Let’s Be Pen Pals

Good morning lovely friends.

How are you ? Whoosh! What a week! Hasn’t it flown by? I have been doing a lot of juggling this week. Kids coming and going and buzzing around home with their friends. It has been quite the social scene. I managed to sneak in a cup of coffee in town by myself earlier in the week, which helped keep my head above water. As an (excitable) introvert, my cup gets filled with solitude, time alone. It is probably the one thing I crave the most as a busy mother of many. How ironic that we chose to have a zillion children. (Yes, I do have the occasional chuckle over this).

I came home from town on Thursday to discover that our twenty something son had bought a table tennis table and decided the perfect spot to set it up was right in the middle of our living/ dining room. OK! I can work with this. Mama Bear doesn’t get thrown that easily. Even though I was planning to do this cupcake shoot that afternoon, I reasoned I could still squeeze into my usual light filled corner of the room despite the ping pong table.

As I put the finishing touches on my oh so delicious black tea cupcakes, more and more people came out of nowhere and started filling up the living room. Before I knew it, the grandkids (bless their darling wee hearts) had joined us and were throwing ping pong balls all over the room. Little one year old Asher insisted on having three balls at a time. So much fun! Yippee!

Then my son’s friends started to pile in, along with dear daughter’s wonderful boyfriend. I shuffled props, camera gear and bunches of thyme, dodging teenage bodies, plastic balls and low flying wooden bats, finally managing to set up the shoot. I even attempted to keep calm by putting on my favourite relaxing piano music to tune my focus.

Then the rest of the kids came home from school.

And breathe…

I don’t know about you, but when I am trying to create, I need a whole lot of peace and quiet and unhurried, uninterrupted time and space. HA! In my dreams! I have long been adept to the almighty juggle and the mastery of multitasking, but this was testing my seasoned skills in both. As it was so late in the week, I couldn’t put off the shoot and really had no choice but to persevere, so with a pleasant but firm “if you touch my cupcakes with that ball I’m going to kill you“, I took a deep breath and began.

At one point sweet little granddaughter poked her head around the glass window, pulling a cute face  and wanting me to take a photo of her. Then the not so little, but still sweet, daughter’s boyfriend did the same, but he pulled a cheeky face for his portrait. I happily obliged. 

I wrestled with the tripod for about half an hour as my perfect light was slowly disappearing. Those darned things are so hard to figure out when you are in a hurry.  Hubby came to the rescue with strong hands and pliers when I twisted the camera attachment on too tightly. (Stressed?! Me?! Noooo)

Eventually I ditched the tripod, feeling way more comfortable with the camera in my hands, refocussed and kept snapping. Afterwards, with my usual declaration from one of the Father of the Bride movies, “I think my work here is done!” (Thank you Fraahnk), I started to pack up before sitting down to eat half a cupcake. Man it was good.

The flavours in these cupcakes are really delicate. Perfectly balanced to give more of a hint of tantalising taste than a strong punch. By infusing tea leaves in water you are essentially pouring a cup of tea into a cupcake. The extra crushed tea and thyme leaves add specks throughout the cake and help build the overall flavour. Its not till you bite into the sweet honey and thyme buttercream that your taste buds do a twirl and you appreciate how beautifully subtle the whole experience is.

Black Tea, Honey & Thyme Cupcakes

A delicate combination of subtle flavours make this cupcake perfect for a light afternoon tea. Organic black tea and a dash of honey is infused into the cupcake which is topped with honey and thyme swiss meringue buttercream.
Servings 18 cupcakes


  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup boiled water infused with 3 teaspoons of black tea leaves or 3 tea bags. Leave to cool for ten minutes. Strain. Discard tea leaves.
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tblsp honey
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp black tea leaves ground in mortar & pestle
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups castor sugar
  • 300 g butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves


  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Line two muffin trays with 18 cupcake liners
  • In a medium bowl, using a hand whisk, combine eggs, oil, sour cream.
  • Add cooled tea. Whisk. Add vanilla bean paste.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, sugar, bicarb soda and baking powder.
  • Add tea leaves and thyme. Whisk together until combined.
  • Carefully pour wet mix into dry mixture. Hand whisk until well combined.
  • Using a cookie scoop, fill cupcake liners until each is 3/4 full.
  • Bake in moderate oven for 18 minutes or until slightly brown and firm to touch. Cool on wire rack. Pipe buttercream on top.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Put egg whites and castor sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Hand whisk until well combined. Place bowl onto a small saucepan with a couple of cm of simmering water, similar to a double boiler. Whisk and check every few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Rub the mix between your fingers. When you cannot feel the sugar grains it is ready.
  • Put bowl onto electric mixer. Turn on high and whip until stiff peaks form, like meringue.
  • Turn mixer onto low and slowly add butter, one cube at a time. This step takes about ten minutes, so be patient. The mixture will look soupy at first, then look like scrambled eggs, but will eventually turn into silky smooth buttercream.
  • Add vanilla bean paste, honey and chopped thyme leaves.
  • Pipe onto cupcakes with a large open star tip. Drizzle honey over the top and add a chunk of honeycomb. Enjoy!

The next morning as I walked out into the living room, my two adult sons were playing table tennis together. I paused, looked around the room and saw piles of folded laundry all over our super long dining table that was now shoved against the sideboard, unwashed dishes from the night before still in the kitchen sink, dirt and mess on my recently mopped floor and many bodies buzzing around me needing attention. I will confess that I was hit with overwhelm for just a moment. I sat down and watched, taking it all in.

My two sons were playing table tennis together. 

The grandkids had also joined us, and the other children were getting ready for school. One son then grabbed young Asher, stood him on the table, gave him a bat and helped him play ping pong.

Later that afternoon, our eldest daughter arrived from out of town. I was sitting watching the kids playing table tennis, others were chatting and the wee ones raced around chasing balls. It dawned on me that not only did I have all of our children and grandchildren in the room, but that crazy table tennis table was bringing us all together and precious memories were being created. I realised afresh that life is messy and making memories is messy and usually inconvenient. I thought of our beautiful grandchildren growing up surrounded by one uncle (!) and aunties who adore them. Siblings who were laughing and playing together, even as teenagers and adults.

I put the washing away, my young daughter swept the floor and mopped it again. I washed the dishes, baked cookies with my granddaughter and cleaned up the kitchen. More of the kid’s friends came over and those silly plastic balls kept bouncing all afternoon and into the evening. 

Isn’t this what family is? Amongst the bombardment of mess, bickering, immaturity and selfishness, occasionally the gold shines through. Togetherness, relationship, fun. You can’t buy that. Although I think we just did. It was $80 from K Mart. 

And I still want that darned thing out of my living room!

Until next week,

Love Anna xx



  • Wow these sound great Anna, if only I could taste them. Being coeliac and allergic to dairy cultures makes baking that much harder. Though in saying that I might have to have a go at adapting them.

  • Welcome to my world Anna! Ping Pong table in the living room is all the rage here! And has been for the past 3 years!!! (Not that I wish that upon you)

    Although it may not be in the latest Interior Design magazine yet, I agree, it’s worth the fun, laughter and competitive spirit it brings out. Enjoy the craziness! Look forward to catching up soon.

    Blessings, Katie

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