Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday goodies

The past few years, I've been making cookies basket for friends and families during the holiday season. I was planning to make something totally special for 2009, but the end of last year ended up very busy that I didn't get a chance to execute my original plan. I only had a chance to make enough for my closest family, and even then, only in small quantity. Hopefully I'll be able to make it up on 2010! ;-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Musical Notes Cake

This was a special order from my s.i.l. for her piano teacher association. I used white chocolate strip to wrap around the cake decorated with musical notes.

It was so late at night when I did the strip and I just wanted to go to bed.... hahaha.

The cake was one of my favorite cakes: chocolate strawberry shortcake.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running Man


This was the last special occasion cake I made in 2009.It was also the first time I made a stand up figurine. All my other figures always have some kind of support on them. They're usually sitting on some other object, but this time... it stands on its two legs :0).


I had to use wire for support as it didn't seem possible for two pieces of spaghetti to hold up the whole figure...heheh. I wasn't too pleased with the way it turned out, but hey... it's a first!

I did like the little doggie tho!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raspberry Chocolate Entremet




I made this cake back in November for one of my dearest friends. I know it's so long overdue, but it's better late than never :o).

This entremet consists of layers of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, rapsberry gelee and fresh berries on top. I was originally planning to pour ganache over the cake, but I was having trouble taking out the cake from the "mold". I didn't have a cake frame, so I used a d.i.y. frame made of cardboard box. It shouldn't be a problem except that the cake decided to stick to the bottom cardboard and I was having a hard time getting if off. By the time I got it off, it wasn't frozen anymore and I didn't have time to let it re-freeze. Ended up settling with fresh berries on top. Didn't look too bad for a last minute change of plans ;-).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

lemon tart

Hubby & I went to Tartine bakery in SF last week. After that first visit, I had officially became a Tartine's fan. The place was packed, parking was horrible, the price was quite high, and we didn't get a place to sit so had to bring our goodies home. BUT, after one bite of the buttery goodness of their croissant, I'm hooked! It was worth all the wait, the cost, and the effort to get there! It was one of the best croissants I've ever had. In addition to the croissant, we also got a lemon tart. I am not a big lemon fan. I mean, I'm okay with lemon, but never am so crazy about any lemon desserts. After having that tart, I was smitten. The crust perfectly compliments the smooth lemon cream, and the whipped cream soften the sweetness and tartness of the cream.

I kept thinking about the lemon tart the next day... and the day after.

So I looked for a recipe online and found Pierre Herme's recipe on foodbeam's blog. Bertha used this recipe before and confirmed that it's a good one. So I decided to make it for this weekend's dinner with hubby's family.


The recipe is very similar with standard lemon curd recipes, except that it contains oh-so-much-more butter. And it also uses a method of blending the butter into the lemon mixture. The recipe says to use a hand blender. That is optional as you can also use a regular blender. But... I've been wanting to get a hand blender, so there couldn't be a better time! hahaha! It's so interesting how the texture of the cream changed as it was mixed with the blender. Instead of clear and shiny, it turned into this silky, buttery, smooth mixture.

I wasn't sure if I should topped the lemon tart with the Italian meringue since I worry that it'll be to sweet. But in the end, I decided to make the meringue anyway. I just love how silky smooth the meringue was.... so pretty! I love it~! ^_^


I thought overall the tart was pretty good. For some reason, it felt a bit too sweet for me. Altho hubby thought it was perfectly fine. I think the next time I make this, I might reduce the sugar or skip the meringue altogether and substitute with whipped cream instead.

Oh! I also got my first photography lesson from hubby. Usually he took most of the pics that are on this blog. I tried to take at stab at it this time. Definitely need LOTS of work! hahaha...

Monday, October 12, 2009

accidentally lactose free cake


I made this cake for hubby’s bday. It’s a Raspberry Rose Vanilla Bavarian Cream cake from Tartelette. This was the first time I made an entremet at home. I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able to make this cake or not. It sounded like there’s a lot of components to make and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make them all successfully. But it’s one of the items on the list of things I want to make, so I figured might as well give it a try ^_^.

I think raspberry and rose go really well together. I like how the almond dacqoise has a really subtle hint of rose water. I was also experimenting on this cake. My hubby is lactose intolerant so I was going to use Lactaid instead of milk for the vanilla Bavarian cream. When I was at the store, I thought I still have heavy cream at home, but it turned out that the one I have in my fridge has already expired. But I still have some leftover non-dairy whipped topping that I bought for my niece’s bday. So I ended up using that instead. I wasn’t sure if the recipe would work since I’ve substitute so many things, but luckily it did! So in the end, this cake was accidentally lactose free!


I haven’t made Bavarian cream or mousse or cream anglaise for a while. So I made a boo-boo on my first attempt. I over cooked the custard base, and when that happened, I had a scene playing in my head. It was from back at school when Chef she-who-must-not-be-named took over our class for a while. We were in the plated dessert section. My friend and I had never made cream anglaise before. Chef she-who-must-not-be-named had warned the class to not over cooked the cream anglaise. So when we were about to make ours, we asked her to come and watch us to make sure that we don’t over cooked it. She was standing right in front of us. Right in front of the stove and the pot. I noticed that the mixture had started to thicken, so I asked her "is this done, chef?", she said "no". I asked, "should we turn off the heat now, chef?", she said "not yet". Until finally... "oh! It's too late! Now you have scramble egg!" WTH. We asked her to watch so we can prevent the "scramble egg" from happening... *sigh* Well, needless to say, I was glad that she ditched our class (or maybe she ran away cuz we scared her?)...


Anyway... moving on... everybody seemed to enjoy the cake. I liked it too, but I think the raspberry jelly was a tad too thick (2Tbsp gelatin? Yeah...that sounded like a lot. But I stick to the recipe). It’s so thick that the texture doesn’t seem to get along with the dacqoise or the Bavarian cream. My layers were very uneven too. I’ll work on that next time. Next week is hubby’s actual bday, so maybe I’ll make this again since I have lots of raspberry from the farmers market. Yum!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

contemplating

There have been times when I've written quite a long blog post only to decide that, in the end, it is a bit too personal to share on the blogosphere. I tend to contemplate on how much of my personal life that I’m willing to share with whoever is out there reading this blog of mine.

I’ve been tempted to change this blog to a dedicated food blog, so that all I will be posting here are just cakes, desserts, pastries, and sweets. I’d renamed it, revamped the look, removed some old posts tag as “personals”, and that’ll be it. But I realized that I haven’t truly found what I’m looking for. So for the time being, this blog is going to stay as it is. It’ll still be “life – one step at a time”, so occasionally, like now, you will see something that doesn’t have anything to do with food.

Summer time has finally come to an end here at the bay area. And it has been a little over a year since I left Satura Cakes. It has been a little over a year that I have not set foot in a bake kitchen. And to tell you the truth, it saddens me a bit.

At the beginning of my class at PCI, we had a section on career service workshop. At that workshop, we talked about dreams, goals, and knowing who you are. I was one of the first to raise my hand when asked about our dreams. Back then, it seemed so vividly clear: “I want to have a custom wedding/specialty cake store at an affordable price for everybody.” I have even made a comment that I don’t want to become a pastry chef; I am a cake decorator. I don’t really know what happened. That was still the dream until a few months ago. It almost like there’s a switch in my head that somebody just happened to push. That dream that was so vividly clear all of a sudden became hazy.

Making cakes just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Not that I’ve stopped liking it. It’s just that I know that there are so much more to learn and I don’t want to settle just yet. I want to know and be able to do more, to make more. I love to see people enjoy or admire my creations. And to tell you the truth, that’s what got me started at the beginning. But now, I’m baking because I LOVE doing it. I am not a pastry chef. I’m far from becoming one. One does not get that title just by graduating from a culinary school. Or by baking regularly or religiously. Or by wearing the white chef coat. One has to work to become one. And I’m beginning to want that. Not the title. But the knowledge and skill of a pastry chef.

But it’s not that simple. Of course it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple in life, isn’t it? ^_^ there are other factors to consider. There are things I would have to let go if I choose to do this. And at this point, I’m not sure if I should or could or willing to let go. I can continue my life the way it is right now, but will it ever be enough? On the other hand, even if I let everything go, will I be satisfied then?

What do you think? Anybody? ^_^

Saturday, October 3, 2009

madeline's fairy carousel cake

This cake is the cutest cake I've ever made!!

I think I developed some attachment issues with these three little fairies. I like them so much, even though I've only completed them on Friday, one day before the day I'm scheduled to deliver the cake *yaiks!*

Anyway, this cake is for a cute little baby named Madeline. I was originally planning on making the carousel with pastillage. But... alas... I cheated. No pastillage this time. I was in a huge time constraint with this one. I wasn't feeling very well at the beginning of this week, so really I only had less than a week to figure out how to even start in making the carousel. I tried making the supporting pieces with pastillage, but it was so difficult to get the pastillage into shape without having it dried and cracked on the surface. I was very worried about its stability. Pastillage is very sturdy, but when it breaks, it will snaps into pieces... mm.. the thought of having to deliver that all the way to Dublin... I don't think my heart will be able to take it. So, no pastillage... besides, it's not like anybody is gonna grade/judge me based on how edible the whole thing is... ^_^.

I spent the first half of the week figuring out how to build this carousel. I started making the fairies on Wednesday night. I think this was the fastest I've ever built sugar characters... and I know with this one, there would be no time to re-do. Luckily, all three figures came out beautifully.

I especially like the purple one. But I like them all! ^_^


I think the cake came out pretty nice. The only real cake is the bottom tier. The second tier is a dummy to add height. For some reason, I was having more difficulties covering the dummy with fondant than the real cake.... I wonder why...



I just came back a few hours ago from delivering this cake. I hope they like it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

happy stars


My cute, little niece turned two on Sept. 12. Can't believe how fast time flies! It was hubby's idea to add the stars on the cake. A while ago, we read a Facebook status update from Melissa, Sydney's mom, about how Sydney has such strong empathy to things now. She was watching an episode of Dora the Explorer where a star fell down from the sky and was crying to come home. Sydney started crying when she saw that. How cute is that??! ^__^ So we put happy stars on her cake! Hopefully she'll like it.


This cake was suppose to be "simple". But based on my experience, because I'm still learning, every cake possesses it's own challenge. And this one is not an exception.

The challenge on this one is that it has to be dairy free. My poor little niece can't eat dairy. So no cream *wahh*, no milk *waaaahhhh*, and no BUTTER *WAAAH!!*. At first I was thinking of trying out some non-dairy cake recipes, but due to time constraint, I decided to just make the chiffon cake that I always use. It has no dairy; it uses vegetable oil instead of butter. So no issue on the cake itself. The buttercream, however, presented quite a challenge. I wanted to make something that taste as good as regular buttercream. So I went and looked for butter alternatives so I can use the recipe that I always use, but with no butter. The problem with living in Fremont is that all the stores located far away from one another. So if I don't find what I'm looking for in one store, I have to drive for at least 15 minutes to go to the other one *sigh*. I found a recipe online that uses this soy margarine called "willow run". I went to Trader Joe's only to find that they don't have ANY non-dairy margarine. Isn't that sad??? So I settled with I can't Believe It's Not Butter (ICBINB) from Safeway. I used it with my Italian meringue buttercream recipe, not realizing that ICBINB is SALTY! Not just a little bit salty, but VERY salty. So...can't use that buttercream *so sad*.

The day after, I went to Lucky across the street to get something else, when I noticed "butter flavor Crisco". mmm... kinda iffy there since I hate everything about Crisco.... but I figured I should give it a chance. Bad mistake. If you think Crisco is gross, the butter flavor Crisco is way worse. It's super yellow, has this very weird "buttery" smell, and as usual, has a waxy mouthfeel. I decided to give it a try anyway. Half butter Crisco and half regular Crisco. The result... eekkk *yucky!*.

Well, since the one with ICBINB is too salty and the Crisco one has no taste, I decided to try an mix the two together. It was okay. I thought, "well, it's only to frost the cake, so it should be okay."

I had Friday off, so I made everything for this cake on that day. Started off with baking the cake, then filling it (I used Pastry Pride - a store bought non-dairy whip topping, and fresh strawberry for the filling). I then frost the cake with the ICBINB/Crisco mixture. After I finished frosting it.... I looked at it... and decided that I couldn't do it!! I couldn't let my family eat this gross, waxy, shortening based cream!!! So.... I scraped it all off!!!

A few days before, I had went to Whole Foods in Saratoga and bought another vegan non-dairy butter called Earth Balance. I didn't try it with the Italian meringue recipe cuz I noticed that it has just about the same amount of sodium as the ICBINB. But I needed new buttercream, so I decided to quickly whipped some simple buttercream using the Wilton buttercream recipe (butter/shortening, powdered sugar, liquid). This one tasted MUCH better. I iced the cake, again, with this buttercream. Put it in the fridge... then got impatient. Time was ticking and I have to quickly cover it with the fondant.

mm.... I think my impatient-ness is my biggest enemy. When I put the fondant onto the cake, I couldn't get that neat sharp edge because the buttercream was too soft. Ugh!! I was so mad! And it was so hot too in my kitchen that day. In the midst of my crazy-obsessive-compulsiveness, I took the fondant off the cake.... and half of the buttercream came off with it! >_< I had to toss the fondant *sobs*. Luckily I had just enough leftover buttercream to frost the cake once more. I let it rest for a longer period in the fridge this time, and was finally able to cover it with fondant. It is still not as smooth as I'd like it to be, but I ran out of buttercream, ran out of fondant, and ran out of time. So it is what it is.

The top is actually rice krispy treats covered with royal icing and fondant. There's only six of us and I don't think we need that much cake.


So that's my experience trying to work with non-dairy cake and buttercream. It is really hard to substitute dairy products and I feel really sorry to those that are dairy or lactose intolerant. I love butter and whipped cream, so I cannot imagine my life without them.... Hopefully someday I can make better non-dairy desserts for Sydney... or even better, maybe someday she'll be able to eat dairy! But for now, I hope she likes her non-dairy strawberry shortcake ^_^

update 9/27/09:

Sydney loved her happy stars!! ^_^

Monday, September 21, 2009

cheese cake


... not cheesecake ^_^.

This is another Indonesian cake that I've been craving for a long, long time. It's a very standard birthday cake in Indonesia, along with black forest cake. It is basically layered sponge cake, iced with buttercream, and then covered with Kraft processed cheddar cheese. Mom used to make or order this cake for me and my little brother's birthday. We share the same birthday month; only four days apart. So we usually have a combined birthday party.

This year, I told my brother that I wanted to make him a birthday cake and I asked him if he wants something in particular. He paused and said "kue keju", which means cheese cake. Woohoo! I get to kill two birds with one stone cuz this cake is also one of the items on my list.


Just like the steamed cake, I wasn't having a good luck on this cake either. The sponge cake turns out to be quite tricky to make. It is very similar to a genoise, but it uses mostly yolks, very little flour, lots of melted butter, and no chemical leavening agent. This means: very fragile structure. I had to make numerous attempts in this one, called my mom several times, and ... tried to read "how baking works" again to figure out what I did wrong.

I felt like I was baking blindly. I hate not knowing why things don't work out the way they suppose to happen. That's why I love culinary school. I love seeing how things are done correctly and finding out why they won't work out otherwise. I like having somebody who I can ask questions to and right my wrongs. *sigh* I miss my teachers!!


In the end, the cake was a success. It was so YUMMY!!! and I mean, really yummy! As I was baking it, my entire apartment was filled with a very delicious fragrant that reminded me of home. Mom used to bake this cake all the time.... and having that lovely smell in my apartment truly brought me back to years ago when I was.... not very interested in baking! hahaha If only I had realized my love for baking back then, I would've been able to learn how to make this cake from my mom! But better late than never. I still need to work on the cake. But I'm gonna keep working on it until I can make it the way mom makes it! ^_^

Sunday, September 20, 2009

almost over-ripened bananas


As I was planning on moving on to the next item on my list, I noticed three bananas on my counter that looked like they’re about ready to go bad. At first I didn’t pay too much attention on them even though there is a recipe on my stack of “recipe to try” for banana cupcakes from CakeJournal that sound and look really yummy.

It wasn’t until I saw a post on Yossi’s blog that I finally picked up that recipe. It turns out that the recipe that Yossi used for her "bluenana" cupcakes is actually the same with the one I found from CakeJournal. Mm… all those pictures look sooo yummy! So I had to take a little detour from my list and made some use of those bananas.

I gotta say, I have to agree that this cupcake is quite yummy. It’s so light and moist. I couldn’t decide what kind of frosting I wanted to use to complement the banana cupcakes. But then I remember that my hubby brought me those bananas to make banana peanut butter sandwiches for my breakfast. So I thought, why not make peanut butter buttercream? I happened to have some Italian meringue buttercream in my refrigerator. I just mixed that with some peanut butter, to taste. So easy… yet so yummy! I put only a little bit of the buttercream cuz I didn’t want the peanut butter taste to overpower the banana.


I brought them on Saturday to my friend’s house. We were going to the Boiling Crabs for my birthday lunch. The cupcakes received mixed reviews. Maybe next time I’ll try to pair it with a different flavored buttercream. And also I think next time, I would try to not mashed the banana so much. I think I would like it better if I can taste larger chunks of bananas. But for sure this recipe is going to go into my “to keep” folder ^_^.

bolu kukus


The first thing I decided to make from “the list” was bolu kukus. This literally translates to “steamed cake”. Yes, this cake is steamed, not baked. My mom used to always make this cake when I was little. So of course, the recipe that I first chose to use was my mom’s. The ingredients only consists of four things: eggs, flour, sugar, and lemon soda (sprite or 7up). It looks simple enough, or so I thought to myself. Oh gosh, I was so wrong. It turns out that this little steamed cake is quite finicky. My first attempt failed miserably… when I opened the steamer, none of the little cake “smiled”. Instead, they all looked like little mushrooms.

But I refused to give up! After numerous attempts, researching on the Internet, and words of wisdom from my parents and Bertha, I finally got it!


I didn’t want to waste so much eggs while doing my trials, so I used a smaller recipe that I found here. In the end, I'm finding that mixing the batter gently is not really necessary and that it's important to start steaming with very hot boiling water and not to open the lids on the first 20 minutes.

Ooh... and the cute pink pedestal is a birthday gift I got from my friend, Onie. Isn't it so pretty?? Thanks Onie!! ^_^

Friday, September 18, 2009

the birthday list ^_^

Unlike others who celebrate their birthdays getting cakes from other people, I wanted to celebrate mine by making lots and lots of cakes and desserts.

A few days before my birthday weekend, I made a list of some of the dessert I’ve been wanting to make (from hereon will be referred to as “the list”). The plan was to make all the items before my birthday ended. My birthday this year fell on a Monday, and I had taken the day off. My birthday came and gone…. it’s one week after and so far, I’ve only crossed out two items from my 14-things-to-make list ;-P. Hey, at least it’s moving somewhere, right? Hopefully I’ll be able to cross them all out before my next birthday!

So, what's on the list?

These things:
- Chestnut puzzle cake
- Chestnut Mont Blanc
- No-bake green tea cheesecake
- Green tea cupcakes and cream cheese
- Chocolate and Mango Coconut Cream Cake
- Apple turnover
- Mellow
- Gateau Saint-Honore
- Cheese and raisin cake
- Lapis legit
[- Cheese sponge cake] - done!
[- Bolu kukus] - done!
- Fondant

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

crazy about jam!


I had lotsa leftover berries from the dessert table projects.... I didn't know what to do with them, so I just threw them into the freezer until I figured out what I can make with them. I had last Friday off, so I decided to make strawberry jam!!

It's probably the easiest jam out there for expert jam makers. But I've never really made jam before. The extent of my "jamming" skill is only goes as far as a simple pineapple jam for my pineapple tartlets. I know a few people who likes to make jams, and have received some very yummy jams from them. So I had a few empty cute mason jars that I’ve been wanting to use. I took a quick run to the store to buy a few replacement caps, and I was ready to go.

I used a recipe for strawberry conserve from the Cake Bible. I altered the recipe a bit. I added lemon juice and puree the strawberry instead of leaving them in chunks. As I later found out, what I made was more of a preserve instead of conserve. I did a bit of reading on the Internet and learned about the basic differences between jam, preserve, conserve, jelly, and marmalade. Apparently, these different types of “jams” are based on the how the fruit is incorporated into the mixture. Preserve or what people most commonly referred to as jam contains very fine particles of the fruits. So since I puree my strawberry, it can be categorized as preserve. Conserve usually contains chunks of the fruits. Jelly is when you use only the fruit juice, resulting on a clear mixture. There are a few opinions on marmalade. Some website states that marmalade usually contains the rind of the fruit. Some states that marmalade is for citrus fruits like orange, lime, lemon, etc. And another site mentioned that traditional marmalade has a hint of bitterness. I guess if you combine all those, you’ll get a pretty accurate description of what a marmalade is. Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation about the differences types of fruit preserves.

Anyway, back to my jam… the recipe I tried did not use any additional pectin. So… that means it involved quite a long cooking and stirring time. Well, good thing I have the day off, right? ^_^ I then put them into sterilized mason jars, put the tops on, and then immersed the whole thing into boiling water for about 10 minutes. I’m not sure how the physics works, but I guess the difference in temperatures and pressure resulted in a vacuum when the jars are taken out of the water. Here’s a good brief explanation that I found at HomeCanning.com:

How "heat processing" works
: As the filled jar is heated, its contents expand and internal pressure changes take place. These changes allow gasses or air to be "vented" from the jar. After processing, the atmospheric pressure outside the jar is greater than inside due to "venting". This pressure difference causes the lid to be pulled down onto the jar causing a vacuum seal to be formed. The resulting seal prevents microorganisms and air from entering and contaminating the food.

Interesting, eh? I think so. ^_^


Hubby and I ate some with breakfast the next day. It’s pretty yummy! We then took one jar to Half Moon Bay for our weekend gateway, celebrating our 5-year anniversary!

I still have some strawberry in the freezer, so this week I’m planning to make some more with pectin to see how they differ from each other.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

falling in love

I love baking. I really do. I have always known that I enjoy baking, but I just never realize how much it means to me. In the past, it was to entertain me when I was bored. Then it became something that I just chose to do whenever I have free time. But now, it has became something more. It’s what I do; it’s what defines me; it’s part of who I am.


I had another opportunity to make another dessert table one week after the previous one for Milly and Izzy. This time, it’s for another good friends, Patricia and Chris. I was honored, not only because I was making this table for them, but also because I was asked to be Patricia’s bridesmaid. It would seemed like an impossible thing to do, but I am lucky cuz I had helped from two very trustworthy people: my dear hubby and my partner from school, Tingting.

Unlike the previous table, this one consists of more cookies and no candies. The couple are Indonesian, and wanted something somewhat Indonesian. So I made them two of the most well-known cookies in Indonesia, Nastar (pineapple tartlets) and Kastengel (cheese cookies). I really don’t know many other Indonesian cakes and cookies, and those two were the only ones I felt comfortable making; I’ve been helping my mom making them since I was a little girl. Of course the recipes I used are my mom’s recipes.


In addition to those two cookies, Patricia also requested French Macarons and sugar cookies with their initials. I was most nervous about the French Macarons, since I haven’t really got the hang of it. However, they turned out quite well (see previous post of my joy here). Altho I still think they’re a tad too sweet, but being able to get the shape right is a huge leap forward in my opinion.

Surprisingly, the sugar cookies were the ones that gave me most difficulties! I was struggling in getting the right consistencies on my royal icing. It was late, and I was tired. And I stupidly used a piping bag that was previously used for whipped cream!!! For those who don’t know, royal icing must never touch any grease or it will not set. Of course I washed my piping bag, but it turned out there’s some fat residue on it that transferred on to the royal icing. I should’ve used my disposable bag… but again… it was late, I was tired :-P. After a few hours attempting to make it work, I gave up. The next day, I decided to use white chocolate fondant instead. I thought it would be easy. Well… I was wrong. That day was so hot, I was hot, the fondant was hot. It’s pretty hard to keep a heart shape fondant when it’s semi-melting in your hand… hehehehe…. After making about 30 of them, I decided that it was enough…. Time to move on to the initial. You wanna know a little secret? I sux at piping! No lie. I do. I keep telling myself I need to work on it… but I just sux so bad that I frustrated myself when I practice. The extent of my piping skill ends at rosette and shell borders. So I settled with letter cutters. Should be easy, right? Hahaha… no. Sticky fondant, very small cutters, 30 sets of “C”, “&”, “P”. I was ready to give up. But I remember her request. So I refused to give up! The results weren’t so bad, I just couldn’t believe the amount of time it took me to make ‘em.


In addition to the cookies I mentioned above, we also had cheesecake bites, chocolate chip cookies, and fruit tarts and spritz cookies made by Tingting. I love the way she arranged the fruits on the fruit tarts!! I just wanna eat them all… but I couldn’t. Cuz by the time I arrived at the hotel… guess what? They were all gone!!! ^_^


When I got there, I saw my hubby running back to the car. I asked “how’s the setup? Do you need help?”. He said “it’s done and gone”. For a while I could not comprehend what he was saying. Then he said to me “the set up is done, and all of the goods are gone, even the refills”. Again… I was in awe! I ran in, and again I was overwhelmed by all the positive feedback. Many asked for business card, contact info, menu, etc. Wheee…. I’m in cloud 9 again.. ^_^

Thanks to Tingting and hubby. Wouldn’t be able to do it without you! ^_^

Wanna know another little secret? I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed decorating cakes! So hopefully I'll get a chance to do this again in the future!

Friday, August 28, 2009

running solo


Last week I had the honor of making a dessert table for my good friends', Milly and Izzy, wedding. When Milly asked me if I’d rather do a wedding cake or a dessert table, I immediately said “dessert table”. And boy did I make the right choice, cuz I had a blast! I’ve been curious in exploring different things, and when I saw a feature of a dessert table created by the talented Amy Atlas in one of the blogs I follow, I was totally intrigued! Without a doubt, she is definitely the main inspiration for all my dessert tables.

Not only that this was my first dessert table for a wedding, it was also the first time I’m running solo. My hubby, who usually helps me with delivery and setup, was the photographer for the day (check out his awesome pics here). I must admit, I was extremely nervous a few days before the event. I guess that’s a good sign right? It shows how much I care ? ^_^'. But seriously, I was telling my co-workers a few days before the wedding of how nervous I was. I guess I wasn't sure if I could do this all by myself. I finally was able to calm myself; I said to myself that I’ve planned it to the best of my ability, I just needed to execute it.

I was in awe on how smooth everything went on the day of. I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend the ceremony. The ceremony site, reception site, and my apartment are located in three very distant locations (Burlingame, Milpitas and Fremont). I had little time to spare between the ceremony and reception, so I decided to book a room at a nearby hotel that has a refrigerator. I had requested for an early check in, and two people I spoke to prior to making the reservation gave me two different information. The first one said “of course, early check in is not a problem!”, and the second one said “mm... I'm sorry, but I can’t guarantee it. You should call back on the day of your arrival”. And the last person I spoke to in the morning of the wedding day said “nope… we have no room available”. Yaiks! I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to go to the ceremony. But the guy suggested that I call again a bit later, which I did, and luckily… one room became available! Long story short, everything works out exactly as planned, and I even got a ride from a friend!


Items served on the table were selected by Milly and Izzy. The table includes a selection of assorted candies (caramel, chocolate covered gummy, almond kisses, yogurt covered pretzel, and assorted candy sticks), Milly's favourite Hawaiian cookies courtesy of Arlene from Baked Vanilla, and fruit tarts, cheesecake bites, cream-cheese brownie bites, and raspberry-chocolate cakes made by yours truly. The flowers on the table were courtesy of the talented Annie Siu.


The feedback I received were overwhelmingly amazing. The desserts were gone in a matter of minutes! I really enjoyed seeing people enjoying my desserts. My favorite comment was from a guy who asked me if I owned a store. And when I said no, he followed up by saying that when I do open a store, I would already have a customer (him) cuz he thought the raspberry-chocolate cake was so good ^___^. That comment alone took me to cloud 9. hehehehe.....

I must thank Milly and Izzy again for letting me make this dessert table for them. Opportunity like this doesn't come very often, and I am truly thankful that they put their trusts in me. I really enjoyed everything. The planning, the baking, the delivery. I even remember thinking the day before the event: "Could this be a glimpse into the future?" (.....that was before things went hectic and I had to go to three different stores to get three different berries.... :-p).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

joy!

The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy…. and I’m loving every minute of it! I just did my first “solo” dessert table last weekend, and it was a success!! I am so happy with the result. ^_^

This blog post, however, is not about the dessert table. There’s so much to write, and so little time. But I do have something important to share with the blogosphere (and whoever is reading this out there). After numerous attempts and pounds and pounds of almond meal, confectioners sugar, and egg whites went down the drain or into the trash, I finally did it!!


























I put the whites and the almond meal into a food processor, pulsed it a few times, and then sifted it.

I whipped the whites to a silky stiff meringue.

Then I poured the almond/sugar mixture and fold… and fold … and fold…

Then I stopped. I piped... and on they went into the oven….

Ten minutes later…. Smooth tops… beautiful little feet…

JOY!! ^__^

I wanted to scream to the world “I DID IT!! I DID IT!! I DID IT!!”

Not just once, or twice, but THREE times!!! YEAYYY!


All of a sudden, all the instruction makes sense. “Whip whites to a stiff meringue” – check! “Fold till mixture looks like magma” – check!

I did it successfully last time with the Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup poured onto whipped meringue), and that allowed me to see what the mixture suppose to look like. This time I did it with the French meringue (whites + sugar). There were still some with cracked tops, but mostly were good. I made them a few days ago and they still bring smile to my face whenever I get home and see them. I know, it sounds silly… but after numerous attempts, hours reading tutorials and various blog posts, and finally getting it, I feel like this is a big thing. ^_^

They are now ready to be filled and served on my next dessert table.

Oh and for those who doesn’t know, I’m talking about the cutest little diva in the baking world (in my opinion)… French Macarons ^_^

Monday, August 10, 2009

julie & julia


I went and see Julie & Julia yesterday. I've been wanting to see it since the day I first saw the commercial on TV. Unlike many others, I went to see Julie... not Julia. Lotsa reviews are starting to pop up online. Most of them applaud Meryl Streep for her excellent performance of Julia Child. I agree with that. She is superb and fun to watch. But I didn't grow up or live in the era of Julia Child. I'm a lost office worker, trying to find my purpose, who love to spend time in the kitchen. I'm Julie.

I think many people went to see the movie expecting to see a bibliography of Julia Child. In my opinion, this movie is not about Julia Child. It's about Julie Powell and that one year period she spent with Julia's book that changed her life forever.

There are so many parts of that movie where I thought, "that's me!". I'm like Julie at the beginning of her one year journey, still at lost and not knowing how to break this mundane daily routine. It's nice to see that it works out for her and in the end she's able to find her true-self.

Hopefully it'll work out for me as well ;-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

getting inspired...

It's interesting how sometimes little things in life brings inspiration to me.

Things like music:
Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction

My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying

Gotta keep my head held high


There's always gonna be another mountain

I'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb


(Yeah.. it's Miley Cyrus' song... hehehe)

Or the blue skies and green trees:


Or the random food bloggers I follow out there: Tartelette, Dessert First, The Journal of a Girl who Loves to Cook, Melanger, and many others.

Or the not-so-random food bloggers that I just found recently: Gourmet Baking and In Love with Baking. These two lovely ladies are actually people I know from back in college.

It's exciting to find/see/read about others who are passionate about desserts and sweets as much as I do. When I found a new blog, I usually go to their first post and then compare it with their latest post. It's always interesting to see how far some have come from when they first started. Truly inspiring. This is what motivates me to keep learning, and also what keeps me humble. I know that I can do some things that others think they could not, but I also know that there are others out there who are way better than me and have achieved much greater accomplishments from their hard work and dedications. Their works inspire and motivate me to learn and try other things.

I always try to be a positive person, but occasionally I do find myself complaining and whining about things I don't have or unable to do. Truthfully, it's not whether I can or cannot do it, but more like whether I want or don't want to do it.

Yes, yes... things aren't always the way I want them to be (if they were, I'd be a millionaire traveling around the world ^_^). But look at these people... this is Anita's kitchen (the writer behind Dessert First). Then go to her blog and see how wonderful her creations are. The size of her kitchen doesn't stop her from doing things she loves to do. And read through Bertha's Gourmet Baking and see how she manages to find time "an hour before work" or "right before the guests arrived".

Amazing, I'm telling you!! So I smacked myself on the head for being a whiner. ^_^

It's either do or don't. No more "I would, but..."

Monday, August 3, 2009

exploring new stuff...

Somebody asked me "so, what's up in the baking world?". I guess I've been bad in updating this blog of mine.... hehehe... it might seems like I haven't been baking much, but it's actually quite the opposite. My calendar has been filled with so much baking 'schedule' that sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by it. But once I get into the kitchen, I almost always able to find my happy place.... almost. ^_^

Not too long ago, I started wondering if custom cake really is my thing. Wedding and special occasion cakes are fun. I always felt great when I'm able to execute a cake that I've planned/designed. However, often time I find the process is always so nerve-wrecking... there's always the last minute change of plan cuz things never work out they way I thought they would. I always started with plan A and ended up with plan Y or Z. And then there's the pressure of delivering the product in one piece, or assembling it at the site.... I'm not sure if my heart can take it.... hahahaha


Nah...I'm just kidding. I still like cakes, but I think there are so much out there that I still need to explore. I wanna make yummy desserts, and the more I think about it... cakes with fondant are pretty, but most of the time they don't taste that yummy (the fondant part - that is).

So now, I've decided to explore a different aspect of baking and pastry... dessert table ^_^.

I think creating a dessert table allows me to explore more variety of desserts and pastries. I get to try to make all sorts of stuff and I get to be creative too in designing the overall look of the table.




I got to do my first "gig" for my dear friend's bridal shower last Saturday. The theme for the shower was a French tea party. We tried to create a Parisian cafe theme on the decor. I got a break this time, since another friend actually did all the decor. So I only had to provide the pastries.

I thought cakes were nerve-wrecking... well this is actually twice as nerve-wrecking as cakes! Well, it could also be because I was making a cake as well in addition to the other desserts. Scheduling the production was rather difficult. After all, this is a one-woman show, with limited refrigerator space, limited kitchen space, and limited production time. I didn't/couldn't start the production too early in advance since I want the pastries to still be fresh. The last thing I want was soggy crust on my fruit tartlets. And I do have a full time job to go to during the day... hehehe. So my activity last week has been: wake up, go to work, go home, bake, sleep, and repeat.


I think the best thing out of all this was my first successful attempt in macaroning *yay*. I've been trying to make this tiny-cute-yummy-finicky-temperamental-concoction numerous times and have wasted so much egg whites and almond meal. I think the problem I kept having is that I didn't know when to stop "macaroning". I always overmixed or undermixed. All the tutorials I read on various blogs said to "mix till the mixture flows like magma". I've never visited a volcano and not planning to do so anytime soon... so I don't really have a clue how magma flows. Anyway, this time I used the italian meringue method, instead of the typical french meringue method. I've made this recipe once before. It was pretty good, but I thought it was rather sweet. However, my objective this time is to get that perfect shell and feet. I needed to know what the batter consistency should look like... then I can work on the taste.


I didn't put my hopes up too high, since I kept getting disappointed over and over again. But to my joyous surprise, they actually rised! Perfect feet, perfect shell (well half of them, at least). Woohoo!! I was sooo ecstatic!! I didn't take a picture of the shells when they first got out of the oven, but boy.... they looked like little soldiers...aligned so prettily, standing tall and proud... I'm a happy camper ^_^.


In the end, I think it all went pretty well considering this is my first time. It definitely took way more work than I anticipated. My main issue is the lack of appropriate tools and storage space, but i'll make do with what i have ^_^. Two more coming up at the end of this month. Wish me luck!