Internet friends: Emily Viski on happiness and the best banana cake in the world

05 December 2016

This year I've been trying to find ways to live more simply and Emily Viski's Instagram account has been a big source of inspiration. She shows that you can have a lot of joy in your life without spending much, whether she's requesting new books from the library or finding a pretty dress for her daughter at the op-shop.

Emily and I have never met, I stumbled across her colourful account via her sister-in-law Rachel, who I met in Wagga Wagga. But I asked Emily if she wouldn't mind sharing a few thoughts on simple living, her first year as a mum and what makes her happy.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? Everything I know comes from Instagram! What do you get up to in a typical week?

I live in Melbourne in the south eastern suburbs and I have been here my whole life. But my hubby and I dream of moving somewhere a bit more quiet and rural - I would love to own a little farm somewhere in country Victoria. My family consists of myself and hubby, our little girl Jemima, who we call Jem, and our fur baby Sparky the pugalier. A normal week for me consists of visiting my regular op shops, copious cups of tea and working as a dental nurse two days a week.

I've been really inspired by your approach to simple living. Is that something you're conscious of?

I have always loved the philosophy of slow living and since having Jemima I don't really have much disposable income anymore, so yes I do try and be a bit more savvy these days.

Can you share a few op-shopping tips? You find the best things, whether it's clothing, children's books or kitchenware. I always feel overwhelmed!

Op shopping is something I have always been passionate about. I love old things and I'm a collector, so it sort of goes hand in hand. Last year Rachel and I set a challenge to not buy any new clothing for the entire year so that was a bit of fun and it's amazing how many near new clothes get donated.

My best tips are to be regular - you have to keep going back because they are always getting new donations and the best stuff will always go fast. I have two op shops near my work that I will make sure I pay a visit on the days I'm working. And if you see something good - buy it straight away - don't go away and think about it because guaranteed when you come back, it will no longer be there.

What are you reading at the moment? I'm especially curious about Flow magazine.

Flow is one of my favourite magazines, its pages are so beautiful. It's all about positivity and mindfulness but it's made for paper lovers and creative souls, so it combines all of my favourite things in one.

Do you have a favourite recipe to share? 

I recently borrowed Poh's first cookbook, Poh's Kitchen, at the library and made her 'Best banana cake in the world'. But everyone who knows me will tell you that I cannot follow a recipe so I had to put my own spin on it.

I changed the icing from butter icing with walnuts to cream cheese icing with coconut and I added an extra banana because I had three and I didn't want to waste it. This cake has been a bit of a hit with my family lately.

The best banana cake in the world - with a few changes

125g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly pressed down
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 1/4 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup full cream milk
3 overripe bananas, mashed

Cream cheese icing
200g cream cheese
50g butter
2 tsp lemon rind
1 tsp lemon juice
Toasted shredded coconut - as much or as little as you like. Lightly toast in the oven but keep a close eye on it as it burns very quickly!

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius (150C fan-forced). Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper or grease and flour your tin.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter, both sugars and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly each time. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and fold in with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Add the milk and banana, and fold in.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, turn your oven up to 175C and bake on the middle shelf for about 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before running a knife around the tin to release the cake. Cool on a wire rack. If you have used baking paper, the cake will easily fall out.

For the icing - I personally don't really measure when I'm cooking or baking, I usually just go off the taste and feel of things so I've tried to write the measurements to what I think they would be.

Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter, lemon rind and juice in a bowl. Slowly add the icing sugar and beat until well combined.

Spread the icing over the entire cake and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.


Your little girl Jemima just turned one, what was your first year of parenthood like?

Crazy ups and downs and like watching a movie on fast forward. Everyone tells you how fast it will go but you will never truly know until you experience it yourself. I fall more in love with my daughter everyday and being a mum is definitely the best and hardest thing I have ever done!

And this is kind of a big one - what makes you happy? I ask because I only get good vibes from your photos on Instagram.

Being happy and positive is a big thing for me because I truly believe this is the meaning of life. If you're not happy then what is the point? But what makes me happy are definitely the simple things in life - good food, family, animals and being outdoors!

Thank you Emily! How cute is this birthday cake, made by one of the women in Emily's mother's group to celebrate all of their children turning one? You can find Emily on Instagram, she has an account for her blog and a personal account too. She blogs at emandthelittlejem.

Photos by Emily Viski.

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