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A plateful of nostalgia

February 22, 2010

If you are lucky and travel to New Zealand, and try out some of the small home-grown cafés, one of the first things you will notice is the food.  Food that sublimely sends EAT ME messages as you courageously move past the counter. Home-style delicious baked sweets meant to entice with thick icing, rich filling, and generous portion. Reminiscent of any decent grandmother’s pantry, this food may be the end of all good diets, but it is the latest trend in New Zealand’s continuing love affair with eating. It draws on traditional recipes from grannies and past memories, something I would call — nostalgia baking.

Being a big fan of large cakes and sweet treats — in the past — I usually tend to steer clear of this food group until I am again on New Zealand soil. Once I’ve cleared customs and moved into the arrivals hall, my regressed food habits emerge in a sequence of planned out events. I direct myself to the yummiest café or kiosk around, sniff out what’s on offer, then happily dismiss my angelic conscience before inhaling at least one large calorie enhancing sweet. One hundred percent guilt free.

The fun part is not actually eating the sweet — that ranks as second — but the trip back into my family’s kitchen or the childhood bakery. Foods that my grandmother’s generation made have now been put back on the afternoon-tea table. Hopefully this trend will continue.

Since I don’t have a kitchen or bakery to invite you into, I thought I would introduce you to some of New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) old-time favourites.

Melting Moments with Afghans and Anzacs

All of these — believe it or not — are biscuits (cookies)

Melting Moment

Scottish in origin, Melting Moments are pieces of shortbread sandwiched together with a cream icing.  Fans of shortbread will enjoy these anytime, anywhere. Cleaning fanatics will not.


Click here for the recipe — Melting Moments


Not what you are thinking. It doesn’t refer to Afghanis or the US, or anything to do with the present situation in this country. The biscuit’s name came about from its colour which is dark. Perhaps it reminded someone of the craggy mountains in Afghanistan, but no one really knows. I remember avoiding these biscuits as a child because of the crunchy dry nature and the walnut on top. Although these days the biscuit is not as dry and often the walnut is exchanged for dried apricots or other fruit.

Via wiki creative commons

Click here for a recipe — Afghan Biscuits


The acronym ANZAC stands for Australia, New Zealand Army Corp, and refers to soldiers from those countries who fought together during the First World War. Women from both countries would send a special type of biscuit to the loved ones fighting in the trenches. This biscuit was special as it held its flavour and freshness over the long travels by ship. One of my favourite all time New Zealand biscuit, it hasn’t changed much over the years.

Via wiki creative commons

For a recipe click here — Anzac Biscuits

Childhood parties — lolly, fairy and butterfly cakes

Before I begin I have a secret to share. I have always believed that something was seriously wrong with my taste buds as a child. Some of the popular party sweets madly being consumed by children at that time, were, in my small mind, some of the worst looking and tasting cakes being baked. To date I’m not partial to these cakes and I don’t really know why.

Lolly Cake

A concoction of malt biscuits, desiccated coconut, sweetened condensed milk and a type of lolly (candy) called fruit puffs, which is best described as a harden marshmallow. Eat plenty of this and you will need to take out shares in a dental practice. There should be some food warning label put on this for small children and parents. Anyone who eats a slice will go into sugar overload.


The lolly cake was one of the first things to be devoured by children at parties. Unfortunately for me the colour was reminiscent of something completely inedible and had to be avoided (while turning up my nose).

But I did try a piece a month ago.

For a recipe click here — Lolly Cake

Fairy Cake

What is fairy to the UK is cup to the US. If you are a foodie then you will know about these sweet decadent, wonderfully colourful cakes and their fast growing fan club.  But do you know what these cakes look like naked?

Via wiki creative commons

For a recipe click here — Fairy Cake

Butterfly Cake

Take one small Fairy Cake and cut two halves through the top to resemble butterfly wings, and you have a Butterfly Cake.

Via wiki creative commons

No need to download a special recipe you can uses a fairy cake recipe and slice the top into two wings like the picture.

Ladies, a plate

If there is one phrase known to confuse female expats and frustrate 99.99% of New Zealand women through the generations, it has to be — Ladies, a plate.

Whenever I saw this phrase or its associated acronym L.A.P. boldly typed at the bottom of a school notice, a sports newsletter or something community driven, I knew it would send my mother into a state of frustration and me into the living room to give her space.

Quite simply L.A.P. politely requests (or demands) women to bring a plate filled with some of their best baked treats so the other ladies and gentlemen attendees, fellow parents and teachers can scoff these down after the meeting or event has finished. It puzzled me how it was directed to the ladies and never gentlemen of the group.

Of course the housewives of generations past knew it was a competition to bring the highest, softest and fluffiest of sponges, the richest of chocolate cakes and the finest of finger sandwiches. Not forgetting the creamiest of lamingtons.

To make this Australian icon  —  take a stale sponge cake, cut it into thick squares, make up a runny chocolate or raspberry flavoured icing, dunk the sponge in the runny liquid and when these have dried, halve the sponge pieces and fill with cream. Terrific artery clogging food but, my oh my, these are good.  Click here for a recipe — Lamingtons

Via wiki creative commons

I found a recipe book published around 2008 aptly titled Ladies, A Plate. Inside is a fantastic collection of recipes picked up from community cookbooks. Even though I plan on going back to my zero sweets diet, I’ll be taking a copy of this book back to the US to remind me of New Zealand, the cafés and a kiwi’s love for nostalgia. Plus it should make me look creative if I can successfully turn out a recipe unheard of in the States 🙂

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. travelforaircraft permalink
    February 22, 2010 10:48 pm

    My vote is for the Butterfly Cake — though the Lolly Cake looks to be good, too, once in a while 🙂

    Thanks 🙂

  2. February 23, 2010 2:52 am

    Mouthwateringly delicious itsy bitsy bits!!!!! I’m looking at this post before breakfast in Sweden, and it’s making me want those with a warm cup of chocolate!

  3. February 23, 2010 12:14 pm

    Lamingtons are really popular at cafes in South Africa. But somehow, even though they always looked so tempting when I saw them, I never managed to order one… maybe I’ll have to just give in if I spot one during my shot visit back there next month. -X

  4. Erica Johansson permalink
    February 23, 2010 4:46 pm

    I haven’t eaten sweets in two weeks or so. This is making me hungry! 🙂 The Afhgans look delicious. I totally understand why you were averse to the lolly cakes though. They don’t look good at all – too articial. I’d much rather bake some butterfly cakes.

    Thanks for sharing all these recipes. Loved this post!

  5. February 24, 2010 12:49 am

    Had never heard of L.A.P., but after reading this, I think introducting it here in my neighborhood would be a grand idea. Nothing bad about a little compeititive baking among friends, right? Oh, how fun it would be to link back to this post with more baked treats. OK, time to find the apron. (Thank you for the inspiring & mouthwatering post).

  6. February 24, 2010 12:41 pm

    Hi Cate,
    I’ve recently gone on a baking spree with my 3-year-old! It maybe because of my ‘nesting instincts’ as baby girl no.2 is due anytime mid-March! Thanks for sharing all these nostalgic recipes! Will definitely bookmark this one for future baking projects!!

  7. February 24, 2010 3:43 pm

    Travel for Aircraft – I think you may OD on the lollycake.

    Cheryl – maybe I will see one of these goodies on your next baking post 🙂

    Erica and X – try the lamingtons if you like sponge and coconut. The afghans are good if you like a crunchy cookie

    Lorraine – good luck with the LAP project!!!

    Jen – I can understand that even though I haven’t experienced it, I’ve seen my friends head to the kitchen during their pregnancies.

  8. February 26, 2010 4:18 pm

    Wow these are great. My wife would extremely be interested since she’s the domestic one, although the lolly cakes, seem like an adaption of fruit cake. The adage that mixing two great things makes one greater thing doesn’t always work.

  9. February 28, 2010 5:47 pm

    Give me granny cakes any day of the week – love them all except lamingtons!! Great post – I think fairy cakes and butterfly cakes would probably have travelled to NZ from UK??

  10. February 28, 2010 8:54 pm

    Spencer – Having eaten and suffered American fruit cake, I can vouch that the lollycake is MUCH tastier less sticky and generally good. Somehow somewhere the UK fruitcake got lost in translation when it hit US shores centuries ago.

    Catherine – You are right most of New Zealand’s baking was heavily influenced by the UK.

  11. March 3, 2010 11:00 pm

    Yummy, Cate! I’m not much of a baker myself but you make me want to at least try.

  12. March 4, 2010 4:02 pm

    Anja – Same! I also think good bakers are like good gardeners – they have a special something.


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