Sugar and spice…

After a long and unusually hot summer, autumn has landed in Dunedin with a very chilly thump. So the idea of doing some baking is very appealing: It makes your house smell amazing and it warms up your kitchen, and people think you are so clever and then, (and this is such a happy ending!) you get to sit down with a cuppa, a good book and a sweet treat. Bliss.
I have been reading two new New Zealand baking books – one is from the sugar-powdered, sweetly nostalgic end of the baking spectrum, the other is definitely out there on the spicy cutting-edge, both, ahem, take the cake!

The Caker: 50 New and Unusual Cake Recipes by Jordan Rondel (Random House), is the more unusual one – Raw Hazelnut & Chai Brownies anyone? – but the recipes look excellent, with some really clever flavour combinations and the photos are just fabulous: inspiring and pretty.
9781775532958You really do want to have a go at the lemony almond cake with lavender syrup, the pinot noir chocolate cake (Wine! Chocolate! Cake!) or the sweet & salty potato chip biscuits (!) and there is a fair sprinkling of inventive vegan and gluten-free delights too. The first one I will try though is the double-layer fig and raspberry cake with cream cheese icing.
In the back of the book are 15 gorgeous icings, glazes and toppings that you could adapt to any of your own favourite recipes and in the front are some useful tips on cake wrangling from the right and proper way to beat the ingredients to checking for doneness, to storing it properly and then cutting it perfectly. Your cakes will thank you for reading all this…

From the baking-we-know-and-love cake tin comes Natalie Oldfield’s new book inspired by her grandma Dulcie May’s traditional and beautiful NZ baking, Gran’s Sweet Pantry (HarperCollins).
gran's sweet pantryHere you’ll find the mysteries of such kiwi favourites as lolly cake, feijoa jam, ginger crunch and rocky road fully elucidated as well as yummy sounding muffins – boysonberry and pistachio crumble, and corn and bacon – and splendid desserts like rhubarb roll with vanilla bean custard. The book is particularly beautifully designed – the pages have a matt finish which complements the stunning photos like cream and jam on a scone. I have also found in this book the best recipe for making that butter icing that you then swirl on cupcakes – not too much butter.

One of the things I really like about both these books is that the clear recipes and friendly writing encourage you to have a go – and the photos show treats that are not airbrushed perfection but sometimes a little wonky, just like the ones you make at home, which is quite comforting.

So, why not make a cake or a sweet treat this weekend before you curl up with your current favourite book?

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