Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake

In the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, it seems that many bakers selling from home have emerged in recent years.  Oh, I am not talking about just any baker and not just any home.  A lot of these homebakers are high society matrons who reside in the plush subdivisions of the metro.  Each Mrs. seems to have her own specialty such that Mrs. X is known for this cake, Mrs. Y is known for another cake and so on.  The system of ordering is simple - give them a ring to order, then on pick up day, you go to their house and a uniformed maid comes out the door to hand you your cake.  As you would expect, these cakes are more pricey than those bought at the big bakeshops and only those from the middle and upper classes could afford them.

One such lady baker is Mrs. Yulo.  To be honest, I don't really know who she is, but I do know that the Yulo surname = elite.  Mrs. Yulo's specialty, apparently, is the strawberry shortcake.  I say apparently because I have only read about it. I wonder if she herself bakes the cakes? I can only imagine an army of helpers around the kitchen who actually do the work for her! I have read about how great this cake is, how Mrs. Yulo uses imported strawberries and cream, and stuff like that. Her cake was even listed among the 10 best desserts in Manila (article written way back in 2005, but still).

Image credit: En Route
I have no way of knowing for sure.  But this is what I have gathered from the internet and what I have deduced just by looking at photographs.  My deductions may be wrong though.

Image credit, from top L clockwise: The Moving Couch Potato, SpotChuvaness, The Moving Couch Potato
1.  The cake is baked in a tube pan as there is an obvious hole in the middle. People say it is a sponge cake but I say, it is probably chiffon.
2.  The cake is frozen.  I've seen pictures with the strawberries either all icy-looking or at the point of thawing that they are already bleeding.
3.  The cake is very tall.  Chiffon cakes do bake tall in tube pans but what makes the assembled cake even taller is the amount of cream in between the cake layers and on top.  In some photos I've seen, the filling is as thick as the cake layer!
4.  There is nothing extraordinary with the way the cake is presented.  Just a pinkish cream with strawberry bits all over and 8 half strawberries around the edge.

My conclusion?  Unless Mrs. Yulo uses a special, secret ingredient, I see no reason why this cake cannot be replicated at your own homes.  If you have tried any of the chiffon cake recipes here and were successful, you will find this strawberry shortcake quite easy to make.  It is very similar to the Mango and Cream cake, basically just replacing the mangoes with strawberries. Simple but outrageously delicious.

Below is my strawberry shortcake.  I have arranged my photos in a collage similar to the one I have done with Mrs. Yulo's cake so you can see how twin-looking they are!

Now let's look at the comparison more closely, shall we?

So...would you rather spend a hefty amount of money buying this cake or would you dare try making it yourself?


VANILLA CHIFFON CAKE (recipe suitable for a 9x3 tube pan)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white sugar

¼ cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine {A} well. Add in {B}. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 9" tube pan.
4. Bake for about 55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan onto a glass bottle immediately and cool completely.
5. To release cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cake onto a large serving plate. **Tip: For easier handling, wrap your cake very well in cling film, then refrigerate overnight before frosting.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cups whipping or thickened cream, very cold
1 250g bar of cream cheese, soft but still cold
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon strawberry extract/essence
a drop or two of red liquid food coloring
150g of strawberries, plus 8 pieces (preferably big ones) more for garnishing

*Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters for the whipped cream are all well chilled to achieve better volume.

Process the strawberries until they are turned into small bits. Do not puree.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Set aside.

In your chilled bowl and using clean beaters, beat the whipping cream, sugar, strawberry extract and food coloring until the mixture is quite stiff. Gently fold in the cream cheese then beat again at high speed for a few seconds or just until everything is well combined.  Be careful not to overbeat.  Carefully fold in the strawberry bits.

To assemble:

Cut the vanilla chiffon cake horizontally into three layers.

Place bottom cake layer (the wider end) on your cake board, cut side up. Spread and level some of the whipped cream onto the cake layer until it is about 1/2" thick.  Cover the hole as well. Place the next cake layer over the bottom layer and spread whipped cream in the same manner. Top with the last cake layer then frost the cake all over with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish the top with the strawberry halves.

That's it! Go ahead and give it a go.  You won't regret it.

Steamed Rice Cakes: Putong Ube, Muscovado, Queso and Pandan

As promised, here are the recipes for the steamed rice cakes.  I have had great success with these and I hope you all will too.  The procedure for each flavour is basically the same and is only listed in detail with the first recipe.  Variations, if any, are indicated in the succeeding recipes.

Make one or make all four flavours!

From top left, clockwise: putong ube, putong mascobado, putong pandan, and putong queso.

PUTONG UBE (makes about 30 - 36 mini muffin sized puto)

1  cup rice flour
1/2 cup cake flour
3 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2T evaporated milk
100 grams grated ube
1/2 teaspoon McCormick ube flavour
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
pinch of violet food powder (if desired), no more than 1/8 tsp. 

In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together.  Add in the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Do not overmix.  If you want a darker purple shade, add in the violet food powder to finish off.  

Heat water in bottom pan of steamer until water boils rapidly. Wrap steamer cover with a towel.  

Grease puto molds or mini muffin pans then scoop puto batter into molds,  3/4 full. Decrease heat to medium then steam puto for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before removing from the molds.


1  cup rice flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 cup packed muscovado sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2T evaporated milk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

**Combine coconut milk, evaporated milk, and muscovado sugar in a small saucepan.  Place over low heat and mix gently until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil. Set aside to cool before using.  Alternatively, put liquids in a microwave-safe container.  Heat for about 45 seconds.  Stir in the muscovado sugar until it is dissolved.


1  cup rice flour
1/2  cup cake flour
2 1/4  teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2T evaporated milk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Pinch of yellow food powder, if desired
Small chunks of or finely grated cheddar cheese

**After filling molds with batter, top with a few cheese chunks.  Do not put too much!


1  cup rice flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2T evaporated milk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pandan paste OR
1/2 teaspoon clear pandan extract and a pinch of green food powder

If you ever get to try these recipes, I would greatly appreciate some feedback.  Let me know if you liked it or not and if there is anything else I can do to improve on the recipes.  Thank you and enjoy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Steamed rice cakes (puto) like Michelle's

When you can't have the real thing, clone it.

That has been my motto for a time now....that is, when it comes to food.  That is how most of the cake recipes you see here were born.

Recently, another Filipino favourite I thought of recreating was steamed rice cakes or puto as we call it.  (I am a little apprehensive to use the Filipino term as I know this is a rather offensive word in another language. But that is it's proper name, so please excuse me.)

I know there is a variety of puto around but the one I wanted to make was something similar to Michelle's putong ube, a well-known homemade brand in Metro Manila.  Michelle's actually has four puto variants: ube (purple yam), muscovado, queso (cheese), and pandan.  Their products are a bit pricey compared to sidewalk vendor-puto but are really well worth the money.  

The one and only time I tasted Michelle's puto was last January.  I've read about it on the internet and have seen photos so I was curious. I could not remember the exact taste and texture of each flavour so in order to recreate it,  I had to ask around and also find whatever useful information I can.  I should give credit to this article and also to this picture (originally found here)...

If you look closely, you will see the list of ingredients for the putong ube. (CLICK TO ENLARGE.)
A lot of puto recipes these days make use of wheat flour which makes the name 'rice cake' really a misnomer.  You will notice from the list of ingredients shown in the picture that although rice is a major component, there is wheat flour as well.  I suppose some source of gluten, even in a small amount, is necessary to give this cake structure. Rice cakes made purely of ground rice or rice flour tend to be flat.

One thing I figured was that there had to be a single basic recipe for all flavours, with just a minimum of adjustments to some of the ingredients. With this in mind, what was once again a series of kitchen experimentation for me began.  As a result, I have been eating puto for breakfast, lunch, snack and even dessert for a few days now!

That's all behind me now cause I believe I finally got it!

Here they are: my versions of the putong ube, muscovado, queso, and pandan.

Putong ube

Putong muscovado
Putong queso
Putong pandan
These puto were fluffy and moist, and most importantly, tasted like the flavour they were supposed to be.  So easy to eat a plateful in one go!  They were 'cake-y', fresh out of the steamer, which made me question whether this was the right texture or not.  My friend Mimi said that Michelle's puto was chiffon cake-like in softness and so my recipe must be on the right track.

Apart from the cracked top, I reckon these are pretty similar to Michelle's.  I wonder if the cracked top is meant to be their signature look?  My puto hardly had any cracks and am thinking of what I should do to get them (not that they look better with cracks).  Just asking.

Do you like steamed rice cakes?  Then stay tuned for the recipes.  Next time, I promise.