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Orange Crème Brûlée

I have always believed that when you enter the kitchen, you lock all your worries and leave them out. Call me superstitious if you will, but I believe what you serve up on the dining table is a close reflection of your inner state. A credit note to Mum is due here. In spite of juggling raising two brats, a full-time job and the household chores, she always has had a sense of calm around her when she is in the kitchen. This somehow hasn’t propagated down the DNA sequence. What definitely has though, is that we are both fiercely territorial about our space in the kitchen. I like to call the shots in the kitchen, and even with a well-meaning kitchen hand at an arms distance I always feel claustrophobic. Oh! there’s another thing about me. I can be very fussy about ingredients. I have a strong belief (backed by scientific reason of course) that no two bars of chocolates behave the same when melted. One would most definitely burn before the other even when they are on the same flame.

When I was visiting home a couple of months ago, I browbeat a good friend of mine into inviting a few friends over for dinner to her place (sounds eerily familiar if you are my friend doesn’t it? ), with the promise that I’d fix up the dinner for all of us. I had had one too many sorry Penne in Pesto sauce, at apparently good Italian restaurants in Bangalore by now, so it had to be Pasta for the main course, and I thought I’d delight the chums with my favorite Choc molten lava cake for desserts. Now without delving into the tumultuous waves of emotions I was surfing on my visit home, I did exactly what I had strongly stood against. Cooked when I was firefighting a blaze internally. No prizes for guessing that the dinner was average at best and in spite of the friends giving me a pat on the back, I knew I could’ve done better. I am also a harsh critic of myself (closely followed by, you guessed it -Mum). I decided that I wouldn’t try a new recipe until I had put this uneasiness well and truly behind me.

One fine evening minus fine dinner.

One fine evening minus fine dinner.

Cut to Melbourne, two months later. Finally I was feeling ready. The spring in the step was back, I was ready to try something new. Then there was this abundance of Oranges lying around. As my mind usually does, It had wandered back in time to when I had visited Stanley in Tasmania. I wouldn’t mind going back time and again to Stanley Hotel for their stupendous crème brûlée. The one thing that stood out for me was the immaculate presentation and the even caramel coating on top of the crème brûlée. This exotic sounding dessert when literally translated into plain English reads – Burnt cream. Who would’ve guessed! I have made crème brûlée before and blow torched the hell out of caster sugar to make coating on top, but never got an even coat. I did some research on it and one option suggested, putting the creme brulee with generous dusting of caster sugar into the broiler of an oven for an evenly melted caramel. After wolfing down the crème brûlée at Stanley Hotel, I asked if I could have a word with the chef. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked him what was the secret behind the perfect coat of caramel? And when he said that they made the caramel on a pan and poured it into the ramekins for that even coat, I felt like a fool. Why hadn’t I thought about it! simple yet ingenuous.

In the end, orange infused crème brûlée served with candied oranges turned out to be a hit and somewhere deep within, I felt absolved of my Bangalore fiasco. So if I am ever serving up some supermarket bought pizzas, you’ll know well to keep me away from knives ;). Now here’s how to make some silky smooth Orange Crème Brûlée.

Orange Crème Brûlée

Orange Crème Brûlée


  • zest of 4 oranges
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur


  • Zest your oranges, then run a knife through it and chop it up even finer. You want as much of the orange zest to infuse into the cream as possible.
  • Combine the chopped orange zest and the cream, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • The orange zest needs time to infuse into the cream since we will be straining the zest out later.
  • Preheat the oven to 150 degree Celsius.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar together on low speed for 2 minutes.
  • Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat until scalded, bringing it almost to a boil, but not quite. An indication of scalding is lots of steam and bubbles forming on the sides.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture.
  • Add the vanilla and orange liqueur, and once it’s all combined, pour the mixture through a fine meshed sieve to strain out the orange zest.
  • Pour the strained custard into ramekins until almost full.
  • Place the ramekins in a baking pan and pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crème brûlées only jiggle slightly when shaken. Take the crème brûlées out of the water bath and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until they firm up.
  • When you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle over 1 tsp of sugar evenly on top of each crème brûlée, and either use a blowtorch or do it old school and use the broiler coils of your oven to caramelize the top (this process happens very quickly. Leave the door open as you broil and watch, don’t walk away from it).
  • Candy oranges separately on a pan and use to decorate.

Al Fatah!

Those words will stick to me for a long time, like a chewing gum to the sole of a shoe. Annoying and difficult to pick off. That by the way also happened to be the answer to the final question at a quiz contest I participated on at school. What was the name of the party founded by Yasser Arafat, the Palestine leader? As I strained hard, I was miffed that the question could have been around a dozen other things that I knew about Arafat. Not many would know that Arafat was born Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini. Or that he was born inCairo.

As I mulled afterwards on the irony, Al Fatah or Victory was what did me in on that last question. Also it didn’t fail to dawn on me that my name translates to invincible. This somewhat grounding experience has stuck with me ever since.

As I grew up watching sport of all sorts, I realized it was one thing to be victorious but it was more important to be hungry no matter what the result is. Now there’s a fine line between that wont and being a fine sport. This edict has been instrumental in me picking my favorite players. I don’t go by the rankings or the number of wins, but will root for someone with a big ticker and a never say never attitude even in the face of defeat.

Below are three of my favorite picks from tennis that I keep revisiting often to find some inspiration for my own Tuesday night hits.

1)      Pistol Pete battles an old nemesis in Jim Courier and doesn’t belie emotions on the court as his coach and good mate Tim Gulkinson was diagnosed with cancer.

Pete Sampras Vs Jim Courier

2)      Another ageing warhorse Andre Agassi in his swansong year comes up against a young portly happy go lucky Cypriot that answered to the name of Marcos Baghdatis. Full marks to both the players for giving it their all even when it looked like the wheels had come off.

Andre Agassi Vs Marcos Baghdatis

3)      Rafael Nadal came up against his good friend and fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco at the 2009 Australian Open Semi Finals. Rafa was expected to make short work of Verdasco and all eyes were already trained on his final showdown with Roger Federer, but Verdasco had other plans. Staring down the barrel at the end of the third set, Nadal knew it wouldn’t be an early night and he was locked into a mortal combat. All credit to Verdasco for going full tilt for five sets. At the end the only thing that separated the two was the will to hang in – barely.

Rafael Nadal Vs Fernando Verdasco

PS : I cleaned up a few quiz contests post the ‘Al Fatah’ episode and never did I rue a loss to a good opponent since.

My Red M&Ms Turn 3!

There are a few things that are dear to me, and I choose to refer to them with a moniker – ‘Red M&Ms’. Sport, Photography, Ria, Writing, Baking, April sit pretty on top of the list, not necessarily in that order of preference. Whilst Ria happens to a friends bub and the most amazing kid, April is my sweetheart, mobile boom box, adrenaline dose all rolled into one – My ride, a Mazda SP23.

Coming up to a friends kid’s third birthday and racking my brains for what would be an appropriate thing to take to the party, it dawned on me. April and Ria were Three too now! And the one thing that tied all of em’ together was the fact that they were all indeed my Red M&Ms. That was it. It had to be something to do with Red M&Ms! A party teeming with kids, Red M&M’s, I racked my brains some more.

Finally I was reminded of a colleagues suggestion for sweet treats for kiddies. Choc cars, with lil teddies on top decked with proper wheels and a steering wheel to boot. Now what kid wouldn’t want one of those? (Big ones like me included.)

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Ingredients (serves 18)

  • 100g milk chocolate, melted
  • 1 bag Milky Way bars (usually 18 in a bag)
  • 1 box Tiny Teddy biscuits, honey flavour
  • 1 bag M&Ms (340g)


  • Set out a tray or serving plate for the Teddies.
  • Sort the M&Ms into colours and cut 9 M&Ms in half with a sharp knife to use for steering wheels (keep in mind steering wheel colours need to match with wheel colours).
  • Remove the wrappers from the Milky Way bars.
  • Cut 18 Tiny Teddies in half at the belly button using a sharp knife.
  • Place the melted chocolate into a resealable bag and snip a tiny corner off. Squeeze out a few drops of chocolate to ‘glue’ 4 M&Ms ‘wheels’ on each car then place on the serving tray.
  • Place a few drops of chocolate on the top of each ‘car’ and sit the Teddy’s on. Place a drop of chocolate on the ‘car’ in the front of each Teddy and ‘glue’ on steering wheels.

First hit.

There are a few times I indulge in my alter ego and let him have a free run. A sporting arena is one such place.

Context : Inter club tennis, season opener for the year. Abs has just come back from a 5 week holiday at home, undoubtedly a few pounds heavier and slightly frustrated at the turn of events and no sporting action.

Abs : Fish! why is the traffic banked up this far on the freeway? for gods-sake it is a freeway. I think I’ll be late to the courts by at least 10 mins.

AE: You should’ve know better to leave earlier. You never keep the ladies waiting, but are perpetually late to the courts.

Abs: Whateva! I think I should text the blokes and let em know I’ll be late.


7.40 PM serving to save the game at 30-40, 2-3.

AE: Come on champ, you can do this. One more. One more.

I take my time, watch the opponent standing at the far receiving corner. Do the bouncing the ball routine….. twice over.

Abs: I’m going to go for broke, down the T.

BOOM. Nobody moves. That’s the first ace of the season out of the way, and what a time to bring it out.


AE: Average! I could do that all night.


8.25 PM, First set lost 4-6 in a close affair. Up 5-0 in the second.

Abs: Now we’re talking. Looks like the serves are back. nearly 10 weeks of no action, I was bound to have a rusty opening set.

AE: Meh! If only you played smart tennis.

Abs: What do you think I’m trying to do?

AE: So stop whacking the first serves into the net. Didn’t you hear your partner ask you to cut down a few clicks on the first serve and focus on getting it in?

Abs: Meh!


8.32 PM, Abs dumps an easy overhead volley into the net. 5-0 has suddenly turned into 5-2.

AE: You bloody fool. That was a sitter.

Abs: (slightly embarrassed) I know.

AE: If you would’ve moved your fat ass around to get into position, you would’ve probably made the volley.

Abs: Agree.

8.37 PM, up a break point and a set point. Abs at the net opponent let one rip straight back. Almost a sitting duck there. Quick reflexes, deft touch and a cross court winner to wrap up the set 6-2. Another massive roar. A big Hi-5 to the partner.

Abs: C’MOOOOOOON. Bring it!

AE: Got lucky there champ. Do you realise, if your C’mons really translated into you playing better, you wouldn’t be loosing as many service games and not have to bank on breaking the opponents serve to win sets?

Abs: Hey! cut me some slack will you?

9.15 the body’s gone cold between sets. Staring down the barrel at 3-5, 0-40. Just going through the motions now. More interested in the Netball games the girls on the adjacent court are having a go at.

AE: If only you could fix your service games. And what sort of second serves are those.

Abs: yeah.

AE: It’s about playing smart tennis. Keep the ball in play, let the opponent make the mistakes.

Abs: yeah.

AE: You’re exactly where you were last season. Absolutely no improvement.

Abs: yeah.

AE: Now shut up and stop stealing glances at the netball action and get on with your game.

Abs: yeah.

9.45  End of a disappointing night 4-6, 6-2, 3-6. A few positives. The first hit in eons. The first ace out of the way. Hopefully the rust will be off in time for next week. Onto the social BBQ now to round off playing host to Eaglemont club.

Abs: Thanks gents, that was a good hit. worked up a good sweat tonight.

tuck into another quiche, while following the cricket scores on the mobile.

AE: One more of those quiches and all those calories burnt on the court, down the drain.

Abs: Awrite. I get it. It’s pack up time.

My sporting elixir.

I’ve owed this post to nobody more than myself for a long time. The only thing that has kept me from penning this post down is the feeling that I’d be doing injustice to the magnanimity of the setting. It is absolutely impossible to capture the myriad of emotions and the subtle details that littered the grand day. I almost fear, I’ve seen the best day in my life and just to prove myself wrong, I’ve tried to go back to the same place year after year three years in a row hoping all the pieces to the puzzle fall in place yet again and the magic recreates itself. Alas! I have been disappointed each time.  I have now almost come to grips that, forget an upstage, it’d be difficult to even close to matching the events that unfolded on the magical day.

All Federer fans may now stop reading the post and make a dash to the nearest exit. There is nothing in this post for you. All Rafael Nadal fans may now stand up, take a bow and bring down the roof with some tumultuous applause.

I take you back in time a few years ago to Feb 1, 2009. At dawn break there was promise of an epic battle. Battle between an unstoppable force Federer, gunning for a place in history, aiming to match Sampras’ tally of 14 Grand Slam wins and the man in his way a mongrel of a fighter Rafael Nadal, that lives and breathes the saying never say never. This match made in heaven actually turned out to be a bit of a mismatch given the context of previous rounds. Whilst Federer breezed into the finals, Rafa had to pull out all stops to barely make it against another revelation at the tournament, fellow countryman Verdasco. Watching that semi finals would have left many an ardent Rafa fan emotionally sapped and with little hope that he’d have any gas left in the tank for the finals.

As fate would have it, I managed to score a couple of prized tickets to the finals, late into the tournament. How those tickets were still available beats me to this day. After asking a fellow tennis nut and also importantly a non-Federer-fan, to join me, I mused, what are the chances of being at the finals of a grand slam that you have grown up watching over the years on tele?   I let my thoughts trail away, as we made it to Rod Laver arena, firstly to see Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza lift the coveted mixed doubles trophies in the other match of the day. I told myself that this would serve as some consolation if the Men’s finals went pear shape. A quick dash outside for some face paint in Spanish colors and spawning a Spanish army, we got into our designated seats, buzzing with anticipation. Anybody that knows me well, will tell you that I get very talkative when I am nervous or excited. So as my friend sat in her seat half looking at the pre match preparations and half nodding away listening to me, I chattered away nonstop.

When it all began I hoped the end be quick if the result didn’t go my way. The first game of the match suggested anything but an early finish. The two pros started big, each not wanting to give an inch away. The edge of the seat see-saw battle took just under an hour at 58 minutes for Rafa to nudge ahead and take the first set 7-5. By this time the adrenalin had kicked in and it was difficult for me to muzzle down my spray of ‘VAMOS!’ every few points. There were far too few Rafa supporters in our stand and I felt obligated to make up for the lack of support by being my vociferous best, at times embarrassing my friend.

What followed over the next couple of hours is sure to have given the weak hearted palpitations. The match ebbed and flowed in one direction then the other. The bookies would have had a tough time fixing the odds. Nobody seemed to stamp his authority over the match. Whilst Federer kept coming up with silky smooth passing shots, Rafa kept chasing down everything that was thrown at him. The second set went to Federer at 3-6 and one could sense a shift in momentum. It is just a matter of time now,  I said to myself. And how wrong I was! Rafa hung in like a fighter and pipped Federer for the third set in the tie break, taking the set 7-6 (3) against the flow. The only chance that Rafa has is to close the match out now, I thought. But stranger things have happened. Federer stormed back to claim the fourth set  3-6. Unable to take the tension any more, me and the friend stepped out for some big gasps of fresh air and walked around the stadium getting rid of some nervous energy. As we got back into the seats, Rafa had rocketed out of the blocks. It seemed that he had discovered some fresh wind in his sails. For the first time Federer looked jaded in the match. As we kept our fingers crossed, Rafa inched closer to that magical moment. And when it was all over on the last point, me and my friend looked at each other in utter disbelief before breaking into hoarse cries. This had to be the best sporting moment in my life. As we stood around gamely cheering every minute of the presentation ceremony, you could not miss the feeling of David having slain Goliath yet again. As the crowds started to make a beeline to the exits, only then did we realize that the roller coaster ride had taken us into the wee hours. It was about 3 AM when we left the courts. As you might guess, I didn’t get much sleep that night, or the next for the rest of the week.  It was as if a fairytale had unfolded in real life.

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Today, every now and again, I jog my memory to the eventful day and bask in the warmth of the afterglow. Thank you Rafa for a lifetime of memories and thank you my friend for being there and sharing the day with me.

Rise Phoenix, Rise.

Phoenix - The Hope.

Phoenix - The Hope.

Every time I’m back home to Bangalore, I feel special. Every time the tyres of the plane hit the tarmac at the Bangalore airport, it gives me goose-bumps. It’s the same feeling of that of a reunion of two love birds, separated by a long distance relationship. Immediately feeling warm, fuzzy somewhere deep down, I wish the time slows down a fraction, that I be able to romance my lover that extra longer. The first few days are spent in the nervous tango working out how each of us has grown since the last rendezvous, the next few, catching up on good old times, and it is somewhere at this point that I feel a twinge. Almost hoping it weren’t rue. I realize, as much as my love has new things to offer, I fear she is slowly losing her soul, her identity. I silently pray that I am wrong, that she is self healing, that she is still the innocent, unassuming girl, peeping cherubically from around the doorway.

Each time I am in Bangalore, there is a newer, bigger Mall than the last time. Newer, bigger diasporas than the last time. People suddenly seem to have a surplus of money to spend. Fine wine isn’t anymore elitist. World cuisine seems to have come to the doorsteps of Bangalore. The sight of Metro trains suddenly gives me hope that the traffic travails will finally be addressed. The bus services impress me. The city seems to be doing just fine. In fact I am chuffed to see the city taking strides towards being a hip modern metropolis.

Around here is when I move my attentive gaze from the grand splendor of the inanimate, to the heart and soul of the city – its people. I’ve been a part of the city for a long time and although I don’t claim to have a scholarly command on the shifting ethos of the society, I clearly notice a pattern of tectonic shift each time. What concerns and affects me more is when I see those subtle shifts in people around me, people that I have grown up with, and people that I love and as much as it is none of my business, I feel a sharp jab somewhere in the chest area. People suddenly do not seem to have time anymore. Friends only ever catch up rarely, citing the daemons of wading through the traffic for the lack of appetite to socialize with each other. Patience seems to be as rare as truffles. Almost nobody seems to have a plan, as if moving in the general direction of the flow like zombies. Relationships seem frayed and tested due to a combination of the above. People seem to have pushed the boundaries of their conscience to far flung corners that you did not know exist. Suddenly everybody seems to be living in their own little universe, where they have become so comfortable, that any mention of change brings deep gasps and raised eyebrows.

I hope for the greater good, that people stop, sit back and evaluate things that need to be fixed, before it is too late, before my beloved city loses her soul and morphs into a completely different person. That day a part of me will die, and being the selfish man I am, I hope I don’t live to see the day.

Stawberry Flan

You don’t have to go far to tell of my love for all things Spanish – Read God must be Spanish.

A friend was hosting a get-together at his place and I suggested that there be a theme – Spanish food. I offered to put together a Menu for him and hold your breath – execute it and plate it up! This probably had to be my most daring challenge to date. That in a nutshell is me – Foolhardy. Throw down the gauntlet nonchalantly and then wonder why the hell did I do it? Well, now that the invites were on their way and there was an air of expectation, there was no backing out. Game on! I thought to myself.

After the usual recipe search on the net and pouring through cook books I settled on the three courses I would serve up:

1) Alioli Potatoe as Tapas
2) A Vegetarian Paella for the Main (I see a few raised eyebrows already, and I agree this is as bastardized as the original seafood paella can get.)
3) A Strawberry Flan for Dessert.

I shall deal with the first two courses of meal in another post, and talk about my favourite – Strawberry flan. As easy as it sounded to make this dessert, I’d never used a “bano Maria” or simply a water bath.
I was excited to give it a go and when I unmolded those beauties out of the ramekins, I was all smiles :).

Strawberry Flan

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 cups fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 can (400 grams) can condensed milk
  • 6 eggs

caramelized sugar topping:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • mint leaves – optional garnish

Optional: Reserve about 4-5 diced fresh strawberries for garnish.


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  • Put a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  • With the back of a wooden spoon, keep sugar moving constantly in skillet until sugar is completely melted, and of a rich medium brown color (caramelized).
  • Pour caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins. Set aside.
  • Wash the strawberries and remove the stem.
  • Place the strawberries, sugar eggs and condensed milk in to a food processor or blender and blend until strawberries are minced and all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
  •  Ladle the strawberry mixture into each ramekin. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil.
  • Place each ramekin into a large open, oven-proof pan, such as a broiler pan. Add very hot water to the pan. The ramekins should be submerged approximately 3/4 in the water.
  • Carefully place the pan on to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully remove each ramekin from the water, uncover and to allow to cool.
  • Once cool, place in refrigerator to chill.
  • When you are ready to serve, run a paring knife around the outside of each ramekin to loosen the flan. Then, place the serving plate on top of each one and flip it over. It may be necessary to tap the ramekin to force the flan to fall out onto the plate.
  •  Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana ?

I’ve done lamer versions of Knock knock, but this always seems to work.

We’ll jump straight into one of my stock cakes that I fall back on when I am in a hurry. Not so much a ‘Wham bam, thank you ma’am outcome when it comes to the end result.
This cake is just right on many counts. Fluffy, not overtly overpowering in flavours and leaves you with the nice warm feeling after you’ve tucked it away.

Spotted Orange Yogurt Cake

Ingredients ( serves 12 )
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons finely chopped or grated orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional syrup:
1/3 cup orange juice (strained if freshly squeezed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar


1. Heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and use a stand mixer to cream until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, vanilla, yogurt, orange juice, poppy seeds and orange zest and beat 1 minute.

4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix well.

5. Pour the batter into a greased 9″  mold (I  used a bundt mold in this instance) and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Ovens vary, so start checking after about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes and then carefully remove it from the pan.

6. If desired, combine the orange juice and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then spoon or brush it over the cake. Slice and serve! This cake will keep at room temperature for 3 days or can be frozen.

Strains of Marvin Gaye stream in the background.

Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough, baby

One of those days when I felt like the Energizer bunny. It was a dear friends birthday and I had decided to fix her a treat. In preperation I had my ingredients list ready (One of those rare times I must admit.It usually is a two pitstop strategy to the supermarket to pick up an ingredient, that I had tucked away in a corner of my mind and forgotten conviniently the first time), The stand mixer was in the boot of the car and I rocked into work fairly early. I played out the steps for the recipe in my mind a couple of times and it was down to crunching some numbers at work. After I knocked off work, I whizzed down to the supermarket and after some snappy shopping, I was on my way to A & R’s place. After the surprise knock on the door and customary wishes, I set shop and got down to work. After a good two hours of toiling, out came the golden baby – a hint of cinnamon in the air, a crusty top and a soft moist center – Apple and Berry crumble cake!

Apple Berry Crumble Cake.

You're old enough now, no more pacifier.

Bubba time!

It tasted just as nice as it looked. Served as a perfect treat for A on her birthday and seemingly so Ria liked my dessert over R’s gift- A money plant 🙂

Ingredients ( serves 8 )

Apple and Berry Layer
3 medium Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
75g fresh or frozen blueberries, 75 g fresh or frozen raspberries

Crumble Topping
100g plain flour
80g cold butter, chopped (salted butter)
80g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g cold butter (salted butter)
180g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
100g plain flour


  • Peel apples. Cut apples into quarters and remove the cores. Slice each quarter lengthways into four or five pieces.
  •  Place apple in a medium saucepan. Add water and 1 tablespoon sugar to the saucepan.
  •  Cover saucepan with a lid. Place saucepan over high heat, and when the water boils, reduce heat so that the mixture simmers.
  • Cook apple for about 12-15 minutes, until tender (the point of a knife should pierce the apple easily).
  • Transfer apple mixture to a heatproof bowl and place in the fridge or freezer while preparing the other ingredients.
  • When assembling the slice, the apple needs to be cold or at room temperature. It will probably take about 40 minutes for the apple to cool in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan-forced).
  • Move oven rack to the middle shelf position (not necessary for a fan-forced oven).
  • Grease an 18cm by 27.5cm (top inside measurement) slice pan that is at least 3cm deep.
  • Line with baking paper, extending the paper about 2cm above the sides of the pan. The excess paper can be used as handles to lift the slice out of the pan.
  • To make the crumble topping, place crumble ingredients in a stand mixer and process on medium speed until the ingredients are combined and the mixture starts to form clumps (about 20-40 seconds).
  • Tip crumble mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate while preparing the cake batter.
  • In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, eggs and vanilla.
  • Place butter, caster sugar and flours in the stand mixer and process on medium speed until no large pieces of butter remain (about 30 seconds). The mixture should look similar to almond meal.
  • Add sour cream mixture to the food processor and process on medium speed until combined into a thick batter (about 10 seconds).
  • Scrape down the side and base of the processor and process again for about 10 seconds.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread batter evenly over the base of the pan.
  • Place the cooled, cooked apple over the batter.
  • Sprinkle the berries over the apple.
  • Sprinkle crumble topping over the fruit.

Bake cake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without any batter attached. The cake should spring back when lightly pressed in the centre and the crumble should be lightly browned.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature, on its own or with cream and/or ice cream.

Here’s another time when I made the Apple Berry Crumble in ramekins.

Apple Berry Crumble.

Tantalising Tiramisu Cake

Ever since I started baking, and going out on the WWW in search of interesting recipes, I have more often than not settled on recipes out of blogs written by women. I wonder why? Perhaps, it is that extra bit of attention to detail, the pretty photographs, the detailed recipes and the steps involved that put them apart. Mine on the other hand, as you would have noticed, is a quick and nasty approach of documenting my experiments with the oven. On that note this post is dedicated to the women in my life that have have touched upon various facets at various points in my life.

Firstly Happy Birthday Mum, I am who I am, in big parts thanks to you. Your volumes of meticulously hand written recipes are an inspiration.

To my primary school chum – Sonya, who melts at the mention of the word Tiramisu, you have been the best find in years. After being classmates for the first four years of schooling life, Sonya left never to be seen or heard from again. Let me add at this point she was one of the model students (in all senses). Over the years, after Sonya left, I always wondered where would she be and what would have happened to her.
That answer came to me thanks to our friend Facebook. Imagine bumping into a grown up gorgeous doctor some 20 years later. I must say, neither was I surprised she had turned out to be gorgeous or the small matter that she was now a Doctor. I as much expected it. But what got me excited
was that I had found my long lost friend! Doc, thank you for re-connecting and thank you for just being there.

To the lady whose posts I read religiously, enviously every time and secretly aspire to emulate her presentation of food she dishes up in her kitchen – Shumaila, I doff my hat to you. I wish, I had half as much zest as you do, when it comes to baking/cooking. Also thanks for the kick in the back to spur me on with my posts.

To the woman I have never met, but continues to amaze me – The Pioneer Woman – Ree Drummond, thank you for inspiring me to enjoy the little joys of life.

Now onto the business end of things, the recipe for a Triamisu cake. I made this on the ocassion of a friends birthday recently and was quite
impressed myself.

Ingredients (serves 10)

For the cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks(10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Espresso Extract

  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

For the Espresso Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto, kahlua or brandy (I used 3 tablespoons of kahlua)

For the filling and frosting

  • 250 gms  mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ameretto, kahlua or brandy (I used 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 60 gms  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store bought mini chocolate chips (or more, to cover the layer completely)
  • cocoa powder for dusting


  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pan with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on baking sheet.
  • Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  • Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, one by one, and then the yolk, beating for one minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  • Don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  • Bake for 28 to 30 minutes,rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean.
  • Transfer the cakes to a rack and cook for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To make the extract:

  • Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:

  • Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:

  • Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds form peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch. Add the remaining 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of espresso extract into the mascarpone cream. Taste to decided how much extract you want to add.

To assemble the cake:

  • If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them.
  • Place one layer right side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper.
  • Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup.
  • Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer- use about 1 1/4 cups- and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.
  • Put the second cake later on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

Use the remaining cream to frost the top of the cake. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread on the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. Decorate with chocolate covered espresso beans.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or up to one day) before serving, so that the elements have enough time to meld.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder.