Baking in Translation: NZ Ingredients for US Recipes

Two weeks ago, I started a riot on my personal Facebook page with this photo:

Boston_cream_piesThat’s two homemade Boston cream pies. Vanilla cakes filled with vanilla-bean pastry cream and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. They look delicious, but there was a problem: when I used the US recipe for the cakes with New Zealand ingredients, the cakes didn’t come out light and fluffy, as they are supposed to be. Instead, they were almost as heavy as pound cake, squeezing out the vanilla-bean custard when the cake was sliced and served. This varied outcome is a good example of what can happen when you try to bake US recipes with New Zealand ingredients.

So, this post is here to help you adjust US baking recipes for the NZ kitchen. And it focuses on baking from scratch. This isn’t just a baking challenge for Yankee expatriates in New Zealand. If you are entranced by images on a popular culinary blog overseas, you might try to recreate the recipe…and run into some problems, or find that the result doesn’t have exactly the taste or texture you expected. This post is here to help.

As I learned when I tried to find a Boston cream pie recipe, many US baking recipes now rely to an alarming degree upon mixes and packaged items. If you want that artificial baking-mix flavor, it’s waiting for you in the baking aisle of a large NZ grocery store. But that’s not going to help you make challah bread, St. Louis butter cake, flaky pie crust, or…the list goes on.[Read more]

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Travel: A New England Interlude

Where have I been? First I was getting ready for a trip to the USA, and then…I was on the trip. Now that I’m at the midpoint I have time to share some of my adventures with you.

First, I spent close to two weeks in New Haven, Connecticut, for my mother’s 70th birthday, related festivities, and general catching up. I also had the great pleasure of seeing my Internet pen pal Michelle and her husband Mark, and with a friend of mine who teaches historical dance and is the mastermind behind the blog Rixosous. Most of all, seeing my mom doing well, catching up with her, reconnecting…oh, man. All the Feels. All of them.

CT-NewHavenThe mean streets of New Haven, Connecticut.

CT-YaleMuseumIn the Yale Museum of Art. Yale’s two art museums are free.

CT-MarshyBackyardSpring woodlands.


I made my mom’s 70th birthday cake for her birthday crowd: orange buttercream and vanilla wine cake (recipe for the cake layer is here).

CT-ChicksKicking it old school at Chick’s, a vintage seafood drive-in by the shoreline. This was where we went after the beach when we were young….Revisiting it, it looks grim and utilitarian, but the food still can’t be beat.

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Tiramisu, To Scale

This tiramisu image by Shok is pretty much what mine looks like. Image reused under Creative Commons with thanksA friend of mine had her New Zealand citizenship party the other night. I plonked a tiramisu on the dessert table between the New Zealand flag sponge cake and the pavlova. It was the perfect creamy transition between the two. I’ve been asked for the recipe, so here it is!

Sometimes I want to make tiramisu for a small, intimate dinner party. And sometimes I want a bathtub-sized tiramisu to take along to a 50-person bring-a-plate. I get tired of scouting around for the right sized tiramisu recipe, so here is one recipe to fulfill all your tiramisu needs.

Creamy and oozy, utterly natural, if you want this to behave when served, prepare it in individual serving ramekins/cups/bowls. If you want a tiramisu cake, which is guaranteed to “plate up” neatly, here’s a grand recipe anointed by many a food blogger.

The Small one is for 2 to 6 servings, and it can be split between cups or ramekins for that number – it’s a bit richer than the two larger versions. The Medium is a good one for a larger party, 6 to 10 servings. And the Giant, perfect for a 9″ x 13″ tray, is for when you want to feed the world 18+ servings.

Ingredients Small / In Individual Cups / 2 to 6 Servings
Medium / Loaf Pan / 6 to 10 Servings Giant / 9″ x 13″ Tray / 18+ Servings
Mascarpone 200 gm 500 gm 1000 gm
Ladyfingers/savoiardi biscuits Half a regular packet One regular packet Two regular packets, one food service packet
Eggs 1 yolk 2 yolks 4 yolks
Confectioners sugar 2 tablespoons 3 tablespoons 6 tablespoons
Vanilla extract or paste ½  teaspoon 1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons
Rum 1 tablespoon 2 tablespoons 4 tablespoons
Espresso 2 tablespoons 3 tablespoons 6 – 7 tablespoons
Cocoa powder 1 tablespoon 2 – 4 tablespoons 4 – 5 tablespoons
Whipped cream 75 ml cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar 150 ml cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar 300 ml cream, whipped with 4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  1. Tiramisu by FrancescaV, reused under Creative Commons, see link below.Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and frothy. Use an electric mixer/beater for best results.
  2. Add 2/3 of the rum, the confectioner’s sugar, the vanilla, and the mascarpone. Whisk until blended.
  3. Assemble the base layer of the tiramisu using the lady fingers. Put the coffee and the rest of the rum into a flat bowl. Dip a ladyfinger in the coffee/rum briefly on each side, then place it in the base of your dish. If using a ramekin/teacup/etc., break ladyfingers to size, then dip and place. Repeat until the base is covered in one layer.
  4. Pour enough mascarpone mix over the ladyfinger layer to cover. Sprinkle cocoa powder generously over the layer.
  5. Repeat this until your dish has layers. A loaf pan takes 2 to 3 layers, the 9 x 13 pan recipe takes 2 layers.
  6. Refrigerate overnight, covered.
  7. Cover with whipped cream before serving and sprinkle with a final dusting of cocoa powder.

Sugar Note: You can substitute caster sugar for confectioner’s sugar. Confectioner’s will give a better result, but it contains corn starch, which some people are allergic to.

Food Safety Note: If this is being served on a buffet or for a “bring a plate”, keep it cold and bring it out at dessert time. It contains raw egg yolks. Making the Giant one in a heavy glass or ceramic pan keeps it colder for longer on your table.

Mix it up with: Cinnamon, berries, cherries, chocolate shavings, more booze but not too much more.

In-process image courtesy of Francesca V – her very similar tiramisu recipe is here, in Italian. She wrote a book on tiramisu!