Monday, September 29, 2008

The Last Indonesian Cheesecake (for now)

This is it! No more Indonesian Cheesecake for me for now. And this last precious cheesecake is dedicated to Yuri & Ricky. :)

This cake uses Kraft cheese from Indonesia, which is a rare jewel here in Houston. Only 2 out of the many Asian grocery stores carry this brand. And they both ran out-of-stock. I have been cheese-hunting for the past month but to no avail. But I had 1 more packet at home and it was, in my opinion, the last Indonesian Kraft cheese in Houston.

This cake is always a favorite among my friends and yesterday was no different. I really enjoy watching them ate the cake while smiling and chatting. I somehow feel that I have contributed a little bit to their joy that night. :)

Anyways, happy birthday to Yuri and Ricky! Cheers!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Light Chocolate Vanilla Cake

I found out about Reynold's birthday at 10pm on the day itself. I hurriedly left a birthday message for him on Facebook and then sat down and think about what cake should I bake for him. I don't have much time left as I have to work the next day but I want to make something nice too. I originally wanted to make the same chocolate cake as Dika's but then I'll be missing an opportunity to try something different.

I finally decided to make this cake. :)

I named this cake a "light chocolate vanilla cake" because it is indeed very light - not in terms of weight, but in terms of calories and fat. :)

The cake is made of 3 layers of vanilla sponge cake and chocolate diplomat creme. Instead of using buttercream, which contains LOTS of sugar and LOTS of butter, I used the diplomat creme itself to frost the cake. Diplomat cream, on the other hand, is based on pastry cream (vla). It's mostly milk, eggs, sugar, and whipped cream. The amount of sugar used is very little compared to buttercream and the amount of whipped cream used is also little because it is only used to lighten the pastry cream.

The cake design is really very simple but I have learned that sometimes less is more. :) On top of that, I don't want to make this cake too girly by putting roses on it.

This cake was also accompanied by stories about the mooncake legend courtesy of Reynold!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Betty Crocker Cupcakes

Yes, I know. I used Betty Crocker!

I was running out of time to go to H-E-B right after my bible study group to grab some eggs but I really wanted to bake something for Brad's (belated) birthday. After analyzing my kitchen supplies, I noted that I have a Betty Crocker Devil's food mix that only requires 1 egg, which is exactly what I have! I also have some Betty Crocker icing to frost the cupcakes. I'm good to go!

I've been interested in making roses from frosting and I thought that this will be a good time to practice. :) I can take no credit for how the cupcakes taste - it's all Betty's - but I can take credit for making the roses!

Our digital camera is with Daniel currently and therefore the pictures are taken with my phone's camera. Even though the quality of the picture is not the best, but at least I have a lasting memory. :)

Strawberry and Mango Mousse Cake

This one is a delayed cake. The birthday was actually September 13, right when Ike went pass Houston but since the whole city was in a chaotic mess, I made her cake one week later. I'm always up for experimenting new cakes, trying out new combinations and I thought that this will be an awesome opportunity to explore. I gave Cess' cake a lot of thought. I was thinking of making a green tea mousse cake with white chocolate cake or a devil's fudge cake with rich chocolate icing. As you can see, I made neither of them.

Humans make plan and God determines the path. My work require me to travel that week and I didn't have enough time to really plan the cake. I came back Friday night and I had another cake due Saturday night and Cess' cake due Sunday morning. To be realistic, I decided to make a cake that I am already familiar with.

This cake is 9"x13" - the second time I make a cake this big. For this, I used 2 layers of sponge cake, a layer of mango mousse, a layer of strawberry mousse, lychees, clear glaze, and lady fingers.

Mango mousse:
2-1/2 cups fresh mango puree
1/4 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cups water
2 packets gelatin

Mix the sugar and the puree in the blender for about 30 seconds to blend together, making sure that the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle the gelatin on the water and leave for 5 minutes until it blooms. Once it blooms, melt it in the microwave for 15 seconds at 50% power. Slowly pour the melted gelatin into the puree mixture while continuously mixing the puree. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the puree mixture.

Strawberry Mousse:
2 cups fresh mango puree
1/4 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cups water
2 packets gelatin

Prepare this the same way as the mango mousse.

To add more complex flavor, I brushed the sponge cakes with some orange simple syrup and I added lychees between the layers. I prefer to use a softer/lighter sponge cake base for mousse cake and for this one, I of course used my mom's recipe. :)

I didn't stay for the cake cutting and missed the experience of seeing people's reaction to my cake. I was a little disappointed about this, but later on a friend called to tell me that the cake was good. :) I was very happy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Another farewell. Lately it seems that a lot of people are leaving. I'm happy that they are moving on in their lives, exploring a new chapter of adventure, but it's also sad to have to say another good bye. I thought a lot about this and I wanted to bake one last cake for Adit before he left. He's been an awesome guitarist and is always cheerful (so far :p).

This cake is in the cover of Dorie Greenspan's book and I thought that if it's good enough to be a cover, it's good enough to deserve a try. The picture shows how the cake looks like if Dorie made it and the actual result when I made it.

This cake is really different than a normal chocolate cake because of several things:

1. The chocolate cake has chocolate chip chunks inside
2. The filling and frosting is really marshmallowy (egg whites and VERY hot sugar)
3. The decoration of the cake is the actual cake itself!

The recipe for this cake is about 3 pages long and I really don't want to type it all out but if you're interested to bake this, let me know and I'll post it for you. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Baking with Fidel

I evacuated to Austin during Ike and I slept over at Fidel's house. It was very nice of her and Adam to lend Alvin and I a place to stay at the last minute.

We ended up having a baking event over there and Fidel bought a few new tools for our main event. We made Kue Sus (Cream Puff) from scratch and we really enjoyed our time together. I think Adam and Alvin each ate 3 of them right away. :p

After we're done baking, we went out to Korean House for some BBQ! And then off to shopping :) It really was a fun weekend for me.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hurricane Ike posed a threat to me. It might damage my apartment and therefore damage my kitchen, which means damage to my oven, which means that I couldn't bake.

Yes, I know. I exaggerated a little. But the feeling was true. I was actually anxious of the thought that I wouldn't be able to bake again for a while due to hurricane damage. So I decided to bake one last time before I left the apartment to evacuate. I thought of what to bake for the longest time and decided to bake a mocha chiffon cake and chocolate chip cookies for the following reasons:

1. They both don't need refrigeration
2. They are both relatively simple to bake

Since I've posted a lot of chiffon cake entries, I decided to just document the cookie part this time.

The recipe for this is taken from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Then, working with a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after every addition.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until incorporated for every addition. Then, by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts.

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2" of space between them. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center. The cookies may still be a little soft in the middle but that's okay. Pull the sheets from the oven and allow them to rest for about 1 minute. Then carefully transfer them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.

I brought the chiffon and the cookies to Austin to share. I'm glad they liked it too!

Chocolate Cake

Thanks, Dika! It's really an honor to bake a cake for you.

I don't quite know how this cake taste but I hope that Dika and Marjie enjoyed the cake. I made the cake with 2 layers of chocolate sponge cake with a layer of diplomat cream and covered in chocolate glaze. I used whipped chocolate ganache and chocolate covered espresso beans as the decorations.

I encountered a lot of challenges while making this cake. First was the glaze. I intended to use chocolate ganache to cover the cake, but since I couldn't remember the recipe that I had used before, I used a new recipe from Dorie Greenspan. Bad idea! The ganache was really runny and I don't know how to use it. Lesson learnt for me though. I should really try the recipe before I use it to make a cake that someone ordered from me. Since the glaze won't set and the white cream is still showing through the ganache, I made a batch of chocolate glaze (which I used for my eclairs) and attempted to cover the cake once more.

The result: a lopsided cake. *sigh*

I just hope that despite the look, the cake taste okay.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Green Tea Cream Cake

Another cake for a dear friend. I'm always very happy when I can make cakes for my friends. It means a lot for me. It creates memories for me and I hope that it creates memories for them too. I've been thinking a lot about what to make for Jess and I really can't decide on one specific cake. After much thought, I decided to make something new for her.

This cake is made of 2 layers of green tea sponge cake, with cream legere between them, topped with white chocolate mousse. I wrapped the cake with white chocolate since I think it complements the green tea flavor. I also played around with the chocolate decoration by adding pattern to the wrap. It wasn't as neat as I wanted it to be but I reason that it's my first try.

I was careful not to misspell anything this time :p Since this is an experimentation cake, I think there are several things I want to change to improve in the future: make the cake more moist or fluffier, use more white chocolate mousse, and stabilize the cream legere using some gelatin.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Alcoholic Tiramisu

It's another good bye. I don't quite like farewells, but I should know better that in life good bye comes rather often. I offered to bake her a cake before she left and she told me that she wanted an extra strong tiramisu. So I made one - extra strong - just as she had requested.

I played around with decorations with this cake. I had used alternately ladyfingers and chocolate wafers. I think it gives a nice fun look to the cake. This tiramisu is made of 2 layers of sponge cake drenched in extra rum coffee syrup and 2 layers of tiramisu cream (again with extra rum).

Since this cake is for an extra special occasion, I made the box extra special too. Again, the box is courtesy of Alvin.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Strawberry Napoleon

Alvin and I have always been a fan of Le Madeline's Strawberry Napoleon. When I was still living in San Jose, I would ask him to bring me a piece (sometimes more) when he came to visit. He had asked me a few times if I could try to make one and so I did.

This is really nothing like Le Madeline's but it's my first try at it. I used a store bought puff pastry to make the crust. I layered it with some creme legere (light cream) and fresh strawberries. I attempted to glaze the top but it didn't turn out as neat as I wanted it to be.

I brought this to a farewell potluck (this group of friends has been my faithful testers since I started baking) and they said that they liked it. Some of the feedback I got on this are that the crusts are too thick and that the sugar glaze is too sweet. I will definitely work on these the next time I make Strawberry Napoleon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Black and White Classic Cheesecake

It's Carrie's birthday and I wanted to make a cake for her. I went to Cheesecake Factory with my manager while I was in Alabama and we tried their new cheesecake, which is a combination of their chocolate cake and their original cheesecake. It was soooooo good! Yummy! I wanted to try to make it for Carrie, but I've never made an American Cheesecake before and I was worried that I would destroy the cake. So I decided to start with the basics.

The crust is made from butter and graham cracker crumbs. The cheesecake is a combo of 2 layers of vanilla cheesecake with a layer of chocolate cheesecake in the middle. Thus the black and white name. I have decorated it with some creme legere and fresh strawberries. Pardon the messi decorations as I did it in the morning before work and I only had 15 minutes.

This is a picture of the cake after it was butchered.

I'm very happy that Carrie liked it and that the rest of my coworkers actually tried the cake. This is the first time that I brought a cake to work and everybody took a bite and tried. Their feedback was positive on the cake. :) I'm really really glad.

The recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours.
For the crust:
1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
1-1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream or a combination of the 2
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
To make the crust:
Butter a 9" springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan with a double layer of foil. Stir in the crumbs, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the ingredients to the springform pan and press down on the bottom and sides of the pan. Put the springform pan in the freezer while heating up the oven to 350F. Once the temperature is reached, bake the crust for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.
To make the cheesecake:
Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, for about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Then add in the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition (about 1 full minute). Turn the mixer to low speed and add the sour cream and/or heavy cream. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate on microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power, taking 30 seconds interval to mix the chocolate (be careful not to scorch the chocolate). Pour about 1/3 of the cheesecake batter into another bowl and gently fold in the melted chocolate in.
Pour half of the remaining plain cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan. Smooth the layer using an offset spatula and then pour in the chocolate cheesecake batter. Smooth the top using an offset spatula. To finish, pour the remaining plain cheesecake batter on top and smooth it.
Bake the cheesecake in a water bath at 325F for 1-1/2 hour (the top should be browned or even slightly cracked). Turn off the oven and open the door slightly ajar and let the cheesecake there for another hour. Then, carefully take the springform pan out of the water bath. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack. Once the cake is cooled, cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is better). Unmold from the spingform pan and serve.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kiwi Strawberry Mousse Cake

Another Costco story. If you guys see a lot of blueberries, strawberries, or kiwi desserts... well, I bought a ton of them from Costco and I need to use them up. So here's the Kiwi Strawberry Mousse.

It's a rather simple cake that I'm experimenting with. I've always done my mousse using acetate tape and I had never encased my cake with mousse. So this time, I experimented with using a springform pan that is larger than my cake and then pouring over the mousse over the cake to fill the pan. Although the picture isn't very clear, the mousse itself is used to cover the cake.

For the mousse, I used the same proportion as I did here. I used 2 layers of sponge cakes for this. I put some kiwi fruits in my strawberry mousse part and I put some strawberries in the kiwi mousse part. I thought it makes the cake a little bit more fun. I used clear glaze on top of the cake, which is another thing I'm learning.

When I made this cake, I thought that this was going to be a failed product. I should've strained the kiwi seeds so that the mousse has a nice clean green color instead of this speckled one. I should've made the chocolate decoration before I glazed the cake. I should've use acetate tape around the cake to make it neater when I unmold it from the springform pan. So many negative thoughts came through my mind. But when Alvin, Ryan, and Mery tried the cake, they said that they liked it. It was light and refreshing, they said. On one hand, they may just be saying that to make me feel good, but since historically they have been open in giving me constructive feedback, I'm using benefit of the doubt to say that they were honest about my cake. :p
I think now I have the guts to share this cake to my friends. If you're in town and you want to try some of this cake, let me know! :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mudslide Cookies

I had promised my coworker to bake some cookies for him. I looked through my recipe books and I found this interesting mudslide cookies recipe. This cookie has some coffee flavor mixed with bittersweet chocolates. When I make this cookie, the batter is pourable and is really not like any other cookie dough that I've seen or made. It's more like a brownie batter than cookie dough. The recipe book does say that the batter will be "almost pourable" but I didn't imagine it to be so liquid-y. Despite that, the cookies taste yummy! Although the next time I make this, I'll use more coffee for stronger flavor.

The recipe is from "Baking at Home with the CIA" (I halved the recipe for my cookie batch and it yields a good 24 large sized cookies):

3/4 cup + 2 tbs cake flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs instant coffee
1 tbs boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 oz unsweetened chocolate coarsely chopped
6 oz semi sweet chocolate coarsely chopped
8 tbs butter
7 large eggs
2-3/4 cups sugar
2 cups chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Melt the instant coffee in boiling water and add the vanilla extract. Melt the chocolates and butter in a saucepan under low heat. Using a hand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix the eggs, sugar, and the coffee mixture for about 6-8 minutes on high. Then whisk in the chocolate mixture at medium speed followed by the dry ingredients at low speed (just until incorporated).

Using a 1/4 cup measure as a scoop, fill it with dough and drop it into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave about 3-4" between the cookies. Bake the cookies in batches for about 14 minutes or until the top of the cookies are slightly cracked. Cool slightly in baking sheet before transferring it to cooling racks to cool completely.


Strawberry and Blueberry Mousse Cake

I have a lot of frozen strawberries and blueberries from Costco and I thought that the best way to use them is to make a mousse cake. :) The strawberry and blueberry has complementary colors. The strawberries gave a really soft pink and the blueberry gave a really subtle purple.

For this cake, I have used 2 layers of vanilla sponge cakes, a layer of strawberry mousse, and a layer of blueberry mousse. I used clear glaze to decorate the cake, but the mousse hadn't really set yet when I poured the glaze. The result is this 3-D looking cake glaze. :p

Recipe for the Blueberry & Strawberry Mousse:
1 cup blueberry/strawberry puree
3 tbs sugar
1 packet gelatine powder
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a blender, puree the blueberries and then add sugar. Continue blending for a few seconds to make sure that all the sugar dissolves. Then, sprinkle the gelatine powder over the water and let it bloom for about 5 minutes. Heat the gelatine for 15 seconds at 50% power in the microwave. Once the gelatine is melted, pour it slowly to the puree while stirring it continuously. Whipped the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the puree. Once done, pour into the cake ring/springform pan used to make the mousse cake.
Follow the same steps for the strawberry mousse.
You can use any type of sponge cake that you like for this cake. In my opinion, the lighter the cake, the better it is. It is also good to brush the sponge cake with some simple syrup mixed with a little orange liqueur to add some texture to the taste.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fruit Cake

This was a VERY interesting day. I had spent the week in Alabama and was looking forward to coming home. I arrived in Houston on Friday noon and I merrily went to my car, which I had paarked at the airport. I soon found out that the car is totally dead! The remote won't work, the car won't start, even the light won't turn on. If you've been to Houston in Summer, you might just understand the increased frustration I felt as the heat climbed my back. To make matter worse, my phone battery was running dead too. I used the last few calls I can make to call Alvin to come over and help. Thank God for him that day.

I waited about 45 minutes for Alvin (thanks to Houston traffic), called my Allstate MotorClub (similar to AAA) for someone to come and jumpstart my car, and waited for another hour till the man came. I had told Alvin to go back to work and just leave his phone with me. When the car guy came, he brought this little battery charger to try to recharge my car's battery. It didn't work. I was getting more frustrated as he said "I don't know... I don't know what to do. I'm sorry." And then he left. Tired of all this car issue, I left my car and took a taxi home, which cost me a LOT of money (taxis in the US is super expensive).

Anyways, I got home at 3:30pm and this cake order is due that night. I know my friends wouldn't mind if I told them that I couldn't make it that night, but I really really wanted to bake (I've been bake-fasting in Alabama for a whole week!). So I rushed to make this cake.

The cake is made of 2 layers of vanilla sponge cake and 1 layer of chocolate sponge cake brushed with orange flavored simple syrup, filled with lots of fresh fruits (kiwi, strawberry, and peach), and covered in guava chantilly cream.

Another story related to the cake is that I have no strawberries to make the cake! I had no car and so I can't go to H-E-B to buy some. I finally asked Alvin to buy me some on his way home. For that, I had to stop my cake production until about 6:15pm when Alvin came. I had a dinner appointment at 7:30pm and so I only have very little time to decorate the cake. In a rushed moment, I had forgotten how to spell. >_<>

I'm very happy that the cake was done despite all the drama that happened that day. :)

Green Tea JCC

Two things made this Green Tea Cheesecake happen:
1. I found matcha powder at Central Market!
2. The challenge of water proofing my springform pan.

I have a heart-shaped springform pan that I have never used before and I thought it will make the cake a little more interesting. I used the same recipe as I did in my previous JCC but I added about 1/2 tbs of matcha powder to my cake.

The cake turned out fine although there is still a little bit of water seeping into the springform pan. >_<

I think that the cake needs more Matcha since the cream cheese flavor really drowned the green tea flavor. Overall I think the cake was fine... I've had people ask for seconds and I take that it's always a good sign. :)

I'm still learning about cake decorating so please pardon the imperfection. If you have any suggestions or creative ideas, please let me know. :)