Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chain letter cake

We all know life is hard and complicated.  But sometimes something happens that just brings a smile to your face, proving life can also be magic too.  In the most unexpected ways, you can see something grow before your eyes.  I have been lucky enough to watch something beautiful unfold and in writing this blog I hope to keep it going.  Let's call this a chain letter recipe.

A dear friend of mine passed away at the age of 36.  I have written about Robert many times, as it's been over 10 years since he passed away.  He taught me many things in life, and one thing we shared was a love of baking.  I have two of his recipes, which he passed on to me.  One in particular I have made many times, because it is both incredibly easy and super delicious.  It has been dubbed 'Robert's Coconut Cake'.

I have been on Instagram for a few years now and with all the talk of trolling and bitching online, I have found the opposite on this social network.  In fact, on Instagram I find myself chatting to some quite delightful, supportive and kind folk.  And it is through this network that I have watched this cake take flight, grow, evolve and bring joy to more people than I could have ever imagined.  It's the little cake that could.

Robert made this cake and sandwiched it with jam and cream, like a sponge cake.  I have made it with either raspberries or blueberries embedded in the top.  It was a photo of the blueberry version that peaked the interest of the gorgeous Briony on IG.  I sent her the recipe and before I knew it she had made a few different versions and posted photos.  She then passed it onto more online friends and it seemed the cake went viral.  There have been mango versions, and the latest report was a tweak to the recipe that included orange zest and swapping the milk for orange juice and covered in an orange syrup.

This to me is what baking is all about.  Take something basic and add your own twist.  It's also highlighting one of the best sides of social media - the sharing, creative side to connecting with other people.  I think there may be nearly 10 other people this recipe has been passed onto online.  Briony joked saying the cake should have it's own facebook fan page.  Well, perhaps this blog will be the start of an even bigger number of people baking and making this cake their own.

Nigella has always talked about food being part of her memories and family.  It is this sentiment that fills me with delight at every interpretation and reincarnation of Robert's cake.  Most people making it would never know the story behind the recipe.  That's fine with me.  I'm happy to have a warm inner glow at reports of the cake living on and finding it's way into people's homes...and smiling that Robert would never have thought something like this could happen because one friend shared a recipe.

So thank you Robert.  And thank you Briony for really getting the ball rolling and sharing the coconut cake love.

Photos: anykitten (me!), blip_21, unclejimshat & tarnr via Instagram

Robert's Coconut Cake

125g butter
125g SR Flour
1 cup coconut
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
icing sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a 20 cm round cake tin.

Melt the butter and let it cool.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Stir in the cooled butter.  Beat eggs and milk together and then mix into the other ingredients.  Plonk into the cake tin and cook for 25 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Turn out, eat and enjoy.

The man himself


Well in the 24 hours after posting this I have had more amazing responses.  Thanks to Briony we found that this cake has been made in the U.K. (thanks Sarzie); it's been made with fresh raspberries, coconut  oil and coconut sugar (thanks Esme) and Briony's sister Brooke supplied another photo of when she made it for her Father-in-law's birthday (see below, thanks Brooke).  But something that brought an extra special smile to my face was the fact that this cake had already been blogged about, by Marian in Tasmania.  She made a gluten free version and it's been a popular post on her page.  It seemed there were a lot of smiles and tears yesterday from people sharing the 'online love-in' that came from this post.  If you were interested in more backstory about Robert, here is the post I wrote about his death and our friendship.

My heart is full.  Thank you all.

IG photo by brookedrz

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year, New...

Happy New Year!  I've blogged before about how I love the symbolism of a new year ticking over.  It's always felt like turning to a blank page in a book.  A chance for things to start again; a clean slate. The last couple of years have been tough one's and I have waited eagerly for the stroke of 12 to make sure I saw the last of the that year.  But this time around, both Christmas and New Year seemed to have snuck up without me noticing.  I barely had a chance to get into the festive spirit before it was all over.

Even New Year's Eve was quiet. I was so tired I was happy to relax at home, making pizza, drinking champagne, glimpsing the fireworks outside and going to bed.  I've been thinking about this in the last few days, as not being in the spirit is quite unlike me.  I have come up with a theory.  As I mentioned, I've waited before to see the last dying minutes of a year of hardship or grief.  The door needed to be well and truly shut (and dead bolted) on the previous 12 months.  The clean slate was a psychological necessity, because in many ways I couldn't have taken much more.

But something weird happened.  A switch was flicked in the last couple of months of 2013, and Peter and I experienced what I've been referring to as 'the golden weeks'.  Within a day of handing in my very last University assignment (to complete my degree) I was offered an acting position at work.  It's just temporary while another position is filled, but it's a step up and a chance to gain experience I don't have on my resume.  A couple of weeks later Peter had an interview for a job, in a new organisation outside of where he was working casually.  I got my results back and finished my degree on a high.  Peter got the job and began working 4 days a week (my utopia) in an ongoing position, yep not a contract in sight.

We both sat and looked at each other.  Stunned.  In a matter of weeks we essentially got our lives back. I get a rest from the study/work treadmill and Peter will have a regular income, and a job he can have input into.  We can begin to plan again.  Within days we made a mental list of all the things we need to do around the house that got set aside.  Life has got a little more space around it and the pressure and burden was lightened.  We can both breath again.

The week before Christmas I had to trek to graduation interstate (another peril of studying via distance).  I took my Mum for the three day round trip.  Being the first person in our family to go to Uni she was incredibly proud.  She said she had a vacant seat next to her during the graduation ceremony.  I was pleased as it was 38 degrees and sweltering in the hall.  But she said it was symbolic of Dad being there with her, watching me.  We may have both had a teary moment.  As far as road-tripping with your 77 year old mother in 38 degree heat, it was actually a pleasant experience.

I remember hearing that David Suzuki had written a book called 'Good news for a change', as he wanted to let people know that good stuff happened too.  It wasn't all doom and gloom and environmental bad news stories.  Sometimes there is good news.  So perhaps this is the point of this post.  I've written about the crappy hard times, so maybe it's time to share the good news too.

I feel like my luck has turned a corner and the sun is shining on us.  In the scheme of things, it's pretty average everyday news.  But harder times make you thankful for any good news, and I'd like to think I won't be taking anything for granted.  In my heart I know that 'this too shall pass'.  Yes - the good as well as the bad is transitory, so perhaps that's why I am happily basking in the moment.  And perhaps also why I wasn't up at midnight on the 31st December thinking 'Fuck you 2013!'

Who knows what the new year holds for us.  But right now it's great not to feel fearful and just simply let life take me where it's supposed to.  I am turning my face to the sun, appreciating the calmness and smiling.  Hello 2014.