Chilled Mango Cheesecake with Strawberry Gelee

Ah, finally something that's not completely red.
It was my little nephew's birthday yesterday and he turned 7. No big celebration or anything, we just celebrated it by having dinner with the whole family. And what kind of birthday celebration without a candle on a cake to blow?

I wasn't really prepared on making a cake. All I know is that I need to make something fruity as the consumers are my own family, which are big on fruits. We all love mango and we love something light. I made mango cake not too long ago for the mother (my sister-in-law), but I know that we all love mango so much that you can never go wrong with it. I needed to make something really quick, and I really meant quick as I got only one night to make it plus maybe 15 minutes to decorate it on the D-day. So, I decided on this mango cheesecake, the same one I made here, but I added strawberry gelee in the middle so that it won't be too boring. Besides, I couldn't find a nice fresh and ripe mango to put it inside. I only made a 6.5" cake as there was only 8 of us.

The sponge cake base was already available in the freezer, all I needed to make was the strawberry gelee first as it will need a few hours to set it up in the freezer. I ended up only froze it for 1.5 hours as it was already late at night and I needed to make the mango batter at the same night too so that it will have some time to firm up in the fridge overnight. The gelee was still a little soft but I think I managed to transfer it onto the cake successfully :D.

The cake was very much enjoyed by everybody. It was THE perfect ending to a delicious meal from our favorite restaurant. It was super light, fruity, refreshing, what else could you ask for?

I think I have made use of summer's bounty this year more than I could wish for. As much as I love them, I think I'm ready to see some other color on this blog :D. I can't wait to get my hands back on coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, lemon. But don't worry, you would see some red here and there as I store enough berries in the freezer to last me until the next summer :)

Panna Cotta and Strawberry Cake

Time goes by really fast, I thought it was the beginning of summer, but it ends already. I thought it wasn't too long ago that I started become curious about baking world, but now I can make things that I didn't even dream about. It was only yesterday that my little niece was born, and now she has a little baby brother already! Yes, I am officially an aunt of 12 now :). Sometimes these changes scared me as it happens so fast, but it's also exciting to see and experience what God has blessed you with. Surely enough, every tiny bit of blessing and moment deserve a cake!

I'm very thankful for little things that I got, and this strawberry season is one of them.
I buy a huge box of strawberries at farmers market almost every week, or maybe once every two weeks. One box has about 6 over-flowing ripe and sweet strawberries. So every week, I need to come up with some strawberry dessert ideas before these beauties turn bad. But time doesn't always follow the plan, it's the other way around. So I'm often left with a box full of strawberries with a sign of aging and I knew that I need to use them fast.

Ever since I saw Aran's post about her strawberry dessert she posted a while back, I always wanted to make it. She may not know me, but she has been a really big inspiration for me.
She made hers into individual jars, and I absolutely love dessert in individual glasses like that. You can really see the layers and you don't need to put as much gelatin as you would if you make it into a cake form because the glass will hold it well. Unfortunately, I don't have pretty clear glasses like that (it's on my wish-list though :P), so I decided to make it into a big cake form with sponge cake as a base.

I doubled the recipe for each layer to make it into one 7.5" round cake maybe (I trim the edges of an 8" cake). I made panna cotta before, but I've never made a yogurt panna cotta and I was so excited to try it. I know that I love the tartness of fromage blanc, so I was pretty confident that I will like the tartness of the yogurt as much. Making the vanilla bean panna cotta was a breeze, then I had to let it set in the freezer so that it would set up fast, before it seeps out through the cake ring. I made the strawberry mousse, and just refrigerate it to let it set, then make the gelee. I should have noticed that the gelatin is not enough to hold the cream firm enough in a cake form because when I took off the ring, the texture was a little soft. I let it sit in the refrigerator for about two days though before I gave it to my friend to try (simply just don't have time). That's why the red color is not as vibrant in this picture. There is a little panna cotta and gelee leftover, so I put it in a ramekin (no strawberry mousse though).

I didn't get a chance to taste the big cake, but I did eat the small ramekins with my nephew. Well, I should say mostly my nephew because he literally licked the ramekins and the spoon off. It was delicious!!! My friend brought me a slice of the big cake the following day and it tasted just as good. In the future, I think I will add more gelatin if I make it into a big cake, but it's perfect the way it is for individual glasses. It's creamy and very refreshing. I'll need to work on the proportion of each component too to make it a little taller. Try it and you will like it :)

Raspberry and Rose Entremet

Hmm... another red cake, so sorry, but I have a valid reason though (I think) :D.
Two weeks ago was my sister-in-law's brother's bday. Uhm... that's way too confusing, does that make him my in-law cousin? But anyways, yeah it was his birthday. Officially, it was still summer although the weather was a little colder than usual. The sun sets much earlier and the night is not as warm, in fact in was chilly already, but we haven't had a REAL BBQ this year (we as in our circle of friends). This summer for us had been loaded with lots of outdoor activities, hiking, camping, biking, out-of-town trip, you name it. It seems like for the whole summer (or maybe before summer hadn't officially started), every weekend was booked already. So we decided to have a BBQ Pool party, not only for the birthday celebration, but also to celebrate summer!

I was so excited planning the whole menu, I love summer and I love BBQ. To me, summer BBQ means light cocktail or fruity tea, good food, summer fruits, pool, friends, laughter. I started planning on the menu and finally decided on it along with the preparation and the grocery shopping. I already knew what I wanted to make for the birthday cake, it was something involving black raspberry mousse, vanilla bean bavarian, striped joconde, berry compote, cassis syrup, etc., it was one of the "to experiment" cake in my list. So I did the shopping for the cake on Thursday night, I suppose I still have Friday morning and night and part of Saturday to make the cake, plenty of time (at least so I thought)! I was shocked when I couldn't find frozen black raspberries at Trader Joe's! I asked them about it and they said it was discontinued. I think I almost fainted, or at least cried :(. You see, I LOVE black raspberries, and I always wanted to store lots of them in my freezer but I always thought why do that while I can always get them from my trusty Trader Joe's? Now, they're gone!!!! I came home feeling really sad that night and I googled black raspberry on the internet and I couldn't find any that sells them. The next morning, I called a few other TJ and they told me the same thing :(. There goes my only chance.

Friday went by so quickly and I came home late from work, having no energy to do anything else, I just went straight to bed, not knowing what will I make in the morning. I know that I don't have much time to make anything, but I'll figure it out in the morning. Long story short, I have 6 punnets of beautiful red raspberries in the fridge that I bought at Costco earlier (again with the weak will power). I completely adore raspberries but I didn't want to make another raspberry cake, I had it too much. But I had no choice, so I have to make use of them. So, one thing led to another, I came up with this cake. It was two layers of thin joconde, brushed with framboise eau-de-vie, thin layer of vanilla bean mascarpone cream (a mix of pastry cream, mascarpone, gelatin, and heavy cream), and thin layer of raspberry gelee. In my mind, I imagined the thin layers would show perfectly neat, but it wasn't :(. I only freeze the gelee for an hour and it was still soft when I took it out. I had too though as I don't have more time, I had to move on to the next step. That's why the raspberry layer is kinda curly :(. I topped it off with lots of strawberries and raspberries and put a tempered white chocolate sheet on top of it.

Although I wasn't too happy with the neat-ness, but I was beyond happy that they all LOVED it! I brought a small slice home for my nephew to try (I could always count on him for dessert feedback, trust me!) and he loved it! For those who are familiar with rose water, would be able to taste the soft sweet floral taste in the background, following the slightly tart raspberry flavor. I was beyond relieved that night. Yes, I sometimes (of often times) over-analyzed things and put more pressure on myself than what I need to. Oh wells, at least everybody was happy that night, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY DICKY!

Sorry for the poor lighting on the picture, this is the best I can do at that time :)

I realize that it might be a little late, but I want to share with you some of the gorgeous summer produce that I got lately. The small tomatoes are super sweet! I didn't know that tomato can be so sweet, I can munch on them just like that and it's coming from a person who doesn't normally eat or like tomatoes :). I use them to make caprese salad (sweet small heirloom tomatoes, garden-picked basil, herbed-marinated mozzarella balls, good quality extra-virgin olive oil, salt & pepper, and you're good to go) for the BBQ and it was awesome! The raspberries is the leftover from the cake above. Imagine how much will power you need to have to resist these every time you see them. They're just too beautiful to ignore, don't you agree? :D

Fromage Blanc Mousse Cake with Berry Compote

I often find myself having lots of different berries in the fridge, more than what I actually need. You see, I don't enjoy eating berries plain like that as much as I do when they're in a dessert form. I'm such a dessert snob :(, so sad. Even more sad, I realize that I have this satisfaction when I own them. When I see them at farmers' market, I have very little will power to turn them down. It's like they're looking at you and begging you to take them home. I'll take them all home if I could. Then I'd feel really happy after I bought them, but right after they go into the fridge, it's a whole different matter. I have a very sensitive teeth that it hurts me when I bite something cold (heck, I can't even drink ice water without it touching my teeth), so after it goes into the fridge, I hardly look at them. Well, I do check them regularly to see if they go bad, it's like my pet, I keep checking on it time after time hoping that it will stay the way they are, just like when I first bought it.

This time is one of those times that I have too much berries on hand and I HAD to use them. Sure I can freeze them, but it's gonna be different. Frozen berries have a whole different purpose in their life :). It also happened that I have fromage blanc in the fridge that I bought a couple of weeks before. I was really curious about it and I have never used it before. So, I bought one at Whole Foods (the only place I could find it) so that I can experience something with it. The idea got distracted and has been put aside for some time until I saw those berries and the cheese together in the fridge. Besides, it's not cheap, even more expensive than mascarpone cheese, so it's way too good to let it go bad.

I saw some fromage blanc cake before when I was surfing through different blogs and sites, whether it is mousse, charlotte, cheese souffle, etc. I was once again googled it and see what are people use it for in their dessert. The similarity between all of them is that fromage blanc is usually paired up with berries. Then, I remember that I stumbled through Fanny's blog, Foodbeam a few days before and she just made a cake that I think is perfect for me to get my hands on the fromage blanc cake for the first time. She also posted a similar cake from a patisserie she interned with before. I really like the white clean color, you can almost taste the lightness of it and the fresh clean feeling after eating it.

I first tried to make the dacquoise, I have never liked it before. Despite it's being really easy to make, it's usually sickeningly sweet for my Asian taste. But I gave it a go one more time and I cut down the sugar by half from Fanny's recipe and I still thought it's way overly sweet, so I had to throw it away :(. I decided then to stay the tried and true plain old sponge cake that I kept in the freezer. I made the berry compote and freeze it in larger diameter than what Fanny had suggested as I found it too thick. Then I made the mousse and assembled it in 8" ring. I had to stretch the time of making individual component over a few days for making the compote, the mousse, the glaze, and decorating it. It probably took 3 days to complete as I only do it every night after work. I didn't get around to photograph it until I think two days after everything is done, and by the time I had the time, the cake didn't look as nice as it was before. The fruits on top don't look fresh anymore and the pistachio had soaked up the moisture from the glaze, even the color of the glaze is not as vibrant anymore :(, but I'm still happy that I can still get a shot of it anyway.

I didn't expect much from the taste of it as I got disappointed by the look already, but boy was I wrong. I was surprised by the lightness of it, the cheese actually tasted like yogurt, but less tart and more firm in texture. The berry compote is sweet but it has a slight tangy-ness and it compliments perfectly. I definitely want to make this again in the future with some modification :). I think there are some area that I want to do differently, and I can't wait to try it again next time. Sorry for the poor cross-section picture :(, I just wanted to show you how the inside looked like.

Strawberry Pudding

It has been more than three weeks that I haven't updated this little blog of mine. It's not that I haven't been baking that much, I still do. I still take pictures, although not every single one of them. Have you ever thought that sometimes, taking the picture gets in the way of everything? For me, most of the time, I finished decorating a cake in the morning right before I go to work. By the time I finished, I would rush things so that I can go to work ASAP, and to be honest, sometimes I don't feel like taking pictures of it, but I know if I don't, I will regret it later. Those hours and hours of baking, folding, mixing,refrigerating, and decorating need to be captured in the final form so that we can look at it and be proud of it no matter how the result turned out :).

I wouldn't say that my life is going in a slow pace. Even when I have some spare time, I will always think of something to use the time to do something productive, such as cleaning up (and I have lots of that really), folding the laundry, and baking of course! I feel like the time is too precious to just go by unused, although I do feel exhausted here and there, but I'm trying to enjoy every second of it.

Now back to the baking world! This pudding is not actually a result of baking, but the term "baking" somehow and sometime is used to describe anything related to dessert :). It's nothing special, just a strawberry pudding with lots of fresh strawberries inside (and more in the center). It's a request from a friend for her to bring to a gathering that she went. She requested putu ayu too along with the pudding. I thought the pudding was a little too firm though, I guess I need to add more liquid next time. There is actually chocolate creme anglaise accompanied this lovely pudding, but not shown here in the picture. I have never made strawberry pudding with chocolate creme anglaise before but it's what she had requested, and you can never go wrong with chocolate-strawberry combination, can you?

You will see lots of strawberry post coming :D. I just love summer, California summer that is! although I have only experienced summer in a few states, CA, TX and MI (for a short period), but I think everybody will agree that CA has the best summer ever!! too bad I can't find red currants here in bay area :(. Although summer has officially ended yesterday, but the spirit of summer will still be there as long as I still see strawberries in farmers' market :). It seems like it was just yesterday that summer just started and I was just getting excited to welcome the warm weather and the gorgeous produce. I haven't even gotten any chance to bake with cherries (it was gone so fast), peaches, nectarines, plums :(. I guess I was blinded and got hypnotized by those shiny red plump berries lying around everywhere and you know exactly how hard it is to resist them. But I'll try to use some of the last peach and plum this year to make something before they're gone :).

Baby Shower Cake

It seems like everybody is pregnant nowadays in our church (notice a little hyperbolic here), and it's a good thing because that means I get to play with more cute babies, yay!
It was one of our church's friends, Silvi's baby shower party a week after baby Max's birthday! I was going to take a break from fondant cake after Max's cake, but how can I say no to the opportunity to create a cute baby shower cake?? Since I was in a figurine mode, I planned on using baby figurine as well. Now, when I was in the middle of Ma'x birthday cake madness, I heard that a few of my friends are actually quite good in playing with playdough. I was really excited when I found this out as I can use their help for the cake!! So, when we had a dinner together at one of our friends' house, I brought the fondant and the tools for them to play around. They were having so much fun with it and I was too watching them, hohoho.... (evil laugh).

Afterwards, I got a few baby figurines, there's baby with mohawk, sitting baby, and the sleeping baby that I decided to use on the cake. This figurine along with the tiny teddy bear is a courtesy of my friend Cecyl. I was going to put a smile on the teddy bear but the fondant has hardened. But it was okay since it was supposedly to be a stuffed animal anyway. I went with the clean and simple design for the cake. I knew I wanted baby blue color, so here's what I came up with.
The cake inside was vanilla cake with a layer of fragrant blueberry filling and cream cheese frosting. I love the combination of blueberry and cream cheese, it's one of those things that compliments each other.

Anyways, big CONGRATULATIONS and HUGS for Silvi and Ronald! :)

Happy 1st Birthday Baby Max!

Maximillan Christopher Tan, or whom we usually called Max turned one on August 4th a few weeks ago! He's the son of dear friends of mine, Chris and Kiki, and he's definitely the cutest, the most handsome, or you can just say the best baby ever! He LOVES fruits! His eyes are widened super wide when he sees strawberries in particular, he loves plum and can chow down on it for a long time. When he was only a few months old last year, I told Kiki that I would love to make Max's first birthday cake as my gift for him. It was still a long way to go that I really never planned it. I always thought that, "ah, it's still in August, way way too early too plan" until probably a little more than a week before the D-day that Kiki actually reminded me!!

Being a planner, I couldn't be more nervous about it. The parents requested a CuriousGeorge themed cake, a simple one will do as long as there is curious george on it, since baby Max is a super curious baby just like George :). They even offered me their big Curious George porcelain bank and suggested me to just put that on top of a plain cake @_@. I really appreciate the offer, but how could I possibly make something like that. I would be a really mean aunty if I do that to baby Max for his first birthday cake.

So I began my search for inspiration on the cake, realizing that I only have a week to do it. It seems long but not if you only have very few hours to spare on that week, but thankfully I have the whole Saturday, since the party was actually on Sunday. I had a couple of ideas, but nothing really stuck on my head nor I was a fan of the idea until I saw this cutest cake. I browsed through the album and Kylie Lambert is truly one talented lady. I love her cow figurines, they look so cute and funny. So I decided on making "Curious George in a Farm" themed cake, perfect!! The only problem is, how can I find the time to make all those figurines?

If you know me, I'm not a very creative nor I'm an artsy kind of person (I didn't even like cartoons when I was little), I usually freaked out when I have to make fondant figurines before actually do it. It wouldn't help too with such a time crunch. Luckily, I'm blessed with lots of supportive and encouraging friends. Nana offered to help me with the figurines, and she's so good at it! She has the patience that I will never imagine of having! In the end, I have a few other great friends to help me with. Nana helped make the super cute piggy and the ducky, Yanni made the froggy, Fonda helped with the bee, Joana made the cow, and the rabbit actually made by Yossi and Nana (Nana brought it back to CA when she was visiting Yossi). I'm so thankful being surrounded by these wonderful people. So I'll just have to do the rest. I made some more bees, a set of royal icing butterfly (I only used two in the cake), the caterpillar, the yellow hat, and the curious george. I spent hours on curious george alone, hahaha.... the fondant was tooo soft after I added some amount of brown food coloring to get the color I wanted. The hot and humid weather didn't help either. This is the chubbiest george I've ever seen. You can also probably see some nail marks. Yes, I have long nails and after making this george, I decided to sacrifice and cut my nails on four fingers total (and yes, it will look weird if you look at it :D)

Once all the figurines are all set, I spent the whole Saturday making the cake, covering it, and decorating it. The parents love Indonesian-type of cakes so I decided to make Indonesian cheese layer cake for the top tier and lapis surabaya for the bottom tier. I used almost 50 egg yolks to make the cake total!!! and please don't get me started on the butter :P. And finally, the cake is done!!!!! I was super relieved when I saw the finished cake. It may looked simple enough for some of you, but to me, this is a very special cake. Not only that this is for baby Max and the fact that this cake has the love from the loving aunties, but also that I've never spent so many hours on cake like this before. I knew that I needed to give myself plenty of time so that I won't mess it up and I was really happy with how it turned out really. More importantly, the parent liked it too! Too bad baby Max is not old enough to give me his opinion about it :(. The pictures are courtesy of my talented photographer friend San San

The birthday boy and his parents, happily munching on the plums