“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
Anthony Bourdain

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake …my adaptation. With a name as intriguing as that, I quickly jotted it down as my Ukranian friend translated it out of her mothers cookbook in Sydney earlier this month. There is an eternal charm in handwritten recipes of times gone by, this recipe book is from the 1960’s. Neat, and well explained, the recipes all written In Ukrainian, talk to you, explaining each step. The measures are often in glasses from the Old Soviet Union, standardised at 200ml, a measure my sweet friend continues to use as her mother once did.

Ptasie Mleczko (Polish) is a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé). In Russian it is called ptichye moloko (птичье молоко) and in Romanian lapte de pasăre. All these names literally mean “bird’s milk” or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not origin of the name; rather, ptasie mleczko is also a Polish idiom meaning “an unobtainable delicacy”. In Poland, Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Company, developed the first Ptasie mleczko in 1936. Wedel’s inspiration for the name of the confectionery came from his voyages to France, when he asked himself: “What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything?” Then he thought: “Maybe only bird milk.”

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake This must be one of the quickest birthday cakes I’ve ever made. And yet another very very delicious one. You can find my coffee take on it at the bottom as Ulyana decided to bake one for us the night before we were due to fly out. No pictures of the cake in Sydney as we were racing against time. I didn’t get too many pictures of the cake I baked here too as coming home after a vacation is always far too busy. It was however tasty as hell!!

Sydney 2015

Sydney 2015 Our trip Down Under was great fun! All trips there always are! Sydney has been one of our fave places to go when possible, and this was our fourth trip. Like every earlier trip, this too was packed and flew by like a heartbeat. This trip was short, just a week ‘long’, but we had a great time. With hosts as good as ours, the days went by driving from mountains to beaches, with great food and drinks thrown in. Mindless banter, endless shopping what with the daughter with us, too much food,  overindulgence … ad before we knew it, time to fly back.

Sydney 2015 We flew in comfortably, sleeping all the way on Cathay Pacific, with a short stopover in HKG. There too the daughter shopped till we dropped for 3 whole hours.Hong Kong Hurriedly dug into some delicious street food, raced back to the hotel, showered and hopped onto the Sydney flight. A long 9 hour flight, some great food, Aussie wines too, Pamela’s book kept me entertained and nostalgic as we landed there into a crisp 4C at 6am. We were really blessed to see great weather the few days we were there.

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015We’ve done most of the iconic must see places on the earlier trips covering The Rocks, Opera House, Botanical Gardens, Tiranga Zoo {to date one of my sons fave places}, Butterfly Park, Harbour Bridge, Harry’s original van at Wooloomooloo, the Blue Mountains … and so much more. Yet a visit to the Blue Mountains is a quintessential part of Sydney for us, and that’s where we headed pretty soon. It as a freezing COLD day but we managed to stop by some breathtaking spots, taking in the gift that only nature can offer. Knocks your breath A W A Y!

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015 We went off piste, little walkways dot the Blue Mountains, each with a signboard telling you how long it takes to get to the destination, level of ease …and more! There’s loads to do. Did I mention stunning beaches? Yes those too!Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015Beautiful beaches, birds, crabs, shells, nature, left over pizza from the Italian pizzeria from the night before, chilled beer though not as chilly as the cold winds, great company … couldn’t have asked for more.Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015 Of course I shopped some too. It’s always good to know the ‘right’ people, who in turn know the right places…and a Sunday morning market later, I was back a happy camper. There was loads I could have gladly bought to ‘prop’ up the blog, but sense had to prevail. It was a struggle I tell you!Food Prop shopping, Sydney

Food prop shopping Sydney 2015No trip to Sydney for me is complete without a visit to Victoria’s Basement. Though short on time, we did a quick walk through, a near impossible task in itself given the treasure trove you can find under a roof! I shopped a wee bit more here and there, constantly thinking of how much I could stuff back into suitcases. You know! Oh the choices we have to make!

Sydney 2015With travel comes food, and most good memories are tied to taste! Knowing the right folk is great! It’s satiating to explore a country through it’s cuisine, and then comes the added bonus of exploring the flavours they brought from their native lands. So we were spoilt. Ukranian cusine filled our days alongside Aussie quintessential. Gourmet sausages on the barbeque that made the tastiest hotdogs, slow cooked {read dropping off the bone good} lamb-shanks with chickpeas and spinach, Caesar salad galore, smoked Polish sausages and cold cuts, Ukranian potato latkes with garlic and sour cream, artisan pizzas, more Aussie reds, red wine too, pancakes for breakfast with whipped cream and local preserves, cheese in every avatar to die, then more local artisanal unripened cheese as if that was not enough …Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Sweet stuff too, though no pictures. Fresh cherry strudel, macadamia and caramel ice cream, divine coffee gelato, berry gelato too, and then of course this beautiful Birds Milk Cake flavoured with the organic lemon from the yard the night before we flew out. I dreamt of the cake as I slept on the flight back home. I knew I just had to make one soon, my pet flavours dancing in my head.

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake That’s just what I did the next day for the son’s birthday. As we melted into a sizzling North Indian summer at 45C, desperately trying to hang on to memories of 12C, the crisp and beautiful Aussie winter we left behind, Ihit baking mode. This cake bridged the gap beautifully, and that is what good food & travel is all about. Makes you come full circle, flavours and memories sharing a plateful! What a delightful {and delicious} journey this food business is!

Recipe: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake
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Summary: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake finds it’s roots possibly in the Old Soviet Union. A preparation for the light as air filling quite as intriguing as the name ‘birds milk’, it’s a moist and delicious cake that takes well to added flavours. Make ahead and chill for the flavours to mature. It tastes wonedrful as a fresh tray bake as originally intended to be too. Serves 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour {plus cooling and chilling}

  • Cake
  • 130g butter
  • 200ml / 1 glass brown vanilla sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 200ml / 1 glass all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Filling
  • 150g butter
  • 400ml / 2 glasses milk
  • 100ml/ 1/2 glass sugar
  • 3 tbsp semolina /suji
  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua {optional}
  • Topping
  • 50g dark couverture chocolate
  • 100ml low fat cream
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • White chocolate shavings to garnish


  1. Cake
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 X 8″ round baking tins with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Reserve.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, ten the vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly fold in the dry mix. Turn batter into tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool in tins for 15-20 minutes then cool completely on rack.
  6. Filling
  7. Make this while the cake is baking {or a few hours before too}
  8. Place the sugar, semolina, coffee and milk in a heavy bottom pan. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool completely.
  9. When the cake is ready and cool, make the remaining filling.
  10. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the coffee semolina and Kahlua if using.
  11. Assemble
  12. Place one layer on serving platter and keep in place with an 8″ dessert ring. ladle over half the filling and top with second layer. Top with remaining filling, cover and refrigerate for a few hours {or overnight} for flavours to mature.
  13. Take the ring off gently, top with chocolate ganache {recipe follows} and white chocolate shavings.
  14. Chocolate Ganache
  15. Place ingredients in a heat proof bowl and microwave 1 minute at a time until the chocolate has almost melted. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool to room temperature before use.

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“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!”
C. JoyBell C.

Pinktober Princess Cake,  PrinsesstårtaPrinsesstårta … a princess cake my way to mark Pinktober. Every October begins with a pink cake in support of breast cancer research, or Pinktober, as it is popularly known. October is the National Breast Cancer Awareness month. International campaigns are run each year to raise awareness and funds for research. In addition, the campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

Prinsesstårta, Princess cake for PinktoberThe first week of October sees Mr PABs birthday and he’s grown used to a pink birthday cake. I might be torn for time, tired to the bone, might not bake a cake on any other occasion but the Pinktober one is never missed. Neither is the ribbon. You can see the pink on my earlier  Pinktober posts, else catch them on my PINK board on Pinterest.

The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, and the color pink in general, identify the wearer or promoter with the breast cancer brand and express moral support for women with breast cancer. Pink ribbons are most commonly seen during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

pink-ribbon-296x300A Princess cake or prinsesstårta is the lads most favourite cake of all time. Years ago I did a recipe testing for Helene of Tartlette which included a Bavarian cream. That was a princess cake of sorts. We still remember how fantastic that cake was, a benchmark of sorts for birthday cake.

A princess cake (prinsesstårta in Swedish) is a traditional Swedish layer cake consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, raspberry or strawberry jam, pastry cream, and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. This is topped by marzipan, giving the cake a smooth rounded top. The marzipan overlay is usually green, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and often decorated with a pink marzipan rose.[1][2]

The original recipe first appeared in the 1930s Prinsessornas Kokbok cookbook, which was published by Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of the three daughters of H.R.H. Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The cake was originally called grön tårta (green cake), but was given the name prinsesstårta or “princess cake” because the princesses were said to have been especially fond of the cake.

Prinsesstårta, set upside downMy version of the prinsesstårta is a little off the traditional mark, just slightly. The layers of the traditional Swedish cake have jam and pastry cream. I skipped the jam as I thought my pastry cream was sweet enough. The dome of whipped cream wasn’t going to happen as I used a low fat 20% cream, so I stabilised it with gelatin. The dome happened in an upside down manner which is how I built up the cake and left it to set overnight.

PrinsesstårtaI hoped it would look fine the next morning …and it certainly did much to my delight! The other deviation was of course the marzipan cover for the cake. I made marzipan too that morning but it did not behave. At all. With October being unseasonably warm at 40C this year, the marzipan really sweated and wouldn’t roll out.almonds for marzipan

I had to do a rapid rethink as I didn’t want to jeopardise the poor stabilised dome. That would have been a disaster so my next best option was a chocolate coating, tricky but doable. The idea is to have the chocolate coating at a cool, or almost same temperature as the cream dome so that the dome doesn’t melt. It was touch and go. I won!! Sort of.

Prinsesstårta, Princess cake for PinktoberThe dome wasn’t as smooth as I expected it to be, or like I wanted it to be but given the weather, I was happy I had the cake covered! Left to set in the fridge, you can see the uneven bits, or maybe refer to it as an artisanal finish? Taking pictures was difficult again as the icing threatened to melt.

Prinsesstårta, Princess cake for Pinktober I used the marzipan to make a couple of hurried roses etc. Then the quintessential PINK ribbon. Minimalistic was the sensible and possibly only way to go. Stuck it all on and was just grateful to have a cake. Once cut, the honours done, it was fantastic to taste.

Prinsesstårta, Princess cake for Pinktober Much to my delight, the boy immediately exclaimed, “Yay, a Princess Cake! I just saw it on the Simpsons this morning.” What a delicious coincidence! The prinsesstårta layers behaved well while being sliced, the cake itself a winner on all counts {other than smooth looks!}. Light, airy, flavourful, creamy and a celebration! Try and challenge yourself to make this, right side up if possible, else use my way home. This is a cake every baker must make at least once. Must!

Swedish Prinsesstårta, princess cupcakes I’ve done a real fun version of Swedish Prinsesstårta Cupcakes with the Daring Bakers in May 2013. It was hot as hot can be back then, but much easier to do little cupcakes than one huge domed prinsesstårta. Also, then the marzipan was store bought and possibly more smoother and easier to handle than home made. If you rather do pretty cupcake prinsesstårta, then here’s the place to be.

[print_this]Recipe: Prinsesstårta, Princess cake for Pinktober
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Summary: Prinsesstårta. Light, airy, flavourful, creamy and a celebration! Try and challenge yourself to make this, right side up if possible, else use my way home. This is a cake every baker must make at least once. Serves 10-12

Prep Time: 1 hour Total Time: 2 hours plus cooling, chilling time

  • Strawberry sponge {Make 2 X 3 egg cakes}
  • 6 eggs
  • 170g sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp strawberry essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean powder {or vanilla extract}
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier {optional}
  • few drops red food colour {optional}
  • Simple sugar syrup
  • 25ml water
  • 50g sugar
  • Pastry Cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g sugar
  • 40g cornflour
  • 250ml milk
  • 200ml low fat cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • Whipped Cream
  • 400ml low fat cream, chilled
  • 1 tsp gelatin, sprinkled over 2 tbsp warm milk, cooled
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 tsbp Grand Marnier, optional
  • Chocolate coating
  • 200g 70% dark couverture chocolate
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 20g honey
  • Marzipan for roses and ribbon etc


  1. Sponge Cake
  2. Line 2 loose bottomed 8″ baking tins with parchment paper.
  3. Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whip on high speed till thick and moussey, 8-10 minutes. Add the strawberry essence, pinch of salt, baking powder and vanilla bean powder {and liqueur and food colour if using} and beat again.
  4. Sift over the flour in 4 lots, gently folding in each time.
  5. Transfer the batter into the 2 tins and bake at 190C for 35-45 minutes until done.
  6. Cool on racks, then cut horizontally into 2 layers each.
  7. Pastry Cream
  8. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon in a big bowl until the mixture becomes pale and light. Stir in the flour slowly until it is thoroughly mixed with the egg mixture.
  9. Pour the boiling milk into the mixture a little by little while whisking continuously to avoid curdling. And then stir in the rest of the cream until the mixture is well combined.
  10. Transfer the whole mixture into a pot, with the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean, and heat it under low setting. Stir it constantly with the wooden spoon or spatula scraping the sides and bottom until it has thickened quite  a bit.
  11. Once the custard has thickened, take it off the heat, and strain it into a clean bowl. Cover top with plastic wrap, cool and chill.
  12. Once chilled, whip in 1 cup of the reserved whipped cream from below until silky smooth. The pastry cream will be quite thick.
  13. Thermomix Recipe
  14. Place sugar and vanilla bean in TM bowl, and process for 30seconds on speed 10.
  15. Add remaining ingredients, plus vanilla bean shell and cook on 90C/Speed 4 for 7 minutes {until thick}. Strain into a bowl immediately to cool. I chilled it overnight.
  16. Sugar Syrup
  17. Place sugar and water in small pan, simmer until the sugar melts. Cool.
  18. Whipped cream
  19. Whip cream and sugar on high speed until medium high peaks form. Whip in liqueur if using. Gently fold in the gelatin mixture. Reserve 1 cup for pastry cream
  20. Assemble
  21. Take a glass bowl the top of which can comfortably fit the cake {think upside down}. Line it with cling wrap overlapping the sides.
  22. Turn the whipped cream into the bowl, level out and place the first layer of sponge on it. Paint with sugar syrup, and add 1/3rd pastry cream. Level it out. Repeat with the remaining layers of sponge, using the sugar syrup and pastry cream.
  23. {I used mousse strips to keep the side of the sponge and pastry cream in place}
  24. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or foil, and lave to set in the fridge as is {cream side at the bottom}
  25. Next morning, turn the cake onto your serving platter, and gently peel off the plastic wrap that lined the bowl. {Refer picture}
  26. Chocolate coating
  27. Place chocolate, butter and honey in a heatproof bowl and melt over double boiler until the chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Cool to a nice room temperature {the chocolate shouldn’t be warm at all else it will melt the dome}
  28. Gently pour over the cake so that the chocolate covers the dome right around.
  29. Chill in fridge
  30. Garnish with marzipan roses etc if required.
  31. Chill until ready to serve.
  32. Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry to get neat slices.


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“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!”
C. JoyBell C.

Peaches & Cream CakeIt was a Peaches & Cream Cake for my father’s birthday last week. Everything was going according to plan,and I toyed around with summer cake ideas in my head. Summer is for stone fruit, and the cake would most certainly have some! Peaches! I had a kilo of them in the fridge. Cream? Yes of course; there’s always some on hand. Time for peaches and cream!!

Peaches & Cream Cake Despite knowing that whipping cream in miserable summer heat is sure to fail, I marched ahead. At 43C, life was never going to be a cake walk in the record breaking heat and humidity we have had this summer. That the rains failed added to my misery. 75% humidity and everything looks like it’s condensing! Not the best weather to work with cream cakes in …… Peaches & Cream Cake 4…and then it was time for a power breakdown. It had been assembled but a cake needs chilling you know. I stuck the cake into the fridge and we finally left for dinner. The cake survived as power was back when we returned. I thanked my lucky stars that it held together until we cut it, well almost. It was YUM! Oh, did I tell you I never got to my kilo of peaches? Peaches & Cream Cake 3Yes that happened too. With all the unnecessary drama of no power, I just reached out for a tin of canned peaches; probably my best idea that day. Another good idea was the  Crème patisserie I made for the frosting … finger licking good.

Peaches & Cream Trifles

Peaches & Cream TriflesI saved some cream and peaches; enough to make a few trifles. Layered the same way as the cake, they were fun to assemble … and eat of course! The goblets are one of my favourites from Urban Dazzle. I use them often for different stuff like Dark Chocolate Mousse, Peach Lime Coolers & Stone Fruit Salads.

Peaches & Cream Trifles

[print_this]Recipe: Peaches & Cream Cake
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Summary: A light summery birthday cake, the  crème patisserie lends a nice, deep flavour to the frosting on the Peaches & Cream Cake. Use fresh peaches or even apricots in season. The cake would work really well with mangoes too.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour plus cooling , chilling time

  • Sponge Cake {Make 2 X 3 egg sponges}
  •  3 eggs
  • 100g Castor sugar
  • 70g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • Filling & topping
  • 500g low fat cream, chilled
  • 75g icing sugar {adjust as per requirement}
  • 1 850g tin peach halves {I used Del Monte}
  • Crème patisserie {can be made a day before}
  • 200ml low fat cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped
  • 50g sugar
  • 15g cornflour


  1. Sponge Cake
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line, grease & a 7″ loose bottomed tin.
  3. {If your oven in big, bake 2 X 7″ cakes together}
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt 3 times. Reserve.
  5. Beat the eggs, essence & sugar till mousse like {almost 10 minutes}.>
  6. Lightly fold the flour in 3 goes in figure 8 movements (so as no to release the air bubbles).
  7. Gently turn into prepared tin & bake for 20-25 minutes till light brown & spongy.
  8. Repeat for 2nd cake.
  9. Cool on racks completely, then slice horizontally into 2 layers each
  10. Filling
  11. Whip all ingredients together to medium peaks.
  12. Crème patisserie
  13. Bring cream and a pinch of salt to a gentle boil in a pot.
  14. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon in a big bowl until the mixture becomes pale and light. Stir in the cornflour slowly until it is thoroughly mixed with the egg mixture.
  15. Pour the boiling cream into the mixture a little by little while whisking continuously to avoid curdling.
  16. Transfer the whole mixture into a pot, with the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean {throw in the shell too}, and simmer over low heat. Stir it constantly with the wooden spoon or spatula scraping the sides and bottom until it has thickened.
  17. Once the custard has thickened, take it off the heat, and strain it into a clean bowl. Add a dash of peach liqueur if desired. Cool, cover with cling wrap touching the surface, then chill for a few hours. This is going to be very thick.
  18. Assemble
  19. Drain the peaches and slice 3-4 halves for topping. Chop up the rest.
  20. Reserve the peach syrup to moisten the sponge with.
  21. Reserve 1 cup of whipped cream for the frosting.
  22. Place 1 layer of sponge on serving platter, moisten with reserved peach syrup, top with 1/3 whipped cream, and 1/3rd chopped peaches. Repeat with remaining layers.
  23. Loosen the chilled crème patisserie and gently fold in the reserved whipped cream. Don’t whisk briskly or it will become too floppy for frosting.
  24. Taste and adjust sweetness if required. Frost the top and sides of cake with it.
  25. Top with peach slices, chill for at least half an hour for flavours to mature.


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