Pandan Cupcakes with Kaya Whipped Cream Frosting

For some reason, I have been craving a taste of home lately. I tried my best with my version of comfort food: century egg porridge. But I wanted something sweet. I wanted something that tastes like home but with my own unique twist. And thus I present, a fusion of East meets West: pandan cupcakes with kaya whipped cream frosting. The English word for pandan is screwpine. I only found out about that recently, actually. Kaya is a coconut and egg jam that is typically flavored with either pandan or gula melaka, i.e. palm sugar.

I googled “pandan cupcakes”, and found a recipe that included yogurt. I had a bucket of it sitting in my fridge, which I thought would substitute for chocolate pudding if I added cocoa powder and sweetener in it, but that didn’t work out quite so well. I don’t really like yogurt by itself – it’s usually too sweet, or too sour – and it just feels very gloopy in the mouth. I won’t say no to froyo, though.

The cupcakes had a nice brown rim on the edge of the cupcake, and it really provided a nice textural contrast to the cupcake. I’m not extremely fond of the texture itself. The recipe called for cake flour, but I only had all-purpose flour so I used that instead. Perhaps that created a less tender crumb.

The cupcake had a texture not unlike like fa gao. It was slightly rubbery, I thought. That’s not a good thing though. I cored the cupcakes and added a small amount of kaya in it, just for a nice little hit of kaya, but the kaya I got was very mediocre. I wouldn’t want anymore in my cupcake. The brand of the kaya is Yeo’s. It was the only brand available – I didn’t have a choice! Maybe I could try my hand at homemade kaya some day… some day.

Pandan Cupcakes with Kaya Whipped Cream Frosting
Adapted from My Kitchen:My Laboratory
Makes 7 cupcakes

3/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose, you’d be fine if you did too but cake flour would yield a more tender crumb)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
6 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup non-fat, plain yogurt
1/2 tsp pandan paste
7 teaspoons of kaya, approximately

Line 7 cupcake tins; and preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix yogurt and pandan paste; set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl till light and fluffy. Add egg and mix till incorporated. Add 1/3 portion of flour mixture to butter mixture. Add 1/2 of yogurt mixture to butter mixture. Add another 1/3 of flour to butter mixture. Add remaining yogurt mixture to butter mixture. Add remaining flour to butter mixture.

Divide into 7 cupcake liners and bake for 18 minutes, turning from front to back midway. Cool in pan for 7 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

When completely cool, core cupcakes. I used a narrow knife and cut a pyramid-shaped piece out in the middle. Fill holes with kaya. Do not overfill.

Kaya Whipped Cream Frosting
Makes enough to frost 7 cupcakes, and then some to lick from the bowl

1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons kaya (or to taste)

Add sugar to heavy cream. Beat till soft peaks form. Fold in kaya. Frost on completely cool cupcakes.

Chocolate Layer Cake

I don’t know if you know this, but most times, my baking experiments are driven by a need to use up existing ingredients. For this chocolate layer cake, I really wanted to use up my expired buttermilk and the failure of a chocolate frosting I made for a salted caramel chocolate cupcake. In a stroke of genius, Tom suggested that I use the butter-heavy frosting to replace the butter in the cake. I added about a tablespoon of oil in addition to make up for the lower fat content. (The chocolate frosting was made of unsweetened chocolate, butter, and sugar. Unsweetened chocolate has about 50-55% of cocoa butter. Fat content in pure butter is higher than the fat content in chocolate and butter and sugar.)

I thought the cake was very good. It was moist and chocolatey. It’s a denser sort of cake, but I liked it. I think adding substituting chocolate frosting for butter upped the chocolate flavor and also made for a sweeter cake. The chocolate frosting was crap by itself, though. I think it’s because I used natural cocoa powder as opposed to Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been processed to neutralize the acids in it, and has a more delicate taste.

Chocolate Layer Cake
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes half a 9-inch round cake

1/2 cup boiling hot water
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (I used 1/2 cup of the chocolate frosting recipe listed below and added 1 tbsp oil)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/8 cup buttermilk (I used 1%)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, or 325 F if using black cake pans.
2. Line a 9 inch round pan with parchment and grease the sides.
3. Combine water and cocoa in a bowl and stir until smooth. Reserve.
4. Mix together dry ingredients. Reserve.
5. In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars.
6. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir buttermilk into cocoa mixture.
7. Add alternately with dry ingredients in 3 additions.
8. Pour into pans.
9. Bake 28-38 minutes or until a toothpick comes out barely clean. Cool and frost.

I used a light-colored pan and mine took 30 minutes. I let my cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, and when I removed it, it was still warm but it stayed intact.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from 52 Cupcakes
Makes way too much. I halved the original recipe; I recommend halving it again.

1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon boiling water
1 1/8 cups (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/8 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month in an air tight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth again.

Century Egg Porridge

I just had to break out one of my favorite comfort foods. Century egg porridge. Hailing from Singapore, century egg porridge is one of those foods that I used to have for lunch after school. Piping hot and gruelly with minced pork, ginger and scallions, it’s a satisfying and also a low-calorie meal. It’s also very easy and quick to make, and uses up leftover rice in a jiffy. Porridge, or congee as it is more commonly called in America, is usually cooked two different ways: thick or soupy.

This is thick:

And this is soupy:Personally, I like my porridge soupy. It might have something to do with the fact that I am descended from the Teochew people, and they are known for their predilection for watery congee. In the second picture, I had actually used some leftover broth from chicken and vegetable soup to cook the porridge. I can’t quite explain how much I love porridge. I could eat it for all three meals with condiments like preserved mustard greens and fermented spicy bean curd I won’t get sick of it.

There isn’t really a fixed proportion of ingredients for this meal – it really depends on how you want it to taste.

Century Egg Porridge
Makes 2-3 servings

1 cup leftover rice
2 1/2 cups water or broth
1 1/2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger strips
4 oz of minced pork, seasoned with salt and light soy sauce
2 century eggs, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
Light soy sauce to taste
White pepper to taste (black pepper is fine)
Salt to taste
1 scallion, chopped

Add rice to water and put on high heat till boiling. Once boiled, lower heat to medium and cook till porridge is close to desired consistency. Add minced pork in small chunks. Increase to high heat, and cook till boiling again. Lower heat to medium and add ginger and century eggs. Add light soy sauce, pepper and salt to taste.

To serve, garnish with chopped scallions.

Red Velvet (Albino) Half-Cake

I made a red velvet cake – without red food coloring. I love red velvet cake. I don’t know what is so irresistible about it. Is it the contrast between the deep red cake and the snow white icing? Or is it just the inexplicable flavor of the cake that you can’t put your finger on? Well, this cake I made proves that red velvet cake is delicious even without the red food dye.

It’s called a half-cake because I only made one layer and cut it into half. It is such a sumptuous treat for such a simple cake. There was no butter in it, but the oil made it very moist and flavorful (and a lot easier to mix up too – creaming butter without a mixer is a huge pain). The whipped cream frosting is very simple, and would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to whip the cream by hand. But hey, the lack of fancy tools to aid my baking helps me to 1) bake less and 2) work out more! And oh, my frosting skills are not quite there yet.

One thing I noted was that the cake sunk a little bit in the center. I don’t know if it’s because I substituted out self-rising flour, or what it is.
Red Velvet Half-Cake with Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes half a 9-inch round cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 7/8 teaspoons baking powder
5/8 teaspoon salt
(above three ingredients are substitutes for self-rising flour; original recipe uses 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour)
1 tablespoon natural (not dark) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon red wine or any type of regular vinegar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch round cake pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the sides.

Mix the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring together in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and sugar. Using a heavy duty scraper or large spoon, add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the egg mixture alternately in three parts, stirring until flour is mixed in.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pan. If using a springform, you can remove the sides and invert.

Let cool completely.

Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Allrecipes
Frosts a half-cake, and then some

1 cup heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make frosting, whip heavy cream till soft peaks form. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla till creamy. Fold into whipped cream.

To make a layer cake, cut the cake round in half. Ice one half. Stack second half on top and ice the whole half-cake.

It’s easier to whip cream when the bowl, whisk, and cream is very cold. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar from the 1 cup into the cream before whipping helps it whip up faster.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

One of the best recipes I’ve found. Right amount of cragginess, crispy and chewy, great texture. The use of brown sugar adds a pronounced molasses flavour. I overbaked them a little, but chilling them before baking helps to preserve height and cragginess.

Cooks’ Illustrated Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookie
Adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated
Makes 8 cookies

5/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
5/8 cups rolled oats , old-fashioned
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/8 cup white chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
3/4 cups packed brown sugar , preferably dark
2 tbsp large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 1 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, cranberries, and white chocolate.

3. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat mixture; mix until just incorporated.

Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide dough evenly into 8 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1 inch thickness. Chill for 30 minutes. Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, rotate them front to back and top to bottom, then continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet, and shiny in cracks), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Do not overbake.

5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

The recipe for these cupcakes are from Magnolia Bakery. I didn’t like them too much, though. The cheesecake filling wasn’t very sweet and neither was the cake. However, the cupcake was much improved upon chilling. The cake took on a brownie-like texture, and the cheesecake filling felt smooth and velvety.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 9 cupcakes

6 oz cream cheese, not softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp large egg, room temperature
1/6 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

7/8 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder – Hershey’s Dark
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with 9 paper cups.

In a stand mixer, beat the cold cream cheese until fairly smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; mix well set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the vegetable oil and sugar – I did this with a hand-held electric mixer, but a whisk would probably be fine. The mixture was kind of thick and grainy and didn’t hold a lot of air.

Mix the buttermilk and vanilla together in a cup, then add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the oil mixture alternately, stirring rather than beating, until flour is incorporated.

Divide the chocolate batter evenly among the muffins tins and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake in preheated oven on center for 28-30 minutes. Cool at room temperature for about half an hour and then chill until very cold.

The cupcakes came out a little dry. I used natural cocoa powder, not Dutched or dark. I’d bake them a little less and cool in the pan for maybe 20 minutes instead. I didn’t like the mini chips in the cheese filling. Might use different chocolate or eliminate them in the future.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Trifle

Ooh la la. This is a personal creation. It’s pretty delicious, and very easy to make. No bake, just assemble and you’re ready to go.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Trifle
Serves 2-3

For cream cheese flavored whipped cream:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp milk

Add sugar to heavy cream. Whip heavy cream till soft peaks form. (Tip: keep heavy cream chilled, and chill bowl and whisk prior to whipping.) Add milk to cream cheese. Mix till evenly mixed.

For rest of trifle:
5 graham cracker sheets
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
4 tbsp caramel sauce with1 tsp salt

Layer in a glass bowl or any bowl with high sides in this order: graham crackers, whipped cream, caramel sauce, chocolate chips for about three layers. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Caramel Sauce

Sweet, unctuous caramel sauce with notes of vanilla and a nuttiness from the caramelized sugar. I’ve discovered that it works fantastic with cream biscuits. Drizzle a generous tablespoon of caramel sauce on a halved biscuit and you have a fireworks explosion of cream on cream in your mouth.

Caramel Sauce
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network
Makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 7 to 10 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don’t worry – the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.

Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.

Cream Biscuits

These biscuits melt in your mouth and are a delight to eat. Smear on some grape jelly and a pat of butter and you have a delicious dessert/appetizer/breakfast/snack. For an added oomph, drizzle some homemade caramel sauce. Desserts should account for every meal. The original recipe says sugar is optional – I declare the sugar absolutely necessary.

Cream Biscuits
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 10 biscuits

3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using two additional tablespoons, or half the unused cream.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use.

Note: Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5. If freezing, dip biscuits in melted butter just before baking. I find that the tops of my biscuits don’t brown as well when frozen. Baking in the upper third of the oven helps the browning, but creates a slightly burnt bottom.