Soft gingerbread

Happy recovery day, readers! Here’s hoping your Boxing Day be well spent eating leftovers, holding your stretched stomachs, watching the cricket and Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Or shopping, if you were better organised than me and had actually set an alarm to tackle the sales!

What special recipes did you use this Christmas? Did you keep the food traditional, or experiment with something new to grace your dining table? I have to say, the month of Christmas-themed recipes littering Pinterest, the newspapers, the morning talk shows, the supermarket brochures, the advertisements and the conveniently-timed new-release cookbooks look incredible. And overwhelming. Or is it just me?

In line with my quest to resurrect Nana Jean’s menu, I embarked on one of her copperplate recipes for a family Christmas party. Soft gingerbread. How could I resist such a promise of a sweetly spiced soft cakey baked serve of Christmas? I couldn’t! I even trialled the recipe, how excited I was!


Oh, Nana Jean did her crafty protective trick with this recipe, too. Ambiguous ingredient quantities and a blatantly incorrect baking time. But I must be getting better, because I trusted my instincts and the sheet cake came out a dream. The sugar and butter gives the cake a glossy sheen on the surface, but it is gloriously soft on the inside. I can’t even come up with a more fitting adjective than ‘soft’. It isn’t delicate, like a sponge. It isn’t fragile, like shortbread. It is simply soft, and not at all dry or airy.

soft gingerbread

The soft gingerbread was a hit. My grandfather (from the other side of the family, not at all familiar with the recipe) went back for thirds, not just seconds. And my three-year-old second cousin went back for fourths, not just thirds. Clearly, moreish doesn’t even cover it.

I would say, unequivocally, that this has been my most successful recreation of Nana Jean’s recipes.

So here’s to family, tradition and the sharing of food!

Happy holidays, comrades.



Cream-filled orange cake from the past

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. So here I am again, after an even longer hiatus. Please let me side-step the awkwardness to discuss far more pleasant things. Such as…

The first day of December! And what a glorious day of weather it now is here in my part of Australia. But such beautiful weather has come at a cost. After a few days of oppressive, all-consuming, inescapable heat in the depths of the night a thunderstorm broke loose tearing the calm, heavy air to shreds. The kind of thunder that shakes the bones of your house, rattles your crockery and hums and vibrates and murmurs for hours. Some districts have reported golf ball sized hail stones and semi-demolished houses. My heart goes out to those who have suffered. I hope you are all now safe and on the path to recovery.

This week I have immersed myself in homely things. I hung some of my paintings, finally framed after five years in hiding. I have tried my hand at embroidery. Yes, embroidery! How quaint! I have cleaned and watered plants and purchased an old cobalt blue Twinings tea tin. Oh, I have plans for the tin. I can’t wait. And, of course, I have been baking. Specifically, I have been baking orange cakes.

Orange cake recipe

Orange cake recipe

Sweet, light-as-a-feather, zesty little orange cakes resurrected from my Nana Jean’s cookbook.

I had been invited to a ‘thank you and bye’ morning tea, which is my favourite kind of invite! Anything that asks me to bring food is something I greatly look forward to. Are you the same? Apparently this is a rare feeling, much to my surprise. So many people have admitted to hating baking. Hating. Goodness, I would bake on their behalf!

So scrolling through my archive of photos of Nana Jean’s recipes (her book is so fragile, I am hesitant to handle it more than strictly necessary, you see) I short-listed some appropriate recipes. I knew that other people had mentioned bringing chocolate slices, which made choosing a zingy orange cake so much easier. I tend to dither when selecting a recipe for an event. Do you, too? Though I do love citrus baked goods, as I’ve waxed lyrical about in the past.

I trialled the recipe on a whim last weekend. I made cupcakes; 9 medium-sized gossamer-light cupcakes, in fact. Oh the smell when these babies are baking will drive you crazy, I promise! The specific mixing method of this recipe creates a thin, crisp and sugary top whilst the cake itself is soft and fluffy. We ate the cupcakes plain, and over the next few days, when they aren’t so soft any more, we doused them with milk and ate them like pudding. Delicious!

The cake itself consisted of two thin separately baked rounds, filled with cream and coated with an orange juice icing. It was an impressive sight: a glass-like, gleaming cake with cream curving voluptuously from the middle. And it was all eaten, every last bite!

I have not taken photos of the cake, though I could have. To be perfectly honest, it was a rushed affair. Though with the incredible success, and compliments, and sexiness of the cake itself, it will undoubtedly make a reappearance from my oven soon. I look forward to sharing it with you. For now, the recipe is attached. I hope this will suffice.

I’m spending some time in Melbourne this week, the acclaimed culture capital of Australia! I would love to hear any of your recommendations, particularly of the culinary kind.

Bon appetit!


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Orange cake

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup hot water

2 oranges, zested

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Melt the butter in the water (use the microwave if the butter is very hard), let the mixture cool. Beat the eggs and sugar well, until light and fluffy. Add the flour and butter mixture and mix lightly. Lasted add the grated rind of the two oranges.

Bake in two sandwich tins until cooked through (approx. 20 minutes, depending on your oven). Cool on wire cooling trays.

Fill with cream and ice with orange juice icing, if desired.

Orange juice icing

1 cup icing sugar

juice 1/2 orange

Mix together until thick and creamy in consistency. Too thin an icing will simply drip off the cake. You may need to add more icing sugar, depending on the size and juiciness of your oranges!