Dear Reader, I have a curious question for you that I'd love to hear your thoughts about. When you dine out, do you always leave a tip? I know that in the United States, it's pretty much compulsory and a lack of tip will have you chased and possibly chewed out for it. But in Australia, what is the etiquette?
My family and I were dining out recently in a nice Sydney restaurant for my father's birthday. Mains were around $33 on average and service was quite friendly and attentive. The bill came to $311.00 and my mother asked me how much we should tip. We thought that 10% was the norm - we usually round up to make things easier so I suggested that she pay $340. Upon leaving, my sister heard the waiter remarking to another about the "$29" tip that we left as we were walking past. Was it disparaging? Did he expect more? Or was it just a competition between wait staff? Nevertheless, it left us feeling bad that we had tipped $29 or 9%.
Anyway, the only reason why I bring this up is that it was for my father's birthday which is whom I baked this cake for. The task of making his birthday cake usually falls to me. Given that his birthday is on January 1st, I try and bake the cake a day or two ahead and leave the easier parts to do on the day while nursing a sore head. I first saw this idea for a stained glass cake in the Lily Vanilli book called "Sweet Tooth" (sent for review) which is a shrine to quirky, clever cake ideas. Not only is the cloth bound cover gorgeous, Lily has some Halloweeny themed treats as well as pretty ones. If ever I were to write a cookbook myself, it would be similar to this! One of my father's hobbies is stained glass so I thought that this would be perfect for him.
The cake, as my father is scrupulous about his weight, is a low fat cake made with zucchini and sultanas which remained moist and spicy for a few days. I couldn't go all low fat and the icing is that addictive sweet cream cheese icing with a touch of lemon to lighten it. I think that he was pleased with the cake - my father is a man of very few words but I was quite pleased with how it turned out and how the cake remained moist after a few days. And coat almost anything in cream cheese icing and I'm happy!
Anyway, back to the question that arose from my father's birthday dinner. In Sydney, unless the service is bad I always tip around 10% but usually rounded up so sometimes it's 9%, something 14%. But how do you feel about tipping Dear Reader? Do you always do it and if so, how much do you tip? Do you round up or tip a set amount?
Stained Glass Cake
Makes a large 23cm/9.2 inch double layered cake and a medium 20cm/8 inch double layered cake
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella, stained glass instructions adapted from Lily Vanilli's "Sweet Tooth" published by Allen & Unwin Canongate RRP $39.99AUD
Low Fat Zucchini Cake
Makes a very large cake that serves 25-30, halve for a more regular size
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups caster or superfine sugar
1 cup apple sauce (you can also use a mild flavoured oil)
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups self raising flour
1 cup cornflour or cornstarch
1/2 cup white chia seeds
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk soured with a tablespoon of lemon juice)
4 cups grated zucchini
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1 cup sultanas
For cream cheese icing
250g cream cheese, softened
250g butter, softened
4-5 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For stained glass
oil cooking spray
785grams caster or superfine sugar
250ml liquid glucose
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a 25cm and a 20cm cake tin with parchment. You can also make a smaller cake and halve the quantity. In a very large bowl beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and apple sauce and beat until well combined and thickened. In another bowl mix the flours, chia seeds and add the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Step 2 - Add the buttermilk in two lots alternating with the zucchini, nuts and sultanas. Divide between tins and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (check after an hour to see doneness with a skewer inserted in the middle).
Trimming the cake so that it is flat
Step 3 - Cool and trim the cakes and then wrap well in plastic wrap until needed. You can bake the cake up to 2 days ahead as it's a moist cake.
Spreading with cream cheese icing
Step 4 - Make cream cheese icing by beating cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the icing sugar and lemon juice on low speed and then beat until smooth. Cut each cake in half horizontally and place one large one on the bottom of a serving plate. Spread with the icing across the cake with an angled spatula and then place the other large cake. Repeat with the smaller cakes.
Step 5 - Make the crumb layer of frosting. This is to pick up any stray crumbs on the cake. Using a spoon, dollop the icing onto the cake and spread with the angled spatula making a thin layer. It should be thin enough to see bits of the cake through the icing but it's just there to catch any extra bits. Refrigerate the cake for about half an hour (I turn up the chill in the fridge higher as the weather is so hot at the moment) so that the crumb layer firms up but don't refrigerate the rest of the icing just yet. During this time you can get started on the stained glass but this should really be made just before serving it as the "glass" can melt in humid climates.
The crumb layer
Step 6 - Remove the cake from the fridge and place the final layer of frosting on the cake. Smooth well with the angled spatula and you should get a nice smoothish pattern-you don't need it perfect with cream cheese icing. Place in the fridge until you need it.
Step 7 - Make coloured stained glass sugar shards. Spray two baking trays with oil spray. In a heavy based saucepan, place the water, sugar, liquid glucose and cream of tartar. Place on medium heat and dissolve the sugar well. Clip the sugar thermometer to the pan and increase heat to high until it reaches 150c/300F which takes about 15 or so minutes. Do not stir during this time at all.
Step 8 - Meanwhile, have your gel colours ready and as many bowls as you need. Heat the bowls in the oven or microwave to keep them warm. Once the sugar has reached the temperature, divide it into the number of bowls and colours that you want and quickly tint them-they'll start to set quickly once it hits cooler air so the warm bowls will help keep them liquid. Be careful, hot sugar is extremely hot! Some colours combine better than others-I found the green hard to combine and it will bubble when added.
Smashing the glass
Step 9 - Pour into prepared tins. I used one tin for two colours just pouring each colour onto one side. Allow to set, it doesn't take long and once completely hard, take a meat mallet and smash it into shards. It's immensely satisfying! Once the shards are cool, press them onto the cake into a pattern using the smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.