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In My Kitchen… June 2014

In my June kitchen there’s a bit of a baking theme going on.

In my kitchen…

Cake Pair

…was my first attempt at a blockbuster celebration cake. All eaten now. I offered to make a cake for my niece’s birthday and decided to surprise her with an Ombre Cake. It’s not something I had made before but turned out to be surprisingly easy, though time consuming. I turned to Pinterest for inspiration but unfortunately, many of the recipes are from the US where they use ‘cake flour’ to make a white cake. Cake flour is not readily available in Australia and though it can be replicated, I couldn’t be bothered pfaffing about so I used a favourite butter cake recipe from Lambs’s Ear and Honey. Not content with the challenge of creating an ombre cake for the first time, I decided I’d also learn how to make buttercream and try my hand at piping rosettes. Thankfully Pinterest came to the rescue again with links to an excellent tutorial on i.am.baker. If you have never made buttercream icing or need to learn how to pipe icing, this is your go to blog! I have to say, as a first timer, I was impressed by the results. It’s far from perfect but good enough for mere mortals. You can imagine the oohs and aahs when the cake was revealed and the further ripple of surprise when the candles were blown out and the cake was cut. There was nothing low calorie about this cake with nearly 450g of butter and over 750g of icing sugar in the buttercream alone. Of course, now I’ve set the bar, I think there is an expectation that I will make the other niece’s 21st cake so I have started hatching a plan.


In my kitchen…

Wiltshire icing tips

…are these new piping tips and bag, from the supermarket of all places. I decided it was time to grow up and buy some proper cake decorating tools in my quest to make the ‘most amazing cake ever’. I had intended to visit a local cookware shop but happened to be in the supermarket earlier in the day when I saw these. We all know Wiltshire from that good old Aussie Icon, the StaySharp Knife (yes, it’s an Australian invention) but apparently they make baking equipment too. Six tips, an icing bag and absolutely no instructions whatsoever for under $12. Bargain! I’ll let you be the judge of how well they worked.


In my kitchen…

Cake rack

…is some baking paraphernalia that jumped into my hand when I visited Victoria’s Basement in Sydney recently. For those of you who don’t know Victoria’s Basement, this place is an Aladdin’s Cave. A Treasure Trove. A place that can do serious damage to your wallet. VB’s is packed from floor to ceiling with cooking equipment, crockery, cutlery and housewares. There’s certainly lots of good buying including genuinely discounted names such as Microplane, Tefal etc but it must be said, there’s an awful lot of rubbish and cheap stuff in amongst the bargains. The trick to shopping at VB’s is to go in with a plan. If you go in for a browse you will most certainly come away with something you don’t need. I did have a plan (see below) but still bought two other things. One I needed, which was a new cake cooling rack. At some stage I obviously took one of my racks somewhere and left it behind. This new rack is much sturdier than my previous one and has already been pressed into service during the ombre cake extravaganza.

Loaf liner

One thing I didn’t need but bought anyway were these siliconised loaf liners. I didn’t even know these things existed so clearly I got along OK for the last 35 or so years but as soon as I saw them, I knew they were for me. If there’s one thing I love, it’s a loaf cake. I was drawn to Lamb’s Ear and Honey’s recipe above, because it was in loaf form. So handy for slicing for lunches or freezing. It’s tricky to line a loaf tin though as it has annoying corners. With these little pleated corners, the liner sits snugly in the tin. At $5.95 for 40 liners, this will keep me happy for quite some time. It says these are re-useable as they can be wiped clean but I’m sure I’ll be re-visiting VB’s before I need to start recycling loaf tin liners.


In my kitchen…

New Bodum

…is a new Bodum Coffee Plunger. A few weeks ago I was sitting in the study when I could hear Anthony washing up one of the saucepans. Well it sounded like one of the saucepans, the way he was banging it about. Alas, no. ‘I’ve just broken your coffee plunger’, Mr Non Coffee Drinker called from the kitchen. ‘Why don’t they make these things tougher?’ he said. As we know, these things happen. But do these things have to happen on ANZAC Day morning when I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee? ANZAC Day morning, one of the possible only 3 days in the year when the shops are closed in Brisbane? The answer of course is a resounding, caffeine free ‘Yes’. It is known as the ‘Great Bodum Disaster of 2014’. Luckily for me I have a big Bodum that I call my ‘catering’ plunger for when friends and family come visiting. Also luckily for me I had a work trip planned to Sydney and knew that VB’s have Bodum’s for around $20 – $25 each. This is more than half the price of elsewhere. I’m not really a brand snob but it has to be said that Bodum coffee plungers run coffee rings around the other brands and imitators as far as coffee quality and ease of pouring. I ended up having to buy a ‘Bean‘ style original French press, as that’s all VB’s had. My favourite Bodum styles are ‘Brazil’ and Crema’ but any plunger in a storm. It has a small locking mechanism in the lid, additional rubber flange in the plunger and a lever that needs to be pressed to allow the coffee to escape into my mug. Somewhat over engineered, Bodum have moved on to much more streamlined presses these days but obviously also still make the original and clearly they are overstocked. I would have preferred black, not white but desperados can’t be choosers.  I also bought a replacement glass for $10, just to be safe…


In my kitchen…

Fruit pair

…is an assortment of fruit and veges bought from our new local farmer’s market. Officially it’s called Brisbane Farmer’s Market at East Village but all the locals just call it the market a Cannon Hill. I had hoped to buy some mandarins as these are in season but they were far too expensive so I opted for these new season navels that were actually being sold by the biltong man. There were not one but two strawberry stalls, both selling local fruit. Even at farmer’s markets I am extremely suspicious of strawberry sellers as they still have a high proportion of hard, over watered, gigantic fruit that is tasteless. Anthony asked for a taste and was so impressed, he bought three punnets. One has gone straight into a fruit salad for Sunday night dessert and Monday morning tea. The beans went into a vinaigrette with capers, also for dinner and to be included in our lunch on Monday. The ginger is local from the Sunshine Coast (well known for ginger). It’s very young, which is just how I like it so I can peel it, chop into chunks and put into a jar topped with brandy or sherry. I store the ginger in the fridge and am never without fresh ginger for grating or slicing. At the end of the jar, there’s a delicious glass of ginger steeped brandy or sherry to use in your cooking or cocktails. My mum taught me this trick over 30 years ago and we both still store ginger this way. No doubt she will comment about this below so make sure you look out for what she has to say on the subject.

In My Kitchen is hosted on a monthly basis by Brioche Babe, Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to talk about what’s happening in their kitchen and their lives and maybe include a few things that they haven’t had time to blog about. If you visit Celia’s blog, you can read about other In My Kitchen enthusiasts. 

73 comments… add one
  • Mandy - The Complete Book May 31, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Your cake is beautiful – I love the hues of green. I wouldn’t be without my piping bags and nozzles, although there is always a nozzle I don’t have and can’t seem to find in the baking stores.
    Have a wonderful weekend Tiffin.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2014, 11:13 pm

      Hi Mandy – yes, I’ve lived without the piping equipment all of this time now I’m sore I’ll be collecting more. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  • Lizzy (Good Things) May 31, 2014, 7:26 pm

    Wow, there’s some serious stuff going on in your kitchen! Impressive cake! Well done you. Love those loaf liners… did I miss reading where you got them from? Gotta hate it when the coffee plunger breaks! Happy baking Fiona : )

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2014, 11:14 pm

      I am certainly keeping the plunger makers in business. The loaf liners are also from Vicroria’s Basement and only $4.95. My kind of price.

  • Glenda May 31, 2014, 10:38 pm

    Hi Fiona. Love your cake. It is very, very impressive.

    • Fiona Ryan May 31, 2014, 11:15 pm

      Thanks Glenda. I’m chuffed it turned out so well.

  • Heather June 1, 2014, 9:39 am

    Cake looks brilliant Fiona and I absolutely love that trick with the ginger, I’ll be giving that a go for sure 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 1, 2014, 2:58 pm

      Thanks Heather. The ginger is great at the moment as it’s all very young so drop in to Kuraby next weekend and see what you can find.

  • Elizabeth June 1, 2014, 12:27 pm

    You cake looks fantastic and I do understand your coffee dilemma. I have just recently moved back to the Gold Coast after 16 years in Sydney and I am on the hunt for great coffee shops. Ive been to a few (which i have documented on my blog) but they are few and far between, So I have had to resort to a Nespresso in the mean time 🙂
    Oh and don’t you just love getting new baking stuff, its better than new clothes and shoes!

    • Fiona Ryan June 1, 2014, 3:32 pm

      I’ll take a look at your blog Elizabeth – I hear there’s some cool little places around Burleigh shops these days. Coffee drinkers of the world unite!

  • Amanda (@lambsearshoney) June 1, 2014, 4:02 pm

    Wow – that cake is splendid! And I am deeply impressed with your first attempt at piping, I’ll bet your niece was thrilled.

    • Fiona Ryan June 1, 2014, 5:01 pm

      Hi Amanda – yes, she was very happy as the alternative was something shop bought (and tasteless). Thanks for supplying the recipe that made it all possible. I love that recipe! So easy to use and quick to make. Cheers!

  • Tandy |Lavender and Lime June 1, 2014, 4:08 pm

    I cannot get out if bed without coffee! I wish I could browse that kitchen shop as the loaf liners sound perfect 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 1, 2014, 5:00 pm

      I hope to press those liners into service on the long weekend.

  • Tania @ The Cook's Pyjamas June 1, 2014, 7:53 pm

    That cake is seriously impressive, particularly since that is your first piping effort. Well done! After having tried various plungers, I have to agree with you that Bodum is by far the best. Thank you also for the awesome ginger tip. I will be putting that into practice.

    • Fiona Ryan June 2, 2014, 10:28 am

      Hi Tania – thanks for the cheers from the sideline. I’ll keep that in mind when I’m icing my next cake with my tongue stuck out the corner of my mouth!

  • Francesca June 1, 2014, 8:37 pm

    Great results for a first timer. That cake looks pretty professional. Thanks also for the tips on where to go for technique.

    • Fiona Ryan June 2, 2014, 10:29 am

      Hi Francesca. I found the step by step photos made icing the rosettes so much easier.

  • Gail June 1, 2014, 8:51 pm

    Thanks for a look in your kitchen. I am so impressed with your cake, no one would know it was your first go! My hubby recently broke my Bodum too while washing up. My choices were lime green or red so I went for red. Cannot function without at least one long black in the morning. Victoria’s Basement does sound like a treasure trove!

    • Fiona Ryan June 2, 2014, 10:31 am

      Husband huh? Can’t live with them, can’t kill them! I wish I’d had red to choose from. Thanks for stopping by Gail.

  • Celia June 2, 2014, 6:45 am

    Woohoo, first cab off the rank, Fi! 🙂 Love those siliconised paper liners, don’t think I could survive without them now. They fit perfectly into my Chicago Metallics loaf tins, and I use them for everything from cakes to my faux brioche. Your cake looks absolutely stunning! You KNOW you’ll end up making all the family birthday cakes from now on, right? And I’m just too lazy to use a cloth piping bag – all the ones I use are now disposable plastic. $12 is a ridiculously good price though! 🙂
    PS. Both Vic’s Basement and Peters of Kensington have great online shops, if you ever need to order more supplies.

    • Fiona Ryan June 2, 2014, 10:46 am

      You and I both know I was a little bit sneaky by launching somewhat early so thanks for putting me in at #1. I have so many posts in my head that I’ve actually drawn up a calendar for between now and the end of July so I stay on target. I’m sort of stepping in to the cake role as their Mum is seconded to Darwin this year and though she visits for birthdays, it’s a little souless with a Cheesecake Shop cake (I think). I won’t be making a habit of it but think I can roll my sleeves up this year. Thanks for the tip on the liners. I’m going to have a go at your brioche this weekend. Cheers!

  • Taryn @ The Wooden Spoons June 2, 2014, 7:39 pm

    I love the cake Fiona, a fantastic result! That does indeed sound like a coffee dilemma. I may have even been tempted by instant coffee (ugh) in that situation. Thanks for the tour 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 11:37 am

      Well why didn’t I have you around on that Anzac Day morning? It never even occurred to me to use instant (which I have some of for cooking ocassionally). Next time…. as I’m sure there will be one!

  • Joanne T Ferguson June 2, 2014, 8:00 pm

    G’day! Thanks also for your kitchen view! Your cake looks great and now know have HEAPS to learn when it comes to piping…you did terrific!
    Cheers! Joanne

  • Hotly Spiced June 2, 2014, 8:46 pm

    Congrats on a really beautiful cake. I love the layers and the graded colouring. I’ve made cakes like this before and I know they’re not easy to decorate with so many layers. I love your new decorating equipment – quite envious actually! And your fruit salad looks amazing xx

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 11:38 am

      Thanks Charlie. That fruit salad was perfect, I’ve got to tell you. I’m sure if I made it again this weekend, it wouldn’t be as good. Right time, right place, right products.

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef June 2, 2014, 10:45 pm

    Your first cake like this? Wow! You did a remarkable job on the colouring and the icing. I’m very impressed. Sorry to hear about the coffee plunger but now you have a brand new one AND a spare. I knew strawberries were around but like you I expected the first of the season to be pretty crap. I’m off to buy some tomorrow.

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 11:40 am

      I hope that taste as good as those ones Maureen. They came from Wamuran. I’ll be interested to see if they are as good this weekend, as yes, they are quite early.

  • Kylie June 2, 2014, 11:11 pm

    Congrats on your cake- great effort! I would love to make one but keep putting it off. I did however make recently rainbow pancakes! They were fun- similar concept- colour a handful of batches , cook then layer. Kids enjoyed them! Those loaf liners are a great idea too- can see lots of good reasons to bake in your kitchen, particularly with all the fresh produce there! x

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 11:41 am

      Who’d have thought a few drops of colouring could elevate a simple cake or pancake? Makes me wonder what else I can drop it into. Cheers and thanks for stopping by Kylie. xx

  • Jan Rhoades June 3, 2014, 7:33 am

    Wow, the cake looks amazing! My birthday is 18 July!!! :~} I was only recalling the other day, your expertise with birthday cakes when your little brother was even younger! Well done. I’m sure everyone was very pleased with your efforts.

    • Fiona Ryan June 20, 2014, 10:09 pm

      I can’t recall the cake I made for Eduardo. A Teddy Bear? I only recall my excellence in Hot Air Balloon making. You’ll have to have a Zumbo Macaron in Sydney for your birthday.

  • Sarah @ Chantille Fleur June 3, 2014, 12:46 pm

    I think the cake is beautiful! I can’t believe that was your first attempt! You must be a natural 🙂 Anything I try to make look pretty end up looking a bit…stupid. I stick to the “rustic country farmhouse kitchen” look now 😉

    It was lovely to discover your blog!!
    Sarah x

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 10:07 pm

      Hi Sarah – welcome. Thanks for joining in IMK this montha nd your comments. Hope to see you here next month. Cheers.

  • Jan Rhoades June 3, 2014, 3:05 pm

    Oops! Sorry I missed that opportunity. After I saw the cake I think I stopped reading. No not really, just scanned and missed the ginger reference. But what I do want to commet on is V’s Basement. I love that place and you are correct, you always come away with something you don’t need (not want) as well as what you do need/want. I had a list for my Sydney trip in July. One is for a ‘foaming handwash bottle’ thingy (technical name???) for Mrs Burns. Saves money and the environment. Not the most attractive looking bottles but very efficient. Oh and let’s not forget the scores of mugs I will pore (or should that be paw) over. I always buy a few but have just given away my last one so I need a few more for the stash. Do you do the City or Enmore one? And why aren’t they in Brisbane? A bit like Peter’s of Kensington which I also love. You take your life in your hands though, if you visit either. I wonder if they’ve ever found bodies under boxes at stocktake time? :~} And so as not to disappoint, I still do the giner and the garlic in oil and/or vinegar. Lasts forever…don’t tell Mr Tiffin though, cause they may be out of date!!!

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 10:09 pm

      But do you still do it in sherry as you taught me? I think you’re right about the bodies under boxes at stocktake. There is so much stock. I’ve only been to the CBD. Didn’t even know Enmore existed.

  • InTolerant Chef June 3, 2014, 6:41 pm

    What a pretty cake indeed! It’s certainly dangerous going into Victoria’s Basement isn’t it- I’ve certainly been stung before 🙂

  • Milk and Honey June 3, 2014, 8:57 pm

    Oh boy, your Ombre Cake looks fabulous. And I swear by those loaf liners too. You can’t go passed a bowl of deliciously fresh fruit either.

    • Fiona Ryan June 3, 2014, 10:11 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m looking forward to making another batch of fruit salad this weekend.

  • Anne June 4, 2014, 3:17 am

    Lurve the cake. I’ve given up with glass coffee jugs as they got broken so often and have switched to stainless steel.

    • Fiona Ryan June 4, 2014, 10:39 pm

      Anne – I think it’s easier to give up on Mr Tiffin than coffee!

  • Sandra June 4, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Amazing cake! I loved making fancy cakes when my kids were young, mind you the Women’s Weekly books helped, no Google then. A small piece of trivia, the stay sharp knife was designed by a women! I’m going to have to go online at look at Victoria’s Basement, they look like they have all sorts things a cook could use!

    • Fiona Ryan June 4, 2014, 10:45 pm

      Hi Sandra – well the fact that it was invented by a woman is even better. As for the WW Cakes cookbook, I coveted the swimming pool cake with jelly in the centre for water and tinted coconut around the edges for grass. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  • nancy@jamjnr June 5, 2014, 12:24 am

    That cake is just so pretty I can’t believe it was your first attempt. The silicon liners are a bargain – I wouldn’t waste any time or effort washing them to re-use them again. I’m just too lazy! Thanks for the peek into your kitchen this month.

    • Fiona Ryan June 5, 2014, 9:29 pm

      Hi Nancy – yes it’s hard to imagine re-suing the. Occasionally I re-use some flat baking paper but that’s just taking recycling too far! Cheers xx

  • sherry from sherryspickings June 5, 2014, 3:27 pm

    wow fiona. what a gorgeous cake. i read once where a chef said it was almost impossible for a home cook to make a layered cake of various hues but i dont see why you cant just measure out drops of colour so as to have a few more in each layer. i think he was just jealous that an amateur had done it beautifully (not me)!

    • Fiona Ryan June 5, 2014, 9:29 pm

      And that’s exactly what I did Sherry. And just using colouring from the supermarket. Thanks for stopping by and joining in IMK.

  • shaheen June 6, 2014, 2:31 am

    Wow what a beautiful cake and i so envy your rosette piping skills, something i so want to learn. I also saw piping kit in supermarket today, price ranging from £7 – £10.00 but i did not pick it up, as no instructions, may go and get it now. I guess its about practising.

    • Fiona Ryan June 6, 2014, 12:13 pm

      Yes, no instructions assumes a certain level of experience. If I was so experienced, would I be buying my piping equipment in the supermarket? I think not. Go for it Shaheen!

  • Kari @ bite-sized thoughts June 6, 2014, 11:07 am

    That is a very impressive cake! It looks like you are well set up to continue the baking too, and I am sure your other niece will be looking forward to her 21st creation 😉

    Fresh, tasty strawberries are hard to find at this time of year so it sounds like you had a winning selection with your recent purchase!

    • Fiona Ryan June 6, 2014, 12:11 pm

      I was dubious of the strawberries Kari, let me tell you. We are going down to the markets again this Sunday so I’m hoping for good things. Thanks for your bite sized thoughts!

  • Barb Bamber June 6, 2014, 1:48 pm

    I’ve made a similar cake! Well, that is, a rose cake and then on another day I did an ombre cake. I love a special occasion and the chance to experiment and make a new masterpiece:) I also checked out I Am Baker, she’s just one of the best cake bakers isn’t she? Nice to visit your kitchen this evening!

    • Fiona Ryan June 6, 2014, 10:18 pm

      Hi Barb – it has certainly spurred me on to try greater things. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Aneela June 7, 2014, 6:41 am

    Love the shading on the cake — and the bright colors on the salad!

    • Fiona Ryan June 7, 2014, 2:52 pm

      Thanks Aneela. Of course, the salad is so good because the produce was.

  • Johanna GGG June 7, 2014, 11:07 pm

    that cake looks amazing – I tried an ombre iced cake this year for the first time but have never felt brave enough to do the rosettes so am so impressed at yours. Glad you are with bodum and cake rack again. And I like your ginger trick – I used to store ginger in vinegar so I had flavoured vinegar but have taken to using the freezer for ginger recently.

    • Fiona Ryan June 20, 2014, 10:10 pm

      I have ginger in the freezer too GGG but always forget about it. The ginger in the jar is a habit of a lifetime.

  • jason June 8, 2014, 9:52 am

    Hi Fiona, beautiful piping!
    It is such a hard thing to get the picture in your head piped onto the cake at your hands…mine never quite match.
    The liners look interesting, can’t wait to see what you bake in them.

    • Fiona Ryan June 8, 2014, 10:10 am

      Hi Jason – the first thing I’ll be baking in them is some of Celia’s cheat’s brioche.

      • jason June 15, 2014, 4:19 pm

        That’s sounds great, I’ll have to give it a try.

  • Moya June 9, 2014, 9:00 am

    Great piping for first time and the basement kitchen shop sounds like a place you could get lost in for hours. Wonderful that you can buy fresh fruit at the farmers market. Thank you for the peek into your kitchen. 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 15, 2014, 10:24 pm

      Hi Moya – there is always plentiful fruit at the Farmer’s Markets in Brisbane as we have a temperate sub-tropical climate.

  • Kim | a little lunch June 9, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Fiona, your description of the ooohs and aaaahs about your cake and the surprise “reveal” when you sliced it made me feel like I was at the party — what fun! No doubt you’ll be requested to make many more and it looks like you’re stocked up and ready with your new cooling rack and decorating set. Sorry to hear about your broken coffee plunger (“any plunger in a storm” — loved that!) — I’m a coffee desperado, too. 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 10, 2014, 10:44 pm

      Hi Kim – it was certainly a labour of love and I think I’ve only got one or two more piece de resistance in me but that’s OK, there’s only one more to go after this. Thanks for stopping by.

  • JJ - 84thand3rd June 10, 2014, 7:21 pm

    Oh Victoria’s Basement certainly is both dangerous and wonderful ;D Great job on the cake!

  • My Kitchen Stories June 13, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Congratulations on such a stunning cake. I just have to stay away from Victoria’s!

    • Fiona Ryan June 14, 2014, 10:59 am

      Hi. Thanks for your praise. I’ll be back in Sydney in July but I don’t think I’ll be in the CBD so I’m safe!

  • Mel @ The cook's notebook June 17, 2014, 9:00 pm

    I LOVE Victoria’s Basement. A large collection of my kitchen came from there when I lived in Sydney – it is a dangerous place! and aren’t the markets great? So grateful they are close to home 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan June 20, 2014, 10:11 pm

      Yes, the markets are great. I like that they’re not too big.

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