I collect cookbooks. I love them. I love the pages and pages filled with possibilities and pretty pictures. I have about 40 of them. Excessive? Probably, but it doesn’t stop me wanting more. I remember learning in a food history paper I once took that we buy cookbooks because we are wooed by the lifestyle portrayed in them. Effortless entertaining, overflowing laughter and platter upon platter of the most delectable food. They give the idea that this author lives the most sociable and fabulous of lifestyles and is of course the most popular amongst all his or her friends.
The same goes with Instagram feeds. My feed would tell you I am constantly eating cake or eating out or making elaborate dishes. In reality I am trying to get my fork into the corner of my 85g tin of tuna. Last Friday for dinner I ate two defrosted pita pockets smothered in my flatmate’s peanut butter in between all the cakes I was baking. I eat Wok 'n' Noodle at least once a week too.
I look at all the food styling out there and think man I wish I could make my set ups look as beautiful. I wish it looked like I lived this perfect culinary life. The reality of it all is that I just don’t have the time to curate that sort of online presence. I don't even have the money. Even if I did, it wouldn’t be real. I don’t have a beautiful rustic kitchen. My flat’s kitchen is covered in gawdy yellow tiles and bright blue Formica. My oven door is even broken (which reminds me, I need to fix that). I spend my daylight hours in an office!
For the first time in months I found myself with a spare Saturday. I made a cake for the sheer joy of trying something new. I took my old wooden school desk and put it outside in the shade. The sun was shining bright on the other half of the garden so finding good lighting was a mare. I took a very blue tinged photo. I increased the warmth of the photo on my laptop. Luckily you can’t see the grass, our lawns desperately need mowing. I made a cake and it was delicious and here I am sharing it with you. I’m saving you from getting lifestyle envy because now you know that I live in a flat that is falling apart and I lack the endless daylight hours and cupboards full of props to perfectly style such a creation. I am just a regular person.
I found this recipe on a blog called Constellation Inspiration. She got the recipe from another blogger (Style Sweet CA) who has just released a cookbook – Layered: Baking, building and styling spectacular cakes by Tessa Huff. Come pay day I am definitely putting my order in. If this recipe was anything to go by this book is the next on my list!
I was stuck in my rut of never ending chocolate cake orders so when I saw this one I jumped at it and literally made it for no occasion whatsoever.
The shopping list is a little unusual. I was hesitant when a tiny 115g packet of goats cheese set me back $8. FYI $8 is a big deal a week before pay day. I was literally like ‘what the hell does this taste like?’ and ‘this bloody well be worth it’ to my flatmate as we hunted and gathered around Countdown. It was a gamble that paid off.
Surprisingly this cake stayed lush and moist for quite a few days after baking. I baked it the Friday and it was still delicious on the Monday. I tweaked the recipe slightly and added a bit more lemon juice and maybe more courgette. I reduced the icing sugar too as I wanted the goats cheese to come through.
Courgette and Lemon Cake with Goat's Cheese Buttercream and Lemon Drizzle
Adapted from Layered by Tessa Huff.
Makes 3x 15cm cakes
For the cakes:
315g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
150ml sunflower oil
300g white sugar
Zest of 1 regular sized lemon
3 large eggs
350g fresh courgette, grated, then moisture removed by squeezing in a tea towel
3 tablespoons of milk
Juice of ½ a regular sized lemon
For the goat’s cheese buttercream:
115g plain goats cheese (unsalted and ash free)
115g butter, softened
300g icing sugar
A splash or two of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the lemon drizzle:
125g icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 regular sized lemon
(a teaspoon or so of hot water just in case it is too thick)
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees on bake. Grease and line three 15cm cake tins.
Mix together the oil, sugar and lemon zest using a standmixer or electric beater for two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Sieve in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices then slowly mix together.
Mix the milk and the lemon juice together. Take the freshly grated courgette, bundle it up in a clean tea towel and twist the towel, squeezing out as much moisture as you can. Add both the courgette and the lemon-milk mix to the batter and gently mix through.
Split the batter evenly between the cake tins (it was around 300g each I think). Bake for 25 minutes, test with a skewer. If the skewer does not come out clean, bake for additional lots of 5-10 minutes until it does (you be the judge – every oven is different).
Leave the cakes to cool before removing from the cake tins and icing.
To make the buttercream, start by beating together your butter and goat’s cheese until a smooth paste forms. Add in the icing sugar, vanilla and enough of the milk so that a thick but still spreadable buttercream forms. Beat until smooth and fluffy. You want it to be thick enough to not ooze out the sides of the cake to much when the layers are sandwiched together.
Level the cakes out with a cake wire or large serrated knife. Place the first cake on a cake board or a plate and spread over half the buttercream so that it goes to the edges of the layer. Place the second layer on top then the second half of the buttercream. Secure the final on top and press down gently. Smooth out any buttercream that oozes out the sides. If you want your cake to be a little more sturdy for transport, pop it in the fridge or freezer for half an hour to set the buttercream slightly.
To make the lemon drizzle, whisk together the icing sugar, zest and enough of the lemon juice to make a thick but still drip-able consistency. Pour this over the top of your ake and gently encourage it to drizzle over the sides with aspoon.
Decorate with fresh flowers if you wish.