Throes of Winter | Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

The last few weekends have been pure Bri-bliss. Grey, cloudy, rainy, general miserable weather. Monday’s small talk around the coffee machine end in my gleeful recounting my weekend tales – ‘I didn’t leave the house once‘ – and then my colleagues looking at me like I’m mildly crazy and back away slowly.

You see, that is my heaven. In the throes of winter (as much of one as we get in our fair city), you bet your ass I’m going to build a nest on my couch, read books and drink more cups of tea than recommended.

I was struck with idea lightning on one of these weekends – all the tea I was drinking needed a side of cake to go with it. The idea came to me fully formed: I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen (it was a really good book I was reading), I wanted the lightness of ricotta, nothing too sweet, but maximum Wintry spice flavour. And so, this came to be.

This is one of those perfect cakes that you serve up for a friend who’s come over for coffee and a catch up. Then, once they’ve gone home, it just sits on the kitchen bench, and every time you walk past, you cut off a sliver to munch on as you go about your business. Sliver by delicious sliver, the cake won’t last the weekend!

Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1½ cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
57g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), halved of large
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 180°c. Grease a springform cake pan with butter or oil, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

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In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the butter, and again fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and then poke the strawberries evenly into the mixture.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.

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Ain’t no one got time for that| Banoffee Pavlova

Pot lucks and picnics, dinner parties and barbecues, shindigs and hootenannies. There’s a myriad of pre-Christmas catch-ups in the pipeline for all of us, so in the interest of being prepared (and also greedy) I’m lining up a couple of crowd-pleasing recipes for you to keep in your back pocket!

First up, Banoffee Pavlova.

Pavlova is pretty traditional at this time of year. I mean, why WOULDN’T you take complete advantage off all of that beautiful seasonal fruit? Uh, because everything is made better with cream and caramel, and fruit makes it almost look like healthy, and you know I ain’t got time for that. Obviously.

I made this a couple of weeks ago for a food bloggers picnic (Thanks Bryton for organising!), and good gravy, it was tasty. You know you’re onto a winner when no one could resist eating dessert first!

Meringue remains a current obsession of mine, which is fuelled by the fact that my gas oven is basically a furnace, running faaaar too hot to bake pavlova properly. Every time I make one, it doesn’t fails, which infuriates me, which gives me a steely resolve to get the next one right, which then fails, rinse, repeat. If you’re having some trouble with your pavlovas, I found this to be really helpful with troubleshooting.

Hell, if you get really stuck, you can buy a pavlova and just throw this together… Though, as always, making your own is a thousand times more satisfying. Trust me on this, a well-made meringue is a thing of great beauty.

 

 

Banoffee Pavlova

300g caster sugar
5 large egg whites

2-3 medium sized ripe bananas, sliced
250g tub mascarpone
½ cup whipping cream
½ – ¾ cup caramel sauce, approx (I used El Asador dulce de leche, but you can make your own, or even use Top N Fill in a pinch)
2 Crunchie/Violet Crumble or Flake bars, crushed

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Spread the sugar over the tray in an even layer, then bake for 5 minutes to melt the edges.

Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk on low (either with a freestanding mixer or electric beater) until they froth up a little bit, then increase the speed and beat until stiff peaks form. Remove the sugar from the oven, turn the temperature down to 100°C and leave the door open a little to help cool the oven down. With the mixer on high, add a spoonful of sugar to the egg mixture at a time. Once sugar is combined, continue whisking for a further 5 minutes until stiff, smooth and glossy.

Carefully spoon the meringue onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper (I split mine into two), making a little well in the middle. Bake for two hours, then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely.

When ready to serve, combine the mascarpone and whipping cream, and whip together until it forms soft peaks. Spoon half of the cream over each pavlova, then top with 1 sliced banana, half the caramel sauce (there’s no such thing as too much caramel, so if you need more, use more!) and 1 crumbled Crunchie/Flake bar. VERY carefully place one pavlova on top of the other, and serve.

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Image via @brytontaylor Instagram

 

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The Cult of Condensed Milk

First of all, let me apologise profusely for my absence. The Browed One and I have recently moved house, and with that came the month of no wi-fi. It was awful. So many cat videos went unwatched, so many Buzzfeed lists were unread. Tragic for all involved. More importantly, it also meant no blogging, because it is really hard to post from my tiny phone.

But here we are, together again. I missed you.

I convinced myself that I hated condensed milk as a child. I don’t know what I based that opinion on, given that everything about it is right up my alley. I can only imagine that I made up my mind without having tried it (as children do) and then stubbornly refused to change it (as children do).

And so The Cult of Condensed Milk eluded me. I had one friend in particular, knowing that we always kept a tube in the pantry, would make a beeline every time she came over, and would proceed to inhale the lot. Wade is some kind of CM bloodhound. We can’t keep it in the house, because he’ll find it, and consume it in a manner not unlike this. I’ve since discovered the error of my ways, and am now a card-carrying member of The Cult of Condensed Milk. Join us.

Last week saw us celebrating Wade’s birthday (happy birthday Wade!), and the best way of celebrating anything is with everything that you love – birthday law and all that. Wade’s big loves in life all come together is the form of cà phê đá – Vietnamese Ice Coffee – and when he happened across a recipe for it in cheesecake form in my current favourite cookbook, his knees went a little weak. I’ve made a lot of cheesecakes in my time, and this is the most utterly perfect texture. Feeling pretty damn smug about the whole thing, to be honest.

The trick here is to use strong espresso. I visited Humblebee Coffee Roasters and got them to brew me up some magic (I’m terrified of our coffee machine at home – if I break it, Wade will kill me), and it was perfect. Should you wish, instant coffee is totally fine and if you’re not one for kahlua, just substitute extra coffee.

Cà phê đá Cheesecake

From Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts by Gizzi Erskine

85ml melted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 x 300g cream cheese, at room temperature
395g tin of condensed milk
50g brown sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp extra strong espresso
3 tbsp Kahlua (or more espresso)
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

Heat the oven to 160*c. Line a cake tin with baking paper, then grease the sides with butter.

Stir the melted butter into the crushed biscuits and 1 tbsp brown sugar until evenly combined. Evenly press the mixture into the bottom of the cake tin and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool in the fridge while you make the filling.

Increase the oven temperature to 200*c. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, then add the coffee, Kahlua if you’re using it, sugar, flour, vanilla and condensed milk. Whisk in the eggs and extra yolk until thoroughly combined and airy.

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Pour the filling into the tin, and then place in the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 100*c and bake for a further 25 minutes or until it jiggles just a little in the middle. Turn off the heat, crack the oven door just a tiny bit, and then walk away and leave to cool for 2 hours.

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Once cooled, cover with foil and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. To release from the tin, run a butter knife under hot water, then around the edge of the tin.

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Have you ever driven past some of the magnificent buildings around town and wondered what lay inside? Open House Perth is your opportunity to discover all their secrets, and I definitely recommend you check it out. From heritage to art deco, from corporate offices to people’s homes, nothing is off-limits.

Personally, I’m very keen to visit The Creative Arts House (#51, in case you want to come too) because not only do I love seeing creative brains come together, but Lifeline WA do incredibly vital work within our community. Studio Lifeline is definitely something I could get on board!