Tag Archives: Viaduct Harbour

Apple & pecan streusel cake

There’s something about seeing boats and the sea that always soothes me, whether the sea is calm or stormy, and if I ever feel a bit down and just need to get outside, I tend to seek out a view of the ocean.  This was easy enough in St Andrews, where there was only a squat church and some rather high cliffs that separated the end of my street and the sea.  I was spoilt – there were plenty stunning sea views around town, and most of them no more than a 5 minute walk from my flat, if that.  Here in Auckland, I’m not quite as lucky, but the Viaduct harbour is a 15 minute walk from my flat, and full of beautiful yachts, so I can’t complain too much.  This weekend I happened to be near the harbour as the sun was setting, so I headed over for a wander around (incidentally, there are restaurants and bars around the harbour, so there are always people around and it feels quite safe to hang around even in the evenings).

I hadn’t realised that I’d been feeling quite so down until I got to the harbour and watched the sun set over the gorgeous yachts.  Feeling more at peace (and having satisfied my Instagram addiction for the day), I headed home and baked, just to reinforce my improved mood.  I find the process of creating something scrumptious out of butter, flour, sugar, eggs and a few added extras really therapeutic (well, when it works… which isn’t always the case).  The only problem with baking to cheer myself up is that, whilst I do have a sweet tooth, there’s no way I can eat an entire batch of cupcakes or a whole cake all by myself before they go stale (except that Greek yoghurt and honey cake, which provided me with breakfast for several days, thanks to the syrup that kept it moist and flavourful).  Luckily the issue is easily solved by bringing surplus baked goods into the lab, and they get polished off rather quickly.

My post-harbour baking choice was an apple and pecan streusel cake, a fantastic autumnal combination made with the last of the season’s apples (actually, I think the season might have just ended here, so I guess we’re now getting the stragglers that were hanging out in storage).  I love pecans, but sadly they tend to be a little expensive, so I hoard them whenever they’re on sale (which is how I happened to have 325g of pecans lying around).  The cake itself is moist thanks to the apples, with a bit of crunch running through it due to the pecans, and topped off more pecans in the form of a crunchy pecan and brown sugar streusel topping (I never said it was a healthy cake).  I really think it’s the topping that makes this cake so special.  Some of the topping fell off the cake in transport (although more of it stayed intact than I was expecting), and once all the cake was gone, fingers were surreptitiously dipping into the cake tin to pick up remaining bits of topping.  The tin was exceptionally clean by the time we were done…

Apple & pecan streusel cake

Makes about 25 squares
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

This cake makes a wonderful afternoon snack, accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee, and is delicious served both warm or cold.  It would also work very well with walnuts instead of pecans (the original recipe actually uses walnuts).  The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container.


For the streusel topping:
150g pecans
110g light brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
15g unsalted butter

For the cake:
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
312g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
175g pecans
2 large apples
225g unsalted butter
4 medium eggs
250ml (230g) sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract


1.  Line a 22 x 30 cm baking tin with baking paper (or if you don’t have such a large tin, use a 19 x 25 cm baking tin and a 9 x 20 cm loaf tin).  Preheat the oven to 175°C.

2.  Prepare the streusel topping.  Roughly chop the pecans and mix them together in a medium mixing bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until crumbly.  Set aside.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the two sugars for the cake.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set both aside.  Roughly chop the pecans and dice the apple into 1cm pieces.  Set aside.

4.  Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter in a large bowl for 2-3 mins until pale and fluffy.  Add the sugar gradually, and mix until fully incorporated.  Then beat in the eggs one by one, making sure to beat well between each addition.  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla (don’t worry if it looks like the mixture has curdled, this will be fixed in the next step).

5.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, but with no visible flour.  Fold in the apples and pecans.

6.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin(s), and try to spread it out more or less evenly (I found that the batter wasn’t very spreadable, but just do the best you can, and make sure to push it into the corners).  Evenly sprinkle the topping over the cake.

7.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before either cutting into squares to serve or allowing to cool fully on a wire rack.



Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Toothy’s Travels – Auckland: Volvo Ocean Race stopover

I have some exciting news: I finally have internet at home!  Which means that posting no longer involves covert blogging from my desk in the lab (blogging covertly in the sense that all the text was written and photos edited at home and I just had to upload them once connected to the internet – just to reassure my mum that I haven’t been spending all the time at my desk blogging instead of working hard.  Far from it.  Twitter on the other hand…  Kidding!  Sort of.).  I actually can’t think of a way of smoothly linking my new internet-at-home situation to the rest of this post, so in an attempt to distract you from that, here’s a photo of the Sky Tower, just in case I haven’t posted enough of them recently.  It was taken two Sundays ago from the Viaduct Harbour whilst waiting for some of the Volvo Ocean Race competitors to arrive.

As you can see, the weather was rather dismal.  Pretty similar to the weather we’ve been having since Monday actually (and due to continue until the end of the week – joy).  It wasn’t particularly cold (well, in comparison to Scotland anyway), but it was windy and drizzly and just a bit miserable.  So why, you might ask, would I voluntarily go and loiter in the harbour for several hours?

I’ve already given the answer away, but in case you are just skim-reading and missed it: the Volvo Ocean Race, that’s why.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really aware of it before moving to Auckland, so for those of you in the same boat (badum-tschhhhh), it’s a gruelling round-the-world crewed monohull race consisting of 9 legs, which departed from Alicante, Spain in October 2011 and is expected to finish in early July 2012 in Galway, Ireland, covering a total of over 39,000 nautical miles (over 72,000 km).  There are six yachts competing this year.

The race’s Auckland stopover was from the 8th to 18th of March 2012, between the 4th and 5th legs of the race, and the Viaduct Harbour was transformed into a Race Village for the duration.  Although the boats were expected to arrive on the 8th, most of them only arrived on the 11th on account of bad weather, after spending and exhausting 20 days at sea (!) and sailing well over the expected 5,220 nautical miles (9,667 km) from Sanya in China.  I completely missed the news about the delayed arrival of the yachts, so when I wondered down to the Viaduct Harbour on Sunday 11th to go see the boats (that I thought had already arrived), I managed to accidentally time my arrival perfectly with that of the PUMA yacht, which claimed 2nd place for the leg.  I wandered around (read: took lots of photos of boats and the Sky Tower when it was vaguely visible) waiting for the arrival of the next two yachts, which were battling it out for 3rd place: Telefónica and CAMPER, the Kiwi team.  Sadly CAMPER just missed out by 93 seconds – heart-breaking to watch, but they were enthusiastically welcomed back to NZ by everybody with a foghorn anyway (at least that’s what it sounded like).  In true NZ style, the 11-man crew of each yacht was given a Maori welcome, but I couldn’t get any decent photos of that because they had their backs turned to me (so inconsiderate).

The yachts spent a few days hauled out on the docks for maintenance and repairs.  I’m always fascinated to see boats out of the water – they always looks so impressive, if a little bizarre.  I made a detour via the Viaduct Harbour one evening on my way home from uni to see them – thankfully the weather was much more pleasant.  It was definitely pretty awe-inspiring to see these (multi-million dollar) state-of-the-art yachts that are at the forefront of nautical technological advances and design hauled up at such close range.

Each stopover includes an in-port race which counts towards the final results, and a Pro-Am race which doesn’t.  I wasn’t able to watch them, but I do know that CAMPER won the in-port race, much to the delight of the nation.  I also missed the start of the 5th leg on Sunday 18th (thanks to the time difference I was up until 6am following the Six Nations rugby – let’s not mention the results), which I would have liked to see.  The Volvo Ocean Race takes place every four years and the stopovers change, so we’ll see if I ever happen to be in a stopover town when the race is passing through at some point in the future.

The next Volvo Ocean Race stopover is in Itajaí, Brazil, with the yachts expected to arrive on the 4th of April, after sailing at least 6,705 nautical miles (12,418 km), making it the longest leg of the whole race.  If you happen to be in Itajaí around then, I’d definitely recommend going to watch the arrival if you can!

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Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!


Filed under Travel