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Monday, December 24, 2012

More Christmas Baking

Sunday is normally my gym day. Ok, I have to admit last week I didn't go either but it was because we had a Christmas party to go to and this week was due to the fact that I have too much to do before Christmas. After frosting the cookies in the morning, I did some more shopping. Came home and made another cheesecake for my brother Cliff to take back to Philly then got ready to go to dinner with my cousins. When I got back it was time to get back to making more delicious treats.

I made lemon bars for my friends Jocelyn and Eli. Made more of the copy cat Twinkies cakes. Then made vanilla cakes and chocolate cakes. Originally the vanilla cake is for the trifle and the chocolate cakes are for a 3 layer cake for my sister in law's Christmas Eve party. Of course I have to make things more complicated and made a Checkered cake.

Twinkies copy cat cakes and Lemon bars. 

Sugar cookies and chocolate chips cookies (made by J). 

I bought this Checkered cake kit years ago and probably only used it twice. Since I have vanilla and chocolate cakes, it's the perfect time to make it again. There are two ways to make the cake checkered. One is following the instructions and filled the cake pans with alternating colors of cake batters (while using the plastic guide) or just bake two sets of cakes and use the plastic guide to cut the rounds out and assemble the cakes. I went with the latter, which is a pain in the ass. Don't ask me why I did it that way. I think all the baking and lack of sleep is affecting my brain.

I'm so glad this baking marathon is ending soon. Tomorrow all I have to do is to make the chocolate frosting and frost the Checkered cake and on Christmas day I just have to make the fresh whipped cream and assemble the trifle which is super easy. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Since I'm back to working full-time, I don't bake or cook as much. My new job is very demanding and fast-paced so by the time I get home or when the weekend rolls around I just want to sit around do nothing. I'm so glad I have the weekend to prep for Christmas this year or else it would end up being like Thanksgiving where I totally slacked off.

So far I've made a brownie topped with mixed berry jam and drizzled with white chocolate for our company potluck on Friday. Today I made red bean mantous, cheesecake and sugar cookies. I left the sugar cookies unfrosted and will frost them tomorrow.

In the past I use a standard sugar cookie dough that requires chilling but I saw an interesting sugar cookie recipe from In Katrina's Kitchen. It doesn't require chilling before rolling and holds it's shape very well.

You can find the recipe from Katrina's blog. The only difference was that I used 2 tsp of lemon zest instead of the 1 tsp of almond extract.

I tasted a unfrosted one and it's definitely a winner. It's not overly sweet so once you frost the cookies you feel like you can have more than one without feeling like you are in a sugar coma.

1 lb block of butter!

Ready to be frosted tomorrow! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Recap

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I'm very thankful for having such great family and friends.

Normally for Thanksgiving I would make tons of desserts and sides but this year I got lazy. I just went back to work full time after a year of hiatus so didn't really have the time or energy to make any fancy.

I made a mixed berries cheesecake, egg tarts (popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan) and apple sausage corn bread stuffing. I forgot to take a pic of the stuffing though.

On Black Friday, unlike most people we go trap shooting. It's a tradition with J's family but this year my cousin Tina, her husband Ian and also our friend Joe came along for the fun.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mini Tanyuan (小湯圓) (圓仔)

Tanyuan is a kind of Chinese/Taiwanese snack made from glutinous rice flour. To not bored you with all the details, you can read more about it on Wikipedia. There are different types of Tanyuan. You start with the basic dough made with rice flour,  then either add different flavorings to the dough or fill the little round dough balls with sweet or savory fillings. 

Mini Tanyuan (小湯圓) (圓仔)
  • 2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice flour
  • approximately 1/2 cup warm water
  • food coloring (optional)
In a small bowl, take 1/2 cup of the glutinous rice flour and mix with 1/3 cup of warm water until it becomes dough ball, flatten the dough ball. In a small saucepan, heat up about 3 cups of water until it boils. Add the flatten dough ball into the boiling water and boil until the dough ball floats to the top. 

In a large bowl, take the cooked dough ball and add it to the rest of the glutinous rice flour. Slowly knead in the cooked dough to the rice flour with your hand. Be careful since the cooked dough is hot. Add warm water couple tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together, sort of like play dough. 

Divide the finished dough in half and color half of it with red coloring. Roll the dough into log-shape then cut into equal pieces (pending on how large you want your Tanyuan to be). Shape each pieces into rounds. 

To cook, add the finished Tanyuan into boiling water and boil until they float to the top. Once they float to the top, let them continue to boil for about 2 minutes then spoon out the cooked Tanyuan into either sugar water or red bean soup. 

I placed the cooked Tanyuan in ice water to make
them more chewy

Served with sugar water made from brown sugar. 

Keep in mind that these Tanyuan are flavorless, so you have to serve them into some sort of flavored soup. Some people also put Tanyuan on top of shaved ice. 

*I normally make a batch in advance and freeze the Tanyuan in an air-tight container. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Animal Print Cake

I know in my previous post I said I was going to use the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake for the bottom tier  and red velvet for the top layer of the 60th birthday cake for my friend's mother in law, well I changed my mind. I guess this is what happens when I am stuck inside the house due the the heavy snow fall outside cause by the nor'easter.

For the chocolate cake, it's a combination of Ina Garden's Beatty's Chocolate Cake and also some great advice I found on the Cake Central forum. I went with Swiss Meringue Buttercream since in my opinion it is 100x better than the common American Buttercream (butter or shortening and powered sugar). Meringue based Buttercreams are not overly sweet with a light/fluffy texture. Beyond Buttercream, formerly from Scratch, SF explained in details on why meringue based buttercreams are infinitely better than the American Buttercream.

Here is the run down of what the tiers consist of:

Top Tier- Cakeman Raven's Red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting.
Bottom Tier- Chocolate cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe from Sweetapolita).

The cake is covered in fondant then the sides are covered in cheetah/leopard print sugar sheets. Accents are in black and red.

Christi's twist on Hershey's Chocolate Cake
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup strong hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. 

In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Add  in eggs, sour cream, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the hot coffee and boiling water (batter will be very thin). Divide the batter equally between the two 9 inch cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes then turn it out onto wire racks to cooled all the way. Frost your cooled cakes with your favorite frosting. 

Light and fluffy true buttercream. Non of that fake
shortening/powdered sugar combo!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Halo 4 Artwork From My Brother Josh

My brother Josh is a very talented concept artist. He has worked on many highly rated video games (Halo 4, Call of Duty Black Ops, etc...) and also done freelance for TV/movies. He has recently posted on his blog of a small portion of what he had done for Halo 4. Halo is a multi-billion dollar video game franchise owned by Microsoft Studios.

Click on the link to see the rest on his blog. He will be uploading more in the future.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I will be making a cake for a friend's MIL's birthday this weekend. It will be a two-tier cake, red velvet and chocolate. I will be using the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake recipe for the chocolate tier but I was looking for a different red velvet cake recipe than the one I have used in the past. The red velvet recipe I had use in the past results in a dark red color and also it's a dense cake. I wanted something lighter so after much search I came across the Cakeman Raven recipe on

I remembered watching the episode of Bobby Flays Throwdown where Cakeman Raven from Brooklyn won with his red velvet cake. Since this is a a test batch, I cut the Cakeman Raven recipe in half. The result is a light moist cake that is brightly colored. I did altered the recipe a little.

Souther Red Velvet Cake Cupcakes
Inspired by Cakeman Raven recipe
makes 12 standard size cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1tbs red food coloring (I prefer Wilton No Taste Red)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liner into the cupcake pan.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the remaining wet ingredients until well incorporated. Add the dry sifted ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth, do not over mix! 

Fill each cupcake liner up to 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until when you insert a toothpick into the center of a cupcake and it comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transport them to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe! Just make sure you cut the frosting recipe in half or you will be left with too much frosting, not a bad thing in my book. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Chocolate Chips Toffee Cookies

Being near the shoreline of CT, our area was hit hard by Storm Sandy. Many people near the beach lost their homes and many people are still without power after 5 days. Our house was lucky enough to only loosing power for about two hours and two small trees that were down. However, we didn't get internet/cable back for about 5 days. J and I feel very lucky and blessed.

There are towns in NJ and NY that are basically destroyed. Our family do a annual trip to Jersey Shore (Seaside Park and Seaside Heights) for my father in law's birthday and we are very sad to see all the images of the devastation to the area. The boardwalk got washed away and homes were smashed.

 I've decided to make some cookies since I haven't bake in a while, almost 3 weeks!

Chocolate Chips Toffee Cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of room temperature butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Hershey's Heath Toffee Bits
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a big bowl, cream together the brown sugar and granulated sugar until the color is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and eggs, mix well. Add the flour mixture from the small bowl into the wet mixture in the big bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits. Place the cookie dough into the fridge and let it rest for about 30 minutes. This also makes it easier to scoop. 

While you are waiting for the dough to rest, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Scoop the dough with a cookie scoop (about 1 heaping tbs) and drop onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Wait about 2-4 minutes before eating so you don't burn your mouth!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Panko Bread Crumbs

This past Saturday we went up to Boston to help my cousin Angela move into her new apartment. Since she knows there aren't any Asian bakeries around us, she bought me a bunch of goodies from her favorite bakery. Unfortunately the loaf of white bread got squished during the chaos of moving furnitures so I thought why not make them into homemade Panko bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs is  what's normally known as Japanese bread crumbs. It's not finely ground as the normal "Western" bread crumbs. It has a flaky crispy texture.

You can use any kind of bread but I like using the white bread from Asian bakeries the best. The Asian white bread is chewier and more dense than the white bread you see in "Western" markets.

Today I used a little over half of loaf of bread, you get about 5 cups of bread crumb.

First you remove the crusts. It's optional if you don't mind your Panko not being snow white in color.

Tear or cut the crustless slices of bread into chunks. Use the food processor to make the chunks into very coarse bread crumbs. Do not crowd the processor, only fill the bowl about 3/4 of the way full. I had to repeat this step several times since I only have a 4 cup processor.

Spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs feel dry. You will want to mix the bread crumbs couple times while baking to insure even drying. Be careful not to brown the bread crumbs.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Break the bread crumbs up with your fingers, they tend to stick together a little. Let the bread crumbs cool completely. You can store the bread crumbs in an air tight container or resealable plastic bag for several months in the freezer or 4 weeks in room temperature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

I don't eat Thai food very often but whenever I do, I almost always get Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango for dessert. Sticky rice or sweet glutenous rice is very common in Asian cooking. It is a very versatile ingredient, great for sweet or savory dishes. I found a fairly easy recipe from The and just customized it to my liking. Instead of steaming I used a rice cooker to cook the sticky rice.

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
2-4 servings

Sticky rice 
  • 1 cup sticky rice (a.k.a. glutinous, sweet rice)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tbs raw or white sugar, divided
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk (unshaken), separate the cream from liquid
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp corn starch
  • 2 ripe mangos, diced or sliced
Open the unshaken can of coconut milk, you will notice that the cream will be on the top. Spoon the cream part into a small bowl for later use. Depending on the brand you use, you might get more cream than milk (due to fat content varies with each brand).

Soak the 1 cup of sticky rice with enough water to cover for about 1-2 hours. Rinse the soaked rice several times and drain well. Place the sticky rice in the rice cooker and add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of coconut milk liquid. Press the start button and when the cooker switched from cook to warm, let the rice sit in the cooker for about 5 minutes. 

You will have to make two sauces, one to mix into the rice and one thick sauce to spoon onto the mango and rice. 

Thin sauce for rice: heat up 1 cup of the liquid coconut milk with two tbs of sugar, 3/4 tsp salt until the sugar dissolves. Mix the cooked sticky rice into the thin sauce and let the rice sit in the pot for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice absorbs all the liquid.

Thick topping sauce: in a small sauce pan, heat up 1/8 tsp salt, 1/2 tbs sugar and 1/2 cup coconut cream.  In a separate bowl, whisk together a few teaspoons of water and the cornstarch. Whisk this cornstarch slurry into the coconut cream mixture and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes. 

To serve, spoon 1/3 cup of coconut sticky rice onto a plate and arrange mango on top of the rice. Spoon couple tsps of the thick topping sauce on top of the mango and rice. 

Separating cream from milk

1/2 water, 1/2 coconut milk

Ready to cook! 

Cooked sticky rice with thin sauce.

Let it sit for 15 minutes. 

It's nice and thick! 

Put as much or as little mango on top of the rice.