In my final year of high school there was a ten day period before exams called Stu-Vac. This was a very important time in an Aussie student's life - it was either spent catching up on study that had slipped through the cracks throughout the year, or it was spent bunking off in full knowledge that there was no chance of ever hoping to catch up.
One thing I was particularly good at in school was exams - it was everything to do with strategy, which in my opinion had to include eight hours sleep, eight hours study and eight hours play. Unfortunately for me, at the beginning of my Stu-Vac my sister's boyfriend decided he should move house. At the time his household included Lady the snooty Australian Terrier who was heavily pregnant, Ben the big dopey bloodhound who had been rescued from starvation, and a cockatoo (if he had a name I don't remember it) who enjoyed providing a running commentary on the goings on of both dogs.
My bedroom was at the back of our house, my window looked out onto the yard. I sat down at my desk and prepared to immerse myself in the rotten goings on in Denmark, which featured in Shakespeare's immortal play, Hamlet. Wouldn't you know it, Lady decided to go into labour! She searched furtively around the house for a 'nest' to bed down in while she squeezed four enormous puppies out of her tiny little body. Thankfully Mum managed to coax her into a box lined with newspaper which she'd set up in a corner in the dining room. Meanwhile Ben was running around the back yard like a complete hooligan, sounding off single 'WOOFs' in his deep rounding bark at regular intervals, the cocky all the while turning somersaults in his cage with his yellow comb fully extended, screeching "Arrrkkkkk! Arrrkkkk! Arrrrkkk!"
It was a bloody mad house! What I thought was going to be a quiet week and a half at home had turned into a veritable menagery. Once Lady's puppies had arrived she got very protective of the area around the box. I'd hear my dad in the kitchen shouting "Get back to your puppies Lady!", then the cocky in the yard would start shouting, "Laaaady! Laaaady!" I wanted to throttle that bird! He was an absolute menace.
Eventually my sister's boyfriend got settled into his place and came to collect his animals. We actually kept one of the puppies - the little girl who was also the runt. We fed her with a doll-sized baby bottle, her little belly full to the brim so that all she could do was lie on her back and sleep. I persevered with my studies, training myself to do forty minute essays in less than thirty minutes, then taking them back to my teachers at school and asking them to assess them for me. It turned out to be a very successful approach - I scored perfect marks on most of my English and Ancient History essays. It seems the animal mad house turned out to be a good thing after all.
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups self raising flour
2/3 cup milk
1/2 can crushed pineapple
2 squishy bananas, mashed
1 tsp mixed spice
60g butter, melted
250g cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
juice of half a lemon
shredded coconut to decorate
1. Place butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and milk in the large bowl of your mixer. Mix on low speed to combine, then increase speed to high. Continue to beat until mixture becomes glossy and thick. This should take about seven minutes.
2. Reduce mixer speed to low and carefully add crushed pineapple, mashed bananas and mixed spice. Continue to mix until combined. Don't over mix!
3. Poor batter into a greased and lined 20cm square cake tin. Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius) for 50mins or until cake springs back at the touch (you can also test it by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake - if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked).
4. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to separate it from the tin. Turn onto a wire rack then flip so that cake is seated right-side up. Allow to cool completely.
5. For the icing, place the cream cheese in the small bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed until cheese is softened then increase speed to medium. Add melted butter, lemon juice and vanilla then continue to mix until well combined.
6. Gradually add the icing sugar a half a cup at a time. Continue beating - icing should begin to thicken. Once all icing sugar is added, mix for a further two minutes.
7. Spread cream cheese icing over top of cold cake then decorate with shredded coconut. Cake yields about 14 slices and keeps in the fridge for four days.