Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

Mad about Ashley’s 1st Birthday Cake

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

              Actual Birthday Cake

Birthdays were always a big thing in my family when my siblings and I were kids. The thing I remember most fondly from each of our birthday parties were the cakes that my mum made for us with the 4 most memorable ones being:

1. Cake in the shape of a butterfly.

2. Figure 8 cake for my 8th birthday with M & Ms neatly arranged like mosiacs on top. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken my mum to place every one of those small candy covered chocolate pieces.

3. Figure 6/9 cake for my brother’s 9th birthday and my sister’s 6th birthday (their birthdays are 4 days apart). They shared one cake, which could be turned one way to become a figure 6 and another to become a figure 9.

4. Cake in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

Having all these fond memories of my own meant that when it came to Ashley’s 1st birthday cake, I couldn’t in all good conscience simply order one from the cake shop, even though she’d in all likelihood not remember a thing about this first birthday party, not to mention the cake.

          Cake Figurines

I had a hazy idea on what sort of cake I wanted to make: 2-tiers, fondant covered with some cutesy figurines for decor. Working full-time meant I had to prep for the cake way in advance, especially when the cake plan included elements that I didn’t have much experience with. I eventually decided on a safari-themed cake and since I’d not attempted a large tiered fondant cake before, I decided to make a trial one first.

I’d found the designs for the animal figurines while exploring Flickr for decorating ideas and emailed Vania for permission to use her completely adorable designs on Ashley’s cake. With her blessing, I went ahead and made the figurines over a span of 8 nights, each one taking about 2 hours each night after Ashley had fallen asleep. I started with the polymer clay versions and later made the gumpaste ones since I wasn’t sure if the polymer clay ones would be safe to put on a cake.

              Assembled Trial Cake

With tips and advice from friends and other helpful strangers on Flickr whom I emailed, the trial cake turned out all right for a first attempt, except for a minor blowout on the top tier (which I later found out was caused by moisture which had nowhere to escape) and a wrinkly and slightly lumpy bottom tier (which was due to the iced cake not being at room temp when I covered it with fondant, too thick a layer of buttercream and too thin a layer of fondant).

          Birthday Cake Collage

With the lessons learnt from the trial cake, the actual birthday cake turned out much better than I’d expected. The bottom tier still had some wrinkles, but I think that may have to do with the italian meringue buttercream not being able to withstand the heat that is our tropical weather, despite air-conditioning. Otherwise, I was really happy with the cake, especially the design of the lower tier, which was really a last minute change; I made the gumpaste flowers only 2 nights before the birthday party compared to 3 weeks ahead for the figurines.

Most importantly, Ashley seemed happy enough with the cake. She went straight for the colourful figurines and the gleeful look on her face as she held the monkey and tiger figurines in her hand made all the effort and late nights that went into the cake completely worthwhile. :)

Mad about Fusion Cupcakes

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

              Chocolate Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste Centre and Green Tea Frosting

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes. Given the choice between a cupcake and a slice of cake, I’d invariably go with the slice.

I think it has something to do with the frosting-to-cake ratio and the fact that the few times I’ve made cupcakes, the cake tended to shrink away from the waxy cups, leaving an unsightly gap between cake and cup.

              Fusion Cupcakes

So why did I bake these cupcakes? There were two reasons. One being that it’s the Lunar New Year and the first year ever that my family didn’t make pineapple tarts (dad and mum are away on vacation in Beijing), I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing if I didn’t bake anything for the festive season. The second was a cupcake-related email and blog post by Ivan.

The recipe I chose comes from Cheryl’s The Cupcake Bake Shop. I decided on this particular cupcake because of the Asian elements of green tea and adzuki beans (something in line with the festive season theme) and because of the very pretty photograph of the cupcake’s cross-section in her blog post.

              Cupcake Cross-section

The sis was very skeptical about the flavour combination, especially when I told her about the red bean paste component, but she actually liked the cupcakes when she had them! :D

I personally liked the taste and texture of the cupcake. The cupcakes did shrink somewhat, especially the ones that I kept at room temperature and the frosting was slightly grainy, but I felt that the cupcakes turned out great overall. Thanks for generously sharing your very inspiring cupcake recipes, Cheryl!

Note: If you do intend to try the recipe out for yourself, be forewarned the adzuki bean paste is indeed very time-consuming to make as Cheryl already states in her recipe.

Mad about Chocolate

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

              Shaved Valrhona Chocolate

When KJ suggested a potluck get-together for us ex-RJC classmates at JY’s place, I was excited for two reasons. The first being the prospect of having tea with old friends at JY’s swanky apartment, the second being an excuse to bake something before I run completely out of energy.

I was certain that my contribution would be some sort of dessert. Macarons would be too much work and muffins, cupcakes or brownies would be too boring, so I settled on a chocolate cake recipe that I’d already tried out on several occasions.

              Valrhona 55% Equatorial Blocks

The devil’s food cake was easily baked in the evening before. I was pretty sure that making the chocolate ganache would be a breeze to and I left it to the morning before the tea party. That was until I weighed the chocolate on my trusty digital kitchen scales and realised just how much 24 oz of chocolate was.

Chopping chocolate to a degree fine enough for ganache has never been an activity that I look forward to and 24 oz of chocolate was daunting. After the 2nd block of chocolate, I threw in the towel and decided to just cut the chocolate into smaller blocks, melt the blocks in a bain-marie and add the hot cream.

              Devil's Food Cake with Valrhona 55% Whipped Chocolate Ganache

The ganache turned out fine and I’ll probably be using this method for larger quantities of chocolate in the future. I was slightly concerned that the whipped ganache would be difficult to use given the really hot weather on that day, but everything went well.

Most importantly, my friends enjoyed the cake (at least I hope they weren’t just being polite :) ) and we had a great time catching up.

The recipe for this cake, courtesy of MarthaStewart.com, can be found here. Note: I only covered the cake with the whipped ganache and left out the last layer of ganache glaze. 2/3 of the ganache recipe is more than sufficient for the entire cake, including the ganache glaze.