Black bottom ricotta cheesecake

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It was Patrick’s birthday last weekend. So, to soften the blow of ageing and the unwelcome reminder of mortality, ten of us packed ourselves into cars and ambled out of Sydney laden with food and booze. Four people just barely managed to squeeze into my station wagon around the case of beer, many rolling wine bottles, guitar and mound of groceries packed into it. We headed to a house in Wollombi, near the Hunter Valley, to play a million board games and roam the countryside tasting wines.

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We had amazing meals, which everyone contributed to; found some amazing wines; and tackled the Game of Thrones board game, among other things. Saturday night was the party night and my night to cook. I bought sausages, chicken wings, vegetables and haloumi and grilled it all up goooood on the BBQ with much help from East. After a quick clean up it was time for cake, which we lit up like a medieval alarm signal and gathered around to sing Single Ladies, instead of the traditional birthday jam.

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The cake was of my own devising. A ricotta cheesecake with a chocolate biscuit base and a layer of rum-spiked ganache. It was light and rich at once. Fragrant vanilla and lemon laced cheese atop a thin layer of punchy chocolate goo. Patrick loves ricotta cake, but I always find them a little too bland, so this was my compromise. If you can ever call adding chocolate and rum to something a compromise.

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After cake we played our own version of the New Girl drinking game True American – True Australian. It was truly ridiculous. This took about four hours, after which, we retired for hectic dancing.

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It was a wonderful weekend. Full of silliness, geekiness and shenanigans. Ordinary life just isn’t the same.

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Thank god there’s always cake.

Ingredients:

For the base
250g (1 packet) chocolate ripple biscuits
125g melted butter

For the ganache
250g chocolate
shot of rum
1/2 cup cream

For the ricotta filling
750g ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
rind of one lemon

Directions:

Process together biscuits and butter. Press into base of springform tin. Combine chocolate and cream in bowl and either place above saucepan of boiling water to melt or melt in microwave. Add rum. Pour this on top of base and set aside. Put in fridge if you want a really even coverage of ganache. Combine ricotta filling ingredients in food processor or blender. Carefully add this on top of ganache. Bake for 20-30 mins until cooked through and firm in middle. Let cake cool and serve with fresh berries.

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Pumpkin cake with lime and almonds

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I have been fucking remiss! Doubly so, since despite not blogging for a couple of months now, I have in fact had a recipe photographed and stored up since August. And it’s SUCH a perfect August cake. Not that you can’t eat a delicious citrus-frosted vegan pumpkin cake in spring, just that it’s so much more an autumn/winter thing. Luckily, it’s October – month of the pumpkin! Well, just ignoring the whole Halloween is supposed to be in autumn deal. In any case this cake is still – despite all the flaws of its maker – perfect!

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August is my mum’s birthday and so to commemorate the day my family all came over to my place to crash on the floor for a night and eat cake. Actually, Tom was supposed to be in charge of cake, but I received a text message from him the day before saying he accidentally got day drunk instead.

So proud.

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Actually though, I understand that sometimes you need/want to get day drunk. Sometimes you also have to make emergency cake as a result of someone else’s day drunk. Is cool.

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Anyway, the cake turned out pretty lovely. It’s based on a recipe for pumpkin slice I’ve been using for so many years I’ve forgotten where it came from. The icing I made up myself. The original slice uses just lemons and icing sugar for frosting, but I sincerely believe limes > lemons. For guacamole, for gin, for everything. Pfft, “lemons”.

(Shh. No, Actually I like lemons too, but limes rule so much more)

Anyway, now it’s October (month of pumpkins! – sort of) and since I last blogged I’ve done a huge presentation for uni, participated in a writer’s festival and moved house. And on Halloween it’s my birthday. Which is both horrifying and sweet. So here is a cake that I dare you to not want to eat right now. Along with a promise to be less remiss next time something like this is lurking in my to do list.

IMG_0762IMG_0755❤ These dorks.

Ingredients:

Cake:
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
4 cups S.R. Flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp salt

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup coconut oil

For on top:
slivered almonds

Combine sugar, pumpkin, oil and vanilla then add remaining ingredients. Cook in moderate oven 1-1.5 hrs OR until middle of cake springs back when touched. Combine coconut oil and icing sugar. Stir until smooth. Then add lime juice. Allow cake to cool. Ice cake. Dry fry almonds or roast in oven. Arrange on top of cake. Eat cake.

Epic four-tiered launch cake

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I’ve been a little off my blogging game over the last couple of months. I put it down to having to juggle writing a thesis with other projects – “other projects” like making a giant fish piñata and cake for the launch of new comedy e-book anthology The Sturgeon General at 107 Projects. Of course I’ve also just been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls and going to Gatsby themed parties at The Victoria Room.

IMG_9648 IMG_9641 But back to the cake, because that’s what we’re all here for. A couple of weeks ago now I went through the process of baking and freezing four tiers of cake in three different flavours, so that on launch day I could ice together a layered monstrosity that had launch guests boggling at its height (not so much girth, it was pretty much regular cake-girth). IMG_9651 The frosting was this one here. Which is a highly unusual recipe using flour and sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar. It is amazing! But, of course I forgot that I no longer have any kind of electronic help in the whisking department and my icing turned out a lot less fluffy and white than I dreamed. It was tasty, and held together the cake component competently, but if you are going to make it try to remember to own some kind of electric mixy thing. Sometimes I am just so fucking hopeless at life/cooking/not being hungover when there are things to get done. Speaking of: the night was sponsored by Raidis Estate, who make pretty darn-tootin’ tasty wines. I’ll have to get my hands on some more for future cooking adventures. IMG_9330 The whole thing was pretty simple in the end – despite having to bake three cakes. I made a rose tea flavoured cake first up, using a cup of cooled rose tea for liquid. Then I whipped up an orange, almond and ginger cake, using almond meal, orange juice + zest and ground ginger; and finally I made a double batch of vanilla cake. IMG_9307 The decorations were also made by hand. While I was painting the sturgeon piñata I also painted both sides of a sheet of paper in the same orange. I then cut out little fish from the paper and glued them to the end of skewers using a square of the same paper as backing. After icing I arranged them with some silver cachous on top of the cake and VIOLA! You have my permission to pronounce this VIE-OH-LAH in your head (or aloud) IMG_9633 Anyway, the launch was super fun: the readers were all fucking hilarious and entertaining (which is so, so rare at any reading), the warm-up act was a blast, the piñata (eventually) got beaten to bits and most of the stupidly large cake was devoured. Good effort kids. You can buy the Sturgeon General on e-reader here. There are five collections from five authors who are all funny assholes deserving of your time. IMG_9509

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Rose tea cake:
1 cup butter
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
2 ¾ cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup rose flavoured black tea, steeped and cooled
1 tsp vanilla essence

Orange almond cake:
1 cup butter
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
2 cups plain flour
¾ cup almond meal
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup orange juice
zest 1 orange
2 tsp ground ginger

Vanilla cake (double if you want four tiers):
1 cup butter
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
2 ¾ cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla essence

Directions (same for all):
Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one by one. Gradually add dry ingredients. Finally stir in wet ingredients. Bake at 160 degrees until cake is brown on top and doesn’t wiggle on top/ bounces back when touched. Depending on the cake/your oven this could take between 45min to 2 hours – more if you’re doing a double batch.

Lime, passionfruit and coconut celebration cake

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Last Tuesday it was my friend East’s birthday. So Patrick decided to invite him over to our place for dinner. Which, obviously, I had to cook. But that’s OK, Patrick was in charge of wine and there was going to be plenty of it. Also, cheeese. With four Es. Courtesy of April.

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I’d recently acquired a large amount of passionfruit from my mum’s vine, which I’d turned into passionfruit curd. In addition to this there was still a surplus of limes going on in my fruit bowl. Putting two and two together (or as the case may be, putting birthday and curd and limes together), I set out to create a cake that would utilise all these ingredients.
IMG_7374Starting with this recipe here I baked the actual cake part, substituting coconut cream for the buttermilk and adding the rind of some limes. When it was cooled I cut the cake in half horizontally and spread a layer of curd in there.IMG_7583

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Then I iced the bastard. I even did a crumb layer, which is explained in the directions below if you don’t know what it is.

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When dinner had been demolished, we turned down the lights, turned off the music and lit the candles. We sang a somewhat feeble three-voiced happy birthday and East blew out the candles.

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Then he cut the cake into enormous slices that no-one could finish.

And, inevitably, there was this:

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And then this:

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Perhaps soon I will share the recipe for the dinner I made. For now, start thinking of a reason to make this cake!

Ingredients:
250g butter, softened
2 cups caster sugar
4 large (or in my case 5 small) eggs
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 cup coconut cream
rind of two limes

About 1/2 cup passionfruit curd (recipe here will make about twice as much as you need)

For icing:
250g spreadable cream cheese, left at room temperature for at least an hour
3tbsp lime juice
1 1/4 cups icing sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs. Next, gradually stir in flours. Add coconut cream and lime rind. Bake for 1 1/2-2 hours or until firm when jiggled. Take cake out of oven to cool. When cake is cool, take a knife and mark a ring around the cake horizontally. Slice gradually through cake, turning as you cut, so that you have two layers of cake. Spread cool passionfruit curd between layers. To make icing simply combine lime juice and icing sugar. Then stir in softened cream cheese. Ice cake with a thin layer of frosting and put whole cake in fridge for half an hour or in freezer for ten minutes. Then ice with a more generous coat. Decorate as desired.

Rum and raisin chocolate Christmas cake

Aptly naming this cake seems too much like work right now. I still haven’t quite adjusted to not studying. And this cake, it’s, er… it’s complicated. This recipe has all the fruit and spice of a traditional Christmas cake, with the rum/ginger combination of a Dark and Stormy (a cocktail made with dark rum, ginger ale and lime). It also fits the flavour bill of my maternal grandmother’s favourite ice cream, pairing rum with raisins (and crainsins). Plus there’s chocolate to contend with. Rather than overcomplicate things, I’ve named it for what I intended to make, leaving the other things that slipped into the mix without explanation. Once you taste this there’s no way you’ll be demanding one anyway.

For most of my life I didn’t even like Christmas cake. As a kid there seemed no stupider idea than fruit in a cake. However, things did not improve as my tastes matured, Christmas cake remained entirely unappealing, save as a vehicle for sugar, flour and custard. But when I made a version of this cake from The Kitchen Maid last year I realised it wasn’t Christmas cake I found so underwhelming, it was just ugly chunks of orange rind and boring old sultanas, combined with poor choice of “holiday cheer”. My version in 2011 had Cointreau and ginger wine, with figs, craisins and ginger. I made yet another variation for my mum’s birthday this year and, with some encouragement from my sister, hatched a plot for this year’s Christmas incarnation

Which is where the rum and the raisins come in. I can’t remember exactly how things went down, but it was something along the lines of being asked “Can we have the cake again?” and my family’s then current obsession with a certain kind of golden raisin. Fuel was added to this already well-fed fire with a shared recollection of Nanna Win introducing us to rum flavoured frozen confections at an impressionable age. We are yet to sample the results, but the basic method is tried and true by now, as tried and true as the ice cream from which it takes its name.

This cake requires a bit of prep time and at least a few weeks sitting time, but, by gum, it’s worth it. Ideally, if you were making it, you’d want to have the cake done and dusted sometime this week, so it could sit around for about a month getting delicious. But – I have eaten it with only two weeks sitting time and it’s still good. Plus, if there are any leftovers they will just go on gathering flavour. My version of the recipe uses oil, because of a lactose intolerant sibling (Hi, Sarah!). I’ve also added cocoa and reduced the amount of real chocolate, mostly because, while I love the stuff, a few times I’ve been trying to make this on a budget and quite frankly, one block of good quality dark chocolate is enough for my wallet and for flavour. If you’re a maniac like me or my late grandmother you might like to make an extra batch and spread the batter between two smaller tins just in case. In case of what? Well, that I won’t know until it happens. But rest assured, if the apocalypse goes down this December 21st, I will be in no short supply of crazy-good chocolate, ginger, rum, craisin, raisin, spiced Christmas cake. Not only is it probably highly calorific and has, you know, some fruit in it for vitamins, but if you threw it in a zombie’s face it would probably fall over.

Ingredients:
900g of dried fruit (I used 500g of golden raisins, 250g craisins and 150g of crystallised ginger)
2 cups orange juice (I used a combination of bottled and fresh)
½ cup + 2 tbsp dark rum (I used The Kraken)
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
grated zest of two oranges
5 eggs
2 cups flour
½ cup cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
250g dark chocolate roughly chopped

Directions:
Put all your dried fruit in a large mixing bowl. Grate orange rind onto fruit. Add 2 cups of orange juice and 1/2 cup of rum. Leave to soak overnight. The next day gradually stir in (one after the other) brown sugar, oil and eggs. Once combined, gradually add dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, spices. Finally mix in chopped chocolate.

Pour into a large cake tin. Bake for 2.5-3 hours at 150 degrees. As mentioned before, my oven is a little – ahem – special, so this is really a case of knowing your oven and checking your cake often. You’ll know it’s done when you touch the top and it bounces right back. When it’s cooled off, wrap in a clean tea towel and store in a safe place until Christmas.