Spring Cleaning Part 1: Cassis Chocolate Cake

I opened my freezer a few weeks ago and started listed out what pastry "leftovers" I have in there. You can bet that I have different flavors of joconde, baked cheesecake, mousses, some sponge cake layers among other common things such as frozen berries that I froze last year (red and yellow raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries), as well as frozen purees (passion fruit, guava, apricot, cassis, mango, etc), cherries. That's a whole lot of stuff! I can make half a year worth of desserts without having to buy most of the ingredients. And now that Summer is here, I have to start "cleaning" them up so that I would have space for a new stash of every fruit I can find in farmers' market.

If you follow this blog, you might know that I hate wasting stuff away. I am a firm believer that you can make something completely extraordinary with leftovers and maybe with a bit of extra work. So the spreadsheet planning began. So many things I could make with them that I am almost overwhelmed with excitement, can't decide which one to make first and when I will actually have time to do them.

Like this cake for example. Most of the components in this cake are leftovers from this cake. I had some leftovers for most of the layers from previous cake, so I partly assembled them and put them in the freezer until I can figure out what I can make with them. So here are the dissected components for this cake:
  • chocolate joconde
  • raspberry soaking syrup (to moisten the joconde)
  • dark chocolate mousse
  • chocolate joconde that has been moistened with raspberry syrup
  • thin layer of raspberry garniture
  • cassis mousse
  • decoration: mini chocolate macarons, blueberries, and chocolate decoration

The only thing I needed to make for this cake is the cassis mousse, which was a very quick and easy mousse. Even the macaron shells were available in my freezer, I just needed to make a quick chocolate ganache (not even a real measurement) and I was all set.

Fortunately, chocolate and cassis mousse is one combination I'd like to try in my list, so I can cross that off now, killing two birds with one stone. Smart.

This is just an idea of how you can transform leftovers to something completely different, tasted great and a lot quicker too! I have been feeding this cake to my nephews and niece every night and they always asks for more, a good sign! Although I think they are a bit spoiled with non-kid desserts they have been getting these past few years :). So please don't throw anything away as you'd never know what you can turn it into someday :).

Old-Fashioned Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

I might not have blogged about this one particularly simple cake (I might have posted some pictures in the past though) but that doesn't mean that this cake doesn't deserve a highlight and its own blog post. This humble banana muffin in particular is very special to me and it goes back to my early college days in TX.

I started baking at the last year of my college days I think. I was more of a cooking type of girl, Indonesian home-cooked meals, Chinese, American, Italian, a little French, and for a student, that was something. I never really interested in baking world until I met this little sweet cake. I was at my friend's house for a bible study and she just made this cake. She served it right out of the oven and it was love at first bite, I immediately asked for the recipe. She got the recipe from a missionary and she's been using the recipe ever since.

I adapted the recipe to adjust the sweetness to my liking and adding chocolate chips to it. This recipe has become favorite in my baking repertoire and it is the most baked cake in my kitchen, not to mention very easy to make, it will take me 30 minutes probably from start to finish (and I mean, cake out of the oven). Everyone from little to old loves this and this is also the first and possibly the only cake I think of whenever I see over-ripe bananas. It is easy to make but the reward is great, even my non-baking brother asked for the recipe. Once, a good friend of mine asked for a dozen of this for her birthday present, it was that special. It is more special for me because it has some nostalgic value I think. I baked a lot of different banana cakes in the past but I always go back to this one, and I've been sharing the recipe with friends. I can't believe I haven't shared with you guys.

I made this particular one for my baby nephew, Tobias, with the help of my niece's (Tobias' big sister) help. He's just gone through a very painful throat surgery and wouldn't eat or drink for days cuz of the pain. He is a really energetic 1.5 year old boy and it broke my heart to see him lying in the hospital bed with tubes and everything on his body for a week. I baked this as soon as he came home from the hospital and hoping that he would eat it, he liked it when I made it before.

I jumped with joy when he actually ate the whole thing! He refused to eat anything else, even the milk he loved so much but he'd eat this. I baked it in two different molds, standard and small and he could eat 2 small ones in one sitting, yay! He is doing so much better now but poor thing, he had to go through the same surgery again in a few weeks, and I am hoping to make these again for him.

You can add anything you fancy to this recipe, it is so versatile. I usually just add chocolate chip muffins, sometime walnut too and the amount is really up to you. It makes the whole house smells really nice and I hope this will be your favorite too. This is the only recipe that I would make using cup measurement. I usually will convert everything to metric, but this one will stay :)

On a completely different topic, San Jose is finally starting to show some warmth. Today, I drove to work and lunch with a clear blue sky with no single white streaks, gentle and cool breeze and warm sunny sun, a fine California day. Farmers' market is one of my favorite place to visit, I saw lots of cherries yesterday and stone fruits are beginning to appear everywhere. I am excited!

Banana & Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yield: 12 standard muffin cups

Wet Ingredients:
3 overripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter/vegetable oil

Dry Ingredients:
1.5 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Semi-sweet chocolate chips and/or toasted nuts
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F (325 F for the mini version)
  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients into separate bowl (don't forget to sift the dry ingredients)
  • Mix the dry into the wet and mix until just combined, do not overmix
  • Fold in the topping (chocolate chips and/or nuts)
  • Divide the batter into 12 standard muffin cups
  • Put it into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top

Celebrating Friendship

I have known my friend, N, for no less than 9 years I think. We went to the same college in Cupertino, we go to the same church, we hung out and laughed together, we stayed up late together, usually it's me making a cake, and her helping me making little fondant figurines, we get very excited over food, and many many more. She is the type of person who can bright up your day instantly, she's always full of smile in any circumstances, always willing to help, very kind-hearted, there is no single negative thing I can think of when I think of her.

I was surprised and very sad when I heard that she's going back to Indonesia for good, but I was glad at the same time too. I knew that Indonesia is her long-term plan, and I am glad that she's finally stepping to the next level of her life. I guess being sad is inevitable when it's a real good friend that's leaving.

Instead of being all tears, we decided to throw her a party to celebrate the friendship we've shared over the years. With everyone talked about Prince William's and Kate's fairy tale wedding, the theme for N's party is "Royal Ball", with blue and silver as the color theme, as N is too a fan of anything magical (can you imagine she's been to Disneyland in LA for 10x?!!)

I wanted to make something for her before she left and I only had a few days (workdays) after my previous trip to plan, shop and to make it, so there wasn't much I could do. I decided to make a display cake with the blue/silver theme to get that "fairy tale" feeling and make verrines for the dessert. N loves the rose-lychee combination, and so I decided to make a verrine that incorporates raspberry, rose, and lychee. You might think that I make this combination too often, but I do love it that much, the combination of flavors and the appearance, again, Pierre Herme is a genius for coming up with this combo among many others.

Here's a list of the components that go inside the verrine:
  • Raspberry gelee
  • Pistachio joconde (I used pistachio joconde leftover from this cake)
  • Raspberry soaking syrup
  • Rose bavarian cream
  • Repeat the layering twice, ended with a thin raspberry layer on top

I was originally planning to make mini pink macarons with rose filling, but unfortunately I didn't have time for it, maybe next time as I think it would look very pretty.

The party was indeed filled with fun and good food. Our friend, Y, made some very tasty Indonesian meal for us, and most importantly, people got to spend one last time with N. I know this won't be the last time we meet, but until next time, I will miss her dearly and everything about her.

Me and my little niece

Some game we played at the party :)

It is "unofficially" Summer already and surprisingly, CA is taking its time to get summery. It feels more like early Spring with the rain and cloudy weather in mid 60's. Really cannot wait now for warm weather.

Have a blessed week!

Rose, Raspberry, and Lychee Verrine

Lychee pieces
Pistachio joconde (or lady fingers), cut a bit smaller than the size of the glass

30 Baume Syrup
50 ml water
65 g sugar

30 ml water
30 ml framboise eau-de-vie
  • Bring the water (50 ml) and the sugar to a boil. Let cool
  • Measure about 60 g of the syrup and mix with the water and eau-de-vie
Raspberry Gelee
500 graspberry puree
sugar (I didn't measure how much sugar I used, but start with probably 100 g and keep adding until the desired sweetness)
2 tsp. powdered gelatin (mixed with about 1 Tbs. of water)
  • Mix raspberry puree and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil
  • Melt the gelatin mixture (in a microwave for a few seconds) and add it to the raspberry mixture
  • Stir well and take it off the heat
  • Let cool to room temperature (ice bath would make it much faster)
Rose Bavarian
500 ml milk
6 egg yolks
150 g sugar
4 tsp. powdered gelatin (mixed with some water)
600 g heavy cream, whipped to soft peak
4-6 Tbs. rose water
  • Pour the milk in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer
  • Meanwhile, whisk the yolk and the sugar without introducing any air
  • Once the milk is ready, temper the yolk with the milk and pour the mixture back on the heat
  • Keep stirring the mixture on a low heat until it reaches about 82 degree C
  • Meanwhile, melt the gelatin in a microwave and add to the milk mixture
  • Take it off the heat and cool on an icebath and strain it to remove any lumps
  • Keep stirring until it reached room temperature, then fold the whipped cream in and the rose water
To Assemble
  • Pour a thin layer of raspberry gelee in the bottom of a verrine glass (or any glass) and freeze for about 10 minutes until it's almost set
  • Place a thin layer of the pistachio joconde (or lady finger) that has been moistened with the syrup
  • Put some lychee pieces in the center
  • Pour some bavarian cream and again, let it set in the freezer for about 10 minutes (the top should not be liquid before you pour anything on top of it)
  • Repeat the layering