Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ending my caking year

I am so sorry for being away for almost a month.  The 2014 school year concluded early December so as you can imagine, I have my hands full with the kids in the house all the time.  Also, I have been concentrating on finishing all my cake orders for the year.  I am taking a break starting this coming week till early January so I can do things that I have been procrastinating on (#1 on the list: a second book).  Plus I also want more time to prepare for Christmas.

For my last big cake commitment, I made a two-tiered cake, a large caramel cake plus a dozen red velvet cupcakes for an 18th birthday party.  As you will see, I went all out on the buttercream roses! I really like the old-fashioned look they project even though gumpaste flowers may look more life-like.

In this past year, I think I made more caramel cakes than ever before.  Since I started selling cakes, my most sought-after product was the ube macapuno, but now, people have shifted to the caramel cake.  I believe this cake suits the Filipino taste best because it's not overly sweet.  More than that though, there is just something so endearing about the buttercream roses, don't you agree?  Oh and let's not forget those lace-like squiggles too - no matter how messy they seem to appear while piping them, they still end up complementing the whole traditional vibe. 

I really loved making this two-tiered cake although at first, I was afraid it was going to be a complete disaster. While positioning the roses and piping the leaves, I kept on hitting the soft buttercream. This is the downside of using a non-crusting buttercream like SMBC.  You can't smooth it out just like that!  If you look close enough, you will notice the uneven cake comb marks on the bottom tier.  I accidentally touched it and couldn't fix it properly because the ribbon and the roses were already in place :(

I piped all the buttercream roses the night before I assembled this cake and put them in the freezer.  It was a breeze to just position them all later.

I didn't totally go all-buttercream and it would have been really neat if I did.  The #18 topper and the cutout letters for the celebrant's name were made from gumpaste.  I also moulded gumpaste roses and cut out leaves for the cupcakes.  It just saves time to be able to do all these in advance.

So there you go.  That is my way of ending my caking year with a bang.  I still have a few more cakes to do before Christmas though nothing extraordinary.  Hopefully, if all goes as planned, our Christmas cake will be something new.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dulce de Leche Cake

Dulce de leche cake is something I wouldn't normally think of making.  Simple fact - I'm lactose intolerant.  My body can take in small amounts of dairy without any untoward consequence BUT in a cake such as this, where there is a rich combination of dulce de leche and pastry cream, I know for sure I will be in trouble!

I had shared a similar cake nearly four years ago but only talked about it and never posted the recipe. I didn't really feel like making this cake again, not only for the reason stated above, but also because it entailed doing a lot of things.

The cake itself is a vanilla chiffon.  It is frosted with a dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream and filled with pastry cream.  On the cake top are dulce de leche and chocolate flakes and on the sides, toasted cake crumbs.

When I first made dulce de leche cake, I sliced a thin layer from the vanilla chiffon, then crumbled and toasted it.  The toasted crumbs were light in colour then because I started with fresh cake.  I didn't do that this time around because I wanted to keep the full height of the cake.  All I used to make the crumbs for this new cake were the brownish crusts from the cake top and sides.  Scraps, in other words.   (I actually remove the crusts for all my cakes.  Normally, my husband likes to eat them or if he's not around, I would throw them out.  For this cake, there's no waste!)

The pastry cream here is barely sweet.  Dulce de leche is cloyingly sweet by itself so it is important to counteract it.  The Swiss meringue buttercream also has less sugar than my usual recipe because of the addition of dulce de leche to it.


Make ahead your cake, toasted cake crumbs, dulce de leche, and pastry cream (like a day or two before you need the cake).

You know how to make vanilla chiffon cake by now, don't you? Recipe here.

To make the toasted cake crumbs:

Once the cake is completely cool and you've removed it from the baking tin, carefully slice off the top brown crust.  For the sides, just gently rub your fingers back and forth against it and the crust should fall off easily.  You will be left with a clean cake like this...

Wrap this cake in cling film, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate or freeze first.

And scraps like these...


Place the scraps in a tray and bake in a preheated 180 deg C oven for a few minutes, till dry and crispy, then crumble them with your fingers.  Store in a ziploc bag or in a small airtight container for use later.

My crumbs did look too brown (because they were from the crusts) but not burned.
Alternatively, if you don't like to use the cake scraps, just horizontally slice off about a 1/4" thick layer of cake, then toast this instead to get lighter coloured crumbs.

To make dulce de leche:

There are several ways to make dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Some boil the can itself in a pot for several hours, some do it in a pressure cooker. I personally prefer the oven method.

All you need to do is empty your can of sweetened condensed milk into a shallow dish (I used a small pyrex rectangular dish,).  Cover the dish with foil and place it on top of a larger tray.

Pour boiling water into the larger tray until it reaches at least halfway the sides of the dish.  Bake in a preheated 200 deg C oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours.  Check occasionally and refill the tray with boiling water, if needed. Let the dulce de leche cool down then whisk until it becomes smooth.  Set aside covered in the fridge until needed.

Before using, warm slightly in the microwave to make it softer and more fluid then whisk.

To make the pastry cream

You will need:
1 1/4 cups fresh (whole) milk
3 large eggyolks **
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

** Reserve the eggwhites for the buttercream.

In a small jug, whisk together the eggyolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, over low to medium heat, warm the milk just until it starts to boil.  Without turning off the heat, pour some of the milk into the eggyolk mixture to temper the eggs.  Mix until smooth.  Pour this back into the remaining milk in the saucepan.  Mix until the pastry cream reaches a very thick consistency.  Off the fire, mix in the vanilla extract. 

Transfer the pastry cream to a small bowl or container then place cling film directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Before using, whisk the pastry cream until it goes back to its creamy consistency.

To make the dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream:

Follow the same recipe and procedure as detailed here but lessen the sugar to 1/2 cup.

After the last step, mix in 1/3 cup of dulce de leche.  Beat until well combined.

To assemble the cake:

(Remember: Whisk your pastry cream before using to make it smooth.  Heat the dulce de leche gently to soften it.)

Cut your cake horizontally in half. Invert top layer onto your cake board, cut side up. 

Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with buttercream then pipe a dam around the cake edge. Fill the center of the dam with pastry cream.  Top with the other cake layer, cut side down. Cover the whole cake with buttercream. 

To cover the cake sides with toasted cake crumbs, lift the cake board with one hand and hold at a slight angle.  With the other hand, sprinkle the cake crumbs onto the side of the cake.  Do this all around. Be prepared to make a bit of a mess!

Before proceeding, remove the excess cake crumbs that's fallen into your cake board.  Clean up your work space!

Refill the same piping bag with the star tip with the remaining buttercream.  Pipe large rosettes around the cake top, leaving no spaces in between each.  Pour some dulce de leche on the center of the cake. Tap the cake gently or tilt from side to side to help the dulce de leche spread towards the rosette border.

To finish off, garnish each rosette with chocolate flakes or shavings.

Just a final note - don't mind the cake comb marks on my cake!  I couldn't decide at first if I wanted to use the toasted crumbs or not so I decorated the side using a cake comb.  Obviously, in the end, I went ahead and stuck the crumbs anyway!

By the way, the cake pictured above was for my husband's birthday last Thursday.  I didn't eat a slice but since he ate two slices consecutively, that probably meant he liked it, right?  My daughter especially loved the buttercream and she normally hates buttercream.  I reckon that's good enough to give this cake a thumbs up!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Triple Zip Cross-body Bag

Now that my friend in Singapore has finally received the bag that I sent her, I can openly talk about it at last!  

Remember the LeSportsac Kasey bag knockoff that I posted here not too long ago? Firstly, I don't want to call the bag by that name anymore.  I feel like going with a more generic term.  Triple zip cross-body bag, ok?

It's quite obvious now that I love navy blue.  The last three bags I sewed are all in this colour.  As the name suggests, this bag has three zipped compartments - the two front pockets and the main bag.  It is just small and ideal to use for when you only need to bring essentials like a wallet, keys, mobile phone.

I used bag zippers this time instead of the more common all-purpose or dress zippers.  They are so much better because the zipper teeth are a bit wider and the pull is longer, making opening and closing the zipper much easier and smoother.

I did my best to stitch very cleanly and to make my zipper corners really neat.  Homemade doesn't necessarily equate to sloppy or imperfect craftsmanship.  It can be as good as store-bought, can it not? (I have the same attitude when it comes to my cakes too.)

See that jacquard ribbon?  I bought that at Daiso which means that it is quite cheap BUT absolutely cute.

I bought the denim fabric years ago with the intention of making a skirt for my daughter. Never got around to doing it though.  What is great about the fabric is that it has embroidered flowers along the length of one edge.

Pretty neat, isn't it? I was even able to make the adjustable, detachable strap this time around!

I am happy to say that I have successfully made the pattern and instructions for this bag, all 36 pages of it!  It is now available in my Etsy shop and also here.  As with all my other eBooks, this one is loaded with photos and the instructions are very, very detailed. So, anyone interested at all?

To my 'once upon a time' online sewing buddies: You have probably lost interest in this blog by now BUT if anyone of you are still out there reading this, please, please, please do say HELLO!  I still love to sew and create (as much as I do baking cakes) and I miss sharing stuff with you. I hope you can still come and visit sometime, leave comments and let me know what you are up to these days.

PS.  My husband's birthday is in a few days and I am planning this new cake.  If it turns out well, I will be back to share that next time.

Have a good week!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Buttercream roses galore!

I used to really dread piping buttercream roses.  Simple reason - I couldn't do it, no matter how hard I tried.  No matter how many YouTube video tutorials I watched.  No matter what kind of buttercream I used.  The easy way out for me had always been to just mould the roses from gumpaste.

After several years of being disappointed at myself, however, I can finally and proudly say that I have conquered the buttercream rose!  So much so, that now, I look forward to every opportunity to make them.

All these roses were made using Swiss meringue buttercream (no shortening) which many even consider too soft for this purpose.  Well let me tell you, it can be done!

I find that freezing the roses before placing them on the cake really makes the process so much easier. What I always do now is make my buttercream first, then pipe my roses (which I set aside in the freezer right after), frost my cake, pipe my borders then arrange the roses last.  Less stress!

One more thing - I'll let you in on my secret?  I don't use the usual rose tip #104 anymore.  The larger tip #124 is so much better.  Don't know why.  Just is, for me.

Now my new goal is to learn how to write properly on the cake!  My writing is almost always off center or crooked, too big or too small. :(  Oh well, one thing at a time!

Have a good week.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Triple Chocolate Cake

I was debating in my mind whether to call this cake, 'chocolate chip cake' or 'triple chocolate cake'. 'Chocolate chip' because it is what the actual cake base is and 'triple chocolate' because aside from the chocolate chips, there's the chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, and the chocolate ganache.  

After I had tasted the cake, I chose 'triple chocolate' because truly, it was chocolate overload in one slice!  It's a good thing I made this a one-layered cake because if there was an added filling, it would have been too much for me.  Don't get me wrong though!  I like chocolate.  I am just not used to eating ganache or any other heavy type of frosting.

I wish I could show you a cleaner slice to really highlight the tiny bits of chocolate within the chiffon cake.  But I kept the cake at room temperature and the buttercream was smudging each time I cut through it. :(  You get the general picture though, don't you?

As with the cookies and cream (version 2) cake, the idea for this cake came from a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake, the Double Chocolate Chip cake in particular.

Image credit: Baskin Robbins website

One alternative to make this cake less heavy on the chocolate taste is to use chocolate whipped cream instead of buttercream. I think I will try that next time.  Or you can try it for me!

By the way, I made this cake to commemorate my late mother's birthday today!  I know she is still guiding me even from the Heavens above and this is my small way of showing her that she will always be remembered and loved.  Happy birthday mommy!


For the chiffon:


1 1/8 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
1/3 cup water or milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/8 cup sugar

100 grams dark chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2.  In a food processor, pulse the chocolate chips until some of them are finely grated and some are turned into small crumbs.

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 {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed.  Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Lastly, fold in the processed chocolate chips.

4.  Pour batter into an ungreased 8" round, 3" high pan lined with parchment paper at the bottom.
5.  Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.  Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
6.  To release, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan.

For the chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream:

3 eggwhites
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, very soft
a pinch of salt
113 grams dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate.  Set aside.

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the eggwhites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggwhite mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter has been added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add the chocolate mixture gradually and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

For the dark chocolate ganache:

150g dark chocolate, chopped or chips
1/2 cup whipping or thickened cream

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl.

In a small saucepan, bring whipping cream to a boil.  Pour over the chocolate chips and let stand for 1-2 minutes without stirring.

Stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny.

NOTE: You will use this ganache in two stages.  First, while it is still in its pourable state and second, when it has thickened enough for piping.

To assemble:

**Make your buttercream first.  After you are done with the buttercream, make your ganache.  Set aside the ganache (at room temperature only) while you frost your cake with the buttercream.

1.  Invert the cake onto a cake board so that the original bottom is now at the top. Frost the entire cake with the chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream.

2.  Use a 6" cake pan or a bowl to mark a guide on the cake top.

3.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip such as Wilton 1M, then pipe a shell border over the marked circle.

4.  By this time, your ganache would most likely have cooled to room temperature.  Pour some of it in the center of the cake.  Either tap the cake gently or push the cake board from side to side to help the ganache flow towards the piped border.

5.  Place the remaining ganache in the fridge for a few minutes and let it firm up just enough for its consistency to turn pipeable.

6.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a small star tip (#18 or #21) with the ganache then pipe a shell border along the bottom of the cake.


PS. It's the end of the day now and the cake is all gone.  My family really liked it!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake version 2

I made the cake pictured above nearly a year ago, November 13th to be exact.  It was for my husband's birthday.  I never thought of posting this here since I had already shared a well-liked recipe of the strawberry shortcake a while back. I'd actually forgotten about it, until recently, when strawberries started to appear in abundance again in our local supermarkets.

The inspiration for this cake is a popular version in Baguio city.  Not surprising, as it is where Philippine strawberries come from!

Strawberry shortcake from Vizco's Restaurant in Baguio city (image credit: Aspire Pattisier)

Strawberry shortcake slice (image credit: Flickr)
The difference between this cake and the first version is simple and obvious - this has loads more strawberries!

To make sure I still knew how, I made a small 6" cake a few weeks ago.

Now I am ready to share.


For the chiffon:


1 1/8 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
1/3 cup water or milk
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
few drops of pink (or red) liquid food colouring

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/8 cup sugar


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 {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed.  Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture.  Pour batter into an ungreased 8" round, 3" high pan lined with parchment paper at the bottom. 
4.  Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.  Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
5.  To release, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan.

For the Strawberry-flavoured Whipped Cream frosting:


2 cups whipping or thickened cream, very cold
1 bar (250g) of cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon strawberry extract
few drops of pink (or red) liquid food colouring


Cut up the cream cheese into small cubes.  In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Set aside.

In your chilled bowl and using clean beaters, beat the whipping cream, sugar, strawberry extract, and food colouring until the mixture is quite stiff. Gently fold in the cream cheese then beat again at high speed for about 45 seconds or until everything is well combined.  Be careful not to overbeat.

For the gelatine glaze:**

4 teaspoons unflavoured gelatine
2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
2/3 cup water

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until the gelatine and sugar melt. Do not boil. Let it cool until mixture is slightly thick but not yet starting to set.

**Make this just before arranging the strawberries on the cake top.

To assemble the cake:

You will also need:
500 grams of fresh strawberries, washed and leaves removed

Cut 200 grams of strawberries into small cubes for the filling.  The 300 grams left are for the topping, Cut them in half only, leaving one whole strawberry for the cake center.

Cut your cake horizontally in half.  Invert top layer onto your cake board.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with some of the whipped cream.  Pipe a dam around the cake edge then spread some whipped cream inside the dam.  Fill the center with the cubed strawberries. Spread more whipped cream until the cubed strawberries are fully covered.  Top with the other cake layer, cut side down.

Cover the whole cake with more whipped cream then using the same piping bag (with the star tip) you used to make the dam, pipe a border around the cake top. (To copy Vizco's look, pipe big "s" and reverse "s" alternately around the cake edge.)

To arrange the halved strawberries on the cake top, start from the outer edge, positioning each strawberry at an angle with pointy side up. Fill the whole cake top.  Use the whole strawberry for the center spot.

Brush cooled gelatine generously over the strawberries.  Refrigerate to set.

Hope you can all try this new version!  Enjoy!