Bake Off!

The weekend just gone saw me doing some serious baking. I undertook some fairly big-ticket items, the kind that I wouldn’t bake for just Sean and I because we’d never eat it all. Well, we might give it a good hard go, but there’d be dire consequences of the ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ variety.


So I have two delightfully successful items to show you. To begin, my very first apple pie. This was a promised pie, made for Alice’s dad. Alice’s dad did a great favour for me recently and when I asked what I owed him he said ‘an apple pie.’ Now it turns out it was a flippant remark he gave no further thought to. I, however, wanting to show gratitude and also fancying a baking challenge, undertook to make the best damned pie I could .

Following this recipe, I gave it everything I had, with home-made pastry, a huge bag of Granny Smiths and heavenly spices.

Here’s the result.

Apple Pie

I adore the look of a home made pie, I’ve decided. The imperfections, the lumpiness, the obviously clumsy attempt to decorate the edging. It’s all mine. The pastry was so light and delicious. One of the jobs I hate most in the kitchen is that rubbing of cubes of butter into flour. I have tended to avoid it, making pastry in the mixer instead but this time, knowing I was aiming for authenticity as much as possible, I did the rubbing work and was thrilled with the results. I do think it makes a difference. No stodge in this pie!

I wish I’d got a photo of Alice’s dad with the pie. When I arrived, I put the pie on the bench, turned to pick up Alice and when I looked again the pie was gone! He’d absconded with it – and was hiding in the lounge room in a corner guarding it from the kids with his life! He did eventually share and the entire pie vanished into lots of hungry bellies. Every last scrap. I call that a success.

The next day I had to bake for work. A fundraiser morning tea had been announced some weeks back as part of the Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea cancer fund-raiser event. Someone had decided we should have a bake-off and submissions were invited. I knew at once what I’d cook – it was a cake made for me by fellow knitter, Gretchen, or LoveMyClogs as she’s known on Ravelry. I’d visited a month or so ago and she made the most divine carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.

I say that as someone who finds the humble carrot cake a bit overdone – they’re fairly common and sometimes just a bit ho-hum. But not this one. Oh no. I was, until that day, unfamiliar with a baking bible, from a Sydney  icon, the Bourke Street Bakery. The carrot cake, Gretchen told me, is an incredibly special recipe and she wasn’t wrong. Setting out to make it on Sunday, two pages worth of well set out detail greeted me. The ingredients are not unusual or difficult, but the method is not familiar at all – it’s basically a meringue mixed with a cake. Basing the mix on fluffy sweet egg whites gives it a texture like no other.

carrot cake

So at the office bake off, there were about eight cakes – many incredibly fancy and complex – a triple decker strawberry sponge was my personal favourite. That’s a kind of baking I’m yet to try. I did get photos but my computer ate them in the upload this morning so you’ll just have to imagine a boardroom table straining under the burden of eight amazing cakes. My humble looking, but delicious Bourke Street Bakery Carrot Cake sat alongside those amazing creations, awaiting judgement.

My boss was one of the judges and we all sat and watched as the judges circled the table, discussing the finer points of presentation and then, the taste. The judges marked down my cake for some scattered crumbing (picky!) and for being height challenged (I should have used a smaller tin) but they praised it for its delicate, airy texture (rare for carrot cakes) and for not being over burdened with icing. In the end I didn’t win. I think I lost out to some excellent cakes and had a ball in the process. Who knew baking contests could be so fun?

A woman from the floor came to me later and told me she voted for mine but couldn’t say so loudly because her friend would feel she’d been disloyal! As she’s a long-standing Country Women’s Association member (those women know their cakes!) I took her endorsement as high praise!

I had planned to type out the recipe but found another blogger did it already. So here it is. Go for it if you want to try a carrot cake like no other. I ordered the book because if that recipe is anything to go by, this is a must have book for me.



24 thoughts on “Bake Off!

  1. There is nothing like a good homemade pie! I grew up eating them, so I’m very spoiled and particular about a good crust.

    I love a good carrot cake, too, but my husband doesn’t really eat sweets, and I am NOT eating a whole carrot cake myself.

  2. i can almost taste that sugar topped apple pie pastry! yes, there’s nothing like home made pastry, though i rarely make it these days. i’m with you on rubbing in the butter, it seems more effort than it really is. the cake looks fab too. the last carrot cake i made was from stephanie’s cooks companion which is a good version of the old style ones.

  3. OMG! I haven’t had real apple pie for years. I remember my mum making them & serving hot slices with ice cream that threatened to melt completely if you didn’t eat it up quickly enough. Both look fantastic – nice work!

  4. Oooooh, yum. You’re so nice to put in so much work for other people! I can never part with my “good” stuff – and only tote gross cupcakes or cookies (well, not gross, per se, but you know what I mean!) when I have to take something other people will be eating! (Well, not always, but you know, when I can’t be assured of getting some of it myself, hahahaha!) Thanks for sharing the links!

  5. What I hadn’t realised is that this was your FIRST pie. Bloody sessational!

    And I love rubbing the flour – butter thing. Contemplative. But requires a light hand!


  6. So glad you liked it! What a shame you didn’t win the bake off, but you now have a great cake in your repertoire. The pics look fabulous, you are obviously much better at cutting a cake in half horizontally than I am.

  7. Your pie looks so much better than any commercial pie I’ve ever seen – the lumps and bumps are so much a part of the beauty of a home made pie! Yum!!

    And the cake! wow! I actually have that book – I’m sorry I didn’t show it to you last time you visited, I know you will love it (lots of amazing bread recipes too as well as other sweet things!). I didn’t pay any attention to the carrot cake recipe (distracted by caramel tarts I think) but I will definitely give this cake a try!

  8. Carrot is probably about my favourite cake. I’ll have to remember this one and try it out for my birthday.

  9. Apple pie was one of my rites of passage as a teen-aged baker. Apparently I pulled it off well, as I fear I will be denied entrance to a family gathering if I don’t have one in my hands!

  10. Oh, brava! Beautiful, beautiful baking. A light and fluffy carrot cake? Isn’t that against the law? I thought they were SUPPOSED to be dense and moist and chock full-o-goodness.

  11. Those look really lovely! I really ought to do more baking – I have a nice carrot cake recipe, but it’s a standard cake type recipe. I will try that, I love carrot cake.

  12. Ooh your apple pie looks so delicious, and I agree that the lumpiness lends itself to the deliciousness. My son loves apple pi but I usually cheat and use puff pastry. Your carrot cake looks so delicious, one of my faves too but no-one else in the family likes it. I might have to try your recipe out to see if I can convert them.

  13. Pie is now in the oven and chicken is prepped and veges ready. Lots to look forward to tonight. I hope mine looks as good as yours. We moved from a place with a truly fantastic oven to here. it’s a well known European brand, but very slow. A separate thermometer placed in oven shows it cooks at 40° less than set to. Sometimes it’s hard to judge what to do with it.

  14. The judges have been watching too much TV cheffing!! Thanks for the great recipe, I will set it aside for a special occasion . Your apple pie looks pie-fect!! It is worth all the rubbing in of cubes of butter and pastry isn’t such a huge effort because of the excellent results!! I like cakes and desserts based on a meringue base. Yum!!

  15. That apple pie looks absolutely delish! Well, so does the cake, but I haven’t had apple pie for ages. Mum always made her own pastry while I tend to use bought stuff, although the quality there seems better lately.

    She would simmer, beef, red wine and mushrooms all day at the side of the wood stove and then make an outstanding pie. My youngest said her homemade pastry made the pie 12/10 if he were to give marks. He gave mine only 9/10. Fuel stove and homemade pastry made the difference.

    Mmm, we have apples and I have time. Perhaps tonight?

  16. Oh why why why wasn’t I at your place this weekend?? I reckon between us Sean and I would have had a good hard go at convincing you not to give either of those away! Very high praise indeed from the CWA person, I can almost taste that cake through the screen!

  17. Yum, yum yum!!! Love a post all about baking. I’m thinking about the apple pie for this weekend. Hoorah for excessive amounts of baking!!

  18. Oooh, that pie and the cake both look so yummy, if I was you I’d have been reluctant to share either of them!!

    Apparently I owe my husband’s office some baking so I’m off to pour over my recipe stash, thanks for the inspiration 😉

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