Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yema Cake

If you are like me and you always find yourself with tons and tons of leftover eggyolks and would like to find new ways to use them up, then this post is especially for you.

Yema cake is another one of those cakes that seem to be a hit among Filipinos. Its popularity is to the extent that the people of Metro Manila would literally flock to the source of the best version, over 140 kilometers away.  Looking at photos online, this cake appears to be very unappealing and sloppily done.  It looks as though it is drowning in its own runny icing! But, if something so plain-looking is attracting this much attention and praise, then it must be really, really good, right?

Image credit: L - Let's Talk, Let's Eat, Let's Wander; R - Rodillas Facebook page

The Spanish word 'yema' translates to 'eggyolk'.  In the Philippines, however, yema refers to a custard candy, evolving from the Spanish type of just mainly eggyolks and sugar to something more milky with the addition of condensed milk.

If you google for a yema cake recipe, everything you will find have the condensed milk/eggyolk combination for the filling and icing.  I'm sure that's delicious as well but I was told that the Rodillas yema icing was not the milky kind but instead was more eggy in taste, true to its Spanish origin.  The cake itself is a simple chiffon.

Armed with just that knowledge (and my leftover eggyolks), I experimented on my own yema cake.  (By now, surely you should know, cloning cakes is my kind of thing!)

My yema icing (which is also the filling) is made mostly from eggyolks, with some butter and a minimal amount of milk to give it more flavour and spreadability.  This type of spreadable yema is adapted from my aunties' filling recipe for another Filipino favourite, the Brazo de Mercedes.  As you can see from the photo above, the icing is like very bright, golden yellow.  Eggyolks here in Australia (as far as I have observed), whether they are from caged or from free to roam chickens, are very orange rather than pale yellow.

I am not definite if my cake is close to the real thing but one thing is sure...I did enjoy it!  The chiffon cake is of course, nothing new.  Yema on a cake, however, is a pleasant first for me. 


(Since this cake requires a lot of eggyolks, this recipe is only for a small 8" cake. Recommended pan is an 8x3 round or square.)


Chiffon Cake:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup white sugar

1/4 cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime extract

4 eggwhites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/8 cup white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line bottom of baking pan with parchment paper.  Do not grease pan. Do not use non-stick.
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. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into baking pan.
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 cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan, then invert. For easier handling, wrap your cake very well in cling film, then refrigerate overnight before frosting.

Yema filling and icing:

8 eggyolks
1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl over simmering water and mix continuously with a whisk until thick.  Cool before using.

To assemble cake:

You will also need grated cheese (as much as you want!) for topping.  Use a strong tasting cheese, if possible.

Slice your cake horizontally into two equal pieces.  Place one cake layer (top piece) on your cake board, cut side up. Spread a thin layer of yema over the cake.  Place the other cake layer over the bottom layer, bottom side up.  Frost the cake with the remaining yema then top with grated cheese.

Easy and yummy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Old fashioned butter icing

Back in 2011, when I was still trying to figure out how to make a caramel cake similar to Estrel's, I wasn't sure what kind of buttercream they were using.  The reason I chose Swiss Meringue buttercream was because I had leftover eggwhites from the caramel icing anyway so I might as well use them. I was convinced, however, that it wasn't IT.

Upon tasting the Estrel's famed caramel cake when I visited the Philippines last year, I observed two things about the butter icing - 1) it was salty; and 2) it had a "waxy" feel in the mouth.  It made me question if it was actually butter they were using.  Was it shortening perhaps?

Estrel's say they have not changed their recipe since they started in the 1940s.  In one article I read in their website, the owners mentioned what brand of milk and butter they have been using. To quote:

Quality ingredients more than make up half the success story. “We never changed the recipe, nor the way we did the butter roses and their shapes, sizes and colors of tinted peach, pink and green; nor the thickness and taste of the caramel icing. Before we used GI butter during Liberation. And at that time the best milk was imported Carnation full cream milk (has to be full cream, no dilutions). Now we use Alpine or Omela (from Thailand) full cream milk for the butter icing. And we have never substituted anything for Anchor butter ever since we started using it,” professed Mrs. Navarro.

Although they specifically said "full cream milk", the brands suggested they were actually evaporated and not whole milk.  From this little information, I think I now know how they make their butter icing.

Old fashioned cake = old fashioned recipe.  Why didn't I think of that before?  The recipe below is what my aunties iced and filled their sponge cakes and rolls with.  So simple and easy.


1 cup butter, room temperature (I used salt-reduced.)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe didn't have this)

1.  Dissolve the sugar completely in the evaporated milk.  Set aside.

2.  In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it is very light in colour. Start from the lowest speed then gradually increase to high.

3.  Turn down the mixer speed to low then gradually add in the milk/sugar mixture in thin streams.  Do this patiently, like 1 tablespoon at a time only. 

4.  When all the milk has been added, beat in the vanilla extract then increase the mixer speed to high and beat mixture until it is fluffy.

As all butter-based frostings are, the final colour is off-white.

This frosting seems soft but it is stiff enough that it will not fall off the spatula unless you really shake it off.

It spreads really smoothly too.

The taste? It's 100% buttery goodness! It does not only taste buttery but it appears buttery as well.  It actually feels like butter in the mouth!  (I don't know if that's actually a good thing or not!) How do you describe that? Waxy? Slippery? It's exactly how I remember the butter icing from Estrel's (though less salty since I didn't use regular salted butter.)  Definitely heavier in the mouth than Swiss meringue buttercream.

Now, let's test this thing on a caramel cake!

Lacy, squiggly lines, check. (Used piping tip #1 for that.)

More squiggly lines, check.

Borders, check. (Ruffle tip 88 and shell tip 18 for those.)

Roses, check! (Petal tip 124 for the roses, leaf tip 352 for the leaves.)

 Do I really think this is the sort of butter icing that Estrel's uses?

Looks pretty good to me!  The empty space is for some writing I had to add later on.

I am willing to bet on it!  Will I use it?  Definitely yes, for borders and flowers on a caramel cake.  However, to frost a whole cake with buttercream, I still prefer to use my favourite.  Still the winner for me in terms of texture and taste.

Try this butter icing next time you make a caramel cake and let me know what you think.

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Flower basket cake

Sometime ago, I watched this video (most likely in YouTube) in which Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss, said that he thinks in a few years' time, no one will be using buttercream to frost cakes anymore.  With all due respect, I don't think he knew what he was talking about!  He is a big advocate of fondant but obviously, fondant is not for everyone, me included.  Instead of losing its popularity, it looks like buttercream is in fact making a big comeback!  These days, buttercream-frosted cakes have turned into intricate, sophisticated works of art, just as fondant-covered cakes are.

Because of this, I have made it my goal to improve on my piping skills and take buttercream art more seriously.  Today, I practiced on flower and basketweave piping!

I wanted to place more flowers on the bottom but made the mistake of using a small cake board so there was no space for them!  The sunflower looks out of place, doesn't it?

This is just a small, three-layered, 6" cake but boy, did I have to make a lot of buttercream!  I am not a big fan of crusting buttercream for the simple reason that it is too sweet.  I frosted and filled the cake with my usual Swiss meringue buttercream but made the roses and sunflowers using a classic buttercream with half butter, half high ratio shortening and icing sugar as this is more stable for piping.

Next time, I will use a more dense cake as the weight of the flowers seemed too much for the top layer of my chiffon cake!

It took me a few hours to get this cake done but I did have fun practicing!  My basketweave still needs a little work plus I know I should learn how to better arrange flowers.  Overall though, I was happy with the outcome.  Just the burst of colours was enough to make me smile!

I hope to apply another buttercream-related skill on a cake next week. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to do something really nice for Easter.  

Till then, you all have great weekend!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My niece's 18th birthday party

It was the morning of my niece's 18th birthday party.  I was frosting the cake and I couldn't get it to be smooth.  In my frustration, I started scraping the frosting off so I could start over but in the process of doing so, I accidentally sliced off a big chunk of cake from the side!  At that point, I began to panic.  If I acted quickly though, I still had time to bake another cake so off I went to get eggs from the fridge, only to find out we had ran out....

That was the moment I woke up....yes, it was just a nightmare!  Phew!

It was actually the morning of my niece's party yesterday (for real).  I had already finished baking and frosting 80 red velvet cupcakes the night before and had to empty our fridge to fit everything in. I still had to assemble the two-tiered cake.  I had been a little anxious about this (which explains why I had the terrible dream, I suppose).

To be honest, the party planning was a bit all over the place.  There was no specific colour scheme - the invitation was peach, my niece's dress was burgundy, the place cards were cream, the flowers were white, pink, fuschia, and red!

I decided to go with the peach. Weeks before, I had already planned on paper what I wanted the cake to look like.  Simple, straightforward, clean design.  Something I could handle without stressing too much.

6" and 8" 3-layered cakes, gumpaste ruffle flowers, '18' topper and stars.
I made the decorations in advance so those were dry, solid and ready to go.  The cake?  Easier drawn than done! It was raining all night and yesterday was a gloomy, cold day.  If there's one thing I really dislike about frosting a cake, it is doing it in this weather!  In my experience, probably because of the water in the air, even if my frosting is made in the right consistency, it becomes hard to spread rather quickly.  I turned the heater on to help dry out the air somehow.  I still had difficulty but I think it all worked out in the end.  By 1:00 pm, the cake was boxed and ready.

My daughter and I went to the venue about an hour or so before the start of the party to set up.  The place was absolutely beautiful!  I was excited because it was actually the very first time I would get to see my work displayed in a party this big.

I reckon my niece really liked them - when it was her turn to say a few words to the guests, she thanked me first ahead of everyone else!  I couldn't be more stoked and proud.

It wasn't until probably 9:30 to 10 pm did we get to sing 'happy birthday' then people started taking pictures of and with the cake :).

We had a wonderful night. My back hurts today but now it's Sunday and it's again time to plan for the week ahead.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hello Kitty cake

I went out of my comfort zone and made a different kind of cake for a baby shower I went to yesterday.  For one, I didn't use a chiffon cake recipe (yes, really!) and secondly, I baked in a novelty pan for the first time!

The Wilton pan I used is actually designed for a one-layered cake only but I wanted two so I baked one cake (vanilla) in that pan and a separate sheet cake (chocolate) which I just carved in the proper shape.  I did this so I would have a flat surface for the bottom layer (without the Hello Kitty face indentations). On hindsight though, I could have just baked the chocolate cake on the shaped pan too then just leveled the cake off. That would have been okay too.  I saved all the trimmings from the sheet cake so I could also make cake pops out of them later.

I filled the bottom layer with cut-up strawberries.   Strawberries are quite expensive nowadays but since I didn't need a lot, I didn't mind buying some for this purpose.  I also tried the Rich 'n Smooth Tropic as a filling to go with the strawberries.  I wouldn't normally use something of this sort but the owner of the cake decorating supplies store I go to convinced me to try it.  It's surprisingly pretty good.  Very easy to use, tastes great considering it's non-dairy plus it's not at all sweet.

I crumb coated the whole cake with my usual buttercream but made sure I didn't cover the markings on the top or else I wouldn't know where to correctly pipe the bow, eyes, nose, and whiskers!

I am not a big fan of colouring buttercream, especially when it's very deep colours like red and black.  It's a good thing, I only needed a little of these colours.

After hundreds of little piped stars, the cake was finally completed!  It actually turned out to be bigger than I expected.

Out of the chocolate cake scraps and leftover buttercream, I was able to make 18 cake pops!  I wrapped them individually so I can give them to the little kids present at the baby shower.

What else can I say but that the cake was really delicious! I volunteered to cut and serve as I wanted to see first what it looked like inside.  

The vanilla cake layer was a little taller than the chocolate cake layer so next time, I might just use the shaped pan for both so I would get a more even height.

Overall, I am so glad I tried something different this time.  This is actually a practice cake.  Very soon,  I would have to make the same cake for my son's girlfriend's little sister's birthday.  She is turning 8 and she requested specifically for something Hello Kitty. I'm really looking forward to doing this all over again!

Friday, February 28, 2014

How I make my Swiss meringue buttercream

When it comes to cakes, two of my most frequently asked questions are: 1) what kind of frosting I use; and 2) how I get to spread the frosting so smoothly.

My choice of frosting for cakes that require decorations is Swiss meringue buttercream.   The reason I like this type of frosting is because it is very light and fluffy and it is not too sweet.  I use it to frost and fill cakes, pipe borders, flowers, letters, etc.

For me, in order to get a smooth finish on a cake, the first requirement is to make the frosting at the right consistency for spreading.  I bet there are tons of recipes and tutorials on the internet on how to make Swiss meringue buttercream but here, I will be showing you how I do it and what my secret is.

Take note: The recipe was originally posted here

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM (makes enough to frost and fill an 8" round cake)

1. In a clean, heatproof bowl, combine 3 eggwhites and 3/4 cup 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.

*I neither time this step nor take the temperature of the eggwhites.  When the mixture feels smooth when rubbed between my fingertips (meaning, the sugar has dissolved), then I know that it's ready to be taken off the heat.  

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

*Again, I do not find timing this process necessary.  I just watch the eggwhites to make sure they do not get overbeaten and become dry.

3.  Now here's the secret.  Most recipes will tell you to use room temperature butter.  What is room temperature anyway?  In the summer, it is hot.  In the winter, it's cold.  Butter can be at room temperature and yet be really stiff.

You need to use 1 cup unsalted butter that is VERY soft.  Not melted, but soft.  Soft enough that you can cream it with a spoon and it will look like mayonnaise.

Don't be afraid to soften your butter in the microwave if you need to.   I do it all the time.  Just don't let it melt! 

With mixer on medium-low speed, drop the butter by the spoonful into the meringue.  Scrape the sides of the bowl once in a while to make sure all the butter is beaten in.

When all the butter has been incorporated, add a pinch of salt plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  

4.  Beat on high speed until buttercream is light and fluffy. (Most recipes will warn you that your mixture might go through a soupy or curdled stage before becoming fluffy.  When this happens, you need to just continue beating and the mixture will eventually come together. In my experience, with the use of very soft butter, my frosting goes fluffy as soon as all the butter is in!)

Before using on a cake, either beat with a paddle attachment or simply mix with a spatula to knock out excess air in the frosting.

I used this kind of frosting for the 2 baptism cakes I showed in my previous post.  Here are a few others I've recently made, just to show you that it isn't really all that complicated to get your cakes to look neat!

Just today, I also used this frosting to pipe roses and borders on this simple caramel cake.

Hope this post helps everyone wanting to try or have been having difficulty making Swiss meringue buttercream!  Next time, I will show you some of my favourite tools to use when frosting with buttercream.

Till then, have a good weekend!