Small Cakes

The dainty leading lights of any afternoon tea spread, these small 'fancies' look pretty on the cake stand and are less intimidating than a large slice of cake. Since this sort of baking can make your reputation as a home cook it is worth practising your favourites regularly until you achieve perfection - and remember that even your less-than-perfect efforts will still taste very good indeed.

  • Pastry Twists (Mafish)

    Pastry Twists (Mafish)

    From 'Sweets and Desserts from the Middle East' (1984) by Arto der Haroutunian, who describes them as 'delicious little sugary pastries. . . a childhood favourite of mine'. In my experience adults find them fairly hard to resist too. They are made from a simple yeast dough enriched with melted butter, egg and yoghurt and flavoured with lemon zest. You make the dough in the evening and rest it overnight ...

  • A Dark Secret

    A Dark Secret

    Chocolate Brownies seem to have arrived in New Zealand after the Second World War, so this unusual 1935 recipe is unlikely to have American antecedents; yet friends who have tried the slightly chewy, spicy, nutty squares have commented that they are reminiscent both of brownies and of Italian panforte. I have a soft spot for oddly named recipes and this is a favourite. It is a small and perfect little ...

  • Gem Iron Cakes

    Gem Iron Cakes

    These have become my latest obsession. I found the recipe in a small cook book put together around 1940 by the Country Women's Association in Tasmania's Esk Valley. The contributor was Miss M. Wheeler of Longford and her cakes are tender, delicious and similar to Lamingtons, but they have a gem's pleasantly rounded shape. (I've since found that Australian gem irons are a different shape from New Zealand ones. They ...

  • French Bonbons

    French Bonbons

    I found this recipe in a 1945 Women's Institutes Home Cookery book. No doubt the French name was intended to give them an exotic appeal, but they are not extravagant with ingredients and they certainly are delicious. The idea is to make a batch of little sponge cakes using an egg and an egg yolk, and then some small meringues with the egg white. You can store them in airtight ...

  • Butterfly Cakes

    Butterfly Cakes

    As a young home baker, these were my idea of baking perfection: so pretty, so sweet, so enjoyably fiddly to make and so guaranteed to attract compliments. Chocolate Butterfly Cakes, with piped butter icing, became my specialty but I now prefer the plainer vanilla version, with wings perched on a dollop of whipped cream and a little flavoursome jam. A 'Lamington' version of a Butterfly Cake is also a crowd ...

  • Apricot Crescents

    Apricot Crescents

    I found this recipe lurking at the bottom of a page in the 1964 Menorah Cookbook, a compendium of excellent recipes published to help raise funds for a new synagogue in Auckland. It is in the 'Coffee Accompaniments' chapter, modestly called Cream Cheese Envelope and contributed by Mrs H. Rosen. Mrs Rosen's pastry was a revelation to me - tender, light, flakily layered and with a slight cream cheese tang, ...