Timeout for baking and a madeleine recipe

I have been baking cakes for friends for about a year now and looking back, I’m glad to be given the opportunity to do so.

I’m thankful to friends who trust in me enough to ask for celebration cakes from me. Truly, it has been a humbling and enriching experience.

The last two weeks have been really hectic and I’ve reached the point of exhaustion. Sometimes I wish my cakes could taste a little better and that I could be more adventurous in terms of flavour. Alas, I have no time to experiment with recipes. There are household chores to do, meals to prepare, lessons to teach the little one, classes to teach and the list goes on. So to be honest, what has begun as a love for me -baking – has turned out to be a chore in recent times. I have to stop. To take a break from baking for others and go back to baking for leisure, for my family. The husband has complained that he doesn’t get to eat any of the baked goods nowadays. ;p

With these final cakes for the season, I will have to bid farewell for a while to baking cakes for friends so that I can resume my home-based culinary lessons which I have started since the days in Boston.

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Vanilla sponge cake with chocolate ganache

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Vanilla sponge cake with IMBC, topped with edible image and meringue border

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Vanilla sponge cake with IMBC, topped with edible image

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A simple yuzu sponge cake with IMBC for a 1YO boy

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 I will still make figurines during this period since I need to continue to hone my skills in that area. But more importantly, I want to take time to improve on my baking skills and continue to learn the science of it.

For a start, here’s a recipe for madeleines – scallop-shaped cakes that epitomise classic French patisserie. They are easy to make and are best eaten fresh from the oven. All you need is a stiff metal whisk. Simple?

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(Adapted from Perfecting Patisserie by Dr Tim Kinnaird)
Ingredients:

3 eggs
120g caster sugar
50ml milk
175g all purpose flour/unbleached flour for a healthier version 😉
1 1/2tsp baking powder
200g melted butter

(yields 22 big ones)

1. Preheat the oven to 230C. If you are using a metal madeleine tray, lightly butter and flour the tray. I use both silicon madeleine tray and the metal one.

2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the sugar and milk until well combined. Whisk in the flour and baking powder until the batter is smooth, but don’t over-work the mixture as this will develop gluten in the flour and toughen the madeleines. Whisk in the melted butter.

3. Fill each scallop-shaped mould of the tray to half or at most 2/3 full.

4. Bake for 8 minutes in the oven or until golden brown. You may want to turn the tray 180 degrees halfway through the baking.

For variation, I added yuzu concentrate to a batch (I took out one portion) and green tea to another batch before baking.

Enjoy! 😉

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Bicycle on my cake

I used to cycle, and quite frequent at one stage. I love the wind that caresses your face as you cruise but dislike the climbing of hills. But it’s all good and I met a whole group of awesome cyclists.

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While training for an event, I met a wonderful lady through a swim class and a few days ago, she asked me if I could bake a cake for her boyfriend who is an avid and really superb cyclist. It is my pleasure of course. Little did I realise that it is rather difficult to make the bicycle figurine since it can be so delicate.

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I got inspired from this blog but I must say I could not use the same technique as hers. For the bike frame, I covered a toothpick with fondant + tylose as I really need the frame to be sturdy. As for the wheels, I used circle cutters and spaghetti for the spokes before painting the spokes with metallic food paint. The different parts of the bike had to be done in stages and in the end, pieced them all up with glue (edible one, of course) and pray very hard that it will stay in one piece.

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Thankfully, the weather was good to make figurine. It was relatively non-humid and the parts could dry by the following day. I had great fun with this but know that there is really much much room for improvement. M asked for a chocolate cake with caramel and walnut and she gets her cake done this way!

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M’s boyfriend likes the bike so much that he asked how to preserve it. I think anything that the girlfriend gives will make him super happy. Moreover this is a bike, modeled very closely to his (can’t do the fine details though). Thankfully, there was also good feedback for the chocolate cake. I’m happy!

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Animals on my cake

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A friend asked me to bake a cake for her son, Matthias’ 5th birthday. Since he likes zoo animals, she requested for the rainbow cake to be decorated around that theme. No specific design given. That’s it.

I was excited and a book that Faith always reads came to mind. I wanted to create a few 20140310-141340.jpgfigurine made of fondant + tylose powder. There are also a lot of resources to tap on in the Internet. But I also respect the works of the cake decorator and thus hope to come up with my own version. That being said, I find it difficult to really come up with a personal design since you can only alter the body and face in just a few ways (That’s the amateur me talking). I could only spare a few hours each day to do the figurines and so, it’s one animal each night after Faith went to bed. The lion was the first to be completed, followed by the zebra, giraffe and the monkey. By the time I did the last animal, I was already losing steam. Hah!

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I guess you would understand if I disclose that this 10″ round rainbow cake took a whole week to complete. 😉

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The day before the delivery, the cake was baked. It’s a nice feeling seeing the layers of colours on top of one another. I wanted the design to be simple, not too complicated, and decided that swiss meringue buttercream without any added colour would suffice.

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So, there you have it. When I passed the box of cake to my friend, I was filled with relief and a sense of accomplishment. Hah. Hope the boy likes the cake.

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Have a blessed birthday, Matthias!

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A princess cake for a sweet girl

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This is the last cake for January. And after this, I shall be baking for my family.

20140127-062724.jpgA two-tier cake of chocolate batter was asked for but in the end, because I wanted to construct an ombre cake for the little cake, decided to tweak it a bit. The lower 7-inch tier was made of Devil’s food cake and the top 6-inch tier, an ombre cake.

Nowadays, I prefer to make the cake on the day itself if the collection is in the evening. So this cake was baked in the morning before our family went out for some activities and when we came back, it’s time to assemble the cake.

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Didn’t really take a lot of pictures since no time could be wasted!

But I did have fun with this cake and that’s important to me!

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Only the toppers were made a few days before since I need them to be dried before assembling them. For the flowers, having the plungers help a lot and I love the sprinklers which I attached to the flowers. Otherwise piping a small dot using royal icing will do the job.

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Thomas the train cake

Last Saturday, a friend, QX, asked if I could make a Thomas the train cake for her son’s birthday. She wanted a rainbow vanilla sponge cake.

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QX gave me a few designs for ideas but the fickle-minded me changed my designs a few times until I finally settled on one.

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I wish I had the time to do the train figurine but I was too busy that week which was a pity. On the day of the delivery, I made the rainbow cake. This time round, I changed the flour to cake flour which resulted in a lighter texture. I also doubled the portion and my cake ended up really tall! It turned out to be 5-inch tall!

20140125-094614.jpgContainers such as these are very useful for making rainbow cake. After weighing the batter and dividing the portions, the various colours – red, orange, yellow, green and blue – were added.

Each layer took about 20 minutes to be baked. Having many cake pans would help when you bake a rainbow cake. If not, laying the base and side of the pan with parchment paper helps too!

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Cheery colours!

While giving time for the cake layers to cool, the next step was to make the swiss meringue buttercream which is a lot easier than the IMBC. Thankfully the portion was just enough for this cake. No leftover! Yay!

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Note to self: Initially after adding the butter, it will curdle and looks a tad runny but just let it beat more and it will soon become creamy.

For the past few cakes, I had used IMBC and chocolate ganache as the coat before the fondant. However, there were air bubbles and this wouldn’t look nice on a cake. This time round, I used Wilton’s buttercream and the result was rather satisfactory! Perhaps, the breezy weather helped that day. Humidity was lower than usual too. I just wish that the buttercream isn’t that sweet. Well, I guess I can always counteract the sweetness with the addition of lemon or salt.

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The decorating part is always the most fun. I added the embellishment and hid any imperfections with them.

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That’s it. I had a good time with this cake. I certainly hope to have the opportunity to make the train figurine in future!

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Toot! Toot!

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cake for a 2YO

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My goal for this year is to bake a cake for sale at least once a month so that I could continue to hone my skills in cake decorating and make improvement to cake recipes. Just about a week ago, I got a message from a friend who asked if I could bake a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cake for her friend since the latter was not able to find bakers to do so. I gamely took it up because I really do want to challenge myself in making the two-tier cake and that MM figurine.

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The customer, T, sent me a few pictures to give me some idea of what she wanted for her cake. In the end, this will be the final product.

The first thing that I set down to do are the toppers – the number ‘two’ and MM figurine. It is entirely hand-molded and the figurine proved to be rather challenging. It was on the third attempt that I finally was able to make one that is close to the original. The trick is to get the various parts ready, dry them for a short while before attaching the various parts together. I used fondant and added tylose powder to it. After it was made, it was then left to dry for a few days. All other decorations were also made a day or two before the actual collection.

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As usual, whenever I have a cake order, the dining table transforms into my workspace and it becomes really messy. Thank God the hubs didn’t really mind.

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The 9″ and 6″ vanilla sponge cakes were baked a day before the actual collection, sliced into layers, cling-wrapped and stored in airtight container to prevent it from drying. The sugar syrup was also made that day. The border of the cake drum was pasted with ribbon and all other equipment was laid out the night before so that it would facilitate my work the next day, which was the collection day too.

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On the day itself, I woke up early to make the frosting and chocolate ganache which is to be the coating for the cake. The layers of cakes were sandwiched with vanilla buttercream and strawberries since this was requested.

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The last stage was to cover the cake with fondant and then add the embellishment. My apartment was not equipped with air-conditioner and it proved to be a tad challenging since the fondant will sweat. I almost thought I couldn’t make it because the fondant was really ‘sweating’ after I have covered the cakes with the sugar. As a last straw, I placed both cakes in the fridge fully covered in cake caddies for about 30 minutes. The cakes were then transported to the site, assembled and the toppers attached. Phew! Job done!

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Making this cake is quite an experience. Initially, T asked for a 2kg cake but in the end, the cake weighs about 5kg. I remember I was shaking as I put on 6-inch cake and the toppers because there isn’t any additional cake or toppers and if I happened to make a mistake in attaching them, I’m screwed.

Thankfully, all went well.

Time to move on to the next cake. =)

A dino cake for a 1YO

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Some weeks ago, I received a FB message from a mom asking me if  I could bake her son a cake for his one-year-old 20131110-142901.jpgcelebration. According to her, she would gladly support a SAHM for the effort as compared to purchasing one from a bakery. I was obviously happy that someone (a stranger!) would trust me enough to perform this task. Originally, a simple vanilla cake with buttercream was asked for and since the son loves this dinosaur that he often plays with, I came up with the first design.

Subsequently, the mom asked if it was possible to do a cake covered with fondant + a figurine and gave me a budget. Another draft was then made.

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Second draft | Fondant cake

Draft 2 | Fondant cake

Thankfully, the mom was rather easy-going and accepted the proposed design very quickly. Love working with such people!

One week before the actual delivery, the figurine was made since it takes time to dry the material. I used full gumpaste for the dinosaur and tried to sculpt it based on the picture I received.

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To create the desired colour, I combine orange and red. Divide the gumpaste into the various parts of the dinosaur.

IMG_8692This is the first dino that I made which is quite ugly in my opinion due to the cracks.

IMG_8693The second dino. Much smoother and I painted it with the relevant {food} colours.

After the figurine is done, it is left to dry. Since I have no air-con and I do fear that it will not dry in time, I dried it using the fan and it was switched on 24 hours for 2 days! I also wrapped the dino with clingflim as I’m afraid the hands will not stay intact. Thankfully after 2 days, I could safely say it was okay!

Next, a day before the collection, the vanilla cake was baked and sandwiched using IMBC. Since the mom had requested for a less sweet cake, I reduced the amount of sugar and hoped that it would be to her liking. The cake has to be completely cooled before covering with fondant and that’s the reason why I baked it a day before.

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Something went wrong after I’ve covered the cake with fondant the first time. The air pockets expanded and they made the cake rather grotesque. Thankfully, I covered the cake the night before and I could redo the whole act on the day of delivery. A few reasons could contribute to the air bubbles but I believe the main reason is that my place is warm and this results.

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Thankfully, there is still sufficient time and I re-covered the entire cake using another type of buttercream and this time round, I made sure that I covered well so that air bubbles could be minimised.

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Roll out fondant to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Since this is a 8″ by 3″ cake, I rolled to a circle of diameter 14cm.

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Sometimes, when we cover the cake, it may not be a perfect job but no worries, borders can always cover up the imperfection. This is meant to be the grass on the sides of the cake and then I covered another stripe of chocolate fondant over it as the mud/ ground. The fondant is chocolate-flavoured and tastes not bad!

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Once these are done, the rest can be quickly assembled.

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These should be made beforehand so that they are a tad dry during assembling.

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This cake will only be consumed the next day and I certainly hope there will not be any major problem!
Dear cake, please do your part to satisfy the family and the birthday boy.

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Clingwrapped and off to be delivered.

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Lessons learnt and changes to be made in future:

1) Cover the cake with chocolate ganache to ensure smooth covering and prevent air bubbles
http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

2) Cake should be covered, assembled, delivered and consumed within the same day, if possible.

3) Press down the layers of cake after sandwiching with buttercream to prevent any trapped air

4) Consider installing air-conditioner?

About air bulging after covering cake fondant

http://cakecentral.com/t/686940/fondant-and-buttercream-bulges-air-bubbles

http://www.deliciouscakedesign.com/blog/?tag=air-bubbles-under-fondant

http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

For Vanilla Cake (Yields an 8 x 2″ cake)
I made 2 portions for this cake

2 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. I used 2 8-inch tins. Line the tins with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together.

3. In a standmixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter for about 1 minute. Gradually add the castor sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost dissolved.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated.IMG_8723

5. Add the vanilla extra and beat until combined.

6. With mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add half of the milk and beat. Repeat and then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined.

6. Spoon mixture into baking tins. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean.

For Italian Meringue Buttercream

You will need:
190g caster sugar
38g water
75g egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature, in cubes
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Make sure the sugar is dissolve in the water and cook the mixture until it reaches 120C. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes. After the sugar is dissolved (while continue boiling), I would wet a pastry brush and wet the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from crystalising.

2. While boiling the sugar  syrup, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 115C degrees, start to whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until soft peaks are formed. The sugar syrup is still being boiled at this time. When it reaches 120C, remove from the heat source. reduce the standmixer speed to low and drizzle in the sugar syrup from the side so that the hot syrup doesn’t splatter.  Raise the speed to high when all the syrup is poured in and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature (or when you can touch the steel bowl , 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_8786

3. Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin to add the butter. I gauge using my sense of touch. If I can hold on to the sides of the steel bowl of the standmixer comfortably, it’s at the right temperature. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tbsp or cube at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Just raise the speed to high and continue to add tbsp-size pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Feedback from customer: Thankfully the air bubbles did not show up! They were happy with the workmanship though they find that the cake is firm ( not much of a choice, I’m afraid!) and a bit too sweet. So, that means I still have to reduce the amount of sugar!

November, a month of celebration

I’m welcoming November with wide open arms, simply because there are too many birthdays to celebrate and we are awaiting the arrival of a dear friend’s baby boy!

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Can’t do without cakes on birthdays eh? It’s thus a good opportunity for me to practise my craft!

First up. I did my first figurine – mother and child birds. Haha. I added tylose powder to fondant so that they will harden and leave them overnight facing the fan. By the second day, they are almost ready but I thought I should continue to let them firm up.

Covered the cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream as the crumb coat and used Satin Ice. However, the fondant is way too soft for me to manage and I find it too sweet for my liking. I think I should just stick to my usual brand.

After some trial and error, this is the product. Simple eh?

I think I might have come up  with my own IMB recipe!

I think I might have come up with my own IMB recipe!

The tools I use to cover the cake with fondant. Alas, I applied too much buttercream!

The tools I use to cover the cake with fondant. Alas, I applied too much buttercream!

Condensation taking place

Condensation taking place

Another attempt on another cake

Another attempt on another cake. Crumb coat. Just a thin layer will do.

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Mother & child

It’s a good start to November!

[PSC] The Very Hungry Caterpillar cake

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Faith received ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ as her first few books and I have read the story to her since she was about 5 weeks old. I love the beautiful story and the artistic illustrations and went on to purchase the Touch and Feel Playbook for her. She loves the various textures found in the book and especially the mirror!IMG_5406

So, to celebrate her one month more to being a 1-year-old, I decided to make The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake for her. It is relatively easy but you would need time to do up the fruits and decoration.

I love the colourful ground as shown in the book; they will make nice cake border for my bottom tier. However, I think if the second tier has the same kind of border, it would be rather boring and too colourful and decided on the soil. The tool for making the colourful circles is just the base of a piping tip.

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The good thing about these fruits is that I just use free-hand to cut them out. No template whatsoever. Easy eh? Obviously, you would need a lot of colours for the fondant.

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Ice-cream cone

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This round tip is especially helpful. Both ends are utilised.

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So the fruits are done and left to be dried.

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For the soil, I use different shades of brown to create a more realistic feel. I’m not skillful enough to have it in one stripe and have to piece up different stripes. To make them look seamless at the joints, just dab a little shortening and massage on them.

IMG_8359Next up is the cake topper! Thankfully, the size of the caterpillar on the cover is just about right and I use it to make my version of the caterpillar. Since this needs to be really ‘solid’, I used 50% fondant and 50% gumpaste. However, I think I should just use solely gumpaste.

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Looks like an alien.

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IMG_8363Make space for the feelers

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To create the look on the cover, I combine white and green together.

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This will be about right.

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Pull out bits of them to make the segments and then glue them.

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I wanted to leave the colours as they are but I really prefer them painted and it really is a very therapeutic session.

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fruits

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Halve the circles to cover up any faults at the border.

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I got so excited throughout the process of making this cake design that I want to start a new project called Project StoryCake. Faith has inherited quite a few storybooks from her cousins and they have really cute pictures in them. I hope to make cake designs based on them.

My previous Project ‘While You Were Sleeping‘ has come to a completion since I have achieved my target of baking 20 items when Faith was asleep in the cot during my 4 months of maternity leave. So, let Project StoryCake begin!