When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

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

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 12:16 am
Tags: , , , ,

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.



J&H’s polka dot wedding cake October 29, 2008

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 12:50 am
Tags: , , ,

IT can be done. A tall 4-inch cake can be covered with fondant and the secret is – *cymbal clash* – buy it pre-made! Two weeks ago, after my attempt using my own home-made fondant failed miserably (as detailed here), I spent a few days panicking. I won’t be able to give Jess what she wants for her wedding cake. How!

Then I remembered – ask Yoda. Every apprentice has a mentor and mine – even though he doesn’t know it – is Andy Foo, executive pastry chef of the Grand Hyatt. I interviewed him a few years ago and had turned to him to make a four-tier dummy cake for my wedding in 2006. Since then, he has been the person to call when I hit a life-threatening baking crisis.

So I email-ed him about my fondant predicament and this is what I learnt. All baking professionals buy their fondant pre-made. And the brand that Yoda, and all the top hotels and bakeries in Singapore use, is Massa Ticino from Switzerland.  It’ll have no problems covering a 4-inch tall cake, Yoda said. So I promptly drove all the way to its distributor in Defu Lane in Hougang to get a 7-kg tub.

When I cut out a slab and rolled it out, I almost wept with joy. The fondant is not sticky, and miraculously elastic and malleable. When it is thrown over a 4-inch cake, the “waves” that form around the sides can somehow stretch and contract at all the right places, wrapping the cake seamlessly. It was almost too good to be true.

What’s their secret ingredient? I don’t know. Whatever it is – even if it’s melamine – I’m their biggest fan.

Anyway, big big hugs and thanks to Chris and Sooch who offered some ideas when I sent out an SOS two weeks ago. I feel like a problem-child-made-good when I say to them (with tears welling up in eyes), “Pa, Ma, I did it!”

Click here for the making of Jessica and Han Ee’s wedding cake


Mocking a mock-cake October 15, 2008

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 3:39 pm
Tags: ,

DEAR fans (and enemies), I am still alive! I haven’t been posting for a while because I’ve been busy preparing for two wedding cakes which I gotta deliver next weekend – for J&H on Saturday and C&A for Sunday.

And above is evidence that I’ve been a busy bee. I made this mock-up cake to iron out any potential kinks so no misfortune would befall me on the actual day. And boy am I glad I tested out Jess’ cake design in advance. At 4 inches, her middle tier (pictured) is almost twice as tall as the other two tiers, and quite a beearch to cover with fondant.

(Non-bakers who couldn’t care less about the intricacies of cake decoration, skip this paragraph) The cake was so tall that the fondant couldn’t wrap over the sides neatly. Instead, it formed gathers like “waves” at two sections of the cake. Good grief, what am I to do! It may be technically impossible to fondant-wrap a 4-inch cake – imagine throwing a hankie over a water bottle – no way the sides are gonna adhere neatly. Or maybe my fondant recipe – a non-melt one I got from my aunt – was a little too stiff? Think I gotta tweak it this weekend and try again. If it doesn’t work, I’d have to change the design to have three 3-inch tiers. Watoodoo.

Other than that, all else is well! Jess likes the dots (except that I gotta find another brighter shade of purple, and replace the orange with shocking pink). More pictures – and tribulation tales – to come next week.


Even Better Than The Real Thing May 22, 2008

Filed under: Birthday cakes — crummb @ 1:27 am
Tags: , ,

STRIPES, babies, buttons – I thought I had exhausted the whole chocolate-cake-with-fondant-cut-outs design. But then D wanted a birthday cake for her mum and sis (who share the same birthday) and showed me a website with a chocolate cake with cute, retro circles on it. She wanted me to copy it and have the circles in ivory and rose.

And whaddya know. In my humblestest opinion, I think my version kicked the original’s ass (C’mon D, back me up here. Just click on Comments. See it? Good).


The True Love Cupcake May 20, 2008

Filed under: Cupcakes — crummb @ 11:28 pm
Tags: , ,

IT WAS very clear to me that my husband Z (who, by the way, is the designated photographer of this blog) and I are meant to be the day I wanted this cupcake photographed.

Finally, I’d found a modelling fondant recipe that wouldn’t melt at room temperature, and was able to make roses and leaves out of it. The cupcake, consisting of chocolate almond cake topped with mousseline buttercream, was ready for its close-up.

Without my knowledge, Z went to Ikea over lunchtime and bought a table runner, little saucers in various colours and napkins to style the shoot, as well as various coloured lightbulbs, a light stand, huge boards and wax paper to set up a little home studio in our dining room. And, he took more than an hour of careful positioning of this and that before he got this shot.

“We’re so right for each other, darleeeng,” I said, eyelashes a-fluttering.

“Why?” he grunted.

“Because we pursue our hobbies together.”

“You mean because I pursue your hobby.”

And that’s why I married him. He is always so right.


Flirting With Disaster May 17, 2008

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 10:32 am
Tags: ,

LET it be put on record that my very first wedding cake was a disaster of volcanic, Mount-Pinatubo proportions.

G was getting married, and he was very brave to let me – a complete novice – bake his wedding cake. How hard could it be? I have a great recipe for a butter sponge, so I’d use that. I also have a dead-delicious recipe for mousseline buttercream, so I’d use that too. I’d just wing the decoration.

It wasn’t until G told me he wanted a three-tier cake covered in fondant sugarpaste and pink polka dots – no doubt to befit his funky, set-the-dancefloor-on-fire reputation as a partying king – that reality set in. I’ve never handled fondant before. It might be tricky.

So a week before the big day, I set about making a full-dress-rehearsal cake. The three tiers of buttery sponge cake were done without too much fuss. But the fondant.

First, the packet of ready-made fondant I bought required lots of kneading. Then, when I rolled it out, it stuck to the table. Then, when I re-rolled it, it was too thin. Finally, when I’ve covered all three tiers of the cake with it and stuck on the polka dots, the nightmare truly began.

The fondant surface started taking on this eerie sheen, like my face on a hot day. Slowly, it started sliding down, and down, and down, until it gathered like a skirt at the ankles of a randy schoolgirl. The polka dots, too, gave way to gravity and became forlorn, lifeless blobs of oval.

The only thing that kept me from descending into a, well, meltdown was the number of this bakery owner I know. I had written plenty of articles about his cakes before. He should be able to make me a wedding cake on short notice.

What followed over the next few days was a flurry of SOS e-mails to pastry chefs, food writers, even my baker Ah Yee back in Sabah, on how to fix that friggin’ fondant. Advice included adding more icing sugar, rolling it out thick, and chilling the cake overnight in an air-conditioned room to harden the fondant. But out of all this came the best tip that I was to go on to heed: Make your own (Thanks, Chris!).

I followed a recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which required even more kneading. Huffing and puffing, I thought to myself, who needs the gym? Making fondant is as much a work-out as jogging. In fact, like jogging, you’d need to wear a support bra too. Same same.

Beranbaum’s fondant is easier to handle, and – best of all – it tasted way better than store-bought versions. Despite the yucky additions of gelatin and glucose, it tasted somewhat like the white filling in Oreo cookies.

But not that I was expecting people to eat it. Fondant, to most bakers, is just a decorative medium. It’s 95% sugar, so it’d be far too sweet to eat it along with the cake and filling underneath. So imagine my surprise – and slight horror – when I spotted a few guests peeling it off and chomping on it at the wedding. Man, they’d better brush their teeth that night.

The cake, by the way, turned out really well. The fondant held up beautifully and I’ve since declared Rose Levy Beranbaum as my new best friend. If there are lessons learnt from this foray into fondant, it is this: Roll it out thick (at 5mm), and blast the air-con.