Special birthday cakes…..
In 2010, my son visited Australia on his own with his grandparents. He had a great time there, hanging out with his cousins, helping out at the warehouse where my sister and my brother had import and export businesses.
When he returned home, he handed me a magazine, and said, mom - present for you. MasterChef Magazine July 2010 - featuring Adriano Zumbo's Macaron Tower. And make this…..pointing at the cover page of the cover photo. Macaron Tower. Turned the page to the recipe and the method, I thought, this was too difficult. I said to my son. Ok, make this for your birthday.
2012, my son was turning 13. I recalled that I promised him a Macaron Cake. In search of an easy recipe, I went online, and 2-3 weeks before his birthday, attempted an online recipe. It turned out no good at all. I decided to follow exactly the way it was instructed in the magazine. Using my little notebook, I decided to make a chocolate cake as the triangular tower, and stick the macaron with a toothpick onto the cake.
Each of the macaron puff up nicely, smooth surface and I just make a very simple chocolate filling. The assembling was a challenge, I was never good at art, and trying to make it look beautiful, elegant is just not me. Tried my best to have it stuck to the chocolate cake without each of the macaron being coated with chocolate finger prints, I managed to tower up.
The kids had a great time, and when I brought it out, kids were impressed and they were snatching up the macarons and gobbling up the chocolate cake. I was totally pleased with it.
2013 came. My son and I were just surfing the net. In Singapore, there was a craze over Lady M's Mille Crepe that just opened shop in Singapore. I was totally curious. Isn't crepe easy to make? Why are these people paying so much for such cakes? So, here I am, early in the year, told my son, my challenge this year for your birthday cake is Mille Crepe - Ok? He said ok.
And there I was couple of weeks before his birthday, thinking how am I going to make the crepe without a flat pan. I went online and started to search for the recipe as well as a pan that I can make think layer of crepe. I was lucky to find an electric one. Again, 2 weeks before, I tried one of the recipe, and tried to learn how to use the pan. Obviously, it took me a while to master the flipping, the evenness of the wet dough on the pan.
I used a mix of 2 recipes from online: 20 Layer Crepe Cake by Ellen Easton 2009 and Tasting Table - Best Pastry Chefs - Mille Crepe Tiramisu. Making the crepe was easy enough after the first few attempts. I was trying to make the tiramisu filling and I think I over beat the mascarpone cheese, it turned watery. I just couldn't use it. Had to run out to purchase new ones to make them. Luckily I was in time. I even had time to make wordings from chocolate. I probably made 30 layers of crepe tightly packed.
This time we only invited 2 of the other boys over to celebrate with him. The Italian friend that is so fussy with food had like 2 extra servings, I guess the Tiramisu taste suits him well. Again, assembling is not my strength, but the overall cake was absolutely tasty.
November 2013, my husband's birthday. I decided to make a traditional Blackforest Cake. It's just one of those times when I just like things simple, back to basic, no nonsense type of cake. I had a collection of Cordon Bleu cookbooks and one of them featuring Cakes. This is one book that I used quite frequently.
The cake turned out fluffily, moist, and we don't like lots of cream, so, I half the cream to be used. I guess if its for selling, I would have used more cream. I just love my dark chocolates that I had used to cover the whole cake. Not a cake to be kept long, best to have it on the day it was made.
Its 2014, half the year has gone by, our main celebrations are usually end of the year, so what challenges should I give myself?
Adapted from Daniel Leader's recipe. Looks easy but not so easy...
Adapted from Hot Favourites Kueh published by e-lifestyle.
I finally made Kueh Bangkit that tasted like how my mom made it. The strong taste of coconut melts in your mouth, not too sweet, but sweet enough from the coconut.
I've experimented before and those turned out to be hard, and you literally have to chew, and there's just not enough coconut taste. It's been difficult to find fresh coconut milk, and I've just resorted to using packet ones. Checked the ingredients, the highest % of coconut milk is 90%, and 10% water. And this cookie just don't like water at all.
I finally called mom, and her 2 advices were:
1. Stir fry tapioca flour till fluffy
2. If use coconut milk from packet, boil with pandan leave.
Alright, mom's advice are usually good, but it does requires some common sense to really fully appreciate what she is saying. Fluffy, what does that mean? Boil the coconut milk - for how long? Following these advice, looking at what other bakers did on the internet, and working through my own sense, feel, smell, whatever senses that I can use, here's what I did:
500g Tapioca Starch
2 Egg Yolks
1 Egg White
85ml Thick Coconut milk (and a little more) - used Kara Coconut Milk - Classic
10 pieces Pandan leave
1. Heat up pan in small fire, put 5 pieces of pandan leave (tied in knot)) and let fry for a few minutes till the fragrant of pandan is in the pan. I fry the pandan leave till dry. Add Tapioca Flour and fry. This took about 45 - 60 minutes. The Tapioca flour became much lighter, and easily fly out of the pan. So, be careful when stirring. Leave to cool. Book advised to leave cool up to 2-3 days. Mom said at least 1 day. I left it to cool for about 10 hours (it was cold in Shanghai, 5 degrees celsius in kitchen)
2. Next, heat up coconut milk (I used the full packet of 400 ml) with 5 pieces of pandan leave (tied in knot), and let boil. Boil for 30 minutes in slow fire. The milk should thicken. Stir well to prevent from sticking. Once you see that it is thick, trickles down slowly, that will do. It will become half about 200 ml. The smell of the coconut milk will also be strong, floods the kitchen. leave to cool. Discard the pandan leave after cooled.
3. Beat eggs together first till it turns whiter and lighter, add sugar and whip till foamy. It will also thicken. Using an electric whip, it took me about 20 minutes to get it foamy and thick.
4, Add 85 ml coconut milk to the eggs & sugar, whip till well mixed.
5. Sift the cooled tapioca starch to the mixture (keep a portion of the tapioca starch aside to cloud the biscuit cutter). Sieve the flour properly as there will be pandan leaves that might have broken off. Slowly stir and fold the mixture. Bring out and knead the dough.
6. The dough seems a little hard at first, add some coconut milk, 1 tsp at a time. and knead. what I did was to knead portion by portion of the dough, add coconut milk when needed if the dough is too dry.
7. Roll the dough at 0.3cm, use a biscuit cutter. ensure that you flour well before using. The dough easily breaks, so, handle with care, gently.
8. Place on lined baking tray, bake at 160 degrees celsius for 15 minutes. Put on the middle tray of oven.
9. Leave completely cool before removing from baking tray and store in air tight containers.
The learnings here is patience, let the tapioca flour cool completely. spend time to stir fry the tapioca flour.
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