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 :-)