--- See Anna's Occasions Tuesdays at 8pm on SBS Food Channel 33 from 9 November. Episodes will be available at SBS on Demand for 30 days after they go to air. ---
"A treat like this is perfect for any occasion because it takes a little time, a little care, a little love," says Anna Olson of one of the many delicious desserts, sweets, cakes and bakes she makes in Anna's Occasions. It's a series where the popular chef and baker shares recipes for special moments: everything from a family gathering to a backyard wedding. Some are fancy, some are simple, some are quick and some need some planning ahead, to allow for chilling of cakes or frosting, but they are all made with that little bit of love!
They also raise the question of who throws away edge bits??! (Read on. See if you agree with us, and Olson, that edge bits are baking glory and never to be discarded.)
Here are some of the highlights:
Confetti sprinkle cake
"Sprinkles! It’s a word that always brings a smile to people’s faces, kids and grown-ups alike," says Olson of this striking birthday cake. Under that silky-smooth frosting, there's a lush white velvet cake with colourful sprinkles all through it. She bakes this one in a Kid's Party episode, but we think she's spot on when she says grown-ups will love a confetti sprinkle cake too.
"There is so much to love about spring, from the brighter colours, fresher flavours, and so many occasions to celebrate," says Olson, who devotes an episode of the series to recipes perfect for spring, from a besan burfi and no-bake cheesecake to these: "My fluffy baked lemon doughnuts, oh so light and delicious." The zingy secret to these is to stir fresh lemon zest into the sugar, so the fragrant citrus oil comes out of the zest. Actually, make that two secrets: using some cornstarch along with flour creates wonderfully fluffy, tender doughnut, Olson says.
Wedding cake no. 1 (aka a slice stack for any big occasion)
There are two wedding-themed episodes in the series. The first is a casual wedding - although these sweet bakes would suit a wide variety of gatherings. "If you're baking for a more casual celebration, a backyard wedding, your desserts can be kind of playful and fun," Olson says. And this is a wedding cake with a playful twist: a three-tier stack of marshmallows, chocolate and biscuits, based on that American fireside favourite, s'mores. Usually, a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between Graham crackers, here the s'more is reimagined as a bake, a rich combination of mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, biscuits and fudge filling. Quite aside from the deliciousness, this one has extra appeal as it's a great make-ahead dessert: you can bake and chill the 'cake' layers several days ahead of serving. It makes a great finger-food-style dessert for any big gathering (we repeat big - if you cut this into bite-sized pieces, this will serve 80-100; of course you can make a quarter or half batch for a smaller occasion). Oh and one last bit of vital information... when you trim your baked 'cakes' into neat squares, ready to build your three-tier s'mores cake, you'll end up with edge bits. "Do not throw the scraps away – they are delicious!" Olson says.
Pink lemonade cupcakes, with clever icing
Another recipe from the casual wedding episode, these vibrant cupcakes - "my pink lemonade cupcakes, they're playful and delicious, and they're easy to make too" Olson says - are topped with a striped swirl of lush buttercream. And she's right, that swirl looks impressive and possibly difficult - but it's not. It's made with a cool little icing technique: Olson makes that variegated swirl by piping six rows of coloured buttercream on some plastic wrap, rolling it up and placing the whole thing in a piping bag. And why are they called pink lemonade? It's a reference to the pink-tinged batter, but you could change up the colour of the cupcakes and the frosting to suit any occasion.
The cake that's like a giant choc chip cookie
In the kid's birthday party episode, Olson shares two cakes "that will delight the kid in all of us". One is the confetti sprinkle cake above and the other is this: her chocolate chip cookie layer cake. "If your little one loves chocolate chip cookies as much as I love chocolate chip cookies, well, this chocolate chip cookie layer cake will be the ultimate birthday cake," Olson says. A chocolate chip cake is layered with a fudge filling and topped with a brown sugar swiss buttercream, building that chocolate chip cookie look. Olson uses some of that rich buttercream to pipe rosettes on the cake, and then finishes things off with a dozen mini choc chip cookies.
Wedding cake no. 2
If you're after a sophisticated cake for a wedding, or other important occasions, then this star of the other wedding episode will do the job beautifully: Olson's classic wedding cake is a moist and tender coconut-lime cake covered with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting. "I love the look of a classic wedding cake, but for me, the cake on the inside is as important as the cake on the outside," Olson says. And she's put a subtle twist on both. "This wedding cake may look classic, but we've already taken care of an interesting and innovative cake inside with my coconut lime layers and .. for the frosting, on that too I'm bending the rules a little bit." Instead of a conventional Swiss or Italian buttercream, she uses a white chocolate cream cheese frosting. "Oh, partnered with a coconut lime cake, the guests will be singing. They're gonne be up and dancing, I know it!" she says.
Pretty pink daifuku
"I first learned how to make mochi and daifuku from my sister-in-law, Michino. We made a strawberry version together, and ever since then I've been hooked," Olson says. "The difference between mochi and daifuku is one thing: filling! Daifuku is mochi that has a sweet filling, often a red bean paste ... Here I stir crushed freeze-dried strawberries into the red bean paste…delicious!" Her strawberry daifuku feature in an episode devoted to romantic desserts (others include warm chocolate hazelnut brownie cakes with fudge sauce and a white chocolate mousse cake).
Cream cheese is the secret to these simple lemon squares
A shortbread base plays the supporting role here, underpinning the star of the show, a creamy, tart lemon filling. Cream cheese is the secret to that rich, dense filling. Once they are baked and cut, these cream cheese squares can be stored in the fridge for four to five days. These feature in an episode where Olson shares recipes for family gatherings. "What I think makes a lemon square such a crowd-pleaser is the fact that it packs such big lemon flavour in such a small bite. The tartness of the lemon, the creaminess of the cream cheese, and of course, sweetness, all on a shortbread crust. I know you will be a hit when you make these for your next family celebration," Olson says.
Look out for Anna cooking all of these and much more (from a fun 'waffle stack cake' to tiramisu cheesecake, muffins, salted caramel cake and decorated sugar cookies) in this 10-part series. And for more party cake ideas, check out SBS Food's Cakes for crowds recipe collection.
I’ve been experimenting with taking processed sugar out of some of my recipes and replacing it with more natural alternatives, such as honey and malt syrups. This is one of the recipes that adapted exceptionally well to honey, and I love the flavour the madeleines get from intense ones such as manuka and leatherwood.
When I was living in Basque country, just outside San Sebastian, I became obsessed with several Spanish sweets. Torrija and Basque cheesecake, especially.
Is there anything more comforting than a cup of tea and a fresh date scone? Lathered in butter, of course!
Commercial puff pastry is wonderful to use but be sure to get butter puff. Frangipane is such a lovely filling in any tart. Here it forms the perfect base for cherries. The quick cheat’s “ice-cream” adds another dimension with the cherries. Use fresh cherries in season, or frozen.
BBQ Season has finally arrived, which means it's time to fire up the BBQ and get grilling!
Duncan Welgemoed, owner of restaurant Africola teams up with Weber's Grill Master Laura Romeo, to show you how to cook delicious and simple recipes on a BBQ. Watch the videos to find out how to Level up your next backyard BBQ.