Macaron Madness (Round 2)

June 9th, 2013

            Montebello Macs and Roses

Following the previous week’s macaron making, it was inevitable that after such a long time since I last ate a macaron, my craving for them grew instead of being assuaged, leading to another batch this past week. While browsing the PH Macarons book with A for ideas, she said, “Mama, I want a strawberry macaron.” So that was one flavour decided and going with the theme of pink macarons, I decided on the Montebello macarons (pistachio ganache filling with a raspberry jelly centre) as the second flavour.

            Strawberry macarons

The plan was to make the Montebello shells a much lighter shade of pink than my previous attempt that yielded a very wet batter caused by the large amount of food colouring dictated in the PH recipe. The pastel pink shells didn’t rise as dramatically as the darker coloured batter I had made for the strawberry flavoured macarons. This, I suspect, had to do with insufficient drying time.

Montebello and Strawberry Macarons

On the aesthetic front, the Montebello macarons did look prettier when paired with the darker pink shells, so I used half of the lighter pink shells for the strawberry flavoured ones. I must say, I do like the ombre effect that the two shades of pink gave in the second photograph of this post.

Taste-wise, the Montebello is definitely still my favourite flavour from the PH book. I used two kinds of pistachio fillings, one with italian meringue buttercream and one with ganache, because I had underestimated the amount of ganache I would need to fill all the macarons. I actually preferred the taste of the buttercream filling.

Inside the Montebello macaron

For the strawberry macarons, I cooked a strawberry coulis, whipped it into italian meringue buttercream and brushed some of the sauce on the underside of the shells as well. The strawberry flavour was more developed after a day of maturing in the fridge. And A, as it turns out, doesn’t like strawberry macarons at all and prefers the dark chocolate ones!

Macaron Madness

May 31st, 2013

              Dark Chocolate Macarons

I’ll admit that when I first read the 2-page macaron article in the Straits Times last week, I was appalled by how aesthetically unpleasing some of the featured macarons were and how any pastry shop that takes any pride and care in their work could possibly allow such an unpretty product to pass quality control. I think I actually said (of some of the photographed sweets), “If the ones I made looked like that, I would have trashed them.”

Dark Chocolate Macaron

H gently reminded me that running a business does not always allow one the luxury of pursuing perfection and that the ultimate goal of these pastry shops is to minimize waste and make money. His reminder got me to thinking how I would handle churning out hundreds of macarons on a daily basis and I realized that I had probably been too quick to judge.

              Orange Caramel Macarons

Still, I felt that I wouldn’t pay that sort of money for a not-so-pretty macaron, which meant I would have to make my own to satisfy my macaron craving. Not exactly the wisest of plans really, since I’m under doctor’s orders to take it easy.

But gluttony prevailed over wisdom and I went with the usual dark chocolate and an experimental orange caramel flavour. I was glad that I could still make a decent batch of macarons after such a long break. Now I’m craving other flavours! Hmm… perhaps another batch next week then? I don’t think H nor my doctor would approve though.

Mad about a 3rd Birthday Cake

March 30th, 2013

            Completed Cake

I hadn’t actually planned on making a cake for Ashley’s 3rd birthday this year. H was vehemently against the idea, wanting me to get as much rest as possible, given my far from stellar state of health in the last months.

But as her birthday drew closer, I knew that I really wanted to do it. Mostly for myself, if I were being truthful. I had been feeling really down as the month of March approached and needed to do something that would bring all of us some joy.

            Close up of cake

It wasn’t difficult to settle on a theme for the cake; I picked one of Ashley’s favourite TV shows. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I knew what “Team Umizoomi” was, I would have gone, “Huh? Team what?”

I’m glad to say that I’m now better informed (about children’s TV programs, that is) and can tell you confidently that Team Umizoomi is a mathematics themed cartoon series, created by the Nickelodeon channel, featuring concepts like counting, shapes and patterns. You know, the kind of things that typical Asian parents want their progenies to excel in. :D

Gumpaste Team Umizoomi

Coincidentally, there are 3 main characters (Milli, Geo and Bot) in the show, which I thought was pretty appropriate for a 3rd birthday, no?

I started off with a tentative sketch of the cake and then searched for images of Milli, Geo and Bot. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any images of the characters in a suitable pose, so I drew all 3 by hand. Each character took about 3 hours to make since every piece of gumpaste had to be drawn and cut by hand.

            Pastel Rainbow Cake - Top tier

For the cake I wanted to try a something different from the dark chocolate cake I normally use for fondant cakes. I had been particularly drawn to the idea of a rainbow cake in pastels after seeing WL and C’s gorgeously vibrant version, even though baking each layer individually would obviously take more time and effort than a single cake. I also hesitated, knowing how certain family members would balk at consuming cake with food colouring, no matter how tiny an amount, but I figured since I had already spent all that time just on the external decorations, I might as well go all out on the inside as well. Besides, this cake was about making Ashley (and me) happy, so who cares what anyone else thinks about food colouring!

The look of sheer delight on Ashley’s face (her eyes literally widened in surprise) when she came home from school and saw the stack of freshly baked cake layers arranged on the cake rack was worth every minute (and every bit of food colouring) I had spent.

9" bottom tier

I had initially considered going with the obvious numbers and shapes theme on the cake itself, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how utterly boring and un-girly that would make the cake.

Ashley enjoys her trips to the aquarium (as well as Bubble Guppies, another Nick Jr. channel program and Finding Nemo), so for the bottom tier, I went with an underwater theme with waves in various shades of blue and bright orange fishes, complete with bubbles.

            Rainbow cross-section

The theme for the top tier was more or less random, I have to admit. I chose it for the contrast that shades of green and purple would give against the pretty canary yellow background and to bring in colour that would match Milli’s dress.


I’m utterly pleased with how delightfully pretty and colourful the cake turned out and how the entire process, while time consuming (because I had cut every single piece of gumpaste and fondant on the cake by hand without the use of cutters), gave me a sense of accomplishment. I can’t wait for the next occasion to make another fondant cake!