Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kahikatea Cupcakes, and Writing a Cookbook Part 8

I really love foraging and I miss all the berries that I used to pick in Italy. I learned from a Maori forest ranger that you can eat the berries of the kahikatea tree (the red aril, not the blue seed) and I have a large tree in front of my house that is fruiting right now. The only problem is that the tree is so tall that I cannot reach the berries (the native birds are probably happy for it), so I have to content myself with picking just a few from the ground. It is hard work, I'll never be able to make jam with the quantities I am getting, but I did make a flan with kawakawa creme and kahikatea berries before (for the recipe, and a photo of the berries click here), and this time I made cupcakes.

I asked my little boy to pick a few berries and then I rinsed them. I added a few drops of lemon juice and 1 tsp of sugar, and let the berries marinate overnight. The day after I made my usual vanilla cupcakes and added a few of the berries, strained.

I used the pink juice to make a little icing by adding a couple of tsp of icing sugar. And then I decorated the cupcakes with a fresh kahikatea berry. They were a hit with my guests who, although being real Kiwis, have never eaten the berries before, or anything made with them.

Since kahikatea berries can only be found in New Zealand, I am re-using this recipe for Sweet New Zealand, hosted by Sue

And now to writing a cookbook: yes it has been a long time since the last post on this subject, and the reason that I am picking it up now is that... I cannot give you a recipe for these cupcakes! They are my basic vanilla cupcakes, and one of my trusted (and most cherished) recipes, but since it belongs to my new book (due to be published in September) I have to keep it... secret! So, for now just use your own favourite cupcake recipe, and just add the berries to it!

These months have been dedicated to editorial, design and proofreading, a long process really, but really vital. At this stage you, the author, are working with other people, generally by email or phone, or on paper. The manuscript, and then the first proofs, keep going back and forward between all involved to set the pages, add the photos, correct the mistakes, rewrite the recipes that don't fit the page, check the page numbers, and makes all the changes and additions that are necessary.

You have to be patient, open minded, ready to compromise, and ready to make your point when you feel strongly about something. Don't loose your cool, or your manners: often it is not a questions of who is right of wrong, but what works best for the book itself. If your brilliant childhood reminiscence doesn't fit the page, so be it! Let it go! (Unless it is vital to the recipe, of course!). But if one of the step by step photos is missing, and you really think that you cannot do without that one, or if the editor has suggested a change that is not necessary, or improving the book, stand up for it.

For this process it is useful if you know how to correct proofs and make changes by using proofreader marks. If you are not in the publishing business you can find some good books as reference. Remember that your editors, designer and proofreaders will all be using these 'symbols', so it really helps to understand them.

So, in the last few months I have been working on this, plus writing a glossary, an index and a conversion table. Not creative as writing recipes perhaps, but still an important part of the process.
Sometimes the index is written by a third person; if you are not confident with writing your own index speak to the publisher: a good index is very important in a cookbook.

As a last word of advice: always use a courier to deliver the proofs (or deliver them yourself): they are too important to get lost in the mail!

Next time I will talk about the book cover, till then... keep on planning that cookbook of yours!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


  1. The berries look FAAAABULOUS!! Sadly, there's nothing like them here in OZ, so I'll just admire your creativity from across the ditch!!

    Look forward to seeing your cookbook - it sounds sensational!!

    Hope you can join in my Round the World extravaganza #2 next week!!

    Have a great day!

  2. Looking at the picture of the tree on the Wikipedia page, I understand why you have problem to pick the berries ;)
    Cute cupcakes and I can't wait to see the cookbook !

  3. I know Vanille, it is sooooo high! And all the branches are really high too!

  4. Thanks for the comment on my blog, Alessandra!

    Well, how do the berries taste like? sour or sweet? I've never seen them before!

  5. Your blog is really interesting!!! Good luck for your cookbook!

  6. ciao, stai dall'altra parte del mondo, è fantastico!!!!
    ti seguo anch'io ;)

  7. The berries look great, I don't think we have anything similar in the UK, will look forward to checking out your new book once it's published!

  8. Great advice as usual and the cupcakes look amazing!

  9. I am so looking forward to seeing your book. The cupcakes look lovely and I'm sure they are delicious. Re: pea soup. Not to worry, the lemon juice will not cause it to curdle. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  10. Ma che buoni devono essere questi cupcakes...io li adoro! Ogni volta mi diverto a crearne di nuovi! Di recente ho fatto i cheesecake-cupcakes! Ma stai scrivendo un libro!?WOW! Uscirà anke in italia vero? ;-) Baci

  11. Cupcakes looks super delicious.I am hearing about these berries for the first time.Good luck with your cook book!

  12. The Kahikatea is a New Zealand native tree so these berries are only found here, in the forest. They don't have a strong flavour, more sour than sweet I would say.

    @ Claudia, il libro e' in inglese, ne ho avuti altri che in Italia hanno venduto solo in certe librerie dove vendono anche libri in inglese, ma per poco tempo. Praticamente ordinano qualche copia e quando sono finite non le riordinano piu' (a meno che non siano librerie virtuali come Amazon).

    Bisognerebbe tradurlo in italiano, ma e' l'editore qui che deve vedere quale paese e' interessato a comprarlo, gli altri due miei libri sono stati tradotti in polacco, per esempio (e ne sono rimasta sorpresa!)

  13. The berries looks awesome. looking forward to your cook book.

  14. Kahikatea can grow huge! Cupcakes look great and you keep using the Camera+, good on you! Easy, isn't it? tap tap tap. Happy writing!

  15. wow che avventura e che impegno scrivere un libro...sono proprio ammirata! Così come da questi cupcakes deliziosi e raffinati...
    un abbraccio

  16. Mi fanno davvero gola questi cupcakes...peccato la dieta!!Smack!!

  17. I have never tried those berries, what do they taste like?

    Good luck with the book, we look forward to seeing it in print

  18. I have not heard of this berry! Will look it up. Yours cupcake looks heavenly!
    I have an award for you. Please stop by to pick it up when you can. Thank you!

  19. Ciao cara!!!
    Sei invitata a partecipare al mio primo contest:
    Iscriviti e passa parolaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
    Un bacione!
    Dada ^.^

  20. What very cute looking cupcakes! I had always thought cookbooks would be quite easy to write as it was just recipes and pictures, but wow, what a lot of work!

  21. :-) Lucy! Writing a cookbook is totally different from blogging.

  22. Grazie per i preziosissimi consigli, Alessandra e in bocca al lupo per il tuo nuovo libro, sono sicura che sarà un successo!
    Tanti baci!

  23. Wow...very good information my friend...thank you for this. I do look forward to buying your cookbook...these cupcakes look amazing. xoxo

  24. Ti ho scoperta oggi dal sito di Francescav.... Belle ricette e dalla nuova Zelanda!! Wow!! È fantastico anche per questo il mondo dei blog!! Ciao, buona faesta dell'Italia! Franci

  25. Alessandra these look fantastic and really delicious! love them! gloria

  26. you are writting a cookbook, this is fantastic congrats, it is quite a lot of hard work...looking fwd to seeing ur book :D and cake looks fab!

  27. Beautiful looking cupcakes Alessandra. I have never tried kahikatea berries - don't know if I've ever even seen them actually. In your photos they look a little bit like pomegranate seeds - I wonder if they taste similar.

    Thanks for sharing with Sweet New Zealand this month :-)

    Sue xo

  28. They taste a little sweeter than pomegranate, I guess that you need to go to the bush where there are kahikatea trees to find them, the problem is that the trees are so high!!!


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