It is no secret that I have a passion for sweet things. When I am handed a menu I look at the dessert part first. Doesn’t everyone? Then I can decide the rest of my meal. I am not sure where this mild obsession came from. I have always had a sweet tooth from making coconut ice and marshmallows as a young girl with my one of my sisters to the sponge cake my mother would have for us after we came home from school….with fresh cream and homemade jam fresh out of the oven. My favourite bundt cakes decades later and the stunning shaped tins.
My three children had at least two birthday cakes each year. One for the party and one for school or family. The woman’s weekly birthday cake cookbook was on high rotation and then facing retrenchment years later starting my cupcake business which provided decorated mini cupcakes for births, deaths and marriages. You can find some of these on my instagram pamela_hayward.
So perhaps it was only fitting that I was curious to sample some of the Croatian /Balkan state sweet delights on my recent trip.
Lake Bled in northern Slovenia must be one of the prettiest places in Europe but it is also famous for its delicious Bled cream cake with its layers of puff pastry, custard, whipped cream, puff pastry and icing sugar. Sort of like our vanilla slices but without the layer of cream! We sampled this cake at the hotel way where back in 1953 it was first made. Millions have since been made at the Park Hotel where bus loads of tourists flick to try with a cup of tea or coffee. What was it like? ‘fluffy’ & ‘creamy’ perhaps describes it best. I had expresso with mine though a cup of tea may have been preferable. We were pleased that we had taken the opportunity to take the six kilometer walk round the lake with the fairtytale like castle earlier.
Another favourite would had to have been the chocolate cake with truffled honey served after our truffle hunt and superb truffle inspired lunch. Just when we felt we could never eat another morsel there appeared this inspiration. It was actually a commercially baked (from a well known baker in the village) light chocolate layer cake (no heavy chocolate mud cake here) with truffled honey and for added flavour some fine slices of truffle. Need I say more! If I died tomorrow I think after eating this I would be a very happy vegemite.
This cake I particularly remember as it was served after a beautiful outdoor lunch with the freshest oysters, muscles, fish and potatoes and of course with bread and wine! The setting was close to a lake and we had gorgeous water views. One could have imagined that at any moment the stars from ‘Mumma Mia’ would burst out of the restaurant and burst into song! Sadly not! It was also my birthday (something I kept secret from my travelling companions) so I felt it was my birthday cake. …a strawberry, custard, chocolate layer cake with a thin layer of Italian meringue. BLISS!
There were other cakes and pastries of course. Some baklava served with spices cut into diamond shaped and served with fresh cherries after a surprising lunch in Albania and the freshest of chocolate cake in Macadonia.
Here is my cupcake recipe which I think was originally from a Donna Hay cookbook which I made for one of my son’s surprise 18th birthday party. He is now almost 30 and getting married next month so yes the recipe is tried and true.
Cupcakes (this mixture makes about 36 – 40 mini cakes)
250 grams unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup castor sugar
3 large eggs (I do use organic when possible)
1 generous teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cup of plain flour (sifted) with 2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup of buttermilk or milk (room temperature). You may need more or less depending on the size of the eggs.
Make in the usual way. I find the time varies depending on the oven but find they need to be turned around to cook them eventually.
I use buttercream frosting with butter, icing sugar and vanilla as well as some milk to get the right consistency for piping on the cooled cupcakes. Enjoy!