Anzac Biscuits

Now the traditionalists among us will not like this recipe, its from the latest Masterchef magazine. Slightly chewy and crisp around the edges with a twist of orange zest and macadamias. Definitely Australian, definitely different and definitely delicious! 

165g brown sugar

150g plain flour

90g rolled oats

75g shredded coconut

Zest of 1 orange

45g macadamias, finely chopped

150g butter, chopped

90g honey

½ tsp bicarb soda

Preheat oven to 180’C. Place sugar, flour, oats, coconut, orange zest and nuts in a bowl. Using your fingers break up any lumps of sugar and combine well.

Place butter and honey in a medium saucepan and cook, stirring continuously, over low-medium heat until butter is melted. Increase heat to medium and simmer for a further 2 minutes or until thickened and deep golden. Remove from heat. Immediately add bicarb soda and whisk to combine, then whisk in 2tbs of water (it will froth up).

Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Cool for 10 minutes. Line 2 large cookie trays with baking paper. To make round biscuits, place a 7cm egg ring or pastry cutter on a tray, spoon 2 level tablespoons of mixture in and then flatten down. Lift ring away and repeat, making 9 biscuits on each tray leaving at least 5cms between each. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on the tray. Biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

First word of warning. These will spread. Final size, 12 cms across so they spread 5cm. Leaving a 5cm gap between means they all run together into a biscuit slice. It was too late for me, but I would now recommend At least 8cms between them, that way you will have actual biscuits and not a sheet that you have to cut up. I made 9 smaller ones for Gemma and Oli which worked great, they were about 2.5-3cm wide before I put them in the oven and came out at an actual biscuit size. These didn’t come out at a regular thickness for me either, they don’t look like the picture in the magazine either. I’m not sure if that is something I have done or just how it is. I’m also thinking it might have something to do with the water, maybe without it the mix would be a bit thicker and less runny in the oven. Daniel’s complaints, he didn’t like the orange zest and he thought they needed more oats. I’ll leave it up to you, I just follow the recipe and see how it works. I was really happy with them, I like chewy biscuits so this suits me just fine, and the orange is a really nice addition in my books.

The recipe says it takes 25 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to bake. I’m not sure where the time to get them into the circle shape is in all of that because that was the longest part! That and trying to zest the orange and not my hand. If you have an hour free on an afternoon I would definitely recommend making these, even for a lunchbox filler. They apparently last 2 weeks, I wouldn’t know, we have almost finished the 18 that we had, I did share them at work and left a couple at my Dad’s house. But if you are a slow biscuit eater these could definitely be for you.

Despite their enormous size they are surprisingly unfilling. Probably because of the thinness of them. They are though very satisfying. The little nuggets of macadamia and the crispy crumbly edges make these a delight to eat added to the chewy centre filled with oats and coconut and little flecks of orange makes it an all round super tasty biscuit. Although not as thick or crunchy as the traditional Anzac, these do have the same smell and comforting feeling about them as the originals. They are also a bit odd as they do not have golden syrup but the honey and butter combination does a very good job of both binding and sweetening the biscuits.

If you love a good biscuit, you love Anzacs, you love something sweet after lunch or you just love baking like me, then why not give these a try. Easy, delicious and you’ll have the recipe down pat by the time April 25 rolls around.

Love Sonia xx



Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

This recipe comes from where it is called the ultimate vanilla cupcake. I’m not entirely sure it is the ultimate, but I tell you what they are beautiful vanilla bean cupcakes none the less.

    1 cup (225 grams) caster sugar
    1 vanilla bean
    1 3/4 cups (175 grams) plain flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
    1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (60 ml)
    1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
    2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk

Preheat oven to 175 C . Line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake liners. (You may need to do more than one batch, this mix made 22 for me)
In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavour into the sugar. Set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the vanilla bean sugar to the flour mix and mix until well combined.
To this add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid.  (Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s supposed to be that way.)  Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

This recipe states it makes 16, I got 22, just see how you go, you can always eat the batter!

The most incredible tasting icing to accompany (also from cupcake project):

 1 1/2 cup icing sugar.
 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (add more to taste if you want and do not lick    the spoon it’s not as tasty as you would think!)
 1 tablespoon milk

Mix together sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy. Add vanilla bean paste and milk and continue to beat for another minute. If desired, add more vanilla bean paste to taste, or more confectioners’ sugar to make it stiffer.

 Now don’t let my interpretation that these aren’t the utimate put you off them, they are soft, fluffy, sweet and definately vanillary. The reason I don’t think they are the ultimate is because the amount it costs to make them does not correspond with the happiness whilst eating them and that they weren’t as light as other cupcake recipes I have tried. When deciding to make these you do need to weigh up if you want to pay the $10 for vanilla bean paste and $8 for 2 vanilla beans. You do have one left over and heaps of paste left over but it makes for a very expensive inital outlay. I will need to re try these in different paper cases as I am not 100% sure that the denseness of the cupcakes isnt due to the paper cases I used.

A few of the cupcakes sank in the middle, it may have been because I panic removed them from the oven because the recipe says they shouldn’t brown and when they started browning I pulled them out. In hindsight I should have left them in and just covered the browned bits with icing. The cake mix is really lovely, it has a soft vanilla flavour and a light speckle of the vanilla seeds throughout. The icing is to die for, it is better eaten cool because otherwise it is a bit buttery on the palate. As described on cupcake project this icing tastes like vanilla icecream, it would be amazing spread over a plain sponge or buttercake.

The main challenges with this recipe are getting the seeds through the sugar, I ended up sieving the sugar to break up the clumps, trying to get the right amount of batter into the cases so that they are risen enough to ice but not overflowing, and icing them. To ice the cupcakes I put the icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle and piped a swirl on the top of each cupcake. The icing was just enough for this batch which was 22, minus the 2 that sank so 20, but it wasn’t a lot of icing on each. You might need an extra half a batch if you wanted an impressive swirl of icing to top them off.

I would highly reccomend making these cupcakes but I would make them for a good reason that the $28 spend can be justified for. A birthday would be perfect, not just midweek cupcakes like I did. They are perfectly vanillary, not too sweet because the flavour comes from the vanilla and not the sugar and feel a little bit special to eat.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, this week I will also post anzac biscuits and chapter 4 of cake decorating. Have a great week.

Love Sonia xx

Cake Decorating – Chapter 3

Last night started with assembling the open rose that we made the petals for last week. It was so nice to see it all put together after a week of staring at a pile of petals! A blob of royal icing in a piece of waxed paper and away we went, sticking the petals in reminded me of being little and sticking things into a bowl of icecream or into the top of a cupcake. Before long we all had something that resembled an open rose of some kind, as our instructor keeps telling us there are many varieties of rose, if yours looks different its just a different type of rose! As we fiddled and twisted the petals into an overlapping pattern the roses took shape. We added a few paper stamens to the middle and we were all really pleased with our two week effort.

Next up was a demonstration on how to make a bear. Once we all discovered that our instructor makes it look easy the stress set in. The demonstration made forming all the body parts and fitting them together look simple. It was far from it! After colouring the modelling paste  ( I chose mauve and Georgie chose blue) and fondant mix the challenge of deciding proportions for the head, body and limbs began. Head to small, bear looks scary, head too big, bear falls over. Once rolling out the head and the body we set to the task of moulding the limbs. Flat ends for arms and legs with a little circle pressed into each for the paw. Now we snap some tubular pasta to make supports for the head and arms. A little tylopur glue on each end and the sticking process begins. Between the head and body we slip a little bow of ribbon to act as a bowtie. We had the option of running a tool over the centre of all the parts to look like stitching, both Georgie and I declined, it looked a little like the bear had been run over. Once the head and arms were attached and the legs positioned underneath we stuck on a little tail and got to the fancy parts. A skewer is used to make eye sockets, into which are pushed eyeballs and topped with little black pupils. A little love heart nose is made from black modelling paste and stuck on with glue and a little mouth is drawn on underneath. Two little ears are rolled out and glued onto the top of the bears head. Once everything looks right on the bear and he sits ok on his legs, we apply glue to the legs and position them underneath the body. Let the bear sit for a few minutes and you have a very cute cake topper!

Now quickly running short of time we learn how to make roses out of liquorice. The rose I made was mango flavoured and so so easy to make. Starting with a short length of liquorice we snipped around the top to make a point and then smoothed it out a little. We then rolled about 1 and a half pieces of smooth liquorice until they were 1-2mm thick. We then used our flower cutters that we used last week for the modelling paste flowers to cut out the petals. We rolled the edges out on these a little and started pressing them onto the bud in the same manner that we did with the ones last week. So much quicker and edible because they don’t contain any wire. While I was adding my final layer of petals Georgie cut out a green calyx for me which once chopping off the thick part at the bottom I added to finish the rose.

Next week we are making the decorations for our final cake and the week after we will be assembling our final cake and will have completed Cake Decorating for Beginners!

Love Sonia xx

Cheesecake Brownies

If you asked the people you know to list their favourite sweet foods or baked goods I can almost guarantee that both cheesecake and brownies would be on that list. This combination of rich fudgy brownie and sweet smooth cheesecake is the perfect dessert or afternoon tea.

150g unsalted butter, chopped

300g good quality dark chocolate ( i used cadbury old gold)

3 eggs

1 cup caster sugar

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup sour cream

250g pack of philidelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Brush or rub a 20cm square cake tin with butter. Line with baking paper, leaving overhang on all four sides byover lapping through the middle. Combine the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until chocolte melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Whisk two of the eggs togehter in a small bowl. Add whisked eggs and 2/3 cup of the sugar into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Add the flour and the sour cream and stir until well combined. Use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese and remaining sugar (and vanilla if wanted) in a bowl until smooth. Add the remaining egg and beat until just combined. Spoon chocolate and cream cheese mixtures alternatively over the base of the cake tin. Use a spoon handle to swirl the mix to create a marbled effect. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 1 hour and allow to cool. Once cool cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container.

I made these for skyfire which is held at Lake Burley Griffin every year. The evening started off with a beautiful clear night, a little breezy but lovely all the same. We had great company, delicous food and the prospect of a spectacular fireworks show at 8.30pm. At about 7.30 the dark clouds started rolling in and soon it was very dark. Not long after that we were under the picnic blankets with umbrellas and tarps held over our heads. The rain continued to come down so that we all had soaked pants, shoes and everything was covered in water. Our saviour, the stash of cheesecake brownies. As we huddled in the rain the sweet, dense, chocolateyness of these cheeecake brownies made it all seem ok.

I do apologise for not having any photos of the process, I made them late Friday night and only once I had cut them I realised I had forgotten to take photos. All the steps are pretty simple. A fairly simple brownie mix with a basic cheesecake mix added together does make a standout dessert. The mix I made for skyfire had half of the cheesecake plain and the other half with a few teaspoons of raspberry jam which I bought from the handmade market last week. This made a nice more decadent change to the plain version. I used to make these, like the muesli bars from last week all the time when Daniel and I were first together, another easy one for a small kitchen and minimal utensils, the hardest part is waiting for them to cool!

I hope that you find an equally suitable occasion for these delicous treats and that they become part of your repertoire as they have mine. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love Sonia xx



Cake Decorating – Chapter 2

Last night started with a demonstration on the beginning of a rose. A small unassuming lump of modelling paste stuck to a wire. Believe it or not this lump was turned into a beautiful rose bud within 3 hours. Far more impressive than nature!

We applied the first 4 petals to our lump using tylopur glue and a lot of patience. To make the petals we rolled out modelling paste and cut them with a petal cutter. We thinned them out by hand, applied the glue and started layering the petals on. We then left these to dry for about 2 hours.

Next we moved onto the petals for an open rose. 3 small, 5 medium and 5 large. We coloured our modelling paste to a lovely pale pink and got rolling. Rolling out the paste so it is fine enough that it looks like a petal but not so fine that it tears when curling it is a real challenge. Once we had our 13 petals we thinned them out with our fingers and started frilling the edges. We had use of a large wooden skewer and a ball tool. We all found the skewer easier to use than the ball tool, but the ball tool did provide a lovely soft curve to the petal. Once we had worked our way through the 13 petals and placed them into plastic spoons to help them hold their shape til the end of the lesson we started on the daisies.

A lot simpler than the rose, with a lot less fussing, gluing and thinning the daisy is still a lovely addition to our repertoire. As a class we coloured a big lump of modelling paste for the centres of our flowers (so we all didn’t have yellow hands). We rolled out our white modelling paste, with a daisy cutter we cut out 2 flowers and rolled the yellow into a flower centre. We cut the wire into a shorter length and made the top into a sort of netball hoop. This was then coated in glue and inserted into the yellow flower centre. The white daisy cut outs were thinned a little at the ends so it didn’t look so uniform and then the wire was poked through the middle and the flower brought up towards the centre. Glue was then put in the middle of the flower and pressed on to the centre. We then did this with the other cut out and spun it slightly to make a layered petal effect. Once glued we held all three layers together tightly to ensure they stuck together. These were then left to dry overnight.

We then rolled and cut 5 more petals for our rose buds and glued them to the outside of the bud to make it larger and fuller. Once we had completed all of these little things our three hours were up. We packed up all of our goodies and wow are we looking forward to next week. Assembling our open roses and making a modelling paste figurine. Stay tuned for next week’s installment and happy baking.

  Love Sonia xx

Apricot & White Chocolate Muesli Bars

Often finding amazing recipes happens by accident, by typing in something that leads to an odd source and comes out as pure brilliance. These are from a kids website, although not necessarily very child friendly they are definitely adult friendly and so so much better than any packaged muesli bar I have ever tried.

¾ cup dried apricots, chopped

½ cup water

150g butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 ¼ plain flour

1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

1 cup of nestle white choc bits

1 cup of rolled oats (not instant)

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Place chopped apricots and water in a small saucepan over a medium/high heat, stir occasionally until boiling and then turn down to medium/low and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Once absorbed remove from heat and stir in the butter until all melted. Then stir in the brown sugar and mix until all combined. In a large bowl, sift flour and baking powder together, pour in apricot mixture, stir quickly then add choc bits and oats. Mix well until all combined, making sure all the flour is combined. Line a 18-20cm x 28cm baking tin, press mixture into the tin to your desired thickness, I left a bit at the end without any mixture. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the top is light golden in colour. Cool in the tray for 10 minutes then on a cooling rack until completely cool. Then cut into as many slices as you like I got about 22. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

These are one of the first things I baked for Daniel when we were first together. Easy to make with the limited kitchen utensils he had when we met. A saucepan and a bowl and a spoon is really all you need, oh and something to sift the flour with, I don’t think I bothered back then. Although the apricots are so tasty it is hard to get them into the pan it is so very worth plumping them up with the water before they go in because they stay so beautifully moist in the oven. I think that is what I like most about them the crunchy, biscuity, apricottyness of them, also the addition of my favourite chocolate. White chocolate. Yummy!

Kind of like a mix and melt cake this recipe has no challenges. A second pair of hands is helpful at the last combining step to get them all in at the same time but by no means necessary. Happy tummies all round at work today, everyone thought they were lovely. I suppose you could change the ingredients a little if you don’t like apricots, dried apples, sultanas maybe some dates could all be nice. I personally love the combination of white chocolate and apricots though. Make sure you get the actual dried apricot halves, not the Turkish apricots. They are expensive about $6 for 200g but they have a much better flavour which is what you want, no point having a cheap but horrible tasting tray of muesli bars.

Maybe you can start your own baking history with your loved one with these too.

Love Sonia x


Lime Tart

This is based loosely on a key lime pie and yet again comes from my Nigella Lawson cook book. Light, fluffy, sweet and tangy it is a simple yet incredibly impressive dessert.

1 packet of butternut snap biscuits or plain digestive biscuits

1/4 cup unsalted butter

juice and zest of 4 limes

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

300ml thickened cream

Blitz biscuits in a food processor, melt butter in the microwave, pour into the food processor and blitz again to form buttery crumbs. Grease a 20cm springform tin and press biscuit mix onto the base and a little up the sides. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling. Either in the bowl of a mixmaster or in a large bowl with electric beaters whisk the cream, sweetened condensed milk and lime zest and juice until thick and creamy. Pour the filling over the base and put in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

It really is as easy as it sounds. In fact zesting the lime is the hardest part! With my mixmaster it took about 3 or 4 minutes for the filling to thicken then overnight in the fridge and it was done. Although in the pictures it isn’t very pretty I hope you trust that the flavour is there even if the first slice cut does look like it has been left out for too long.

Nigella describes this as a light limey cheesecake, I am hesitant to call it that because there is no cream cheese in it, however as a cheesecake lover on a hot night I would quite happily have this instead of a dense rich cheesecake. If you wanted to make this a little more special you could top it with candied lime zest or make some other kind of lime topping like a lime and mint sugar. For us plain was just fine for weeknight desserts but if it was for a dinner party or something similar I would pretty it up mainly because Daniel’s first comment of the finished tart was that it looks like it was made in a dirty bowl, because of all the green zest throughout the mix.

Because this is so easy there is no tricky parts, unless you don’t have a microplane to zest the limes, it could be very frustrating trying to do it with a normal grater. All up this cost me about $8.50 to make which is pretty good for such a tasty dessert. I try to buy things like the biscuits when they are 2 for $4 etc as it is handy to have a stash of them in the cupboard. Limes can also be expensive, up to about $17 a kilo here in Canberra, look out for a cheap bag at the supermarket if you want to make this, I got a bag of 5 for $2 this week, which was one of the deciding factors of making this. If you were desperate you could probably use orange, it would be beautiful but you would need a lot less juice, maybe one orange.

I have a couple of posts to share with you this week so keep your eyes peeled for Chicken Satay Pies, Apricot and White Chocolate Muesli Bars and an update for Chapter 2 of cake decorating. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love Sonia

Cake Decorating – Chapter 1

The night started with traffic jams and running through the halls of CIT looking for kitchen 30. Once we got there we found the place we will call home each Wednesday night for the next 5 weeks. We started off collecting our tools of the trade kits and then began a process we thought would never end. Fitting a metal screw to a piping bag. Sounds easy enough, should it take 20 minutes? Probably not. Did it take at least 20 minutes? Most definitely! Watching 9 women repeatedly drop a small metal object into a piping bag repeatedly, then pushing it down to the tip only to find that it has twisted, turned and is now upside down must be endlessly tiring for the instructor, then to have 5 of us hand her the bag and make her ‘fix’ it because there is only so much we can take. Luckily this was the hardest part of the night.

We then learnt how to make royal icing, surprisingly we all did really well considering we made it by hand in a Chinese takeaway container. Once we had our icing to soft peak consistency we filled our newly acquired piping bags and tied them off. We watched a demonstration on how to pipe letters, numbers, words, borders, straight lines, hearts and dots. Then we set off on our own piping adventures. Armed with a sheet of greaseproof, a template and some wet paper towel we were piping over the different templates at a cracking pace, as you can see from the pictures at the bottom, Georgie has a fairly short attention span hence her own name and various pictures and squiggles all around her sheet. With a little instruction and a little help from my other hand to stop my right hand from shaking I was able to test out a variety of the templates, relatively successfully.

Next we assembled a disposable piping bag, very useful for coloured icing as it doesn’t stain your piping bags. With a few cautionary staples in the top we were off to change our remaining royal icing into stiff or hard peak. We used this to make a picture of Christmas holly which we then filled in with our newly acquired skill of flooding. In the picture it isn’t very fancy because we only used white icing. It is however a really good to skill to have.

All of this filled our first 3 hours quite easily. Next week we move on to making things from modelling paste. Really looking forward to it!

Holly flooding

My piping practice

Georgie's piping practice

Raspberry & Almond Tea Cake

I like to think of this cake as a game changer. This is about the third time I have made it, simple, tasty and makes even the “I’ll just have a little bit’ers” have another slice.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup caster sugar

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 cup of flour, sifted

1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup frozen raspberries

Handful of flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 200’C. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Add milk, salt, flour and baking powder and stir well to combine. Stir through raspberries, making sure to separate them so you don’t end up with too much in one spot. Pour into a 20cm round cake tin lined with baking paper, scatter almonds on top and cook for 25-30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes between 10-15 slices.

This is another magazine advertising recipe, some how they always turn out, maybe it’s the simplicity. It only takes about 5 minutes to mix it all up, pour it in and then back, a cake in 30 minutes! Show this to anyone who says they don’t have time to bake! Sure a shop bought cake is good, but not as good as this!

This is a no fuss, no issue cake. You don’t even need vanilla extract like almost all of my recipes. The raspberries can be expensive, even when frozen, I just keep an eye out for them on sale and stock up. I find that these and blueberries are the best to have on hand, mixed berries can be a bit messy and make a rainbow mess of your cakes, so stick with one type. This cake is also a good way to use up those last 2 eggs in the carton a few days before they expire, the last of the milk and the rest is basic pantry stuff, ideal for a Sunday before grocery shopping.

Easy enough for a quick pop in morning tea and fancy enough for a lazy afternoon tea with your extended family, this cake is the only thing I have made for Daniel’s Dad that he has eaten a whole slice in one sitting. Normally a half a slice’r, half a muffin’er, this cake somehow made itself worthy of a whole slice at once. It made me quite proud that I had finally found something to suit everyone!

I start cake decorating classes tonight with my gorgeous friend Georgie, I will report back on this adventure later in the week and hopefully I will have something to show for it. I am so very excited to be learning something new to do with baking!

Have a lovely week everyone. Happy Baking!

 Sonia x