Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Writers and editors on food: 1: Stephanie Smee
Stephanie's the brilliant Australian translator of some of my favourite French children's books, written by the great 19th century French-Russian author, the Countess de Segur. I was so thrilled that the Countess' beautiful, touching, original and funny children's novels are being introduced to English-speaking children today, through Stephanie's pitch-perfect translation and publisher Simon and Schuster Australia's belief in the power of these stories! The three volumes of the Fleurville trilogy--Sophie's Misfortunes; Camille and Madeleine; and The Holidays were released earlier this year, and went down very well with young readers and their parents. The next Countess de Segur title to be translated by Stephanie, Monsieur Cadichon: Memoirs of a Donkey, is just about to come out, and hopefully there'll be many more to come!
Here, to kick off this new series, is Stephanie's lovely evocation of a magical summer holiday in Sweden, and the delectable cake that goes with it.
By Stephanie Smee
A couple of years ago, my husband and I, and our two youngish children, aged about 9 and 7, were lucky enough to holiday in Sweden. My mother is Swedish, although she has lived in Australia most of her adult life … and the main aim of this holiday was to have a family reunion, with one branch of the family coming from Boston with even younger children, aged 2 and 4, and my parents journeying also from Australia, to an island in the Stockholm archipelago.
We had rented a house on this island(see house in photo) for 2 weeks in the middle of July – the sky never fell darker than a deep midnight blue – and the island itself had no roads, only fairytale-like paths winding across the island. Wild strawberries and blueberries were scattered through the grasses, under birch trees which seem to grow much taller than I have ever seen them in this country.
We had driven north from Copenhagen and stopped to overnight for a couple of nights in a youth hostel which was sandwiched between the Gota Canal which traverses Sweden, an enormous inland lake fringed with pine trees, and a towering forest of birches. It was real Elsa Beskow territory. (Elsa Beskow is one of Sweden’s most adored children’s authors from last century who illustrated her works with stunning paintings and line drawings. They are so typically evocative of the Swedish landscape of forests and lakes – almost a Swedish May Gibbs …) Summer had just arrived – there were merry “seniors” pedalling down the canal’s towpath in often little more than their underwear, so joyful were they at seeing the sun. My favourite memory, however, was a recipe for a cake which the owner of the youth hostel made and served every day in a summer house under the blossoming apple trees, along with freshly brewed, percolated coffee, as the Swedes drink it. Guests of the youth hostel could simply help themselves whenever they felt like it.
I have made this cake on an almost weekly basis since returning to Sydney as it is the perfect lunch box cake! No awful icing which will melt and be messy. And it takes 15 minutes to throw together and 25-30mins to cook. A word re measurements. All Swedish cake recipes are measured in decilitres – dry ingredients as well as wet ingredients. 1 decilitre is one tenth of a litre – so 100 mls. I find it much easier than weighing ingredients! You will find that all the stainless steel measuring jugs sold at IKEA are marked with decilitres ….
125 g melted butter, cooled slightly
2.5 decilitres (250 ml) caster sugar
2.5 dcl (250ml) plain flour
Frozen/fresh raspberries to taste
Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking paper. Heat oven to 175-180 deg C.
Beat eggs and sugar until really pale and fluffy.
Add flour, then melted butter.
Pour batter into cake tin and sprinkle with raspberries. My children prefer raspberries but I’m sure you could add blueberries and it would be just as delicious.
Bake for 25-30 mins or until skewer comes out cleanly.
Sprinkle with icing sugar for decoration.
Link to an event in Sydney in December around Monsieur Cadichon's release: http://www.pagesandpages.com.au/events/2011-12-14-monsieur-cadichon