A couple of weeks ago , we gathered at my sisters house in Kurrajong. At this time in our family, there are 3 important birthdays. It was a fine starry night, right at the end to our winter when it is still chilly enough to wear big boots and a coat and still possible for us to light a big bonfire. The possibility of burning down everyone’s house if fire escapes into the surrounding bushland is not exactly a laughing matter and so bonfires are banned from the beginning of spring. Here we were on the cusp of Spring, in a big clearing by the river, all lined up in front of a huge mound of my sisters discarded tree stumps and old bookcases and assorted combustible leftovers. We watched as my brother in law lit the huge pyre with a slop of fuel and all cringed a little, cause that can be dangerous, but oh how men love to do this.
The huge pile started as a warm brilliantly lit lamp in the afternoon light and soon grew to a giant angry red faced demon that cracked and spat in the darkness. The trees seemed to move in closer as it grew dark making us feel like they would like to join in. A fire is a frightening thing, realized only when you are close and witness it’s stength and heat. Each summer fire takes hold somewhere and it is only here up close, you can understand the shear force and strength and the terror it can evoke . Only now, we can imagine and appreciate the work that fireman do, their training and tenacity and the fact that they are almost invariably good looking?
We feasted on cheese and crackers, antipasto and tiny BBQed lamb cutlets before finally going inside to warm up and eat big bowls of Dirty Polenta also known as Taragna Polenta. It’s called dirty Polenta because of the colour (Polenta mixed with buckwheat) and the amount of cheese that is added to it when it is cooked. Kind of like a dirty cheese overload. This was paired with Duck Ragu with lashings more parmesan.
I wanted to follow the whole theme of Bonfire night so I made a Bonfire Birthday Cake. This cake is based on the Perfect sponge recipe here. Each layer is made with 1 recipe of sponge in a 24cm (10 in) tin. I slipped a couple of layers of chocolate sponge in there too. I substituted cocoa for the cornflour in the recipe ( pure cocoa not drinking chocolate). It’s thrown together at the last minute with whipped cream (or mascarpone if you like)and strawberries and a little strawberry jam between layers. You could make your Bonfire Birthday cake like this or you could decorate a chocolate or butter cake in the same way.
The outside is covered in the sweetened whipped cream. It is scrapped on sparingly and so looks a little like meringue that has been lightly torched with a brulee flame, which of course you could do if you wanted.
The top has chocolate covered sultanas and peanuts for rocks and round tubular wafer biscuits for the logs. The flames are made with red and orange barley sugar type lollies that I crushed in the blender. These were then spread evenly in pointed circle shapes about 1cm thick on a tray lined with baking paper. Make sure there is plenty of room between each pile of crushed lollies that will melt to make your flames. It will take a number of trays to make enough flames to decorate your cake. I put these into an oven at 180 degrees C ( 350F) for approximately 5-8 minutes or till just melted. After taking them out of the oven the lollies are liquid and very hot, just like toffee. Be careful. The pools of lollies can be streched into points with the end of a knife before being left to harden and cool.
I decorated the bottom of the cake with little chocolate mud cakes that have a a marshmallow on the top. These were held over an open gas flame till caramelized.
Don’t forget to find the recipe for Sponge here.
Let’s see YOUR Bonfire cakes……………..