When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Whipped Cream Layer Cake November 20, 2008

Filed under: All-occasion cakes — crummb @ 4:39 pm
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OKAY, it’s confirmed. I’m a cakezilla. And I knew when I started having violent thoughts about Nick Malgieri.

This guy is a revered American baking expert who had written books called How To Bake, Perfect Cakes, and Perfect Pastry. With titles as audacious as these, you’d expect his recipes to be  workable, yes?

Well, no! This is what happened.

My boss asked me to review his latest book, The Modern Baker, for the newspaper. And I was bordering on delirious when I scanned the contents and came across this recipe – Whipped Cream Layer Cake. Regulars to this blog would know by now how much I love whipped cream. And this cake has another ingredient that stirs my loins – caramel. Whipped cream and caramel in one cake! It’s like Christmas every day!

The cake itself went really well. Whipped cream is used in place of butter to provide tenderness and it emerged from the oven firm yet moist. But trouble brewed when I tried making caramel, which is to be whipped into the frosting.

The recipe says 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 teaspoon of water. Mix it up and heat it until it caramelises. Problem is, there’s too little water so instead of caramelising, it crystallised and turned back into coarse sugar.

But this cannot be. We’re talking about Nick Malgieri – graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, pastry chef of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, winner of numerous James Beard Foundation awards, named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Chocolatier magazine, and 1996 inductee into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. How can Nick Malgieri be wrong?

So I tried again. And again. Five times I heated the sugar and water and five times I got the same blood-boiling result. 

With steam shooting out of my ears, I turned to another cookbook for a proper caramel recipe. I whipped up the frosting, covered the cake, and it tasted absolutely divine.

But still I was mad. While washing up, wild thoughts ran amok:

Call yourself an award-winning cookbook author? Can’t even make bloody caramel!

Charge US$35 for that cookbook? Use summa that to hire a recipe tester!

Look at all these sugar I’m throwing away. Those sugar canes died for nothing!

Don’t let me meet you in person, Mr Malgieri, or I’m gonna smear all that rock sugar on your bearded face. Take that for James BEARD!

Husband-photographer Z came home and told me about his day at work. Mmph, I responded. He told me a joke. Mmph, I attempted a laugh. My baby daughter could have launched into a Riverdance routine, executed a 2-half somersault in pike position and a perfect landing, and I would’ve just said, Mmph. I was that grumpy.

I am cakezilla. Hear me roar.


P/S: On a completely separate note, can somebody please drop a comment about how gorgeous this photo looks? I mean, it is pretty damn good, right? I think husband-photographer Z did a great job. But hardly anyone ever paid any attention to his photos. And he is sad. Every time I check in for stats and comments, he’d go, “No one say anything about my photo?” I’d look at him in silence,  he’d look back, and we’d hear crickets chirping from a faraway distance.

C’mon guys, show him some lerv.


C&A’s flower applique wedding cake November 13, 2008

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 12:16 am
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WHEN bride-to-be Charmayne found this cake design on a bridal website and email-ed it to me, I shot back: “I WANNA MAKE THIS!!!!” It was so pretty and easy-to-make, it absolutely killed me that I hadn’t come up with the idea myself. All I needed was a flower-shaped cookie cutter and I’d be all set.


Charmayne said when she was walking down the aisle in the hotel ballroom and saw the cake out front, she thought it was so pretty she almost cried. (Okay, she probably said this only because I shamelessly asked her for some ego-massage. But still.) Anyway, all hail Michelle Doll Cakes in New York for creating the design. I am but a wannabe.



Noelle’s mini bundt cake tower November 5, 2008


I’VE been stewing in this conundrum for months: What cake should I make for En En’s first birthday? It should be special enough to befit her very first birthday cake, yet not so spectacular that it couldn’t be topped. After all, since I’ll be insisting on making all her birthday cakes until I croak, there’d better be some room for improvement.

How about a two-tier fondant-covered pink cake with polka dots and flowers? Or a retro cake baked in the shape of numeral 1? Or an over-the-top strawberry shortcake – which is my favourite – since it’s as much a mother’s day as it is a baby’s day?

Then last week, I was surfing the net for cake ideas when I came across a mini bundt cake. Then I thought, why not make a lot, then pile them up into a tower? So I promptly went out to buy a mini bundt cake pan, which is made of silicone and cost a hefty $27.60 at Pantry Magic (it’s daylight robbery, but like I always say – Just gotta have it).


The cakes were basic brown sugar butter cakes drizzled over with mandarin orange icing (The oranges, which A’s father gave my husband Z as thanks for his services at C&A’s wedding, were just lying around, haha).

For an extra lashing of love, I broke out my brand new Nigella Lawson cakestand from its box and used it for the first time. Now En En will have no doubt that Mamma loves her.

The tower was easy to make and assemble. Not so easy was taking a photo with En En in it.

The idea was to get her to sit by the table so only her eyes can be seen peering at the cake.  But she insisted on standing, and grabbing the knife box nearby, and swinging it around like a bat, and aiming at the cake.

Therefore the look of slight terror on my face (I wasn’t supposed to be in the shot but husband/photogragher Z doesn’t always follow instructions).

Anyway, one year ago, I produced the best thing I’ve ever set my heart – and lost my waistline – to. Happy birthday, Mamma’s mini bundt cake!