Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Christmas Wish

Wish I could share this giant cupcake....

Wish I could send these macarons your way...

But since I just can't, I hope you will just take...

My very warmest greetings on this day of Jesus' birthday!

From my family to yours, have a blessed Christmas season.  May you all have joy, peace, love and hope for the coming new year!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Recently, it was macarons.  Then it became the giant cupcake.  You know what my new favourite thing is?


I know it's quite old-fashioned (as far as cake decorating is concerned)....but it's definitely the new best thing for me!

First cake was for a 4-year old who wanted to be a princess in a pink gown with a white crown...

Then it was a wedding-style mocha cake.

And lastly, just today and as requested, I decorated this two-tiered Disney Princess-themed cake for a 15-year old birthday girl!

I think the garlands make the cake sides really pretty.  Don't you think so too?

Interested? All you need to make perfect, evenly spaced garlands is an inexpensive Wilton garland marker and a piping tip such as my ruffle tip #88. Try it sometime!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life lessons

In the car, on our daily travel to school, is when I have the most interesting conversations with my youngest son, Matthew.  Usually, he starts off by relating to me something that had happened in school or with his friends, then I end up talking about my views and  my own experiences when I was younger.  He fondly calls these conversations "life lessons".

Although I sometimes feel Matthew gets annoyed with all my ramblings, I just get on with it just the same. I'm pretty sure he'll remember these times when he's older and then he'll realize how much he had learned from being stuck in the car with me!

Well, today, I have some life lessons for you, too.  These are things that I am certain you already know though.  Let's just put them in another perspective, shall we?

LIFE LESSON #1: There are no such things as accidents.  Everything happens for a reason.

I have baked hundreds and hundreds of macarons in the past few months but have never perfected a single batch. Some would come out great, a lot of them hollow.  Some smooth and shiny, some wrinkled.  I have used a variety of recipes, baking temperatures, and baking time. Bought different brands of almond meal.  Compared silicone mats versus parchment paper.  Pure icing sugar versus one with cornstarch.  Copper bowl versus stainless steel with cream of tartar. The list goes on and on.

On yet another macaron baking session yesterday, confusion had me whip too much eggwhites for my almond/sugar mixture.  Upon realizing it, I tried to rectify the situation as much as I could.  In so doing, I could not follow the recipe to a tee.  You know what?  It yielded my best macarons ever!  Not one cracked shell.  No hollows.  No sticking.  Perfect.

Pistachio macarons with pistachio buttercream.

I made 43 in total!
See, not hollow!

That mistake was meant to happen.  The macarons could have turned out badly and I would have ended up frustrated again.  BUT it didn't. I am so happy that now, I can rest from all the experimentations.  I think I finally have a recipe and method I could rely on.

LIFE LESSON #2:   Cramming, in general, is not good. BUT sometimes, we get the best results under pressure.

I received a request for a golf-themed cake last week but had to turn it down initially because of the short notice and because I was already quite busy with other cakes.  More importantly, I did not know anything about golf or how to go about making golf-related decorations.  

Two days before the cake was needed, I decided to go ahead with it anyway.  I don't know why, but working hard till late at night seems to be my thing. I could never get to sleep until I am satisfied with what I've done.

Golf-themed birthday cake for a 12 year old.

A little bit of imagination (and a lot of Google help!) can go a long way.
The cake is very simple and yet, I love it.  I am very glad I did go through making this as it has turned out to be one of my favourites!

LIFE LESSON #3:  Don't be afraid to try something new and to take risks.  Keep on challenging yourself!

Normally, I would experiment first before doing the real thing but in this particular case, I decided to take the risk and give it a go. 

Giant cucpake bouquet with a dark chocolate cupcake patty pan!

I made my first ever giant cupcake for my brother's recent birthday party.  I've had the jumbo cupcake silicone pan for ages but was too lazy to use it.  When I came upon these series of videos on YouTube, I was encouraged to try it.  It was a success!

No one wanted to cut it or rather, no one knew how!

I finally had to do the job myself!

I loved making the giant cupcake so much, I created a similar one for my husband's birthday just a few days after.  This one had a white chocolate cupcake "liner".

My family is telling me now that I should start offering cakes like these.  Hmmm...something to definitely consider.

Even with the smallest things we do, though unimportant they might seem, we learn something from them, don't we? Feel free to share some of your life lessons too!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Going over the top

I am not a big spender by nature.  I don't go buying things, especially for myself.  However, when I am passionate about something, say, a new craft I want to learn and master, I really tend to be impulsive. Very impulsive. I buy stuff...lots of them. I purchase them on a whim, without second thoughts, thinking they are all necessities even if they aren't.

When I was into rosary-making, I had an oversupply of beads, a lot of them I later sold in bulk on eBay.  When I started sewing, I shopped regularly for fabric, many not even good ones. I would make bags I didn't even need or had any use for.  When I shifted to baking and cake decorating, I bought books, cake pans, tools. Again, lots of them. Now, I have cupboards and boxes filled with bits and pieces that sometimes I don't even know where to look when I need something.

Then came the macarons.

Firstly, I wasn't contented with what I read online and so I bought books.

Six printed ones...

Kindle versions of this and this...

And an eBook.

Seriously, how many different recipes can there really be?  How unique can one book be compared to the others? Still. I love books.  I love reading them over and over.  I love looking at the pictures.  I love collecting them. So yeah, I can never have enough.

Next, I thought I needed Silpats and silicone mats in my quest to find which liner is the best alternative to baking paper. Silpats made in France are quite costly while silicone mats from China are cheap.

During a trip to Target, I then saw an inexpensive food processor.  I bought it because I only owned a mini one and my excuse was that I was going to use it constantly in the kitchen anyway.  More baking sheets followed suit.

Last but not the least, I did the ultimate.  I got this...

It's a 4.6 liter Mauviel copper bowl.  I read how eggwhites whip better when it reacts with copper. Did I really need it?  Absolutely not! I can successfully beat eggwhites stiff in a stainless steel bowl even with my eyes closed. Curiosity just got the best of me. (*Note: I didn't buy the stand.  That's from a casserole dish I already had and it works well for this purpose.)

I couldn't use this copper bowl with my KitchenAid stand mixer though I did have an old hand mixer. But when my husband suggested that we redeem our Flybuys points for something, guess what we chose?

A KitchenAid hand mixer. (At least, this one we got for free.)  Believe me when I say that not all hand mixers are created equal! This little thing is beautiful.  It is so powerful and it hardly makes any noise!

So then, with all these things at my disposal, have I mastered the macaron?  Since my last post (two months ago!), I have made hundreds of them, some perfect, some not so perfect.

Chocolate macarons with dulce de leche

Coconut macarons

Purple macarons with dark chocolate ganache

Vanilla macarons with cashew butter

Lemon macarons
Malted chocolate macarons
I certainly have not mastered the macaron.  Nevertheless, I am more confident in making it, so much so that I am now proud to give them as gifts. I have learned heaps from experimenting, using different techniques and of course, the variety of things I showed above.  I don't recommend for anyone else to go over the top like I did because, yes, you can make a good macaron without those.  (I am in fact ashamed about what I had just shared with you. It's a sickness, I think.) What's more important is patience, practice and getting to know your oven.


Till next time.  Hopefully, I will not take too long again.  Enjoy the rest of your week!

PS. Let us not forget about the cakes!  You can view the new ones on my Flickr, if you wish.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I have been gone for a while, haven't I?  You know what I have been up to?

French macarons. Yes....I have finally been bitten by the macaron bug.  It's plain madness, I tell you.

For me, personally, it's not because macarons are addicting to eat.  It is not something I would actually crave for. What drives me crazy is the challenge of getting it right.  I do not want to settle for anything less than perfect even if I have to do it over and over again.

If you read all that's written about the difficulties of macaron making, it is certainly very easy to be discouraged to try making them at home.  I, myself,  have been for a time, but then I started questioning my fears for two reasons.  Firstly, whipping eggwhites stiff has in fact, become second nature to me.  I do it all the time with the chiffon cake.  And when I say 'all the time', I really mean all the time.  Secondly, I do know I can pipe.  Why then should I be intimidated about piping mere circles?

And so began my macaron adventure a couple of weeks ago.  After two attempts using the Italian meringue method (one successful and one failure), I vowed I will conquer the French way!  Here are just some of my results (believe me, there are more!).

Yellow macarons with chocolate ganache.  Were quite hollow inside and too domed for me.

Pink macarons with lemon curd.  Much, much better but I still wanted it to be flatter.   But I really loved the lemon curd!

Chocolate macarons with Nutella. 

I really thought the chocolate macarons were already perfect.  There wasn't a single cracked shell in my two trays and everything looked uniformly sized and smooth.  But alas, even after 20 minutes of baking, a lot of the shells were still a little undercooked and still stuck to the baking paper.  They were also more delicate than usual.  Cracked really easily when not handled very gently.

Looks like the trying isn't over then.  I did buy some silicone mats and eggwhite powder online and will see if the macarons will bake differently using them.  In the meantime, I really have to hold  myself back.  These macarons aren't doing any good for my weight!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Checkerboard Cake with Old Fashioned Chocolate Icing

It's my second son's 17th birthday today.  Given the condition of my hands, I wasn't really in the mood to bake him a cake.

BUT not making him a cake just wouldn't feel right to me.

I thought I should do something very easy.  I have been wanting to try out Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake, a recipe great for beginners.  Would certainly suit me at this time.

Then I remembered my checkerboard cake pans.  I never ever used them after the terrible experience I had buying them.  Maybe it was high time I did.

One thing I can tell you....the checkerboard cake experience wasn't a breeze at all.  Because my fingers are not quite fully functional, I made quite a mess! I found it really difficult filling up the dividers neatly with the two cake batters.  I had to wash a whole lot of bowls and utensils as well. Talk about planning to do something easy!

Was the trouble worth it?

Here's the cake covered in an old fashioned chocolate icing.  Doesn't look impressive at this point.

Ta Da! Beautiful, isn't it? The checkerboard is a little bit wonky but I am forgiving myself given my circumstance! Next time I try this, I'm sure I'll do better.
The cake recipe I used is from the Cake Bible of Rose Levy Beranbaum.  You can find the recipe here.  I'm totally a chiffon cake girl (you know that by now), so this is not the sort of cake I would typically make. Having said that, however, I still enjoyed the cake, it being moist and tender.  The chocolate flavour is very mild. A little to mild for me actually.  Ms. Beranbaum did do this intentionally so as not to overpower the yellow cake's flavour. 

The chocolate icing is my aunt's recipe.  Tasting this icing after so many years just took me right back to my childhood!  The icing is a spreadable one and  remains soft and creamy even when refrigerated, much like the caramel icing. It is, however, not suitable for piping.  What my aunt used to do was cover her chocolate cake with this icing then use buttercream to do the borders and decorations.  

Just one note - I reckon the milk in my aunt's recipe really refers to evaporated milk (because it is what they most often used) but I am not 100% certain about this so I am sticking to whole milk until I am able to verify.  Feel free to experiment. Also, with this icing recipe, I was able to fill (thinly) and frost the three-layered checkerboard cake shown here.

Here is the recipe for you!

(makes about 2 1/2 cups icing)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk, divided
2 tablespoons butter

1. In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the milk.
2. In a medium saucepan and over a low-medium heat, bring the remaining milk to a soft boil.
3. Add the chocolate mixture from step 1 to the boiling milk.  Whisk continuously until mixture is thick and of a spreading consistency. (This will not take very long.)
4. Remove from heat then add the butter.  Mix until butter is fully melted and incorporated.  Set aside to cool. (The icing will thicken a bit more upon cooling.) 

Let me know what you think of the icing if ever you get to try it, ok? Enjoy!

PS. My fingers are healing quite well (but look really disgusting). Thank you for your prayers and well wishes!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


When I was young, people always told me I had beautiful eyelashes.  They were long and curly, just like my mother's.

But now, those eyelashes are gone....(

Well, there's about 1/8" length left.

I burned them last Sunday.

Along with seven of my fingers and some of my hair.

The culprit?

I've done this before with success.  Refilling a gas lighter.  Unfortunately, it went terribly wrong this time.  Entirely my fault though.  The gas refill cannister specifically warned to "keep away from sources of ignition".  I pressed the trigger and there they were...a sudden burst of big flames right in my hands and in front of my face.

At first, I was more worried about my hair rather than my hands.  But after a while, my hands really began to hurt and I became more aware of what had actually happened to me.  I did the necessary first aid on myself, went to the doctor the next morning and got myself a haircut too.  Today, my fingers are quite sore because the blisters are starting to pop (sorry, I don't mean to sound gross!) and they now look really burnt, the skin being greyish and leathery.  But I am ok.  I do have a high threshold for pain. See, I can still type!

Thank God.  It could have really been a lot worst.  I am still alive and my hands are still working.  And yes, I know my hair and eyelashes will grow back soon.

Despite the injuries, I had to go on with my baking.  I had cupcakes to make for this nice, elderly lady from the retirement village.  It's her 76th birthday today.  I would never let her down, even with bandaged fingers.

It was a challenge and I worked slower than usual but I got it done.

I am also thankful this incident happened after the wedding I mentioned in my last post.  If not, it would have been a disaster.  I don't think I could have decorated a cake in my condition.

Three layered 6" red velvet cake with gumpaste bride and groom.

Red velvet cupcakes to match.  I loved how elegant these cupcakes looked!
Here are the cakes and cupcakes in the 5-tiered stand at the wedding reception.  I didn't do the arrangement but as pedantic as I am, I wished I had done it myself.

Please pray my hands will get better soon.  My world doesn't stop just because of this setback, you know.  I know you mothers out there understand what I mean. So many responsibilities and of course, more cakes to bake! 

Enjoy the rest of your week.  Stay safe!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Birthday, Christening, Baby Shower and Wedding

The proper order should be the other way around, don't you think????  Funny.

This was actually the order in which the occasions for my cakes happened within the last 10 days. The cakes were for different people of course!  


This cake was for my son's friend.  It was sort of a rush job but I couldn't say no because the boy seemed so excited about it. I stared at Yoshi pictures for hours and hours, not knowing how to begin.  Then at 11pm, while waiting for my older son to come home from work, I decided to sit down and make an attempt.  I finished it an hour later and was just amazed at how I miraculously managed to do it!

I know it looks quite simple but the pressure point here (at least for me) was the head.  Look at how big that nose is!


I made baby booties at first then trashed it.  And I'm happy that I did because I reckon the whole thing turned out much better.

The angel tutorial can be found here - Part I, Part II and Part III.  It is very easy to do and the resulting angel is very cute, complete with beaded halo.  I used a butterfly cutter for the wings instead of a template.  As for the baby, I totally just winged it.  Simple but adorable, yeah?


I love baby showers and I really enjoy making baby stuff .  Remember this and this?  

Anyway, I was invited to a baby shower today but unfortunately, was not able to make it because of another commitment.  As much as I wanted to sew something, I couldn't as I was also busy throughout the week.  I promised the mom to-be that I'd make a cake for her though, so that I did.

Again, the teddy bear is quite simple to do.  Something anyone can finish in one sitting.


Thank goodness my friend requested for a single-tiered wedding cake for her cousin. Wedding cakes are just not my kind of thing.  They are daunting.

The wedding colour was purple, so naturally, the bride and groom wanted a purple yam (ube) cake.  I was very happy with how this cake turned out.  It is not elaborate as most wedding cakes are, but I really think keeping things simple is the right way to go.

So that's about everything for now.  Next weekend, my husband is a wedding sponsor and you know what? As his present to the bride and groom, he offered to provide the wedding cake/cupcakes. Guess who's going to do all the hard labour? Sigh.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!