Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mango Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Back at around 20 weeks of my pregnancy, I suddenly had an urge to have a gender reveal party. We had actually sort of found out about the gender of the baby around the 12th week, but the finding was reconfirmed at 20 weeks via another ultrasound. 

At first, I thought, 'Who the hell really cares about the gender reveal of my unborn child?" But then I convinced myself that 1) it's an excellent excuse to get everyone I care about together, 2) I get to have a fun event to plan and decorate for during my time off work, and 3) I can have this party only for my first baby and never again so why not just go all out? 

I kept the color theme yellow and gray for gender neutrality. 

The gender reveal was to be done by cutting into a cake! 

The cake itself was a light spongy chiffon cake made with rich coconut milk with, of course, a bit of red food coloring for the gender reveal part. The cake layers were then spread with apricot jam, whipped cream, and generous amounts of sliced mangoes. 

The assembled cake was frosted with cream cheese frosting with a hint of coconut extract and covered in nutty toasted coconut. 

The party was so much fun! The majority of the guests guessed boy actually so cutting into the pink cake turned out to be a bit more dramatic. Thanks everybody for coming! 

During the gender reveal party, our friend Derrick devoured two giant slices of the cake. He loved the subtle coconut flavor combined with the sweet juicy mango and rich cream cheese frosting. So for his birthday, I decided to recreate the cake. 

I kept the filling and the cake the same minus the red food coloring and topped the cake with fresh fruit. Happy 30th!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Green Tea Shortbread Cookies and Black Sesame Mochi Cakes

Long overdue post!

A few months back, Tim's girlfriend Theresa organized a surprise birthday party for Tim at a winery in Half Moon Bay. I never knew such a cute winery existed in Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful sunny day and a whole picnic table was laid out with delicious food and sweetest little details like hand-written notes for Tim. As we hid behind the bushes waiting to jump out, Tim arrived and was pleasantly surprised to see everyone that he loved gathered to celebrate his special 30th birthday together. What a perfect day!

Since Tim loves green tea, mochi, and Asian desserts in general, I decided to bake something green tea and something mochi. After searching online for the perfect recipe, I followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and slightly modified it -- rather then using a cookie cutter, I shaped the dough into two logs and rolled them around in turbinado sugar to add the extra crunch. The logs were then refrigerated for a few hours and sliced into discs and baked until crisp. The result was crispy, buttery and crumbly shortbread cookies with the perfect amount of subtle green tea flavor. 

For something mochi, I baked black sesame mini mochi cakes with red bean filling. Adopted from this recipe, I lightly toasted and ground up black sesame seeds to mix into the batter. A dollop of sweet red bean paste was dropped into the batter right before it headed into the hot oven. These little gems turned out to have just the right amount of chew to them with lighter texture than traditional mochi.

It made me so happy to see Tim gobbling down these treats. Hope you had a great day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Curious George Cookies and Coconut Raspberry Cherry Crumble Bars

Several months ago was our good friend Jeff and Fay's daughter Addie's second birthday. And of course I couldn't show up empty handed to this special Curious George themed party.

For Addie, I used my simple sugar cookie dough from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, rolled it out and laid a printout of Curious George's face on top of the dough. I cut the outline out and then using a wooden skewer, went around and quick perforation for major facial features. 

After the cookies were baked, I used powdered sugar frosting (also from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook) and decorated them. Decorating the Curious George cookie  was a lot more labor intensive than anticipated so I ended up making only one giant cookie. This actually turned out to be a fiasco during the party -- multiple kids yelled and cried that they wanted the Curious George cookie but tough luck for them, the birthday girl claimed it in the end!

Lesson learned -- do not make only one Curious George cookie for kids' birthday parties.

For the adults, I wanted to make something more grown-up so I settled on Coconut Raspberry Cherry Crumble Bars. This was a variation of Raspberry-Cherry Crumble Bars from The Art and Soul of Baking. To add more texture and flavor, I added about half a cup of shredded unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds into the crumble dough which turned out beautifully.

The crumbly brown sugar oatmeal crust with almond and coconut provided just the right sweetness and crunch against the soft tart and chewy filling, all held together by the buttery bottom crust.

The party was a blast especially with Jeff dressed up as The Main in a Yellow Hat and holding Addie's little sister in a monkey costume. How adorable!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Christmas Egg Nog Trifle with Chocolate Mint Leaves

This post of waaaay overdue! With everything going on with new years and stuff, I am finally getting around to sharing my christmas project. 

After many years of getting each other gifts for christmas, our close friends were running out of gift ideas for each other. So two years ago, rather than the traditional gift exchange, we decided to hold a white elephant gift exchange. And this year to change things up, we organized a secret santa gift exchange. 

To celebrate this special occasion, I wanted to make a grand centerpiece dessert. I had already made a Buche de Noel last year so I needed something different. After browsing around, I came across this recipe and immediately knew that I had found just the thing I was looking for. 

I had never made chocolate leaves before but I was up to the challenge. Rather than using the camellia leaves as suggested by the recipe, I used readily available mint leaves instead. I simply melted bittersweet chocolate, set it over a warm bowl of water and started painting the mint leaves with the melted chocolate using a small paint brush. I used the bottom side of the mint leaves so that the intricate veins would be more prominent. Then each of the painted leaves were draped around the inside wall of a bundt pan so they would retain a curved shape as the chocolate was setting.  

After about 15 minutes in the refrigerator, mint leaves were carefully peeled off from the chocolate layer then voila - delicious chocolate mint leaves! With the beautiful vein patterns, flexibility, and affordability, mint leaves turned out to be perfect for this application. 

To add some christmas festivities, I brushed each leaf with shimmery gold and silver dust.

To the trifle itself, I topped if off with a layer of freshly whipped cream with a touch of vanilla and dusted it generously with unsweetened cocoa powder.

The trifle turned out beautifully and served as a stunning centerpiece on our scrumptious brunch table. The gift exchange was a huge success as well. What better way to spend the holidays eating delicious food with the ones you love?

Time to think about what to make this coming holidays...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pumpkin Apple Galette, Pear Raspberry Pie, Pumpkin Pie and more Pies

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is that I have an excuse to bake and eat a lot of pies. This past year was not an exception.

My two new pie obsessions are Pumpkin Apple Galette and Pear Raspberry Pie. When I first saw the Pumpkin Apple Galette recipe in Sunset Magazine, I instantly fell in love. I like anything pumpkin, and I love apple pies. Why didn't I think of putting the two together before?

To the recipe, I added more pumpkin pie spices (more cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger) to jazz it up with some more holiday spirit. The result was absolutely delicious especially when served with candied pecans and bourbon spiked whipped cream -- not too sweet, perfectly crispy thin crust.

I baked this galette twice this past fall and turned out delicious both times!

Another new favorite is the Pear Raspberry Pie. I first tasted this magical combo of fruit at Mission Pie, one of our go-to dessert places up in SF. The naturally soft, juicy pears turned out to be the perfect pie filling combined with tart raspberries. So I decided to recreate it at home.

I followed my regular apple pie recipe but used ripe Bosc pears with a touch of lemon juice and tossed the raspberries in at the end. The raspberries kept its vibrant red color providing a stunning visual when cut into the pie. I wish I had taken a photo of the pie wedge!

And then there was Thanksgiving. I made pumpkin puree by roasting and pureeing sugar pie pumpkin. Instead of the traditional pie crust, I used a combination of chocolate cookie crumbs and graham cracker crumbs this time. This pumpkin pie was the most intensely pumpkin-y pumpkin pie I've ever had in my life and the color was also brighter. What a difference the homemade puree makes! From now on, I will always make the puree myself.

Lastly, for my birthday, my friends surprised me with a wonderful brunch at Coqueta followed by a beautiful apple pie from Three Babes. It was absolutely delicious. The pie crust was thicker than most but perfectly flakey and crispy.

Until the day my pie crust looks as perfect as this one, I will continue to bake more pies!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Meyer Lemon Bars, S'mores, and Caramel Popcorn at Open House Dessert Bar

Mi Young Lee, my good friend from college and a talented real estate broker had her very first listing up for an open house a couple of months ago. As much of an over-achiever as she is, she decided to take on everything including hand-selecting and purchasing furniture, and staging the place on her own with the help of our another uber talented friend, June. 

To make the open house day extra special and memorable, Mi Young and June planned the day out meticulously with food and beverages. And I wanted to help them out by making some desserts to go with June's homemade mini quiches. 

I wanted to make something delicious, easy to transport, something that people can walk by, quickly grab and pop in their mouths. So I decided to make lemon bars, s'mores cereal treats I made for Ethel and Brian's wedding (because you can never go wrong with them) and caramel popcorn with M&Ms to add some color to the table. 

These special lemon bars were made from freshly picked meyer lemons from our friends' backyard -- sweet and fragrant with just the right amount of tanginess. I just love how they look on a white plate with the bright yellow color!

Other than the s'mores cereal treats, another recent obsession of mine has been making popcorn from scratch (not microwave). I love how you can be creative with flavors and the anticipation of seeing a pile of steamy white popped kernels when I open the pot lid gives me excitement. I simply tossed the freshly popped popcorns with homemade sea salt caramel, then baked them off in the oven to make them extra crunchy. Finally, Pretzel M&Ms -- my favorite -- were added for a pop of color. 

Along with other decorations, June made these adorable paper cones that were perfect for the popcorn. 

And as a huge fan of mason jars (they are so versatile), I had to include them in the decor so I made these name tags to go along with the desserts I made. 

Overall, I think June and I may have gone a touch overboard with the amount of food and decorations for an open house, but I absolutely loved being a part of it.  

Needless to say, the open house was a huge success with multiple offers and a final sale. With such a massive turnout and rave reviews on their first listing, I'm very excited to see where they goes from here. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baby Ape Peachs and Cream Cupcakes for Baby Grant

When my husband was at business school, his group of friends referred to themselves as APE. I won't say what it stands for (hint: it has to do something with being Asian and jobs) for various reasons, but their mascot naturally became Bathing Ape (Bape). So Ben, one of the founding members of Ape, and Wallis became proud parents of baby Grant in August, I wanted to bake a special cake for them and their newborn baby.  As I was browsing through Google search results for Bape, I came across Baby Milo -- baby Bape character -- perfect for baby Grant's special cupcakes! 

I baked simple sugar cookie Milos decorated with dark chocolate. Thankfully, Milo's circular head shape enabled me to punch them out with round cookie cutters. 

Because one of my favorite things about summer is sweet, juicy stone fruits, I decided to make peaches and cream cupcakes. I whipped up a batch of peach jam filling with fresh peaches from the farmer's market and a touch of cinnamon and vanilla. Then the light vanilla chiffon cakes were hollowed out and generously filled with this peach jam. 

The cupcakes were topped off with fluffy vanilla cream cheese frosting and milo cookies. 

Look at the glowing couple! These cupcakes were for the parents and the guests to enjoy this time around, but hopefully I will get to bake Grant his first Cakes by Ji cake to enjoy in the near future!  Congratulations Ben and Wallis!