Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Under Water Themed Fondant Cake

Yay! Another fondant cake for me :) I have to recognize all the people who contributed to this cake:

My mom and my aunt - thanks for baking such delicious Spekoek for the cake
My bff, Nana, and my fiance, Alvin - thanks for your labor in coloring the fondant
My dad, my mom, my aunt, Nana, and Alvin - thanks for triggering my creative vibe :)

Alvin's nephew was turning one (yes, his first birthday!) and I was given the honor of making the birthday cake. :) The request from the mom was really simple. She wanted Spekoek for the cake and she wanted an under-water themed cake. I had never made spekoek before and the number of egg yolk used in making that cake is really scary for me (about 20+ egg yolks!!). Thankfully, my mom was visiting from Indonesia for the week and she is a PRO at baking spekoek. My aunt, who was visiting from New Mexico (to see my mom), was her right had assistant in the process. :p

The timeline for the cake is really interesting:

Friday - Mom and Aunt made the Spekoek; I made the fish (Daddy fish, Mommy fish, and Baby fish)
Saturday evening - I made the rest of the decorations; Alvin and Nana helped color the blue fondant

Saturday night - Mom, Aunt, and I rolled the blue fondant to cover the cake (thanks mom for your patience with me); Nana and I arranged the decorations on the cake

Super late Saturday night - Nana and I colored the remaining blue fondant to a darker shade and tried very hard to make the "happy birthday Ethan" letters and then arranged them on the cake

It's really a lot of fun making the cake with a lot of people, but it can also be very frustrating (for me, at least). It's really worth the frustration, though :p The cake turned out to be really cute and exactly what I had imagined it to be! I am 100% satisfied.

Below are some close up pictures of the figurines :) I think Baby fish is just adorable!

Here's Daddy fish, surrounded by anemones and starfish.

The birthday celebration was at church and the little kids loved the cake. :) This makes my heart even happier. I told everyone that my mom made the cake and they really enjoyed it. What can I say - my mom taught me how to bake. :)

When I took a picture of the cake at church, the color of the cake looked a lot brighter than it was at home. I guess lighting played a great role in how the cake turned out. I shall bear that in mind in the future. :)

If you're wondering why some of the pearls at the bottom of the cake came loose - well, it's damage due to travel. The cake was moved around quite a bit at church and I guess all the commotion caused the cake to "break a sweat." :p Nonetheless, I am very happy with how the cake turned out.

Hmm... I wonder what my next fondant cake would be?

My Second Tiered Cake!

This cake is truly inspired by Bertha's Spring Themed Cake. She makes such wonderful goodies and is very knowledgeable about baking. I learnt a lot from her. :)

When Eva told me that she wanted to order a birthday cake for 3 people's birthday that'll be celebrated at church, I got really excited! Eva was very flexible on the cakes too - there was no specifications of the kinds of cake that she wanted, I could choose to make 3 small cakes or one large cake, and I can dig my imagination for the design of the cake. At that time (which was about 3 weeks ago), strawberries were still in season. They were again at $0.97/lbs, had deep red color, and were super sweet! :) Of course, I had to buy them and use it for the cake.

After much thought, I decided that I wanted to give tiered cake another try. The first one that I made looked like 2 stacked cakes and was not how I had imagined it to be. So I learnt from my mistake and made this second cake a little better. :) I used a 12" cake for the bottom and an 8" cake for the top, giving them about 2" difference when stacked.

The top layer was made of 3 layers of vanilla sponge cake filled with chocolate pastry cream and covered with white chocolate mousse. The bottom one was made of 2 layers of vanilla sponge cake filled with mango mousse and lots of lychees and pinneaple.

The chocolate "walls" surrounding the cakes was one of my favorite part of the cake as well as the hardest challenge for me. As I've mentioned several times before, chocolate decorations have always been a challenge for me. Ask Cess and she'll tell you. :p

But I had just bought a book by Bo Friberg called Professional Pastry Chef and inside there are clear instructions on how to temper chocolates. So I followed the instructions step by step and managed to somehow temper my chocolates! :) I have to tell you, tempered chocolates are great! They harden quickly and easy to peel off from the acetate/parchment paper. I made a bunch of milk chocolate and white chocolate rectangles with my tempered chocolate for this cake.

Just when I thought that everything was going smoothly, the strawberries that I had stuffed between the top cake and the bottom chocolate walls pushed the chocolates out, causing my walls to crumble and fall. >_< This happened about 1 hour before the cake was due. I calmed myself down and thanked God for the extra chocolate rectangles that I had made. :p I replaced them all and took out ALL of the strawberries that caused the trouble.

Transporting the cake from my apartment to church was also one frightening trip. Apparently, I had cut one of the dowel a little higher than the rest causing the cake on top to be wobbly. This really adds a lot of shaking-factor on the cake. Alvin and I were very much under a lot of stress during that trip. Praise God, we made it safely there. :) And the cake was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cake

This is another short blog entry. I really apologize for not putting much effort into the blog lately. Things have been moving at such fast speed in my life that I haven't had a chance to look back and ponder.

I honestly don't know the recipient of the cake but I know the friend who ordered the cake from me. This is the second time that he requested a birthday cake and he wanted a similar cake to the one he had ordered before - with slight changes.

So I made the cakes a little different this time - with 2 layers of chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate IMBC and covered with dark chocolate ganache. It's a simple cake but it has a really rich flavor (lots of chocolaty goodness). :) I hope that this cake can be a blessing to the birthday girl and everyone who had a bite of it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Black Forest Cake with a Story

This one is going to be a short blog post, since I've posted several black forest cakes already. A friend of mine ordered a birthday cake for her husband a month ago and I made her this cake. What I want to share with you about this cake is not so much the cake, but the story behind the cake.

You see, this friend ordered the cake and told me to write some message on it but she didn't specify the actual words. So when I made the cake, I thought about what to write and somehow I wrote "Love Never Fails" on the cake. Then, the morning before the cake was picked up, I read a message from her asking me to write "Happy Birthday, Say" on the cake. I felt terrible that I had written something different than what she had requested, but since the words were already written and it's too late to change, I just left the message as it is.

Two days after the cake was picked up, I got a message from her telling me that the cake was good :) and that the message written on the cake has been a blessing for her. Reading her message was such a great blessing for me because I've been praying for a while on the purpose of my blog/hobby. I wanted my baking to be more than activities and my blog to be more than informational. I know God has a purpose in my life, and it sure includes my hobby. And knowing that what I bake blesses others was an answer from God on my prayer. I'm very grateful that the almighty God is still willing to use me as his tool. :)

I am really thankful for all my friends who had prayed for me and who had encouraged me all this while. :) *Muach*

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Triple Dessert Day

This weekend was wonderful! All of it was wonderful! :) Here are some glimpses of joy I experienced:

1. I had the chance to bake a lot for my friend's dad's retirement party

2. The weather was just gorgeous - sunny and clear skies

3. Alvin took me on a nice date in Kemah

4. Alvin proposed in Moody Gardens - the place where "us" began

What more could I ask for, right? :) I am truly blessed.

I do want to share with you in greater detail the bake-off I had this weekend. :) Laura's dad is retiring and they wanted mini desserts for the retirement party. We had quite a few discussions about which desserts to make for the event. We finally settled for petite tiramisu cups, mini neapolitan cupcakes, and cream puffs. She told me that she wants about a couple dozen of each and I am truly excited. :) I mean, when else am I going to have the chance to make so many mini desserts?

The picture above is the tiramisu cups. I made the tiramisu with sponge cakes instead of lady fingers and I baked them on mini cupcake tins. The size fits perfectly on the glasses. :) I topped each cup with cocoa powder and some dark chocolate curls. Alvin tried the tiramisu and said that the rum was very strong. *_* I hope that it's okay for Laura's party. I think next time I will cut down on the rum a little.

This is the mini neapolitan cupcakes I made for the event. I used the same recipe as I did here, but I made the mini version this time. I think that mini cupcakes is the best service portion for a cupcake - not too much, but just enough to enjoy the taste. :) It was challenging for me to pipe 3 different batter on such a small mold though because you can only put a little bit of each batter so that the cupcake won't spill out when baked. Of the 36 mini cupcakes I made, only 24 came out decent looking (i.e. without a shitake mushroom top). So I ended up giving Laura only 24 of the 36. What did I do with the other dozen? I brought it to work. :p

And these are my cream puffs. For Laura, I modified my cream puff a little bit. I typically use egg-yolk only wash, which gives a deep brown look to the choux, but this time I used whole-egg wash with a little bit of milk, which gives a lighter golden look. :) I think I like this shade a lot better. Also, for the filling, instead of using the Indonesian-style custard or Western style Chantilly cream, I used diplomat cream. Diplomat cream is just custard lighted with whipped cream. I brought some over to my friend's house on Friday night and they liked it a lot. :)

So, overall, I'm quite satisfied with the outcome of my weekend bake off. All that hours were worth it! :)

Result: 24 mini neapolitan cupcakes, 30 petite tiramisu cups, and 40 cream puffs. :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Baileys Espresso No-Bake Cheesecake

I wanted to make a dessert for the girls in my small group on Thursday but I have another cake to make that was going to be picked up on Thursday as well. So I needed to make something that is quick and relatively simple. :p So I browsed through my recipe books and my recipe collections and noticed this Baileys Espresso No-Bake Cheesecake recipe from my dear friend Bertha. :) I glanced through the list of ingredients - I've got everything I need in my kitchen :) That's always a good start.

When the girls and I tried this last night, our comments were that the texture of this cheesecake is like a mixture of mousse, cheesecake, and pudding all together. :) I guess the best word to describe it is "interesting" - in a good way. :)

Here's the recipe from Ms. Bertha (I made slight modifications to it):

1 thin layer of chocolate sponge cake (I used chocolate graham cracker crust)

1 block Philadelphia cream cheese, softened (I used 8oz cream cheese block)
1 tsp vanilla
30 g Baileys (I used 50g)
50 g strong espresso (I used 30g)
200 ml whipping cream
100 g sugar
1 Tbs. gelatin powder (I used 1 Knox gelatin envelope)
3 Tbs. cold water

A little white batter
Chocolate paste/cocoa powder/melted chocolate, whatever works


1. Whip the cream until medium stiff peak form, set aside.
2. In a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth
3. Add the Bailey's and espresso, mix well.
4. Sprinkle the water over the powdered gelatin and let it bloom. Melt in a microwave for a few seconds. Don't let it come to boil.
5. Add the gelatin to the cheese mixture, stir to mix.
6. Fold in the whipped cream to lighten.
7. Place the sponge cake base in the bottom of a cake ring. You can moistened it with espresso and/or Bailey's if you want
8. Pour the batter onto the ring.
9. Take a little of the white batter and mix it with chocolate paste/cocoa powder and make a swirl/marble pattern using a toothpick or a skewer

I'm still new at this swirl thingie but it was really fun dragging those lines down to create a pattern. :) Here's a closer look at the "swirls."

During bible study last night, we were discussing about prayer and having a prayer-led life. I find it really difficult to commit to prayer despite knowing that that's the building blocks of my relationship with God. I think the reason is just pure laziness on my part. I really need to work on that. Please pray for me... that I will be in constant awareness of the fact that I am living in the presence of God almighty.

Thanks! ^_^

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Summer Fruit Cake

I haven't made layered cakes in such a long time! There has just been not much opportunities or reasons for me to make one. That's why I'm so glad when Sylvia called for a birthday cake. :) It was also a very fun process thinking through the many different kinds of cakes that could be made: rich chocolate torte, strawberry shortcake, mango mousse cake, blueberry and mango mousse cake, mocha cake, plain vanilla cake, mango cream cake, etc... The options are endless! Sylvia finally decided on a fruit cake. Now, this is not the western fruit cake where you mix in raisins and other kinds of dried fruits in the cake batter. This is more of the fruit cake you would find in an Asian bakery.

The cake itself is made of 2 layers of vanilla sponge cake moistened with some mango compote. I wanted a good mix of fruits that have different vibrant colors as the filling, so I picked some fresh strawberries (they are in season!), mangoes, mandarin oranges, green grapes, and blackberries. I then frosted the whole cake with Chantilly cream. Sylvia had requested for the cake to not be too sweet - so I cut down on the amount of sugar for the cake and for the cream as well. :)

The most dreading part about making layered cakes for me is the decorating part. I think that this is the only dreading part about baking. If you know me back when I was in grade school and even secondary school, I am not a very creative person. If you see my report card, the bad grades would be in art and PE. Thankfully, I have a creative director next to me when I was making the cake. :p Alvin helped in arranging the fruits on the cake so that it doesn't look too heavy and the cake looks balanced. This creative director also happens to be extremely talented at dish washing. :p Thanks, Alvin! :)

I also learnt a new tip in preparing my cake for frosting: to stack the cake inside a 3" cake pan lined with plastic wrap. You can follow the instructions from Cake Journal here. I works great for me! :)

Well, the cake will be picked up tonight. I'm crossing my fingers hoping that they'll like it. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Strawberry Cream Chiffon Tarts

I'm in the mood for tarts lately. I had bought a bunch of mini tart molds from Indonesia and have yet to find the chance to use them. Making petite desserts takes a lot of time because each small tart requires the same amount of effort to make as a large one but I have to make a lot of them. So when work slowed down this past weekend (we filed the 10-Q!) and I have a short day on Friday, I decided to make these mini strawberry tarts.

I started with pate sucree for the crust the night before and chilled it in the fridge overnight. After work on Friday, I started to roll out the dough and mold them to each mini tart molds. I have to say, this is quite challenging for me. First, rolling out the dough when it's still chilled is quite difficult because it's hard as stone. But when the dough started to warm out, it sticked to my rolling pin! >_< I found a solution for this though: I rolled the dough between 2 sheets of cling wraps. It worked perfect!

Second, trying to pit the rolled out dough on the mold was really tedious. I had to make sure that the dough was pressed to the sides and bottom on the mold. I'm not sure why, but it's a difficult process for me. :0 I guess I'm just not patient enough for this. :p

When all this is done, I had to cover each one with aluminium foil and weigh them down with rice grains. Then I had to bake them in the oven! :) I like this part best because it's the last step in the process. :p

Even after the crusts were ready, I still wasn't sure on the filling. I couldn't decide whether to make a fruit tart (with custard), mango chiffon tart, or strawberry cream chiffon tart. After browsing through my fridge, I scratched off fruit tart because I don't have many different kinds of fruit at home. But I have both mango puree and strawberry puree sitting in the freezer. I also have fresh mangoes and strawberries at home. It was a tough battle, but I finally decided on the strawberries. Why? Because the strawberries wouldn't last longer in the fridge compared to the mangoes. :p Plus, strawberries are in season now and the ones I had at home were just the reddest and sweetest strawberries ever (all for just $0.99/lbs).

I promise to make something mango next. :)

I brought these for the bible study session Friday night. :) I love bringing desserts to my bible study group because I know that they'll eat it all - with a big smile on their faces. This is what makes all that effort worthwhile.

Here's a little glimpse of the tarts before I filled them up with the strawberry cream chiffon filling. :) Aren't they cute?

Now, for the strawberry cream chiffon filling's recipe:

450g strawberry puree
8g cornstarch dissolved in 60ml water
30 ml lemon juice
7g powdered gelatin bloomed in 120ml water
60g egg whites
60g granulated sugar
125ml heavy cream

Bring to boil the strawberry puree and then stir in the cornstarch mixture. Stir until thickened and then add the lemon juice and the softened gelatin. Continue stirring until all the gelatin is dissolved. Chill until thickened but not set.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until it reaches soft peaks and then slowly mix in the sugar while whisking at high speed until you get a glossy meringue. In another bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks. Fold the meringue into the chilled strawberry mixture followed by the whipped heavy cream.

At this stage, you can fill the tart shells with the strawberry cream chiffon filling and decorate as you desire. :)

Strawberry & Cream Pudding

This is my second attempt at pudding making. I used the same recipe as the mocha pudding I made previously and modified it to make a strawberry one. :)

The changes that I made to the recipe were as follows:

- I substitute 1/2 of the milk with strawberry milk
- I did not use any of the cocoa powder or coffee bits
- I add in some coconut jelly in the pudding

I still use the same recipe for the vanilla sauce, but I decreased the sugar a little bit (the last one I made was a little too sweet for me). :)

After filling up the main mold, I still have some leftover pudding mixture. So I pour them to my mini tart molds. :p