The bitten lip was quite difficult to do; I hope I pulled it off and it doesn’t look like she’s just got a mangled lip 😛

Also, is anyone interested in a tutorial on my art process?




Bitter Black Forest Cake

I’ve been a little remiss… Scratch that, I’ve been very remiss. This year has been a deceptively unstable year, in which I’ve been pushing the boundaries in the socialising game.

I made this cake for my grandmother, who is a fan of both black forest cakes and tiramisu. It may sound a bit chaotic, but the coffee really goes well with the cherries and the chocolate.

The cake consists of layers of chocolate cake soaked in cherry-jelly (I don’t have kirsch, and I didn’t want a syrup because I thought the cake would leak…), with vanilla Italian buttercream studded with Morello cherries in the middle, topped with coffee-caramel French buttercream.


Y’all know how much I love burning sugar... In this case, I took it to the brink of bitterness because the cherries were very sweet. The burnt sugar taste really accented the coffee.

I’ve also said this before, but when making buttercream, if it looks curdled, JUST KEEP MIXING. I’ve actually got some photos this time:

For slicing the cake layers, I’ve got a cool implement from Ikea (no, they are not sponsoring me… though I wish!). It came in a cake decorating set and while the pastry bag is pretty useless (it leaks horrendously), the piping tips and slicer-thing were worth it.

Now, I’m gonna try a new thing. There’s little point in me typing up the complete recipe, when I’ve taken bits of it from other places. When I do new, original recipes, I’ll post them with ingredients and method, but otherwise, I’ll just post the links.

  1. Chocolate Cake (the buttermilk can be substituted by 25mL vinegar and 350mL normal milk, left at room temperature for 10 minutes, and stirred until homogeneous)
  2. Vanilla Italian buttercream (I multiplied the recipe by 3/5 so I had enough yolks for the French buttercream)
  3. French buttercream, with coffee-caramel flavour (I halved the buttercream recipe, and added the flavoured syrup according to taste)
  4. The cherries: I used Morella cherries from a jar; I dried the cherries with paper towels so they wouldn’t leak and stain the buttercream, and I reserved the syrup to make jelly, in which I soaked the cake (use the instructions on the gelatine packet to make the jelly, using the cherry syrup instead of water).
  5. And finally, I did some decorations with melted chocolate.




My sister loves almonds. Not really actual almonds, but almond essence – marzipan, gevulde koeken, etc. When we were really young, visiting our grandparents, we found a cookie jar and inside were amaretti. Italian almond cookies? Win!

Unfortunately, I had no Amaretto, so I substituted with some butterscotch schnapps ❤


Basically, Amaretti are like Italian macarons; they’re much harder, they’re cracked on the surface and they don’t have any chewiness. They’re great if you have a few with a coffee.

So small, so dainty


  • Servings: Many: approx. 64
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe from Joe Pastry

  • 177g toasted almonds, ground
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 57g icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 78g sugar
  • 1 tsp almond essence
  • 1 Tbs Amaretto or schnapps
  1. Process almond, cornflour and icing sugar until very fine.
  2. Whip egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks.
  3. Briefly whip in almond essence and alcohol.
  4. Fold almond mixture into meringue.
  5. Pipe 2.5cm diameter rounds.
  6. Bake 175°C for 15 minutes.
  7. Prop open oven door and bake 30 minutes 95°C to dry.
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Kaya Cake – coconut, pandan, cumquat

So it appears I have a thing for tortes/layer-cakes/whatever-you-wanna-call-em now. First it was macarons, now these. Maybe it’s because I like the thought of an adaptable recipe that splices several components, for which you can have a different flavour. This time it’s coconut dacquoise, pandan crème mousseline and whipped cream, with candied cumquats on top, and cumquat syrup to keep it all moist (yes, it’s cumquat season again).

cake layerinside layer

top layerta-dah~

Speaking of candied cumquats, have y’all read Robin Hobb (bit of a non sequitur…)? Love her. I found the Farseer Trilogy and devoured that, as well as the Tawny Man Trilogy back when I was a wee grade 8, 9 or 10. The books sort of run together 😛 Anyway, I was interested in the apricot brandy mentioned there. Anyone had apricot brandy before? Anyone like it? In this recipe, you could always replace the cumquat with apricots, is all I’m saying… anyway. Nevermind xD

come to me, come-quat

About the pandan crème mousseline filling: Crème mousseline, also known as German Buttercream, is basically pastry cream, beaten with butter. What this means is that you can have a liquid-y pastry cream made with milk, and it’ll still be solid. It’s a lot richer than French, Swiss and Italian buttercreams, but more eggy than American buttercreams. It’s very, very indulgent. If you want, you can replace the milk in the pastry cream with fruit purée; just make sure to adjust the sugar 🙂

Also, if you’re getting lumps of butter when mixing it with the cream, just zap it quickly in the microwave to soften it.

Can you see the lumps?

And remember to push the cake batter into the corners, and to try and make it as even as possible. What is dacquoise, I hear you say? Well, technically it’s a dessert unto itself, with layers of meringue and cream. But when you read recipes, the recipes refer to the cake/meringue-part of the desert as the dacquoise. Furthermore, it’s a bit more than a meringue; you’ll notice that it has ground nuts (and coconut) as well as the egg and sugar. So really, it’s meringue-based.

Other names for this meringue + ground nuts recipe are Swiss broyage, japonais, succès, grilage (German, semi-frozen), and russe. Whatever floats your boat. You’ll notice that the recipe is also very similar to that of a macaron.

Don't be afraid to be pushy

And of course, I stabilised the whipped cream with gelatine and icing sugar.


Coconut, pandan, cumquat cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy, but tedious
  • Print


  • 200g almond meal
  • 60g flour
  • 240g icing sugar
  • 300g (approx. 9ea) egg white
  • 135g sugar
  • 100g desiccated/shredded coconut (if you want it less stringy, blend it in a food processor)
  1. Sift together the ground nuts, flour and icing sugar.
  2. Stir in the coconut.
  3. Whip the egg white and sugar to stiff peaks (you may use salt, lemon juice or cream of tartar as stabilisers).
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg, in batches.
  5. Pour into 2 tins, 20 × 20cm.
  6. Bake at 150°C for 15 minutes, until the cakes begin to turn slightly golden.
  7. Cool completely on wire racks.

Crème mousseline

  • 300mL cream
  • 130g sugar
  • 6 yolks (approx. 100g)
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1.5mL pandan extract (or paste, to taste)
  • Approx. 280g butter, softened
  1. With a beater, whip the sugar and yolk to thick ribbons.
  2. Mix in the cornflour.
  3. Bring the cream to a boil.
  4. Stir the hot cream into the yolk mixture.
  5. Pour yolks back into the pot and, stirring, bring to boil for 45 seconds (or until it no longer tastes floury).
  6. Cool, with clingwrap over the top to prevent a skin forming.
  7. Measure the pastry cream volume.
  8. Mix the pastry cream and butter in a ratio of 4:3 or 2:1.
  9. Add pandan and food colouring.

Cumquats and syrup

  • Cumquats
  • Water
  • Sugar
  1. Squeeze the juice from the cumquats – reserve the juice.
  2. Boil the skins in water until pulp is soft and easily-removed.
  3. Measure out enough juice to cover the cumquat skins (add water if you don’t have enough).
  4. Measure out an equal volume of sugar to the water/juice (this is called a simple syrup).
  5. Simmer the skins, juice and sugar until skins are tender and semi-translucent, and sugar is fully dissolved.
  6. Drain the skins, reserving the syrup.
  7. Toss the skins in sugar to dry.
  8. Refrigerate.


  • 300mL cream
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp gelatine
  • 1 Tbs water
  1. Stir the water and gelatine together.
  2. Stir the cream, sugar and vanilla together gently.
  3. Whip the cream to soft peaks.
  4. Zap the gelatine in the microwave for 10 seconds or until the gelatin has fully melted.
  5. While whipping the cream, pour the gelatin into the cream and whip to stiff peaks.
  6. Use immediately.


  1. Put a cake down.
  2. Spread liberally with cumquat syrup.
  3. Spread on a crumb coat of pandan.
  4. Spread on more pandan to an appropriate thickness.
  5. Place the second cake on top.
  6. Spread on the cream.
  7. Decorate with candied cumquats, cream chocolate, etc.

Gradame Cake – Dark chocolate, hazelnut, brandy, coffee – or chocolate, lavender, hazelnut, brandy

As before, an egg foam cake. But this chocolate is a little moister, a little denser and a little darker.

There’s no chocolate in it – just cocoa, brown sugar, eggs and a stabiliser.

I'm ready for my close-up ;)

Simplicity is key.

Layers of airy chocolate sponge, lashed with drunken coffee syrup and interspersed with double cream whipped with brandy and hazelnut. To aid easy serving, some brandy-chocolate shortcrust pastry on the bottom (optional).

Decorated with a cryptic message to add an air of mystery 😛

Cryptic Cake

Or, if the fancy takes you, with flowers. I made this cake a second time, but with just normal cream. I stabilise the cream with icing sugar and gelatine, and you can see that even though I stirred in some colouring after whipping the cream (I hadn’t realised I wanted flowers when I started whipping…) and then shoved it in a pastry bag to pipe, the cream held its shape. I can assure you that it was perfectly fluffy, too. For this cake, I had some leftover lavender syrup, so I used that as the cake syrup instead.

oranje  boooooven~

Errr for any Dutch speakers, apologies if I miss-spelled ‘gellukkig’ with an extraneous ‘e’ at the end… I’m learning Dutch and I could have sworn it should have an ‘e’ because ‘moeder’ and ‘dag’ are both prefaced with ‘de’, and not ‘het’, but according to my grandmother, it’s wrong… Actually, if you do speak Dutch, could you tell me if/why it’s wrong? 🙂

Chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, brandy layer cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy, but tedious
  • Print

Modelled off The Guardian

Chocolate-brandy shortcrust

  • 100g flour
  • 30g cocoa
  • 50g sugar
  • 80g butter
  • 20mL brandy
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Chill 20 minutes.
  3. Roll out to 20 × 20 cm, or 5mm thick.
  4. Place on lined baking tray.
  5. Prick all over with fork.
  6. Bake 180°C for 15 minutes.

Coffee Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbs coffee
  • 1 tsp brandy
  1. In a pot, heat the sugar and water (equal quantities of each is called a ‘simple syrup’) until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir in the coffee and brandy, and remove from the heat.
  3. Cool.

Lavender Syrup

  • A generous handful of lavender flowers, washed (you could also do this with rosemary)
  • Boiling water
  • Sugar
  • Whole spices (e.g. cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom – optional)
  1. Pour the boiling water over the lavender and spices, enough to cover and a bit more.
  2. Leave to steep at least overnight.
  3. Remove the solids and keep the liquid tisane.
  4. Measure out an equal quantity of sugar to the water.
  5. Warm the sugar and water on the stove, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
  6. Cool.

Chocolate Sponge

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 140g brown sugar
  • 60g cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, or salt, or lemon juice (optional – these act as stabilisers for the egg white)
  1. Mix the sugar and yolks with a beater until lighter and ribbony.
  2. Mix in the cocoa.
  3. Whip the egg white with a stabiliser to stiff peaks.
  4. Spoon in some egg white to the egg yolk, and stir to loosen.
  5. Gently fold in the remaining egg white.
  6. Pour into a greased and lined 20 × 20 × 10 cm tin.
  7. Bake 35 minutes, 180°C.
  8. Cool in tin.
  9. If cake sinks in the middle, then run a knife parallel to the top surface and remove sticking-up margins.
  10. Cut the cake into two layers.

Stabilised Whipped Cream

  • 500mL double or normal cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1tsp gelatin
  • 1 Tbs water
  • hazelnut flavouring or liqueur (I used 0.5mL, but my flavouring was very strong, so it might be different for you…)
  • 1Tbs brandy
  1. Hydrate the gelatine with the water. Zap in the microwave until fully dissolved.
  2. Stir the icing sugar, flavouring and alcohol (and colouring, if you want) gently into the cream to incorporate fully.
  3. Whip the cream to very soft peaks.
  4. Pour the liquid gelatine in, while whipping.
  5. Continue whipping to stiff peaks.


  1. Put the pastry on the bottom.
  2. Spread a small bit of cream on, as a crumb coat.
  3. Spread a thicker layer of cream on.
  4. Place a layer of cake on.
  5. Brush liberally with syrup.
  6. Repeat cream procedure.
  7. Repeat with final cake and cream layers.
  8. Trim sides.
  9. Optional: Cover sides with cream.
  10. Optional: Decorate with more cream or other decorations.
  11. Refrigerate.


Please, tell me what you think of this guy. Be judgemental; what thoughts does he bring to mind?

I’m practising trying to bring emotion to my pictures…

Don’t worry about offending anyone; he’s not copied from a real person, and I genuinely want to know what he makes you feel 🙂


Arral Cake – Apricot, Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate, Balsamic

Arral cake: Apricot syrup, hazelnut and almond cake with woody chocolate sponge, rich, eggy pastry cream and balsamic-lightened ganache. My own constructed cake… Does it sound fancy? 😛

zoom in!

I made this cake in about two days:

  • Day one – make pastry cream, ganache, syrup and chocolate sponge
  • Day two – make nut sponge, and build cake

naked cakedressed cake

As you can see, after I stacked all the cake layers, I trimmed the sides so they were completely straight (of course, I couldn’t let the trimmings go to waste, so I ate them graciously… 😛 )

This cake is very rich. Because I wanted the pastry cream to hold the weight of the cakes, I used mostly double cream, with some milk. You can use just milk, or normal cream, or whatever you like. Double cream is very thick, so if you have difficulty measuring it, just zap it in the microwave to warm it up a bit and melt the fat.


And yes, I used an eyedropper for the apricot flavouring. I had bought the flavouring while travelling, and it’s meant for chocolate flavouring so it’s much more concentrated than normal flavouring.


Now that my notes are out of the way, let’s settle down for: A Tale of Three Egg-Foam Cakes (two today, one to follow).

The egg-foam method uses mechanical leavening (you incorporate air into your batter with a beater) rather than chemical (sodium bicarbonate reacts with acid, causing effervescence in the batter). When the batter is cooked, water evaporates and steam fills the air-pockets, expanding as it increases in volume (PV = nRT if anyone cares…)

When the batter cooks, the proteins coagulate, stabilising the cake (flour is normally used as the ‘cement’). You can see this most clearly in meringues, which most simply are just sugar and egg white.

Yolks add fat, making the cake creamier and, if there is flour, preventing gluten formation.

Sugar tenderises so that the cake doesn’t end up like an overcooked egg, all rubbery. As well as this, when you beat it with egg yolk, the sugar granules melt into a syrup, stabilising the bigger bubbles so you end up with a sponge, rather than just a baked chocolate mousse, which is less flexible.

Normally, oil is added to moisten the cake, but you can leave it out – you’ll end up with a dry-ish cake that’s perfect for absorbing generous lashings of cake syrup.

In the chocolate recipe here, the melted chocolate makes the texture more silky (and adds flavour….)

Cream of tartar stabilises the egg white so it doesn’t collapse.

Ground almonds and hazelnuts can add flavour, while also making the sponge denser, and they add some oil, increasing moistness.

If you go back in time, you’ll notice I used a flourless egg-foam cake in my bûche de noël. That recipe had egg whites, cream (fat to replace the missing yolks, and to add taste), sugar, and rum (this adds some liquid, but is mostly for taste).

So that’s that. Let’s move on to the recipe and get cooking!

Apricot Hazelnut Chocolate Birthday Layer Cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: medium, but tedious
  • Print

Pastry Cream

from Joe Pastry

  • 220mL milk
  • 250mL double cream
  • 100g sugar
  • 6 yolks
  • 1g cornstarch
  • Vanilla
  1. Beat the yolks and sugar to a thick ribbon.
  2. Slowly add the cornstarch to the yolks, beating constantly.
  3. In a saucepan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla to a boil.
  4. Beat the cream into the yolks, and then return to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  5. Hold the boil for 30 seconds and then remove from heat.
  6. Cool completely, with clingwrap touching the surface to prevent skin formation.


  • 400g chocolate
  • 20g butter
  • 2Tbs balsamic vinegar or red wine
  1. Melt the butter and half the chocolate over the stove.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the remaining chocolate, and then the vinegar.
  4. Cool.


  • 60g sugar
  • 60mL water
  • 1.6mL apricot flavouring (or any other flavouring – add it to taste)
  1. Heat the water and sugar on the stove until sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir in flavouring.
  3. Cool completely.

Chocolate Sponge

from Joe Pastry

  • 85g chocolate
  • 3 yolks
  • 25g sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 25g extra sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Melt the chocolate.
  2. Beat the yolks and 25g sugar until thick and fluffy.
  3. Stir the chocolate into the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and 25g sugar to stiff peaks.
  5. Stir the egg white foam into the chocolate yolk batter (you may have to reheat the chocolate in the microwave, carefully).
  6. Pour batter into a greased and lined 24 x 24cm tin.
  7. Cook for 15 minutes at 180°C.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from tin.
  9. Dust with cocoa, flip and dust on other side.
  10. Cool completely over rack.
  11. Cake can be frozen overnight.

Nut Sponge

from Joe Pastry

  • 90g almond meal
  • 130g hazelnut meal
  • 198g sugar
  • 35g flour
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Toast the almond meal and hazelnut meal on separate trays in the oven at 150°C until fragrant (the hazelnuts cooked faster than the almonds for me, so I removed them first).
  2. Measure out 85g almond meal and 128g hazelnut meal. Let cool.
  3. In a food processor, blend the nut meal, the sugar and the flour.
  4. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the egg, in batches (this is like a meringue, with added gluten…)
  6. Spread into two 24 x 24cm greased and lined tins.
  7. Bake at 220°C for 7 – 9 minutes until just golden brown.
  8. Cool in the pan.
  9. Keep overnight at room temperature.



from bottom to top:

Chocolate sponge, apricot syrup, pastry cream, nut sponge, pastry cream, nut sponge, ganache

Hot Cross Buns

Whenever I had hot cross buns as a child, there was some special, unique taste I got from them that I thought could only be achieved with the use of artificial flavourings, and additives. Thus, when I set out to make my own, I didn’t have many hopes.

Well, strike me down and call me a liar! (Actually, please don’t; that would kinda hurt… 😛 )

These hot cross buns tasted exactly like the hot cross buns of my childhood! Sure, they were kinda dry once they cooled, but a quick sprinkling of water and a zap in the microwave soon set them straight. Plus, I made the crosses from white chocolate, instead of that chewy, tasteless flour-water cross the shops used to do.

Ouch, it's hot!

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: makes 12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Recipe from Serious Eats


  • 1/2 cup (125mL) warm water
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs instant yeast (make sure it’s live)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups flour (preferably bread flour – I used normal flour, and added some gluten according to the packet instructions)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 + 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 cup craisins, 1/3 cup sultanas, soaked in Cointreau)
  • 1/4 (60mL) cup more warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbs (40mL) honey
  • 1/3 cup (80mL) oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Marmalade (optional)
  • Cointreau (optional)
  • White chocolate (optional)


  • Mix the 1/2 cup warm water, 2 Tbs sugar and yeast in a mug. Cover with clingwrap and leave for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk 1 tsp sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl.
  • Stir the fruit into the flour mixture.
  • Whisk together the 1/4 cup water, honey, oil, egg and vanilla.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the honey mixture and pour into the flour mixture.
  • Beat with a large spoon until dough starts to form.
  • Knead for 5 minutes (if you must, add some flour to reduce stickiness).
  • Place in a well-oiled bowl, cover, and leave to rise in a warm-ish place for 2 hours.
  • Divide dough into 12 balls,
  • Grease a 20 x 20cm square cake pan.
  • Put the dough balls in the pan, cover, and allow to rise an hour.
  • Bake at 175°C for 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Stir together marmalade and Cointreau to a syrup consistency.
  • While the buns are still hot, brush over the marmalade.
  • Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.
  • Melt the white chocolate (I do this by sealing the chocolate in a snap-lock bag and immersing the bag in hot water – I snip of the corner to pipe) and pipe crosses onto buns.

Roast Almond and Fruity Tea Macarons

nom nom nom

This was my attempt at making macarons more similar to what you see in the shops. I knew that my almond meal was too coarse and moist, so I put the almond meal spread over a tray in the oven at 150°C. Previously I had tried this for 5 minutes, but the almond meal hadn’t dried enough, so this time I thought I’d wing it and take it out when it ‘felt ready’. After about 15 minutes or so, the almond meal started to smell of roast almonds and had turned slightly golden, so I decided to use this and make roast almond macarons 😀

I also had some tea I needed to use up. I remember the coffee truffles I’d made recently, and decided that I could use that ratio of chocolate to butter, just replacing coffee-water with tea-water.

The thing about this ganache is that instead of using cream and chocolate, you use water, butter and chocolate. Butter is very, very basically cream with less water. So if you want to add flavoured water, you replace the cream with butter and add a proportional amount of your water, then re-emulsify by stirring it all together with melted chocolate.

This brings me to something else: when you brown butter, the water evaporates. So if you want to make a brown-butter ganache (which, I think, would go very nicely with roast almond macarons!) you need to add more water for the same soft consistency.

The water I added for the truffles resulted in quite a firm ganache, but for macarons I want the ganache to be a bit softer, so I added more water.

argh, the light, it burns!

Roast Almond and Fruity Tea Macarons

  • Servings: makes ... approximately 24; I can't remember
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


Macaron shells

  • 225g icing sugar
  • 125g almond meal
  • 100g egg white
  • 25g sugar


  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 75mL water
  • 1 – 2 teabags of your choice
  • 10g butter


  • Spread the almond meal over a wide tray and oven at 150°C for half an hour so that it smells of roasted almonds.
  • Remove the almond from the oven and let cool completely.
  • In a food processor, grind the almond meal and icing sugar until very fine.
  • Whip the eggs whites until foamy.
  • Add the sugar (not the icing sugar).
  • Whip to stiff peaks.
  • Sift in the almond meal and icing sugar.
  • Pipe the macarons as 2.5cm rounds, 5cm apart.
  • Drop the tray firmly on the benchtop.
  • Allow to rest 1 hour and preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Bake macarons at 130°C for 20 – 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the ganache by steeping the tea in the water.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter and stir in the tea.
  • Allow the ganache to become firm in the fridge.
  • Remove the macarons from the oven and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes.
  • Spread ganache on macarons.
  • Rest completed macarons overnight.