Dan is 2YO!

Dear Daniel
You are two! How does it feel to be a slightly big boy now? You have been a joy to us all despite the many headaches you gave us too. Hah. Mama admits that it hasn’t been all fun parenting both you and Jie Jie and many times, I feel inadequate. I’m still learning, I guess, as much as you are trying to understand the world that you are living in and how relationships work.

Nevertheless, I must say you still melt my heart at the end of each day. You are God’s creation, wonderfully and fearfully made, and you are a precious gift to us. Life is indeed fuller and noisier with you around. Your sister adores you even though you bullies her a lot! She gives in to you and will always encourage you when Mama is angry with you for doing something wrong. How blessed you are!

You are an early riser and never fails to wake me up at 5ish in the morning but I’m afraid Mama isn’t too fond of waking up so early. So please pardon me if I may look cross and I would definitely need a cup of coffee to jolt me out of my sleepy state.

I love 2YOs. And I hope you will continue to explore and learn to articulate your thoughts more. You have been imitating your sister a lot, in terms of her speech especially and now you could give complete sentences when you feel up to it. More please! It’s really encouraging to see you develop through the months and I’m thankful that I can be around to witness these changes.

I love you, son, for who you are. You will always be your mummy’s precious boy.

Love
Mama

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A year older…

I turned one year older this day  and both my kids were not feeling in tip-top condition. It wasn’t anything serious but they have been coughing for weeks and I wanted them to fight it. But Faith had a pair of swollen eyes on Sunday evening, complaint of stomachache and ear ache that night and broke out in rashes all over her body yesterday. It’s time to visit the doc. Both of them.

We had wanted to visit her in the morning but we were too early and decided to go for a hike. So it’s to the tree top walk we went!

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It’s Faith’s first hike and we had to manage our expectation, that it would be a pretty slow walk.

Don’t think a stroller can do a good job and it’s babywearing for Dan! He looked displeased but actually I think it’s comfy because he fell asleep minutes into the walk.

The city girl was amazed by the nature and stopped every few minutes to exclaim over the slightest thing. Ants, leaves imprinted on the board walk, sounds in the nature, the canopy… There’s so much to explore in nature!

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This teacher in me will use every opportunity to teach. Signboards on the way are good teaching aids.

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As expected, the girl grew weary about 2.5km into the walk. But hey, that’s a good start for a 4YO!

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We had to think of ways to energise her. Singing gospel songs help! Or pretend that you are a superhero!

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We made it! But this was only the halfway mark!

On the return leg, everyone’s tired. Faith couldn’t walk any longer and needed to be carried. Thankfully, we could always treat her like a backpack.

We took 3 hours to complete the 6km walk. Tired but happy would be my description for that morning. I’ve always loved the outdoors and it’s definitely wonderful to be able to so on my birthday.

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That evening, we made it to the doctor all right. It’s viral infection, as diagnosed by the doc. The swell and rashes are symptoms of the infection. Dan’s cough was worse than Faith because his immunity was weaker.

Both are on antibiotics now.

This birthday, all I want is for my family to be in good health. Not too much to ask for eh? 😉

Oh yes, if you are keen to participate in the Safari Zoo Run 2017, do take note that the early bird rate extension is till 9 Dec 2016 and do remember to use the code SZR2017BGPRFAITH10 for a further 10% discount. This unique code is valid till 15 January 2017.

A letter to Faith on her 4th birthday

Dear Faith

You turn four years old today! Blessed birthday! Mama couldn’t help but be thankful for you because you are indeed one precious gift from God.

This past one year has been eventful. You were promoted to be a big sister to Dan and you did a wonderful job caring for him. Your love for him was evident. Each morning, when you awoke, you would look for him and spent the time after breakfast playing with him while Mama tried to get ready. You read to him and taught him skills that he would need. You encouraged and cheered for him when he reached his various milestones. No wonder Dan was so fond of you.

I remember I had a hard time adjusting to life with two kids when Dan was just a few weeks old and I was tough on you. I know you must have felt terrible and perhaps felt a sense of loss since you had to share Mama with Dan now.  And with so many of us giving our attention to him, you must have felt insecure. Thankfully, that period was over and as Mama learnt how to cope, things did get better.

This year, you got real chatty and must have asked a million whys. I must say Mama was exasperated and wish for more quietness at home. However, I also recognise that many of your questions are valid and you truly wanted to know more about yourself and the world you are living in. I only pray for more patience.

In March this year, I had the utmost privilege to lead you to invite Jesus into your life. What joy! Nothing is more important than this! From then on, you have been sensitive and extremely teachable on things above and asked questions pertaining to the Christian faith. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide you as you grow in your knowledge and love for Him.

Dear Faith, I want you to know that you have brought me much joy and love. Through you, I see how ugly and selfish I am as a person yet you have always extended your grace towards me, just like our heavenly Father. I love it when you say “It’s ok!” to assure me that you are not upset when Mama has done something that could sadden you.

This year, you asked to celebrate your birthday in school and you were not particular about the type of cake or the design. “You decide” is what you told me and when I baked you a Hello Kitty lychee chiffon cake, you were cool about it. I know you are not ecstatic about Hello Kitty, but you would just let me bake that for you because you know Mama would not be free to design a special cake for you. Thank you for being so understanding.

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I wish you could stay at this age because I really did enjoy your company this past year. You were so teachable and were my little helper. I recall the many times that you wanted to help me juice, vacuum and mop the floor, bathe and feed Dan. When Papa had to come home late after BSF, you would wait patiently in the living room while I put Dan to bed. One of those nights, you fell asleep on the sofa while waiting for me and I couldn’t help but feel bad about leaving you alone. However, I’m assured that you are mature enough to be on your own and that Mama doesn’t always have to be with you.

Perhaps, the greatest compliment that I get from you was when I asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up. Your reply encouraged me so much. “I want to be a mom like you!” I must have done something right to warrant such a response!

Thank you, my little angel for being you. We have had many conversations and I love how you make me laugh. I thank God for the privilege to be able to see you grow and develop from the time you were born. May you continue to show great zest for life and be mindful of the things of God.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-25

Thomas the train chiffon cake 🎂 

It’s always a privilege to bake for others and especially so when your good friend asked you to do so. Just last week, an ex-colleague whom I’m really fond of asked if I could bake a cake for her youngest. Why, of course!

I couldn’t bake a fondant cake in my current capacity. I know it will not turn out well. Dan requires a lot of my attention and if I want to do a good job for the cake, I need to devote time to it. And it absolutely saddens me if I can’t do it well.

So, the kind of cake I could do currently is chiffon cake, the creative type. I only have Suzanne Ng of Loving Creations For You to thank because her works inspire me to want to bake beyond a basic chiffon cake. I bought both her books so that I could learn a thing or two and so I thought I should practise baking a few if possible.

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As usual, a design needs to be thought of and the colours noted. I get forgetful easily these days and penning what I need for the cake really helps.

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I’ve baked a similar-themed cake before using fondant and decided to recycle the design. This is a 7″ chiffon cake because I have only this pan but it feeds 20 pax all right with no wastage, according to my friend.

It is much easier and faster making such a cake as compared to the fondant-covered ones. However, I encountered one problem with regard to the marshmallow cream . It’s really a pain using it and I wonder if I could stick the various pieces using royal icing?

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So yea, I made this boy happy and there is nothing more joyful than seeing smiles on children.

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Kids grow up too fast. They were both just babies a while ago. How did they grow up so fast? Am I missing anything?

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So, there you go. My first cake for November. Could I bake some more? Am I able to go back to baking for others again?

Anyway, the next cake is going to be for Faith who will turn 4 this month. What would that look like? Hmm..

P.S. Thank you, ZM, for sending the pics over and assuring me that the cake is well-received. 😉

One year old 

Last year, this day, I held you in my arms. You were so small then but at the same time, I was amazed by the strength in which your fingers grasped mine.

One year on and I’m constantly thankful to God for bringing you into our lives.

Blessed birthday, dear son, and may you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Dan’s 1st birthday

Birthday celebration. Purpose? To create memories and hopefully, they are good ones.

Over the weekend, we organised a small celebration for my family at our apartment. It was a simple affair. I prepared dinner for them and it was a privilege to do so since there wasn’t much opportunity to do that often; everyone is busy. Of course, the highlight is the dessert table. I am perhaps the only person who is excited about this. I love the idea of a dessert table but didn’t like the work. Faith didn’t have her first birthday celebration because we were too lazy to organise one. Her subsequent birthdays included a cake which was an improvement. This time round, I thought I should be a bit more diligent and organise a slightly more elaborate one for Dan and Faith in November.

Okay, I would disclose a bit more. It’s because I was a bit bored and wanted to do something more exciting and thus decided to do a dessert table. The fact that I came across some adorable party decor further fuelled my interest. When I told the hubs about my intention, he ROLLED HIS EYES. Oh, whatever! ;p

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On Saturday morning, I gathered the party decor and baked a pandan chiffon cake and sugar cookies before going through the mundane – doing the laundry, sending the girl to swim class, cleaning the bathroom, etc.

The theme was about polar bear and friends, just because the party decor that I bought contain those pictures. I know this is not very creative of me but I wouldn’t want to spend too much time thinking about themes. Besides, I’m quite sure Daniel doesn’t mind at all.

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Dinner comprised pan-fried salmon, a stir-fried broccoli dish, baked honey mustard chicken wings, seaweed chicken bites, soy sauce braised pork belly dish and fishball, meatball soup. So happy that they were all wiped out or was it because I didn’t prepare sufficiently? Geez…

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The dessert table was set up after dinner. Okay, my family was like ‘whatever, we just want dessert’; they didn’t really care about aesthetics. However, they graciously allowed me to do my thing and I promptly did so while trying to avoid their what-are-you-doing look.

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And so, there you have it – Daniel’s first birthday celebration. I have created some memories for the children! Yay! I did have fun designing and coming up with the simple dessert table. Maybe I could do something for Faith’s birthday as well?

Hmm, that will depend on whether I have the time and energy then. ;p

P.S. A special thanks to my sister who helped me capture the memories using the Canon EOS M10.

Wordless Wednesday | Birthday preparation


I will be busy this week. We have decided to celebrate Dan’s birthday this weekend. Since I have some party decor which I have bought in Melbourne, I’ve decided to do up a mini dessert table and to invite my family over for dinner.

The hubs and I are not huge on birthday party. I mean, after all, will the 1YO know anything? However, I am reminded that we should make effort to create memories for them so even if the children might not remember much about the event, at least there will be photos which they could refer to in the future?

All right then. This lazy mom had better buck up and do something about birthdays.

August bakes

I didn’t expect to bake, for others, because I was really tied down by the kids. However, one fine day, a friend asked me if I could bake her daughter a birthday cake since the baker she wanted to engage was not available. It was a chiffon creative cake, one of those cakes that I don’t often bake. I like challenges once in a while and I thought why not try?

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Chiffon cakes turn out to be easier to bake and once you have the right tools, decorating it can be fuss-free too. This is my first nicer creation because I have the available tools and cutters.

You do need to plan the colours that you need beforehand and bake them. After that, it’s really just cut and paste.

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This is an Elmo lychee chiffon cake. Again, once you have the cutters, it’s an easy job.

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This is the cake requested by her. It took a while to complete this cake because the decorations are 3D in nature and that means I would have to sculpt them. There was also some problem with the recipe and in the end, I had to rebake the pandan chiffon base. Just look at the different colours that you need for this cake!

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With the first request came other similar requests for Chiffon creative cakes and I had one new order for this Mickey Mouse cake. Again, I have the cutters so it made life a tad easier for me.

Get the idea?

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One of those days, I baked the charcoal chiffon cake to munch.

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The last cake has to be this rainbow buttercream cake with the fondant Care Bears figurines. It’s back to doing what I like (figurines) but I seem to have lost the touch for making buttercream cakes. Anyway, this cake makes the recipient very happy and that’s good enough.

That’s it. That’s the round up for my August cakes!

[Motivational Monday] The gifts

The hubs took leave today to spend my birthday with me.

We didn’t plan anything grand. In fact, it was just another ordinary day for us. But I’m thankful…

…thankful that I can spend a slow breakfast with my family.

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…thankful that I could do grocery in the supermarket because without the hubs, it would be a highly challenging task for me with the two kids around.

…thankful that Dan is growing well.

20151207_112922Dan’s 2-month checkup.
Wt: 5.1kg
Ht: 57cm

… thankful that Faith is a caring sister to Dan and has many good qualities in her although there are still a lot of areas she has to work on.

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Wanted to buy this set of baking equipment for her but she didn’t want, explaining that she had already. Self-control in action and I really ought to learn from her.

…thankful that the hubs agreed to attempt BBG with me and today, we did out first set. Yay! More to go?

… thankful that I could prepare meals for my family and that they like the food.

… thankful that I could squeeze in time to bake to appreciate someone who helped us even though he may not know us personally.

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To be able to spend time with the family and do the things I love are gifts for me on this somewhat special day. There is really no need to ask for more because I have everything I need and I’m blessed.

 

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

It’s my sis’ birthday tomorrow and I thought that I should bake her a birthday cake since mom’s cooking dinner this evening. Naturally, the Japanese Strawberry Shortcake came to mind because my nephews love strawberries and our family prefers light cakes anytime. Thankfully, I have strawberries and whipped cream in the fridge so it makes decision making easier.

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I went ahead and used the traditional sponge cake method. 6″ cake pans were used since I did not want a big cake. That said, I do have a tall 6″ cake in the end.

(A)
4 eggs
120g caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

(B)
110g all-purpose flour (sifted)

(C)
70g melted butter

1. Whip (A) until light and fluffy

2. Stir in (B) and mix until well blended.

3. Add (C) and mix well.

4. Pour the batter into the greased pans. Bake at 180C for about 20 min or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes. Remove them from the pans immediately when done and let cool.

I’m used to using IMBC and was rather hesitant about using whipped cream because my kitchen is really warm. Since there is no harm in experimenting and because it’s really for family, I decided to give it a try. Using 300g of whipped cream, I used the balloon whisk and whisk it till stiff peak. Preferably, the metal bowl should be cold but I forgot to keep it in the fridge before that. But hey, it still works. And I’m pleasantly surprised that it holds well even when it’s kept out of the fridge for half an hour (before the cake cutting).

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My folks said the sponge cake is rather light but I think it can go lighter. The next time I experiment with it, I might use cake flour and add a little glucose to see the difference it will make. Also, the whipped cream is a tad thick so I should just reduce it by a wee bit.

familypic (2)In any case, I’m glad to have baked this cake. It’s been a while since I last baked a cake for a birthday celebration. And more importantly, it warmed my heart to see the folks enjoy this dessert.

Totoro cake

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This is one celebration cake which I’m pleased with because it is simple to make but pleasant to look at. A friend had asked me to bake a banana cake and decorate it with characters with Totoro and friends. Since she has two toy figurines already, I would only need to make the other two using fondant.

I love decorating a whole cake because it saves the trouble of slicing the cake into layers and filling them with buttercream. Covering them with buttercream and then fondant can sometimes result in a messy appearance. Or perhaps my skill is not there yet.

To bake the banana cake, I used Joanne Chang’s recipe and reduced the amount of sugar since I feel that the sweetness in the bananas is sufficient. The original recipe named it a bread but I think it makes a good cake. The key thing is to use very ripe bananas and sometimes I prefer to use pecan nuts over walnuts but both are good. This recipe fits a 7″ by 3″ round pan very well.

Ingredients (source)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose f lour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe, medium bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/3 cups mashed)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped

Directions:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. (If you use a handheld mixer, this same step will take about 8 minutes.)

3. On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Don’t pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding it should take about 1 minute. Add the bananas, crème fraiche, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and the nuts just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake for 1 to 1 1⁄4 hours, or until golden brown on top and the center springs back when you press it. If your finger sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

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6. The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or, it can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks; thaw overnight at room temperature for serving.

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Lovely, isn’t it? And from past experience, I find the cake to be more delicious when you wait it out for the next day to consume.

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To cover the sides of the cake, I cut out stripes of yellow and frilled them before adding them unto the cake.

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Another type of cake design is to just use cupcakes and create a garden with flowers and bees. I must say the characters are really cute!

The Ninjago Cake

I know one fine day I would bake a Lego cake. It’s not surprising since children and even adults love playing with these bricks. I remember when I was young, I could spend hours building and even without the guide, I would draw on my imagination and do a layout of a room or house.

Recently, a friend asked me to do a Ninjago cake for his 6YO son. The cake took a week for me to make, simply because I could only do the figurines at night, after the little one has gone to bed. I was really apprehensive about the turnout and threw a couple of figurines away because they didn’t work out.

In the end, this is the completed product.

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It’s a 3-inch chocolate cake and I’m thankful that the frosting didn’t melt in the heat. I did a double layer of fondant covering after frosting the cake.

The bricks and figurines were done a few days before the cake was assembled since I needed them to be dried. Tylose powder works wonderfully well for these.

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I had problems with the temple though. Initially, i had wanted to build one with either rice crispy or some biscuits for the interior but I thought it would weigh the cake down and decided on doing that single panel. Not my ideal but I guess I would just have to make do.

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In the end, I was most pleased with the bricks and the banner with the name on it. It was a last-minute idea and I did it free hand but I love the result.

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3.5kg

A cake for Mr Wood

Relatives from my hubs’ side came back to visit and I was tasked to bake a cake to surprise Mr Wood, an ardent fan of The Harlequins. Of course, I know nothing about this football club until the hubs told me and I had to do some reading up on it and browsing of pictures before I decided on the figurine that I would be making. Initially, a cake in the shape of a football was called for but I don’t have the pan and I’m not ready to sculpt a cake and decided to just settle for a figurine.

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It’s a rich devil’s food cake that I baked and I decided to pipe some ‘grass’ on it. It’s a simple cake but one which I like because of the figurine. It was made the night before though I wish I had more time. Had I more time, I would have made another player lying on the ground. But that week had been crazy with playdates, homeschool stuff, teaching assignment, a seminar to attend and a cake order in the weekend too. Not that I’m complaining. I actually enjoyed all the activities. Just that the spirit is willing but the body is weak and  I felt it protesting already.

Thankfully, the folks were easy to please and I think the cake satisfied.

I wonder how this week looks like.

Sisterly cakes

I’d like to think that I’m in the business of making people happy, hopefully, with my cakes. During the weekends, I had the immense privilege of baking cakes for my ex-classmate,A, whom I have not met since 15 years ago. What an honour!

She had asked me to bake two 6″ rainbow and ombre pink cakes respectively for her two daughters. Since it was a family celebration, they wouldn’t need a big cake which was fine by me. I love baking 6″ cakes because they are manageable. 😉 There’s no great need for any decoration. Birthday buntings will do.

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I started working on these cakes a few days before the delivery day. Since I have to take care of Faith in the day time, I could only do most of the jobs in the evening when she’s in bed. The buntings were done first using craft paper, washi tapes and decorative letterings.

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Next up were the cakes which could take a fair bit of time since each layer of batter was weighed and coloured and then baked.

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This is the ombre pink cake for the older sister. I didn’t smoothen the outer layer of the buttercream since I wanted a rustic feel to the cake. Adding small love sprinkles on top, I thought it completes the look of a rather romantic cake. ;p

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This is for the younger sister who is celebrating her 10th year. I wanted the cake to be a tad more fun and added the colourful sprinkles on top. At the end of the day, I just hope both of them would love what their mother had done for them and to eat the cake. 😉

Loving buttercream cakes

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It has been raining rather often these days and this is no good news for decorating a cake with fondant at my place. So, whenever friends asked me to bake for them, I will promote buttercream cakes, for sure!

Over the weekend, I did one rainbow vanilla sponge cake for an 8-year-old boy. 6 inch and I love the size. It’s definitely more cumbersome to bake a rainbow cake since you need to colour the different layers for the batter before baking them. A weighing scale will help if you are into precision. 😉

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My usual proportion for the swiss meringue buttercream will not be sufficient to cover the cake. So I decided to add one more egg white with the same amount of sugar and butter. Works well but I guess we can do with more. So I guess I’ll need to experiment more with the recipe. For this batch, the measurement is:

130g egg white (4 large eggs)
135g sugar
227g unsalted butter, soft but still cold, cut into small equal size of cubes

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More recently, I find myself loving the use of ribbons to cover the base. The collection is growing at quite a steady rate, I must say. Since I would be using a toy superman figurine on the cake, I put a layer of fondant on top before placing another layer just for the decorations. It’s suppose to mean that superman emerge from the clouds… Hmm, did any one of you get it?

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All the wordings were done a day before since I need them to harden a little. Tylose powder is added to the fondant.

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Building this cake in stages takes the stress away. I must say I quite enjoy making this cake!

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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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. =)

Happy 1st birthday, Faith

Your birthday was yesterday but Mama was too busy to blog!

Anyway, we didn’t intend to have a birthday bash for you as we want you to spend time with your loved ones, our family who have lent their helping hands throughout this one year. Perhaps next year, we will have a small party for you and you can celebrate and have fun with your friends?

It’s a pity that your cousins are still overseas, otherwise they would be celebrating with you.

20131121-115859.jpgHere you are celebrating with Gong Gong. He has helped Papa and Mama very much when we are both busy and Gong Gong adores you!

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It’s a family affair when it comes to birthday celebration. We also celebrated your Ko Po’s birthday too. She even cooked you Mee Sua as is the family tradition to have this on his/her birthday.

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The older folks really love you!

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Mama baked you a rainbow cake covered with macarons. May your life be filled with vibrancy!

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We had initially wanted to be decked in pink (Mama’s favourite colour) but grey seems fine too! May you grow up with the right values and the wisdom to discern what is right in situations where there are gray areas.

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Here’s a little about the rainbow cake. I had initially designed a two tiered cake since we are celebrating Koko’s birthday too. It would be a fruit cake for the adult and the rainbow cake for the kiddo. However, by the time I finished baking and ready to assemble, my energy level has dropped and decided to forgo the fruit cake.

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A day before, the father-in-law came over as he suspected that I would be baking a cake. How thoughtful! I used the vanilla cake recipe but reduced the sugar to 1 cup. After dividing the batter into 5 portions, I added the various colours.

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Then, they are cling-wrapped and placed in the fridge before the assembling the following day.

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To be honest, I had wanted to bake the macarons but since so many colours are involved, I forgo it and bought them instead. Unless there are folks who can help me finish the shells, I wouldn’t bake them. Too much trouble!

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I made a mistake of placing the finished product in the fridge, thinking that I could preserve the crispiness of the macarons but in so doing, the cake has become hard even though it was brought out of the fridge 3 hours after. The next day, when I consumed the remaining cake, it was softer and tastier. Hmm… lesson learnt. Another thing to improve is to add in more buttercream in each layer.

Hello Kitty Cupcakes

I had another order – 20 Hello Kitty cupcakes – over the weekend and I thought I should just post the process of making them.

I made the toppers a few days in advance so that they can be dried and stored before the actual day of assembling.  They are rather easy to make as long as you have the mould which you can purchased from baking stores like Phoon Huat, Sunlik and Bake King. However, it can be time consuming too. 😉

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After the faces have been cut out and dried, I applied yellow fondant as the nose.

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The next step is to do the ribbons. I had made them using the mould but it was way too time-consuming to do that. This time round, I just mould them using freehand. Stick to the ears and dry them.

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Then, ‘paste’ the face to the pink background – circles – which were made beforehand. Dry them.

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Apply black icing as whiskers. I only applied light strokes as I don’t like them too dark. Dry them again.

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Assembling time! The cupcakes are baked and buttercream applied so that the toppers can stick to them.

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My place is rather warm and you can see that sweating happens very soon!

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Since the customer is going to place these cupcakes in the fridge, I cling-wrapped them to minimise sudden change in temperature after they are taken out of the fridge. This is to prevent sweating. Not a very pretty and inviting sight to behold, ya know? ;p

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!

[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!

The pink cake

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I’m so happy that a friend allows me to bake a cake for her 4YO daughter’s birthday. I mean, who would be so daring? Few want to take the risk.

I have not met the young girl but browsing her pictures from FB, I could see a beautiful and sweet 20130906-202058.jpgchild. The mother describes her as mischievous and asked me to experiment! Be fun! Be creative! Cake can be in pieces (jus not crumbs).

I like such responses but also worry if the daughter would like my design. I had wanted a garden design for her and perhaps make a figurine since I want to show the free-spirited side of this child, enjoying playtime in the nature. So I made ladybirds and bees, flowers and leaves.

A few weeks later, the mom said the girl would like the cake to be pink.

Gosh! Pink? Pink garden?

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Hmmm…. it’s back to the drawing board again. A garden with pink background doesn’t really seem realistic. Thankfully, there was an order for Hello Kitty cupcakes and I was experimenting with the recipes and the toppers and decided that the little girl should have a few of those just in case she doesn’t like my cake.

In the end, I have decided to make a vanilla sponge cake with different shades of pink/red. It will be coated with italian meringue buttercream and the border covered with multi-coloured sprinkles.

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So the work actually started a week before with the ladybirds and bees, the cake 2 days before. The cake was covered with the buttercream a day before and the final assembling took place on the day of collection. I feel if the cake is allowed time to bind the flavours, it will turn out better.

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Yup, the cake is made in stages. Slow and steady. This also allows for mistakes to be rectified.

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So, I wasn’t very satisfied with the cake design, to be honest. After the cake was completed, I took a look at it and realised that the side wasn’t smooth. I didn’t use a benchscraper to do the job! What was I thinking of? I also wanted to design such that the flowers seemed to be falling off but well, the combination of icing sugar flowers and fondant ones didn’t really look like a good match. The fact that my fondant flowers softened because of the rainy weather didn’t help at all!

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When I packed the cake, part of me felt relieved, the other part frustrated. I could have done better. Hump!

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In any case, the cakes were sent out and I hope the girl loves them.

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Update: So my friend sent me pics of the cake during the birthday celebration. And of course, helpful feedback which is so important to me. At the end of the day, the birthday girl was very happy and ate the kitty and the ladybird (both fondant). I wanna faint. Too much sugar!

A birthday cake for Lester

Our family celebrated the birthday of one of my nephews with a birthday cake, baked by the resident baker, yours truly. It was a simple cake because there is no point making a elaborated one since the family has gotten tired of eating what I bake (sad). The easiest and tastiest cake I can think of is Nigella Lawson’s Devil’s Food Cake. This cake can be baked in the morning and assembled from afternoon onwards.

In baking chocolate cake, there is no greater crime than using poor quality chocolates. For this cake, I used valrhona’s covertures (72%) and cocoa powder. The figurine was made a few days back since it has to be dried. I surrounded the figurine with digestive biscuits, making it look like sandpit since I hope Lester will enjoy his childhood! For the border, I used Wilton grass tip No. 233.

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While it takes not too long to bake the cake, the chocolate ganache takes a long time to reach a desired state for frosting ( I didn’t put it in the fridge to quicken the process). This time round, the whole amount of ganache was used in covering the cake. Decadent indeed.

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The various pieces to be assembled.

I did have fun designing and baking these cakes.
Now, I need more brave souls to allow me to bake for their birthdays.
Anyone?

A custom-made cake : hits and misses

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When a friend asked me if I would take up the challenge to bake a cake for his 5-year-old boy, I agreed rather readily. His request: A cake in the form of Captain America’s shield. No fondant. At least 2kg. To feed about 20 people.

Captain America? Who on earth is that?

And, thanks to google, I got the idea and came up with a draft.

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The actual work started a few days before the birthday celebration. I would be using 2 cake boards – one for the cake, the other as a background. The square board is to be covered with fondant with the wordings in blue. And then, the drying process begins.

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I had originally wanted to do a vanilla sponge cake with various colours (red, blue, white) but the daddy thought that the kids would not appreciate such an effort and so I stuck with the original. I thought the cake slicer and the lifter are of great use. It certainly makes life easier for me!

Another thing that I found out is that my mixer cannot do a good job in making a 10-inch cake batter; it overflows! So, now I know. The cake batter has to be divided to be baked in the oven as it certainly will overflow due to the rising agent.

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So, a fondant cake is NOT welcome and the better choice would be buttercream. I do not want to use royal icing as it will be too sweet for the kids. Of the 3 types of buttercream, I chose to do Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) as it is the most stable and can withstand our tropical humid weather. Thankfully, I had learnt this method during my baking course at CSCA so it wasn’t that foreign. Having said that, I still did it with much trepidation. Thankfully, it was a success and the next step is to moisten the cake with sugar syrup.

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It’s a breeze covering the cake with IMBC. To make things easier for me, I use a special big tip to help me with the sides of the cake. Definitely easier. Reminder to self though: don’t be stingy with the buttercream. I had the tendency to ration the use of it and then in the end, realised that I had so much left. Spread more!

Crumb coat was done!

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Next is the design. So I do not own a compass to draw circles and have to rely on whatever circular stuff that I could get hold of. After that, piping gel was used to trace the design and to transfer it onto the cake. Please don’t ask me why I used a dark colour. I really do not know what had gotten to me to use such a colour. I SHOULDN’T!

After that, it was all about piping – stars and circles. Testing of skills.

If I am to bake another cake again, I’ll make sure that I will make myself free the day before collection. As I had a family outing, I had to place the cake in the refrigerator but when I took it out , there was condensation and it doesn’t really look too good on a cake with IMBC.

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I learnt and hope that you won’t make the same mistake as I.

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😉

Jadelyn’s 1st birthday

Our family was invited by Diana to her daughter, Jadelyn’s first birthday! How exciting! I may not have known the domestic goddess  for long but her friendly disposition won me over. By the way, she cooks and bakes great stuff. You should really explore her blog. A truly unassuming lady!

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Diana and her lovely family.

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Faith is too young to play with the older kids but she had fun with the balloons and treated herself to one!

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Diana prepared all these goodies for the little ones!

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Delish rainbow cake! How inspiring!

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Poor Faith can’t enjoy again. Next time, babe!

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A personalised gift for Faith. How thoughtful of the host! Thank you so much for inviting us!