When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Earl Grey Pound Cake October 26, 2009

Filed under: All-occasion cakes — crummb @ 10:24 pm
Tags: ,

earl grey butter cake lo

Ever since I started this blog over a year ago, I’ve received lovely comments about how my posts are down-to-earth, unpretentious and self-deprecating.

Well, this is not one of those posts.

Today, I’m going to brag about what an utter genius I am for coming up with this most astounding of butter cakes, the Earl Grey Pound Cake. And get this: I didn’t just follow a recipe from some book that I bought or am reviewing, like I usually do. I pretty much made up this recipe myself.

Okay, so I adapted it from a new cookbook that’s out in the stores. But unlike many sneaky food bloggers out there who adopt published recipes as their own by changing something really small, like the amount of sugar, I changed a lot of this recipe, awright?

Having read Shirley O. Corriher’s BakeWise, I have become so clever that I knew, at one glance, that the stated 1/8 tsp of baking powder is way not enough. So I upped it. I also did away with ingredients A and B, because the cake would be too sweet with them. I also cancelled ingredient C and D because I wanted a finer texture, and I dropped ingredient E because it would overpower the Earl Grey tea flavour.

Please, hold your applause. I’m not done yet.

Last but not least, I increased the butter and cut the sugar so it had the perfect balance that’s super-buttery and not too sweet. And, ta-da, what did I get? A butter cake that is so tender, so moist and fragrant, I believe this is the thing that’s gonna make me my first million.

Call me smug, but I’ve been dreaming about opening a bakery that specialises in all variations of this stupendous butter cake – orange, lemon, green tea, five-spice, you name it – and cake-worshippers from all over the country would descend upon me to beg for a small slice. Like the institutional Lana Cakes shop in Bukit Timah, I would only need to open four days a week to support my two kids through school and my husband through full-time skate-boarding.

And, like Lana bakery (I’ve been allowed inside its bowels before! One of the better privileges of being a food writer), I would have a little air-conditioned room tucked way at the back where I mix my batter and keep my secret ingredient away from view.

Yes, friends, this recipe has a secret ingredient, one that keeps the cake so incredibly moist even after a few days. But I’m not telling. Many of you have asked for recipes in my previous posts, and in the spirit of fraternal goodwill and generosity towards all baker-kind, I have happily obliged. But not this one, folks. This one is mine.

Go ahead. Beg, plead, or appeal to my soft, vulnerable 6-months-pregnant heart for my classified recipe. But I will only have three words for you – Get cher own.

This mamma’s not budging.


Dad’s 80th birthday cake October 8, 2009

Filed under: Birthday cakes,Inane stuff — crummb @ 9:01 pm
Tags: ,

test bday

I made a two-tier cake for my dad’s 80th birthday last month. But this post isn’t about how much he loved it (which I’m sure he did, even though crusty, conservative Teochew men like him don’t often express their feelings), or how much my relatives loved it, or how my 23-month-old daughter E wolfed down an entire slice all by herself, this being her very first taste of her mother’s baking (we decided that we’ve deprived her the sinful joys of fat and sugar for long enough).

No, this post is about the miracle of how I even managed to make the cake in the first place.

You’ve been fooled if you think that I stopped baking over the past five months because I’m pregnant and that my apartment was under renovation. Friends, there was actually a more sinister, diabolical force at work – my husband Z.

Let me put it this way. I am married to a man who has turned my pregnancy into an oppressive in-house military camp. Much like how life in the army barracks is governed by an inexplicable set of rules that makes sense only to the sergeant who created them, so is my life ever since Z knocked me up.

Here is Z the Pregnancy Nazi’s edict:

I cannot eat instant noodles or canned soup. Zero nutrition.

I cannot eat sausages. You don’t know what goes into them.

I cannot stand near the microwave oven, let alone eat anything that has been microwaved. He gave me the reason but it was so deep it slid right over my head.

I cannot carry my 11-kg daughter. Too taxing.

I cannot reach my arms up to take anything that is taller than me. I could overstretch.

I must flee at the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke, paint, detergent or fumigation (but strangely, his noxious farts are okay).

I cannot shower in the bathtub. I could slip and fall.

Every other day, he will check if I have been faithfully taking my dietary supplements. Every time I eat an apple, or any produce that may have come in contact with pesticides, he asks sternly: “Did you wash it?”

A few weeks ago, in a haze of renovation fever, I returned to my apartment with our maid so she could glue on a piece of laminate in the kitchen. I only supervised; I didn’t do any of the work. But when Z found out that I was actually within sniffing distance of glue for 15 minutes, he refused to talk to me for one full day.

So go ahead, ask me if I’ve been baking. And I’ll roll my eyes and tell you: “And incur the wrath of Lord Z?” No, I have not been baking. Because I don’t want to whisk an egg and have him scold me for potentially breaking my hip, thereby making childbirth more difficult. I have not been baking. Because I don’t want to sift flour only to have him accuse me of triggering premature labour.

But I had a rare reprieve last month as my dad’s birthday approached. He was turning 80, a grand, celebratory milestone by any standard, and I wanted to bake him a cake, something I had never done before. It was a proposition that even Z, a complete softie when it comes to parents and family, could not turn down.

So I baked the butter cakes in my spanking new 90-cm Ariston oven back in my apartment (more about my wonder oven in another post), then completed the frosting (whipped cream with mascarpone cheese) and decorations (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) at my parents’, where a party for 30 relatives was to be held.

The cake was a hit. Dad’s four grandchildren helped him blow out the candles, and a photo of that moment now serves as wallpaper in his iPod, our birthday gift to him. I’m just glad that Z the Nazi didn’t deny me the pride I now feel for making the cake. Because if he did, I would summon some of this watermelon belly and heavy-artillery papaya boobs to unleash some major Allied forces on him. Ker-pow!