Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Watercolour buttercream cakes

Over the weekend, I had to make the cakes for my niece's big 18th birthday party. Just as with her older sister's cake, I was given free rein with everything, from the cake flavours down to decorating. Sometimes I find it hard when I am not given any idea of what I exactly need to do.  When this happens, I always look for inspiration from the invite design.

Unfortunately, I can't show the actual invitation here but to describe it simply, the background had splashes of watercolours in violet, electric purple and olive green. I've seen watercolour cakes on Pinterest, so I thought, why not do that! Admittedly, although it seemed easy enough, I was afraid to try this technique because I've never done it before.  What if the colours don't blend properly? What if it turns out messy? What if my niece doesn't like it?

Well, after all that was said and done, I'm soooooo happy that I decided to it.



Instead of doing a 3-tiered cake, I made three separate ones, all in Neapolitan flavours of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, and frosted in Swiss meringue buttercream.

Here is the 6" cake...


...the 9" cake


...and the 12" cake.


All in all, it was a great experience doing these cakes and I won't hesitate to do something like this again in the future.  The three cakes looked beautiful together and everyone loved them!

If you'd like to try this technique, there are loads of tutorials on the web.  These are the ones I found most helpful - here and here.

A good week to all of you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prune Walnut Cake

Today, the 27th of October 2015, would have been my mother's 91st birthday.  She passed away more than 6 years ago but my memories of that sad trip back home on February of 2009 has remained vivid to me like it happened just yesterday.  Before I headed back to Melbourne, a brother asked me to look through my mom's things to see if I had wanted anything.  I took with me the simplest of things...mostly things that reminded me much of my childhood - her 1960s pinking shears, a rusty, broken Our of  Lady of Lourdes rosary (which I quickly repaired when I got home), old photographs, hers and my dad's wedding rings (for safekeeping), and this tattered cookbook...

Nora Daza's Let's Cook with Nora
The fact that I can remember this book in our kitchen shelf from when I was a child must mean that it's likely a first edition (the book being first published in 1969).  Surely, I have browsed through these pages hundreds and hundreds of times in my lifetime!  

One of the cake recipes in the book is that of a prune cake. To be honest, I never was interested in trying out this cake BUT since it's my mom's birthday and I particularly remember that she loved snacking on prunes, I thought, why not?



If you are familiar with the prune walnut cake of Becky's Kitchen, then you'd most likely recognize this. 

Actual prune walnut cake of Becky's Kitchen (Image credit: Flickr)

To make the cake this way, I did not follow Nora Daza's recipe to a T. First of all, I had to obviously add walnuts to the cake batter. Also, I had to scale the recipe down as I only wanted a small cake.  

One thing I found unnecessary was stewing the prunes (as instructed in the recipe) because the prunes I bought were already pitted and very soft (as in mashable soft).  


I made a few other minor changes to some of the other ingredients then I was ready to bake.  If you are skeptical like I was before about a cake with prunes, then you have got to just trust me on this one - you will love it! The cake is tender and moist and because it has prunes, it must be good for you, right? :)

PRUNE WALNUT CAKE (suitable for a 7x7 pan)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
3/8 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup soft, pitted prunes, chopped/mashed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

**optional: 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (if you like a touch of cinnamon taste to your cake!)

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 180 degC. Grease and flour a 7x7 cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper. 
In a small bowl, whisk  cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (and ground cinnamon, if using). 
In a mixing bowl, using a paddle attachment, cream butter and 1/2 cup of the caster sugar until light and fluffy. 
Add in the eggyolks one at a time. 
In three additions, beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately. 
Blend in the prunes and beat just until combined. 



In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until frothy. Gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until eggwhites form stiff peaks.


Fold eggwhites into flour mixture in three additions. With the last addition, fold in the walnuts as well. 




Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and/or the cake sides are just starting to pull away from the pan.  Do not overbake!



Take cake out of the oven and let rest in a wire rack for about 10 minutes then invert and release from pan. Let cool completely in the wire rack.

NOTE: Unlike chiffon, this cake does not rise much so don't expect a tall cake!

To assemble the cake:

1. Make Swiss meringue buttercream using the procedure here but with these ingredients:

2 eggwhites
1/2 cup white sugar
150 grams unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Alternatively, you can opt to make the easier Old-fashioned butter icing with these ingredients:

150 grams unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2.  Fit a smalll piping bag with a petal tip 104. Or if you have a ruffle tip 88 (like the one I used), you can also choose that.  Fill it with about 1/2 cup of the buttercream.

This is tip 88.

3.  Beat in 1/3-1/2 cup of mashed prunes into the remaining buttercream.  Now you have a prune flavoured version!


4.  Cut your cake horizontally in half.  Place top half, cut side up, on a cake board.


5.  Spread a thin layer of prune buttercream.


6.  Top with the other cake half, cut side down.


7.  Cover the whole cake with the rest of the prune buttercream,  (I skipped crumb coating this time.)


8.  Using  a cake comb, make wavy patterns on the cake sides and top.




9.  Using the buttercream in your piping bag, pipe ruffles/garlands along the cake sides.


10.  Divide the cake top into three sections by piping straight ruffles from bottom to top.


11.  Take 6 whole pitted prunes, flatten them slightly and cut 2 slits on one side of each.


12. Arrange half walnuts and prunes alternately on top of the straight ruffles.



Yey, that's it!  A prune walnut cake that looks similar (and hopefully) tastes just like Becky's Kitchen's!



Give it a go!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Maple walnut cake

When we left the Philippines to settle in Melbourne, Australia nearly 15 years ago, I remember my mother telling me that the toughest times will be the first six months and that I should persevere through the struggles and stay strong.  Moving away from home and family is always difficult but if I can just get through the adjustment period, she assured me, I will be ok.

Starting a new life with three small kids was hard enough but what made it even more challenging (and frightening) was the fact that I got pregnant barely a month into our relocation. When I told my mom about the pregnancy over the phone, she felt my pain and anxiety and cried with me.  But as any loving mother would do, she again told me that everything was going to be fine.

I do believe that God allows things to happen for a specific reason.  If only we reflect upon them deeply, we will come to understand why and this understanding consequently paves the way for acceptance.  My then new baby boy, who was born on October 12 of 2001, became my best friend, my source of joy and hope, the light of my life! Instead of life becoming harder for me, everything became brighter because of him. God knew exactly what I needed and wasted no time in giving him to me!

My children have grown up so fast.  I can hardly believe that my youngest son is now 14! Even at this awkward, teenage stage, my bond with him remains as strong as ever, no different from when he was still a little child. I know in my heart that it forever will be.

A maple walnut chiffon cake filled and frosted with a maple SMBC and topped with walnut praline.

This new cake was for his birthday celebration which we held a day early (Sunday).  Just like last year's cake,  I thought of making something new. I'm quite sure though that the flavour combination of maple syrup and walnuts has been around for a very long time!


Hope you enjoy this recipe!

MAPLE WALNUT CHIFFON CAKE (recipe suitable for an 8” round, 3” high pan)

{A}
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white sugar

{B}
¼ cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

{C}
4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

{D}
6 tablespoons white sugar

{E}
40g finely chopped walnuts**


**Although I used a food processor, I did not grind the walnuts into a powder.  The pieces are just small enough so that they don't all sink into the bottom of the cake.

Procedure:
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine {A} well. Add in {B}. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed. In three additions, gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Along with the last addition of eggwhites, fold in the walnuts {E}.


4. Pour batter into an ungreased 8” round, 3” high pan.  Bake for about 50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
5. To release cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cake onto a large serving plate. **Tip: For easier handling, wrap your cake very well in cling film, then refrigerate overnight before frosting.

WALNUT PRALINE

This amount is more than you will need to top the cake but I suggest you just do the whole batch because I am pretty certain you will not be able resist on snacking on some of it!

1 cup caster sugar
1 cup walnuts

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. 

In a small, heavy saucepan and over low heat, melt (caramelize) the sugar until it is a golden amber colour. Stir in the walnuts and QUICKLY pour into prepared baking tray. Spread mixture using a greased spatula.


Allow the praline to cool for about 30 minutes before breaking (or pounding) into small pieces.  


Keep this in an airtight container until ready to use.

MAPLE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Make a batch of SMBC using the recipe here, replacing the vanilla extract with 1 teaspoon of maple extract.

To assemble cake:

1. Cut the maple walnut chiffon cake in half horizontally.  Place top half, cut side up, on a cake board.  Spread some of the buttercream then top with the remaining cake half, cut side down.


2. Crumb coat the cake then chill in the fridge for a few minutes.


3.  Cover the whole cake smoothly with more buttercream.  Pipe whatever border you like!


For my cake, I piped overlapping e's around the cake top and shells along the bottom, both using a tip #21.


4.  Shortly before serving the cake, top it generously with walnut praline.


Until next cake!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Baptism and Some Rosary Bracelets

I had the opportunity to make a baptismal cake this past weekend for the most adorable baby boy.


I really wanted buttercream roses to adorn the front of the cake but I was so tired after having done 3 other birthday cakes earlier that I couldn't do them anymore.  I think though that the simplicity of this cake is what made it more beautiful :) so I'm glad I stopped when I did.

Along with this cake, I also volunteered to make cards and keepsakes for the occasion. 


I did these a week in advance so I actually designed the cake to match them. 


See that beanie the baby is wearing in the photo? Here's a closer look at my cake topper.


Cute, right?

I printed out the cards myself and also handmade the one decade cord rosaries.  The acrylic beads and crucifixes have been in my (almost) forgotten rosary-making stash for ages and it's a good thing I got to use up a lot of them for this purpose. Except for the nylon cord, I didn't spend on anything else.

In the process of making these giveaways, I discovered that I still had a lot of beads and other materials for rosaries.  So I started putting together bracelets for no specific reason and before I even knew it, I already finished a whole bunch!


It's been a long time since I stopped selling rosaries online but I figured since I already had all these bracelets made, there's really no harm in trying again. If you are interested to have one so you can use them for prayer anytime, anywhere, I have them listed in my Etsy shop. I might make some car rosaries as well since I still have a lot of the brown wood beads left.

If you can't have my cakes because you are in the other side of the world, maybe you'd want to own something else created by me?  You can't eat it but you can keep it forever and ever!

Have a good week!