Tag Archives: cake

Windsor Wedding Cake

11 Apr

A slice of nostalgia ... and deliciousness!

So, just to make clear … I am not a royalist. I am not particularly interested in the upcoming wedding of William Windsor in the UK, nor am I excited to see what dress his bride will wear. But no one could escape the fluffy news pieces about the nursery tea cake that William requested as his Groomsmen Cake for the upcoming nuptials. May be we needed a break from the devastation of Japan or the multiple uprisings around the world. I’m not sure.

But what I do know is this: the cake sounded intriguing. And when my beloved GoddessMoments sent out a request asking for someone to make her the cake, I thought … Ooh, Id love to do that! So I promised her a cake and I got to work doing a bit of research.

This refrigerator cake (there is no baking) was apparently a favourite tea time cake when William was a child, and according to former royal Chef Darren McGrady, is also a special favourite of the Queen. Its a simple cake – chocolate and tea biscuits are its main components, but there are several versions out there which also incorporate fruit and nuts. I have already written about my dislike for mixing the purity of chocolate with fruit and nuts – I find it muddies the waters.

I found online two main recipes – one by Nigella Lawson that incorporates dried fruits and nuts and uses condensed milk as the sweetener. The second is attributed to Chef McGrady, and uses sugar instead, but is pure chocolate. I loved the idea of using condensed milk so I did a bit of a mashup and evolved my own recipe. I think its delicious – simple and satisfying, tasting of tea biscuits and chocolate.

Please do use an organic egg in this recipe – because even though the heat of the chocolate “cooks” the egg, its probably not fully cooked. Use a pasturised egg, or omit entirely if you are worried. Add dried fruits and nuts if its your thing … and give it time to firm up in the fridge before gilding with its final bath of pure chocolate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe – during the wedding of William and Catherine – or to celebrate your own life! :)

Makes 1 9-inch cake. Please keep refrigerated.

  • 1 packet McVities Rich Tea biscuits
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 can (about 1 cup) sweetened condensed milk, thickened and cold from the fridge
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (6 + 8) best quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%)
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare a 9 inch cake tin (if you have a spring form pan it is best, but not absolutely necessary) by lining it with parchment paper and buttering well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, crush the Rich Tea Biscuits with your fingers. You want an interesting mix of almond sized pieces and crumbles. Set aside.

In a stand mix, whip the butter until it is light and fluffy, and then whisk in the sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla until just combined. Set aside.

Pour boiling water into a saucepan, and set a small metal bowl over. Melt 6 ounces of chocolate in the small bowl, until completely liquid. Using a fork (and with the bowl still set over the hot water), whisk in an egg. The chocolate mixture will “seize” – this is OK, just work very quickly.

Pour the chocolate and egg mixture into the butter, and whisk well to combine. Pour the butter-chocolate mixture directly over the biscuits, and fold well. Pour the cake “batter” into your prepared cake tin and refrigerate, covered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Once the cake has had time to mature in the fridge, melt the remaining 8 ounces of chocolate, and allow to cool for about ten minutes.

Once the cake has solidified, use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, and turn out onto a cake rack. Set the rack over a baking sheet. Remove the parchment paper from the top of the cake and use a spatula to smooth any rough edges.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, and smooth the sides with a spatula. Refrigerate (either on the cake rack or transfer to a serving plate) for at least another 2 – 3 hours.

Serve with a very sharp knife to hack the cake to pieces!

Note: You can flavour this cake with all sorts of things. Whisky comes to mind – or peppermint essence. Fruit and nuts would also work if youre so inclined.

Enjoy!

A Rainbow Birthday Cake for Ms Yangie!

9 Apr

AngelKitten has been a regular helper, co-cook, co-conspirator and dreamer in my kitchen. It started out as an expression of interest on AngelKitten’s part to learn how to cook … but it has evolved into a friendship forged by food, and a sisterhood defined by how we balance each other. She is a perfectionist – specific and exacting, designing the most delicate and beautiful visual elements for my food. I am a little more … Aries in my approach. I cook with great passion, and my food is usually delicious – but I have been known to be a tad disorganised and messy. AngelKitten records everything I do (many of the recipes on this blog come from her handwritten notes), and when we brainstorm, she is the one who designs, sketches and keeps notes.

One of the cakes that AngelKitten has always wanted to make was a rainbow cake – thin layers of vanilla cake, coloured in the seven shades of the rainbow. We were considering it for our Princess Doll Cake, but ended up deciding it would be just too complex. For that cake, we stayed with the pink (!) theme, and divided the vanilla cake in half and flavoured it with fresh raspberry puree. But the idea for a rainbow cake always stayed with AngelKitten, and when her Mum’s birthday came around, she asked if we could make it.

 

Ms Yangie's Birthday Rainbow Cake ... but where is the rainbow?!

 

We adapted the recipe for the vanilla cake for this rainbow cake. You need a little more batter, so instead of doubling it, I made one and a half times as much (with a touch less baking powder). You also require loads of bowls because you will need to divide the batter into seven. We followed the colours of the rainbow as exactly as possible – purple, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. We used Wilton gel colours because we wanted to achieve a very bright rainbow, though I think, with a little care, you could easily create a more pastel, but just as beautiful rainbow with IndiaTree colours.

You also need a lot of time. This cake takes seven bakings of 10 minutes each, and we only used two cake pans – so there was quite a bit of washing, cleaning, and cooling in between. We iced the cake with a vanilla bean cream cheese icing and AngelKitten made a chocolate ganache to pipe the decoration and birthday wishes. Yangie (AngelKitten’s Mum) had been wanting a rainbow on her cake, and when she received a pure white iced cake, kept asking, where is my rainbow? When she cut into the cake, and found this gorgeous rainbow, she was thrilled. And I was delighted with being able to help AngelKitten create such a wonderful gift for her beloved Mum.

Ahhh there it is! Rainbow Cake reveals itself!

Rainbow Cake

Makes 1 9-inch rainbow cake (7 layers)

  • 4 1/2 cups superfine or cake flour
  • 3 1/4 tsp baking powder1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp (or more) vanilla (I used 3 large vanilla beans and 2 tbsp vanilla essence)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat your oven to 165C (325F) and line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Spray the cake tins with non stick spray or use some softened butter. Set aside. Have seven bowls at the ready, along with gel or liquid food colour, and toothpicks.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

In an electric stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla. You should have a creamy batter, but dont worry if it looks a bit curdled – it does that sometimes!

Fold in (dont beat in) the flour mixture, alternating with the milk.

Divide the batter evenly into the seven bowls. Begin dying the batter, starting with the violet/purple hue. As soon as it is dyed to your liking (and remember it does get a little darker in the oven), pour the batter into a prepared baking tin, and smooth with a spatula. The layer will be very thin. Bake for ten minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, and it springs back lightly when pressed. Remove the layer from the oven, cool on a cake rack for about ten minutes, and then remove from cake tin by turning onto cake rack. Keep the parchment paper on the bottom of the cake as it cools. Repeat with the remaining six layers, prepping your pans as you go.

When the first layers have cooled sufficiently, begin to ice the cake (you will be icing and baking all at the same time! Multitasking is fun!). Centre the first layer of cake on a cake plate. Use the parchment paper to help you move the cake layer around – lift the layer into your hands by turning the cake rack over, and shift the layer over to the cake plate by carrying it on the paper. Use the first of your seven bowls of frosting, and frost the top of the cake, and the sides lightly. Repeat with the remaining layers, using the parchment paper to help you centre the cake layers on top of each other.

Once you have iced all the layers, frost a thin layer of icing along the top and sides. Place in the fridge for ten minutes (this is called the crumb icing – and helps you achieve a smooth final layer of icing), and then finally ice a thicker layer of vanilla cream cheese frosting over everything.

Serve to the delight of your family and friends!

Gorgeous and Dramatic

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting / Icing

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence or 1 – 2 vanilla beans

In an electric stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Make sure the two are completely combined and no lumps or bumps remain – this may take up to five minutes.

Remove the bowl, and sift the icing sugar over the butter-cream cheese mixture. Beat again until fully incorporated, adding the vanilla to taste as you go.

Divide the frosting into seven bowls (we reused the batter bowls) and ice the rainbow cake as above.

Pink Princess Barbie Cake!

19 Feb

Yes, really. A pink princess barbie cake. I never thought I would ever type that, but there you go … My friend Tins asked her daughter what kind of cake she wanted for her third birthday, and MizZ came up with a pink princess barbie cake. I have an issue with the unrealistic body image associated with most dolls of this kind … but I also understand that at 3 years old, sometimes fantasy is pink and glitter and conventionally pretty. ;)

AngelKitten and I had a conversation, and decided we were up to the task. I would make the cake (this pink raspberry and vanilla swirl cake), and she would be responsible for the exterior decoration, with assistance from me. We went shopping, and found a lovely brown haired doll with a princess crown already in place, and we also picked up a skirt cake mold from Wilton. I practiced my cake, and AngelKitten drew designs and planned a mixture of fondant, royal icing, buttercream and glitter!

We realised pretty early on that the cake skirt mold would not fit the doll – she was too tall for it. So I knew I had to bake three cakes – a base cake (which we buttercreamed and covered in pink fondant), and then a second smaller round cake, upon which the skirt cake would be stacked. We buttercreamed the small cake and skirt cake, and stuck them together, and then added a top layer of vanilla buttercream. We then covered the skirt cake in white fondant for contrast, and then put a second layer of cut out pink fondant over the top to build up a design. We cut out flowers from the pink fondant so that some of the white would show through, and the design worked really well. We used a lovely white and pink flower ribbon I had originally bought for Chinese New Year cakes – this became the border for the pink fondant on the skirt, as well as a belt, a ribbon tie at the back of the doll, and a shawl.

AngelKitten made beautiful roses from royal icing, which we then added to little mini cupcakes, and she also cut out the lettering from white and light purple fondant. We allowed the lettering to dry overnight, and then we attached it to the cake with royal icing (which dries hard and is like edible superglue!) AngelKitten also made four beautiful purple flower cutouts and attached the letters of MizZ’s name to four organic lollypops. She stuck the lollies through the purple flowers, which she had positioned on mini cupcakes. Finally, AngelKitten spent quite a while delicately going over the cake and highlighting it with edible glitter so our pink princess shimmered and shined.

It was quite a massive undertaking, but the end results were lovely, even if I do say so myself. I like the fact that the ribbon we used was quite Asian … and so the princess had an identity which made sense to us. We christened her Princess Theresa-san … and I am not sure who was happier with her, MizZ or her mama :)

Here are some photos of the cake. Please do contact me if you want help in assembling your own princess cake for a birthday or baby shower. I think our cake proves that even those of us without much experience can pull it off!

Princess Theresa-san the night before her debut

 

Princess Theresa-san at MizZ's Birthday

Princess Theresa-san awaiting the arrival of the children

The back view - we belted Princess T with ribbon (in part to cover up any fondant mistakes!) and AngelKitten tied a beautiful almost kimono like bow at the back. Very pretty!

Happy 3rd Birthday! Our fondant words, cupcakes, and MizZ's name, not in lights, but in lollypops!

A beautiful purple flower cupcake

Raspberry Vanilla Cake

15 Feb

I have to admit… I love cake. Any kind of cake, really, is a friend of mine. Chocolate, vanilla, carrot, yellow, white, ginger… Damp cake, fluffy cake, spicy cake or pound cake. I am an equal opportunity (cake) lover … and I really enjoy tasting and baking new cakes.

Recently, my dear friend Tins, asked me to bake a cake for her daughter’s 3rd birthday. There were a few pre-requisites. It had to be pink (obviously), have a princess doll theme, and have no nuts. AngelKitten and I decided on that old standard from our childhoods (though they might be decades apart) – a doll cake – the skirt a cake, and a doll sticking straight out of it! We also decided to bake a larger round cake as the base, and fondant the whole thing (in pink) with pretty roses and and decorations.

Hopefully, we will get this right, but I decided to see if I could create a cake that had elements of pink in it too! I decided to see if I could make a raspberry vanilla cake – light yet firm, buttery, scented with vanilla, with a swirl of pink cake in the centre – a beautiful looking cake that tastes good too.

This cake is very pretty – and its perfect for decorating or fondanting because it also has a certain heft and structure. Do bake it the day before decorating to let it set up a bit. It will keep, fondanted, for at least 3 – 5 days. The great thing about this cake, though, is that it is perfect as a tea cake, unadorned, or as a layered celebration cake. Its just lovely, and has now joined my list of favourite cakes to make!

This recipe will yield 2 9 inch layers

  • 3 cups flour (I used 1/2 all purpose 1/2 cake)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp (or more) vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree (approximately – depends on quality of puree)

Preheat your oven to 165C (325F) and line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside

In a small bowl, soft together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

In an electric stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla. You should have a creamy batter, but dont worry if it looks a bit curdled – it does that sometimes!

Fold in (dont beat in) the flour mixture, alternating with the milk.

Divide the batter into half (though if you like more pink, you could go up to 2/3rds  vs 1/3). Divide half the batter between the two prepared cake tins, smoothing up the sides.

Fold the raspberry puree into the second half of batter. You want quite a pink cake, so make sure that the puree gets integrated fully. Add more if you think it is needed. Pour the raspberry batter evenly between the two cake pans, and smooth the tops of the cakes.

Bake for approximately 25 – 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with scant crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, before turning out and cooling to room temperature.

You can ice, frost, glaze, fondant or even serve this lush cake naked! Its delicious and beautiful.

Enjoy!

Baby Shower!

20 Jan

This coming Sunday, I am hosting a baby shower for one of my dearest friends. It was going to be a rather casual affair, but we suddenly realised we have more than 60 people coming! Luckily, we live in the tropics, and the party can spill out into the pool area.

Cooking for those you love is a form of service and joy. I have cooked for birthdays and weddings, for those who are ill and for those who want to celebrate. I dont think I have ever cooked for a baby shower though. This crowd is going to be a lovely mix of women, some who are new friends, and others who I have known for decades.

Making food for a celebration is always special – but to celebrate a new life, well, now, thats just a beautiful moment. My friend is gathering around her all those who mean much, and it is such an honour to be able to provide the food for such a group.

I love cooking for parties, but I have to admit, 60 people is a bit daunting. At least we invited them for tea, and not for a major meal! AngelKitten and I have been working quite hard to come up with a balanced and delicious high tea, that has luxurious and exotic elements to it.

Here is what we are going to serve:

  • Baked spinach and artichoke dip – this one is a standby that is delicious every time we make it. We have adapted it somewhat to suit the Asian palette – we add a lot of very hot chili powder to the mix. It transforms the dip into something very special.
  • Mini cheddar cheese scones – stuffed with herbed cream cheese / chili jam / cranberry cheese – I love these, and they are easy to make and delicious to eat. Stuffing them with a variety of fillings gives variety from a single bake.
  • Avocado and feta dip – salty, creamy, fresh and bright. Avocados always feel luxurious, and feta is the perfect complement to the cool green flesh. A little lemon juice and some herbs make this dip complex, and yet it is so easy to make.
  • Sliced carrots and chips on the side – so that those who want a little indulgence can have chips, and those who want a lighter option can munch on the carrots!
  • Truffled potato salad – because sometimes a new, decadent twist on an old favourite is called for! I like having at least one dish that is different, and that will spark people’s interest and appetites. I will probably use mascarpone with the truffles … simple and deeply flavourful.
  • Starry starry night cookies – these baked truffle cookies, made with bittersweet chocolate, honey, almond flour, eggs and sugar, are my friend’s favourite. They are so good.
  • Ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting – a request from my friend. I have some gorgeous ginger curd from O’Gourmet Food Hall which I am considering using in the cake batter to make it deeper, damper and more delicious. Luckily, we also found some Bentong ginger at O’Gourmet, so I know that the cake will be bright and beautifully gingery.
  • Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting – because you cant have too much chocolate, and because AngelKitten and I were worried that with 60 people, one cake wouldnt be enough!
  • Fruit salad with iced raspberry puree – a fresh alternative to all the rich desserts. We have a watermelon, kiwi and dragon fruits… and we are freezing raspberry puree into ice molds. These will be dotted amongst the salad, and will keep it cool and fresh, as well as add flavour and taste.
  • Iced fruit tea with starfruit

And for thank you gifts for all our guests, I am making blondies – ten per person … Ive just filled about 45 little gift bags, and will do the rest tomorrow.

What do you think? Any other suggestions? :)

O’Gourmet Food Hall Yee Sang Cake

18 Jan

One of the things I love about working with O’Gourmet Food Hall is that I am constantly challenged to think differently. Creating new recipes is intense, focused and fulfilling work, but the pleasure is multiplied when one has inspiring ingredients, and people, to work with.

I have enjoyed getting to know the various characters who work at O’Gourmet, and I am always interested in the new products which come in. Its wonderful to be the first to know about the sublime chili brought by hand from Kashmir, or to be introduced to an intriguing cheese.

About a month or so ago, LingCat came to me and told me that O’Gourmet was working on a Chinese New Year booklet, highlighting some of the unique food and drink of the season. She asked me to think outside the box, and come up with an special New Year dish. I love this kind of challenge, and it reflects, for me, the philosophy of O’Gourmet – unique, interesting and tasty, with a twist!

AngelKitten and I had lunch and threw around lots of different ideas, but we kept coming back to the traditional Yee Sang salad. Usually served as an appetiser, the Yee Sang is a very symbolic savoury dish, with each ingredient representing a wish for the new year. Tossed together at the table, the Yee Sang is a communal wishing for good luck and abundance.

However, Yee Sang is almost always served with raw fish – not very vegetarian! So AngelKitten and I decided to up-end this salad, and turn it from savoury to sweet. What would a Yee Sang dessert look like? We wandered through O’Gourmet Food Hall and were inspired by the dried fruits and nuts, and the gorgeous miniature apples and oranges. We decided that we would create a cake that looked like a plate, upon which a “salad” of symbolic fruit and nuts would be tossed. Each element of the dish needed to represent a different hope for the new year, and after some research (and much tasting), we had our ingredients.

We were lucky enough to have the wisdom and generosity of Mama Min (an amazing baker), who introduced us to PastryPro. This professional baker’s paradise was able to print a graphic image of a blue and white china plate on a sheet of icing for us. As we are entering the Year of the Rabbit, we found a beautiful image of an old china plate, with a rabbit front and centre. And of course, since rabbits love carrots, we decided that the base for the cake “plate” would be carrot cake, with a twist. We added a scant amount of 5 spice powder (a common element in the traditional Yee Sang), and came up with a unique and delicious cake which embodied the Chinese New Year.

We chose our “salad” ingredients with care. Dried pomelo, mango, lychee and strawberries, as well as caramelised cashews, chocolate almonds, winter melon, pumpkin and sesame seeds. I also candied some tiny Japanese apples, and caramelised some beautiful little oranges. AngelKitten spent ages painstakingly painting the dried fruits and nuts with gold powder, and I baked, candied and caramelised. We rolled fondant, applied our beautiful printed icing sheet, and sat back and sighed with happiness.

We brought our Yee Sang Cake to the brilliant Ping and Partner whose photographs grace this page. And when we finally saw the recipe in print, it was a feeling that cant be described … pride, happiness, satisfaction. In the end, we created a stunningly beautiful (and very delicious) version of the traditional Yee Sang.

Both AngelKitten and I would like to wish everyone a prosperous and happy Year of the Rabbit!

If you would like the recipe, please pick up a copy of O’Gourmet Food Hall’s “Traditions and Reunions” booklet at Bangsar Shopping Centre, or download the pdf by clicking on this link.

Please note that all images on this post are copyright O’Gourmet Food Hall, and may not be reproduced without written permission.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

4 Dec

Deep Dark DelectableSome days, you just need chocolate. For happy, for sad, for good and for bad, chocolate has a remarkable complexity and depth to it which just eases you on your way. I have a real deep affinity for chocolate, and I always try and have some in the house at all times. There is something so essentially sexy about chocolate. Its the stuff of lovely naughty imaginings, and it is unabashedly decadent and delightful.

And I am a serious chocolate snob. Cheapo chocolate made with vegetable fats (like those overly sweet sugary candy bars) is not something I crave regularly. Admittedly, sometimes it just hits the spot, but its obvious junk food. Deep, dark bittersweet chocolate though, preferably Valhrona or Callebut … now there, my dears, is something to get excited about.

Bittersweet chocolate is real chocolate in my book (though you will never see me turning down milk or white Valhrona or Callebut) … it has such deep notes, so much going on in each bite. It resonates with the sunshine and the earth where it was grown, it has notes of coffee, caramel, plum, tobacco, dusk. A small mouthful of bittersweet chocolate brings me straight into the now. I cannot think of anything but that melting bass pounding taste. Its amazing.

And I am a chocolate snob in other ways as well. Chocolate and fruits, meh. Well, chocolate and bananas and chocolate and some berries are okay, but Im not a huge fan of astringent orange or lemon and chocolate. It just doesnt do it for me. Though I do love a good mint and chocolate combo. And chocolate and nuts is a combination which I have generally stayed away from… Again, some nuts, for me, are okay with chocolate (almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter), but the dairy nut tins were never my first choice.

However, I have been gradually re-evaluating this stance. Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Starry Starry Night cookies introduced me to the wonders of baked almonds and chocolate, and I have recently been fiddling with a combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. The most famous hazelnut and chocolate combo is that sweet treat from all our childhoods – Nutella spread. But there is a lovely grace to the pairing, the round, rich, caramel notes of the nuts gentling the intensity of bittersweet chocolate.

After several tries, and several versions, I have decided this is the chocolate hazelnut cake that I love. Its not so much a cake as a fallen souffle, a thick gooey almost brownie like pudding, with a crackling crust. It must be served with a generous blowsy dollop of whipped cream, and can be made completely gluten free by removing all the flour and using only ground hazelnuts instead. Though if you can, keep the flour in – it gives it some structure, and helps to pull everything together in a beautiful whole.

Bake this cake in a springform tin, and do make it the day before you will serve it. It really benefits from sitting, well wrapped, in the fridge overnight. Something about that pause between baking and eating allows all its flavours to blossom. And, if you can source it, use hazelnut oil. I find that it really adds to this cake, both in texture and flavour. Its unctuous smokey caramel tone embraces the chocolate beautifully.

Serves 8 – 10 (even 12 if you serve really thin slices). Best baked the day before, though you could refrigerate for up to 3 days, easily.

  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour (you can substitute additional hazelnuts here if you need a gluten free version)
  • 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 + 1/4 cup light brown sugar + additional for whipped cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • Vanilla paste or essence (I used a remarkable vanilla, cacao nib and chili paste) – to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F (165 F). Line a spring form cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, tossing well to make sure the mixture is smooth and integrated. Set aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in a small bowl that fits over the rim of a small to medium sized pot or saucepan. Boil a kettle of water, and pour into the pot. Place the bowl containing the chocolate and butter over the pot, and allow to sit, stirring occaisionally until the butter and chocolate have melted completely. Once the chocolate and butter are liquid, add the hazelnut oil and stir well. Set aside.

While the chocolate is melting, combine the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat well with an electric stand mixer or hand held beaters. You want the egg yolk mixture to be fluffy, thick and golden in colour. When you lift the beaters from the yolk, a thick ribbon will fall back into the bowl. This should take you 3 – 5 minutes or so. Beat in the vanilla once you have the consistency you like.

Pur the melted chocolate/butter/hazelnut oil into the ground hazelnut mixture, and stir exceedingly well. Make sure any lumps or clumps are smoothed out.

Pour in the beaten egg yolks and sugar, and using a spatula, stir well to combine. Set aside.

Clean the beaters and bowl (or use new ones!), and beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites hold soft peaks. Continue beating, adding the remaining 1/4 cup sugar gradually, until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. The egg whites should look like foamy marshmallow.

Fold about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring quickly and strongly to lighten the batter. Add the rest of the egg whites in two batches, stirring firmly, yet gently. Stir in a folding motion, making sure to completely integrate the egg whites with the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top has risen and cracked, and a tester inserted into the cake comes out with crumbs attached.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan.

Prepare the whipped cream. Measure out the cream, and take 2 tbsp and pour into a small bowl or container. Sprinkle the agar agar into this set aside cream, and allow to melt into the cream. You could assist by whisking gently with a fork. You want the agar agar to be completely absorbed by the cream, and to melt away into the cream.

Whisk the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the reserved cream and agar agar, along with the sugar and vanilla paste. Whisk until the cream holds stiff peaks. Reserve, covered until you are ready to serve, up to three days.

When serving, remove the cold cake from the fridge, and ice the top with the whipped cream. Serve in gentle slices, and enjoy!

Suji (Semolina) Cake 2

19 Nov

HappySo, I was thinking about the suji cake I made earlier this month. It was quite delectable, and very rustic. Nubbly bits of almonds gave it texture and a deliciously different crumb. It was the suji cake of my memory and my childhood… But there were a few things about it that annoyed. First and foremost, you really had to make this cake with forethought. No popping a few ingredients together, and quickly baking in the oven. The butter and suji had to be left for a while to get acquainted, which is fine if you have the time, but if you really want suji cake right here, right now, could be a bit frustrating.

There was another suji cake of my memory that was slightly smoother, more pudding-y, with the same gorgeous scent, and since I havent been well, and have not had much to do, I decided to try and see if I could come close to making it. I succeeded quite well with this cake, and it took about 20 minutes to put together, and a further 20 – 30 minutes in a hot oven to bake. Easy and quick, this is a different suji cake, but just as comforting, just as golden, and just as open to interpretation – may be even more so.

I used vanilla to scent this cake, but you could certainly go with cinnamon, some almond essence, the grated rind of an orange or lemon… Go with what comforts you, and get semolina that is as fine as possible… and yet, not floury. You want the texture and the bite of the semolina in this cake. Its a big part of what makes it so unique.

If the previous cake was a bit intimidating, start with this one. Its a pleasure to make, and a joy to smell baking in the oven. Its a fantastic little cake to offer friends who are dropping by for tea. It creates happy happy memories, even when you might be struggling with a cold, or tiredness, or just the regular woes of the world. A little sifted icing sugar, or a simple glaze, or a smear of buttercream elevates this cake, but its so good it doesnt really need it. As you can tell from the photo – I was so greedy for a taste, I sliced it straight out of the pan, without waiting to sift any icing sugar on my bit.

This little golden cake seems to say, for that one glorious instant, its OK. Just have some cake, and be happy.

Makes 1 9-inch cake

  • 1 3/4 stick (12 tbsp) butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup icing (powdered) sugar plus an additional / optional 1/4 cup for sifting over cake if you wish
  • 5 eggs separated – 5 yolks plus 4 whites (the extra white can be discarded or saved for a future use)
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence (or 1 vanilla bean scraped – or in fact, and flavouring that seems to catch your fancy)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup ground almonds

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F). Butter a 9-inch cake tin, and line with baking paper. Butter that too, and set the cake tin aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until soft and slightly fluffy. Add 3/4 cup icing sugar, and cream well. It will look like the beginning of buttercream. I decided to use icing sugar in this recipe because I wanted the softness of the cake to be highlighted. The fineness of the icing sugar really helped.

Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until fully incorporated, before you add the next. This cake, while quite quick and easy, also relies on a slow and gentle process of addition of each ingredient. I used a stand mixer, and as I added each egg yolk only after I separated it from its white. This gave the batter a period of slow steady incorporation of each yolk before the next was added.

Once all five yolks have been added, you should have a gloriously golden batter. Add the sour cream and vanilla essence, pausing to combine after each addition.

In a measuring cup, combine the salt, semolina and baking powder, and stir with a fork to combine. Add to the egg-butter-sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, beating with a stand mixer or electric beaters all the while, on medium low. Keep beating for about a minute, and then add the ground almonds in a steady stream, beating all the while.

Once the mixture has been well combined, set it aside for at least ten minutes or so.

Clean your beaters, and in a clean bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until they hold firm peaks. If you turn the bowl upside down, and the egg whites stay, then they are ready – though I would not suggest you do this unless youre sure, or you have extra egg whites to work with!

Once the batter has sat for the requisite time, fold in the beaten egg whites, in three batches, combining extremely well. You need to make sure the batter is fully incorporated. The egg whites will lighten the colour and texture of the mixture. You shouldnt beat them into the batter, but you dont need to be timid about mixing them in firmly with a spatula.

Turn out the batter into your prepared tin, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let cool for five minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a cake rack, and turn right side up again. Cover with sifted icing sugar if you like.

A warm slice of this cake will ease just about anything that ails you :) Enjoy.

 

Birthday Cake

15 Nov

For E!Yesterday was a day of birthdays. It was such a joyous day! When I came home from my GoddessSister’s birthday party, I decided that I was going to bake a cake for my beloved nephew. He turned 21 yesterday. I still remember him as a little baby boy that I held in my arms (he was the cuddly type). Now, if I want to look him in the eye, I have to make him sit down! Time passes so quickly, but I am glad to say that he has the same sweet, kind, loving soul he had when he was little. He is a big, grown up man now, but his spirit is still gentle and good. I am so lucky to have been part of his life all these years – to watch him grow and find himself, to become a friend as well as an Auntie.

Anyway, before I become maudlin, or Hallmark card twee, I decided to bake him a cake. I had about 2 hours before I needed to go to dinner, and I decided on a version of my niece’s dark chocolate cake with white chocolate icing. I think I might have over-reached myself a bit ;) I forgot that actually, the white chocolate icing needs a little time to set up in the fridge before serving. You can serve it just after making, but you really need to not bring it in a car – its still soft and voluptuous, and can be a little difficult to transport.

While I was clever enough when I visited the baking supplies shop to purchase some cardboard cake rounds, I was not intelligent enough to purchase some boxes in which to place said cakes and rounds. Unfortunately, when I drove to our favourite shopping centre to meet up with the family, I had an encounter with a road-rage type personage who not only stole my parking space, but made me brake hard to avoid hitting him (and his pregnant wife and young child in the car with him!). This of course made my freshly baked and iced cake veer catastrophically, and the top layer of cake slid blowsily off the bottom in a cloud of white chocolate icing glory. Oooh I was so mad! And, because I put my hand out to catch the cake whilst at the same time braking, also covered in icing!

Thank goodness, my family is loving, kind and very sweet. They looked at the cake – which was once pristine white, covered in sophisticated silver dragees and bordered by Starry Starry Nights – and which now looked like something the cat rolled in, and were incredibly diplomatic. My beloved nephew said that he always loved home made better than anything bought in the store, and you could certainly tell that this one was home made! Heheh. Given all that, please excuse the photographs – they are post-road rage person, and thus show a slightly damaged, but still made with love, birthday cake.

And I have to say, despite it all, it was a really tasty cake. Simple dark chocolate cake, lightened by whipping the egg whites separately so that they aerated the cake, and made deeper and chocolate-ier by adding melted chocolate as well as cocoa powder. The cake was moist and rich without being overwhelming – and yet it stood up to the icing with aplomb! Obviously, I need to learn more about baking supplies (tools are everything!) but last night ended with all of us happily digging into my sticky chocolate topsy turvy tipsy cake, and enjoying a family moment of love, pride and happiness.

Makes 2 layers of a 9-inch cake. Recipe for the white chocolate icing can be found here – and remember, it doesnt need to be pink :)

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp / 1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (whole milk is best)

Preheat your oven to 170C (350F), and butter 2 9-inch cake tins. Line them with parchment paper, and butter that too.

Place the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass heat proof bowl. Bring kettle filled with water to the boil. Fill a saucepan with the boiling water, and place the bowl atop the saucepan. The chocolate will melt in a few minutes if you stir vigorously. Once the chocolate has melted, set aside.

If you have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, use it for the next steps. If not, use a handheld electric beater. Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer. Cream the butter for about 2 – 3 minutes until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the sugar, and allow it to become completely incorporated – about 3 – 5 minutes more. Watch carefully. You want the mixture really thick and creamy, but you dont want to over beat so the butter starts to separate.

Separate your eggs, and set the whites aside. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture, as well as the vanilla essence. Beat until the mixture is thick and golden, and then add the melted chocolate. Beat to combine, and then remove the electric paddle/beaters.

In a separate bowl or measuring jug, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a fork. You just want it combined.

Using a spatula, mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture in three lots, alternating with the milk. Make sure everything is well incorporated and that you have a thick heavy batter.

Using a clean bowl and beaters, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add about 1/4th of the egg whites to the cake batter, and fold to combine completely. Once the cake batter has been lightened a bit, fold in the rest of the egg whites gently, folding lightly, but making sure it is completely integrated into the batter.

Divide between your two cake tins, and bake for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes, before flipping out onto a rack and allowing to cool completely, a further 20 – 30 minutes or so. Ice (or glaze or sprinkle with some icing sugar) and enjoy with those you love!

 

Suji (Semolina) Cake

2 Nov

CakeLast weekend, at the family BBQ, my Mak Enda and Kak Manja really enjoyed the lemon bundt cake. They liked its simplicity and charming tartness, the fluffy texture, and as well as the addition of whipped cream and strawberries! But of course, they are Malaysians… and so, they started to dream about the next cake they wanted to taste, whilst reveling in the lemon one ;)

And the cake they wanted was suji (aka sooji aka sugee aka semolina) cake. Suji is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat – and it is an extraordinary and much used grain all over the world. The Italians use it to make pasta and pizza and breads. Indians use it to make dosa and uppam. And the list goes on and on. I have posted a recipe for white chocolate semolina pudding that sent some friends into total ecstasies. I love suji, and suji cake is a particular emotive memory for me.

Malaysians (of all races, creeds and kinds) are very attached to suji cake. Its kind of like our version of pound cake. Buttery, fluffy, rich and yet incredibly simple. It is pure deliciousness. The suji cake of my memory has almonds in it – crushed ground almonds, and little chunks of almonds. You can leave them out, but why would you want to? They give the cake a wonderfully grainy texture that stands up to the semolina, and enhances the crumb. We Malaysians serve this little cake at almost all the high holidays, and though many people adorn it (with rose syrup, glazes and icings), I am not in that camp. I like my suji cake plain and unadorned, perfect in its simplicity and golden beauty.

For me, suji cake is the ultimate coffee cake. Its not too sweet, its immensely satisfying and very very comforting. When people taste it they smile, and remember a time when things were easier, less complicated, when they were more connected. Its a cake to give to those you love, wrapped carefully in aluminum foil, knowing that they will appreciate it for its clean loveliness as much as you do.

But know this. Despite its almost stark simplicity, suji cake does have its secrets. You need to soak the suji in butter, sugar and a touch of milk to allow the grains to plump up a bit. Some recipes ask that you do this overnight, but I am too impatient and have found that about an hour will do me. You need to beat the eggs and sugar for at least five minutes to get air into the mix, but also to get a almost puddingy consistency. And you need to watch the cake – the top burns easily, so I almost always put a little foil cap on it for the last half of the baking time. And it really does help if you have a stand mixer, but a hand held, or your own strength will do – it will just be rather tiring!

Follow these instructions closely, and you will have a cake that tastes like home… no matter where you are :)

  • 1 3/4 sticks (14 tbsp/200 gm) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup fine (caster) sugar – brown or white is fine – and make these scant cups – suji cake is not overwhelmingly sweet
  • 3 tbsp cream or milk
  • 3/4 cup suji or semolina
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks (whites reserved for another use)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour (it needs to be all purpose to stand up to the suji and the almonds)
  • 1 tsp  baking powder
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup almond nibs or finely chopped almonds

Start by preparing the suji mixture. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar for about a minute or so, or until light and fluffy and completely combined. Add the cream, and mix briefly – it will loosen up the butter mixture substantially. Fold in the suji by hand, cover the bowl and leave in a cool place to let the mixture really get to combine well for at least an hour, and up to three.

While youre waiting, read a book, play with a child, listen to music or cook something else ;)

Once the hour is up, preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and butter a cake pan extremely well. Line the bottom of the pan with grease proof baking paper, and butter that too. Set aside.

Beat together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla for five minutes. It would help if you have a friendly kitchen gnome to do this for you whilst you get on with other things (that or a stand mixer!).

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds and almond nibs. Just a note on ground almonds. They tend to be rather expensive, so I often pound almond nibs into ground almonds – this is very easy if you measure out the almonds, stick them in a zip loc bag and bash away with a rolling pin or other heavy object. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but thats sometimes more trouble than its worth. Either way, I always use almond nibs for this recipe, without the skins on, and give them a good whack till they are pulverised. Combine the flour mixture well and set aside.

By now, the eggs should have been beaten for at least five minutes. They should have increased in volume, and they will look golden and creamy. Uncover the butter-sugar-suji mix, and get ready to combine everything.

Gently, using a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, fold about half of the egg mixture into the butter mixture. Do this quickly, surely and gently. Fold about half of the flour in, and then add the remaining eggs, and finally the remaining flour, folding gently but confidently after each addition.

Transfer the batter into your prepared cake tin, and bake, in the centre of your oven for between 30 – 45 minutes. Check at about 15 minutes to make sure the top is not burning, and if it is, cover the cake with a bit of tin foil. The cake is ready when a tester goes in, and comes out clean.

YummmLet the cake cool, in the pan, for about ten minutes on a rack. Then turn out onto the rack, and turn right side up again. Cool further, or if you are like me, and your happiness cant wait, serve yourself a slice, warm, crumbly, buttery, almondy, vanillay, delectably evocative, warm from the oven.

This cake will keep, wrapped well in foil for at least 4-5 days in the fridge. But I have never managed to keep it for that long ;)

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