Category Archives: Sweet treats

Brown Sugar Pecan Muffins


Brown Sugar Pecan Muffins

My grandparents lived for a time in San Antonio, Texas.  It was a place that they loved, and the friendships they made lasted forever. For many years, until my Grandfather’s passing, they made an annual trip back to visit their friends and to play golf.

My Grandmother would always bring back 2 or 3 enormous jars (they were SO big I’ve always wondered where she got them) of freshly picked pecans.  They were her favourite nut to bake with and she had a stack of recipes for them.

Her muffin recipe here dates back to the 1960s.

Usually I believe that muffins are best fresh out of the oven, but I think these muffins are best the next day.  They are moist and chewy, and the nutty flavours enhance once cooled.


  • 1 c pecans
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • ½ c macadamia or canola oil
  • 1 lg egg
  • 1 T maple syrup


  • ¾ c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 ½ T butter, melted
  • ½ c crushed pecans

Grind pecans into fine crumbs (my Grandmother had the coolest hand-grinder that screwed onto a jar – I wish I could buy one) and set aside. You need to grind enough for the muffin batter and the topping.

Make the topping by mixing all ingredients together and set aside until needed.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 1 hold muffin pan with paper baking cups.

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, egg and syrup in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to dry indgredients and mix until just combined.

Divide batter evenly into the prepared cups.  Sprinkle topping over the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Chocolate Shortbread Stars


Chocolate Shortbread Stars

I often bypass cookie recipes that involve kneading the dough. I always think of them as a hassle, although the truth is, kneading the dough is not a lot of work, and is actually kind of fun.

These cookies have a very rich chocolate flavour, a good crunch and they melt in your mouth.  They are adapted from an Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook (always reliable) called “Bake”.  Another one of my ‘go to’ books for kids treats and quick desserts.


  •  250 g butter, softened
  • 1 c pure icing sugar
  • 1 ¼ c plain flour
  • ½ c rice flour
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder (my preference is the Woolworths Home Brand because it is very intense)
  • 125 g dark chocolate bits
  • 2 T icing sugar, extra
  • 1 T cocoa powder, extra

Beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add sifted flours and cocoa in 3 batches.  Knead on a floured surface until smooth.

Roll dough between sheets of baking paper to 3/4 cm thick.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160C, and line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Cut stars (makes about 30 x 6.5 cm stars) from dough. Place them about 4cm apart on oven trays. Decorate with chocolate bits.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.  Cool on trays.

Sift combined extra icing sugar and cocoa onto cookies before serving.

Raspberry Rose Cupcakes


Raspberry Rose Cupcakes 3

These cupcakes are divine.  The combination of raspberry and rose with a sweet vanilla icing works deliciously well.  And they are SO easy.


  • 125 g butter, softened
  • ¾ c caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/3 c self-raising flour
  • 1 c ground almonds
  • 1/3 c milk
  • ¾ c raspberries (fresh or frozen), plus extras for decorating
  • 1 t rosewater *

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line a 12 x medium sized cup muffin pan with paper cases.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour, ground almonds, milk, and rosewater. Then very gently fold in the raspberries.

Divide batter between cases. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in pan.


  • 175 g butter
  • 1 1/2 c icing sugar
  • 1/4 t rosewater
  • 1/2 t vanilla

Beat all ingredients together until light and fluffy.  Spread generously over cupcakes and top with raspberries.

Raspberry Rose Cupcakes 4

Honey Jumbles and a Tribute to Angelina Jolie


Honey Jumbles ready to eat

Anyone who has lost a beloved family member to breast cancer understands the agony of it all: the initial shock of diagnosis, the roller coaster of emotions as hopes rise and fall throughout treatment and then the devastation if the cancer wins the battle.  But what people don’t talk about is the legacy of uncertainty left behind by that cancer – as family members start to wonder if they are next.

Angelina Jolie made such a brave decision to have a double mastectomy. Even having a genetic mutation that almost guarantees that cancer will come, it would have been such a hard decision.  But being brave enough to tell the world about it, is just amazing. It must help to make the decision a teeny bit easier for others with the same health issues if a strong and beautiful woman can share the experience and declare her femininity unscathed. She has my enduring respect for doing so.

These cookies come from a recipe in a special issue of the “Australian Good Taste” magazine (October 2009) promoting “Pink Ribbon Breakfasts” to raise money for breast cancer.  They are soft and chewy with a lovely hard icing, just like the commercial ones – but SO much nicer!!


  • 2 1/3 c plain flour
  • 1/3 c self raising flour
  • ½ t bicarb soda
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • 60 g butter
  • 1/3 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/3 c golden syrup
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Sift flours, soda and spices into a large bowl, and make well in the middle.  Combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup, and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring continually, until ingredients are melted and well blended. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add egg and mix until well combined.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Wrap in non-stick paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.

Honey Jumbles dough

Pre-heat oven to 160C and line 2 large baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. With each portion, roll into an 18 cm log, about 1.5 cm thick. Cut into approximately 6cm lengths. Round the edges and flatten slightly and place on trays, leaving some room for spreading.

Honey Jumbles ready for oven

Cook for 10-12 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven and leave on trays until cooled completely.

Honey Jumbles Cooked


  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ½ c icing sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 3-4 drops red food colouring

Whisk egg white in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in sifted icing sugar.  As the icing thickens, add the lemon juice to thin out. Whisk until icing whitens.  Spread half the cookies evenly with the icing.

Add the food colouring to the remaining icing and whisk in. Ice the remaining cookies.

Honey Jumbles read

Set cookies aside to allow the icing to set.

Cinnamon Babka


Babka freshfromtheoven

There’s an episode of Seinfeld called “The Dinner Party” in which Jerry and Elaine are on their way to a dinner party, and decide they need to take something with them for the hosts. They stop at a bakery wanting to buy a chocolate babka, but end up with a cinnamon one instead.  Elaine is unhappy because she considers a cinnamon babka “a lesser babka”.

There are different types of babka, which I believe originated in Poland, but it is traditionally baked on major holidays in a number of Eastern European countries.  Some make babka as a cake, and glaze it with chocolate or vanilla icing and decorate with nuts and dried fruit. For others it is a sweet bread braided and filled with sweet cinnamon or chocolate fillings with streusel toppings.  This latter version reminds me of the Bohemian sweet breads that I love so much, and which tend not to use chocolate.  So for me, cinnamon is definitely not the lesser babka!


  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 1 1/4 c warm milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 c flour
  • 2 T cream

Line 2 large loaf pans with baking paper.

Beat cream cheese, oil and caster sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in egg yolks.

Combine milk and vanilla. Stir in yeast and set aside for 2 minutes to activate the yeast, then fold yeast mixture into egg mixture.  Add flour and salt, and beat until the dough is soft and sticky.

On a well floured smooth surface, knead the dought until it is smooth. Place in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise (about an hour).


While the dough is rising, the filling needs to be prepared.

  • 1 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 125 g butter
  • 1/2 c warm milk
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 egg

In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar and cinnamon until light and creamy. Add flour, milk and egg and beat until well mixed.  Set aside until required.

Once the babka dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and divide into 4 pieces. Roll 2 pieces into braid-able lengths and set aside. Roll remaining 2 pieces into braidable lengths and then flatten them so they can be filled.

Divide filling into thirds. Using 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture each, place a line of filling along the length of both flattened lengths and gently wrap dough around the filling. Cover the remaining filling and leave in the refrigerator until needed.

Create the 4 lengths of dough together. Cut braid in half crossways and place each piece in a prepared pan. Cover with the cloth and leave to rise again until doubled in size.

Babka braided

Preheat oven to 180C. Brush each loaf with cream and then crumble the remaining filling mixture over the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes or until firm.  Allow to cool in their pans for 5-10 minutes before removing.

Babka sliced


Lumberjack Cookies


Lumberjack Cookies

There is a place in Massachusetts called Old Sturbridge Village ( ). It is a living museum depicting life in New England around 200 years ago.  I have very vivid memories of going there as a young child.  I absolutely loved the place. I loved being transported into an earlier time and tasting the life as people would have lived it.   I haven’t been there since I was little, and have no idea how wonderful it would seem as an adult now, but I cherish those childhood memories.

When I think of Old Sturbridge Village I also think about my Aunt Andrea.  She was someone who could actually have been transported back in time and lived comfortably in such an environment.  She was incredibly talented, handy and capable, and was a major influence in my life in my late teenage years.  We shared an interest in cooking and other things homemade, and I am grateful for all the time that I was able to spend with her.

This recipe is adapted from a little book of recipes from Sturbridge Village that Andrea gave me years ago.  The book dates back to 1964 (which means it was published well before I ever went there!) and is called “Hot from the Oven”. The recipe makes the bold claim that the dough will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator – I am not sure I would trust in that, but the cookies are delicious, and one batch goes a long way (about 4 dozen).


  • 1 c finely ground raw sugar
  • 1 c butter
  • 1 c golden syrup (or molasses)
  • 2 lg eggs at room temperature
  • 4 c flour
  • 1 t bi-carb soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • ½ c sugar extra

Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in golden syrup, then add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth and well blended.  Sift dry ingredients together and stir into sugar mixture one cup at a time, mixing well with each addition.

Place additional sugar in a wide shallow bowl. Roll dough into walnut sized balls and coat with sugar (you may need to refrigerate the dough for a while to make the it easier to manage because it will be soft and quite sticky). Place cookie balls on lined baking sheets about 5cm apart.

Bake at 175C for about 10-12 minutes or until set and very slightly darker around the edges.  Leave on the trays for only about a minute once out of the oven before moving them onto a rack to cool.

Hot Cross Buns


Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope the day was filled with the joy of life, and perhaps some chocolate!

Most years I actually make chocolate for Easter.  While I am not averse to buying good chocolate I usually make something a bit special to maximise the indulgence factor.  This year I bought new chocolate moulds and a range of accoutrements in preparation but the inspiration didn’t come.

Instead, this has been the year for hot cross buns.  Wal has always loved them, and would buy them year round if he could, so it seemed about time to offer him some home made buns.  It took a bit of effort to fine tune my recipe to meet the collective family requirements (they are becoming quite the critics, these guys!), but these buns are delicious, if I do say so myself! And as with much of what I cook, they are very easy to make.


  • 3/4 c scalded milk
  • 170 g butter
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 c sultanas
  • 4 c flour, sifted
  • 1 T milk, extra
  • 3 T pre-made almond cake icing

Heat milk to almost boiling. Add butter, sugar and salt and remove from heat.

Add water and leave to cool until lukewarm. Add the yeast and mix. Blend in the egg. Mix in the cinnamon and sultanas.

Gradually add the flour. Mix until well blended and soft.

Leave in oiled bowl in a warm area for 45 minutes to rise.

Preheat oven  to 220C. Place dough on floured board while you work with it. Shape into round balls (recipe will make about 20) and place closely together on lined baking tray. Lightly brush with milk and set aside for 3 minutes. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a cross into each bun.

Bake for 20 minutes. Towards the end of the baking time, knead the icing until it is pliable. Roll into a long thin strip.  Working quickly as soon as you take the buns out, fill the cross cuts with icing strips.

Enjoy them while they are still hot!

Hot Cross Bun plated

Clove Cookies


clove cookes

I have books and folders and boxes full of recipes that I must make.  I am constantly ripping pages out of magazines, scribbling food ideas in my notebooks, knocking up a list of ingredients on my phone.  I love pulling them out and perusing my options in my search for inspiration. This cookie recipe has been lurking towards the top of one pile for about 6 months, but I have finally gotten to it.  And it is a good one!

The source of this recipe is a blog called The Runaway Spoon (, which is a blog full of delicious food.

You need to like cloves to enjoy this recipe, but if you do, you will find them delicious and wonderfully simple to make.


  • 1/2 c  melted  butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 t ground cloves

Stire the melted butter into the sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.

Sift flour and cloves into the butter mixture and mix until well blended.  Chill the dough in the refridgerator for at least 15 minutes to firm.

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Drop small teaspoon of dough onto the trays and space them about an inch apart. Press down lightly. Bake for 7-9 minutes, until the cookies have spread and the edges start to brown. Leave to cool for one minute and then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.  Makes approximately 2 dozen.

Apple Crumble Muffins


The morning after a kid’s birthday party can be rough.  Especially a party with 11 girls, and especially when 3 extras are still with you in the morning.   After a very late night of movies and giggling, the little bunnies were up and about by 6am.  The little darlings.  So I hauled my sorry backside out of bed and after being roped into phase 2 of the endless craft project – creating a puppet show, and the theatre to show it in – it was time to think about breakfast.

Surprisingly tough call coming up with a food option to please them all.  After considerable negotiation we settled on muffins. But what kind?  Chocolate? No (wow!). Blueberry? Ick, says another. Orange poppyseed? Ewww, she says next. Aha! Raspberry and white chocolate?  Yes, yes, yes… and a NO. Man alive!

Finally we settled on Apple Crumble muffins to please one, and raspberry white chocolate because that was still such a good idea.  These are the best apple muffins I have ever had.  Big juicy mouthfuls of apple, sweet cinnamony crunch top.   Yum.



  • 3 lg apples
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 2 c flour (wholemeal or plain will work)
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 90 g butter, melted


  • 1/2 c plain flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 t cinnamon

Line a 12 hole large capacity muffin pan with muffin cases.

Make topping first.  Combine all ingredients and mix using a fork or pastry cutter until mixture well combined and starting to clump together.  Place in freezer until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Peel and core apples, and cut into small pieces.  Melt 1 T butter in pan and add the apple.  Once the apple is well coated, add the brown sugar and cook until apples have browned and mixture has thickened.


Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk milk, egg and melted butter together.  Add to dry ingredients and mix with metal spoon until just combined. Do not overmix!

Add half of the apple mixture and fold in very gently.  Divide batter into the muffin pans.  Divide the remaining apples onto the muffin batter. Remove topping from freezer and crumble over the top of the muffins.


Bake for 25-30 minutes or until skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in pan for at least 5 minutes to cool before taking muffins out.


Cinnamon Slice


This recipe is just another excuse to indulge my love of cinnamon.  Goes well at a cake stall!

Cinnamon Slice


  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 4 T caster sugar extra
  • 4 t cinnamon extra

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20 x 30 baking pan with baking paper. Combine extra sugar and extra cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Sift flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and baking powder into a bowl, and make a well in the middle.  Whisk eggs and milk in a small bowl. Pour egg mixture into the flour and mix with a metal spoon to roughly combine. Fold in the butter until batter is smooth – don’t overmix!

Pour half of the mixture into the pan and smooth out.  Sprinkle 2/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the batter. Gently smooth the remaining batter over.  Top with left over cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing.

“Sweet Food”

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Sweet Food (Lynn Lewis (ed.).  Millers Pt : Murdoch Books, c2003, p98).  I just have to make mention of this book as it is one of my favourite go to books when I need to whip up a quick cake or slice.  There is a a good mix of reliable, easy to make and well articulated recipes for the time poor home baker.  I highly recommend it if you can find a copy!

Sweet Food