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Blurred Line

Chocolate Yoghurt Birthday Cake

Whoever drew the dividing line between girlhood and womanhood must have brushed across the ink before it had time to dry, making this transitional time of life is so indistinct. Nothing could illustrate this more clearly for me than when a significant teen-age (17) was celebrated at our home this week.

The media darkly cautions us of the increasing ‘sophistication’ of our young girls. Accordingly, contemporary parents hold their breath when the question of a ‘party’ is raised, fearing the worst. Before I had the opportunity to exhale, our impending event was carefully mapped out before me – a sleepover for eleven, pyjamas, DVDs, pizzas and a pancake breakfast. Could it be that simple?

As I mentally prepared for sly grog, inappropriate footage and complex sleeping arrangements, the party-goers minds’ were elsewhere. They instead were busily packing onesies, sleeping mats and wait for it – The Lion King.

Upon arrival, as I stood superfluously to one side, mats were unfurled and arranged tetris-like in our living area so one and all could reach for the lolly snakes, take a swig of orange-fizz and most importantly, not miss a frame of Simba’s struggle against the hyenas to restore peace in the Pride Lands…

So, as I had been relieved of my duties of bag searching, door security or police dialling, there was nothing else left to do other than tie the bow around the cake, position the lawn daisies into the slowly setting icing, and dip a leftover party pie into an abandoned bowl of tomato sauce.

1 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
3 eggs
200g melted butter
50g dark chocolate
40g butter

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan.
  2. Combine self-raising flour, cocoa and brown sugar.
  3. Stir in raspberry jam, yoghurt, eggs and melted butter.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Melt dark chocolate and 40g butter in a bowl over hot water until smooth. Set aside to thicken slightly. Pour the icing over the cake and leave to set.
  6. Raid your sewing box and garden for decorative pieces.

Fairy Bread

Postscript: and of all provisions supplied, guess which two plates were the first to vanish?



Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

Certain days call for sophistication. Heels above trainers, straighteners in place of hair ties and tailored rather than swathed. Life may not be taking you anywhere special but sometimes you need to feel as though it is (and you are). When these days are upon us, not a detail should be overlooked, right down to the cuppa. This is the day to politely decline the everyday leaf – an Earl Grey will do very nicely thank you.

Opening a Twinings tea sachet always feels a bit luxurious. It seems to create a sense of occasion as a newly opened selection box of chocolates or a gift tin of biscuits will do. Perhaps this harks back to a long past era when these everyday indulgences were ‘special treats’ and like Pavlov’s dogs, our automated response of pleasure is ignited at the break of the seal. Whatever the precursor, it’s lovely to have a small collection of these packages sequestered in the pantry when the need for a little spoiling arises. On occasions such as these, a fragrant Earl Grey is my (and Nigella’s I believe) sachet of choice.

And as the glamorous assistants on the Chanel counter will advise, for maximum effect,  it is always best to layer your fragrances (ie purchase the entire range). So, in keeping with this prestigious advice, you can ‘layer up’ the Earl experience by baking one of these divine Earl Grey chocolate cakes to accompany your next EG brew. A lovely fudgey chocolate cake with the infusion of tea adding another dimension altogether.

With this powerhouse of an international ingredient list collaboration: (Swiss Lindt chocolate, British Twinings tea, Greek yoghurt, Danish Lurpak butter and Melburnian boiling water), how could this cake possibly fail to deliver anything other than the height of baked sophistication?

6 Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup boiling water
120g butter, softened
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
100 dark chocolate, melted & cooled
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Grease a bundt tin or large cake pan (this makes a generous cake).
  2. Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and set the tea aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Blend in the chocolate.
  5. Mix through the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.
  6. Mix through the yogurt and tea alternately. Your batter will be light and fluffy. Pour into the pan.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly.
  8. Cool for  5 minutes, turn out of the pan and dust with icing sugar

a slice of earl grey chocolate cake

Postscript: And with the recent Gatsby mood infiltrating our consciousness, you can also pour a cup, cut a slice and channel your inner Daisy Buchanan.