For those who follow me on Instagram, you would be aware that in the last few weeks I’ve been making cupcakes and cupcakes and more cupcakes. It’s all because of Archie. His best mate, the one Archie traveled with during his Gap Year was turning 21. Ever-caring Archie rose to the occasion and said, ‘My mum will make your cake; she’d love to’. And the Webowski (as he’s called) was very pleased to hear this and said, ‘That would be great’.
And Archie said, ‘Just tell mum what you’d like; she can make anything’. Oh to have Archie’s confidence.
So a few weeks passed and then the Webowski’s mother phoned thanking me so very much for offering to make the cake (it’s amazing how a story can evolve), and she said she would be very happy to commission me to make the cake. The Webowski had chosen the Neapolitan Cake and I was very relieved as no tricky shapes were involved.
I made the cakes and put them in my freezer ahead of decorating them on the approaching date of the party, but a week or so before the event I had a chat to the Webowski’s mother and we decided it could be quite difficult to cut up a Neapolitan cake and serve it as finger food on the night. ‘So perhaps after the cutting the cake it could be taken ‘out the back’ and then some cupcakes could appear from ‘out the back’ for everyone to enjoy’, suggested the Webowski’s mother.
‘Great idea’, I said, ‘That would be so much easier than having to serve the cake’. And then the Webowski’s mother said, ‘I’m glad you agree, could you make two hundred?’
‘Yes of course’, I said, ‘Not a problem’.
And so it was settled. And I started on the task of making 200 cupcakes for 200 20-somethings and somewhere during the process I realised I’d never actually made 200 cupcakes for one event. My Kitchen Aid only has capacity to make around 40 at a time and so that’s a lot of batches of mixture and I was making them in three different flavours.
Task completed, I woke on the day of the party having to decorate first the cake and then the cupcakes. I pride myself on my excellent time management skills but I had no idea what I was up for and I ran incredibly behind time. I was working as fast as I could but the problem is, for these sorts of quantities, you need a commercial sized mixer because a double quantity of icing was all my Kitchen Aid could handle and I needed at least eight quantities and I just ran out of time (and ingredients!)
Adding to my time management dilemmas was the fact the party was being held on a country property three hours from Sydney and we promised we’d be there at 6pm, about two hours before the party started. Well at 4.40pm I’d decorated the cake and 175 cupcakes only and was completely out of icing with no time to make any more. And we were still in Sydney.
We packaged everything up (minus the remaining un-iced cupcakes) and I had a quick shower as I was still in my pyjamas and somehow I’d missed breakfast and lunch and we threw a few necessities like clean knickers into an overnight bag and out we went to the car. In the pouring rain. Another thing about transporting large numbers of cupcakes is that it takes time to load them properly into a car and so by the time Carl (yes, I gave that task to him) sat behind the wheel, he was soaked. To the bone. ‘Never mind’, I said, ‘Don’t complain; you’ll be okay, just start driving’.
When you have to go on a journey, it’s a good idea to have petrol in your car. We didn’t have any. And Carl apparently didn’t notice until we were on the Hume Highway where there wouldn’t be anywhere to fill up for about a thousand kilometres. So in order to avoid coming to a spluttering holt, we had to take an exit and drive around and around and around with Carl screaming at me to look up google maps on the i-pad, and find a petrol station. Where have they all gone? In the good ‘ole days, they were on every corner and now you can’t find them.
After that 20-minute unnecessary (had someone thought to fill up the car before we left Sydney) excursion, we were back on the Hume Highway and beetling into darkness towards the Webowski’s country property, about two hours behind schedule.
Finally we were there and we pulled off the highway and turned onto a dirt road and drove up a long driveway that led to an amazing home built in 1820. Now if you know your Australian history you would be aware that European settlement only started a few years before that so this was one of Australia’s oldest homes.
It was so incredible and Carl and I were shown to the guest suite that had once been the nursery and part of the nursery had been converted into a spacious ensuite bathroom and beyond the ensuite was the original school room that was now a children’s playroom. Carl had trouble walking through the doorways as they were so low he would hit his head – people were so much shorter back then. Underneath our rooms were ‘Stranger Rooms’ and these were rooms that didn’t have access to the main house and were given to ‘strangers’ who were traveling and looking for a room for the night. It was such a step-back into Australian history when so many were involved in agriculture and lived on large stations.
The Webowski’s parents were wonderful and generous hosts (you find this in the country a lot) and our room had a king-sized bed and there were luggage racks and a fireplace and bottled water on the bedside tables and bathrobes hanging on the back of the bathroom door and toiletries on the dressing table and boxed soap and fresh flowers on the mantlepiece. Yes, we were very comfortable.
Then it was down to the party that was held in a few adjoining sheds and there were fire pits to keep you warm and live music from a few different bands and pass-around food that continued all night long and the party went until the wee hours and then at first light the bar-be-cue was started up and all the 20-somethings who had stayed the night sleeping on swags and in their cars and anywhere else they dropped (making me glad not to be a 20-something anymore) were given bacon and egg rolls and bottles of water and cans of soft drink to see them on their way.
We stayed for the day and just enjoyed being in such a beautiful home that gave us a wonderful glimpse into what life was like back in the 1800’s.
We’ve been invited back for a weekend and they have an Agar stove with five ovens no less and they’ve asked me if I would like to cook on it. I told them I would love to, (have never cooked on one before) and the idea is that I’m cooking confit duck. Will let you know when it happens and I do hope to take more images of the property showing you the externals of an antique Australian homestead.
From the homestead and back to me, I thought I might mention that a few weeks ago, Hotly Spiced was mentioned on the Kidspot/Village Voices website as being one of the best Australian blogs for 2013. Here’s the link to see the other blogs that also made the list.
And Hotly Spiced is now two! Thank you all so very much for all your support – it’s been a wonderful, interesting, surprising and educational two years.