Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake

Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake – made fancy with maple-butter frosting and a sprinkling of pecan nuts

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” 
~ Gustav Mahler

 

When I need a yummy cake in a hurry this is the first recipe I think of: Nana’s Quick Coffee Cake.

My nana was a plain cook, but her food was delicious. Her Quick Coffee Cake is everything a coffee cake should be – moist, buttery, flavoursome, made with everyday ingredients from the pantry – and it’s simple enough to be whipped up in minutes (plus baking time).

Nana used to make an un-iced version of this cake that my Pa would have with his morning cuppa. If visitors were coming Nana always added a sweet coffee glaze on top, just to fancy things up.

I learned to bake this cake when I was about seven – old enough to reach the kitchen bench and to work the oven without setting the house alight. This cake is a recipe that Gran Heppell  (my paternal great-grandmother) taught Nana when she was just a girl. The recipe lives in my head now after making it so many times, but when I was younger I was also careful to write it down. Just in case.

I’ve given two versions for the icing (frosting for the non-Australians!) Mine is made with maple syrup, because it gives a great complimentary flavour, but Nana’s coffee glaze is delicious too.

 

Ingredients for cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 flat teaspoon instant coffee, dissolved in one teaspoon of boiling water (if you can be bothered – I never am)
  • 3/4 cup  sugar
  • 1/2 cup  milk

Ingredients for icing/frosting:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup OR one to two tablespoons strong hot coffee
  • 1/3 cup pecans – chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
  2. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Add all cake ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor. Mix for three minutes on medium speed.
  4. Spread the batter into your cake tin and smooth the surface.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and then check. Cake is baked if it springs back when touched in the middle, or if a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave a little longer if not quite done.
  6. Remove cake from oven. Cool in tin for five to ten minutes and then place onto a rack to cool completely.
  7. Place cake on serving plate.
  8. To make the icing (frosting) sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the softened butter and either the maple syrup or the coffee. Beat well until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Spread onto the cooled cake. Dipping your knife in hot water will help give a smooth and shiny finish as you spread the icing (frosting) mixture.
  9. If you are making the maple icing, chop some pecan nuts and sprinkle over the icing, pressing them slightly with your clean hand to ensure that they stick to the cake.

 

Easy Orange Butter Cake Recipe

“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’
‘That is true,’ said Mma Potokwane sadly. ‘There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.”
~  Alexander McCall Smith

 

When you live on a farm it’s a different way of life to being in the city. When neighbours drop by it’s still a trek. If the tractor repair man comes he’s had a fair drive before he gets to us. The same for any kind of tradesperson. If friends are in the neighbourhood, having travelled to our part of the world for some other reason, they’ll often call ahead to see if we are home. And then all of them pop in for a cuppa.

If it’s morning, we’ll have morning tea. If it’s midday I can always rustle up extra food for lunch. Afternoon tea is a chance to stop on the veranda for a while to escape the heat of the day, or to pop inside by the wood fire to warm up before heading back out to the paddocks again. Any time’s a good time for a smoko break when friends drop by. (Smoko is not Australian slang for a cigarette break – smoko is a break from work, where hot tea is served, and something to eat.)

This orange cake is a smoko favourite. If we are working down at the cattle yards or heading out bush I will leave the cake un-iced so that it travels better. But at home, especially with visitors coming, the icing makes the cake just that little bit fancier.

Our orange trees are full of fruit right now, so it’s only a short walk for us to grab a couple sun-warmed and fresh from the tree.

This is a lovely, moist buttery cake with good flavour. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family do! It cooks up beautifully with gluten-free flour too. 🙂

Lots of love, Nicole xx

Cake Ingredients:

  • 250g butter, softened (If it’s cold, let it come to room temperature or you’ll be mixng it forever to get it to cream with the sugar. If it’s very hot – like Australia in summer – just remove from butter from fridge, cut into cubes and place into mixer. It will soon warm up on its own.)
  • 1 rounded cup of castor sugar (rounded means a little bit heaped rather than flat)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tblspn finely grated orange zest
  • 2 cups of sifted self-raising flour (it’s fine to use your favourite gluten-free flour if you want)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice

For the icing (frosting):

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tblspn softened butter
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Tip: For an extra flavour boost you can also use a good food-grade orange essential oil, 3 drops for the cake and 3 for the icing. I use Young Living essential oils, and I just love them!

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
  2. Line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Beat the butter until soft in an electric mixer and then gradually add the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. This takes a few minutes on medium speed.
  4. Add eggs one at a time on low speed, beating well after each one.
  5. Add orange zest and a couple of drops of food grade orange essential oil if you are using it.
  6. Stop the mixer and dump the sifted flour into the bowl. Mix on slow speed until well combined. Use a scraper to push the mixture on the sides of the bowl down into the batter if necessary and then mix again.
  7. With the mixer still on slow speed pour the orange juice in little by little until all combined.
  8. Spread the batter into your cake tin and smooth the surface, making the centre of the cake just slightly lower than the sides. This stops it rising too high when it bakes.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes and then check. Cake is baked if it springs back when touched in the middle, or if a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave a little longer if not quite done.
  10. Remove cake from oven. Cool in tin for five to ten minutes and then place onto a rack to cool completely.
  11. Place cake on serving plate.
  12. Add the orange juice, essential oil (if using) and softened butter to the sifted icing sugar, stirring well until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Spread onto the cooled cake. Dipping your knife in hot water will help give a smooth and shiny finish as you spread the icing (frosting) mixture.
  13. If you want to be fancy you can add some extra grated zest, candied peel or orange slices, sprinkles, coconut or white chocolate curls to decorate the top of the cake (I usually don’t bother.)
  14. Serve with a good cup of coffee or a pot of tea. I especially enjoy Earl Grey or French Earl Grey with this cake, but Irish Breakfast is also fabulous.

Easy No-Bake Apricot and White Chocolate Slice

“In Britain, a cup of tea is the answer to every problem.
Fallen off your bicycle? Nice cup of tea.
Your house has been destroyed by a meteorite? Nice cup of tea and a biscuit.
Your entire family has been eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has travelled through a space/time portal? Nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. ” 
~  David Walliams

 

My lovely friend Kerry and her daughter Philomena came to visit on the weekend. (You may remember me introducing you to Kerry – she’s the talented woman who made the short documentary about my Retreats which you can view here).

Of course you can’t have friends over for a cup of tea without having some kind of tasty offering, and this simple no-bake slice is so quick and easy. I learned this recipe as a child, and it’s certainly a keeper. Eating it always takes me back to school holidays at my Nana’s house and spending time with her neighbour Mrs Mac, a CWA member and ex WW2 army cook who was a great influence on my early cooking skills.

The only change I’ve made to that old recipe is to add in some white chocolate, which makes it feel just a tad more fancy.

This is a great lunchbox treat, and is lovely for morning or afternoon tea. It also travels well for picnics, and I often use it for smoko when we are down at the cattle yards or out in the paddock. It’s sweet and fudgy and delicious.

I hope you enjoy it.

Lots of love, Nicole xx

Ingredients:

  • 125g (1/2 cup) butter
  • ½ cup soft brown sugar
  • ½ tin sweetened condensed milk (200 grams)
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 x 250g packet of plain sweet biscuits, crushed (I prefer Malt biscuits)
  • 200g white chocolate buttons (optional but so good!)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Method:

  1. Chop your apricots finely (or save time and buy a packet of diced apricots!)
  2. Crush the biscuits by placing in a plastic bag and smashing with a rolling pin, or whizz them in a food processor. (Note: It is perfectly acceptable as the cook to have a biscuit to nibble on as you prepare the others for your recipe.)
  3. Set aside 2/3 of the white chocolate buttons.
  4. Grease a 20cm x 30cm slice tin with butter, or line it with baking paper so that the paper covers the bottom and the sides of the tin.
  5. Place the butter, condensed milk and sugar into a large saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until the butter has melted. Do not boil! Remove from heat.
  6. Dump the crushed biscuits and apricots into the melted butter mixture and stir well. Then add 1/3 of the white chocolate buds. Stir into the mixture which will be quite thick.
  7. Pat the mix into the prepared tin using the back of a spoon or your clean wet hands. (wet hands stops the mixture sticking and helps you smooth the top)
  8. Sprinkle with the coconut.
  9. Melt the remaining white chocolate (in a microwave or over a double boiler) and drizzle over the slice in a decorative pattern.
  10. Place slice in fridge to set, which will take about four hours.
  11. Cut into small slices to serve. This slice will keep refrigerated for one week, if it lasts that long.

Here is the recipe and the taste test in pictures for you (and you’ll notice that Rufous Dog has a great interest in all things food…):

 

Sicilian Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake Recipe #glutenfree

“Baking and love go hand in hand, for as one bakes a tasty treat and fills the room with its sweet aroma, the true joy is to take what has been made and share it with another.” 
~  Heather Wolf

 

Years ago I was travelling through a remote part of the Australian Outback. I stopped to refuel at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, and when I went inside to pay for my fuel I was overwhelmed by the smell of coffee. Good coffee. Long before there were baristas on every corner of the globe.

I mentioned to the middle-aged man who took my money that the coffee smelled divine. ‘Do you want some?’ he asked me. ‘Mum’s just made a fresh pot.’

Of course I said yes, and soon I was sitting at a table under a tree behind the roadhouse, with the man, his wife, and his very elderly Italian mother. She had brewed up her coffee in a stovetop espresso machine, the first one I had ever seen. The coffee was served in tiny glasses. No milk, but there was sugar if it was wanted. To accompany the coffee the old woman produced half a cake on a covered plate, still glistening with cold from the refrigerator.

She cut me a wedge, scooped a small serve of vanilla ice-cream onto my plate and then poured a drizzle of syrup over my cake from a glass jar.

The cake was delicious. Moist and dense but not heavy, full of sweetness and lemon that paired beautifully with the robust black coffee. I was in heaven!

Neither the old woman nor the man’s wife could speak English, but I still managed to get the recipe for the cake, which I recorded on the back of a used envelope. I also had my first taste of limoncello, which this Italian family also made themselves.

I hope you enjoy the cake as much as I do! You can certainly eat it warm, straight from the oven, but I like it better cold. An added bonus is that it is gluten-free. It will keep for a week, refrigerated. It also freezes well.

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs (or 4 small)
  • grated zest of 3 large lemons
  • 2 and 1/2 cups almond meal (I used ground whole organic almonds – the texture is still a little coarse, and the skins give a good flavour and texture)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (you can cut back to 1/2 if you are not a fan of sweet cakes)
  • 1/3 cup flaked almonds
  • Optional but good – 2 tablespoons of limoncello

Syrup Ingredients

  • grated zest of one large lemon
  • 1/2 cup  lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup  caster sugar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan forced. Grease and line base of a 20 cm deep round cake pan with baking paper.

2. Place ricotta, eggs, zest, almond meal and sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. This only takes a minute or so. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with almonds. Bake for 55 minutes, or until cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, zest and extra sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Use a fine skewer to poke some holes in top of cake. Pour limoncello over cake and then half the hot syrup. Keep extra syrup aside for serving. Syrup will thicken as it cools. Leave cake to stand in tin until cold. (unless serving warm – obviously!)

Serve warm or cold, with vanilla ice-cream, natural yogurt and a drizzle of extra syrup. I am a big fan of coconut yoghurt with this cake. That’s what is in the pictures below.

My favourite cup measure gifted to me by my Nana!

Getting my ingredients together

When you grate your lemon zest, try not to get too much of the white pith, which has a bitter taste

The cake batter, thick and not over-beaten

The prepared cake mix, ready for the oven

The syrup, in all its lemony goodness

Hot cake, skewered and with syrup poured over

Cake is served! Afternoon tea on the veranda.

Sicilian Lemon, Almond Ricotta Cake. Let the eating begin!

Easy Kale and Orange Salad with Miso Dressing

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
~ Hippocrates

 

This is a super-scrummy salad that is easy to prepare and chock full of goodness.

It’s satisfying enough that you could eat a bowl on its own, but it’s also a great side for roasts and barbeques.

I use kale leaves as a base and then add whatever other raw vegetables are in the fridge to make up four cups. Needless to say it tastes a little different every time I make it!

The dressing is also stupidly easy.

This salad will feed your gut microbes, adding in friendlies from the miso paste, and using the acid in the orange juice to make everything more digestible. The umeboshi plum has a myriad health benefits, and your gut will love it!

The salad will only keep for 24 hours once you add the dressing, so it is best made close to serving, and any leftovers eaten the next day. Want to make a higher protein meal in a bowl? Add some white beans, grilled or cold cooked chicken, pork or seafood.

The dressing can also be used as a glaze (don’t make it quite as thin) for baking/grilling salmon.

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups of shredded kale leaves (not the rib!) and a selection of the following to make up another two cups of shredded vegetables: carrots, zucchini, beetroot, apple, red or green cabbage. Plus one small red salad onion, an orange and a couple of tablespoons of your favourite seed and nut mix. I sometimes use a trail mix that also has dried cranberries and sultanas for some OMG yumness.

For the dressing you’ll need two heaped teaspoons of white miso paste, juice of half an orange (give or take) and if you like, add a 1/4 teaspoon of umeboshi plum paste to give a salty tartness to the dressing (and for the awesome health benefits of this condiment).

Method:

Shred or finely cut your kale, cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables of choice to make 4 cups. Add to a large bowl. I like the act of slicing and chopping. I use it like a mindfulness meditation, especially at the end of a long day of psychic work. It gives me decompression time. But if you are in a hurry or would rather decompress in front of Netflix using a mandolin or a food processor will have this job done in no time! Ridiculously time poor? Buy a bag of salad to add to your onion and orange combo. Finely dice the red onion, peel the orange and cut into small cubes, removing any seeds.

Chuck the onion, orange and seed and nut mix into the bowl of vegetables.

Dressing: Add the miso to a cup, and the umeboshi if you are using it. Umeboshi is strong flavoured, while white miso and orange are sweet and mild so be cautious about adding too much at first. Then add a small amount of orange juice and mix. Keep adding juice until it is thinned to a good consistency but still creamy. Taste and adjust juice or miso flavours if necessary. Pour over salad and mix well.

It doesn’t take much juice to go from thick to creamy. This pic below is with a tablespoon of juice. A bit more of a stir and it would be great as a glaze. But for dressing we’ll need to add more juice.

Pour over the dressing just before serving. Yum!

Easy Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Recipe

Chocolate-s

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
~ Charles M. Schulz

 

Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?

Actually, my husband! But even Ben loves this cake, declaring it ‘the best chocolate cake he has ever tasted’.

If you’re looking for a simple, easy, moist chocolate cake recipe that can be whipped up as easily as a packet mix but with so much more flavour and goodness – this is it.

It really is as simple as throwing the ingredients in a bowl, mixing together, placing in the oven and baking. Kids and non-cooks will have success with this recipe. So yummy. So easy.

The cake is dense and fudge-y. You could serve it plain, or dust a little icing sugar over the top, but for a real celebration the ganache frosting totally rocks. In fact it dresses up this simple cake so much that suddenly it could be a special occasion cake, a dessert cake, a fancy cake…

I’ve made this very successfully with gluten-free flour too. This recipe is a keeper!

Ingredients:

Cake: 1 cup of plain flour (can be wheat flour or gluten-free), 4 tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 pinch of salt, 1 cup of soft brown sugar – lightly packed, 1 large egg, 1 cup of sour cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Chocolate Ganache: 200 grams of dark chocolate (70% cocoa is great!), 200 grams of cream, 1 tablespoon of honey

 

Method for Cake:

Line a 23cm round, deep tin with baking paper. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Sift the flour, bicarb and cocoa together in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and then mix until combined. Don’t over-beat. You can mix by hand or with a mixer (I dump everything in my Kitchenaid and beat on low speed for a minute or so). The mixture will be thick, and it will seem like the cake can never rise. Don’t panic about that. It will.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes.

Cake should spring back when pressed lightly in the centre, or a skewer inserted in middle of cake will come out clean with no mixture sticking to it. If not quite done cook a little more.

Cool in tin. Remove paper and place on platter.

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Method for Ganache:

Place cream in a saucepan and heat until warm (not boiling). You should be able to stick your finger into the cream without burning yourself. Turn off heat. Break or cut chocolate into small pieces. Add to warm cream and leave to sit for a minute or two until melting. Stir to combine and then add honey and stir once more. Leave ganache to cool until it is thick but still spreadable. You can speed this process by placing ganache in fridge for ten minutes.

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Spread ganache thickly over top of cake. Decorate with sprinkles or other adornments if desired.

Store covered in fridge or a cool place and eat within three days. This cake also freezes well.

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Black Sticky Rice Pudding Recipe – Gluten Free, Vegan, Yum!

black sticky rice

“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something. ”
~ Mich Ehrenborg

 

This is truly one of those comfort-in-a-bowl dishes. Black sticky rice pudding is popular in Thailand and parts of Asia. It can be eaten warm or cold, and makes a delicious dessert, but it’s equally good for breakfast or as a snack.

To serve I use a splodge of coconut cream or coconut yogurt, some fresh seasonal fruit, and sometimes a handful of nuts or seeds as well. It’s endlessly versatile.

Black sticky rice pudding is a great recipe – gluten free, dairy free, vegan and full of fibre, anti-oxidants and nurture-y goodness.  Black rice is a source of amino acids, iron, zinc, copper and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is great for supporting and nurturing the liver and kidneys, two organs/energy centres that get very depleted during times of stress, illness or depression.  It’s great food for people with burnout or adrenal fatigue as it is warm and easy to digest.  Coconut is also good for low thyroid function and boosting slow metabolisms.

I usually make double this quantity and keep some in the fridge.  I reheat in a saucepan with a little extra water, but if you are a microwave user, I guess you could go there…

black sticky rice 2

Ingredients

1 cup of black glutinous rice (you can find this in most Asian grocery stores or good supermarkets), 2.5 cups of water, 2 tablespoons palm sugar or soft brown sugar, salt, vanilla essence, 1 cup of coconut milk/cream

Note – If you are sugar-free use Natvia, stevia or your favourite sugar substitute.

Method

Soak the rice overnight (or at least 6 hours)  in the water in a ceramic or glass dish. It’s really important to soak your rice well, so please don’t skimp on that part of the cooking process. The water will go a nice shade of purple – try not to get it on you as it will stain some fabrics. Many people suggest you discard the soaking water, rinse and start over, but then you’d lose many of the minerals and anti-oxidants that have leached from the water overnight.

Transfer to a suitable saucepan and place on the heat.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to low, and cover.  Cook for a further half an hour to forty-five minutes, until the rice is soft and the mixture has thickened.  You need to play this by ear a bit, as you might need to add a little more water and cook longer. It all depends on the rice.

Add a pinch of salt and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of  coconut milk/cream, then sugar to taste. Add in a splash of vanilla essence too. I use about 2 heaped tablespoons of palm sugar, but if you prefer it sweeter, add more.  Stir occasionally over the next ten minutes until the rice is thick and pudding like. (I sometimes omit the coconut milk as a variation, which gives a nuttier flavour.)

Cool slightly and then serve in bowls with the remaining coconut milk/cream drizzled over the top.  Sliced banana or tropical fruits such as papaya or mango are also good.  In winter I may use berries.  Right now I am using a big dollop of coconut yoghurt (yoghurt made on coconut milk!) from a company called Co Yo, which is divine.

If I have made a less-sweet pudding, I will sometimes also add a sprinkle of palm sugar or a dash of maple syrup when serving.

Enjoy ♥

sticky rice 3

sticky rice pudding