Saturday, November 28, 2009

A "Jungle" Birthday Theme

I've now found a new love which is called Fondant. I've just started making fondant flowers as decoration to cupcakes and the most recent venture was decorating the cupcakes for the Burnt Sugar baked by Cake Slice Bakers group a week and half ago. My colleagues in the office found the cupcakes beautifully done. So much so, that a colleague of mine actually asked me to bake some cakes for her son's two year old birthday party which was held yesterday evening.

I said I would and after giving some thought for an idea to the cake and cupcakes, I decided I would do a jungle animal theme. Just right for a two year boy who was fascinated with animals. As the birthday party was on Friday (lucky for me it was a public holiday here in Singapore), I had to plan ahead early in the week. The 6" cake layers were baked on Tuesday night and I managed to come up with 6 layers in total. The cake required the height to make it stand out. And the cupcakes were baked on Wednesday night. I dedicated Thursday evening after dinner to decorate the cake and cupcakes. Initially I had wanted to split the decoration over Thursday night and Friday morning, but once I was into the project on Thursday night, I decided to complete everything in one-go. Would you believe that I finally finished the cake and cupcakes at 2am on Friday morning!

The end result was a fondant 4-layer chocolate cake sandwiched with buttercream and chocolate ganache. The entire cake was covered with a chocolate fondant. Tall trees wrapped the sides of the cake with a snake going around one of the trees. Eyes of animals peered out between the trees and two elephant trucks appear to be coming out from the depth of the forest. Above the tree foliage pops the heads of two giraffes. The giraffes are made of gumpaste and I hand painted the spots and drew out the eyes, mouth and nose.

To complement the cake, the cupcakes were decoated into a variety of jungle animals -tigers, zebras and lions.

I was extremely pleased to hear that the birthday boy enjoyed his birthday cake very much and the rest of the kids loved the cupcakes. This really makes my weekend!

Chocolate Butter Cake
Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking
(Serves 8 - 10)


4 ounces (150 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
2 1/4 cups (315 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
370 grams granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) milk


5 ounces (140 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
4 cups (1 pound) (454 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, and line with parchment paper, two - 9 x 2 inch deep (23 x 5 cm) round baking pans. Set aside.

2) In a stainless steel or heatproof bowl place the chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and cocoa powder and stir until they have melted. Set aside to cool while you make the batter.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk to combine, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4) In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about 3-5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture and beat to combine.

5) Add the milk and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are incorporated.

6) Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Butter or lightly spray a wire rack with Pam before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.


Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool. Then place the melted chocolate, milk, confectioners sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer.) Add the pieces of softened butter and beat on low speed for about 2 minutes. When the frosting starts to come together increase the speed to medium and beat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 - 2 minutes more or until it is of spreading consistency. If necessary, add more milk or sugar.

To Assemble:

Place one layer of cake, top side down, on your serving plate and cover with a layer of frosting. Then place the second layer of cake, top side down, onto the first cake layer and then frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Can garnish with fresh fruit or shaved chocolate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

It was one of those week-ends that seem to zip past in a flash. I always wonder what happened to my Saturday and Sundays when Monday comes. Moan, groan .. is it Monday already! I'll usually complain about my "flash past weekends" to my other half and he'll say that I tend do too much over the two days. Basically not taking enough rest like what other normal people would do. I guess it's somewhat true. Week-ends is also when I try to cramp in some cooking and baking.

We weren't terribly fussed about what to have for dinner on Sunday. So I decided we'll have chicken instead, something easily put together and without much bother at all. Guess what, I didn't even look up any recipe book! And before I forget .. it was really delicious.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken
(Serves 2)


2 pieces skinless, deboned whole chicken leg (you can substitute with boneless skinless chicken breast)
1/4 cup mozarella cheese, grated
2 Tbsp thinly sliced brown mushroom
1/4 cup carmelized onions (which I had left over)
6 streaky bacon strips
3 medium sized potatoes, cubed to about 1" square
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
Oil for browning the chicken


1) Flatten chicken to 1/2-in. thickness.

2) Spread the mozarella, mushroom and carmelized onions over each chicken. Dot the filing with some butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3) Wrap each piece of chicken with 3 strips of bacon. Then roll up the chicken like a sausage and use toothpicks to secure the roll.

4) Preheat the oven to 200C.

5) Heat some oil in a frying pan. On medium heat, brown the chickn rolls for about a minute. Remove from pan and set aside.

6) In a baking tray, place the potatos and onion on the bottom of the tray. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Drizzle the potatoes and onion with a bit of olive oil and add about 1 Tbsp of butter.

7) Place the bacon wrapped chicken rolls on top of the potatoes.

8) Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or longer until cooked.

9) Serve with broiled vegetable and your favourite gravy. (I made a honey mustard dressing to go with the chicken)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burnt Sugar Cake

Based on popular voting, the November cake for Cake Slice Bakers is a Burnt Sugar Cake. When the recipe was posted up in the forum, I shuddered to think of the amount of sugar I would be consuming in each slice. I even delayed baking this cake until the very last weekend before actual post date. Then when I read some of the comments posted by my fellow Cake Slice bakers, I quickly decided that I would cut back on the amount of sugar used in the original recipe. In addition I also made some minor alternations. Well, firstly I reduced the recipe by half. Secondly I decided that it would be kinda cute to turn these into cupcakes instead. The halfed reciped resulted in a dozen cupcakes for me. I used the burnt sugar frosting for only half of the cupcakes and for the rest, I decorated them with fondant. In fact it is homemade marshmallow fondant that I had used. It's been a while since I dabbled in using fondant, so it's high time I dusted the cobwebs off my fondant tools and took them out from storage.

The cupcakes came out extremely moist (a little denser than a vanilla cupcake) but it kept extremely well even after 3 days in the fridge. I think it was due to the sugar content that kept the crumbs from drying out. The reduced sugar amount that I had used seem about right. However the frosting was way, way too sweet for my taste! And this is even after I had reduced the amount of burnt sugar syrup that was added to the frosting. The burnt sugar gave the frosting a slight distinct maple syrup taste. So if you are not a sweet-tooth I would strongly encourage that you find an alternative frosting for this cake.

By the way, would you believe I had my first rejection to my cakes! However it was not because they taste horrible or anything like that. The recipient said that she had been putting on so much weight since I started bringing baked goodies to the office that she'll have to change her entire wardrobe soon.

Lastly don't forget to check out my fellow bakers at Cake Slice Bakers for more beautiful creations.

Burnt Sugar Cake
Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott
Makes One 9" cake

For the Cake:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1¾ cups sugar (I reduced this to 1 1/4 cups of sugar and still found the cake to be a little bit sweet)
4 eggs
½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (recipe below) (I used only 1/3 cup of burnt sugar)

For the Burnt Sugar Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water

For the Burnt Sugar Frosting:

3¾ cups confectioners sugar
½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (above)
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 – 3 tbsp evaporated milk or normal milk

Method – Burnt Sugar Syrup:

1) Heat the sugar in a cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan with high sides. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts into a clear brown caramel syrup. It should be the colour of tea.

2) Gradually add the boiling water, pouring it down the sides of the pan so that if the syrup foams and bubbles up, you should be protected.

3) Continue cooking, stirring often, until the water combines with the syrup and turns a handsome brown syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Store the cooled syrup in a sealed jar if not using straight away.

Method - Cake:

1) Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and stir with a fork to mix well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.

3) In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes, until they are well combined. Stop now and then to scrape the bowl down. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well each time. Pour in half a cup of the burnt sugar syrup and beat well. Add a third of the flour mixture and about half of the milk, beating at a low speed, until just incorporated. Mix in another third of the flour and the rest of the milk. Finally, add the remaining flour.

4) Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched gently in the centre and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. (For cupcakes, fill the cup liners to 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes.) Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cakes into the wire rack to cool completely.

Method – Burnt Sugar Frosting:

1) In a large bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, the burnt sugar syrup, butter and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then to bring the ingredients together. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and continue beating until the frosting is thick, soft, smooth and easy to spread. Add a little more sugar if it is thin, and a little more milk if it is too thick.

To Assemble:

Place one layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving plate. Scoop about ¾ cup of the frosting onto the cake. Spread to the edges and place the second cake layer over it, top side down. Frost the sides of the cake, and then the top until it is evenly covered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pineapple Fried Rice with Prawns (Khow Pad Supparod Goong)

Have you ever thought that the simplest meal is sometimes the best meal you've ever had. I've had moments like this. It's often the something that you would throw together in a pot would bring the cosiest warm feelings. Would you believe that fried rice falls into this category for me? Well it does!

When we were young kids (god knows that was donkey years ago), my mum would cook fried rice and her main ingredients were diced onions, diced char siew (chinese roast pork), frozen vegetables and eggs. These were one of the moments we enjoyed the most and I still remember the big pot of fried rice placed in the middle of the dining table. All of us would swoop down onto the pot with a spoons and heaped up huge helpings onto our dinner plate. I loved eating char siew fried rice with Maggie (that's the brand of the sauce) chillie sauce.

Would you believe when I first worked in Hong Kong many years ago, I could never find this particular brand of chillie sauce any where in town. So every time I go back to Singapore (which was about 4 times a year), I would take the opportunity to pack a few bottles back with me. Hah ... I should have recorded the customs officer's face when he opened my luggage at HK airport.

Pineapple Fried Rice with Prawns (Khow Pad Supparod Goong)
Serves 2
Print Recipe


50g boiled shrimp
1/3 cup frozen mixed vegetable
1/4 cup cubed pieces of fresh pineapple
2 cups cold plain rice (break up any clumps)
3 Tbsp oil

For the Paste:

100g blended pineapple pulp
1 Tbsp tumeric powder
2 Tbsp seafood curry powder
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar (or more to taste)
Water to moisten rice
Salt and white pepper to taste


1) Heat oil in a wok or a pan and stir fry the paste until fragrant and mixture thickens.

2) Add in the rice and frozen vegetables and fry until well mixed. Adjust seasoning and then stir in the boiled shrimp and pineapple pieces.

3) Serve rice warm. Garnish with roasted cashew nuts, fresh coriander and red chillies.

Sunflower Cupcakes

These cupcakes were made on the speer of the moment. I really had no intention on baking anything over the weekday - you could say I wanted to take a break! So I'm not sure how this happened. Anyway I ended up with 12 cupcakes that needed some decoration on them. So I decided to take out my piping tips which I have not used for a long while now (if you need to know this) and turned these chocolate cupcakes into sunflowers. Just right for a sunny bright Sunday afternoon as well. As my other half is really not into cakes at all, these went to other willing "hungry" mouths - and they sure weren't complaining at all!

Sunflower Cupcakes
Adapted from "Favourite Cupcakes & Cheesecakes"
Makes 12 cupcakes


3 eggs
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp coffee extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder


1) Preheat oven to 160C. Line a 12 cupcake pan with paper liners.

2) Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3) Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat until mixed thoroughly. Then add in the the coffee extract.

4) Add the flour in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.

5) Divide the batter into the paper lines and bake for about 18 - 20 minutes. Immediately transfer to a wire rack once baked to allow the cupcakes to completely cool before icing with your favourite frosting.

6) Using a round piping tip #8, fill up a circle with chocolate butter (about 1") in the middle of your cupcake. Dip the cream into a bowl of chocolate rice. Next using a leaf tip #352, fill your piping bag with yellow buttercream and pipe leafs from the edge of the chocolate circle towards the outer edge of your cupcake. You can overlap the leafs to give it a more realistic petal look.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gyoza or Potstickers

We love eating dumpling .. any sort, steamed, fried, baked, etc. So I thought it was high time, as well as fun (this is a first for me) to post up an pictorial post on how to make up a batch of gyoza.

For my gyoza I used store-made wrappers which are easily available (ok I cheated). Use the wrappers that are meant for gyoza or dumplings (not wanton cause these would be a pale yellow colour).

You start off with chopping, more chopping and some more chopping. Great thing about gyoza is that you can use any type of filing you fancy. If you are a vegetarian, replace all the meat with different types of vegetables, include some water chestnut (heh great idea, and I'll add this for my next batch) for extra crunch!

Firstly, place a piece of wrapper on the palm of your hand. Place about 1 rounded teapoon of the filing onto the center of the wrapper. Shape the filing into an oval shape.

Then fold the wrapper in half. Sight an imaginary center line on the wrapper. What you want to do is to make 3 small pleats to the right and to the left of your imaginary line. Start doing one small pleat from the end and follow it with 2 more pleats, working your way from the end to the center. Make sure you pinch the pleats tighly together as you don't want your gyoza opening up and the filing oozing out whilst it's being cooked.

Once you have done the first 3 pleats, turn the gyoza around so that the 3 pleats you have already made, is now facing away from you. Instead of starting the first pleat from the end, pleat from the center and work your way to the end.

Once you have done the 6 pleats, tuck in each ends and pinch tightly. If the edges are not sealing properly, dab the ends with a little bit of water. The gyoza should now resemble a crescent shape. Continue shaping the rest of the wrappers. You may want to place the gyoza onto a lightly dusted (with plain flour) plate or tray to ensure that they don't stick to the surface.

You can either fry or steam the gyoza. I took the unhealty route ... and pan-fried them. Heh, before you say no to frying, read the instructions first. What is great about this method is that there is hardly any splattering of oil onto your walls. I can attest to this cause I hate frying because of the cleaning up thereafter.

I used a non-stick frying pan with slightly higher sides to it plus a see-through glass cover, of course. Add a couple of tablespoon of oil to your pan, place the gyozas into your pan and then turn on the fire to medium high. When the bottom of the gyoza starts to get golden brown (and you have to watch this closely cause you don't want charred "bottoms"), add the water and then quickly put on the lid. Once the water evaporates and disappears, remove the lid, reduce the fire to low and continue cooking for about minute and half to two. The gyozas will dry out and crisp up. Serve immediately with your favourite dipping sauce.

Gyoza or Potstickers
For the filing:

200g minced pork, not too lean (you can substitute with minced chicken)
5 medium sized prawns, minced
1/2 cup finely minced chinese cabbage or napa cabbage
3 stalks green onions, minced
5 fresh shitake mushrooms, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tsp young ginger, finely minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp chinese cooking wine
1/4 tsp white pepper

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To pan fry: Place gyoza in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To steam: Place gyozas on a single layer of chinese cabbage or on a well-greased plate and steam on high for about 6 - 8 minutes.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a tray so they are not touching. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with thinly sliced fresh young ginger and chinese black vinegar or chinese red vinegar sauce.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hue Shrimp and Vegetable Pancakes

I was extremely elated over the weekend when I received an email from Astrid of Paulchens FoodBlog advising that I was one of the winners of DMBLGIT October 2009 in the "Edibility" category. I never for the life of me expected this at all especially when there were so many other beautifully styled photographs. Anyway I would like to congratulate the rest of the other winners on their well-deserved win! Okey ... now back to my post proper.

We discovered this amazingly simple but absolutely delicious dish during our trip to Hanoi in September. This particular shop, extremely narrow and tucked between a bakery and a bicycle repair shop, serves only Hue pancakes and nothing else! I discovered later that Hue pancakes originate from a province in central Vietnam called Hue (it would seem like a national dish to me if it's named after a place) and is considered the fulcrum of Vietnam's rice planting region - the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta. Hue food tends to be spicier than most regions in Vietnam and you'll also get lots of seafood since this area is located near the sea.

The pancakes are made from rice flour with egg. A small amount of batter is then spread over a shallow pan to produce a very thin crepe. This is then cooked over a high heat until the bottom of the crepe is crispy and golden brown. Toppings are then spread over the top during the cooking process. To eat the pancakes, you would take a thin dry rice paper, put some herbs such as mint and basil, on the rice paper and then top it with a small piece of the pancake. You then roll the whole thing up like a spring roll. The roll is then dipped into a vinegratte sauce. I was extremely surprised that the rice paper used was the thinnest I have ever seen. You cannot image how delicious this was ... it was so good that we ate it for 3 days in a row!

Hue Shrimp and Vegetable Pancakes (Banh Khoai)
Recipe from "The Food of Vietnam" by Trieu Thi Choi & Marcel Isaak
Serves 4


1 1/4 cups (150g) rice flour
1 1/4 cups (310ml) water
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup (40g) straw mushrooms
8 fresh medium shrimp (200g), poached for 30 seconds until just cooked, peeled and deveined
1 cup (50g) bean sprouts
2 spring onions, sliced
1 fresh chilli, thinly sliced
Fish Sauce Dip, for dipping


1) Mix the rice flour, water, egg, salt and sugar in a bowl until it becomes a smooth batter. Set aside for 10 mins, then sieve through a wire mesh to remove any lumps.

2) Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a wok or skillet over hgh heat, turning to grease the sides as well. Add 1/2 cup of the batter and turn the work or skillet to obtain a thin round layer of batter. Top the batter with some straw mushrooms, then cover the work or skillet and pan-fry for about 1 minute, taking care not to scorch the bottom of the pancake.

3) Remove the cover, add some shrimp, bean sprouts, sliced chilli and spring onion on top and continue to pan-fry the pancake until golden brown and crispy. This should take about 2 minutes, depending on your stove's fire. Remove from the heat. Pan-fry all the pancakes in the same manner.

4) Serve the pancakes hot with a bowl of Fish Sauce Dip (Nuoc Mam Cham) (recipe below) on the side and a plate of lettuce leaves and fresh herbs such as basil and mint.

Fish Sauce Dip (Nuoc Mam Cham)
Recipe Yields 1/2 cup

1/4 cup (60ml) water or fresh coconut juice
1 - 2 tsp rice vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and minced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced finely (more if you are a garlic lover)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp fish sauce

Bring the water or coconut juice, vinegar and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Remove and set aside to cool. Combine the chilli, garlic and lime juice, mix well and stir in the fish sauce. For a variation, add some grated carror or carrot and radish pickles into the dipping sauce.

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