vanilla cupcakes; banana muffins; sticky date pudding; Helen

There’s a lot to be said about being ambitious. Ambition is an in-built hunger, a drive to achieve, to push yourself and be the best that you can. To expect and accept physical, emotional and mental pressures to break you, and then make you.

Ambitious is my mother, who gained a degree while working part time with two young children. Ambitious is my brother, who gave his every last ounce of sleep, energy and sanity to be the brilliant physician that he is today. Ambitious is my friend, who wanted to ride a bicycle from Sydney to Melbourne, and did.

Ambitious is wanting to bake two recipes, when you know you can’t even bake one…

Eh? Say what?!

That’s not ambitious. That’s just stupid.

I mean, it’s a little bit ludicrous to think that I only baked for the first time ever three months ago, exactly to the day. It’s also kind of ridiculous that I agreed in complete sobriety to partake in a “baking day”.

But what is most laughable is that between myself (novice that I am) and my friend Helen (baker extraordinaire), I chose to bake not one but two recipes while Helen tackled one, albeit far more complicated dessert.

So while Helen kept saying “wow, you’re ambitious!”, I knew what she was really saying.

I’m a fool. But I’m just a very hungry one.


Given that I’d only had five hours sleep the night before (acting very not-my-age and partying all night to Stanton Warriors) I think I did well to even get out of bed, let alone put my undies on the right way. Don’t worry, I double-checked.

I even managed to slap on some make-up (very carefully because yes, a hungover catty has once slipped with the eyelash curler and Ripped. Them. All. Out. True story), meet up with Helen and cross-referenced (ya-huh, we iz organised) our requirements before heading to the shops to buy ingredients.

Back at mi casa, ingredients were rationed, aprons were on and scales, bowls, whisks, spoons and pots were ready.

There’s no turning back and there was certainly no nap time for me.

vanilla cupcakes & banana muffins

An ambitious pleb: my own brand of idiocy

First on my baking agenda ~ banana muffins.

So ok, here’s a demonstration of my unique brand of idiocy: because I’m a pleb, I normally follow instructions down to the tee, but hmm, maybe I was feeling ambitious (yes that must be it), I strayed from the recipe.  Hell, I didn’t even just stray, I adapted Hummingbird’s banana loaf recipe, added my mum’s banana cake tips (she uses way more banana, which Helen also suggested) and feeling rather invincible, I went all kinds of crazy ~ I didn’t make a loaf, I didn’t even make a cake, I made muffins.


I even changed the baking time, but that really is just stupid.

Anyway, the banana muffins turned out surprisingly good, and extra spongy with the additional banana mush.  They looked a little lonely all naked and stuff though, so I decided to top them off with a dollop of cream cheese frosting (which I fell in love with over my red velvet cupcakes) and a singular banana chip. Kewt!

Tectonic pudding plates: if only earthquakes tasted this good

While I was mashing, whipping, spooning and baking, Helen was in a quiet place in her head, concentrating on her sticky date pudding. It’s an adaptation of an epicurious recipe, but tweaked because Helen, she’s clever like that. She breezed through the preparation process and baked the pudding to exquisite perfection.

We left it to cool while we grabbed dinner and when we came back OMG OMG OMG! What the FUCK?! The tectonic plates of the pudding world had shifted in our absence and it had collapsed. We yelped and squealed and suffered from minor heart palpitations until we hit a stroke of brilliance: sticky date pudding can be served sliced up, and covered in toffee sauce, with a generous scoop of ice cream! And no one will ever know! Brilliant!

Disaster recovered. Phew. I should get a job in DR. And PR.

The trusted recipe: a toe curling sugar high

Anyway, the vanilla cupcakes have been made before, so I won’t bore you with the details, but they were cute and suffice to say that the friends we invited over for dessert on Saturday night left on a happy sugar high.

So in the end, ambition reigned supreme and because we made so much, it’s Wednesday and I’m still on a sugar high.

Note: Below are the recipes for the banana muffins and sticky date pudding with toffee sauce. For the vanilla cupcake recipe, click here, but this time, I topped it off with cream cheese frosting which came from the red velvet cupcakes.

Banana muffins (adapted from Hummingbird Bakery’s banana loaf and my mum’s banana cake recipe)
270 grams soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
400 grams ripe peeled bananas, mashed
280 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
140 grams unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C/325°F Gas 3.
  2. Beat together the sugar and eggs until well incorporated.
  3. Beat in the mashed bananas.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon to the sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly until all dry ingredients have been incorporated into the sugar mixture.
  5. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  6. Line muffin trays with 18 muffin cups and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until firm to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Leave the muffins to cool slightly and move to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
  8. To decorate, prepare cream cheese topping and top off with a banana chip.
Makes 18.
Sticky date pudding with toffee sauce
1 3/4 cups packed pitted dates (about 10 oz)
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking (bicarbonate of) soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 sticks (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 3/4 sticks (3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream (double cream)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F and butter and flour an 8-inch square or round baking pan (2 inches deep), knocking out excess flour.
  2. Coarsely chop dates and in a small saucepan, simmer dates in water, uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam). Let mixture stand for 20 minutes.
  3. While mixture is standing, sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating after each addition until just combined. Add date mixture and with a wooden spoon stir batter until combined well.
  6. Pour batter into baking pan and set pan in a larger baking pan. Add enough hot water to larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the smaller pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a skewer comes out clean (approximately 45-50 minutes).
  7. Remove smaller pan from water bath and cool pudding on a rack.

Make sauce while pudding is cooling:

  1. In a small saucepan melt butter over a moderate heat and add brown sugar Bring mixture to boil, stirring occasionally, and stir in cream and vanilla.
  2. Simmar sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Serve warm.
Serves 8.

3 Thoughts on “ambition and idiocy: two little girls and a mini baking bonanza!

  1. gracie on October 1, 2009 at 8:39 pm said:

    hi catty! i’ve just stumbld on your blog and i love it! really funny and refreshing posts…and the banana muffins sound really yum. keep it up!

  2. Thanks gracie! the ‘nana muffins were really good. I recommend doubling the qty of bananas in any banana recipe hehe…

  3. I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

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