It’s a pretty special birthday for me. I turned 34 this year and while not one of those significant ages, for me it is actually quite a significant birthday. It marks two years from when I decided to make a massive career shift from international arbitration lawyer to whatever it is I am now (happy/blogger/food photographer/“promoter of traditional Cypriot cuisine“, as Melissa Hekkers of the Cyprus Weekly put it in this wonderful article. More on that below.
Switching careers was a pretty adventurous and sometimes difficult thing to do. It was difficult to walk away from what I knew was a mapped out and and successful international arbitration career. I was traveling the world, was well paid, and lived in London. But the truth of the matter is that I worked a bit too hard, and somewhere along the road I lost passion for what I was doing. Maybe it was the fact that I originally set out to become an academic when I entered into practice, and somehow found myself practising law instead of going on to complete my PhD and teach it, but whatever the reason, the time came for an adventurous (not crazy) change. Luckily, I had phenomenal support from a truly loving family – not just immediate but extended as well. And wonderful friendships too. I can’t say that everyone supported the change. As with big changes, there are always people who dissuade you for whatever reason. They mean well I suppose, but it’s always a bit awkward. In any event, I knew what was right for me.
What I love now about my life is the freedom and control over time in my days. I still work very hard – it’s just who I am – but I love being in charge. In fact, I now find that I need this flexibility as a result of some health issues which I won’t go into detail about right now. Most importantly, I am happy. And, that’s enough. Truly it is. But what’s the frosting on my cake, is that I am truly thankful for all the support and interest out there. Thank YOU. And thank you Toutoukki Niouz, who publish the recipes in their wonderful magazine about Cyprus. And the magazine Omikron and Tonia Stavrinou, who wrote this wonderful article about me and the blog in their “Young & Talented” section, as well as The Cyprus Weekly and the incredible 2 page article Melissa Hekkers wrote about me and the blog. The Cyprus Weekly is the first time where one of my photographs has made the front page of the lifestyle section in a major newspaper publication (not shown here), and I have to say it was a lovely feeling. I love cooking, but my true passion lies in photography.
Which brings me to the first fashion shoot I did for the amazing Amelie Pavlou this week and her fashion line called “Amelie Amelie“. While I prefer photographing food and black & white photography, I am friends with Amelie and agreed to shoot her new collection. This is one artistically talented lady who is so much fun to work with. I had a really good time shooting her new collection on the beach next to the Four Seasons Hotel. The models – Katerina Ignatiou and Michelle Nicolaou were drop dead gorgeous, which made my job as photographer so very easy, particularly with Amelie guiding the models and heading up the artistic direction. She’s also a great cook: check out this lovely kohlrabi and carrot salad.
So all in all, I felt I had a lot to celebrate this week – not just because it was my birthday – but because I feel that things are slowly coming together. I wanted this cake to reflect what the blog is about. So it is a cake where traditional Cypriot flavours meets international ones. The traditional Cypriot almond balls (“amigdalota”) on top are a traditional Cypriot sweet, which taste a lot like little balls of marzipan. Then the cake itself is a sponge cake complete with a rich cream cheese frosting. But, what I love most about this cake, and what I believe truly makes this cake stand out, is the raspberry jam I used. It is lovingly made by Elli of “Jar Preserves”. If you are visiting Cyprus I would highly recommend stopping here to buy some jams, as they are truly world class. Her shop is in the beautiful village of Kato Drys (very close to Lefkara). I bought five jars intending to give three away, and I must confess I have kept them all save for one because they are simply just that good. I will be going back for more for friends and myself! Of course if you are not in Cyprus, you can use a substitute jam, but if you are in Cyprus, please do pay Elli a visit. You will not be disappointed. These are world-class jams, and it is so wonderful to be able to find them in Cyprus. It is definitely a must-stop visit if you are visiting Cyprus, as well as if you live in Cyprus. I still think it is somewhat of a hidden gem, but I can’t see how it can stay hidden in future – Elli’s jams are simply too good to remain a secret!
There is one Cypriot recipe below (for the almond balls (“amigdalota”)), and a loose description of what I did to put my cake together. I will be taking a bit of a break from blogging over this Easter period, so I will be back again with another recipe next week. Until then, Happy Easter everyone!! xxx
For The Jam
I used a special raspberry jam found at JAR Preserves made by the very sweet Elli.
Elli’s shop is located in Kato Drys, Cyprus. Call her on + 357 96 476 265.
For the Almond Balls (“Amigdalota”)
1 cup ground blanched almonds
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbs orange blossom water
1/3 cup of water
granulated sugar for rolling in
2 crushed and strained frozen raspberries if you wish to add pink colour to the balls
1. Combine the almonds, sugar, water and orange blossom water. Knead into a soft mixture and place in an ovenproof dish. If the mixture doesn’t come together as a smooth dough, then add a little more water and orange blossom water.
2. Cover the mixture with a damp paper towel and aluminum foil.
3. Turn the oven to 150C. Once it reaches 150C switch off the oven and place in the almond mixture. Leave for four hours.
4. Remove the mixture and knead the mixture. Add a little orange blossom water and/or water if the mixture is dry. (This mixture dries out quickly if left uncovered). Optional: add a drop of the strained raspberry for a pink effect.
5. Shape the balls into different shapes and roll in granulated sugar.
6. Keep the balls covered as they quickly dry out.
For The Sponge Cake
I wanted to try a new recipe and followed David Lebovitz’ recipe here, but feel free to use your own sponge cake recipe.
For The Vanilla Frosting
I used the frosting recipe I used in this carrot cake recipe here, minus the mastic powder. I think next time I might try to pair it with a vanilla buttercream for a creamier texture.
Assemble Your Cake
Prepare all your ingredients and smother a layer of jam on the top of the bottom cake, not too close to the edge because you don’t want the jam to pour over the edges. Then smother frosting on the bottom of the bottom of the top cake and place on top of the bottom cake. Repeat as necessary for the number of mini-cakes you have made. There was no magic with my top cake – I simply placed a miniature doubled tiered cake (once frosted) on top of the larger double tiered cake on bottom. I also added a touch of blue dye to the vanilla frosting, but because the unsalted butter I used is yellow, it meant that my frosting turned a light green colour. So play around with the colours as you wish.