Fudgy Chocolate Cake for a Father

It’s Father’s Day today but the family has decided ahead to defer our celebration till next week or so. It’s always a little tricky come June every year because little sis’ birthday will be a week before Father’s Day, and mine a week or so after. To complicate matters, mum’s birthday is 2 weeks after mine. If we abide strictly to celebrating every family event in June/July, we would be indulging every weekend and that’s very bad for our waistlines, not to mention our health. And in any case, the parents have a social event to attend this evening so we didn’t have to fret very long to arrive at our eventual decision.

A formal family celebration aside, this day cannot go by without a lesser form of acknowledgement (or my rather sensitive dad might feel under-appreciated). I started planning to bake several miniature cakes earlier this week, and consulted mum and little sis for ideas. Unfortunately, my family have very boring palate – we finally settled for the very safe choice of a chocolate cake. Well yes, the non-chocolate fancier has to bake yet another chocolate cake.

So there you have it, a two-layer chocolate fudge cake cut into miniatures with creamy chocolate fudge frosting slapped in between layers and at the top. And because this is for the dad who is the antithesis of ‘loud’, I placed some Varlhona crunchy pearls as the simple final touches. No elaborate creaming, no loud colours. Not the prettiest of cakes, but that’s not an issue since the dad eats almost anything. I most resemble him in this respect, apart from our inane need to tidy all wire/cable bundles.

A friend jokingly posted a status update on his Facebook account, exclaiming that today is a day to celebrate the failure of all fathers. I wondered why he feels so but this friend of ours has always been known to be a little wacky. And I somewhat disagree with him. I can’t speak for all dads, but my dad was ahead of his peers even when he was a brand new father. He believed that the responsbility of bringing up children falls on the shoulders of both parents, not just the mum. Needless to say, the dad was very involved during our growing up years. Thank you daddy.

Happy Father’s Day!

Proust’s Remembrance, Revisited

Following the previous delightful attempt at baking Earl Grey Madeleines, I’d decided to return to the basics i.e. revisit the recipe for the traditional recipes which prompted Proust’s provocative description.

Below is yet another excerpt…

 …when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreay day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin…”

–  Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

The more I read excerpts available on the internet, the more curious I get about this book. I really should remember to pick up this book the next time I visit Kinokuniya, my favourite bookstore.

Recipe: Traditional Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 55g all-purpose flour
  • 1g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 65g caster sugar
  • some lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Prepare a madeleine pan by buttering the pan, dust the insides with flour and tapping out the excess. No preparation is required for silicone moulds.
  3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar in a medium bowl until well distributed.
  5. Add the egg into the sugar and beat on medium speed until mixture is thick and light.
  6. Add in the vanilla.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatular until well-mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter until well-mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you want your madeleines to turn out with a more pronounced hump characteristic of madeleines, you can cover the batter-filled pan with cellophane wrap and refrigerate overnight).
  10. Transfer the madeleines to cool on wire rack before storing them in an air-tight container, although madeleines taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven.

Yield : 12 petite madeleines

Madeleines are not tedious or require much elbow grease to prepare or bake, but somehow I don’t come across many online bakers who bake them. Perhaps they too, like me, have very little patience. For starters, it’s just not in my nature to let something sit in the chiller overnight just to ensure that the madeleines achieve a more pronounced hump, but I did. Several times to boot!

Ah well, the lengths I would go in the name of a fastidious baker.

Proust’s Remembrance, with a Twist

Whenever madeleines are mentioned, French author Marcel Proust shall come to mind, for he single-handedly immortalised madeleines outside of France. How so, you might ask? In Proust’s monumental novel ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (sometimes also known as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’), he described his first awakening ‘encounter’ with madeleines over tea.

Below is an excerpt…

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

–  Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Indeed, we come to the conclusion that Proust’s little episode with the madeleines brought about some involuntary memory of his childhood. I could identify with Proust, for I too, have a food which would bring on involuntary memory of my childhood – I associate steamed egg cakes (known as ‘gai dan gou‘ to me when I was young) with my late paternal grandmother, who has left us for a decade now.

Recipe: Earl Grey Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 1 sachet of Gryphon Earl Grey Tea
  • 55g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp floral honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Melt the butter and empty the sachet of earl grey tea leaves to infuse for about 5 minutes before straining and discarding the leaves. Leave butter to cool.
  3. Prepare a madeleine pan by buttering the pan, dust the insides with flour and tapping out the excess. No preparation is required for silicone moulds.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  5. Add the egg into the sugar and beat on medium speed until mixture is thick and light.
  6. Add in the floral honey and vanilla extract.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatular until well-mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter until well-mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you want your madeleines to turn out with a more pronounced hump which is characteristic of madeleines, cover the batter-filled pan with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight).
  10. Transfer the madeleines to cool on wire rack before storing them in an air-tight container, although madeleines taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven.

Yield : 12 petite madeleines

These earl grey madeleines are not the typical madeleines we usually see. You see, I’ve always been more of a tea rather than coffee person, and earl grey teas are always quite my favourite. I would just have to attempt this recipe and I am proud to declare that the madeleines do turn out quite okay.

If you have an issue with the glossy sheen on the madeleines, then take note not to use silicon moulds. I could live with it, for I much prefer the sheen over the laborious task of buttering or flouring the crooks and crevices on a metal mould for madeleines. Entirely your call.

Everyone who is in the know will tell you that madeleines are best eaten fresh out of the oven for they notoriously turn stale rather rapidly. In a nutshell, madeleines don’t keep well so do not attempt to keep it beyond a day or they won’t taste as well as they should. In fact, baked madeleines should be stashed away in air-tight containers once cooled if they are not to be consumed immediately.

Blowing Raspberries

I tried making this non-bake cheesecake slightly more than a couple of years ago for E, a very dear friend. Searching for a simple cake recipe suitable as E’s birthday cake proved to be quite a challenge because 1) I am really bad with cakes so I really require an easy no-fuss recipe and 2) the birthday girl to-be doesn’t fancy chocolate or creamy cakes. Knowing how much she likes tea, I scoured my books and trawled the internet for cakes that use tea leaves as alternative flavours, something along the line of Earl Grey Tea and the likes, but to no avail. Out of desperation, I abandoned the thought of a tea-flavoured cake and went for the final selection of a Raspberry Cheesecake. In my defence, this cake is really neither chocolatey nor creamy so it still fits the requirements. Kind of.

Recipe: Chilled Raspberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

Chilled Raspberry Cheesecake

  • 13 (200g) digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish gelatin
  • 300g cream cheese, softened
  • 125g sugar
  • 200-350g raspberry pureé
  • 125ml whipping cream

Jelly Top Layer

  • 1 packet of Tortally Raspberry jelly crystals
  • 1 tbsp fish gelatin
  • 200ml hot water
  • 200ml cold water

Instructions

  1. Prepare an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Mix the melted butter and digestive biscuits in a mixing bowl till bonded.
  3. Lay the mixture onto the pan until it covers the entire tray, using the back of a spoon to press the mixture down, till about 2 cm thick. Chill in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  4. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a bowl and set aside until it turns spongy. Place bowl over hot water until the gelatin mixture turns clear.
  5. In another large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese till smooth.
  6. Add in the sugar and beat the batter till light and fluffy. Set aside.
  7. Add the dissolved gelatin mixture to the raspberry pureé in a separate bowl and mix well.
  8. Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the raspberry pureé mix to the whipping cream.
  9. Combine the raspberry mix with the cream cheese mix.
  10. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust and let it set for at least one hour in the refrigerator before pouring the jelly layer.
  11. Melt the jelly crystals and gelatin in hot water till dissolved. Add in the cold water. Let cool before pouring onto the chilled batter.
  12. Chill overnight until firm before serving.

Yield : 8-inch cake

The cake was quite a hit at the gathering for several reasons – it was delicious without being too rich, and it helped that the cake looked decently attractive enough to entice many non-cake lovers to give it a try. There was no leftovers to be handled at the end of the gathering. If anything, I take that as a sign of the cake’s popularity.

I plan to revisit this recipe soon, and I would probably make some improvements to the recipe, for example increasing the layer of raspberry layer to 1.5 times the current height and replacing the heart sprinkles in between the layers with strawberries or other fruits.

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