I made my own birthday cake for the first time.
Yesterday was the 22nd birthday. It's also my first birthday I spent with the boyfriend. I remembered making a wish before blowing the last year's candles that he didn't have a girlfriend. Two months later, we started going out. So yes, the birthday wish will actually come true.
We spent the day like other normal working days, but had the time to wonder around in town for two hours. He bought me a white rose, wrapped in cellophane with a white bow, just the way I like it. So I walked around town with a thin, long, elegant white rose in one hand and him in the other. Never felt this special before.
My chemistry lab finished at 5 in the afternoon. We both got dressed up and went to this famous Italian restaurant for dinner. It was all very romantic. The window seat. The white tablecloth. The beautiful mussel and scallop. The two hands holding each other. We went to another place for tiramisu and Italian hot chocolate for dessert. Perfect.
One thing though, I didn't have time to bake a cake for myself. It's been a dream since I first started baking. And it has to be blask forest, probably because it's such a luxury treat that you can only indulge yourself with on a special occasion.
It was indeed luxury. I didn't add that much sugar but we still have to share 3/4 of the cake with my friends. It looked beautiful inside, the layer after layer of chocolaty cake, white Chantilly cream, and dark purple cherry.
Who doesn't love such a cake that reminds you of the beautiful fairy tales that might happen in the black forest. So let me just be a kid for one more time, believing in fairy tales that all had happy endings. Then I'll be a older and wiser adult, making a silent promise with myself that the fairy tale ending will one day happen to us.
Black Forest Cake
Adapted from Sensational Sweets
2/3 cup cake flour (I made my own: 2 tbsp of cornstarch + plain flour = 1 cup cake flour)
1/3 cup coca
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark rum
1 pound pitted sour cherries, drained if canned; reserving 3 tbsp liquid
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla
400 g chocolate, melted
Chocolate shavings, extra
Preheat the oven to 350F (185C). Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the pan bottom with waxed paper cup to fit and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour, shaking out the excess.
To make the cake, on a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour with the cocoa. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the yolks until combined. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar a little at a time and heat the mixture falls in a thick ribbon when beater is lifted. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the egg-yolk mixture into a large bowl. Wash the mixer bowl and beater. Add the egg whites to the mixer bowl and beat with the salt until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until whites form very soft peaks. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat the whites until they hold firm peaks. With a large rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold the whites into the egg-yolk mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in batches, until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert onto a rack, peal off the waxed paper, and let cool completely.
To make the sugar syrup, in a medium-size saucepan, combine the sugar and water and heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and let cool.
To make the cherry filling, in a medium-size saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar to taste, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine reserved cherry liquid with the cornstarch and stir into the cherry mixture. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Transfer to a bowl, let cool and chill, covered, until ready to use.
To make the chantilly cream, in a chilled bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla and beat with a chilled beater until it forms soft peaks.
To assemble the cake, with a long serrated knife, slice the cake into three layers and transfer the bottom layer, cut side up, to a piece of cardboard. Brush the cut side of the bottom layer with a third of the sugar syrup and spread with Chantilly cream. Spoon half the cherries over the mousse and top with another layer of the Chantilly cream. Repeat with second layer. Top with the last layer and cover the cake with the remaining cream. Chill cake.
To make the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate over boiling water. Spread the melted chocolate on a baking paper with the length that can surround the whole cake. Let a cool at room temperature for 20 min before coating it onto the cake. Chill for 10 min. Gently remove the baking paper when the coating is hardened.
Garnish the top with chocolate shavings.
I made my own birthday cake for the first time.
Another trial of my yeast bread baking.
The boyfriend is a big fan of bread. I, on the other hand, don't like it that much because of the carb load and, honestly, not much taste. But I still decided to challenge myself by choosing to bake this cute little bread rolls I came across in last Sunday's Sydney Telegraph Magazine.
The results? Hmmm... What's that saying again? Practice makes perfect (aka, I definitely need more practice :) !
Rosemary Bread Rolls
Adapted from Donna Hay, in Sydney Telegraph Sunday 22 April 2007
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp castor sugar
1 cup lukewarm milk
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
olive oil, extra for brushing
sea salt, extra
Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside in a warm place for 5 min or until bubbles appears on the surface.
Place the flour, salt, oil and yeast mixture in a bowl and stir with a butter knife until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 min or until smooth and elastic.
Divide into 12 and roll into balls. Place the dough into 12 x 1/2-cup capacity lightly greased muffins tins. Brush the top with the extra oil, sprinkle with the extra salt and top with the rosemary and olives. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 45 min or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 160C. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden.
My friend Sonya's having her 22nd birthday today. Happy birthday to her!
This is the second time I made this cake. The boyfriend loved it last time and this time, he kept giving me this I'm-really-hurt-that-you-won't-let-me-eat-the-cake look. I didn't make any changes to the recipe this time, except for decorating it with three pieces of lime and some silver beads. This is such a simple birthday cake I know. But considering she's already got two (a strawberry cheesecake and a black forest cake), I know she'd appreciate my gift to her.
Full recipe here.
I miss the cherry blossom in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year. It's not spring here in Canberra. Although during the time the sunshine makes it feel like spring very much. There are dandelions all over the hill. There are even newborn ducklings following mom and dad around.
But it's afterall not spring here. You also see trees getting maroon and red and you can never ride in the early morning again because it's too cold. Canberra has the most beautiful autumn I've ever seen. But, just at this moment, I miss the cherry blossom in the Northern hemisphere.
So I made this cheesecake, with matcha filling and pink fondant sakura petals because I couldn't find any real petals to decorate the cake with. It's all very Asian. The tinge of matcha flavour, the cotton-light texture, the could've-been-feather-light-if-it's-real-sakura petals. So we each had a slice of this, on a sunny afternoon, with a cup of green tea. That's probably the best you can have when you're trying to pretend it's spring when it's truely autumn.
Matcha Cheesecake with Fondant Sakura
Inspired by Kyoko's Japanese Souffle Cheesecake
9" springform pan
200 g Oatmeal cookies
1/4 cup butter
7 ounces (200 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cornstarch (don't use flour)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tsp matcha powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 160 C. Grease the side of a 9" springform pan.
2. For the crust, finely chop the cookies. Add melted butter and blend until they are well combines. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9" springform pan and smooth it out. Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling.
3. For the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese with milk to soften.
4. Dissolve matcha powder in water and lemon juice mixture. Add half of the sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and matcha mixture to the cream cheese. Beat until smooth.
5. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until foamy. Gradually add remaining sugar and cream of tartar, beating on high speed until soft peaks form, about 8-10 minutes.
6. Gradually fold beaten egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, stirring gently.
7. Pour into cake pan and smooth the surface.
8. Place cake pan into a larger roasting pan and place in lower rack of oven. Pour enough water into the roasting pan to come half way up the side of the cake pan.
9. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle of the center comes out clean. If the surface becomes too dark while baking cover with a piece of tin foil, but be careful not to open the oven door until it has been in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
11. For the topping, whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and keep in the oven for the next hour with the oven door slightly open.
12. Refrigerate overnight.
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of mousse. Previous attempts of mousse have all gone bad. I particular don't like the idea of adding gelatin to the mousse. Somehow it always gives the mousse a grainy rather than silky taste. Plus, mousse always gives me the impression of being thick and heavy. Think dark chocolate mousse. With many many egg yolks. Gosh.
Luckily I came across this recipe. No gelatin. No egg yolks. Simplely by whisking cream and white chocolate together. Almost the perfect mousse for me. It says in the recipe in particular that do not whisk the cream and white chocolate misture for too long. Stop as soon as it's thick enough to be spreaded. Take extra care not to make it grainy! I can taste a bit graininess in my mousse in the end, which was so disappointing that I almost decided I'd never make mousse again. But then the boyfriend, after nibbling on my leftover white chocolate buttons, told me that the chocolate itselft tasted quite rough in the first place. So, again, a big reminder for myself: always buy the best-quality chocolate I can find in the supermarket.
The choice of pomegranate to decorate the cake was easy. I just happen to have one sitting in the pantry. I was a bit surprised to find them a couple of days ago in the fresh food section of the supermarket. I haven't had pomegranate for, seriously, ages. My family used to have two pomegranate trees in the garden. And when it was in season, I always enjoyed the picking and eating under the tree. I still remembered this because I have seen such photos of me standing under the tree, holding a fresh pomegranate, grinning like an idiot. Then we moved out of that house and then my memories of pomegranate faded.
One day the boyfriend, holding a paper like he always does, told me that research has shown that pomegranate can dramatically reduce the chance of getting cancer, prostate cancer in particular. The next thing I know, I was standing in the supermarket, picking the best looking pomegranate. Maybe they are that good. Little red gems, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. But for me, it is simply the taste of that sourness and sweetness that attracts me the most: a reminder of those carefree childhood days.
So I was experimenting on the cake flavour by adding a tablespoon of pomegranate juice into the cake batter. Result? I could barely taste anything remotely related to pomegranate. I was obviously vague about the idea of juice and essence. :p Anyways... the process of getting juice out of the seeds was really fun. Be careful though, do not wear whites while you are doing this, 'cos any spill (highly likely) will leave a red mark that looks like blood stain for sure. But, I'll definitely try to experiment with this again.
Overall, the cake was a hit. It was light and fluffy, both the sponge cake and the mousse. Definitely great combination.
White chocolate mousse cake with little red gems
Adapted from Gorgeous Cakes of Annie Bell
Mousse and Fruit
400 ml double cream
250g white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 pomegranate, taken seeds out
100 g plain flour
pinch of sea salt
6 large eggs
150 g castor sugar
1 tbsp pomegranate juice
Bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour half over the chocolate in a bowl, leave for 1-2 minutes to soften, stir until it is almost melted, then pour the rest over and stir until smooth. Leave to cool, then cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
To make the sponge, preheat the oven to 180C and butter two 23 cm sandwich or deep cake tin with removable bases. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk for about 8-10 minutes using an electric mixer until the mixture is almost white and mousse-like. Lightly fold in the flour in two goes. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, and give them a couple of sharp taps on the worktop to eliminate any large bubbles. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the sponge is light golden, springy to the touch, shrinking from the sides and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The cake on the lower shelf may need a few minutes longer. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them. Leave to cool, when the cake will sink a little.
Given the delicacy of the sponge, the cake is best assembled on the plate you want to serve it from. Loosen both sponges using a palette knife and put one on a plate. Using an electric mixer beat the mousse until it forms soft but firm peaks, taking care to stop whisking before it turns grainy. As long as it is thick enought to spread. It will firm up further on cooling. Spread one third of it over the surface of one sponge, sandwich with the second sponge and spread another third over the top. Use the remainder to coat the sides of the cake - you may need a small knife to do the bottom sponge. Clean the edges of the plate with kitchen paper. Chill the cake for a couple of hours for the mousse to set. If keeping it any longer than this, cover with clingfilm at this point.
Just before serving, scatter the pomegranate seeds over the top of the cake. Like a trifle, the cake itself should be served lightly chilled, but the fruit is nicest at room temperature.
I've never celebrated Easter before I came here. I got all my impression of Easter through many old American kid's movies. It mainly includes colourful eggs and cute little bunnies. I spent my first Easter here in Sydney, travelling with an American exchange students, hurrying to experience as much as we can of the city. We even went to the St Mary's on the Easter Sunday, and stayed for the whole mass. It was good to see the ray of sunshine coming through the stained glass windows but I'd have to say that's pretty much all I like about religious gatherings.
I spent the second Easter here hunting for chocolate eggs in the yard of my college. It was fun, during the game. But as soon as it finished, I felt even more lonely and left out. So what went back to my room and did my spectroscopy assignment.
This Easter, I've got this boyfriend who havr planned us a trip to Sydney. We're gonna stay at this apartment next to the Darling Harbour. We're gonna go to Bills for breakfast. And we're gonna go to the Easter Show, which - although sounds a bit silly - will be a lot of fun.
The boyfriend loves Easter. Hot cross buns the best. He started buying them for morning tea as soon as they showed up in the bakery's shelves a month before Easter. He was so excited to hear that I'll try baking them that he even told his folks. So when I was really getting ready to start this morning, he was smart enough to know to disappear for a couple of hours to give me some undisturbed baking time.
I have never baked bread before. The kind that you have to use some sort of yeast. When decided that I'm gonna do this, I really just wanted to see his happy face when he smells the fresh bread from the oven. It's such a simple and joyous moment in life.
The buns turned out alright. Not as bread-tasting as I thought. A bit denser. It could be that I didn't leave the dough to rise long enough, as I was in such a rush to see the end result. It was alright. The boyfriend liked it a lot though. But who knows if he was just saying this to comfort me. But then again, who cares. I've got a man who can appreciate my effort. What more can a gal ask for?
Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Australian Table April 2007
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice (I don't have it. So I mixed a tsp of cinnamon and about 1/8 tsp of nutmeg)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
1/2 cup sultanas or currants (I used sultana)
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup lukewarm milk, plus extra to glaze
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup self raising flour
2 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp gelatine
1. Sift plain flour, mixed spice, and salt into a bowl. Rub in butter using fingertips, just until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar, yeast and sultanas or currants.
2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Stir in warm warter, milk and egg, gradually incorporating flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Shape gently into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn over once so top of dough is greased.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Set aside to rise in a warm place for 1 - 1.5 hours, until double in size.
4. Lightly grease a baking tray, two 20 cm cake pans or a larger round cake pan. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat out to 3cm thick. Cut into 14 pieces and gently shape each into a ball, keeping tops smooth as you shape. Place on prepared tray or pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes, until double again.
5. Preheat oven to 200 C. Brush buns with extra milk or a beaten egg. Combine self-raising flour and water in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag, snip corner off and pipe crosses on buns.
6. Bake buns for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Meanwhile, to make sticky glaze, stir together warm water, sugar and gelatine, until sugar dissolves. Brush hot buns with glaze and stand near open, turn-off oven for a few minutes, until the glaze dries. Serve warm or toasted.
Was talking to a friend on the phone last night for over an hour. Talked about how we hated writing this immunology lab report that's due in three days, how we were frustrated by the vague standard set the examiners, and how we were not sure about the future. She asked me, are you gonna do your honours in chemistry? She's the only one who'd ever ask me that question, 'cos not many people know me that well to realise that I'm actually doing two majors, biology and chemistry. Although only of the few reasons that made me stick with chemistry is the friendly lecturers and the easy marks.
Her question really got me think. I've been predispose myself in the thought of doing biology honours so much that I even forgot I still have an alternative. Why can't I do my honours in chemistry. I've been enjoy it so much. I love drawing arrows of the moving electrons. I love the feeling of a chemistry lab full of clean glasswears. I've even done a research project in the research school and it turned out to be my best research experience ever. So yes, why can't I do my honours in chemistry?
The boyfriend's excited about the idea, 'cos it means if I ever decided to do a chemistry honours, most probably, I'll end up working in his lab. How good would that be.
That's what I kept thinking while I was making this cake. Is doing biology something I really like or something I thought I'd be really like? Can I take on the challenges in chemistry? What kind of job will I be doing after I graduate? Is this better for me? What exactly does the future hold for me?
In the end, the cake was ready, with a thick layer of beautiful coconut-flavoured icing, but I still hadn't got the answers to all those questions. I decided not to worry about it now. Afterall, problems will work themselves out and everthing will be just fine.
White Chocolate Coconut Citrus Cake
Adapted from Australian Women's Weekly March 2007
180g white chocolate, chopped coarsely (I used Nestlé White Melts)
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
3/4 cup (180ml) milk
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 tsp finely grated lime rind
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
140 ml can coconut cream
360g white chocolate, chopped finely
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp finely grated lime rind
- For the cake, preheat the oven to 160 C. Grease a deep 22cm cake tin; line base with baking paper.
- Combine butter, chocolate, sugar, milk and rinds in a medium saucepan; whisk over low heat until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool for 15 min.
- Gradually whisk in eggs and sifted flours; pour mixture into prepare cake tin. Bake for about 1 h 20 min or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake in tin.
- For the ganache, bring coconut cream to the boil in a small saucepan. Combine chocolate and rinds in a medium bowl. Add hot coconut cream; whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cover bowl; refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for about 30 min or until coconut ganache is spreadable.
- Spread cocnut ganache over top and sides of the cake.
P.S. The cake was just-the-right-amount moist and mild, not as sugary as I thought it would be (which is great!). The coconut ganache was a beauty. I've mentally classified it as one of the "keeper recipes". Thinking of making some more for cupcakes!