Tag Archives: baking

Happiness all rolled up.

I feel it is my civic duty to share a very important diary date…Sunday 4th October is Cinnamon Roll Day.  Really! Now that is my kind of day of celebration!

It’s a Swedish thing, as cinnamon rolls – Kanelbullens to give them their Swedish name – are a big thing there.  Very wise people the Swedish, clearly! To my mind, a decent cinnamon roll is truly a thing of beauty.

Although the locals have a distinctly sweet tooth, sadly Bruneian coffee shops are nowhere near close to serving cinnamon rolls, let alone great cinnamon rolls.  So I’ve resorted to making them myself. They’re a special treat because they are more fiddly than my usual baking repertoire, but wow are they worth the extra effort!  I use a recipe from the wonderful blogger Minimalist Baker, who, as the name suggests, keeps things simple but delicious.  I can highly recommend her recipe for cinnamon rolls.

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Home-baked deliciousness!

I think I like cinnamon rolls at least in part because you can almost kid yourself that they are healthy, if you focus on cinnamon’s health benefits.  It genuinely is a spice with a lot going for it.

Amongst a long list of beneficial uses it has anti-oxidant, antiseptic, anaesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), and carminative (anti-flatulent) properties.  Not bad for a little bit of tree bark!

It also helps to regulate blood sugar when consumed, as well as stimulating brain activity when smelled.  Powdered as a spice for flavouring both savoury and sweet foods, or used therapeutically as an essential oil, cinnamon really is super-powered.

So like I said, it’s a health food.  A superfood even.  Just this once ignore the fact that all the other ingredients in a cinnamon roll are distinctly not health-foody.

I’m looking forward to a morning in the kitchen tomorrow, baking cinnamon rolls with my girly.  She loves helping me to make cakes, almost as much as she loves eating them.  Definitely a girl after my own heart!   And you?  You should be kind to yourself on a Sunday.  Go bake a batch, or get out and treat yourself to one.  Savour every mouthful, and thank the marketing genius who came up with the concept.   Happy Cinnamon Roll Day!

‘I really don’t think I need buns of steel. I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon.’

(Ellen DeGeneres)

Word for Wednesday: O is for Ombre.

It is almost completely impossible to buy decent cake out here in Brunei.  Yet for some reason I have yet to fathom, we have an endless cycle of social and charity events where cake stalls and requests for donations of baked goods feature heavily. There’s no written expectation, but in the usual expat community way, everyone tries to do their bit. With yet another charity tea party fundraiser this afternoon that will be me back in the kitchen, routing through my recipes. It’s a good job I like baking!

Cupcakes have been specifically requested for this one (which I remembered after I’d already made a batch of chocolate slices!  Whoops!).  But I am growing decidedly bored of making the same old butter cream swirl cupcake topping.  And a splodge of runny royal icing with a generous shake of sprinkles doesn’t seem adequate for something people are paying for, somehow.  So I’ve recently started experimenting with cake toppings, and I even treated myself to my first ever icing bag and nozzles. Time to get creative!

I love the ombre cake decorating trend but wow, does it look time-consuming!  I really don’t think I have the patience or the time for that level of technical commitment.  Certainly not for a cake that I probably won’t even get the chance to sample myself.  You can’t really go to a cake stall and buy your own cake, can you?!  Although I do have a good friend’s birthday coming up soon. So perhaps I’ll do something fancy for that, to really give my icing nozzles and the ombre effect a proper test drive.

Anyway, enough about cake, more about ombre!  Did you know it actually has two completely different, unrelated meanings?


Ombre (adjective).

  • having colours or tones that shade into each other.  Used especially for fabrics, hair colouring and cake icing when the colour is graduated from light to dark.

Derivation of ombre as an adjective: French, past participle of ombrer to shade, from Italian ombrare, from ombra shade, from Latin umbra.  First Known Use: 1893.


Ombre (noun).

  • a card game, played by three players with 40 cards.  Especially popular during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Derivation of ombre as a noun: French or Spanish; French hombre, from Spanish, literally, man.  First Known Use: around 1661.



I’m more into cake than cards personally, but in this case I knew of the card game before I knew of the colour effect.  Classic literature is great for giving an insight into language and life in the past.  William Makepeace Thackeray in his satirical 1840s novel, Vanity Fair, wrote:

“It was there that Egalite Orleans roasted partridges on the night when he and the Marquis of Steyne won a hundred thousand from a great personage at ombre.  Half of the money went to the French Revolution, half to purchase Lord Gaunt’s Marquisate and Garter”.

(WIlliam Makepeace Thackeray).

Marie Antoinette was born around 100 years before the publication of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and was alive during the height of ombre’s popularity at the cards table.  The infamous 18th Century Queen of France and Navarre is credited with some absolutely brilliant quotations.  The one that springs to mind on this occasion is that ‘there is nothing new except what has been forgotten’.

According to the oracle that is Wikipedia, the name of the cards game stems from the Spanish phrase originally used by the player who declared trumps.  Yo soy el hombre, or ‘I am the man’.  So it turns out that although the game may no longer be in common usage, the current ‘Who’s the man?!’ / ‘I’m the man!’ rhetoric of cool kids everywhere has actually been around for literally centuries.  Fancy that!

Feeling the buzz.

I seem to have super-strengths when it comes to drinking huge quantities of tea, but I confess that when it comes to coffee, I am a bit of a caffeine weakling. I love a good cup of coffee, but the racing-mind buzz overload and borderline palpitations aren’t for me really.  Although I have strayed dangerously close on occasion, on particularly long, stressful days, when only a coffee (or three!) will do.

The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, et cetera. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing, or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.

(Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail).

But today is unusual, in that I have been to a very enjoyable coffee morning round at a friend’s house.  And by happy coincident, it is also International Coffee Day. A celebration of the internationally beloved beverage and a day promoting the virtues of fair trade coffee.

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And of course you can not have a coffee morning without cake!  Especially not on a day of celebration!  So I gave these cinnamon rolls a whirl.  I have been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for ages, so this was just the excuse I needed.  It meant a busy morning beforehand, although this recipe was way easier than most I’ve seen.  And the pay-out was the dual caffeine and sugar hits.  A winning combination and most definitely worth it!

Although I did not always agree with his rulings, I enjoyed Judge Huffman and his personality.  He truly enjoyed the courthouse camaraderie. Every year he would bring cinnamon rolls to his office and invite everyone in the courthouse to join him for coffee and cinnamon rolls.

(Attorney Robin Green)

So my week started with caffeine, cake and friends.  The perfect Monday morning!  Although here I am, running rapidly towards an afternoon post-caffeine, post-sugar crash. Now the question is, do I try to exercise a modicum of willpower and brace myself, or do I give in gracefully and go in search of tea and biscuits?!