Friday, 9 November 2012

Cloudlands, Blue Mountains...and fairy cakes



A couple of weekends ago we escaped the city for Cloudlands, a charming wooden lodge surrounded by rambling gardens in the heart of the Blue Mountains.

It sounds romantic, and it could be given the right circumstances, but this was a family excursion.

Our raucous party of relos piled inside from the chilly Friday night, ooohing and aaahhing over the cosy lounge room, stocked kitchen and lovely four bedrooms before sitting down to Mr LP’s lasagne and a bottle of red. 

The occasion? Three birthdays, a graduation and a new addition to our little tribe on the way.

Yep, that would be the Little Pudding tribe. I got back from New York and found I was carrying a surprise piece of excess baggage! Apart from being extremely exciting and happy news for Mr LP and I, it is also an excellent and very convenient explanation for why I was eating everything in sight overseas. Like, every ten minutes.


Spring in the Blue Mountains is spectacularly pretty and we were blessed with sunshine and clear blue skies. It was perfect weather for exploring the escarpment garden, following the old steps down through tangled vines and flowers to the Prince Henry cliff walk which leads around to the breathtaking views of Echo Point.



Later in the morning, we ambled into Leura for an obligatory fossick in the shops and stopped for coffee and chocolate ├ęclairs at one of my favourite local cafes, The Leura Garage. Then presents for the house were bought from Inner Space.


For a late lunch, we picked up quiches, arancini and salads from the Leura Gourmet Cafe and Deli and shared them back in the garden. All of a sudden it was bubbles o’clock!



It would have been nice to have enjoyed one of the fairy cakes left in the fridge for our arrival for afternoon tea. But sadly the fridge wasn’t kind to them and they were like pretty little icing crusted rocks.

Being pregnant, I have wanted a damn fairy cake ever since. So I made my own this week. Recipe below.


This was the only (very small) let down in what was a fun weekend in a cosy, charming and welcoming home. 

The breakfast basket was stuffed with yummy local jams, Whisk & Pin muesli, fresh eggs from the chook pen outside and five varieties of bread - spelt, sourdough, ciabatta, fruit loaf, and a delicious rosemary and olive loaf - all baked locally by Bakehouse on Wentworth in Leura.


In the fridge was enough organic butter and milk of all sorts to last a week, and the cupboard held at least 10 varieties of tea.

Once the private retreat of writer Frank Dyson, Cloudlands was originally built in the early 1900’s for the Swiss Consul. In the mid 1930’s a writer’s studio was added to the main house and that now serves as the guest lodge, sleeping up to eight people.



Current host Anne Elliott and her late husband bought the property in 1997 in an almost derelict state and have lovingly restored both houses using the original Jarrah timber, and tamed the wild but beautiful gardens. Anne also makes her own line of natural soaps and toiletries for the lodge.



With Master N along for the weekend, dinner out at one of the nearby restaurants (Darley's at Lilianfel's, Solitary or The Rooster) wasn’t ideal, so we opted to stay in and take the kitchen for a spin.

Mr LP made Jools’ favourite stew (a staple Jamie Oliver recipe in our house) and my little sister Dani made a twice baked upside down sticky date pudding :)

We bought a heavy French casserole dish in Leura to make the stew as there wasn’t a large enough one in the kitchen. Baking the pudding in a Pyrex dish probably wasn’t the best idea (mine) but it was delicious in the end, with "help" from Mum who flipped it upside down to speed up the cooking process. We fought for the leftover sauce.

I didn't have my act together enough to take a photo, but here's one we prepared earlier (served in posher bowls).



We had intentions of playing Scrabble and Pictionary in the gorgeous loungeroom but the pile of magazines, including the latest edition of Frankie, got the better of me. 

And then I hit the wall soon after, as I do these days at any given moment after 9pm.


The next day, with the mountain chill back in the air, we walked into Katoomba for an early coffee at Fresh Cafe, where they roast their own beans, before hitting the road home. 

If you’re planning a mountains mini-break with a small group of friends or family, Cloudlands is a near perfect find, with cosy, spacious rooms in beautiful surrounds close to both Katoomba and Leura.


While there, visit these places. I always do:

Katoomba:



Leura:



Larissa xx

Now, a recipe for anyone craving fairy cakes:


Fairy Cakes with Lemon Curd

(Makes 12)

125g butter, melted
185g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
170g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups milk

To serve:
Lemon curd (recipe below)
Double or whipped cream
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 160C.
Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cup cake cases.
Place all ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until well combined. Ensure you scrape the bowl with a spatula to include any ingredients settled on the bottom and mix again to combine.
Spoon into prepared cup cake cases, filling to ¾ mark.
Bake for 16-18 mins or until golden.
Cool in tins.
When ready to serve, cut a circle from the top of each cake, creating a little hole. Cut the circle in half to create your fairy wings.
Place a dollop of lemon curd in each hole, topped with a small dollop of cream.
Position the “wings” on top of the cream and dust with icing sugar.
Voila! 
Assemble the cakes as close to serving time as possible. Resist putting them in the fridge or they’ll go hard and dry.


Lemon Curd
(Makes about 3 cups)

8 egg yolks
180g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
200mls lemon juice, strained
200g cold butter, cubed

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and thick (1-2 mins). 
Add lemon zest and juice and whisk again until combined.
Place mixture into a large saucepan along with the butter.
Cook over medium/medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is just about to boil. It should be thick and able to coat the back of a spoon.
Don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat and strain into a container/bowl. 
Refrigerate until cold and set.
Serve with cupcakes, scones, banana bread, toast or crumpets. Also fabulous to give to friends in pretty jars for homemade foodie Christmas gifts. It lasts in the fridge for about two weeks.