Category Archives: My Family

A Princess Cake for My Niece

My niece, Laura, turns 8 yesterday.

A few weeks ago, I told her I will make her a birthday cake.  What would you like?  I like a blue cake, she said.  Eh?  Blue?  I thought she may like to make it a sweeter colour like pink or purple.

The day came nearer, I only knew I was going to make her a Princess Cake or A Doll Cake.  Still clueless exactly what piping I would put on the dress, if fondant will be used etc.

Thursday came, I decided to use Peggy Porschen’s recipe for a rich chocolate cake as the “gown” for the princess.  The folding in of flour could be better done using a mixer paddle as recommended, I used a spatula and believed the end result was due to my over-folding.  But it didn’t not matter since the base needed something stable.

That night I decided that I will bake cupcakes for all, so that the princess will not be cut up to pieces upon blowing the candles.  By midnight I was flipping through a Wilton cake decorating book and decided on the letterings.  I made a batch of royal icing, yes at 2am, and started working on it.  It takes 12 hours for the icing to dry out propoerly.  By the time I was done, I was satisfied and exhausted.

Royal icing lettering

The next morning, I bought a packet of Buttermilk and started working on the cupcakes.  The recipe turns out soft, dense and vanilla flavoured cake – lovely.  It was Martha Stewart’s Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes.

Doll cake transformation

By afternoon, I still did not have an idea how the piping will turn out.  I just got everything ready, cut the cake to shape, did a batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream, tinted some fondant blue and walah, I was ready to go.  I just worked on the cake fervently.

By evening I was done, and was really happy to see the finished product.  I sent my sis-in-law a message “May you be impressed with the Blue cake she requested!”.  So blue can turn out a sweet cake indeed.

The Princess Cake Transformed

And I was so happy to see many happy faces that evening.  Enjoy the Blue Cake, and Enjoy the Princess Cake (or do you call this a Doll cake).

“… To All Singaporeans … A Warm Welcome Home…”

“… to all Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, a warm welcome home… ”  my flight just touched down at Singapore Changi International Airport.  It was 5.50am on 13 December 2008, Singapore time.

It just hit me that I had really left Houston, I was finally home in Singapore.  About 24 hours earlier, I had left Houston.  Was feeling exhausted from packing my apartment for handover and my luggages before I left for the airport, really tired. 

~

My last morning in Houston – I had gone for breakfast at my fav cafe, French Riviera Bakery Cafe for french bread with 2 sunny-side up and a cup of regular coffee, with Sandra.  I realized this shall be the last time we met for a chat for a long time to come, but I believe we will meet again.  On the way there, we passed one of my fav roads in Houston – tree-lined Chimney Rocks between I-10 to Westheimer.  The other being tree-lined Rice Boulevard.

At the entrance to the check-in terminal, my luggages had fallen flat with the cart when I was pushing up the ramp towards the automoatic door – yes, 2 luggages and 3 boxes fell in all directions.  I still managed to laugh, and 2 guys who had just got down from the taxi helped me to pick up the pieces before helping their own luggages.  Ok, that is my last memories of Houston, I managed to laugh at my own boo-boos as I live.

When I got on the flight, I saw a familiar face – I smiled to myself.  He did not see me. …  Hours into my flight after dinner service, and half goggy, I saw the same familiar face coming towards me, smiling.  We had a chat.  And soon, I was served a special privilege – a cappucino with 3 chocolates.  And soon after, I was given additional privileges – bottled water, biscotti, assorted fruits and 2 packets of tortillas chips … I passed a bottle to the Spanish guy seated at the window seat, we were separated by an empty seat between us.  “Do you know him?“, Jorge said to me, he must be surprised by the extras I received as an economy class passenger.  “Yah, he is my uncle!  He is my mum’s youngest brother.”  Yes, my uncle has been working with the same airline for the last 20 years(?), and despite being a frequent traveller on my job in the last couple of years, I have never chanced upon him on the same flight.  On this flight, he was the leading steward serving the business class section.  He had said to me, if he had known I was in Houston, we could have met up the last 2 days he was there.  That was his first trip to Houston with the airline.  But I was happy to see him on the flight.  My uncle wanted to make sure I was comfortable on the flight before he stopped over in Moscow while I continued the flight back to Singapore.  Nice!

5 movies and many songs later … Yes, of the 21.5 hours of actual flight time, and 1.5 hour transit time over in Moscow, I slept only for 2-3 hours.  I wasn’t sure if I was too exhausted to sleep … or I was feeling strange or excited, I was actually going home.  I watched 2 American, 2 Japanese and 1 Korean movies  – my fav was 10 Promises Made to My Dog – heart-touching … about promises made and forgotten as the relationship grew apart, even though this movie was a human-dog relationship.  Despite the random criticism made on the actor (about him being 34 and playing a 19 year old?), on the actress (about the limited emotion expressed by her dried tears at the dog’s deathbed?) etc, I enjoyed the movie – sometimes we should learn to enjoy the plot, and appreciate the meaning behind it all, without tearing the plot and characters apart and judging the flaws from every angle.  Interestingly though, BK was watching the same movie and loved it, on his flight home from Hong Kong to Singapore, he touched down into Singapore a few hours before me.  Oh I also concluded, I am not into Western R&B, more Western pop and sentimental pop as well as select Mandarin R&B and pop, I like some Cantonese songs but I don’t understand the words.

At the arrival hall at Singapore Changi International Airport, I wasn’t sure if BK would be receiving me as he arrived home only a couple of hours earlier.  We planned such that he would be around when I arrived home, I told him I did not want to return to an empty home.  I only realized during the transit in Moscow that my pre-paid SIM card from US did not work outside US.  At the arrival hall, I was surprised to be received by my family – my Dad & Mum, my bro & my sis, and BK of course.  “You had just washed your face?” as BK gave me a hug.  Huh?  No… I perspired profusely the moment I came out into the arrival hall.  It was the high humidity that hit me the first thing.  A big adjustment from snowing Chicago and snowing Houston.

~

The first thing we did when I got home – changed and went for a local breakfast – plain fried bee hoon (akarice vermicelli) with fried chicken wing and fried egg, and a local kopi (aka coffee with condensed milk).  Next thing was to wait for my appointment with a chef while BK went for his music lesson.  Then back home for a nap before dinner at my parents’ cum bro’s place.  Wow all my family were there for dinner – mum cooked curry chicken while my bro bought a variety of local food.  Not sure if it was the travel and jet-lagged, was feeling bloated and sluggish.

Sunday noon.  I had woken up after a good sleep.  Meeting Dad for brunch with BK.  It was our routine before I left for Houston.  Oh, brunch for Dad was at 1pm ;p  … 

BK will be leaving for Beijing late night.  I will be home alone… and kept busy.

(to post pix later … firstly, can’t remember where I put my camera cable… secondly, I need to sleep, woke up to say bye to BK before he left for airport to go Beijing, and going back to sleep soon for The Appt tmr!)

My Dear Visited Me in Houston …

(This entry was started on Sunday, 2 November… and never got completed till now … even now seems to be forever…

I wrote the above on Wed, 5 November, and now is already 8th …  This is the longest stretch I have not updated my journal entry, I have 2 other updates but let me finish my wedding cake first – it is due next Tuesday.)

~~~

2 November 2008, 10pm

BK called to say he had just arrived into the hotel in Boston, he would be in Boston for the next 2 weeks.  And he would be back for my graduation in 3 weeks time. 

~

How time flies … We had a chat while he was driving yesterday – even though I miss the familiarity of home and having him around, I already miss the familiar warmth and faces of the many people I met at the culinary institute whenever I thought of leaving Houston in a couple of weeks time.  The strange feeling is that for the many people I got to know in last 17 weeks, we may never meet again.  For a few others, there is always a probability our path will cross again.  I feel sad whenever this thought comes about… 

30 October 2008, 8.30pm, at the Culinary Institute

BK flew into Houston to join me on Thursday 30 October.  When he arrived late afternoon, he spent some time working on an online test which was due by midnight for his product training the following week, he was to score at least 85 points??!!  That evening, he drove me to the culinary institute and I just had to introduce him to my Chefs – both Chef Philippe and Chef Sebastien.  I guess both Chefs have huge influence on me and my work during my learning at the culinary institute.  BK remembered the 2 Chefs by sight from his last visit in July when we first arrived in Houston. 

Earlier in the morning, Chef Philippe asked if I would be attending class the following day.  Yes.  That question never crossed my mind.  That evening, Chef Philippe again told me (us) that if I were to miss class the next day, I could make up the class the following Tuesday with Jill who would miss Friday Chocolate Final with her trip home to Colorado.  I would be in class on Friday, and I was darn sure about it.  BK knew and understood I took my objectives too seriously to miss a single day of learning, and he wasn’t expecting me to take time off either – he had wanted to sleep in at the apartment as it was barely 48 hours after his return from his 2 weeks of reservist training in Australia that he boarded the flight to Houston, with his work objectives to accomplish as well.  That night, I fell asleep while waiting for him to fulfill at least 85 points for his online test by midnight.  He scored 81 and was too tired to try again.

31 October 2008, 2pm, at the Culinary Institute

Sarah asked if BK would be joining for lunch, and if they would get to meet him.  I would like him to meet my classmates too – friends I made and spent the last couple of weeks with at the culinary institute.  Indeed, he came, joined us at the lunch room, they met, we chatted and now he got to put a face to things I shared with him ~ and they were surprised I had only shared good things about each of them … but of course – somehow I view many things positively coz I strongly believe things happened for some good reasons.  BK was wondering who Krystine was – our youngest Bébé in class – and soon she popped into the Pastry Lab with a big smile.

It was BK’s 38th Birthday … and it was Chef Philippe’s 36th Birthday.  They wished each other a Happy Birthday!

  

~ with the hibiscus bouquet borrowed from Elizabeth ~

~ with the hibiscus bouquet borrowed from Elizabeth ~

 halloween

31 October 2008, after class

Of course, we have got to go Swirl for yogurt.  Asked Jennie and Rafaella to join, both couldn’t come along – Rafa had pedi-mani appointment, and Jennie said she was too full from lunch??  I don’t like ice cream but I love the taste of the refreshing yogurt (not the tart and fruit range though, except for lemon), topped with a load of palm seed and some pecan nuts … and the relaxing environment…  I just have to bring him there.  Then he went with me to Sur La Table to replace my thermometer…  then back to the apartment for an afternoon nap.  BK has severe sleep debt from last 2 weeks of reservist training.  We finally got up at 8.15pm, oops!… our dinner reservation at Rudi Lechner’s was at 8pm.  Nevermind, we were easy and arrived at 9pm.

Dinner at Rudi Lechner’s was pleasant and comfy, accompanied by live country music.  It is a wonder that the restaurant has been in operation for 33 years and still get good crowds in the evenings.  We had a chat with Chef-owner Rudi – he came out to meet us after we inquired about his tableside dessert.  He asked about my background, and recommended me a book to read for inspiration ~ Bread Alone.  We decided that the next time we visit Rudi Lechner’s, we would only savour desserts, no room for main course.  Tableside dessert will be done by Chef Rudi himself ~ at the tableside!  Order must be place 24hr in advance so that he can plan the slots.  This time, we ate too much of the main (and it was a platter for one?), and had no room for dessert.

After dinner, at the exit, we met Susy, Barry and their son Alex – they were passionate about food and recommended us a Mexican restaurant Teotihuacan and a Mexican Bakery Cafe Rustika.  They told us that even though Chef Rudi came from Austria and serves German food, his restaurant has since adapted his food to American-German since it first opened.  Hmm… the full name of the restaurant is Rudi Lechner’s German American Restaurant?  We planned to keep in contact, as 17 year old Alex may pursue his graduate course in Singapore in the future.

1 November 2008, 10am

matt-orchard-persimmons

We had just celebrated BK’s birthday with a home-made cake, yup 1 day late since I fell asleep the night earlier.  We planned to go to Matt Family Orchard, only persimmons were in season.  It was about an hour drive to Tomball.  We picked a total of 33 persimmons, and I only contributed a precious 1;p  The tool used was a long bamboo with an attached metal basket at the top end.  We were supposed to push upwards, not downwards to prevent injury to the tree  It looked easy but I left all the picking to BK after a tedious one… and a ripened fell as well and splashed me with its pulp … ha!  The weather was warm compared to the week earlier, so I wouldn’t say it was exactly comfortable picking the fruits.  But it was a great feeling picking fresh fruits.

joys-bk-orchard

 

matt-orchard

Once done, we had intended a trip to Spring, but I could see that BK was tired and sleepy at the wheel, so we decided to return to Houston to enjoy Coco’s Crepes @ Gray Street.  We had savory crepes this time, and sat al frescoNice.  We love to nua (laze about, do nothing) at pastry cafes … rather it started that I love to do that, and he got influenced by me (I guess he chose to join me and soon grew to like the feel … and the company as well ;p) and we enjoy cafes with casual atmosphere where we can empty our mind and get inspired ;p  Back at the apartment, it was own time own target.  habaneroWe skipped dinner … not really, we replaced a cooked meal with “junk food” – Tostitos tortilla chips + Spicy Mango habenero sauce, recommended and given by Krystine… Yum!  BK said the the “junk food” recommended by Krystine was yummy!

2 November 2008, 9am

BK left for his flight to Boston at about 3pm.  That morning, he joined me at Rustika Cafe, a Mexican Bakery Cafe.  With him around, I could try more things.  He liked stronger tasting and richer food and he had a Mexican seafood lunch – the red snapper with the sauce tasted really good, the mexican rice was not the usual I like with tomato base.  I ordered mushroom tacos, it came with a nice salad.  I also tried spinach empanada – the crust was just so so.  Usually on my own, I could only try one thing and I reserve that for pastry.  I read while he was supposed to be reading his notes for his product training … but he was surfing the net for F1 updates instead :~  It is quiet time for us as usual in pastry cafe.  It is nice to have him around, the only side effect is I eat and munch too much!  The few days he was here, I deviated from my dinner of veggies for Texan cheesesteak, German meat platter etc … I told him I will cook the next time he is here, ok … at least once or twice … it is difficult for me to digest the type and portion of food when we eat out.  But it was enjoyable … I tend to munch more too! 

Before he left, he tasted the sweetness of his labour – persimmons.  Hmm, they were sweet surprisingly, just like the orchard owner Matt told us … I never liked the fruit coz I thought they have a bitter taste…

 

sunday-with-bk

A week has passed since he left, I was too pre-occupied with finals.  See him soon in a week’s time … which also mean my graduation week … the feeling is so mixed – it is indeed possible to be happy and sad.

I Made … A Birthday Cake!

BK flew into Houston en route to Boston so that we can celebrate his birthday together.

I decided to bake him a cake.  The last time I baked him a birthday cake was when we were just great buddies (… and we still are) before we decided to commit ourselves to this relationship.  I remembered then I had to buy an oven, basic tools and necessary ingredients to make a rich chocolate cake ~ with a gift hidden inside the cake.  My family never owned a working oven, or rather never utilise the oven in sight, it was just a fixture in the kitchen ~ in my memories, cakes were steamed and not baked in my home (by mum and they were yummy!).  Years later ~ now, I decided to make him a birthday cake again … and I wanted something of local flavour.  I decided on Pandan Kayacake, but I couldn’t find some ingredients in Houston, so I replaced with alternative ingredients and estimated the quantity of ingredients needed.  From BK, there was really no pressure on me – even though I am soon to graduate from a Baking & Pastry Arts course, even if the cake turned out a disaster, he would have eaten it anyway – and be ever encouraging (… and probably spiced with some harmless sarcasm?).

Pandan Leaves, literally mean fragrant leaves, are commonly found in Singapore and other parts of Asia.  In the western world, they are known as screw pine leaves.  The liquid from the leaves gives a natural sweet aroma, a distint taste and colours a natural green.  In Houston, I found them at Hong Kong market ~ they were not as pretty as I have hoped, more than half needed to be discarded.  I believed they were deep frozen and shipped here and the moisture content was greatly reduced.  I was still excited to find the leaves though, I wanted pandan paste as a backup but did not find it on time.

Pandan Chiffon Cake is a common cake found in neighbourhood bakeries in Singapore.  I love the simplicity and airiness of the cake.  Back in Singapore, I have tried in vain to do one successfully – blame it on cake mix with ambiguous instruction, a mixer with low watt, all things else … okme etc.  Mum couldn’t help me with the recipe – in her era, all ingredients were measured by feel and guts – though she told me it was probably the first cake anyone would do since it was a simple recipe??  Today I am confident of folding in a meringue and mixes just about right and not over mixing the mix.  I had 2 recipes – one from a class I had attended in Singapore, and one from a blog … both looked pretty close but not the same.  I adapted the method to what I have learnt in class.

The pandan cake turned out nicely – spongy, moist and fluffy … I wasn’t too confident of the kaya cream (which is a coconut-egg cream), I didn’t quite understand why the recipe contained no egg.  Anyway, I made not one but two cakes on Thursday but wasn’t too confident to give away the 2nd cake.

We did not celebrate with the cake on Friday – we overslept our afternoon nap after my school and nearly missed our dinner as well – but we did on Saturday and had it for breakfast.  BK was amused by the way I decorated the cake with black & white candles, the cake turned out a little strange but delightful – I actually laughed when I looked at the final product with the candles on, while he was sleeping.  He knew I always came up with strange taste and stuff.

The pictures painted the story well, no words needed:

And we celebrated with a Birthday song and a cake the usual way – with exceptions – I used a handheld torch to light several candles at one time, the cake looked like it was going up in flame … blowing out 38 candles took him some effort just as much effort as I had to use to arrange 38 candles in an appealing fashion …  Blew out the last candle, BK stared at the amount of smoke left lingering above the cake…?

We finished more than half the cake for breakfast on Saturday … the kaya cream would be better with more jelly powder or gelatin added.  Knowing what went into making the cream stopped me from enjoying the cake as much and I stopped him from eating more of the cream … oopshee.  By Sunday, I was to slice away all the kaya cream custard from the remaining half, and the 2nd cake, we shared a plate of coconut flavoured pandan cake instead ~ no cream, with milo/coffee drink for our breakfast.

The Girls At Home

Laurna’s birthday is this Wednesday, her birthday was celebrated in advance to coincide with the weekend.  Pei San, my sis-in-law and my brother had organised for her a birthday celebration at McDonald, as with her sisters’ 4th birthdays.

I was on skypeout with my Dad last night, which was late Sunday morning in Singapore.  Then he passed the call to the girls.  I like to hear what children have to say, because they speak from their heart, if they are thinking or have nothing to say, they just stay quiet and listen.  Sometimes adults get impatient and start teaching them things to say which then make the conversation lose the meaning and child-like flavour.  Laurna told me she will be wearing a green dress her mom bought from Vietnam, and her party will be celebrated at Queensway …where the McD branch is located. 

Then her 2nd sis, Lauren, or I call her Wei-wei, took over the call.  Her voice was bright and chirpy.  I told Pei San later she was pretty strong at holding a conversation on her own.  Wei told me she is wearing pink with white, and a new pair of shoes my mum bought for her.  I remembered for her 4th birthday 2 years ago, I brought her a stuff toy to hug during her party, she had appeared a little apprehensive then, possibly due to the big number of her pre-schooler classmates present.  I had thought that I bought her a blue horse, on the other end of the line, I heard her laughed, “It is a lion, not horse, it is mi-mi, M – I – M – I …”  She had given a name to the stuff toy.  I told her I got Laurna a card, which may arrive late for her birthday.  “What is on the card?”  A rabbit.  “What is the rabbit wearing?”  A purple dress.  “What is on the purple dress?”  Nothing.  “Nothing?”  I had to explain to her the rabbit is small and it was wearing a simple purple dress.  I enjoyed such conversation, as children surprised with the most unexpected questions, observations and thinking.

When Laura took over the phone, she is funny.  She said her dress have red, blue, green, yellow, white, purple, brown …. many many colours, which I understood why when I saw the pix.

I enjoy looking at pix from home, though I didn’t receive many, mostly from Pei San.  Each time I looked at the pictures of the girls, Weiwei always reminded me of myself … we looked pretty alike at the kindergarten age, except she got bigger eyes – both Pei San and my brother got big eyes, and she attends the same kindergarten and wears the same kindergarten uniform I did 30 years back.