ina garten’s apple cake “tatin”


This recipe is unusual in that it is the rare recipe of Ina’s that I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The sugar syrup became hard candy as the cake cooled, and was not at all the effect I was expecting.

6 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pie plate
1 1/4 Granny Smith apples peeled and cut into 12 wedges each about 1 1/2 inches at the width (I used Fuji apples)
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs (I used large eggs)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used lime)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used 1/8 teaspoon table salt)
Confectioner’s sugar (I say this is optional; the cake is sweet enough)


Preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C.

Generously butter one 9-inch pie plate and arrange the apples in the plate, cut side down. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup sugar with 1/3 cup water in a saucepan and heat on high heat until the sugar becomes a warm amber color. About 360˚F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Use a silicone brush dipped in water to clean off the sugar from the sides of the pot. Watch the sugar because you don’t want it to burn. When it becomes brown, pour the sugar mixture over the apples in the pie plate.

Use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. You may need to stop the machine to scrape down the sides. Lower the speed and add the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla, beating until just combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour all at once, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter on top of the apples in the pie plate. Smooth with an off set spatula being careful not to disturb the sugar syrup underneath. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the top is browned and the center springs back when pressed with a finger.

Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Invert onto a serving plate. If any of the apples loosen, just stick them back into the cake. Serve warm with powdered sugar, if desired.

Refrigerate leftovers. Warm the cake before serving to soften the sugar syrup.


one day before christmas: simple bûche de noël


I was crazy ambitious to try Bon Appetit’s recipe for Bûche de Noël two days before Christmas. And I should have been warned; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I accidentally added too much cream to the mascarpone filling and ended up with cream soup instead of cream cheese. I needed a save. So I did a quick search and found Nick Malgieri’s recipe on Food Network for Bûche de Noël that called for a simple coffee buttercream filling. So I married parts of the two recipes together, using the BA recipe for cocoa syrup and sponge cake, and Malgieri’s coffee buttercream frosting. Figuring I was pushing my luck,  I simply cut the log in two rather than try to decorate it.

Bûche de Noël (adapted from Bon Appetit and Food Network)

Make the Cocoa Syrup (makes 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon rum

Cook sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add cocoa powder and rum and whisk until smooth. Cool, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make the Coffee Buttercream (makes 3-4 cups)
4 (120g) egg whites, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
340g unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
2 tablespoons dark rum

Dissolve the coffee powder in the rum and set aside.

Put 2 inches of water in a large saucepan on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the sugar. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water—the water shouldn’t touch the bowl. Continue whisking the eggs whites until foamy and opaque, and the sugar dissolves. The egg white mixture should be warm to the touch and not at all gritty.

Remove the bowl and attach it to the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg white mixture on medium speed until the egg whites have cooled—the bottom of the bowl will be cool to the touch.

Turn off the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed until the buttercream is smooth. Slowly pour the coffee mixture into the buttercream while the machine is still beating. The buttercream will curdle but keep beating because it will come together, about 1-2 minutes to completely blend in the coffee mixture.

Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature then beat with paddle attachment on medium high speed until smooth and it comes together again.

Make the Sponge Cake
Melted butter for brushing the pan
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus more for dusting
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

Increase oven to 400°. Line a 12x17x1″ rimmed baking sheet parchment and brush melted butter on it. Flip it over and brush butter on the other side of the parchment and the pan sides and corners. Set aside

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and ⅓ cup cocoa powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Bring milk, butter, oil, vanilla, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm over low heat. It should be body temperature.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the milk mixture is too hot it will cook the eggs. I tested a drop on the inside of my wrist.

Meanwhile, using the paddle attachment, beat eggs and egg yolks with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Increase speed to high; beat until doubled in volume. With motor running, gradually add sugar; beat until very light and fluffy and mixture falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon (it should be at least quadrupled in volume), about 5 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and gradually stream in milk mixture. Stop the machine and remove the bowl. Sift one-third of dry ingredients over the top of the batter; gently fold in until only a few streaks remain. Working in 2 additions, repeat with remaining dry ingredients, scraping bottom of bowl and using as few strokes as possible to keep eggs from deflating (a few streaks are fine). Scrape batter into prepared baking sheet and gently spread to edges of pan with an offset spatula. Tap sheet lightly on counter to pop any large air bubbles.

Bake cake until surface is puffed and springy to the touch, 10–12 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 2 minutes, then run a knife along edges to loosen. Spread a towel on a large work surface and sift cocoa powder on top. Invert cake on top of cocoa powder and carefully peel away parchment. Dust top of cake with more cocoa powder. Starting at one of the long sides, gently roll up warm cake inside towel. Let cake cool, seam side down, 30-35 minutes. Can be made 1 day ahead and stored tightly wrapped in plastic at room temperature.

Assemble the Bûche de Noël

Unwrap the thoroughly cooled cake and brush off any excess cocoa powder. Dab the cocoa syrup all over with a pastry brush. Spread about half of the coffee buttercream in a 1/2 inch layer, keeping away 1 inch from the longer edge opposite. Roll up the cake using the towel, but keep the towel on the outside. Chill, keep the seam side down, until filling is set, about 30 minutes. Don’t worry if there are any cracks in the cake; the frosting will hide it.

Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Evenly spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake. Using a serrated knife, trim 1/2 inch pieces from each end to create clean edges. Eat the trimmings!

If desired, create branches on the log by cutting off a 4 inch piece from one end. Cut it in half at a 45 degree angle leaving 1 inch at the opposite end. Attach the angled ends to the cake by using the remaining buttercream to attach the pieces and to fill in the spaces. Put one piece on top and the other on the side. Use an off set spatula to create the appearance of tree bark. Leave the cut ends unfrosted.


mama’s bundt butter cake


This cake only has 6 ingredients. It yields a cake with a moist and tender crumb. The cake can be  glazed too. My favorite glaze for this cake is the lemon-lime glaze for a 7-up cake . Just mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice with 1 tablespoon lime juice to 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. It adds just the right amount of sweetness with a tangy citrus flavor.

Mama’s Bundt Butter Cake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes

227 grams unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs
338g superfine sugar
281g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 160˚C/325˚F. Grease a 10 inch bundt cake pan with butter, making sure to get inside all the crevices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix the butter on low speed to soften. Add the vanilla. Pour in the sugar all at once and mix on medium speed 2-3 minutes until the butter-sugar mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides.

Add the flour all at once to the butter mixture, and mix on low speed until the flour mixture is just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan lightly on the counter top to dislodge any air bubbles.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 30 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Invert the pan and unmold the cake. Cool completely. Simply dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.

plum upside-down cake


I found this recipe on the Food and Wine website and just had to try it. A year ago I brought back some plums from Singapore to make a plum-apple pie. This year, I found plums at the Suan Luang Market at Baht 10 apiece (about 30 US cents). They were sour so I thought of putting them in this cake. In the end, baking the cake was easy; the recipe is simple and straightforward. The cake isn’t sticky and gooey because the caramel underneath the plums gets absorbed into the cake, turning it golden. The result is a cake that is lightly sweet, moist, and tender, and the plum flavor tart but mild.

Prep time: 60 minutes (includes cooling time)
Baking time: 55 minutes.
Cooling time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12-16 slices.

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water plus more for washing
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-6 medium-large plums, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges

1/2 cup crème fraîche* (I made my own as it’s not available in Bangkok)
2 tablespoons low fat milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
2 large eggs, beaten

Crème Fraîche for serving (Can use whipped cream instead)

*To make a quick crème fraîche, combine 1 1/2 cups milk with 1/2 cup Greek style yogurt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip until stiff peaks form. When the whisk is raised, the tips should slightly curl. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Prepare the plums. Preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil without stirring. Cook over high heat 5-7 minutes. While cooking, wash down the sides of the pot with a silicone pastry brush dipped in water. Watch the color—the bubbles will begin to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and add the 2 tablespoons butter.

Immediately pour the caramel into a 9×2 inch round metal cake pan, spreading it with a silicone spatula to cover the base. Layer the plum wedges in a circle all around the base of the pan to cover the caramel. You should have 2 rows forming a single layer.

Make the cake. In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 cup crème fraîche with the milk and vanilla. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat on low speed 30 seconds.

At low speed beat in the butter until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, another 30 seconds. Beat in the eggs also on low speed until just incorporated. Beat the batter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce to medium speed and beat in the crème fraîche mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape the batter over the plums in the pan, and gently spread the batter in an even layer. Pin a wet Magic Cake strip around the cake pan to keep the cake top from doming during baking.

Bake the cake in the center of the oven 55-60 minutes until golden and the cake surface springs back when lightly touched. Remove from heat and remove the Cake Strip. Cool cake in the pan on a wire cooling rack 30 minutes.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin blade around the edges to loosen it, then put the serving plate upside down on top. Invert the cake so that the pan bottom is on top. Holding the pan and plate together, gently shake them up and down. The cake will slip down onto the plate. Remove the pan. If a few pieces of plum have stuck to the pan bottom, slip them back into the cake. The plums will look black around the edges but they are not burnt. The color is due to the cooked plum skins. Slice cake into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche.



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.


chocolate buttercream frosting


This is only the second time I’ve ventured into the Italian buttercream frostings, a delicious confection for frosting cakes. Previously I made a malt buttercream for the chocolate malt layer cake: first the egg whites are whipped then hot syrup is added to the whipped egg whites.

I have discovered Italian meringues are well worth the trouble because the so-called “quick” or American buttercreams–whipping butter and sugar– are way too sweet. It’s true that when chilled, the Italian buttercream turns stiff into butter, but at room temperature, it is deliciously light, airy, and doesn’t seem to be as sweet even though a similar amount of sugar has been added to it.

This chocolate buttercream frosting is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe. It’s different from the traditional method in that the egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar are heated and then whipped. The addition of espresso coffee and rum intensify the chocolate flavors so I recommend adding them to the frosting. This recipe makes more than 4 cups of frosting because, after frosting 3 seven-inch round layers I had 3 cups left over.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Prep time: 15 minutes
Active time: 60 minutes (includes frosting the cake)
Yield: 4 cups

1 pound dark chocolate (at least 65% cacao)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons dark rum

Set a large pot filled one-third full of water. Heat it to simmering on the stove. Meanwhile, chop the chocolates and put them in a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. Stir the chocolates occasionally to melt. As the melting progresses, stir constantly so all the pieces melt and the chocolate becomes smooth. Set aside. Don’t turn off the heat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Mix until frothy. Scrape the mixture into another heat-proof bowl and set this over the simmering water. Stir constantly, warming the egg whites and dissolving the sugar and salt, about 3-5 minutes. Test the mixture by rubbing some of it between your fingers to be sure there is no sugar grit remaining. Scrape back into the mixing bowl.

Cake Baker’s Note: I rinsed out the mixing bowl before putting back the warmed egg white mixture.

Whip the egg whites on high speed until the meringue turns glossy and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. By now the bowl should feel cool to the touch.

Reduce to medium speed. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. The frosting will turn yellow and at times will look curdled. The volume will also deflate. Keep going, this is normal. Scrape down the sides.

Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and rum. Beat on medium speed until the chocolate mixture is blended. If the buttercream seems too soft, cool the mixture then beat it again. At the French Culinary Institute in NY, the chef put the bowl of buttercream in an ice water bath.

Frost the cake.

my dream cake

We’re getting close to our Songkran break, the Thai new year holiday. I’m planning on doing a lot of cooking and baking when I am home. For Easter, of course, and, well, also “just because!” Just because I want to.  I have been fantasizing about making this cake, the Crystallized White Rose Cake I saw on Butter and Brioche —because it’s so beautiful. Crystallized-White-Rose-Cake-940x627

It’s the kind of cake that has to be planned. I am searching for the ingredients and finding that two of them are particularly hard to find: rose extract and organic roses. One of the teachers at school tells me I should try Pahurat, the Indiantown of  Bangkok to find the rose extract. As for the organic roses, they have everybody stumped. What about orchids? They are edible and also very common. Every garden, nook, tree, and balcony have orchids hanging. When I am ready to bake this cake, I will cut  a spray of orchids growing in our pots upstairs, lovingly coat them with egg white, and sprinkle them with sugar.

hawaiian paradise cake, version 2.0


For my birthday I’ve made a pavlova the last three years. This year I decided to revisit the Hawaiian Paradise Cake, a three-layer flavored cake that’s pink, green, and yellow or orange.  This time I made each layer without using any food coloring at all. I think I like the all-natural cake better, even though the colors aren’t as vibrant. To achieve the flavors for each layer, I used a farang or Thai green guava for the top layer, strawberry preserves for the middle pink layer, and an extra egg yolk for the orange layer. The cake was frosted with a whipped cream icing; slightly tangy and not too sweet. I served the cake with my own fresh passion fruit syrup, chilled fresh mango, and a scoop of white chocolate and almond ice cream.

Hawaiian Paradise Cake, Version 2.0

Have at room temperature:
2 1/4 (281g) cups flour
2/3 cups (150g) white superfine sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons lime juice, divided
1/4 cup strawberry preserves, thinned with 2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup (2 oz) fresh guava pulp and skin
1/4 cup (2 oz) fresh orange juice, plus zest (juice and zest of 1 medium orange)
5 egg yolks plus one more
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon each flavoring, optional
2 teaspoons grated lime zest (lemon in original)
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white superfine sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Get 6 mixing bowls together and 3 eight- inch spring form cake pans, preferably non-stick. Do not grease and flour the sides or the bottom. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift flour with 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a second bowl, beat together oil, water, 5 egg yolks, vanilla, 2 tablespoons lime juice and lime zest until just combined. Mix yolk mixture into flour mixture until smooth. The consistency will be thick. Divide the batter into thirds and place in separate bowls.

3. Make the following additions but do not mix until after the juice and flavoring are in: In one bowl of batter, add the strawberry jam. In another, add the guava pulp and zest. In the third, add the orange juice and zest, plus the egg yolk. Add flavoring, if using.

4. Using a clean bowl and beaters free of grease, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide the whipped egg whites by thirds and add each third to the batters. Fold in gently. Pour each batter into a prepared cake pan.

Cake Baker’s Note: Wipe down the bowl and beaters with vinegar to be sure, or your whites won’t whip.

5. Put each pan in the oven. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove pans from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely. Run a thin sharp blade around the edges to loosen the cake. Remove the sides. Invert the cake and remove the bottom using a sharp thin blade. Insert the blade between the cake and the pan bottom and press away from the pan. Once the cake is released from the pan bottom, re-invert the cake for filling and frosting.

6. Fill and frost with whipped cream icing and glaze with passion fruit syrup (recipes to follow).

Whipped Cream Icing

1 8-oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup white superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups heavy cream

Combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts in a mixing bowl. While the mixer is running on medium speed, add the cream. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fill and frost the cake then refrigerate it until ready to slice and serve.

Passion Fruit Syrup (optional, for serving)

1/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup white superfine sugar
2 tablespoons water or orange juice
1/2 cup fresh passion fruit pulp

Mix the corn syrup, sugar, and juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the passion fruit pulp. Let cool. You can also put this in the fridge for 45 minutes to speed up the process.

An alternative to the corn syrup is to make a simple syrup. To the pan add 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water to the saucepan and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and, if desired, add a thickener. To 2 tablespoons corn starch add 1 1/2 tablespoons water. Mix well and stir into the syrup. Cool slightly. Add the passion fruit pulp. Stir to combine.

Chill the syrup until ready to serve.

To  serve, cut a slice of cake , spoon some fruit on the side, and pour some of the passion fruit syrup on top of the fruit, and if you like, on top of the cake too.  Delicious!


buttermilk country cake with whipped cream and mango


It has become so cool here in Bangkok in the early morning that the mosquitoes have come out in droves searching for a warm blooded meal. And I’m their target. So much for a good night’s sleep! Now, what can I say about this cake? Like all of Rose Berenbaum’s recipes in The Cake Bible, where this one is from, the measurements are exact and the method is unique. Instead of creaming butter with sugar, you are directed to mix all the dry ingredients first then mix them with the wet. I did make some notes to the method though (see the Cake Baker’s Notes). If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ll know that I’ve become a convert to the baking-by-weight method, so though I’ve included the measurements by volume, I strongly recommend weighing the ingredients on a kitchen scale. Here’s the buttermilk (sour milk, actually) country cake recipe, with some small adaptations. This is Thailand after all, and fresh mango is an integral part of desserts here.

Have at room temperature:
4 (74g) large egg yolks
2/3 (160g) cup buttermilk (OR: 1 tablespoon vinegar in a measuring cup topped with milk to 1 cup line)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (200g) cups sifted cake flour (sift then measure)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (200g) cup superfine sugar
8 (113g) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix in 1/2 tablespoon flour. Use this butter-flour mixture to grease one 9×2 inch spring form cake pan, bottom lined with waxed paper, then greased again.

Cake Baker’s Note: I used an 8×3 inch spring form pan. If your pan has a dark nonstick finish, reduce the heat to 325˚F.

In a medium bowl, lightly combine egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk or sour milk, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk flour mixture to combine. Add the butter and remaining buttermilk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed on a hand held mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula. The pan will be 1/2 full.

Cake Baker’s Note: The batter did not fill even 1/2 of the pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cake Baker’s Note: If your pan has a dark nonstick finish, test the cake after 25 minutes. In my aluminum 8×3 inch pan, the cake took 45 minutes to bake.

Cool cake in the pan on a rack 10 minutes. Loosen the sides and invert onto a wire rack. Remove paper circle and re-invert to cool completely.

Before serving, trim the dome off the top of the cake to level it. Whip 1 cup of cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar. For best results, chill the bowl and beaters for about 1/2 hour before using. When the cream forms stiff peaks, it is ready to spread. Spread whipped cream generously on top of the cake. I found that about 2/3 of the bowl will cover one 8×3 inch cake. Then I spread diced fresh mango on top of the whipped cream layer. Simply heavenly! I did not get to taste it before giving it away but I imagine eating this cake is like being in the tropics, where you become incredibly aware of intense flavors and textures: the sweet-tart mango, the delicate airy texture of cream, and the way the cake crumbles into moist perfect sweetness.