Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

A Birthday Cake for my brother plus a Best Australian Blogs nomination


It was my brother’s birthday last Sunday and my sister in law asked me to make the cake for his party. As they were expecting 60+ guests, I made this cake, as well as my Fig & Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and Raspberry and Chocolate Cupcakes for the kids. While baking the cakes I was reminded of a story I started writing about my brother last year. So I finished it off and thought I’d share it with you today. I hope you like it. 

When my brother and I were small he’d follow me around, let me do his hair and dress him up as a girl; our relationship was amicable and uncomplicated then. But then he grew old enough to actually string some words together and we’d spend hours fighting over the invisible line in the middle of the back seat of the car or which TV show to watch.

As insecure and awkward teenagers my brother and I tried to avoid each other as much as possible. When he wasn’t on our dad’s computer, he and his friends played sport: first they were obsessed with tennis, then skateboarding, then in-line skating, then wind surfing and then cycling. Each time they convinced their respective parents to kit them out in the required gear and accessories only to abandon them when they moved onto the next sport.

My brother was studying law/IT at university when he suddenly became cool. At the time he was playing in an indie pop/rock band called Brunatex and working an updated Bruce Lee look that consisted of my dad’s 70s leather jackets, band T-shirts, flares and Doc Martens. Pretty girls started paying him attention and he was never without a love interest. His appeal was baffling to me at the time but in hindsight I can see that I was clouded by my own prejudice.

For starters, my brother is a very secure and modest person. I remember visiting Adelaide once in the late 90s when I was working overseas and asking him what he’d been up to. “Oh, nothing much,” was his reply. Later, my mum told me that he’d just been awarded a $90,000 post-grad scholarship from a top American university and Brunatex had been nominated for Best Unsigned Act at the national Music Industry Critics Awards on the strength of their latest CD. Nothing much, indeed.

My brother is also non-judgemental. A few months ago I was telling him about a mutual acquaintance who I thought was acting dodgy. Instead of agreeing with me he said,”well, you don’t know what’s going on in her life. Maybe she has good reasons for doing what she does.” It was annoying because he’s right, of course, but it’s much more fun being self-righteous, isn’t it?

He has a dry sense of humour, too. Attending a wedding a couple of years ago, he found himself seated on a table of ABCs (Australian Born Chinese), eight of whom were doctors, thus fulfilling the Great Asian Immigrant Dream. The remaining guest was a dentist. Following introductions, J surveyed the table, looked the dentist in the eye and deadpanned, “well, I guess we’re the losers on this table.” To his credit, the dentist laughed along with the rest of the table.

My brother is also a good son. When our dad was struck down with Steven Johnson’s Syndrome just as my daughter was born in Shanghai it was my brother who spent hours researching different treatments, accompanying my parents to medical appointments, talking to the doctors and buying dad all kinds of things to improve his comfort.

With all these positive traits I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my brother is very popular; in fact, my sister in law’s sister told me, “I’ve never met anyone so popular.” Unlike some people who seem to drain your energy the minute they open their mouth — and yes, I have been that person — my brother keeps trucking steadily along no matter what’s going on. It’s a nice energy to be around.

Other points in his favour? He married D, who I adore, and who is calm, thoughtful, intelligent, good-humoured and kind. D often acts as an interpreter to my brother’s more outrageous behaviour; she’s like the good cop to his bad cop, explaining the method behind his madness. He also has two beautiful kids who we love dearly and who are hands-down the best eaters I’ve ever had the pleasure of feeding.


Points against him?

My brother is brutally honest and likes nothing more than winning an argument. Moreover, while males consider forceful discussion merely part of male bonding my brother doesn’t differentiate between the sexes. So all of J’s close female friends are part of what is known as ‘J’s Circle of Tears.’

I’m a member of The Circle myself, and sometimes I cry because he’s being such an unsympathetic asshole and sometimes I cry because I’m so frustrated with him. I want him to shut up and listen to me but he’s too busy needling me or acting like I’m mentally impaired. Memo to men: women don’t always want solutions – sometimes we just need you to listen to us.

“I’m not one of your girlfriends,” he said bluntly to me when I separated from my husband and was feeling fragile. “I’m not going to talk about your feelings – I can’t do that. But I can help in other ways. I can fix your computer. I can look after your kids.”

And there it is: my brother has shown time and time again that he’s dependable and loyal and that he’ll be there when it really matters. There’s no one I trust more and in the end, isn’t that what really counts?

I used to wish I had a sister. But now I’m grateful I have a brother because…

“MUM!” shrieks my daughter from the playroom. “Julian keeps knocking over my work.”

“What? Leave your sister alone, Julian,” I call.

“I wasn’t doing anything,” he yells back. “It’s Emily – not me! She’s not letting me play with her.”

“MUM! He’s destroying all my work!” shrieks Emily.”I’m gonna kill you, Julian!”

Sounds of slapping, punching and kicking ensue. Yelling and crying follows.

Hmmm. Perhaps some things never change.


Berry Cake

Recipe adapted from Call Me Cupcake.



  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and spray a springform tart tin (26cm) with baking spray.
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar (minus 2 tablespoons) until light and airy (about three minutes).
  3. Add egg, vanilla and milk and mix until well combined.
  4. Add flour, baking powder and salt to small bowl and mix together. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl in three lots until everything is fully combined and smooth.
  5. Pour mixture into the tart tin and then place berries on top in a random pattern.
  6. Sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees and then reduce heat to 160 degrees and bake for a further 50-55 minutes or until cooked through (an inserted skewer should come out clean).
  8. Serve with cream or ice cream and 250 grams fresh berries (optional).


More Cake Recipes

Best Australian Blogs Finalist – again!

I’m thrilled and amazed to be one of five finalists in the food category for the Best Australian Blogs 2014 competition organised by the Australian Writers’ Centre again this year. Being a finalist and winning the Outstanding Use of Photography award last year was exciting enough. But being nominated two years in a row? I’m really feeling the love right now. Thank you so much to the Australian Writers’ Centre for this lovely surprise.

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  • milkteaxx

    congrats on the nomination, well deserved! i love the burst of colours of the cake! yum!

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, dear. It was a lovely surprise :D

  • http://themoonblushbaker.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/etiquette-guides-and-malted-milk-ball.html Belinda@themoonblushbaker

    You deserve that nomination more than any one. This such a beautiful post to your bother; I recently celebrated my birthday too! Those berries in that cake just pop out from the pictures; so divine but simple.

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Aww, thanks, Belinda. I was really stunned to get nominated again this year. Happy Birthday! It is a very simple but pretty cake.

  • Maureen Shaw

    Congratulations on the blog finalist position. Well done. My brother and I were a lot like that and he will always be close to my heart even though he’s thousands of miles away. He’d sneak down in the middle of the night and eat this cake. :)

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Maureen – it was a big surprise x

  • http://chopinandmysaucepan.com/ ChopinandMysaucepan

    Dear Christina,

    Your brother is very lucky because your cake looks friggin awesome!

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Haha – thanks, mate! It was a hit at his party :)

  • http://www.gourmetgetaways.com.au/ Gourmet Getaways

    OMG! Look at the colors in that gorgeous cake! I’d love to try that for a family member’s or a friend’s birthday dinner. Thanks for the share!


    Gourmet Getaways

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Julie. It is a super easy, fuss-free cake – no extra decoration required! :D

  • Brodie Wright

    Hi Christina, I just stumbled across your blog accidentally on the WWW but as I read I realise I’ve seen your name pop up all over the place – superstar! I can now see why – your blog is absolutely beautiful. You have another loyal follower now ;-)

    Brodie aka. The Hungry Babushka

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Awww, thanks, Brodie. That’s very kind of you.

  • The Hungry Mum

    what a fabulous creation! So much colour. A massive congrats on taking out the title – you must be thrilled :) Your blog is amazing.

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thank you! It was a huge shock and it’s still sinking in :D

  • http://www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com Lizzy (Good Things)

    Congratulations Christina.

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Lizzy :)

  • Together we roam

    Congratulations on your win! What a wonderful blog. How can another blogger compete against this! Delicious photos and great writing. I am an ABC myself so I found this piece in particular very funny! Well done. Looking forward to some more yummy fun posts. xo

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Aww, thanks very much for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed this post :D

  • Gillian Saxon

    Hip Hip Hooray – you won the Best Australian Blog today! !!! well done! :)

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Gillian. It still feels completely surreal! :)

  • http://www.mykitchenstories.com.au/ My Kitchen Stories

    Congratulations christina how completely amazing for you x

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Tanya. It is equal parts exciting and surreal xx

  • diginhobart.blogspot.com.au

    congratulations on WINNING! i just got an email from the australian writers centre announcing you. well done!

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, E! It was a complete surprise but a very nice one! :)

  • Chilli and Mint

    Beautiful write up on your brother. Very poignant. I love your writing style and your photography is always very captivating. Congrats on your achievement on winning the best Oz blog – totally deserved. Your blog definitely inspires me to improve mine….since we started around the same time ;o). All the best. Torie x

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thanks, Torie :D You’re very kind. You have a gorgeous blog, too x

  • http://papayapieces.com/ Sofia

    What great words for your brother, he should be happy to read them and to receive your beautiful cakes for his birthday. :) Congratulations on winning the Best Australian Blogs! xx

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Thank you so much, Sofia. I was worried my brother would freak out about this post but he actually liked it. It must be my sister in law’s influence :)

  • http://www.gourmanda.me/ Amanda @ Gourmanda.me

    Thank you for sharing your stories of your brother. I have a (much) younger brother, and we don’t have much in common – but I hope that as he becomes an adult, we’ll find more commonalities. I know at least that I’m always there for him, and he’ll always be there for me. That’s what family is for.

    • http://www.hungryaustralian.com/ Christina Soong-Kroeger

      Awwww. That’s so sweet. I do think that the older you get the more easier talking to your sibling becomes.

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