Thursday, August 20, 2009

Christening Cake and Cupcakes for Cerise

I made a christening cake for a sweet baby girl named Cerise. Such a cute name. Mom Kareena tells me her name is a bright shade of pink. The theme for the party is Bathing Baby. I love that the mom gave me carte blanche on the design for the cake, cupcakes and mini cake giveaways. I did a carrot walnut cake for the main cake and mini cakes and vanilla and chocolate for the cupcakes. Welcome to the Christian World, sweet baby Cerise!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Cake for My High School's 100th

My high school celebrated its 100th Foundation Day. The culminating event was a Homecoming at the City complex. Two days before the event I was approached to make a cake for the occasion. Having been given that short a notice, a smallish cake was all I could make. Whatever the cake lacked in size it more than made up in details. With no edible photo printer available, I had to handcraft the school logo in fondant. It was well worth the late night as everyone liked the cake plus I got free publicity in exchange. I just have no idea who actually got to go home with my creation.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chocolate Banana Loaf

It's a variation on my favorite chocolate pound cake recipe this time made a little bit healthy with mashed bananas. This coffeecake is filling and not too sweet so it's perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea.

Chocolate Banana Loaf

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1-2/3 cups refined sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium-sized bananas, mashed

Streusel Topping

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven at 350°F. Grease, line and flour loaf pans.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Mix together milk, vanilla and mashed bananas. Set aside.

Mix all streusel topping ingredients by hand or food processor till you get coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy, about 5 minutes scraping down bowl once or twice. Add eggs one at a time. At low mixer speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk-banana mixture. Scrape down bowl and mix another minute.

Transfer batter into prepared pans. Top with prepared streusel. Bake loaves for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2- 7" x 3.5" loaves or 18 muffins

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blueberry Crumble Bars

My son loves anything made with blueberries. Blueberry topping on cheesecake, blueberry ice cream milkshake, and blueberry preserves on toast.

He was away for a sleepover so as a welcome home treat for him, I decided to surprise him with blueberry crumble bars.

Bar cookies are such a joy to make. Perfect for when you are pressed for time, these bars can be made even if you only have an hour or two to spare. It's also the perfect cookie to make in the summertime when it's simply too hot to linger in the kitchen which is what we are experiencing these days.

I used bottled blueberry preserves for this recipe which was in my pantry. Fresh blueberries are hard to come by in our area. If and when I do spot them at the market, they are imported and cost a hefty sum. But by all means feel free to use fresh blueberry compote if fresh ones are available where you are.

Happy baking!

Blueberry Crumble Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup refined sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup bottled blueberry preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9" x 9" pan. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes or till light and fluffy.
3. Blend in vanilla.
4. Slowly add in flour, salt and oats.
5. Spread half of dough on bottom of prepared pan.
6. Spread blueberry preserves over base.
7. Top with spoonfuls of the remaining dough.
8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
9. Cool completely then slice into bars.

Makes 20 to 24 bars.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes is Manila's IT dessert of the last couple of years. Visit any bazaar and you'll surely see someone selling this yummy dessert.

The blogging arena is peppered with reviews and features about it. Because of the raves, the varieties are growing by the minute.

There's the classic vanilla; regular brazo with vanilla ice cream. I read somewhere there's black forest with a chocolate cake base and a berry sherbet. Recently I saw a version made with matcha or green tea. Then there's cheese made with cheese-flavored ice cream. I'm sure there's a whole lot more flavors I'm not aware of.

Personally, I make and enjoy the classic version made with vanilla ice cream . It pairs perfectly with the chewy custard. It is one my family's favorite desserts and for good reason. From the fluffy meringue and refreshing ice cream to the rich custard and crusty graham crumbs; this frozen dessert takes your mouth to a play of textures that's out of this world.

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes is a cinch to make. The only baking you have to do is the meringue part. I will advise you though that you make this dessert way ahead of time to allow for enough freezing time. Just let rock hard frozen brazo de mercedes sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Here's the recipe for the classic version:

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes

2 pints Vanilla Bean ice cream, slightly soft
Graham Cracker Crumb Crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons refined sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Press onto bottom of 9" x 9" refrigerator cake container. Keep in freezer until needed.

Custard Filling

6 pieces eggyolks
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup refined sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine eggyolks, sugar and condensed milk in a heavy saucepan or double boiler. Cook till thick and bubbly. Stir in vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with cling wrap and set aside to cool.

Meringue Layer

3/4 cup eggwhites (about 6 large eggs)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup refined sugar

sifted confectioner's powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Brush jellyroll pan with vegetable oil. Line with baking parchment then brush paper with oil again. Set aside.

2. At highest mixer speed, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar until you get fine bubbles. Add refined sugar slowly beating till meringue has stiff peaks but not dry.

3. Spread meringue evenly onto prepared jellyroll pan. Make decorative combing strokes on top.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from pan and invert meringue onto parchment generously dusted with powdered sugar. Cool on wire rack until ready to use.

To assemble:

With an offset spatula, spread cooled custard on top of graham cracker crumb crust. Add layer of vanilla ice cream on top of the custard layer. Top with cooled meringue. Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes I Cheat...

Ok I'll admit it. There are times when I make stuff from a box to make my life easier.

What's wrong with that? It tastes good anyway and puts a smile on people's faces. That's the goal right? If I can do that in 25 minutes flat so much the better.

But let me tell you I'm quite selective when choosing which ones to do. I only do brownies and cookies from a mix. Everything else, I bake from scratch.

Let me take for example this Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix. You can make a mean Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars from the ready-mix version which you can get from the supermarket. Just prepare the dough according to package directions, fold in a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips then transfer to a 9-inch square pan and it's ready to bake.

Time saved goes into more fun activities like sharing these bars with loved ones over a cup of coffee and some meaningful conversation.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Double Chocolate Cookies

There are a few recipes I want to pass on to the younger generation to enjoy and this one for double chocolate cookies is one of them.

It's always a hit and never disappoints; comfort food through and through.

Prepared cookie dough keeps well frozen too for when you have unexpected guests or for late night cravings. You can scoop prepared cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Pop the sheet in the freezer. Once the cookies are frozen, you can put them in resealable freezer bags and keep up to three months frozen. All you need to do is thaw them out on the counter while your oven is preheating. Twelve minutes in the oven and you have warm cookies in a jiffy.

Here's the recipe for the coolest cookie around:

Double Chocolate Cookies
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups refined sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream butter, refined sugar and brown sugar for 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
4. At low mixer speed, add slowly add dry ingredients.
5. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
6. Drop tablespoonful of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets two inches apart.
7. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350°F. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Warm Fantans and My Other Weaknesses

Don't you just love taking a leisurely Sunday breakfast on a beautiful clear day? Paper in hand and coffee freshly brewed, a basket of warm fantans with some butter and jam completes the picture.

Now I'm not really the "up-before-dawn-making-bread" type. I'd rather buy bread these days than make them. I get mine frozen from Elsie's owned by the family of my longtime friend Elise Torrejon.

Thawed and heated in a warm oven, I love the crunchy top and soft center of this pleat-like roll. Steam comes out between the leaves as you take a fantan apart. A pat of butter melting on each piece is a sight to behold. And the taste; makes you utter, "This is the life!"

Ever the sugar pushover, I finish each roll with a sweet sweep of jam and my day is made. Now it's no secret anymore how the pounds creep in.

I just wish there were more days in the week like this and an unending supply of fantans.

Hint. Hint. *wink*

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pink Apron On Martha Stewart Weddings

Okay, so this might border on shameless self-promotion but I just gotta tell you. My wedding cookies and miniature cheesecakes were recently featured on the spring/summer issue (March-August) of Martha Stewart Weddings Philippines!

Yey! So happy for this wonderful development in my baking career. Many thanks to Chiqui Lloren-Obcemea of Delight Styling and Photography for this exposure. More to come I hope.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Decorating cookies with marshmallow fondant

If you're in a hurry, decorating butter cookies with marshmallow fondant is a great time-saver. Drying time is a few hours, weather permitting, compared to a few days if you're using royal icing.

You also use one cutter for both cookie and fondant. Just attach the fondant with a little water or light corn syrup and you're set.

For additional embellishments, you can decorate some more with royal icing, dragees or petal dust.

For the butter cookie and royal icing recipes, look here.

You can make marshmallow fondant by following the recipe here.

There's one caveat though. Cookies decorated with fondant do not keep very long. The colors fade easily with light. So if you're planning to use fondant for cookies, make sure not to decorate cookies too much in advance. A couple of days lead time should be fine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tips on Food Photography

I know I've said this before, I started this blog to inspire myself to bake more often and take better pictures. I have a passionate affair with beautiful photographs of food. The styling, lighting, and composition just fascinates me to bits.

In the almost one year since I've purchased my first Nikon dSLR I've learned a thing or two about food photography through trial and error.

If there are a few things I can share that I think you'll find valuable, these are:

1. Before you start taking pictures of your creation, clean up the mess you made. Clear the counter and put away unused ingredients and utensils. Nothing spoils a photo more than dirty dishes and pots in the background.

2. If you can avoid it, turn off your camera's flash. Using it produces harsh shadows and washed out pictures of food. It is often best to take pictures of food by a window that lets in a lot of light, and

3. You can dress up your composition a bit by using a nice white or cream colored napkin or placemat. Food also looks good on a clean white plate or a fairly new chopping board. Try to avoid plates and tablecloths with lots of patterns and colors.

But no worries, that's about the extent of my ramblings. I will stop pretending to be knowledgeable enough to write an article about my findings and leave the teaching to the pros.

If you are seriously considering starting your own blog or simply want to chronicle the fruits of your labor, might I suggest a few articles from some professional photographers and food bloggers that I found quite informative and packed with helpful tips for amateurs like myself.

A couple of articles I found very informative is this one by Michael Ray which can be found here and here.

Another article that proved very useful for me is this one by Lolo of the famous blog vegan yum.yum found here.

For more inspiration, there's always Flickr for tons of food shots with helpful discussions on styling and lighting techniques. Just take care that you don't spend more time browsing than actually baking and taking photos of your work as I am sometimes inclined to do. ;-)

Good luck with your photography adventures. And one last thing, take more pictures than you think you'll need; vary the angles and perspective. And do it as often as you can because the more you practice, the better you become.

Happy snapping!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Version of Magnolia Bakery's Famous Banana Pudding

My friend Mia lived in NYC for two years and while there fell in love with Magnolia Bakery's Famous Banana Pudding. She would describe this dessert as melt-in-your-mouth creaminess and sheer heaven.

But banana pudding is not available in any Manila bakery we know. So she challenged me to make her my own version. Not having tasted Magnolia's version, I searched the net for the recipe and found one from recipelink which you can find here.

I made some substitutions to the above recipe. Since Nilla wafers are not available here I used pasencia, our local vanilla wafer cookies. And instead of 3 cups of whipping cream, I used 2 cups to make the pudding richer.

I'd say this is another recipe to whip out of the box for when it's too hot to turn the oven on. Not bad as a potluck dessert too. Really fast and easy. I'm glad to have found another recipe to add to my list of standbys.


A few days later, I made another batch; this time using fresh ripe mangoes which are in season. It was another hit. In fact, they like the mango version better than the banana. Oh, well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brown Sugar Cashew Blondies

I made these for a school bake sale my niece was participating in and they were a big hit. Very simple and fast to make even kids can do it.

Brown Sugar Cashew Blondies

2 large eggs
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped toasted cashew nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of 9" x 13" pan. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat eggs until lemon-colored and bubbles are very fine. Add in brown sugar, vanilla extract, corn syrup and melted butter. At low mixer speed, slowly add in flour mixture. Fold in nuts by hand.

Transfer to prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

Makes 30 bars.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Do I Love Thee?

I'm such a sucker for Valentine's. I buy into the hype and all that jazz. And why not? Remember that fuzzy feeling when someone remembers you and declares it? You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, enough about me. To all you young and old lovers out there, why not bake someone you love these "I love you" cookies to say what you're too shy to say? Or for the romantic at heart, any day is a good day to send out these as a loving gesture of affection. The world needs more love to go around if you ask me.

For the recipe for roll out butter cookies and royal icing, look here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chocolate Crinkles

Soft as a pillow when freshly baked and warm from the oven. Moist and tender crumb, rich and chocolate-y. Tastes heavenly; you can't stop at just one piece. Enough said.

Supermoist Chocolate Crinkles

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups refined sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh milk
confectioner's powdered sugar for coating cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar at medium speed of mixer till light and fluffy (about 10 minutes).
3. Add eggs one at a time.
4. At low mixer speed, add flour mixture alternately with the milk.
5. Refrigerate dough covered for 30 minutes.
6. Shape dough into one-inch balls then roll in powdered confectioner's sugar.
7. Place on greased cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
8. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes. (Don't overbake.)
9. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Makes 36 cookies.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Roll-Out Butter Cookies

When you're hanging out at home with the kids, making these cookies is a great bonding activity.
It gets everyone involved and brings out the creativity in everyone.

Who knows, this could be the start of a family tradition. Just make sure the kids use those kid-friendly plastic cookie cutters and be ready for the mess they will surely make.

To make the decorating part extra special, stock up on a variety of fun cookie decorations like candy sprinkles, nonpareils and colored sugar for everyone to use to their heart's content.

Take lots of pictures of the family in action and don't forget to snap their handiwork. And most important, try to relax. Enjoy!

Here's the recipe:

Roll-Out Butter Cookies

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
5 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups refined sugar
4 large eggs

1. Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar at medium speed of mixer for 10 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time.
4. At low mixer speed, add half of flour mixture.
5. Transfer dough to table and with the tips of your fingers, very gently knead in the rest of the flour mixture.
(You might have to add a few tablespoons of flour until the dough no longer sticks to the table).
6. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
7. Roll out dough onto cookie sheet (Use a plastic sheet or parchment paper on top of dough while rolling). Cut out cookie. Remove trimmings carefully leaving the cut out cookies. Set trimmings aside for re-use.
8. Bake cookies at 325°F for about 20 to 25 minutes.
9. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool before decorating.

Royal Icing

1/3 cup eggwhites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound sifted confectioner's powdered sugar

Mix everything in a mixer at medium speed for 10 minutes. Color as desired. Ice cookies using spatula or disposable icing bags and decorating tips. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth when not in use to avoid crusting.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts

The New Year is upon us once again. If you are anything like me, this is a time to renew our commitment to embark on a quest for better eating habits. More fruits and vegetables, more fiber. Less meat, less fat and definitely less sugar.

As a matter of fact, all of us are consuming less fiber than we should, way less. So as an answer to that, I have a recipe for a cookie that will up our fiber intake. This is genuinely satisfying, you'll hardly notice you're doing something healthy for your body.

Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup refined sugar
1-1/4 cups firmly-packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1-1/4 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon powder and oats. Set aside.
3. In mixer, cream butter, shortening, refined sugar and brown sugar for 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
5. At low mixer speed, add flour mixture.
6. Fold in raisins and walnuts by hand.
7. Scoop dough onto prepared cookie sheets two inches apart.
8. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
9. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Makes 5 dozen medium-sized cookies.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm Still Here...

For a while there, I thought I would have to give up this blog.

For months and months I wasn't posting. Just drafts and drafts and even more drafts. I bake, sure, endlessly even over the holidays but I seldom got to photograph what I made.

No pictures equals no post. You see I had this notion that it's pointless for me to post when I don't even have a tiny picture to substantiate my labors. Why make this blog more boring than it actually is.

But I said to myself after the dust has settled that I am willing to go back and redo everything. I plan to bake or create again every post I did a draft on. This time I'm going to take the best photographs I can get with my limited free time and gear.

So gear up, friends, for I am once-again on a roll. Maybe not as maniacal as before but I'll try to do at least one post a week.

I hope you all are well and happily toiling away in your kitchens making people you care about satisfied with your baking adventures.