Kitchen Stories – Marina and Irene at My Sweetopia
Irene Lee and her business partner Marina Nikolic own and run South Bank’s cupcake institution My Sweetopia. On a daily basis, they can be seen happily conversing with their loyal clientele; cheeky cupcakes delicately perched on plates. “It’s how we show affection,” laughs Irene when asked why they chose cupcakes and sweets for their concept. “We both learned how to cook from necessity because there wasn’t much food from either of our native countries [Marina is from Serbia and Irene is from Taiwan] when we first came to Australia,” remembers Irene. “Anything that our parents wanted from home, they had to make themselves,” she says.
After bonding over a mutual love of food and hospitality, Marina and Irene assimilated their two backgrounds. Do the two cultures clash when it comes to inspiration? “Well, cupcakes are at the core of what we do and we make our own bread as well as the French macarons, which are inspired by Asian flavours like green tea and black sesame,” says Irene. “But the things I like to make,” says Marina, “are based on Serbian recipes because everyone there cooks using only what’s seasonally available – usually just one fruit like pears or strawberries,” she says. “When I go to Rocklea on Wednesdays it’s always really about what’s in season and good quality,” explains Irene. “Bananas and mangos are definitely our favourites, for sure!” exclaim Irene and Marina. “We do mango smoothies whenever they are in season and really nice and ripe,” says Marina.
It’s how we show affection.
2 ½ cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powderFILLING:
3 punnets strawberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 cup slivered almonds
|Line a 12 x 8 inch baking pan with silicone paper and set the oven at 170° C. Mix all pastry ingredients until combined. Pour half pastry batter into bottom of tin.Place 3 punnets of quartered strawberries on top of the pastry batter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of caster sugar on top of strawberries. Pour remainder of pastry batter over strawberries.Spread sliced almonds evenly over batter and place in oven.
Bake for 45 mins in a moderate oven or until the skewer comes out clean.