April 17, 2011

Birthday Cake (Nutty carrot cake with dark chocolate and almond decoration)

Mom's birthday falls on Easter weekend this year but I'm going to be in Cebu, Philippines, so we celebrated the weekend before. I started a new job this week and didn't have much prep time (well, actually, I'm just not that artistically endowed), so this Easter-themed birthday cake has that "home-made" touch for sure!

It's a 2-layer carrot cake. The cake layers have carrots, pineapple, almonds, coconut, and golden raisins. I used my standard recipe and added extra nuts, raisins and 1/4 more pureed pineapple. Oh, and I also used grated fresh ginger this time as I ran out of the dried stuff (living in Asia, it's much easier to find fresh ginger than the powder). This resulted in a slightly more dense & moist cake, but luckily not too dense. It's up to your personal preference whether you prefer a drier and finer cake or a more moist, richer cake.

Sandwiched between the two layers is a mix of the lemon cream cheese frosting + raspberry jam. The remaining lemon cream cheese frosting was used to frost the top and sides of the cake.

April 11, 2011

First foray into bento (lunch box) making

Now, I'm not artistic or creative like some people, so you will never find me making patterns or beautiful cartoons with my food, but recently Jon and I have tried to eat healthier, and to exercise greater control over what, as well as how much, we eat.

April 8, 2011

Raspberry panna cotta

Panna cotta (Italian for "cooked cream") is one of my favourite desserts - lighter than a crême brulée, yet still creamy and milky-rich in your mouth.  Basically it is an Italian-style milk custard jelly, yet it's so hard to find good panna cotta when eating out as most places make their panna cotta too firm. Great panna cotta should be wobbly and soft, with a very luxurious and yielding mouthfeel, it should be rich yet light at the same time. Too often when eating out you get panna cotta that's nothing more than milky Jell-O, and that's just not good.

I've recently purchased a copy of the BBC Good Food Cookbook; it's got some interesting ideas for different dishes which I plan to test soon. This is the first recipe I've made from this dish (albeit with some major alterations/improvisations due to not having double cream or lemons and having leftover sour cream at home)*. I haven't made jelly in a long time; I think the last time was making Jell-O gummy worm vodka shots several years ago for a X'mas party (long story, don't ask!).

*The original Good Food Cookbook recipe was for lemon pannacotta with blackberries.This is a simple vanilla panna cotta with raspberry/blueberry topping.

April 3, 2011

Basic vanilla Victoria sponge cake

How many things that you learn in school are actually useful and delicious? At my high school in England, we all had to take two years of home economics (aka cooking) lessons. An elderly lady with a bouffant white hairdo oversaw my very first attempt at making Victoria sponge in a large lab kitchen. I remembered liking home ec lessons a lot - too bad there wasn't an option to continue them for GCSE!

I don't make plain vanilla sponge very often and have gone through a period of not being able to make a light airy sponge for the past few years. I blamed the humidity in Hong Kong for turning my attempts at sponge cake into dense bricks, but honestly, I think it was because I was trying to be too fancy and relied on complicated recipes. I've finally come full circle and accepted that there are some things in life you just shouldn't mess with, and Victoria sponge is one of them.

This sponge cake recipe is a good base for cakes and cupcakes.