I’ve been watching the tv series Cake Boss on YouTube and in one episode, Buddy makes a crumb cake using the leftover trimmings from his other cakes.

I thought that was a brilliant idea, so I bought his cookbook to see how it was done. If you’re a fan of the show, the book is an engaging read, giving the full history of his family and the bakery. But I was disappointed to find that the crumb cake recipe provided was similar to ones I’d seen before, with a topping created from sugar, flour and shortening.

So I thought I’d experiment! I defrosted frozen leftover cake…

Crumbled it and mixed it with brown sugar and melted butter…

Then spread it out over vanilla cake batter…

Baked it for 30 minutes in the oven…

And topped it with icing sugar…

This cake was incredibly popular with my boys – Small Man who only ever eats chocolate cake ate about a quarter of it on his own. The neighbours loved it too – so much so that a couple of them stopped me on the street to rave about it. It’s definitely a keeper!

As Buddy pointed out in the video, a heavy dusting of icing sugar at the end is essential. And even though it’s really just a riff on our basic tea cake recipe, the texture created by the twice-baked crumb is so interesting that it changes the cake completely.

Crumb cake is the ideal way to deal with our current egg glut – I’ve now baked a couple of vanilla tea cakes and stashed them in the freezer for future crumbling. I might add a layer of berries next time, or try my friend Dotti’s suggestion and make crumb topped cupcakes.

Here’s my recipe, but please don’t feel you need to stick to it – just take the idea and run with it. I’ve given instructions for making the whole cake from scratch, but this is really the perfect recipe for using up leftover bits of cake that you have stashed in the freezer, and the perfect reason to never throw old cake away again!

Fig Jam and Lime Cordial Crumb Cake

Step 1: Crumb Topping

Basic Vanilla Tea Cake Batter

  • 250g unsalted butter, soft but not melted
  • 200g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used homemade)
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g almond meal

Note: this recipe can also be made in a stand mixer, instructions are here.

1. In the large bowl of the food processor, blitz together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse until combined, adding in a spoonful of the flour if required to stop the batter from splitting (but don’t worry too much if it does). Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla and pulse again.

2. Stir or sift the flour and almond meal together, then add to the food processor and pulse until just combined.

3. Scrape the batter into a medium baking pan lined with parchment paper (I used a rectangular 30cm x 23cm /12″x9″ pan enamel baking pan) and bake in a preheated 175C (or 160C with fan) oven for 35-40 minutes until a fine skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. This recipe makes enough to top four crumb cakes.

4. Allow the cake to cool, then cut it into quarters. Store well wrapped in the freezer until needed.

Making the crumb topping:

In a medium bowl, crumble 250g of (defrosted) vanilla tea cake or leftover cake into small pieces (not too fine). Stir in 50g dark brown sugar, then 50g melted unsalted butter. Mix well to combine.

. . . . .

Step 2: Making the Crumb Cake

1. Make another batch of the vanilla tea cake batter, following steps 1 and 2 above.

2. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper – I used my 34cm x 28cm (13½” x 11″) enamel Falcon pan. Preheat the oven to 175C or 160C with fan.

3. Spread the batter over the base of the lined pan, then scatter the prepared crumb mix over the top. Press it on lightly.

4. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is quite brown and a fine skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack, then dredge generously with sifted icing sugar mixture.

. . . . .

I hope you enjoy making this cake as much as I have – it’s definitely one to add to our regular baking list. I think the technique of making the crumb topping from  leftover cake will have a multitude of different applications – we’ve already used it for fruit crumbles, but I can also see it as a topping for blueberry muffins and cupcakes. Please let us know if you come up with any creative ideas!

At Campsie Charcoal Chickens, not only do they serve the best hot chips we’ve ever tasted, but they also rotisserie their chickens in the traditional manner over hot coals.

We’ve been spending a bit of time at Labyrinth Aquariums around the corner (the fish tank is undergoing a major overhaul), and I popped in to pick up dinner recently. We came home with one and a half chooks that had literally just come off the pit. As a result, each foil bag had a few tablespoons of juice in it – stock and fat – which was just too good to waste. I poured it out carefully into a bowl and stashed it in the fridge.

A couple of days later, I used the leftover meat and stock to make an easy BBQ chicken rice…

I scraped the fat off the top of the stock and used it to fry Basmati rice (presoaked, washed and drained) until each grain was shiny and coated.

The rice went into my baby Romy with chicken stock (from the freezer), the gelatinous stock leftover from the roast chook, and the shredded meat. I cooked this in the microwave, but I’m sure an electric rice cooker would work just as well…

My hungry wolves loved this – it’s an easy twist on our Hainanese Chicken Rice recipe, and a delicious way to use up leftovers…

I have no affiliation with Campsie Charcoal Chickens, but we’re pretty excited to have discovered them!

. . . . .

Campsie Charcoal Chickens
146 Beamish Street
Campsie  NSW 2194
Tel: (02) 9789 3812

When the boys were little, we bought a very nifty device for making giant bubbles.

It was and still is an amazing toy, but twenty years ago, we couldn’t get the right dishwashing detergent for the bubble solution – it needed to be either Joy or Dawn, both of which were only available in the US. During that time, our fabulous friends would come home from overseas holidays with very well wrapped bottles of dishwashing liquid in their luggage.

Last week, we dragged the Bubble Thing out and took it around the corner for Baby M, along with a batch of solution made from the last of our twenty year old Joy. Liz and Brett mastered the technique pretty quickly…

We can now buy Fairy dishwashing liquid in Australia (at Coles), which seems to be a reasonable substitute for the American brands.

Here’s the formula for a squillion bubbles…

  • 3 cups cold water
  • ¼ cup Fairy, Joy or Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 1 tablespoon glycerine (or glycerol – available at the pharmacy)

Stir everything together gently without frothing, as too many suds seem to prevent bubbles forming. This mix results in pretty decent bubbles of all sizes, although it doesn’t seem quite as robust for giant bubbles as the solution made with Joy.

Small Man had fun with it nonetheless…

The solution is brilliant for small bubbles, and I think it would make a great refill for the tiny bottles with wands in them. If you’d like a giant bubble maker, they’re still widely available – I spotted one at Terrific Scientific in Annandale last week!

I am rubbish at cake decorating. Honestly, I really am.

Please don’t think that’s false modesty on my part – I know there are lots of things that I’m good at – it’s just that my decision making tends to go wonky when I’m decorating a cake.

This latest attempt is a good case in point. Big Boy has declared it his new favourite, which is the only reason this post is being written. It certainly isn’t because of the photo below. I started out with a sculpted bundt pan, decided to ice it with a thick frosting (mistake), thought I could save it by drizzling dulce de leche all over it (see what I mean about the wonky decision making?), then decided to fill the centre with chopped up hazelnut praline.

By the end of it, I’d created…ta-dah…a volcano!

Thankfully the cake was delicious, so no-one really cared how it looked!

It was quite a lot of work – I started by making dulce de leche from scratch a few days earlier (which took nearly three hours), then adjusted my tried and tested white chocolate bundt cake recipe to suit. The best bit though was the browned butter frosting, adapted from a Maya Angelou caramel cake recipe.

The cake recipe results in enough batter for one large 16 cup bundt, or a 10 cup bundt plus a small 8″ round cake…

A simple drizzle of DDL would probably have been a prettier option, but the browned butter frosting really did set off the flavours so well…

Dulce de Leche Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
(a Fig Jam and Lime Cordial original recipe)


  • 450g (3 cups) plain (AP) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250g (2 sticks/1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 440g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (we used homemade)
  • 5 large (59g) eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 jar of dulce de leche  – 120g (4oz) for the batter, rest for filling and topping
  • 250g (1 cup) thick Greek yoghurt (we used homemade)

1. Preheat oven to 160C (320F) with fan. Spray a large aluminium bundt pan with oil. If you’re using a smaller decorated bundt pan, spray an extra pan or muffin pans with oil to contain the excess batter.

2. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Add a little of the flour mixture if necessary to stop the batter from curdling. Slowly beat in 120g of the dulce de leche.  Scrape down the bowl.

4. Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the Greek yoghurt. Beat for 45 seconds after each addition. You want the last addition to be flour rather than yoghurt (improves the final texture of the batter). Spoon a layer of batter into the bundt pan, then dot blobs of dulce de leche in the middle to form a ring of filling, then top with more batter. I usually fill my bundt pans to two-thirds full and ladle any excess batter into small baking pans.

5. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes (I start checking after 45 minutes) – the top will be brown and a cake tester inserted in the centre will come out with a few crumbs on it.  Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 15 minutes (don’t be impatient), then gently loosen around the edges before inverting onto a wire rack to allow the cake to finish cooling at room temperature. Trim the bottom of the cake so that it sits flat on the cake board before icing.

Note: any smaller cakes will need much less time to cook – my small 8″ round cake was done in about 30 minutes.


  • 180g (12 US tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 450g (16oz) icing sugar mixture (confectioners’ sugar)
  • 120ml (½ cup) full fat cream
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

1. Brown the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat – don’t let it burn! (Pete does this bit for me.) Allow to cool. Stir in the cream and vanilla extract.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the salt into the icing sugar mixture, then gradually stir in the butter/cream and beat until smooth. Make sure to get all the browned butter solids from the saucepan – they’ll add little flecks to the frosting. Add a bit more cream if needed.

3. Cover the cake with frosting, smoothing out as best you can (it helps if you don’t use a bundt pan with wavy sides). Drizzle over more dulce de leche and fill the centre of the cake with chopped up chunks of hazelnut praline (berries would be nice too).

I made a slightly tragic attempt at icing the smaller cake as well…

This is definitely a cake I’ll make again, but next time I’ll use my large 16 cup bundt pan with smooth sides!

One of my greatest and most enduring “enthusiams” over the past twenty years has been collecting Portuguese vintage ports.

It began when my dad gave me a bottle of 1966 Warre’s that a client had gifted him, and was further spurred on by my long online friendship with the wonderful Roy Hersh – now one of the world’s most renowned port experts.

Portuguese vintage port comes with a glorious history (you know how much I love a back-story). The constant fighting between the French and the British during the seventeenth century meant that the supply of French wines to England dried up, and British wine merchants were forced to seek alternative sources. They found suppliers in Portugal, but the table wines didn’t survive the long journey back to England. In order to “fortify” them for shipping, brandy was added, resulting in the “fortified” wine we know of today as “port” (named after the city of Porto).

Collecting Portuguese vintage port in Sydney is a tricky business – we’re about as far away from Portugal as one can get and still be on the same planet.

In Australia, our fortified wines from the Rutherglen in Victoria are unique and superb – the region produces muscats and tokays which are world class, as well as some decent tawny ports. But Portuguese VPs are a completely different wine – whereas Australian fortifieds are viscous, sweet and occasionally complex, vintage ports from Portugal are elegant, rich and fruit driven.

If you’re interested in tasting a Portuguese port, a good place to start is with a late bottled vintage one. An LBV (as the style is known) differs slightly from a true VP in that it’s kept in wood for four to seven years instead of two, which accelerates the development of the wine. As a result, the port is ready to drink on release, rather than needing a twenty year sleep in a dark cellar first. And unlike traditional vintage ports, filtered LBVs don’t require decanting and breathing prior to serving.

If you’re in Australia, I can highly recommend the Graham’s 2008 Late Bottled Vintage Port which is currently available at Dan Murphy’s for under $30. Everyone who has tried it so far has loved it! It will sit happily on the kitchen bench for six weeks after opening, mellowing ever so gradually with each glass. I splosh it into my pan fried mushrooms, add it to my meatballs, and sip it with chocolate. It’s very good…

What’s your favourite tipple? Are you a fan of fortified wines? I’d love to know what you love to drink!


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