Gong Xi Fatt Cake

Among other things, Chinese New Year means that people come over and there needs to be food around. Lots of food. 

*takes a bow*

At some point, you or whoever else is ordering the the food will forget exactly how much food they ordered – this happens, it’s normal, and you shouldn’t panic. You definitely ordered enough food.

Despite this, you will still end up making an extra dessert. Extra dessert is always welcome. Especially when it’s the first year you have to give out angpau, and you need a little consolation in the form of cream cheese.

Cream cheese heals all wounds

Yes, that’s two pictures of the orange flower. I’m just a little bit proud of myself ūüôā (context: I’m the least artistic person on the planet)

I have omitted the process pictures, in which I dropped the baking tin on the cake. My baking tin is metal = heavy. This resulted in a really really big dent in the middle of the cake. Like I said, there is nothing that cream cheese icing can’t solve.

Vanilla Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing and Orange “Flower”

Vanilla Cake

Adapted from Hummingbird Cupcakes’ vanilla cupcake recipe, and quadrupled.¬†

I like this particular vanilla cake recipe a lot, because it’s one bowl with very few steps, and results in a really light and springy cake (and I don’t even like vanilla cake much, it’s boring!)

480g all purpose flour ‚Äď I have used gluten free with this recipe before
400g caster sugar
160g butter, softened
480ml milk
4 eggs
3 teasp vanilla essence
6 teasp baking powder
1 teasp of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C
Yield: a two layer square monster, 9″

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until the mixture looks sandy. Or, you can use the rub-in method.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Drop in the milk, egg, and vanilla essence. Mix until just smooth, try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Split into two square tins. Fill only 1/2 to 1/3 full, this cake rises a lot!
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. I’d start checking at 35 minutes for done-ness.

Cream Cheese Orange Icing

Adapted from BraveTart’s SMB though it isn’t really SMB anymore given that I used whole eggs. The yolk / white wastage makes me sad, so I only do SMB or Faux French if I have leftover egg parts.

I know it’s a pain, but weigh everything really well okay? Even the egg. I ended up creating an excel sheet to calculate weights based on the weight of the egg parts…super nerd with bad mental maths. Let me know if you want it.

300g whole eggs – this was 3 eggs for me
300g castor sugar
490g butter, softened + cubed
490g cream cheese, softened + cubed
1/2 teasp salt
Zest of 4 oranges – the ones used below for decor

  1. Beat eggs into sugar and salt, until the egg whips up.
  2. Heat over a water bath until it steams, approx 150 degrees C. I just look for steam, I don’t have a thermometer. Whisk continuously!
  3. Once it steams quite regularly, remove and beat until the mixture doubles in volume. Another test for this is to put some between your fingers, and see whether you can feel sugar crystals.
  4. Keep beating until it gets cool, otherwise stick it in the fridge for some time until it gets back to room temperature.
  5.  Once it hits room temperature, dump in the butter and whisk until smooth.
  6. Now you can add your flavourings – namely cream cheese and orange zest. Beat all of them in until smooth, but don’t over mix or the cream cheese will go runny.

Note: my icing didn’t hold well up in the heat after a while, so I might try adding some white chocolate next time to attempt to stabilise it a bit. Suggestions welcome.

Build the beast

About 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented. Be careful not to break the sacs!

  1. Peel and set aside mandarin oranges, after breaking into segments. Leave them on a sheet of kitchen paper, so that all the juices get soaked up and the segments don’t drip all over your icing.
  2. Slather icing between, and on top of all sides of the two stacked cakes. Cool in the fridge in between coats if like me, your icing is a bit drippy.
  3. Arrange the oranges in a pretty flower pattern, and place this (piece by piece, unfortunately) on top of the cake.
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The Prince of Battenberg

The Prince of Battenberg was a rather illustrious man. A lover, a singer, a fighter. He protected the Earth from dragons and giant spiders and aliens from outer space. Yes, he did, why do you think we can’t find any of these things nowadays?

How did he do it, you might ask?

Overdid it a little with the food colouring

Apart from his mighty constitution, he subsisted solely on Battenberg cake. And he had a shield with a battenberg design on it. When he was ready for battle, he would close his eyes and crouch behind his shield. The sign of the battenberg would then shoot out of his shield like a laser (think Captain Planet with only 2 colours), and it became a giant multicoloured light sabre. He was then able to yield it like a mega-sword.

As Battenberg cake was the source of his special powers, I thought it was prudent to learn to make one.

They don't need to be super even. Ready to roll This is how we crimp itIf you want the real story of the Prince of Battenberg, you can find it on Wikipedia here. I think mine is more interesting. Though even without his super batten-sabre, Prince Louis was apparently a pretty successful fellow.

Seriously, don’t let other websites fool you into thinking this cake is rocket science. If you can roll out pastry (like make cookie-cutter biscuits and apple pie) then you can totally do this. It’s a cut and paste job, and the marzipan is pretty easy to roll out with a rolling pin.

Psychedelic yet sophisticated

Battenberg Cake

Almond Cake

I used the almond sponge recipe off BBC (tweaked to suit what I had in the kitchen), though any almond sponge will do.
Note that the cake gets better after a few days as the flavours meld. I don’t like almond cake, but I have it on good authority.

140g self raising flour – or normal flour with an extra 2 teasp of baking powder
150g brown sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
1/2 teasp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Baking paper

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C for around half an hour.
Yield: 1 20cm square cake tin, split into two for the 2 colours.

  1. Dump all the ingredients in a food processer and mix until smooth. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. Divide into 2 bowls. Colour one bowl pink and the other yellow. As you can see, I added a bit too much food colouring. This affects cooking time, if you add very little then check whether it’s done at about 25 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking tin. Cut 2 sheets of baking paper to the size of the tin. Fold them in such a way that you get 2 “pockets” for your batter in the cake tin. Make sure you score the corners with the back of a spoon, else your cake won’t have sharp edges and you’ll end up wasting *even more* cake. Fit these 2 pockets into the cake tin (see the picture above if you think I sound crazy).
  4. Pour each colour of cake mix into one of the pockets. Don’t worry, they won’t mix – the batter is pretty thick.
  5. Bake, and leave to cook thoroughly.

I like to build it build it

A pink bar cake – you just made these cakes, you clever fellow
A yellow bar cake
About 500g of marzipan
A few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
Icing sugar

  1. Stack your bar cakes one on top of the other. Using a sharp knife, cut off the edges so they stack together nicely. Then, cut them in half and switch the top and bottom layers on one side so you get a chequerboard pattern of pink and yellow (see pics above if you’re confused).
  2. Heat up some jam in the microwave so it goes a bit runny. Use the runny jam to stick your 4 strips of cake together. You can be pretty generous with the jam.
  3. Powder a surface with a little icing sugar (I did this on a chopping board to minimise mess). Roll out your marzipan, to a size large enough such that you can wrap the 4 strips of cake in it. You don’t want the marzipan to thin or it won’t be able to hold the cake together.
  4. Paint runny jam all over the marzipan.
  5. Roll the cake into the marzipan, trying to keep the marzipan as tight as possible. Once the edges meet, trim the marzipan with a knife so it sits flush with the corner of the cake.
  6. Pinch all the way along the bottom two corners of the cake with your fingers, no one will see this because it’s at the bottom of the cake. Try not to be too violent though.
  7. Roll the cake back right-side up again. Slice off the two ends of the cake so it becomes a nice even cuboid, covered with marzipan on all sides except the ends.
  8. Decorate as you will, sir.

If you leave it to sit, the marzipan hardens and tightens up

Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

A Little Pudd, Luv?

I like Christmas pudding. But my mum is wheat intolerant, and I generally don’t like the taste of anything with brandy / alcohol in it. So suffice to say the dramatic flaming of the pudding is not my favourite part, I prefer the part in which I steal a slice of hot pudding prior to the flaming, then drown it in clotted cream and stuff my face until I feel sick. Then I repeat this 2 hours later (with the second slice I preemptively pinched). And then again, after dinner.

Lumpy plumpy

I haven’t had Christmas pudding for a good many years, because it’s rather difficult to find a pudding that is both brandy-less and wheat free. Even if it was an either-or situation, it would be a pushing it a little.

I was also under the mistaken impression that Christmas pudding was an extremely involved process. I was happy to be proven wrong on that score.

The only part I was (very) apprehensive of was the steaming. Then the pudding looked scary, so I gave up and zapped the thing in the microwave for 5 minutes to finish it.

At this point I got scared and started microwavin'

In line with *cough my own new* tradition, I added a pudding star. What is a pudding star? Well, I made it up. Out of necessity. I grew up listening to stories about how the little boy found a 6-pence in his slice of pudding, and how that was supposed to be lucky. I was not amused to find out that it isn’t a good idea to put coins in puddings anymore, because of all the weird alloys in them that might leach chemicals into the pudd. Hence, the pudding star – a beautiful shining star made of tinfoil. Origami, no less. Perhaps one year I shall make a little tinfoil crane.

The Pudding Star!!

I hope I don’t choke anyone with it.

Anyway, now Mr Pudd has been wrapped up and stuffed in the freezer until Christmas day. Upon which, I shall microwave him briefly, and serve him hot. With cream.

Mr Pudd

Rich Christmas Pudding 

Adapted from Be-Ro  Flour, 37th Edition

100g self raising flour – I used gluten free
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currents
50g mixed peel
100g brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 teasp nutmeg powder
1 teasp mixed spice powder
75g grated frozen butter – originally suet..which sounded a little too hard to get hold of

2 eggs
2 tablesp milk

Pudding star, or some other similarly cute inert metallic object

  1. Mix everything on the ingredients list from the flour down to the butter in a bowl.
  2. Drop in the milk and eggs, and mix well until everything is combined into a gloopy mess.
  3. Grease a bowl, and put a little square of baking paper in the bottom to prevent stickage.
  4. Pour everything into the bowl. Hide the pudding star in the batter somewhere.
  5. Cover with a square of baking paper, then seal with tinfoil.
  6. Steam for 2 and a half hours. You probably need more like 3 hours, and the original recipe says 10 hours. I got fed up after 2 and a half, so I removed the tinfoil and zapped the baking-paper-covered-pudding bowl in the microwave for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Let it cool a bit, then flip it upside down to get the pudding out. Wrap in cling film and freeze, or eat if you are the clever type that makes such a time consuming monstrosity on Christmas day itself.

Reheating instructions: you can either put it back in the bowl, cover again with baking paper + tinfoil and steam for half an hour to an hour, OR, you can stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes.

A note on raisins and other dried fruity bits – I couldn’t get all of these separately (and also it would have cost a bomb!). So I used a bag of mixed raisins and peel. The proportions were roughly similar to those in the recipe. ¬†Perhaps not the most traditional, but it turned out alright.

Patchwork Apple Pie

Egg wash covers a multitude of sins, and when you’re down to your last egg and making your mum’s birthday pie, forgo tomorrow’s breakfast and just use it on the pie.

Naked apples

Especially if said pie was set to be named disaster-pie rather than patchwork-pie, because for some reason, you didn’t figure out how to roll out the pastry properly. And it wouldn’t go hard, even in the freezer. Tasted good raw though.

You can't see how I wrestled with the crust - I won!

Despite my fiddling, the pie filling turned out really very well – just a little tart. I like it best that way, though other sweet teeth (sweet tooths? No, I think sweet teeth is better) were slightly less than impressed. Too bad, if you want more it sweeter, make your own pie *blows raspberries*

Patchwork pie!

We ate it with cream, and custard (those were the options, not both at the same time).

See what I mean about covering up imperfections?

Patchwork Apple Pie 

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s apple pie, I changed the filling a bit. On a side note, I don’t usually make a lot of Jamie Oliver’s recipes as I’ve always found them rather complicated, but this one is great – he provides step by step instructions, with pictures. I’d totally recommend heading over to his website for that (I recorded it here to capture my minor changes to the filling).

Pastry

250g flour – gluten free works fine here
50g sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
125g cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
A little milk, if needed

  1. Pulse flour, sugar, zest, and butter together in a food processor. Keep going until it looks like sand.
  2. Add the egg, and a little milk if the dough doesn’t come together when you mix further. You may or may not need the milk, depending on the size of the egg.
  3. Put the dough in the fridge for a bit while you make the filling.

Filling

3 green apples – I used granny smith, they were quite small
4 red apples – I used pink lady/braeburn (I think?), again quite small
3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablesp black treacle – molasses would work too
1/2 teasp ground ginger
1/2 teasp cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
A handful of raisins – I used close to half a cup

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. I cut mine into 1/8th segments.
  2. Put the apples and all other ingredients in a pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the apples just start to soften.
  3. Set aside to cool while you sort out the pastry.

Assembly

1 egg, beaten
Butter for greasing
Flour for rolling

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Flour a work surface. Take half the dough out the fridge, and roll it out. Carefully lift the dough into the bottom of a (buttered) pie plate. If you’re useless like me, and use slightly soft butter, you may need to dump it directly into the pie plate and press it out until the dough covers the bottom and sides of the plate.
  2. In go the apples – don’t just drop them in though, you will get holes in your crust. Be gentle!
  3. Take the other half of the dough out the fridge, and roll it out on the floured surface. Try to get it large enough to cover the pie. Lift it on top of the pie. Try not to break it. I didn’t manage this…so I made little coin shaped flat bits with my fingers and tried to get them all to stick together over the apples, like a jigsaw puzzle. As you can see, it works relatively decently. “Rustic”, I believe it is called.
  4. Brush on the beaten egg. If you managed to place your pastry on top of the pie in a single piece, cut a couple of holes in the centre of it so the steam can escape. I did not need to do this.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is brown and firm.

Dough-splosions

This is another classic case of recipe-in-progress that gets posted, so that I don’t forget what I did and what I want to try next time. Don’t ask what possessed me to attempt making bread, I don’t know. No less, bread that I can actually buy from down the road (since I’m still based in KL).

Perhaps stubbornness because I wanted to see if I could do it myself?


Not membrane-like at all. Think I didn't knead enough

I also had a bit of an explosion because I forgot that I was making bread and went off to do something else. Note to self: don’t leave dough alone to proof for 4 hours, it will try to escape the bowl.

Boom!

I made two types of bread, one was cinnamon sugar and the other was cheese sugar. I’ve provided the recipes for both. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as I would have liked, but I think that’s because I kinda don’t know what I’m doing. Suggestions welcome, and I’ll try again soon ūüôā

Cinnamon LoafCheese Sugar LoafNot quite fluffy enough - but I think that's my fault

TangZhong (śĻĮÁ®ģ)¬†Bread

Adapted from Do What I Like, though I also looked at Bush Gourmand. I made a bigger loaf and scaled the Tang Zhong for one loaf of bread.

Tang Zhong – apparently this fluffs the bread

130g water
3 1/3 teasp unsifted flour

  1. Mix everything together, and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously.
  2. Keep going until the mixture starts to thicken, and you see streaks across the surface when you drag a spoon across the top (I’ll add a picture next time).
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Bread

500g flour
200g water
10g milk or some skim milk powder – make up the liquid in water instead
2 tsp salt
2 tablesp / 30g sugar ‚Äď the typical amount in Hong Kong style bread is about double this, pump it up if you’re making a sweet bread
2 tsp yeast
50g melted cooled butter – I just melted mine in the microwave and let it cool to room temperature

2 teasp vanilla essence
2 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp brown sugar
OR
1/4 cup grated cheese
2 teasp brown sugar

Oven temperature: there are options…either 220 degrees C or 180 degrees C (I tried the 220 degrees C here)

  1. Mix flour, water, milk, salt, sugar (30g for cheese loaf, 60g for cinnamon loaf), yeast, melted butter, and tangzhong together in a bowl. Also add the cinnamon and vanilla if you’re making the cinnamon loaf.
  2. Knead until it gets stretchy, the “membrane stage”. I didn’t get there, so pics next time if I do. It also works in a bread machine for 2 cycles, about 10 to 15 minutes if I’m not wrong.
  3. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover loosely to allow it to rise. Leave it there until it doubles in size. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half in a warm room.
  4. Punch the air out, and dump it into the baking tin. Let it rest there for 15 minutes or so. It should pop out above the baking tin.
  5. Now add your toppings:
    1. Sprinkle on the brown sugar for the cinnamon loaf, or
    2. Sprinkle on the cheese and brown sugar for the cheese loaf. I added too much cheese so I had to “rescue” it, hence the crown shaped top. Don’t over-do it so that it gets too heavy or the top of the loaf will slip out the sides of the tin when it bakes.
  6. Bake at:
    1. 220 degrees C for 25 minutes. Then remove the tin, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes so the outside gets crispy. Note that the cheese burnt a little on this setting, so a little tweaking may be required.
    2. 180 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, with the lid of a pullman baking tin closed. I haven’t tried this yet, but the time seems a little short to me – to be updated!

Dirty Old Google, and Cake

Google, you have a problem.

Why? WHY?

Why would you do this to me, google? In the middle of the supermarket where people might see? They will think I’m some really dodgy person who looks up lots of dirty words on my phone in broad daylight, in public.

Before you start calling me a perv or any other slightly more colourful names, note that the reason why I was trying to find out how many inches were in 16 cm was because I was buying new baking tins. Cute, small, cheap Japanese baking tins, just the right size to split one cake recipe into two tiny cakes, one of which can be frozen for a rainy day (like today). They even have little detachable bottoms so they are a bit like mini spring-forms, isn’t that nice?

Cute lil cake tins

No, I do not search for weird stuff on my phone. You try googling “16 cm”, see if you get all these funny links too. I swear it isn’t just me, I tried it on a couple of different computers with similar results.

Anyway. Words don’t do justice to this cake, it tastes awesome. Even people other than me admitted as much. So that means I’m not just tooting my own horn. Snigger. Okay, inappropriate, enough.

All that's missing is a little squirrel Brown butter does not look appealing Hazelnut powder Dry like the desert

But seriously, don’t you think blogging is a little self indulgent sometimes? Who wants to read whatever random drivel I decided to spout, standing on my little soap box in this corner of the web?

I like the spotty batter See the little bit that flaked off? Line your baking tins! I will figure out how to get the hazelnut spread to set soon. I think the oil content was too high Rustically artistic, or messy? Who am I kidding?

It’s okay, don’t feel sad. Eat some cake, you’ll feel better. About yourself and about the world and about everything else, all of which will turn into sunshine and unicorns, after you eat this cake. Seriously. Do iiittttt. And stop thinking about google and dirty words, you’re kinda disgusting.

Sunshine and ponies and butterflies

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Cream Cheese White Chocolate Faux French Buttercream

Bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? The cake is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who originally got it from Sunday Suppers at Lucques). The faux French buttercream is adapted from Bravetart’s recipe, edited slightly because I ran out of butter and reduced to reflect the number of egg yolks I had left.

Cake

140g hazelnuts – I didn’t bother removing the skins FYI, no big deal
225g butter
135g icing sugar
40g flour
5 extra-large egg whites – I used 6 because my eggs were smallish, save the yolks for the buttercream
3 tablesp caster sugar
1 teasp vanilla essence

Oven temperature: 175 degrees C. I used 2x 6 inch pans, it’s probably a good idea to line them if you use anything larger.

  1. Toast the hazelnuts for about 10-15 minutes, until they turn chocolate brown and smell like nutella. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cook the butter over medium heat until it turns brown and smells like toast. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t burn or bubble over, and cooks evenly. Once you’re done, leave the butter to cool. Let it cool to close to room temperature before adding it to the cake batter!
  3. In a food processor grind the hazelnuts with the icing sugar until fine like breadcrumbs. Add the flour and pulse a couple of times to sift and mix. If you’re so lucky as to have hazelnut powder, just sift everything together instead.
  4. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the caster sugar until they are stiff and dry. Stiff and proud like a captured knight in armour, who has lost the battle but never his dignity. Yes, I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels, leave me alone. Turn egg whites out into a big mixing bowl.
  5. Fold in the hazelnut flour and (cooled!) brown butter into the egg whites in thirds, alternating between the two. Be gentle! The egg whites look like they deflate a lot, but that’s alright as long as you’ve whipped them good earlier.
  6. Pour out into a the cake tins, and bake for about 40 minutes, checking afterwards.

Buttercream

6 egg yolks – you saved these from the cake batter earlier, about 100g
100g sugar
200g butter – softened
100g philly cheese – softened
150g white chocolate – melted, whisked, and cooled
1 teasp vanilla essence

  1. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they go pale.
  2. Put everything over a water bath, and heat until about 65 degrees C, stirring all the while. You need to see some steam coming off the top. Once you see the steam, take the eggs off the water bath.
  3. So now you have two choices. You can either whip the eggs until they cool (takes forever!) or you can bung it in the fridge for a bit, have a cup of tea, then come back when they have cooled down. Then whip them on high until the mixture thickens and approximately doubles in volume.
  4. Drop in the chunks of butter and cheese, and keep mixing on high. It should come together and get shiny after a while. If the buttercream gets too runny, put it in the fridge for a bit and then try again once it cools down.
  5. Add the chocolate and vanilla essence and keep mixing. See how it holds its shape much better? I think (not sure) that that’s because of the chocolate.
  6. You’re ready to go ice cakes now. If the icing is a little soft just stick it in the fridge for a bit, it’ll firm up.

Notes: the buttercream recipe makes enough icing to ice both cakes “sandwich fashion” like I did. But, I only torted + iced one cake, and froze the rest of the icing along with the second cake – the icing keeps for a couple of months in the freezer pretty well apparently. I also had a nutella sauce that I put in the centre of the cake, but that was a bit runny so I’d advise just spreading some nutella on the underside of the top tier if you want to match that effect. If I figure out how to get the nutella sauce to set nicely, I’ll add the recipe for that too.

Oddities involving Orange, Cheese, and Raisins

So some people have already told me that this sounds like quite a strange cake. They even went as far as to say something to the effect of: “so if your cake sounds weird, can I always assume in future that the weird bits are things that you added?”

Why yes, you can in fact assume that it was me who created the odd flavour combination. This was originally a plain orange cake, with a chocolate sauce. The recipe’s original creator intended to be one of those wedding cake types that stacks 3 tiers high with white chocolate¬†cigarillos¬†stuck to the outside of it. I just threw whatever was in my fridge into it. Totally not expecting it to taste so good. This is the first cake I’ve ever made that was eaten in its¬†entirety¬†almost immediately. It has a nice crunchy crust and does absolutely not need any icing, being very satisfying all on its own. My favourite kind of cake.

I feel calm just looking at this

Be warned that it’s not mega-sweet, probably because of the orange rind in it. So you feel fresh and happy after eating, rather than sick from overindulgence. This means you can eat more. Again, I like it that way, so there.

It’s the sort of cake you eat in the afternoon, when it’s cold and raining outside, with a mug of steaming tea. You can look out the window in a state of contemplation while watching raindrops falling if you choose, but I think that’s boring and would rather read a book. If you like you can toast a slice and have it with a little butter, but you really don’t need to do that (in fact, I never do that with cake. I feel like it’s a waste of cake. But you could, if you wanted to). I realise that you can eat most cakes in the afternoon with a cup of tea, but you will feel the calmest after eating this one. It’s a soothing, peaceful, unpretentious kind of cake.

Moist crumb and a crunchy crust. What more could you want in cake and life?

It’s also a one bowl recipe, which I made pretty much entirely in a food processor / blender-type creature. Which meant that it took a grand total of about 15 minutes prep time (hence lack of process photos). Serious bonus points awarded.

Whole Orange Cake with Raisins and a Cheese Crust

Yeah so I’m not exactly sure where the original recipe was from, because I only have a photo of the single page in the cookbook showing the original recipe. It’s not my cookbook, and I have no idea who the author is. But….from what I understand, if you change more than 3 major ingredients, the recipe is basically yours. I changed 4 major ingredients and a bunch of proportions, and the method – I suppose that makes it my recipe?

115g butter – softened
115g light brown sugar
2 medium eggs
165g flour
1.5 teasp baking powder
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of hard cheese like cheddar or parmesan Рgrated using the small holes on the grater. You can use a bit less if you like, but I enjoy the burnt cheese crust
1 orange
2 cups water
2-3 tablesp milk (if needed)
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. Zest the orange. Take the naked orange and it it in the blender with about 2 cups of water. Whiz it a food processor until it is thick and pulpy, then strain the big bits out with a pasta colander (big holes!). Keep 1 cup of liquid aside for the cake. You can drink the other cup if you want, but I wouldn’t, it’s rather bitter.
  2. Chuck the butter in the food processor and whip it a little until it’s a bit creamy.
  3. Dump in the sugar, keep whipping until the mixture goes pale.
  4. Throw in the eggs and about a tablespoon of the flour to prevent curdling. Keep on mixing. Yes, still in the food processor.
  5. Pour everything into a bowl, and fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, raisins, zest, and the cup of “juice” you kept aside earlier into the batter.
  6. Check: is the batter loose enough that it plops off the side of a spoon easily when you pick it up and turn it upside down? If not, add some milk. Keep adding until you get to a slightly looser consistency. You need the batter to plop off the spoon easily back into the bowl. I added about 3 tablespoons of milk.
  7. Put everything into a baking tin, smooth out the batter and sprinkle the cheese on top. I baked for about 45 minutes, but used a shallow baking tin. If you use a loaf tin it might take a little longer because the cake would be thicker. I actually think it’d be even nicer in a loaf tin, because you get a better crust:slice ratio ūüôā

In Sickness and in Mild-Lactose Intolerance

Despite the fact that I’m more than often (read: every day if possible) willing to eat hugely indulgent cakes/ice cream, that cheese and chocolate are some of the ingredients I use most frequently according to the tag cloud (after chilli and garlic), and that I would do a great many things to spend an afternoon eating a large bowl of clotted cream garnished with raspberries, I do have a slight problem with milk products.

Clearly, I am of the opinion that a slice of really good cake is worth any slight potential inconvenience it causes. But what it does mean is that I get rather grouchy when I eat bad cake, or bad ice cream, or those weird plastic cheeses. Wasting the lactose quota for the day, you know?

Pre-creamy cashews. I wouldn't have believed it worked until I tried See it looks a little like cream..ish

I never used to be this way. If not for this little issue, I’d probably balloon up to the size of a small walrus in a few weeks. Because I do love my cheese and chocolate.

I blame my university in the Netherlands for feeding me cheese sandwiches at breakfast and lunch almost every single day for 3 years. Perhaps my body went on strike after that? I’m still not especially keen on sandwiches. My feelings towards cheese have, however, not been affected in the slightest.

The consequence of all this is that you probably shouldn’t expect to find me extolling the virtues of the “best carbonara¬†sauce¬†I ever made”.

Didn't chop carefully, was tired Getting a little hot and steamy Mushrooms and cashew sand

I understand that prior to providing pictures of a nice, creamy, brown mushroom soup may not be the best moment in time to discuss lactose intolerance.

Mushroom slurry

So, why cream of mushroom soup? Um, I like it. And sometimes I miss Soup Spoon. No, this isn’t even similar to the Soup Spoon recipe at all, I just felt like having cream of mushroom.

And then, the opportune moment arrived – I was staying with BigFoot in Melbourne for the week, and both of us were sick. I was slightly healthier than he was by soup day, having had the worst of my flu a few days prior. Hence, I got to decide what we ate while he spent time accidentally taking very drowsy medication that knocks you out. He was up and about after a few hours, though I don’t think anyone else would have wanted to share the dinner we made. *cough hack sneeze*

Egg salad! Ugh The other side is burnt...that I didn't show you

Is it sad that I need the excuse that both of us were sick before having soup for dinner? I think it is. I don’t know why I have such an attachment to square meals at dinnertime. ¬†It must be the auntie lurking within.

I also think it’s kinda bad that I was excited about being sick because of the excuse to have soup and garlic bread for dinner.

Don't float the bread like this, we burnt our fingers. So much for attempts at fancy plating.

Anyway, vegan soup – because I didn’t need more problems in addition to flu. But I do think I will continue making cashew soup instead of using cream. I always end up with leftover cream in the fridge, and I never know what to do with it because it isn’t advisable for me to whip up the entire packet in one go and spend the afternoon eating whipped cream with a spoon.

Cashew Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Cheesy Garlicky Bread

Inspired by the recipes of Vegan Sparkles and Joy the Baker, though I’m not sure how close their method is to ours – I pretty much just glanced at their recipes for seasoning, before we went off and did our own thing in a congested stupor.

Cashew Cream of Mushroom Soup

2/3 rice cup unsalted cashews – yea, sorry I couldn’t find my usual measuring cup
2/3 rice cup hot water – as above… I don’t think it’s an exact science though
200g pre-sliced white mushrooms – I was sick, don’t judge. I usually don’t buy pre-sliced
200g large brown mushrooms – 3/4 roughly chopped smaller, 1/4 chunked large
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablesp soya sauce
A few shakes of italian herb mixture
1 cube of vegetable stock
Black pepper to taste
2-3 more serving size bowls of water – like a cereal bowl size

  1. Dump the cashews in the hot water and leave them to sit for a bit.
  2. Throw the peeled garlic and onion in the chopper, and roughly chop.
  3. Heat up a big pot with a little oil. Add the garlic and onion and let them sizzle until they smell great (if you can smell). If you can’t smell, keep going until they are soft and a little charred on some edges. Heat should be on medium.
  4. Chuck in the white mushrooms and the browm mushrooms that you roughly chopped smaller. Keep the large chunks back.
  5. Pour in the soya sauce and a few shakes of herbs. Don’t worry, you can always add more later. Stir stir until all is cooked. Use medium heat, don’t burn the bottom of the pot.
  6. The cashews should have softened a bit by now. Put everything in the chopper and chop it well. I only chopped until the texture of large sand grains (note that I have a chopper not a blender).
  7. Once the mushrooms are cooked, dump in the cashew water mix. Combine everything in the pot.
  8. Then take everything out of the pot and chop it in the chopper until it goes smooth.  Pour it back in the pot over medium heat.
  9. Now you can add in the extra water. I added 3 cereal bowls full, and it was a little too much. I think 2.5 bowls would have been enough.
  10. Once the water is mixed in with the mushroom paste, crumble in the stock cube and make sure it dissolves. This is when you throw in the large mushroom chunks too.
  11. Add some black pepper. It should be done soonish, as soon as the large mushroom chunks are done. Just keep seasoning until you like it, and you can boil down to make it thicker if you want.

Cheesy Garlicky Bread

6 cloves garlic
4 tablesp butter, softened
Some cheese – it’s up to you what you use, we used the equivalent of about 4 tablesp of maarsdam (that was what was on sale in the supermarket)
2  short, slightly crusty bread rolls

Oven temperature: set it to grill

  1. Chop the garlic roughly in the chopper.
  2. Add the butter to the chopper and then pulse the chopper again.
  3. Dump in the cheese in the chopper and pulse a couple more times. The final mixture looks like egg salad, kinda gross in my opinion but whatever.
  4. Cut the bread rolls into slices.
  5. Spread the buttery, garlicky, cheesy spread on to the slices and reassemble into a  bread-roll shape.
  6. Wrap the rolls in silver foil and stick them in the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or when you can smell tasty roasting garlic. After that, check and see if they’re done. Ours were slightly burnt because we didn’t check until 20 minutes (we couldn’t smell the garlic…)

On a Lack of Chocolate, and Lazy Lemon Cinnamon Rolls

I am a chocolate addict. No house should be without chocolate. Chocolate is good for you, for the health of your mind and the health of your heart (flavenoids, yay!!)

However, I do concede that I eat too much chocolate for it to be considered healthy. Also, I generally binge on milk rather than dark chocolate. Nice dark chocolate isn’t quite as easily available in Malaysia as it is in other places.

Lemons and lemons Make sure you soften your butter first - not like me

Now that I’m in Melbourne visiting Bigfoot for a week, I have made the unfortunate discovery that he has no chocolate in his house. I correct myself, he has 3 chocolate truffle Lindor balls in a box in his room. Now, there are 2 balls left. I have realised that if I eat another Lindor ball I will get caught, as the difference between 1 and 3 Lindor balls is slightly more dramatic than between 2 and 3 Lindor balls. Hence, over the course of this week, I have eaten only one Lindor ball.

It is bad to be caught stealing other people’s chocolate, because that makes you look like an addict. If I thought he wouldn’t realise they were gone, there would probably be zero Lindor balls by now.

Yes I do pretend I like them misshapen like this

But, in the name of healthy diets, I’ve decided that I’m¬†not going to take the easy way out, and buy some chocolate from the supermarket. No, surely I can last a week without eating chocolate at odd hours of the day? Even if barely?

Brown and crispy

In that vein, when deciding what to eat for brunch, I immediately concluded that it would need to be sweet, and include cream cheese. Sweetened cream cheese is *almost* chocolate. It also needed to be do-ahead, because neither of us wake up early to cook.

Chocolateless indulgence

Lemon Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

Inspired by a recipe by The Kitchn, adapted to include the method of making rolls with puff pastry found in Just Jenn Recipes. Yeasty rolls seem far too difficult for breakfast.

2 sheets of puff pastry
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 tablesp butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablesp cinnamon powder
1/2 tablesp nutmeg powder

80g cream cheese
2 tablesp milk
3 tablesp brown sugar

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for about 20 minutes or so – may take less time depending on your pastry

  1. Defrost the puff pastry, and lay it out flat.
  2. Mix in a food processer:
    1. 2/3 of the lemon zest
    2. 1/2 the lemon juice
    3. 1 tablesp butter, you can add a bit more if you need to. Make sure it is soft! (not like me)
    4. Cinnamon powder
    5. Nutmeg powder
    6. 1/2 cup brown sugar, note that I don’t like my rolls too sweet
  3. Spread half the butter mixture out on to the first sheet of puff pastry. Roll it up and slice into little rounds.
  4. Put the rounds into a greased baking tin, leave a bit of space between them.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 with the second sheet! Then bake the rounds (or leave it in the fridge overnight until the next day’s brunch)
  6. To make the glaze, just whiz the cream cheese, milk, brown sugar, and 1/3 of the lemon zest in a food processer. This also keeps well overnight.
  7. Drizzle the glaze over the baked rolls, and done!