Vanilla Swiss Roll (香草瑞士蛋糕卷)

Monday, 1 September 2014

There're a few common problems with making Swiss rolls: (1) The cake is hard and dry. (2) The crust sticks to the paper the cake is wrapped in. (3) The crust cracks when you roll the cake.

Good Swiss roll starts with, of course, a sheet cake that's fluffy. You know what's wrong with a lot of Swiss roll recipes? They have way too much flour.

A cake that's 1-2 cm tall should have very little flour because it doesn't need much structural support. If it has as much flour as a cake that's 5-7 cm tall, it would be dense and hard.

Pandan Kaya/Layer Cake

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

In the land of the half-lion, half-fish mutant, there's the half-cake, half-kueh: pandan kaya quake. 

kueh + cake = kuake = quake

Dig?

Using kueh as an icing makes perfect sense when you live in the tropics. There's no need to worry about the icing melting even when there's a heat wave. El Niño? Bring it on! No aircon? No problem!

Cake Dos & Don'ts

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

This rather long post, for cake newbies, can be summarised in three words: Follow the recipe. Experienced bakers may change anything they like because they know what works or probably works. Beginners, OTOH, can't tell if a seemingly insignificant detail is actually a critical part of the recipe. If you're one of these, I hope this post shows you why you may want to do everything the recipe says, and not do everything the recipe doesn't say.

What to Do Before Your Cake Fails

a) Use an oven thermometer.  »
A lot of ovens aren't accurate. If the oven temperature is wrong, you have two problems. First, your cake may fail, or it may not as good as it could be. Second, if your cake fails, you have no idea what the problem is. It may be the oven temperature, or something else. If you know for a fact what the temperature is, you can at least eliminate the oven from your list of suspects.

Some recipes say "every oven is different". That may be true but one 180°C is the same as another 180°C. Whatever you're baking doesn't care what oven it's in. It only cares what the temperature (and humidity) is.

An oven thermometer measures the temperature in the oven; it can't tell where the heat is coming from. If the top heat is higher/lower than the bottom heat, your cake will fail. Fortunately, most ovens don't have this problem. If you think yours does, toast a slice of bread in the middle of the oven, on a rack at 220°C. If the top and bottom of the bread browns evenly, the oven is good.

b) Don't change the pan type.  »
Only round, square and rectangular "regular" pans made of the same material are interchangeable. The pan type goes with the recipe. It affects how quickly the batter heats up, how deep the batter is, and how much structural support the cake needs. These factors in turn affect how high the cake rises and whether it stays up there or comes back down after cooling down.

My recipes use aluminium pans. If you use dark coloured non-stick pans, your cakes will be different from mine.

c) Scale the recipe according to your pan size.  »
If your pan is bigger/smaller than the recipe's, you must scale the recipe proportionately. Of course, you could scale the recipe first, then find the proportionate pan size. How wide and long the pan is affects the depth of the batter. Deep batter rises more than shallow batter, all other things being equal.

If you don't know how to change the pan size or scale the recipe, please refer to question (i) and (j) in this post: Cake FAQ.

d) Don't replace any ingredient.  »
The only exception is flavourless oil, which may be swapped with any flavourless oil. Changing any other ingredient has an impact on the cake. Once you modify the recipe, it's yours. If you like the final product, congratulations. If you don't? It's your recipe, so you fix it.

Cake FAQ

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

a) Why didn't your cake rise?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were overwhisked and inextensible.
  2. Whisked egg whites, kept waiting too long, deteriorated and became inextensible.
  3. Eggs/yolks were underwhisked. Didn't have enough air bubbles.
  4. Whisked eggs deflated when mixed with oil/melted butter and dry ingredients.
  5. Not enough eggs/whites/yolks.
  6. Not enough non-fat liquids, so not enough steam to help the cake rise.
  7. Batter was too thick. Thick batter was too heavy to rise well.
  8. Batter was too thin. Thin batter allowed air bubbles to escape easily.
  9. Too little baking powder/soda.
  10. Baking powder was stale.
  11. Too little acid. Baking soda couldn't activate.
  12. Too much acid. Batter was set before it could rise.
  13. Wrong flour type.
  14. Batter was kept waiting too long before it was baked, allowing air bubbles to escape, and the baking powder and whisked egg whites to deteriorate.
  15. Oven wasn't hot enough. Without enough heat, air bubbles couldn't expand, water couldn't convert to steam, and double-acting baking powder couldn't activate.
  16. Oven was too hot. Batter was set before it could rise.
  17. Wrong pan type, which affected the heat transfer. 
  18. Pan was too wide. Shallow batter was set before it could rise.

b) Why did your cake crack?   »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and too extensible.
  2. Too much egg white. 
  3. Too little flour.
  4. Oven was too hot.
  5. Top of oven was too hot. The crust hardened too quickly, then ruptured when the batter underneath puffed up.
  6. Too much baking powder/soda.
  7. Too much non-fat liquid.
  8. Wrong pan type.
  9. Pan was too narrow.

c) Why did your cake collapse/sink/deflate?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and provided poor structural support.
  2. Oven was too hot. Cake rose higher than it should, so it came back down due to insufficient structural support.
  3. Too much baking soda/powder.
  4. Too much acid. Strictly speaking, the cake didn't sink. The sides rose but the centre didn't, so it looked like the centre sank.
  5. Uneven mixing.
  6. Too little flour.
  7. Underbaked.
  8. Cooling down method was wrong. Fragile cakes need to cool down inverted and stuck to the pan or they would sink.

d) Why was there a hard layer at the bottom of your cake?  »
Because the batter set too slowly, allowing starch to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan, where it hardened.

Why did the batter set too slowly?

Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Oven wasn't hot enough.
  2. "Bathtub", if there was a water-bath, wasn't metallic.
  3. "Bath water" wasn't hot enough.
  4. Not enough acid.
  5. Not enough eggs.
  6. Not enough flour.
  7. Not enough starch.
  8. Not enough cream cheese.
  9. Wrong type of cream cheese, that didn't have enough starch.
  10. Too much liquid.

e) Why did your cake shrink after cooling down?  »
All cakes shrink as they cool down.

Pandan Sponge Cupcakes (班兰海绵杯子蛋糕)

Thursday, 26 September 2013


I like my pandan sponge cupcakes very much. Made with pandan juice and coconut oil, the little cakes are very fragrant and the green colour is totally natural. The crumb is soft and fluffy, and it's still moist the next day.

Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes (班兰戚风杯子蛋糕)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pandan chiffon cake hot from the oven is way better than cold pandan chiffon cake.

That's a bit like saying Bill Gates is rich, or Angelina Jolie has thick lips. We all know that.

So when was the last time you had pandan chiffon cake that was still hot?

WHAT? You've always had PCC stone-cold?

Oh . . . my . . . God . . . . Oh dear, POOR YOU!

Orange Chiffon Cake (香橙戚风蛋糕)

Monday, 15 July 2013

.
Knock knock!

Who's there?

Chiffon cake!

Chiffon cake who?

She's fond of cakes, especially light, fluffy cakes.
.

Hokkaido Cupcakes

Friday, 28 June 2013

Hokkaido cupcakes are made with milk from Hokkaido, hence the namesake.

I can't be bothered to go to a Japanese supermart that sells Hokkaido milk. My Hokkaido cupcakes are made with milk which is –  to quote what the carton says to the (capital) letter –  "From AUSTRALIAN DAIRY COWS". So the milk's from Australia? Hell no. The cows are from Australia but they live in Indonesia. They probably moved from Down Under frozen . . . or maybe chilled. Anyone knows how sperm is transported long distance?

Ogura Cake ♥ 相思蛋糕 ♥

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Ogura cake, aka 相思蛋糕, hails from Batu Pahat, Malaysia. "Ogura" is a Japanese surname; "相思" means lovesick. Is there a love story behind the cake? Nah, there isn't. Some baker in Batu Pahat just invented the name.

Chwee Kueh (水粿; Steamed Rice Cakes)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

There're several types of steamed cakes made with rice flour. If you want to learn how to make these traditional delicacies, chwee kueh would be a good start. It doesn't take long and the ingredients are cheap, so you don't waste much time or money if you fail.

The first step in making chwee kueh is mixing the batter. The main ingredient is rice flour but that alone would make a rather hard kueh. To soften it, you need to add some starch. Some people use tapioca flour; I prefer a mix of cornflour and wheat starch. Of course, the amount of water in the batter is crucial to the success of the steamed kueh. If the ratio of water to flour/starch is wrong, the steamed cake will be too hard or too soft.

Chai Tow Kway (菜头粿; Fried Carrot Cake)

Monday, 15 April 2013

If you're looking for a good chai tow kway recipe, you've come to the right place. How do I convince you my CTK is good? By comparing to one that's bad, here, from The Little Teochew in a guest post for Rasa Malaysia

I've read many recipes for various sorts of steamed cakes made with rice flour, such as chwee kueh, orh kueh, lor bak gou, pak tong gou and, of course, chai tow kway. What's the one common feature they all have? The batter is cooked on the stove before it's steamed. The Little Teochew, unlike everyone else, mixes rice flour with room temperature water, then steams the batter straightaway. Why do the rest of us do extra work? Because unless the batter is thickened before it's steamed, the rice flour would sink and form a hard layer at the bottom of the cake. If you steam rice flour batter without thickening it first, your kway is doomed for failure.

Killer Sugee Cake

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Wanna make a sugee cake that's light and fluffy? That's right, the Eurasian classic doesn't have to be dense and heavy. Let me, a half-Eurasian, show you how. What? You didn't know I'm half-Eurasian? Hey, half of Eurasian is Asian and I'm 100% Asian. That makes me 50% Eurasian, right?

Ang Ku Kueh (紅龟粿; Kuih Angkoo)

Friday, 15 March 2013

I've just made some 紅龟粿. Is it good? Heheheh . . . heh . . . . Is your mother a woman?

It's my virgin attempt but the results are as good as the best store-bought ang ku kueh in town. The mung bean filling is uber smooth, has a very strong "beany" fragrance and isn't too sweet. The "skin" is very chewy and yet very soft. I tell ya, this 紅龟粿 is really to die for.

Peanut Cookies

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

You don't need much special equipment to make peanut cookies.

If you don't have a food processor, you can pound the peanuts with a mortar and pestle.

The ingredients are mixed together in a bowl. It's done by the time you drag your electric mixer out and set it up.

Cashew Nut Cookies

Monday, 21 January 2013


Cashew nut cookies are pretty easy going. These bite-size morsels don't mind if you put in more of this or less of that.

Pineapple Tarts

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Good pineapple tarts start with good pineapple jam. Where does good pineapple jam start? Readymade, in a plastic bag? Common sense tells you that jam stored without refrigeration for god knows how long, in a plastic bag which can't be sterilized and isn't vacuum sealed, must be stuffed full of preservatives. And yet, the ingredients listed don't include preservatives. I wouldn't eat that kind of jam even if you paid me.

There's no reason why readymade pineapple jam can't be good, in theory. In practice, however, all those I've seen are of extremely dubious quality.

Making good pineapple jam is quite straightforward. It's basically mashed pineapple cooked with sugar till thick, and flavoured with star anise, cinnamon and sometimes cloves.

Kueh Bangkit

Friday, 28 December 2012

Bangkit isn't a kit for banging. "Bang" is "香" in Teochew and Hokkien; "kit" is "cake" mangled; "kueh" is . . . (just about) anything edible any local delicacy served kinda snack size. In short, "kueh bangkit" means fragrant cookies.

Butter Cake

Monday, 12 November 2012


When I was looking at butter cake recipes online, I was surprised to find people moaning about cracks in their cakes. That seemed rather odd  to me because the butter cakes my mother bought when I was a kid all had a big crack on top. Isn't the ruptured top the signature of butter cakes?

Kueh Ko Swee (Kuih Kosui)

Monday, 24 September 2012

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Kueh hamba!

Kueh ham . . .  who?

Kueh hamba, aka kueh ko swee and kuih kosui!

Sambal Stingray (II)

Monday, 17 September 2012

The key to making good sambal stingray is a piece of stingray wing that's fresh and young.

There's nothing more disgusting than stale fish . . . . Ok, there are lots, actually, but you know what I mean. The best fish for eating is one that's still swimming. If that's not available, then at least one that's firm, shiny, and hasn't stopped swimming for too long.