Tag Archives: Seals

Sunday Smiles: It’s back!

Sunday SmilesSunday Smiles has somewhat fallen off the radar.  And by that I mean it has plummeted into the abyss of disorganisation and stayed there for the past two months.  Woops.  The original premise of Sunday Smiles was to give me a way to focus on the positives of the week – things that made me smile or laugh or that were simply just pretty – and aside from being disorganised, I guess I haven’t needed that so much over the last few months because I’m enjoying life in Leigh so much.  But I think it’s time to bring Sunday Smiles back,* which obviously has nothing to do with the afforded opportunity to procrastinate from writing my thesis and everything to do with all the sunrise, sunset and sea view photos that I keep posting to Instagram…

So, time to kick off another edition of Sunday Smiles:

  • You know those sunrise photos that I mentioned?  Well.  I’ve yet to get bored of the sunrises here and I’ve yet to cure my Instagram addiction…  So here’s Wednesday’s sunrise – I just can’t get over the colours:

How ridiculous are those colours?

  • One of my housemates and I have been going for walks around the Leigh area most evenings, resulting in some superb views (generally of the sea…) around sunset.  It’s difficult not to feel happy and calm here (I’ve been informed that I’ll revise my opinion in winter – we’ll see).

Super calm (it's not always like that…)

  • Ok, enough of how lucky I am at the moment, let’s move on to the cutest frog ever.  Seriously.  Since the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) sounds rather like a squeaky dog toy, it may also be the most ridiculous frog ever.
  • Speaking of cute, how utterly adorable is this little harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina) on a mission?  That is one determined seal pup.  I totally want to try this next time I have a spare surfboard and GoPro camera lying around (so probably never).
  • A couple of my housemates and I went up to Waipu for St Patrick’s and on our way back we discovered a Dutch delicatessen in more or less the middle of nowhere (Kaiwaka to be precise).  The deli (which also sells delicious cheese by the way) sold Chocomel and my favourite hagelslag ever: chocolade vlokken.  I couldn’t contain my excitement and just had to buy some, resulting in quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had, largely because, on the complete opposite side of the world from The Netherlands, it was so utterly unexpected.  Lekker!!  (PS – Chocolate sprinkles on toast is a legit breakfast.  Stop judging me.)

Mmmmmm lekker!!!

  • On a more cultured note, you may have read that Rembrandt’s The Night Watch has returned to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  But have you seen the flashmob recreation of the painting to celebrate the fact that it’s a bit of a big deal?  Isn’t that an amazing idea?
  • And finally, we wouldn’t want things to get too high-brow around here, so we’ll finish off with this excellent take on a motivational poster, which came to me courtesy of Craig (source):

218 - Inspiration

So on that inspirational note, what made you smile this week?

*Even though this is actually going up on Monday, thanks to our Internet completely conking out last night…  Living in rural NZ does have the occasional downside.



Filed under Sunday Smiles

Fun fact: It takes 3h to make a seal pup out of grated chocolate…

A friend of mine had his birthday last week and, well, let’s just say that he’s not a huge fan of the cute and fluffy variety of animal.  I had to do a presentation with him last year, and I deliberately added pictures of cute baby seals to every single one of my slides, just for a laugh.  He made me take them out (to be fair, the presentation wasn’t even particularly related to seals – it was about biodiversity and climate change, so they were only briefly mentioned), but I managed to convince him to leave this baby harp seal on the title slide:

How adorably cute is it?!  Since then, we’ve had a bit of a running joke about cute baby seals, so when Kat and I made a surprise birthday cake for him, we just had to somehow include a baby seal.  It took us about 3 hours to decorate, but we managed it, and I think we did quite a good job, even if I do say so myself…

What do you think?  We modelled it on the harp seal pup photo from the presentation.  Thankfully, Kat can draw and so she drew the outline of the seal into the icing with a toothpick (actually, I don’t have any toothpicks, so a cocktail umbrella made a wonderful substitute – we’re students, what can I say?)  We made the eyes, nose and mouth with dark chocolate chips, used roughly grated white chocolate for the fur, finely grated dark chocolate for the shading and some random little square chocolate sprinkles for the eyebrows and whiskers.

Rich & decadent chocolate cake

Serves 10-12 (using a 26cm cake tin)
Recipe from Je Sais Cuisiner

This recipe can be multiplied by 1.5 and it still works fine, but has gone wrong whenever I’ve doubled it – I think there might be too many eggs or something.  It’s quite a rich and compact cake, so you don’t need massive slices, and I definitely recommend serving it with whipped cream – we made kirsch-infused whipped cream (since we used kirsch in the cake) and it went rather fabulously.


90g all-purpose flour
140g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
140g caster sugar
70g unsalted butter
4 eggs
2 tbsp of liqueur (rum, kirsch, etc) or orange flower water
Chocolate glaçage (recipe below)


1.  Preheat the oven to 120°C, and butter a 26cm round cake tin.

2.  Break the chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter in a heat-proof bowl sitting over a saucepan filled with water and heated (you can also just do this in a saucepan heated over very low heat).

3.  Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks one-by-one, followed by the flour and then the sugar (if you want the texture of your cake to look like the photo above, and be quite “grainy” then use a wooden spoon, but if you want it to be smoother, use a hand whisk.  Both are scrumptious – it’s entirely a matter of personal taste).

4.  Whisk the four egg whites up into firm peaks, and fold them into the chocolate mixture along with your chosen liqueur.

5.  Pour the mixture into the buttered cake tin, and bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (or a cocktail umbrella…  I should really invest in some toothpicks!)

6.  Invert the cake onto a cake platter or plate or whatever you want to present it on, and cover it in chocolate glaçage (see recipe below) before decorating (use white chocolate chips, hundreds and thousands, cherries, etc).

Dark chocolate glaçage

Makes enough glaçage to cover a 26cm cake (and then some!)
Recipe from Je Sais Cuisiner.


60g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
60g unsalted butter
2 eggs


1.  Break the chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter in a heat-proof bowl sitting over a saucepan filled with water and heated (you can also just do this in a saucepan heated over very low heat).

2.  Remove from the heat, and with a hand whisk, mix in each of the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites into firm peaks and fold them into the chocolate to make a smooth mixture.

3.  Spread onto the cake using a palette knife, making the top and sides as smooth as possible (don’t worry about getting chocolate all over the plate – it is fairly easy to clean up with a bit of damp kitchen roll).  The glaçage will set as it cools.

Enjoy the cake with liqueur-infused whipped cream!


Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods