Ciao

It’s finally arrived…. pack up day!!

The packing crew will arrive in an hour and then it’s goodbye to my PC (plus almost everything else I own) for the next five weeks. On that basis this will be my last Wifestyle post until we are settled in our new house in the UK when I will finally get back into the kitchen.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks doing Singapore things that I love or new things that I haven’t had time to do but  I’ve run out of time and missed a lot. One thing I did get time to  do was a photo shoot with the kidlets to give us a lasting memory of Singapore. The AMAZING Suasti Lye of http://www.suastilye.com took the shots and once again did an awesome  job. If you’re Singapore based and want something special you should give her a call!

It’s a bittersweet goodbye. I’m very excited to start my new life with my beautiful children back home. I’ve lived overseas for nine years so being close to my family again will be wonderful but the amazing friends I have made during my time in Singapore feel like family and saying goodbye to them is hurting. Every time I see someone this week I have to say goodbye and the tears just keep coming. They have been loving, supportive and generous in my time of need and I will never forget any of them. In fact, wherever in the world they happen to live they’d better watch out as I’m planning to visit.

You know who you are and I love you all. XXX

 

See you in England! XOXO

 

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A spidertastic ending…

I officially made my last cake in Singapore today!

Once I finished I threw all the leftover ingredients and icing away, I won’t be needing them anymore. Very shortly the equipment will be packed and sailing it’s way back to the UK to rejoin me there.

My good friend Gemma ordered today’s cake for her sons fifth birthday. This set me thinking because it was making a cake for his third birthday that started my cake love. Gem asked me to make something for him because she is an atrocious baker (sorry love, harsh but fair). At that time my cakes tasted good but my decorating skills were rubbish. When I saw that cake rolled out in front of the partygoers and Gem proudly telling everyone that I made it I was mortified.

I vowed there and then that by the following year I’d be able to turn out something decent.

I took a couple of basic classes and from their taught myself as I went along. I’ve had some major successes and quite a few disasters but Gem’s cakes have always been crowd pleasers.

In chronological order, these are the cakes I have made for Gem’s family in the last two years:

Maysie turns 2!

Ollie turns 4!

Maysie turns 3!

And here is today’s final one.

Ollie turns 5!

And so that’s it. That’s where two years practice can get you.

Gemma, if you start now you should be ready to make your own next year!!!!!

So I bid my Singapore customers farewell and look forward to new baking adventures in the UK where I won’t have to fight the heat and humidity to keep my cakes looking perfect.

A wedding and a big fat dinner….

I’m back!! I missed you all!

I had such good intentions of blogging my way around Europe on my trip but I fell by the wayside and just enjoyed myself instead. I blame it on the wine!!

My  trip could not really be termed a “holiday” as there was very little relaxing and recharging done. Instead it was a wonderful time of four generations of family, friends and children and making plans for the future.

I was honoured to stand as my brothers witness when he married his girl and thoroughly enjoyed watching him cry like a baby as she walked down the aisle. 🙂 Note his red eyes in the picture. There was some talk beforehand over if he would actually cry or not whereby my cousin Kat kindly offered to stamp on his foot at the right moment to ensure tears. In the end it was not necessary and she’s saving said foot stamp for another special occasion.  Joking aside it was a beautiful day and this blog sends them my love  and thanks.

Following the wedding I spent almost two weeks staying with my best friend SJ and her young family. Close as we all are this was a big ask but once again wine smoothed over the cracks. I really wanted to thank them and what better way than through their bellies so I offered to cook a traditional Sunday roast. Nice and easy I thought, I’ve cooked this a million times and then Nick suggested that I might like to use the AGA. More like AAAARRGHH.

For anyone that’s never used this piece of equipment it’s a feature in a lot of nice English kitchens. It can heat the whole house, including the hot water system, but it doesn’t have any temperate controls. This means everything has to be cooked by timings and moving them around the different compartments and for an inexperienced aga user it can spell disaster.

Not one to admit defeat and not willing to display subpar cooking skills in front of these guys I got out the ago book and made a cooking plan. That took me an hour and I hadn’t even made it to the supermarket!! This was starting to look like a long day and I was wishing I’d offered to buy takeaway.

A couple of hours later a small lamb leg was waiting to go in and I was hoping for the best.

Lightly rubbed with olive oil and studded with garlic and rosemary the little lamb went into the hottest part of the aga for 30 minutes to brown and then spent 2 hours in the slow roasting oven.

And voila! I promise it was actually plenty big enough for three despite looking like it came from a toy sized lamb in this picture.With a little practice this would a very easy and very awesome piece of equipment to use and I’m looking forward to the next time.

You can’t have roast lamb on it’s own so I also threw in roast carrots, onions, garlic and potatoes along with sweet peas in the pod and gravy.

Here is the finished result, in my opinion the best ever way to say thanks and I love you.

For the purists out there who will say the glass should have been red wine with lamb I am very aware of that. However, I don’t like red wine so it’s always the paler grape for me.

Until next time…

Ax

Wine for Cake

I have a great friend, Sash. She’s very smart, an amazing Mum to three kids (and one in the oven) but she can’t bake for toffee. Luckily she has me and another friend who can and she’s a regular customer for both of us.

Today her youngest child reached his first birthday and Sash decided that she wanted to make his cake.

Listening to her discussing with another friend about which cake packet mix she would use I nearly had a heart attack. “No,no,no” I shouted, “I will teach you”!

Last night she came over and the lesson commenced. Instead of giving her a typed recipe I made it with her and she said that the little tips I gave her along the way were much more valuable than the actual recipe so I’m going to share them with you too.

Sash very kindly offered to pay me for my time. This is what I charged her! You may notice the bottle is half empty today. What can I say??

So, without further ado, let me present Sash’s first ever cake,made from scratch, using my sponge and buttercream recipes and her own design flair. Well done, I’m proud of you!

Until next time.

Axx

Basic Sponge Cake (thanks to my Mum… again)

Firstly let me say that I always try to measure in grams when I’m baking but this recipe is so simple to make using ounces that I’ve never converted it.

There are four main ingredients in this cake, eggs, butter, sugar and flour and the basic rule is however many eggs you use you will use double that number in ounces of all the other ingredients. For example:

6 eggs = 12 ounces of all other ingredients

8 eggs = 16 ounces of all other ingredient

Simple right!

First Steps

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Use an oven thermometer to check this, the temperature on your oven gauge is likely to be wrong.

Line your cake tins. Draw around the bottom of the tin on baking paper and then cut just slightly inside the lines. Grease your tin all over with butter/margarine and then lay the paper in the bottom. Smooth it so it has no creases. You should do this even if your tin is “non stick”, it’s the only way to guarantee your cake won’t stick!

For an 8″ double layer cake (i.e. 2 tins) the ingredients you need are:

6 eggs

12oz butter or margarine (I use margarine, it’s much cheaper and just as good for this recipe)

12oz caster sugar

12oz self raising flour

Method

Put your butter and sugar in a mixing bowl (stand mixer or hand mixer will both be fine) and mix your butter and sugar until the color turns paler and it looks light and fluffy.

Before you add your eggs to the mixture break them into a separate bowl first. One bad egg will waste your whole mixture.

Add one egg and one spoon of flour to the butter/sugar and mix it in. Continue this way until all the eggs are added. If you have any flour left just add it at the end and mix. Once the eggs and flour are mixed in scrape the sides of the bowl and given one quick final blast.

Split the mixture evenly between the two tins (do one at a time if you only have one tin) and using a spatula gently push the mixture to the side so that it is semi flat. This does not have to be smooth but will help your cake rise evenly.

Bake in the oven for 18 minutes and then check. Gently press the top of your cake, if it springs back up it is ready. You can also insert a toothpick, if it comes out clean it is cooked.

Run a knife down the edges of the cake to make the sides are not stuck and then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the baking paper and cover with a thin cotton cloth to protect the cake from hardening whilst it it cooling.

What you do with it from here is up to you!

Good luck.

Hoorah

The Wifestyle is very excited today to have been accepted to join http://www.foodieblogroll.com.

There are some amazing cooks and bloggers on there. Not sure how I will measure up but I’ll give it a good try!

No exciting cooking so far this week. It’s been fish salads all the way in anticipation of going on holiday next week but I did have an exciting midweek adventure. My gorgeous, and very talented, photographer friend Suasti Lye delivered on her birthday gift to me of a photo shoot with some of my favorite girlfriends to mark the big changes I’ve been through recently. Thought you might like to see what I look like when I’m not cooking. Of course I wear this all the time. 🙂

Please check out Suasti’s amazing SLPD portfolio at http://www.suastilye.com. It’s amazing what this girl can do with a camera!!

Ax

And these are a beautiful selection of my girls!!!

A sweet way to say a sad farewell..

Life as an expatriate in Singapore is generally very privileged. For most of us it’s like living in a bubble of live in domestic help, year round sunshine and a social life better than when you were 20.  Sounds good huh?

Not always! As this bubble floats through the air lulling you with a nice smooth rocking motion all of a sudden reality bites and someone tells you they are leaving!!

This may not sound so bad but consider that none of us have family here and when we arrive fresh off the boat we know no-one. Our shared need to have people in our lives gives rise to friendships that form and deepen quickly into something very important to us.

After five years I have many great friends but at the beginning I had just three. Pip, Laila, Lindsay and I formed a bond over kids the same age and a regular Friday afternoon playgroup. We ate, drank, laughed and cried together, sometimes including the husbands but more often not.

Fast forward two years and Pip’s husband is posted to Qatar. With tears and sadness we waved goodbye but there were still three of us left so we carried on much as before. Another year on and Laila is moving back to Mumbai. To me this is devastating but Lindsay and I eventually find our way into being a twosome.

Six weeks ago we were at a birthday party in the park and she just blurted out  “We’re moving back to New York”. I was a bit dumbstruck and then I started to cry and then she started to cry and the next thing we are hugging in the park with a million kids tearing around our knees.

The last six weeks have seemed long. So much has happened and it has been easy to pretend that she’s not really going. Unfortunately this weekend we reached the time so say goodbye when we threw a farewell party for them. I wanted to find a way to say goodbye that suited me and what better way than making desserts for 30 party guests.

I wanted to choose dishes which reflected Lindsay and her husband Robb.  After much thought I settled on a rich salted caramel chocolate mousse that reminded me of Lindsay because you think you know what you’re getting but there’s an unexpected and interesting twist. For the unflappable, calming and gentle  presence that is Robb I chose a chilled lemon and lime cheesecake.

So what of me, the last one standing? Well I will be heading home to England this summer for my own new start. I will go home missing my friends but being greatly improved for having these amazing women in my life. They have truly taught me the power and value of female friendship and I will be forever grateful for that. I also have three more places to add to my global friends network. It is hard keeping up with each others daily lives and naturally the relationships are shifting slightly so all I can say is THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK!!

Andrea

xx

If you would like to make either dessert here you go:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse (courtesy of eatliverun.com)

Ingredients (serves 6)

175ml whipping cream

112gr caster sugar

35 gr unsalted butter, room temperature

200gr bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

¼ tsp kosher salt

3 large eggs, separated

Method

Heat the whipping cream in a saucepan until just warm and then set aside.

Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Do not stir. Cook to a dark caramel swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. Watch carefully to make sure it does not burn.

Take off the heat and add the room temperature butter and deglaze the pan using a whisk. Add the warmed cream and whisk vigorously.

Add the chopped chocolate and wait of a couple of minutes for it to melt. Add the salt and mix until smooth. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a bowl add a small amount of the warm chocolate mixture to the egg yolks. Stir through to bring the eggs to a warmer temperature.

Add the egg/chcoclate mixture to the saucepan and mix until thoroughly combined.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks and then fold gently into the chcoclate mixtures. Do not over fold or stir as the egg whites will collapse.

Divide into ramekins and chill for at least six hours. Serve as is, with a dollop of whipped cream or a raspberry coulis (my favourite).

Lemon & Lime Cheesecake (courtesy of my Mum)

Ingredients

175 gr digestive biscuits

100gr butter

Grated zest of 1 lemon & 3 limes

Juice of 2 limes and half a lemon

115gr caster sugar

350gr full fat cream cheese

100ml double cream

Dark chocolate for topping

Method (you can either make a large 20cm cheesecake or lots of smaller ones)

Crush the biscuits into crumbs. The best way to do this is seal them in a Ziploc bag and go to town with the rolling pin.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and then add the biscuit crumbs, mixing thoroughly.

Press the biscuit crumbs into the bottom of ramekins (or your springform tin if you are making a big one).

Place cream cheese, sugar and lemon and lime zest and juice into a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Whisk the double cream until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture.

Spoon the combined mixture on top of the biscuit base and chill overnight.

Before serving add some grated dark chocolate for decoration.

Mamma’s got her groove back!

It’s been a busy week at Wifestyle HQ.  Firstly, the dilemma of can I officially be called The Wifestyle now?? Maybe not but I don’t have a better name (ideas very welcome) and the blog concept is working well for me so, for now, The Wifestyle I shall remain!!

I feel like I have my groove back this week. I’ve been laughing, dancing and even ice skating which in Singapore is kind of random. We were the oldest on the ice by at least 15 years and fortunately none of us stacked it. We had a great time but I think the 2 glasses of wine afterwards were probably the favourite part. It’s been an interesting week of connections, reconnections and realizing just how amazing the people in my life really are. I am one lucky Mamma!

Towards the end of the week the third birthday train hit town again with Maysie and Beck both hitting the milestone. They were both very clear on the cakes they wanted and so with the three year old instruction of “it has to be blue flavour” ringing in my ears I went to work.

Both cakes started life as 10” vanilla rounds filled with chocolate chips.

A quick dirty ice and they looked like this.

From there they were each covered with fondant icing and left to settle and firm up.

Each child wanted their favourite character on top of their cake so I used a very simple but effective applique technique I’ve been perfecting for a while.

I took the picture and transferred it onto baking paper. I then cut all the individual sections out and use the pattern to cut coloured fondant, like so.

These pieces are all hand cut and finished with edible felt pin.

I then rebuilt the picture on top of the cake like a jigsaw puzzle.

This probably sounds very simple but anyone who has worked with fondant knows that it likes to move and stretch so putting the pieces back together can be a little tricky.

Nonetheless a few hours later I had 2 finished cakes and 2 very happy faces when I delivered them.

Happy Birthday Maysie! x

Happy Birthday Beck! x

An ending, a beginning and a last minute rescue…..

The Wifestyle was MIA last week, sorry about that. The 10 days previous to this have not been easy. Without too much detail they have seen the end of my marriage, a bittersweet mothers day with my 2 gorgeous munchkins and the beginning of a new year in my life as I celebrated my 36th birthday. As you can imagine I didn’t much feel like baking!

Anyhow, now I’m back and I’m starting to see the sun again so the oven is back on and house smells like cake.

My children were quite put out yesterday when a birthday cake failed to materialise for me. They wanted to know how come everyone else gets a birthday cake but you Mum? Because I make one for everyone else kids!

Never one to deprive my kids of the chance to eat cake I promised to bake one today and what better than the beautiful English classic that is a Victoria Sponge.

You may remember a vanilla cupcake recipe I posted a couple of weeks ago. I love those little cakes and I wondered how the batter would manage in a larger cake tin rather than a cupcake case. This seems like a good opportunity to try so I gave it a shot.

I mixed up the batter, filled 2 tins and put them in the oven on the middle shelf. Both cakes looked fine when I turned them out so I left them to cool.

About half an hour later I noticed a bit of cake had fallen out of one of them. I picked up the wire tray to look at the bottom and got a plop of uncooked batter right on my nose!! Guess that one is going in the bin.

Thinking the other one would be the same (not a stretch given it is the same mixture and has been in the oven for the same amount of time) I picked it up and broke it in half. Murphy’s law, it was perfectly cooked. So now, instead of my lovely double layer victoria sponge filled with jam and buttercream I have one layer which is broken in half. How do I give the kids the cake I promised them?

A flash of inspiration had me digging out a round cutter which I used to cut circles of the broken cake. I cut them in half, filled them with jam and buttercream and then popped the two parts back together. They now resemble cute little sponge cake scones, they taste awesome and the kids are beyond delighted with their mini cakes.

I guess the point of my story today is that life is a bit like a cake. Sometimes it’s burnt, sometimes it’s undercooked and sometimes it’s broken in half but you can always use what you have left to make something better.

For obvious reasons I haven’t included this recipe. I’ll try again and if it works I’ll share it a later date.

Xx

Lovely little ladybugs….

I make a lot of cakes for my friends children and at the moment we’re in a  run of third birthdays. The lovely Olivia had a little tea party in the park last week and wanted ladybug cupcakes for afternoon tea.

It’s so hot here (Singapore) that buttercream and an outdoor party are not good friends so these are fondant topped. Even that doesn’t have great longevity in this humidity but it can manage an hour or two before disaster strikes. These take a little time to make but are really simple and very effective so here’s how you can make them too.

For the cupcake and frosting you can use the recipes in my “Cakes for Teacher” post from  a couple of days ago.

Start with your perfect little cupcake and smear a very small amount of frosting on the top to act as glue. Don’t use too much or it will smoosh out the sides when you put your topper on.

Next take rolled out green fondant and use a shaped cutter to make a circle. I used a wavy one to make it a bit more interesting.

You can get the vine effect by using an embossed rolling mat. They come in many designs but if you don’t have one the cakes will look just fine without the extra detail.

Next, cut a number 3 from pink fondant using a number cutter. Number and letter cutters are worth buying, cutting them by hand is a nightmare! Use a tiny amount of vanilla extract or similar as glue.

The next addition is a smiley faced sunshine. I use a PME silicone mould to make these which you can pick up for a small amount in most baking stores. The mould is super easy to use, just shake a little corn starch in, knock the excess out and then press a small amount of fondant into the mould. Make sure the fondant is flush with the back of the mould and then gently press out.

The final addition is a cute little ladybug. Cut a red fondant circle using the large end of a piping nozzle and imprint a line down the centre using the back of a knife. Using an edible felt tip pen draw on the amount of dots that you want.

Make a small black disc for the head and glue next to the body. For the final touch draw on antennae using the edible pen.

Cupcake complete, now you just need to stack them.

Cakes for teacher…..

I’m not sure how it happened but I managed to nominate myself as Class Parent at my daughters school this year. One of my responsibilities is to arrange a gift and celebration for the teachers birthday which was on April 7th.  Needless to say I missed it and only remembered on April 23rd!! In my defense said birthday did occur during the 2 week Easter holiday so I thought as long as I came up with something good I would be forgiven. A quick whip round bought a nice department store voucher in a decent denomination and of course, I baked cupcakes.

If  you like the look of them read on and I’ll teach you how to make them!

After much searching I’ve finally found the prefect cupcake recipe. It tastes great and the cases don’t peel in the high Singapore humidity. This recipe is courtesy of Pretty Witty Cakes in the UK and although I have made some tiny adjustments to suit myself it is basically theirs.

Vanilla & Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 24)

315gr butter or margarine (I use margarine for this, it’s much cheaper here)

330gr caster sugar

6 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract (imitation is fine

375gr SR flour, sifted

3 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoon cornflour

12 tablespoons milk

Preheat your over to 150 degrees (fan forced) of 160 degrees if not. An oven thermometer will help you get the correct temperature.

Don’t use waxed cupcakes cases, these are more likely to peel.

All ingredients should be room temperature before you use them.

Ensure your margarine is really soft and then beat it for around 2 minutes until it is light.

Add the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat at low speed until they are mixed in. The mixture may look a little odd and speckly at this  point, worry not, it will be fine when you add the dry  ingredients.

Add the vanilla and mix in.

Sift the flour into the mixture with the cornflour and baking pwder. Stir this in gently with a big spoon. Stir until the flour is just mixed in, no more, no less.

Add the milk and stir it in. This will loosen the batter and help the cases to stick.

Line your muffin tray with paper cases. Fill them half full for flat topped cupcakes  three quarters for dome tops.

Bake at 150 degrees for 18-20 minutes until they are springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Do not frost them until they have cooled completely.

I topped these cupcakes with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. I used a 1M Wilton piping nozzle to create a swirl and then used different coloured fondant and heart shaped cutters to make these simple toppers. Buy a cardboard  cake tower from your local baking store and Taadaaaa!!

The frosting recipe is:

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (courtesy of Donna Hay)

 Ingredients

100 grams softened butter (unsalted or margarine)

500 grams cream cheese

320 grams icing sugar (sifted to give you a smoother texture)

50 grams cocoa powder (sifted)

1 tbsp. meringue powder (optional but it helps crust your icing and keep form to the shape)

Method

Place the butter and cheese in an electric mixer and beat for 6 – 8 minutes until pale and creamy.

Add the icing sugar, meringue powder and cocoa powder and beat for a further

6 – 8 minutes until light and fluffy.

NB: this icing does not hold up well in high heat so cool as long as possible.

ENJOY!!