chocolate malt layer cake, version 2.0


Chocolate Malt Layer Cake (adapted from Jennifer Farley @ Savory Simple)
This Malted Buttercream is lightly sweet but faintly malted. The malt flavor needs to be more intense to compete with the chocolate. Rather than add more malt, I added vanilla and almond extracts to ramp up the flavor. To be different, this time I pressed cappucino wafer rolls around the sides of the cake.

Chocolate Cake
10.5 oz. all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (by volume)
1 3/4 cup half and half (or 50% cream and 50% whole milk)
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
9 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
21 oz superfine sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature

Malted Buttercream
1 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup water
5 egg whites
16 oz. unsalted butter, sliced, cubed and at room temperature
1/3 cup malted milk powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk, e.g. Horlick’s
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup malted milk balls, chopped, e.g. Whoppers (substitute:  Milo Nuggets)

Make the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Grease  two 9” pans.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk until the dry ingredients are evenly combined. In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half with the vanilla.
3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on low speed 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still on low speed, alternate between adding the dry ingredients with wet ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Add one third of the flour mixture followed by half of the vanilla mixture. Continue mixing, adding half the remaining flour mixture then the rest of the milk mixture. Finally, combine the rest of the flour mixture in the batter. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
4. Distribute the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, using an offset spatula to even out the tops. Tap the pans lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.
Cake Baker’s Note: I wrapped the pans with wet MagiCake strips which prevent a dome from forming on top of the cakes
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan on wire racks before removing them from the pans.

Make the buttercream:
1. While making the buttercream, chill the malted milk balls.
2. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat on high and cover.
3. While the sugar syrup is heating up, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until a soft peak forms, then turn down the speed to medium.
4. Once the sugar syrup is simmering, remove the cover from the pan and turn the heat down to medium high. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 235˚F on a candy thermometer. Fit the pouring shield on the mixing bowl and then slowly and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the meringue while the machine is still mixing. Add the syrup very slowly to avoid scrambling the egg whites.
5. Once the syrup is added, turn the mixer back up to high and allow the meringue to cool as it whips. This can take up to 20 minutes.
6. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, slowly add the butter one piece at a time. The meringue will deflate slightly and it may look curdled, but keep whipping because it will come together.
7. Once all the butter is incorporated slowly drizzle in the malted milk mixture until the frosting is evenly combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Frosts one 9” double layer chocolate cake or one 8” triple layer chocolate cake.

Assemble the cake:
1. Place the first layer of cake on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert.  Placing a cardboard round below the cake is optional but it will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled. Crush the malted milk balls in a food processor, pulsing to achieve a coarse crumb. Set aside.
2. Spread approximately one cup buttercream on the trimmed cake top and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more buttercream as needed to reach the desired thickness, about 1/2-3/4 inch. Repeat. Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Use a bench scraper to remove excess frosting. Discard rather than reuse because of the crumbs in it. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes to set this first layer of buttercream. This is called the crumb coat. Then cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting. Top with crushed malted milk balls.
Cake Baker’s Note: To make a plain border around the malted milk balls, carefully set an 8” spring form pan lightly on top with the bottom removed. This will leave an inch border around the edges if using 9” layer cake pans. Sprinkle the crushed malted milk balls evenly inside the opening of the cake pan. Carefully remove the pan. Et voilà. Malted milk balls in the center surrounded by a plain border.
3. Cake is best when served at room temperature. Refrigerate leftover cake. Let cake come to room temperature again before serving, because eating cold buttercream is like eating just plain butter, only sweetened.


apple snow


The heat wave finally broke with the rain this week. Still, I’ve been looking for cold desserts like this apple snow. Most North Americans might say this is a dessert to be enjoyed in the fall, but to my mind, it’s a dessert for any season. It’s light, tart, and just sweet with a refreshing hint of  apple.

Apple Snow (adapted from the Telegraph)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 1-2 hours

9 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely
75g superfine or caster sugar
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 egg whites
250ml whipping cream

Place apples in a saucepan with 40g of the sugar, the zest and juice of the lemon. Cover and simmer on low heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples begin to soften. Transfer apples to a food processor and process until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, make a meringue by whisking the eggs and the remaining 35g sugar until stiff and glossy. In another bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the meringue and the whipped cream into the cooled apples. Chill and serve.

Serving suggestions: Canned fruits, chilled and drained, such as long-an and rambutan or fruit cocktail and mandarin orange segments; and wafer cookies. In the fall, substitute ginger cookies to add a little heat and spice.

soy-glazed chicken


This recipe is a family favorite. I found it in a cookbook whose title I forgot and over the years I’ve perfected it. This recipe never fails to disappoint for the juiciness and flavor of the chicken. Five Spice Powder is available from Asian supermarkets; it has a wonderful anise scent without being overpowering. It adds just the right amount of flavor to the chicken.

Soy-Glazed Chicken
Marinating time: 8-12 hours
Roasting time: 35-45 minutes

1 x 3 pound whole roasting chicken
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper, coarse ground
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoons Five Spice Powder

In a small bowl, blend the soy sauces, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, oil, and Five Spice Powder. Put the chicken in a large zipper lock bag and pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken. Close the bag and turn the chicken so that the marinade gets evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours, turning once half way through.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C. Prepare a roasting pan with rack. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on the rack, tucking the wings back. Discard the marinade.

Roast 10 to 15 minutes at 450˚F/230˚C then reduce the heat to 350˚F/175˚C. This crisps the skin and the soy sauces caramelize it. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes. At 25 minutes, test the thigh and breast with an instant read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165˚F. Be careful not to over cook the chicken or the breast will dry out.

Carve the chicken and serve it with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce for chicken (Also available at Asian supermarkets), and a spicy chili dipping sauce (recipe to follow).

Spicy Chili Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

arborio rice pudding with rambutan and toasted almonds


I had half a cup of arborio rice left over. Not enough to make a risotto but enough to make rice pudding. Arborio rice cooks up quickly and has a delicious al dente quality that makes this dish appealing.  I like to serve this with mandarin oranges but the season is passed, so I used tinned rambutan instead. This dessert is cool and lightly sweet, with a toasty crunchy slightly bitter flavor from the almonds, perfect for another hot summer night.

Arborio Rice Pudding (adapted from Food Network)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Cooling time: 10-20 minutes
Refrigerating time: about 1 hour to cool and set

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
couple dashes of cinnamon for sprinkling

In a medium saucepan, heat water, butter and salt until it boils. Add the rice and bring it to a boil again. Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Shake the pan occasionally and cook until the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. The rice will be almost al dente.

In another saucepan, bring milk, sugar and vanilla to a boil. Add the cooked rice and simmer over medium-low heat until rice absorbs most of the milk. The mixture will start to look thick and silky, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer pudding to individual serving dishes and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold and set. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top. Serve with cold fruit like rambutan or mandarin oranges. For convenience’s sake, I used tinned rambutan in syrup. Put a spoonful or two of the syrup on top of the rice and fruit. Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds overall.

pineapple whip

PIneapple Whip with Longans, Toasted Almonds, and Wafer Cookie

It’s been just too hot to cook or even bake. It’s been so hot I haven’t needed to bring butter to room temperature for creaming. I just put it straight from the fridge in the mixing bowl and let Gracie (my Kitchenaid mixer has a nickname) aerate the butter! The temperatures here in Thailand have been in the 40s as mid-summer scorches on. We’re in the middle of a drought, too.

So when I came across this recipe in Detoxinista for whipped pineapple, it sounded so cool and refreshing, and since fresh pineapple is no trouble at all here–I decided to give it a try. All you need is one whole fresh pineapple, cored and chopped. Freeze the pineapple. Put frozen pineapple with a cup of whole milk (you can substitute non-dairy milk), and honey to taste in a food processor. Process the ingredients until smooth and eat at once. I liked it with little bits of pineapple still in it. It didn’t come out as yellow as Detoxinista’s, probably because of the whole milk (and it’s melting already!) but it had a wonderful sweet-tart flavor of fresh pineapple.


Magi-Cake®strips really work!


No dome, no crisp edges, even browning and baking all over! So easy to use–just soak a strip in water then pin it around the sides of the cake pan, pop it in the oven, and wait for cake. Today,  I made a Cocoa Layer Cake for Lek’s birthday.

Cocoa Layer Cake (original baker unknown)
Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Cooling and frosting time: 60 minutes

170g or 3/4 cup butter at 60˚F
281g caster sugar or 250g (1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g or 1 1/2 cups cake flour
4 oz or 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (volume)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

Cake Baker’s Notes: To prepare the pans I melted 1 tablespoon butter and mixed in 1 tablespoon flour. I brushed this mixture all over the bottom and sides of the pans. You can also use two 8 inch round pans or one 13×9 inch oblong cake pan.

In a large bowl, beat butter 10 seconds on medium high speed. Scrape down the bowl. On medium speed, gradually add sugar (1 minute). Increase speed to medium high and continue beating 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl once halfway through. Slowly (1-1 1/2 minutes) beat in eggs and vanilla until blended.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with flour. Beat until blended. Pour batter into prepared pans. Gently tap on the counter-top to eliminate air bubbles. Smooth tops.

Bake in preheated oven 25-35 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. Fill and frost as desired. I recommend half a recipe of Ina Garten’s chocolate buttercream frosting.

Cocoa Layer Cake
Cocoa Layer Cake



freezer mango-apple-cranberry chutney

Freezer Mango-Apple-Cranberry Chutney

It’s mango season, and our backdoor neighbors had given us 6 green mangoes from their tree. I decided to ripen them in a paper bag with a large apple. It took about 3 days for them to turn a greenish yellow. At that point I decided they were ripe enough and began preparations to make chutney. Then I found I’d forgotten to get raisins so I substituted dried cranberries instead. The chutney did not set after the 20 minutes stated in the recipe. I increased the cooking time in 20 minute increments then checked that the chutney had set. Altogether it took an hour. The result is sweet yet tart with an interesting top note of curry. If I made this again I would reduce the curry powder by half or leave it out altogether.

Mango Chutney (adapted from epicurious)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 65 minutes
Servings: 5 cups

3 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4-5 medium half-ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (125 ml) golden raisins (I used dried cranberries)
1/2 cup (125 ml) white vinegar
1/4 cup (50 ml) ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) curry powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) each: ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt

1. Pour hot water into half-pint (250 ml) jars and put lids in a pan and cover with hot water. Set aside.
2. Combine apples, mangoes, red pepper (if using), sugar, onion, raisins, vinegar and ginger root in a large pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender and mixture is reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally.

Cook’s Note: It took 1 hour for the liquid in the chutney to reduce and thicken. Apple is a natural pectin so it takes time to set the chutney. To check that the chutney has set, put 2 or 3 metal tablespoons in the freezer. Take one out and dribble some liquid on the surface. Draw your finger through it. If it leaves a track, then the chutney is set. If the liquid runs back together, it needs to cook some more.

3. Add lemon juice, curry powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt; boil gently for 5 minutes.
4. Pour out hot water from the jars and ladle chutney into jars to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the rim (this is head space). Screw the lids on tight. Eat within a week or freeze until ready to eat.

Serving Suggestions:

  • accompaniment for Jamaican curry lamb,  roast chicken, and pork roast
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Roast Chicken, Roasted Vegetables, Salad and Mango-Apple-Cranberry Chutney

freezer banana cream pie with whisky sugar topping


This is a cool treat on a hot summer day: freezer banana cream pie with whisky sugar topping. It’s sweet and crunchy but also cold and refreshing. Creamed frozen banana is like eating ice cream–it’s smooth with that melt-in-the-mouth feel.

Freezer Banana Cream Pie (adapted from Shine Food and Everyday Food)

For the base:
1 1/2 cups crushed digestive biscuit crumbs (can use graham crackers)
1/4 cup butter, melted

For the filling:
3 small-medium bananas
1/3 cup condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt or coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream whipped until stiff peaks form

For the topping:
3 small-medium bananas, sliced
Whisky sugar or plain demerara sugar for sprinkling

1. In a 9-inch pie plate, mix the crumbs and butter. Press into the bottom and sides of the dish. Bake in a 350˚F/180˚C oven for 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. In the work bowl of a food processor, process the bananas, condensed milk, salt, and vanilla. Fold in the heavy cream. Pour into the cooled crumb base.
Freeze 12 hours.
3. Layer the sliced bananas on top of the frozen filling. Sprinkle whisky sugar on top or just plain demerara sugar. Slice and serve. Keep leftovers in the freezer.


german apple cake with crème fraîche

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Lately, my cakes have tended to be over mixed and dense, with unattractive tunnels. I guessed the problem had to do with the butter being too warm. So I looked up the subject in the book The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated, 2012). Apparently room temperature should  not really mean “room temperature” in baking.  The temperature of the butter should be a cool 60˚F. Once I corrected for this, the cake’s texture improved. This is because the sugar in the butter helps to incorporate air into the butter during creaming. If the butter is too warm, the butter will be over creamed and the cake’s texture will be dense.

I tried applying this knowledge to Martha Stewart’s German Apple Cake. I learned not to follow the times for creaming too closely and instead to watch for changes in the color and texture of the butter-sugar mixture. I really didn’t need to beat the batter after the addition of the egg-vanilla mixture because the mixture already had a curdled appearance. The cake did not rise remarkably but the texture had improved immensely.

German Apple Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup All Purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (@60˚F on an instant read thermometer)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Butter an 8 inch square pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter at medium-high speed 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides.  Reduce speed to medium and gradually add 1 cup sugar. This should take 1 minute. Once all the sugar is added, increase speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl once half way through. Reduce speed to medium and stir in the eggs and vanilla in a slow steady stream; this should take another minute. Scrape down the bowl. Beat on medium-high speed 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. The batter should look slightly curdled.
4. Sift the flour mixture on top in 3 additions. Fold in after each addition, scraping along the bottom of the bowl. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.
5. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the cinnamon. Squeeze lemon juice into a medium bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples into the bowl. Toss to coat.
6. Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter in overlapping rows, pressing lightly into the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the apples. Bake 35-40 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with crème fraîche. To make a quick crème fraîche, put  1 1/2 cups heavy cream with 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form.

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apple chips

Oven-Dried Apple Chips

I regretted instantly buying the Red Delicious apples at the store because they weren’t crisp. So naturally, I googled my predicament and found How to Make Oven-Dried Apple Chips on The Kitchn. It required very little sweat investment on my part and I could just pop the apple rings in the oven and forget them. Well, not quite.

Making apple chips is a lazy way to use up apples that are too soft to eat. But it’s the middle of summer here in Bangkok, and though an apple pie would have been more delicious, standing in the heat of the kitchen sweating over a pie crust  is very unappealing at the moment.

To core the apple, I used a corer, a tube-like instrument for removing the apple core without slicing open the whole apple. (See the picture below)

Oven-Dried Apple Chips (from The Kitchn and

1 apple, cored and sliced thinly on a mandoline

Preheat the oven to 225˚F/125˚C.

Arrange the apple slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the apple slices are dried and their edges curl up. Let them cool on a wire cooling rack to become crisp.