Search for the perfect cupcake -Top 5 in 2009

Officially I’ve been searching for the perfect cupcake for six months now. I’ve taken this job seriously and the search has continued throughout Brisbane, Sunshine and Gold Coasts, Melbourne, Thailand and Bali.

Reviewing my finds for 2009, I’m surprised where I haven’t been and these will go to the top of my 2010 list. Can’t quite believe I haven’t actually blogged Poppy Cakes. I will be looking forward to that visit as these are amongst the best I have eaten – however since they have not been blogged they can’t be in this year’s list. I also must sample cupcakes from The Shingle Inn, The Welsh Lady and The Cupcake Parlour.

Like most things, the quality of the cupcakes around varies greatly and price is not always an indicator. I’ve paid $2.90 for a cupcake (Duke’s Deli, Sunshine Beach)and been pleased by the value. Equally I’ve paid $4.50 and been very disappointed.

I’d advise anyone against buying a cupcake on the weekend unless you ask when it was baked. I’ve found too many places keep their cupcakes in refrigerated cabinets which suck the moisture out of them very quickly. Stale cupcakes are not very noice! My alternative is a friand which can be quickly zapped to room temp so lasts much better in a cabinet. (Thanks to @dessertboy Martin Duncan for that tip!)

My perfect cupcake has a well flavoured cake with good texture which is matched or complimented by its icing. The icing should not be sickly sweet and have a flavour of its own. It should also be smooth, not gritty.

A well decorated cupcake is attractive but a plainer cupcake with better flavour will win me every time. And it should be fresh.

There are a few cupcake styles around
* The oh-so-pretty cupcake with huge amounts of icing on top. Sometimes it’s all about the icing and nothing about the cake which is a shame. Sometimes the icing isn’t even that good.
* The New York style cupcake which has a dense cake and a thick cheese cake style frosting.
* Traditional sponge cupcakes with butter or hard icing.
* Cupcakes with a hidden treat inside – big gob of caramel is my fave.

Top 5 in 2009 – in no particular order

Desley Clarke’s patty cakes
St Lukes Anglican Church cake stall on Ekibin Road East every second Sunday from 8:30am to 9am

Well before the cupcake phenomenon started to take over morning and afternoon tea and just about any time in between, there was a time honoured tradition of baking patty cakes. Somewhat smaller that the average cupcake, patty cakes have been delighting Australian households with their delicate sweetness for generations. I remember standing at the kitchen table in my grandmother's kitchen while she showed me the finer points of baking. Always keep the spoons level, make sure the eggs are room temperature and grease the pan well were some of her tips to an eager ten-year-old. If you hanker for the real thing head to and buy some of Desley Clarke's patty cakes. The church charges $3 per half dozen cakes, but you have to ask for Desley Clarke’s cakes by name and they go in minutes! The proceeds go to supporting ‘The Bush Mission’ for families in need in country areas (Tara and Leichhardt in Western Queensland). Or make them yourself More…

Shop 3/68 Racecourse Road, Ascot. ph 3268 7774.

Run by sisters Vanessa and Carlie Oram, Nourish is a place for cupcake lovers to visit and enjoy. They are using their grandmother's recipes and boy, she must have been one heck of a cook. These are cupcakes like no other. The exceptional flavour comes from plain good cooking with a lot of love according to Vanessa who says she truly loves her job. Nourish has a minimum of seven varieties every day. On Thursday and Saturday look for Nanna's Orange Cake as well which is made with real orange juice and zest - none of that essence stuff.


Judy C
Shop 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove. p 3366 9111

A visit to JudyC's Ashgrove shop is not recommended for those on a diet - there are just too many good things to resist. Judy says the secret behind her cupcakes is good butter and vanilla. And that oh so smooth icing? Judy whips it steadily for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the mix so that the butter lightens in colour and the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

Born into a family of cake makers, JudyC has been decorating cakes for 18 years and it is her passion. Judy's cakes not only look amazing but they are delicious on the inside as well. The cakes are baked on premises daily by small team of pastry chefs and quality decorators.


Sweet Kiss
Available - Togninis at Spring Hill and Milton, Vinnies at Newmarket, Mary Ryan at Milton and Rosalie Gourmet Market.

If you are a fan of the old fashioned type of cupcakes, these treats from Sweet Kiss will really hit your buttons. They are the perfect combination of luscious icing and well flavoured cake. So perfect that regular customers tell owner and cook Aleta Skordou that they are better than cupcakes from the famed New York bakery, Magnolias!

Aleta is a perfectionist who still believes in the only way to make cupcakes is with real eggs and carefully sifted flour, love and care. It's the ooh and aaahs from her customers as they open the cupcake boxes that make her day and also get her up at midnight to bake for six hours so every cupcake has that 'just baked' taste.

Jocelyn’s Provisions
Shop 8 Centro on James, James Street, Fortitude Valley. p 3852 3799

Located in James Street which is something of a mecca for foodies. All made with real ingredients - unsalted butter, fresh cream, eggs, couverture chocolate and local produce – these are products to be savoured and enjoyed. I purchased three cupcakes, priced at a very reasonable $4 each, which I shared with my number two cupcake taster who was wowed by them. Her words were 'these are an eight, or maybe even a nine!' Very high praise from Miss Fussy.


Special mention -Milk Bar
16 Ashgrove Avenue, Windsor. p 3366 2007

If you are looking for a one-stop shop to try a variety of cupcake styles, my best suggestion is Milkbar, a newish addition to the dining scene at Ashgrove in Brisbane's inner west. Amanda Scott (ex Continental Cafe at New Farm) has gathered a team of cupcake makers so the cupcake styles are quite varied. They are all the usual cupcake size and range in price from $3.50 to $4.50. On Fridays there are some mini cupcakes as well.


Individual standouts
These are individual cupcakes that I still think about – nuff said.

Judy C’s Christmas Cupcakes
Shop 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove.p 3366 9111

Remember standing beside your mother as she made the Christmas cake or pudding and waiting to lick the spoon or better still - the bowl? These cupcakes capture that and more. They are the essence and flavour of Christmas wrapped up in one little package with the twist of chai latte icing. The moist cake is spiced with cardamon and mixed spice and dotted with currants. The icing is very buttery and has the crunch of silver cornicons on top. Find them at JudyC's Ashgrove shop at 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove +61 7 3366 9111.

Raspberry Macadamia Cupcake Friand
Tommy Bahamas.
Netanya, 75 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads. p 5447 2328

This shop is better known for its distinctive men's wear - think Hawaiian shirts with a twist - but they have a coffee shop hidden away in the corner. My eagle eye spied pretty pink cupcakes - they looked delicious and the name 'Raspberry Macadamia Cupcake Friand' pushed all my buttons. The cake had a subtle almond flavour with plenty of macadamia crunchy bits. The surprise was the deep well of raspberry butter icing which was a wonderful foil to the cake - rich and creamy.

Harvey Honeycombe
Milkbar, 16 Ashgrove Avenue, Windsor. p 3366 2007

Although it looks like a cupcake, the gingerbread with honeycomb on top does not really fit the description. However certainly don't let that put you off. It's light, like a sticky date pud without the dates, with real cream piled in the middle and shards of choc honey comb on top. Very sweet and very delicious but you would have to be brave to do more than one. Please someone remind me of that next time I am tempted!

Coconut lemon meringue filled with lemon curd
Tabitha's Place, Boutique Markets, Portside Wharf Hamilton on the second Sunday of each month 8am- 1pm p 3630 0097.

Wow a cupcake that tastes just like a lemon meringue pie with a delicious centre of curd and a soft but crispy meringue piled on top. Hard to beat.

Werewolf cupcakes
Made and decorated by my beautiful daughter.

She got the idea of Annie's Eats a website that has lots of great recipes. Each cupcake took quite a while to make and she ran out of energy after making four! But they sure tasted good and it was only a packet cake mix.


Search for the perfect brekkie - Chelsea, The Barracks

The Chelsea at The Barracks on Petrie Terrace has become a bit of a frequent stop for me. It's so convenient, the coffee is good, service professional and the menu has plenty to offer. You'll find it around the corner a bit - look for tables out the the shade or under umbrellas.  There's also plenty of seating inside.

I was over my standard bacon and two eggs this morning and just liked the sound of  Bubble and squeak.  I wasn't disappointed - the eggs were nicely poached, the toast crisp and the vegetable melange well flavoured.

However when my partner offered me a taste of his Poached pear on french toasted brioche with blueberry curd and ricotta, the world stopped! This is a show stopping combination - the blueberry curd is so rich and thick it looks like chocolate and tastes divine. Combined with the french toasted brioche, ricotta and pear - well the effect is amazing.  Chelsea chef Michael Hoare says the dish is a little fiddly but well worth the trouble and I have to agree. He has kindly shared the recipe below. Thank you Michael.

Chelsea is open for breakfast and lunch every day, and dinner Tuesday to Saturday.

Poached pear on french toasted brioche with blueberry curd and ricotta

500g frozen blue berries
250g unsalted butter
8 egg yolks
370g caster sugar
1 teas lemon zest
1 tbs lemon juice

Whisk yolks and sugar until combined. Dice butter to the size of your fruit and place in a pot with your berries, zest and juice, heat gently until the butter has melted. Pour onto your yolks and sugar slowly so as not to cook the yolks whisking continuously. Place your bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook stirring continuously crushing the blue berries as you stir, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and has thickened. (approx 90 c) take off the heat and place into containers and place cling film over the curd to create a second skin.

Pear poaching liquid
1.5l water
250g light and hard palm sugar
750g graded sugar
125g soft brown sugar
10g baby cassia bark quills or cinnamon
2 vanilla pods scraped (pods and all in)
4 beurre bosce pears

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to the simmer gently, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugars. While this is happening, prepare your pears by taking a melon baller and removing the core and seeds, then peel your pears and place in enough water with lemon in it to stop discolouration. When liquid is up to the simmer, place your prepared pears in and poach very gently with a plate on top so that the pears are submerged for approximately 20 minutes or until soft. Cool.

French toast mix

5 eggs
200ml thickened cream
Good pinch of toasted and ground cassia bark
1 ½ teas vanilla essence
1 1/2 tbs of organic honey

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until all combined.

To assemble
Preheat your oven to 200 c, heat 2 large non stick pans that are big enough to hold two large pieces of brioche. Cut brioche into 4 x 1 inch slices and place in egg mix and soak evenly on both sides for approximately two minutes. In heated pans, place ¼ cup of veg oil and ¼ cup of clarified butter and heat until a medium heat. Lightly caramelize one side of the brioche and turn and place in the oven with two pears in each pan, cook for approximately 3 minutes and turn french toast again and place back in the oven, keep turning until toast is golden all over.

Once ready place on a plate with your pear and dress with curd, a generous spoonful of wet ricotta (preferably paesanella brand) some toasted flaked almonds and icing sugar. Serves 4 with enough curd to have on some crumpets, if you like.

Chelsea on Urbanspoon


All I want for Christmas - more Panettone

I'm a late starter in the Panettone stakes having only discovered this delicious cake in recent years.  It's so light I love it as an alternative to a traditional fruit Christmas cake, but that doesn't mean I'm going to miss out on that either.

Evidently it was devised by a 15th century nobleman who wanted to win over the daughter of a poor baker, so he invented a rich bread and added eggs, dried raisins, candied lemon and orange peel.  (Flowers and wine work for me, Honey!)

It's great with champagne, with coffee and also dipped into a latte.

Should you be silly enough to have some of this delicious cake left over - here are some recipes
Jamie Oliver's Panettonne pudding
Panettone Summer Pudding
Chocolate Ricotta Panettone Pudding

If you like to be local, buy your Panettone fresh from CIBO Espresso. Look impressive in gift boxes and sell for $25. Find CIBO Espresso
Or pick one up on sale after Christmas and use it in the recipes above - delish!


Search for the perfect cupcake - JudyC's Christmas cupcakes

Okay - I know I'm in danger of overdosing on JudyC cupcakes but these ones are special.

Remember standing beside your mother as she made the Christmas cake or pudding and waiting to lick the spoon or better still - the bowl?  These cupcakes capture that and more.  They are the essence and flavour of Christmas wrapped up in one little package with the twist of chai latte icing.

The moist cake is spiced with cardamon and mixed spice and dotted with currants.  The icing is very buttery and has the crunch of silver cornicons on top.  Yum.

Find them at JudyC's Ashgrove shop at 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove +61 7 3366 9111 or at Coffee Hit, opening on Saturday at 100 Adelaide Street in the new King George Square area.


All I want for Christmas - a Turducken

WTF is a Turducken? 

I first heard about this Thanksgiving alternative that has long enjoyed popularity in the Deep South of the United States when a Brisbane chef mentioned it on his Christmas wish list.  He was suggesting someone else prepare it for him.

A Turducken is a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey – now wouldn’t that make a splash on the Christmas table – move over plain old turkey, ham legs and chicken – you’ve got competition.

If you’d like to make your own here’s a Youtube link

If, like me, you like an easier life, the good news is that Zone Fresh are making them to order following customer demand.

Zone Fresh director Sam Mangano describes it as ‘a guaranteed crowd pleaser’.

Despite the sheer volume of meat, turduckens still contain a significant amount of seasoned stuffing and dressing, so cooking time can stretch to six or seven hours depending on size.

You can braise, roast, grill or barbeque your turducken and a meat
thermometer will help you work out when the birds are well-and-truly done.

Evidently the combination of meat is just as delicious when served cold or as leftovers.

Pre-orders of turduckens are essential. For details contact Zone Fresh Windsor on 3357 5433 or
Zone Fresh Aspley on 3263 9954.


All I want for Christmas - Dinner with Rick Stein

If you are a Rick Stein fan, this March jaunt at Bannisters boutique hotel on the NSW South Coast could be irresistible.

A small group will be able to eat, cook and play with Rick and G & L's Stuart Gregor who will match Tapanappa wines to Rick's seafood-rich menu on  March 10 and 11 2010.

It’s a two night package deal with dinners, cooking demos, a wine class and massage (not together!)

Rick Stein at Bannisters recently received 16/20 from Terry Durack of the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is the first time Rick will host a group at Bannisters and one of a few getaways he will host anywhere around the world in 2010. Who needs to go to Padstow, UK when you can head to Mollymook just three hours south of Sydney?

More information: Gregor & Lewis +61 7 5447 4666 or


All I want for Christmas - Farmer's market goodies

I'm a big fan of farmer's markets. There's something about buying from the source, seeing who's made or grown the product and having a little chat while making a purchase. I don't think I take too long doing this but my partner and daughter may beg to differ.

Plus there's always the excitement of the unknown - the new products, the seasonal changes and the simply must-haves.

This year I'll be stocking up my pantry, fridge and gift baskets for Christmas, with some select items from Jan Power's Powerhouse Farmers Markets. It's an old fave and I love that I can take my corgi with me for the morning outing and he can sniff up with the other dogs in the adjacent dog park.

What's on my list?

Suckling Pig Ham

German small goods specialists Chriberg have legs of suckling pig ham this year. Smaller than standard hams, they are sweet and tender, triple smoked over imported German wood chips at $22.50 a kilo.

Twist ‘n’ Roll Macaroons de Paris

One bite of these gorgeous like puffs of sweet creaminess and you feel like you are in Paris. Some new flavours for Christmas gifts and parties – dark chocolate, grand marnier and lavender.

Summer Pudding Berries 

From Kandara Berry Farms come all the ingredients for summer pudding, one of the easiest, yet spectacular desserts – raspberries, strawberries and blueberries ready to soak in a simple mould of white bread. This really is a super easy summer dessert and a light alternative to a pudding that still has a fruit flavour.

Pudding Lane’s Christmas Goodies 

For the traditionalists, Christmas puddings with currents, sultanas, figs and macadamias soaked in brandy and guinness - small, medium and large, with a gluten free option available. These are just as good as the ones you make.

Dello Mano Brownies
 I love Dello Mano Brownies! They have a new Christmas hamper on offer – brownies, sweet sauces, a sticky and more. A new orange and chocolate brownie infused in orange oil has been mastered by Deborah Peralta and the popular Christmas pudding brownie has returned.

Roast Pork is back
Village Meat’s Lindsay Stephenson reports that pork has made a return to the Christmas table in 2009. Their collarbutt rolled roast has been snapped up by Matt Moran for Aria – boned pork ‘rib’ wrapped in crackling and easy to carve. With a delightful fusion of flavours, one irresistible mouthful of crunch, salt succulence will leave you wanting more! I love good pork but it's hard to find so this is a real treat. I want to try cooking this in my new gas Webber.

The Powerhouse twilight markets will be held on Tuesday 22 December from late afternoon until 8pm. The Queen Street market will be held at its usual time on Wednesday 23 December. The Powerhouse markets will crank up again on 10 January. There will be no Mitchelton or Queen Street markets in January, as the traders take a well earned holiday.


Search for the perfect cupcake - Casa Gourmet

Lately, when I'm not dreaming of vibrant Bali sunsets viewed with a cocktail in hand, my mind turns to the delicious cupcakes I found at Casa Gourmet in Seminak Square, Seminak, Bali.

Walking into Casa Gourmet was like waking up in Oliver & Co or Zone Fresh in Bali. It is a very western style food market with everything from bread and meat to seafood and pantry staples.  For locals in need of a friendly food fix, when nothing but the old familiar will do, it would be heaven.

But it also had some nice style features that anyone could take on board to increase their dining experience offer. This included a little cup of small savoury shape biscuits in a cute Burbury paper container and also small shot glass of jasmine tea to follow my coffee.

The chocolate cupcake was flavoursome and moist with a hard, very choc icing decorated with Christmas sprinkles. All for the cost of 8500 rupiah or about 90 cents. The coffee was Black Canyon and good.  They also had an extensive juice menu with options that included banana and avocado juices - not sure I want to try the avocado juice!

One thing they could improve was the sandwich which unfortunately came with a spicy chilli mayo spread on all slices of bread - not to our taste at all. Sadly the rest of the sandwich was great but we couldn't cope with the combo. :(


All I want for Xmas- A massage from Ripple

Got someone difficult on your Christmas list? Chances are they would love a massage and even better, a massage that comes to them.

I also think a massage is a great pre holiday or post holiday present, particularly for those who fly. Airports and plane travel can quickly take the gloss off even the most wonderful trip. A massage restores energy to body parts that cramped by small seats and inactivity.

While I love any massage, putting clothes back onto an oiled body and walking through a shopping centre does take away some of the shine - much better to slip into something comfortable and relax in your own home.

That’s why I like Ripple Massages. The therapist comes to your home, hotel room or where ever and brings her own table. I’ve sampled many of the massages and even enjoyed a pedicure and manicure – delish – but I did especially enjoy a recent sea shell massage.

Ripple founder Alison Shaw has the tough job of tracking down new massages. She’s the one who discovered chocolate massages and she also offers a Vietnamese Four Hands Massage which I’ve heard is sensational.

But the sea shell massage is very different and totally relaxing. They use different shells, including speckled cowries, exquisite ginger scallops, lions paw fans and elegant sun dial shells, for different parts of the body.

The shells are used in a mix of ways. Some like the cowries are heated, and aromatherapy oils are poured into the crevasse to warm before being trickled onto the body. The smooth domed surface is also used with hands on massage to release muscles. The shells are used both to de stress and for deeper tissue work.

Other shells like the lions paws and scarlet coloured scallops are heated and placed on the body to warm the chakras and also the hands during the massage. Smaller more delicate sun dial and cockles are used to release lines in the face, whilst cones and olives unlock tension in the neck and shoulders.

Ripple has one and a half, two and three hour packages. Can’t tell you how good it feels to have three hours of pampering – just pure bliss! You’ll just have to try it.

I’m still burning the beautiful pear scented candle that was part of my goodie box of Ripple products.


All I want for Xmas - Hilton Brisbane Masterclass Voucher

Some people are easier that others to buy for at Christmas and I can't think of a better present for a foodie than a voucher to the 2010 Hilton Brisbane Masterclass Weekend!

Held over 24 and 25 July 2010 the event, organised by fabulous foodie Alison Alexander, is sure to have another knock out program. Established in 1995, previous line ups have included chefs and winemakers including Antonio Carluccio, Gordon Ramsay, Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michel Roux and many more. With 20 sessions each day there is plenty of choice.

Buy your voucher before January 11 and you'll get 15 percent off as well!


Search for the perfect cupcake - Christmas cupcakes

I found these Christmas cupcakes at Michel's Patisserie at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown but would guess that they are available at other Michel Patisserie outlets across town.

They are a basic sponge cake with a soft white icing and hard sugar decoration.  The cake is fairly tasty for the price of $2.50.  I wouldn't call them gourmet but I was pleasantly surprised.

Bottom line: value for the price.