When I was going through treatment for breast cancer, I let a lot of things slide because I simply didn’t have the energy or the inclination. I didn’t do any housework, I didn’t ready any books, and I was mostly unable to sustain my attention for long enough to watch an entire movie. But the one thing I held on to was my love of cooking. Cooking, especially for the people closest to me, brings a sense of happiness and fulfilment quite unlike anything else. The first time I ever attempted to make creme brulee I was in the middle of chemo, but I was determined to master it, and I did, serving it for dessert on Valentine’s Day for my two boys.
Now that I’m in remission, and life is fully in the new normal mode, cooking remains a great source of joy for me. I’m also passionate about raising funds to support people with cancer, and to find a cure for this bastard disease, so when I was asked to participate in Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, I didn’t have to think too long or hard before I said yes. Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea (or ABMT to those of us in the biz) is being held for the 22nd year this year. The official date is Thursday 28 May, but you can host an event any time during May or June. Taking part is easy – you simply register as a host here, set a date and invite your friends or work colleagues for morning tea. If you’re like me, you’ll ask them to bring something yummy to share, because the more cakes the merrier in my experience. In return for being invited to attend your exclusive event, your guests will make a donation to the Cancer Council, so we can help support life-saving research, prevention and support programs.
Fortunately for me I work with a group of like-minded cake lovers and cancer haters, so we are going to have a bit of a nosh-up in the coming weeks. I’ll be sure to post pictures of that event, complete with me doing my special fund-raising jazz hands. And if you end up hosting a morning tea – go on, you know you want to! – then send me some photos and I’ll put them up here and you and your friends and work mates will be totes famous.
In preparation for the event, I’ve done a bit of baking as a warm-up, making a Carrot and Pineapple Cake for my friend Pat’s birthday – the recipe comes originally from here. Pat is a young, handsome bloke who’s blissfully married to my gorgeous friend Sam, but that doesn’t mean he’s not susceptible to the enticement of a cake made by a middle-aged, chestically-challenged baker.
Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker’s one-boobed lady
Bake me a cake, for my birthday on Friday
Pat it and shape it and mark it with P
And put in the oven for my beautiful wife and me.
It is a moist cake, which is full of fruit and therefore reasonably healthy, as far as cakes go. It works well with gluten-free flour too (White Wings is the best). The recipe calls for a shitload of icing, which you could probably quite easily halve and still have enough. But this cake was for the birthday of someone who otherwise lives an exceptionally healthy life, so there was going to be no halving of icing.
If you want to give it a try, here’s what you’ll need:
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons bicarb soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
200ml sunflower oil
2 cups finely grated carrot
400g can crushed pineapple, drained
1.5 cups golden caster sugar
.5 cup chopped walnuts
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups (yes FIVE cups) icing sugar
And here’s how you make it:
1. Preheat oven to 170 celcius. Don’t use the fan-forced setting, as it will dry the cake out. Grease a 23cm springform pan and line the base with baking paper.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Add the eggs, oil, carrot, pineapple and sugar. Stir to combine (a wooden spoon is best for this job), then add in walnuts and stir a bit more to combine.
3. Pour into the pan and cook for 50 minutes, or until a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean. Leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire baking rack. At this point it will probably have sunk in the middle, but don’t panic, because you’ll have plenty of icing spakfilla to sort it out.
4. Allow the cake to cool completely before you attempt icing it. If it’s even slightly warm, the icing will slide off and it’ll be an unmitigated disaster. (Ask me how I know).
5. Place the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and soft.
6. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat until it’s totally smooth and fluffy looking. This may take a while – it took me more than ten minutes because the weather is cold here at the moment and the butter and cream cheese take longer to meld. Persist, as you really need the icing to be totally smooth and creamy.
7. Cover the top and sides of the cake with icing, regularly sampling some from the bowl with your finger just to check that it tastes ok. This is a very important step and should not be left out, or the whole thing will have been pointless. I personally undertake it repeatedly, just to be sure.
9. Receive this photo via text, and get an enormous amount of pleasure from the fact that you made someone happy with cake, for you indeed are a feeder who gets immense joy from cooking for others.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I think this is what they call in the business a ‘sponsored post’. I wasn’t paid to do it – because seriously who would take payment to plug a fundraising event – but I was asked by the Cancer Council to write about Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. Considering the amount of support I, and so many other people like me, get from the Cancer Council, it’s my absolute pleasure to plug this event. Now go to the website and find out how you can get involved.