On the weekend we held a small afternoon tea to remember my sons Alex and Ian's birthday which will be midweek this year. I made a Vegemite cake, something I have had on my mind for a while, especially as it was Vegemite's 100 anniversary on 25 October 2023. Below I write about how to make it but it is too simple for a recipe - just a lot of measuring and shaping. My daughter Sylvia was more keen for a Halloween afternoon tea and made lots of spooky treats for our platters as well as a magically glittery punch.
My vision was a flat cake decorated with an iced picture of a Vegemite jar. I was surprised not to find any of the sort online. Most of the Vegemite cakes were more in the Is It Cake (tv series) style rather than my amateur hour creation. So instead I turned to the real thing and took my inspiration from my current jar of Vegemite as well as a little Vegemite jar ornament I recently bought for when we put up our Christmas tree. We always have a jar of Vegemite in the house. I went over to Team Promite for a while in my twenties but somehow I returned to the Vegemite of my childhood and have never looked back.
My vegan chocolate cake was
quite small (the quantities I used were originally for 2 x 6cm round
cakes). For once I didn't worry about the slight hump on the cake
because jars aren't flat. I did, however, use a knife to smooth a few
corners. It is a good cake that holds its shape but it is easier to
make if it is made the day before. It is also literately a Vegemite cake because I put half a tablespoon of Vegemite into the mixture instead of salt. This was not enough to make the cake taste of Vegemite.
Using the Vegemite jar and Vegemite Christmas tree ornament as a prototype, I did some measuring. A lot of measuring. The proportions of the 'height' of the jar were:
- 3 parts - yellow lid
- 1 part - black Vegemite jar
- 5 parts - yellow label
- 1 part - black Vegemite bottom of jar
The cake was baked in a 20cm square tin but I trimmed about 6cm off the cake. (Actually I though it was 4cm I trimmed by the measurements in the photo above say it is 14cm across.) So I converted the proportions to my 20cm long x 14cm wide cake and measured the 'height' proportions as 6:2:10:2 centimetres. I used a skewer to mark lines with holes.
Colouring the icing:
Getting the right colours was a challenge. I had purchased some new food dye for the icing. The colours I had run out of were red and black. These are the hardest colours to get right as many dyes. Reds are never bright enough and if not effective enough they look pink or orange. Blacks are never dark enough and if not done well enough they look grey and murky. I was pretty happy with the colours I mixed.
I didn't make sure the dyes were vegan when I purchased them and then remembered that a lot of red food dye has cochineal beetles in it (E120). I checked the bottles and found that they used E110, E127, and E129 colourings so it looks like it is vegan. Which means the whole cake it vegan.
Planning the writing:
My next challenge was writing the word Vegemite on the 'label' area. Sounds simple. It took ages. I measured the letters and worked out there were 8 letters to fit into 12cm wide and 1.5 cm high. Most letters could fit into an equal space 1.5cm wide and 1.5 high (except the 'M' which needed more space and the 'I' which needed less space). I wrote out the letters copying how they looked on the jar.
I first tried to pipe white chocolate onto the letters on baking paper so I could transfer them when they dried. But these blobs weren't worth transferring anywhere. Then I tried a thicker nozzle and a some thick icing made out of icing sugar and water. It was still too thick and spread after it hit the paper. So I went to my thinner nozzle (wilton round tip no 4). This one looked ok, when I had a go with this on the baking paper.
The diamond and piping the writing:
It seemed to take a long time until I was ready to start icing the cake. First job was to make the red diamond on the label. I dumped a few spoonfuls using the skewer hole lines for guidance. It then took some spreading, spooning off a little extra icing when it began to drip down the side and scraping away some of the icing to shape it. I let it dry a little, used a skewer to mark the spaces between the letters, piped the letters using the practice ones for guidance. I then used a skewer to neaten a few letters.
Completing the icing (the yellow lid and label):
Next I spread the yellow icing in a strip at the top like a lid and then I spread it around the diamond to make a label. I had thought about piping around the diamond but it seemed easier to just leave a space around it. Again the skewer was very useful in neatening up the lines at the edge of the icing. I liked the look and decided I didn't need any black icing. The dark lines of chocolate cake looked enough like Vegemite between the lid and the label. And it was easier! Also I am more about cake than icing! The final part of the decoration was to draw a line across the top a few millimetres from the bottom of the lid and then used a sharp (unserrated) knife to draw lines down from the top to the line to make the raised lines around the top of a Vegemite jar. I was pleased with my work.
While I was baking the cake the night before and decorating it in the morning, Sylvia was making her spooky snacks. An afternoon tea takes planning, shopping and making the food. Sylvia has been involved with enough of these to be part of all the preparation. She even helped plan the menu by finding ideas online.
Pumpkin cheeseball, hotdog mummies and whipped feta dip:
Sylvia made a cheeseball in the shape of a pumpkin the previous night. She mixed cream cheese, grated red Leicester cheese and finely chopped jarred jalapenos and rolled it into a ball. Then she scattered more grated red Leicester cheese on a chopping board and rolled the cheeseball in it. It was wrapped in clingfilm and then looped 4 rubber bands in a criss-cross to make a pumpkin shape. Just before the lunch she unwrapped the clingfilm and placed a stem from a capsicum on top. It looked and tasted great.
Sylvia also made a whipped feta dip on the day. She blended some leftover smooth feta, greek yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice. It was a bit thin because I recommended more yoghurt to reduce the saltiness. Served with truffle oil and chilli flakes, this the dip was amazing and was gone by the end of the day.
And there were also hotdog mummies. Sylvia halved the vegetarian hotdogs with pasty strips the night before. She kept them in the freezer overnight and defrosted for an hour or so before baking them in a hot oven until the pastry is golden brown. She left spaces for little eyes that we have previously done with tomato sauce but we forgot to do it. Served with bread, crackers, vegetable sticks, cherry tomatoes and garlic pizza.
Ghost strawberries , pumpkins, and spiders:
Sylvia made some simple ghosts by dipping strawberries in white chocolate and using a skewer to dab melted milk chocolate on the white chocolate to make eyes and shocked mouths. She also made oreo spiders with pretzel legs and candy eyes. We ran out of candy eyes and she had to improvise with white chocolate eyes and dots of milk chocolate for the pupils. Then we found more candy eyes! And peeled mandarins with tiny celery stalks to make them look like pumpkins. We added some berries, nectarines and pocky to the platter.
A few years back, we made a kids punch that was easy and refreshing. It has been a regular of Sylvia's for entertaining. She has made it often enough to substitute and eyeball the ingredients. With a bit of tasting it always works. For this one she mixed apricot nectar, orange juice, ginger ale, some spooky green food dye, some soda stream creamy soda flavouring (never again), frozen berries, ice blocks and mint. She also stirred in some edible glitter powder to see the swirling sparkles every time it is stirred or in the fizz if you add soda water to it (as I liked to).
A fine time was had by all:
We had just a few family around and a lovely time. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon tea. I was pleased we didn't have many leftovers. Sylvia and I didn't have much lunch or dinner so the afternoon tea was our main meal. E did dishes and made hot drinks. My mum brought a colouful bunch of roses from her lovely garden.
Postscript - the catflap:
My dad who had helped us get cat flaps installed in May last year, has been helping tweak them for better locking. Our cat Shadow has been finding ways to push through the cat flap's locks so my dad has worked out how to slot a piece of wood over the catflap so Shadow cannot get out if we want to keep have screen doors open to the breeze after dark on warm summer evenings! He finished his impressive handiwork while we were setting up the afternoon tea. He loves a challenge with his fine collection of tools.
On the Stereo:
1989 (Taylor's version): Taylor Swift