The Chocolate Monster, aka Lea’s first multi-layer cake

Let me preface this post by stating that I really, really want cakes to like me. I really do. I enjoy attempting to make cake. The type of post I most enjoy looking at in other food blogs is cake. I do like cake. Most of all, I like to eat cakes. Nice, moist, chocolate, orange, creamy, fruity, coffee-filled, springy cakes. I get so inspired. But, my cakes usually aren’t.

More often than not I’ll have flops, sticky tops, burnt bits, chewy bits, blobs of bicarbonate, and let’s stop here before I embarrass myself too much.

Still, I try. I’m rather unrealistic in my optimism. Hence, any successful cake recipe that you find here on Happy Bellea, baked by me, is generally very forgiving (i.e., idiot proof).

I bravely volunteered to make a cake for my dad’s birthday, an excuse to try to unearth any secret cake-making abilities that might be hidden deep within me. I decided to make a double chocolate cake, the most famous chocolate layer cake on the internet, in fact – Gourmet’s double chocolate layer cake. Double chocolate cake is my favourite cake. Note that there is absolutely no hint of self-interestedness here.

I haven’t made a successful multi-storey cake before. Lets think about that for a moment.

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Yes perhaps I was being a bit over-ambitious here. I usually just make bar cakes, or at most a single layer cake with a bit of icing slapped on the top. As I may have mentioned, I’m not someone who others consider as one who can cook. I’m a hobbyist and experimenter who likes to eat. Also a serial ingredient substituter, because of course, don’t you think milo would taste better than cocoa powder? Note: it doesn’t, your cake won’t set properly.

The moment depicted in the photo below is the point at which my brain started to say “oh scrambunctious findlewooshers*, Lea, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew here, you’ve never made a cake which was so big it covered the entire whisk head. Are you mad?”

It was a bit too late to halve the recipe and make a nice little small (manageable, not scary sized) cake. I was committed. Rise or fall, dome or sink, burn or neglect-to-set, I had to keep going. I figured that in a worst case scenario, I could mash the thing up and squish it into a bowl, and later pretend it was a special kind of pudding. Heated in the microwave with cream and ice cream. Whipping cream covers a whole host of evils.

It turned out better than I expected in the end, though any icing tips would be appreciated! The whole thing actually came out slightly slanted, but depending on the angle you look at it, you can’t tell. Of course, it tastes really nice (as the recipe promised). Moist and chocolately and deserving of its internet fame. I ate so much ganache that I felt sick afterwards (the recipe produces way more than needed. Or I might have done it wrong?)

Birthday boy’s conclusion: “So rich. Can die oh!”

Lea’s verdict: this is a very nice cake. Super sinful and indulgent. I truly recommend it to chocolate lovers, and I’ll still keep the recipe. But, I think if you eat this cake, you can’t eat anything for the rest of the day. I really like the taste of the cake itself and moistness of the layers. I also really like the richness of the ganache. But, I’m thinking that the two of these together are perhaps a bit too much (gasp! never thought I’d say that). I want to find a way to lighten up this cake so that it can actually be eaten as a dessert, rather than as a meal by itself. Any ideas?

My first thoughts are:

  • Try substituting the cocoa for milo again, and work on the stickiness
  • Use a different icing, perhaps a milk chocolate or vanilla butter cream – I’ve never made this before but the internet says it’s light and fluffy
  • Use butter instead of oil – apparently this makes a lighter cake? I’m not sure, I’ve never tried
  • Add an extra egg and beat harder?

I’m pretty clueless about these things.

The Chocolate Monster, otherwise known as the most famous chocolate cake on the internet, Double Chocolate Layer Cake

First seen on Love and Olive Oil, but originally from Gourmet/Epicurious. I probably made far too many changes, and that’s why my cakes sometimes fail. Oh well.

Cake
100g semi sweet chocolate – increased from 85g, because I like chocolate
1.5 cups strong coffee
2.5 cups white sugar – decreased from 3 cups, I like my cakes less sweet
2.5 cups plain flour
1.5 cups unsweetened cocoa
2 teasp baking soda
3/4 teasp baking powder
1.25 teasp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup oil
1.5 cups shaken buttermilk – I used a cup and a half of milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar, left to sit for a while
3/4 teasp vanilla essence

Oven temperature: 150 degrees C

  1. Grease and line 2x 10 inch cake tins.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Make 1 1/2 cups of strong coffee (I used 3 tablespoons of nescafe gold), chop the chocolate, and mix the chocolate into the coffee.
  4. Beat the eggs until they go thick and a pale yellow colour. This takes a few minutes on high with a mixer.
  5. Add the liquids, mix it up – oil, buttermilk, coffee-chocolate mixture, vanilla essence.
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
  7. Bake in the tins for 1 to 1 hour 10 minutes (mine took the full 1 hour 10 minutes).
  8. Cool before ganaching!

Chocolate Ganache – This really makes far too much ganache in my opinion, next time I’ll only make about half to 3/4 of the amount. But then again, its possible that I just don’t know how to ice a cake.
450g semi sweet chocolate
1 cup cream
2 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp butter (55g)

  1. Chop up the chocolate. I melted mine a bit too, using the defrost setting on the microwave.
  2. Heat the cream and sugar over low heat until the cream boils and the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, then mix in the chocolate and butter.
  4. Cool until sticky enough to ice the cake. I chucked the entire bowl in the freezer for a bit. Stir periodically.

* I am a polite person, these are things my brain says.

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The Egg Series: Cheese on Toast

I know what you’re thinking, cheese on toast. Where’s the egg?

Let me tell you something. I don’t like egg.

Before you run for your torch and pitchfork, I’d like to clarify – I don’t like egg that looks like egg.

See, that made it clearer didn’t it?

What that means is that I don’t like boiled, fried, and poached eggs. They look like egg! White on the outside, yolk on the inside. It isn’t psychological, I swear. It’s something to do with the smell. And taste. That’s basically everything I suppose. I’ve never liked eggs that look like eggs.

I like the idea of eggs, if that makes sense. Farm fresh eggs from a corn-fed hen. With a beautiful sunny yolk and a speckled brown shell. See, I’m hungry already. But put a boiled egg in front of me and there will be consequences.

Eggs that I do enjoy: eggs in cake, meringue, omelette, chawanmushi, eggs in french toast, eggs in fried rice, eggs in clear soup…and so on.

What happened to me was a classic case of egg-envy, after which I thought about it and realised I didn’t like egg, and then made something tangentially egg-related. I found out that Bel was starting an Egg Series, and of course I wanted in on the action.

Her response: You don’t like eggs though…???

Well that’s true. I don’t like eggs. But I like cheese, and I like onions, and I like toast. And I like the gooey, cheesy mess that spills out when you cut into a slice of this. A gooey, cheesy, pungent mess that would not be possible without adding an egg or two.

And now I’ve made myself hungry again.

Cheese on Toast (You can call it eggy-cheese or cheesy-egg so that it fits into the Egg Series)

Taught to me by…. my Mum. Hello Mum! *waves*

2 slices of bread – I had small slices so I used 3, whole grain
2 eggs
1/2 to 2/3 cup of sharp cheddar, grated – if you’re greedy like me you can use more. If you prefer a more eggy flavour, stick closer to the half cup. Any other cheese should work too, it’ll just change the flavour a bit
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
Butter
Black pepper

Cherry tomatoes – these are just for you to eat so you can pretend that you’re having a healthy lunch. Though I guess in the grand scheme of things, cheese on toast isn’t too bad.
Branston Pickle – I like pickle with my cheddar, you should try it, it’s nice.

You can spice it up by adding any number of ingredients. I sometimes add a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard when I’m feeling posh, or chilli powder if I want something spicy. Mushrooms would probably be nice too.

  1.  Butter the bread. Put it in the oven to toast for about 5 minutes. I butter my bread before toasting it in the oven, because I like to think it makes the bread crispier.
  2. In the meantime, mix together the egg, cheese, onion, and black pepper. Insert any extra fillings here.
  3. Eat some cherry tomatoes and think about how balanced your meal is now that you’ve done so.
  4. Remove the toast from the oven, and spoon the cheese-egg mixture on top of it.
  5. Put the cheese on toast back in the oven. It’s good to go when the shine just leaves the top of the cheese-egg mixture. This took me 8 minutes.

A note on oven settings: I have an oven with a convection + grill setting, so I used that at 200 degrees C. Anything with a heating element will work though! (oven, grill, barbeque….)

On hindsight, maybe I should retire from the egg series. This recipe doesn’t seem very egg-related at all, or rather, it is as egg-related as a slice of cake is to egg, or as ice cream (which has egg yolks in it) is to egg. Ah, well.

Belacan Fried Rice

I made this dish for the sole purpose of feeding 25 people at a BBQ. I was kind of anxious because I hadn’t cooked for so many people in the longest time. What if it tasted like arse? What will I do with the leftovers? Oh, wait, that’s easy: there’re always poor scientists at the lab to give scraps to.

Also, I figured it was relatively easy to cook up. My grandma taught me how to fry rice before I left for university. I didn’t eat a lot of fried rice at university, but I guess it’s useful now! Thanks, Phor!

I didn’t follow any specific recipe just because my granny also doesn’t, but bear in mind these portions are for 25 people at a party who also had other things to eat, so you might want to divide the recipe by 3 if you want to make enough for 2-3 people for a simple lunch or dinner. I was also rather generous with the components of the fried rice. Some people only bother putting in peas and carrots and one prawn. I find that very irritating. I mean, really – eat properly!

Grandma’s Belacan Fried Rice
Serves 20-25 not-so-hungry people, will serve 10 hungry people

3 cups rice from the night before (this is very important as you don’t want mushy fried rice)
700g chicken breast meat, shredded
400g peeled prawns, whole
6 pieces of fish cake, chopped (optional. I added this out of generosity)
3 onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
6 eggs
Half a packet of sambal belacan paste (I use some local brand I found at NTUC)
2 packets of anchovy fried rice powder
Half a cup corn oil to begin with
As much chilli as you want
Half a pack of frozen vegetables (corn, peas and carrots). Thaw in water before cooking.
5 tbsp soy sauce

Note: if cooking for this many people, you might want to cook in separate batches just so you don’t overwhelm your wok (and yourself).

  1. Grease the wok generously with some corn oil. You won’t want the rice sticking unceremoniously. The wok needs to be hot for a good fry also.
  2. Fry the garlic and onions until golden brown
  3. Fry the chicken, eggs and prawns with the garlic and onion until golden brown
  4. Put in the sambal belacan and stir until it coats the rest of the ingredients evenly
  5. Put the rice in. Grease the rice with some more corn oil as the oil will have been absorbed by the meats at this point.
  6. Mix well!
  7. Once you see the rice beginning to cook with the heat, add the fish cake and some soy sauce according to your tastes. Turn the heat down at this point! I don’t like much soy sauce so I found 5 tbsps for such a large portion was enough.
  8. Add the fried rice powder.
  9. Mix well!
  10. Add the frozen veggies to the mix, allowing it to blend in with the rest. Don’t worry if it’s still cold; it will heat up in the rice.

 

It really is quite easy, but I find that fried rice is largely dependent on the person cooking it, and that it is an accurate reflection of the cook because it’s such a versatile dish and you can add absolutely anything you want. Guests remarked that my fried rice was “quite nice” and “quite spicy” ha ha.

Happy eating!

The Egg Series: Poached eggs-periment attempt #1

I’m so funny with my punny portmanteaus.

If you live with me, it’s no state secret that I love eggs, so much so that I decided to start an Egg Series.

I could even go meatless my entire life, but I need eggs. I get terribly eggscited whenever I talk about eggs. Since I’ve been quarantined to the house for a few days due to my highly contagious ‘flu (seriously I tried to go to work but I got sent home. You can’t have everything, I guess), I decided to treat myself to some poached eggs. “That’ll be easy,” I thought, after reading some instructions. Easy, they said!

ingredients for poached eggs

I dutifully prepared all my ingredients for my third-day-in-a-row ‘flu lunch. But I don’t know whether it’s because of my head cold that I didn’t even bother wikihow-ing before I did it. You see, I’d read those instructions ages ago. One’s memory becomes terribly impaired during the ‘flu, I guess.

So anyway I brought the water to a boil, and dumped a couple of tablespoons of salt and one tablespoon of vinegar in.

Big mistake: the water was boiling angrily when I put the egg in. Oy vey (I’ve been watching way too many The Nanny re-runs during my sick time).

swimming eggs

Naturally the egg white cooked way too quickly and went all over the place because of the bubbles. A lot of the white also stuck to the spatula when I tried to take it out. I also carelessly broke the yolk in the process of taking it out. Seriously, growing neurons is way easier than poaching a damn egg.

I decided to have my eggsceptionally poorly poached eggs with some smoked salmon on top of pumpernickel bread with a side of my usual celery-cherry tomato-lettuce combo. Although I can’t really smell anything because of my blocked nose, I could still taste the sourness of the vinegar coming through in the egg white. Is this supposed to happen? If so, I am not putting vinegar in next time!

lunch

You may go to Perfect Poached Egg for real directions on how to poach your egg properly

I sure as hell wouldn’t qualify for Masterchef because one needs to know how to poach an egg in order to be on the show. I have very far flung dreams (joining the UN, curing brain diseases, poaching perfect eggs), I know, but as any ol’ grad medical school applicant would say: persistence pays.

Oh Fudge

Oh fudge you.

What the fudge do you want?

Then what are you fudging doing here?

Fudging fudgety fudge.

Let’s take a moment to remember that fudge isn’t a swear word, and that I don’t swear very much in real life, and that once you say a word many many times it loses its ability to be a swear word anyway and just becomes funny. It’s like how when you learn a foreign language, you want to learn how to swear because it’s entertaining. And then you gleefully shout recently-learnt swear words in the supermarket while giggling wildly. And they aren’t really swear words to you because they sound funny! Well, perhaps I’m the only one that does that. Some swear words really are quite funny though. I’d tell you them but I don’t particularly want WordPress to catch me for putting indecent content online. I’m actually a nice person, honest.

Well fudge you too.

No really, I like fudge. Fudge the English sweet, I mean. Get your mind out the gutter, you terrible, terrible person. I also like butter tablet and Kendal mint cake, but nobody wants to know my dirty English secrets (though I do enjoy them).

I was inspired by Happy Bellea’s good friend Ms Munch and Muse to have a go at this, and after completely disregarding up the recipe she followed, even though the recipe clearly said not to, I was rewarded with this:

Verdict? A bit too sweet for my taste, and not creamy enough. I also can’t decide if it looks appetising or not, because of the colour. Could have been my fault for not following the recipe exactly. Well, since I won’t be in UK that often, I guess I’ll give it another go soon 🙂

To be honest, this was a very respectable-tasting fudge when all’s said and done. Good and crumbly, and not crystallised at all. Very decent. A bit sweet for me, that’s all.

I’m just rather fussy about my fudge, I really really do not like the sweet and chewy types that are sold pre-packaged, even by Thorntons. It’s tiny sweet shops in little British villages selling home-made fudge all the way for me. I tried Aussie village fudge and for some reason that didn’t do it either. It’s that exact balance of creamy and crumbly, without a hint of chewiness. Over-sharing, I know. Well, at least you know to expect more fudge recipes with tweaks.

Brown Sugar Fudge with Dates

Recipe stolen and both intentionally and unintentionally disobeyed, from Sam Tan’s Kitchen

200g brown sugar
150g white sugar
175ml evaporated milk – non sweetened type please, not condensed milk
Just under 2 tablesp of butter
1 teasp vanilla extract
150g chopped dates – I just happened to have old ones left in the fridge that felt unloved. Let’s not try to figure out how long they’ve been there. I’m not sick yet and that’s all that counts with old food!

Baking paper and a small tray/dish (mine was about 10″ by 10″, that was a bit big, though the fudge did spread out on hardening.
A few cups of cold water, placed in the freezer so they get a bit icy.

  1. Dump the sugars, butter and milk into a heavy pot and stir slowly over low heat. Keep going until the sugar is dissolved, it should take about 15 minutes. Don’t be a blurcase like me and leave the heat up too high until the mixture slowly reaches a boil, then panic. Doesn’t achieve anything. Lucky this recipe seems to be a bit forgiving.
  2. In the meantime:
    • Chop your dates
    • Line your tray with baking paper
  3. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium and let the mixture boil for 10-15 minutes until it reaches the softball, or as I quickly renamed it, the burn-finger stage. Don’t stir! Don’t freak out and stir like I did because it wasn’t supposed to be boiling yet!
    • Burn-finger stage: take a spoonful of boiling fudge and drop a droplet of it into an icy cold cup of water from the freezer. If the droplet dissipates or sinks then dissipates, it isn’t done. If the droplet forms a little ball, wait for it to cool a bit, and then pick it up and you should be able to roll it in your fingers. Use fresh icy water each time you test the fudge. You didn’t wait for it to cool, did you. See, burn-finger stage!
  4. Once you reach burn-finger stage, turn off the heat and let the fudge cool for a bit. About 10 minutes should be fine. Don’t stir.
  5. Now mix in the vanilla essence and chopped dates. Stir slowly. You’re done when the fudge starts complaining at you: “swlack swlack!” Sounds a bit squelchy and a bit similar to how Flubber would sound if he (she?) decided to scold someone.
  6. Pour hot fudge into your tray and leave to set for a few hours. Then, chop it up into squares.
  7. Prepare to welcome early-onset diabetes, this stuff is sweet.

Shrek Pasta for Hot Days

Ok so this isn’t really Shrek pasta, I didn’t mash him up and put him in a bowl. Stop being so morbid. It just struck me that the creamy yet refreshing  avocado sauce was same shade as said ogre. You can’t un-see that colour. No, the red tomatoes don’t represent mashed donkey. You really are disturbing sometimes.

Yes, I know I’m scaring our very small readership. Sigh. But you know, that’s the deal when you don’t go back over your posts later for a sanity check, all kinds of rubbish gets posted. I’m sure lots of other websites operate that way too.

So, the deal is: it was a hot day, I wanted something cool and refreshing, and I was being lazy. And avocado pasta has a raw sauce. Raw sauce! It’s almost a pasta salad! Pasta, and raw vegies? I’m certain it’s a pasta salad. That means you can eat more and it’s considered healthy because it’s not pasta, its salad.

I try to delude myself because I haven’t been going to the gym recently.

Avocado Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes 

Borrowed from Eats Well With Others

2 small avocados (or one medium/large avocado)
1/2 a lemon – I used a whole tiny lime as I didn’t have a lemon. I think it’d be even better with lemon, though the lime did an upstanding job considering its lime-y-ness
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup basil – I used about a 1/4 of a cup of dried basil, I’m sure fresh would be fantasticker, but I didn’t have any
2 portions of pasta – portion size is really up to you, I’m not telling you how much I used *burp*
A handful of pine nuts – if you have them 🙂
Salt, black pepper, and chilli flakes to taste
A large handful of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved

  1. Boil your pasta how you like it. Drain, but not too dry! Keep the pasta a bit wet so that the sauce will mix in easily.
  2. Toast pine nuts in a dry pan until they’re a bit brown and taste nice. Don’t burn your fingers picking them off the pan, yes I do that.
  3. Blend the garlic in your chopper/food processor.
  4. Add the avocado, peeled of course, in to the chopper. Whiz it for a bit until it’s a paste.  Add the basil and whiz again.
  5. Tasting time! Add lemon to taste. I used a whole lime, which is probably about the same as the juice of half a lemon, or slightly less than that.
  6. Add salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste, then blend until it’s mixed in. As a guide, I used about a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (ha ha I wish, mine’s from a bottle), and about a teaspoon of chilli flakes. As you can see, I like it spicy but not salty. Adjust to your liking.
  7. Mix the sauce into the (hopefully still warm) pasta, and add the pine nuts that you casually toasted earlier.
  8. Add as many tomatoes as you like, but do share with your co-eater.

You can also add a little hard cheese if you like, just before eating, but it really isn’t necessary.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about, ogres, onions, and how this pasta doesn’t have onions in it. That’s probably in bad taste though so I’ll just leave you to enjoy your pasta salad 🙂