Rose-scented Watermelon Cake.

One of the things I’m most grateful for, and happy about, is time with my BFF. Pearl and I have known each other more than half our lives now and we’re both grown up together, shared secrets, travelled together, cried on each other’s shoulder over boyfriends, watched each other get married… Life got in the way at one point, with her being busy with work and me, settling into my own routine. Still, I always knew that if I needed a friend, a listening ear, I could call on Pearl any time and she’d come running.

I’m so happy that more recently, we’ve been meeting up with each other more regularly and that our husbands get on well with each other. I’m looking forward for a tentative holiday with Pearl and YJ, together with Flo, to Japan end of the year. It’ll be different with the boys, but I’m certain it will be a good different.

A couple of weeks ago, Pearl asked if I was interested in going for a baking class at Baker’s Brew Studio with her to learn how to make a rose-scented watermelon cake. Initially, I was thinking I could probably figure it out on my own. But after some thought, I decided that I’d like to go with her just to be able to spend time together learning something new.

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I arrived a little late because my GrabHitch driver decided to squeeze another ride in before me, but no matter. Pearl was on time and managed to let the instructor know that I was running late. When I arrived, Pearl had the base cake batter whisking in the mixer, and all we had to do was add the desiccated coconut in to flavour.

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Batter out, spread with spatula and bake…

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Voila! I managed to cut 3 circles out instead of 2. One for backup because I’m like that. Also because I spread my batter out more than I needed to so I was thinking that in the case that my cake was too short, I could always add in a third sponge to bump it up.

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We made a rose chantilly cream, and had that layered on top of the sponge followed by compressed watermelon, more cream, sponge, and yet more cream before we pushed the cake out of the tin.

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Then we covered the sides with acetate, topped the cake with lots of fresh strawberries, grape halves and roasted ground pistachios, and let the whole cake chill to firm up.

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Our finished products!

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I had fun being a baking student again and Pearl was awesome as my partner too! It’s funny how baking is a large part of my everyday life and yet, when I’m suddenly baking entirely for fun and not having to concentrate so much because I have Pearl doing half the work, the level of destress (yes, not stress) is heightened than when I bake for fun alone. Moreover, in a kitchen that’s not my own, I don’t worry so much about getting the floor dirty. Lol.

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I love that so many years on, we are still so close even though we’ve grown up so much individually. I love that Pearl is still someone who can be direct and honest with me, and who I can be direct and honest with. I love that we, together with our husbands, enjoy good food, and are keen to explore new dining places together. I love that we hold similar values where friendship and family are concerned. I love that I know that no matter what, we can always depend on each other. But what I love the most, is Pearl, being who she is to me – more than a friend, more of a sister. The cakes we baked together was just the extra icing on top!

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Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Walnut Cinnamon Spelt Blondies. And Brunch.

It’s been a while since I last shared a recipe. I’ve been taking in more private orders of late, alongside the usual cafe ones so finding time to play around in the kitchen hasn’t been easy. Moreover, last month was a tough month for me so I didn’t have much drive to get experimental.

I did get round to making some of these lovely brown butter blondies before flying off to Hong Kong with Mum. And when I say lovely, I mean indulgent, fudgy, dense, chocolatey, nutty, richly decadent. While I certainly wouldn’t call they healthy, they are healthier in that there’s a touch more added nutrition with the use of spelt flour, and I subbed half the brown sugar for coconut sugar, and walnuts are health-foods, as is dark chocolate. And the peanut butter chips would be… protein? Kind of?

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But first, I just have to show off our brunch setting at home when Pearl and YJ came over a couple weekends ago. Flo has made German pancakes for us a couple of times since our return from Hamburg as I was experiencing heavy withdrawals from Sangeeta’s delicious ones. Since he slept in the Sunday that Pearl and YJ were coming over, I made the batter while Flo cooked the pancakes once he had woken and washed up.

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As usual, I tried to make it more nutritious using Spelt flour instead of plain, coconut sugar instead of caster sugar, coconut oil instead of corn oil. Flo doesn’t mind the latter two switches but insists that the pancakes taste better with plain flour.

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Whatever the case, the pancake stack looks pretty and they still tasted pretty awesome with all the toppings rolled in.

We also broke into the Läderach chocolates (my favourite!!) that Oma Gertrud got for me for Christmas.

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Usually Flo and I buy the slabs but these are pretty damn awesome too!

Pascal also managed to fly back with Crack Pie as per Flo’s order from his trip to New York. Thanks Pascal!! So when Les and Zen joined us later that afternoon, we decided to dig into it.

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Honestly? Clever name but I don’t think it quite lived up to it. It was tasty, caramelly, dense, slightly salty but mainly, oh-so-so-so-so sweet. I cannot imagine ever finishing an entire slice. A slice of damn good cheesecake I can probably wallop but a slice of this crack pie? Nope. I think a slice between 2-3 people is enough.

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Perhaps I’m just more used to desserts that are less sweet but most of us agreed that it was a bit too rich, too cloying and too monotonous after a while. Perhaps a little bitter would help balance the sweetness out a bit more. Even a bit of citrus. Anyway, it was fun trying it nonetheless especially after watching Christina Tossi on Chef’s Table. Also, not being a big fan of the Crack pie doesn’t mean I don’t admire her talent. The lady’s amazing, like the Willy Wonka of pastry with the creations she’s come up with. Cereal milk? Total genius. But the pie, not so much for me.

This blondie though, is right up my alley. I’m a total sucker for fudgy brownies and blondies, but this comes up trumps with its crackly top as well so there’s the little thin layer of crunch before you reach into soft, moist centre. Then that sprinkle of sea salt on top helps cut through the sweetness, while dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, walnuts and cinnamon round up the overall eating experience with bursts of melty bitterness, crunchy nuts and sweet spice.

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I was tempted to start throwing in cardamom and ginger and black pepper to add to the complexity of flavours but I restrained myself. I mean, it’s already a mouthful saying Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Walnut Cinnamon Spelt Blondies. Topped with Flakes of Sea Salt. But this is truly what it is!

I made these in a 6×6″ baking tin because I wanted them #thicc. I don’t like thin blondies or brownies because they don’t hold as much substance as I’d like. To each their own so I’d recommend a 6×6″ – 8×8″ square tin depending on your preference.

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Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Walnut Cinnamon Spelt Blondies (6×6″ Square)

113g butter
100g brown sugar
75g coconut sugar
1 egg
110g spelt flour (or plain flour)
0.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp cinnamon
45g dark chocolate chips
45g peanut butter chips
40g toasted, chopped walnuts
0.5 tsp sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a 6×6″ baking tin.
  2. In a small pan on medium heat, melt butter and keep cooking until it browns and smells nutty. This will take about 5-7min. Pour brown butter into a clean bowl.
  3. Whisk in brown sugar and coconut sugar.
  4. Whisk in egg.
  5. Mix in spelt flour, baking powder and cinnamon until just incorporated.
  6. Fold in dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and walnuts. 
  7. Pour batter into prepared tin and sprinkle with sea salt. 
  8. Bake for 25min until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. Ideally, let it chill in the fridge so that it’ll be easier to cut. I cut mine into 9 squares and only gave one away to Flo cos the rest is going into my tummy!

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As I always say though, you can really decide for yourself what you chose to put into the blondie. Not a fan of nuts? Cut them out. Don’t like chocolate? Switch to caramel chips or go all out on the peanut butter chips. Don’t like cinnamon? Stick to vanilla. Want something fruit? Pour half the batter in, top with sliced bananas and pour the rest of the batter on top before baking. Or fold in some blueberries. Strawberries. Raspberries. Just as the world is our oyster and our lives is what we make of it, so is baking. The basics are a science but getting creative with it is an art. And all art is beautiful. Or in the case of these blondies, edible. And very, very addictive.

Paleo Raspberry Brownies

Flo and I are off shortly for the final holiday of 2018. We’ll be back in 2019 so in case I don’t get to say this on the day, Blessed Christmas everybody! I hope your 2018 was an awesome one, and that 2019 will see you and your loved ones blessed with joy, good health, and wonderful new memories to add to your memory album.

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A few weeks ago, with raspberries selling for cheaper than usual, I bought a couple of packets, reserving some for us to eat fresh, and the rest I decided to throw into brownies! My last batch of raspberries were mighty delicious but I wanted to play around with a new recipe – this healthier-for-you, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo raspberry brownies.

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Ok so as much as I enjoy dabbling in healthier, alternative baking, I cannot deny that butter, butter, butter makes everything taste so much better! If you’re going to indulge, why not all the way especially if it’s just a once in a while treat?! But then again, for those who have to subscribe to alternative dietary requirements owing to health, at least they can have their brownies and eat them too, together with everyone else! So here’s to a more cakey brownie that is not-too-sweet at all, and slightly tart from the fresh berries. I promise no one’s even going to be able to tell they’re better-for-you!

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Paleo Raspberry Brownies (Makes 1 6×6″ Square)

4 Eggs
70g Coconut Oil
70g Maple Syrup
14g Coconut Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
100g Raspberries, halved
Sea Salt, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a 6×6″ baking tin.
  2. Whisk together eggs, coconut oil and maple syrup.
  3. Mix in coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until just incorporated.
  4. Fold in raspberries, mash them slightly so they don’t create air pockets during the baking process.
  5. Pour batter into baking tin (it will be quite liquid) and top with more raspberry halves/quarters.
  6. Bake for 25-28min until just set.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.

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You can opt to use a slightly larger tin – no bigger than 8×8″ but I enjoy my brownies better thicker, hence the use of the 6×6″. These brownies are of the lighter variety so they don’t feel particularly indulgent. Also, I tend to be a scrooge on sweetness levels so my tolerance for sweet things isn’t particularly high. These were perfect for me but if you prefer them sweeter, up the quantity of maple syrup to 90g (mixture might be more wet though) or feel free to add in about 20g of coconut/white sugar to the mix.

Happy baking! More than that though, Happy eating! And even more than that, Happy holidays – may you be surrounded by love, peace and happiness! X

 

 

Lunar Eclipse Blondies.

A quick sharing of a recipe before Flo and I fly off to Sri Lanka for our second last holiday of the year. This one was inspired by Moon Milk – this turmeric spiced concoction that’s touted to be full of nutritious goodness. I didn’t add in quite so many spices into these dark blondies and chose to call them Lunar Eclipse Blondies because they look so much darker than the original shade of ‘Moon’.

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I used a mix of turmeric, ginger and cinnamon in these blondies, and with a black tahini base on top of coconut sugar, they turned out looking a lot closer to brownies even though there’s no cocoa/chocolate in there whatsoever. I wanted to add cardamom in as well but totally forgot. The original recipe for moon milk contains ashwagandha, nutmeg and ground pepper as well but hey! Part of baking is winging it and these turned out pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

I loved the complexity of flavours the spices brought to every bite – it started off savoury from the turmeric, with a hint of bitterness from the tahini, a kick of heat from the ginger, and rounded off with a tinge of sweet from the cinnamon.

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I had some frozen bloobs at hand which I used to top the blondies, and scattered on some cocoa nibs for a bit of texture. These chunks of heaven are certainly quite different in terms of taste but I can promise you that it’s an awesome kind of different. They’re so delicious I refuse to share them!

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Lunar Eclipse Blondies (Makes 1 8×8″ Square)

125g Black Tahini
50g Coconut Oil
90g Coconut Sugar
1 Egg
20g Coconut Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3g Turmeric Powder
1g Cinnamon Powder
1g Ginger Powder
60g Blueberries, optional
Cocoa Nibs, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ square baking tin. 
  2. Whisk together tahini, coconut oil, coconut sugar and egg. 
  3. Incorporate coconut flour, baking soda, salt, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger powder. 
  4. Spread into tin. Batter might be quite thick. 
  5. Top with blueberries and cocoa nibs if desired. Or with nuts or other fruit or anything you might fancy. Press them into the batter gently so they don’t fall out after baking. 
  6. Bake for 20-25min until just dry to the touch but still soft and moist. 
  7. Allow to cool. Chill in fridge about 2 hours so they’ll be easier to cut. 

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If you don’t have tahini at hand, go ahead and use peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or whatever other nut/seed butter you like, preferably unsweetened ones. If you use sweetened nut/seed butters, then reduce the amount of sugar you add in by half or even two-thirds (I’m just estimating here).

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So there you go! My fudgy, super moist Lunar Eclipse Blondies! I hope you enjoy them just as much as I am right now. Omnomnom…

GF Tahini Brownies

By the time this post is posted, I’ll be a married woman! I go through period of feeling incredibly excited, and then incredibly panicky at the thought of being with Florian till death do us part. Sure, I know what the statistics for divorce show but no one should ever consider that when getting married. I still think marriage is sacred and while I cannot wait to begin married life officially with Flo, there’s a little part of me that cannot imagine what it’ll be like to be with this one man the rest of my life.

I think that one of my greatest fear is the feeling of being trapped in a situation I cannot so easily extract myself from. And even having lived with Florian close to 2 years now, and pretty much knowing the kind of man he is, and vice versa, there’s still that teeny tiny shadow of ‘what if’. More than that, there is the excitement of all the life we will create together and that definitely outweighs everything else.

It’s Thursday, 27 September 2018, that I am writing this. I go home this afternoon and the next time I see Flo, it will be at church on Saturday, with me walking down the aisle and him, at the end, waiting for Dad to put my hands into his. Buuuuuut let me not get ahead of myself now. I’ll share some photos if I manage to gather some nice ones, and I’ll share about everything – where I got my gown from, whether I made my own wedding cake, how we have been blessed with so many helping hands etc after the wedding. Or rather, after our short trip to Hoi An with his family after our wedding.

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SO. The real reason why I’m here is to share with you this latest recipe I made last week. Tahini is stupid expensive here in Singapore – the bottle I got my hands on cost me nearly $13 and I couldn’t bear to open it. Of course, that’s silly because I’d be wasting money if I didn’t open it at all so I finally did. But in order to savour the goodness of this sesame paste – I went for unhulled, I decided to make a smaller batch of these deliciously earthy brownies so I wouldn’t be using all the tahini up too quickly.

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Now, tahini may take some getting used to for some, especially here in Asia where it’s not common. We have black sesame spread that’s more sweet and tastes nothing like tahini. And we have peanut butter of course. More recently, locals have been opening up to almond and cashew butter, but aside from tahini in hummus, there’s little exposure to the real, raw, goodness of it. Even for me, I remember not liking it at first taste, but eaten with some honey, Oh, my Lord! Delicious! I’ve not looked back since then.

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These brownies are squidgy and have the unrivalled depth of flavour that only tahini can bring. I didn’t make it too sweet so the sesame paste was truly the star in every bite. The strawberries were really just there to add some prettiness to the overall look, and I finished with a sprinkling of sea salt just to highlight the sweet bitterness of the brownies. Feel free to swap them with raspberries and pistachios, or chocolate chips, or cashews might work well too. Honestly though, I think these taste perfect unadorned as well.

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GF Tahini Brownies with Strawberries (Makes 1 6×6″ Square)

125g Dark Tahini
40g Coconut Sugar
40g Maple Syrup
1 Egg
14g Cocoa Powder
5g Coconut Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Sea Salt

3 Fresh strawberries, sliced
Sea Salt, to sprinkle

  1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C and line a 6×6″ baking tin.
  2. Whisk together tahini, sugar, maple syrup and egg.
  3. Incorporate cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt.
  4. Pour into baking tin and top with strawberry slices.
  5. Bake for 18min. Remove from oven and sprinkle with more sea salt.
  6. Allow to cool. Chill in fridge 2-3 hours before cutting.

Usually, I’m more than happy to share out my kitchen experiments but these are so good I’ve taken to freezing them and am steadily going through slice after slice every day. Just thaw them a few minutes or warm them up slightly before you eat them. It’s difficult to imagine that the ingredients that make up these brownies are wholesome because they taste pretty naughty to me. Speaking of which, I’m off to have another slice right now. Be back after the wedding! X

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Major Throwbacks and Paying It Forward.

Before my birthday dinner a couple weeks back now, I went home after baking at Pathlight so that I could chill with Mum and Dad before going with them to Winestone to meet Flo. Flo and I actually have a week’s holiday booked in Sri Lanka nearer the end of the year and when I was little, between the ages one to four or five, we had a helped whom I was extremely close to – Kumari. She’s Sri Lankan and so, when Flo and I settled on visiting the country, I started getting more excited at the prospect of perhaps seeing if we can locate her.

Mum still had an old address of Kumari’s and it looks like the place is still a village based on GoogleMaps. Fingers crossed Kumari hasn’t moved although after more than 20 years, perhaps there is only a slim chance we will find her. Still, I’m hopeful! Which is why I started digging through old photographs back at Mum and Dad’s because I know we have photos of/with Kumari.

Unfortunately, the only one I could find in the stash was a side profile of her. I reckon the rest must be in the storeroom where we boxed a lot of old photos when we had the place renovated about 10 years ago. I took a picture of that picture anyway because who knows? Someone might recognise Kumari even from the side, but if I have time, I might see if I can find the pictures in the storeroom – although I can imagine Mum might freak out at all the boxes I’ll have to pick through… and the mess. We’ll see.

With Flo and my wedding just round a really close corner, I did find myself enjoying some photos I found of Mum and Dad’s wedding about 35 years ago. I love the sepia look of the pictures – no filter needed! And this picture of Mum. I wonder whether she could imagine then what her life would be like now.

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I guess photo compositions were different then and cameras worked really differently too. This church photo of Mum and Dad looks a little more stiff. I think Mum still looks quite the same though, Dad’s become rounder but still recognisable for sure.

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And this photo below I really love of them looking so happy together. I think Mum looks gorgeous and Dad, very handsome. Maybe I’m biased, just as they probably are of me, but I don’t care. They looked good together then, and they still look good together now!

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Fast forward 6 years and one baby boy (my brother) later, I was born and I will always hold this photo against Mum for allowing this dress to eat me up. She said that Suk Gong had bought the dress for me and she couldn’t not have me wear it. It definitely wasn’t the most flatting dress on me and it looks like I knew that too.

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Me at a year and a half. One of the few photos I think I look quite adorable in. Mum and Dad still live in this same condo. Lots of sentimental memories of us growing up there.

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And another throwback to me at about 13 months based on the date on the photograph. We were in London and with my three cousins celebrating Nathan’s birthday. He must have been turning 6. I laughed at the set of three photos below because my eyes never left the cake.

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Yup! Lover of cakes since forever.

My cousins, my brother and I… We all grew up in an environment where our parents would celebrate our birthdays for us, always making sure we were surrounded by little friends, close cousins, and always, cake. Cake was a taken-for-granted luxury. Only much, much later, did I realise that not everyone had parents with the means to provide them with presents or cake on their birthday.

Last month, I stumbled upon an Instagram account called @acakeforachild which is a not-for-profit company that bridges bakers to underprivileged children to provide them with a birthday cake free-of-charge. This is something I’ve thought of and discussed with Flo about before – doing giveaways to followers but instead of them receiving a cake from me, they gift it to say, their office cleaning aunty, or a family going through financial struggle. We decided that it might be a difficult thing to execute and I pushed the idea aside. So when I found A Cake for a Child, it felt like the perfect opportunity to give.

I’ve been blessed so far with enough work of my own through private orders and some tie ups with cafes. A small birthday cake is certainly something I can afford to gift a child and so, I found one whose birthday fell on a day where I was less busy and could not only bake for her, but also deliver it to her home.

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She had requested for a Chocolate Chip Oreo Cake and hearing that she likes Tweety Bird, I decided to put in a little more effort to make my first ever attempt at fondant Tweety for her.

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On Friday afternoon, my parents sweetly came along with me for the delivery – Dad drove and Mum helped me carry some extra cookies I wanted to share with them too. Unfortunately, the birthday girl was away at class but her Mum was incredibly appreciative, inviting us in for tea/coffee. When we thanked her and explained that Dad was waiting downstairs so not to worry, she asked if we needed an umbrella since it was raining out. We didn’t. My heart was overflowing just knowing how happy she was with the cake for her daughter who turning 13, never had a birthday cake before.

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The mother walked Mum and I right to the lift landing, waited for us to go in and even after the doors had closed, she waited, waving goodbye to us. I wanted to burst into tears at how generous and how gracious she was towards us. Even her little daughter upon seeing me at the door, called me ‘Jie Jie’ (older sister). Later in the evening, the birthday girl texted me through her mother’s phone to thank me for the cake.

It’s true, some who have little material things have the biggest hearts. It made the time and effort put into this cake so worth it for me. I have been supported greatly by so many over the years and now, I’m glad I’m able to pay it forward by putting a smile on the faces of children and their family with a simple birthday cake. I’m already looking forward to making my next cake for a special child!

Baking Shenanigans.

End August was full of activity not least because it was my birthday. It looks like August this year was a popular month for birthdays and I had the privilege to bake for first birthdays, and not-so-first birthdays.

Applie and Hock ordered a dessert table from me when they got married a few years back and this year, they asked for another dessert table but this time, for their gorgeous little girl’s first birthday!

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It was a simple set up consisting of assorted mini loaf cakes…

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Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons…

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Cake Pops and an Earl Grey Lavender Cake with Cream Cheese Filling, Mint-coloured Buttercream Frosting and a pink fondant rose to top.

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One of my biggest challenges in August was making this Stack of Books consisting of three different layers of cakes – Chocolate, Cheesecake and Matcha Butter Cake, for another first birthday. This was from a customer whose father has always been very supportive of me. A couple years ago, I also baked a cute car cake for her son’s birthday.

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This wasn’t the easiest cake to make but it was most satisfying seeing it come together and finally having it finished.

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It made all the time put into it worth it when Charlotte and Jimmy came back to me telling me that they enjoyed the cake aesthetically and gastronomically. I hope Kit had a wonderful first birthday! Y’know, because you’re only one, well, once!

It’s funny sometimes how the world works. I was contacted by Cheryl who wanted a birthday cake for her daughter who was turning two and is a Peppa Pig fan. Shortly after we got in touch, her husband texted me because he realised we used to be schoolmates, friends in fact. Small world really!

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On the day of Sophia’s birthday though, Cheryl was just being discharged from hospital – Sophia became a big sister just a few days shy of her second birthday. I hope she thinks of her baby sibling as one big beautiful present that she will cherish for years to come. I think my brother, as much as we argued and fought as kids, is someone who has grown alongside me and showed me love and patience in how he treated me through the years. I am so thankful for him. Of course, in my brother’s case, I was his big beautiful present – 5 months after he turned two. Haha.

Rolling over into early September, I also had fun with a cake baked specially for a birthday celebration involving a regular customer of mine. So far, I’ve baked for their children’s birthdays but this time, Maria asked for a cake for Derek – one that had minimal sugar so that her mother-in-law could have some as well.

I baked a Banana Cake with DARRRRRK Chocolate Ganache (80% Cocoa) and then began the challenge to make it look like a can of Coca-Cola as requested.

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I think it ended up looking pretty cool although definitely, room for a cleaner finish.

A few days later, I did these miniature fondant cameras to top some brownies for Derek’s second birthday celebration.

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I’m a total camera noob so using pictures online for reference wasn’t the easiest in turning them into 3D topped. I used white edible colouring and a toothpick to write ‘Canon’ on the cameras. I hope I did them justice. Maria told me later that her children were ecstatic over them, happily playing with them until they got destroyed. Hearing my creations get ‘destroyed’ has never made me happier!

I love customers who repeatedly return for cakes, not in a business sense although sure, that’s nice too. It’s more for the fact that I love watching them, and their family, grow through the years. From being single, to being married, to having children, and then seeing their children grow year on year. It’s amazing. But also scary seeing how whenever a cake order comes in from them, I am reminded of how quickly the year has passed. Maria called me ‘our family baker‘. I’m chuffed! Customers like her, I feel, are more than just customers. They’re almost like friends from a distance and I feel as though I am a part of their celebration, albeit a small part, through my cakes.