain but when I watched this particular recording of the aforementioned song being sung at a convention I genuinely cried from the enormity of it and have listened to little else since. So put in some headphones and turn up the volume and see what happens, is my recommendation and opinion both. (There’s quite a bit of it on Spotify and I enjoy the existence of the album entitled New Years Eve at the Iveys’, 1972. Now, December 31, 1972 was in fact a Sunday and I love the idea of the sheer stone-faced Biblicality overriding any seasonal festivity. “What are we doing this New Years? Same thing we do every Sunday: we’ll stand in a square barking hymns discordantly at each other, and you’re a giddy and frivolous infidel for considering otherwise.”)

Decemberists, The Infanta. I’ve been rewatching Mad Men, and as they say in the Youtube comments, “Mad Men brought me here” when the song was used at the start of one of its episodes. The sprinting drums and use of the word “palanquin” though!

(I didn’t start this format of listing music I’d been listening to until April 2009, and the first songs – with absolutely zero commentary – were Mad Tom of Bedlam by Jolie Holland, Let Me Drown by Idina Menzel and Brian D’Arcy James from the off-Broadway Musical The Wild Party, and Farmer John by Neil Young. All of which hold up well, although I did in the same breath claim to “love music with a dark passion” so you can’t win everything.)

Next time: I used all my mental capacity coming up with this week’s one, but it’ll be good, if eleven years has taught us anything it’s that we can all be certain of this. 

PS: A dedicated fistful of people read this post already on Sunday evening – okay, Monday morning, but it should’ve been Sunday – and if you wish to be part of this enclave who receive my posts sent to their inbox first every week, sign up here. (On the other hand, the distance between that send-out and this post being published gave me room to add even more enthusiastic Sacred Harp Singing content, a trinket that you may or may not consider a reward for your patient waiting.) 

ever since we met, the world’s been upside-down

So about three weeks ago I started writing a blog post on here and then suddenly, like those weird half-dreams you have before you’re properly asleep, where you slip over and fall, slamming hard into your own bed, waking up with a gasp, I just like…could not write another word. And wanted to throw my iPad against the wall to create as much distance between myself and this blog. Once the dramatics subsided I was like okay, let’s actually analyse this rather than unsubsiding into more dramatics, tempting though it is. I think I’ve allowed myself to just drift aimlessly on here without any great sense of purpose and it’s kind of dragging me down a bit. And then I tried to look at the bigger picture, which is not something I do very often, and I was like to be fair, for the entirety of last year I was battling some massive-assed depression, so every single blog post that I wrote felt like a small victory, a mountain climbed, a display of life continuing. Then at the start of this year I spent well over a month recovering from a Literal Head Injury so actually it’s no wonder I ended up feeling super listless about my writing. Right now though, I’m actually doing pretty okay on most fronts, so I can finally take some time to focus on what I want out of this blog, out of life, out of everything. I’m not actually entirely sure what I want yet, it seems just out of reach. BUT I do know that I don’t actually want to give up on this blog at all.

Out of some kind of bloody-minded curiosity I made a list of every project I’ve embarked on and abandoned and it was almost hilarious: for a minute I had a food podcast, for a while I interviewed musicians about food, I had a mercifully short-lived (like, if only it were so short-lived that it didn’t even occur at all) foray into vlogging on YouTube, for a while I was making instructional cooking videos, for a bit there I was making cookie dough pretzel sandwiches and selling them with flagrant disinterest in the laws around making food for profit. But this blog, somehow, has remained a part of my life for ten entire years! Eleven in October! And a lack of focus is not a good enough reason to give up on it, it is in fact merely a prompt to get more focussed. It’s okay to have peaks (eg writing a cookbook) and low points (eg being ghosted by my publishers) and it’s okay to start projects and not finish them, but it’s also okay to challenge myself and to try to fight against complacency and to maybe, just maybe, put some effort into planning things rather than just starting them without any thought of sustainability.

I also realised that part of what was making me all disillusioned was how broke I am, it’s kind of hard to keep up a regular conveyer belt of blog-worthy food and it feels like any goals I do try making end up getting ground down into nothing through lack of funds. But there are small things I can do! My angelic friend Sarah gave me a laptop cord – mine had broken and I couldn’t afford to replace it so I was taking photos on my phone rather than with my proper camera because the editing software was on the laptop and the increased lack of quality was increasing my disillusionment – so this is a start. I’ve decided to put myself out there as available for freelancing work again and am working on putting together a small online portfolio. I was reading through old pieces I’d done – travel writing, pop culture stuff, whatever – and I was like you know what, I’m really good at this! And I could do it again! None of this is stopping me being broke in the short term but it is helping at least to keep my chin up. I’m also, don’t you worry, determined to not let my Frasier food blog fall by the wayside.

And I made a cake.

Yes, hand-wringingly long-story-short, I’m still here and I made a cake. I got some rhubarb from the Sunday vegetable markets (dragging myself to the markets is itself a gigantic achievement) (also I went with tip money from work the night before and this is why you should tip your bartenders, people!) and while there are any thousand million numbers of ways that you could enjoy rhubarb, I was in the mood for something pinkly sugary. An upside-down cake is a rakishly attractive way to use fruit in your baking, as it provides both flavour and decoration, but there’s certainly nothing stopping you from just folding the chopped rhubarb through the cake batter. This makes a handsomely tall and proud cake from which to carve thick, tender slices, and it’s wonderfully easy to make as well – just a one-bowl affair and a bit of stirring.

I scattered some pink peppercorns across the rhubarb before draping over the cake batter; I liked the pink-on-pink dovetailing and their musky-sweet warmth is lovely with rhubarb’s jammy tartness. If you don’t have them though just leave them out – regular pepper is too harsh to substitute in here.

rhubarb and pink peppercorn upside down cake

a recipe by myself

  • six sticks of rhubarb
  • one teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • quarter of a cup of sugar
  • three cups plain flour
  • one and a half cups of sugar (extra)
  • two teaspoons baking powder
  • one teaspoon baking soda
  • one teaspoon salt
  • two teaspoons vanilla extract
  • one can of good coconut milk
  • two thirds of a cup of sunflower or similarly plain oil
  • quarter of a cup of lemon juice

Firstly, set your oven to 180C/350F and line the base of a 21cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Trim and discard the leaves from the rhubarb, and chop the pink stalks into slices of roughly 2cm/one inch. Arrange the slices evenly inside the base of the cake tin, sprinkle with the quarter cup of sugar and the peppercorns, and set aside. 

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl, then stir in the sugar, followed by all the wet ingredients. Mix to create a thick batter, and spatula this carefully over the rhubarb in the caketin. 

Bake for fifty minutes (it may need longer, it depends on your oven) and let it sit for a few minutes before running a knife around the cake inside the tin and upturning it carefully onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar if you like, and be on your way. 

Rhubarb’s natural sourness means it can carry a lot of sugar and it works beautifully with the hint of lemon and vanilla in the cake. If rhubarb isn’t in season or just not what you’re into, you could use this as a template for damn near any other baking-friendly fruit – upside down apple cakes, berry cakes, whatever, would all be worthy uses of your time. I was really happy with this just as it was though – don’t get me wrong, I’ve been eating, but it’s been nothing particularly inspiring or joyful and nothing felt worthy of writing about here, and so the act of making a cake felt good.

And I guess after ten years it would almost be weird if I didn’t have some moments of uncertainty, yeah? Who knows if blogs will even still exist by the time I get my act together, but for now my goal is: to have a goal!

If you’ve found yourself on an fired-up upside-down cake rampage after reading this, may I suggest other recipes I’ve blogged about, such as upside-down caramel nut cake, Nigella’s pineapple upside down cake (which I blogged about in July 2008, damn) or this pear and almond cake which isn’t actually an upside-down cake but…it looks like one.

(PS: I went back and forth about whether to say something about Anthony Bourdain, who died last week. Like, does anyone need me to say anything? Nah. Have five thousand tons of things already been said? Yeah. But it’s terribly, terribly sad, isn’t it. I cannot recommend hard enough that you look up some of his shows where he traveled around the world and just listened to people about their food and their lives.)

title from: a sad and strange story – Connie Converse was one of the earliest examples of the singer-songwriter genre, but her recordings made in the 1950s went by and large unnoticed until 2004, nearly thirty years after she completely disappeared never to be seen again. I don’t mean from the music business, she like, fully disappeared. Her small but beautiful collection of music has a kind of thoughtful melancholy to it, very spare and gently folky. I took the title from her song Trouble, a short little song with the repeated stanza – “but if you go away, as trouble ought to do, where will I find another soul to tell my trouble to? 

music lately: 

Chelsea Jade, Laugh It Off. I love her! I love this new song of hers!

Faith No More, We Care A Lot, the original 1985 recording with Chuck Mosley. It’s not that the more well-known version is all that polished but I love how sludgy and grubby this one is, like it’s about to slide off the beat any second now, and I looove Mosley’s bratty, congested-sounding voice.

Rock Star from the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a pop-punk musical about a bad and useless American President, which as a premise may or may not appeal but this song is SO GOOD to listen to while striding purposefully down the street. If you’re more into striding with aimless melancholy I recommend instead listening to Saddest Song from the same musical.

next time: As if I know! But I’ll be here. 

workworkworkworkwork

Generally my ideas come all at once, fully formed, or not at all. Like I’ll stare at my wardrobe for a literal forty minutes, paralysed with the inability to choose a simple garment to prevent my public nudity (admittedly, ritalin has helped alleviate these vibes) or I’ll wake up being like “I’m going to channel Victor Garber playing Jesus in the 1973 film adaptation of the musical Godspell and this is exactly how I’m going to do it!” I submitted a cocktail to Wellington on a Plate this year for work and I came up with it, concept, recipe, title and all, in precisely five seconds, but on the very last day that submissions were open. There’s other examples, just imagine I’ve given them to you (I’m very tired right now.) All of which leads us to this pomegranate cheesecake that I made on Tuesday night, simply because the words “pomegranate cheesecake” plus the entire recipe appeared in my head suddenly, and I was like…guess I better act upon this. Who am I to ignore the voice telling me to make a cheesecake that no one was asking for nor needing in their life? Who am I to not act upon every damn whim that occurs to me, no matter what it is? Who indeed?

Luckily the cheesecake was as delicious as my odd little brain promised.  

This is an extremely easy cheesecake to knock together, and in fact the only difficult part is sourcing the one key ingredient: not actual pomegranate, because I am a heathen who decided to forge ahead with this despite the fruit in question being wildly out of season, but instead: Monin Pomegranate Syrup. I’ll be honest with you, some of their fruit syrups are spectacular and some of them are…less so…but the pomegranate stuff is pretty magical: lip-smackingly, butt-smackingly sour, zestily sweet, and appealingly pink in colour. If you live in Wellington it’s easily available at Moore Wilson’s, otherwise I would try buying it online, or using something like Six Barrel Soda’s Cherry Pomegranate Soda syrup, or perhaps scout your local bars for who has it in stock and ask nicely if you can borrow a small quantity in a takeaway cup in return for a slice of cheesecake. Or you could change tack completely and look for a good-quality raspberry syrup, the kind which real fruit was harmed in the making of; you’ll still get that appealingly sour red fruit flavour. OR you could go archly artisinal and use pomegranate molasses while upping the sugar content: in fact I’m now extremely curious about this variation and want to try it.  

But back to the actual cheesecake that I actually made, actually. (Cheesecake…actually…is all around.) 

I went into work on Tuesday night to knuckle down and overhaul the till to add and remove and shuffle a zillion buttons to make it more useable (it’s one of those ancient systems that’s about on the level a Brick Game or even, for those of you in the audience from the previous generation, an Atari, but also like, it’s MY system that I know how to USE and if anyone changes it I’ll be mad because I can’t be BOTHERED learning new THINGS.) I also had an ulterior motive: I was going to make this cheesecake, and then feed the troops with it the following evening once it had chilled sufficiently overnight. Yes, it’s a refrigerated cheesecake, not a baked one, and I honestly kind of prefer them. I’m down if you are to engage in a lively debate about this. 

All of which means it’s fantastically easy to make. The filling itself is just cream cheese and whipped cream which somehow holds together and I do not question it, the lack of effort involved is enough for me. This concept is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe, so you know you can trust it. I made the base before starting on the till, refrigerated it while I got stuck in on said till, made the filling when I needed a break after realising I’d been programming everything completely wrong and was about to cry, and then put that in the refrigerator and ploughed ahead until some progress was actually made on the damn till. The next day, I came in and photographed the cheesecake, and then left it there to be consumed by whomsoever happened to be around and desiring surprise treats. 

So that’s how I got there, but what in the heck did it taste like? Absolutely amazing. I didn’t actually eat the finished product as a whole but I can tell you I ate an alarming amount of the biscuit base as I was pressing it into the cake tin, and also a near-on hilarious amount of the filling as I was making it, so I can confidently say, with my hand on my heart and one hand in my pocket and the other one flicking a peace sign, that it’s a really, really good cheesecake. The tartness of the cream cheese echoes the tartness of the pomegranate syrup but it’s in such a sherbety kind of way – not truly sour, just fizzy and fruity, softened by the billowing cream. The biscuit base tastes good because of course it does, it’s smashed up biscuits and lots of butter, I don’t have to explain that to you. The colour, a merest blush of rosy pink, is really pretty, and that is also important. 

While I’m being extremely heathenish and cavalier with regards to the seasonality of produce, I did buy a package of pomegranate seeds to put on top and they kind of tasted like nail polish remover but they looked so nice that my love of aesthetic won in the end. Besides, as I reasoned, you can always flick them off before you eat your slice of cheesecake. If this horrifies you too much or you just can’t access pre-packaged pomegranate seeds, simply drizzle the cheesecake with more syrup, or leave it as a plain expanse of pale, pale pink. 

pomegranate cheesecake

a recipe by myself

  • one packet of plain biscuits, the boring kind that are only useful for cheesecake bases
  • 100g butter
  • 250g cream cheese, full fat (I’m not trying to be cute, low-fat has a weird texture)
  • 300ml cream
  • half a cup of icing sugar (just spoon it in, don’t pack it down, you can always add more)
  • 60ml Monin pomegranate syrup
  • Pomegranate seeds to decorate (optional)

Get yourself a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with a sheet of baking paper. Then, get those biscuits crushed. Either put them in a food processor and blitz them into dust, or put them in a plastic bag and bash them with something heavy (in my case, it was a muddler that I usually use for making, like, caipirinhas.)  Apply some heat to the butter till it’s anywhere from extremely soft to totally melted, it really doesn’t matter, and mix it into the biscuit crumbs. Tip all this into the cake tin and use the back of a spoon to press it fairly evenly across the base (I find if you run the spoon under water it helps the crumbs to not stick.) Pop this into the refrigerator while you get on with the filling, which is a matter of moments.

Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature otherwise you’ll never get anywhere, in cheesecake or life. Mix it, the icing sugar, and the pomegranate syrup together briskly. Taste to see if it needs either more sugar or pomegranate. Then, whip the cream until it’s softly bulky but not like, super stiff, and fold it into the cream cheese. By the way, you can do this in a food processor or blender, mixing up the cream cheese first, removing it, and then blitzing the cream, but just be really careful to not overwhip the cream. Spatula all this on top of the biscuit base, smooth out the top, and refrigerate it for at least three hours, but ideally overnight.

When you’re ready to go, run a knife around the inside of the caketin and carefully unclip the springy bit to remove the sides. Transfer it to a cute serving plate, and either scatter with pomegranate seeds or drizzle over more syrup, but basically just do something aesthetic, okay?  

I came into work later the next night: the cheesecake was all but gone, a slender wedge remained. Obviously overtired largely-broke hospo people will eat a pile of dirt if someone implies that it’s free food (just me?) but I took that as a sign that yes, it was delicious, and yes, it was a good idea, even if I have no idea why it appeared or whether I truly needed to follow through on it. 

On the other hand, I am also considering making it a weekly thing now, so, thanks brain. That good idea was a good idea. 

title from: Barbados gave us rum and it gave us Rihanna, both of which are true blessings. Rihanna’s song Work is as glorious as she is. Please enjoy both versions of the video, don’t deprive yourself. 

music lately: 

Mint Chicks, Bad Buzz. This song is not on spotify and it hurts my feelings because I can’t put it on a work playlist till it is!! It’s so good!

Lorde, Liability. It’s so inconsiderate of her to release music in my lifetime when it affects my heart so much? But here she is anyway. Well Lorde, I don’t respect it, but damn it: I respect it. 

next time: The weather is getting colder rapidly so I’m keen to respond in a culinary way. Something slow-cooked and extremely comforting. Either that or I’ll wait until an idea hits my brain with a bang. 

good year for hunters and christmas parties

It’s suddenly December which is really interesting because this year has actually been twelve years long instead of twelve months long! Please don’t try to argue with me on this, there’s literally no evidence to the contrary that you can present me to make me think otherwise. Anyway, so I made some majorly delicious vegan pasta on Sunday night but then on Monday night I was incredibly nauseous and throw-uppy and blamed it, with rather horribly specific evidence, on the leftovers of said pasta that I’d eaten that day. Unable to face thinking about the pasta any time soon and rather desperately running out of cute metaphors for my life; I suddenly remembered! Every year I do a round up of my own blog posts featuring recipes which I think would make good edible Christmas presents. Or indeed, presents for any time or persuasion; I certainly don’t expect all of you to be celebrating or even acknowledging Christmas but nevertheless, tis the season for presents to be in season and I shall not be left behind.

 these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I'm afraid these honey thyme roasted peaches will make you merry OR bright, but not both I’m afraid

There’s this video on youtube where it’s Bee Movie but it speeds up every time someone says “Bee” and honestly that’s what Christmas is like every year (okay I guess I have some cute metaphors left up my stylish yet affordable sleeves.) I don’t intend for this list of stuff to put any pressure on anyone – just do what you can, if Christmas makes you feel all meaningful and stuff then act on it or don’t; it’s just another day but if there’s someone you feel like you want to do something for then gosh, there’s not much nicer than presenting them with something they can eat. Yes, capitalism is everything and greed is good but a small, homemade item, that you took time and effort to create with your own two hands (look at them! Those two hands!) is rather unbeatable. That said, if you were already planning to give me personally like, a crate of champagne or the princely sum of forty dollars, don’t let my starry-eyed pronouncements change your mind.

Cookies: you simply can’t go wrong with them even if it’s only you that eats them and no one gets any and you pretend you weren’t “doing” presents this year

So! With that whiplashingly mixed-messagey preamble out of the way, let’s get festive! Festoon your bod with tinsel! Wear a garland of cranberries! Bathe in eggnog! Snort some snow! Wait…not that last one.

The HungryandFrozen Highly UnDefinitive List Of Stuff You Can Make for Presents for Literally Any Occasion but Wow It’s Nearly Christmas oh My God Where Has The Year Gone

Category One: Stuff in Jars!  

The stalwart backbone of edible giving. Jars look all twinkly and pretty and like you’re the most accomplished so-and-so ever but just quietly, it’s all rather low-effort.

Subsection A: Saucy stuff

  1. Cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gluten free)
  3. Cashew butter (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Red chilli nahm jim (gluten free)
  5. Cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gluten free)
  6. Rhubarb-fig jam (gluten free)
  7. Salted caramel sauce (gluten free, has a vegan variant) (you can prise salted caramel from my cold dead hands where it shall be clamped forevermore, regardless of trend or whim)
  8. Peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vegan, gluten free)
  9. Berry chia seed jam (vegan, gluten free)
  10. Matcha mayonnaise (vegetarian, gluten free)
  11. Honeycomb Sauce (the new salted caramel, get out of here salted caramel) (gluten free)

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

  1. Orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vegan, gluten free)
  2. Apple cinnamon granola (vegan)
  3. Strawberry jam granola (vegan) 
  4. Buckwheat, cranberry and cinnamon granola (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Marinated Tamarillos (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Taco pickles (vegan, gluten free)
  7. Pickled blueberries (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Honey thyme roasted peaches (gluten free)

 I'm just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay  I’m just really proud that I made up a Christmas cake recipe okay

Category Two: Baked Goods.

One for you, seventeen for me. I can’t impress upon you enough how much buying some plain brown butcher paper and plain-ass string will embiggen your baked goods without you really having to try at all. If you’re not into the wilfully rustic aesthetic, either buy a cute plate or box and use its transporting properties as part of the gift, or heck, just use plastic take out containers and wrap a ribbon around them. Either way I’m pretty sure all of the following will be rapturously received.

  1.  My Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is, deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great.
  2. Christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gluten free)
  3. Chocolate orange loaf cake
  4. Vegan chocolate cake (vegan, duhhh, gluten free)
  5. Chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  6. Cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need)
  7. Coconut macaroons (gluten free)
  8. Chocolate macaroons (gluten free)
  9. Gingerbread cut-out cookies (vegan)
  10. Coconut condensed milk brownies
  11. Salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  12. Fancy tea cookies
  13. Chocolate olive oil cake
  14. Cinnamon white chocolate banana loaf
  15. Cinnamon bars
  16. Coffee caramel slice
  17. Everyday chocolate brownies
  18. Cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  19. Cranberry white chocolate cookies
  20. Peanut butter cookies
  21. Secret centre mini-pavlovas (gluten free, potentially dairy free)
  22. Avocado chocolate brownies (gluten free, dairy free)
  23. Bobby dazzler cake
  24. Chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
  25. Flourless double chocolate cookies (gluten free, dairy free) 
  26. Salted chocolate cashew butter slice (vegan, gluten free)
  27. Smoky triple chocolate buckwheat cookies (gluten free)
  28. White chocolate gingerbread brownies

 Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart Homemade Schnapps: two words that need no longer strike fear into your heart

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it.

  1. Moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gluten free)
  2. Raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Classic lolly cake
  4. Homemade peppermint schnapps (vegan, gluten free) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. Forty-Four (Homemade Coffee Orange Liqueur) (as above) (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
  7. White chocolate coco pops slice (gluten free) 
  8. Homemade cherry ripe (gluten free) 
  9. Mars bar cornflake slice
  10. Chocolate cookie dough pretzel things
  11. Brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  12. Peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice (gluten free)
  13. Crunchie Bar Slice
  14. Homemade bounty bars (vegan, gluten free)

Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring!

At this time of year there’s a lot of suddenly needing to provide, whether your flat is having an end of year dinner or you’ve been invited to some kind of celebrational potluck or indeed, you’re hosting or attending some kind of group Christmas Day thing. It’s all very overwhelming and there’s nothing I like more than holding your hand throughout it all and assuring you it’s going to be chill and fine and as long as your banter is good and your personality isn’t entirely awful people really won’t remember or mind about the food. On the other hand, they definitely will remember the food like, in the moment, as they’re eating it, so to ensure a good good time may I suggest some of the following – these recipes all look like a big deal and are super delicious and crowd-pleaser-y but won’t be immensely taxing upon your time, wallet, or eggnog-covered bod. Okay some of the recipes require a lot of slow cooking. But they reward you richly, promise.

there’s no “I” in hummus

Savoury Stuff

  1. Roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs (vegetarian)
  2. Hummus with avocado, pine nuts, and pomegranate (vegan, gluten free)
  3. Root vegetable stew with saffron, cinnamon and turmeric (vegan, gluten free)
  4. Barley, lentil and eggplant salad with pomegranate and mint (vegan, gluten free)
  5. Rice, charred corn, avocado, watercress and almond salad (vegan, gluten free)
  6. Miso-poached potatoes with butter (vegetarian, gluten free)
  7. Tomato and pomegranate salad (vegan, gluten free)
  8. Wasabi cauliflower cheese (vegetarian)
  9. Peach mozzarella panzanella (vegetarian)
  10. Cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash (gluten-free)
  11. Chorizo wellingtons
  12. Slow cooked beef cheeks with cinnamon (gluten-free)
  13. Demi-lasagne
  14. Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken (gluten-free)
  15. Half-coq au vin
  16. My pulled pork recipe (gluten free)
  17. My Christmas pulled pork (gluten free)

Sweeeeeeeeet

  1. Blackberry fool (gluten free)
  2. Gin and Tonic ice cream (gluten free)
  3. Girdlebuster Pie
  4. Caramel pretzel ice cream
  5. Cranberry curd and white chocolate ripple ice cream (gluten free)
  6. Billy Crudup’s grandmother’s chocolate fudge pie (forreal)
  7. S’mores pie (dairy-free)
  8. Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Custard Cookie Pie (vegan!)
  9. Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
  10. Water chocolate mousse (depending on your stance on honey, vegan-adjacent, gluten free)
  11. Lindt chocolate puddings
  12. Peaches in muscat (vegan, gluten free)

 did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?  did you know that you can eat one of these after a meal instead of brushing your teeth?

I hope this list is of some use to you, or if nothing else, moderately entertaining to read (seriously at this rate I’m counting “moderate” as a total win.) Because I changed over my blog platform this year all the links I’d previously copy-pasted were broken and it took me foreverrrrr to painstakingly look up each recipe and copy-paste it back, and please be aware that if you’re clicking through to a way older recipe from this blog’s lifetime there might be some formatting issues or I’m talking like it’s 2009 or whatever. The recipes hold up though and honestly, we could all do worse than to be inspired by me this Christmas (I, for one, am going to try to be.)

title from: Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes, aka the musical form of the expression “waaaaaaaghhhhhhh”, so listen with caution

music lately:

Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You. I am but human.

The performance of Turkey Lurkey Time, from the musical Promises, Promises, at the 1969 Tony Awards. It’s my small tradition to watch this every year but only once December 1st hits; it’s the most ludicrous song but something about the adorably deranged and yet technically ferocious dancing and Donna McKechnie’s rubber-limbed movements, like she has no regard for her bones whatsoever, and Baayork Lee being a total delight, and the third woman who is also great, and the way the ending comes together somehow makes me COMPLETELY emotional.

Peach Kelli Castle, Sailor Moon. Surfy music plus TV is very my sweet spot, I’m afraid to say.

next time: probably back to normal-times food like this never happened, I know it’s December but I’ve still got to eat, but after making this list all I want to do is like, pickle things and dissolve things into yet further things. 

pile on many more layers, and i’ll be joining you there

three chocolate cakes sandwiched together with cream cheese icing and crushed up creme eggs and you can’t see it but there’s also an implied *painting nails emoji*

Well, Mars may be in retrograde and my April tarot card may be the tarot card equivalent of a heavy resigned sigh, but: ya girl is out here being thirty finally. (She says, quite thirty-ish-ly.) It seems only right that the first blog post I do after my birthday is for a birthday cake, yeah? Not my own, but instead one I made for my pal-and-colleague’s girlfriend’s 21st, because that’s a thing I do sometimes. Such a momentous occasion and an honour of a task calls for something a little no-holds-barred, and with the simple brief of “Cadbury Creme Egg” I set to work on what turned out to be this three layer masterpiece. Being the dingus I am, I stupidly only took a few cursory snaps of it on my phone rather than sitting it down and lovingly photographing it with my proper camera, but I was so pleased with the results – like, look at that thing! It’s beautiful! – that I decided to blog about it anyway, hasty photos and all. Who knows when you, yourself, might need to make a three layer creme egg cake!

 champagne for my real friends

As for my birthday, I won’t sugar-coat it for you: it was wonderful! It started when the clock ticked over to midnight the night before because I was still working; however all the hugs and frolics made it fun and I liked that I got to catch my birthday in the act, right as it started, without wasting a drop of it. As someone who wastes a lot of time fretting about wasting time, that was nice. The day proper had a professional hair wash and straighten like I am a fancy rich woman who just does that, real champagne, delicious brunch, the receiving of exciting gifts like tequila and a gilded bowl and Lana del Rey vinyl and a rather gobsmackingly beautiful record player; rewatching Once More With Feeling; a phone call home where tales of my birth and incredulity at the passage of time since then were recounted, and then lashings of wine and platters and selfies with beauties at the place where everybody knows your name (yeah, that’s right, I went back to work to hang out on my birthday, that’s how much I like the place.)

a bad but maybe useful photo of the three layers waiting to be iced

So, the cake! Oddly enough it was incredibly un-stressful to make – I made it in my mornings between doing wall-to-wall shifts at work and was still generally very serene the entire time. The mixture generously makes three moist, rich cakes with near-perfect tops for stacking and icing (I sliced a bit off one to make it super evenly flat, and this is how I know it tastes extremely good.) The icing of it is also very straightforward, and in fact the hardest thing about it is getting your hands on some creme eggs. I was going to ice the whole lot like a more traditional cake but decided to leave the sides nakedly exposed with the icing tightly spread into every gap a la momofuku – it’s actually much easier, and that way you can see the cakes themselves in a “you’re damn right this cake is three layers tall” kind of way and it’s all rakishly messy yet neat at the same time.

I could’ve gone for a more hardcore filling but decided that the tang of the cream cheese would gently counteract the bone-dissolving sweetness of the fondant inside the eggs while still showcasing them. Honestly, the more novelty involved the more serious and thoughtful you have to be. This cake is so majestic and tall and the creme eggs look so cute all halved and nestled in together that you really don’t have to worry about any further decoration but there’s also nothing stopping you – my one concession was to quickly melt a caramac bar and pour it onto the top layer to echo the look of the eggs’ filling, but it’s not that necessary.

These recipe instructions are long as hell, I grant you, but it’s honestly more or less chill. I just like to reeeeally explain stuff. As I point out in the recipe, I only had two caketins so baked two layers at once followed by a third, and it all worked out. Also, this would be easier with a cake mixer probably but I used a mere wooden spoon and honestly didn’t even do that great a job of creaming the butter and sugar and it STILL worked out fine so – let’s all just breathe.

triple layer creme egg cake

I made the actual cake itself by following the recipe from this site pretty well to the letter; all the random measurements are a bit of a faff but the cake same out perfect so I’m happily and trustingly passing it on to you. I deviated and made my own icing, if you wanted to take this cake in a whole other direction you could use whatever filling and icing you like. It’s a very good starting point.

cake:

one and a half cups good cocoa powder
one and a half cups boiling water
one tablespoon instant espresso powder (or plain instant coffee if it’s all you can find)
three quarters of a cup of sour cream
one tablespoon vanilla extract
375g soft butter
two and a half cups sugar
three large eggs
one and three-quarter cups plain flour
one and a quarter teaspoons baking soda
a pinch of salt

Take three 20cm springform caketins and line the bases with baking paper. Grease the sides with butter and sprinkle a little cocoa over them, shaking the tins about till they’re fairly evenly covered with a cocoa dusting. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa, coffee powder, water, and sour cream till smooth. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time till thoroughly incorporated, then add about a third of the flour and baking soda (you’re gonna want to sift them if you’re going to all this trouble, the last thing you need is baking soda lumps) along with the cocoa mixture in alternating quantities, mixing till it’s a suddenly-enormous dark, smooth chocolatey batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins, smoothing down the tops. Place them all in the oven and bake for thirty or so minutes, rotating their positions on the oven shelves halfway through to ensure even baking. If you only have two pans, then just bake two cakes using 2/3 of the cake mixture, then while they’re cooling, put the remaining third of the batter in one of the used cake tins and bake that after. This is what I did and it was totally fine.

Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Icing:

100g soft butter
500g cream cheese (this sounds like a lot but it’s just two of those Philadelphia packets) at room temperature
two cups icing sugar, but have more just in case
five or so creme eggs (perhaps grab a few extra in case anything goes wrong.)

Make sure both the butter and the cream cheese are soft, and your icing sugar isn’t lumpy, and then just mix the hell out of all three ingredients till you have a ton of icing.

Assembly:

Slice the peaked tops off any of the cakes if they’ve risen too much, so that they’re all more or less flat. Place one cake on your chosen serving plate, and place a good dollop of icing in the centre. Spread it out fairly evenly using the side of a knife. Unwrap one creme egg, roughly chop it, and sprinkle/drop the whole lot evenly on top of the icing. Then place another cake layer carefully on top.

Don’t worry if there are massive gaps between the layers, we’ll take care of that later. Repeat this process with the next layer of cake and another egg.

Finally, put the top layer of cake on and spoon most of the remaining icing on top. You want a decently thick, even layer on here. Now, using the side of the knife, smear remaining icing into any gaps along the sides, running the knife’s side around the sides of the cake to press it all in and to create a messy yet smooth look. Does that make sense? You kind of want the cake to look like it has just fallen out of a cylinder. Halve three creme eggs and arrange them, cut side up, on top of the cake. I melted a caramac bar and drizzled it into the centre just to add to the creme egg look, but it’s not essential. You now have a damn creme egg cake.

So I ate a bit of cake off-cuttage and a lot of icing and loved it all, but in order to strike real faith in your hearts about this recipe, let me quote the actual recipient of the cake, the birthday lady herself: “Argh it was amazing! With all of the layers and all of the creaminess and chocolate and just the fact that a cream egg could be transformed into a cake. Super awesome and delicious”.

I had a lot of fun making this cake and it was such a nice opportunity; and should you ever be called upon to make a fancy big cake I definitely recommend this one. If creme eggs are emphatically not your jam, I think this would be amazing with roughly chopped caramel-filled chocolate covering it with the caramel dripping everywhere; or with smashed up oreos, or with milk chocolate melted and drizzled all over the top, you see what I mean? For an enormous time-consuming cake made to a very specific brief it’s really quite versatile.

what a cute 30 year old.

Finally: fun birthday fact! It turns out that if you say “Happy Birthday” to me I’ll immediately say it back to you without thinking. I’m not sure if it’s cute or weird or both (the Laura Vincent Story) but it’s what my brain has decided is a fantastic reaction and I can’t break it. Not that I – or indeed, you – have to worry about it for another year. Happy birthday!

title from: Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I may not be inspired by Pink Floyd to write poetry anymore as I was in my teens – for which we can all be relieved – but this song still goes off. Very slowly. And what an imperative in that title!

music lately:

Something To Sing About, from Once More With Feeling. As I said, on my birthday I rewatched this, the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon can be ever so Joss Whedony but I’ll never deny the incredible cleverness that went into writing this episode. All the songs are brilliant and Something To Sing About is 100% NOT the best place to start if you don’t know the story because of the massive spoilers and lack of context but it’s still my favourite and you should watch it anyway. Buffy’s eyes! The discordant wobble when she sings “heaven!” Spike’s half smile when he sings back at her! The time signature changes! I died.

By My Side, Godspell. I busted out my copy of the original broadway cast recording of the musical Godspell on vinyl and while it hilariously does not hold up, the music is still endearing and By My Side is still one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Penguins and Polarbears, by Millencollen. Couldn’t say why, but I truly adore pop-punk singers when they sound completely congested, which Millencollen delivers upon handsomely. If the lead singer makes you want to swallow an antihistamine for your own safety, then chances are I’m all over it. (There’s a point during the Green Day Bullet in a Bible concert performance of Brain Stew where I’m pretty sure lead singer Billie Joe is literally just dribbling incomprehensively and I love it.)

next time: I think I mentioned last time that I made homemade matcha mayonaise but I also made this awesome granola stuff. Either way: deliciousness awaits you.

 

stars in the night blazing their light can’t hold a candle to your razzle dazzle

There’s nothing like lovingly taking photos of a cake on your camera and then sticking the camera’s SD card into your pocket and then losing it somewhere in the street to hinder the blog post writing process; luckily for me should anyone find it there is only cake photos on there and nothing incriminating (all my photos of me holding up signs saying “I just robbed this bank!” while pointing to a bank are on another SD card, phew!) but it was one hell of a pain to try and take photos of the cake again when I’d since demolished so much of it directly into my mouth. I managed to take a few hasty photos of what was left of it and found a couple of grainy-like-sugar snaps on my phone, but yeah, consider yourself warned that these photos aren’t my best work, and my best work is in fact dissolving in a puddle somewhere between Newtown and Wellington central.

caught by the fuzz(y photography) 
But at least the cake itself was good, and what a name: Bobby Dazzler Cake. Bobby Dazzler Cake. I found the recipe carefully written in the back of a cookbook belonging to one of my great-grandmothers (a smartly bound Aunt Daisy book with my great grandmother’s name embossed in gold on the cover, fancy!) I was utterly smitten with the name before I even saw what was in the cake itself. You know when you hear a word or a phrase for the first time and then suddenly you see it everywhere? That happened to me with didymo, although it only occurred to me recently that it was probably because there were suddenly all these “watch out for didymo” campaigns everywhere and previously there hadn’t been (once more for the people in the back: didymo! A satisfying word to say, even if you have to Watch Out for it.) But uh, sometimes it feels like more of a coincidence than that, in this case my excellent girlfriend and I were watching the terrible/amazing miniseries Tipping The Velvet and one character exclaimed to the other, “you’re a real bobby dazzler.” I was thoroughly taken with this phrase and while I initially assumed it was some secret Victorian-era glasses-waggling code, like “she’s civic-minded” or “she stands up on the night train” or “she’s remarkable” it turns out it simply means something along the lines of “the cat’s pyjamas” which makes it no less delightful. Anyway, mere days after seeing this show, I discovered this recipe, in this book I must have read dozens upon dozens of times, and I knew it was a sign that I should bake it with immediacy. 

the bee’s knees

The recipe was written in that type of handwriting that was probably considered terribly neat and full of propriety sixty years ago, and is entirely unintelligible nowadays, not to mention all in imperial measurements – a pound of this and a pound of that – and finally, as was the style of the time, it trails off mysteriously halfway through and doesn’t give you any detail about how to mix it, what temperature and how long to bake it for, or indeed what sort of tin to put it in. There was so much that you just had to know back then! In the spirit of trying to just know stuff, I made some presumptions and biffed it into a ring cake tin and baked it for an hour at 180 C, or what Aunt Daisy might’ve cryptically referred to as “a good oven”.

And it turned out splendidly! The mixture contains a resolutely old-timey mixture of prunes, grated carrot, grated apple, and sultanas, as if it’s trying to be five different cakes at once, but you get a kind of moist fruitiness that’s very comforting, the sort of cake you want to have with a large pot of tea while the rain dashes at the windows (a very easy scenario to come by in Wellington these days as we approach the middle of a neverending winter.) Honestly, when (when! Not if!) I make this again I’ll increase the apple and carrot quantity to two, and dice the prunes a lot finer – the former sort of dissolved into the cake while the latter were all like “here I am! Prune! In your face!” I’d also use brown sugar instead of white, just to hold all that fruit together with a slightly more darker caramelliness. But honestly, this cake was wonderful, especially when I spread it with a thick cream cheese icing.

bobby dazzler cake

adapted from a handwritten recipe from my great-grandmother

250g soft butter
one and a half cups sugar
three eggs
one cup milk
one cup sultanas
one cup prunes, roughly chopped
one large carrot, grated
one large green apple, grated
three cups plain flour
one teaspoon baking soda

Set your oven to 180C/350F and generously butter and flour a ring/tube cake tin. I say generously because ring tins always make me a bit nervous, since there’s so much surface area for cake to stick to. 

Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together till soft, light and fluffy. Meanwhile, heat the milk till just below a simmer – hot and starting to wobble but not bubbling – and carefully stir it into the butter. I added a little at first, and whisked that in, then a little more and a little more and then finally tipped the lot in – this makes it easier to mix it all together. 

Stir in everything else, and spatula it into the cake tin. Bake for around an hour, or until firm and brown on top. Allow to sit for about ten minutes before running a knife carefully around the cake and its inner ring, and tipping it onto a plate. Ice with a mixture of around 250g room temperature cream cheese mixed with around half a cup of icing sugar. 

Keeping it familial, and while you’re here I may as well tell you, the grey rose-patterned plate that I photographed the cake on used to belong to a family friend’s great-aunt (if I remember correctly) and it was given to me as a birthday present years ago. The blue gold-edged plate belonged to my late grandmother on my dad’s side. I love new things and new cookbooks but there’s something quietly lovely about looking at a cookbook and seeing someone’s handwriting on it, someone who only knew you when you were a baby, and thinking about them at your own age; or how a plate that would’ve had a thousand different cakes on it throughout the years is still getting to have cake on it; or just, I don’t know, knowing that these bits and pieces aren’t stuck in a cupboard somewhere but are still getting used and loved. It’s nice!

oh wow also this knife belonged to the great-grandparents too now I think on it; also this photo is an instagram which is why it’s all clean and bright like an eidelweiss

I daresay you could do further things to spruce this up; soak the prunes and sultanas in dark rum before you mix them in, skewer the cooked cake and pour over dark rum; order take-out and forget the cake completely and drink a lot of dark rum; add sultanas or dried apricots or dark chocolate – whatever, really. And then you can look fondly at your cake and say, a la Tipping the Velvet, “you’re a real bobby dazzler”. 
Almost as exciting as thinking about cake, is the fact that I wrote about important television show Pretty Little Liars for The Spinoff; I am really so proud of this piece that I wrote since this show means so much to me and it took me so long to write and research but was also so fun, not since I wrote an essay about Idina Menzel for a media studies paper in university have I had such joy approaching a deadline. So even if you’re all, “this show is about teenage girls and therefore I’m quite sure without really knowing why that it is TERRIBLE and MEANINGLESS” perhaps I can change your mind or at least outrage you by comparing it to The Wire?  
______________________________________________________________
title from: Old Devil Moon, a song as comfortingly old-timey yet sassy as this very cake that I’m writing about. Judy Garland could break my heart singing the happiest song and as I admire that quality greatly, that’s the version I’m directing you to. 
______________________________________________________________
music lately: 
Idina Menzel covering Radiohead’s Creep, live in Manila. Oh wow. I haven’t listened to the original of this song (it’s one of those ones that you utterly thrash and then it starts to lose all meaning) and I wasn’t sure how this would work but Idina is gold here, like, old-timey late early 2000s Idina all sweary and dark and twisty and her voice sounds amazing. I love her.
Laura Lee, Little Too Late. My rad pal has just released a new single, it’s gorgeous and dreamy and fun and I love it and am so proud of her! It’s a good time to be a Laura. 
______________________________________________________________
next time: whatever it is I’m gonna take better care of my SD card, that’s for sure!