Friday, January 27, 2012

Breakfast and waking up early

Breakfast menu

Since beginning of this year, I have been waking up early at around 5.20am to prepare breakfast for my family.  No choice, little girl's having morning session and she needs to eat something to last her till recess at 9.30 am.  I have been waking up around 7am for many years.  This sudden change in morning routine makes me rather sleepy or even moody at times.  But, I'm glad that my little girl is adapting well to waking up early.  So far so good, she wakes up promptly, washes up, eats her breakfast and is ready for school within 40 minutes.  But her poor mummy is still trying to adapt to the early hours.  In  fact, after my last December holiday trip, I have cut down my time on blogging.  Just too tired or lack of energy to blog (or even to read other blogs) though I still cook/bake quite a lot.  

I find it rather tricky to prepare breakfast, 'cos:
1) The breakfast must be quick and easy to prepare or heat up, max time = 20 mins.  
2) I do not like to have bread for breakfast everyday.
3) My girl does not like to have milk and cereal (neither do I).

To avoid having the same food for breakfast, I noted down what I had for breakfast each day for the past 4 weeks.  Well, I can't say the menu is "balanced" or nutritious, as the greens/fruits are obviously lacking in them.  But, I will just make sure we have more greens during lunch/dinner.  

My girl has sensitive airways.  Hence, no citrus fruits (not even apples) or cold drinks for her in the morning.   She is not a fussy eater, but she does not like nuts, prunes or raisins (supposedly healthy snacks) in her oat meal porridge.  And yes, she loves her oat meal porridge.

For the next month, I shall plan my breakfast menu along daily theme, for example:
Monday & Thu:  Sandwich day (tuna, egg, ham, peanut butter, jam etc)
Tue: Tea cakes, muffins, scones etc
Wed: Local breakfast (chwee kueh, chee cheong fun, steamed yam cake etc)
Fri: Oat meal porridge

You are most welcome to share with me your breakfast ideas .... just note, must be quick and easy... cos I  need my beauty sleep.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Longevity Peach Cake (寿桃蛋糕)

Cake Decorating Lesson 7: Longevity Cake
This longevity cake is a basic sponge cake wrapped with marzipan, a paste made with ground almond and sugar.  If you are good with making fondant cake, you will find this cake very manageable.  

Carving the cake .... 

How to prepare the longevity cake?
Carving is the most difficult part in making this longevity cake.  You can use either a sponge cake or butter cake, though a butter cake will be easier to carve. 

1) Chill or freeze the cake in the fridge to harden it first.  It is easier to carve when the cake is firm.
2) Draw a heart shape with the pointed end slanted to one side (see pic above).
3) Place the heart shape on the cake and trim the cake.
4) Hold a serrated knife at an angle and trim the edges all round to get a smooth edge.
5) Apply a little fresh cream/or butter cream and stack the excess trim-out cake on top.  
6) Keep carving the cake till the edges are all nice and smooth, and with a slight indentation in the middle.
7) Trim the cake at the bottom, so that it is easier to tuck in the marzipan later.
8) Apply a thin layer of fresh cream/or butter cream all round the cake and place in freezer to harden.
9) Roll out the marzipan (or fondant) into a thin sheet while freezing the cake.
10) Cover the cake with the marzipan sheet and trim off the excess marzipan.  Tuck in the marzipan neatly.
11) Dip a clean toothbrush with some red food colouring.  Brush off the excess food colouring and randomly spray the red spots over the longevity cake.
12) Use the excess marzipan to make leaves (add green colouring) and stalk (add brown colouring) for the cake.

Wishing all a Happy and Prosperous Dragon Year!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Licca-chan Doll Cake

A purple gown for Licca

Cake Decorating Lesson 6:  Doll Cake
I bet this must be the most popular cake lessons for our creaming class, especially if you have little girls at home.  Doll cake, or most called it "Barbie Doll Cake", is basically a doll dressed in a cake. This is a popular choice of birthday cakes for little girls.  Eat the cake and the birthday girl gets to keep the barbie doll as a present.
[I missed lesson 5: Making of house & mini-garden]

Planning and Preparation at home ...
We are required to bring two sponge cakes, 9" and 7".   I had 8" and 6" cakes instead.  I remembered the last barbie doll cake that I made, I needed 4 butter cakes of various sizes from 8" to about 5.5", stacked together to give a real tall cake.  This time round, I used a Licca doll, the Japanese version of the Barbie doll.  Since Licca is shorter than Barbie, I thought two cakes should be enough, though at the back of my mind, I thought three cakes will be safer.  I don't like the idea of pulling out the legs from the doll.  Instead, I prefer to wrap the legs with plastic wraps and insert the doll into the cake.  Hence, you really need to have a tall cake to insert the doll into the cake (up to the waist).

I tied a purple hair-bow to match the dress

How to make the doll cake?
I was too busy during class to take pictures for step-by-step illustration.   Basically, this is what you need to do:

1) Slice and cream the cake as per normal.  Use any flavouring or filling as preferred, just avoid those chunky filling, since you need to carve the cake into a ball dress.

2) Stack the cakes together, bigger cake at the bottom.  Take a small bowl, turn it upside down to make a marking at the top layer.  Use a serrated knife and carve a dome shaped around the marking.  Where necessary, use the excess cake crumbs to fill the top or the side of the dome to achieve a uniform round dome shape.  

3) Make a small hole at the top and insert the doll (this is to ensure that the doll can be properly inserted later).  Remove the doll.  Cream-coat the cake.  

4a) If you are piping the whole cake with little stars or rosettes, you can do so now, after cream-coating the cake.  Insert the doll first before piping and pipe the whole cake as desired.  [Note: Steps 4b to 7 is for another cake design method].

4b) If you intend to pipe ruffles or laces on the cake, i.e. not covering up the whole cake, you will need to apply another layer of cream.  This layer will form the dress of the cake, so add whatever colourings you like for the dress.  Spread the cream onto the cake and smooth the cream as nicely as you can with a spatula.  

5) To get a nice smooth cake surface, cut a small piece of baking paper (about 2 cm x 30cm) .  Hold the paper at both ends with your hands and place it at the side of the cake.  Start from the bottom and glide the paper up against the cake to smooth the surface.  Repeat this step around the cake till the surface is smooth. 

6) Insert the doll and fill up any gap/holes with a little more cream.  Use the baking paper again, this time, glide from top to bottom to smooth out the cream.

7) Decorate the cake as desired.

Notes on piping tips:  
1) For ruffles, use piping tips, 103 or 104 (rose tips) or 67 - 69 (leaf tips).
2) For laces, use a small round tip or just cut a very small opening at the tip of the disposable piping bag.

Purple gown decorated with ruffles and fondant ribbon roses

Which is the most difficult step in making this doll cake?
1) The carving and trimming part is the most tricky part.  You need to hold your knife at an angle while you  carve the cake, so that you can get a nice dome shape for the dress.  Hmmm.... this needs practise and good judgement.  A sharp serrated knife is essential.  I used a flat blade knife and ended up with lots of cake crumbs.  

2) For Licca's doll height, I think three cakes will be easier to work with (maybe 8", 6" and 4" respectively).  For a base of 8", I had problem hiding her lower body with two cakes (8" and 6") stacked together.    In the end, I used excess cakes from my classmates for the top and patched up with cream.  Maybe I could work with two 8" cakes.  Trim one cake into a 6" and use the excess cake to build the third layer.  Hence, for a full-height Barbie doll cake, I think three to four cakes will be needed.

3) Compared to a fondant-covered doll cake, a creamed doll cake really put your piping and carving skills to a test. The strength control and precision are very important to have smooth ruffles or laces on the cake.  I still need lots of practice in this area - you can see my laces are not smooth!  For a fondant cake, if the cake is not carved to a perfect dome shaped, you can still hide the mistake under the dress.  For a cream cake, if the cake is not carved properly, it shows easily.  


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