April 11, 2009

Filomena's Choc-Marble Cake

Two doors down from me lives this lady and her dear husband Romano who originally come from Europe. There is a mixture of cultures between the two of them including Croation, Istrian, Ukrainian and French. Whenever I shut my gate and walk down to Filomena's gate, I feel like I have left the shores of Australia. As I close her gate behind me I am immediately transported to another world, the European world, or more precisely Filomena's world. Her home is a rare place that exists in this fast-paced, modern, clinical western society. I feel privileged to know her.

To say that Filomena makes and does everything herself is a gross understatement. This lady grows and tends to a huge vegetable garden. There are fruit trees dotted among the one and half acres and the front of the house is scenic and picturesque with lovingly tendered flowers, native trees and bushes and carefully placed garden ornaments. A large statued trickling water fountain greets me as I make my way to her back door. The front door is more for display than use.

Down the back, along the creek there is a huge pen containing a variety of fowl including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, roosters and up until a while ago there were even peacocks. When fowl meat is required for the dinner, out comes Filomena with her boots, her protective jacket and her big axe. After a scuffle in the henhouse, a bird is caught, off comes its head and the work begins. The hot water, the plucking of feathers, the removal of gizzards, oh what a sight! She moves and works with such purpose and focus and gets the job done efficiently and speedily.

As you can imagine Filomena is pretty handy with a knife too. Apart from the obvious culinary uses; I digress and reflect upon other knife possibilities. I remember years ago when Filomena had to travel one hour to reach her workplace for nightshift. At the time there was a rapist on the loose targetting female drivers. Never one to be the victim, Filomena empowered herself, sharpened her knife, put it in the glove box and exclaimed, "I'm ready for him"! By golly she meant it too. It's too inappropriate to repeat the step by step plans Filomena had for him but it aint pretty. Fortunately for the rapist he was caught not long after.

This amazing lady has such strong convictions and beliefs and her world of food is a testament to how they live. Filomena insists on only eating organic foods and knowing the source of where her food comes from. She is also into making her own potions and medicines with herbs, leaves and god knows what else, but that is another story.

Filomena turns 69 in a couple of days and I think she will easily make one hundred living the life she does. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the Filomena story goes, but I better get on with one of the home made treats she whips up and puts out onto the table whenever I go over for coffee. I particulary like her marble cake because it is so moist and uses olive oil. Secretly I think I am fooling myself that because there is olive oil in it, it must be good for me. Well, whatever the case, it tastes pretty damn good. I hope I do you justice Filomena.

Sretan Rodjendan (happy birthday) and Zdravo!(Good health).

Filomena's Choc-Marble Cake

1 1/2 cups sifted self-raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup tepid milk
1/2 cup light olive oil
1tsp cocoa powder
ground almonds & butter to coat the baking tin

Preheat oven to a moderate temperature. Thoroughly butter the baking container (I use a kugelhopf tin); then coat with finely processed almonds.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks, sugar & vanilla extract till light, pale & creamy. Will take up to 10 minutes.

In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, whip up the egg whites till they just hold their peaks.

Add the olive oil, milk & flour to the egg yolk mixture.

Using the beater from the electric mixer, fold through the ingredients with your hand till well incorporated.

Beat some of the egg white into this mixture; do not worry about being too heavy handed. This will now allow the remaining mixture to recieve the rest of the egg whites folded through more gently.

The mixture should be pourable and not at all firm.

Take out a small quantity of mixture and whisk in the cocoa.

Half fill the container with the vanilla mixture, drizzle the cocoa mixture over this; then finish off with the remaining vanilla mixture.

Bake in the oven for approx. 35 to 40 minutes. Take out; rest on a wire rack till the cake has completely cooled.

Gently hit the sides of the tin to help release the cake. You should not need any utensils to loosen the cake. Invert onto a dish. This cake is almost sponge-like, however unlike a sponge it has a much longer keeping time.

I would enjoy Filomena's cake with a strong black cup of Turkish coffee. And believe it or not; a very small whack of plum brandy. I have no choice in the matter because the woman simply does not understand the word "no". Cheers Filomena.


  1. What a wonderful and inspirational neighbour to have. Filomena sounds marvellous (unless you are a tasty-looking chicken or some kind of ne'er-do-well). That cake looks mouthwatering - I love your photographs. Happy Easter Mariana!

  2. Mariana, I found your blog on Marija's blog. What stunning photography and what wonderful writing. Ur filomena sounds fascinating. n the marble cake sounds and looks delicious. Im going to make it.btw r most of ur photography done under special lighting? I notice u use very fast shutter speed. fascinating .love looking at ur fotos!

  3. I had a look at ur fotos again (marble cake) n realised that I was mistaken about the shutter speed thing! lol ..but it looked like u took it while whipping the mixture!how interesting.

  4. I'd like a piece of that now with that cup of strong Turkish coffee--looks delicious!

  5. Yes that lady next door is one in a million isn't she....that is for sure. I paticularly liked her other cake she used to make ...it was sponge like and she rolled it into a roll and then covered it with chocolate .....just to die for so maybe you can get that recipe off her and do that one on here ...Clever girl that you are!!

  6. Yes, Debora she is a "true character". Your comment made me laugh (as usual).

    Welcome to my world Zurin. You have literally blown me away with the photography praise. As you correctly guessed, I had no selected shutter speed or any 'special lighting'. I use a Canon G7 digital camera, settings on 'auto' and simply select 'macro' for close ups. Thats it!
    My daughter studies photography and has tips for me from time to time. She recommends always using natural light; avoid flash if possible.

    Actually the turkish coffee really compliments this cake, Catherine.

    Yes my dear, of all people you would know about our amazing Filomena. Gayle how can I not recall that cake. The memories attached to that roll; oh please - don't lets start. Mudgee show ring a bell? Incidentally the custard inside the roll was to die for. I think its coffee time down the road - I'm off!

  7. Hi Mariana,
    Your story about Filomena bought me to tears, I am so sad that you are not on your blog anymore, I really really have appreciated what you write and your recipes.

    Your scone recipe is Bruno's favorite and he asks me to make it often. I am going to get him to make it soon he asks for it so much!! ha ha.

    Anyway hope that you get back soon and give us inspiring recipies and beautifully written accounts about very special people.

    It is such a shame when you are young that you don't appreciate what you have, it was so amazing to grow up on Charles Kurz Dr, something very unique and special. Thanks for helping me to relive part of those memories.

    Love kylie xoxo

  8. Thanks Kylie for your touching comments. It's lovely to hear that you feel you grew up in a wonderful environment. I agree!

    So pleased to hear Bruno is enjoying the scone recipe. I'm so proud of you that you actually make them from scratch. I am guessing most people your age would prefer to simply buy them.

    By the way, Filomena nearly fell off the chair when I showed her this post. I think she feels like she has been "published" or something important like that. Gosh I laughed.

  9. Is that half a cup of light olive oil and half a cup of tepid milk

    1. omg - all this time later - sorrry for the ancient overdue reply - yes and thank you for bringing to my attention - will correct that now!