Archive | September, 2012

SOK Bake Sale, Part 2: Pandan Cupcakes with Gula Melaka Frosting

12 Sep

Whoopie pies weren’t enough for me, I guess. I decided to bake cupcakes the very next day, for a friend who’s moving back to the US. I wanted to make her something Malaysia-inspired, and, I admit, I was looking for an excuse to make this cake from Life is Great, which I found when I was making pandan-flavored madelines (which will have to be a later post, since I forgot to take a photo). Take a look at the link. It’s a gorgeous cake that practically screams “bake me!”.

My poor denuded pandan plant

Pandan, called screwpine in English, is an herb used widely across Southeast Asia in both sweet and savory dishes. (It’s also an effective deodorant and insect repellent; apparently one of the common ways to rid your car of durian smell is to line the seats with pandan leaves.) Rohani at Bayan Indah described it as “the vanilla of the tropics,” not so much because of its aroma—nothing like vanilla—but because of its ubiquity. And, much like vanilla, trying to describe pandan flavor is difficult. It’s sort of an herb-y, almost musty flavoring; think of freshly steamed basmati or jasmine rice. To make pandan “extract,” you take 10 to 15 leaves and grind them in a mortar and pestle, or if you’re lazy like me, you blend it to a pulp.

The creepily green pandan extract. Apologies for the dark photo.

The resulting liquid is a vibrant emerald green, almost unnatural. (The only other edible thing I can think of that’s this green is spirulina.) The color holds during cooking; anything flavored with pandan extract is usually bright green. Unfortunately, I had too much batter for the green to come through; while there was a barely perceptible hint of color in the cupcake, for the most part it looked like plain butter cake. At least it tasted like pandan, even if I didn’t get the visual hit.

The tasty but disappointingly not-green final product

I topped the cupcakes with gula melaka Swiss meringue buttercream, putting the previous day’s lessons into action. When my frosting started curdling, I walked away and Skyped my husband and his family; by the time I came back, the butter was sufficiently warm, and the frosting came together without incident. And it tasted divine. SMBC, as I mentioned before, is like warm ice cream, and gula melaka tastes like a cross between maple syrup and brown sugar. The frosting was definitely what the British call “moreish,” as in, “I’m going to eat more of this straight from the tub.” Together, the caramel of the frosting and the pandan cake were a classic pair. I’m going to have to work on my cake-decorating skills, though; the coconut garnish that you see in the photo is to cover up the fact that I can’t seem to frost a cupcake without bursting the ziplock bag I’m using in lieu of a proper pastry bag. Maybe the lesson here is that I need to invest in pastry bags?

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SOK Bake Sale, Part 1: Chocolate-Passionfruit Whoopie Pies

10 Sep

I’ve been on something of a baking kick lately, thanks to a newfound sweet tooth coupled with actually having some events to bake for. (Even on my most dedicated sweets binge, I find it hard to finish a dozen cupcakes while they’re still fresh.) I wanted to bring something festive to a baby shower, but wanted to try my hand at something new, so I decided to make some whoopie pies. These have been something of a trend lately, though not as ubiquitous as cupcakes or macarons; it’s frosting sandwiched between two cake-cookies (basically, cake batter baked like a drop cookie). Though the classic combo is chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, à la Oreos or Ding Dongs, but any combination that you would use for a cake will work; pumpkin and red velvet are especially popular. I’ve been wanting to make something with passionfruit, and everyone loves chocolate, so chocolate and passionfruit it was.

The cake portion of the whoopie pies

First I baked the cake portion, using this recipe from Baked Explorations, via The Modern Domestic. I omitted both the hot coffee and the coffee powder and used extra buttermilk instead. The batter was sticky as the dickens (they don’t call it devil’s food for nothing), but they baked up beautifully—fluffy but not dry.

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