Sunday, February 2, 2020

02 02 2020

It's been 2 years! We have now entered a new decade and I found myself a little nostalgic tonight, so an update is in order. Happy New Year everyone!

What has been going on all this time? 2 whole years!

Well, if you are still following my Facebook, there's been some baking, though not with the same intensity of the last decade but it's still very much a labour of love, because I love the people I bake for (you know who you are).

While cakes will always have a special place on a baker's menu, what I have discovered in the last year is that the true joy of baking is when you pull something out of an oven that has history, gives sustenance and can be eaten over and over again. OK, at this point, I should pause and recognise that cake-lovers will say... what is she talking about? Cakes have a place in history. Cakes can fill you up (literally) especially if you eat it over and over again.

I'm talking about BREAD people!

So I've gotten back to basics, and I'm not talking about old fashion butter cake and vanilla chiffon sponge. I'm talking about baking basics - flour and water.

Some time in 2019, my dear sister-in-law R passed me a sourdough starter that is older than my mother. A 90-year-old levain that has been places and picked up on the cultures around the world, and now it's sitting in a jar in my kitchen. I was apprehensive at first. I didn't know what to do with it. I have 3 kids, yet I was filled with trepidation with the potential that was in this jar.

The levain has to be fed. Daily. (like my kids)
The levain can go bad if not properly cared for  (like my kids)
The levain can give you much much joy when you've invested in it (like my kids)
The levain can be moulded, to be the best it can be (like my kids)
So the levain has become my 4th child.

It's a steady one, an old soul. I know it has a lot to give, I just have to tend to it, know when to harness it's potential, and give it all the right ingredients to become the awesome product it's meant to be - beautiful Sourdough Bread.

Oh, and of course, it needed a name... hello "Beastie Boy"

Beastie Boy (BB) and I may have had a rough start, we produced many sour-tasting loafs that were dense and chewy all at once. BB didn't always agree and I've had to throw away copious amount of good flour. There were late nights, frustrations, wasted energy and repeated disappointment. But like any good parent, you never give up on your child.

After some months of consultation with fellow sourdough starter mummies, watching all versions of YouTube how-to videos and even researching on the science of bread fermentation. BB and I finally yielded a beautiful open crumb sourdough loaf with a golden crust and a creamy tang that you couldn't get in any instant yeast commercial bread. I couldn't turn back now.

So here I am. 2020.

Perhaps, I should start another blog... and you can hear all the funny stories that Beastie Boy and I have had. It's been a rewarding relationship that nurtures, feeds and grows. What more can a home baker ask for?

It's in the proof, ready for baking

Sourdough satisfaction

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Will 2018 Bring?

Happy New Year everyone! A brand new year before us and an update is in order. I was prompted to not neglect my blog from an avid reader, who looks forward to what has now become the only entry for the year. 2017 may not have been a huge year of baking for me, but nonetheless, the blog must go on.

Having said that, I must recount one highlight in the past year.

In October 2017, Singapore held the inaugural Great Architectural Bake-Off (yes, much like TV's Great British Bake Off). But this was more than a baking competition, it's a coming together of architects working with an edible medium while applying their design skills. The friendly competition truly took baking and cake decorating to another level. Being the 'batter' half of an architect, I had the amazing opportunity to bake a durian cake for the participating team.

DP Architects went into the competition with a re-creation of The Esplanade aka as 'the durians'. Watching architects do anything is really quite daunting, they are meticulous about details to a fault, as they should be of course. So while all I did was bake the 4-layered durian cake in the shape of the Esplanade dome, it was the planning of details with the rest of the team that made the experience so awe-inspiring. Every little detail was not spared, right down to the spiky shades that gives the Esplanade its signature durian moniker. The leading architect on the team had painstakingly hand crafted more than 200 spikes with gum paste, which were then flawlessly applied on the dome cake one by one. Talk about an exacting task! The end result was a stunning replica of The Esplanade at the scale of 1:400 that took home the grand prize! In all my years of baking, that moment when the winner was announced, was my most exhilarating. What a cake, what a feat, what a feeling!

And the winner goes to....

So what's in store in 2018?

I'm really hoping to get back to some baking, and maybe even cooking! One of my resolutions this year is to master some of my mother's traditional Cantonese recipes. Maybe it's age, we are all growing older, and I find the need to get back to basics. I never imagine that I would want to learn the cooking I grew up on. You sort of take it for granted – the food along with the cook. My mother has some dishes that are real culinary gems, but she is a very prideful cook, which could be why I shunned learning from her all these years. But now I have kids of my own, and I hope I can cook for them the way my mum cooks for us.

Anyway, I digress too much.

This year, there will be baking, though likely for personal satisfaction and consumption. Of course, I'll always be happy if anyone would like to try any of my traditional cakes like Ondeh Ondeh Pandan, Butter Cake, Earl Grey Tea Cake and Durian Cake.

And I may just start blogging about Cantonese dishes, so dear readers, you might still have a reason to stick around :) First up, I'll be attempting a Cantonese staple at Chinese New Year, watch for it.

Chinese New Year 'Zhai' (vegetable stew)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's mid year and she's ONE!

We've reached the half way point of 2017. Is it just me, or is time passing especially fast this decade? Feels like the older you get, the faster everything happens, and the time to get anything done gets lesser. I think it's especially so when you have children, and I have 3!

We recently celebrated my little girl's 1st birthday. It's one of those milestones that parents look longingly toward, yet as it passes, the reality hits home that your little baby is almost baby no more. I feel it more so with my No.3, maybe because I know she's my last baby and I don't want her to grow up too fast!

For her birthday, I knew I would have to whip out my tools that's been in storage and make something very special. Although I've been baking but it's been a while since I crafted with fondant and I know that for her first birthday, I would need to create something that will make her light up. One of her favourite tunes and animation from YouTube's Super Simple Songs is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". The owl and star are that main characters. I think this amazing YouTube channel is a rite of passage for any parent and child in the age of the iPad. I've used it with my two elder boys, and now 7 years later, it's still the gold standard in children's song and cartoon animation!

I've actually made this cake once some years back for a friend's son. I think I could even pull out a picture of that cake from my Facebook page - see picture. Looking back, I actually see a couple of changes in cake trends. Those were the days when fondant was all the rage. I had ordered buckets of fondant 5kg at a time at the height of its popularity. A fondant covered cake was a show stopper at any party. But trends come and you see most cakes are covered in a smooth buttercream or glazed elegantly with chocolate ganache, while fondant only gets a spotlight as a design element or a character topper.

My Star is ONE

Here's my sweetie's Twinkle Star Birthday Cake! What made it really special was how everyone sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as well and it made her beamed like a little star. Made my heart swell :) Happy Birthday Miss Julianne! Now, please take your time to reach 2 years old.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bring it on, 2017!

Hello readers!

At the beginning of 2016, I told you about my little hiatus for the year. And now here we are, 12 months on... I've done plenty but for all that I managed to accomplish, I am most blessed and grateful for the new addition to my family - my baby no.3.

At first I thought my days of baking may well be over. I sort of recalled with my two older kids, I was either constantly nursing or up to eyeballs in laundry and diapers. Let's not even start on sleepless nights and dozy days. Add two older boys to the mix, I'd be lucky if I had any me-time at all. I just couldn't fathom juggling a newborn, two older kids and still find the time to cover a cake with fondant!

My baby is 7 months old now and I'm baking again.

In truth, I can't help but bake. Life's also been particularly good to me, my new bundle is an easy-going baby and although she zaps up a lot of my energy and the hours, days and weeks just fly by, I'm lovingly rewarded in many ways. I got back into the groove of things pretty quickly because she's been amazingly agreeable. Being a mummy makes me soooo tired but I'm soooooooo happy :) And when I'm happy, I bake!

Baking this year with such limited time to indulge got me thinking about cakes I love to eat. I found myself going back to basics with traditional recipes that is all about taste and texture.

First of, I'm very happy to say I finally found the ultimate BUTTER CAKE recipe. I finally mastered it, and with consistency. I make mine with a tender crumb that is full of buttery goodness and a texture that can only be described as 'plouffy' - it's light yet rich, the sort of yumminess that leaves you with buttery fingers!

I also rediscovered my love for childhood favourites like SWISS ROLL and PANDAN CAKE. I'm really delighted to find a recipe for Swiss Roll that is light and tender, and most importantly, rolls without cracking! Then there's the green pandan cake, part chiffon, part kueh and all so yummy in layers. I make mine with a special topping - Ondeh Ondeh (pandan flavoured glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar). You can't have too much of a good thing :)

I'm happy to take orders for any of these homemade goodies in the new year. Just drop me a note. I'm also happy to share the recipe if anyone is up for some old fashioned baking.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hello 2016!

Happy New Year dear readers.

I realised I blogged all of 5 times last year. Oops. But I'd like to think I lived more, and just wrote about it less, and it sure doesn't mean I had baked less either. Last year, the launch of my red velvet venture, Velvetin, was a promising check off the resolution list, though it never became the business of my dreams. Still I enjoyed the process, and it's always there for further undertaking.

So here we are, 2016.

This year, I may have to take on a little less baking, but please do still visit my Facebook page for updates. The special project I have in my oven this year is some other kind of baking, a new creation that has captured the hearts and mind of my whole family. A new baby on the way :)

While I hope to continue baking, in spite of the madness that will be my life come June with two boys and a little baby, let me first apologise if I'm unable to reply your queries or take on your orders. I still hope to hear from all you mummies and keep in touch for future bakes.

Meanwhile, here's to the year ahead... make it a good one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Much Needed Update

I've been writing less and less as the year's calendar gets filled up more and more with activities and travels. But the baking has not stopped, and it's the one thing I always love coming back to when I find myself with some "me" time. So dear readers, my apologies if I haven't answered all your email enquiries and sorry for not being able to take on as many orders as I would have love to.

As we enter the last quarter of 2015, I can't help but start evaluating the year...and it's been so far so good. Velvetin Cake was launched in February and though it has lost some traction, in part due to my periodic travels, I'm glad it's something I got off the ground early in the year. I still have a loyal group of red velvet fans (you know who you are), who are always supportive and encouraging so the luscious red cake is still coming out of my oven faithfully.

There's still some time left in 2015, though I'll be on the road again in November, I am hoping to showcase Velvetin Cake at the Public Garden Market. I'm looking out for the October dates and will keep you posted. I'm also planning to offer the red velvet cakes for Christmas, so look out for that something special come December.

I know it may be a bit early to do a roundup at this point, but I have to mention that this year has also turned out to be the year of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I've avoided this frosting ever since I started baking for obvious reasons - our unforgiving hot weather and my reluctance to use shortening. However, I have become a bit of a convert since I chanced upon an interesting blog post about a fail-proof Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The baker/author used a science-base approach on the ingredients involved that would save you a lot of pain and panic when it comes to whipping SMBC. Those of you who have tried and failed in a soupy buttery mess, this may be the answer. The thinking is simple, why whip up a whole bowl of beautiful meringue only to deflate it with cubes of butter in the hope of it all coming together? Instead, egg white with dissolved sugar is added to butter that's been creamed at the ideal temperature - the result is a smooth, satiny, yummy and surprisingly stable SMBC that I've been using happily this year.

Here are some of my creations with Swiss Meringue Buttercream...

Princess Sophia Rosette Cake

Pink rosette cupcakes

Elmo and friends

White Roses

So yes, please note that a non-fondant cake is an option. Do request for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream cake, I promise you'll fall in love with the dreamy creamy frosting.

Having said that, of course there will be cakes that really can't escape fondant, especially when you don't want it to look like cake. For example, a Lego cake.

Lego Movie cake

Or the Hungry Caterpillar storybook cake...

The Hungry Caterpillar

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Doodle Cake

Hey readers, I was on the road for a while but I'm glad to finally settle down to some baking this month and one of the cakes I'm totally excited to share with you is the Doodle Cake - also known as Dolly's Birthday Cake.

I have to admit it's not my brainchild, I had taken the inspiration from Sweetpolita's Rainbow Doodle Cake, but I'm so glad I made it for my sister's birthday. It's a tribute to her creative streak as she's an artist at heart, even though her day job couldn't be further from the world of colours and creativity. The wonderful thing about this cake is everyone celebrating with you gets a chance to personalise it with a message! One of the beauties of fondant, the smooth surface makes it such a perfect canvas for doodling. Of course you'll have to use edible pens.

The kids and adults enjoyed inscribing their well wishes, and my sister commented it's quite like when you have a plaster of paris cast on haha. But you get the point, everyone loves you, they tell you so on a cake instead of a card. Then after the candles are blown, we eat it all up.

Dolly's Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday my dear sister

Edible pens for cake doodling

Now you can get your hands on one of these cakes. They come in your favourite flavours. My sister particularly loves chocolate cake, but I wanted the same fun colours as the doodling so I added a special rainbow frosting between the layers.

Inverted Rainbow Cake

The Doodle Cake is perfect for any occasion - anniversary, graduation, or just for fun! The cake will come with a box of edible colour markers for your work of cake art! Get in touch with me for more details :)