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  • Welcome!

    Hello there. I'm Irene, the baker behind { a swoonful of sugar } - a food blog created in 2012 by a 17y.o. (now *gasp* in her final months of teenagehood') sydney-sider who wants to share with the world her passion for turning ingredients into beautiful, delicious food. Thanks for dropping by!

    x Irene

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Mini Mandarin & Thyme Upside Down Cake

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Happy Monday all! Today I’d like to share with you a really easy to whip up upside down cake that can really be made with any fruits you like or have. To be honest, it’s my first time making them and I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were to eat, hot out of the oven with the hot syrup to keep em moist and of course, some ice cream over it. Perfect comfort food for a lazy, cold afternoon for sure. Of course, you could just make them in one big round cake pan, but what’s the fun in that! And I love the crisp edges that form round them, so these little cakelet versions are inifinitely better in my opinion.

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My one month end of semester break is quickly ending. I’m sure lots of you would be able to relate to how I’m feeling about it… We know it all too well- that ‘oh-what-where-did-all-that-time-go’ feeling. Yeah, it scares me how fast time goes. Also, in a week’s time, I’ll be turning twenty. (!) Like whaaaat, you mean I won’t be a TEENage food blogger anymore? That’s going to be very strange, because that’s how I’ve been seeing my blog for the past 2 years! Despite no longer being able to use the teen card to excuse crazy, immature behaviours, I guess there will be some great perks of being in the 20′s. And I hope to embrace it with however much gracefulness and positivity I possess.

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Mandarin & Thyme Upside Down Cake

  • 4 mandarins, peeled and each sliced into four pieces
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • thyme leaves
  • 8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature.
  • 1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 2 tsp zest of mandarin or orange
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • sprigs of thyme

1. Brush 15 holes of a 1/3 cup capacity muffin tin generously with the melted butter. Top each hole evenly with 1/2 tsp of brown sugar, some thyme leaves and an orange slice.

2. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F (190C). Beat the softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and well combined.

5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, thyme and zest together and set aside.

6. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix: stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

7. Using an ice cream scoop, spread the batter over the oranges, filling 3/4 of  the holes,  then bake for 25-30 minutes. The cakes are ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

8. Remove from oven. Using a spatula knife, loosen the sides of the cakes and invert onto a cooling rack.

9. To make the syrup, combine the orange juice, sugar and thyme together and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved and mixture thickens. Brush or pour warm syrup over hot cakes, allowing it to absorb to  keep them moist. Makes 15 cakelets

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and Sam @ DrizzleandDip

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Thanks for reading and hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

July 21, 2014 - 5:09 pm

Maryna - I have already told you on Instagram that these cakes look awesome! And I also share your feelings about semester break and turning 20( thought I will be a teenager for 9 more months). I try not to think about transience of life and things like that.

July 21, 2014 - 7:57 pm

The Vegan 8 - I’m so glad you came to my blog so that I could discover yours! These mini cakes look so beautiful and I love all of your staging shots! They look wonderful. What a wonderful, unique flavor combo. I just subscribed to your blog! :)

July 22, 2014 - 3:33 am

Ellen @ Indigo Scones - SO MUCH CUTE. Seriously, upside-down cakelets, you’re killing me.

July 22, 2014 - 9:24 am

Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps - Adorable!! Love these, and you’re going to love your 20′s! So much better than any of your teen years, I promise! I’m quickly creeping out of my 20s and I want to stay just where I am. :)

July 23, 2014 - 3:19 am

Shikha la mode - Love these mini cakes – all about that. You will LOVE being 20, girl, so DO NO WORRY ONE BIT. I just turned 25 and am having a quarter-century crisis about what the hell I’m doing, so enjoy the time and keep up this lovely blog!

July 23, 2014 - 10:55 am

Pang - This cake looks so yummy, Irene. And I am glad that I can substitute with any fruit. This will be my go-to recipe since my in-law loves the upside down cake :)

Btw, I miss that feeling of going back to school now that I am no longer a student for yearsssss. And I promise that you will love being 20. :)

July 23, 2014 - 1:00 pm

milkteaxx - the pictures are stunning!I could do with one of those right about now!

July 23, 2014 - 6:31 pm

Emma | Fork and Good - These look great, Upside down cake don’t get as much love as they deserve, I think they’re awesome. Love your site :) Welcome to the 20′s… I promise it’s much more awesome than the teenage years!

July 24, 2014 - 2:59 am

Lily@ Little Sweet Baker - OMG these little cakes look like they would melt on your mouth – yum! thanks for sharing, pinned for future baking:)

July 25, 2014 - 7:25 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @The Vegan 8, Ellen, Amy & Lily: Thank you so much guys for the sweet comments and thanks for stopping by for first time readers :)
@Maryna, Nicole, Shikha, Pang & Emma: You ladies rock- thanks for relieving my (now irrelevant) worries. It’s just a number, so I’m gonna just say- bring it on :)

July 25, 2014 - 11:52 pm

Renee AFS - These are looking oh so good and congratulations to turning 20! And crazy, immature behaviours are still quit ok I hope? Otherwise I’m doing something wrong (:

July 27, 2014 - 4:01 pm

Helen | Grab Your Fork - Such pretty looking cakes! Love the sprigs of thyme on top too!

July 28, 2014 - 10:14 am

Thalia @ butter and brioche - wow irene these look SO delicious and beautifully captured. i love the mandarin flavour, never thought to add thyme! definitely interested to trial the recipe in my kitchen, thanks for the post!

July 28, 2014 - 7:04 pm

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Renee: Thank Renee! You’re quite right, the whole world can’t possibly be doing things wrong…
@Helen & Thalia: Thanks so much for the lovely comments ladies!

Chamomile and Pineapple Eclairs

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It’s been so long since my last baking adventure that required so much time and effort as this one. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve baked with choux dough before you’ll know that the steps itself aren’t all that hard… But there are so many details that are not apparent in seemingly easy steps on print. And I can almost swear eclairs are way fussier than your regular round choux puffs. And there are so many variations as to how to bake them: whether to go all out from the get go to the end, or high temp in the beginning, then lower it till it’s done. And whether to have the oven door slightly ajar or not… Steam is crucial for these to rise but if there’s too much it won’t rise properly ?!?! I was naive and too ambitious. It was my first time making them, WITH the crumble sheet too… Let’s just say it turned out messy. But boy, I had no regrets with the crumble- they made these eclairs beyond your regular fare of choux puffs. My sister who initially was against me making boring eclairs on the basis that it ‘looks pretty but tastes average’ was pretty stumped when she tasted these eclairs with crunchy tops. Average? No way, the crunchy tops made then spec-freaking-tacular for shooo. They’re pretty underrated in my opinion, IMAGINE ALL THE FLAVOURED POSSIBILITIES! Today we’ve got ones filled with chamomile, glazed in pineapple icing and decorated with some crystallised ginger and pineapple and dried chamomile flowers.

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First thing- I completely misjudged how much these eclairs can grow! Especially the ones I’ve put the crumble sheet on. They grew a whole lot more, perhaps 2.5 times its raw state. So you see the raw piped dough up there? They turned out monstrous, about 3cm in width! Not the pretty sight I was expecting when I checked the oven haha. I think about 1.3cm is a good size if you want the classic dainty looking eclairs.

Second thing- I recommend using a light coloured tray. I used a dark coloured one for one of my batches and the bottoms burnt within 10 mins which made me have an inner turmoil whether or not to transfer them to another pan- with 100% certainty they’ll deflate while doing so. In the end when I took them out, they deflated almost instantly, using a spatula, I realised my second third mistake: not greasing my tray properly or heck, just not using parchment paper. They stuck terribly so in the end I just salvaged all I could and slowly snacked on the glorious sugary tops. So defs grease your tray well, or use your silpat or whatever.

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As for baking them, I still don’t really know what the best method is, I did the high temp, and lower/open oven door thing and found although the plain eclairs puffed nicely, the ones with the crumble sheet were pretty flat. I will experiment further whether having the sheets frozen cold or room temp has anything to do with it. I’d love to hear from anyone any tips on their eclair or any choux puff baking ventures.

Lastly, although flavourwise everything tasted really, really good, to be honest, we found it was overly sweet (it could also be that my eclairs that I iced were really small, so there wasn’t enough pastry cream to balance out the heavy icing). I suggest IF you are already making the crumble topping, a dust of icing sugar would suffice and you could probably pipe tiny dots of icing on top to ‘glue on’ some candied ginger and pineapples OR have a semi-sweet dark chocolate glaze instead. Leave the icing for plain eclairs, the icing however is surprisingly really yum, you could really taste the pinapple-ness, it reminded me of eating pineapple doughnuts. SO GOOD. If you’re the type who thinks overly-sweet is not a possibility, then you’re more than welcome to have the whole package, you’ll be in for a sweet treat. Other than that, it was a good first time and I’m real keen on experimenting with more flavours and getting the oven temps right!

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Chamomile and Pineapple Eclairs

For the choux pastry:

  • 250g water
  • 5g salt
  • 5g sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 220g egg, lightly whisked
  1. Melt the water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.Remove from heat and add in the sifted flour. Mix vigorously and well until the mass removes from the sides of the saucepan and and it is smooth and free of flour lumps.Stir it around for a minute to remove the excess steam and humidity.
  2. Transfer into a bowl of a standing mixer. With a paddle attachment, beat the ball of dough till slightly cool and beat in the eggs gradually, mixing well between each addition, and scraping the sides occasionally. The mixture should be smooth and supple. You may not need to use all of the eggs.
  3. Pipe using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Egg wash and bake at 200-210C depending on your oven till they have puffed up to its maximum. Open the door slightly to release the steam, reduce the heat to 160C and switch on the fan function and bake till golden brown and dry inside. Set aside to cool. Poke holes on the bottom of the eclairs with a chopstick and also use a skewer to poke the ends of the eclairs to free up some space inside for the cream.

For the craqueline (crumble topping):

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 100g flour
  1. Mix all the ingredients together using a spatula until it forms a sticky dough.
  2. Roll it between two silpats or parchment paper till about 2mm, leave it to firm up and cut according to the shape of the choux you have piped.
  3. Place it atop your choux batter before baking.

For the chamomile cream:

  • 3/4 cup thickened cream
  • 1/3 cup dried chamomile flowers, packed
  • 1/4 cup thickened cream, cold
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 400mL milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 30g corn starch
  • 25g unsalted butter
  1. Heat 3/4 cup cream and chamomile flowers in a saucepan over medium-low heat until just before simmering. Strain the chamomile flowers, pressing the flowers to get as much cream as you can. Chill in the refrigerator until very cold (I chilled mine overnight)
  2. In a saucepan, heat vanilla seeds with the pods and milk until simmering. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth and pale. When milk is simmering, remove pods and slowly pour into the egg mixture while constantly whisking. (It makes it easier to transfer milk into a heat proof jug).Then return everything back into the saucepan and heat until boiling, mixing/whisking the whole time. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes before mixing in the butter. Chill in refrigerator with clingwrap directly on top of the pastry cream until needed.
  3. When ready to fill eclairs, whip the chamomile infused cream and plain cream together until stiff peaks. In another bowl, beat the chilled pastry cream until no longer lumpy, but homogenous. Then roughly fold the whipped cream into the mixture and beat until smooth and well combined. Place into a pastry bag with a plain tip.

For the pineapple glaze:

  • icing sugar, sifted
  • pineapple juice
  • tiniest drop of yellow food colouring
  1. Combine icing sugar and pineapple juice until smooth (for every 1 cup of icing sugar, I used around 1.5-2tbs pineapple juice). Then add the food colouring till the shade of yellow you like appears.

To assemble:

  • dried pineapple
  • crystallised ginger
  • dried chamomile flowers
  • almond/hazelnut meal

1. Pipe in chamomile cream into the choux pastry. Dip tops of eclairs into a bowl of icing and place on cooling rack to let excess icing drip. Before icing dried, top with some pineapple, ginger, chamomile flowers and dust off with some almond/hazelnut meal. Best served on the day of baking but can keep for up to 3 days.

Different components inspired and adapted from various sources: Natalie Eng, Lady & Pups, Insanity Theory

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Soooo I’ve still got loads of pinapple juice left + I’ve been craving Hawaiian sweet rolls… Guess you’ll know what might be popping up here soon! Crossing my fingers it’ll taste as good, if not better than those King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls that could be considered my staple during my LA stay. Stay tuned! x

July 10, 2014 - 11:19 pm

Helen | Grab Your Fork - Oh so pretty! I always have a cup of tea with my dessert – makes anything overly sweet much easier to savour!

July 11, 2014 - 12:53 am

Ellen @ Indigo Scones - You’re a freaking wizard, these turned out lovely! Can’t wait to see the rolls, i’ve a hankering to try those myself.

July 11, 2014 - 1:55 am

Maryna - Oh, my! They look just perfect!! Really!

July 11, 2014 - 10:21 am

Pang - These eclairs look SO yummy, Irene. I really love the idea of all your toppings, and pineapple glaze. I agree completely that these are NOT AT ALL average eclairs.
They look so so good, and I am loving your photographs.

Btw, thank you so much for all the tips. I can not reciprocate because I have never made eclairs before, but I want to now that your recipe is so tempting :)

July 11, 2014 - 11:26 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Helen: Thank you Helen and YES you are absolutely right! I had them with the cups of tea I brewed after the ‘shoot’ which was perfect and I tried really hard not to look at my family members weirdly when they said it was way too sweet. Okay, note to self: do not give anyone these eclairs without a cup of tea as well for maximum enjoyment :D
@Ellen: We’ll see how it goes, fingers crossssed. Really. Need. Some

July 11, 2014 - 11:31 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Maryna: Thank you so much girl! :*
@Pang: Thanks a tonnn, you’re wayyy too kind! No worries Pang, hope you will bake some soon so we all can start an eclair hype and exchange tips, because I’m still not giving up on them and will keep trying them out till I get good reproducible results!

July 11, 2014 - 11:52 am

Joyti - Pineapple’s a unique flavor for eclairs – really interesting. I think they looked great. And I agree that piping out eclairs is so much harder than piping out round cream puff thing. These look great :)

July 11, 2014 - 11:54 am

cynthia - These are gorgeous!! And I’m crazy about that chamomile pastry cream — I just made chamomile whipped cream last weekend and was obsessed. Pastry cream takes it to a whole other level, especially paired with pineapple … Yum. Love this!

July 11, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Cassie | Journey From Within - omg such beautiful shots!
And no one can say no to these goodies, they’re a healthier version of chocolate eclairs! XD

July 11, 2014 - 4:47 pm

Millie l Add A Little - These look and sound so amazing! I love the way you’ve styled and photographed everything too :)
http://youtube.com/addalittlefood

July 11, 2014 - 9:03 pm

irene - So pretty I die! Have you made any choc eclairs? Or salted caramel ones? :D

July 12, 2014 - 1:59 am

Erika - These are so so so gorgeous!!! Yikes, I never knew making eclairs was so tricky–have you tried making cream puffs before? I made them once and they seemed pretty foolproof, but maybe that longer shape lends itself to a more finicky process. Okay, this is really motivating me to get my butt in gear and make some eclairs before my extra custard goes bad! I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure with pate choux!

And did I mention these are gorgeous? Seriously, your photography blows my mind.

July 12, 2014 - 5:13 am

Thalia @ butter and brioche - What an awesome recipe idea and flavour combination…your eclairs have turned out great! love the recipe, definetly one I will be trying – thanks!

July 14, 2014 - 9:07 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Joyti: Thank you so much! I’ll definitely be doing more practice on them, because I love the shape of eclairs more than the round puffs!
@Cynthia: Yessss, I couldn’t get it out of my mind ever since I saw Mandy’s post on chamomile cream roll. It made the loveliest floral tasting pastry cream for sure! Thank youuu
@Cassie: Haha, yep just some chamomile and pineapple right?

July 14, 2014 - 9:11 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Irene: It’s my first time making eclairs, but surely there will come a time when I’ll make one fit for you, with chocolate, caramel, nuts and the whole shebang. :D
@Erika: I have made cream puffs before and didn’t encounter much problems. But it could also be that I made the crumble topping for this one. Can’t wait to see your eclairs Erika, all the best for them hehe, but seeing as you’ve managed flaxseed macarons, these should be a cinch for you :) Thanks so muchhh coming from you, that means something alright!
@Thalia: Thanks a lot! Let me know how you go!

July 17, 2014 - 3:54 am

Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking - Wow! This is no easy feat! Despite all the obstacles, these look beautiful and delicious! So impressed! And I love the flavor combination

July 19, 2014 - 8:34 am

ami@naivecookcooks - Such a unique combination!! Lovely pics!

July 25, 2014 - 7:27 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Lindsey: YES. You’ll only feel even more satisfaction when you know they haven’t been easy to make haha. Thank youuu!
@Ami: Thanks for the kind words Ami :) Have a lovely week!

{Dining out} Gelateria Gondola // Chatswood

Hey y’all. I’d like to introduce to you one of the coolest new(ish) dessert shop in my part of town, Gelateria Gondola. If you live on the other side of the bridge and you’re asking me if it’s worth the crossing the bridge to visit the store, I say defo- at least  once… you know, just so you can be really sure you’re not missing out on what could potentially be sydney’s best gelato. Think flavours like lavender honeycomb, pumpkin brulee, ricotta citrus, panna cotta, chestnut, taro & cinnamon, and tiramisu that DOES make sure everyone has a satisfying portion of soaked sponge in every cup. They have the classic flavours as well as daily rotating specials which usually comprise of some pretty kick-ass flavour combos. Must try the pistachio/hazelnut/banana nutella if you’re a nut fan, and honestly just go for the daily specials and I think you’ll be in good hands. 

IMG_9133IMG_9136The shop’s run by 2 Venetians- Luca & Davide who have over 20 years of experience in the kitchen. That’s a lot of years yes, but aren’t we lucky they turned to gelato making and put all those years of experience to good use by crafting some of the most beautiful myriads of flavour combos for their gelato for us to enjoy. I can also say that they really do use the best of the ingredients, from using Jersey cow milk from Victoria to pistachios and blood orange juice from Sicily. As for sorbets, you’re well taken care of with a variety of seasonal fruits to choose from, containing 40% fresh fruits, water and sugar, nothing else fancy. Some of my favourites include ‘gondola’- their signature flavour of blood orange and an Italian aperitif and green apple. 

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Today we just tried the roasted pumpkin brulee and it’s a real sweet treat, the brulee tops were crunchy and in perfect ratio with the gelato. We also got the lemon and sugar crepes ($5) which was everything a crepe should be! Thin, soft and tender, and it went amazingly with the fresh Jersey whipped cream. You could also do the crepes with banana nutella or mixed berries and house made custard ($7).

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Plenty of fresh fruits that the guys buy from the markets each week- it’s pretty exciting to see what was in the box one day become a gelato flavour another day. Watermelon and rockmelon sorbet, yesss please.

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And these Ciobars are (if not they should be) your perfect hot chocolate for this winter. It’s an Italian style hot chocolate with cornflour which means that it is really thick almost to the point like a chocolate pudding you’ll have to eat by the spoonfuls. Served with whipped cream, they’re pure indulgence. Other notable drinks are the affogato ($8) and milkshakes ($6).

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Gelateria Gondola on Urbanspoon

So remember this place the next time you’re around the area. They won’t disappoint and I’m sure they’ll become the reason why you’d want to cross that bridge in the future. For the fellow north sydneysiders, be grateful they’ve opened near enough to make access to good gelato/dessert in general a breeze.

July 5, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Cassie | Journey From Within - those crepes look amazingly good!!
and hello banana nutella mm~

July 5, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Anna (polyphagia ♣) - I will make a trip to Chatswood just for this!! LOOOL

July 5, 2014 - 5:58 pm

irene - Definitely coming soon. Friday & Sat nights, yeah? ;)

July 6, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Maryna Krasnozhon - Why don’t I live in Sydney ? ;( I wanna try everything in here!

July 10, 2014 - 9:18 am

Jina - Arghh Irene, I’ve heard SO much about this place and how fantastic it is! Can’t wait to try it for myself. Someone told me it’s near Rice Den but I’ve never seen it when I walked past. Need to keep an eye out haha

July 10, 2014 - 9:58 am

Irene @ { a swoonful of sugar } - @Cassie: Mhmmm they do awesome banana nutella crepes and/or gelato.
@Anna & Irene: YES YOU MUST! See you ladies sooon x
@Maryna: Well you could just put it in your list of sydney to-eats for when you DO come :D
@Jina: Woooo yes! It’s right next to Rice Den, got a turqoisey sign. You defs won’t miss it next time ;)