Birthday Bonfire

This year our cousin’s husband, Colin turned 70, and to celebrate, their annual bonfire became a very festive affair. Held on the property where our grandparent’s home once was, people travelled from everywhere to join the party – the yard looked like a caravan park when we pulled in on the Saturday night.

To get there, Gary and I left home at 10 am and travelled to Melbourne where we stopped to pick up my sister Sonya. Then we continued on to Stawell and had a lovely visit with my mother for a couple of hours before finally arriving at Navarre just after 6. It was dark and cold. But with the power and water turned on, we soon had the house warmed up and dinner cooking. We were all a tad weary…

After listening to the rain on the tin roof through the night, we were wondering how the bonfire would fire up the next night, however when we got up in the morning, the rain seemed to have cleared, even if the skies hadn’t! Sonnie and I had work to do… Sonnie had made the birthday cake and had to decorate it, she had also made a pavlova that needed to be finished off. I needed to make a dessert as well. This is where the fun started….

Sunset at Navarre

Firstly I set to making the dessert, it was to be a gateau of rhubarb, apples and almonds. The recipe for the base was in French, but I knew that I could follow it. I had brought all the ingredients from home including rhubarb from our garden and bottled apples from our store. So I drained the apples and got the rhubarb into the oven to bake. Then it was time to make the cake. With the mixer uncovered I got all the ingredients ready and got to work. The egg whites whipped up beautifully. Following the recipe I then whipped up the egg yolks and sugar, and added the dry ingredients – ughh, the mixture seized – what to do… I grabbed another egg and added that in, it helped to loosen the mix a little, so then I started to fold through the egg whites, not perfect, but it would have to do. With the mixture poured into the lined tin, it went into the oven to bake while we set to cleaning up the mess! The timer went off and when I took the cake from the oven, I saw that it was very uneven and very thin in one corner, really – what next. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. The house is very old and the land is subject to flooding… The cake looked OK, even if a little lop-sided.


Next it was Sonnie’s turn. She needed to make the butter cream for the birthday cake. The problem here was that the mixer seemed to have only one speed – very fast! So with the butter in the mixer, the bowl was almost ready to take off!! Then the icing sugar went in, or should I say, went out, up, and everywhere, including over Sonnie! We threw a tea towel over the whole thing to try and calm the situation down a little. All we could do was laugh. With persistence, the butter cream was made and Sonnie set to decorating the cake. She dropped a couple of little round sweets on the floor and they all rolled to one corner – yes, we decided that the reason for the crooked cake was because we were in a crooked house.

Our other sister Jan arrived and we all had a lovely afternoon sitting and chatting, then set to filling the pav and finishing off the cake. I carefully sliced a slither from one of the higher corners and used some of the fruit syrup to attach it to the lower corner. Sonnie whipped the cream for both the pav and the cake and we decorated them.

All ready, we just needed to await the arrival of the younger members of our family – they were all traveling from Melbourne and running a little late. Sonnie rang Sandra to find out what time they wanted us down there, it was about 6 pm when she rang. They had already finished the main and were on to the speeches. Sonnie, Jan and Gary quickly loaded the cake and desserts into the car and headed down, while I waited for the kids to arrive. Finally with everyone there, we joined the rest of the family at the bonfire and, as usual, it was a wonderful friendly night.  We got to catch up with members of our family, listen to music, and all the time, we were kept warm (at times very hot) by the roaring bonfire.

As we were to late for the food, when we got home we quickly prepared a supper of soup and fried rice, before all turning in for the night.

Oh and I have now translated the recipe as it was written in French, and yes, I had followed the instructions. So the version here is a much revised version!

Gateau of Rhubarb, Apples and Almonds - Gluten Free

I offered to take a dessert to a birthday party. I wanted to use rhubarb from our garden because it was looking amazing. A magazine arrived from France early in the week and had a recipe for a rhubarb and strawberry cake and that was my inspiration for this beautiful cake.


  • 500g rhubarb
  • 5 medium sized apples
  • 1 orange
  • 60g sugar
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 200 ml whipping cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • For the cake
  • 200g almond meal
  • 50g custard powder – gluten free
  • 1½ tsp baking powder – gluten free
  • 6 eggs
  • 140g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
  2. Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends and cut into 2 cm pieces and place into a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Pare two very thin strips of zest from the orange using a sharp knife, or a peeler and then juice the orange.  Tuck the rind in amongst the rhubarb, sprinkle over the brown sugar, and drizzle with the orange juice. Bake for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Carefully remove the rhubarb from the dish and strain the juices and set both the juice and the rhubarb aside.
  3. Meanwhile peel, core and quarter the apples, add to a saucepan with the 60g of sugar and just enough water to cover the apples. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender, gently turning them now and then so they cook evenly.   Strain the apple and set aside the fruit and the syrup.
  4. Place both the rhubarb juices and apple syrup into a clean pan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the syrup is reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
  5. Preheat oven to 190˚C and line a swiss roll baking pan with baking paper. Separate the egg yolks from whites. Place the whites together with the salt into the large bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed until soft peaks form. Add yolks and beat, then add the 140g of caster sugar gradually. Beat well. Sift in the almond meal, custard powder and baking powder and carefully fold through the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Turn out on to a wire cooling rack and remove baking paper. Allow to cool completely.
  6. When you are ready to assemble the gateaux, whip the cream, 1 tbsp of caster sugar and the vanilla bean paste until stiff peaks form.
  7. Heat a pan over low heat and add the flaked almonds. Carefully toast until they turn golden. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
  8. To Assemble the cake, spread a little of the syrup over the cake, then spread a layer, no thicker than 1 cm of the whipped cream on top of that. Arrange the apple and rhubarb on top of the cream, sprinkle over the toasted flaked almonds and drizzle with the remaining syrup.


  • Baking the rhubarb helps to retain its shape and stops it going mushy, it also intensifies the flavour.
  • I like to cut each apple quarter into chunks before arranging it on top of the cake.
  • You could replace the whipped cream with crème pâtissière

Until next time…

Happy  cooking & bon appétit!



Gateau of Rhubarb, Apples and Almonds – Gluten Free

Mrs Collins’s Pavlova

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