Monday 9 February 2015

Southern Cross frosted chocolate porridge cake, and peach salad

I made sure I had a lovely sandwich for lunch on my birthday.  I baked the bread myself.  And with fresh sourdough bread it was amaaazing (as Sylvia likes to say at the moment)!  Possibly the most successful cooking of the day.  The peach salad was good but the spices weren't quite right for me and while I loved the cake, the Southern Cross decoration didn't look quite as impressive as my vision.  Having said that, I had a lovely day and despite my quibbles I really ate very well.

Slashing has been one of the most challenging parts of baking sourdough.  Now I have bought a cheap stanley knife it is improving.  Sylvia and I went to the city to see Paper Planes at the cinema.  It has fantastic scenes of rural Australia.  Beforehand we took our cheese sandwiches to eat on the grass in front of the State Library.

This meant we had recovered our appetites after the movie and walked into the Pancake Parlour.  I had decided to have a simple sandwich so we could indulge in a sweet pancake.  I chose a Chocolate Jubilee - a chocolate pancake with cream, ice cream, chocolate fudge sauce and strawberries.  I didn't want cream so they gave me two scoops of ice cream.  Argh!  It was too much ice cream and not enough pancake.  Nice but I think I would have enjoyed a short stack with whipped butter and chocolate sauce.

After some fun time looking around the shops, we came home to the chocolate porridge cake that had also been baked before I left.  It was a recipe that involves making porridge to mix into the cake.  I had it at a work morning tea years ago and loved it so much that I asked for the recipe.  I've never forgotten it despite it taking so long to make it at home.

We were rushing to get out of the house and my main error was to tip the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack too early and it had a huge split on the bottom.  When I turned it over the split was nowhere to be seen but the top of the cake was quite rustic so it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Still full of Australia Day ideas I was inspired to make a cake with a Southern Cross on it.  The Australia Flag was just a bit too much work and so I focused in on my favourite element in it.  The Union Jack and the Commonwealth Star don't interest me so much.  However I love how the Southern Cross star formation was in our skies long before Europeans arrived and it is unique to the Southern Hemisphere.

I made the stars out of white chocolate but I think I really needed smaller cutters or a bigger cake because they were rather close together and that tiny star was hard to cut out by hand.  I decided to use leftover white chocolate in a frosting because it would be easy to tint it. 

I found a recipe for a white chocolate frosting that wasn't too rich or too fussy to make.  It didn't need to cool for ages like this frosting, especially if you kept back some white chocolate and added it to the melted chocolate to bring down the temperature.  I didn't even get out the beaters for it.

I reduced the recipe but it was still a lot and very sweet.  Two thirds of what I made would be sufficient for the cake.  I have adjusted the amounts in the recipe below accordingly.  Mine was a much softer icing than in the photo I original saw so maybe more icing sugar or using butter rather than margarine might change this. 

While Sylvia and I were at the shops we bought some royal blue food gel colouring.  However after I had used what seemed a lot it was still a lot paler blue than the royal blue on the flag but it was enough dye in our cake.  So maybe another time I will have another go at it as I really like the idea.

Then I turned my attention to the salad I had planned for dinner.  I had seen the recipe for Chargrilled Peach with Green Beans and Almonds while on holidays in Ocean Grove.  It appealed to my love of stone fruit and quirky salads.  It challenged me to use star anise and coriander seeds, which are often neglected in my kitchen.

My experiment at trying to chargrill hard peaches didn't work and I ended up using ripe nectarines.  My substitution of pistachios for almonds was fantastic.  Sadly I don't think I was so keen on the spices.  At least, that is my guess why the nectarines did not quite work.  The idea of pickling fruit in spiced vinegar sounded great but was not quite right for me.  I would love to try it again with a mustard, cumin and/or fennel seed flavours.

However you don't think a little star anise could spoil a good dinner, do you!  I had made chickpea pilaf the previous night and also had some tofu bacon and the bread I baked that morning.  The salad worked really well with these and I am happy to say that the spices did not dominate.

I really loved the green beans and pistachios in the salad.  They looked beautiful on the table too.  I don't eat either of these gorgeous green foods enough.  However I found the peaches made the salad too sweet as a main so I would recommend that this is best served as a side dish.

Before knew it we were onto the dessert which was, of course, cake.   We even had blue and white candles to put on the cake, even if some of them were a little wonky.

When we were baking it, the mixture tasted like chocolate porridge and I could have eaten it raw.  It was a good sign of what was to come.  While we waited for it to cool, Sylvia (who is constantly planning her own birthday) told me "at my party we will have porridge cake to eat that isn't cooked".

I was happy that I loved this cake now as much as I loved it years ago.  I think the soft sweet icing worked well with the chocolatey cake.  Why has it taken me so long to make this recipe?  I hope it wont be so long until I make it again.  And I would love to know who is Meryl.  It is the name on the recipe I was given rather than the name of my colleague who gave me the recipe.

It was a lovely birthday.  Though it was a quiet day, it was really nice to go to the letterbox and find quite a few cards and even a parcel that arrives right on time.  E gave me lots of reading and CDs that I have been enjoying (and missed ukelele practice to have dinner with us).  And Sylvia was just so excited, not just because she loves birthdays, but also because we were in a shop a week or two before when she made me go outside so she could choose and buy me a present.  It was a little 10 pin bowling collection of erasers that we had fun playing with.  There were also more celebrations a few days later, which I shall write about soon.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Koko Black: a decadent chocolate afternoon tea
Two years ago: Pea Risotto with Verjuice
Three years ago: The relentless tide of technology
Four years ago: Queso dip, enchiladas and food processor
Five years ago: More baby food, more healthy muffins
Six years ago: WTSIM … Fruit kebabs
Seven years ago: Wanton Dumplings in Ginger Broth

Chargrilled Peach with Green Beans and Almonds
Adapted from Valli Little in Delicious magazine, Jan 2014/Dec 2015
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1/4 cup caster sugar
100ml apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 star anise
Dash of chilli powder
4 ripe peaches (or nectarines), cut into wedges
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for grilling
400g green beans, trimmed
1/2 spring onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Heat sugar, vinegar, coriander, star anise, and chilli in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar has dissolved.  Set aside to cool

Brush peaches with extra olive oil and grill until slightly charred on either side (1 to 2 minutes either side).  I don't have an outdoor bbq so I used a ridged cast iron pan.  Place chargrilled peaches into the vinegar mixture and set aside to pickle for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the green beans for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling salted water until just cooked and then plunge into iced water to cool.

Arrange beans on a medium shallow bowl, arrange peaches on top.  Drizzle with oil and a little of the pickling liquid.  Scatter with pistachios and spring onion.

Meryl's Chocolate Porridge Cake

1/2 cup instant oats*
1 cup water
125g butter
150g brown sugar
3 dessertspoons cocoa
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g chocolate chips

Cook oats and water to make porridge.  (I cooked mine for 3 minutes in the microwave.)  Mix in butter, brown sugar and cocoa.  Stir and cool briefly.  Add in eggs, flour, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate chips.  Stir well.  Scrape into a lined 22cm round cake tin.  Bake at 160 C for 30 to 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in tin for 10 to 15 minutes* and cool on a wire rack. 

Ice with white chocolate frosting (below) if desired.  If you wish to do the Southern Cross on the cake, melt some white chocolate and chill until just set (too chilled is hard to cut out) and then cut out some star shapes and arrange on iced cake.

*NOTES: I finely chopped 1 cup of rolled oats to make 1/2 cup of instant oats.  I think it took me slightly longer to bake the cake.  I baked mine at 170 C on a rack in the middle of the oven because I had been baking bread just before the cake went in the oven.

White chocolate frosting
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

60g white chocolate, chopped
66g butter (I used Nuttalex margarine)
80g  icing sugar
1 tsp milk (if required)
pinch salt

Melt about two thirds of the chocolate (I did this in the microwave but it can be done on the stovetop too).  Remove from heat or microwave and stir in the remainder in small chunks until it melts.  Set aside and cool slightly.

Beat butter and icing sugar until creamy.  I did this by hand but it could be done with electric beaters too.  Mix in the white chocolate and a pinch of salt.  Add a little milk if mixture is too thick.

On the Stereo:
Is a Woman: Lambchop


  1. Happy birthday! A little sunshine and a lot of cake - sounds like the perfect day. That cake is intriguing...

    1. Thanks Lucy - yep that is my priorities when it comes to sunshine and cake :-)

  2. What a wonderful birthday celebration. That cake looks amazing. I've never seen one quite like that before. The texture looks so rich and fudgy. Wow I must try this :)

    1. Thanks Katie - it is very soft inside - am sure the porridge helps

  3. Many happy returns! You have an intriguing cake there. Porridge! We saw Paper Planes today and I really enjoyed it (got a bit sooky here and there of course). Beautiful film!

    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - I found the film quite sad in places but it is a good film to take kids to (and sylvia said they were having paper plane throwing at school the other day which I think was inspired by the movie)

  4. How interesting to use porridge to make cake - I could easily persuade myself it's a healthy cake. On Celia's advice, I now slash my sourdough with a serrated knife, which works a treat (and is slightly less scary than using a razor blade or stanley knife).

    1. Thanks Anne - I am sure everything is healthier with oats :-) My serrated knives are not that sharp any more and the stanely knife is at least able to retract when no in use. But good to hear that serrated knives work well.

  5. Wow, I have never even heard of a porridge cake - how interesting! I love the idea of packing a simple sandwich in order to eat pancakes :D

    1. Thanks Caeli - I thought about going out for lunch but it was partly that it would take too long when we wanted to see the movie and I am in love with the bread right now so I knew it would make me happy. I think I need more sandwich and pancake days :-)

  6. Happy Birthday, Johanna!!! When was it? Why didn't you tell us???

    Although that cake looks worthy of a mouth dive, I must say, I am mesmerized by that Peach Salad! It looks and sounds delicious...

    Sounds like you and Sylvia had a nice outing. Thanks for sharing, Johanna...

    1. Thanks Louise - it was lovely to have a day out in the city with sylvia but I don't usually talk about when my birthday is - just all the good food is enough

    2. As long as you had a wonderfful day, Johanna. And from the sounds and looks of it you did:)

  7. Belated, yet warm Birthday wishes Johanna, you little quiet sneak. Looking forward to reading more about the day and how lovely of Sylvia to make you wait outside the shop whilst she chose you a gift, hope you share with us what it was. And porridge cake, I have to admit I have never ever heard of a porridge cake until now.

    1. Thanks Shaheen - it was so sweet when sylvia bought me the gift (it was an eraser set - she really into them lately) I don't think I have come across porridge cake before or since this one but it a great idea

  8. Happy Birthday for whenever! That's a great looking sponge..... Loving the addition of the oats..... That's going onto the 'must try' list!!!!

  9. Happy birthday Johanna! I love the idea of chocolate porridge cake and it seems fitting for someone married to a Scot ;) The salad looks gorgeous so I'm sorry it didn't quite deliver on taste, but at least you had a stellar sandwich.

    I sympathise with the pancake situation too - I would have wanted more pancakes and less ice cream as well!

    1. Thanks Kari - the pancake parlour always has advertisements with large stacks of pancakes which was what I expected - but it probably would have been a ridiculously large serve if I got one.

  10. I find it so offensive that the Pancake Parlour charges an extra $5 for real maple syrup. They stake their reputation on pancakes and then serve horrible fake syrup. UGH.

    1. Thanks Hannah - it is outrageous to have to pay that much extra for the proper maple syrup when you are already paying handsomely for pancakes. I don't go often because it is so expensive but the nostalgia is the pull for me


  12. I think the cake looks beautiful!! Happy belated birthday!! Also, you've got me craving peaches...which is really unfortunate since they won't be here for at least another five months!

    1. Thanks Joanne - peach season will come quickly I am sure! (and at least you aren't buying cheap peaches and finding them very disappointing like I did this week if that is a consolation)

  13. Happy Belated Birthday Johanna, I hope your day was amazing, filled with lots of delicious food and desserts!! That bread looks absolutely amazing, you are obviously an amazing baker! And the cake is so beautiful, Johanna, the beautiful colors make me so happy to look at!

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you!! I am slowly getting back on track!!

    I had a wonderful time in Melbourne and I miss it already, such a beautiful city and lots of yummy vegan food!! It was so random, I found out during my stay that I had a grand aunt and a massive extended family in Melbourne. I didn't know a thing about them... It’s a crazy long story! I will share my vegan eats & finds in Melbourne and let you know!! I hope we can meet another time…and I know I will be back to Australia again!

    Take care and have a splendid week!

    1. Thanks Rika - glad you enjoyed melbourne and how amazing to find out about having family there - am sure it endeared you to the place even more and I hope they took you around to all the great local places. Glad to hear you will be back - would be lovely to meet up one day - I will keep watching your blog for some Melbourne posts!

  14. Porridge cake! Two of my favourite things together! I'm going to have to get H to make me a veganised version of that one. :-) I miss the Pancake Parlour, but I see that one of those crepe places in Fitzroy is offering vegan crepes for Vegan Day Out this year. I'm so excited about it!

    1. Thanks Linda - Am sure H will do a great job of veganising this - would love to hear how you go - hope you get some vegan crepes on Vegan Day Out (and really the pancake parlour is always better in my memories)

  15. Your bread looks great and I think you slashed it really well. And the cake is so pretty and I love the colour xx

    1. Thanks Charlie - I am getting better with the slashing

  16. Happy belated birthday! I love the look of your cake and I am intrigued about the recipe - would like to try it.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - am sure you would enjoy the cake


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