Midwinter Skies and Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Midwinter

winter again

so newly cold

spring summer autumn lie in drifts under the trees

the dreamtime has come

in suspension

a fire in a clearing

in the forest

with, overhead, the stars.

Clouds of breath, heads are planets,

the newness of finding answers,

making a shelter from the rain

firewood, dry sticks. Last year’s

poems are kindling, they make good fuel

good flame, good ashes. Birds who have stayed

sing about cold, the clarity

of the moon, the stony creekbed its sounds

of the scent of brewing tea, winter again,

a fire in a clearing.

~ Michael Dransfield, Collected Poems (1987).

gabby's lemon tree

In the middle of a Queensland winter the skies magically clear. The veil of cloud is drawn from the sky and pure, crystalline blue paints the dome of the sky and pervades the view from every window. Against this azure canvas the bright waxy yellow skin of the lemons on my neighbour’s lemon tree stand bright and bold and beautiful. I long for the sharp clean taste of lemon juice and rind in everything I eat. Sharp, acidic, pure it cuts through the sticky sweet or slow-cooked savoury pots of winter food. I also love using lemon in baked goods, and this Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake is the perfect mid-morning midwinter treat. Cut a thick slab, brew some tea, and watch the winter sky for a little while.

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Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I used a 10-inch bundt cake tin for my cake. You could use a 10-inch springform pan instead if you do not have a bundt tin. Please ensure that you butter and line the tin well to avoid leaving half your cake in the pan. This is especially important with intricately designed bundt tins.

This is the kind of cake that keeps well for a few days. Perfect to make on a Sunday and wrap up slices for lunch box treats throughout the week.

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 100 grams cream cheese
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Thoroughly butter (or oil) a 10-inch bundt tin and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachments beat together butter and cream cheese until completely combined and smooth.
  3. Add caster sugar to bowl and beat until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs to bowl one at a time and beat each addition until well combined. Scrape down the bowl between each egg.
  5. Pour lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla essence into the batter and mix well.
  6. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mix to bowl and on low speed mix together until just combined. You may wish to finish the mixing by hand so that you do not over mix the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared bundt tin and slide into the oven.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes (this will vary on your oven, and the size of the baking tin used). Check every 10 minutes. Towards the end of baking you may need to cover the top with aluminium foil to avoid a burnt crust.
  9. Insert a wooden skewer into the middle of the cake. It should come out clean when the cake is completely cooked. Remove cake from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then upturn cake onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before drizzling with lemon glaze and serving.

To make the lemon glaze: mix together 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. You want a firm but flowing consistency – stiff enough that it doesn’t fall off the cake, but liquid enough to flow down the sides. You may need to adjust the amount of juice or icing sugar to achieve this consistency.

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Tell me dear reader, do you love midwinter mornings?

Any favourite poems about your part of the world?

Mandarin Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

There are many codes I live by. Don’t wear pink and red together. Always put salt and pepper on avocado. Butter is best. Keep a bar of dark chocolate in the bottom drawer of the kitchen just in case you encounter a day ending in ‘y’. More books is always better than less books (the same goes for sneakers). Tell those closest to your heart just how much you love them everyday. Always pack that extra pair of unmentionables when you are travelling.

And then there is one from one of the cooking goddesses herself, Julia Child: ‘A party without cake is just a meeting.’

Yes Julia, yes. Make these cookies my friend and take them to work. Watch your team meeting transform into a tea party. See the sugar-induced smile on your boss’s face. If you don’t have an office (like me at the moment) send them to work with your loved one – trust me.

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Mandarin Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

This recipe makes about 27 cookie sandwiches.

Ingredients:

  • 335g butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 2/3 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

 Method:

  1. Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla essence in a large bowl until fluffy.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together plain flour and rice flour.
  3. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar and mix until it forms a shaggy dough. Tip this mixture out onto a lightly floured bench and knead until it comes together and forms a soft dough.
  4. Divide this dough into two portions and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for half an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two large cookie sheets with baking paper.
  6. Roll dough out to 5mm-7mm thickness (0.2-0.3 inches) with a floured rolling pin.
  7. Cut the dough into round shapes with a 4cm fluted cookie cutter – or your shape of choice (love hearts would work well here too).
  8. Place each cut out onto a lined cookie sheet. Leave about 2cm between each cookie to allow for spreading.
  9. Repeat using all the dough. You may need to line a few more cookie sheets.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a wire rack.
  11. Once cookies are completely cool make the mandarin cream cheese.

 Mandarin Cream Cheese Frosting

 Ingredients:

  • 125g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • Finely grated rind of two mandarins
  • Juice of two mandarins
  • 3 cups icing sugar

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add some more icing sugar if the frosting is not keeping its shape.
  2. Spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe approximately one tablespoon of frosting onto half the cookies. Sandwich the plain cookies on top twisting them a little to secure them.

Cookies_filled1

Lime and Coconut Snack Cake (gluten free)

I have been dreaming about this cake since last Saturday. The sky was stormy, the wind was cool, and I was moving briskly through the farmers market to avoid the cold. The bright crisp green of the limes was a siren call to me. I imagined the burst of acid-sweet citrus on my tongue, and it called me back to a summer day with lime slices in my lemonade and a warm breeze stirring the air. But it’s winter, and the breezes are chilly and really when I got home from my run yesterday I didn’t feel like lemonade: I felt like cake. I felt like moist lime and coconut cake studded with strands of shredded coconut and coated in a sweet and tart lime glaze. 

She put the lime in the coconut and baked 'em both up

She put the lime in the coconut and baked ’em both up

So I took a break from writing and took to the kitchen. With Molly at my feet and ‘Romancing the Stone‘ playing away in the background I was completely in my moment. About an hour later after the cake had cooled and been glazed I took the first bite of its dense but not soggy cake-flesh and sighed. Perfect.

Put the lime in the coconut, and call me for morning (tea)....

Put the lime in the coconut, and call me for morning (tea)….

Lime and Coconut Snack Cake (gluten free)

If you don’t need this to be gluten free you can use 100 grams of plain flour in place of the quinoa and brown rice flours. I do recommend hunting down the coconut flour (Aussie residents, I found mine at Flanneries) as it imparts a unique texture and flavour to the cake. Otherwise, just use a total of 150 grams of plain flour and don’t add the 1/2 cup of milk.

Ingredients:

  • 75 grams butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime rind (about two limes)
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut essence
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup low fat ricotta 
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 25 grams quinoa flour
  • 75 grams brown rice flour
  • 50 grams coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together quinoa flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and shredded coconut. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together butter, caster sugar, and lime rind until pale and fluffy. This mixture will be a pale ethereal green, actually quite pretty.
  4. Add lightly beaten eggs one at a time and beat well between additions.
  5. In  a small bowl mix together coconut essence, lime juice, ricotta, and milk. 
  6. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar mix in three parts alternating with the ricotta mixture. Begin and end with the flour.
  7. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top down. The coconut flour soaks up a lot of moisture so the batter may appear gluggy. Don’t worry I assure you that this glugginess become a dense, moist crumb upon baking.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes or so. The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.
  9. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely before adding glaze.
  10. To make the glaze whisk together 3-4 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 1/2 – 2 cups of icing sugar until smooth. Pour this over the cooled cake.
  11. Slice and serve. Whilst eating imagine yourself in a warm foreign locale lazing under a palm tree. I know I did.
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Woo woo, it will relieve your belly ache

Tell me dear reader, what reminds you of summer in the grey days of winter? Are you a lime and coconut lover like me, or perhaps not? 

I Bake My Feelings: Orange and Blueberry Pound Cake

I was going to talk about something else in this post; another matter that is of some importance to me, but no relation as to the reason I baked these cakes.

One of my best friends called me out on my avoidance, so here is the raw truth (in baked form): sometimes I am scared of my feelings.

Sometimes they make me anxious and crash like waves, each successively higher and I feel swamped and cold and unable to move for fear of being sucked under.

Sometimes my feelings are full of bubbles and they gather in my chest and lift me higher, and higher, and I am afraid of coming down.

So, I bake.

Yesterday I baked because I don’t know how to say ‘Do you want to get a drink sometime?’

I baked because when he smiles at me my heart does flip-flops and I am sort-of excited and sort-of scared to feel this way again.

I bake because I want him to remember me, the way he remembers my coffee order every Saturday morning.

I bake because I show emotion through food, it is the language my heart and hands translate their feelings into.

Sugar, butter, eggs, and flour are the way I show my hope, curiosity, and the weird/nice tingly feeling in my toes.

I bake so I can linger a little longer with his smile.

So, yes, I am scared that you don’t speak the language of food, and that I don’t know how to say the words out loud.

So, could you be brave, just ask me out.

(and I’ll say yes.)

Orange and Blueberry Pound Cake with Orange Glaze

This makes two 4.5 inch x 8.5 inch cakes. I kept one for my family, and gave one away… You could also freeze one before you glaze the cake. Just wrap very well in baking paper and then plastic wrap. Defrost when desired, will keep for about two months.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Greek-style yoghurt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil (or other flavourless vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 cups of fresh blueberries tossed in 1 teaspoon of plain flour (this will stop them from sinking)
  • 1 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

 Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and position a shelf in the middle of the oven. Line two 4.5 x 8.5 inch loaf tins with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together butter, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and yoghurt until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until well incorporated after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed.
  5. Beat in oil and juice.
  6. Add flour and mix until just combined. Add blueberries and fold into batter gently by hand. Use an up-and-over motion, and be careful not to squash the berries.
  7. Divide batter between the loaf tins and smooth the tops.
  8. Slide cakes gently into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. Cakes are cooked when a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
  9. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely before spreading glaze over the top.
  10. To make the glaze: mix together orange juice and icing sugar until smooth and thick. Spread over cooled cake.

If you are a baker, or cook, do you show your emotions through the food you make?

If you are not a food person, how do you express your emotions?

Blood Orange Poppyseed Cake (gluten free)

Unexpected guests and unexpected gifts provided sweet seasoning to the flavour of last weekend. After visiting with some old family friends and passing some pleasant hours talking about travel, tea, and all other parts of life in between, a gift turned up unbidden in the middle of the week.

For me? I asked.

She wanted you to have it because she knows you will appreciate it, came the reply.

Carefully unwrapped and laid out on the table like the treasure that they are was an absolutely beautiful fine porcelain tea set for six. Complete with tea pot, sandwich plates, and a tea pot warmer powered by a tea light candle. Milky cream porcelain with a golden rim, this tea set has travelled from Germany, and been loved and used for nearly 50 years. Now it is mine. Mine to love, and make memories with. All in the company and comfort of those who have used this before.

I am humbled by such a wonderful gift.

In return, I had to make a little something for afternoon tea and share a pot of tea and a slice of cake. To say thanks, and enjoy the ritual of chatting and pouring on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Here is the thank you gift I brought in return. Naturally gluten free, made from buckwheat and brown rice flours, seasoned with deepest winter’s blood oranges, and served with love. This cake is an everyday afternoon sort of treat. Share it to say thanks, and indulge in a little winter treat.

Blood Orange Poppyseed Cake

I baked my cake in an 8-inch ring tin but you could easily make 12 cupcakes, or use a conventional 8-inch round tin. You will just end up with a flatter cake. If you don’t require this cake to be gluten-free simply 225g of plain flour in place of the buckwheat flour, rice flour, and almond meal.

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams buckwheat flour
  • 50 grams brown rice flour
  • 50 grams almond meal
  • 110 grams golden caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 145mL milk
  • 80mL blood orange juice (About one really juicy orange. Save the other for decoration and juice for the glaze.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 80mL rice bran oil (or other lightly flavoured oil)
  • Grated zest 2 blood oranges
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Oil and line an 8-inch ring tin.
  2. Juice and zest oranges. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl put buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, almond meal, salt, caster sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and grated orange zest. Stir together with a whisk – my version of sifting for a cake like this. Make sure there are no lumps of sugar or almond meal. Set this aside.
  4. In a jug mix together milk, juice, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture well.
  5. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the lined ring tin.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out and cool completely.
  8. For the glaze: mix together 1 tablespoon blood orange juice and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Drizzle over cooled cake. Decorate with thinly sliced blood orange.

 

So tell me dear reader, have you ever had an unexpected gift?