Archive for the 'Baking Recipes: Cakes/Brownies' Category

My First Guest Chef Experience

[All photos in this post are courtesy of E at Heaven in a Wild Flower, who was the fabulous FOH at the supperclub the night I guest chef-ed (I would also like to add that she's mightily talented in cooking, design, photography above everything else that she's also good at)!]

Some of you may have read that I made my first ever guest chef appearance recently on 13 November 2011, at the Plusixfive supperclub no less, and I thought it would be nice to document my experience here. It was a real eye-opener for me to be changing gears on what I usually do, as I’m more of an amateur home cook who siphons off the excess things that come out of my kitchen to willing friends. To actually bake for something which I’ve been commissioned for, to offer my pastries to paying customers, now that is a different ball game. To sum it up, it was a daunting albeit rewarding experience for me, and I wouldn’t have embarked on it if Goz, head chef at Plusixfive, hadn’t bambi-eyed me into it (read this to see how a grown man manages to do this!).

Gula melaka salted caramel buttercream macarons

This was made even more challenging, when my oven decided to go kaput on my macarons the week before. I was getting cracked macarons left, right and center with the same recipe that have always worked for me, and I had no idea what went wrong.  I panicked quite a bit as I didn’t want to disappoint Goz and his guests, so I made batches after batches of macarons to test out every variable  (as I would have in my past life as a scientist before I made a career switch), and finally narrowed it down to an overheating oven. The odd thing was the oven didn’t have any effect on my other baked goods, and my conclusion was macarons are just extremely sensitive to heat. This was affirmed when I tried some new steps that I’ve now included on top of my usual recipe (not posted yet), which thankfully gave me beautiful macarons once again, just in time for the supperclub. I also spent a good amount of time tweaking my lychee chiffon cake recipe to perfection, and even had my husband mule some lychee essence back from Singapore to do this. A few hours before the supperclub on 13 November, I was absolutely relieved to get everything done in time for the guests.

Lychee chiffon cake

So after the nightmare that was the oven, you can imagine how anxious I was in having ‘em desserts meet the customers, especially since Goz was serving up his famous (and very very very yummy, I can attest to this) gula melaka ice cream right before my macarons and chiffon cake were presented to the guests! But I am glad to report that they received positive reviews despite the oven drama that I went through, and despite the fact that Goz set really high standards with his gula melaka ice cream. Some supperclub guests asked how I made the macarons and chiffon, others asked if they could order baked goods from me in future, some were wowed by the macarons, others were bowled over by the chiffon cake. I was just buzzing with nerves and excitement, then flooded with relief when everyone went home feeling happy about the desserts (or at least, they pretended to, being very cordial people they are!). T, one of the guests, left a comment on my Facebook page on the chiffon cake, and Jen who writes at Hungry Tiger Thirsty Dragon gave  us some glowing reviews on the desserts.

Jen has  kindly given me permission to quote an excerpt from her review here:

Desserts were the highlight of the evening: the gula melaka ice-cream was divine, salty-sweet with gorgeous caramelised notes. Guest-chef desserts were courtesy of Rachel of The Pleasure Monger: gula melaka macarons and lychee chiffon cake. The macarons were so good I could forgive the double-dose of gula melaka, and the chiffon cake was wonderfully airy and fresh.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes, a hell lot! Did I gain some confidence, which I’ve been told I severely lack? Yes, a teeny bit. Would I do this again? Yes, why not! Did I have fun? Without a doubt!

There you go, my first guest chef experience, and hopefully more to come.

Before I go, I’d also like to say that Goz’s rendang is DA BOMB, and personally, I would die for it. M gushed, ‘Man, Goz CAN cook!!’ as he fought me off with his spoon when I tried to stake a claim on the rendang. So, I’m urging you to sign up for the Plusixfive supperclub – hop on over here to find out how. Read these reviews if you’re not convinced! And scroll on for some snapshots of what you missed at the supperclub!

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 Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

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The Pleasure Monger serving up at Plusixfive tonight!

Hello everyone! Just dropping by quickly to make an announcement, well…sort of anyway, because something’s big happening tonight at a mysterious location in London and I’m part of it!

Those residing in London may have heard of (if you haven’t, I wonder if you’ve been living under a rock…) PlusixfiveTHE supperclub that has been making waves in the dining scene with its kick-ass Singaporean food. Now, head chef gozgozgoz has kindly invited me to serve up some sweets tonight (some of you may have caught wind of this on Twitter, and boy, am I glad that gozgozgoz thinks I’m worthy of his supperclub)! It kinda came at a good and bad time. You see, I have been toying with the idea of doing the whole baking thing on a small-scale commercial basis after receiving some requests to do dessert tables for weddings in Singapore (I can’t do this ladies, because I’m not based in Singapore..unfortunately), but never had the guts/opportunity to do it, so this was the perfect thing to be commissioned for. The bad really showed up unannounced when I ran into some oven trouble last week and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to deliver. After a whole week of troubleshooting, I’m happy (and relieved) to present my Gula Melaka Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons, and a new-and-improved version of my Lychee Chiffon Cake for the supperclub tonight!

This may be nothing much for all you funky, cool, talented chefs out there, but for a nondescript home cook like me, this fares pretty high up on the list. Wish me luck, everyone! And to all who are attending the supperclub tonight, I hope you enjoy the dinner (and the sweets, hehe)!

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Death By Chocolate Cake

Would you like to die a death by chocolate cake…? Or more specifically, a death by my Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake? I didn’t know what I was thinking when I decided to whip up this evil thing for a dinner party for our friends, S & C. I probably wasn’t, because I could have killed someone with it.

I think there are different ways to depart this world with this cake. I could have suffocated S or C or M or myself by smothering one of us with the thick, luscious, smooth sour cream chocolate icing, which in a warped kind of role-reversal, is dying to be licked too. I could have choked one of us to death by clogging the throat up with greedy morsels of deep, dense, and very chocolatey cake. Or, I could have dehydrated someone by making one of us weep to death after my rich salted butter caramel has blazed a trail on the tongue, with that tiny savoury-sweet-buttery dribble threatening to leave the corner of one’s lips. Oooh, to kill or not to kill, my caramel has conscience and it ponders.

They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. I say that nothing is ever worth living if  we don’t die a Death By Chocolate Cake. It is an arguably good way to go; you see, you leave this world with your teeth stained with chocolate, no one judges you for that, you get endorphins buzzing in your head, and then you sigh and go to heaven. So, why not?

P/S: No humans were killed in the making and consumption of this chocolate cake, unfortunately…

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Now, go slaughter someone you love with this too (and by the way, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear this evil doing from me):

Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake
(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Makes an 8-inch two-layered, ironically, round weapon

To choke someone with the cake:

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
40g cocoa powder (I used Green & Black)
150ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven (fan-assisted) to 160 degree Celcius. Grease and line two 8-inch sandwich tins.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. Beat in the softened butter to the ingredients in step 2.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sour cream, eggs and vanilla paste till well-mixed, and then add this in a stream-like fashion to the flour mixture from step 3 and beat till everything is well-combined.
5. Pour the batter into the greased and lined sandwich tins (make sure both get equal amounts of batter) and bake for 26 minutes, rotating the cake tins halfway through if your oven has hotspots. You don’t want to overbake these as people might go to hell instead of heaven if you do…26 minutes work well for me, but if you want to check yours, the cakes should just begin to shy away from the edges of the tins, and the skewer should come out almost clean when inserted. Cool the cakes in the tins on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out directly onto the rack to cool them further. In the meantime, work on the salted butter caramel sauce.

To set one’s tongue on fire with the salted butter caramel sauce:

100g caster sugar
55g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
100ml whipping cream

1. Melt sugar and butter in a saucepan, and caramelise to copper colour (be careful not to burn it). Keep stirring during this process, and keep a watchful eye. Add the salt whilst stirring.
2. Scald the whipping cream in another saucepan (it should be shy of coming to a boil).
3. Remove the caramel from Step 1 from the heat, and add the cream. Be careful here, as the mixture will bubble vigorously and might splatter onto you. Stand far far away, with gloves on as you stir the hot cream and caramel together to form a smooth sauce. You don’t want to die looking like a blistered chef, that defeats the purpose of making this cake as the chef isn’t supposed to die. Let the caramel sauce cool down before use. Next, work on the icing.

To smother someone to death with the sour cream chocolate icing:

150g dark chocolate (I used 85% Lindt, broken up into small pieces)
105g unsalted butter
150ml sour cream (room temperature)
75ml whipping cream (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250g icing sugar, sifted

1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a microwave (do this in 20-second blocks because you don’t want to overheat the chocolate and cause it to seize), or if you prefer, do it bain-marie style. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.
2. Gradually stir in the sour cream and whipping cream, vanilla paste and the golden syrup.
3. Slowly add the sifted icing sugar and combine till smooth.

Now, to assemble the weapon:

100g blanched hazelnuts, blitzed to tiny chunks in the food processor

1. Outline your serving plate or cake stand with strips of baking parchment, and sit your cake on top of strips, such that the edges of the cake are actually on the parchment pieces.
2. Spread the cooled salted butter caramel on the first layer, and then top it up with the second cake layer.
3. Pour the chocolate icing over the assembled cake, and let the icing flow down the sides while smoothing the surfaces with a palette knife.
4. Propping up your cake at different angles, pat on the blitzed hazelnuts on the sides, and leave the cake to set in the fridge till the icing is less gooey (it should still be sticky though). Remove the cake from the fridge when this is so. Carefully remove the parchment pieces from the plate/stand. You should get a very neat-looking cake.
5. Now, serve the cake to your unsuspecting guests. Remember, you didn’t hear it from me!



The Prettiest Cake I’ve Made – Ispahan


Mention lychees, rose and raspberries in the same sentence, and the first person you think of is Pierre Hermé, the one pastry chef I truly revere, and the one man I might actually kiss, other than my husband (shhhh, it’s our secret). If you’ve followed this blog since I started, you would have seen how I’ve progressed in the kitchen and how I became increasingly obsessed with macarons and other pastries. Pierre Hermé is the source of my inspiration; his dexterity with pastries is something that I can only dream of, not here but in a parallel dimension. Yes, he is that good.

I love his creativity and his works of art so much that every other friend of mine seems to think I’m a nutcase for his sweets now, and I was very generously gifted one of his cookbooks for my birthday last year. I have yet to actually use any of his recipes, for fear of getting them totalled in an ugly accident that (trust me) will be reality in my incompetent hands; but one day, when I’m good enough, I will plough through each and every of his recipes (they are in French though…) and hopefully, delight my friends with the creations. For now, Pierre Hermé remains a dream that seems too good to be true, and I only aspire to be inspired.

I have managed to tackle the tricky business of macarons, and now, I yearn for more. Iconic and truly delightful, the beautiful combination of lychee, rose and raspberry was first created by Pierre Hermé and it seemed like the perfect way to get started. Yes, my dears, I’m working my way into the heart of Monsieur Hermé.

To you, the Ispahan cake I’ve made here probably isn’t a product of inspiration; the truth is you could probably find it in any pâtisserieBut to me, this cake is a bit of a big deal. I’m used to making slapdash easy-peasy cupcakes, brownies, cakes, cookies and macarons, but an entremet? That’s a tall order. Entremets are refined, very pretty layered and textured mousse cakes that don’t do very well when poked by stubby, careless fingers like mine. Getting them to look perfect is a real challenge for me, and I was terrified of making my first entremet, but I guess, I have to start somewhere if I want to be more prolific in pastry-making. So I hope you’ll see why this Ispahan cake represents a more accessible way in, to that Pierre Hermé cookbook that has been sitting on my shelf for more than half a year, and also to more good things that will hopefully turn up in my culinary adventures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my first entremet to you, possibly not the prettiest cake you’ve seen but definitely the prettiest cake I’ve ever made. It is not perfect, but I hope to make it so one day. For now, the flavours tease and delight, as they should and as they did when I first had an Ispahan years ago. The sweetness of lychees, tartness of raspberries and lingering aroma of rose bring a sensual touch to this cake. It’s hard not to be drawn in, even M loved it. For me, I was extremely pleased to see it come together (as opposed to it falling apart…). Here’s the recipe that I tweaked from Okashi to include the signature Hermé flavours of lychees, rose and raspberries, and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did!

Ispahan Cake

Makes two 4.5cm (diameter) cakes and one 15cm cake
(adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

Special Biscuit Sponge

15g corn flour
15g plain flour
17g unsalted butter, melted
45g egg whites
40g egg yolks
40g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line 15cm by 25cm tray with baking parchment.
2. Sift flours together, twice, and set aside.
3. Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Add 1/4 of the sugar and beat briefly, before adding in the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy peaks are formed.
4. Lightly beat the egg yolks, add them to the meringue made in step 3 and gently mix till combined. Do not overmix.
5. Sift the flours again, into the batter from step 4 and fold the flours in gently till batter is glossy. Pour the melted butter into this mixture and fold gently to combine.
6. Pour batter into the lined tray, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
7. Once baked, remove sponge from the tray and cover it with a clean tea towel. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Flavour for the sponge

35g water
12g caster sugar
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. In a saucepan, heat up water and sugar to make a sugar syrup. Remove from heat and add lychee juice, liquer and rosewater essence. Stir to combine. Set aside and let cool.
2. When sponge is fully cooled, cut out (diameter) 4.5cm and 15.5cm round pieces with the mold rings.
3. Brush sugar syrup from step 1 over the sponge cut-outs.

Crème Mousseline

235g whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
20g plain flour
5g corn flour
135g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. Bring milk and vanilla to boil in a saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar till mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add flours to this and mix well.
3. Pour the hot milk from step 1 to the egg mixture, and fold to mix thoroughly. Return this to the saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir continuously. This forms the pastry cream. Beat the pastry cream, whilst in the saucepan, until smooth, thick and glossy. It should resemble the gloopy filling you see in cream puffs. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and transfer the pastry cream to a clean tray. Cover the tray with cling film and let cool in the freezer. Do not allow it to freeze.
4. In a clean bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the cooled pastry cream and beat until combined. At this point, beat in the lychee juice, liquer and essence of rosewater. This is your crème mousseline.

To assemble

100g raspberries, halved
7 lychees (I used canned ones), drained thoroughly and quartered

1. Place the flavoured sponge cut-outs into the respective mold rings.
2. Pipe a thin layer of crème mousseline onto the sponge. Spread this evenly (you want uniform layers so the entremet looks pretty).
3. Arrange the halved raspberries, cut-side facing out, against the inner surface of the mold ring. Arrange lychee quarters and remaining raspberries in concentric circles as you move inwards from the outer edges. Note that for the smaller mold ring, you won’t be able to put in extra raspberries in the middle, there will only be enough space for lychees.
4. Pipe another layer of crème mousseline on top of the raspberries and lychees and make sure you level this layer of crème (remember entremets need to be pretty and neat when you unmould them!). Place the cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Next, prepare the Ispahan jelly.

Ispahan Jelly

70g water
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater
5g sugar
3-4 raspberries, washed
2g gelatine sheet, soaked in ice water to soften
1/4 teaspoon red food colouring

1. Bring water, lychee juice, essence of rosewater, sugar and raspberries to boil, remove from heat and then add softened gelatin sheet.
2. Run mixture through a sieve to remove any debris. Let cool slightly before using (but do not allow it to set).
3. Remove the cake from the freezer and gently pour the sieved liquid on top of the crème mousseline. Leave to set overnight in the fridge (mine took only a few hours, but best to do it overnight).
4. To unmould, warm sides of the mold ring with a warm towel. You will need to do this a few times before you even attempt to unmould it. Unmoulding the cake prematurely will only create mess, so make sure you do this after you’ve warmed the mold ring sufficiently!

If you love lychees, check out my lychee chiffon cake or my lychee mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures macarons here!

*Updated: This post was featured on Freshly Pressed on WordPress.com! Check out my other Freshly Pressed post hereThis post has also been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Look Ma, No Cracks!

Nope, I’m not back in the kitchen, not properly or full-time-ish anyway, but I’m picking out the pictures and recipes that have been collecting dust in my drafts (bin) since… alphatime. So just this January (aka, yonks ago), I bought myself a Kate. No, not Kate Spade – that’s an old joke (for non-Singaporeans, just google Kate Spade and elections, then go figure…). No, it’s not Kate Middleton either – that’s much too posh (say it with you mouth in a perfect O) and I certainly can’t afford the ring that comes with her. But this, oh this cranberry sexy thing is what I’m talking about. This blushing new bride was admired for right about less than a day, and then, as Madonna coos, ‘like a virgin, touched for the very first time’, she was no longer. Ahem.

Kate lost it, *coughsiamtooembarrassedtosayitoutloudcoughs*, to the most perfectly bronzed Swiss dude that stepped out of my kitchen. Hairless, poreless, smelling like the tropics (think coconut!), and with skin that puts most people to shame, I’d say he was the perfect thing to hook up with Kate. Yes I am the dreamcatcher dream matchmaker, thank you very much.

Anyway, getting these two hotties together could have gone either way for me – ego-boosting or soul-destroying. I’m glad it was the former because I’ve always had a fear of Swiss dudes, and to me, it’s just so darn hard to get the skin right. Too much tanning, and one winds up looking like cracked dirty feet; too little and one looks like erm, alabaster me or the equivalent of a pink baby pig. But Kate seemed to bring a little bit of lady luck with her, for I have conquered the Swiss that had long refused to tame in my hands, and now he’s just…..perfect. Poreless, scrumptious, soft and so delicious with all that toasted coconut whipped cream within. Oops, did I just say whipped cream? Sorry, Kate, everyone seems to know your ‘preferences’ now…

Here’s how to get YOUR Swiss dude that smells and tastes like a beach holiday:

Pandan soufflé Swiss roll with toasted coconut whipped cream
(adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

For the roll:

1 egg
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
35g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
10g corn flour
60g coconut milk
3 egg whites
85g caster sugar
1 teaspoon pandan extract
1 tablespoon pandan juice (6-7 pandan leaves, finely chopped and pounded with 1 tablespoon water, squeeze juice out and pass through sieve to remove any debris)
1/2 teaspoon green liquid colouring

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12 inch by 9 inch cake pan with baking parchment, making sure the edges high enough to peek out from the tray as you’ll be using these to handle the sponge later.
2. Combine 1 egg, 3 egg yolks, vanilla, pandan extract, pandan juice, green colouring in a small bowl and lightly beat to incorporate. Set this mixture aside.
3. Sift flours together twice, and set aside.
4. Heat butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add sifted flour to melted butter and cook till you get a dough that comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove this dough to a bowl, and add the egg mixture from Step 2 in small amounts. Gradually mix the dough and egg mixture into a smooth batter with each addition. Add coconut milk to the batter and combine well. Strain the batter through a sieve and set the batter aside.
5. In a clean bowl, whip up egg whites till foamy. Add half of the sugar and beat for a few minutes, then add the remaining sugar and beat till stiff and glossy peaks are formed.
6. Gently fold one-third of this meringue mixture from Step 5 to the batter from Step 4 till roughly incorporated. Fold in the remaining meringue until just incorporated. Pour this batter into the cake pan and smooth the surface out with a scraper. Bake the sponge for 18 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven, loosely cover the cake with a piece of aluminium foil and place it on a cooling rack to cool completely. Remember to keep the foil on, so the moisture won’t be lost from the cake. This will prevent the sponge from cracking when you try to roll it.

For the sponge filling:

200g whipping cream, cold
2 tablespoons caster sugar
25g dessicated coconut
5g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

1. Melt unsalted butter in a shallow pan, add a pinch of salt and lightly toast the dessicated coconut in it. The coconut flakes should turn golden brown.
2. Beat whipping cream and sugar till just about stiff. Do not overbeat this as the cream will split. Gently mix in the toasted coconut, and set aside.
3. Peel the baking parchment off the sponge, and carefully turn the sponge over such that brown skin is in contact with the peeled parchment (or use a new parchment if it’s easier to lay that out). Lift the cooled sponge (using edges of the baking parchment) onto a clean tea towel. Gently roll the sponge up using the tea towel as a guide and hold it loosely for a minute or two. Unroll the sponge again, remove the baking parchment, and leave the sponge on the tea towel. Spread the cream evenly across the green surface of the sponge (I like to have the browned skin outside the roll) with a spatula. Using the tea towel as guide, roll the sponge up again, carefully re-positioning the towel as the cake comes into contact with the cream. You don’t want the cream to get on the towel! Cut the edges of the roll to make it pretty and neat, and there you have it, your very own Swiss stud!

If you like pandan and coconut flavours, don’t forget to check out my pandan chiffon cake here!

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

A Sexy One for M

Crimson lips on porcelain skin. Blood-red satin skimming luminous legs. Bold, yet shy. Sexy, yet innocent. Red versus white. Yes, beckoning, and alluring. Call me the open-minded, generous wife, because I brought Sexy back for my dear husband. M was craving for it, and yes, I am not quite a sexy being, but surely I could give him someone something else that fits the bill? It was his birthday, for crying out loud!

We were watching food porn one evening. Sexy filled the bigass screen with her equally voluptuous assets. M got a little hot under the collar, and blurted, ‘Can I have a {Sexy} for my birthday, pleeease?’. Yes I was a little jealous, but the man has his needs and the way to a man’s heart is surely through his………*ahem*.

So I did it. The frumpy ‘housewife’ made Sexy and let the husband do whatever he wanted to it, errrr, I mean her! He certainly was very forward; he ate her and declared that she was one of the best he has ever had. Good-looking, tender, bends to his will, gives, deep, dark, voluptuous, tangy and sweet.

Poor me. I think the girl with the perfect everything actually exists.

Here’s how if you want to make whip up a Sexy. By the way, I was being rude. Even hotties have a name – Red Velvet in this case.

Red Velvet Cake
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

For a luscious body:
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring (only Dr Oetker’s suits her)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 quantities cream cheese frosting (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius (fan-assisted). Grease a cake tin (with removable base, 8-inch diameter) with unsalted butter.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer with paddle attachment till light, pale and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and beat until everything is well incorporated.

4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder, vanilla extract and food colouring to make a thick dark paste. Add this to butter mixture and beat briefly until well-combined. Slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until the remaining buttermilk and flour have been added. Add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar at this point and beat the batter until well mixed.

5. Tip mixture into cake tin and bake in preheated oven for 40 min. Turn oven up to 160 degrees Celsius and bake for another 20-22 min. Test if the cake is cooked using the skewer test – it should come out clean. Leave cake to cool slightly in tin before turning it out onto cooling rack to cool completely.

6. Once the cake is completely cooled, cut the cake into three layers.

7. Sandwich the layers with cream cheese frosting, and dress the cake all up in more frosting.

Cream cheese frosting:

300g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g full-fat cream cheese, cold

1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until well-combined.

2. Add icing sugar and beat till completely incorporated, and that frosting is light and fluffy. Do not overbeat as it can become runny. Add more icing sugar if you like it to be sweeter, or ease up if you prefer it to be less sweet. Do note that the lesser sugar you add, the runnier the frosting will be.

Enjoy her company.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Fundraising for Japan – A Success, And Yes, We Have A Winner!

Thanks to your generous donations, The Pleasure Monger’s fundraising event for Japan was a success! We may have fell short of the £2000 target, but we did raise a whopping £1510, which amounts to 76% of our target! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone would donate when I organised this, but a number of you did; the funds that we’ve raised together are so much more than I could ever give on my own. I’m grateful for your support and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The fundraising page that I’ve set up on JustGiving will run till 2016, so please continue to drop a pound or two to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan. I’m sure everyone knows that the people in Japan are still suffering from the aftermath. For people like us who can’t be there to deliver aid, we can help in other ways. Yesterday evening, I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if everyone who stops by this blog could give a pound or spare some change; we could very well raise £20000 in a month! And then we have other bloggers who are trying their best to raise funds (read the updates at the bottom of this post for more details on how you can get involved), bloggers who are way more popular, prolific and well-known than I am, and if every reader of theirs give a pound for every post they read, they could raise so much more. That £1 makes such little difference to us, but for the victims, every penny counts and the success of the fundraiser thus far proves that we can pool our resources together and make a HUGE difference. So please continue to give, within your means, to any of the avenues that are most accessible to you.

Now, let’s realise the promise I made. When I organised the fundraiser, I said that I would pledge a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor so long as he/she donates before 31 March 2011 (GMT2359h). So today, I used the random integer generator on random.org to pick a winner and the gift card goes to…….

SHIRLEY!

I’ll be in touch in the next few minutes with an Amazon email containing the gift card. Congratulations and thank you for your donation!

xx

 

Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream

Seeing is believing, and in this case, tasting is believing. Here, we have a Japanese Cheesecake. Lighter on the palette and boasting fluffier naughty bits than its Western cousin, it deceives you into thinking that it is good. But no, if you look beneath its angelic exterior, you will find that the cream, the cheese, the fattening bits are all in there; they’ve only been whipped into shape by egg whites. The mere incorporation of air fools us into thinking that the Japanese Cheesecake is healthier….but is it?

*pause for dramatic effect*

OH BUT WHO THE HELL CARES?! Sorry for the outburst but okay, maybe I ain’t sorry, Japanese cheesecakes are just too good to ignore, alright?! I first had one when Fiesta (a Japanese sushi chain in Singapore) churned out all sorts of flavours many moons ago. My favourite was the plain one, and it was impossibly light and creamy. I remember wondering, ‘How does a cheesecake get so light?’. Back then, I was a real noob at baking, and I didn’t know how to make a cheesecake, let alone a Japanese one. It took years for me to figure it out.

Incidentally, I have recently been the worst nightmare of eggs. I dismember them, I turn my nose up at the yolks and I go in for the kill. I whip the egg whites till they beg for me to stop, and then I coerce them into macarons and chiffon cakes. When M’s birthday came around, he requested for a cheesecake; all I could think of was to fashion a Japanese cheesecake out of ‘em poor egg whites. Dictator of eggs or not, I was scared shitless. I had no idea how the cake was going to turn out, I was convinced that it would be a flop, quite literally so. Thanks to a trustworthy recipe, the Japanese cheesecake was anything but. It was light and somehow creamy at the same time. Biting into it is very much akin to pinning a cloud, impossible but so very gratifying when you do so. Think cotton candy, but on a cheesecake. You sink your teeth into a whole chunk, only for it to pull a disappearing act seconds later, and then two days later, you find an even bigger paunch (for those who find a paunch that wasn’t there in the first place, good for you because hey, you don’t have a jelly belly to begin with). That, my dears, is the prestige worthy of Houdini. Just be careful not to suffer a death by Japanese cheesecakes; dangers do lurk in magic, even if it’s light and creamy.

Here are the recipes. The ones in parentheses were the first quantities I tried when I was practising. By following the recipe, and changing it to include the ones in parentheses, you’ll get a creamy, slightly heavier cake with an egg-ier flavour. I preferred the other recipe (turned out to be similar to the original recipe by Alex Goh, it is also the one that I followed for M’s birthday cake), which yields a lighter and less egg-y cheesecake. I also frosted the cake with rose whipped cream; the addition of rosewater masks the otherwise distinct milky taste of whipped cream and gives an understated hint of fruitiness to the creamy cake. You could add rose essence instead of essence of rosewater to give it a more floral kick. I would, if I had rose essence in my pantry.

Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream

Japanese Cheesecake
(adapted from Alex Goh’s Fantastic Cheesecakes)

Ingredients that yield a lighter cake:

160g full-fat cream cheese
25g unsalted butter
100ml full-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
40g plain flour
20g corn flour
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
100g caster sugar

Ingredients that yield a creamier, egg-ier cake:

160g full-fat cream cheese
80ml whipping cream
25g unsalted butter
50ml full-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
40g plain flour
20g corn flour
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
80g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees Celsius (fan). Grease and flour an 8-inch cake tin (with removeable base) generously. Wrap the sides of the cake tin in aluminium foil.

2. Sift flours together and set aside. Beat egg yolks in another bowl and set aside.
3. Melt cream cheese, milk, butter, vanilla paste (and cream, if using) in a double-boiler (over barely simmering water) until smooth. Leave mixture to cool slightly.
4. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar till foamy, then add pinch of salt and caster sugar. Whisk till you get soft peaks.
5. Mix the sifted flours into the cream cheese mixture until relatively smooth. Then, mix in the beaten egg yolks until well-combined.
6. Next, gently fold 1/3 of the meringue from Step 4 into the mixture from Step 5. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until batter is well-combined.
7. Place the cake tin (which has been wrapped with foil) in a deep oven tray, pour batter into the tin, and gently rap it on the tray a few times to get rid of air bubbles.
8. Place the tray with the tin into the oven, and carefully pour boiling water into the tray till water level is about one-inch high. Do not be overzealous with the pouring, in case the tin starts floating and water seeps in.
9. Bake for 35 minutes at 140 degrees Celsius, with a piece of foil loosely covering the top of the cake tin. Remove the foil after 35 minutes (or when cake has risen and threatens to stick to the foil…), and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Switch off oven and let the cake cool in the oven, with the door left ajar for 1 hour. You might want to do a skewer test before the cooling process, the skewer should not be wet, and should be almost clean.
10. Remove the cake from the oven, and turn it out to a cooling rack to cool further.
11. Frost with rose whipped cream (recipe below).

Rose Whipped Cream
250ml whipping cream, cold
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. Whisk whipping cream till frothy, add sugar and whip till thick and of piping consistency.
2. Add essence of rosewater and whisk briefly to combine.
3. Frost cooled cheesecake. Plonk some raspberries on the cake. Dust the raspberries with some edible gold lustre, and there you have it, magic!

I have been working on a fundraising event on my blog for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. You can visit this post here to find out more details. I’m pledging a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor who donates before 31 March 2011, so please, please dig deep and help! – Updated: We have a a winner, and we raised £1510!!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

Fundraising for Japan

Dear readers,

In light of the recent events that hit Japan, I have started a fundraising page on JustGiving to raise some money for the disaster relief efforts. My nominated charity is ShelterBox, which is rallying resources to help the people in Japan. Temporary shelters are getting increasingly overcrowded right now, and if you’ve read the news, many have died in the bitter cold. The Japanese authorities are requesting ShelterBox to deliver emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to the north of Japan. Thousands of boxes of such supplies are either in Japan or ready to be mobilised now, and we can help to deliver to the needs of the homeless in Japan. Please, let’s not leave them out in the freezing temperatures, and let’s work to give them a home and some warmth, literally and figuratively.

Anyone can donate, you only need a debit or credit card to do so. I can’t make a difference on my own, so instead of donating the money directly to charity, I am pledging a USD100 Amazon gift card to this fundraising event. I will randomly select the gift card recipient (using http://www.random.org/) from the list of people who donate on my fundraising page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT). By giving a little incentive, I hope that this will boost numbers a little and make the event worthwhile.  The gift card can be used on Amazon.com and I will email it to you before 10 April 2011. I will also announce the winner on this blog.

Please note that whilst I am not allowed to publicise this gift card raffle on my JustGiving page (as I am bound by terms and conditions), anyone who donates on my page, with a valid email address, will be eligible for this raffle. In order for me to contact you, please make sure you make your email address available to me on the JustGiving fundraising page.

Thank you for your help. Please also spread the word around, the success of this fundraising event relies on our collective effort.

Updated: I would also like to bring your attention to other avenues of donation. Some of my food blogger friends have set up an initiative called Bento4Japan, they have very generously put up some bento-related items up for auction on eBay. Please visit this site and start bidding! Or you can visit meemalee’s kitchen to have a look, she has written a nice summary of how you can help the people in Japan. Chika of the very beautiful blog, She Who Eats, is also giving away sakura ingredients to raise funds for Japan.

P/S: The fundraising page will be active till 2016, but only donors who contributed to this page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT) will be considered for the raffle. I am doing this because I am trying to encourage as many people to donate soon as the relief efforts are ongoing and urgently needed – WE HAVE A WINNER!

 

Get Cracking for Christmas with a Chocolate and Coconut Roulade

So we have been back in sunny Singapore for almost a week now, and yes, I have been rather quiet on the blog as I have been whisked away to a flurry of culinary activities. I haven’t been cooking or baking, just eating LOADS only to realise that my old pair of jeans doesn’t fit anymore – oh, the horror!!! I have covered all the local dishes that I want to eat in just one week. I’m even doing repeats on the hawker rounds. Do the math and you’ll realise why I’m exploding in my jeans. In some ways, I wish I’m stuck in the snow blizzard, which is all the rage in London now, so I might be snowed in and be deprived of evil things I call food. But given the foodie I am, my pantry will be bursting with things I could work with to create meals befitting the holidays, and I’d still be fat anyway. Can’t win, can I?

Case in point: Just before we flew back to Singapore, we had some coconut milk in the fridge, and of course the baking aficionado in me always ensure a plentiful supply of flour, eggs, and what-not in the pantry. I needed to clear the perishables, and I wanted to make something for Christmas before I lost the sole governance of my cramp but beloved kitchen, so I dived into my recipe books and searched for ideas.

Two Christmases ago, my cousin, MS, visited us from the States and I had made Delia Smith’s flourless chocolate log cake for the occasion. I remember approaching the recipe with much excitement as I was told that flourless cakes are incredibly light. It was also my first time making a log cake and I was rather nervous about rolling the cake up. The nerves were probably very, very appropriate because I was a novice then and naturally, the cake cracked when I rolled it up. My ego was bruised after that attempt, so was M, almost physically so, because I had thrown a hissy fit after disfiguring the poor cake. Although the log cake was delightfully light, airy and chocolatey, I refused to make one again because I was afraid of screwing things up. This year, I summoned the courage and gave the elusive log cake another shot.

M bought me a chocolate recipe book (Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce) about a year ago, and I have neglected it since I wasn’t confident of tempering with chocolate. I decided to try out the roulade recipe in the book this year and thought it would be lovely to give the cake a tropical twist by filling it with whipped coconut cream. It was a perfect idea, in my opinion. I could use up the residual coconut milk in the fridge. I could practise the ‘never-say-die’ attitude and try making a beautiful log cake. And I could have a little Christmas with M before we returned to Singapore.

But things are never quite perfect in reality. I did finish up the coconut milk. I did have a little Christmas with M. The roulade rolled up beautifully when it was warm, but when I rolled it again after the cake was cooled, it cracked! I was upset but to be honest, I kinda expected it. I am nowhere near being an expert at baking even though I have improved over the years. Thankfully for M, I am a lot more mature now and have learnt not to throw too big a tantrum if I fail in the kitchen. The roulade was delicious though. It was very moist and light, and insanely fragrant with the whipped coconut cream filling. I would say that the chocolate and coconut combination is a dream and really, a small stroke of genius. M loved the imperfect roulade very much. I loved it too, but I think I would be a teeny bit happier if the roulade didn’t crack. Third time’s the charm, and hopefully, I will make a perfect log cake on my next attempt.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Roulade with Whipped Coconut Cream Filling

For the log:
(adapted from Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce)

4 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
90g plain flour
10g cornflour
10g cocoa powder
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 and 1/2 tablespoons milk
10g icing sugar
Salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12inch by 8inch baking tray with parchment.
2. Beat yolks and caster sugar till mixture turns very pale and fluffy.
3. Sift and mix flour, cocoa powder together.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix till combined.
5. Add butter and milk, and beat to combine.
6. In another bowl, beat egg whites with icing sugar and pinch of salt till stiff peaks form.
7. Gently fold egg whites into the mixture from Step 5 until incorporated.
8. Spread this mixture evenly into the lined baking tray and bake for 11 minutes in preheated oven. Remove the tray from oven and cool the cake in the tray for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
9. Flip the cake onto a clean tea towel, leave the baking parchment on, and roll the cake up. You might need a rolling pin in the middle to guide the rolling. The tea towel should now be on the outside of the roulade and the baking parchment should be in the centre.
10. Hold the roulade in the log shape for about 2 minutes, unroll the roulade and cool completely before filling the cake with the coconut cream. My roulade rolled beautifully when it was warm but cracked when I re-rolled the cake after it cooled completely. Next time, I might leave the cake to cool in the log shape before unrolling it to fill, although this might affect the texture of the cake.

For the whipped coconut cream filling:
(own recipe)

280g unsweetened coconut cream (the part that settles above the water when you leave a can standing for a few days in the fridge)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Beat ingredients till light and fluffy.
2. Fill the cooled roulade, and roll roulade up.
3. Decorate with a sprinkle of icing shade and dark chocolate shavings if you like, just like I did!

Store the finished roulade in the fridge, and serve chilled.

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!


About The Author
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Read about my food-gasmic adventures in San Sebastian here! Also please come by and check out the prettiest cake I've made over here!
Macarons: Be Inspired
Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies
Rose & Lychee Chiffon Cake
Pan-seared scallops, jamon iberico chip, pomme puree, jamon iberico foam and chestnut
Red Velvet Cake
An English-themed Dessert Table
Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Caramel Cake
Gula Melaka Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons
The Ispahan Cake
The Ispahan
Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache
Lemon Cupcakes with Lime & Ginger Whipped Cream
Portuguese Egg Tarts
Ba Zhang - Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Braised Pork Belly
The Fat Duck
Strawberry and Cream Pancakes
Pandan Souffle Roll with Toasted Coconut Whipped Cream
Red Velvet Cake
Lychee and Emperor's Seven Treasures tea-infused macarons
M's Spanish Paella
M's birthday cake - Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream
Lor Bak Gou - Fried Radish Cake
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Homemade Scones
Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops
Quick and Easy fried rice recipe!
Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons
Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls
Matcha, Milo and Plain Polvorons
Kampar Chicken Biscuits - A popular Malaysian snack
White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
Hustling the Xiao Long Bao in my kitchen
Bailey's & Coffee Macarons

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