A Food & Travel Blog

Simple Cake and Magic Little Meals – Excellent New Cookbooks

29/03/2019 | By

Cake is my favourite food group, and fresh, simple cooking is my go to, so ‘Simple Cake’ and ‘Magic Little Meals’ are two cookbooks I can’t go past!

Simple Cake, magic little meals

Regular readers will know that I’ve never met a cake I didn’t like – and that fresh, simple food is the way I like to cook. This week I take a look at two new cookbooks that almost could have been written with me in mind!

Magic Little Meals (Wakefield Press $49.95 RRP) is a locally produced book by Adelaide-based Lolo Houbein and Tori Arbon. Lolo is the green-fingered author of ‘One Magic Square’ and ‘Outside the Magic Square’ – both reviewed by me way back in 2012 – and Tori created Magic Harvest, an organisation that connects neighbours, helping them to share gardening and cooking skills and to swap produce.

Full of gardening tips and children’s garden activities, this practical garden-to-table cookbook shows you how to grow and prepare over 50 different fruits and vegetables, with recipes brimming with simple  combinations and fresh flavours. 

Perfect for the novice gardener and cook, right up to those who are strapped for time in the kitchen, Magic Little Meals covers everything from simply growing a few herbs in pots, through to filling and maintaining raised garden beds.

Wondering what to do with Brussels sprouts leaves and tops, how to make butter from scratch (too easy!), what to do with a glut of fruit or how to make your own spice blends? From snacks and finger foods to salads and hearty main dishes, they’ve totally got you covered.

The perfect gift for anyone with a budding interest in gardening, those embarking on the adventure of their first home (and garden) and to hand to your kids as you’re pushing them out of the nest.

simple cake pic

Subtitled ‘All You Need to Keep Your Friends and Family in Cake’, Simple Cake is going to make you very popular. Author Odette Williams is an ex-pat Australian who now resides, with her family, in Brooklyn. She’s the creator of a line of designer kitchen accessories, a career that began with the desire for a simple, attractive apron for her daughter to wear while helping in the kitchen. Her range can now be found in a range of US retailers and online.

With a fondness for cake that was inspired by iconic The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book’, Williams offers recipes for 10 base cakes, 15 toppings, a flavour chart and dozens of variations, helping any baker to produce a stunning cake fit for any occasion. Perfect for the novice baker, Simple Cake includes directions for basic methods and techniques, notes about ovens, baking times and a suggestion for baking equipment.

Those who don’t have a great deal of kitchen kit will be happy to find that many of these recipes can simply be made with a hand whisk and a bowl, and have significant ‘wiggle room’ with alternative baking times for variations in cake pans shapes and sizes.

I was on vacation in Bali when this popped up on my social media feed, so immediately downloaded it in digital form (cookbooks look a bit sad on a Kindle, but are reproduced in all their glory on an iPad or tablet!), but it is listed on Australian book store websites. Don’t be concerned about the difference between our measurements and US ones – Odette has included metric measurements for all the recipes (but unfortunately not the temperature conversions) in anticipation of it being released back home.

I like love the way this woman thinks. Her suggestion for leftover cake (what even is that?) is to fry it in a little butter!

As she says ‘Cake is cake is cake is cake.’

Wakefield Press supplied Lambs’ Ears with a review copy of ‘Magic Little Meals’, the digital copy of ‘Simple Cake’ was purchased independently.


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  1. Fran @ G'day Souffle'

    Amanda, so glad to hear from you again! The photo of the cake on the cover of Odette’s cookbook looks wonderful and I’m sure I could fit one more cookbook into my already over-crowded library. Do you have anything to do with the organisation of ‘Tasting Adelaide’ events? I miss the basic cooking classes they used to offer (I attended several at Regency TAFE).

  2. Amanda

    I used to run bloggers conferences as part of Tasting Australia, but times change, and both TA and the blogging scene have changed a lot in the last couple of years.