Bake Australia Great just in time for Australia Day

This mad-cap collection of edible Australiana will win over anyone with a love for the land of the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House and Big Banana. Style maven Katherine Sabbath's deliciously witty cakes range from kitsch and cute, to stylish and sophisticated.

Dame Edna koala cake. Picture: Supplied.

Dame Edna koala cake. Picture: Supplied.

Dame Edna koala

Dame Edna Everage, self-proclaimed housewife megastar, is one of Australia's most internationally recognised characters, known for her waves of "wisteria" hair, bejewelled glasses and animated greeting: "Hello, possums!" She is the alter-ego of comedy genius Barry Humphries and has made generations of Aussies laugh and squirm. This cheeky koala is modelling her enviable glasses.

Violet velvet cake

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 cup caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

violet gel food colouring

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan forced. Grease a 23cm ovenproof bowl and line a cupcake tray with one cupcake case.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together.

3. Using an electric mixer, whisk the oil and vanilla at high speed until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.

4. Gently incorporate the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Add the food colouring until the desired shade is reached and gently mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.

5. Fill the cupcake case with batter and pour the rest into the ovenproof bowl. Bake the cupcake for 10-15 minutes and the bowl cake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the bowl for one hour, then turn onto a wire rack, upside down, to cool completely. Cover and set aside until needed.

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

8 large egg whites

2 cups unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

pink and violet gel food colouring

Method

1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a heatproof glass bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is slightly warm to the touch. Remove from the heat.

2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has formed stiff and glossy peaks (about 10-15 minutes).

3. Add the butter in three batches, beating until incorporated after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until fluffy. Tint half of the buttercream pink and the other half violet. Cover and set aside in a cool place.

Assembly and decoration

Ingredients

1/2 cup lemon curd

4 toothpicks

black liquorice rope

1 liquorice roll

200g dark chocolate melts

black oil-based or powdered chocolate colouring optional)

silver cachous

10 gummy jubes, halved lengthways

2 liquorice allsorts

Method

1. Using a long, thin knife, trim the bowl cake and cupcake so they're level. Cut the cupcake in half vertically to make two ears. Cut the bowl cake in half horizontally to make two layers.

2. Working on a cake turntable or lazy Susan, secure the bottom layer of cake onto a cake board or serving plate with a dollop of pink buttercream and then gently twist in place. Use an offset spatula to cover the top of the cake with a layer of pink buttercream, spreading it right to the edge.

3. Fill a piping bag with pink buttercream and pipe a 1cm barrier around the edge of the cake to create a "dam". Fill the "dam" with lemon curd and gently place the second cake layer on top.

4. Using an offset spatula, gently crumb coat the cake with pink buttercream. Spread the buttercream over the cupcake ears. Attach the ears to the sides of the head, with the top of the cupcakes facing forwards, and secure with toothpicks. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

5. Apply a final layer of pink buttercream to the chilled cake and use a small cake scraper to smooth the buttercream.

6. Slice the liquorice rope and the liquorice roll to make the eyes, nose and mouth. Gently embed them into the cake.

7. Apply a small amount of violet buttercream to the centre of the ears.

8. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with the violet buttercream. Pipe waves of hair onto the cake.

9. Melt the dark chocolate using either the microwave or double-boiler method. Tint with black chocolate colouring, if using. Spoon the chocolate into a piping bag with the tip cut off at 2-3mm. Trace the glasses template onto a sheet of baking paper. Pipe the outline of the glasses and then fill in with more chocolate. Apply a second layer of chocolate if needed. Before the chocolate sets, quickly decorate the glasses with the silver cachous. Leave the glasses to set completely (you can speed this up by placing them in the freezer or refrigerator for 10-15 minutes).

10. Gently embed the chocolate glasses onto the cake, using some left-over buttercream to stick them if needed. Adorn the cake with the gummy jubes, and use the liquorice allsorts for earrings.

Decorating Tip: If you don't wish to make the glasses out of chocolate, look for Dame Edna tribute sunglasses in costume stores and online. Simply unscrew the arms when using on the cake. They can be put back together afterwards.

Storage: This cake can be refrigerated for up to five days. It's best served at room temperature.

Serves 16.

Fairy bread cake. Picture: Supplied

Fairy bread cake. Picture: Supplied

Fairy bread cake

When I was growing up, no kid's birthday could be celebrated without a plate of sugar-studded, floppy white fairy bread (and hold the butter please, we're in margarine territory). I'm pretty sure I learned on the first day of primary school that "one simply does not party without sprinkle-covered bread". You'll be delighted with this fluffier and rather less floppy version of my childhood favourite. Cake cheekily masquerading as non-cake is among my favourite things in life, right up there with miniature fruit and vegetables, and dogs wearing T-shirts.

Vanilla cake

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 large pinch salt

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup milk, at room temperature

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan forced. Grease a 25.5cm square cake tin and line the tin with baking paper.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add the salt.

3. Alternately fold in the flour and the milk, in one-third increments. Fold until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the tin. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

250g cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 tbsp single cream

1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Method

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, cream and lemon juice, if using, until thick and creamy.

Assembly and decoration

Ingredients

3/4 cup assorted sprinkles

Method

1. Use a long, thin knife to level the top of the cake.

2. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cake and cover with sprinkles.

3. Cut the cake into large triangles or serve as one giant slice.

Serves 12.

Flamin' galah cupcakes. Picture: Supplied

Flamin' galah cupcakes. Picture: Supplied

Flamin' galah cupcakes

A flamin' galah: Australian slang for someone who is a bit daft, but loveable nonetheless. The friendly galah is my absolute favourite bird of the cockatoo family: not only do pink and grey work fabulously well together as a colour combination, but galahs can often be found showing off and larking around with their mates. These scrumptious cupcakes are filled with character, and make the perfect easy treat for your own loveable little clowns.

Vanilla cupcakes

Ingredients

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 pinch salt

1 cup self-raising flour

2/3 cup milk, at room temperature

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan forced. Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with cupcake cases.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add the salt.

3. Alternately fold in the flour and the milk, in one-third increments. Fold until just combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake cases, filling each one about three-quarters full.

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla buttercream

Ingredients

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

black and pink food colouring

Method

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until very pale. Gradually add the icing sugar while beating on low speed. Add the milk and vanilla and beat on high speed until fluffy.

2. Divide the buttercream into two bowls. Colour one bowl grey by mixing in a small amount of black food colouring, and colour the second bowl pink by mixing in a small amount of pink food colouring.

Assembly and decoration

Ingredients

12 white marshmallows

12 brown Smarties

black food paint or black food dye

12 pink marshmallows

24 cashew nuts

Method

1. Use a butter knife or small offset spatula to apply grey buttercream in feather-like strokes to the top half of each cupcake. Repeat the same technique on the bottom halves using pink buttercream.

2. Place a white marshmallow in the centre of each cupcake. Paint the Smarties black using the food paint or food dye. Use a small amount of buttercream to stick the painted Smarties onto the marshmallows.

3. Use a pair of clean, sharp scissors to cut each pink marshmallow horizontally into three slices. Place above the marshmallow eye to create the crest of each galah.

4. Use the cashew nuts to create a beak for each galah cupcake. Now they're ready to squawk!

Makes 12.

Sydney Opera House pavlova. Picture: Supplied

Sydney Opera House pavlova. Picture: Supplied

Sydney Opera House pav

The Sydney Opera House, with its distinctive white sails, is one of the 20th century's most famous buildings. Designed by Danish architect Jrn Utzon, it opened in 1973 and is among the most popular visitor attractions in Australia. In 2007 the Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this dessert, I've combined the iconic silhouette of the Opera House sails (don't they look smashing in pink?) with our beloved pavlova, which at times can be a structural feat in its own right. So, a bit of architectural elegance meets edible engineering.

Pavlova

Ingredients

6 egg whites

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

3 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white vinegar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on the paper.

2. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and sugar on high speed for 15 minutes or until thick and glossy and the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar until combined.

3. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the tray in the centre of the circle and smooth the surface. Using an offset spatula, drag the meringue upwards from the bottom into peaks.

4. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 100C. Bake for 80 minutes or until the outside of the pavlova is crisp and dry. Turn off the oven and leave the pavlova to cool in the oven with the door ajar for at least six hours or until cooled completely, preferably overnight.

Spiced peaches

Ingredients

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup caster sugar

1/4 tsp ground allspice

4 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

4 peaches, stones removed, thinly sliced

Method

1. Combine the water, sugar, allspice, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for eight to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

2. Place the peach slices in a heatproof bowl and pour in the syrup. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Raspberry swirl white chocolate

Ingredients

500g good-quality white chocolate, chopped (see tips)

pink oil-based or powdered chocolate colouring

1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries

Method

1. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. Melt the white chocolate using either the microwave or double-boiler method.

3. Place cup of the melted chocolate in a smaller heatproof bowl and mix in a small amount of pink colouring until the desired shade is reached.

4. Pour the white chocolate onto the baking tray. Use an offset metal spatula or a metal spoon to spread the chocolate in an even layer over the tray.

5. Dollop the pink chocolate onto the white chocolate in various places. Working quickly, use a skewer to swirl the chocolate to create a marbled pattern. As soon as you are happy with the pattern, press the freeze-dried raspberries into the chocolate. Give the tray a little shake to help embed the raspberries. Place in the freezer for one hour or until completely set.

6. Carefully snap the set chocolate into sail-like shapes. If the chocolate has set firm enough, it should snap quite easily.

Assembly and decoration

Ingredients

500g mascarpone cheese

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

300ml single cream, whipped

1 handful fresh raspberries

Method

1. Carefully place the pavlova on a cake stand or serving plate.

2. Combine the mascarpone and vanilla in a bowl, then gently spoon into the centre of the pavlova.

3. Top the pavlova with the whipped cream and the drained peaches. Adorn with the chocolate "sails" to emulate the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Add a handful of fresh raspberries. Serve immediately.

Storage: The pavlova is best served as soon as it is decorated. It can be refrigerated for four days, but will soften once it absorbs the moisture from the peaches.

Bake Australia Great by Katherine Sabbath.

Bake Australia Great by Katherine Sabbath.

Decorating tips: If you are using any type of couverture chocolate (my personal favourite), which has a high cocoa butter content, you will need to temper (also known as "crystallise") the chocolate in order to obtain the best taste, texture and overall results.

You will find freeze-dried raspberries in most health food stores and specialty grocers, or you can buy them online.

You could also top the pavlova with some fresh passionfruit pulp.

Serves 18-20.

Bake Australia Great: Classic Australian icons made edible by one kool Kat, by Katherine Sabbath. Murdoch Books, $39.99

This story Bake Australia Great just in time for Australia Day first appeared on The Canberra Times.