Strawberry Lover’s Cake (Dairy Free)

This cake is perfect for the strawberry lover in your life and just so happens to be dairy free! I made this after a very successful haul strawberry picking at Beerenberg Farms just out of Adelaide as we were up to our eyeballs in fresh strawberries.

If you don’t need the cake to be dairy free, substitute the dairy-free yoghurt for a Greek-style yoghurt with a drop of vanilla extract and the dairy-free butter for unsalted butter.

Ingredients (serves 8)
250g fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
225g dairy-free yoghurt (I used Chobani vanilla oat yoghurt)
3 eggs
100ml canola oil
250g caster sugar
180g plain flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder

Strawberry Icing
50g fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
40g dairy-free butter, room temperature
1-1½ cups icing sugar

250g fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan-forced. Line a 30 x 10cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Whisk the yoghurt, eggs and oil in a large bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, flour and baking powder together. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the yoghurt mix until just combined.

Spread half of the cake batter over the base of the lined tin. Fold the strawberries into the remaining batter, then spread on top (this prevents all of the berries sinking to the bottom).

Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool in the tin for 15min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, blend strawberries with a stick blender until puréed. Add softened butter to a large mixing bowl and use an electric beater to beat until fluffy (about 1 minute). Add strawberry purée and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed. Add icing sugar ¼ cup at a time and beat after each addition until the icing is thick yet spreadable.

Once the cake is completely cool, spread the icing over the top of the cake with a spatula and top with halved strawberries. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘Strawberry yoghurt cake with whipped yoghurt’ in First, Cream the Butter and Sugar by Emelia Jackson.

Spiced Chocolate Sugar Cookies

These spiced chocolate sugar cookies are super quick and easy to whip up, leaving plenty of time for more important things, like decorating and eating!

Ingredients (makes approximately 40 cookies)
170g butter, chopped (straight from the fridge)
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
Packet of royal icing (I use Queen brand)
Red food dye

Method

Preheat oven to 150ºC fan-forced. Line 2 large trays with baking paper.

Add butter, sugar and vanilla to the large bowl of a stand mixer. Beat butter and sugar on low speed, then turn up to medium until butter and sugar is completely combined. Add egg and beat briefly until egg has been dispersed. Add flour, cocoa, spices and baking powder and mix on low speed until it comes together.

Shape into a large disc and roll out with a rolling pin on a clean surface until it’s at your desired thickness (I like mine around 5-6mm). Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and carefully transfer them to your prepared trays.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool briefly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

For the icing, follow the packet instructions and colour half of the mix red, leaving the remainder white. Transfer into snaplock bags, cut the corner (keep the cut nice and small) and pipe the cookies as desired. Top with mini m&ms, sprinkles or leave plain.

Recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu’s ‘Chocolate Sugar Cookies’.

Rudolph’s Chocolate & Salted Caramel Tart

The simple addition of red M&Ms, candy eyeballs and pretzel halves turn this family favourite dessert into a Christmas classic. Start this dessert at least 8 hours ahead of serving (I make the caramel the night before).

Ingredients (serves 10-12)
1 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Big pinch sea salt flakes
1½ cups plain flour
3 tspns icing sugar
140g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tblspns water
150g dark chocolate melts
½ cup thickened cream
12 red M&Ms
24 candy eyes
12 pretzels, cut in half to look like antlers

Method

To make the caramel filling, put the unopened can of condensed milk into a large saucepan and fill with enough water to just cover the to of the tin. Bring the water to the boil, then turn down the heat until the water is simmering. Keep simmering for 3½ hours, ensuring you top up the water regular so the can is still fully submerged. Allow to cool for 30 mins in the water before carefully removing. Carefully open the can and scrape the caramel into a small bowl. Add vanilla and sea salt flakes to taste.

To make the pastry, put flour, icing sugar, butter, yolk and water into a food processor and process until just come together. Press dough into a ball, knead gently on a floured surface until smooth; cover, refrigerate 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 24cm flan tin. After resting, roll dough on floured surface until large enough to line the tin. Lift pastry into tin, ease into sides and trim the edge.

Place tin on an oven tray, line pastry with baking paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 mins then remove baking paper and weights and bake, uncovered for a further 15-20 mins or until pastry case is golden browned and crisp. Leave to cool.

Once the pastry is completely cool, spoon in the caramel and smooth the top with a silicone spatula. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the dark chocolate melts and cream in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted and the ganache is glossy and smooth. Set aside for a couple of minutes to cool slightly.

Pour the chocolate ganache onto the caramel layer and refrigerate for a further 30 mins to set .

Once set, cut the tart into 10-12 slices. Decorate each slice with a red M&M nose, 2 candy eyes and 2 pretzel antlers. Serve and enjoy!

Tart recipe adapted from Beatrix Bake’s salty dulce de leche, the Australian Women’s Weekly pastry & Donna Hay’s chocolate ganache. Reindeer inspiration from Instagram.

Lemon, Mango & Passionfruit Trifle

This trifle is a cinch to put together and can be made ahead of time but looks amazing – making it the perfect Christmas dessert! Everyone will love the classic summery flavours and textural surprises and there’s no booze, so the whole family can enjoy.

Ingredients (serves 10-12)
2 cups luscious lemon curd (or bought curd if you prefer)
8 passionfruit
600ml thickened cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
2 tspns vanilla extract
1 vanilla sponge cake, cut into squares (I bought mine, but you could use this recipe to make your own)
900g vanilla custard (I used Paul’s Double Thick Custard in French Vanilla)
2 mangoes (I used Kensington Pride)
1 packet meringue kisses
½ cup coconut flakes

Method

Make the lemon curd and refrigerate until cool.

To make the passionfruit cream, combine cream, vanilla and icing sugar in a large bowl and beat on high speed until very thick. Gently stir through the pulp of 5 passionfruit.

Toast your coconut flakes in a frypan over a medium-high heat until golden brown and fragrant.

Cut up the mangoes into long slices, discarding the skin and pit.

To assemble the trifle, place an even layer of sponge cake squares in the bottom of the dish.

Top with vanilla custard and approximately two-thirds of the mango slices.

Crush approximately 10-12 mini meringue kisses and sprinkle over the top of the mango.

Top with approximately two-thirds of the passionfruit cream mixture and the pulp of an extra passionfruit.

Gently spoon on the lemon curd, taking care not to mix it with the cream.

Allow to set in the fridge.

Just prior to serving, spoon the remaining passionfruit cream onto the curd and then top with remaining mango slices, passionfruit pulp (I left a whole passionfruit) and toasted coconut flakes.

Recipe inspired by delicious. magazine’s ‘Mango Dacquiri Trifle’, December 2022/January 2023 issue.

Chocolate Snowman Puddles

These adorable chocolate snowman puddles are such a fun and simple no-bake Christmas treat. Perfect for making with little ones – you really can’t go wrong!

Ingredients (makes 8)
290g packet white chocolate melts
1 packet mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
16 candy eyeballs
1 packet of jubes
1 packet mini M&Ms
1 packet chocolate Pocky sticks

Method

For the snowman’s hat, gently unwrap the mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and cut in half

For the snowman’s nose, thinly slice orange jube/s into 8 narrow triangles.

For the snowman’s arms, cut 16 4cm pieces of Pocky sticks, using only the chocolate section.

For the snowman’s buttons, separate out the red, green and brown mini M&Ms and ensure you have enough for 3 buttons per snowman.

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on medium in 30 second bursts, stirring with a silicone spatula after each burst, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Divide your melted white chocolate into 8 roughly even puddles – 4 per tray.

Working quickly and using the picture as a guide, arrange the peanut butter cup ‘hat’, 2 eyeballs, jube nose, 3 M&M buttons and pocky stick arms on each puddle.

Leave to set at room temperature (or in the fridge if it’s warm). Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Woolworths fresh ideas magazine, December 2022.

Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips

I am not usually a fan of this divisive brassica, but surprisingly love these crispy kale chips. They work well as a snack on their own (my favourite way to eat my greens!) but can also be added as a garnish to a main course or soup.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a snack)
350g kale, washed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt flakes
Generous grind of pepper

Method
Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Strip the kale leaves from the stalks of the kale and tear into pieces. Place into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat.

Spread the kale leaves in a single layer on wire racks over baking trays. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crunchy.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool and crisp up further before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Alice Zaslavsky’s In Praise of Veg

Featherlight Japanese Milk Bread

This bread is without a doubt the lightest, fluffiest loaf you’ll come across and with its shiny golden exterior and featherlight white centre, it’s as much a joy to look at as it is to eat. It’s also really simple to make so is perfect for bread making beginners.

This version uses a tangzhong method of making a roux out of flour and water to ensure soft, fluffy bread every time.

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf)
Tangzhong
25g bread flour
90ml water

Loaf
300g bread flour
7g sachet of fast acting yeast
120ml milk (lukewarm, not hot)
30g butter
40g caster sugar
1 egg

Glaze
1 egg

Method

Add water and flour to a small saucepan, whisk until free from lumps. Place over a low-medium heat and stir constantly until it thickens. Set aside to cool.

Once cooled, add the egg to the tangzhong and stir until combined. Add the bread flour, yeast, milk, butter, sugar and eggy tangzhong mixture to the large bowl of a standmixer. Use the dough hook of the standmixer on a medium spped to combine and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky (approximately 10-15 minutes). Add a small amount of extra flour if required.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (approximately an hour).

Once it has risen, punch down the dough and divide into three equal pieces. Set the other pieces to one side and use a rolling pin to shape a piece into an oval shape.

Fold one side of dough over to halfway across the remaining dough then fold the other side on top(see photos below). Roll up the piece of dough from the short side (bottom to the top of the middle picture below) as you would a cinnamon roll.

Repeat with the other pieces of dough then put all three rolls of dough in an oiled loaf pan.

Cover and leave to rise again until the loaf is just reaching the top of the pan.

Once nearly risen, preheat oven to 175°C (160°C fan-forced). Lightly beat the egg and brush the top of the loaf with egg wash.

Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. If it browns too fast, loosely cover with foil for the last part of cooking. Turn onto a cooling rack to cool before slicing.

Recipe adapted from Caroline’s Cooking ‘Japanese milk bread’.

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

There’s something very freeing about a cake that’s supposed to crack, and that’s exactly what this one does – right before your eyes. But it’s the incredibly light, cloud-like texture of this cake that makes it so special (and gives it its name) due to its airy, flourless batter and whipped cream topping.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
250g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
125g butter
6 eggs
175g caster sugar
300ml thickened cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar
Fresh berries
Edible rose petals (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform tin.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth and glossy.

Separate 4 of the eggs and set the whites aside. Using electric beaters or a stand-mixer, beat the yolks and remaining 2 whole eggs with 75g of the caster sugar on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until really creamy. Gently fold in the melted chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, whisk the eggwhites until they’re just frothy, then slowly add the remaining caster sugar while whisking until the mixture holds soft peaks.

Add a table spoon of the whisked eggwhites to the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest, maintaining as much of the air in the mixture as you can.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until it is no longer wobbly around the edges (but still soft in the centre).

Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

Once cooled, whip the cream and icing sugar until very thick and velvety.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the tin and carefully transfer to a serving plate.

Top with the whipped cream, berries and rose petals. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the ‘Chocolate pomegranate cloud cake’ in Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe

Chocolate & Butterscotch “Crack”

This “crack” (so named due to its highly addictive nature) is a crunchy, salty-sweet treat that has proven so popular in Australia that Salada sales have increased by 15%! Made famous by the Podcast ‘Chat 10 Looks 3’ hosted by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, “crack” is sure to be your newest guilty pleasure. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ingredients (makes 1 large tray worth)
6 Saladas (or Salada-style) crackers
100g salted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
100g dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Line a 33.5 x 24cm tray with foil and then baking paper (take it from me, you do NOT want this to stick!) Lay out six Saladas onto the tray, which should fit snugly.

In a small saucepan, melt the better and sugar together over a moderate heat. Cook for about 5 minutes then stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour the butterscotch over the Saladas and smooth with a spatula to ensure they are evenly coated.

Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the butterscotch is a deep golden colour (keep a close eye on it as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly). Immediately sprinkle with the chopped chocolate and smooth with a spatula until melted and evenly coated. Top with chopped peanuts.

Refrigerate until set. Then break into shards and try not to eat it all at once. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Well Hello by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales

Black Forest Layer Cake

Black forest cakes are a tried and true favourite for a reason – especially when cherries are in season and at their most flavoursome. This is another cake using the Milk Bar method of cutting out rounds from a large rectangular sponge cake, ensuring you get perfectly even layers every time.

While I made this into a 2-layer cake this time as it was a gift for a couple in quarantine who didn’t need a giant cake, the recipe actually makes a 3-layer cake.

Ingredients (serves 12-14)
Equipment
9 x 13 inch “quarter sheet pan”*
A 6 inch cake ring*
6 inch wide acetate roll
Sticky tape

Chocolate Ganache
120g dark chocolate melts
90ml cream

Cake
115g butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
120ml buttermilk
60ml canola oil
2 tablespoons chocolate ganache
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee
130g plain flour
15g cornflour
70g cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder

Cherry Jam
225g fresh or frozen cherries (pitted and chopped finely)
25g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

Buttercream
115g butter, roughly chopped, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoons full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
½-1 tablespoon full-cream milk, room temperature

Cherry Milk Soak
40ml full-cream milk
25ml kirsch (cherry liqueur) or cherry juice

10-12 large fresh cherries, to decorate

Method

Chocolate Ganache
Add the dark chocolate and cream to a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Set aside (at room temperature).

Cake
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Spray the base and sides of a quarter sheet pan with cooking oil and line the base with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer, on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on high until combined.

Add the buttermilk, oil, 2 tablespoons of your pre-prepared chocolate ganache, vanilla and coffee into a small bowl and stir until the coffee has dissolved. Add this chocolate mixture into the the butter mix and beat on high for a few minutes, scraping down the bowl as required.

Sift the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter. Beat on low until the mixture has just combined, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin. Smooth out flat and tap the tray gently against the bench a few times to get out any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Cherry Jam
Place the cherries, caster sugar and cornflour into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to stir until thickened.

Buttercream
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until butter is pale and creamy.

Add vanilla and 1 cup of icing sugar. Beat on a low speed to combine, then turn up to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the greek yoghurt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. If too stiff, add milk. If too wet, add extra icing sugar. It should be fluffy and spreadable.

Cherry Milk Soak
Add milk and kirsch to a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Assembling the Cake
Place your cake on a large chopping/bread board. Using the picture below as a guide, use a 6 inch metal cake cutter to cut out 2 rounds of cake and then two half pieces.

Image courtesy of ‘What Charlotte Baked’

Place the 6 inch cake ring onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate, taping the edges together to join.

Place the two half pieces of cake at the bottom and press down firmly. If there are any gaps, use extra cake scraps to fill in the holes and press down very firmly to make one even layer. Carefully remove the cake ring (but leave the acetate).

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the milk soak over the cake layer. Allow to soak for about a minute. Spoon approximately one third of the chocolate ganache onto the cake layer, and spread evenly, ensuring the ganache gets right to the edges of the cake. Spoon half of the cherry filling on top of the ganache and spread out evenly to the edges of the cake. Add a few tablespoons of buttercream on top and smooth with a spatula to ensure the layer is (roughly) even.

Repeat this process for the second layer: cake, cherry milk soak, chocolate ganache, the remaining cherry jam and a thick layer of buttercream. If you need to, attach another round of acetate on top of your current cake collar (using tape to join the two collars) to ensure it is tall enough that all cake is supported.

Add the final layer of cake, spoon with the remaining milk soak and then top with the remaining chocolate ganache. Decorate with a ring of cherries and place in the fridge to set for a few hours. While the cake sets, add any remaining buttercream to the cake offcuts and enjoy as a snack!

Remove the cake from the fridge and gently peel away the acetate strip/s just before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from What Charlotte Baked ‘Black Forest Naked Cake’. Buttercream recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu ‘Milk Bar Birthday Cake’.

*If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan and/or round cutter, you can use two 8 inch/three 6 inch round cake pans