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The Cool Beans – Tiramisu Macaron with Coffee Mascarpone Buttercream Filling




I’ve waited SO LONG to have this post about THE intimidating macarons. I don’t know about you, despite how lush and tempting macarons Look, I often find them too pricey to bring home as a student. So, I might as well learn to make them myself, right?   

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It’s no exaggeration to say that these tiramisu macarons are heavenly. Tell me, how can you resist it when you get a crispy coffee-flavoured almond meringue shell with a marshmallow interior, with some creamy rich and creamy mascarpone cheese buttercream layered between? The bitterness from the coffee justly tones down the macarons’ high level of sweetness that’d be considered a put off for certain people.  Have a bite and you’d be brought straight to Paris.

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I am quite a perfectionist when it comes to baking. This is a double-edged sword, because while it always pushes me to strive for the best result, sometimes I could just break down for a not-so-good-looking muffin. However, ironically,  here I am, ready to talk about the making of macarons –  something that constantly forces me to deal with imperfection.  Sometimes I’d pipe out macarons that aren’t the same shape and size on the baking sheet; sometimes the macaroon shells would crack when I was eagerly peeping through the oven door; sometimes the famous and essential “feet” simply wouldn’t show.  In other words, there are  tons of reasons for me to face frustration when making these little treats, or for me to doubt myself. But there’s one thing that I know for sure –  to master anything I have to start somewhere, and coming to terms with initial failures is the way to go because that’s how I figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.

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If I have to mention the most important thing that I have learnt about making macarons, it’d be it is not as hard as it seems, yet it has to be made with absolute precision. In order to create the smooth top shell layers and the little famous “feet”, you must rest the macaron for at least 30 mins before baking, and make sure the oven is kept at low temperature (i.e. 150C). Also, as many would agree, when compared with the traditional French meringue method, using the Italian meringue method produces more stable result. If you feel uncertain about reading the written instructions alone, do check out some tutorial videos with clear demonstration online (The Scran Line is  good source where you’d find lots of creative macarons recipes). I hope you will try it out for yourself! 😉

Ingredients:

Yields about 20 Macaroons (40 shells)

  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 80 g egg white, separated into two portions, 40g each 
  • 32.5 ml water 
  • 2 tsp instant coffee, melted in 1 tsp water

Filling:

  • 100 g softened butter
  • 100g mascarpone cheese
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp (5ml) coffee liqueur

Instructions :

Macaron shells:

  1. Place the icing sugar and almond flour in a food processor, and pulse for 30 seconds until well combined and fine in texture. Sift the flour-sugar mixture through a sieve into a mixing bowl, and pour in the first portion of egg whites. With a spatula, mix together until well combined. You can still be quite vigorous at this stage.
  2. Now you prepare the syrup. Put sugar and water in a small saucepan and do NOT stir. Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118C. When the syrup reaches 115C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg whites to soft peaks on a medium speed.
  3. When the sugar reaches 118C, pour it over the egg whites (pour the hot syrup on the side of the mixing bowl to avoid cooking the egg whites). Turn the mixer to high speed and continue beating for about 5-7 mins, until the meringue is cooled down to 50C and glossy stiff peaks have formed. In two additions, add the meringue over the almond mixture, and, using a spatula, gently fold in until combined and smooth. Work the batter until it flows in very thick ribbons when the spatula is lifted.
  4. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter to flatten the macarons and to remove air bubbles.
  5. Tap the tray on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes, until a skin forms on the shells.
  6. Preheat the oven to 150C, then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Out of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface. Let cool.

Coffee mascarpone buttercream filling:

  1. Add softened butter and mascarpone cheese to a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on a medium speed until smooth.
  2. Add icing sugar and coffee liqueur, continue beating for an extra minute until combined and smooth.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble:

 

  1. Place the mascarpone buttercream filling into a piping bag topped with a rose nozzle and pipe it on the inside of the macarons and sandwich them together.
  2. Serve macarons at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Yum




4 comments
Sunflower Love – Japanese Mini Cheese Tart with Milo Crust




Good news – there are finally some good tarts made in Charlotte’s kitchen!! I haven’t updated the blog for nearly two weeks, because 1) life outside was so eventful that my kitchen lost its allure to me temporarily (trust me it’s really big thing for someone like me who always prefers to stay home) and 2) I had been trying to figure out the best method of making these little japanese cheese tarts so that I can share this recipe with you guys.

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If you are a fan of Japanese desserts, cheese tart shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to you. People are crazy about it, but who can blame them? Taste wise, the tart marries sweet and salty brilliantly. Texture wise, the contrast between the buttery crispy crust and the lava-like cheesy filling probably creates the most unforgettable tart eating experience. I once tried it in Japan, and I simply couldn’t get over it ever since.

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My take on this tart overall is pretty straightforward, except that I added some milo powder into the crust for a little malty, chocolate twist. If you follow the instructions carefully, making the tart filling shouldn’t be hard either – it basically resembles making custard with the use of a double boiler, so that things can be cooked evenly and gently without cooking the egg. The cornflour and egg will thicken the mixture considerably so that you can easily brush egg yolk on it before baking.

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One thing I must remind you here is, that no matter how eager you want to see the result, please be patient to let tart crusts cool and dry up before filling them up. I was impatient before and the tart ended up tragically soggy (yeah you don’t want that). Thanks for reading and I hope you will make them soon!

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Make 10-12 mini tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cup (188g) all purpose flour (+ 2 tbsp for kneading)
  • 25g milo powder
  • 1/2 cup (115g) cold butter, cut into small cubes  
  • 1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • salt

For the filling:

  • 110g cream cheese
  • 110g mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp (28g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 50g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 1 egg
  • 12g cornstarch (corn flour) (sifted)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Extra egg yolk for brushing

Instructions:

For the filling:

  1. Using a double boiler, heat and melt cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, butter until smooth.
  2. Add sifted cornflour and icing sugar, and mix well.
  3. Add egg, and mix well.
  4. Stir in milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, and mix well.
  5. Let the custard cool for at least 15 mins before putting them into a piping bag tipped with a round nozzle. Chill it in the refrigerator for later use.

For the crust:

  1. Blend together flour, milo powder, sugar, salt, butter with a pastry cutter or a food processor, until the mixture becomes coarse meal with spea-size butter lumps.
  2. Add egg and vanilla, and stir until incorporated.  
  3. Put the mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Add the extra 2 tbsp flour onto the dough surface. Knead the dough for a few times until the dough is brought together and no longer sticky. Press it into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 mins until firm.
  4. Roll out dough into 3-4mm thick with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface and fit into tart pans. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Now, Preheat your oven to 375F/190C.
  6. Bake tart shell for 15-18 mins . Let them cool in the pan until they’re cool enough to handle. Take the shells out of the pan and let them cool completely on a wrack.
  7. Now turn up the heat of your oven to 446F/230C.

Assemble:

  1. Pipe custard into the cooled tart shells, brush egg yolk on the surface.
  2. Bake for 6 mins on the top shelf (to facilitate browning). If you prefer a runnier texture, try 4 or 5 mins. Enjoy!

Yum

1 comment
Because Why Not – Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Cake with Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream Frosting




This joyful looking cake came into existence for two reasons. First, apparently I loved making chocolate desserts too much and I must stay away from it (right?). Second, it doesn’t hurt to go for some classic sometimes. By classic, I mean the marriage of salty and sweet – Peanut Butter & Jelly – made famous by Americans. Of course, this combination shouldn’t be limited to a breakfast/snack sandwich; think about it, if it works brilliantly between two slices of bread, it surely can make a great cake too.

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I originally designed this layer cake for my friend’s birthday, and this is a new recipe modified mainly to improve the cake’s texture. My first PB&J cake was bit on the dry and tough side. Therefore, in my second attempt, I put in more eggs and oil, and I also decided to fold meringue into the cake batter at last instead of incorporating whole eggs. Such changes increased the volume of the cake with richer taste and finer structure.

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One indispensable component of this cake is the jam. The slightly tart strawberry jam with a citrus touch perfectly undercuts the richness of the buttercream. People who have been in my baking life would know that I always prefer making things from scratch, for I want to have great control of my baked goods (here comes the even greater satisfaction afterwards!). I couldn’t resist making my own strawberry jam for the cake (see note for instructions), but again, you can by all means purchase your favourite jam :). Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

(make one 6-inch cake)

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ cup (188g) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup (58g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) crunchy peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup (75g) granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites + 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream Frosting:

  • ¾ cup (150g) white granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tar tar
  • 1 ½ ( (345g) cups unsalted butter, softened  
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) creamy peanut butter

For the homemade strawberry jam (or ½ cup store bought jam)

  • 250g  strawberries
  • 4 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest of

Toppings:

  • Fresh strawberry slices
  • Extra peanut butter swiss buttercream

Instructions:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
  2. Line one 6 inch cake with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly sift in and combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. In another mixing bowl (make sure it’s oil free), add egg whites, icing sugar and cream of tar tar. Using an electric beater, beat on high speed until soft peak forms. Transfer the meringue into another bowl; set aside.  
  5. Using the same mixing bowl you used to make the meringue, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed for 4-5 mins until pale and fluffy. Add oil and continue beating for 2 min until incorporated.
  6. Add eggs yolks, one at a time, peanut butter and vanilla. Continue to beat at medium speed until well combined.
  7. Add the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture in three batches. Mix on low speed until no flour can be seen.
  8. Finally, gently fold the prepared meringue into the cake batter with a spatula. Mix gently with folding motion until just incorporated.
  9. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared cake tin. Tap the pans several times to break any air bubbles. Bake for 50 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in their pans, then take them out and put them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the peanut butter swiss buttercream.

For the Peanut butter Swiss Buttercream:

  1. Add  egg whites and sugar to an oil-free bowl. Using a double boiling method, gently heat the egg whites mixture up, while whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140F (60C).  The sugar should have completely dissolved at this stage.
  2. Add the hot egg white-sugar mixture to your electric mixer mixing bowl (oil-free). Whip on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels cool. This will take about 7-10 mins.
  3. Turn to medium-low speed, gradually add the softened butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until a silky smooth texture is reached. Add vanilla and peanut butter, and beat until well combined.
  4. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes with a round tip for later use.

Assembly:

  1. Level the cake layers by slicing the top curve of the cakes with a sharp knife to achieve a flat surface.
  2. Cut the cake into three even layers.
  3. Peel the parchment paper from the base of the cake layers and place one layer onto a plate or a cake board placed on a revolving cake stand (if you have it).
  4. Now we do the crumb coat first.
  5. Pipe a generous amount of frosting evenly on the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting carefully and top it a thin layer of strawberry jam.
  6. Top it with the second cake layer and repeat step 5, and top it with the third cake layer.
  7. Frosting the top and sides of the cakes. Get a nice, smooth coat of icing with a bench scraper or a spatula.
  8. Put the crumb-coated cake in the refrigerator for an hour to get the frosting nice and firm. Once the cake is chilled, frost your cake evenly with another layer of frosting using the same method. Get rid of all the peaks and blemishes in the process.
  9. Pipe dollops of cream onto the cake, put thin strawberry slices and spinkle cocoa powder as garnish if desired.
  10. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour.

Note:
Instructions for the homemade strawberry jam: 

  1. Prepare the strawberries by washing them and drying them with a kitchen towel. Remove their stems. Crush strawberries in batches or cut them into small cubes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 5-10 mins until the jam has reached 105C, then turn off the heat.
  3. Let the jam cool to room temperature. Put the jam into jars and refrigerate until ready for use.

Yum




8 comments
Golden Haze – Ferrero Rocher Cupcake with Nutella Swiss Buttercream Frosting

Today let’s forget about going on (or thinking of going on – got you) diet, and just indulge ourselves in these golden goodness. These ferrero hazelnut cupcakes are simply perfect for celebratory occasions, because they’re

  • visually appealing
  • Sophisticated
  • indulgent

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There’s a story behind this creation – my mum’s colleague tried my baked goods at work and asked me to prepare cupcakes for her wedding. As nervous as I usually am, I low-key panicked a little (okay actually A LOT) and have been wracking my brain to think about what I should make in order not to disappoint. Red Velvet? Carrot Cake? Oreo & Cream? As I started to get frustrated this idea suddenly popped up in my mind – thank God – and I decided to go along with it.

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Instead of conventional American buttercream, I opted for Swiss Buttercream for the cupcake frosting. Basically, making swiss buttercream requires an extra step of heating up egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, before you turn the egg white mixture into fluffy, glossy meringue. This method is highly sought-after, because 

1) it in general yields a more delicate & refined texture and taste
2) it does seem that the butter ratio in the frosting is significantly lowered

I followed the instructions given by Tessa on https://www.handletheheat.com/how-to-make-perfect-swiss-meringue-buttercream/with some minor adjustment. If you happen to encounter problems while making your swiss buttercream (it happens), do check this link out http://www.thebrewerandthebaker.com/archives/7640. It was a great help for me.

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For the cupcakes themselves, I tried to incorporate some hazelnut elements into the cake batter, namely hazelnut meals and roasted hazelnut chocolate. And I’d be condemned if I dared to miss using the mighty hazelnut spread, Nutella, for my swiss buttercream, right? To complement the rich nutty flavours and to yield a refreshing and balanced final taste, I added a little bit tangy orange zest as well. I have to say, they brought so much more character and vibrancy to the cupcakes! Psss, If your greedy self wants to bring the cupcake’s luxuriousness to whole new level, edible gold paint is the way to go. Spread joy and love with these beautiful treats, people 😉

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Ingredients:

(make 15-16 cupcakes)

Cupcake: 

  • 1 ½  cup (188g) all purpose flour
  • 100g hazelnut meal
  • ¼  cup (25g) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (115g) butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil ( I used canola oil)
  • ½ cup (113g) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60ml) coffee, room temperature (2 tsp instant coffee powder melted in 1/4 cup (60ml) of water)
  • ½ cup (120ml) whole milk
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla
  • 50g roasted hazelnut chocolate, melted (or you can use dark chocolate instead)
  • 1/2 orange, zest of

Nutella swiss buttercream:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 280g chopped unsalted butter, soft
  • 50g Nutella
  • pinch of salt

Topping:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Ferrero
  • toasted hazelnut, chopped

Instructions:

For the cupcake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175C) . Line pans with cupcake liners.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift and combine flour, hazelnut meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt. Set aside.  
  3. In another mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, oil, and sugar on medium high speed until creamy and smooth. This will take around 4-5 mins.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating for 1 min. Add coffee, milk and melted chocolate, vanilla, and cointreau. Continue beating for 30 secs.
  5. In 3 batches, pour the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture, and gently stir with a spatula until incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  6. Fill cupcake liners to nearly full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake’s centre comes out clean.

For the Nutella Swiss Buttercream:

  1. Add  egg whites and sugar to an oil-free bowl. Using a double boiling method, gently heat the egg whites mixture up, while whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140F (60C).  The sugar should have completely dissolved at this stage.
  2. Add the hot egg white-sugar mixture to your electric mixer mixing bowl (oil-free). Whip on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels cool. This will take about 7-10 mins.
  3. Turn to medium-low speed, gradually add the softened butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until a silky smooth texture is reached. Add Nutella and salt, and beat until well combined.
  4. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes with your favourite piping tip, and put a Ferrero Rocher, some chopped hazelnuts, and sprinkle sifted cocoa powder on top as decoration if desired.

Yum




5 comments
Coconut Rum Pecan Banana Bread

Present to you my beloved recipe of coconut rum pecan banana bread – a sneaky twist on a classic banana bread. This recipe results in a super moist, delicious banana bread that’s packed with coconut flavours, enhanced with a touch of rum aroma and a nutty crunch.

Coconut Rum Pecan Banana Bread

Do you guys have a favourite thing to make? People around me asked me that many times before and I usually couldn’t provide a definite answer. Yet, I guess there’s been an answer inside my heart all along – quick bread. Quick bread is any bread that can be made in a matter of minutes without necessarily using yeast in the process. In other words, they’re my kind of comfort food; quick and easy. It might be a bit embarrassing to say – at the earliest stage of my baking life, I didn’t have any baking tools except a loaf pan in my student dorm kitchen. To satisfy my hungry soul, what I did was keep exploring and trying out as many loaf recipes found online as possible. This crazy experiment resulted in many delicious loaves coming out of my oven (and inevitably some weight gain as well, but who cares? jk lol).

Coconut Rum Pecan Banana Bread

As you may already know, the key to amouth-watering banana bread is using OVERRIPE bananas. Yeap, if you don’t have them ready at home, you have to wait until all the banana skins have almost turned black and rotten. This is when the bananas have become mushy enough and, of course, the sweetest as most of the starch content is broken down into sugar. Trust me, it is totally worth the patience. Why wait? Provide your friends and family with the best banana experience by serving big slices of this banana bread as their breakfast or afternoon snack.

Coconut Rum Pecan Banana Bread

Coconut Rum Pecan Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½  tsp salt
  • ½  tsp cinnamon
  • ½  cup (100g) dark brown sugar
  • ½  cup (115g) butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • ¼  cup (60ml) coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) rum
  • 50g & 1 extra tbsp (for sprinkling) shredded coconut  
  • 80g pecan, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease it with butter or oil; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, sift in and combine well the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 3 mins until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating for 1 min.
  5. Add mashed bananas, coconut milk and rum, and continue beating until incorporated.
  6. Pour in the dry ingredients into the mixture in three batches, stirring continuously.
  7. Add in shredded coconut and pecans. Stir the batter gently with a spatula until everything is just incorporated.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle some shredded coconut on top. Tap the pan several times to break any air bubbles. Bake the cake for 50-55 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. When the cake is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan and let it continue to cool on the wire rack before making the glaze; this will take about 30 mins.
3 comments
Mint Chocolate Cupcake

Same as every other post, this starts with a declaration of love, and today it’s about my favourite dessert flavour combo – Mint Chocolate. I believe everyone has his/her own weakness in food choice; and no matter how hard I try to resist it, mint chocolate is beyond doubt mine. This is especially true when it comes to ice-cream flavour. Why? It is equal parts cool and sweet, and the best ones are so refreshing that they’d brighten up my day and clear my mind.

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Despite how mouthwatering and delicate they look, cupcakes are not something I’d usually order outside. Yet, as it’s one of my goals to try out as many kinds of desserts as possible on this blog of mine, I might as well give it a go, right? 

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From the base to the top of each cupcake, this recipe delivers great textural fun and flavour layering that I always strive for in baking. First, there’s an oreo biscuit added at the bottom as a nice, crunchy surprise. Thanks to the melted mint chocolate and coffee, the cupcake base is moist and rich, with just enough mint hit coming through. Finally, together with the mint-flavoured buttercream as well as the finishing touch of a cheeky little Andes mint chocolate chip, what you have here is a daydream literally packed with minty goodness. Hmm, too cool to be true. (:

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Ingredients (make 18 cupcakes):

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2  cup (188g) plain flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 18 Oreo biscuits
  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter,  softened
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil ( I used canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup (113g) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) coffee, room temperature (2 tsp instant coffee powder melted in 1/4 cup (60ml) of water)
  • 50g Andes chocolate mint, melted
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla

For the buttercream frosting: 

  • 2 cups (250g) icing  sugar
  • 1 1/2 stick (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp (30m1) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) peppermint extract
  • green food coloring
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 18  Andes chocolate mints

Instructions:

For the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175C) . Line pans with cupcake liners.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift and combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt. Set aside.  
  3. In another mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, oil, and sugar on medium high speed until creamy and smooth. This will take around 4-5 mins.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating for 1 min. Add coffee, milk and melted mint chocolate, and continue beating for 30 secs.
  5. In 3 batches, pour the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture, and gently stir with a spatula until just incorporated. Do NOT overmix.
  6. Fill cupcake liners to nearly full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake’s centre comes out clean.

For the buttercream frosting:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar using a tablespoon, and beat until smooth.
  3. Finally, add milk, vanilla, mint extract, food coloring, and salt, and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 30 mins before piping.
  5. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes with your favourite piping tip, and put an Andes chocolate mint on top as decoration if desired.

Yum




4 comments
Hopeless Romantic – Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting




Red Velvet Cake – always alluring by how romantic and gorgeous it looks. This is a recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction; her method of separating the eggs into yorks and whites in the process rendered the cake extra light and fluffy. Also, given that it’s my second time making it, I’m proud to say that I’ve adjusted the recipe to get the texture, flavour, and sweetness just right to my taste. My apologies, but how can I miss this chance to declare, that it’s indeed a BLOODY good cake :p?

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You are the one who’s in control of how red the cake should appear: rose, crimson, or even blood red. Start with a few drops of coloring and eyeball it as you go. Just be extra careful when handling with food coloring; otherwise, you may create a domestic crime scene and end up spending a day trying to clean your kitchen (which i may or may not have done it myself).

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In fact , I had difficulties trying to pinpoint what a red velvet cake tasted like. In the most basic terms, its sponge cake’s flavour profile contains three major components, namely vanilla, chocolate, and buttermilk, working with and complementing one another. Essentially, together with the rich cream cheese frosting, a red velvet cake is a light chocolate cake with a little citrus kick. Still a bit confused? Well, I guess the only way to find that out is to try it out yourself, and win the heart of your special someone.

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Ingredients:

Cake

Dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups (360g) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp (22g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature2
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2  tbsp (30ml) vanilla extract
  • liquid or gel red food coloring
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, room temperature/ or 1 cup (240ml) whole milk + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 500g full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature5
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) whole milk
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
  2. Line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly sift in and combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt (i.e. everything listed under dry ingredients).
  4. In another mixing bowl, using an electric beater, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed for 4-5 mins until pale and fluffy. Add oil and continue beating for 2 min until incorporated.
  5. Add eggs yolks, one at a time, and beat at medium speed until well combined. Meanwhile, use a hand whisk to vigorous beat egg whites until floamy and thick; set aside.
  6. Add buttermilk (or milk + lemon juice) and vanilla extract to thin out the mixture.
  7. Add the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture in three batches. Stir gently with a spatula to combine everything until no flour can be seen. Avoid over-mixing.
  8. Finally, gently fold the prepared egg whites into the cake batter with a spatula.
  9. Pour the mixture evenly into the two prepared cake tins. Tap the pans several times to break any air bubbles. Bake for 45 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in their pans, then take them out and put them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter (at room temperature) at medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar using a tablespoon, and beat until smooth.
  3. Add milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 1 hour to get firm so as to hold its shape while you work on it later.

Assembly:

  1. Level the cake layers by slicing the top curve of the cakes with a sharp knife to achieve a flat surface (reserve and crumble the unwanted cake parts into small pieces for decoration).
  2. Peel the parchment paper from the base of the cake layers and place one layer onto a plate or a cake board placed on a revolving cake stand (if you have it).
  3. Now we do the crumb coat first.
  4. Put a generous amount of frosting on the middle of the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting carefully and top it with the second cake layer. Frosting the top and sides of the cakes. Get a nice, smooth coat of icing with a bench scraper or a spatula.
  5. Put the crumb-coated cake in the refrigerator for an hour to get the frosting nice and firm. Once the cake is chilled, frost your cake evenly with another layer of frosting using the same method. Get rid of all the peaks and blemishes in the process.
  6. Transfer the remaining cream cheese frosting into a pastry bag tipped with a tip that you prefer. Pipe dollops of cream onto the cake, sprinkle cake crumbles, stick thin strawberry slices to the side as garnish if desired.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Enjoy!




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Back to Basics – Bakery-Style Almond Butter Coconut Soft Chewy Cookies

It feels SUPERB to be back in my baking mood after surviving an emotionally intense week. Lots of things happened recently; probably too many. People always say baking helps elevate our mood, but I realise I can only bake well when feeling fully energised – does it make sense? Anyhow, let’s just focus on something fairly simple to make, yet truly satisfying to enjoy today, shall we?

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In fact, I’ve had this cookie recipe – success-guaranteed – in store for a while, but I just didn’t have the right opportunity to share it with you until now. It’s my all-time comfort recipe as it simply turns out perfect every. single. time. I used peanut butter the first time I made it (which was marvellous), and I substituted almond butter this time as I still got a whole jar of waiting to be gulped down at home.

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Similar to the brookies I previously shared in August, these cookies are soft, chewy, and sweet, yet their slightly crispy outer layer can now better withstand the passage of time. Yeap, we’re talking about one of those insanely tempting over-sized cookies seducing you through those timeless, nostalgic bakery windows. What’s the secret? A right amount of brown sugar and don’t overbake them. Pssss, If you want them to be extra evil (and make all your friends jealous of your little kitchen triumph), don’t hesitate to add in dark chocolate chips so that the cookies would literally melt in your mouth.

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Ingredients:

Make 18 largecookies 

  • 1 1/2 cup (188g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter
  • 1/3 cup (75g) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 60g almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (100g) almond, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
  2. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly sift in and combine flour, baking soda, and salt. These are your dry ingredients.
  3. In another mixing bowl, using an electric beater, beat white sugar, brown sugar, and butter on medium high speed for 4-5 mins until pale and creamy.
  4. Add egg, vanilla and almond butter to the mixture, and continue to beat at medium speed until well mixed. 
  5. Slowly add the prepared dry ingredients. Beat for another 1-2 mins until well incorporated.
  6. Finally, with a spatula, gently stir in and mix well chopped almonds and desiccated coconut.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Roll the dough into balls, and space each one about 2-inches apart on the sheet to allow space for spreading. Flatten the dough a bit with a spoon or your palm.
  9. Bake for 12 mins (don’t overbake). Remove from the oven and let cool.
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A Taste of Heaven @Janice Wong Dessert Bar

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t update my blog much the past three weeks. The reason being a rainy getaway in Tokyo. The next thing you might notice is that this post is deliberately poetic. It can’t be helped – I felt obligated to express my feelings here after my visit to Janice Wong Dessert Bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Truth be told, I miss being a university student studying English and films a bit too much at the moment.

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Janice Wong, my idol, so bold, so brave, so adventurous, for her my admiration is like a tidal wave – unstoppable and recurring. A renowned Singaporean pastry chef, forever changing and challenging people’s perception of food. What she offers to the world is an edible form of art; she artfully puts forward a performance full of surprises, one that simultaneously stuns and mesmerises her “audience” in the most devilish ways. That said, looking through her dessert menu was eye-opening enough, for every dessert seemed so heavenly and well-designed that I couldn’t wait to devour all of them.

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After some intense struggles, I decided to order Chocolate H2O (please tell me who doesn’t find chocolate irresistible). One of the main factors of the unique eating experience here is that you, as the curious customers, get to witness/engage in the dessert-making process – I could see the focus and passion in the staff’s eyes when they brought the desserts into life, attending to every single detail of the final dish. As I watched, my hungry soul was already aching to have a taste.

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Chocolate H2O (Bitter chocolate water mousse/Salted caramel/ Yuzu kalamansi gel/ Yuzu sorbe) definitely made its presence felt through its visual aesthetics. One thing I can’t resist about Janice Wong’s dessert is how every single element of the dish maneuvers its ways into creating some sheer magic. The bitterness of the chocolate was effectively elevated by the salted caramel, but then balanced by the slightly sour yuzu components. Such a fine combination of flavours made every bite an absolute pleasure – it instantly filled my heart with happiness, as if some sort of ecstasy flew through my blood.

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To end this post, I am going to put up Janice Wong’s philosophy about her approach to food as a timely reminder for myself.

“Welcome to our artistic gastronomic world of flawless imperfection and flawed perfection.

It is not to complex. Open your mind as I have and you will, too, see, taste and feel differently.

These seemingly disparate sources of inspiration and the creation that stem from them are all threaded by a commonality a pursuit for perfection in imperfection, and an appreciation of imperfection in perfection.”

Note to self:

  • Be fearless and resilient, because
  • as long as you know what you’re aiming at, the sky is the limit to how far you should go to achieve it.
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Close up of frosting on Almond Butter Carrot Cake

So yeah, I finally decided to jump on the fall bandwagon, and re-made one of my fav cakes of all time – CARROT CAKE! This cake was dearly loved by many friends of mine when I made it for the first time a while back. Why? Well, flavour aside, maybe they were all fooled by how healthy it sounds. 😉

Close up of frosting on Almond Butter Carrot Cake

I used almonds in three different ways in my version – raw almond, almond milk and most important the mighty almond butter – giving a naughty twist to the classic carrot cake recipe. This particularly nutty take gives the whole cake a richer flavour and accentuates how moist a mouth-watering carrot cake should be. In other words, this is where my nut obsession and the essential carrot cake meet. 

Almond Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Nevertheless, the key elements of an authentic carrot cake are still present and very potent. You get all the fresh shredded carrots making the cake unbelievably moist, not to mention that the spice blend, especially cinnamon, will warm up your palette right away. While the lower sugar take on the iconic cream cheese frosting will round everything out with just the right amount of added sweetness. As you can see, I tried to keep the frosting as light and thin as possible to create a “naked” style. 

Slice of Almond Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

P.S. If you want to save the fuss, feel feel to buy store-bought almond butter if they’re readily available in your country. But I think nothing beats a homemade one 🙂

Nuts and frosting on Almond Butter Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

Dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil, I used canola oil
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) homemade almond butter *see notes 
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 2 ½  cups (325g) finely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup (105g) almond, chopped

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 115g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 330g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 270g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
  2. Line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly sift in and combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt (i.e. everything listed under dry ingredients).
  4. In another mixing bowl, using an electric beater, beat sugar, oil, and almond butter at  medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, to the mixture, and continue to beat at medium speed until well incorporated. Add almond milk and vanilla extract to thin out the mixture. Finally, gently stir in grated carrots and almonds.
  5. Add the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture in three batches. Stir gently with a spatula to combine everything until no flour can be seen. Avoid over-mixing.
  6. Pour the mixture evenly into the two prepared cake tins. Tap the pans several times to break any air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in their pans, then take them out and put them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter (at room temperature) at medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar using a tablespoon, and beat until smooth.
  3. Add almond milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 1 hour to get firm so as to hold its shape while you work on it later.

Assembly:

  1. Level the cake layers by slicing the top curve of the cakes with a sharp knife to achieve a flat surface.
  2. Peel the parchment paper from the base of the cake layers and place one layer onto a plate or a cake board placed on a revolving cake stand (if you have it).
  3. Now we do the crumb coat first.
  4. Put a generous amount of frosting on the middle of the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting carefully and top it with the second cake layer. Frosting the top and sides of the cakes. Get a nice, smooth coat of icing with a bench scraper or a spatula.
  5. Put the crumb-coated cake in the refrigerator for an hour to get the frosting nice and firm. Once the cake is chilled (the frosting should be dry upon touching), frost your cake evenly with another layer of frosting using the same method. Get rid of all the peaks and blemishes in the process.
  6. Transfer the remaining cream cheese frosting into a pastry bag tipped with a simple round tip. Pipe dollops of cream onto the cake, sprinkle ground cinnamon and a few almond pieces as garnish if desired.
  7. Refrigerate to let the cake set for at least 1 hour or overnight. Enjoy!

 

Notes (Instructions for home-made almond butter):

  • 200g almond
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Roast 200g raw almond in an oven at 350F (175C) for 10 mins. Blend or process the roasted almond until completely smooth and creamy. Add honey, cinnamon and salt, and process until well combined.

 

 

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