Thursday, 17 May 2012

Junior Cake Chefs!

The week after the Cookie Decorating class for No.3, I held a Cake Decorating class for No.2's class.

Their cooking brief was simple: to decorate a cake given to them into one of the 4 transports they've learnt as part of their module on Transportation.

I first got the kids to discuss and plan on paper how best to cut their cake into a 3D version of the transport (Car, Plane, Ship or Train), and how they would decorate it.

Next, I showed them the resources they will be given for decorating the cake: buttercream frosting, Smarties, Rolled Biscuits, and Oreos.

Then the kids got down to decorating their cakes... and eating it too! ;)

Here are the highlights:
The cakes in the box, the ziploc packets of buttercream frosting, Oreos, Smarties and Rolled biscuits.  All the kids are given are cake board and a butter knife, and are taught knife safety. :)
How many of you like chocolate cakes?
Great plan.  Now how should we cut the rectangle cake to get the design we want?
So the next step is?
Plan done.  Now to get the decorative bits!

Cutting the cake to assemble. 
It's beginning to take shape.
What does this look like? ;) 
More frosting, please!
Messy fun!
See our sticky hands?
Morning class' CAR.
Morning class' SHIP.
Morning class' PLANE.
Morning class' TRAIN.
Afternoon class' turn at decorating.
Afternoon class' CAR.
Afternoon class' SHIP.
Afternoon class' PLANE.
Afternoon class' TRAIN.

Say 'Cakes!'

The recipe for the chocolate cake can be found here, which is my favourite go-to chocolate cake recipe.  I just baked in an 8x8-inch square cake tin, and cut it into 2; half for each of the group.  Because that was a busy week for me in terms of work, I wrapped the cake in baking parchment, and then in plastic wrap and froze all 4 cakes, defrosting them in the fridge the night before the session.

The buttercream frosting I used was a simple one, but with the Kitchenaid beating it, the texture was really, really good.

Buttercream Frosting
1 block unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.5 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk


  1. In a mixer, cream the butter and vanilla.
  2. Add in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. 
  4. Keep frosting covered until ready to decorate.

I just scooped the frosting into ziploc bags and put it in the fridge.  Because of our tropical weather, the frosting gets pliable quite easily, but it holds relatively well nonetheless.  When the kids need the frosting, I just cut a corner of the bag and the kids can pipe it onto the cake and use the butter knife to spread the buttercream.

Another Rainbow Cake... Steamed!

Rainbow cakes are such fun to eat... and these are much easier to make than the baked version.

Call me a lemming, but when I saw this recipe being circulated on my Facebook, I just couldn't resist trying it out. :)

The original recipe can be found here.

Steam Rainbow Cake
6 Eggs
200g Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (or almond extract or lemon juice or whatever flavour you prefer or have on hand)
280g Cake Flour, sifted, and add in ¼ tsp salt
200ml Coconut Cream/Milk (from packet.  I used Kara brand.)
Liquid food colouring

  1. Prepare wok steamer. Line an 8" round tin. 
  2. Beat eggs with sugar and vanilla until the mixture increases in volume and is pale in colour.  I beat the mixture with the Kitchenaid from medium to high speed for about 10 minutes.
  3. LIGHTLY fold in a third of the flour, then half the coconut cream, another third of the flour, the last of the coconut cream and finally the last of the flour.
  4. Ladle the batter into 7 bowls and colour with the liquid food colouring.  I found that gel food colouring doesn't work well because to incorporate the gel into the batter required a lot of stirring, and that resulted in the batter losing all those precious air bubbles which makes the difference between a light cake and a denser cake.
  5. Pour the bottom-most colour (Reddish-Purple) into the cake tin, and then give it a light bang on the counter.  This is to allow the batter to flatten evenly as well as to remove the larger (and uglier) airpockets.
  6. Put the cake tin in the wok steamer and steam for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  7. Remove cake tin from wok steamer and pour in the second layer (Bluish-Purple), and spread the batter evenly with the back of a spoon.  Then bang the cake tin lightly on the counter and put the cake tin back into the wok steamer.  Steam for 4 minutes on medium heat.  Repeat until all layers are done.  For the final layer (Red), steam for 15 minutes before removing from the wok.
  8. Remove cake from the cake tin unto a wire rack and leave to cool. 
My preference is still the baked Rainbow Cake.  Slicing into the white frosting, revealing the hues of the rainbow is a lovely surprise, and any cake with frosting is a lovely treat. :)

Nonetheless, this is a quick and easy version - no messy frosting, and a quick and clean snack that will appeal to both young and old.  Best of all is that more people have the means to steam a cake than to bake one - especially families without an oven. ;)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Panda-monium Pand Bread

This was an utterly cute bread-making project!

The bread was soft and yummy, but what made the entire project special was cutting into the loaf to reveal a Panda looking out at you, from a field of green.  And no two Panda bread look the same (nor does each slice for that matter!) - after all, the proving of the bread is organic, and there's no guarantee that during the proving the Panda would look like what it would. :)

The method for making Panda bread can be very easily picked up here:
The video is in Cantonese, but the video is well-made and breezy... it was clear that the ladies had lots of fun making this bread. :)  No bread machines were used, so do try it out.

If you'd like to try making this bread, I'm posting the recipe below, with my modifications in brackets:

Panda Bread

300g Bread Flour (I used mix of atta flour and plain flour to get 300g on the kitchen scale... that's why my Panda's a little more brown than white. ;) )
30g Sugar
Milk + 1 egg yolk = 210g
3/4 tbsp salt
18g unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter.)
1 tbsp green tea powder mixed with 2 tsp hot water (I used 2 tsp of Chlorophyll powder because that was the only green colouring I had on hand; you could use green food colouring instead if you have them on-hand)
8g cocoa powder
1/2 sachet active dried yeast


  1. Beat the egg-milk mixture lightly, and then microwave it for about 30 sec.  Add sugar and yeast and leave the liquid for 10 minutes to froth.  If the mixture doesn't froth after 15 minutes, your liquid is probably too hot, which killed the yeast, or the yeast has expired.  If there's froth, your dough will definitely rise. ;)
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour and salt.  Add in the liquid and butter, and stir everything until it comes together.
  3. Knead into dough ball in bowl and then pour out onto a floured countertop and knead for at least 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Divide dough into 3 portions: One portion is a half; then from the leftover half, divide into thirds, and cut out a third.  You should get 1/2 (big), 1/3 (medium), 1/6 (small) pieces.
  5. The Big portion, colour it green.  I used Chlorophyll powder, but you could use green tea powder or even green food colouring. Once the colour is kneaded through, roll it into a ball, grease it and then cover it to rest.
  6. The medium portion, leave it plain - this would be the white face of the Panda.  Just roll it into a ball, cover and rest.
  7. The smallest portion, colour it with the cocoa powder.  If you're out of cocoa powder, you could use black food colouring.  There are those who would use charcoal powder too, which is available in the baking shops here.  Once kneaded through, roll it into a ball, cover it and rest.
  8. Place all 3 doughs in a warm place to rise until they are doubled it size.  I usually put my doughs to prove in the oven with a bowl of warm water to create a warm atmosphere.  This first proving takes about 30mins to 2 hours - but essentially, you're waiting for the dough to double in size.
  9. After the dough has risen, cut the black dough into 4 equal pieces, green dough into 2 pieces (1/3 and 2/3), and the plain dough into 2 pieces (3/5 + 2/5).
  10. Begin with the largest green dough piece. (See Video, about 4.21min mark.) Roll it out into a rectangle that would fit into your loaf pan, and then place the longish green dough piece in the centre, followed by 2 of the black pieces by its side.  In the video, the lady rolled out the 2 black doughs, then sliced off a bit of the green dough and put that piece in the centre.)  The first layer is essentially the same idea.
  11. Next, roll out the larger white piece in a rectangle and place this over the first layer.  Then roll the other white piece and place it in the middle of the white dough like this:
  12. Place 2 long rolls of black dough at the sides of the middle piece, and then seal up this portion with the larger rectangle piece along the top.
  13. Finally, seal the entire loaf with the green dough in like manner.  (See the video.) Make sure the dough seals in everything.
  14. Prove the loaf until it is doubled in size, then bake in a pre-heated oven at 200deg C, for about 25 to 30 mins.


Into lunch bags...

No two Pandas alike!

Happy Panda-fun!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Butter Cookies and a Sugar Icing Class

No. 3 couldn't resist dipping into the icing for a lickity lick! :)
No. 2 and 3's school has asked me to give a cookery class for the kids of their level.  After discussions with the form teachers, I've decided that since No. 2's class was on the topic of Transportation and No. 3 on the topic of Shapes, to create a cookery class based on those themes.

No. 3's lesson was this morning.  I've decided that instead of having them use cookie cutters to cut out shapes of triangles, squares and circles, to make it 'easy' and time efficient to get them to ice cookies with shapes instead.

Icing requires the Nursery kids (4-year-olds) to activate their fine motor skills - not that easy a task.  But no matter... it was the sensory experience of taste this cookery class was about, and in which playing with food a key factor! ;)

To this end, I decided that the smaller the child, the bigger the cookie needs to be.  So I made square cookies the size of a slice of bread for each child to use as an edible icing board.

It was not easy at first to look for a rolled cookie recipe that enabled me to cut and bake that size of a rolled dough.  The first recipe I used from Allrecipe was too sticky and melted very fast in our hot weather.  Furthermore, it was almost impossible to cut and move out a large square cookie shape.  In the end, I found a butter cookie recipe that worked well.  However, I had issues with transferring the cut-cookie to the baking tray, until I hit upon an idea which I've made a photo-tutorial after the Butter Cookie Recipe:

Butter Cookie Recipe

(For about 11 bread-slice-size squares... I'd suggest halving this recipe if you're making it for home.)
450g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
200g Butter
210g Sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Extract


  1. Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until butter lightens.
  3. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Add flour and beat on very very low speed for 10 seconds. You only want the flour to gather and form a dough - not create gluten. The lighter the forming, the better the texture of the cookie. At this point, I put the dough in a plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to harden a bit before rolling out.
  5. Bake 180deg C for 10 minutes, then turn tray to even out the baking for another 4 minutes. Cool on rack.

Cutting the Bread-Slice-Sized Cookie:

Cut the silicon-coated baking sheet to a size slightly larger than the cut-cookie size.  Sprinkle icing sugar on it to help prevent it from sticking.

Put some cookie dough on top of that, and sprinkle more icing sugar on top.

Place another sheet of the baking paper over that to roll out.

Using a rolling pin with a height guide (this one is about 0.5cm) helps tremendously!

I used an air-tight container that's square-shaped to cut the cookies.  Dip the edge into the icing sugar to help prevent the dough from sticking to it.

Make sure that the rolled dough is larger than the square box.

Remove the excess dough.

Ta-da!  What the dough looks like after removing the box.

Then put the entire cut-cookie dough on the baking tray.  This way, you don't have to handle the cookie by tranferring onto the tray.

When the tray is filled, use cookie cutters to press in shapes so that the kids can ice, following the lines.  Or just leave it blank for the kids to use their imagination in icing.  I didn't have square or triangle cutters, so I used a butter knife to form the shapes. :)  You can also use a toothpick to draw lines or pictures etc.  This helps later in icing.

These are done baking.

A close up.

The lesson today was really simple and fun.  I taught the kids how to make icing.  Of course, the icing were pre-made and coloured and put into tiny ziploc bags that I bought from Daiso (70 pieces for S$2!).  When the kids need to ice, I just cut a tiny hole at the corner of the bag, and the kids are good to go.

Icing Sugar Recipe

(This is sufficient to make 4 packets of colour.  I used double this recipe to make 8 packets of the same colour because there are 8 groups to prepare for - 4 each for AM and PM class.)
120g confectioners' sugar/icing sugar
20g milk
24g light corn syrup
Food colouring gel


  1. Put all the ingredients except the food colouring gel in a small bowl, and stir together until it comes together.  If needed, thin the mix with the addition of milk, half a teaspoon at a time.  If you're going to use liquid colouring, add this to the ingredients before you start thining the icing with milk.  You may also add flavouring extract if you want - almond or rose, or lemon would be good.  If you're going to add extract, again, hold off thining with milk until you used the extract first.
  2. Separate the mix into different bowls to add the gel colouring of choice.
  3. Spoon the icing into tiny ziploc bags and cut the edge to enable piping.  Otherwise you may add a little more milk to the icing to make it a thick paint - use a paintbrush to help paint on a design to your cookie.

The icing in the rectangle packs - Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple.  The lesson was making Orange... mixing a dot of red gel and yellow gel. :)

The kids tracing the shapes with the icing... of course with adult help! Then after they got the shape, it was really up to them how they wanted to decorate their cookie.

I love how their tiny hands measured up to the cookie. :)  I helped this girl play with the idea of the square as a window. :)

Tune in next week for No. 2's class - cake decoration! :)