Jun 262012

One of the first ‘adult’ cookbooks I was ever given was the Marie Claire “Flavours” – its from Donna Hay’s era writing these cookbooks.  The styling is quite simple – you might even say stark, but holds up surprisingly well for being 12 years old.  I haven’t cooked every recipe, but every one I have tried has been successful.  The lemon or lime tart was my speciality for several years in the early naughties.

This recipe is essentially for an upside-down cake, the intention being that you’ll invert the tin onto a plate, and release a luscious chocolate cake topped with fresh pears cooked in a sweet caramel toffee.  A cake version of a tarte tatin I suppose.

If I can give you one piece of advice, as someone who has the wisdom of hindsight, don’t attempt to cook the cake in a springform pan.  And if you choose to disregard my advice, make sure you have an industrial strength oven cleaner close to hand.

Human error aside, this cake went down a treat with the extended family.

Chocolate pear cake

Serves 8-10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 50 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert
From book Marie Claire Flavours


  • 80g butter
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2-4 pears ((depending on size) peeled, halved and cored)
  • 185g butter (brought to room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour (sifted)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifted)


1 Preheat over to 180*. Line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper (bottom and sides).
2 In a pan combine the 80g of butter, 2/3 cup of brown sugar and water and heat over medium until the butter has melted.
3 If you wish you can place the pears cut side down and cook for 2 minutes to caramelize. I omitted this step.
4 Remove pears and sauce from heat. Place the pears cut side down in the lined tin.
5 Pour the sauce over the pears and set aside.
6 In an electric mixer, cream the remaining butter and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
7 Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine.
8 Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture, and then stir through by hand.
9 Spoon the cake mixture over the pears in the tin.
10 Bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. I found the cake took quite a while to set fully in the middle.
11 Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.


Jul 292011

[singlepic id=242 w=500 h=333 mode=watermark float=left] First up, I’d just like to apologise – all my photos of the brownies are particularly bad!  This was the best of a bad lot – obviously not a food styling night when I made these!

Full disclosure – I was sent this mix to try and (if I wanted to) review on the blog.  I was not paid for my comments but the mix was provided free of charge.  All opinions are my own.

I subscribed to Donna Hay magazine and I generally really enjoy her recipes.  Most of the time they are simple but they focus on using real ingredients and I like to use them on weeknights when I’m a bit crunched for time.

So, when I was given the opportunity to try one of Donna Hay’s packet mixes I thought it was worth a try.  As you probably realise from this blog, I don’t normally use packet mixes – most of the time I think it’s nearly as easy to start from scratch, and often quite a bit cheaper.  However, I know plenty of people who use them and swear by them.

One of the first things I did when I got the package, was check out the ingredients list.  I was pleasantly surprised -nothing too scary in there.  Then I looked at the steps required – just add melted butter and eggs.  Again, pretty straightforward.

So I melted my butter and cracked my eggs.  I beat the mixture with my wooden spoon and then stirred in the chocolate chunks.  My oven barely had time to pre-heat and I was spooning the batter into my greased tin (unfortunately, I couldn’t find my brownie pan and had to use my spring-form tin which may have affected my results).

40 or so minutes later (more like 30 in my super hot oven) and I pulled the brownies out to cool.  Unfortunately they had become a bit hard and overcooked at the sides, so I cut the edges away once they cooled  a bit.

I served the brownies with ice cream and I must confess I was pleasantly surprised.  They were rich and dark, with delicious chunks of melted chocolate.  They were still nicely gooey in the middle.  As far as box mixes go, this was a winner.

I taste tested these on one of my best friends who gave them the thumbs up, and on J’s workmates, who ate them cold and still enjoyed them.  This is definitely a sharing recipe – the brownies are really rich and best consumed in smaller quantities.

I probably won’t use this mix too often myself (like I said, I tend to make things from scratch), but I have no issues recommending it to people who use packet mixes.

Thanks to Donna Hay for the chance to try a new product!

Now, where is that treadmill?

Donna Hay’s Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie mix is available online here, and from selected supermarkets.

Jun 182011

[singlepic id=239 w=500 h=333 mode=watermark float=left]I’ve heard them called fondants, most people have a method they swear by and they are completely overused by restaurants as a dessert option.  Sadly, they are often sub-par in restaurants, which is even worse!

Still, there is something irresistable about a molten chocolate pudding – that element of surprise and delight when it works out perfectly, the contrast in texture, the sheer decadence of it all.  Who better to guide me on this culinary adventure than the wonderful Stephanie Alexander?  The Cook’s Companion was a wedding gift and this was my first adventure with it.

It should come as no surprise that this worked perfectly.  She is the first lady of Australia food for a reason!

[recipe-show recipe=soft-centred-chocolate-puddings]

Sep 052010

[singlepic id=122 w=500 h=333 mode=watermark float=left]This recipe is from a blog I recently discovered called “Citrus and Candy”. If this recipe is anything to go by, the author is some kind of diabolical pastry-chef genius.  Also, I would love to be able to take photo lessons from her!

Imagine rich chocolate ganache.  Add in a homemade pie shell.  Then consider the additional of caramelised banana…and raisins (or in my case, sultanas) soaked in rum.  Now do you see what I’m talking about?  This recipe is larger-than-life.  As a result, it’s a little bit time consuming, and a little bit fiddly.  No element is particularly hard, but it takes time.  And the recipe stretches over two pages.  So, this is not a quick dish to throw together before a bbq – it’s a labour of love.  But it’s worth it.

As the recipe is so long, I won’t attempt to reproduce it here.  If you’re interested, click here.  One thing to note – prepare the pastry first as this is the most time consuming element.   You can even do this the night before to save some stress on the day.

If you can’t be bothered making it, you might have to just ask me very nicely to bring it along when you next have a dinner party…

Jul 052010

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My (soon to be) sister-in-law made this fantastic souffle for dessert the other night.  It’s really easy, really rich and just delicious.  The recipe below makes 1 large souffle, so just multiply by the number of people you’re serving (obviously!).

Thanks for sharing Lucy!

[singlepic id=105 w=500 h=333 mode=watermark float=left]

[recipe-show recipe=jaffasouffle]

Mar 302010

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This recipe comes from a new (to me) cookbook, Maggie’s Kitchen, by celebrated Australian cook Maggie Beer. This is a truly beautiful book, every picture had me gasping and bookmarking it to make later.

I made this for dessert at friend’s place – generally if you invite me over for dinner you can count on me to make dessert.  It’s all a clever ploy to feed my raging sweet tooth.  This recipe makes exceptionally rich (and sweet!) brownies, so I recommend serving with a scoop of icecream, just to soften that richness a little.

[recipe-show recipe=brownies]