A visit to Walhalla

For the Queen’s Birthday long weekend Dave and I escaped to West Gippsland for a well-deserved minbreak. It’s a great place to go in winter because it’s cold but it’s green, hilly and gorgeous and there are lots of little towns to visit. My favourite town was Walhalla. Founded in 1863, Walhalla is an old gold mining town nestled in a valley in the Baw Baw Ranges. Spending the day there was like spending time in a different era. Cute and cosy cottages are built into the mountainside, the old hillside public cemetery watches over the town and the Goldfields Railway winds its way through the forest alongside a gushing Stringers Creek.

Our visit coincided with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations so we were treated to Devonshire tea in the town hall, people in costume and bagpipes (confession: I love bagpipes!). Next time we go we will definitely be staying the night in one of the lovely cottages or at Walhalla’s Star Hotel. I could easily spend a couple of days there soaking up the history. Here are some snaps of Walhalla but they don’t even begin to capture the beauty and atmosphere of the town.

P.S. If you look closely, you might just spot yours truly…

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I’m a lumberjack and I’m a cake

That’s how the Monty Python song was meant to go!

It’s still only Autumn in these parts but the chill has already set in. Rhubarb is everywhere and for me, it’s always one of the more enjoyable signs that the cold winter months are upon us.

Winter is the time for hearty meals of stews and roasts and good old-fashioned desserts. On Sunday we had family over for dinner and I made lemon and dill seafood pies (of which we ate before I remembered to take a photo so they will not be featured in this blog!) and an apple and rhubarb lumberjack cake. Lumberjack cake is traditionally made with apples and dates and is delicious just like that but there isn’t much that can’t be improved by the tangy sweetness of rhubarb.

This recipe was adapted from an article in The Age newspaper and has the tick of approval from my Quality Assurance Team (aka the people in my office).

I doubled this recipe (but still only used 2 apples) and got one 18cm round cake, 6 muffin-tin sized cakes and 12 cupcake sized cakes, although I wouldn’t recommend this cake for cupcakes. It is meant to be moist and dense and there is just not enough volume in a cupcake to get that inner moisture. Mine were a little too dry. I also increased the amount of coconut as I found the 60g in the original recipe wasn’t enough. If there are any leftovers I think it could be made into little biscuit shapes and baked on its own. Yum!

Cake Ingredients

125g butter, plus extra for greasing cake tin

2 medium Granny Smith apples

2 stalks of rhubarb

185g dates

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 cup boiling water + ¼ cup

1 cup castor sugar + 1tbsp

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

1½ cups plain flour

½ tsp salt

Topping Ingredients

½ cup brown sugar

60g butter

⅓ cup milk

100g shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and line an 18cm round cake tin allowing an extra 5cm of baking paper above the height of the tin. This will ensure the coconut topping does not run down the sides when cooking. Wash rhubarb well and slice into ½ cm slices. Put in a small saucepan over medium heat with 1tbsp of castor sugar and ¼ cup boiling water, stir and cook until just stewed (about 4-5 minutes). Strain and discard liquid. Peel, core and cut the apples into small pieces. Chop the dates and mix with the apples and bicarb soda. Add rhubarb and mix. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the top and leave to cool until lukewarm.

Cream the butter and remaining castor sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift the flour and salt into a separate bowl.

Alternating between the two, add flour and apple mix to the creamed mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

For the topping, mix the sugar with the butter, milk and coconut in a small saucepan over a low heat until the better is melted and everything is combined. Spread over the cooked cake.

Return the cake to the oven and bake for another 15 min until topping is golden and crunchy.

Allow to cool before removing from tin.

While it’s not the prettiest cake, what it lacks in good looks it makes up for it extreme yumminess!

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