November 27, 2013

KBB: Gingerbread House

It's the third time I make gingerbread house. First time it was back in 2007 when my good friend's daughters came to visit and had fun decorating the houses with my children ( Second one was for my son's birthday, back in 2008 ( This time, I made it as an entry for KBB's latest challenge.

The design is a bit tricky and unbalanced to my opinion. Or maybe it was me who misunderstood the building instruction and miscalculated the outcome (which it was my mistake!). But I thought I was precise. However, it's done.

Making the dough is not a hassle. It's easy and quick. When the dough was chilling in the fridge, I made the measurement and the house templates. We still have some dough left for extra gingerbread men and animals. Baking and cooling the biscuits while I was washing the dishes.

Then, the fun began. I noticed that the walls on the left and right were shorter than they should be. This is the thing that I thought I didn't measure it correctly. I reread the instruction again, and there the mistake I made. The front and back measurement was supposed to be 51/2 inches wide and 3 inches tall. There's the answer why the roofs can't be fitted well at the joints.

I had a difficulty to keep one of the roofs staying where it should be. I used a support to keep it in place, but it kept sliding down. I was so frustrated that I applied more royal icing to join both roofs, which it was a disaster! 

So yeah. My gingerbread house which is laden with sugary treats has a crack in between the roofs. It stayed strong when the royal icing was set, so it was a relief.

November 26, 2013

Sweet NZ: Hydrangea Cupcakes

I've been too busy with baking these days I don't even realize I've baked a lot of them. It's the fun of producing and decorating that takes away the fancy of eating them. Well, mostly I baked for other people, so I didn't get to enjoy it myself. 

This baking marathon has started with weekly baking to fill in the cake tins for my family, and recently is moving to a further step as to make a contribution to the pre-school's fund-raising gala, and then finished with my mother-in-law's birthday cake and whatnot last weekend.

On the fund-raising gala, I baked a gluten-free chocolate cake in a wonder mold which later on was transformed to be the barbie's dress. I cut the cake into three layers, sandwiched and iced them with buttercream before decorating it with sugarpaste. It took me 3 hours to decorate the barbie, and it was bidded for only $35 (I expected more bidders, but it wasn't really a big crowd of people to be honest), bought by Pam whose daughter was going to have a birthday on a closer date. She could have the barbie before the actual D-day, she said. How lovely.

Moving on closer to the end of November, there is my mother-in-law's birthday coming. She requested to have 'butter and flour' birthday cake, given that I always bake gluten-free goodies. Why not, I thought. So I baked two batches of mud cakes, sandwiched with dark chocolate ganache, and thought of decorating it as a purse cake for her.

I watched Paul Bradford's purse cake tutorial on You Tube and learned how to decorate it from there. Yes, I'm self-taught. I like learning and doing on my own pace and time. It wasn't disappointing, don't you think? I just keep the design simple. I was so happy to see Mum was thrilled and loved the cake as well.

On that very day, I also contributed a plate of gluten-free chocolate brownie cupcakes, iced with chocolate ganache, and gluten-free vanilla bean paste cupcakes, iced with buttercream that I piped on the cupcakes to resemble hydrangeas. 

I'm sending Hydrangea Cupcakes to Mairi ( who is hosting Sweet New Zealand ( this month. Sweet NZ was initiated by Alessandra Zecchini ( as a monthly sweet event of a Kiwi food bloggers.

The vanilla cupcakes can be viewed on Donna Hay's website here ( only that I substitute the wheat flour to gluten-free flour and use vanilla bean paste, since I ran out of vanilla essence. For buttercream, I use my own buttercream recipe. To achieve hydrangea flower resemblance, I coloured half of the buttercream blue and the other half stays white. Using Wilton 2D tip attached in a piping bag, spoon the blue buttercream into the bag, push the buttercream to the side of the bag to make a hole for the white buttercream. Then, spoon the white buttercream into the middle of the piping bag, where you've created a hole. Press to let some buttercream out, then use the next one to pipe on top of the cupcakes. It will create two-tone buttercream flowers, just pipe all around the top of the cupcakes closely one flower to the other. You'll amazed how pretty your cupcakes will be looking. Have fun!

November 02, 2013

Double Ginger Cake

I'm fond of Nigel Slater. The Kitchen Diaries book that I bought myself for Christmas back in 2008 is the cookbook that I often browse through and the recipes I often use in my own kitchen. It is my favourite cookbook.

I particularly love the content of the book and the-matter-of-fact photographs which represent the honest cooking he produces from his kitchen. I love his generosity in using herbs, spices or other ingredients that truly is reflecting a humble soul of a cook who loves to eat and who cares so much about the flavour the particular food has to offer.

In Summer, when my zucchini plants are producing, I always make Nigel's zucchini cakes with dill and feta. I love the creaminess of melted zucchini mingled with the saltiness and distant pungent of feta cheese. I love the presence of dill that intensifies the flavour even more. I also have tried Nigel's Peach and Blueberry Soured Cream Cobbler when there are crops of peach, peachcott or peacherine in our orchard ready to be used in a hot Summer day. We often have it with ice cream or just with whipped cream, sometimes with mascarpone if I have it in the fridge.

Whenever craving for chocolate, I often make Nigel's Chocolate Almond Cake or his 24-carat Chocolate Brownies which are always a hit in the family. Nigel's Coffee and Walnut Cake is my second-favourite to his Double Ginger Cake that I always come back to, every now and then. 

Nigel's Double Ginger Cake is a must-bake cake if you should love ginger. I made my own ginger in syrup two days before I bake the cake. I use young ginger roots I bought from an Asian groceries, peeled and cooked them in white sugar and water. I reserve the syrup in separate drinking bottles for making ginger ale later on (just ginger syrup and soda water to quench our thirst after gardening under the sun on the weekends), and roll the cooked and sliced ginger roots in white sugar, transferred them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, left them dry overnight. The white sugar coated ginger will be crystallized. I chopped these and use them for Nigel's double ginger cake.

I baked the cake a day before we enjoyed slices of it. I've found out later on that a two-days old cake perfects the flavour even more deeper. It's delicious! So delicious I tweeted about it and Nigel himself tweeted back, to my surprise! 

So here's the recipe: if you haven't yet got his book.