Bled Cream Cake

It probably goes without saying that food was pretty much the driving force behind most of our Europe adventures. When I think back on the trip, a kind of illustrated map of Europe pops into my head – Amsterdam is marked, of course, by a stroopwafel, and Munich by a schmalznudel. Paris is drawn up as a beautiful charcuterie platter, and Venice an assortment of local cicchetti. And up in the alps of Slovenia, the tiny town of Bled has got to be the not-so-humble (more on that later) Bled Cream Cake. 

Little Wanderings - Bled Cream Cake 1

Bled is one of the most beautiful, picturesque places I have ever travelled. I know it sounds tired and clichéd, but it really does look like a postcard that’s been enchanted to life. Slovenia as a whole was just magical, but Bled in particular has a legitimate fairytale thing going on. The alpine town sits on Lake Bled, a glacial lake that’s surrounded by forest and overlooked by a cliff-top castle. In the middle of the lake is Bled Island, which is just big enough for a couple of small buildings and a church. We hired a little rowboat (I kicked back whilst Mat happily did all of the rowing) to make our way over and explore. There are 99 steps that lead up to the church; apparently it’s very good luck for a groom to carry his (totally silent) bride up the steps on their wedding day, and then ring the church bell. Visitors can also pay €6 to ring the bell for a little good luck themselves. We instead chose to sit down for ice-cream.

It was in fact this ice-cream on Bled Island that would be our first foray into the world of Bled Cream Cake. Prior to our little rowboat sojourn, we’d noticed the dessert just about everywhere in Bled. Appearing somewhat similar to a traditional Aussie vanilla slice, the Bled Cream Cake – or kremšnita, as it is known locally – is a layer of cream and a layer of vanilla custard sandwiched between puff pastry, and dusted with icing sugar. We’d seen individual packages of  it flying out the door at the local bakery, and giant, wobbling slabs being slid into place on display at our favourite cafe. It seemed outrageously popular with visitors and locals alike. The cake has even achieved the European Union’s Protection of Designation of Origin certification, meaning only that made in Bled using recognised techniques can be labelled ‘Bled Cream Cake’. And so, upon choosing my ice-cream flavour atop Bled Island, I could hardly go past Bled Cream Cake. 

Little Wanderings - Bled Cream Cake 3

It would be the next afternoon that Mat and I set out to conquer the real deal. Whilst we’d intended to simply pick up a couple of slices at our adopted café, the dessert gods had other plans. A chance meeting with Jani – the owner of our accommodation, Jazz Hostel & Apartments, and also the happiest and most enthusiastic man I’ve ever met – on our way meant we were instead steered in the direction of Hotel Park, a large hotel on the shore of Lake Bled. Jani urged that it was here where we’d find the best Cream Cake in Bled; his wife is a sweet-tooth and she swears by it. We didn’t need to be told twice. You just don’t ignore insider knowledge like that.

It turns out that the Bled Cream Cake at Hotel Park is hardly a local secret. The hotel restaurant is famously recognised as the birthplace of the Bled Cream Cake, conjured to perfection by pâtissier Ištvan Kovačevič in 1953. It’s claimed that over 10 million Bled Cream Cakes have been baked at Hotel Park since. It’s just kind of a big deal, it seems. We sat down on a lovely, large terrace, ordered our cream cakes and watched a huge storm roll in over the lake. It was very cool. Up until the moment when the storm reached us, naturally. Then it was mostly wet and windy.

Little Wanderings - Bled, Slovenia 1

And the Bled Cream Cake? It was delicious, of course. I love vanilla slice, and most any custard dessert – so this is an easy win for me. The pastry was beautifully crisp and golden, and the centre light and creamy. It’s not something I’ll be pining for, but that’s simply because Australia does a damn fine vanilla slice anyway. But if I ever find myself back in Bled (and I sincerely hope I do!), I will most certainly be making another trip back to Hotel Park. Bled Cream Cake heartily earns its spot as the face of Bled on my hypothetical gastronomical map of Europe, because it’s just kind of adorable how the whole town has embraced and totally owned this little cake. And who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

Little Wanderings - Bled Cream Cake 2

 

A Blog Birthday: Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

It seems that Little Wanderings has just turned one! After recently reading Cyra of Gastronomic Nomad‘s lovely post, 12 Things I’ve Learnt Thanks to 12 Months Blogging, I realised that my own blog birthday must soon be rolling around. Lo and behold, it had just passed the day before! So, whilst I did miss the actual day last week, I thought there was definitely still reason to celebrate. With cake. Obviously. 

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 2

This Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl comes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (also known as the cookbook that beheld unto me the greatest brownie of all time). Note: it’s a coffee cake in the sense that it’s best served with a hot cuppa, rather than a cake that’s made with coffee. It is unbelievably good, and only adds to my desperate need to one day (like, soon) make pilgrimage to the Baked bakery in New York. From the moment I whipped up the crumb topping, I knew this was going to be something else. Seriously, that pecan and dark brown sugar combo is sensational. The sour cream gives a lovely balance to the cake, and makes for a beautifully light and moist crumb. And you can obviously never go wrong with a chocolate cinnamon swirl. 

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 5

This recipe makes a nine-by-thirteen inch cake, which is admittedly quite a large cake. I like to look at this with the perspective that I can give away a lot of cake to friends and family (and through the awesome power of this cake’s deliciousness, earn their undying devotion), whilst also eating an incredible amount of cake myself. Win-win situation, folks. 

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 4

I’m very proud to have reared this little blog a whole twelve months; it seems like it was only yesterday that Mat and I spent a whole afternoon just brainstorming ideas for the title! I do feel that, after a year of writing here, Little Wanderings is finally starting to take shape. I’m still not quite sure what that shape is, but I’m very excited to keep writing and find out.

And so, simply: happy birthday Little Wanderings! Thank you so much for reading and supporting the blog so far. Here’s to the year to come! x

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 1

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
INGREDIENTS
Crumb Topping
  1. 3/4 cup plain flour
  2. 3/4 cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 3/4 cup pecans, toasted (toast on baking tray in 180°C oven for 6-7 mins)
  5. 85g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
  1. 1/2 cup white sugar
  2. 1 tsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
Sour Cream Cake
  1. 3 1/2 cups plain flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 225g unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1-inch pieces
  6. 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  7. 4 large eggs
  8. 450g sour cream
  9. 1 1/12 tsp pure vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS
Crumb Topping
  1. 1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor for a few seconds to mix.
  2. 2. Add pecans and pulse again until finely chopped and well incorporated.
  3. 3. Add butter and pulse until combined. The crumb should look like coarse sand. Don't worry if it's a bit clumpy, so long as all the ingredients are well combined.
  4. 4. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in the fridge!
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
  1. 1. Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
Sour Cream Cake
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 9x13-inch baking pan. I used glass; the Baked boys note that a metal pan will give a crispier edge to the cake. Either way is good!
  2. 2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  3. 3. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter until nice and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (in fact, make sure you do this between each step!).
  4. 4. Add the sugar, and beat until the mixture becomes smooth and fluffy.
  5. 5. Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is well incorporated before the next addition.
  6. 6. Continue to mix for another 30 seconds.
  7. 7. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.
  8. 8. Add the dry ingredients a third at a time, beating until just incorporated between each addition. Don't over-mix at this point!
  9. 9. Pour one third of the cake batter into your prepared pan. I got quite nervous at this point; I was afraid of over-measuring my first and second layers and not having enough for the top. Despite the fact that I got it right, next time I'd probably go full OCD and weigh my mixture so I know exactly how much to pour out at a time!
  10. 10. Use an offset spatula to spread the cake batter evenly across the bottom of the pan. I didn't have an offset spatula, but found that a butter knife did a pretty great job.
  11. 11. Sprinkle half the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over the batter. I poured my swirl mixture into two cups to ensure an even split. Cover the batter completely!
  12. 12. Pour the second third of cake batter over the swirl mixture. Try and pour a few blobs across the whole of the pan, rather than all in the middle. Spreading this layer can be a bit tricky, as the swirl layer will stick to the batter when you lift your spatula/knife. Try and push right out to the edge of the pan with each spreading motion to avoid mixing up too much of the swirl layer with your batter layer.
  13. 13. Sprinkle on the remaining swirl mixture, and then top with the remaining cake batter.
  14. 14. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top.
  15. 15. Bake in the centre of your oven for 1 hour (or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean), rotating the pan every 15 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 mins. Enjoy!
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

Roses des Sables: The Recipe

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little about La Petite Rose des Sables – a tiny Parisian restaurant helmed by the wonderfully eccentric Madame Zouzou and her husband, ‘Big Boss’. Mat and I visited this gem on our recent trip to Paris, and were treated to one of the most memorable dining experiences we’ve ever had. It was bizarre and heartwarming all at once. 

At one point, Madame Zouzou appeared and eagerly pointed at a laminated article (written in French, no less) pinned to the wall above our table. Mat and I were sipping a couple of post-lunch espressos at the time – and I, of course, was taking a few happy snaps of the cute little arrangement of accompanying sweets. She pointed at my camera, motioned toward the sweets and then back at the article. I’ll admit I was confused. Luckily the cogs in Mat’s brain were turning somewhat faster.

“It’s a recipe for the chocolates. She wants you to take a photo.”

And so I would find myself back in Melbourne, months later, typing that recipe word-by-word into Google Translate. I kind of felt like I was code-breaking the secret to Madame Zouzou’s own Roses des Sables; what a marvelous little gift to be able to take away from Paris! The treat takes its name from what is known in English as a ‘sand rose’ or ‘desert rose’ – a crystal formation that occurs in certain desert conditions. The Roses des Sables recipe quite impressively recreates this phenomenon with two very simple things: corn flakes and chocolate.

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 1

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 4

Madame Zouzou gives her recipe for both dark chocolate Roses des Sables, and white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables. I used Lindt’s 70% Cocoa chocolate for the dark chocolate Roses des Sables, which made for a very intense flavour. Delicious, but intense. If you like your treats a bit sweeter I’d recommend a lower cocoa content, or perhaps even use milk chocolate (I believe the ones Madame Zouzou served us at La Petite Rose des Sables itself were made with milk chocolate). Or, simply opt for the white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables. They are divine, and became the hands-down hit when I made a batch of each over the weekend for a family gathering. Seriously, they are good.

I experimented with Madame Zouzou’s quantities a little, mostly in terms of chocolate to corn flake ratio. Feel free to do the same yourself, but the following recipe gave me the best consistencies. And best of all: they’re incredibly easy to make. In a way they’re kind of like chocolate Honey Joys, or grown-up Chocolate Crackles. Except with these, you get to be all fancy and introduce them as ‘little French corn flake treats’!

Enjoy! x

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 3

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 2

Roses des Sables
Yields 16
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Dark Chocolate Roses des Sables
  1. 250g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  2. 50g butter
  3. 50g icing sugar
  4. 150g corn flakes
White Chocolate and Orange Roses des Sables
  1. 250g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  2. 30g butter
  3. zest of 1 orange
  4. 150g corn flakes
Instructions
  1. 1. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the underside of bowl). Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.
  2. 2. Stir in the icing sugar (if making dark chocolate Roses des Sables) or orange zest (if making white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables).
  3. 3. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in all of the corn flakes. Do this at about a handful at a time to ensure you get a good coating of chocolate over all the corn flakes.
  4. 4. Set a piece of baking paper over a baking tray. Madame Zouzou suggests using two spoons to form small heaps, but I found it easier (though a lot messier!) using my hands. You could also use individual paper liners.
  5. 5. Allow to harden in the fridge. They will not take long to set completely! Enjoy x
Adapted from Madame Zouzou, La Petite Rose des Sables (Paris)
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

Hutchy Kitchen: Granny’s Orange Cake

My grandparents’ home is one of my favourite places in the world. They have lived in that house all my life; it’s become the most familiar place I know. The kitchen, in particular, is special. It’s where people gravitate. It’s where we kiss ‘hello’, catch up, collaborate on the daily crossword, serve up the best home-cooked dinners, hover for warmth in front of the wood-fire oven, talk and laugh and talk some more. It’s the heart of a greater family home.

This kitchen is where my cousins and I  – and surely, our parents before us – were inducted as lifelong tea-drinkers. Tea is pretty much the lifeblood of our family. As youngsters we would drink weak, milky tea from Grandma’s set of miniature porcelain tea-cups, delighting in the simple act of being invited into the oh-so-adult ritual of the cuppa. And what a precious little ritual it is. The rumble of the kettle on the wood-fire stovetop, the swirl of steeping leaves in Granny’s Bodum tea press (though she’s recently upgraded to a pot with infusion filter, ooh la la!), and the scrape of an unabashedly large souvenir teaspoon against the inside of the sugar bowl. From serious conversations to the side-splitting silly ones – they’re done best over a cup of tea in my grandparents’ kitchen.

… With a little something sweet to nibble on, of course.

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 1

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 4

My grandma is a total pro at preparing for the Hutchy horde. Come a family weekend, containers are piled high with biscuits and slices, and the freezer is stocked with even more goodies. One of my favourite things to find stashed away in that freezer is Granny’s orange cake. Admittedly, my aunty Ros has usually found it long before anyone else. Even then we must endure a torturous wait for that golden loaf of deliciousness to defrost, before snatching up a slice in a high-stakes challenge of first in, best dressed. It’s a really, really good cake.

This recipe is an original creation of Granny’s. She told me that she experimented extensively to try and get a cake that had the perfect texture, and one that wouldn’t become dry. Granny finally settled on a simple, one-bowl recipe (“no fussy creaming of the butter and sugar!”) that she uses as a base for many cakes – but this one is my favourite. The icing, especially, is divine. You’ll have a lot of fun licking the bowl on this one.

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 3

Granny's Orange Cake
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Cake
  1. 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 125g butter, melted
  4. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 eggs, room temperature
  6. 150ml milk (approx. - depends on amount of juice from orange)
  7. 1 orange
Icing
  1. 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  2. 1 tbsp / 14g butter, melted
  3. 1 orange
Cake
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a standard loaf pan.
  2. 2. Grate off the rind (be careful to avoid grating any of the white, pithy layer - this has a bitter taste), and squeeze juice from the orange.
  3. 3. You will only need 1 combined cup (250ml) of milk and orange juice. Adjust your milk quantity to make up 1 cup according to the amount of juice squeezed from your orange.
  4. 4. Combine all ingredients in one bowl. Beat with electric mixer for about 3 minutes.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake; if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
  6. 6. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Do NOT begin to ice the cake until the cake is completely cooled! I learnt that one the hard way...
Icing
  1. 1. Grate the rind off half the orange.
  2. 2. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Add a DASH of boiling water and mix. Keep mixing in small dashes of boiling water. Do not be tempted to add more than a dash at a time; you don't want this icing to become too runny. Again, I learnt that one the hard way. If it does become too runny, simply add more icing sugar. You want a consistency that is still pretty thick, but will spread easily over the top of the cake using a butter knife.
  3. 3. Spread over the top of the cake. Allow to set. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. This cake freezes really well - make double and pop one away in the freezer for another day!
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/
Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 2

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