Awesome August

August started off on a sweet note for me. I received an email in July from a lady asking me if I could bake for her daughter’s first birthday. To set the record straight, I bake for family and friends and seldom do I take up offers from people whom I do not know simply because I could not handle big orders and that I bake for fun, for hobby.

I don’t know why I agreed to bake for this lady, SP, and as we continued in our discussion, more stuff was added and before I knew it, I was to bake cupcakes, cookies, madeleines, smash cakes, birthday cake and a surprise cake for her niece. I must have calculated the timing wrongly and thought I was still in my second trimester which translates to having the energy still to bake and decorate. Alas, nearer the date, I realised I was in my third trimester already! Oh oh!

But it was all good. SP was a very nice lady to chat with and as we went through the details, I was challenged to come up with designs that could suit her theme and also make cakes that I would normally not make. I must say that I caused much disappointment for her two smash cakes as the colours condensed and bled ( I placed them in the fridge) but she was magnanimous enough to forgive me! What a wonderful lady!

IMG_20150808_063640This was the dessert table that SP created for her daughter, Chloe. I contributed some of the baked goods in the picture and when she sent me this image, I felt all the hard work has paid off. It was beautiful and I’m inspired to have a dessert table for my daughter and newborn too.

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This two-tier cake is made of an 8″ lychee sponge cake and a 6″ rainbow vanilla sponge cake. On the actual day itself, I took the whole of the morning and afternoon to do up the decoration since there was very little I could do beforehand. The horses had to be hand-painted and dried and thankfully all was well. It was undoubtedly a very heavy cake!

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Three flavours of cupcakes were requested to match the colour theme. Here we have chocolate-mint, strawberry and blueberry-flavoured ones.

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SP loves madeleines and she specially requested for lavender ones and I’m more than happy to bake these treats for her because Faith also loves them.

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Cookies for the guests. I can’t afford the time to use royal icing to decorate the cookies but I hope the fondant ones will do the job. 😉

20150801_152259 (2)This is the surprise cake that is meant for her niece who also turned 1YO around the same time as her daughter. This is a 6″ red velvet cake with minimal decoration except for the name and three owl figurines!

20150801_154446 (2)This is the part that I love most. To see the completed product and waiting for them to be delivered is really a joy in itself. And I definitely heaved a sigh of relief when they were all delivered safely!

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A week after that, i was to bake a 6″ lychee owl cake for SP’s niece. It was challenging not because of the amount of work but because it was raining cats and dogs on that day and if you have experience dealing with fondant, you will know that that is not the most ideal circumstance – the fondant perspired! I was racing against time and had to place the cake back and forth into the box that is filled with drying agents just so that the fondant will stay the way I wanted it to be.

Thankfully, the ‘owl’ was cooperative and stayed the way it was till cake-cutting.

It was indeed a wonderful first two weeks in August making these sweet treats and thanks, SP, for the opportunity to work with you!

The 3rd month that marched past us

I know it is April now but there were memories in March which I would want to record.

It was not an easy month. I was overwhelmed with tiredness and needed much rest because well, I am pregnant. This time round, I meet with morning sickness (unlike my first pregnancy) and need an afternoon nap or else I would have headache at the end of the day. I’m getting old, I know. Sigh! Things got done really slowly. Replies to emails were delayed and that applied to certain text messages. At times, I even forgot to reply. I didn’t have the appetite to eat and became unmotivated to cook. In a nutshell, I became inefficient. How terrible.

Life still goes on. That’s for sure.

The first school term for Faith ended and thus far, she has been enjoying herself. Each time when I picked her up from school, she would exclaim that she liked school. Special mention was made about her principal and her Chinese teacher and she looked forward to school each day. What a great relief!

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Since she started school, I found that I have less time to teach her at home basically because she needs to nap after lunch and by the time she wakes up, it would be mid-afternoon and we would be going out to enjoy some activities. There is really a need to create a time-table so that some home-learning gets done! #kiasumama

The one-week school holiday was a difficult period. The hubs was away on a week-long work trip and my mom went on a holiday to Japan during that week too. Bummer, really! Why must they go away at a time when I needed them most? Faith was with me 24/7 and I think she was bored. My energy was at an all-time low and most of the morning, I had to rest in bed. Poor girl. She didn’t really complain but came up to me, patted and comforted me. When I puked, she would ask if I was okay. I didn’t realise that this girl can be so understanding at such a young age. There was little to no tantrum and I could only thank the Lord for that. That he made that period bearable and joyful (in a way) when I had little strength.

Of course, I couldn’t have made it without the help of my in-laws. My FIL came over on that Friday and Saturday afternoon to spend some time with Faith while I rested. My SIL prepared lunch on one of those days for us and my aunt-in-law volunteered to buy breakfast for me. I am thankful to have wonderful in-laws!

Some of the stuff we did over that one week:

Playground time at the reservoir

Playground time at the reservoir

Waterplay party at a friend's house!

Waterplay party at a friend’s house!

Attending a trial Gymboree lesson

Attending a trial Gymboree lesson

Building her town using Lego (with mama's help, of course)

Building her town using Lego (with mama’s help, of course)

Skate-scooting fun at the beach

Skate-scooting fun at the beach

Our playdate ended in March. It’s a pity, these kids who grew up together since last year. It is, however, an unanimous decision because the timing is simply not ideal for the kids. By 4pm, the children were restless and the mummies found that their concentration level was low. Sometimes, they were cranky and acted up. Two of them could not have sufficient nap time since their school ended just one or two hours before the playdate. Of the mummies, three were pregnant and we found that we were exhausted too. On that note, we decided to call it quits. Sobs.

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I didn’t manage to work on a lot of cakes in March and turned down a few requests simply because I believe I couldn’t do a good job. I needed time to rest and more importantly, time to experiment with recipes. One will do and this is one which I like.

ABM_1427539034Towards the end of March, our nation went into mourning, for a great person in the history of Singapore. He is the founding father of modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Many of us were hoping that he would live to witness the 50th year of our independence but it was not to be. Most of the Singaporeans were emotionally affected and our understanding of him came to an all-time high because documentaries and articles were broadcasted and shared throughout that one week of mourning. My brother who has been stationed overseas for more than a decade came back to pay his last respect. It’s the least he could do, he said.

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So I guess March isn’t a fantastic month, eh? April’s now and I certainly hope things will get better. At the very least, I hope to regain my energy so that I could brisk-walk, go for my [Prenatal] Pilates lessons and swim a little. I need to get busy in the kitchen again, not just for the sake of my health but for my family too. Home-cooked food is always better, no?

April, please be good?

Pororo cake that went ;(

Recently, my cousin asked me to bake a Pororo cake for my nephew and I went, “What is Pororo?”

Okay, I know I am really ignorant but pardon this busy mother, all right? When she showed me a picture, I know for certain that I have seen this character before. He’s so cute!

Nothing much was asked for the cake except that it has to have the Pororo figurine somewhere. My cousin is easy on the cake, just a simple vanilla and a non-fondant one will do.

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A few days before the actual cake collection, I set out to do the centre-piece, which is Pororo itself. It isn’t difficult to do the body. In fact, you just need two big round mass for the body and head respectively. The difficult part lies in the finer details like the pilot’s hat and the specs. I took quite a while to figure out the proportion of the hat while using two different sizes of the piping tip to make the spectacle rims.

IMG_20150103_2257130.7179084798424332The decoration pieces were made two days in advance.

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I used Wilton’s food writer pens to draw in the details of the hat and the eyes itself on the actual day of the cake collection.

IMG_20150104_1718340.2740290181284296So, I used a super soft vanilla sponge cake for this cake order. I took a risk by laying a piece of fondant on the top so that I could stick the figurines and other decor pieces on it. The Pororo figurine proved to be too heavy for the sponge cake and I had to insert a dowel/ lollipop stick to sustain the weight.

IMG_20150104_1719460.5715718599551294Originally, I had wanted to put some trees as part of the decoration but the sponge cake is really not suitable to withstand the weight. In the end, they had to be placed on the cake board. I think I should just stick to my regular vanilla sponge cake recipe.

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But you know what? The cake didn’t impress. Granted that the Pororo character is cute (I find that it is adorable!) but the sponge cake itself is a flop. My dear cousin gave me an honest feedback about the cake and I do believe I have to go back to testing the recipes again. I’m just angry with myself that the sponge cake has escape my QC during the assembling stage! Arghh…Perhaps something went wrong during the mixing part but oh well… need to really make improvement!

I’m thankful that folks gave me feedback regardless whether it is good or bad review. We all need it for improvement, don’t we?

😉

‘Caking’ my way through November

Oh, you mean it’s November already? So soon?

The beginning of the 11th month saw me working real hard in kitchen. I have started taking cake orders again after a two-month break. And November is a popular month and there are orders every week! Thank God! Faith’s birthday also falls on this month and I’m still thinking if I should bake her a cake. ;p

Rainbow cake continues to be a popular choice and when it comes to young children, you won’t go wrong with animal figurines. Each day, when Faith saw the figurines on the dining table, she would climb up the chair and admire them and at the same time, practising her counting. 😉

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So, I’m thankful that the hubs didn’t complain about the messy dining table. He also gave up a bit of rest to spend more time with Faith while I work in the kitchen. Thank you so much!

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I love animal figurines such as these because they help make a simple cake look adorable (I think!). And I so love the colourful sprinkles!

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Both the cakes happened to be for two-year-olds. 6-inch for both but oh, how tall the cakes are!

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The third cake for the first week is for a good friend of both the hubs and mine. She is our ex-colleague and we had so many wonderful memories working with her. She is also very wise and is a mom to three beautiful children and this cake is for her youngest. I finally have the privilege of baking for her! I’m elated that she told me that her folks love the cake. I was actually afraid that the cake might be too bland since I have reduced the amount of sweetness based on her request. But yay, love the positive review. I’m so encouraged!

Besides the baking adventures, November is off to a good start as our church celebrated her 28th year and I’m thankful that we are placed in this community of believers. I felt belonged and know that there will always be brothers and sisters-in-Christ who will be there to help and encourage us in this journey.

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It’s definitely a bonus that Faith has found herself friends to grow up with in church. I’m praying that they will grow into youth and adults together! 😉

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This is what happens when she stays with us during service – beautifying chairs.

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The week came to a close as we celebrated the birthday of Faith’s uncle. She had such a wonderful time with my in-laws which brings me great joy too. I’m thankful that she feels loved by the people around her. *Blessed*

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Looking forward to a busy but fulfilling November! And definitely more cakes!

*Photos of Faith courtesy of Mummy Trisa and Auntie Eunice!

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! 😉

Cakes made this week

The last week of May saw me making two fondant cakes for my friends. Just a month or two ago, I declared that I would not work with fondant in this type of humid condition but my heart turned soft when my friends asked me to bake for their niece and nephew respectively.

This first cake was a chocolate cake for a 10-year-old girl. I was told she was a precocious girl and after browsing some pictures on my FB, she decided to go for a simple design – one with bow and stripes on the surface. V (the birthday girl) likes the combination of turquoise, pink and white and it shall be done for her!

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There were problems along the way. Due to the hot weather, my whipped chocolate ganache didn’t stay whipped. In fact, it soon turned watery which was a great cause of concern for me as I need to cover the cake with fondant. As a backup, I made a batch of buttercream (wilton method) and applied it on the ganache (crumb coat and first layer) in the hope that it will help to crust. To ensure that the fondant will not turn soft and thus destroy the cake, I put double layer of fondant on the cake.

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The bow never materialised as it cracked as I was about to put on the cake. I should have stuck to the same brand of fondant that I have been using all along. The current one that I’m using doesn’t really do well in terms of drying and can be rather fragile. Thankfully I took a picture before it cracked.

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Panic set in of course. I had a few more hours before delivery and I had to think of an alternative design and fabric roses came to mind. Along with some blossom flowers, there were 10 flowers on top, signifying her age. And I thought it turned out better in appearance (or am I trying to console myself?). I thought this cake was rather mature looking, good for a grown-up in fact. ;p

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The 1.9kg chocolate cake decorated with fondant.

The second cake was a rainbow cake with chocolate ganache. My friend was easy about this. There was no need for much decoration except for some animal figurines for his 3YO nephew. I love making figurines and spent each night working on one since it is rather difficult to do so when the kiddo is awake. I had better do a good job for the figurines since they take the centrestage. The rainbow cake was baked and then put together on the day itself. Again, the chocolate ganache posed a problem since it got watery again in this weather although I have used the proportion of 1.5:1. Sigh! I should have just insisted on using buttercream since the 6-inch cake can get mighty tall and I need each colour of the cake to ‘stick’ well to the other.

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I actually had problem with the frosting and I panicked again. In the end, I decided to pipe some green leaves using buttercream to hide the ugliness and as usual, I place fondant on top so that the figurines could sit on it. The white fondant covering was intended to have a natural look in case you would think that I have made a mistake by placing it a little slant. I love the colourful letterings which was a last-minute idea that popped into my mind. At the 11th hour, I did the colourful bunting to complete the look.

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I actually like the finished product! My friend was happy and said that her nephew loved the animals and kept admiring them even after the birthday and this absolutely made my day! All the effort was worth it! Together with the figurines, this 6″ cake weighs 2.1kg.

20140526_192322Rainbow cake seems to be well-liked by many these days eh? A fad?

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My garden theme cupcakes. I certainly hope to do more to complete the whole series.

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 And the last cake for the week: Yuzu-vanilla lychee cake with whipped cream. I much prefer to use buttercream if you ask me since it won’t melt that easily in our climate. I did that for the lychee cake a few months back for a friend and received good review about it. I’ll post the recipe once I’m satisfied with the result. 😉

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Lychee cake with buttercream

Heroes in town

How’s your Saturday been thus far?

Mine turned out awesome. You see, I’ve encountered a few heroes today.

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Yesterday, the car could not start and we contacted a mechanic whose name card was given by my sis. I contacted him and he replied that he would try to come as early as possible the next day, thinking that I would need the car for work. Indeed, this morning, he came at the agreed time, examined my car battery and other parts and told me that the fault was with the starter. The problem was solved after he used a rod to give a few knocks on the starter. He told me honestly that it could still last a few months though it would be good to change it.

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He shrugged his shoulder and said it was ok and drove off.

I was filled with thanksgiving. I’m not trying to be cynical but the uncle could have charged me for travelling to my place or even gave me a wrong diagnosis so that he could earn a bit but he didn’t. Such honesty. Such kindness. There are indeed awesome people like them around!

My spirit was lifted and I was in a happy mood to complete the cake that my ex-colleague/ friend has ordered for his son’s 7th birthday. The theme was on Superman and I was thinking of Superman emerging from the ground to save the people. I told my friend that I would rather that we get a toy as the topper as compared to doing one. Thankfully, he was okay with that idea.

The chocolate cakes were baked a day before so that on the actual day, I could fully concentrate on decorating it. For the last few cakes, I had used various types of coating but found it unsuitable for our humid tropical climate.  This time round, I used a 2:1 proportion for the chocolate ganache. And I think it works!

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The cake was well covered by the ganache and after putting a layer of brown fondant on top, I covered it with blue fondant as the sky. I had wanted a darker blue but just couldn’t get it! #notenoughbluefoodcolour
After that, I cut out the top layer of the fondant in the middle of the cake to ‘allow Superman to emerge from the ground’. Before that, I had to wrap the bottom of the topper with some brown fondant before placing it into the cake to ensure food safety. The ‘peeling’ of the ground is made of two rectangles of brown and blue and then cut into triangles before placing it in the middle for it to attach and dry.

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I thought the chocolate balls added some spice to the ‘damaged’ ground. ;p

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Can you guess which city is decorated on the cake? You’ve guessed it right. It is Singapore all right. I was able to have a good and uninterrupted time decorating this cake because the hubs took the little one down for a long walk and took over the duty from me. Grateful. In the afternoon, I was also able to have my first real run because my father-in-law came and played with Faith. Oh, these heroes! I am definitely grateful to these men!

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Hope your Saturday’s been awesome.

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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