February 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me…. with a ‘Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake’

Filed under: Cakes, Cheese, Themed — lynettechng @ 12:24 am

For my birthday, I wanted to make a cake that I wouldn’t normally do. I was thinking a layered cake, because they are, in my opinion, celebration cakes. Alot of heart, alot of effort and alot of love goes into these cakes, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t make layered cakes all that often. Special occassions only.

I’d thought about it, and decided on the carrot cake. I know I didn’t want something chocolatey. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is my life, but I ‘d been working with it so much in the last few weeks, I thought I’d give it a bit of a break. The carrot cake fits this to a tee. It works very well as a layered, tall cake. It has an autumy-feel, which whilst it really is spring, the chill that runs through my bones makes it feel all autumy, plus I really like carrot cake!

Now, the most important question was not which cake to make, but whose cake to make! Almost every book out there has one, and good ones at that, so I had to think long and hard on this…

I finally decided to go to the beginning. To the one that made me truely enjoy biting into a slice of carrot cake. To a pretty unexpected source. I turned to Jamie Oliver this weekend, for his ‘Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake’ from ‘Cook with Jamie‘.

It was a very moist cake, with a light crumb. Jamie suggests a mascarpone cream cheese frosting, but I opted to use that as a fillig instead, and went the way of Dorie for the citrus frosting.

I L.O.V.E.D this cake, and the texture of both the filling (lighter and silkier) and the frosting (citrusy and sweet). Chopped walnuts on the sides, and light sprinkerling on top provided just the perfect crunch and contrast to the moist cake and creamy cheese.

This one’s definately a winner!

* * * * *

Jamie’s Carrot Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling
+ Dorie’s Cream Cheese Frosting

285g unsalted butter, softened
285g light brown soft sugar
5 large eggs, separated
Zest and juice of 1 orange
170g self-raising flour, sifted
1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder
115g ground almonds
115g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra for serving (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
285g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
Sea salt

115g Mascarpone cheese
225g full-fat cream cheese (I used Philly)
85g icing sugar, sifted
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

225g cream cheese, at room temperature
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

To make Cake:
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Grease and line a 22cm/9” round spring form pan with greaseproof paper.Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor (I used my trusty old standmixer!) until pale and fluffy. Beat in the yolks, one at a time and add the orange zest and juice. Stir in the sifted flour and baking powder, and add the ground almonds, walnuts, spices and grated carrot and mix well together.In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then gently fold them into the cake mix.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and baked for about 50 minutes (depending on your oven. Mine only took 45mins) until golden and risen.
You can check if the cake is cooked by poking a cocktail stock into it. Remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10mins, then turn it out on the rack and leave for at least an hour. You will want to leave the cake in the tin for not longer than 10 min, as I find that it tends to adhere itself to the paper – not a pretty sight!

To make Filling:
Mix all the icing ingredients together and spread in between layers.

To make Frosting:
Working with the stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract. I used 1½ tbsp to cut through the sweetness, but I think this really is up to you. I also threw in some lemon zest , and the frosting is gorgeous with specks of yellow.


February 22, 2008

A Chilly Night, and a Sloppy Dish

Filed under: Themed — lynettechng @ 3:49 pm

On the weekend, I was invited to a friend’s place in the New Territories for the very traditional Hong Kong countryside dish of 盆菜 (or Poon Choi, in Cantonese, which is literally translated as Basin Dish,). This is usually consumed during the Chinese Lunar New Year, and seeing as today is the last day of the new year, I figured that it was an apt time to post. 

I’m Chinese, albeit one with diluted knowledge of her customs and traditions. And I was psyched to try this new dish, which I had never before tried! I had heard all about it, and could not wait to finally have a taste. 

I arrived in Fanling, a town in the New Territories, bright and early (alright, it was half past 2 in the afternoon, but it was a Saturday, and deemed to be considered early enough), and after a quick and tasty lunch of 点心 (Dim Sum,), we headed off to one of the little villages for an afternoon of mahjong (considered to be Hong Kongs national hobby!). I was learning the game, and I lost $40. Enough said. 

Dinner time rolled by soon enough, and we all bundled up in coats and jackets and headed down to the car park. Yes, you heard right. Car park. The management had cleared the lots of cars, and set up 25 tables and a stage for karaoke! Fun!  The main attraction was brought out. A whole heaping basin full of food! Layer upon layer of good stuff like pork, beancurd, radish, dried beancurd skin, mushrooms, fishball, big fresh water prawns, chicken, duck I could go on and on!! It was all simmered in a lovely broth, and was bubbling away. The heat a sweet reprieve from the cold and the chill! 

Alright, I know It doesnt look like much. Actually, it looks like a whole bowl of cohesive gunk but then again, Chinese good isnt popular for its presentation. Its all about the taste and flavour, and this dish had it in spades! Its not fine dining., but standing around a table with 12 other people, eating out of a basin (that is a friend is to be believed, was the basin that people used to wash their feet in in the past!!), BLISS! The camaraderie amongst friends, the general good feelings from surrounding tables I just cant find the right words to describe it. It just has to be experienced. 

Happy New Year, everyone!! May the year of the Rat bring you and yours good health, wealth and prosperity!

**Edit: Apologies for the terrible lighting of the photos. I did my best with minimal light, in semi-darkness, in a parking lot!!

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