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What I’ve been up to lately

Monday, August 9th, 2010

            4 months 16 days

Thank you all for your comments and enquiries about cakes, cookies, macarons and classes! I apologize for my tardy replies and general silence on this blog. As you may already have guessed, I’ve just had a baby girl this March.


Baking pans and kitchen mixers have been replaced with diapers and bottle sterilizers these past 4 months. And have I mentioned the sleepless nights? :(

That having been said, we’re greatly blessed that Ashley is generally a very happy (and very active) baby. I’m hoping that sanity will be restored in our lives soon and that I’ll be able to bake more frequently.


All I’ve managed so far are 2 trays of brownies, which I wouldn’t even have baked if it weren’t for the fact that I felt embarrassed turning up at a friend’s place empty-handed.

I also wanted to make some sort of cake for my sister’s civil wedding reception, but only managed the bridal bouquet with lots of help from WL, who has a wonderful talent for arranging the most gorgeous bridal bouquets and who also very graciously helped satisfy my macaron cravings these past months.

              Civil Wedding Bouquet for Amy

And that’s all the update I’ve got time and energy for at the moment. I hope to find some time to whip up a batch of macarons soon, so stay tuned! :D

Mad about Figure Modelling

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Twilight-Inspired Cake Topper

My path down this particular branch of cake decorating was brought on by two events - a wedding next year and a themed party hosted by the very lovely Lynn of Enchanté two weeks ago.


My little sis is getting married next year and we’d talked very briefly about the possibility of me baking her wedding cake. Having never made a tiered cake and not having had much luck previously with fondant in this humid climate, I was a little hesitant. Hubby immediately veto-ed the idea, knowing full well that I’d be impossible to live with during the making of said wedding cake, given my nervous tendencies and completely ridiculous, but sadly irrepressible, need for anything I make to be absolutely perfect.


Taking all the factors that were against the wedding cake project, I settled on the next best thing I could think of - a customed wedding cake topper. The idea was to custom the figures to match their wedding outfits. Since this wasn’t something that I’d done before, I went ahead and attempted to model a couple of figures last weekend.

       Wedding Cake Topper

I was satisfied with my 1st attempt (last 3 photographs of this post), but definitely felt that there was a lot of room for improvement - the eyes and noses, for example, were way too big and the gum paste I’d used had a tendency to develop annoying cracks when dried. The only question was what to model next; I wanted to improve the modelling of the heads and get more practice with modelling a suit, but didn’t want to make another wedding gown.

              Groom Cake Topper Closeup

This is where Lynn’s party features in this post. Being an ardent fan of the series, the party’s theme was Twilight and she’d made a themed cake, complete with fondant figures of Bella and Edward in the meadow scene. Lynn also managed to make converts out of almost everyone at the party - yours truly included. I’m currently reading the series of books, so the choice of what to model was pretty obvious to me.

              Bride Cake Topper Closeup

I went with the prom scene (1st 3 photographs of this post) since that’s the only one where I’d get to make a suit again. This time, I used fondant and as expected, the paste absorbed moisture and developed a glossy sheen the next day. But I was truly pleased with this second set of figures; I particularly like the ruffles on Bella’s dress.

I’m having so much fun that I might even consider accepting customed cake topper projects on the weekend, just so I’d have an excuse to model something!

Mad about Chestnuts

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Mont Blanc Macaron

With the fast approaching holiday season, my head is filled with visions of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” while snow falls gently outside. Except that we don’t have a fireplace, at least not here in Singapore, nor do we have snowy cold winter days that is a quintessential part of my holiday season fantasy.

Nonetheless, chestnuts are still in season (at least I think so, based on the size of the Chinese chestnuts I saw at the market), so it was only befitting that my french meringue macaron adventure continued this past weekend with a chestnut theme. The plan was to make a Mont Blanc dessert using macarons instead of the traditional snowy white meringue base.

              Mont Blanc Macaron

I had the shells baked and ready to be assembled with chestnut cream, crème Chantilly and marron glacés. There was just one minor snag: I didn’t have any candied chestnuts. I looked up recipes for marron glacés and was taken aback to learn that it takes 4 days to make the candies! I certainly didn’t have time to go through the 4-day process; the macaron shells would have turned into terribly sweet sugar discs by then. I decided to go try something else instead.

Making Candied Chestnuts

I first boiled the shelled chestnuts for 10 minutes and removed the brown membranes. The peeled chestnuts were then boiled for a further 20 minutes to get them softer. I made a sugar syrup and poured them over the softened chestnuts, intending to just soak them in the syrup for a couple hours or so.

After a few minutes, I noticed the undeniable beginnings of crystalisation: a white cloudy mass that was slowly spreading like an unstoppable plague throughout the syrup. In my hurry to get the chestnuts done, I must have overlooked a few grains of sugar, which likely served as seeds for the crystalization that I was observing. It was then that I decided to poach the chestnuts a further 10 minutes in a fresh batch of sugar syrup and make chestnuts with a nice shiny glaze instead of “true” candied chestnuts.

While I was pleased with the final look and taste of the assembled Mont Blanc macaron dessert, the candied chestnuts continued to haunt me.

Inside the Mont Blanc macaron

I have never had marron glacés before and had no idea what the real thing tastes like. Soft throughout? Crisp on the outside with a soft interior? With no benchmark, it was easy to be satisfied with what I had. I began to wonder if it would even be possible to make true marron glacés with the Chinese chestnuts I had bought. Apparently, there are several species of chestnuts (European, Japanese, American & Chinese), with certain European species/hybrids being “superior” in that it has a single nut in one fruit instead of the usual several nuts per fruit and has smaller grooves. And so began my 4-day candied (Chinese) chestnut experiment.

Marron Glacés Not?

The photo above shows the results after 4 days. I was disappointed that the chestnuts weren’t translucent. In fact, they looked pretty much like the ones I’d made earlier under 2 hours! The worst part was that many of them developed a tough and chewy texture on the outside, with the centre remaining soft once they’d cooled down after drying in the oven.

I thought that the non-translucency might have been caused by not boiling the chestnuts long enough in the beginning, except that most of them were already on the verge of disintegration when I fished them out of the hot water. The chestnuts were also supposed to have absorbed most of the sugar syrup at the end of the 4th day. But more than half of the syrup remained.

Did I not cook the syrup sufficiently? Was it really a case of the chestnuts being insufficiently soft from the onset? Or was it that the chestnuts I bought were just not meant to be candied like its European cousins? Should I have just boiled them in sugar syrup until they turned translucent instead of soaking/boiling them for 4 days?

Perhaps I’ll just buy ready made ones in the future. Except I don’t know where to find them in Singapore and they have a reputation for being very pricey!