Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I would like to start the post with a big thank you for all your support and good luck wishes for my 2-day PhD exam. I can tell you that I was pretty satisfied of my performance and glad that it is finally over after 2 months of study.

The day after my exam, I was invited to the 30th birthday party of my Brazilian friend, Carlos. After studying for so long, it was an opportunity to personally bake a surprise birthday cake for him. I love planning surprises and I had quite a few successful ones in the past. The last time I planned a huge surprise was on my 1st blogiversary for my Mexican friend, Mon. Her reaction was totally priceless. 

Turning 30, that's something big. Being such a great friend, he deserves a surprise cake, one of these little joys in life. I knew there would be about 25 guests at the party, with half of the people that I never met. So I had to bake a cake, enough for everyone and make a first good impression too. When I think of the number 30, I immediately thought of baking three circular cake layers. The génoise was chocolate, the cream cheese frosting was chocolate, everything ended up to be chocolate. Who doesn't like chocolate? I assumed that everyone like chocolate. It took me a few hours to assemble it.

Now that it is done, it is time to carefully plan the surprise. The party was at my Peruvian friend's place, Jorge, so I knew his place pretty well. When I arrived at his place, I dropped the cake at the back porch and entered the building from the front. I was greeted by my friend Carlos at the door, wished him a happy birthday and started to chitchat with friends and guests. When Carlos got out of the conversation, I told them about the surprise cake. As the night progressed, more guests arrive and it was time to execute the plan. While a couple of friends distracted him, I took out the cake, lit the candle and everyone started to sing the birthday song. Reaction: priceless. Another successful surprise and a great collaborative effort from the part of everyone.

As you can see, I did not frost the edges of the cake, it gives the guest the freedom to choose whether they want 1, 2 or 3 layers of cake. Everyone ended up having 1 or 2 layers, except for one who asked for 3 layers. I received rave reviews about this cake, and some can't believe that an Asian guy like me made this cake. When you think about it, how many guys do you know know how to bake cakes? With a few years of baking experience, I know how to bake moist cakes and the perfect frosting which compliments well with the génoise.

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: about 20 mins per layer
Frosting adapted from Donna Hay


Chocolate Génoise
9 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
375g cream cheese, softened
75g (1/3 cup) butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

Chocolate Shavings
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate


1. Grease with butter and coat with cocoa powder three 9-inch round cake pans.

2. In a large bowl, place egg whites, stand for 30 mins at room temperature.

3. In another large bowl, beat egg yolks and 1 cup of white sugar until thick and pale.

4. In a small bowl, combine and sift flour, cocoa powder and salt.

5. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients into egg yolk mixture until blended. Set aside.

6. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until it starts to foam. Add in cream of tartar and gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until stiff peaks. As a test, the egg whites should not fall if you invert the bowl.

7. Incorporate 1/4 of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites. 1/3 of egg whites at a time until incorporated.

8. Preheat oven to 350F. Divide batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans. Bake for 18-20 mins or until it springs back when gently pressed or passes the toothpick test. Allow to cool completely.

9. Prepare chocolate cream cheese frosting. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until pale and creamy, about 5 mins.

10. Add in icing sugar and cocoa powder. Beat for an additional 5 mins until light and fluffy.

11. To assemble, turn out one cake layer onto a flat surface or plate. Spread with 1/3 of the frosting. Repeat this process with the remaining layers and frosting.

12. Hold a chocolate bar with a paper towel and carefully shave chocolate with a vegetable peeler to create curls. Garnish on top of the cake.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gluten Free Coconut Pie

The past two months, I have been studying for the PhD qualifying exams: the first step of becoming a full fledge PhD. This exam consists of a review of all the topics covered in my undergraduate study in physics. I have to admit that it is not always easy to study and solve physics problems continuously throughout the whole day, and still manage to squeeze in some time for food blogging. I still have 5 days to prepare myself before the exam. Here is a picture of the books I have studying the past months.

I will leave you with this pie which will sure satisfy all my viewers. This dessert has only four ingredients: easy to make, requires no fancy or hard-to-find ingredients. You can think of this pie as an extended version of my gluten-free coconut macaroons.

Serves 8
Modified from Delicious WordFlux
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Baking Time: 25 mins
Printable Recipe


4 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9'' spring form pan with butter and coat with flour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and add in condensed milk, coconut flakes, lemon juice and zest.

3. Pour mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 25 mins until golden.

4.  Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oven Baked Chicken in Teriyaki Marinade

What did you make on Mother's Day? For all mothers, what did your kids made for you on Mother's Day? I have to confess that I rarely cook at home, only at my friends' place on Friday and/or Sunday night. When I come back home late at night, my mom had already cooked dinner. So this is the first time that I cook for my mom on Mother's Day. 

The day begins with chocolate pikelets which have become one of my favourite breakfast dish to make because of its light and airy texture. Click on the image for recipe.

For dinner, there are two dishes that were made, as seen in the presentation picture. You might wonder what is this red green stuff on the top right of the dish. Well, these are cooked tomalley-roe of the lobster. Since it is already the start of lobster season, why not make a lobster dish? I kept it simple and stick with the family recipe and cooked lobster in ginger and scallion. Click on image for the procedure of cooking a lobster (the Asian way).

Even though I rarely cook Asian food, I haven't lost my touch at making decent dishes with Asian ingredients. 
One thing that I always wanted to do is to make my own teriyaki sauce. There might be some misperception of what defines a teriyaki sauce. It can be a thin sauce to use as a marinade for chicken, beef and fish, or as a thick sauce and use it like a barbecue sauce. As a first attempt on making my own sauce, I was pretty satisfied of the results, still need a little bit of tweaking to make it perfect. For best results, marinade bone-in or boneless chicken breasts for at least 2 hours, the longer the marinating time the stronger the flavours. You can easily use the marinade as a sauce for your rice or noodle. 

Oven Baked Chicken in Teriyaki Marinade
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Marinade Time: at least 2 hours, preferably overnight
Baking Time: 35 mins
Printable Recipe


2 chicken breasts, bone-in or boneless

Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
1 1/2 tsp distilled vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced


1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Allow sauce to cool completely.

2. Place chicken in a plastic bag and pour in teriyaki sauce. Marinade for minimum 2 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 425F.

4. Lay an aluminium foil on a baking pan. Reserve marinade for basting and for sauce. Bake chicken for 35 mins until internal temperature reads 160F. Baste chicken with the reserved marinade every 10 mins.

5. In a saucepan, bring the remaining marinade to a boil. Simmer for 10 mins. Serve sauce over rice or noodle.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shrimp Pad Thai

Thai cuisine provides such wonderful and harmonised flavours, a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy taste in most Thai food. You must have seen pad thai in the menu of Thai restaurants and in fast food joints. It is no surprise that this dish is one of Thailand's national dish. Pad Thai is basically a rice noodle dish cooked in a bit of sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and chilli flakes. Some proteins are also added such as shrimps, eggs, cubed tofu or tempeh, chicken, and beef. A garnish of crushed peanut and coriander/parsley leaves are added to complete the dish.

Pad thai is quick and easy to make, it is hard to mess it up. A good tip is to stir and toss constantly while cooking to prevent the noodles from sticking to the wok. You must have tried pad thai at least once, what would you put in your pad thai?

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins
Printable Recipe


8 oz. Thai rice noodles
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 blocks firm tofu or tempeh, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tamarind or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 lb shrimps, deveined
1 cup bean sprouts
Parsley for garnish


1. In a bowl, soak dry noodles in warm water until flexible but not expanded, about 5-10 mins.

2. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions until transparent, tofu until brown. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant.

3. Drain noodles and toss into wok. Add in tamarind, sugar, fish sauce, and chili flakes. Stir constantly.

4. Push all noodles to one side of the wok. Add a tbsp of oil and pour in beaten eggs. Scramble until cooked and combine with noodles.

5. Add in shrimp and bean sprouts until fully cooked. Serve with a wedge of lime ans a sprinkle of parsley.


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