Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Downunder

What does Christmas mean for me? Along with family, friends, celebrations and sweltering summers, there's also far too much baking and food. Baking is one of the few hobbies I really enjoy outside of writing, and when it comes to this time of the year, all of our family functions revolve around feasts.

But Christmas in Australia is a little different from that of the Northern Hemisphere. For one thing, it's not unusual to sweat our way through +40 degrees Celsius on Christmas Day, which makes the traditional turkey roast sometimes impossible. Seafood is commonly found on the table, but it's what comes after lunch that always catches my attention. Dessert.

This year, I thought I'd try a few different takes on the traditional fare. Two desserts that are strongly Australian are the Trifle and the Pavlova (whipped egg whites mixed with sugar and baked, which creates a light fluffy cake, upon which we pour fruit, passionfruit syrup, raspberry sauce... pretty much anything you want). I didn't make a 'pav' this year, but I thought I'd attempt a slightly different version of a trifle. This was really easy and delicious! The recipe is here, though I corrupted it a bit.

It's basically a layer of:
  • raspberry jelly with strawberries and fresh raspberries floating in it
  • followed by a layer of raspberry sauce (the recipe called for jam, but I had excess raspberry sauce for my sister's cake - it's basically raspberries plus a splash of lime/lemon juice and sugar, simmered) 
  • a layer of cake (funnily enough I had an excess of white chocolate mud cake too, though you could probably use any type of cake; a common alternative is a jam roll)
  • more raspberry sauce
  • strawberries layered around the sides of the bowl
  • then the white chocolate custard layer (cream plus melted white chocolate, cooled, then mascarpone cheese added and whipped in. I always half the amounts when it comes to rich food, so I used 250g Mascarpone and 1 cup cream stirred into about 180 gms white chocolate. It still worked - and tasted amazing - though you can double the cream and mascarpone if you want)
  • I added white chocolate Lindt balls to decorate and fresh raspberries which I had left over.
Then refrigerate for a few hours and let the magic begin (this is the important step as it all needs time to soak).

But the piece de resistance is the cake I spent hours making for my little sister's 18th birthday party the weekend before Christmas. I'm not quite sure how I ended up becoming official cake-maker for my sister's birthdays, but, not having kids myself, its the next best thing. 

It's the first time I've attempted chocolate curls (as you can see, they ended up more like chocolate flowers, but 'oh well'.) It's also my first time trying to work an ombre effect into the icing. It took four different pots of chocolate ganache (melted white chocolate and cream - awesome icing!), dyed alternating levels of pinkness, a lot of patience and about three hours work all up, to ice and finish the cake.

The white chocolate mud cake recipe is here, if anyone is interested and I highly recommend it. Was an amazing recipe for a function cake, and all I did was double the batter to get two tiers. 

For any amateur bakers, I'll admit it wasn't as hard as I thought, and this is the first time I've had any reasonable success with a birthday cake - they never quite turn out as planned!

So what are your favourite recipes for this time of year? I'm always interested in finding something new to make and I love attempting something from another culture. 



Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. Read more about her at or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.



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  1. Love the recipe. It sounds so good. Sometimes in Texas, Christmas is pretty warm too!

  2. Cool, Bec! It's cold today, but we're supposed to get back up to 62 tomorrow. :) We spent the Christmas feast at my SIL's aunt and uncle's home and had pecan pie and chocolate mousse mud pie? Delicious!

  3. @Shana You'll have to try it. So good! We're planning on doing a white christmas next year in New York, so good to know at least part of the US is warm at that time - just in case we get too cold!

  4. @Terry Mmm, those sound delicious! I've done pecan pie before but anything with chocolate mousse sounds great!

  5. Wow! Both cakes look wonderful. Hope your sister knows how lucky she is to have you.

  6. Wow, what a wonderful sister you are! Somehow, I am not sure the chocolate would ever make it to the cake if I had anything to do with it, lol. Thanks for sharing.

  7. It all looks yummy! My favorite is chocolate pie!