Monday, September 15, 2014

Give in and indulge, give me chocolate!

After a heady few weeks of continuous cholesteral-busting mooncakes celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival's full moon, a detox is in order.

> More summer treats    
- A summer carousel
Awesome ways to use beer
- Desserts for a hot day
- Color me happy, it's 2014!
- Ombre swirl cookies
- Sweet, sweet strawberries
- Summer day out on the golf course

But because I'm greedy and itching for some good chocolate, I decide to ditch good sense and take the path of indulgence instead.

'Indulgence' (noun): Liberal or tolerant treatment

Yep, that about sums it up.

So gingerly (guiltily... same thing) edging my gym shoes under the shoe cabinet, I reach for my valrhona chocolate and stealthily cart my Kitchenaid onto the kitchen table.

Let the indulgence begin!
> Another indulgent treat: Rich red velvet cake

This is truly a freeform cake. 

Embellish as much or as little as you like, go all out or cut back like a good girl.

All up to you.
All depending on how indulgent you want to be.

Start off by building the layers. 

Bake up some good chocolate cake (Martha Stewart's amazing recipe here), and while it's cooling off, get the frosting going.

> More chocolate goodness

I've been on the hunt for a good buttercream recipe for a while, and I think I may have finally found THE ONE from the amazing I Am Baker.

My issue with most buttercream recipes is the cloying sweetness it usually involves. 
I treasure my teeth - that's all I'm sayin.

But this recipe has the right balance of stiffness (for piping), and tastes absolutely heavenly. 
I mean, serious pillowy silken-ess.

The very first buttercream recipe that I actually enjoy eating by the spoonfuls, on its own. 

I'm in love.

Spend some time whipping up the egg whites (5-6 min) till they reach a fluffy almost-whipped-cream firmness. That's key.

I also prefer using the double broiler method for melting the chocolate, gives a more uniform heating and no lumps in your mixture. The microwave method works better when you're working with very small amounts, like in cake pops.

After that, freeform as you like assembling the cake.

I'm on an indulgence spree, so I nestle chocolate chips between chocolate frosting layers.

Time to ramp things up.

Enter stage left: Chocolate ganache. 

Any and everything tastes good with ganache. It's a synch to make, and you need just  3 basic ingredients which you'll probably have in the kitchen anyways. 

Let it cool to the right pouring consistency (just a couple of minutes after taking it off the stove), and work fairly quickly drizzling it down the sides of the cake before it starts solidifying. 

I find the best way to do this is to start pouring onto the middle of the cake and slowly edge your way out. 

Use a spatula to guide the ganache down the sides, tilt the cake as needed to encourage 'lava flow'. Just make sure you hold on tight to the cake, I've had a couple of butterfinger slip ups and the cake came crashing down arghhh.


And because we're on a rampage, we need more chocolate.

Enter stage right: Gold chocolate rocks that go round the cake border, chocolate buttercream from earlier that gets piped onto the top.

Each buttercream rosette is crowned with a chocolate malt ball, and I could have stopped right there and we'd have a perfectly scrumptious cake.

But we're in the mood for indulgence, right?

No room for unadorned cake real estate. 

More rosettes go on, more malt balls. 

Think our job here is done. 

I present 'Death by Chocolate': Chocolate cake with velvety chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips, covered with chocolate buttercream, sprinkled with gold chocolate rocks, drenched with dark chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate rosettes and malt balls.

Who says you ever need to stop?

*dust hands*

Friday, August 15, 2014

The colorful Robin Williams

Photo from Parade

It's not like we were friends, it's not like we met regularly for coffee. 
He didn't even know I existed. 

But I certainly knew Robin Williams; through his films. 

Death is never easy. 

And when it's a person who's familiar - even if it's remotely, through a movie screen - the sadness feels a little more personal.

Robin Williams struggled with many inner demons, but he single-handedly brought SO much joy and laughter to so many people who encountered him, on and off-screen.

I just caught Patch Adams again on the movie channel last night, and it definitely did justice bringing the real life Williams to reel life. 

In celebration of this wonderful man's colorful personality, today's post is about a rainbow balloon cake. 

Particularly since the tear-jerker Pixar animation UP, balloons have come to represent hope and positivity.

The skyful of balloons air-lifting Carl's house in search of Paradise Falls... forever etched in our minds as we futilely fought back tears for his missing Ellie...

There's a certain freedom in balloons as they flit and float over everyone and everything, going where no one else goes. 

Their haphazard abandonment carries such carefreeness, just what we're wishing for the iconic comedienne especially now. 

These little fondant figures with their gold shimmer, hold the key to a blue open sky filled with innumerate round bubbles of dreams, as colorful as Williams himself.

Surrounded with fluffy white clouds of royal icing and white fondant cut-outs, the future is always open - for you, for me, for cakes and desserts, for dear Mr Robin Williams. 

More summer colors:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A summer carousel

The thing about being so near the equator is that we're perpetually in the sun's path, getting the full-scale blazing love. 

Which is why we don't fully appreciate, or even comprehend summer.

We're too busy trying to stay cool and not inflict tropical humidity wetness to the next person to even think about the summer concept.
> How do you stay cool?
> Best uses of beer

Summer fun? 
More like eternal furnace.

But with all the crazy extreme weather happening around the world, I am very grateful for this somewhat normal summer here in Singapore/Hong Kong. 

So dressed in my best summer singlet and breeziest summer shorts, I'd like to invite you to celebrate the summer sun with a dappy day out to the summer fair carousel, with the happiest little birthday girl!

More summer colors:
> Color me happy!
> A very hungry caterpillar
> A purple green birthday
> Poppin' dots cake pops
> Yellow and green, colors of world cup

Don't believe Wilton products that say 'easy to use' in the instruction manual. You usually need an engineer's degree to assemble their showpieces, after which you'll need to spend considerable time decorating them.

This carousel top took several hours to put together, starting with orange and purple fondant panels.

Red, green, blue, pink and yellow accents are hand-piped with stiff royal icing, make sure you have enough time for everything to dry so that it's all nice and sturdy when you put it on the cake. 

A cheery pop of yellow crowning the cake's top tier, 
as the ponies get a-galloping after their royal icing dries off.

20 little fingers eagerly inching closer to the cake, as the finishing touches go up.

Rainbow cake (recipe here): A perennial favorite with kids, and perfect for the summer carousel party!

I love theme parties, the crazy OCD in me just gets such a kick out of 
matching colors and patterns. The birthday girl's mom did a fantastic 
job getting these cute little buckets for giveaways, every 
child was a SUPER happy child by the end of the party.

Happy birthday, beautiful Ellie!

More happy birthdays:
> A busy day at the construction site
> Dinosaur roarrrr
> Rabbity cake pops