17 August 2019

Honeycomb Lemon Almond Cake

When it comes to cake decorating, I do not use too many piping bags fitted with open-star piping tips, I rarely use sprinkles (unless its inside the cake layers for funfetti) to decorate, and I definitely do not have hands that are steady enough to execute insanely straight striped buttercream for the sides of a cake. That does not mean I do not have an appreciation for that type of cake decorating. In fact, I really admire bakers like Rachel and Brittany, who always have the cleanest edges on a cake, the most beautiful rosettes of buttercream, and the most perfectly placed sprinkles. The type of cake decorating I am most comfortable with is when you give me a big bowl of vanilla buttercream and a small bouquet of seasonal fresh flowers. If I am feeling fancy, I might ask you for some gold leaf. 

From time to time, I do like to challenge myself and use decorating techniques that I am not too familiar with. Recently, Food Network Canada asked me if I could make a cake for their website that highlights the technique of using bubble wrap to create chocolate honeycomb. The pitch was for a cake that was entirely covered in honeycombed chocolate but I decided that little cut outs of honeycomb chocolate would be much easier (and less intimidating!) for any home baker. I got these cute hexagon cookie cutters for the chocolate to play on the honeycomb theme. Alternatively, you could just break the chocolate into shards and place those on the sides the top of the cake. I used the leftover chocolate from the honeycomb to make little chocolate bees for the top of the cake. This technique can be applied to any cake of your choice but is especially fitting for a tender lemon almond cake with honey cream cheese frosting. Click here to find the full recipe and tutorial!

Some additional cake decorating inspo in case you need some:

Floral naked cakes:

Fun cakes:

Happy baking!

14 August 2019

Salted Egg Yolk Crystal Sago Cakes

Growing up, my mom and I would visit the same small Chinese mall every Friday night. The mall was a bit rundown and the there were more closed stores than ones open for business but that did not stop us from developing this weekly ritual because it had the best food court. Every stall specialized in a different type of Chinese cuisine (minus the one random bento box stall at one corner of the food court) and everything tasted more homemade than similar to fast food. My mom’s go-to was a stall that specialized in soy-marinated dishes but that was not what she ordered. She knew on the right hand side of the display case of marinated meats, they would have freshly pan-fried whole fish and because she was a regular, they would always give her two of them for the price of one. My order changed weekly but you could always count on my order being some sort of noodle dish. What made our Friday night food court tradition a real tradition was that we would always end our food court date by ordering a box of six mini crystal sago cakes filled with custard or red bean from a Taiwanese dessert stall. The translucent “cakes” were more of a mochi consistency than what you would normally associate with cake. You can see each individual sago pearl that makes up the cake and it’s chewy and sticky nature is what made me love them.

We ordered them so much that my mom and I decided to make some at home to satisfy the craving during the weeks we could not make it to the dessert stall. Crystal sago cakes are extremely simple, and I am not making that statement as someone who makes desserts all the time. I am making that statement as the 12 year old self that I was when I started making them. You only need few ingredients: sago pearls, sugar, oil, and a filling of choice. Sometimes I would omit the filling entirely and add a touch more sugar to the sago.

Today I’m sharing the recipe for a standard crystal sago cake but also a recipe for a sweet-and-salty salted egg yolk filling. Salted egg yolk custard is my absolutely favourite filling for any Chinese dessert. Cue the salted egg yolk steamed buns at dim sum, these salted egg yolk mochi balls, and these salted egg yolk cream puffs. I recommend that you freeze the filling so that it can be easily scooped into the sago pearl batter. This will create a centre of liquid salted egg yolk custard instead of having it seep everywhere throughout the cake, though the latter is just as tasty (I tried both ways). I also like to keep any extra filling to serve on the side because it is oh so good.

Salted Egg Yolk Crystal Sago Cakes
Yields 6 - 8 crystal sago cakes

Crystal Sago Cake
1/2 cup uncooked sago pearls
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Salted Egg Yolk Filling
4 cooked salted duck egg yolks
5 tablespoons icing sugar (more or less depending on preference)
2 teaspoons heavy cream
Measure half a cup of dried sago pearls and soak them in boiling water for one hour, stirring the pearls occasionally so that they do not clump together.

While the pearls are soaking, make the salted egg yolk filling. If using whole salted duck eggs, separate the yolk from the egg white and place the yolks into a small bowl. Add powdered sugar and cream into the bowl and mix well so that the mixture is smooth. If any clumps remain, put the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Place mixture in the freezer so that it firms up and is easy to scoop into the sago cakes.

After an hour, pearls should be somewhat translucent but still have a white centre. Pour the pearls through a fine-mesh strainer to drain the your water.

Pour the pearls into a bowl and mix with half tablespoon of oil and four tablespoons of sugar.

Using a spoon, spoon pearls into the cavity of a muffin cup/tin so that the cavity is 1/3 full. Spoon into 1-2 teaspoons of the salted egg yolk mixture. The filling is easier to work with the firmer it is. Cover the filling with more pearls until the cavity is 2/3 full. The sago cakes will not expand too much when steaming even if you over fill it.

Over medium heat, steam the sago cakes for 15 minutes until the pearls are see through and no white centres in the pearls remain.

Let sago cakes cook 15 minutes before removing from muffin tin. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to serve any additional salted egg yolk filling on the side!

Happy baking!

27 July 2019

Almond Apricot Battenberg Cake ( x Icing on the Cake Book!)

battenberg cake with marzipan

Blogging can sometimes feel isolating — you spend a majority of your day measuring flour, waiting for butter to soften, picking up the sprinkles that missed the mixing bowl, editing photos, and writing up the blog post. It can be monotonous and it sometimes make you question why you picked up baking and blogging as a hobby or career because it can be so stressful. But sometimes you come across the most beautiful photo of a cake or a tray of cookies and it inspires the hell out of you. And sometimes you get to meet the wonderfully talented person behind that photo over coffee (or mango bingsoo) and you get to talk about the joys and lament together over this weird little blogging world you are both part of.

Somehow the stars aligned and a few blogging friends coincidentally book trips to Vancouver for the same weekend. Erin flew in from New York, Michelle came from Portland, and Tessa, Lyndsay, Steph, and I all ventured our from our little corner of Vancouver. It was my first time meeting Erin in person but I have met Michelle a few years back when she lived in San Francisco. She introduced me to the wonderful carby situation of the Blue Bottle li├Ęge waffle and told me I had to order the lemon tart tart from Tartine Bakery, which is now one of my favourite pastries. We all met at Phnom Penh for dinner, where Michelle found the love of her life (PP's chicken wings), and shared the largest bowl of mango bingsoo and hot-off-the-griddle (?) taiyakis. It is fun moments like these that make blogging seem less like a lonely hobby.

Tessa is one of the bloggers I have known for the longest. I met Tessa before her first cookbook Layered was released, when the photos she had been taking for her first book were still all pinned up on her wall. Even long before Tessa released her book, I have been following her blog. To this day, Tessa's butter cake recipe is still one of my favourite recipes to make. Every single one of her recipes that I have made (and I have made a ton) have been absolutely perfect.

Tessa's second book, Icing on the Cake, dives deeper into cake decorating and is full of tips and detailed tutorials. I am always drawn to making layer cakes but with all the helpful step-by-step photos, I decided to make a type of cake I have never made before. The battenberg cake has always been something I have wanted to make but the idea of having to wrap the entire cake log with marzipan has always scared me a bit. Tessa's battenberg cake is an ode to the classic, with two differently coloured almond cake logs arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Apricot jam acts as the 'glue' for the cake logs and marzipan layer. The cake itself is extremely flavourful and one of those recipes that I would make again and again even if it were not to take the form of a battenberg cake.

Congratulations again on your new book, Tessa. Like Layered, this book has become one of my favourite cookbooks on my shelf. Thanks for always sharing the best recipes and for the encouraging text messages you send my way when work/blog/things are a bit tough.

PS PS PS. find my hands on page 206 and 210!

Almond Apricot Battenberg Cake
Yields one loaf that serves 6 - 8

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
2 tablespoons whole milk
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Pink gel food colouring
1/2 cup apricot jam
7 ounces marzipan

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 8 bu 4 inch loaf pans with parchment paper. 

Sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salted into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and almond flour, Stir to combine. Add the pieces of butter and mix on medium speed until evenly distributed. Stream in the milk and mxi until all the dry ingredients are moistened, about one minute. Step the mixer and scrape down on the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Turn the mixer to medium and beat for about one minute.

Divide the batter into two medium bowls. Tint half of the batter with the pink gel food colouring. Pour the plain and pink batter into the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 25 - 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pans. Remove the parchment.

To create the checkerboard cake pattern, trim each cake into two 3/4 by 3/4 by 8 inch blocks to make four blocks total. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on one side of each pink cake blocks and sandwich together with one of the plain cake blocks. Spread the top of one pair of the cake blocks with more jam and place second pair of cake blocks on top making sure the colours from a checkerboard pattern.

Roll out the marzipan into an 8 1/2 inch square. Spread a thin layer of jam on one of the long sides of the checkerboard cake and place it jam-side down on one edge of the marzipan. Spread a thin layer of jam on the remaining long edges of the cake and carefully roll up the cake in the marzipan. Press gently to seal and trim the marzipan and cake as needed. 

To serve, slice into 1-inch thick pieces with a serrated knife.

Happy baking!

15 June 2019

Flamingo Pink Velvet Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

I actually made this cake last summer, when last year’s rhubarb was in season and strawberries were in abundance at the farmers markets. I made the cake toward the end of rhubarb season and was not quick enough to get my act together and write a full blog post for the cake. So here we are, 11 months later. This cake consists of layers of vanilla cake with freeze-dried strawberry powder folded in the batter for its pink colour, the best strawberry rhubarb compote (and I mean THE best), and vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. Because I made you wait a whole year for this, I am going to skip all the chit chat and get right to the recipe. Even if you do not make the cake, make the compote. I always have a big batch handy of it in my fridge. The compote is just as amazing on top of plain yogurt, on toast, or on oatmeal. I recently put a generous dollop of it inside homemade pop tarts and it was the perfect picnic treat.
If you need any other cute-birds-on-the-side-of-a-cake inspo, this swan cake is for youuuuuu!

Flamingo Pink Velvet Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Yields one three-layer 6-inch cake

Pink Velvet Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
3 egg yolks
3 cups minus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoon sour cream 
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons freeze-dried strawberry powder 

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease three 6-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients together. Set aside.

In a measuring cup, combine milk and sour cream. Set aside.

With a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. On medium speed, beat butter with sugar and vanilla until the mixture is fluffy and pale in colour.

Add eggs and eggs yolks, one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next.

Add in half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture.  Mix on low until just incorporated.

Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix until just combined.

Gently fold in freeze-dried strawberry powder. Do not mix fully to achieve pink marbling effect.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 34 - 36 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Cool cakes on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before remove cakes from pans to cool completely.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
1 cup (100g) rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
1 cup (145g) strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

When the butter has melted, add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes.

Gently stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and juices become thick (10 to 15 minutes).

Remove from heat and let compote cool.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 tablespoom vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and granulated sugar and gently whisk by hand.

Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl. 

While stirring the mixture, heat the egg white mixture the sugar has dissolved.

Once all the sugar gas dissolved, return the bowl to the stand mixer.  

With the whisk attachment on the mixer, beat the mixture on high speed for about 7 - 8 minutes.  This will form a shiny, medium-stiff meringue. At this point, the meringue should be close to room temperature.

With the paddle attachment on the mixer and the speed of the mixer set to low, begin adding in the butter a couple cubes at a time.  When the previous addition of butter has been incorporated, add a few more cubes. Repeat until all the butter has been incorporated.

Once the butter has been mixed in, the vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until silky smooth. 

Happy baking!


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