Carrot and orange cake

Carrot and orange cake with cream cheese icing and walnuts

I’ve been writing this silly little blog for nearly two years now, that’s mad isn’t it?! I’ve got to be honest, for the longest time I was a bit weird about it.

You see, the truth is I’m actually quite private. Yeah right you say! But it’s true. Yes, I realise I project my life onto the internet for full public consumption, but that’s easy when you hide behind a pseudo-name and an avatar. It took me years to get a Facebook account, I still am slightly scared by twitter and I can’t even begin to fathom Pinterest, so it came as no surprise that I took a little time to ease into the blogging.

Cream cheese icing and walnuts

For the first few months I barely even told my friends about my project, I certainly never interacted with the wider blogosphere (yes, I did just use that word, a sure sign I am now a bona-fide part-time blogger!). I was so terrified that someone might actually SEE it, shock HORROR! Over time, I have (very) slowly been working on this.

So ten days ago, when I went to a food bloggers meetup group, I was really really stepping outside my comfort zone. The people I met there were amazing and all write such unbelievably drool-tastic blogs that it made me feel immediately self-conscious. They also spoke another language, one I’m not very familiar with; SEO, engagement and PR were just some of the foreign and strange terms being bandied about. I just sipped my wine, nodded, smiled and tried to at least look like I knew what they were talking about.

Carrot and orange cake silce

Seriously though, it was wonderful to meet such lovely, energetic and creative people. Left-brained auld me can always do with a dose of inventive thinking and inspiration, check out some of their blogs below (in no particular order) to get some for yourself.

It has also made me think a little more seriously about what I want to get out of my hobby, which has been good. And I realise that I am what I am. I am never going to take the best photographs, or write the snappiest posts, get 10 bazillion hits a day or even write the most interesting recipes. But that’s all OK. As long as I’m still excited to be in the kitchen, making things that make my belly gurgle and pushing myself to write something that at the very least doesn’t put people to sleep, I’ll be happy.

Also, I made carrot cake and it was good.

Check out all of this yumness: Belly Rumbles, Simon Food Favourites, 84th & 3rd.com, Mademoiselle Slimalicious, The Littlest Anchovy, Raging CravingsOne Small Pot, and last but by no means least Chew Town.

Carrot and orange cake

Carrot and orange cake slice with cream cheese icing and walnuts

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Hallowe’en barmbrack

It appears that Australians don’t do Hallowe’en.

It makes a lot of sense; obviously October evenings in the southern hemisphere are a lot less cold, dark and, well, scary than they are back home. Which I guess is why Hallowe’en never took off here, despite the influx of Irish immigrants over the years, and why it flourished in the States instead.

It does slightly bother me that the American version of Hallowe’en is all that’s widely known here; no one realises that it’s an ancient Celtic festival. Therefore, the focus is all on trick-or-treating, and nothing else. No bobbing for apples, no bonfires and no barmbrack. I have decided that I’m on a one-woman mission to change all this. I did have to go to stupid work today though, so I only got as far as the barmbrack, but every little counts. Right?

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made to celebrate Oíche Shamhna (Hallowe’en night). It’s not only totally delish but is also loads of fun as it contains some odd little things you don’t normally find in baked goods, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, a piece of cloth and a stick. These objects mean different things for the person who finds them. The ring and the coin are the two best-known ones, they indicate that the finder will either get married in the coming year or get rich. The others are not so optimistic. The pea means the finder will not get married that year, the piece of cloth means they will be poor and the stick means they’ll have an unhappy marriage. Presumably, the stick was to be used a weapon! Lovely!

Hallowe’en Barmbrack

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Eastern inspired chocolate cake

So, all day I’ve been trying to think of a super interesting introduction for this post. Some exciting reason why I made this cake; something that would knock your socks off, make you rush into your kitchen and bake this immediately. But I was totally stumped.

Then I got to thinking: does a girl really need an excuse to bake a yumbo chocolate cake? Ehhh, I think not! No one should ever need a reason for chocolate. Ever. End of story.

So treat yourself and make this cake, it’s seriously good. The spices add subtle and interesting flavours, giving the cake an exotic twist. In fact, it’s so rich and dense and unusual you could serve it as a posh chocolate desert cake at a dinner party and all your friends would be mucho-impressedo.

I found the recipe in The back to basics cookbook by Maureen Tatlow and it’s an old style cake recipe. Now, I’ve always vaguely known that true bakers match the weight of the ingredients to the actual weight of the eggs they’ve used, but let’s be honest, how many of us ever do this? It works really well, but I’ve included actual quantities for those us you who need a non-efforty, super-fast chocolate hit.

Eastern inspired chocolate cake

Poshness!

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Date Night

Sorry for the recent lack of posting, I’ve been away on my holidays in the sunny Emerald Isle.  And it’s still wonderful.

Since I’ve come back winter seems to have decended on Sydney. I use the word “winter” somewhat loosely, as the weather is not dissimlar to what I just left back home.

So, what to do when the weather turns a wee bit chilly in Sydney? Well, if like The Fella, you were born and raised here; you give out, a lot, about how difficult it is to function when the temperature drops below 20 °C. The poor Fella has forgotten about his five year stint in Ireland quicker than I can say “wear thongs on a hot day”. Idiot.

Instead of moaning about the weather, I decided to made sticky date pudding and think about all the reasons that winter is class.  Number one: wearing tights and boots, love it. Number two: Christmas!!! Oh-oh, scrap that last one, I now live in the wrong hemisphere, and I think that’s why the Aussies hate the (incredibly mild) winters they get, they have nothing to celebrate during it. Poor dears. And of course, number three: you can sit in on a Friday night, watching telly, eating uber-calorific deserts, drinking buckets of tea and not feel one tiny wee bit guilty about it! Brilliant.

My sticky date pudding was warm and sticky and delish and covered in hot toffee sauce and cold ice cream; and I very nearly had to stop myself from eating it all in one go.

Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky pudding + tea + telly + couch = perfect winter(ish) date night.

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And so a blog is born

So, what to do now that one has started writing a blog? How best to celebrate this momentous occasion of putting pen to paper? The same way you celebrate any important occasion of course: with cake. Yumbo!

Having recently moved from Ireland to the big red land Down Under with The Fella (he’s Australian), I’ve been homesick for all things Irish. It’s funny how when certain things become unavailable they are immediately more desirable. I have been craving McCambridge bread with lashings of Kerrygold butter, washed down with many steaming cups of Barry’s tea. Unfortunately, Australian quarantine laws ensure such daydreams are limited to the realm of pure fantasy. So when I recently saw a bottle of coffee and chicory essence in the baking section of my local supermarket, I instantly knew that a nice sticky Irish coffee cake would be the perfect blog-starting celebration cake.

Before I moved to Australia I had never thought of coffee cake as being particularly “Irish” but apparently it is, go figure. It’s kind of a strange thing to come from a land of dedicated tea drinkers.

For my blog-starting celebration cake I just adapted an ordinary sponge cake recipe. I tossed in an extra egg to make it that little bit more sticky and gooey, and a cup of strong coffee for an extra caffeine kick. I wanted this to be a goooood celebration cake.

Irish coffee cake

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