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.

Topsy Turvey

It has been a bad day, and cake was called for…

A catalogue of mistakes, small injuries and things just going wrong culminated in me giving myself a minor black eye. It doesn’t look that bad – no-one’s going to think the Husband has started slapping me around – but it does show. I’m lucky to wear specs, they saved me from worse damage without taking any themselves. I’ll spare you the detail, but the corner of my eye had a close encounter with a large steel set square I use for squaring up my quilts. It’s designed for use by carpenters, and is very, very robust… So, the situation called for cake, the panacea for what ails me.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 7.00.39 pmThis is my Pear Upside-Down Cake, so called for a very obvious reason. And it’s extremely yummy; buttery and caramely with delicious wodges of pear on top that start life on the bottom. I make the same thing with pineapple, apricots, plums and rhubarb, also extremely delish. I had pears, so that’s what it was today. As always, it’s gluten free, but it would work perfectly well with ordinary wheat flour.

4 peeled, cored and quartered pears (Beurre Bosc are best for this purpose, but any firm pear will do);  you can also use canned pear halves if fresh ones aren’t in season.
200g butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups GF self raising flour
¼ cup milk

40g butter
½ cup dark brown sugar.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a loose base or springform 24cm pan with strong aluminium foil, grease the sides. You need to make sure there are no holes anywhere.

First make the syrup by putting the butter and sugar and 1 tblsp water in a pan over low heat and stir till melted. Simmer until thickened slightly, then pour into the bottom of the lined cake tin. Arrange pears on top of syrup. If you’re using canned pear halves (and I often do), place them flat side down. Be careful, the syrup is hot.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars till pale and creamy, add vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time, scraping down frequently. Sift in the flour and fold in, add the milk, combine everything well. Spoon carefully over the pears so you don’t disturb the arrangement, and smooth out the top.

Bake for an hour or so. If it starts to get too brown, cover with foil. It’s done when it springs back when pressed gently with a finger.

Leave the cake to sit for 5 minutes or so before inverting onto a large plate. Gently and carefully peel away the foil to reveal the caramelised pears on top and the brown and sticky top of the cake. You’ll be wanting to scrape the gooey bits off the foil, I suggest…

Don’t be silly enough to wait till it’s cool. Eat it warm, with cream or vanilla icecream.

Black eye? What black eye?

A date with some cake…

Or more correctly, a cake with some date.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.47.20 pmIt looks a bit like a coffee iced doughnut, doesn’t it? Or perhaps a bagel spread with peanut butter. But no, it’s a full sized cake. Which is just as well, because I’ve made serious inroads into it. The cake has comforting, Mum’s kitchen-type aromas, and makes me think of family Sunday lunches – the smell reminds me of my mother’s apple crumble, which is the cinnamon and ground cloves at work.

Applesauce Date Cake with Fudge Icing

1 ¾ cups self raising flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed soft brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
½ cup raisins or sultanas
½ chopped pitted dates
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Fudge Icing:
¼ cup butter
½ cup firmly packed soft brown sugar
3 tblsps  milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 cup sifted icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F.
Grease and flour a large bundt or tube tin.
Whisk together flour, salt, spices and baking powder.
Beat together butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Scrape down often.
Mix in the beaten egg. Scrape down some more.
Add first some flour mix, then some applesauce, and continue alternating till they are gone, ending with the flour mix.
Fold in the raisins, dates and if you are using them, the nuts.
Pour into prepared tin, and bake for about 75 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Make icing by melting butter in a pan, adding the sugar, and boil for 2 minutes. Pour in milk and stir until it returns to the boil.
Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and then beat in the vanilla and icing sugar. Spoon generously over the cake. It sets just like home made fudge. Don’t burn your tongue when you lick the spoon…

You can, if you prefer, substitute more dates instead of the raisins, or vice versa. I know lots of people like nuts in cake. I don’t, but I’ve given quantities in case you do!

Now, go and put the kettle on, and cut yourself a generous slice. We’ll see you in half an hour…


Yellow Bird

I’ve been messing about in the kitchen again.

This time, I’ve made an adaptation of a cake known to many of you as Hummingbird Cake, and recently featured by Jamie Oliver on the Comfort Food series. Obviously, mine’s gluten free, and I’ve made a few other adjustments too. So rather than pretend it’s ‘proper’ Hummingbird Cake, I’m calling it Yellow Bird Cake, after the tune they play on steel drums in all movies when they want to indicate a Caribbean setting. After all, what could be more tropical than bananas, pineapples and passionfruit? And these are the flavours of Yellow Bird Cake, together with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of allspice. It’s filled and topped with a creamcheese and passionfruit blend which is delicious enough to eat by itself with a spoon.

Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 5.47.19 PM

Probably the least glamorous cake shot of all time, but oh Lord, the flavour!

Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 5.47.44 PM

This slice lasted ooh, let’s see, 10 whole seconds after the photo was taken and then it was GONE. The Husband’s slice lasted an extra 5 seconds….

Yes, alright, there are sticky crumbs and smears on my plate. And yes, I did fairly extensively lick the bowls and spatulas. And yes, the cake won’t win any prizes for looks because I went a little crazy with the topping and filling, so it’s extremely oozy, but it’s sooooo goooood!


350g (12oz) gluten free self raising flour (or use all purpose with 2 tsp baking powder)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
large pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
250ml (8 fl.oz) vegetable oil (I used olive, but sunflower or a nut oil would be nice too)
350g (12oz) soft dark brown sugar
4 small very ripe (even black) bananas, mashed
440g (15oz) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained
2 large eggs, at room temperature

250g (8oz) cream cheese at room temperature
Pulp of 2 passionfruit (you can sieve it if you want. I didn’t)
300g (10oz) icing (powdered) sugar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4/350ºF.

Grease and line the bottom of 2 springform 23cm cake pans.

Sieve and blend together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the mashed bananas, oil, eggs and pineapple in another bowl till thoroughly blended, then gently fold them into the dry ingredients until there are no dry bits or flour showing. Don’t over mix. Divide the batter between the two cake pans, and bake for 35 – 40 mins until golden and springy. Run a knife around the outside, cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on wire racks.

To make the filling, in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese till smooth, then add the passionfruit pulp and icing sugar, and beat until it’s just smooth. Refrigerate till needed – it will firm up a bit more in the fridge. You could consider adding the passionfruit pulp a bit at a time, in case yours are very large, you don’t want the filling to be quite as squidgy as mine… a firmer filling will be tidier.

When the cake halves are cool, sandwich together with the filling and spread the remainder over the top.

Then get stuck in!