Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Tree Cupcake to end year 2012

Woohoo! It's the last day of 2012. Its been an eventful year, moving back to Singapore, starting a new job, reuniting with my secondary school friends, having several very good friends hitched and some preggie by now. It's also the year where I've experimented more with cakes and frosting. Christmas is the season of indulgence, in the form of gifts, wishes, goodwill, hugs and most of all, good decadent food. In the spirit of Xmas, I blatantly adapted some Christmas Tree cupcake designs from the kind contributors of the google world!

It's not too difficult. You will only need a stiff buttercream icing, a star tip, marshmallows and toppings of your choice which are rainbow sprinkles and honey stars in my case.


1. Bake your choice of cupcakes in advance for them to be completely cool when frosting. I use my milo buttermilk cupcake recipe as these cupcakes do not dome and will save me time from leveling any domed-cakes.

2. Make the swiss meringue buttercream. My all-time favourite and reliable buttercream frosting is from Sweetapolita. I made half a batch (5 egg whites, 1 cup butter) and was able to frost around 40 cupcakes and still had 1/3 left of the frosting. This buttercream is very versatile, able to hold shapes and very importantly, is stable at room temperature and would not wilt nor turn into mush after being removed from the fridge. I will usually bake and frost, keep the frosted cupcakes in the fridge and bring to room temperature the next day when serving them. I also generally add coffee, cocoa powder or peanut butter to this frosting to tone down the slick buttery taste. In this case, a brown frosting do not match the apple green colour I'm using. It kind of just turned it muddy green. So, I added a good dose of thick vanilla essence which enhanced the flavor quite nicely as well.

3. If you are wondering where the marshmallows come in, they are used to be the pillar within the buttercream. Instead of piping ALOT of cream to create a tall cone, I cut each large marshmallow into a cone shape and adhere them to the cupcakes with a dab of buttercream. It was very useful, in reducing the amount of buttercream needed and creating a surprise white effect against the green frosting as you bit into the cake.

4. Finally, using a star tip in a large piping bag, start around the base of the marshmallows - Press and pull away. A tiny dollop of the buttercream will stick onto the marshmallow and as you pull the piping bag away, the buttercream branches are created. Just do it all around the marshmallow and end with a fatter squeeze right at the top of the cone.

5. Tada! Sprinkle with the rainbow sprinkles and top with a honey star! Bring cupcake to slightly cool or room temperature before serving them. When immediately out of the fridge, the buttercream is very stiff and will be like hard butter if you bite into it. It's much nicer and smoother after 30 minutes to an hour out from the fridge.

Go on and do this next year. It's easy, fun and looks so cute as a Xmas treat!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gingerbread Man in da house!

Ho Ho Ho! Are you still thinking of what to give your family/friends/colleagues for christmas? How about a gingerbread man to send some festive greetings along to everyone? It's easy to make, pretty delicious and fun to create designs unlimited by imagination! 

Recipe (Source)
a. 455g Plain Flour
b. 2 tsp cinnamon
c. 2 tsp ground ginger
d. 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
e. 1 tsp sea salt
f. 1/2 tsp baking soda
g. 117g unsalted butter, room temp
h. 100g brown sugar
i. 50g fine grained white sugar
j. 150g molasses (I used dark molasses)
k. 2 small eggs, cold (or 1 very large egg, mine is 55g per egg)
l. 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine ingredients a - f and sift.
2. Using the paddle attachment, cream butter, brown & white sugar on high speed until pale & fluffy.
3. Add molasses and cream for another 2 minutes.
4. On medium speed, beat in eggs and vanilla.
5. On low speed, add flour mixture until fully combined. Dough will be soft and mallable but not sticky nor crumbly.
6. Separate dough into 2 portions, cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to bake:

1. Preheat oven to 175g.
2. Roll out 1 portion of the dough onto a floured tabletop. Use only a light layer of flour on the tabletop and try not to get it on the top surface of the dough.
3. Cut out shape of your choice, peel shaped doughs from surface and place it onto a lined baking tray. (Alternatively, I rolled out random patches of dough, place entire sheet onto tray, cut the shape and remove the excess. This way, it prevents the dough from breaking (especially the heads!) and getting mishapen when removing from tabletop onto tray) See pictures:

Mishapened limbs and askew heads:
 Easier way out - cutting the excess out from tray itself
4. Bake for 10 minutes until it starts to brown a little. this will give a slightly soft cookie base with a almost-crispy top. I baked for up to 12 minutes to get a crisp cookie base.
5. Cool completely before icing it. 

Royal Icing Recipe:
2 Egg Whites
1 tsp lemon juice
3 cups icing sugar

Add lemon juice to egg white and beat slightly. With the mixer on high speed, add sugar 1 cup at a time. Beat until stiff peaks.
If texture is too grainy or stiff, add a little water to thin it. If texture is too runny, add more icing sugar and beat further.
Cover and use quickly as it will dry up if exposed to air.

Wrap in Ziploc or air tight containers, keep up to 1 week. Have fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Home-made Chewy Granola Bars

I've been on a quest recently, to try for healthier alternatives in meals and baking, and to incorporate more whole grains in the diet for me&hub. In my recent shopping, I've acquired seeds (quinoa, flax seed, sunflower seeds), nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews), dried fruits (cranberries, figs, dates). Sugar alternatives came in the form of honey & molasses, and butter in avocado or yogurt. With my love for carbs, I highly doubt that I can rid myself of wheat to go gluten free... so I try by at least replacing half the flour with whole wheat and rye.

With all my new ingredients, I thought it's a suitable time to start on that home-made granola bar that's been bookmarked for ages. It's what I hope to be a much healthier alternative to store-bought packages, filled with plenty nuts&seeds, fruits and with no sugar, but honey for sweetness and that beautiful aroma.

Recipe, source from here:

1 cup of chopped nuts (Cashew and Walnuts)
1/4 cup of seeds (Sunflower and Flax Seeds)
1 cup of dried fruits (cranberries, dates and sun dried tomato)
1 cup of pureed fruit (2 large bananas)
3/4 cup of honey
2.5 cups of organic rolled oats

Mix the honey and banana together, stir in the oats. Add all other dry ingredients, mix well. Line a 9-inch square/rectangular pan with baking paper, pour the mixture in and pack it tightly together.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes. Remove, cool completely before cutting. Refrigerate for up to 1 week. Above yields a soft chewy texture. Bake it longer if you would like to achieve a crispy bar.

The sweet aroma of honey filled the house as it was baking. This set the fragrance for the bar so use a good quality honey that you would not stop eating!
The cashews was still not as crunchy as I would like them so it may be good to toast the cashew lightly, for say 10 minutes, before mixing into the bars. On the other hand, walnuts toast very fast so use only raw walnuts. Will try with toasted almonds in my next attempt.
The above recipe can be replicated with any ingredients of choice. Do visit for a very good and clear explanation on the mix-and-match combinations.

I could not stop pinching bits of it as I was cutting them into bars. 18 yummy snack bars for the week ahead!

Monday, December 10, 2012

No-Butter Chocolate Brownie Cookie

I was contemplating whether to bake a brownie or cookies one Sat afternoon. My last brownie bake was years ago since I'm not a big fan but recently have been seeing and tempted by recipes of salted caramel brownie, chocolate fudge brownie, marbled brownie etc. On the other hand, I wanted crisp crusts and chocolate chunks ala cookie style.

So...well, this is the result - confused brownie in a cookie shape. It is a slightly dense cookie; there's a cakey texture in the interior and the chocolate chunks did add some ooze-worthiness but what I really like is the crusty surface that gives way not to crumbs, bite nor dryness but to a surprise cake within.

However, I sub butter for avocado, in an attempt to go the slightly less sinful route! It does lack the fragrance of butter and I suspect the brownie would have a more fudgy and moist texture if it was butter. So sub away if you wish but if you are slim and healthy, do go ahead and indulge in a full butter brownie cookie!

Recipe, adapted from here:

500g dark chocolate, in small chunks (I used cadbury gold 70% cocoa and Ghirardelli 60% cocoa)
1/2 cup smashed ripe avocado (or unsalted butter)
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Fleur de Sel

Oven temp : 180C

1. Melt 300g chocolate over double boiler
2. Stir in the avocado. If using butter, melt butter together with chocolate in #1.
3. Stir eggs, vanilla, and sugar together and mix with chocolate avocado mixture
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder to combine and stir in the rest of the chocolate chunks
5. Drop tablespoons of batter onto lined baking trays and sprinkle with fleur de sel
6. Bake for 12 minutes until crisp crusts are formed but do not overbake or the brownie within will dry out.