365 Days

Commitment to a project for the long haul wasn’t a skill dished out while I was in the queue. My past seems to be peppered with half finished cross stitch patterns, incomplete piano exams and general abandonment midway; my parents despaired. I could almost chart my life, autobiographically, on the projects that have fallen into oblivion, once the heady dose of rampant enthusiasm started waning. I’d bolt, ostensibly onto the next shiny, sparkly idea never to see completion.So you can imagine the wonder I feel at having completed 365 days of blogging. It’s snuck up on me, which I quite like. It proves it’s been it’s been more rewarding, than effort demanding, I haven’t been watching the time pass. It’s filtered into other aspects of my real world. I have an addiction to crockery; my cupboards are starting to groan at the explosion in population. Not the best outcome perhaps, but entirely a guilty pleasure! I have tea towels that have never seen the kitchen counter, much less touch it. Strictly for blog use. I have become that fastidiously dedicated. I’ve always enjoyed cooking from a varied repertoire, but the need to share it on here, has given me more impetus to push further and take a risk. It’s invited the palates of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East to become exciting yet comfortable company at my dining table. How can that possibly be anything other than pleasurable?

Celebrations call for a cake. I had some fancy, multi-tiered, fondant fiddly confection, occupy space in my mind for a while. But true to form, the interest waned. It got me thinking of what it is I want to represent. I truly believe that, so much of what we have experienced with food – growing up, the flavour and smells, the ideas, the people round the tables, the scenery, the travels – all contribute to shaping our self expression on the plates adorned with lovingly prepared food. You do open yourself to interpretation with what lies on that table, and the thing of it is, that it’s voluntarily done, in honest, good faith. It’s more than just an invitation to fill the belly.

Much as I enjoy baking ‘fancy’ cakes, when it comes to me, I don’t like a fuss. Something straightforward always appeals, simplicity that shades over depth is alluring. I don’t mind a bit of fiddliness to get there, as long as the outcome has proved the effort worthy. Perhaps that’s as much a part of me, as it is part of baking a cake. So, I laid aside unnecessarily grand plans, and went for a toffee cake, that has nothing but sheer rich, butteriness of flavour to recommend it. A cake simply robed with a coating of luxurious, beige, butterscotch buttercream and adorned with a crackly, nutty praline.

Made with a combination of light muscavado sugar and golden caster sugar, this Fiona Cairn’s recipe cake itself is subtle in flavour, gloriously earthy in colour with a firm feel in the mouth. And good job it is to, because a regular buttercream, made with butter and icing sugar, has effectively, a toffee sauce beaten into it, turning the ivory frosting, into an expensive leather handbag like,  restrained tone of beige. The cake needs to stand up to the utter debauchery of that buttercream. And it does. It’s a perfect marriage of texture and flavour. The hazelnut praline, just a smattering of it,  gave it a welcome, sweet, crunchy nutty note. Entirely desirable.

As much as this cake celebrates a year of this blog’s progress, to me it represents more than just posts, photos and paragraphs. The close inner circle of friends, who see through to the better shades of my character, have their hand in shaping this nook in the byte-world. You know who you are.

There is you too, reader. To those of you who have followed, subscribed, liked and spread the word, and to those particularly, who have commented, started the dialogue, contributed to the multi-faceted voice of this blog, to those who laughed, heckled and educated – I thank you for your company.

Toffee Cake

(by Fiona Cairns,from The Birthday Cake book)

280 g unsalted butter, really soft, diced, plus more for the tins
280 g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
5 eggs, lightly beaten
160 gm golden caster sugar (you can use white sugar)
120 light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. Butter three 20cm sandwich tins and line the base. Sift in the flour and baking powder, into the bowl of your food mixer, or a large bowl. Add the eggs, butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat until well blended and smooth, Watch the mix, as soon as it’s lump free and smooth, stop beating.

Spoon and level an equal amount of batter in each tin. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The cake is ready when it’s well risen, golden and a skewer placed in the middle comes out clean. Turn out of the tin after a few minutes, then leave on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Toffee Buttercream

240g unsalted butter, softened
60g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1tbsp double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g icing sugar, sifted.

Put 80gm of the butter in a saucepan along with the muscovado sugar and syrup and place on a low heat.Cook until it is a deep, amber colour.Remove from the heat and add the cream and extract while continually stirring. Leave aside to cool until it’s room temperature.

In a mixer, beat the remaining butter till it’s lovely and smooth. Whisk in the icing sugar, until it’s ivory white and  fluffy, At least five minutes. Add the cooled toffee and beat until it’s perfectly amalgamated.

This buttercream was very soft after I put in the toffee. So I placed it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, enough for it to firm up a bit. I gave it a gentle mix and proceeded to layer the cake.

I also, placed the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes after layering so that it wouldn’t slide around when I coated the sides.

This icing is quite sweet, and I found this quantity just on the right side of

decadent. Any more and it would be cloyingly sweet. I think I had about half a cup to spare after the cake was iced.

Hazelnut Praline

(from Rose Berenbaum’s Cake Bible)

1 cup roasted hazelnuts (or any other roasted nut)
2/3 cups cane sugar
1/4 cup water

Lightly oil one baking sheet, and set aside. Conversely, you can use a non-stick baking sheet, un-greased.  In a medium heavy saucepan on medium heat, add the sugar and water, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.

Put aside the spoon, increase the heat to medium-high and allow to boil, undisturbed (but not unattended), until the sugar begins to caramelize. You can swill your pan around to even out the browing, but never stir as it will crystallise.

If you have a candy thermometer, you’re aiming for 370°. A slight smell of sugar burning is a good indicator. Once 370° is reached, immediately turn off the heat, add the roasted hazelnuts to the saucepan, stirring quickly to combine and pour the entire mixture onto the greased baking sheet.

Once hardened (about 20 minutes), break into smaller pieces and grind in your food processor to a powder consistency.  Store in sealed jars in the freezer. This makes a fair amount of praline. Consider sprinkling it over ice creams, fruits and cream based desserts such as parfaits, for an indulgent crackly sweet hit.


87 thoughts on “365 Days

  1. Allison

    Congratulations! What a lovely post to commemorate your first year of blogging! Time does fly when you’re cooking and taking photos of food… : )

  2. Sarvani @ baker in disguise

    You write so evocatively… i identified with every word of this post of yours.. of the incomplete projects to the preference for fuss-free cakes and much more!! You write a beautiful blog and you should be proud of yourself!! As a reader, i look forward to many more posts of evocative prose, brilliant photographs and delish recipes!! 🙂

  3. Rushi!

    Happy Blog Birthday Carrie!!!!!! The toffee cake looks delish, mouthwateringly good and it’s such a tall glorious cake, I love tall cakes and it’s the perfect cake for a celebration 😀 Wishing you many more years of beautiful blogging.

      1. Rushi!

        Carrie do you think I could use juggary in this cake? It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out 🙂

        1. The Patterned Plate

          Ooh, slobber!! LOL! You know how much I love jaggery. However, I am really unsure about using it here. In the cake itself, its pretty much an all in one method. The jaggery would have to be melted and I don’t know how far that would affect the texture of the cake. It would affect the crumb, but am unsure of how. In the case of the buttercream, it is definitely possible as the muscovado sugar is ‘cooked’ so you do the same with jaggery.

          1. Rushi!

            I think I will try using it in the buttercream, didn’t really think that the jaggery would work in the cake. I’m torn between this cake and the rhubarb one for my afternoon tea.

            1. The Patterned Plate

              This cake is pretty rich Rushi. It’s the kind that will do well to bear the weight of solo performance for an event 🙂 For your tea, I think the rhubarb one will sit very prettily with the rest of the goodies!

  4. food4thought

    Dearest Carrie, you’ll never immagine how much of myself I find in your tale of abandoned projects! the huge enthusiasms that peter away in murky little nothingness… So, heartfelt congratulations are due for your perseverance. But I feel you deserve more, because in the space of a little time you have managed to put together a blog that is mature and fulfilling to read. Well done dear, and carry on like this. Alex

  5. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    Congratulations on making it this far!! And what a gorgeous cake to mark this special occasion. You have done a tremendous job with your blog and I always look forward to each instalment, knowing how likely you are to spark a craze with a new recipe, book or just a mere ingredient! Such is the impact of your words and photography that one cannot help but feel drawn to each dish which is lovingly produced in your home. Keep up the great work and I look forward to more and more! xx

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Thanh! Thank you so much, I really, really appreciate it. Especially since you gave me so much confidence to start one, mixed in with a much needed push 🙂 I will always be grateful.

  6. Sam

    All I can say Carrie is WOW, happy 1st birthday to bloggy. I love your site and have some very excited boys when offering them new delights, from your heart to our table.
    The toffee cake looks amazing and I love the sheer height and elegance it holds. You could literally eat it from the screen 😉
    You are an amazing friend and with so much talent, thank you for sharing it with us.
    Till next time………

  7. The spicy saffron

    Who hoo….you are there buddy. Congrats and happy 1st birthday to TPP. You have done an amazing work with your blog. Each one of your posts , photographs and recipes are a treasure. Looking forward to many more of these (& wee plates) in the future. The toffee cake celebrates the classiness and elegance of ‘The Patterned Plate’.
    Thanks for being an inspiration!!

  8. Madhu

    Wow, You write even better than you cook! Your description of that cake was sensual 🙂
    Congratulations and best wishes for many more successful years in the byte world!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Thanks NIkki. The sugars should not be hard to find. For the golden caster sugar, you can use normal. For the light muscovado, try light brown sugar. It will change the taste slightly, as light brown sugar is basically normal white sugar mixed with molasses, whereas muscovado sugars are the remnants of pure sugarcane juice, tends to be stickier with a higher moisture content and definitely, a more defined caramel-treacly flavour. If you like the complex tastes of jaggery or palm sugar, I would urge you to seek them out. I could eat them plain and they are utterly delicious when used with dried fruit cakes too.

  9. NickkiT

    Happy 1st Birthday to The Patterned Plate! Here’s to many many more 🙂 That cake looks divine..just pass me a fork and leave me in a corner with it…I would be on cloud nine! xxxx

    1. The Patterned Plate

      I had to have a wee chuckle, because my ‘set-up’ is rather rudimentary. I have a table placed against a slate wall in my home, with the light coming in from the right side of the cake (no diffusion), and a black foam board placed on the left, to cut out any light coming from the left, as I wanted deep shadows and bright highlights. I achieved that to a degree and turned it up a touch on Photoshop, not much though, as I think too much tampering perhaps, takes away the honesty of it. Also, these pictures were taken at 3pm when I feel, the light is bright enough, but has a soft feel 🙂 Hope this helps.

  10. Meenakshi

    Happy happy birthday, C! That second photograph you have in the post- the slice- what a glorious shot! I too, am a buttercream fan. Simple and delectable. This is a touching post- really comes from the heart. Here’s to more blogging, sharing and friendships!

  11. BrandiD

    I love your blog and the cake is just gorgeous and looks delicious! I love to bake as well! I’ve just started my own blog and enjoying this new world. Your blog is fun to see! Great work!

  12. Jo Blogs

    Happy blog-a-versary Carrie love! I don’t doubt that you’ll be blogging away for years to come – even if me and Thanh have to metaphorically tie you to your computer and make you do it ;). That cake is a perfect choice – and anything toffee/caramelly/butterscotchy/muscavado musky in flavour will always be my number one choice of sweet tastes. You really have a freakishly amazing talent for creating the most perfect textured and risen sponges I’ve ever seen, and what’s most sickening, is its a consistent talent lol! Of course I’m not one iota jealous 😉 Congratulations & jubilations love – long may The Patterned Plate burst onto our screens in all it’s magnificent technicolor photographs and equally beautiful words xxxxxxxxx

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Thanks Dixie! By the way, I’ve just visited your blog and dang, I am starving looking through your recipe list. What signed the deal was the coconut layer cake. You may or may not know I’m an addict…will be visiting your space often 😀

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  15. NYinRome

    Tanti auguri!…..am just back and catching up and here it is a whole year to be celebrated! Toot your horns, clap your hands jump up and down slap a huge grin on your face and say yeahhhhh! What a fantastic journey Carrie. You’re loving it, I’m loving it we are all loving it 😀 Many best wishes to you in keeping it coming and to never loose the love……xx

  16. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    Hi Carrie!! I’m playing catch-up; wanted to give reading your lovely posts my complete and full attention. Happy blog birthday!!! This cake is gorgeous and, honestly, your photos are so beautiful, your words so authentic, and your layout so professional, I thought you’d been at this a much longer time!! Congratulations!!

  17. Darcie Hunter

    Congrats my love! As one craft ADD person to another I give you mad credit for your 1 year mark! My blog is languishing, but then my topic is not so exciting. I miss our coffees and Doha food. Australia is beautiful, but am lacking for excitement in the grocery store right now. Keep up the good work!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      You’ll find your way in Oz! Once the weather starts to shift and you can dig out the Asian stores, you\’ll be off to a flying start. Incidentally, get the blog going as soon as you are settled. Perth is a great place to talk about! Very exciting topic 🙂

  18. Pamela

    Beautful cake, beautiful blog. It is really nice to see how ‘full’ the blog is now – there is so much to choose from when having a browse!

  19. Kajal

    Hello Caroline, This is my first time here, and i’m hooked! been browsing through, and loving it! Rest assured, will keep coming back for more! 🙂 and, happy Blog-versary! 🙂

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  21. sexykitchensecrets

    I can so relate to this post, with the abandoning of projects midway, I have also started blogging recently and just loving it. Wanting to buy kitchen tea towels just for the blog, and not to mention all sorts of beautiful kitchen ware for the perfect pics. I am still learning and loving it. You have a really great blog, and I love the pictures. This cake is just looks stunning by the way.

    1. Caroline @ The Patterned Plate

      This particular ratio of ingredients makes quite a dense cake. So I would perhaps rejig quantities or use a standard cupcake recipe but use darker sugars like dark brown or light muscavado. But the buttercream and praline can definitely top a cupcake. Do note that the frosting is quite soft, so while it’s good for a big cake, it might be trickier to pipe. If so, leave it somewhere cool so that it firms up a bit before piping out.

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