Monday, August 15, 2011

Victoria Sponge Cake - Nigella Lawson

I was blessed with some wonderful cookbooks at my bridal shower 5 years ago. I have savored them. I've run to them when I'm in a bind. I've even been known to stay up in bed reading them cover to cover. Well, really only one of them. Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess", to be precise. She has a wonderful way with words so that you come away feeling like you have actually met her and had a conversation with her, and now you're best friends. Or maybe that's just me!

I haven't tried many of her recipes yet, but her Victoria Sponge has become a go-to for me for afternoon teas. The kind where you might lay the table with your mother-in-law's china and some cloth napkins, and serve smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches.

You know, your typical everyday afternoon tea. Ha, I wish! How about for a bridal shower?

That's more like it.

Victoria Sponge (from Nigella Lawson's "How to Be a Domestic Goddess")

1 cup unsalted butter (very soft)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-raising cake flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla, and then add eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour in between each one. Fold in the rest of the flour and cornstarch and enough of the milk to create a mixture that is a soft, dropping consistency.
3. Pour and scrape the batter into 2 - 8" round cake pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for about 25 minutes, until cakes are beginning to come away from the edges, are springy to the touch on top, and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for about 10 min before turning out and leaving to cool completely.
4. When ready to eat the cake, put one layer on a plate, right way up, spread with jam and scatter fruit on top. Spread a layer of whipped cream on top. Sit the other cake on top of the fruit and sift icing sugar on top.

Note: I actually did not use jam when I made this cake, although I'm sure that would be delicious. I just used a pound of chopped up strawberries that I mixed with some powdered sugar to sweeten. Using so many strawberries makes the cake a bit tricky to cut, but I think it's still worth it to have fresh strawberries and cream.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

mermaid rag doll

My first attempt at a stuffed toy.
Why a mermaid, you ask? It's hard to resist a little 3 year old girl who loves mermaids, and I couldn't resist a new sewing challenge. Unable to find a mermaid doll pattern online, I found a rag doll pattern and modified it to have a tail instead of legs.

She turned out pretty good I think!
Now to think of something to make for my little friend's 5 year old sister.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

sew cute

I am so enjoying having some time to get into some sewing projects. With a few friends expecting little ones this year I decided to invest in two baby bootie patterns from Ashley at Make It Love It. Above are the Abigail Booties I made for little Olive.

The Bradley Booties above were for little Lucas, (or Wucas as I can't resist calling the little guy!)

Up until now I have hesitated to buy sewing patterns because they always look so daunting with lines going in every direction. But Ashley has done a really nice job of making her patterns easy to use which is great for beginners like me.

These patterns get the thumbs up from me, and I recommend Ashley's blog for anyone looking to sew up some cuteness!

Peach Crumble

This has become one of my trusty go-to desserts this summer. It's the easiest thing in the world to whip up and is just so good. There's something comforting about a crumble. Especially when it's served with a good dollop of freshly whipped cream.

The recipe is a tweak of Pioneer Woman's Rhubarb Crumble, using peaches instead of rhubarb. I also chose to use cream and butter in the crumble rather than Crisco.

Peach Cobbler

4 large ripe yellow peaches
1 cup sugar, scant
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup cream
1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. In a bowl, combine chopped peaches, cup of sugar, 1/4 tsp salt. Stir and set aside.
3. In another bowl combine flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, baking powder. Stir. Add butter, then cut together with a pastry cutter.
4. Beat egg, milk and cream together. Pour into flour mixture. Stir with a fork until just combined.
5. Pour peaches into buttered pie dish. Tear off pieces of dough and drop onto the fruit.
6. Bake 30 - 35 min. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

set for summer

I was inspired this week by Cait over at Cait + Create to go thrift shopping and see what treasures I could find.

To find out how I went from this:
to this: below.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

freedom :)

Since my graduation two weeks ago I've been making the most of my freedom. By staying at home. Yep, I'm happy as a clam to just be home! Here are some of the fruits of my labor this week. Phew, I am on a roll!

I sewed a purse!  This was my first time sewing with a zip and so I was chuffed with how it turned out. I got the pattern from Ashley at Make It and Love It.  It made the perfect gift for a dear friend who is sadly leaving Berkeley (we're going to miss you Arijaan!) 

A loaf of bread I baked. I'd been waiting for the chance to try this No-Knead Recipe from a blog friend (thanks Cassie!). I have to say, it was the easiest thing I've ever made and it was super delicious!  It made me think of my Great-Gran Phipson, who would always share a loaf of her homemade bread with us. We'll be having it with our dinner tonight. Yum!

What a fun week! I think I can get used to this unemployed thing ;)

Watch this space :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

bridal shower tea party cookies

Ever since I saw these cute little Easter bonnets on Bakerella a while back I've been waiting for an excuse to try them. They're the perfect addition to a tea party. Dainty, girly, and just so pretty.
Flowers for the front.

Ribbons for the back.

So when my friend Nancy told me she was organizing a bridal shower tea I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

White for the bride, of course.

And lilac for her entourage.

These cookies make me smile :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

buttermilk pancakes

All this talk of golden syrup on buttermilk pancakes, I had to follow it up with action.

The recipe I use is from Joy of Baking, found here. I offer it with one small addition:
Pile pancakes in a stack. Drizzle with a generous amount of golden syrup.

Block out all feelings of guilt, you can deal with it later. And enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

make your own tea cozy

There's something comforting about a tea cozy. Tea time just isn't complete without one, for me. This is my second attempt at making one. It took some mental gymnastics to get it right. Here's what I did.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

what I did with my round tuitt

I finally got a round tuitt! Here's what we did with it...

South African baking: crunchies

One of the most treasured items in my pantry is my golden syrup. The way I hoard it you'd think it was made of real gold. I've never been that good at sharing ;) I grew up on Illovo syrup in South Africa, but this British brand at Andronico's is just the same.

Golden syrup is just the best on crumpets (aka US pancakes, AUS pikelets), nothing can beat it!
But it is also great for baking crunchies. I finally got around to making some recently after a South African blog I follow posted the recipe (thanks Kit!).

These things bring me straight back to my childhood. My mum used to make them a lot on the farm. I don't think her version had cinnamon so I left that out, and I used dark brown sugar to make it a little less sweet (at least that's my theory). They turned out just the same as I remember them.

Soft, warm, and, well... crunchy :)
The perfect complement to a cuppa tea!


3/4 cup plain flour
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/3 cups dessicated coconut
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
30 ml milk

1. Combine flour, oats, coconut, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
2. Gently melt together butter and syrup on the stove, then stir into the dry ingredients.
3. Dissolve bicarb in the milk and add to the mixture stirring well.
4. Tip into greased baking tray, press down all over till even with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake at 350 F/180 C for 15 - 20 min until golden brown. Cut into squares in tin then leave to cool for a while before taking out of the tin.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March op-shop finds & sticking to a budgie

This year I've been enjoying working with my budget in a much more intentional way. Usually I'll just guesstimate as I go along from month to month, since I'm not typically a big spender and figure it will all even out in the end.

But what I'm finding is that being intentional about what I spend, and keeping a close tally of where it all goes, is actually pretty rewarding. I have a wish-list of things I want to get, which helps me keep an eye out as I shop. This week I happened to stop by the goodwill store (op shop, in Aussie terms) and knocked out three things from my list, and for much, much cheaper than I was expecting to pay for them new!

March op-shop finds:
24 Wilton mini muffin pan 2.99
aluminium ring mold pan 2.99 (no, spellcheck, it's not aluminum)
Target black flats (brand new with the tag) 9.99

fairy cakes

My first shot at making cupcakes from scratch!

I have to say, I'm not sure I can ever go back to using a box, these cupcakes were so light, and a cinch to make, too. I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson's cookbook, "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" (I cringe to quote a title like that! haha).

I was icing them in a bit of a hurry, so some of the flowers (which I bought pre-made from Spun Sugar) ended up sinking into the icing before it was set. But overall I was very happy with the result and can't wait to make them again.