Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fruit sponge cake with buttercream

Baking is one of my hobbies, i love it! Especially when the result turns out well. Recently I baked a fruit sponge cake with buttercream. It took me around 4 hours! I'd never made buttercream before this; this step took the longest. Especially when I was using the hand mixer and the cream splattered 20cms outside the bowl, all over the kitchen.. I don't know how to prevent that.

The sponge was springy, cream tasted nice but pity about it losing shape and melting after a while. Overall I was very satisfied with it.

Here is a photo taken from my phone camera, sorry about the quality:

And here is the recipe:

Sponge cakes:

4 eggs at room temperature
130g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp butter
4 tbs water
200g sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius. Line and grease two 18cm round cake tins. (I didn't have two tins so I made one after the other using the same tin).

2. Separate the eggs. Beat egg yolks.

3. Beat egg whites until frothy, gradually adding sugar. Add egg yolks whilst still beating. Beat until smooth.

4. Sift flour and baking powder. Add to egg mixture. Fold.

5. Heat butter and water on a stove until it comes to the boil. Add to mixture and fold.

6. Transfer mixture to the two baking tins and bake for 20 minutes.

7. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the fruit:

1 punnet strawberries
1 punnet blueberries
6 cherries
10-20 large green seedless grapes
1 - 2 tbs sugar

1. Slice the strawberries into half. Place in a bowl and sprinkle sugar. Mix gently, making sure sugar coats strawberries. Set aside.

2. Halve the grapes.

Vanilla Buttercream:

1 cup butter, softened
6 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix butter.

2. Add 4 cups of sugar to the mixture.

3. Add the milk and vanilla extract.

4. Beat the mixture using a hand mixer. Add remaining sugar gradually, until icing is a thick consistency. (Taste icing - if it is not sweet enough, add more sugar).


Utensils: Piping bag

Cake can be made up to 4 hours prior to serving.

1. When cakes are completely cooled, take 1 cake and slice top carefully until an even surface is formed.

2. Spread 1/3 to 1/2 the buttercream on top of this layer, ensuring cream is not too close to the edges. Layer with a little more than 1/2 the strawberries, and 3/4 blueberries, once again ensuring they are not too close to the edge (the weight of the top layer will force the cream to spread towards the edge). Spread another layer of cream on top of fruit (this is so that the top layer will stick).

3. Spread cream on bottom of the other cake and carefully place the cake on top of the first cake. Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top surface (so the fruit will stick). Pipe remaining icing around edge of cake. Decorate with remaining fruit.

4. Store in fridge for up to 4 hours.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Knitting pattern: Heart shaped cushion

One of my hobbies is knitting. I started knitting 4 years ago just casually, and I'm still not very good at it! I knit too slowly, and it was only last week that I discovered continential knitting. I'm still trying to get the grasp of it. 

A few weeks ago, I knit two heart-shaped cushions. They make really good decoration for a girly bed. 

I used different yarn for them, and the result was that the red one felt a lot softer and the 'fur' stayed down when the cushion was pressed. The fur on the pink one was more dense and coarse, giving a fluffier look. Here is a closeup of the difference in yarn:  

Here is the pattern for the pink one.

Pink Heart Cushion

5 x 50gram balls of boa yarn
5mm needles (use 1 size smaller or larger if gauge is not correct)
Polyester stuffing
Yarn needle
Sewing pins (straight pins)


Width: 37cm
Height: 40cm

Sides (make 2):

Cast on 5 sts.
Work 2 rows St st.
Work 5 rows St st, inc one st at each end of every row until there are 15 sts.
Purl 1 row.
Rep last 6 rows 4 times (55 sts, ending on a purl row).
Cont in St st, inc one st at each end of next and foll rows until there are 63 sts, then foll alt rows until there are 79 sts, ending on a knit row.
Work 5 rows st st, starting with a purl row.
Cont in St st, dec one st at each end of next and foll alt rows until there are 71 sts.
Purl next row, dec at each end (69 sts).
K2tog, K31, cast off 3 sts, knit until last 2 sts, K2tog.
Cont on last 32 sts in St st, starting with a purl row: dec one st at each end of 2nd and foll alt rows until there are 24 sts. 
Purl 1 row. 
CO 2 sts at start of next 8 rows (8sts).
Work 2 rows St st.
CO remaining 8 sts. 
Join yarn on the 32 sts remaining on needle, start with a purl row and dec one st at each end of 2nd and foll alt rows until there are 24 sts.
Purl 1 row.
CO 2 sts at start of next 8 rows (8sts).
Work 2 rows St st.
CO remaining 8 sts.

Make up:

With right sides facing together (wrong sides up), pin rim with sewing pins.
Insert long piece of yarn (length of circumference of heart with extra allowance) through yarn needle and sew. Leave gap to stuff.
Stuff cushion.
Sew remainder.

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 8 jogging stereotypes who roam my neighborhood

Two weeks ago, I started jogging everyday, in an effort to keep fit. I haven't done any exercise since high school 5 or 6 years ago so we'll see how long I'm able to keep this up for!

I live in a neighbourhood which is quiet and mostly residential. It is made up of detached two-storey houses and a few parks. I have been observant of the different people I see during my jogs at different times of the day. I came up with a list stereotypes (not everyone falls into one of these categories!):

1. The girl in three-quarter leggings and a headband/sweatband

She can be anywhere from late teens to early 30’s. She wears navy or black three-quarter spandex leggings, a t-shirt or singlet, and has her hair tied back into a ponytail with a thick headband across her forehead. Occasionally, she’ll wear a sweatband and be listening to her ipod as she jogs at a moderate pace.

2. The broad-shouldered guy

This macho man thinks he is all that. He’s aged mid-20’s to late 40’s. Typically, he’s the sweating, panting guy in a white t-shirt and navy shorts who runs past you with a huge wave of overconfidence. He’s always listening to his ipod and looks like he loves to show off the white cords of his earphones as well as his endurance. As much as he loves to think he's fit, his attitude and looks are not so attractive.
3. The dog-walker

These people are dressed in baggy and thick clothes and sometimes a beanie. They wear long pants and a pullover, but match this warm outfit with thongs. Holding a leash with an overexcited dog on the end, these people stroll about in a casual and lazy manner. It’s as if they don’t want to be out but have been forced to because they have a dog.

4. The older couple

This couple can be anywhere from late 30’s to 80’s. They’re both dressed in matching and often inappropriate and unfashionable gear, for example both are in oversized windbreaker jackets or woollen jumpers. The tops don’t match the bottoms. When I say couple, I don’t mean necessarily husband and wife; sometimes its two older female friends, or even a mother and a son. This couple never jogs but prefers to stroll and chat, pointing out things they pass and staring at passers-by.

5. The older man

This person is an older version of the Broad-shouldered guy described above. He’s in his 50’s to 60’s, is balding or has thin grey hair. He’s wearing the same white t-shirt and dark coloured shorts, and still listening to his ipod. He’s still able to run at quite an impressive speed.

6. The men who hang around in their front yards

By this I mean the men who are standing or kneeling in their front yards looking busy. They are either hosing or scrubbing their four-wheel drives, trimming their prized plants in the front lawn, or collecting the mail. And there’s the proud but content man standing on his driveway with a grin on his face, body outstretched and hands on his hips, looking at nothing in particular. He’ll say hi to everyone who passes by.

7. The busy mum

In the afternoon I’ll see busy mums getting out of their cars parked in the garage, slamming their car doors and fiddling with schoolbags and door keys whilst trying to gain verbal control over a few kids who are running around shouting to each other, adding to the chaos.

8. The high school kid on his way home

He has a skinny frame, elongated by his grey slacks and fitted jumper worn on top of a collared shirt and tie. He carries an oversized school bag. He drags his feet slowly across the concrete, has his hands in his pockets and his head dipped down, looking as though he finds no excitement in anything in the imminent future.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The First day of the rest of my Life

I am a 23 year old girl, living in Sydney. I am going through a major change, and need some form of release where I can express and reflect on my thoughts. I hope this blog will be that place.

Now to explain the changes I'm going through, where do I begin? I finished studying a double degree in Commerce and Law at the end of last year, and unlike my colleagues who all seemed to have their careers planned out, I had no direction at all. I'm not attracted to a corporate lifestyle where my time is spent tending to the pursuits of money-hungry individuals. Long story short, I am currently taking some time off to reflect on what I want my life to be. This is the first time in my life where I don't know where I am headed, and after 9 months, I still have not figured out what I want in life.The uncertainty scares me.

I was also living with my boyfriend of one year. It was the first time I had moved out of home and my parents opposed it. A few weeks ago he decided he needed a break and I moved back in with my parents. The break and having to confront my parents has been tough and has only added to my confusion.

I don't know if anyone else has experienced this but ever since high school finished, I feel like I'm unable to make many friends. At uni all my classes had different people and would run once or twice a week. My classmates left straight after class. As a result, I didn't make many friends at uni, and saw my high school friends infrequently. Now with this break I'm taking, I meet even less people. People tell me to take up hobbies to meet new people, but it's hard to meet people I can connect with. It gets lonely at times.

Right now I'm studying to become a qualified solicitor. After a few months of traveling and volunteer work, I needed something to do to fill the void. Although I don't have life figured out yet, I thought that having this qualification will only help my resume look more attractive to potential employers. Besides, even if I sat at home all day, my life's purpose is not going to suddenly hit me. 

So that's a bit about the changes I'm going through.