Monday, November 29, 2010

Country Women's Association of NSW Chocolate Cake

I got this recipe off the side of a packet of self-raising flour. Hehehe.... well it's true! Had to try it, only because it was from the Country Women's Association of NSW - and let me tell you, the country women of Australia can cook! - and because it had honey in the icing :P. And this intrigued me! Honey and chocolate icing.... yummmm!!

This cake is extremely easy to put together. I don't know if it's just me, or if it really is a characteristic of the Aussie country womens' baking, but I find that many recipes I get from country girls are easy-as-just-throw-it-all-together types. I like this. It makes baking seem more achievable when you're pressed for time or energy.

As for the cake itself... well... hmm... I honestly can't say it's anything more than a generic chocolate cake really. Not particularly rich. Not particularly moist or dry. I think it would be lovely layered with some strawberries and cream, but the icing in this recipe is also a delicious match. I really think it's the icing that gives this cake the 'yum' factor. It tastes a lot like a one of those Nougat Honey Logs. Anyway, without further ado, here is the recipe!

Chocolate Cake

2 cups self raising flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
125g softened butter or margarine (I always use butter!)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180C conventional/160C fan forced. Grease and line a 20cm round deep cake tin.

Place all ingredients into the large bowl of a mixer and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed.

Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour 15 mins - 1 hour 30 mins, or until cooked*. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

*Mine only took 1 hour, so be sure to check how it's doing after about 50 minutes!

Chocolate Honey Icing

Little note here: The recipe says to 'cream' the butter and icing sugar... personally, I don't see how you can cream 1 tablespoon of butter into 2 cups of icing sugar LOL, but I tried anyway. The butter kind of disappears into the sugar and the whole thing looks dry and a bit lumpy in parts. Just mix as well as you can and continue... it will all come together in the end!

2 cups icing sugar mixture
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Cream butter and icing sugar mixture in medium bowl.
Add cocoa and honey, stirring well to combine.
Add sufficient hot water to make a smooth icing - (about 3 tablespoons)

I'm enjoying a piece right now with a hot cup of tea.....


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spiral Down

I haven't written for a long time. The reason is that I haven't been feeling the best. I'm not sick or anything, just very down at the moment. Sometimes, things are just too much, and I feel like I can't cope anymore.

It's nothing in particular... just life in general. I can't say why it gets to me this way from time to time, but I know it does. Usually, I see the symptoms of it before I realise what's going on. I start to get behind on the housework... the washing piles up, there is a constant stream of dishes to be done; toys, papers, books all over the floor, overdue for vacuuming, bathrooms waiting to be cleaned.... I look around and don't know where to start. And there are so many other things to do besides the menial tasks required to maintain a home as well.

Quite honestly, I hardly get more than 20 minutes at a time to get any task done. Most of the time, I can deal with the constant interruptions - that's just motherhood. I have children, small ones who need my attention for various things all the time. But sometimes, it just gets annoying. I can't commit to getting a task done from start to finish unless children are asleep, and there is only so much TV that I will allow them to watch. Working through when my babies are sleeping also means that I don't get a break through the day, so I confess that whenever I can, I take that opportunity to rest. The times when I don't, I can hardly get through the day - and I'm not kidding.

The house is one symptom. Other things I start to notice (which are probably all connected anyway) are within myself.... I feel lost and more tired than usual. I can't seem to gather my thoughts and structure my day - even a simple tactic of making lists is hard! I stare at the paper and can't articulate my thoughts into words to write down. I have found myself staring at the kitchen bench, wondering what I went to do there. On the way to drop the girls to school one morning, I totally missed the turn-off into the street.... just kept driving. I start forgetting stuff. I struggle to cope with my sons tantrums, and the daily effort of dealing with him becomes so frustrating that I just want to sit down and cry.

At this point, when I become prone to tears, I usually start wondering what on earth is wrong with me. And then I get it. It all begins to make sense. These are all symptoms of depression. It's familiar, because I've had it before. And because I've had it before, I know that I am a little more susceptible to falling into it again.

So I'm in a bit of a downward spiral at the moment. The point where you recognise where you're at is usually enough to halt the fall for me, but halting it is not necessarily the same as coming back out. Climbing up the spiral takes work. As if I haven't got enough to do already.....

I have to say, through all of this most recent trench, my husband has been wonderful. He has not pressured me to get things done around the house, not asked why dinner hasn't been cooked (kids had 2 minute noodles) - in fact, he went back out one night and bought home some Indian takeaway for us. The days where I've made what feels like a colossal effort to get the place in order, he compliments me and says how he appreciates my efforts. In this gentle, no-pressure manner, he motivates me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and make my way up again. I can't say how much it means to me that he doesn't guilt trip me over the state of things... especially when I'm already beating myself up over it all.

Anyway, November is not over yet. Hopefully, I will be able to add in a couple more blog entries before the end of the month. Lots of baking to do, some cute things to report, and hopefully, a more positive note to end the month on.

Despite it all, I am still smiling. I hope you are too :)


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Don't Blow Your Nose!!

When hubby blows his nose, it sounds like a trumpet. I'm sure you know what I mean. I'm sure you've heard someone blow their nose that way before... maybe even you!

When he does this, little man becomes extremely annoyed, and comes running over to either me or his dad screaming his protest with his brow lowered in serious irritation. It's so funny to watch. He doesn't react this way with anyone else, only my husband. I guess the trumpety sound bothers him some.

Unfortunately, hubby has alot of hay fever recently, and has been blowing his nose alot. Little man can hear everything going on in the lounge room from his bedroom, which is just off the main living areas. We first noticed his distress over it one night, when poor hubby was afflicted particularly badly with unrelenting hay fever. Little man would scream his protest from his room every single time hubby blew his nose. I felt so sorry for them both! When I went in to help settle and check on my son, he really did seem to be distressed... as though he wasn't too sure what the noise was that he was hearing. I didn't have the heart to tell hubby not to blow his nose so loudly though, because he was already extremely annoyed and frustrated.

In the end, I couldn't help but point out the correlation between when hubby blew his nose and when the boy would scream. Hubby got the point, and tried to keep the ruckus down. I felt sorry for him. Have you ever tried to blow your nose really quietly when the urge to trumpet it out is overwhelming?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vanilla Cake: Egg & Dairy Free

We are very blessed to have no food allergies in my family. But I know plenty of others who do, and anytime we host new people at our home for a meal or party, I ask if there are any food allergies or intolerances. My aim is that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. There have been a few incidences in recent months that have all culminated into the inspiration to go ahead and explore some allergy-friendly recipes. Here is my first tested recipe.

The original post can be found here. I haven't really adapted it so much as change the name of some ingredients to what we know them as in Australia. It's super easy to make, which is always a bonus when you're time-poor.

A couple of tips!

1) Be sure to prepare your pan and oven first, because it is important to get the batter into the oven as soon as the last ingredient is added.

2) The last ingredient is the vinegar. You really need to work quickly when stirring it in, pouring into the pan and putting it into the oven. This is because the vinegar activates the bicarbonate of soda in the cake batter, producing the bubbles and aerating the cake. In other words, this is your raising agent. If it is left to sit too long before it goes into the oven, the bubbles will dissipate, and you will get a flat, rubbery cake.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 cup soymilk (I used vanilla flavoured)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C

Lightly grease and line an 8inch round or square cake pan.

Into a large bowl sift dry ingredients. Stir around with a wire whisk to distribute ingredients evenly.

Add all wet ingredients except vinegar. Whisk until no lumps appear and the batter is smooth.

Add vinegar, stir through quickly about 7 times and pour into the pan immediately.

Bake around 30 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, or a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The cake turned out beautifully moist. It's not particularly fluffy, but not particularly dense either. Lovely vanilla flavour. In keeping with the egg-free dairy-free theme, I whipped up a quick frosting with......

2 tbsp Nuttelex (non-dairy spread)
1 cup pure icing sugar
2 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Just beat it all up together till it's smooth and fluffy.

By the way, my daughers loved it... even the one who doesn't like creamy frostings!