Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tis the Season to be Holly...

Holly Cupcakes
It has been quite a while since my last post. Not that I haven't been baking. On the contrary, I have been baking at least once a week.  Just that I had the writer's block when I wanted to update my blog. I should have blogged about my most challenging experience, that is, baking close to a hundred Red Velvet Cupcakes for my mum's 80th Birthday in November. Praise the Lord - all's well that ends well.

Anyway, the Christmas mood has suddenly sunk into me. Been working and could not apply leave until now. Going on a vacation with my family to Tokyo - free and easy. But before I go, I had the strong itch to make some chrismassy cakes. Imagine being bombarded by all the food magazines that feature on their covers Christmas bakes and food. Well, since I am planning the dessert menu for the family's annual Christmas Dinner - just like any other year, I thought I should experiment with some cakes and frosting.

Came across this site that shouts "The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes". Go check it out yourself - a must at

Followed the very simple recipe, every step of it, except adding in the sour cream. Didn't have it in my pantry so I substituted both the sour cream and milk with buttermilk. Not bad actually. It has become my own "The Ultimate Buttermilk Cupcakes"! Besides, if you checked out the recipe, it did not call for the decorations above. 

 I was inspired to make the Holly Swiss meringue buttercream after leafing through Martha's Stewart's "Cupcakes". Didn't have the confidence at first to make the buttercream. Well, it turned out quite good  as far as I am concerned and I should say I am rather pleased with it.

After my trip, I am thinking of baking a Christmas...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Devil's Food Cake

Decided to pull out Martha Stewart's Cupcakes from the shelves and flip through the pages to see what I should bake over the weekend.  Though I have the book with me for the past one year or so, I really never got down to try out the recipes. I read on the internet that the book is a must-have as it features 175 recipes.
Back to what I should bake on that day. It was a tough choice especially when I do not have any particular cupcake in mind. The appealing and attractive pictures of the many featured cupcakes did not help in making a quick decision either. But I finally settled for the Devil's Food.
The buttermilk added smoothness to the cake; the sour cream lent itself a tangy taste and as a whole the cupcakes were deliciously chocolate-ty. 

I usually do not include the recipes in posts as I respect copyrights or unless I tweak the recipes. However, below are the recipe for this fabulous cupcakes which I copied from  Martha's website mainly for the convenience of readers. It is the same recipe from the book. 

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • Chocolate Ganache Frosting
  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

As you can see, I did not make the ganache frosting. Instead, I made my favorite cream cheese with brown sugar frosting. The pearly white sugar balls are my little touches to an otherwise plain frosting. 
Now, which other recipe should I use for the next batch of cupcakes...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I have heard so much of the Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes and I understand some are being sold at SGD4.50 a piece. The Red Velvet has always intrigued me for some time as I wondered how a cake would taste like when white vinegar is added to it.
I managed to get my hands on the book, Barefoot Contessa at our local library. I watch her show on TV and sort of like her and the recipes she churns out (though I must qualify that Nigella is still my fav). Flipping through the pages I came across the Red Velvet. Just what I was looking for! 
This recipe requires white vinegar to be added to buttermilk, and stirred together with the red coloring . A couple of recipes I read on the internet mentioned that the last step is to add the bicarbonate of soda to the white vinegar. This combination is then added and mixed quickly into the batter. 

In any case, the recipe I followed resulted in fabulous little cupcakes. Great texture, dense and moist. No taste of the vinegar though and not too sweet either. The photo below are my cupcakes and if you chance upon the book, the photo of the Red Velvet is exactly the same as mine. Or is it that my cupcakes are exactly like what is shown in the book? No kidding.
I topped the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with a reduced amount of confectioner's sugar. Tasted perfect. I decided to add a single red rose on every cupcake simply because I had those Wilton icing roses in my fridge. They were gifts from my sister who holidayed with her family in Europe last December.
As I write this post, I have already made 3 batches of 12 each and had given them to my in-laws and my sister's Catholic Cell Group. All of them gave me the thumbs up.  I am rather confident to bake a few more batches as gifts and I must say my confidence was built up all because my dear wife has endorsed it - she said it was fantastic!
But who knows I may just try to sell them at SGDx a piece...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gone Bananas

Decided to bake banana loaves today simply because I took home a bunch of bananas from a board meeting on Friday. My colleagues told me to bring them home so I could bake them a cake for Monday. Well, it was very appropriate as I was dying to try out the recipes from this book I had borrowed from the National Library - AllanBakes Really Good Cakes by Allan Albert Teoh
I first saw the book at a local bookstore and hesitated to buy it. There were some questions I had in mind as I flipped through the pages. Glad that when I checked the library, they had copies, fresh from the oven (pun intended). Decided to work out some of his recipe before deciding to buy the book or not. So, the first recipe was the Banana Loaf - what else?
As you can see, the loaves turned out well and I want to believe they looked very similar to the photos in the book. But I found the texture not so fluffy but I could have over-folded the batter. Could have been a little sweeter so I thought too. I did not tweak the recipe except for reducing the salt to 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp.
Perhaps you might want to get your hands on the book and see if Allan's Grapefruit Chiffon and his Chocolate Cakes will turn out well. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Coffee Chiffon

I have been doing chocolate and chocolate chips chiffon cakes in the past week or so. Guess my family members were a little 'sick' of them after the fourth one. So I decided to turn to baking a coffee chiffon.
I hesitated to make the coffee version as I believed the taste of burnt coffee granules may be detected (as I did when I tasted the sample from the Chiffon baking class I attended). Nevertheless, I went ahead to bake one today.
My wife commented that it so lacked the coffee taste although you do get that whiff of coffee. I had to agree with her. It was sweet and one would not know it was a coffee chiffon and you may not even get that whiff. A little disappointed here as I had used the best - Nielsen Massey Coffee Extract and Vanilla Extract and of course, my old fave, Moccona. But I still thank God it turned out well. 
If I were to attempt to bake another coffee chiffon, I will increase the coffee powder from 1tbsp to 2.5 tbsps. Perhaps I may use another brand of coffee that will lend a stronger scent and taste.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chocolate Chips Chiffon Cake

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had left out the chocolate chips for a Chocolate Chip Chiffon cake and so it became a plain Chocolate Chiffon. This time, I remembered and threw in the chips as I was folding in the egg white mixture.
I half expected the chocolate chips to sink to the bottom but as it turned out,  they did not. Guess I used the mini choco ones and these are suitable for such a light cake.
Chiffon turned out fluffy and had a very rich chocolaty taste to it. Maybe it was the Hershey's mini chocolate chips I had added or was it the Valhorna cocoa powder which I used for this recipe? I told myself to use Valhorna cocoa powder for my next plain Chocolate Chiffon to see if it lends itself to that strong and delicious chocolate taste again. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Tried my hands on baking a Chocolate Chiffon after attending a recent baking class. So far, I have attempted Orange and Milo Chiffon (recipe for the latter was taken from one of the bloggers). Pretty pleased with this chocolate version as compared to the other two.

The actual recipe calls for a Chocolate Chip Chiffon but clearly from my post, it is a chiffon minus the chips. Well, I had my sister in-law visiting me on that day and at the exact time when I was about to make the cake. She has earned the title of Chiffon Queen. But she has stopped baking for a very long time and I inherited her chiffon cake tins. So I was nervous with her in the kitchen and it showed when I forgot to add sugar to the mixture of flour, egg yolks, oil etc. I did not realize it till I licked at the spatula before washing it (there you go - my confession) and it tasted really bland. Aha! No sugar and I spotted the tiny bag at the corner of the table. I added the sugar and quickly gave it a mix as I was worried I would have over mixed batter. Her presence could still be felt although she left the kitchen for the dining room.

After folding in the egg white mixture (this time I remembered the sugar and cream of tatar), I immediately poured the batter into the tin and popped it into the oven. Very satisfied with the whole delicious brown batter. As I was clearing up the table, there on the table was the packet of weighed chocolate chips. Sigh. But hey, I always wanted to bake a plain, simple chocolate chiffon. The chips could wait.

The Chiffon turned out fluffy and just like what it should be. For a non-expert baker like me, it is an achievement.

I have only sliced pieces for my photo shoot as the whole cake was cut and distributed almost immediately when it cooled. There was no waiting, at least on my part, as I had wanted to try to see if it is really as good as it looks.

Well, I guess I will attempt one more time and this time the chips will be in, folded and baked. 

I am unable to produce the recipe as it was copyrighted by the trainer. However, for those aspiring Chiffon bakers, you could refer to my June 21 2011 post on Milo Chiffon taken from allthatmatters. blog. Her recipes are simply fabulous too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A berry easy cupcake to make

Just thought I should try out this very simple recipe which I spotted on this website - It is a rather straightforward way to make very light sponge cakes. No fuss, can be done in a quickie and yet great to have for tea. For the method, I alternated adding the yogurt and the flour. I did that as I overlooked the recipe calling for adding the yogurt, vanilla and egg before folding all the flour. So trust me, it did not produce a disaster.


My initial intent was to bake these to try before deciding to bake three dozens more for a birthday celebration. You see, over at my office we celebrate the birthdays of staff and we gather all born in the same month and throw a cake(s) eating session. My birthday month falls in July and I thought I should 'supply' my own birthday cake. I guess it was the frosting that I was more interested in. I wanted to attempt different colored frosting and types from mascaporne to vanilla buttercream (recipe for the frosting is also given in the website).  However, I ended up making only the mascaporne one and that was all. I did not go any further...

They say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So true in this case as I did not bake for the celebration that week. I could not bring myself to bake. Blame it on the heat.


I might attempt to replace those strawberries with either blue or black berries or even make the cupcakes with all three berries! Bet it will be colorful and well, I hope this time,  my flesh will be willing too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mi lo Chiffon Cake

I have stopped making macarons - for now. Trying out recipes for brownies and cupcakes have taken up my time these past few weeks. But of late, I had a sudden renewed interest in baking chiffon cakes. I should attribute it to my being at the right time and at the right place to watch a demo through a glass window of a baking school.

I have baked pandan and orange chiffon cakes before and that was like two years ago. The former was more like a sponge cake and the latter, a typical chiffon texture and lightness. Apparently, my family prefers to buy the pandan ones off the shelves at some heartland bakery stores. I reserve my comment and would not want to taste them at all. My own chiffons are not great either.

And so having that urge to bake chiffon, the quest for new flavors kicked in. Blogging brought me to this blogspot - allthatmatters2rei. Check out her site at

I decided to attempt her Milo chiffon cake after reading her very comprehensive step-by-step approach to making that perfect pandan chiffon. As you can see, my chiffon turned out too low and hence the title of this post is Mi lo chiffon cake - got it??

Definitely not too pleased with the outcome and I shall be posting questions as to why the ideal height was not reached and why the cake was too moist, I think, for a chiffon.

Oh, oh I want to thank Rei for the excellent post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day 'Special'

Yes, it is Father's Day (FD) today and I have to just blog about it. As I have mentioned before, blogging allows me to archive my thoughts, inner feelings and my attempts to be a good baker, which otherwise, all will be forgotten in the next months or years to come.

What is so special about FD this year? It seems a long, long time ago that my two boys, Dom and Theo, have expressed their appreciation and love for their dad on a card. When I got up this morning, carefully place on a stool outside my bedroom door was this card. I could not help but smiled and felt a tinkling sensation in my stomach as I read their corny expressions of how great a dad I was. But as to why I felt so touched was because my boys are in their teens! For teens to express their feelings explicitly take great effort. My wife was instrumental to get them to say it all, I reckoned.

And so, with that revelation that aliens-did-not-take my boys away from me, I decided to prepare a Sunday Brunch for the family. Old American breakfast menu of runny scrambled eggs, streaky bacon and bread rolls. No beers for the boys, only the dad gets to drink beer. But this being a baking blogspot, I need to write on something related to it and so I thought.

You may have noticed a cupcake peeking from between the Heineken and card. That was for dessert. Banana Cupcake with Valhorna Chocolate Pearls.

Got the recipe from Sensational Cupcakes, by Alisa Morov. The actual recipe called for dark chocolate ganache to be poured over the cupcakes but I sprinkled them with chocolate pearls instead. Just so as I wanted to whip up something real quick.

Recipe for Banana Cupcakes with Valhorna Chocolate Pearls adapted from Sensational Cupcake:

1) 240g Plain Flour
2) 170g Caster Sugar
3) 1 tsp baking powder 
4) 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5) 1/4 tsp salt
6) 2 eggs
7) 2 ripe bananas
8) 30g thickened cream (I prefer Bulla)
9) 1 tsp vanilla extract
10) 130g unsalted butter cut into cubes (for easy mixing)

1) Preheat oven to 170 to 180 degrees C.
2) Sift flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda at least twice. Put aside.
3) Mesh the 2 bananas and mix it with the thickened cream till smooth. 
4) Add the 2 eggs and vanilla extract to (3) and mix well.
5) Add (4) to (2) carefully and using a handheld mixer, slowly combin them. In actual fact, I put (2)  over (4) and guess what happened when the mixer was turned on? So it is better to add liquid to dry to prevent powder clouds from forming. Common sense? I was not thinking then. Haha.
6) Add the butter and whisk till well combined. The butter should be at room temperature so it will be easier to combine them.
7) Pour batter into cupcake moulds and sprinkle chocolate pearls over the top. The pearls do not sink during baking as I reckon the batter is heavy enough to hold them at the top.
8) Pop them into the oven for 15-20mins and the inserted skewer should come out clean before turning them out of the oven.

The cupcakes are extremely moist - great for breakfast or for brunch. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Witches' Brownies

No, I am not into any occult or anything. Titled my post as "Witches' Brownies" because the brownie recipe I am about to share was adapted from a fabulous book, Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding. I had heard of the brownies that come from the lengendary Fat Witch Bakery in New York. I chanced upon the book at the public library and flipping through the colorful and attractive photos, I zoomed into a simple recipe which I thought would produce a high rate of success - Cocoa Brownies.

I decided to bake brownies this time round to break the monotomy of posting my macarons adventure on my blog. In fact, another factor that pushed me to make brownies was my pure guilt of seeing a Nordic Ware Brownie Baking Pan I had purchased sometime ago being stashed away unused in some corner of my pantry. Having attended a class that demonstrated the use of Nordic ware, I was impressed and had wanted to experiment with them. I have tried using aluminium pans with complicated designs for baking before and the fine details do not come out as clean as those from Nordic wares.

As the brownies came out hot from the oven, I could not resist but to remove gingerly a 'triangular' piece from the pan immediately and popped it into my mouth.

Big mistake. I had not let the brownies cool down at all. Common sense did not prevail then. The eagerness to taste what Fat Witch brownies are all about was too great. It is therefore not fair to give my verdict at that point of time. As patience knocked on my head, I decided to leave those brownies alone. A couple of hours later, I tried them and thought them to be a little dry and not too great. It was only the very next day that when I took a piece as dessert that I discovered I had made very moist and chocolaty brownies!

Cocoa Brownies adapted from Fat Witch Brownies
180g unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
11/2 cup brown sugar 
4 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract, not essence or flavor
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius. Line a baking tin if you are not using Nordic ware. For me, I greased my pan by spraying as little oil as possible.
Heat butter over low heat. Ensure that butter does not boil or worse, turn brown. As soon as I see the butter melting, I remove it from the heat and stir whatever remaining solids to melt them. Allow the melted butter to cool for 5 minutes.
Sift the cocoa powder and mix in the sugar in a separate bowl. Add cocoa-sugar mixture to cooled butter and using a handheld mixer, whisk until blended.
Add eggs one at a time, scraping down mixture that cling to the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat till batter is smooth.
Add the vanilla extract at this point and give it a quick whisk before adding the sifted flour and salt. I folded in the dry ingredients in 3 batches just to ensure that they are well combined.
Spread batter into tin or pan and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. I suggest you let the brownies cool for more than an hour. Best consumed, in my opinion, the next day.

There are so many other recipes to try out ie from brownies to blondies to bars. I might just want to buy the book and with the prevailing low exchange rate purchase it online.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peppermint Macarons

This is the second batch of Peppermint Macarons I made. The first one done last weekend had the right color but there were obvious burnt marks on the shells. It was challenging for me to have light-colored macarons without brown marks that indicated an uneven distribution of heat in my oven. Although I used the fan mode, I noted the hot spots in my oven so I had to turn the tray around while baking before the shells get burnt. I know this is plain common sense but you know what, I try not to touch anything that is in the midst of baking in the oven.

The macarons, under my watchful eyes, came out well - peppermint green. I was careful when I added the coloring (Wiltons Green Verde) so as not to make them too green as in matcha macarons.

I had wanted to add mint candies, crushed finely to bits, and mix them with the almond mixture. However, I did not dare to do anything I was not sure of. The mint bits could blemish the macaron shells.

While surfing the internet, I came across a ganache recipe that is made with peppermint extract and chocolate. It is from Good blog to read.

Doing ganache is rather straightforward and as a mint lover, I was tempted to add more peppermint extract but I resisted. I did not want the mint to overpower and subsequently mar the taste of the macarons. As I mentioned earlier, I should have added fine bits of mint candies into the almond mixture during the pre-baking stage. 

In retrospect, whilst doing the filling, I could have experimented and added the crushed mints into the ganache to produce a crunchy and sweeter ganache. Better still, add some of Arnott's Mint Slice into the ganache. These mint slices are available at our neighborhood 711 stores. 

I guess it is also important to use good chocolates like Valhorna's and for the extract, pure peppermint extract by Nielsen Massey. The combination of these great products produced a nice flavored ganache.

Mum loved it and said it was the best compared to the others I had made. Of course, mum, you like all things mint!

As I had made too much of the ganache, I guess I will have to make more peppermint macarons before I venture into doing my next flavor - let me see - Rose Macarons? Oh wait, found a new recipe - Earl Grey Tea Macarons. The Madness never ending.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gold Macarons, not Lemon

I attended my third Macaron baking class last Saturday morning. I will be attending another one (hopefully my last with all that hundreds of dollars I have been spending per class) at the end of May. Call me crazy, mad, ridiculous and so on. But I simply enjoy baking and especially baking with others who have the same interest. It is like group therapy for me seeing others absorbed in trying their best to perfect, in this case, their macarons. In fact, my wife is the one who encourages me to, "Go and learn. Never stop learning. Who knows you will pick up a tip or two". "If it makes you happy, go on," and she will end up saying, "It's your money anyway". Apart from that, I think I just want to learn new recipes for macaron fillings. 

I know I can make references to the book I have by Jill Colonna or the millions of recipes for fillings on the internet but somehow, it is different in a class. You become a student all over again. You get to try out the recipe and see for yourself the outcome as it should be or should not be. You know what I mean?

I want to be honest here. When I did the macaron shells as soon as I got home after the class, I had intended to make Lemon ones with Lemon Curd fillings. Since I had made them in class a couple of hours ago, I thought I should try it out at home. Having had a bad experience with the coloring (as pointed out in my previous blog), I wanted to make sure I had bright and cheery and lemonnish yellow macarons. I used the icing gel labelled Buttercream yellow. Mistake! Again! What turned out were Coppertoned Macarons. Darn! Hey, wait! Got an idea. Creative outburst in the midst of defeat.

As part of a 'rescue' operation, I dusted the resting shells with gold powder - as you can see in the photo above. Did not bother whipping up the lemon curd anymore but came up with a Baileys cream filling instead. Thought it more suitable here. From Lemon Macarons, I am now presenting Gold Macarons with Baileys Cream fillings. I really cannot remember where I got the recipe from. Must be from the net but did not copy the URL. Give me time to search for the owner of this recipe before I post the amount required each of the ingredients. At this juncture, I suppose I can share the steps I took to make the fillings as they are the universal steps to make cream fillings. On hand, have

-a tub of mascarpone
-whipping cream
-Coffee liquer - which I obviously used Bailey but I am sure Kahlua or Tia Maria will do just as great

On a stand mixer, I whipped up the mascarpone till light. Added sugar and beat again. Poured in 1/2 cup of Baileys (always like a strong taste) and whipped it up again. Found it too liquid. Perhaps I should have added in more mascarpone. 

In a separate bowl, I whisked the cream till stiff. Folded the Baileys mixture into the whipped cream. Piped them out immediately on my waiting shells.

They say that after piping the fillings, keep the macarons refrigerated and allow the fillings to infuse into the shells. Point noted but not taken. I immediately popped one into my mouth. Delicious.  I took another and decided to bite off a little and let the remaining portion pose for a photo shoot. 

As I arranged the macarons and positioned the Baileys bottle outdoors, the mid afternoon humidity began to bother me and my poor macarons began to become more shiny and soft by the minute. Not sure if this happens to other macaron makers as well. Anyway, I must say I was quite pleased with how my Lemon, I mean, my Gold Macarons with Baileys Cream fillings turned out...