Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yummiest Cake - Lychee Martini from Pine Garden

Lychee Martini was ranked as among the best cake in Singapore, with the likes of Sweet Secrets and Mezza9, in a Sunday Times column many light years ago.

I remembered then I rushed down to Pine Gardens in AMK, and went AGH when i saw the humble shop... uh well, my mum did say never judge a cake by the store :-)

It's must have been over 4 years (or more)... cos other than the memory of the adventure, i can't really remember the taste.  Not that it is forgettable, but a baker's pride that only cares for what comes from her oven!!!

I was glad that I had the chance to re-live the taste on Friday night.  

My ex-boss is finishing his assignment in Singapore, and his team organized a farewell party for him in a very nice restaurant.  So, what has the cake got to do with a Dutch man?

This bag cake was a surprise for the organizer, PL, whose birthday falls in the same period!!!  A few thoughtful ladies planned this, and had PL's favorite bag (accordingly she uses this 60% of the time... trust planners to be this precise!) immortalized in a Lychee Martini cake! 

In my recent cake-venture, i am taught that fondant covered cake must be firm and dense in order to withstand the weight of the fondant.  But this theory was scrapped here!


Pine Garden uses vanilla sponge as a base, which is moist and fluffy.  Between the layers is the light buttercream infused with lychee.  If there's any alcohol, none of us can taste it!  I am assuming that they have macerated the canned fruits in some liquor like rum or limoncello, in which case, the liquor flavor can be made stronger by brushing the sponge layer with the leftover liquor.  

My other complaint is that there's really too little lychee bits...  the canned fruits should be economical enough for the baker to be more generous!  

The covering is made with chocolate fondant which is quite yummy.  I wonder if they are using the Pentinice Bakel fondant.  

Looking at the pretty (and tasty) cake got me itchy to get back to serious baking and cake decor...  Some day, some time...  

Pine Garden's Cake
Blk 529 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10
Singapore 580529
Tel: 6457 6159

Operating hours - 8:30am to 9:30pm (daily)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Caramel Popcorn

Thanks for Sally's comment and to those who sent me private messages about the school bully.  Like many things in life, this is one of those that we just have to learn to manage, like it or not.

My beloved sister took her family over this afternoon... and I was thinking hard what can I prepare in short notice.  They love my cakes but little i can do when i haven't got the baking barangs-barangs out of those boxes!

I remembered reading a blog post on King Arthur Flour and so i set out to make the Caramel Popcorns!

Check out the blog for the step-by-step photo... this is really easy!

I used the microwave popcorn that i shipped back from England :-)  So convenient!

Carol's Caramel Corn

Pop corn following packaging instruction, then prepare caramel syrup.

Here's my version of the caramel syrup:
1 cup sugar - brown is better, but white works for me cos that's all i have in my kitchen
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 light corn syrup - the Macdonald's pancake syrup works fine as a substitute
1/2 tsp baking soda


1. Melt all the above (except baking soda) in a heavy bottom pot over medium fire.  I used my  Le Creuset Chinese Wok cos it would have enough space for me to stir in the popcorns.  Trust me, you can do with 1 less pot to clean up after that.

2. Bring it to boil, stirring occasionally.  Careful the syrup can be really hot.  The syrup will darken, this is normal.  After 5 min, turn off the fire, and stir in baking soda.

3. As you stir in the baking soda, the caramel will thicken and change color, becoming a rich golden beige.   The baking soda acts as an acid to make it thinner, which will coat the popcorn  better without the awfully heavy feeling.

4. Pour in the popcorns into the caramel (or caramel over popcorn if your pot is not big enough).  Keep stirring until all the popcorns are coated evening.  You need to do this as soon as the caramel is done because it turns into caramel brittle as it cools.

5. Once coated, turn it into a baking tray and leave it to bake for 30min at 100C, turning at 15min interval.  The original recipe says 1 hour oven time but the young ones at home can't wait this long!  This step is to dry out the mixture to give a better crunch.  But i find that mine already crisp once the caramel cools so perhaps I will skip this step altogether next time.

And btw, someone shared that microwave can do the same trick without the hour wait.  Simply dump the caramel corn into a large bowl, and microwave it for one minute. Stir, and microwave for one minute more. 

6.  Let cool and enjoy.  It will be sticky when hot, but crisp wonderfully when cool!

A spicy version that you can try:
add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper into the caramel mixture while it is cooking. That little bit of cayenne with the spices gives it the most awesome flavor, according to a baker who shared this variation in the blog.

Note:  This portion of caramel is just enough for my pack of popcorn.

The toughest part after making caramel or boiling sugar syrup, is the clean up.  You cannot imagine how much scrubbing is needed but i found a little trick that works - simply soak the pot and whatever utensils in water.  If you wait long enough, you will find that all the caramelized lumps soften and dissolves into water.  If you can't wait, just boil enough water in the pot over low heat.  

B just asked when can I make some toffee banana...  Ha!


Updated 9 Jan 2012:
I made this again with brown sugar... this time round, i realized that the mixture takes longer to dry up.  So the step in the oven becomes a necessity to crisp up the popcorns.  

When I used the microwave, thinking to short cut the drying process as someone  had shared, it has hotspot and burnt in those area.  Do take note to use a lower voltage and turn more frequently if you are using the microwave.  I just turned to the trusty oven to do the job :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

School Bully

It must be me... I felt like I just been home given the state of unsettleness! But when I glance at the date on the last post and the date it reads on my computer, I can't believe it has been a good 2 months.

The boxes are slowly disappearing. Yes, I mean s-l-o-w-l-y. To be fair,I don't mind unpacking. In fact, I love it! There's a clear beginning, an obvious work-in-progress, and a definite end game! What can be so crystal clear in life? The amount of efforts you spend on work ≠ promotion or pay rise. The amount of time you spend coaching your child's school work ≠ good results. Huh?!

I digress.

Back to unpacking - this is only but a small part of returning home. The first victim is B - There's a BIG adjustment that he had to make fit into Singapore's cookie cutter education system. Education is alot more fun in England, or many ang-moh countries. The play-based approach and flexibility is something that B had to sadly let go on the first day of school at BBPS.
He cried, but he learnt to adapt.

By the end of the first week in school, he came home with some bruises which we found out later that he has been kicked, pushed and punched by his class bully. We brought this to teacher's attention and the boy's parent called in.

What surprised me is that when I posted the matter on FB, many friends commented at their children had been a victim of school bully at some point. And this is happens too in good school like Rosyth. One extreme case shared was a P6 daughter of my good old classmate who had been so traumatised in school that she has been attending private counselling for the past 2 years!

And that got me wonder, with such behaviour so prevalent, why hasn't MOE taken a stronger stance? I am not saying that the English has the best policy per se, but some of their measures are really effective: they take a zero tolerance toward bully behaviour (which can be verbal or physical). Repeat offenders will be suspended from school until parents provide the written assurance to address the behaviour issues. This way, the parents will be involved in the child's development and not only the school working on it.

I think many bakers here are also parents - what is your experience in this?

PS: In case you are thinking, the boy in B's school - his parents didn't turn up. Grandma deputised but the punishment mated out for him was 'no sweets for the day'!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Home again...

We are back home, finally.

After being in England for a year, we are back to the tropics. Something that we are looking forward to; J wants to get back to work, Sheen wants to have his cousins' company. And I like to be back with my sis and parents!

So it was an exiting time. A time to get back into a routine, see friends missed over the year, and look forward to the sunny weather and a fresh start.

But once the sea shipment arrived, my newness has worn-off. I have cartons, 127 of them, everywhere in my house. The pix below is just a tip of the iceberg!

I sure have to work hard to keep the positive attitude and productive energy going!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Playing Tourist at Venice

I just landed in London after holidaying in Venice, and gosh, tired I am, but can't hide my excitement and thrills that i had to share my holiday pix!

If you have watched Angelina Jolie & Johnny Deep's The Tourist, you will know Venice.

What I didn't know is that the actual place is alot more beautiful then what I saw on the silver screen!

I wished i have smart suits, heels and coiffered like Angelina to live the scene. LOL.

Apart from the regular morning shower that dulled the sky, we were blessed with bright sunny day in the afternoon on days we were there.

Yeah, Sheen was so excited about McDonald's there... we were there for 8 days, and he grew so sick and tired of pizza, pasta and risotto. He is not a Mac's fan, but when you are desparate, you would rather opt for some familar taste.

BTW, there's only 1 Mac in the whole Venice. That's at Strada Nuovo. If you are taking the vaporetto (the water bus), alight at Ca' d'Oro and walk for 2 min. The price for a upsize meal is Euro 7.90 (~SGD16).

While in Venice, it is worth going Island hopping. Island like Lido, Murano, Burano etc, are all nearby and if you buy a tourist pass, you get unlimited bus and boat rides during the valid period. We paid Euro 23 per adult for 36hours. You can check out the full fare table here .

The magic of holidays in Venice is created by the over-the-top architecture, the ethereal, colourful Venetian glass and ubiquitous and fantastical masks. Go lose your way in the tiny street, riding a gondola down the Grand Canal (warn: this is expensive but a once-in-a-lifetime experience) and enjoy a glass of Prosecco on St Mark's Square!

Oh, the thought of it makes me feel like Angelina Jolie!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spiced Nuts

The other day when I was out shopping and picked up a pack of Almond with the thought to roast my own healthier version, using this recipe which i bookmarked long ago.

Spiced Nuts
(Fills 3-4 jars)

1-2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 star anises
3 cup of raw almonds (or any other nuts like cashew)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp each of powdered chilli, cumin and cinnamon spices

1. Heat the oven to 160 deg C.
2. Heat oil in a wok together with cinnamon stick and star anises. When you smell the fragrance, turn off the fire and add salt and sugar. Add the raw nuts, stirring well to ensure even coverage.
3. Place nuts on an oven tray, spreading them out. Roast for 15 minutes or so. Keep a close eye on them as they burn easily.
4. Scatter powdered spices over the nuts & stir for even coverage. Switch off the oven but leave nuts inside for another 5min.
5. Remove and allow nuts to cool before storing them in clean jars. The nuts will harden upon cooling.
6. Wrap a Christmassy ribbon round the neck of the jars and you have a healthy gift to give away this season.

PS: I find it not spicy enough - will need more chilli powder and cinnamon to make a statement.

Monday, May 2, 2011

When Will wed Kate...

If you are in London during in the past few days, you will know how crowded this England capital suddenly became! I felt like half the world is congregating in this already jam packed city. Despite many friends who tell me I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time, I think I rather be enjoy the city in peace...

1 think I do appreciate, of the wedding, is a Bank Holiday out of the deal!

I was out at Harrods yesterday, I can't help but feel just a little jealous observing all the indulgent Royal Wedding festivities. Look at how this shopping instution devoted all its window dressing to the royal couple:

Honestly, I think this is mroe suitable for a Bollywood wedding! LOL.

This uni-jack cake is my favourite!

Look at this... even the bus is not spared!

So, where were you on April 29?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keiko's Japanese Milky Madeleines

This is one of the few things I managed to bake in London... I only uncovered them while sorting thru my camera.

This is a very yummy cake - very fragrant and milky. The only deterring factor is that it requires several short shelf life ingredients like double cream & milk powder which can be quite wasteful to throw out the rest after 1 bake.


What you need:
120g pastry flour (i use sponge flour)
20g corn flour
15g milk powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
15g honey
1 tbsp hot water
100g unsalted butter
50g double (heavy) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g eggs (approx. 3 big eggs)
Pinch of salt
150g Japanese sugar or castor sugar (I used 100g)


  1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius. Sift together the flours, milk powder and baking powder. Combine honey and hot water in a small bowl.

  2. Place butter, cream and vanilla in a bowl and heat over a double boiler until butter is melted. Set aside.

  3. In another bowl, beat eggs and salt with a whisk. Add sugar, place the bowl over a double boiler and mix well.

  4. When egg mixture is warm, use an electric mixer to beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and continue beating for about 1 minute. Add honey and mix well.

  5. Gently fold in flour, milk powder and baking powder mixture with a spatula. Add cream and butter mixture and fold until just incorporated.

  6. Pipe/spoon batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until madeleines are light golden in colour. Cool on a wire rack.

Store in airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days or up to 1 month in the freezer. I made these when I had visitors over my place, so they were gone on the same day!

Pretty meimei said she loved these madelines!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart Cake

My mind starts to jog when i see this beautiful heart cake at Crummb, my fav baker.

Go to I am Baker, for tutorial how to make this.

I am starting the clock; shall see when I get down to some serious baking!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

TWG Macaron

It must have been the longest break for me! I have been shuttling between Singapore and London since Jan... and perhaps a short (and hoepfully, sweet) post will bring back my momentum.


I finally get to TWG @ION Orchard last night - enjoyed a pot of their famous Samovar Night tea and an easily forgetable dessert. Then went home with the highly-raved TWG macarons... see, how pretty the box! At S$2 each, these are far cheaper than what I'd paid for Pierre Herme in London's Selfridges. These macarons are soft & chewy. In fact too soft, I think, to give any contrast in the crispy shell & soft fillings. However, the unique tea infusion wins me over. I enjoy the delicate tea aroma & flavour that is so beautiful, though I have to admit that macaron is not for me -too sweet for my standard.

Before i go, gotta share this quote from Manoj Murjani, TWG Owner: "At TWG you're not just buying tea, you're buying into the experience of the brand that promotes the lifestyle that is evocative of luxury."

Why not, if you can afford the luxury!

TWG Tea Salon & Boutique
ION Shopping Mall
2 Orchard Turn
#02-21 Singapore 238801
Tel: 6735 1837 Fax: 6736 1837
Opening hour: Mon to Sun - 10am to 10pm

Monday, February 21, 2011

5 things to bring from London (to Singapore)

We had our Chinese New Year all planned away back in Dec. Coming from a traditional chinese family, it was to be the first CNY without our family as we were quite clear we ain't keen in the 14hours flight!

So we hooked up with other expats family to have the big celebration "our way". And had all the necessary stuff prep for the big bang. Yep, big bang, if only I didn't receive a late request from my boss on a business trip to SG.

Well, let's just say there's quite a bit of self interest that i gladly accepted the assignment.

It was less than a week before the trip, so we basically pick up anything in Sainsbury which we can think can interest our Singaporean folks

After we arrived, and gauging from the respond of the recipents, here's what we gathered will be great stuff to bring from London:

1) Scottish Shortbread.

This is basically just butter cookies, but my niece who is a big fan says those from UK beats those from the local supermarket.

2) PG tips tea bags.

We saw some leftover xmas pack on the shelf, and they are the same price as the standard ones.

PG tips was first launch in UK, and believed to aid digestion. I do not know how much truth in the health benefits but i love the revolutionary freeflow pyramid teabag. The bags were developed using unique 'webbed' fibres that allow the water to reach the leaves faster, resulting in a quicker brew. So now you don’t have to wait as long for your cup of PG tips! These are all the technical stuff I read from the box.

This tea is great for home made teh-tarik, I must confess!

BTW, this is not commonly found in Singaporean's supermarket, and if by any chance you do, I was told the price is probably a few times more than it does in UK (it was less than £5 when I got this in late Jan 2011).

3) Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd to English is like Kaya to Singaporean. It's a great cultural exchange. Personally I am hooked to the tangy yet creamy taste!

4) All things Chocolate.

Most people (inluding me) thinks London is expensive, But believe it or not, the chocolates cost a fraction than it would in Singapore.

I checked out the prices of these After Eight in Singapore: we paid £2 (~S$4) while it goes for S$11 in Cold Storage!!!

5) The Nespresso
If you are a coffee lover, you will know this expresso machine.
If you are not, you still got to have this in-thing sitting pretty in your kitchen or living room. As long as your guest can see!
I found out about this good buy when my cousin annouced in Facebook of his latest acquistion. He got this exact model in SG for S$728, while I paid £199 (~S$400)! I am not qualified for the VAT rebate; if you do, you get back another 2o% at airport.
When in SG, I dropped by Ion Orchard and found out that even the coffee capsule cost less in London - I paid about £3 (~S$6) per pack while it retails for S$10 here.
As for this cute Hello Kitty, I am sure it can find it in Singapore, but it I simply can't resist when I saw it in the aisle!

Is there anything else that you would lug from London?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Laksa in London

We have been quite fortunate to meet quite a few other expats family during this period. They are very helpful in giving us the practical advices to help us settle in.

This restaurant, Hare and Tortoise was recommended at one of the many wine & dine sessions. After being away from home for so long, it didn't take long for us to head their for some comfort food.

The restaurant is fairly simple and basic, which means hurried (and sometimes appalling) service is expected. Nonetheless this is fine by us as our sole objective is the food... which fortunately didn't disappoint in our few visits. It serves a combination of Malaysia/Singaporean food + Japanese dishes.

Each time, I will go straight for the Laksa (~£7 or S$14)

The laksa is served in a big deep bowl containing hearty rice noodles with a well spiced coconut curry broth. It has generous slices of chicken breast (Londoners fav, btw), squid & whole prawns. The only thing i dislike is the dried garlic slice sprinkled on top. It seems to have been sat in the store for quite long to develop that nasty taste.

J will usually go for the Char Kway Teow (fried flat noodle) - no picture and I blame it on the yummy noodle that J attacked as soon as it is served! It has such good wok-hei!
The little one is not left out - he was enjoying his tamago (egg) sushi. Decent but I must say that it is over priced (at least to me!) at £2.50 (S$5) for 2 pcs.

All in all, we pay about £10 per person (with green tea); a price rather reasonable in London.


Hare and Tortoise
Open 7 days a week
Sunday to Thursday : 12noon to 11.00pm
Friday & Saturday : 12noon to 11.30pm

373 High Street Kensington, London W14 8QZ
Tel: 020 7603 8887

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Homemade Condensed Milk

There are several things that I take for granted back at home. Mum's traditional coffee made from "socks" and sweetened with condense milk is one. Condensed Milk is another. Both of which I deeply miss when i am in London.

I remembered my disappointment when I couldn't find the familar tins of condensed milk in the local store. At least not till months later. I recalled with excitement when I finally found Carnation condensed milk in the supermarket - I facebook-ed about it relentlessly about my (over)joy! Then, promptly stocked up lots of that.

One day, I was going thru Mary's blog, and found her post on homemade condensed milk! I bookmarked her post for the longest time as I try to run down my "inventory". Finally got to do it last week :-)

The homemade version is alot more economical and flavourful! The flavour, I think comes from the milk powder & butter, so it helps to get the best you can get. The only thing I am trying to understand is the very minute oily spot floating on my coffee, coming from the butter. But this is only the appearance... there's no smell of butter, for sure.

If you are stranded in a foreign land like me, and need some taste of home, do try making this condensed milk yourself. Easy Peasy!

Homemade Condensed Milk
Recipe from Mary Moh

125g butter
2C sugar
1C boiling water
4C skimmed milk powder (or less)

  1. Put the butter and sugar in the blender and then pour in boiling water. Turn on the blender, and beat at lowest intil well combined.
  2. Add the milk powder 1 cup at a time, blend well after each cup until all is finished. It may look very liquid but will thicken when it cools down.

If it is too thick, it will be difficult to tip it out of the container when left in the fridge. So I used 3 cups of milk powder.

If you need inspiration for recipes using condensed milk - check out here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My First White Christmas

Oh what fun, is to lie on the snow. Ask my favourite niece!

When I first arrived in London last summer, my colleagues gave me advices how to bruce myself for the bitterly cold winter but categorically told me forget about the snow. Snow in London is like snow in Sahara, the wise one said.

Haha, lucky lucky me. Last month, there were 2 snow fall in London. The first one in early Dec - when my family decided we should go to Austria Alps to experience the snow. After few days of enduring the snow in Salzburg, we saw snow falling when our returning plane arrived at London Gatwick Airport!

The 2nd time, when i had my family of 11 over for holiday! We were in Paris when I read about the snow alert on Dec 18 from Met Office. I do not know if I should trust the weather forecast but I shared the alert with my brother-in-law who is so keen to let his kids experience snow.

So when we all came back to London on Dec 18, all eyes on the sky before they draw their verdict if they the Met Office is worth their salt.

The first snow flake ascended on us on that Fri afternoon. But so little that there's only muddy patches here and there. Then it snowed thru the night. When we woke up the next morning, you can see the glistering eyes staring at the thin film of snow in the garden.

Snow knew they can't disappoint my honourable guests; it snowed heavier. By late morning, we had pure white sheet when the kids had lunch by the garden. Boy, we got it!

All the parents dressed up the kids in full attire, and were out in full force. See how much fun they are having!

PS: Dot and all, thanks for coming over. Thanks for bringing us so much goodies that I missed from home, and most importantly, thanks for the 2-week fun we had together!