Whipping the light fantastic

Yes, you read that right.

Not an original one today, but I was so irrationally excited by the results of this recipe that I had to share it!

I dearly love a cupcake, but find most buttercream icing/frosting a bit too sweet and rich. So when I saw this alternative on one of my favourite YouTube channels, I had to give it a go. Coffee foam. No fat. No dairy. Obviously coffee doesn’t go with everything, but with chocolate cupcakes? Yum!

I got the recipe from the Emmy Made YouTube channel. I’m a great fan of hers. She tries all kinds of things, makes all kinds of things, tastes all kinds of things and tests all kind of things. She’s lovely, with a calm, friendly, youthful demeanour, and is refreshingly frank about her own fails and bloopers. She calls it Magic Coffee Whip and she herself got this recipe from a source detailed in her own video about it (see the link below), but it basically boils down to three everyday, basic ingredients:

20g/¾ ounce instant coffee granules/crystals* (NOT powdered)
200g/7 ounces caster (superfine) sugar
160ml/5½ ounces icy cold water, the colder the better.

Using either a stand mixer with the balloon whisk fitted, or an electric hand beater on medium/ high, first gently bring together and then whip them until a firm, pale foam is formed, like meringue or whipped cream. It takes about 3-5 minutes, depending on which machine you use (you can of course beat by hand, but it’ll take quite a while. Don’t lose heart, it will happen). That’s it.

The coffee flavour is sweet and strong. The mouthfeel is light and airy, like a very delicate marshmallowy meringue. You can store it, too, without the whole thing breaking down disastrously. A little coffee liquid will form at the bottom (see photo below) and the foam will darken on the surface and become a little more open in texture, but it’s still perfectly usable. As you can see below, it still supports the weight of the knife. I have yet to discover at what point it breaks down past usefulness. I suspect it’ll be eaten long before that happens.

You can top cupcakes or brownies. You can top iced coffee or chocolate. I haven’t yet tried it with hot drinks. I’m told you can even make it without the sugar, but that would be quite bitter and would need to be paired with something pretty sweet to balance. I’m not sure about the science, but it’s apparently about the granules in the coffee bonding with the icy water and forming a stable foam with strong walls. Or something. Emmy explains it better in her video.

Go on, give it a try. It’s like magic! 


*I used Nescafé Blend 43

Another mixed bag

So, a couple different things to show you…

Yesterday, I went out for lunch. It doesn’t happen often these days, but up here in north Queensland we don’t seem to have any Covid-19 cases, so the sewing ladies of Days for Girls met to catch up on Christmas, the holidays and forthcoming events. Precautions were taken and distance maintained, barcodes were scanned, forms filled in and lunch orders were taken and arrived……… eventually.

It did take a long time for the food to arrive. But when it did, it was worth it.

Sourdough toast with a mountain of free range scrambled egg, mud crab and thinly sliced chilli on a bed of baby spinach, topped with sriracha hollandaise. A reverent silence was maintained.

This, plus the Dowager and Aunty Marion inviting themselves over for lunch today (and arriving at 10.30am!) chewed into my planned sewing time rather, but I did get this project finished in time to post about it today. It’s another Jocelyn Proust furnishing fabric, sold as a pair of 20 inch panels to make into a cushion cover. It was in the Spotlight remnant bin because someone had slipped with the cutting out and demolished part of the border. I love the colour scheme, and the birds are such fun!

And finally, the early stages of a future ScrapHappy project (but not tomorrow’s, I fear). I wanted a large bench mat for the kitchen. I currently use a tea towel for setting out the Husband’s work food supplies: Thermos flask of boiling water and two travel mugs of hot coffee, one of hot home-made soup; milk for future tea or coffee; a banana and two apples, sliced soft fruit or grapes; a bit of cheese and some trail mix. But I’d like something a bit more padded to protect the bench from hard edges and boiling water spills, so I’m going to make a large mat, 30 x 16 inches.

I’ll probably also make another, smaller one for assembling the packed supplies so he can put them in his bag quickly and efficiently. Anything to make things run more smoothly at 2.30am… I picked lots of pale and mid-grey scraps to stand out against the dark acacia butcher-block bench top, whilst at the same time being soothing and not to bright for scarcely-open sleepy eyes. Now all I have to do is press and trim them and start sewing.

Something completely different for ScrapHappy Day tomorrow, though!


It has been a trying week.

Our car has been showing its age for a while. The symphony of squeaks, rattles, strange coughs and groans has been building, and last weekend it reached a point where we couldn’t ignore it. The power steering was starting to go. There’s a limit to how much good money a sensible person will throw after bad. It was time for a New (Old) Car.

We wanted a manual (stick shift) ute (pickup) with a good sized engine for caravan towing. The initial search was a bit depressing, but we found what we thought was a good deal. It was weatherbeaten and fairly basic, but would do the job. That was until the pre-purchase inspection (we’re not complete idiots). Algae in the brake fluid. Chicken feathers in the air filter. Ooze from every gasket. Blow-by (not good, Google it if you just have to know – I know what it is, but the explanation is long), and various other potentially terminal issues. I have a two page report and photos… The owner had given the engine a good going over with a power washer to hide as much of the evidence as possible, but he hadn’t changed out or topped up any of the fluids or checked the air filter.

We passed on that one, bit the bullet, scraped finance together and paid a good bit more for a Mitsubishi Triton dual-cab, a decent vehicle which should last us a long time. They took our old car as a trade in, so we have one less thing to worry about. It was stressful, but it’s done.

The sewing room is preying on my mind too. I can’t seem to get anything finished. My sewing table is totally covered with Too Much Stuff. A friend recently had a TIA and her medication is causing her to lose weight rapidly. She asked if I could take in a couple of dresses she’d only just bought which were now hanging on her. I have the backing of my Days Gone By quilt almost done. I need to make a few more Floribunda blocks and another Parterre block. I have the whole Anemone project to hand quilt. I have work pants to mend for the Husband. You get the picture…

So of course, rather than actually do any of this work, we decided to load Mr Mouse into the back of the new car and take him to the beach. We had a yummy lunch (chilli and coriander fishcakes with salad), and then took Mouse out onto the sand and let him off the leash. He loves to run on the beach, and it’s the only place we let him loose apart from fenced dog parks. He – and we – had the entire vast empty beach to ourselves, and many zoomies and figure-8 circuits were completed before he was finally exhausted. A quick hose down at the beach shower, and then home for a large snooze (for him, I did housework!).

It was a good day. A relief from the stress of the previous week, a chance to let Mouse do something he enjoys so much, and a bit of fun for us, putting the new vehicle through its paces. I hadn’t realised how anxious I’d been about the car until the anxiety went away.

All better now.

A visual antidote to Red and Blue

We just had to get away from it.

The news is full of it. My phone feed is full of it. I keep hearing soundbites everywhere. We needed a break from the relentless meltdown. (And while I’m at it, my utmost sympathy to my US readers for having to live with the hype as well as the consequences).

We headed out for a little diversion. After a brief detour to the beachfront at Seaforth, we headed for lunch at one of our favourite places: The Old Station Teahouse. We held one of the outings of the 2018 National Rally of our motorbike club there, and it received rave reviews from the 80 members who attended.

Tasty food, whilst relaxing on the ‘platform’ of a preserved old wooden station building set down in peaceful, beautiful, tropical gardens. Birdsong. The rustle and rattle of palm fronds.

The scent of murraya and gardenia. Vines, huge leaves, brilliant flowers. You get the idea… We brought Mouse along, as he loves the place, and the staff adore him and present him with scraps of chicken, mugs of puppacino studded with flakes of beef jerky, endless strokies, and best of all in his view, permission to lie on the comfy sofa!

He took full advantage, of course. Most of the customer seating is around tables in the gardens or on the event deck. There are a couple of tables on the platform, and one three-piece suite of two armchairs and a small sofa. We got the armchairs…. of course. Mouse was ushered onto the sofa in person by the manager, from where he issued his demands requests for sustenance and we were granted an audience with His Exaltedness.

At one point, it struck me how perfectly he was placed against gorgeous bright colours. I can almost see a quilt growing from those: saffron, orange, magenta, emerald and black. Or maybe not so much of the almost!


It’s certainly more to my taste than Red and Blue just now…

Fake it till you make it

In the pink.

It’s one of those phrases people use without really knowing how it originated. Currently it means to be at a peak of condition, or in the best of health. That’s not a state I’m enjoying right now, so I thought I’d seek out some pink to see if I could turn the tide into a more positive frame of mind. So I went to look for pink.

I reckon I found some good examples. You have to smile: it’s spring in Queensland! I made this collage using the Adobe Spark free software for collages.

Also in the pink was lunch yesterday. So delicious, freshly caught prawns, salad, avocado and sun dried capsicums with a caesar dressing.

And finally, the latest Floribunda block, in progress. This is #5.

In case you’re wondering, that surface it’s lying on is a thick felted batting square which is one of literally hundreds supplied to the Husband as part of a spill kit for his job. I have appropriated a dozen or so for bag-making, padding and yes, block layouts so they can be easily transported from one surface to another. The pad is 16 inches square and roughly ¼ inch thick, a really useful weight and size.

Well, the pink has done its job. I no longer feel quite so green….

Say hello to Corinna

She’s a bubbly blonde.

OK, she’s a sourdough starter, but she’s definitely got personality. She’s also the second of that name, Corinna #1 having been stored as dehydrated flakes too long before being reconstituted. I started Corinna #2 a week ago, with rye flour and filtered water in carefully measured proportions and left her to get to work in a cloth-covered glass jar. Why rye? Wholemeal, rye, spelt or other whole grain flours give your starter a better, well, start. After that initial boost, you feed her with ordinary plain/all-purpose flour (not bread flour) until she’s double her original size, very bubbly and ready to get to work.

Why Corinna you ask? (And even if you don’t, you’re going to be told, so there). I am a huge fan of Kerry Greenwood’s Earthly Delights series of books, about Corinna Chapman, bread baker extraordinaire and occasional sleuth, based in Melbourne. She is a woman of creative talent, dedication, compassion and comfortable build, and keeps a bucket of ‘mother of bread’ starter in her bakery, and I hope my (much blonder) Corinna is worthy of her example.

There are endless blogs out there on sourdough and how to make it, so that’s not happening here. Others have vastly more experience, better written posts and gorgeous photography. Here’s my favourite: Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial has made the most amazing bread-baking resource available to us lesser mortals, and has enabled me to bypass some of the more common problems by taking her advice and following her recipes. She is a sourdough goddess!

Look what Corinna and I made today:

It’s leftover starter, flour, water, honey and salt. Alchemy! Or focaccia, as the rest of you know it, baked into a pizza base. I wanted to test how lively the starter was, and focaccia is quick and simple. And clearly, Corinna is more than ready for duty; the dough texture was perfect, and it was yummy and chewy except for the crispy outer crust, which was perfect and didn’t lacerate your mouth. There’s enough for dinner for us both, and lunch for us both tomorrow. Next step is a nice basic white loaf…

Now, out of my way! Fresh hot pizza calling!

Not so dusty

I’ve been baking again.

This time, it was an Australian classic which I’d never had until a few months ago: Lumberjack Cake. The version I tried was so absolutely lush and delicious that I determined I’d try it for myself. You may wonder why it’s called Lumberjack Cake. I wondered a little myself, but the most common explanation makes perfect sense. The topping of caramelised shredded coconut resembles  a crust of sawdust. But believe me when I say that there is nothing at all dusty about this cake.

The base is a tender, damp layer of dark cake filled with chopped dates and apple. This is topped with a crunchy-edged layer of caramelised shredded coconut. It’s simple but absolutely delicious, easy to make and with ingredients I already keep in the pantry.

Here we go then:


Ingredients for cake
3 tart green apples, peeled and finely chopped
200g dried dates, finely chopped
1tsp bicarb soda
250ml boiling water
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
1 large egg
180g plain flour
½ tsp cinnamon

Ingredients for topping
60g salted butter
100ml whole milk
110g dark brown sugar
60g shredded (not desiccated) coconut

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F
Grease and line with baking paper a 23cm springform cake tin.
Put apples, dates and bicarb in a bowl with the boiling water, mix well and leave to steep until the water is at room temperature.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter, vanilla and caster sugar until thick and pale, scraping down the sides occasionally. Beat in the egg, then fold in the fruit mixture and liquid, and the flour. Pour into the lined cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes.
While the cake is baking, put all the topping ingredients into a small pan. Over a low heat, stir everything together until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved. Set aside.
After 45 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and pour the topping over the cake, spreading out the coconut to form an even layer. Return to the oven and bake for a further 30 minutes, covering with foil if the topping gets too dark brown. Test at 25 minutes with a skewer; the cake is ready when it comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tin on a rack. Once full cool, carefully remove the paper. Cut cake so each portion has some of the crispy edge.

This is based on the recipe by The Cake Mistress; I’ve made a few minor modifications, notably the addition of extra apple, the inclusion of cinnamon without which my Dutch blood will not allow me to make a cake containing apple, and using salted butter for the topping.

I hope you’ll try it, it’s really, really yummy.

The Power of Nine

Sometimes, you can get away with shortcuts and ‘cheats’.

Other times, you can’t, and it’s a matter of keeping an experience authentic, honest and true to heritage. I think everyone would agree that commercial foods and treats aren’t what they used to be. Quality, flavour and size are reduced from what we remember, like the Jamaican Ginger Cake I posted about recently, which is apparently now a shrunken, dry and disappointing shadow of its former self. I have a lot of family in Holland; my mother was Dutch and her cooking ‘set’ my tastes and preferences at an early age. One of the foods I’ve always loved is ontbijtkoek, Dutch ‘breakfast cake’. It’s a rich and heady blend of spices and honey in a sticky loaf form, most often enjoyed spread with butter and accompanied by a cup of coffee. I like it best without butter, so that I can appreciate the full spice flavour.

Like the ginger cake, you can buy a pale shadow of it here in Australia. Just… don’t. It is the size and shape and texture of a brick. It is dry and hard and the colour of baby poo. If you read the ingredient list, it contains exactly one spice and ‘honey flavouring’, as well as a whole load of things that don’t belong in a proper cake.

Instead, you can try the recipe below. I make no claim for originality, only for testing. It, and others very similar, is freely available on the internet in a variety of places if you Google ‘ontbijtkoek’. It contains no eggs or butter, and if you need to be dairy free, you could use unsweetened nut or rice milk. It needs a bit of preparation as it contains no less than nine spices: cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, cardamon, aniseed, pepper, coriander and vanilla. Together, they provide the authentic aroma and flavour, and a recipe that doesn’t contain the full set does not result in an authentic experience. Rye flour and molasses are also necessary. I do appreciate that not everyone has all that in the pantry, and indeed, I had to go shopping for the aniseed and the rye flour. But if you’re interested in trying this recipe, I’d urge you to at least try for the full set before you decide to modify.

Already half gone… I could eat this till the cows come home.

If you love spice, I think you’ll be glad you did. Ontbijtkoek exists in many regional formats, evolved over hundreds of years. It reached its spicy peak when Holland became a major spice trader, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch East India Company bringing to Europe a wealth of exotic flavours. It was a sign of wealth and prestige to incorporate them into your everyday food. We are so accustomed today to the availability of the world’s food wealth that the former heady novelty of tastes as everyday to us as pepper and vanilla is forgotten. Oh, and don’t be tempted to leave the pepper out of this recipe. It has its place among the nine, a gentle hum of heat and a fugitive aroma at the back of the nose.

Without further ado, then:


120g/4oz rye flour
120g/4oz all-purpose (plain) flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground coriander seed
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
⅛ tsp ground aniseed
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g/3½oz soft dark brown sugar
170g/6oz honey
75g/2½oz dark molasses or treacle
250ml/8floz warm whole milk

Note: all these spices are necessary for the authentic flavour, but you can reduce them to cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg as a minimum if you don’t have everything. If you’d prefer less sweetness, reduce the sugar, not the honey or molasses. I would recommend against substituting fennel seed for aniseed; the flavours are similar but fennel is more savoury and woody and it will change the taste. As already noted, you can use unsweetened nut or rice milks instead of the dairy version.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F. Line a large loaf pan with baking paper.
Mix rye flour, plain flour, baking powder, salt and ground spices in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, honey, molasses, vanilla extract and warm milk, until everything is mixed well.
Combine wet and dry ingredients into a smooth batter.
Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 80 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cover the top with aluminum foil if it gets too dark: it should be deep brown but not burned-looking.
Leave to cool completely in the tin or wrapped in foil to get the traditional soft and chewy crust, or remove from the tin after 5 mins and cool on a rack for a more crispy crust.

If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear what you think!

A triumph of nostalgia over necessity

All expats miss something – or many somethings – about their homeland.

If they claim not to, they prevaricate. Certain things are so deeply embedded in the formation of one’s character, tastes and preferences that their absence can become disproportionate. Perhaps I’m over-dramatising, but….  I don’t miss much, myself, but those things I do miss are tied to remembered happiness and pleasure. It was necessary to leave behind some particular pleasures, but there are always niggles. Who knew, 50 years ago, how memorable a particular kind of cake was going to be to this nearly 60-year-old living so happily in her adopted sunny land?

I’m talking about the King of Sunday tea-times, more gorgeous and satisfying than any fruit cake, delicate Victoria sponge or buttery upside-down cake. McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake. Gingery, sticky, chewy, and that m-word that everyone hates. It was always a disaster when it was finished, but there was still the bliss of the paper-scraping, when you could ease up from the paper case all those super-sticky bits that had been left behind, and which were somehow the ultimate delight, the bonus of this cake.

You can’t buy them in Australia. Oh, that’s not strictly true… you can get them at British Food specialty shops, online, or from Amazon in Australia. But they’re stale and nasty. They’ve sat in containers for weeks, in warehouses for more weeks, and in the hands of Australia Post or couriers for still longer. They are a travesty.

So ultimately, the only solution was to make my own. Over the years, there have been lots of trials and errors, perfectly pleasant gingerbreads and nice-ish cakes, but none that fit the bill, that rang the bell of memory. Until now.

See that shiny, sticky crust on top? And mine is bigger, too!

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot. I’m giving the recipe below. Writing this post is proving to be a good way to prevent myself cutting a third thick slice… for now.

Jamaica Ginger Cake
300ml/10floz whole milk
120g/4oz packed soft dark brown sugar
120g/4oz treacle or molasses
120g/4oz golden syrup*
230g/8oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
120g/4oz salted butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and grease and line a large, heavy loaf tin with baking paper.
Measure the milk in a glass measuring jug, add the sugar and warm in the microwave for about a minute. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and set aside to cool.
Melt the treacle, butter and golden syrup in another pan together over a low heat until runny but not hot.
Sift together the flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and allspice
Pour first the milk and then the syrup mixtures into the flour and beat hard with a whisk until smooth – a wooden spoon will not get rid of all the lumps. The consistency should be of pancake batter. Add a little more milk if necessary.
Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool completely in the tin.
Once cooled, turn out and wrap with paper and foil. Leave the cake wrapped for at least 1 day before you tear into it. This is what makes the top deliciously sticky. Do not be tempted to unwrap earlier, or the top will be normal and boring, although still perfectly delicious.

*Golden syrup is not the same as corn syrup. It is thicker, darker and has strong caramel overtones. You could substitute with dark corn syrup, but the flavour is not the same. There are recipes on the internet for a pretty good home made version using nothing more fancy than water, sugar and lemon juice.

You can obviously make substitutions if you want to, but this recipe is designed to mimic as closely as possible the cake of my childhood. It’d probably be really nice with chopped crystallised ginger in it, or maybe dark chocolate chips. I’m not going there, I don’t want to 🙂

This recipe is egg free. You could probably also make it dairy free by subbing unsweetened almond milk and dairy-free margarine, although flavour will be affected. I’m not sure how it’d go gluten free; it’s already pretty dense, so I’d recommend against using too much almond meal. Try a quality gluten-free brand (like White Wings Gluten Free in Australia, or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour in the US). Disclosure: I don’t get paid anything for mentioning these two, I just want your recipe to turn out well.

Now, excuse me. I have a date with a cake…

The Travels of Mouse: north to the sun #6

Well, it rained off and on all day yesterday. I can’t imagine what the Staff were thinking.

I mean, the point of the holiday was winter sunshine, so rain was very inconvenient and not well arranged. Still, we did manage some enjoyment. I got a few walkies in, although no big runs in a dog park on account of “not getting himself completely muddied up”. I was a Very Good Boy and held still while Mum got an ouchie out of my eye, which was all mucky. And as a reward, we went back to Vines and I got another puppaccino – and it wasn’t even my birthday!

The Staff made a huge sacrifice and forced down some coffee and cake whilst we sat in the shade area outside, surrounded by enormous tropical stuff. It’s all leaves to me, but Mum made a big song and dance about the flowers, ooh, aaah. The little trickling fountain was nice, though, even if I wasn’t allowed to have a drink there…

I did a lot of snoozing. Dad stuck on some headphones and pawed at his black plank thing. Mum messed about with fabric and took me for walkies. And then the final outrage: she baked and there was None For Me. Apparently, she’d been inspired by the cake she had at Vines. She made cupcakes with pineapple and banana and chocolate chips. I offered to help lick the bowl and the spoons – you know, the Mouse Pre-Wash Cycle – but my helpful offer was refused. I also didn’t get any bits once they were baked. I just don’t understand… They had banana in them. Obviously they were for Me!

(Note from Mum: I had to make do with what I have in the caravan pantry: 2 cup self raising flour, 2 eggs, 1 small very ripe mashed banana, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 x 445g/15 or 16oz can crushed pineapple with the juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. Mix it all just enough so there’s no visible flour left, dollop into a well-greased muffin pan – I use silicone in the caravan because you can roll it up to fit in a small space – and bake for 20 minutes at 160°C/325°C)

Mum says she’s assembled the two rows of hexies she committed to at the start of the trip, and now just has to sew them onto the main piece. Whatever. It all sounds like blah blah blah to me. OK, that’s mean, but sewing is time she could have spent stroking me… Anyway, she’s bustling about now opening and closing lockers, which can only mean one thing.

We’re on the move again.