Thursday, 28 July 2011

Devil's food cake turned into brownies

Chocolate lovers should never miss the devil's food cake. Devil’s food cake as compared with typical chocolate cakes is more moist and airy but equally, or if not, more chocolate-y! The difference lies in using cocoa powder instead of chocolate.

Devil’s food cake is meant to go with a rich chocolate frosting. My first devil's food cake was accompanied with a rich chocolate frosting. It was Dear's birthday cake.

Due to time constraint, I omitted the chocolate frosting this time round and made bite-size devil's food cake. It turned out to be like brownies, except much more airy. It is definitely no less chocolate-y than brownies. Promise!

Recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz.

Devil's food cake

Ingredients for cake
  • 9 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising) 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • ¼ tap baking powder 
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • ½ cup strong coffee (or water) 
  • ½ cup whole or low-fat milk 
Ingredients for Ganache frosting
  • 10 oz--------------------bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 
  • ½ cup-------------------water (or cream) 
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) ----unsalted butter 
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper. 
Making the cake:
  1. To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. 
  2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stops the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.) 
  3. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients. 
  4. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. 
Make the frosting
  1. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water. 
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisks them into the chocolate until completely melted and the Ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, this may take about 1 hour at room temperature. Longer time is needed for tropical countries. 
Frosting the cake:
  1. Run a knife around the inside of each of the cakes which will help release them from the pans. Tilt one cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

"Muffin tops"

Muffins are believed to have gotten its name from the French word "moufflet". Commonly applied to bread, it means "soft". That should explain my soft spot for muffins, doesn’t it? As matter of fact, I really do prefer muffins to cakes, though not excessively.

Muffins are suitable for daily consumption, fundamentally because they are a type of bread, rather than cakes which are simply desserts. You can prepare muffin into a wholesome and healthy meal by using savory ingredients such as cheese, bacon, and/or spinach and replacing plain white flour with wholemeal flour. There are just so many varieties of yummy muffins out there!

Personally, I am a huge fan of Starbucks Blueberry muffins. They are really wholesome! for me, a perfect lazy afternoon would be hanging out at bustling Starbucks having my favourite-st blueberry muffin and honey-sweetened chamomile tea, accompanied with Bruno Mars music and a romantic fiction book (such as Cecelia Ahern's). Sounds clichéd? Who cares? And if you are wondering why I prefer a bustling cafe, it's because I love to people-watch. It is the best way to kill time. Seriously.

However, there is just one thing about muffins that is the bane of my life... it is their domed-shape tops that sits over the edge of muffin cups. Seen more often in health and beauty magazines, such a phenomenon is termed "muffin tops", except that it is not used on real muffins. Instead, fashionistas and beauticians use the words "muffin tops" to describe the tummy flab that spill put over the waistband of a tight pair of jeans. How horribly apt! But, I have decided that there should not be a strong physical correlation between muffin and "muffin tops". There are just too many variables in this equation, such as exercise, sedentary work, old age, lack of collagen... you get the picture...

Muffins are fairly easy to bake, and with so many variations possible, you can easily be an innovator! What I did was to modify a blueberry buttermilk muffin recipe into a Strawberry Yoghurt ChocoChip one. And, I thought was very pleased with the new flavor.

(By the way, I did try the original recipe two years and it tasted really great too.)

Strawberry Yoghurt ChocoChip Muffin

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used salted butter and omitted the salt in original recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar (you may reduce as desired) 
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omitted) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (I also sifted it) 
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 cup strawberry yoghurt 
  • 1/2-1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (I used Hershey's) 
  • 2 tbsp white sugar (I used brown sugar) 
  1. Position rack in the middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray the top of a muffin pan with non-stick coating, and line with paper liners. 
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. 
  3. Mix together 1 3/4 cup of the flour and baking powder. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the yoghurt, mixing just until incorporated. 
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips into the batter. 
  5. Scoop into muffin cups. Sprinkle tops lightly with sugar. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown, and tops spring back when lightly tapped. 
Yes, I shall add fresh, real strawberry bits in it the next time! ;)

Friday, 15 July 2011

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

A malfunction nose is just like a malfunction tap - it either leaks or blocks. My nose was leaking for the past two days and it started to block today. Breathing through mouth is not our natural breathing mechanism. It leads dry throat and cough... I had felt breathless most of the time today... and can't exercise till I recover, said my clinic doctor. awwwwfulllll....

Anyhow, I should have learnt to eat an apple day, for it keeps a doctor away. Being curious, I did a quick Google on the adage and found that other than the fact that it rhymes, there appears to be a lack of scientific evidence to prove so. Nonetheless, apples are still considered a super nutritious food that can be enjoyed every day!

Well, I didn’t quite enjoy eating apples until not long ago did I begin to appreciate apples, partly because of a friend's influence. In particular, I really like this species of apple - NZ 4122. It is crunchy, sweet and juicy! Thus, my perfect apple. :)

The following apple related recipe was made using granny smith green apples. It was attempted in response to my dear's subtle expression about his liking for apple desserts.

Apple custard puff pastry

Ingredients A
  • 2 tbsp custard powder (I used Bird's custard powder) 
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar 
  • 568 ml (1 pint) milk 
Ingredients B
  • 3-4 Granny Smith green apples 
  • 2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon powder 
Ingredient C
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I used Pampas Puff Pastry) 

Making the custard - "on the hob" method
  1. put custard powder and sugar in a basin 
  2. mix into a smooth paste with approximately 2 tbsp of milk taken from the 568 ml. 
  3. heat the remaining milk to nearly boiling and pour into the custard mix, stirring well 
  4. return to the saucepan and bring to the boil over gentle heat, stirring continuously 
Preparing the apples
  1. wash, peel, core and cut the apples into thin slices 
  2. toss the apple slices with the sugar and cinnamon until well and evenly coated 
Preparing the puff pastry
  1. defreeze the puff pastry as per manufacturer's instruction (or you may leave it outside the fridge for about two hrs) 
  2. on a floured surface, cut the puff pastry into cubes (1 pack yields about 12-15 cubes) 
  3. roll and flatten each cube into squares or rectangles as desired 
  4. place custard and apples in the middle of the puff pastry, leaving about 1cm border from the edge. Fold and join the edges of the puff pastry using water. Bake in preheat oven at 200degC for 15-20 min. 
  5. remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A rare birthday cake

I was elated when my colleagues suggested that I could bake a cake for a little surprise party that we were planning for our birthday colleague (the usual practice was getting a gift and buying a cake). Not only was there a greater motivation for me to bake, I felt kind of touched that my colleagues trusted my baking skills and didn't mind. It mattered so much to me; it was a form of recognition, no matter how small it might seem. That was two days ago.

Yesterday, I was on medical leave. The flu bug hit me the night before. But I was still determined to bake a birthday cake for the birthday girl. And so I did! It was a rare birthday cake because I made a chiffon cake for her! Birthday cakes, as everyone knows it, are often elaborated with coloured frostings or whipped cream, well-piped wordings and decorations and/or topped with candied/fresh fruits. Mine was absolutely simple - dark chocolate chiffon cake with chocolate rice & almond nuts.

Though still drowsy from my flu medicine, I somehow thought it was a breeze to go to work today even with a big cake container. Maybe it was the drowsiness that made me oblivious to the peak hour crowd. But more likely I think it was because of the cake that I was holding. Regardless, I think my colleagues enjoyed it. Or did they not? Erm... I think they did. ;)

I am nothing but grateful for my colleagues who are always appreciative of my bakes and generous with words of compliment.


Dark Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Ingredients A

  • 50 g Cake flour
  • 20 g Cocoa powder
  • 10 g Corn flour
  • 60 ml Chocolate milk (I used normal milk)
  • 1/2 tsp Instant coffee (I omitted)
  • 50 ml Corn oil (I used canola oil)
  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 1 tsp Chocolate paste (or black forest paste)

Ingredients B

  • 4 Egg whites
  • 60 g Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cream of tartar (I substituted it with salt)

Method for A

  1. Heat chocolate milk and instant coffee powder until the latter dissolves. Set aside
  2. Whisk egg yolks, add milk, corn oil and continue to whisk till well-mixed
  3. Add in the sifted flour/corn flour and mix till batter resembles a thick paste

Method for B

  1. Whisk egg white and cream of tartar till bubbly
  2. Add in sugar a little by little and continue to whip until soft peaks form
  3. Fold in 1/3 of egg white into chocolate batter
  4. Pour chocolate batter into the rest of the egg white and continue to fold in gently
  5. Pour batter into chiffon pan
  6. Bake in a preheated oven of 160degC for 45 min

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?

I attended four meetings today, but thankfully, all were short and fruitful. Shouldn’t all meetings be like that? Yes, but often not. Sometimes the discussions get nowhere.... and whenever that happens, vague images of recipes and dessert images would flash across my mind and that is when I decide on what to bake in the evening.

But today. I had already decided what I wanted bake the moment I woke up. I was craving for cookies. I think that was subconscious because my peripheral vision had caught my brother munching on MY Famous Amos cookies the night before while I watching television. He stole my cookies!!! But more importantly..... I soon realised he is not the only cookie thief in my home! The ultimate cookie thief shall be revealed by the end of this post.

Had used this recipe for three times over the past two years. I think each bake yielded different results. I don't really know why. I suspect it is my weighing scale. I should really get a digital one to make more accurate measurements.

ChocoChip Crunchy Nut Biscuits

Ingredients A

  • 165g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder, salt

Ingredients B

  • 75g unsalted butter (I used salted and omitted the salt)
  • 80g castor sugar
  • 50g brown sugar

Ingredients C

  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla flavor (extract) (I used the normal vanilla essence)

Ingredient D

  • 115g plain chocochips (I used Hershey's semisweet)
  • 50g chopped hazelnut (I used almond, since I have already have it at home)


  1. Grease 2 or 3 baking sheets and set aside for further usage.
  2. Use an electric mixer to beat ingredient B until light and fluffy. Then add in ingredient C and mix well. Pour in sifted ingredient A and beat well on low speed until thoroughly combined.
  3. Stir in ingredient D and 2/3 chopped hazelnut. Drop teaspoonful of the mixture onto to the prepared sheets. Space the batter about 5cm to allow room for spreading (I missed this this time! and my cookies almost became a GIANT 'tray' cookie!)
  4. Flatten each biscuits with a wet fork. Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top of the biscuits and press lightly into the surface of the dough.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180degC, then bake the biscuits for 10-12 mins, or until they are golden brown
  6. Leave the biscuits on the baking sheets to cool for a min or so, until they are firm and then transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

And the 'metro' cookies (metro another name for subway :p)

Now... revealing the cookie thief...

Monday, 11 July 2011

The 'second' stomach exists

Many say there is always a second 'stomach' for desserts and I can’t agree more. A meal is almost never complete without a dessert. Now, having desserts is no longer just an indulgence. It has become an essential. Sometimes, people need it, more than you can imagine. Perhaps some can already empathise with what I am saying.

I love to think that the role of desserts in society has become ever more important. Perhaps used to be once delicacies for the royals and the rich, desserts have now become snacks or gifts among the commoners. Desserts cafes are springing up in every corner of the world and are popular with gathering events and romantic dates. Depending on the type of desserts, coupling it with coffee, tea or even hot chocolate makes the day perfect.

I love desserts and everything sweet (but not sweets themselves (i.e. candies), ironically). I cannot imagine a world with sweet foods. However, I recall reading in a health magazine that we humans really do not need any extra simple sugars (i.e. glucose) in our daily diet and this basically mean living without sugar. To me, this is inconceivable. It is like having finger without fingernails!

As cliché as it may sound, life is short; let me have my dessert first. That is literally true for me. I sometimes replace my meal with desserts and that is how much I love sweet foods. But, as much as I love to have all the cakes in the world, I fear weight gain and health problems.

The solution to my obsession? BAKE IT! Or BAKE THEM! Looking at recipes and transforming words and pictures into real, 3D objects brings me into another realm of enjoying dessert. That process is simply amazing. Simple foods like butter, sugar and flour when combined with heat, create almost the best smell in the world.

I bake for people I care about and it makes me happy. And when you see their eyes light up as they savour your creation.... that feeling... it is priceless.

This blog is really a dedication to my life-long journey about baking and baking for the people I care about.