Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"what happens when your macarons don't work" or "a journey to Monte Carlos"

We had grand plans for this week's Bake Day.  Yet again, Pinterest served as our inspiration, as we gathered to create this Hummingbird cake, and these sweet little donut macarons.

Everything was going so smoothly.  We had three layers of the hummingbird cake in the oven, while Lauren worked her magic in the macaron making department.

We stopped for lunch, enjoying a wonderful Donna Hay Fettuccine Carbonara.  A delicious strawberry buttercream was whipped up, and the Hummingbord cake was assembled and iced while the macarons were baking away.

But something went wrong.  Our highly anticipated, much yearned after sweet morsels of magic, fell into a flaky, sticky, gooey mess. It just wasn't a macaron making day.

With our tummies full of pasta and cake, we parted ways that fateful day.

Our two layered Hummingbird Cake - we made it two layered so the third layer could be take away

Ah, but what of the sweet strawberry buttercream.  As I stared at the tub of deliciousness, I immediately thought of Monte Carols.  Those old school shortbread style biscuits with jam and buttercream that we used to fight over as kids, once the Kingstons were eaten of course.

And so the post bake day "lets make strawberry buttercream magic" baking session began, and these delicious morsels were created.

Here's how I did it:

Monte Carlos

185g butter at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups self-raising flour
¾ cup plain flour
½ cup desiccated coconut

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter
120g icing sugar, sifted
2 1/2 tbsp strawberry jam


Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease and line cookie sheets/oven trays with baking paper. Tip: you may need up to 4 trays, but only cook 2 trays at a time.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. 

Sift flours together and fold into creamed mixture with coconut until well combined. 

Take a slightly heaped teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Gently flatten to an oval shape, tidying up the edges  as you go then mark each piece with the prongs of a fork.  Allow 4 - 5 cm between each piece of dough.

you can get creative and make a criss- cross design

Bake 12 minutes, until golden. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Tip: When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, it is a good idea to match them up into pairs of like sized biscuits, to make the assembly easier

Strawberry buttercream: While your biscuits are baking, beat the butter, icing sugar and strawberry jam together until well combined.  Set aside.

Once the biscuits are cool, place a teaspoon of filling onto the centre of a biscuit and sandwich with a plain biscuit, pressing firmly. Repeat with the remaining biscuits.

Serve with a nice hot cup of tea.  Store any uneaten biscuits in an airtight container.


  • The biscuits featured in the photos are both dairy free and gluten free.  
  • To make these dairy free, replace the butter with dairy free spread in both the cookie dough and the filling.  The biscuits won't be as golden as when they are made with butter but they will still be tasty.  
  • For gluten free, simply replace the flours with gluten free substitutes. 
  • For old fashioned monte carols, follow the directions for baking the biscuits as above.  When it comes to making the filling, omit the strawberry jam.  When assembling, spread a teaspoon of jam onto one half of the biscuits, and then the buttercream on the remaining biscuits.  Sandwich one jam and one buttercream biscuit together, pressing firmly.

We might make macarons again one day... maybe.

But for now, we hope you enjoy baking these delicious treats.

~ Nicole ~

Friday, May 17, 2013

A magical pinterest find comes to life

This week whilst trawling through a very colourful and inspiring pinterest feed, I came across a little jem of cake which immediately caught my eye.  It had a long name but every word of it's title made me drool just a little until it was almost unbearable...

vanilla bean salted caramel swirl cheesecake cupcakes

photo credit:

I mean, really, they had me at vanilla, but to team that with salted caramel and put it in a mini cheesecake is like a little taste of heaven I'm sure.  So we set out to recreate this decadent little delight this afternoon.

As it happens, we needed to make a few changes, nothing to detract from the original recipe though, so I won't bother typing it out again.  Head over the and check out the amazing recipe, as well as the absolutely scrumptious vanilla bean salted caramel sauce.  Ah, but check out our yummy photos first...

the biscuit base all ready to take the cheesecake filling

making sure the swirls are just right


The recipe says that you should let it set in the refrigerator for 4 hours, but we couldn't resist the need to sample.  Here is the little taste tester, drizzled with warm sauce ready for the tasting...

And the verdict?  "I want this taste in my mouth all the time"

I think that's a winner!

~ Nicole ~

Monday, May 13, 2013

Custard Tart

Custard Tarts have to be one of my very favourite deserts. I have fond memories of when I was little going to a bakery with my Dad and he would always buy us Custard Tarts as a treat or he would bring them home for us. 
When I cook, I've had to be inventive and find different substitutes for sugar so everyone can enjoy my baked goods. I'm in love with Coconut Palm Sugar, it's low GI, low calorie and has a beautiful caramel taste to it unlike other sweeteners. I found that using it to make the custard filling gave it a great taste. 
I also used half buttermilk and half cream as that was all I had in the fridge, it turned out surprisingly well, it was a bit tangy but beautifully creamy. 

1 cup wholemeal flour (150g)
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon custard powder
20g butter
¼ cup cold water (60ml)

  • 2 tbsps custard powder
  • 2 tbsps coconut palm sugar
  • 1 and a 1/2 cup of cream
  • 2/3 of a cup of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Nutmeg (dust)
1. Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius. Place flour, sugar, custard powder and margarine in large bowl of food processor; process until combined. With motor operating, add enough of the water until mixture just begins to form a ball. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth. Cover; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough until 5mm thick. Place into four deep 10cm fluted flan tins. Line each pastry case with a piece of baking paper, filled with dried beans or rice; place on oven tray.
2. Bake for 10 minutes then remove baking paper and rice/beans and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown.
3. Whisk custard powder, sugar and 1/2 a cup of cream together until combined.
4. Bring remaining cream & buttermilk to the boil in a saucepan. Then take off heat & add custard,sugar & cream mixture. Stir for 5 minutes on heat until thick.
5. Pour into cooled pastry case, dust with nutmeg and bake on 150 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes until firm in the middle. 


Friday, May 3, 2013

A delicious Banana Zucchini bread

I had a hand of sad looking bananas in the fruit basket this week... they were just crying out to be turned into something amazing.  So I heeded their cry for greatness, and mashed them into this delightful Banana and Zucchini Bread.  

It really is an easy, and delicious bread to make.  If you need to watch your sugar intake, you can use 1 cup of honey in place of the sugar.  The bananas do add sweetness to this bread, so you might even be able to reduce that amount to your liking.  I plan on making a gluten free version soon, stay tuned for an update (once it's successful!)

In the meantime, get your sad bananas into a bowl and make some yummy bread... almost good enough for breakfast perhaps?

Banana Zucchini Bread

Makes two loaves


3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup oil (vegetable oil, or other preferred light flavoured oil)
3 eggs
1 cup of honey OR 11/2 cups rapadura/coconut palm sugar
1 tbs vanilla
2 cups mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)
2 cups shredded zucchini (unpeeled - about 3 medium)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Grease and flour two loaf tins, and preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Stir in the banans and zucchini. Add this mix to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened, or until no more flour lumps can be seen.  Stir through the nuts if using.

Pour into prepared loaf tins and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing from tins and cooling completely on wire racks.

Slice thickly and enjoy!  It's really good toasted the next day with a nice slathering of butter too.

* Thermomixers!  I haven't made the whole cake in the thermomix, as it makes a lot of mixture, but you can use the Thermomix to help you along the way.  If you are using a thermomix: shred the zucchini on speed 5 for a few seconds.  Remove from the bowl and set aside (no need to wash the bowl).  Mash the banana, again using speed 5 for a few seconds.  Then you can add the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix on speed 3 until well combined.  Add the zucchini back into the bowl and mix together for a few seconds on speed 3.  Continue as above.

~ Nicole ~

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jess post: Sugar & Dairy free Plum & Cherry Crumble Cake

Sugar & Dairy free Plum & Cherry Crumble Cake


Since I've finished Uni, I've had so much time to myself, so I've been able to get back into baking!  I got an early Christmas/Graduation present this year, something which I have been coveting for a long, long time and much to my delight I finally got a KitchenAid stand mixer! 

Isn't it beautiful!?

Needless to say this little baby has nearly paid for it's self, I've been going a bit baking crazy since I've got it but no one has complained or planned an intervention just yet.

Both of my parents have Diabetes and most of the treats I've been making (Will be posting them soon) have been laden with sugar and full fat butter which isn't good for them so they have either had to drool over them and miss out or eat them and have reactions to the sugar. Being the amazing daughter that I am I decided that I would make an effort to make some things that they could enjoy without worrying about what effect it would have on their health.
Plus, if mine & my baking partner in crime's plan goes ahead we'll be selling our treats at the market. We would also love to tap into the vegan, gluten intolerant , lactose intolerant, diabetic, egg/nut allergy niche as well as the normal stuff. It would especially be interesting to see if there was much of a demand in our area as we're in a rural town and there isn't a great deal of choice apart from one cafe specialising in gluten free food. We'll be blogging our baking adventures & road to selling our stuff on here so stay tuned!!

I adapted my recipe from I like to put my own twist on things so I've added Cherries as well as plums & blended them instead of cutting the fruit. I've also added Almond Meal and Vanilla. 

Anyway, here is the recipe for the Plum & Cherry Crumble Cake:

*Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees.


  • Melted Dairy Free butter, to grease
  • 175g Dairy Free Butter, softened
  • 155g (3/4 cup) Agave Syrup
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Essence 
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g (1 cup) almond meal
  • 6 ripe plums, halved, stones removed (Blended)
  • 1/2 a cup of Cherry's, stones removed (Blended) 

Crumble topping

  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 25g (1/4 cup) rolled oats
  • 25g Dairy Free Butter, finely chopped
  • 1/3 of a cup of Dates (Blended)
  • 45g (1/4 cup) Almond Meal 

Step 1: Blend butter and *Agave Syrup until smooth. 
*Interesting factoid: Agave is a natural sweetener similar to honey and derived from the plant that is used in making tequila, agave nectar can be used to sweeten both food and drink. This sweet syrup is an ideal alternative to sugar and offers health benefits.
  Step 2: Add dry ingredients to the butter, eggs & Agave. Blend until smooth. You'll find that the mixture is quite thick but that's OK because you will need it for the layer of Plum & Cherry puree to sit on top without seeping through.

Step 3: Blend dates until smooth & add both dates & melted butter to the dry ingredients (flour & almond meal).

Step 4: Add mixture to a lined & greased spring form tin starting with the batter then adding the layers of Plum & Cherry Puree & finishing with the crumble mixture. Bake for 50 -60 minutes on 150 degrees.