Monday, 10 November 2014

Tips and tricks for Building a Barbie Cake

After my first barbie cake experience, I have learned a lot of things about cake decorating. I thought building Barbie cakes is a piece of cake (no pun intended). I mean, hey I can always bake the cake, build, stick the barbie in then frost away. Easy peasy, right? Not!!! To be honest, it is not easy especially for those who are starting cake decorating. Luckily, the cake was meant as a gift. The parents are thankful for the cake. I charge it to experience. I am thankful for them giving me the opportunity to make it.

So my take on this project are as follows

  1. Barbie legs are super duper long. You need to make at least 3 batches of 1.5" to 2" high cakes to fully make up the gown. That is total of 5-6 cakes. I used two x 6" cakes and four 8" cakes. Next time, I will use a two x 6" cake, two x 8" cake and one/two 10" cake.
  2. Choose the cake that is dense and easy to carve. White cake or moist chocolate cakes do the trick.
  3. To stack a 5-6 piece cake, it requires at least 3 dowels. This will prevent your tall barbie cake to tip over. I used straws to dowel and having barbie stick in the middle of the cake make it a center dowel.
  4. Use frosting that is durable enough to hold the cake together and keeping your piped decorations from falling. I made the mistake of crumb coating and thinly ice with swiss meringue and use american buttercream rosettes for final frosting. Big mistake! American buttercream slid off the moment I boarded the taxi. By the time I got to the venue, half of Barbie's gown has slid off. I suppose American butter cream is too heavy for my supposedly humid ready swiss meringue.
  5. Carve Barbie's ball gown cake on a particular angle to prevent the rest of the icing to slide off.
  6. Barbie's corset can be done using fondant. This was the best part of making it. Perhaps next time I will do an all fondant barbie next time. Luster dust is L-O-V-E!
  7. Don't expect the taxi to slow down for you. They do not know how to break.
  8. Bring your decoration kit when you deliver to fix your cake. Fortunately, I brought my icing bag with 2D tip with me. I used up all the plastic spoons and paper napkins I can find to scoop up the cake, clean up the mess and repipe the gown. Luckily, the design is simple enough and using a single color. I will die if it were an ombre cake.....

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Tips and Tricks

Update (April 9 2015): Some butters (particularly cheaper brands) have more water content than others, which can cause your SMBC to be less stable in humid weather. I noticed that french butters have less water content compared to cheaper brands. I suggest you experiment with various butter brands and see which one works for you.


Out of all the frostings I have ever made, this is probably my preferred frosting of choice. It is less sweet because I don't have to dump a lot of icing sugar to get the consistency I wanted. It is cheaper because you can use regular sugar compared to the cost of icing sugar which is almost 3x the cost per kilo.

The key to stable swiss meringue buttercream frosting are as follows:

  1. The ratio of the butter against the eggwhite. I use 1 eggwhite from large egg : 1/4 cup of butter : 1/4 cup sugar. Butter is susceptible to melting so I would recommend not to go beyond this measure.
  2. Cream of tartar is also added to add stability of the eggwhites.
  3. Let the buttercream set on the cake in the fridge overnight.

Below is my recipe for humid stable swiss meringue buttercream frosting. This recipe can frost about 6" cake with flowers or decorate an 8" caramel cake. Add another 1 set of eggwhite/sugar/butter ratio for 8" cake.

This buttercream can be made in batches and keeps well in an airtight container in freezer for a month or in the fridge for 2 weeks. Just put to room temp and beat them again to revive buttercream consistency.

It works well with gel and paste colors though it will yield a slight pastel color due to the yellowness coming from the butter.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting

2 eggwhites from large eggs (at least 55g eggs)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened (consistency of mayonaise)

Simmer water in a saucepan. Put a stainless steel bowl with eggwhites, sugar and cream of tartar on the saucepan (similar to a double broiler) and whisk until sugar is fully dissolved. To check if the sugar is fully dissolved, test a sample of the mixture and rub against your fingers for any sugar grains. For food safety reasons, I whisk until thermometer reach 160F.
Remove your mixing bowl saucepan and beat your eggwhites until stiff stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to touch (this is important.... otherwise your butter will melt and end up in a runny mess). Put beaters on low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Then put on medium and watch it like a hawk until mixture is pale and fluffy. Since your butter is soft enought, it will immediately achieve its buttercream consistency in minutes so be careful not to overbeat it.

To troubleshoot SMBC:
Mixture too runny : Put your bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes and try beating again.
Mixture is curdled: Continue beating until you achieve buttercream greatness.

Enjoy and happy frosting!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Famous Amos Copycat Cookies

I have been meaning to post this recipe if it was not for the hectic schedule baking and minding the family.

I found this recipe in Baking Corner Facebook page and I knew I had to make it right away. This recipe calls for shortening which constitutes its crumbly countenance and delightful chewy texture. I have my share of homemade chocolate chip cookies but this is close to my ideal. How I wish I have to time to experiment and combine this recipe with my almost subway choco chip cookies. Maybe one day.... but not today.

In the meantime, here is the recipe:


  • 1/4 cup (50g) Granulated Sugar
  • 150g Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 cup (120g) Butter
  • 1/8 cup (30g) Shortening
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup (220g) All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) chocolate chips. Add more if you like

Cream butter and shortening until creamy. Add white and brown sugar. Beat until sugar is well blended into the butter. Add {B} and mix until smooth. Sift {C} into the butter mixture and mix well. Fold in {D}. Scoop a teaspoon onto the baking pan 2 inches apart. Bake at 175C (350F) about 12-15 minutes. Cookies will be soft after baking so use a spatula or turner. Put cookies in a cooling rack. These cookies will harden as it cools. Place in an airtight container.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Baking 101: Getting to Know Your Oven

If you are about to embark on your baking journey, there is one basic thing that you need to nail down before attempting to create a delish masterpiece to devour:

"Know Thy Oven"

The success of every baking session is at the mercy of this temperemental piece of machinery. You should know its quirks as to how to control its temperature and balancing out heat across baked goods. Once you have mastered this one, it can be your partner and a friend helping you elevate to the next level.

So how to tame the beast? Here are some pointers:

  1. Get an oven thermometer. Not one but two.
    Yes you heard me. Two! One that mounts on the wall and one that can be attached or placed in the middle of the oven. Why? For horribly small ovens, those hanging thermometers will not work. So I recommend CDN Oven thermometer that comes with a magnet that you can attach to the side of the wall.
    Then the other one you can place in the middle of the oven where you want to put your bakes. This is to gauge if your oven has reached preheat temp range. The temp on the mounted thermometer maybe different than the middle section thus you need to have at least two. Then remove the second one and use the mounted thermometer to guesstimate how your oven thermostat is fluctuating during baking.
  2. Do a test run at least once
    Turn on the oven and set to the maximum possible thermostat available in your dial then observe. Once it hits max temp, you dial down lower and see how fast the temp changes to the setting indicated. This helps you to manage your oven's behaviour for those recipes that requires change of temp in between bakes. This is also a good indicator on how far your oven can go for max temp.
  3. Bake cookies
    Baking cookies will give you a good indication on the heat spots in your oven. Heat spots are areas in your oven that is hotter than your thermostat setting, thus gives an uneven browning. You can also try switching around your baking tray to see if it evens out the browning and make a mental note to do that in every bake. Some bakers would avoid heat spots to prevent over browning.
  4. Make a sponge/chiffon cake
    Nothing is more fragile than making a sponge/chiffon cake. Sudden fluctuations in the oven thermostat and it can send your cake to failville. Making this will give you a good indication on how stable is your oven thermostat. I once had an oven where I made chiffon cakes and 2 out of 3 cakes will sink like the titanic. Later on, I realised that my oven's thermostat is unstable that cause my cakes to sink. So I took the executive decision to change my oven and I have been successful eversince.

I hope these tips help you understand your oven more and become successful in your baking endeavors.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Tips and Tricks for Stable Caramel frosting

Update (April 9 2015): After many times making this recipe, I noticed that letting the water boil until all sugar is melted allows more water to evaporate which in turn reduces the amount of liquid in your frosting. Also, make sure that the evaporated milk is just about to start to boil before you pour into your eggyolk mixture. Otherwise, you will cook your eggyolks fast like scrambled eggs. Lastly, I noticed that reducing the amount of butter helps its stability.


For those who follow the Caramel cake recipe from Corinne in her blog, the Heart of Mary, I'm sure some of you are having challenges in creating a polished look without melting similar to those caramel cakes being sold in the northern part of Manila.

After making my fair share of caramel cakes in the humid weather like Singapore, here are my tips to achieve a stable caramel frosting that can survive the trip outdoors from point A to point B. I have been successful transporting this cake without a cooler bag travelling within an hour in an airconditioned MRT. I have also witnessed this cake standing up on its own for 1-2 hours indoors at room temp. However, do not tempt fate and display this under the sun if you do not want to have a frumpy looking caramel cake.

  1. Increase cornstarch amounts from 1.5 tbsp to 2 tbsp
  2. Pour 3/4 or 4/5 of the mixture on a cold cake while it is still warm. The cake should be chilled at least 4 hours (as in super cold but not frozen). This helps set the caramel immediately. Tip the cake to let the cake flow on the sides but do not need to be perfect. I guarantee some of the frosting will overflow to your cakeboard and drip at the sides. Do not fret as you can still fix this later which I will explain later.
  3. After the first frosting, chill in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes. I take this time to do some clean-up or prep for my next bake.
  4. Take out the cake and get yourself an offset spatula or bowl scraper then scrape the overflow on your cake board back to the sides of the cake. Then, contour the sides to even out bumps and gaps. Use the remaining frosting in the saucepan to add more frosting on the sides. At this point, do not touch the top of the cake if you want to keep a smooth finish. Bring it back to the fridge to cool for another 15-20 mins.
  5. Take it out once again and do a final smoothing with the spatula. Then clean out leftover caramel on the cakeboard with moistened warm paper towel.
  6. Return to the fridge and leave the cake and caramel frosting to set (and undisturbed) overnight.
Hope this helps. Let me know what you think or if you have other suggestions to tame this delectable caramel frosting.

Italian Meringue Recipe (Less sweet version)

Italian Meringue is the most stable of all Meringue frostings and probably the most cumbersome. Making this recipe requires you to be a multi-tasking ninja. Once the hot syrup hits soft ball stage, it needs to be poured into the eggwhite mixture already in soft peaks stage. Creating the eggwhites ahead of the syrup will lose its shape over time and needs to be beaten again whereas making the syrup ahead will allow the syrup cool down and not achieve the perfect emulsion that create a nice pillowy meringue.

So here is my recipe for Italian Meringue:

5 eggwhites (from large eggs)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water

Put sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan with candy thermometer attached and heat over medium low. Brush sides with water to prevent crystalization of the syrup. Wait until syrup hits soft ball stage (bet 230-240F).

Meanwhile, beat your eggwhites and cream of tartar until soft peak stage. Once the syrup is ready, turn mixer on low and pour the hot syrup on the side of the bowl. Then bring back mixer to medium then high speed until stiff peak stage.

This recipe divides well into halves. I divided this recipe proportion to 2 eggwhites and able to frost 24 cupcakes.

This frosting is also best grilled in the oven using only top heating element or use a torch burner for a toasted marshmallow effect.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Emergence of Consciousness

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." 
 - Anthony J. D'Angelo

My love for baking started with a childhood memory.  My Dad would bring us to Dulcinea, which is a patisserie and cafe in Manila, for a sweet afternoon treat.  I remember how I felt the moment I went through the door.  The smell of baked goods was inviting and the visuals in the display case were mouthwatering.  He would let us choose three treats in the display case for us to eat and I would always thought that is it is enough for my awfully sweet tooth.  I would always choose the eclair and cream puff for the first two as they are my favorites and one different thing to try.  Sometimes, we would have the occasional churros with a cup of very rich chocolate drink similar to tsokolate-eh.  

Dulcinea cafe in modern times. 
Photo courtesy of
Dulcinea has always been a happy place.  

Fast forward twenty years later in Singapore, I have never found such a place that can replicate that feeling I had.  Blame it on the way of life in the fast paced urban jungle.  Cafes are smaller.  Display cases of sweets unimaginative and uninviting.  People are always in a hurry.  Coffee always to go.  The good ones cost a lot more.    

So as the Little Teochew has said in her blog, it is better to bake yourself than buy from those cafes that cost you an arm and a leg.  

And she is right.

Anna Olson in action
Photo courtesy of
So I lived my life vicariously through food blogs, AFC and Food network.  I am also an ardent fan of Anna Olson, whose show 'Bake with Anna Olson' was shown on the Asian Food Channel.  I was hooked for weeks watching her mastery over pastries and cakes.  When the season ended, I was heartbroken and waited for the next run.  I had to scour youtube to get a glimpse of her and her baking prowess.  

She made it look so easy that I thought "Hey!  I can do this myself."

So I have researched some easy recipes from food blogs that I follow and baked my first bake.  It was a banana bread.  And it was catastrophic.   It is gummy and beyond edible.  It turns out that I did not have the right tools and techniques despite my several attempts.    So I built up my tools starting with a proper scale and an oven thermometer.  I have also read baking books to build up on knowledge about baking techniques.  I loved Alton Brown's books and Anna Olson's.  I have read cookbooks like novels (read from start to finish) and picked ones that I like to make myself.  

It took me more than two year to understand the precise science of baking.  It is not something you can wing it and see how it goes.  You have to be exact in your measurements and ingredients because once it goes into the oven.... there is no turning back.

After tons of practice with no formal training and with feedback from friends (who are willing to be guinea pigs), I think I am getting the hang of it and I cannot go through the day without thinking of a recipe that I want to try out.  I can't think of anything but cakes... and I dream of it sometimes.  

Yes I am a cake-head.  This is the aftermath of a sweet-tooth baker wannabe.  

So here I will chronicle my ongoing journey in baking and pastry.  I know some of you I knew personally have been inspired to try making some of my Food for the Gods and other bakes.  This blog will explain my techniques how I approach each bake as well as some valuable lessons that you can do at home when you attempt to make your own creations.  Maybe one day I will share my secret for those spongy soft Food for the Gods recipe....  

So I'm Monica of Dulce de Leche bakes and welcome to my world.