Monday, May 30, 2011

Bread Heaven

The pork floss bun from Breadtop is one of my all-time favourites.  I don't get to buy it often though cause the only branch I ever get to go to is in the city (Melbourne) and we hardly go there (even if it is just about 20-30 minutes away).  So when I chanced upon a jar of pork floss in our local Asian grocery, I excitedly bought it.  That was a couple of months ago (sigh).  Unfortunately, I had not had the time to bake bread.  Everytime I opened our cupboard and saw the jar, I would find myself checking the 'best before date' to make sure the pork floss won't go to waste.

Well, today was to be the day! To be able to finally recreate this bread just made me so happy.

I used my dinner roll recipe for this.  It just yields the softest, lightest bread ever. And yes, the smell that permeates  the whole house while they are baking is just absolutely wonderful.

I baked the rolls in the same way except that I brushed them with eggwash to give their surface some shine. After the rolls had cooled down a bit, I halved each so I can spread a little mayonnaise inside. To finish, I spread some mayonnaise again on top so the pork floss will stick.

Can't wait to share these with the family later.  Try them yourself!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My kind of Cookies and Cream

My youngest son received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time tonight. As with all other sacraments, it was, of course, very special.

Being a school day, we didn't plan any big celebration. In fact, we had to rush and eat a quick dinner as we had to be at church before 7:00 pm. But, we did have cake afterwards.

A Cookies and Cream cake.

The way I did this is a bit different from my other version. Because I had very little time on my hands this morning, I decided to combine the crushed cookies with the whole batch of frosting. The end result might not look as fancy but does it really matter?

The frosting looks just like it's ice cream counterpart!
I only made a small 8" cake because, believe it or not, we are not big cake eaters. (The cakes you see here are usually not for us). When we do have cake, I usually give away some slices to friends just so it would be finished while still fresh. If not, the cake would stay for days in our fridge. This Cookies and Cream one proved to be different though.

As soon as we arrived home, everyone immediately started lining up to get a slice. And we nearly finished the whole thing in one go. It was very light on the tummy, just the right sweetness, delicious. One of my sons later said of the three remaining slices, "Mom, don't give this away, ok?"

I've been asked to share this recipe long before. Thanks for patiently waiting. Here it is. Enjoy!

COOKIES AND CREAM CAKE (recipe suitable for an 8" round, 3" high pan)

Chocolate Chiffon cake

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coffee powder *optional
1/3 cup sugar

4 egg yolks (from large eggs, room temperature)
1/4 cup canola or corn oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175 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. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 8” round, 3” high pan.
4. 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 onto your cake board or plate.

**Just a note: This cake is very light and not as chocolatey as you might prefer so feel free to use your favourite chocolate cake recipe instead!

Cookies and Cream Frosting

1 cup whipping cream, chilled
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g cream cheese (1/2 bar)
about 15 Oreo cookies

1. Remove the cream center from 4-5 cookies then crush the cookies in a food processor. (It's up to you if you want your crumbs to be coarse or fine. I prefer them to be quite fine so I can pipe out my frosting). Set aside.
2. On a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Set aside.
3. Using chilled bowl and beaters, beat the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks. Carefully fold in the cream cheese then beat mixture on high speed for a few seconds or just until everything is combined. Do not overbeat.
3. Lastly, fold in the crushed cookies. The frosting should look much like cookies and cream ice cream. The tiny crumbs should still be quite distinct from the whipped cream.

Another note: I actually made a full batch of this recipe (double the amounts given here) but had a lot of leftover after I was done frosting the cake. If you are a whipped cream frosting lover, you might consider making the full batch.

To assemble cake:
Slice cake horizontally into 2 equal layers. Invert cake top such that the cut side is facing up. Spread a generous amount of frosting then top with the remaining cake layer, cut side down. Use remaining frosting to cover the entire cake surface. Pipe out borders if desired and top with remaining Oreo cookies.

To make a larger 10" cake, just double the recipe.

As always, if you ever get to try this cake recipe, I would be very glad to know how it turned out for you. Feel free to email me for questions and also, to send me photos of your cakes! Happy baking!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Red Velvet Chiffon Cake

It is getting more and more obvious that my favourite kind of cake is chiffon, right? I would definitely choose a soft and light cake over a rich, dense, and heavy one any day.

While I enjoy eating traditional red velvet cake, I have forever been wondering if there was a chiffon version of it. The only red velvet chiffon cake recipe available online seems to be that of Cooks Illustrated. To view their recipe, however, one has to be a (paying) member. Luckily, the site offers a 14-day free trial and so, I did the natural thing and signed up.

The recipe for red velvet chiffon cake turned out to be rather strange to me. Of course, I know that this recipe had surely been tried and tested before it was published. Compared to the basic chiffon cake recipe I am used to, the amount of cake flour was considerably less for the same amount of sugar, eggs, oil, etc. (Again, as I've always said it, my understanding on how these ingredients work together is very limited so I can only wonder why.) Also, some of the eggs were left whole and beaten with the dry ingredients. All of the site's chiffon cake recipes actually followed the same basic ingredient proportions and procedure.

I decided in the end, I would rather risk experimenting on my own recipe than using theirs (even if it meant I could fail). And so for Mother's day, I whipped up a batch of my own version of red velvet chiffon cake.

Two layers of cake frosted and filled with cream cheese frosting and topped with pecans and coconut flakes. Sides are covered with cake crumbs.

What can I say...this cake turned out beautiful! Imagine the same great red velvet cake taste, only lighter, fluffier and less sweet. I did try my best to stay true to the original ingredients of traditional red velvet cake. If there is probably one thing I would alter or try later, it would be to add a little bit more cocoa powder to bring out more of the chocolate taste.

For the cream cheese frosting, I used the one from Joy of Baking. I skipped the mascarpone cheese and just used two bars of cream cheese. This frosting is also much less sweet compared to other cream cheese frosting recipes as it only has 1 cup powdered sugar.

Here's the recipe for you to try. Hopefully, you would enjoy it as much!

RED VELVET CHIFFON CAKE (suitable for one 10" round, 3" high pan, or two 9" round, 2 1/2" high pans)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar

7 egg yolks (from extra large eggs, room temperature)
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons liquid red food colouring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175 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. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 10” round, 3” high pan (or whatever pan you're using).
4. Bake for about 60 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. Frost and decorate as desired.

PS. A belated Happy Mother's day to all you moms out there!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ube (Purple Yam) Macapuno Cake...Revisited

I have just finished making the Ube Macapuno cake pictured above and thought this would be a good time to make a post about what I have been doing to improve on the recipe I originally uploaded here sometime ago.  Don't get me wrong...that first recipe works perfectly fine.  However, I've gotten a lot of questions about it thus moving me to experiment a little.

Just remember that everything I will say here is based on my observations alone.  I am not a food chemistry expert and have limited knowledge on how ingredients work together in cooking/baking.  Also, I will not be writing the recipe again so please refer to my original post here if you need to.

Cake flour

Unfortunately, cake flour is not very common in Australian supermarkets.  In fact, I have only ever found one brand, sold in boxes of just 1 kg and it is so much more expensive compared to plain flour.

The box does not even specifically say "Cake Flour" but I know that it is one because it says "soft, low protein" which is exactly what cake flour is.
Many have asked me if cake flour can be replaced with plain or all-purpose flour.  In the book 'Baking' by James Peterson, the recipe for chiffon cake suggests the use of either 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour or 2 1/4 cups cake flour.  The author seems to even prefer all-purpose flour over cake flour because he says that all-purpose flour gives the chiffon cake a much deeper flavour. 

I baked an ube cake using 1 3/4 cups plain flour last Easter and it turned out very, very light and soft.  I do love super soft cakes.  However, because it seemed so delicate, I had to be extra careful in handling it.  Also, I observed that the cake had the tendency to sink a little bit more than usual.  (Remember, I do not use a tube pan for this cake, only a regular round pan.  The cake always sinks just a little bit).  In terms of taste though, the cake was as delicious as ever.

For the cake above,  I tried something else.  I used a combination of plain flour and cornstarch.  The usual substitution for cake flour is this - for every cup of plain flour, replace two tablespoons with cornstarch.  In essence, this means 1 cup of cake flour equals 7/8 cup plain flour plus 1/8 cup cornstarch.

For the chiffon cake recipe, 2 1/4 cups cake flour translates to:
1 3/4 cup + 3 1/3 Tablespoons plain flour PLUS
1/4 cup + 1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch

The result?  I could hardly tell the difference from the cakes that used cake flour. Cakes with cake flour do have a finer crumb but personally, I don't think it even matters because the cake with the plain flour and cornstarch is still as soft, with great texture and taste.  I'm pretty sure no one else will even notice or care.

My recommendation then is to go with the plain flour/cornstarch combination if you cannot find cake flour.  Both ingredients are easy to find and will come out much cheaper than cake flour (at least here in Australia!).

Other ingredients

Milk.  Someone had told me before that the cake batter prior to folding in the eggwhites was too thick and hard to mix.  For this problem, a little bit more milk would do the trick.  I've tried increasing it from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup and it was fine.

Ube.  As much as possible, use only fresh grated ube, frozen grated ube or powdered ube for this cake.  A reader had commented once that she used the bottled jam and her cake turned out great just the same.  If you have no other option, then I would just suggest you find a good quality brand.  Some brands taste nothing like ube. They look purple but taste like crap. Also, you  might want to lessen the sugar a bit as the jam is already sweet.  Experiment if you must.

Ube flavouring.  If you cannot find this, just omit it altogether or use vanilla extract to replace.  You might want to increase the violet gel paste by a bit to achieve the vibrant purple colour as the use of ube flavouring does add to the overall colour.

Whipped cream frosting

Some found the whipped cream frosting too soft for piping.  While the recipe generally worked for me, this same thing has happened to me a few times too, prompting me to change the method with which I made my frosting.

Firstly, be sure your whipping cream as well as your mixing bowl and beaters are all well chilled.  And the cream cheese shouldn't be too soft.  In this other method, you will be beating the cream cheese and the whipping cream separately.

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 and vanilla until the mixture is stiff.  Gently fold in the cream cheese then beat again at high speed for a few seconds or just until everything is well combined.  Be careful not to overbeat.

Your frosting should be firm and perfect for piping those rosettes.

If you follow everything I've suggested, I see no reason for you not to make a perfect ube macapuno cake.  Really, I have done this cake a million times. You can certainly make the same beautiful cake as pictured above as well.

Till next.  Happy baking!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cakes and more cakes

It's been a while, hasn't it?  Honestly,  I am losing the desire to blog because I seem to be just so uninteresting all the time.  I don't know what to talk about anymore apart from my baking and sewing. I am not much of a creative writer either so I don't blame you if you are finding that this is really getting quite boring. 

Like now...all I have to share are photos of more cakes.  Lately, I have been spending more and more time making them.  I don't really know how I got to this point and how I will be able to keep up.  As I've said many times before,  I have not attended any course in both baking and cake decorating. It's hard.  People seem to be expecting bigger and better things from me.  It's like I have to outdo my last cake every time.

I try my best though.  I think I am my worst critic.  I don't get satisfied easily.  And the only time I start feeling good is when I actually hear it from people that I did a good job and that the cake tasted delicious.

Bear with me then as I share with you my cake photos and a little story about each of them.  Or you can skip reading altogether.  It's perfectly ok.

Fireman Cake

Lemon chiffon cake filled and frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
I absolutely had no idea on how to do the decorations at first and had to look at images of fireman themed cakes over the net.

I started off with just the helmet and then as I was having a bit of fun, added the other components one by one...the hose, then the axe,  then the fire hydrant candle holder, then the water droplets.  I had to stop only because it was already getting way too crowded.  What touched the celebrant was that I even put the logo of his workplace on the helmet. Customizing cakes means putting such attention to details after all, isn't it?  By the way,  I used a leaf tip to pipe out the flames.  I had red, yellow, and orange coloured buttercream in one piping bag to achieve that effect.

Princess Barbie cake

This cake was for a three-year old birthday girl for whom I had earlier sewn this jacket.  I had to buy a new Barbie doll as I had already given away all of my daughter's old Barbies.  Underneath the skirt were three layers of chocolate cake, 2 8" rounds and 1 dome-shaped which I baked on my KitchenAid mixing bowl.

The doll actually had a glittery bodice already painted on it but I covered it up with purple gumpaste anyway to add some colour.  I used a ruffle tip #88 for the skirt.

I couldn't resist sewing up something else for this special girl so as an additional birthday present,  I made her this wool coat based on this pattern.  I think I may be spoiling her way too much...

Debutante's cake

A big red velvet cake filled with cream cheese and frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. 

I was shown a picture of the debutante with the dress she was going to wear on the night of her party so my girl figurine was based on that. (Well, it's a cartoony version of her anyway.)  She wanted pink and purple flowers around her too and of course, the 18 candles.  Plus I had to make 48 red velvet cupcakes to match the cake as well.

Matching red velvet cupcakes.

Buzz Lightyear cake

Ube chiffon cake filled and frosted with creamy vanilla frosting.
To make a Buzz Lightyear gumpaste figure is surely way out of my league so it was a choice between using an actual toy figure or an edible icing image.  I settled for the icing image because I was pressed for time but really, I don't like edible icing images as they are a pain to remove from the backing paper.  This Buzz Lightyear one I ordered online was no exception.  I had followed all the suggested methods on how to remove the image but it wouldn't come off.  As the edges were starting to crack, I gave up and just cut the circle and placed the image (with its backing sheet) onto the cake.  Had to warn the celebrant's mom about it of course.  Other than that, I was pretty happy with the finished look of the cake.  I especially liked the candle holders with the Buzz Lightyear colours.

18th birthday cake

This cake was for a boy.  There were no specific requests for the decorations so what else could I have done but put a few flowers?

Chocolate chiffon with chocolate ganache filling. Frosted with Swiss Meringue buttercream.
I thought chocolate roses were the safest so that's what I did.  They're also better cause they're good enough to eat.  Tastes just like Tootsie Roll!  Gumpaste roses...I never encourage anyone to eat them.

Moulded from modelling chocolate.  I know my roses aren't very realistic but that's how I actually like them.
So...that's about it.  Hope I didn't put you to sleep (or make you hungry?) with all that boring cake talk.  Well actually, I kinda enjoyed typing up this post.  Hopefully, I'll be back sooner than later.  Till next post!