Banana, Caramel and Hazelnut Entremet

I haven't been making lots of entremet lately since it takes quite some time to make and time is very precious to me lately. I went back to work last December after my 4-month maternity leave, and I am busier than ever.

Before I was back to work, I managed to make this banana, caramel, and hazelnut entremet for my nephew's birthday. I wasn't actually in the mood of spending a great deal in the kitchen since sleep was always my preferred action whenever I have any time, but I had some leftover cake components in the freezer that I wanted to use up before they go bad. And I am glad I did because the cake turned out to be delicious! One of the cake I am proud of.

Product Review: Silicon Baking Cups


I thought I would pop in to let you guys know that I am still here. This blog has been abandoned for so long (for a good reason), but I want to try to go back posting more often.

As some of you may know from the last post that I was pregnant and I gave birth to my precious daughter last August. Time has surely flown by since then. It wasn't easy for sure, there were tears, there were a lot of hospital visits, lack of sleeps, and everything else. Now that the baby is a bit older (she just turned 3 months), I am so lucky that she could sleep through the night (mostly), and she is such a good baby. But still, I feel like I need more time every day. I am enjoying being a stay-home mom, but I have to go back to work in three weeks and I am dreading leaving my baby alone :(.

Anyways, enough about that. Now let me tell you about this silicon baking cups.
I was contacted by the New York Baking Company representative a few weeks before my baby arrived to see if I wanted to review their silicon baking cups. I don't use silicon mold often but hey why not. It's a good opportunity to finally get my hands on them. I was going to do that before my due date, but we were in the middle of finalizing the purchase of our house, moving in a rush before baby arrived, and the coming of the baby earlier than predicted, it was a pretty stressful time for sure. Long story short, I didn't get to bake anything with it until recently.

I baked with it a few times already to make sure that my review is solid (this is my first time doing review), but I thought it would be best to do the review it using the recipe I make thousands of times to see what difference does it make.

One of the recipes I made was banana muffins. I can make this with my eyes closed probably, and it is so fast too. I used both silicon baking cups and the regular paper baking cups just to compare. There are pros and cons about this cups. The first impression when I opened it was that it was very flimsy, I wouldn't use it without a muffin tin, so, no pro in that area since it is the same as paper baking cups.
I filled both silicon and paper cups with the same amount of batter but the ones in the silicon cups don't rise as much as the ones in the paper cups, which I thought would make the cake denser. It also takes longer to bake (to brown) compared to the paper cups.
I baked another recipe before this and it didn't rise as much either. I thought it was the recipe's fault because it was a new one, but I guess it is the silicon cups

Then the true and final test, the tasting. I depend a lot of my hubby for this. He is real picky about what he eats. This banana muffin is one of the few things he would devour regularly, so he might be the best judge. I warned him that it might be denser since it doesn't rise as much. Lo and behold, he came back to me and said that, too bad that I said so many negative reviews about it because the muffins that were baked in it are so much more moist!!!!

These muffins are moist to begin with, but hearing that it is more moist, that's definitely the biggest pro toward these cups. The ones in the paper cups are dryer on the edges, which is expected since it is the outer part of the muffin and would be exposed the most to the heat. While the ones in the silicon cups baked evenly, no dry edges.

So here's the summary of my review:

- Make the cake more moist!
- Very easy to unmold, just slide right off
- Great to have around since it is reuseable, especially when you are out of paper cups

- Still needs a muffin pan since the material is thin
- The cake doesn't rise as much
- Takes a bit longer to bake

- Washing is a bit of a pain since there are a lot of ridges, compared to paper cups which you can just throw away.

Despite having more cons than pros, I would use this baking cups for my muffins from now on since my biggest and pickiest customer (read: my husband) loves the result much more. So that's definitely a win for the silicon cups.

Here's where you can find it at Amazon, along with my review.

On a different topic, I find myself baking quite a bit lately, mostly simple cake though. Since I am at home all day everyday, I need some kind of snack I could munch on. I did bake a couple entremets though, hopefully I could post that soon.

Japanese Cheesecake with Green Tea Swirls

I didn't do much on Memorial Day weekend yesterday. M left to Korea for a business trip, and I went to work on Monday while everyone else was in the pool or BBQ enjoying the sun. I was planning on doing a lot of baking but I didn't do as much as I wanted too. In fact, I only made different components for this and that, but no finished dessert yet. My long-time friend came to visit from Indonesia so we hung out for quite a bit. He was here when I started my early baking life so he got to taste some of my first cakes. I am making some of them while he's here, along with some other desserts like lemon tart.

That aside, I want to post a very simple cake that I made a while ago. I had a tiny bit of cream cheese left after making the cheesecakes and the raspberry white chocolate and I didn't want it to go to waste. I decided to make this Japanese Cheesecake that I haven't made in years. This is also one of the cakes that I used to make a lot when I started baking. it is very simple, not quite like NY cheesecake, more like cheese-flavored sponge cake, but creamier, and lemony from the lemon zests. I decided to add green tea swirl to it as I think they will go really well together.
It only makes three 4" round cheesecakes but it was perfect for anytime dessert, with tea or coffee. This cake used to be one of my favorite cakes to make as it was easy and it pleases people, back when Japanese cheesecake was really popular among Asian community.

I made other variations before, but Japanese Cheesecakes are usually topped with fresh fruits. Here are some of the ones I made in the past, plain with apricot glaze, strawberries and decorated with cream for bday, and the latest one was topped with different kinds of fruits

If you put it in the fridge, then the texture will be denser and creamier. If you leave it at room temperature, it will be much lighter.

Japanese Cheesecake
Taken from "Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake" from Diana's Dessert

140g/5 oz. fine granulated sugar
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50g/2 oz. butter
250g/9 oz. cream cheese
100 ml/3 fluid oz. fresh milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
60g/2 oz. cake flour /superfine flour
20g/1 oz. cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.

2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.

3. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and mix well. Pour into a 8-inch round cake pan (Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper).

4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hours 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).

Makes 1 (8-inch) cheesecake, 12 servings.
Note: To make the green tea swirl, take a little bit of the batter and add a mixture of matcha powder+a few drops of water to make a thick paste. Combine the two mixture and spoon it on top of the white cheesecake batter. Using a toothpick or chopstick, make a swirl pattern

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

It was one of my brother's birthday about a month ago.We didn't actually have any plan to celebrate it as his wife took him to a weekend getaway to Napa for his birthday.

The week after, the wife had a last-minute plan to have a gathering with LOTS of cajun-style shrimp among friends (there is this one place that we wanted to try) and a surprise celebration for my brother's birthday, which means that there had to be a cake. It was only two days before the gathering so I didn't have much time to make any fancy cake, not even to think about what cake to make.

After looking at what I had in my fridge, I decided to make this white chocolate and raspberry cake. This was one of a more complicated cakes I make during my early baking time and it was popular back then. I had some cream cheese left from the cheesecake, and I still have quite a bit of homemade raspberry jam that I made for the wedding cake.

Normally, I make the raspberry jelly using raspberry puree and gelatin, but I decided to use up the raspberry jam that I thinned out with a little bit of water so that I can pipe it.

It seems like my decorating skill has improved if you compare it to this and this, and this this, don't you think? at least in my humble opinion :). It was quite fast to make it too, even decorating it. Since I didn't have a square cake ring that's tall enough, I didn't use any mold to assemble this, which makes it difficult to make the top layer super smooth. So I decided to make a pattern just by using spatula, and I think it turned out quite well. This cake is light and perfect for summery weather like this.
The shrimp was delicious! I think we have a new favorite because it is much closer to where we live. It was the kind of dinner where we used all of our ten fingers to eat, cajun style! and I think there was some martini and tequila involved too :). At the end, I think people left with a happy and full stomach :)

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Mango Glaze for A Birthday

Ah. whether has gotten so nice lately and I've also been baking up a storm in my kitchen. I am excited! I guess I should make use of this time as much as I can to bake as I don't think I can bake often enough (or at all) after the baby is born

So I made this cheesecake about a month ago or so.
After the wedding, I had a lot of roses left from the decoration and I was looking for idea to use it up in a cake, as they are really pretty. A few days after, there was a 42nd wedding anniversary for one of our family members and the birthday of one of them. I was planning to make something romantic for the anniversary cake, something heart-shaped, covered in rose petals, so that I can use up the roses, but the plan got changed. They went out that day and decided to celebrate it the next day, on the birthday.

I was planning to make a cheesecake from the beginning as it takes no time to make and I know that they both like cheesecake. Since it is no longer to celebrate the anniversary, I decided to top the cake with mango glaze, leftover from the wedding cake, also because they told me that they like the mango better than the chocolate one on the wedding. So, it was a snap to make.

Nothing different with the cheesecake. I used Alain Ducasse's recipe for this cheesecake with almond crust. The only thing I made differently than last time is that I baked it at higher temperature 275F for a shorter time (I think it took almost 2.5hrs) because I started making this pretty late already and I didn't want to stay up till 2am waiting for this cheesecake to be done.
I made one big one for the couple celebrating, and one small one for M. He likes his cheesecake plain or with fresh strawberries, so I didn't put anything on top. But we were also sharing some of the smaller cheesecake with someone at work, so I decided to put three different toppings on the cheesecake to make it not-so-plain, chocolate (leftover from chocolate glaze for the wedding cake), mango glaze (also from the wedding) and raspberry. For the raspberry, I simple mixed a bit of the raspberry jam that I made for the wedding with a bit of water to thin it out. It is not as smooth, but it works well. 

Refer here for the recipe

The Making of A Wedding Cake

 I had the privileged to make a wedding cake for my friends' wedding, H and C about a month ago.  They asked me if I could make their wedding cake many months prior to the wedding, before I found out I was pregnant. Their request was pretty specific, they wanted a fondant-decorated dummy cake, and fancier cakes for the actual cake. The wife, C, had a specific cake in mind, that I would make my chocolate-hazelnut cake as one of them. I had made this cake countless time here and here and here (and many more not posted since it is the same cake) and each time, I changed it a bit. She wanted two kinds, so I suggested a fruity one. I came up with mango-passion and raspberry cake, similar to this cake, but with a bit of passion fruit added.

Then I found out I was pregnant and that I was in bed for 2 months, literally could not get up. I got worried and there was no way I could cancel this since there was not much time, but thankfully, I started to gain my strength back as the wedding got closer. I had to do a whole lot of prep work and tried to start planning, finishing up the design, budgeting, bought materials and everything way before as I could not stand for too long or do much at one time.
Thank God everything went well, I also had my super DH helping me throughout the whole thing from giving opinions to the design to helping me on site. H and C are also very easy to work with, they pretty much left the design of the tiered cake to me, they just supplied the topper, which makes it easier for me. All I needed was to try to find out what kind of design they like and don't like, the rest is up to me. The theme color was white and brown, which is a bit dark in my opinion, but good thing she had a pink bouquet, so I could incorporate that. Last minute, they told me that they also had royal blue on their decor. After much going back and forth between one design to the other, I decided that I am going to stick with white (mostly), brown, and a bit of pink flowers, and not incorporate royal blue to the wedding cake at all as the colors clash. The royal blue would just be on the cake tablecloth.
This is the final design that I decided on. I especially wanted to try to put separation between the top two tiers and put flowers in between. I saw many wedding cake design with this flower separation on each tier and I am not a huge fan, but I love the idea of using only one. It adds height, color, and feminine side to the cake, and I am so glad that I did it! I would say the most challenging part of this wedding cake is rolling the fondant. the top two tier was easy peasy but the bottom two was a struggle. With my then-limited energy, I had to knead and roll 10lbs of fondant alone for the bottom tier!
 Now that the tiered cake design is done, I had to concentrate on the real cake. I needed to make enough for a bout 180 people. I made about 2.5 half-sheet cakes for each flavor, totaling in 5 sheet-cake size. Everything went smoothly, but I don't think I can manage if I had to make one more as I was out of freezer and refrigeration space. I think I did better this time compared to my previous one as I have more experience making multi-layer cakes doing time management.
In summary, it was a very tiring but yet rewarding experience. I love that everyone loved the cake. I liked that the chef in the kitchen (where the wedding was held) kept taking pictures of the cakes when I was prepping them. Even though worrisome that we might not have enough cake, but I like hearing the waiter/waitresses coming back to the kitchen saying that they could not stop people fighting to grab the cake from the tray they are carrying and a lot of them were taking two instead of one :)
I was very relieved that it was all done. I also made a big version of each cake for the bride and groom and their family based on their request. I think after making this cake, that's when I started the baking frenzy that I am currently experiencing :)

Meyer Lemon Tart with Candied Lemon and Peel

Spring is here! It came a month ago already but it seems like California got a late Winter this year. We had cold, rainy, and windy days last week, which is good since we are in severe drought. I even saw some snow on the top of the mountain on my way to work last week. I also saw rainbows, a few times! Despite being thankful for the rain, I have to say that I still LOVE the California sunny warm days, which what we have been getting the past few days after all that cold. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this time of the year, I open the windows all day, I try to have lunch outdoor, getting ice creams, it also makes me in the mood of baking!

I baked a lot for these past few weeks, M said that I produce desserts more than he could ever consumed it. Among them are a couple entremets, brownies, cheesecakes, and of course lemon tarts! I got these lemons from M's boss' boss. He got a big meyer lemon tree (and regular tree) and he gave me a bucket full of them. I made them into tarts and cheesecakes a few months ago, but he kept giving me more! and of course I gladly accept it. So I made more and more of this tart. M would never complain as he could eat this everyday literally, it is his absolute favorite dessert that I make. Another coworker also offered me a big bag of meyer lemons from his tree, how lucky!

I made and posted this tart many times before plain and with meringue here, with white chocolate strawberry (inspired by Hidemi Sugino's lemon tart spring edition), meringue, but I am posting it again this time because I finally found my personal favorite, which is using candied lemon peels! So I think I will stick to this from now on, unless M requested his other favorite with strawberry and white choc. cream occasionally.
I never made candied lemons or candied lemon peels before. I tried my hand on candied lemons a few months ago and found that it enhances the lemon flavor of the tart. Then, I remember that Pierre Herme uses candied lemon peels in the bottom of his lemon tart, as well as on the top and I want to try that one too. There are many recipes for candied lemon peels, which have basically the same method, blanching it a few times, then boil it in sugar water until it becomes translucent. What is different is some of them uses the pith, the other uses just the yellow part.
I followed Pierre Herme's recipe for his spiced candied citrus peel, except that I used no spices (except sugar and vanilla bean) and using just lemon. His recipe says to include the pith, even including some of the inside of the lemons. After they are done, I tasted it and found that it was really bitter. I don't know where I did wrong, maybe because I didn't blanch it long enough? But I drained all the sugar syrup, scraped the pith out, and reboil it again. It became softer than I wanted it but that's ok as long as it is not bitter. I kept it in mason jar with the syrup and it keeps for months. I have been using this baby everytime I make lemon tarts now. Sometimes I would put it in the bottom of the tart, and sometimes just the top, and then brushed it with translucent glaze to make it shiny. I really like the simplicity of the look, and not to mention that it intensify the lemon flavor without it being tart.
This tart is so perfect to make this season, it has that bright and summery flavor, although sadly, it was cloudy when I took picture of this tart.
Ah, many cakes to make, I am excited to try something new! I still have lots of bright orange meyer lemons in my fridge and I am thinking to make them into entremet for once. We will see!