When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Noelle’s 3rd birthday cake November 8, 2010

Filed under: Birthday cakes — crummb @ 10:42 am
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Kids birthday parties are absolutely exhausting. Last Friday, when my daughter E’s party was winding down to a close, I actually slumped into my sofa and, with mouth slightly ajar, fell asleep when there were still two guests left in the house.

It wasn’t even a big party. All the food was ordered in, and I had my mum and aunt to help with the serving. What made it draining, I realise, was the pressure of wanting to throw a better party than last year’s; this inner competition where I wanted to out-Martha Martha. So I went about making 15 huge paper pom-poms, which took close to 5 hours, to hang all over the house. There was this lovely cascading cluster over the dining table, and a few other explosions at various corners of the house.

There was also a theme. Since E loves to play waitress, we got godma C to make her little menus listing the food to be served at the party, so she could go around asking the guests for their orders. We put on her the most waitressy outfit we could rustle up from her wardrobe, and made a waitress name tag to go with it too.

As for the cake, ahem, I do believe that I outdid the one last year. And I humbly give credit to Naomi of Hello Naomi and Louise of for the inspiration. It had a giant strawberry, a giant swirl of whipped cream, and giant sprinkles all made out of sugar. Some of the kids thought the cake was a toy. Success!

When the party was over and we were clearing up, I turned to my husband Z and asked, “How many more birthday parties are we gonna throw for her?” Because, I cannot imagine outdoing myself every year. Before you know it, I’ll be hiring the entire Cirque du Soleil, and making a cake with a cannon inside that will shoot fireworks into the night sky.

“For as long as she wants to spend her birthday with us, I s’pose,” Z replied. And sigh, he’s right. There are only so many years E will think it’s cool to have her parents sing Happy Birthday for her, before she starts shopping for barbecue gear so she and her friends can have overnight cookouts at a Changi chalet. Which means I have only a handful of years left to make her cakes, fuss over the food and devise costumes. So I’m still game. Next year, I will make 20 pom-poms.



Cupid’s Strawberry Cake with cream cheese buttercream January 22, 2009

Filed under: Disaster cakes — crummb @ 10:42 am
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DO NOT attempt to adjust your computer screen. This cake is really as bad as it looks.

Ever since I started this blog last May, I have – only half-jokingly too – tried to project myself as some baking wunderkind on the cusp of conquering the confectionery world. But at the start of this new year, I thought, what the heck, I’m gonna be honest. I’m gonna post photos of ALL the stuff that comes out of my oven – the good, the bad, and the damn ugly, starting with this cataclysmic wreck of a cake.

I mean, no matter how much I improve my piping skills or perfect the art of chocolate tempering, I’m never going to approach the greatness of the incomparable Cannelle et Vanille or Tartelette. The stuff they make is just outta this world. Who am I to upset their reign over the baking blogosphere?

So I’ve decided to be a master of another category of blogs – the kind that shows you the out-takes and bloopers from baking.  If I keep making cakes as disastrous as this one, I’ll be the almighty ruler of this realm.

Anyway, this recipe is taken from Flo Braker’s new book, Baking For All Occasions. Let me say first that even if it had turned out looking like the pretty photo in the book, I still wouldn’t eat it because it was so unbearably sweet, it was murder.

The cake layers were already too sweet. And still you gotta slather on two layers of fruit jam, plus another filling and all-over coating of  cream cheese buttercream. It’s might as well that the cake bombed. At least I didn’t have to eat it.

So what went wrong? My memory is a little fuzzy now, but I think it had something to do with my not waiting for the buttercream mixture to cool completely before whipping in the cream cheese. So what started out as a  thick, spreadable concoction suddenly turned into sad, watery puddle.

It was a joke trying to spread the thing on the cake. Imagine painting your wall with water. It got even funnier when I placed a layer of cake on top of the cream cheese puddle. The cake literally went “splat” and the cream cheese dribbled down the sides, taking along with it my pretty, carefully arranged strawberry slices.

It was so bad, it’s good.

Allow me, then, to lyricise the cruel beauty of this accidental creation: Such contrast between furry crumb and shiny liquid. Such juxtaposition of hard-edged cake and free-flowing buttercream. Such DRAMA made possible using just flour, butter, sugar and cream!

This, my friends, is art!