Thursday, April 30, 2015

International Bake Date: Spring 2015 - The recipes

The unveiling of all the glorious recipes of the International Bake Date is now. Come take your nose and tummy on a transcontinental journey with these easy to follow recipes. Don't be daunted by your lack of certain ingredients. If you compare the original recipes to the ones written, you will find all the tools you need to hack into these.



200g low gluten flour (cake flour)
200g fine sugar
125 g butter unsalted
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven at 150 C
2. Melt butter and allow to return to room temperature.
3. Cream fine sugar and butter.
4. Whisk egg and lemon until frothy and mix into butter.
5. In a seperate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly mix this into butter mixture

6. Place in fridge to become solid for about an hour.
7. Spoon into mould.
8. Place in oven for 30 mins. Watch as the mix melts into shape.

Chocolate, Coconut and Mint Cake

Chocolate, Coconut and Mint Cake adapted from

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup low fat yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup mint syrup (sourced from a local juice bar)
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
2 cups coconut powder
1 8 oz. Hershey bar (crushed)

1. Preheat oven at 175 C
2. Mix eggs, sugar, oil and yogurt in that order using an electric mixer for about 2 mins on high speed.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, coconut powder and baking powder. Slowly add this to the egg mixture. Mix well
4. Add as many pieces of  crushed chocolate to the batter as you desire
5. Mix in mint syrup until your have desired strength and colour. (So my friend just walked into a juice bar and said, 'Can I buy some of your syrup'. That's like going to KFC to buy frozen French fries. So since it's not official, colour and flavour wasn't as concentrated as needed. Keep this in mind when you make yours. Remember never compromise the consistency of your batter.)
6. Place in a greased/lined cupcake or cake tin and bake for 30-40 mins at 175 C or until golden-green? Shrek? brown. Haha!

Apple Cake

Apple Cake adapted from Norwegian Recipes

Cake batter:
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Apple layer:
2 apples thinly sliced (Garden of Eden apples, I kid you not)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven at 175 C
2. Cream butter and white sugar together until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla
3. Sift and mix all dry ingredients ( flour, baking powder, salt) in another bowl.
4. Slowly combine dry ingredients with creamed mixture
5. Place thinly sliced apples (yes we kept the skin) in a bowl and carefully coat with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg by shaking it around.
6. Pour half the batter in a well greased tin. Cover with half of the sliced apples in a beautiful pattern.   Add the remaining batter and cover another layer of sliced apples.
7. Bake for about 50 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Melissa + Google + 1 year taught me: The Perfect Chocolate Cake

Ever fought with a kitchen appliance? I spent my first year of baking in battle with a toaster oven. I would burn the top of my cakes trying to cook the inside because the temperature could not be adjusted. Then I covering the batter with tins or aluminium foil for the majority of the baking time and uncovering around the last ten minutes for a golden-brown crust. Yes, I can be a bit slow and stubborn but this is the only time I will admit it. When I realized I didn't want to stop baking, I finally invested in a proper oven last year. It was Easter and so naturally, I spent the entire day baking bread, cakes and buns.

One of these cakes was supposed to be a birthday present for my dear Congolese sister. You have to understand. Finding a chocolate bar that doesn't taste like brown lard (Mom, forgive me) is very hard. Finding a real chocolate cake, even harder. Cheese, butter and chocolate are not originally part of Chinese culture, and I accept that. But is that really going to stop a foreign student  from wanting a rich, moist chocolate cake for their birthday? And so the pressure was upon me. Google provided me with 'The Best Chocolate Cake'  from and 'Moist Chocolate Cake' by both with amazing pictures, clear directions and awesome reviews. How was I to choose? Well I didn't have espresso and I preferred baking with butter so Foodess it was. But even after all that research I ended up with

Who keeps records of their traumatic moments?
Show me yours and I still won't have one to show you.

Half of the cake remained in the tin and had to be reattached with frosting. See, had I read the comment section carefully, which I did after, I would have realized that it was not optional to bake two separate layers. Because this cake really rises. The vinegar I used in the buttermilk reacting with the baking soda should have been a hint. I had really let my friend and myself down. It tasted moist as promised and that was the only thing that saved it from hitting the bottom of a trash pan. (Cake pops hadn't been popularized in China yet).

I promised myself to make it up to her and I had a year to practice. I did cake after cake, all far from good. I thought I had inherited a baking curse and in some way I had. I either put way less sugar, didn't wait for the vinegar to coagulate the milk, had faulty vinegar but still went ahead, didn't sift and mix in the baking soda evenly and the list goes on. It was the curse of messing with the recipe. Self, if you are going to alter stuff, at least avoid the main ingredients.

But the curse was about to be broken. I woke up fresh on a Saturday morning not knowing what would happen but just that P.O.P was gonna hold it down that day. I also spent the previous night arming myself with Cake FAQs  from KitchenTigress, who by the way is true to the name. If you visit her website, you better be serious about baking and learning the right way to bake or else.

I followed the recipe as closely as I could (oil instead of butter, could you blame a girl?), properly lubricated my tins, equally distributed the batter and digested my heart while waiting. Actually, I busied myself with a new project. Fondant roses. Have you tried manipulating fondant without any tools what so ever? If you are not living a minimalist lifestyle, expect to feel like you survived a bar fight.

I have Desserts101 to thank for this tutorial. Not bad for a first timer if I must say so myself. Totally worth spraining my fingers and hurting my shoulders. I am buying the tools next time.

As soon as the inserted tooth-pick came out clean, I removed the cake from the oven and used Melissa's technique of slightly air bouncing the tin until the cake loosened from the bottom. Then I used KitchenTigress' tip of placing the cake face-down to fill in the cracks. By the time it came to frosting, I had 2 perfectly level, crack-less cakes. No rehab necessary.

Then I put together all the other skills that Google, Pinterest and Youtube taught me during the year, along with a Vietnamese angel and came up with this. 

A cake I could be proud of!

Is this blog post a shout-out? Maybe, but I think it's more of a thank you to all who contributed to me getting here. I grew up always wanting to do things my own way but since I have become more open to receiving help from others, I have stopped, you know, roasting things I didn't mean to roast. Hey, Google is there for a reason. There isn't an answer you can't find or a forum that wouldn't help you out. Being a student out here in China, all I have is Google especially when time zone difference prevents me from calling Mom. So to the hundreds of people who helped me bake the Perfect Chocolate Cake....

Thank you and God bless your beautiful Chocolaty Souls!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick Fix: 学生抗镇定剂 Student Anti-Depressants

I started this day at 5:00 am with lots of hope. The dreary rains of yesterday were trickling its last drops but just enough so that I could wear  my cute rain-boots without looking like el niño and la niña.

But while the sunshine came out, the storms of my life were acting up. And since we are supposed to be stronger than our circumstances, I took that strength, walked myself to the nearest supermarket and stock up on some anti-depressants....

......which in retrospect should have contained less sugar. But hey, my mind was in quite the fog. What we have here is, the only vanilla-flavoured  ice cream on the shelf, copy cat kit-kat, fake Oreos (those with the Chinese characters are a bit on the bleached side less chocolaty) and fortunately, genuine tasting M&Ms.

Please note: there are no rules!!! That's how our day got messed up in the first place.....nuts, jelly beans, dried fruits, corn (it's a chinese thing but trust me!!), just stuff the pain away with random food in overdosed proportions.

For these crushed Oreos, take all the pent-up frustrations, grab the nearest object and crash it sounds like my childhood whooping grab a cup and knock gently against a bag filled with Oreos until they fall apart. That should be enough. And visit a MMA class near you as soon as possible.

Don't keep the ice-cream out too long or you'll have to delay the fun times.....

Now embrace a sugar high as you forget the troubles of the day......

P.S. If you can't handle your sugar, stay in ya room. No one likes a sugar junkie!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bite me: 油条 Fried Sticks

It's safe to say that a important component of Caribbean cuisine is a good fried dough. With names like bakes, floats, johnny cake, festival, fried dumpling you could imagine the confusion when crossing regional borders and having to order breakfast.

Chinese keep it simple. It's directly translated as Oil Stick 油条 which brings to mind a steel pipe covered in old car grease. But don't let the Chinglish scare you. It's actually much more appealing than this.

As you can see from the texture, it's a bit more chewy and puffy especially if cold. This comes from the proportions of flour and water (the dough is very wet when made) and the use of oil instead of butter or lard that Caribbean natives may be used to. It is also very light on salt.

Unlike in the Caribbean, I have never been served this at home. But it is extremely popular at our cafeteria and on the street with rice porridge, boiled or fried egg and pickled vegetables. But only for breakfast. I usually go for a simple steamed bun so this seems to be for those who need a heavy, hearty meal to keep them through the day.

Breakfast from the Cafeteria

When my mom fried bakes at home, I was known to make up to 20 disappear in one sitting. Ours are the flat disc-shaped ones and size was never an issue but you won't catch me eating so many oil sticks now. I mean it's not like Moms is hovering over the bowl waiting to slap away my impatient fingers...but... There is no salted cod here, at least any that appropriate for souse or fish cakes. The last time I smuggled carried some was like a year ago when I tried to fit the whole of Grenada in my suitcase. And what is bakes without salted fish?

Honourary Fish Cake

However, recently my palette has shown signs of softening up, so don't be surprised if you see some new combinations in the near future.

What are your favorite side dishes to bakes, festivals and fried sticks? Let me know below.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

International Bake Date: Spring 2015

When your weekend starts with Kazakhstan chocolate and real Parmigiano cheese, just know it will be awesome. But before we get to that...If you are a foreign student like myself, the first conversations you had with now friends would have been something like "I have never heard of your country in my life." "Is it on the map?". Fortunately, everyone is so used to this prelude that we don't get offended and we go on to have fun-filled memories. Another thing that bonds us together is discovering mutual loves such as baking.

So finally against the odds of times and location,last weekend, we held the second ever International Bake Date. The first time around Namibian and Grenadian baking talents clashed in the form a tie-dye cake, apple pie and banana bread. This time we spread far and wide to capture the baking spirit of the continents. Everyone brought a recipe to try, some native to country, some native to taste, and all native to experimentation with substituted ingredients.


Bonjour, Bonjour! Qu'est-ce que c'est? It's Madeleines. So my Congolese sister grew up on these soft, buttery cakes and they taste like something that would be sold out of a bakery within its first half hour on the shelf. That kind of home-made sophistication. I mean look at that golden crust! The heart of this recipe lies in the proportions of butter and powdered sugar which we had to make here.


If you like After Eight ice cream, you should love this cake. (Am I the only one who often mistakenly ordered after-eight for pistachio as a kid?) So this cake, in addition to minty green chocolate, includes coconut. Anybody in love with the coco? I have mad respect for my Italian sis here. And not just because she fed me cheese. She took lots of creative measures to source chocolate, mint and coconut and her substitutions qualifies her to be my partner on my future Amazing Race appearance. That show is still in on the air right? You know I live outside of civilization.

Check the recipe out and substitutions here.


So we tasted this cake at a friend's house and after hastily scribbling the recipe on the back of a old receipt, we swore we would try it before we left china. For the first time, a method over taste caught my attention. My friends, this cake was boiled, BOILED! And it tasted amazing. For more details on how to make this cake, read Scotland taught me.


This where it all started. This chick and I were always exchanging recipes, figuring out how to bake in one temperature ovens and naming desserts after ourselves. But she is the real boss. Anything she combines taste homey and right. I call it the Namibian essence. I really wish she would bottle it already. Anyway, since we love her apple pie so much, she made this Norwegian Apple Cake. It was her first time and it was on point.


I've done this before here. Because of the fresh pineapple juice, it still remains the softest and most moist cake I have even baked. But I need to find those maraschino cherries.


What a coincidence! Around the same time we started baking, our Vietnamese friends came into the kitchen with a strong dough nut game. I need these sprinkles in my life.

Look out this Summer for the last International Bake Date. More cakes, more countries!