the three-layer coffee chiffon wedding cake with mocha butter cream frosting


Third time’s a charm!

What I learned: this cake stands up well either as a tube or as a layer cake. I baked two 8-inch layers and split each one in half horizontally. Then I used three of the layers to make this cake. I was more generous with the butter and the cream to make this frosting–I wanted lots of it in case I made a mistake. I also toasted the almonds as I thought they looked better. It was a labor of love, but it was delicious–moist, creamy and with just enough espresso powder in it to remind you of its presence, discreetly. We did not throw out the extra cake layer. We ate it on our way to the beauty salon before the wedding ceremony.

Three-Layer Coffee Chiffon Cake

7 (210g) egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
113g superfine sugar
250g all purpose flour
225g superfine sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
7 (175g)egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened chocolate powder
2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven to 325˚F/175˚C. Wash and dry the bowl and beaters to be sure they are absolutely free of grease. Alternatively, wipe them down with a soft cloth dampened with a little white vinegar. Line the bottom and sides of two 8-inch springform cake pans with parchment paper.

Cake Baker’s Note: Cut the paper to fit the bottom and sides. Do not exceed the height of the pan when cutting the strips for the sides. If the strips are taller than the sides of the pans, the cakes will not bake properly. So I made 2 strips 26 inches long by 3 inches wide. They should be a little bit longer so the ends overlap. The paper sides tended to curl so I clipped them in place with a paper clip so they wouldn’t roll over when I poured in the batter.

I always make the meringue first because I only have one set of beaters. So. Beat the 7 eggs whites in a large bowl on medium speed. When it is foamy, add the cream of tartar. Continue beating on high speed until the egg whites turn white and opaque. Add the 113g sugar one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and slowly raise the beaters. The points should stand tall and the whites will be glossy and smooth. Set aside. No need to wash the beaters.

In a small bowl, mix the espresso and cocoa powders with the warm water. Blend until no lumps remain. Set aside.

In another large bowl, add the flour, 225g sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, oil, water, espresso mixture, and vanilla. Beat until just combined.

Scrape the batter all at once into the beaten egg whites. Gently fold by hand until just white streaks remain. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Carefully remove the paper clips holding the strips of parchment in place, because as the batter bakes, it will expand. Carefully run a skewer zig zag fashion though the batter being careful not to scratch the parchment at the bottom of the pans. This will dislodge any air bubbles.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The cakes are done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place the pans on wire cooling racks. Remove the sides of the pans and let the cakes cool thoroughly with the paper strips still on. When the cakes are thoroughly cooled, gently remove the paper strips. Invert the cakes and remove the bottom plates. Remove the parchment on the bottom. Re-invert the cakes and slice each in half horizontally. Fill and frost with mocha butter cream frosting.

Cake Baker’s Note: Use three of the best looking layers to frost. That is, they are even in height and free of crumbs. I use one of the top layers as the base since the top is sticky and will anchor the cake to the plate. To be sure I put a dollop of icing on the plate first then place the base over it.

Mocha Butter Cream Frosting

3 cups icing or confectioner’s sugar
2 cups butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons warm water
1-2 tablespoons whipping cream

Combine the espresso, cocoa, and water in a small bowl. Mix well so that it is free of lumps. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat on low speed to combine, then on high speed for a total of 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and the expresso mixture, and beat for an additional minute. Add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. I used two tablespoons.

Cake Baker’s Note: Trim the tops if using them as layers to provide greater stability. I also put the second and third layers cut side down.  A smooth straight cake bottom is the best for the top layer.

Fill between each layer and then frost the top and sides generously. To make the swirls, I used the back of a round spoon. Decorate with almond and chocolate flowers, if desired.

Almond and Chocolate Flowers
1 cup sliced almonds
chocolate chips, semi-sweet or milk

Toast the almonds in an ungreased skillet until a pale brown. Remove from the heat and let cool. To make the flowers, position 3 almond “petals” in a half-circle around a chocolate chip. Finish the “flower” with 2 more petals. That’s all there is to it!


@bacco in bangkok

Click to play this Smilebox slideshowMy favorite Italian restaurant in Bangkok is Bacco. We always order these tried and true never-fails: the baked eggplant and the bacon caesar salad. The eggplant is full of flavor and just the right warmth to make it comfort food for the soul. And who can resist the salty, tangy, crunchy flavor of the caesar salad served in a crispy “papadum” bowl? I don’t know the Italian word for it, but it seems every culture has a variation on serving food with a crispy bread in a mold. The Chinese use taro to weave a  basket for a fruit salad. We ordered two types of pasta, spinach ravioli with shrimp and spaghetti Bolognese with meat sauce. Both were insipid and such a disappointment! Though the pasta was al dente, the sauces were unaccountably weak rather than full-bodied tomato sauces. The pizza with four cheeses (quattro formaggi) was delicious; the crust was just right. And of course I had to have dessert. We shared the tiramisu and the strawberry cheesecake.  The tiramisu was nothing like New York’s. Topped with fresh not frozen strawberries the cheesecake was a treat–though I would have preferred a pot of the raspberry sauce. Even for an anniversary dinner, the foodie in me is always the critic!
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simple pleasures of eating


I am watching The Hundred-Foot Journey for the umpteenth time. It’s a foodie movie. And I just love a simple supper. There’s pan roasted vegetables and fresh salad–with chicken tonkatsu on the side. A squirt of Sriracha in the barbecue sauce–sour and hot on top of sour and cool. And crunchy dried fish flakes instead of bacon in the salad. Simple pleasures of eating.

chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, onions, and Chinese herbs

IMG_0733I love the taste of Chinese celery (Thai: kunchai) and cilantro (Thai: pakchee), all mixed up with scallion and garlic. The sharp clean taste of the Chinese celery and cilantro mixed with the sharpness of the scallion and garlic are irresistible combinations in this stew.

I like boneless chicken breast without skin, but Andy prefers the meatier parts of the chicken with the skin on and the bone in. So I combined the two and adjusted the cooking times accordingly since chicken meat with the bone in takes longer to cook. The chicken tenderloins must never be overcooked, so they must be browned separately and added to the stew almost at the last minute!

Chicken Stew with Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, and Chinese Herbs

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

8 chicken wingsticks
8 chicken tenderloins
Soy sauce to taste
Nam pla (fish sauce) to taste
Dried chopped garlic or shallots
1/4 cup chopped Chinese celery (stalks only, reserve the leaves for use as garnish, if desired)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallion
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 small to medium potatoes, peeled, halved, quartered
1 medium carrot, sliced into medallions then halved
5 baby onions, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup water
1 chicken boullion cube
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons coconut cooking oil

Marinate the chicken overnight or longer in the refrigerator, using soy sauce, nampla, black pepper, and dried garlic or shallots.

Heat two teaspoons oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Fry the wing sticks until brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. To the oil remaining in the pan, brown the chicken tenderloins. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the potatoes, carrots, and onions and toss to coat. Add the chopped herbs: Chinese celery, cilantro, scallion, and garlic. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Into a medium pot, scrape the vegetables. Add the chicken wingsticks. Salt and pepper to taste. Add wine, water, and boullion cube. Bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer 45 minutes. Add the reserved chicken tenderloins to the pot and allow to heat through, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve over a bed of hot brown-and-red rice.

twenty days and counting! coffee chiffon cake with mocha butter cream frosting


In 20 days’ time, it is Taranee’s wedding.  We are serving cupcakes to the guests but she wants a cutting cake for the bride and groom made from her grandmother’s recipe, the coffee chiffon cake.  I baked a practice cake this weekend, frosted it with mocha butter cream and decorated  the top with flowers made from sliced almonds and chocolate chips. The cake is moist and tender, with an unmistakable espresso flavor intensified with a little cocoa. The butter cream frosting is not as creamy or as fluffy  as I would have liked; it needs some adjustment to make it a spreadable consistency, possibly some cream added to it. And I think the almonds need to be toasted to bring out more of a contrast with the frosting.

Coffee Chiffon Cake with Mocha Butter Cream Frosting
prep time: 40 minutes
baking time: 60 minutes

7 large eggs, separated when cold then brought to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
113g superfine sugar
250g all purpose flour
225g superfine sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325˚F/160˚C. Prepare 2×8 inch springform pans, bottoms lined with parchment paper. Do not grease the bottoms or the sides. If you prefer you can use a standard two-piece tube pan instead of the springform.

I whip the egg whites first so I don’t have to wash the beaters (I only have one set). Prepare a large mixing bowl and beaters by washing and drying them carefully. Then wipe them out with paper toweling dipped in a little white vinegar. This thoroughly removes any grease otherwise the egg whites will not whip.

Place the egg whites in the prepared bowl, and beat on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to high. When soft peaks form, add the 113g sugar one tablespoon at a time. At the soft peak stage, turn off the mixer and slowly raise the beaters. If the peaks flop over, continue beating until stiff peaks form, the egg whites turn silky white, and when you tilt the bowl, the egg whites do not move. If the whites fail these tests, either some yolk got into the whites or the bowl and beaters were not grease free. Set aside the whipped whites.

In another large bowl, weigh out the flour, 225g sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk to blend. Make a well in the center and add the yolks, oil, water, dissolved coffee, cocoa, and vanilla. Blend until just combined. Add about 1/3 of the batter to the whipped egg whites and stir to combine. This is called lightening the batter and makes it easier to combine the remaining batter with the egg whites. Add the remaining batter to the egg whites and gently fold by hand. To fold, “cut” the batter with a silicone spatula and drag it across the bottom of the bowl, then turn the batter over. Rotate the bowl one quarter turn and repeat until just white streaks remain.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared baking pans. The batter will come to one inch from the top. Run a small thin blade zig zag fashion through the batter to release air pockets, being careful not to scrape the parchment paper underneath.  Bake 55-60 minutes. My cakes were done in 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool thoroughly with the pans upright. Gently press a thin blade between the cake and the pan sides and remove the sides. Invert the cakes and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert the cakes. Split the cakes into two layers, fill,  frost, and decorate.

To frost a two layer cake (that is, one 8″ chiffon cake split into two halves horizontally) you will need:

Mocha Butter Cream Frosting

Prep time: 40 minutes (includes softening the butter, 30 minutes)

3 cups powdered sugar
1-2 cups butter, softened to room temperature (I used one cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons espresso coffee powder plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
4 teaspoons warm water
1-2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a small bowl, dissolve the coffee and cocoa with 4 teaspoons warm water.Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Continue whipping until fluffy; the yellow butter will lighten in color and turn white. Add the vanilla, the dissolved coffee-cocoa mixture, then combine. Add the whipping cream a tablespoon at a time to get the desired consistency. Double the recipe to fill and frost two 8″ cakes.