Hutchy Kitchen: Mum’s Easter Egg Cake

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This cake came to life many Easters ago, when my mum thought to use up some surplus solid chocolate eggs in a humble little butter cake. Unlike chocolate chips, the chocolate eggs all sank to the bottom of the cake during baking. This was not a bad thing. Turns out those Easter eggs would form a heavenly, chocolate base – a little crisp and caramelised on the very bottom, and still soft and creamy on the inside. It was one of those serendipitous baking moments that changes everything. When I left home and started my own recipe scrapbook, this is the recipe I scribbled on the first page. I titled it, ‘BEST. CAKE. EVER.’

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Mum chose a very good foundation for this baking triumph, to be sure. The original recipe was a chocolate cake from ‘The Royal Children’s Hospital Auxiliary Cookbook’, one of those wonderful old compilations that’s bound with flimsy wire combing, has no pictures and absolutely minimal directions. It seems a lady named Jill Watson, of the Oesophageal Atresia Research Auxiliary, kindly donated her chocolate cake recipe to the tome – and my goodness, am I grateful she did. In her own modest words, “This cake is beautifully moist and keeps for days.”

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I whipped up a couple of these cakes to take to work last week and they disappeared quick as lightning. After five months working at this company, it suddenly occurred to me that Mum’s Easter Egg Cake was the perfect bring-my-baking-to-work debut. Seasonally themed? Check. An unwavering history of deliciousness? Check. So simple that two can be baked on a work night without any hint of a kitchen meltdown? Check. I even sprinkled on some crushed speckled eggs for a little extra Easter goodness. Now counting down the days until I can bake up and devour yet another with my family over the Easter break! x

Mum's Easter Egg Cake
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Ingredients
  1. Cake //
  2. 125g butter
  3. 2 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut
  4. 1 cup white sugar
  5. 1 cup self-raising flour
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1/2 cup milk
  8. 175g / approx. 25 solid chocolate Easter eggs (if baking out of season, use roughly chopped chocolate chunks or chocolate melts)
  9. Icing //
  10. 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  11. 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  12. 1 tbsp / 14g butter, melted
  13. 100g speckled eggs, crushed (optional)
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line and grease a loaf tin.
  2. 2. Add cake ingredients in listed order to a mixing bowl and combine using an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes.
  3. 3. Pour mixture into loaf tin. Dot the Easter eggs evenly across the top.
  4. 4. Bake at 180°C for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. 5. Allow cake to cool completely before icing. Combine icing ingredients in a small bowl, then gradually add and mix in dashes of boiling water until a smooth, spreadable consistency is achieved.
  6. 6. Spread icing evenly over top of cake. Sprinkle the speckled egg pieces over icing.
  7. 7. Enjoy!
Adapted from Jill Watson's Chocolate Cake, 'The Royal Children's Hospital Auxiliary Cookbook'
Adapted from Jill Watson's Chocolate Cake, 'The Royal Children's Hospital Auxiliary Cookbook'
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

Books and Baking: Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

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In 2014, my first year of rating books on Goodreads, the highest rating I ever awarded a book was four stars. I enjoy Goodreads’ rating system a lot: ★ – did not like it,  ★★ – it was ok, ★★★ – liked it, ★★★★ – really liked it, and ★★★★★ – it was amazing. I read some wonderful books last year, but nothing that truly earned five stars for me. The thought crossed my mind – was I, perhaps, being a bit picky? Well, it took but the first book of 2015 to assuage those doubts. Five stars must be saved for those rare pieces that strike you deeply; the word ‘amazing’ given in sincerity rather than unimaginative overuse. I’d almost forgotten what that five star feeling was. It was then that I picked up Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Burial Rites is a fictional telling of the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Sentenced to death for the murder of two men in 1828, she is sent to work on a local family’s farm to wait out the long months before a yet unnamed day of reckoning. As the seasons turn, Agnes’ appointed religious guide, as well as her reluctant guardian family come to know a woman more complex than the savage murderess they’ve been led to believe she is. Peppered with actual government documents from the sentencing, Kent alternatively writes a raw, gripping and utterly moving tale for an otherwise voiceless figure of Icelandic history.

What really drives this novel is Kent’s depiction of the landscape and livelihood of Iceland itself. The author describes Burial Rites as her “‘dark love letter’ to Iceland”, and it is a powerful romance indeed. With even a few pages hungrily devoured on the morning tram, the Nordic country leapt cold and crisp off the page and I felt plunged into Agnes’ world in an instant. Iceland is the beautiful and brutally chilling character motivating every other being in this story. Despite the heavy, haunting nature of Burial Rites, I find myself incredibly compelled to make Iceland my next grand adventure. 

Kent’s own story as a writer is one that both inspires and flusters me (in the best possible way). A young Australian (yes!) writer, she penned Burial Writes as the creative component of her PhD in 2011. It was sparked by her visit to Iceland during high school as a Rotary exchange student, where she first learned of Agnes Magnúsdóttir’s execution. She would later return on a funded research trip in 2010. Kent submitted her draft of Burial Rites to Writing Australia’s Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2011 and won, leading to the publication of her debut novel. It’s gone on to become a bestseller and continued award-winner around the world. 

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The baked companion of Burial Rites came to me almost like a gift. Just days before I finished this book (I eked out the last few pages almost painfully, not wanting it to end), I stumbled across this ‘Icelandic Happy Marriage Cake‘ at The Sugar Hit, a fabulous blog I follow. Now, Agnes’ story hardly involves any happy marriages – in fact, far from it – but the Iceland connection seemed too good to ignore. In any case, the original meaning of the ‘Happy Marriage’ in Iceland’s classic hjónabandssæla (oh, what a delightful language to wrap one’s tongue around!) appears to have been lost. It seems we have to create our own story for this too.

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I’m going to send you over to The Sugar Hit for this recipe, because Sarah’s blog and photography is just too delightful not too share. I urge you to make this ‘cake’ – it’s easy and thoroughly delicious, and truth be told was exactly the baking win I needed (I’ve had a couple of kitchen dramas lately!). I didn’t make the jam filling from scratch, as Sarah does, both because I wanted a quick creation to whip up on a work night, and because I found a a scrumptious-sounding Rhubarb and Red Berry jam from Anathoth Farm at my supermarket. I can wholeheartedly confirm it does the trick!

Sarah also links to a couple of other bloggers’ posts on Icelandic travel, which I highly recommend you take a peek at too. Combine that with Burial Rites and a slice of hjónabandssæla? I’ll see you on the next flight bound for Reykjavík. 

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Books and Baking: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

I started to use Goodreads last year, mostly with the idea of kickstarting and tracking a good reading habit again. I finished the year on 15 books – which really doesn’t sound like much at all, but it’s probably the most committed I’ve been to reading intently in a good few years. I’m quietly chuffed to have made it to 15, to be honest! It has certainly helped that my college girlfriends and I started a book club, an exercise that has benefitted both my reading and my friendships in quite magical ways. 

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Lucky number 15 was Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’, which was to be our book club’s first novel up for discussion in the new year. I nominated this book after spying it on a number of bookish ‘2014 in review’ type posts; it was a page-turner with an exciting revelation. After a couple of memoirs, fantastic though they were (Lena Dunham’s ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ and Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’), this felt like the perfect change of pace for us.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a story told by Rosie, who once had two siblings but now, seemingly, has none. It explores themes of family, memory and largely hinges on a revelation that (rather refreshingly) comes quite early in the book. I didn’t pick the reveal, so I won’t say too much because it really is a good little surprise. For me, the book gets a solid three stars: I liked it. It was the page-turner I needed it to be. I was compelled to discover the fate of Rosie’s family, and the nature of the revelation itself makes for some very interesting material throughout the novel.

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My chosen baked counterpart to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is yet another recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking: Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins. The (rather vague) connection to the story lies in the revelation – so if you haven’t read the book and plan to, just don’t think about this too much, okay? And if I have spoiled it for you (sorry!), at least take consolation in this: these muffins are delicious. Way better than the book. So just make the muffins instead. x

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Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yields 12
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (4-5 medium bananas)
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  4. 1/2 cup (113g / 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  5. 1/4 cup full cream milk
  6. 1 large egg
  7. 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  8. 1 tsp instant coffee granules/powder
  9. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  10. 1 tsp salt
  11. 1 cup (170g / 6oz) dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, or cheat and line with paper patty pans like I did.
  2. 2. Stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk and egg in a medium bowl.
  3. 3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant coffee granules/powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. 4. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake in the centre of your oven for 20-25 minutes. You'll be able to tell they're done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean.
  5. 5. Place pan on a cooling rack and leave for at least 15 minutes, before removing the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on the cooling rack.
  6. 6. Enjoy!
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/
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