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.
Recipe adapted from Call Me Cupcake.
- 85 grams butter
- 1 cup sugar (remove 2 tablespoons and reserve)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1.5 cups plain flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 250 grams strawberries
- 125 grams raspberries
- 125 grams blueberries
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and spray a springform tart tin (26cm) with baking spray.
- Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar (minus 2 tablespoons) until light and airy (about three minutes).
- Add egg, vanilla and milk and mix until well combined.
- 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.
- Pour mixture into the tart tin and then place berries on top in a random pattern.
- Sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar.
- 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).
- Serve with cream or ice cream and 250 grams fresh berries (optional).
- You can substitute the fresh berries for 500 grams (thawed) frozen mixed berries if desired.
More Cake Recipes
- Sponge Cake with Berries and Cherries
- Rosewater, Cardamon and Pistachio Bundt Cake
- Strawberry and Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
- J’s Chocolate Banana Cake (egg and dairy free)
- Upside Down Plum Cake
- Fig, Raspberry and Ginger Ice Cream Cake
- Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce
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.
Subscribe to The Hungry Australian
Don’t want to miss a new recipe or food & travel experience? Sign up to receive new posts twice a week – it’s FREE.