June 28, 2012

Ruffled Vanilla Celebration Cake

Since I wrote my last post on how to make macarons, I turned 16...yes, I aged a year! My birthday was this past weekend and even though I stayed home with my friends and family, I wanted to make a cake that has all the things I have ever wanted in one, including ruffles. I have always admired all the ruffle cakes I saw in the past, like this, this and this! Aren't they all pretty and perfect? Mine isn't too pretty like those ones, but I am happy enough with my first attempt. The strawberry swiss meringue buttercream was the real highlight of the cake because it was so delicious that it tasted like fresh strawberry ice cream. It was really light in texture and not too sweet or buttery (I decreased the amount of butter to only 200 grams and it worked!). It was the perfect choice for making ruffles on this cake. The traditional buttercreams use too much icing sugar to stiffen it up, which gives it an unpleasant gritty, overly sweet and buttery taste. That's why I rarely use it anymore.

At first, I couldn't decide what cake to bake since it was only going to be for me and my little family. I had some strawberries leftover so it became the perfect opportunity to try piping ruffles with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream. My main inspiration for this cake came from Diamonds for Dessert's ruffle blogiversary cake. Her post convinced me that ruffles aren't that hard or time consuming to create and perfect. But really, I had some difficulties with it since it was my first attempt. I piped the ruffles the first time and it ended up looking messy and uneven, so I scraped it off and started again. The second time round it came out okay but was still not as perfect as I wanted it to be. I figured out that it already looked good enough and I was tired of the thought of doing it again. 

I used the same white cake recipe from the White Vanilla Cake with Macarons because it turned out fluffy, moist and vanilla-y which would pair really well with the strawberry swiss meringue buttercream. But this time the cake turned out a little dry, so maybe next time I should try another recipe. Nonetheless, the strawberry jam in between the layers helped moisten it a little and added a beautiful flavour to the cake. The cake really did taste wonderful and I was very happy to have finally made a ruffle cake. The ruffles took up so much frosting though, so you would need to make a lot more for a larger cake. Just in case you were wondering, this mini cake is 5 and 3/4 inches in size which is perfect for a celebration to serve a small (I mean tiny) crowd of people.

White Vanilla Cake from Joy of Baking.
Makes 4 thin layer, 5 and 3/4 inch cake (if you want a larger cake, you should increase the recipe by 1.5 or 2 times)


2 large eggs
1 and 3/4 cups of cake/plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
113 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of milk
1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar


1. Preheat the oven to 177 degrees C (350 degrees F). Line with baking paper the bottom and grease one 31.1 x 20.6 cm rectangular sheet pan. If you're doing a larger cake, prepare two or three 8 inch cake pans.

2. Separate the egg whites and egg yolks into different bowls and set aside.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

4. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft for about 1-2 minutes and add 3/4 cups of sugar to the butter, beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.

5. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour.

6. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar to the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.

7. Gently fold a little of the meringue into the cake batter to lighten it first with a rubber spatula, and then fold in the remaining egg whites into the mixture until combined. Try not to over-mix or the batter will deflate.

8. Put the batter into the prepared pan/pans and smooth the surface with a small offset spatula. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

9. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Diamonds for Dessert. (You would have to increase the recipe by about 1.5 or 2 times for a larger cake since the ruffles use lot of frosting)


4 egg whites at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups of sugar
200 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature (the original recipe stated 339 grams of butter which is totally unnecessary since I tried adding a little less than 2 sticks of butter, which still worked perfectly!)
1 and 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries, pureed


1. Simmer some water in a small saucepan on the stove. Mix the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl and put it over the pot so that it fits well. Whisk the mixture until it is hot and the sugar has fully dissolved (dip your fingers into the egg whites and rub them together, if it feels gritty, keep whisking).

2. Remove the bowl from the heat and pour into a bowl of an electric mixer. Alternatively, you could just leave it in the bowl if you are using a hand-held electric mixer. Beat on a medium high speed until stiff peaks form and the bowl has cooled down to room temperature for about 10 minutes.

3. Cut up the butter into small pieces and add them to the mixture a few pieces at a time, waiting for the butter pieces to incorporate before adding any more. Continue beating for a few minutes, and add the strawberry puree a little at a time to allow it to slowly incorporate. If the mixture turns out soupy after a couple of minutes of beating, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes. After beating again it might curdle, but just keep your hopes high and continue to beat the mixture until it turns into a silky smooth buttercream. Add a few drops of pink food colouring if desired. Best used immediately.

1. If making a small cake, create a template for the cakes on a sheet of paper. Use a compass to draw a circle of 5 and 3/4 inches in diameter and cut the stencil out. Then use a knife to cut out 2 circles from the rectangular cake and cut both circles horizontally in half. If making a larger cake, skip this step.

2. Put a cake layer on a cake board or a baking paper circle. Spread a small amount of strawberry jam on the cake and smooth it out with an ofset spatula.

3. Now dollop a scoop of frosting using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon and smooth the frosting out evenly.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other layers until you have a nice staked tower of cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting on the outside of the whole cake to act as a crumb coat. It doesn't have to be too neat, the ruffles will cover it up later. This also keeps the crumbs from mixing into the frosting. Refridgerate the cake for 30 minutes or until firm.

5. Place a petal tip (I used no.104) in a piping bag. Fill the piping bag with the remaining buttercream.

6. Hold the piping bag vertically along the side of the cake with the fat part of the tip facing towards the cake and the thin part facing towards you. Apply pressure and squeeze the bag while piping in a back and forth motion until you reach the top, while making sure that the ruffles stick to the cake. Repeat until the whole cake is covered. If you would like to see how it is being done, check out this helpful video by Sweet and Saucy. She made it look so easy!

7. To finish, pipe ruffles on the top as a border (I would have liked to fully cover the top of the cake, but I had no more frosting left. Instead, I scattered the top with some multi-coloured heart confetti. Sprinkles makes everything look better!

June 26, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Macarons

The title of this post says it all. These macarons are filled with a custard-cream that encases a hidden dollop of the best quality strawberry jam. You might have seen these from my last post on how to make macarons. You might have not. Either way, these delicate treats are certainly delicious when filled with a creamy, vanilla-y thick cream. Just what I need to serve an elegant afternoon tea with the girls. Oh, and some organic tea or hot chocolate to go with it too.

Instead of using strawberry jam, you could use fresh pureed strawberries with a little sugar added to it to give it a fresh strawberry scent that is perfect when paired with the cream in the macarons. I must admit that I am a little disappointed with the colour of my macarons since they were over-baked. It makes them look brown and ugly, hiding the real beauty of the macarons. But putting them in pretty cupcake liners adds a touch of cuteness and probably also hides my mistake, right? Next time when I make another batch of macarons, I will be in the kitchen watching closely at the oven door the whole time. That should solve my problem of over-baking macaron shells.

For the macaron recipe and a tutorial on how to make them, click here.

Vanilla Custard Cream Filling
Adapted from the book, Macarons: Chic and Delicious French Treats

3 egg yolks (saved from the last batch of macarons)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch
1 cup of milk
1 vanilla pod/bean or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of thickened cream

1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a heatproof bowl until combined.

2. Heat the milk with the vanilla in a small saucepan until it just starts to boil.

3. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture and stir until incorporated.

4. Put the mixture back into the pan and simmer gently over a low heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens and will coat the back of a spoon. Heat it slowly and gently and remove it from the heat immediately after it is ready. Be careful not to boil it too much otherwise it will curdle.

5. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl and add the butter, stirring until it has melted and incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to cool before refridgerating.

6. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks and fold it into the custard. Chill before filling the macarons.

When done, the custard/cream should look thick and creamy like the one in the picture above. The colour of the filling depends on the type of sugar you use. My filling is kind of a brown colour because I used brown sugar so if you use white sugar, it should look like whipped cream.

After filling the macarons with the cream and strawberry jam, you should refridgerate them for 30 minutes before serving. Don't store the filled macarons in the fridge otherwise they will go soggy from the custard. Store them separately and fill them before serving.

June 23, 2012

How To: Make French Macarons

So I have been away for a while... to be more specific, that was 2 weeks. I know. Apparently my school work keeps on pilling up and I simply didn't have the time to bake. But now I am back (unfortunately for a short while) with a little how-to on making French macarons! I won't go into all of the details on how to make a perfect batch of macarons but I will show you how to make them step by step. Since these delicate treats can be pretty tricky to make, I suggest you go to this website by Food Nouveau which I refer to when my macarons are cracked, have not developed feet or are just not looking like macarons should.

Let's get started on some macaron-making!

You'll need the following ingredients:

From the cookbook, Macarons: Chic and Delicious French Treats
Makes about 20 filled macarons

200 grams (1 and 1/2 cups) icing/confectioners'/powdered sugar
100 grams (2/3 cup) ground almonds
3 large egg whites (put the egg whites in a microwave for 10 seconds to speed up the aging process)
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar

Start by sifting the icing sugar and ground almonds together.

And mix them together well. Alternatively, you could do this in a food processor.

Then whisk the egg whites together with the salt using an electric mixer in a clean mixing bowl.

Keep whisking until it just holds a stiff peak. Try not to overwhisk or this can affect the outcome of the macarons.

Slowly add the sugar to the egg whites, a teaspoonful at a time until incorporated and becomes thick, white and glossy. Try turning the bowl upside down on top of your head to see if it stays in the bowl. If it doesn't and is still runny, continue whisking until it forms stiff peaks.

Then add any food colouring paste to the meringue mixture. I added a combination of two colours, Americolor super red and Americolor deep pink to create a kind of girly look. Mix thorougly to ensure that the colour is evenly blended.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the icing sugar and ground almonds mixture into the egg whites a little at a time until combined.

Now your mixture should look smooth and drop from the spatula like molten mass.


Fill the piping bag with the macaron mixture using a 1 cm wide tip (I just used a plain coupler). Pipe evenly sized rounds on 2 baking trays lined with baking/parchment paper about 5 cm/2 inches across. Also make sure to leave some space in between the macarons otherwise they will stick together after piping. If you want to be sure that every macaron shell is the same size, you could use a round cookie cutter as a guide by drawing circles on the baking paper and flipping it over to pipe on the other side. I piped the macarons myself without a guide but instead tried counting 2-3 seconds for each one. It didn't always work but at least all the macaron shells looked similar in size....

Tap the bottom of the baking trays once on a work surface to remove any large air bubbles. Do this sharply but don't be too harsh. You don't want the macarons to end up losing their shape. Smooth any peaks on the tops of the macarons with a wet finger. Let the macarons set and form a dry shell for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour, until they are not sticky or wet when tested with your finger.

When they are ready, bake the trays in a preheated oven of 170 degrees C (325 degrees F) for about 10 minutes. The tops of the macaron shells should be crisp and the bottoms dry. They should also peel off the baking paper easily but if they stick, put them in the oven again for another 5 minutes. Leave them to cool completely before filling and serving.

Here are my baked macarons and yes, there are some problems with it. Firstly, I overbaked them a little which gave them a tanned colour so make sure the oven is not too hot and don't let them bake in the oven for too long. Secondly, the tops of some macaron shells were cracked. Probably because they have not set long enough to form a dry shell unlike the other ones. Thirdly, there were some shells that stuck together because I piped the shells too close to each other. As I have said before, leave some space in between the shells when piping as they do expand a bit. Try not to make the mistakes I did!

They didn't come out as perfect macarons but they did form feet/crown and were delicious when filled with a home-made vanilla custard. Practice is the key to success! They may be a little tricky to perfect, but when made these treats are certainly rewarding. They are also so versatile and can be matched or combined with different flavours, fillings and colours to suit your theme or preference. Scattering the macarons with sprinkles, other edible decorations or liquid food colouring can add a touch of sparkle to your macarons and turn them into special little treats.

I'll be back soon with another post featuring these macarons I made from this tutorial!
Click here to see the post featuring these macarons from this tutorial.

June 11, 2012

Pink Banana Layer Cake

The design of this cake was certainly unexpected. I was supposed to pipe pink buttercream flowers to decorate the top of the cake, but I changed the plan when the flowers started to melt and my wrist started to ache when I tried piping again. The colour of the outside of the cake wasn't supposed to be pink too. It just happened to be that the pink buttercream flowers didn't work out, so I had to coat the cake with pink frosting. Then an idea suddenly popped in my mind when I was trying to figure out on how to decorate the top of the cake: Marshmallow flowers. Why not? I know the flowers don't look  right, but they do resemble them a little. It may also look a little childish and silly, but in the end I was happy with it, except when some of the marshmallow petals decided not to stick together anymore.

I didn't intend on making a banana cake too. I was setting out a plan on baking a red velvet cake this week, which is something I have never made before. But the overripe bananas in the fruit bowl had my mother asking me to make something with it before they turn into black, mouldy fruit. The banana cake with cream cheese frosting recipe from Taste.com.au was one of the first cakes I made a few years ago when I was a beginner in baking. I wanted to change the basic recipe a little and turn it into a layer cake by increasing the amount of ingredients by 1.5 times. This ensured that I had three nice, slightly tall layers instead of just one large layer. I rarely bake cakes that have one layer anymore.

The pictures in this post look a little different and 'unnatural' because when I made the cake, it was a dark, cloudy day. What I don't like about cloudy days is that they make me sad and lazy and they aren't so good when it comes to providing natural light for taking photos. So I had no choice but to use bright artifical light, which in the end turned out better than I thought. This cake also reminds me of the Brown Butter Pink Ombre Daisy Cake with Strawberry Jam from Raspberri Cupcakes. Although I didn't attempt at making an ombre icing, the pink colour and the flowers on top make it look similar to her cake (but it is so much better than mine).

The cake tasted pretty good with a great banana flavour. It is slightly dense and on the heavy side, but since it is a banana cake, it isn't fluffy and light like a vanilla cake would. And it was a bit too sweet for me since the frosting and marshmallows were already quite sweet themselves. Hence, I recommend reducing the amount of sugar in the cake to 1 cup instead of 1 and a half. I'll leave it up to you if you decide to make this banana cake. The flavour is great and the cake is moist but if you're looking for one with a lighter crumb, I'd say this cake isn't for you. Anyway, I'll be back soon with another post next week!

Banana Layer Cake adapted from Taste.com.au


187.5 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 large mashed bananas
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
150 ml of milk
337 grams (2 and 1/4 cups) of self-raising flour (or add about 2 teaspoons of baking powder to plain flour)
1 teaspoon of baking soda


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees F). Grease and line three 8 inch cake tins with baking/parchment paper.
2. Beat butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Mix in the vanilla extract, mashed bananas and milk and stir to incorporate.
3. Sift the flour and baking soda into the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter or the cake will come out tough and dry.

4. Divide the batter evenly into three cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in tins for 10 minutes, before allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Make the best-ever-frosting, which is the cooked flour frosting with the cream cheese added (or you can use any type of frosting you like, cream cheese frosting is another good one).
6. Assemble the cake by spreading 3/4 cups of frosting on each layer, working your way up to the final third layer. Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting and put it in the fridge to set for 30 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, make the marshmallow flowers by taking a few marshmallows and cutting them horizontally into two or three halves (it depends on the size of the marshmallows). Press the sticky side of the marshmallow halves in sprinkles and pinch five pieces together to make a flower. Repeat with the rest of the marshmallows.
8. Colour the rest of the frosting pink with a little pink food gel colouring. Frost the outside of the whole cake with the remaining frosting evenly and smooth it out. Top with the marshmallow flowers. Best served at room temperature.

June 1, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes & Mint Chocolate Macarons

At the moment, mint and chocolate seems to be the flavour combination of my latest obsession. I didn't realise how popular they were until I saw them featured in ice cream, biscuits, slices, whoopie pies, cakes and even cupcakes! I wasn't a fan of them either. That is, until I tried a mint slice which is a chocolate-covered biscuit filled with a layer of mint cream inside. They worked so well together, and the mint was a refreshing component that perfectly assisted the sweetness of the chocolate. I also tried eating fresh mint leaves with blocks of chocolate just for fun, but that didn't work well like eating one of my favourite chocolate bars, Mint Aero.

I decided to feature my new love for mint chocolate in the form of macarons when I saw them in the book, Macarons: Chic and Delicious French Treats. I have been wanting to make these ever since I bought the book, and I was further inspired by Raspberri Cupcakes once again, with these adorable Heart Polka Dot Macarons & Vanilla Bean Blueberry Cupakes. I actually attempted to pipe heart shapes with the macarons but failed when they looked like deformed hearts. I'm going to stick with the regular round shapes for now until I perfect my piping skills. Using David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake recipe, I made a small batch of chocolate cupakes which were moist and chocolatey, perfect for pairing with mint.

The real star of the cupcakes are of course, the macarons which are filled with a lovely minty milk chocolate ganache. I used a bunch of fresh mint leaves I bought from the shop, just because I didn't have any peppermint extract on hand. The key to getting as much flavour from the mint possible is by letting the leaves infuse in the syrup for at least an hour. I let mine sit for about three hours, which was enough to bring out the minty-ness, but no too overwhelming as not to mask the flavour of the chocolate. And when it came to the macarons, I was sure to let them set until they formed a skin. But even that, a batch of the shells came out cracked and ugly. I was lucky to have another batch perfectly baked (maybe a tad over-baked) with feet and no cracks!

The frosting I used is new to me, and it is a cooked flour frosting from Tasty Kitchen that I actually wanted to try before I discovered the Best-ever-frosting. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me as the mixture split and there was still lumps of flour present in the frosting. It also kind of melted a bit which did not hold its shape very well as shown on the cupcakes. However, it did taste delicious and wasn't too sweet or buttery at all, but I will go back to my favourite recipe for now as my go-to frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes adapted from David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake.
Makes 10 cupcakes (double the recipe if you want 20 cupcakes)

4 and a half tablespoons of cocoa powder
3/4 cup of cake flour (or plain flour)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of baking powder
57 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of water


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Mix the milk and water together in a bowl and set aside.

3. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until fluffy and creamy. Add the egg and mix until combined.

4. Stir half of the flour mixture into the butter and add the milk and water to the batter. Stir in the other half of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

5. Fill the cupcake liners until half full. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in tray for 5 minutes, before placing the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Mint Chocolate Macarons adapted from Macarons: Chic and Delicious French Treats by Annie Rigg
Makes 20 macarons

200 grams (1 and 1/2 cups) icing/confectioners'/powdered sugar
100 grams (2/3 cup) ground almonds
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons of sugar
30 grams (about 1 bunch) of fresh mint leaves
Extra 3 tablespoons of sugar
200 grams of dark/milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup of water
Green food colouring paste

Make the mint-infused ganache first,

1. Lightly crush the mint leaves with your hands and add it to the extra sugar and water in a small saucepan.

2. Slowly bring it to the boil until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and let it infuse for at least 1 hour (The longer it infuses, the more mint flavour will come out).

3. Bring the mint syrup back to the boil and and then strain the leaves into a heatproof bowl. Immediately add the chocolate to the syrup and mix well until smooth and melted. Let the mixture cool before putting it in the fridge for it to set and thicken up slightly.

To make the macarons,

1. Sift icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and set aside.

2. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in a clean bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk until it just holds a stiff peak.

3. Add the sugar to the meringue while beating at a medium-high speed a teaspoonful at a time. Mix well between each addition. Add the green food colouring to the mixture and stir well until the colour is evenly distributed.

4. Fold the icing sugar and almond mixture into the egg whites until incorporated and smooth.

5. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe evenly sized circles of about 2 inches wide in diameter on a baking/parchment paper lined baking tray.

6. Tap the bottom of the baking trays sharply and leave the shells to set for about 1 hour or until they have set and formed a shell. They should not be sticky or wet when touched with your finger.

7. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F) while the macarons are drying. Bake the shells for about 10 minutes, until they are crisp and dry. Cool completely before filling with the ganache.

8. Take two similar sized shells and sandwich them together with the prepared mint ganache filling. Repeat with the rest of the shells.

Vanilla cooked flour frosting adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Double the recipe if you like lots of frosting

2 and a half tablespoons of plain flour
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of sugar
113 grams of unsalted butter
Green food gel colouring


1. Pour milk in a small saucepan and whisk the flour into the milk until combined.

2. Heat the mixture over a medium heat until it is very thick and creamy. Cool the mixture completely by letting it cool in the fridge or putting it over an ice bath.

3. Add vanilla extract to the cooled mixture and stir to combine.

4. Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

5. Add the cooled flour mixture to the butter and whip on a medium-high speed until it looks like whipped cream. Add colouring and mix well to distribute the colour evenly.

To assemble the cupcakes, pipe a swirl with the frosting and top with a mint chocolate macaron.

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