Rashays Darling Harbour

One of my favourite events in the Sydney annual calendar is upon us once again. There’s something so magical with Vivid Sydney with all the colours, lights, arts, performances, food, and the people – Sydney is just filled with this beautiful neon glow and I absolutely love it. But going to Vivid requires a bit of planning, common sense, persistence, a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, lots of patience, and a full stomach. Enjoying Vivid requires a bit of strategising, as the 3 week event usually draws a crowd of millions of people to the city (apparently in 2017, there were 2.33 million people who attended!). So to enjoy Vivid to its fullest, probably forget about going down to the city on Thursdays to Sundays, leave the heels at home, layer up the winter clothing (and brolly!), and plan where you’re starting, where you’re ending, where and what you’re eating, and how you are getting home.

We’re lucky that our offices is based in the city, and our place is just a few minutes’ walk from Darling Harbour. I am extremely grateful that I actually walk through the Vivid lights in Darling Harbour every day. One thing that’s so important for me, especially since getting pregnant, is timing my meal times and making sure I don’t get too hungry or dehydrated. Rashays Darling Harbour is just on the other side of Pyrmont Bridge, providing the perfect location for a pre-Vivid dinner before embarking into a walk around Sydney – a city that turns into a beautiful city of neon lights after 6pm. The menu at Rashays is extensive, and yet still provides enough variety for our 3 different diets – Mr J’s must-have weekly evening steak, my ribs cravings, and mum’s rule that there always has to be vegetables with meals. The servings were very generous, that mum and I ended up sharing the beef ribs with a side salad, and those drink tumblers were huge! Added bonus was the dessert menu – treat your taste buds on banofee waffle, sticky date pudding, and a souffle dessert from the special desserts menu. It was definitely the perfect dinner to start off our Vivid evening – thank you Rashays Darling Harbour!

Vivid Sydney 2018 is running from 25 May – 16 June 2018.

Thanks to Rashays for the amazing dining experience. Trish, Trish’s mum and Mr J dined as guests of Rashays Darling Harbour.

 

Garlic bread
Medium rare sirloin steak from their special steak menu
Flame-grilled short beef ribs with smoky sticky BBQ sauce & chips
Side salad

Banoffee waffle
Banoffee souffle

 

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Mother’s Day | Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This whole week long, I’ve been having massive cravings for carrot cake – with a pretty generous amount of cream cheese frosting. I hate nothing more than beautiful, delicious cakes with a teeny tiny dollop of frosting on top… I turn into my inner Zoolander and think “What is this? A cake for… ants?!”.

I scoured bakeries and cafes near my city office location, looking for that perfect cake that will quench my thirst cravings. Nothing seemed to tickle my fancy (damn these pregnancy hormones), and I seem to be pickier with the ingredients than before. Never really liked the fancy trimmings in my tea cakes: no raisins please, nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, or coconut. Make it as it is please, and don’t dress it up. And the frosting… oh the frosting! It has to be that perfect balance of sweet and tang and saltiness. And please don’t scrimp on it – my current indulgence is an equal ratio of cake to frosting. No judgment!

So with all these petty pickiness, I decided to just make my own cake. I made sure I only picked the ingredients that I wanted in my own cake, tasted the frosting to my liking, and frosted the heck out of it to get my desired cream cheese quantity on every bite.

It was also Mother’s Day weekend, and we were coming over to my in laws’ for a beautiful family lunch. And boy, was the cake a massive winner! The whole extended family went for seconds and thirds, and polished the cake within minutes. What perfect way to celebrate the beautiful mothers in my life than to share with them this amazing classic cake.

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Bake from Scratch

Carrot Cake

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 cups shredded carrots
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Oil and line your baking pan with baking paper.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon powder, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, and salt.
  3. Slowly add the eggs, oil, carrots, vanilla extract, and pineapple to the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into pan and bake for approximately 60 – 80 minutes, or until a knife or skewer comes out clean. Please note that this is a very dense, moist cake, and baking it in a lower temperature for a longer period of time ensures that the cake is baked throughout and still remains nice and moist.
  5. Cool in a wire rack and frost with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

500g cream cheese, chilled
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Beat in medium speed the cream cheese with the butter until they’re well combined.
  2. Back to slow speed, slowly add the icing sugar one spoonful at a time.
  3. Add the vanilla extract.

Note: I previously made the mistake of adding all the sugar at the same time, and it watered down the cream cheese into this liquid, pourable (but not pipe-able!) consistency. Not nice!

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Gender Reveal | Blueberry cake with mascarpone & cream cheese frosting

When we first found out we were pregnant, Mr J and I both agreed that our preference is to find out the sex of the baby. I must admit: I have serious control issues, so being in control of what colour and style of clothes to buy, what to expect, even down to knowing what to call the baby (he or she) – gave me relief and comfort.

Every ultrasound appointment made me so excited… and extremely anxious. I was always thinking, did the baby grow? I wonder how big it is? Is there a heartbeat? The 12 week Nuchal Translucency scan made me the most anxious, especially when finding out about the risk of different chromosomal abnormalities and pre-eclampsia. Plus it’s been 5 weeks since we last saw the baby, and it was still the size of a blueberry then. And then there was the morphology scan: how do the different organs look, does the baby have 4 heart chambers, 2 hands and 2 feet, nasal bones, and again, does it have a strong heartbeat? I would always arrive at the radiology centre anxious, and leave extremely beaming with happiness and relief. Regardless of the outcome of the scans, we knew we would love this baby with all our hearts – but hearing how the progress has been going so well (and laughing at how active this little one is that the technician had to chase it around my tummy to look for its aorta) just filled my heart with so much gratitude for this little blessing.

And then we asked if it’s a boy or girl.

The technician smiled and said she’ll try and look. She placed the transducer on my tummy, and started looking for its legs. The little rascal had other plans though – it kept moving around, kicking its legs like it was swimming and confusing the technician. At first she said, “Oh I can see it!” and then a second later said “Oh wait, I’m not so sure”. I was beyond excited… and then she took a still image and said “There it is!”. I had NO IDEA what I was looking at. Mr J, on the other hand, exclaimed “I can see two balls!”.

And that’s how we found out that you, my dear little one, is a healthy, bouncing, Jiminy Cricket of a little boy.

That weekend, we invited both our families over for a little lunch. We also planned to announce the sex of the baby – and since I love baking, I thought it would be a fun way to surprise them by making a gender reveal cake. I didn’t want anything fancy, or to make a fuss, however I wanted to do something a little bit special since this little one is the first grandchild for both our parents. They’ve also never been to a gender reveal party, much more didn’t even know the concept of a gender reveal! 🙂

It was a treat to have my mum, both sisters, cousin, and my dad who surprised us by flying all the way from Manila to Sydney, and my parents-in-law and sis-in-law at our place. It was a day filled with so much laughter, love, hopes and dreams for our little boy. Having them all at our home comforted me and gave me peace, because I knew then that this boy’s life will be filled to the brim with all the love in the world.

 

Berry Vanilla Cake with Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting

Vanilla cake

150g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Food colouring of your choice
Blueberry jam* (optional)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Line your baking pan with baking paper.
  2. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add the flour and milk intermittently.
  5. Add the food colouring of your choice.
  6. Pour in the prepared pan, and bake for approximately 40 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. See Assembly instructions below.

*I used the St Dalfour blueberry spread, but you can use any berry jam or spread to your liking

Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Frosting
Frosting recipe from Life, Love and Sugar

You will need quite a lot of frosting for this cake, as it is a 3 layer cake with lots of frosting for the layers. You will also need to apply a crumbing coat first, and top it up with more frosting.

900ml thickened cream (look for one perfect for whipping – I used one 600ml and 300ml bottles of cream)
250g mascarpone cheese, chilled
250g cream cheese, chilled
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whip on high the cream, vanilla and sugar together until you reach soft peaks.
  2. Add both cheeses and mix slowly.
  3. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set and harden before frosting the cake.

Assembly

  1. Put one cake layer on the cake board. Pipe the cream cheese frosting on the edges, and place the blueberry spread in the middle.
  2. Add a layer of frosting, and place another layer of cake on top.
  3. Repeat this process until the third cake layer is on.
  4. Apply a crumb coat first. Place in the fridge to set the crumb coat.
  5. Apply the rest of the frosting, and place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
  6. Take a slice and enjoy as everyone gets the gender reveal surprise!

 

In the middle of all the craziness after our gender reveal, I forgot to take photos of the inside of the cake. So please bear with me as I use some grainy, super filtered mobile phone photos to mark the occasion (which explains why the blue cake turned out green – sorry, my sister loves phone filters). 🙂


 

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