Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunday High Tea Buffet at The Stamford Plaza

All the cool kids in the blogosphere have their posts going on about Halloween treats, and oh what to make? And here I am sipping rose tea at a Sunday High Tea Buffet at The Stamford Plaza. Meanwhile less people are visiting the blog at this time of the year because in my world, Halloween is a negative, and I refuse to glorify ghoulishness by cooking up pumpkin heads and the likes. This blog has until now, contained no Halloween goods, zero, zilch!
Ah call me old fashioned, yeah I am! I'm enjoying an elegant high tea by the Brisbane river in my ruffled pink dress with all my the ladies. There's a Sunday High Tea here every week, a glorious chocolate buffet and a yummy savory buffet as well (the smoked salmon quiches are to die for, and I seriously considered bribing the chef for the recipe). They have some really talented and creative chefs working on all the beautiful finger foods we all enjoyed during our visit.
It so happened that the girls and I headed out on the Sunday that the high tea was Halloween themed. So here I am now talking Halloween food. And I'm about to show you what they had on display. It may give some of you ideas for Halloween treats to make if you're into that sort of event--there were white chocolate ghosts, pumpkin head cake pops, and cleverly named desserts such as "Phantom of the Opera Cake" (it was that delightful layered Opera cake that we all want to make but looks too time consuming).
As lovely a time as I had in those glorious surroundings, I was a little zapped out that the high tea was Halloween themed. It certainly took out some of the elegance associated with the tea, cake and scones affair that a high tea usually is. However, the food was still magnificent! The surroundings also absolutely luxurious, and I can say with all certainty, I will be returning to sip many more cups of tea in that river side pavilion surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
Sending a very special thanks out to Marcela for the use of her photos, I was too busy drooling to take any decent ones. And just look at those bright pink finger sandwiches!

Smoked salmon quiches were to die for!
Halloween themed buffet.
Can't have a high tea without scones!

Rose tea (tasted like Turkish delight! Yum!
Macadamia Caramel Slice with a few chocolate ghosts are floating around. (You can make your own by pouring melted white chocolate over the ends of ice cream cones)
This made me not want to eat. I think it's some sort of punch.

Angry little pumpkin head cake pops

True elegance with all the beautiful silverware!

Phantom of the Opera Cake far centre

Oh so fudgy!
Purple and orange macaroons
The Pavilion
Some of the lovely gardens that lead on to Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Yeah that's me biting my lip

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Best Ever Banana Bread

When I was a kid and heard the phrase "no flies on him", I just presumed the person spoken about had good personal hygiene and didn't smell like a garbage can. It's interesting that people frequently associate bad smells with flies, and I suppose flies generally are attracted to the grosser things in life. That's why I was a bit surprised that when my house filled with the heavenly aroma of this banana bread baking in all its golden glory, flies flocked to the fly wire over the windows, trying to find a way inside. The whole house was filled with the most delicous banana and cinnamon smells as that banana loaf cooked away.
Its by far the best banana bread recipe I've ever tried. It's golden on the outside, the crust sweet and slightly crunchy on the outer. The bread itself and moist and giving, the perfect texture and is well balanced in flavours--the banana-ey goodness, the spice of the cinnamon, the sweeter outer crust. Its glorious served warm with a slathering of butter--or even made decadent with the addition of cream cheese icing. I myself decorated the top with fresh banana slices before it went into the oven, and it came out looking like cafe style banana bread. It got thumbs up from all family members...I wonder if it would have got such high reviews if my husband had known that I used his shirt as a backdrop in the photos? Ha!

BEST EVER BANANA BREAD (Adapted from All Recipes)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 over ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/2 cups Self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 extra banana for decorating, optional

Preheat your oven to 190C. Greae and line a loaf tin.
In a large bowl, place the butter and the sugars and beat with an electric mixer until light in colour. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the mashed banana and vanilla and mix until combined. In a cup, mix the milk with the bicarb soda, and add the flour and this mixture alternately to the main bowl, mixing until just combined. Add the cinnamon are stir through the batter.
Pour into the lined and greased loaf tin. Place slices of the extra banana on the top of the batter, and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched in the centre. Cool before removing from the tin.

NOTES: I doubled this recipe and got a hightop loaf and 12 good sized muffins.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mango Butter Cream Sponge Cake

 I've been noting the trending goings-on in the food world of late. One of the great things about food blogging, is that even people who approach me and don't know me always have something interesting to share about their food experiences. Food is such an awesome universal binder, is it not?
Anyway there have been a few trendy things going on of late. Forget bacon on sweets and salted caramel,  that's so 2012. Things have gone to another level, with bars serving fried locusts on the side of cocktails (to be eaten) and some sort of sand worms have also made an appearance in fancy restaurants up here in Queensland. I know St. John lived off locusts and honey--but would you choose it when you have a menu of delicacies before you? (Having said that, apparently they are low fat and high protein, might make a good snack for weight watchers!) Call me a wimp, but I don't go in for these things. That includes sheep's brains, offal, haggis and the likes. Really, some things should not be eaten.
Speaking of unsavoury things in Queensland, what's with the fried feet? You'd think no one owned shoes around here. (Seriously this is a great embarrassment to me, seeing grown people walking about the streets and in shops with no shoes. We don't live in a seaside town either. I have the feeling we're going back to primitive times.)
On a loftier note, mango is back in season, and I couldn't help myself with this gorgeous sunny, fruit laden sponge cake. You will love the airy texture of this quick and easy sponge, layered with decadent mango butter cream and girdled with toasted coconut. It's a wee piece of heaven, and makes an effortlessly impressive addition to any table.

MANGO BUTTER CREAM SPONGE CAKE (partially adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, April 2010)

1 cup self raising flour
1 tsp cornflour
1 cup caster sugar
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp melted butter
3x 60g eggs
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Grease and line two 20cm cake pans with butter and baking paper. Sift the flour and cornflour into a large bowl, then add sugar, milk, butter, eggs and zest and beat with the electric mixer on high. Beat until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Fold the baking powder into this mixture.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden in colour and cooked through when tested with a skewer.
Leave to cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to complete the cooling process on a wire rack.

To make the Mango Butter Cream:

*please note, quantities stated below are just rough measurements, I tend to add a little more icing sugar or liquid until I reach the desired consistency, so feel free to do the same*

1 mango, peeled, seeded, pureed
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup toasted coconut, to decorate
1 extra mango, sliced, to decorate

Place pureed mango, icing sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with an electric beater. Gradually add the cream until the desired texture is achieved. Whip until light and airy before smoothing between the two sponge cakes, on the sides and the top. Press toasted coconut to the sides of the cake, and decorate with extra mango slices if desired.

NOTES: This sponge cake is best eaten on the day it is made, for maximum softness.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mad Easy Jam Coconut Macaroons

Coconut, shmokonut, we all love it around here. Thanks to this subtropical climate I live in, such flavours are much desired and a great match for the other tropical fruits that grow locally here, such as mango and banana. But there's long been a combination I've desired to see together. I'm a terrible matchmaker-most matches I make end in tears, so I'm better of sticking with food rather than ill-suited couples. I give myself brownie points for trying though (lets make that dark chocolate fudgy brownie points).
The local Woolworth store here has these amazing coconut drops with strawberry jam on the top, and I have been long looking for a recipe. The coconut is sweet and moist, but the little drops hold together beautifully and hardly look cooked--how do they do it? Anyway, I have not been able to find any recipe to compare. But I'm back with the Secret Recipe Club after my post baby break, and I was given the blog A Couple In The Kitchen to cook from. They have a great 4 ingredient recipe for coconut macaroons--and I just had to try it. It's so simple, quick, and gluten free--exactly the type of recipe a new mummy like me needs between baby sleeping and waking. They're also strangely addictive, and are sure to disappear from the kitchen very quickly.

When you first inhale that warm coconut aroma, and the sweet scent of boiling strawberry jam, you will realise that eating these coconut jam drops straight out of the oven is well worth burning the tongue for.

I've adapted the recipe a little to see if I could make them anything like the Woolworth's coconut drops. (It turns out, to my absolute glee, that they are very much like those delicious morsels! They're soft, sweet and moist with a little crunch on the outer--divine!) My husband also has a strong aversion to almond essence, which was in the original recipe, so I made them just vanilla instead. I also did not have sweetened flake coconut (I don't think we even sell sweetened coconut here in Australia!) so I used dessicated coconut, and found that the sweetness from the condensed milk was enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. I think the addition of strawberry jam also added just a little more sugar, and made these darling little coconut jam macaroons the perfect addition to an afternoon tea platter or even a festive little treat for the Christmas table.
Please don't forget to check out  A Couple In The Kitchen's blog...they are recent award winning bloggers!

MAD EASY JAM COCONUT MACAROONS (adapted from A Couple in the Kitchen)

3 cups dessicated coconut (unsweetened)
300g sweetened condensed milk (approx. 3/4 can)
3 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line one large baking tray with non stick paper. In a large bowl, place the coconut, condensed milk and vanilla essence. Stir until well incorporated. Scoop amounts the size of a golf ball into your hand and gently form into a round shape. Using your index finger, make a small indentation to the top, and place on tray and lightly flatten. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Then fill the indentations with a little jam. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the tray before removing.

Makes approximately 18

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Moist Apple Crumble Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing

 Since my last post in which I mentioned stalkers, a few have come out of the woodwork. While I can't do much about keeping them away, we can all do something about keeping another person at bay.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Even better if it's an apple inside a cake, topped with cinnamon butter icing and delicious crumble mixture--even better if that cake happens to be moist and delicious and speckled with more cinnamon. Oh my. This is such a delicious treat for those random afternoon teas with friends, and it really is easy to put together.
My beautiful older sister used to make this as a tea cake without the icing and the crumble. I think it's traditionally an English tea cake called the Dorset Tea Cake. I have very fond childhood memories of this cake--I would literally crave it. And it's delicious which ever way you choose to make it.
I have not referenced the source of this recipe for one reason--It comes from the scrappy, torn and browned archives of the recipe drawer in the kitchen at home, handwritten by my mother. There's no knowing where it came from.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups self raising flour
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
5 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat in the egg and the milk. Add the dry ingredients and beat until a thick smooth mixture forms. Add the apple slices and incorporate. Spoon into greased cupcake liners and smooth the tops. Bake for approximately 3/4 of an hour or until golden and cooked through when skewered.

To make the icing:

1 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp brown sugar, heaped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp cream
water as needed

Add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and icing sugar in a medium bowl with the cream. Whip with the electric beaters until thick and smooth, adding water if necessary to achieve the desired thickness. If your frosting turns out too runny, you can add more icing sugar to thicken it.

To make the crumble topping:

1 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
pinch of cinnamon

Add all ingredients to a small bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a sort of crumbly mixture. You may add more butter to reach the desired consistency if need be.  Dry this mixture out under the grill on medium for 1-2 minutes. Top the cupcakes with the icing and then scatter this crumble mixture over the tops.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Coconut Ice Domes with Roses

We've hit a million views. And that makes me want to come out and give a give hug to everyone who has ever been to visit the blog--unless you're some sort of creepy stalker type, then I will refrain. Politely.

Where have I been?
Am I alive?
Why am I posting less frequently?

There are a few reasons:

1. Every time I make or go to eat anything that could be classed as sweet, my husband reminds me I have to visit the dentist. (Random I know, but did you know the pickle in the cheeseburger is the only thing that stops it from being classed as confectionery?)

2. There's someone in this house that needs me more than my blog fans--oh yes, the precious new baby of the house! I would not miss those precious new born moments with her. Yes I am with her every waking hour, and do manage to cook a few things while she's sleeping every so often. So don't worry, I'm not going anywhere!

3. I wish baby weight melted away from eating lots of naughty food. I don't think I stand a chance. (Note to self: It's time to seriously start cooking for my husbands colleagues to keep the recipes rolling. The fat must be shared around.)

4. Blogger is posting my pictures with some sort of grainy, grey film over my shots...making them look super inedible. Slightly moldy, to be honest. (see pictures below for example) I don't know why or how to fix this problem--any ideas? The original shots are light and warm and just beautiful...why have they uploaded like this?

Anyway, now you know, I'm not among the deceased, and it's time to present a school fete favourite--Coconut Ice--all grown up this time, domed in shape and decked with pretty little fondant roses. These would make such a pretty addition to a high tea or girls party as they are definitely feminine and a bit of a show stopper, if I say so myself. They sport a vanilla infused coconut base, topped with a lightly strawberry flavoured pink dome (I had to find a way to use those gorgeous dome molds that have not been of much use so far...makes for a fancy looking dessert after all!) with a dollop of vanilla cream icing and a pink fondant rose. And they are incredibly delicious, and rich, and it is, I warn you, a little hard to stop at one...

COCONUT ICE DOMES WITH ROSES (Adapted from Delicious, October 2002 by Valli Little)


2 cups icing sugar
pinch cream of tartar
395g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
1/2-1 tsp strawberry essence
15 small fondant roses (make your own here!)


1/2 cup icing sugar, extra
a few drops vanilla essence, extra
2-4 tbsp. heavy cream

Sift the icing sugar and cream of tartar into a medium sized bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and coconut and stir until well incorporated. Divide the mixture between two bowls. Add the vanilla essence to one, and the strawberry essence to the other. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
In the bowl containing the strawberry essence, add a drop or two of red or pink food colouring. Stir again until the colour saturates the mixture. (If you find that the addition of this extra liquid has made the texture too wet, add a little more icing sugar to the mixture. You don't want it to be too damp, but able to hold its shape when you press it together in your hand.)
Liberally grease your dome molds. Spoon the pink mixture into 15 molds until the mixture is evenly distributed between them. Firmly press the mixture into each so that it is firmly compressed and flat on the top. Repeat with the white mixture on top of the pink, filling each dome to the rim, and pressing down again firmly. Refrigerate for two hours before gently removing with the help of a spoon if necessary.
To make the icing, place the extra icing sugar and extra vanilla in a small bowl. Combine with just enough cream to get a nice texture that will not drip when applied to the coconut ice domes. Dollop a small amount on the top of each dome, and then top with a fondant rose.

Makes 15 domes

NOTES: If you do not have a dome mold such as the one used in this recipe, you can easily make this in a 30x20cm slice tin and cut it into squares.