Merle’s Kitchen, 226pp.
by Merle Parrish
Random House, Australia, 2012
Cooking on page 32–33
Merle was a sensation in a series of Australia’s popular MasterChef competition, winning the judges’ admiration for her impeccable technique and near-perfect cakes. She has been competing in state cookery competition since the age of 7, and became a judge herself in 1998 after completing her Country Women’s Association Judges’ Certificate.
At age 79, Merle won just about every prize, in every category, in the competitive baking world, and she shows no sign of relinquishing her crown. She recently won the inaugural Donna Latter Memorial Trophy for Supreme Chocolate Cake.
This book stems from her MasterChef appearance, and all the nagging her family has done over the years to get her to put her recipes in print. Chapters cover cakes, sponges, puddings and desserts, slices, morning and afternoon tea, and scones.
I checked this out from the local library because I was tempted by the cake on page 32.
Lime and buttermilk cake
250g butter, at room temperature, chopped
1 cup sugar
finely grated rind from 2 limes
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp lime juice
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp water
Preheat oven to moderate (170°C). Grease a 22cm (base measurement) round cake tin, and line the base with baking paper.
Use electric beaters to cream the butter, sugar and lime rind until white and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add half the buttermilk, half the lime juice, and half the flour and fold through. Add the remaining buttermilk, lime juice and flour, and fold through. Use electric beaters to beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold into the cake mixture, and spoon into the tin. Smooth the surface.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until springy to a gentle touch in the centre. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
For the icing, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake.
How it played out
I suspect Merle would be disappointed with my performance, but I’m going to blame the oven. I grew up as the main baker in my childhood home. I made cookies, cakes, bread—you name it. Granted, I’ve been out of practice over the last 30 years, but I followed all the instructions for this recipe.
Nevertheless, the end result was less than perfect. The cake’s top was badly cracked and only lavish amounts of icing would have covered my ‘sins’. But I’m not one to hide behind icing. I dished it up with a light icing. So we enjoyed an afternoon tea with friends and lavish servings of three other page-32 recipes for passionfruit banana tarts, honey snaps and Neiman Marcus cookies.
Oops, I almost forgot to mention the oven. My oven has been dying over about 18 months. I can’t get parts in Australia, so I’ve been letting it wind down. Every baking and cooking effort has taken it down a little further, and this may have been the last straw.
This makes a nice, light cake.
I like cooking with buttermilk, so will try it again with a working oven. I’ve bought a new one, and I hope Merle will be proud of any future results.
Won’t be cooking much over the next couple of weeks as we are travelling again, so feel free to check out my travel blog.