One of the many great stories in Liz Harfull’s The Blue Ribbon Cookbook comes from Paul Hansen, and his delicious orange cake:
You would be hard-pushed to describe Paul Hansen as a typical show cook. Born and bred at historic Kulcurna Station near Lake Victoria, Paul counts taxidermy, song writing and photography among his many skills. He also makes a mean orange cake. Although he has been known to whip up a six-course dinner party for 80 people to raise money for the local gun club, his training for the task was far from conventional. ‘I work away a lot in mustering camps and I am normally head cook and bottle washer for eight to ten people, but there is not a lot of cake cooking,’ he says.
Like many country show towns, Renmark has introduced a men’s only cake competition in recent years to generate fresh interest in cookery. The contest is fierce in this Riverland version, which celebrates local produce by insisting the blokes make an orange cake using a recipe provided. Paul won first prize in 2007 with a cake decorated by torchlight on the bonnet of his ute; he had to do it at the last minute after being held up organising entries for the wool section, which he convenes. ‘I don’t take it too seriously. I just came in after work one evening, threw everything into a bowl, mixed it up, put it in the oven and off we went,’ he says. ‘I just did what they said I had to do in the show book.’
Paul has also been known to enter taxidermy in the craft section. He studied the relatively lost art by correspondence about eighteen years ago, and has sometimes been asked by wildlife services to help preserve animals and birds for display. ‘I don’t know what got me into it,’ he confesses. ‘But I don’t do heads on walls. I am more interested in preservation.’
Through his volunteering and competing at the show, Paul is following a long-standing family tradition. His great grandfather exhibited at the very first Renmark Show, and the society is due to hold its 100th event in 2010. It comes at a time when the show society is gaining a new lease of life, winning a Community Event of the Year award and drawing more patrons. Among the most popular attractions are the vintage tractor and stationery engine displays, a ute muster, native animal displays, and a giant sandpit for the children.
Paul Hansen’s Orange Cake
85 g butter (or margarine), softened
3 eggs (50 g each)
11⁄4 cups SR flour, sifted
1⁄2 cup castor sugar
90 ml orange juice
grated rind of one navel orange
Preheat the oven to moderate (180 ºC in a conventional electric oven).
Grease a 20 cm round cake pan, and line the base.
Put the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, orange juice and rind in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.