Anytime Vanilla Cake


Vanilla cake

Vanilla cake

Vanilla cake

Simple is the best. We are in love with the Nordicware Heritage bundt spiral – hypnotising isn’t it? Where does it begin? Where does it end?

This is a simple vanilla cake, with no chocolate (what? Michelle didn’t put any chocolate in her desserts?!) Moist, fluffy and all Vanilla. So good. I especially love the crunchy edges. The secret to this cake is in the combination of butter, neutral oil and buttermilk. It won’t fail on you, and is the best vanilla cake we’ve ever had.

I have been perfecting this Vanilla cake recipe and finally have a good understanding of potential variations. First I started with a naked version which was beautiful on its own but then the next one takes it to a whole new level: a simple, easy raspberry icing made with crumbled Fresh As freeze dried whole raspberry pieces, icing sugar and water. The tasters said it was very delicious with the berry notes coming through.

I’ve also hid freeze dried blackberries inside the large cake and the little surprises of fat berries when slicing through the cake was a lot of fun. Almond flakes are nice sprinkled over too.

J also likes to add lots of colourful sprinkles to the batter to make it a cute subtly colourful cake.

This isn’t a recipe particular to a bundt pan. You can bake this with equal success in a sheet pan – cutting out with cake rings to make stacked cakes (which is in fact, its original design!); or in regular cake pans for an effortless anytime cake.

Cake recipe adapted from All About Cake, Christina Tosi.

Ingredients

  • 250g caster sugar
  • 60g soft brown sugar
  • 120g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs (size 8)
  • 110g buttermilk (or sour cream)
  • 80g neutral oil (rice bran or rapeseed oil)
  • 10g vanilla baking extract (I used Heilala vanilla baking extract)
  • 180g plain flour
  • 25g corn flour
  • 4g baking powder
  • 4g salt

Raspberry icing glaze

  • 10g Fresh As freeze dried raspberry pieces, crushed up
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175C on fan bake. Grease a bundt pan well (or line your cake pan with baking paper, if you are not baking in a bundt pan).
  2. Cream the sugars and butter together in a stand mixer, on medium-high for 3 minutes or till light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add eggs in one by one, making sure each has been incorporated before adding the next. Beat on high for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl at the end.
  4. In a jug, mix together buttermilk, oil and vanilla. With the mixer on low-medium, very slowly pour this fatty mixture in. This should take 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed for 3 minutes. The mixture should have doubled in volume, is quite white and homogenous, with no streaks of fat. This is an essential step. Take your time to do this right.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (flours, baking powder and salt), taking just a minute. Scrape down the bowl and mix on low for a further minute.
  6. Check that the oil in the greased pan has not pooled in the grooves. (if so, brush again). Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes (25 – 30 minutes for sheet pans and smaller cake pans, especially if you are diving the batter up and baking the cakes into smaller cakes). The cake is done when it has pulled away from the sides, and is bouncy to touch.
  8. Leave in the pan for 15 minutes before up ending it onto a wire rack for cooling.
  9. To make Raspberry glaze, mix all the ingredients to form a thick glaze. Drizzle over cake.

Vanilla Cheesecake, Chocolate Ganache, Raspberry Jelly


No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

Everyone needs a trusty ‘bring-a-plate dessert’ that will wow people with its flavours, texture and look. This cheesecake in my humble opinion, does just that.

A buttery crumb base; soft chocolate ganache; creamy and tangy cream cheese, all contrasted with a tart raspberry jelly disc.

These can be prepared quickly and you can even purchase premade crust trays which will save you one step of this dessert. If you can’t find Graham Crackers, look for digestive biscuits and it will achieve the same flavours. (watch this space for a Graham Cracker recipe!)

For the cream cheese filling, I tested with a mixture of cream cheese, Mascarpone and cream. This is because the traditional recipe calls for either condensed milk or lots of cream cheese. I find those tend to be really dense and rich and I prefer something lighter. Mascarpone cheese gives me this effect. The liquid double cream is whipped in after the cream cheese, mascarpone and icing sugar has been whipped smooth and soft; the cream loosens it up slightly, allowing it to set perfectly.

You can probably add the chocolate ganache to the cream cheese mixture – we did toy with the thought of swirling it in (a recipe for another day! ). Today we will leave it clean, with a layered look – it turned out really well.

Lastly it was time to bring out my trusty Silikomart silicone tourbillon
mould, to create the spiral jelly discs. I used Fresh As freeze dried raspberry powder and gelatine leaves to make the jelly, you can always use a different flavour to change things up.

What flavour should I make next? I will think about that while tucking into a piece of this cheesecake 😉

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

Ingredients

8 servings

Graham Crackers crust

  • 250g Graham Crackers or digestive biscuits
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • Or a premade crust

Cheesecake

  • 250g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 92g (3/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 100g double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Fresh As Jellies

  • 35g Fresh As Raspberry Powder
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 4 leaves gelatine (silver grade), soaked in ice cold water

Chocolate soft ganache

  • 175g dark chocolate (70% or above cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces
  • 200g double cream (35% fat)

Method

Graham cracker crust

  1. If using a ready made crust shell, you can skip this and move to making the ganache.
  2. Otherwise, crush crackers or biscuits to fine crumbs. You can do this in a food processor, or in a sealed zip lock bag, and crushing them with a heavy rolling pin.
  3. Add melted butter and mix till mixture binds together.
  4. Pour crumbs into a 9″ lined springfoam baking pan or tart pan with a removable base, pressing the mix down with a tall straight glass. Make sure the layer is even, and press crumbs up against the sides as well with your hands.
  5. Chill in the fridge to firm up.

Chocolate soft ganache

  1. Place chocolate into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Bring cream to a boil and pour over chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before stiring; stir till homogenize and thick.
  3. Pour a 1cm-thick layer into the chilled cake base. You can test by vertically inserting a clean flat tipped spatula into the base – lift up and you can see how deep the chocolate went with the mark on the spatula.
  4. Return to the fridge to chill.

Cheesecake layer

  1. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and mascarpone cream together, until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Beat in icing sugar, double cream and vanilla till smooth and no lumps.
  3. Scoop into crust base.
  4. Smooth with an offset spatula.
  5. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Fresh As Jellies

  1. Place water into a pot and add the sugar and Fresh As freeze dried Raspberry powder in, whisking to dissolve completely.
  2. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously.
  3. Remove from the heat and add drained gelatine leaves.
  4. Pour into moulds and refrigerate for 3 hours till set.

Assembly

  1. Add raspberry jelly disc on top of cheesecake as garnish.
  2. Cut with a warm but dry knife.

No bake Vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Raspberry Jelly disc

Hong Kong Paper Wrapped mini sponge cakes 紙包蛋糕


Hong Kong Paper Wrapped Sponge Cake

Hong Kong Paper Wrapped Sponge Cake

Hong Kong Paper Wrapped Sponge Cake

Hong Kong Paper Wrapped Sponge Cake

After having regular checkups at the Orthodontist in the past 2 years, J’s finally ready to be fitted with braces. With that, we need to have a think about our meals with her new requirements in mind.

Soft foods, easy to eat. No super crunchy or hard to chew things that will risk breaking the brackets glued to her teeth. This is especially for the few days straight after each 6-8 weekly checkup where they adjust the individual brackets, and when her gums will be a bit swollen.

We talked about the different things we can have in her lunch box, and this easy sponge cake came up in the conversation. Soft and pillowy, this is perfect for her.

This one is a nod to my childhood, where fancy buttercream or fondant cakes weren’t prevalent, with a good sponge cake being the absolute gold standard for all occasions. Specifically, layered sponge cakes dressed up with whipped cream and seasonal fruits (think about all the mango cream sponges and berries and cream cakes!) They are still popular in Hong Kong, and very much part of the food cultural fabric.

To make those cakes you can easily use this recipe and bake it in a normal cake pan, add whipped cream along with seasonal fruits. Easy. We’ve made after-school-snack-portions here with tall moulds, just like the ones in my childhood days, and you can also use other baking tins, just find something that is quite tall and deep. Perfect lunch box item – sans cream of course!

Ingredients:

Makes 8

  • 55g unsalted butter, melted (Lewis Road Creamery)
  • 60ml milk
  • 100g low gluten flour
  • 5 eggs (size 7)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 80g caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Separate egg yolks and whites into 2 separate bowls.
  3. In a large bowl, place melted butter and milk together, whisk lightly.
  4. Add sifted flour, vanilla extract and egg yolks to the butter mixture. Mix well, ensuring there are no lumps.
  5. Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, whisk egg whites till foamy and add in cream of tartar. Continue whisking, then slowly rain in the sugar. Whisk until the whites form stiff peaks.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the flour batter to loosen up the mixture. Fold in 1/3 of the beaten whites into the batter, then the second third and then the last of the whites.
  7. Pour into lined cake tins, only filling 2/3s of the pan (it will rise quite a lot) and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Cool on a wire rack and keep in an air tight container.

Hong Kong Paper Wrapped Sponge Cake

Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕


Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

I have fond memories of making delicious food with my mum and grandmother around Chinese New Year. When making Turnip cake, Mum always put copious amounts of sausage and mushrooms and I got so used to that ratio, that I would snub other store- bought ones in favour of hers.

This is one of my favourite Chinese New Year celebration dishes. It’s not just for Chinese New Year though – you can have it year round and quite often at yum cha too.

The recipe says to chop and grate the turnip. The reason for this is purely for texture. You can really taste the sweet turnip with the thicker strips and the grated portion contributes to the overall sturdiness of the cake.

As the batter will be really sticky, I highly recommend cooking this in a non stick pan, rice cooker or even the pot of the pressure cooker, which is what I used. The clean up is so much easier!

Highly non-traditional, is the use of a sharp edged tray to cook these in. This is to facilitate equal sized pieces and hasten the preparation of all welcoming dishes before guests arrive. You can make them in many types of pans: round baking pans, rectangular loaf pans and if they are for gifting, make them in foil trays so they can be transported easily.

Wrap any left overs with food wrap and place in a sealed container. It will keep well refrigerated for up to 5 days.


Ingredients:
800g chinese Turnip 白蘿蔔
170g rice flour 粘米粉
30g wheat starch 澄麵
4 Chinese sausages (about 120g), diced
8 Chinese mushrooms 冬菇 (soaked 240g), diced
5 dried scallops 60g, chopped
2 shallots, diced
3/4 cup Chicken stock (I use Gault’s)

Instructions:

  1. Peel the skin off the turnip. Grate half into a bowl, and chop the rest into fine strips (around 0.5cm)
  2. Oil your steaming pans.
  3. Mix the flours in a bowl, set aside.
  4. In a hot pan, fry the diced sausages, mushroom and scallops for a few minutes, until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add a tablespoon of oil in the pan and fry the shallots until fragrant. Add turnip and cook for a few minutes, then add chicken stock, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the turnip is soft.
  6. Turn off the heat and add in flours in a quick motion. Stir to create a semi cooked batter. It should be thick and not watery.
  7. Add the cooked sausages, mushroom and scallop, stir to mix well (you can also reserve some of this cooked mixture and layer it on the top).
  8. Pour mixture into your oiled steaming pans and steam on high for 45 to 60 minutes. It’s done when there are no opaque batter when poked with a toothpick.
  9. Cool thoroughly for it to harden.
  10. Slice into 1 to 1.5 cm pieces and pan fry both sides till golden.
  11. Serve with sriracha hot sauce or XO sauce.

Chinese Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

Chinese New Year cake 新年年糕


Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year cake

Chinese New Year is coming early this year (25 January 2020 instead of the usual February timeframe). With just a week before the first day of the Lunar New Year, I thought I’d better get some of the traditional celebration food items ready.

Now traditionally these steamed cakes are made in round pans, then cut into thin slices before the last bit of pan frying. I thought, since the end game is to have relatively similar sized pieces for ease of cooking, why don’t I use a rectangular loaf pan? That way I can cut pieces of the same size throughout, easily. Unconventional I know, with the use of a sharp-edged loaf pan, as the Chinese uses the round shape for its auspicious meaning of fulfillment, completeness and unity. I made a little round one to satisfy tradition but am not afraid to break from it.

These are sticky when it first comes out of the steamer; allow it to cool for a good few hours in the fridge to firm up. This will make it much easier to cut. It will look opaque when it is cold. Don’t fret: once pan fried, the cake softens, turns slightly transculent and is so moreish and lovely to eat. It’s not overly sweet either, and is the perfect sweet dish to serve any guests who come to wish you well/ “bai nin” 拜年.

I’ve shown the Chinese translation of some of the ingredients below, just in case you need it to find the right kind.

These cakes symbolizes a pay rise or promotion in the coming year. Happy New Year!

Ingredients:

  • 320g Glutinous flour 糯米粉
  • 115g Wheat starch 澄麵粉
  • 400ml water
  • 400g Chinese brown cane sugar (rectangular pieces) 片糖
  • 130ml coconut cream
  • 30g Rice Bran oil
  • Egg, beaten, for frying

Makes 1 large 6 inch cake or
1 small 4 inch and a bread loaf pan

Method:

  1. Sieve flours into a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a deep saucepan, add water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and dissolve. Add coconut cream and rice bran oil. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Add flours in small portions to the sugar syrup, all the while stiring. Ensure mixture is homogenous and lump free. If required, push mixture through a sieve to remove all lumps.
  4. Oil your choice of cake pan(s) and line with baking paper. Pour the cake mixture in and steam over a high heat till fully cooked, 65 to 75 minutes. I place a round steaming rack on the bottom of my wok, add hot water right up to the bottom of the pan and cover it with the lid to steam. Remember to check often and add hot water to the wok from time to time, to maintain the water level – be careful not to let the water run dry. Test with a skewer to ensure the centre isn’t watery.
  5. Remove from the steaming station to cool. Leave in the fridge to harden for a few hours. This will make it easier to slice.
  6. Slice into 1 cm thick pieces. Beat an egg in a bowl and dip each piece of steamed cake in the egg to coat.
  7. Pan fry both sides till golden and the cake has softened.

Chinese New Year cake

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