3 April 2008

"Crumb By Crumb..."


I like to spend my Thursdays doing everything I shouldn't - browsing the internet, reading non-uni literature, (*ahem* Baby Sitters Club books) and baking frivolously. Today was a fairly exemplary Thursday, in that I baked two cakes (one of which I made up!)

Above: Remember this one? At the requests of Tim and Paul, and because there was - surprisingly - an errant can of the stuff in the fridge, I made the Chocolate Guinness Cake from Nigella's Feast again, after only just having made it a couple of weeks ago for St Patrick's Day. I have to say, if I were Homer Simpson the sight of the mixture for this cake, which begins as butter melted into the Guinness, would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Indeed, if I was a beer drinker, Guinness with chunks of butter floating in it would probably be my beverage of choice.

You think I'm bluffing, don't you?

Above: It was as good as ever. Dark, dense, moist, complex, fabulous. What can I say? Go buy Feast! You won't be sorry!

Above: I had an idea for a Pear and Nutmeg Custard Sponge in the middle of photography class yesterday. I quickly jotted down a rough recipe in my excercise book (and went back to paying attention straight away, don't worry!) and tried it out today.

Mercifully, it worked! I don't have the money to triple-test my recipes a la the Australian Woman's Weekly (obviously I make a special exception for lentil soup) so I need things to work first time round.

Above: It tasted lovely, too - grandmotherly, somehow, with the pear and the nutmeg and the custard-softened crumb of the cake going marvelously well together. As I ate I mentally patted myself on the back for this burst of inspiration.

If you feel like being my test kitchen, I would not mind in the slightest :) the idea of someone actually making my recipe would in fact make me seriously happy.

Pear and Nutmeg Custard Sponge

150g soft butter
150g sugar
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons custard powder
200g flour
2 t baking powder
1 t ground nutmeg
1 pear, diced
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180 C and butter and line a 21cm springform tin with baking paper. Beat the butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and custard powder at the same time, and beat till incorporated together. At this point, sift in the flour and baking powder, and add the nutmeg, diced pear, and milk, folding together gently. Spread into your prepared tin, and if you like, arrange some pear slices across the top like I did. Bake for 50 or so minutes, depending on your oven, till a skewer comes out clean. I found it took an hour in our oven, but they do vary. You may want to put some foil over the top for the last 20, if it is getting too brown. Finally, grate some fresh nutmeg over, or sprinkle over a little pre-ground. Slice into fat, golden wedges and eat with a cup of tea.

It is great fun thinking up recipes. I don't know how people like Nigella end up with over 100 for their books though. I've only come up with about 15 max, and no one is going to want to buy a cookbook that woefully slim!

Last night the whole flat went out to dinner for Stephan's birthday. He is the first of us to turn 22! We went to Monsoon Poon, which is situated off Courtney Place, and unfortunately we had to wait forever to get a table. Luckily, once you are seated they serve you amazingly swiftly. Tim and I have been here before, earlier this year, and loved it, and it was just as good as we remembered. I had the Duck Noodles, which were delicious - gosh I love duck, but it's so expensive that I only buy it a couple of times a year. So, I always look for it when I'm at restaurants. I ordered a medium plate (there is a large option) but it still was enormous; it was only the fact that the noodles tasted so incredible that I managed to finish it off. The only disappointing thing was that some of the duck was a bit fatty, and needed trimming. Tim had an insanely good lamb curry with 25 herbs and spices, the meat was amazingly tender.

Unfortunately I didn't keep tabs on what everyone else had (well, there was six of us) and the photos I took weren't very good, so I won't bother putting them up here. Everyone enjoyed their meals though, and it's really not very expensive at all - my noodles, and a naan the size of South America, came to $22. And David Beckham has dined there - what further recommendation do you need? I would make sure you get in early (they don't take bookings) so as you don't have to wait round for ages though. Or make sure you are with a group of people you like, so if you do have to wait, there are no awkward silences...

Today in the paper (in the 'Life' section) there was an article about Nigella, entitled "Curvy Goddess or Dumpy Frump: Too Much of A Good Thing?" The article ended up, characteristically, being about nothing much at all. Shame on you, Dominion Post, for having such a tabloid-style title, and for intimating that someone with Nigella's hourglass figure is "dumpy." However, thanks for the delicious picture of her. This picture is supposed to be showing how much larger Nigella has become in the last ten or so years, however I say she looks incredible. The article is poorly researched, describing her as a "celebrity chef" and then saying she has had no formal training as a cook. It makes much of her high calorie recipes and ignores the fact that much of her food is packed with vegetables (as I found out when I went through her books, armed with post-it notes)...and that her seminal text, How To Eat, had an entire low-fat chapter...

In music news (insofar as I can call my opinion news), two gals I am monumentally obsessed with at the moment are April March and Joan As Police Woman. This is all courtesy of Ange who is remarkably commited to ferrying excellent music from her computer to mine and Tim's via memory sticks.

Check out "Eternal Flame" on Youtube by Joan As Police Woman - this song is seriously beautiful. And April March's delightfully kooky Chick Habit, an English song off her largely French language album, can be found here - no music video though.

And if you reeeeeeally feel like indulging me, this video from eight years ago of Idina Menzel singing a song from The Wild Party musical, is one of the reasons that I truly love Youtube.

PS - I'm pretty sure I was joking about the butter and beer...but then as I said, I'm not a beer drinker, so who knows? ;)


  1. The custard sponge looks great!

    But butter and guinness? EWWWW. LOL!

    xox Sarah

  2. Laura those cakes are wonderful. How clever are you making up a recipe just like that? Well done you

  3. Two cakes in one day?! Both of them look good! Although a Guinness cake sounds really good, I think I will pass on drinking Guinness with butter floating in it... I also like the sound of that pear and custard sponge cake.

  4. Laura, if I have enough butter tomorrow, I WILL make this cake. What a great idea! And just like Granny said, how clever are you for coming up with a cake just like that!


    PS- Those pictures look pretty good. :-D

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  6. OK, so after everyone had breakfast there was enough butter left and thus I went on to make the cake. While making the batter I took a taste and it was soooo good. It made me so impatient for the cake to finish baking. Well after it baked (for 50 min.), I again started to loose patience, but once the cake was cool enough I cut a big wedge and scoffed it down. Verdict: Brilliantly lovely! Awesome job Laura.

    Please don't loose touch, because I want to know about your future cookbook the day it comes out! And it better include this recipe. :-D

  7. Laura I love the sound of the custard sponge.

    Butter and Guinness = very bokey.

  8. Not being a beer drinker, but having tasted your famous Guinness cake, I can thoroughly recommend it to the wary or faint-hearted. The pear cake looks and sounds great - could even be tempted to shake the dust off the baking tins and try it myself (Would have to venture into the deepest darkest recesses of the kitchen cupboard to locate them first.)

  9. Guinness is the nectar of the gods. Sounds like a slice of heaven!

  10. that sponge cake is so gorgeous!

  11. Sarah Nicole: WOW that's awesome that you made the sponge (and thank goodness it worked out LOL) Trust me, if a cookbook with my name on it ever materialises, the whole pantry gets a signed copy. I'll never make any money though LOL.

    Mum: I could always bring my springform tins when I come up later this month...I'd better get on to making that muesli soon, too!

    Everyone else: Thanks heaps for your lurvely comments :)

  12. This looks delicious! And yes, I can attest to the goodness of Guinness and butter (how could I resist taking a sip?!) But the cake is even better

  13. Gorgeous cakes Laura, I have finally bought Feast, which is timely now that the series is on the telly, have made a few things already.....really loved the chocolate episode last week!!!!! My daughter and I made the chocolate crackles the next day!

  14. AnonymousJune 04, 2008

    Hello :),

    I'm Sophie, Key Ingredient's Chief Blogger. We would like to feature your Pear and Nutmeg Sponge Cake recipe on our blog. Please email sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if interested. Thanks :)