Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hokkaido cake

People often ask me if they can use chiffon cake recipes to make cupcakes.  I always tell them I personally don't do that as the cupcakes would most likely sink. I never would have wanted to try until I read about the Hokkaido cake recently.

Image credit: The Pickiest Eater in the World.  The Hokkaido
cake as introduced by The French Baker in the Philippines in 2012.

Apparently, the Hokkaido cake is very popular in Asia.  It is basically just a chiffon cake baked in squarish baking cups, filled with whipped cream, then garnished with fruit and dusted with icing sugar.  Every recipe I've seen of this cake on the internet "warns" of the fact that the cupcakes would sink a little bit once out of the oven. The sinking is part and parcel of the process and nothing that affects the beauty and taste of the finished cupcakes.

Yesterday, I had the chance to try making the cupcakes.  When the cupcakes came out of the oven, they were all puffy and tall.  Too tall actually, that I thought I had overfilled the baking cups.

Then, as expected, when they cooled down, they all collapsed and had wrinkly tops. :(  I really hate it when that happens.  But then again, the cupcakes all settled to a nice height.

Some even separated from the baking cup :((  I hate that even more!

Filling with whipped cream caused the cupcakes to expand a bit so they sort of became puffed up again! The icing sugar dusted on top hid more of the imperfections and so the finished cupcakes ended up looking like this...

For anyone who loves chiffon cakes like me, you'd actually know what to expect of the cupcake.  It was beautiful of course - fresh, clean, with a very subtle sweetness!  You won't be able to stop at just one as it is really light.

By the way, see those strawberry slices on top? Would you believe those were from a single strawberry?

How huge is that!!!!

Here's how I did it.  Give it a go sometime!

HOKKAIDO CAKE (makes about 12 square-shaped cupcakes)

For the chiffon cake:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3/8 cup white sugar

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

4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

3/8 cup white sugar


1. Preheat oven to 170 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. 
4. Arrange 12 square baking cups in a baking tray.  Scoop batter into each cup, filling to about 3/4 full. (I used a 2" ice cream scoop and each of my cups needed two scoops.)  Bang the baking tray gently to release any air bubbles in the cake batter.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups whipping or thickened cream, chilled
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl then beat till stiff.  When ready to fill cooled cupcakes, transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a small plain round tip. (I used Wilton #12.)

To assemble the cupcakes:

1.  Insert the piping tip into the center of the cupcake and gently squeeze out the whipped cream until it oozes out the top.
2.  Dust the cupcake top with powdered/icing sugar.
3.  Garnish with a slice of fruit.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake (Part 2)

When I first started making cream cheese frosting, it was always on the soft side. I would either have to work fast before the frosting completely melted or I would ditch piping swirls and instead just make simple round blobs.

A lot of people recommend adding more powdered (icing) sugar to frosting until you get a consistency stiff enough for piping.  As if powdered sugar didn't have any taste!  Adding more sugar = more sweetness.  Not good.

More powdered sugar is NOT the answer.  While most recipes will tell you to use softened cream cheese, I've discovered that if you use it straight from the fridge, you will end up with stiff frosting that's perfect for piping.

(Will frost about 20 cupcakes)

1 bar (250g) cream cheese, cold, cut up into small cubes
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered/icing sugar, sifted


In a medium bowl, beat the butter for a few seconds.  Add in the cubed cream cheese and vanilla extract.

Beat until combined.

Add powdered sugar in 3 additions.  Beat only until the mixture is smooth.  Overbeating will make the frosting go soft.

Now you have stiff cream cheese frosting that's perfect for piping those high swirls!  Easy.

Top with sprinkles then it's done.  Perfect!
Ready to bake?  Red velvet cupcake recipe can be found here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake (Part 1)

My family is absolutely sick of red velvet cupcakes.  Even the mere sight of them.  I think we got tired of the cupcakes more from seeing them so often in our kitchen rather than from actually eating them.

I baked plenty of ugly red velvet cupcakes in the beginning - sunken centers, lopsided tops, overflowing, cracked domes, etc.  Many bakers (even professionals!) say it doesn't matter what the top looks like because you are going to cover it up with frosting anyway.  I don't agree.  I needed to find out how to do it right.  The first step, of course, was to find the "best" recipe.

If you type in "best red velvet recipe" on Google, you will get countless matches. The label "best" is very relative after all.  I did a Google search a few years ago and it led me to this recipe.  It is the one I have been using ever since.  I like that it uses butter rather than oil as I find cupcakes with oil too wet, moist and heavy.  A minor change I have done was lessening the red food colouring to 40 mls (from 60 mls or 2 oz). 60 mls just seemed too much for me. One thing I'd also like to mention is that I have been strict with using only real buttermilk.  I found that when I used a substitute of milk and vinegar or lemon juice, the result wasn't as good.  But that's probably just me.

Having a good recipe is not the be all and end all.  Correct technique is as essential.  To help you make great red velvet cupcakes, I will show you a step by step plus give you some tips!  NOTE: I will not write the recipe here.  It is not mine.  Personally, I don't like it when people copy my recipes onto their own websites.  Even with a link back, if the recipe is already here, then there is no reason for you to check out the link, is there?  Having said that, I urge you to head on over to Pinch My Salt when you're ready to bake.

Here goes!

1.  Mixing the dry ingredients.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together into a bowl then use a whisk to combine thoroughly and to aerate.  Note that I mix in the cocoa powder at this point instead of with the red food colouring (as stated in the original recipe).

2.  Creaming the butter and sugar.

New bakers usually get confused as to what "creaming" means.  It simply means beating the butter and sugar together until it becomes light and fluffy and the colour becomes a very pale yellow.  Start at a slow speed then gradually increase to medium high. If you use caster sugar, the process will be shorter as the sugar dissolves more quickly into the butter.

TIP: If the weather is cold and your butter and sugar is taking forever to reach that fluffy texture, try hovering a hair dryer on low setting over your bowl.  This will warm up your butter and bowl and will speed up the process.  Trust me, I do this all the time.  Just be careful not to melt it!

3.  Adding eggs, vanilla extract and red food colouring.

Add the eggs one a time.  Beat at medium-low speed only. Add the red food colouring gradually with mixer speed down to low.

4.  Adding the flour mixture and buttermilk.

With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Do this in three additions and mix only until combined. You may find that the flour mixture has a tendency to fly all over the place so it is a good thing to probably cover the mixer bowl with a tea towel before you turn the mixer on.

5.  Mixing the baking soda and vinegar.

When you mix these two ingredients together, the mixture should fizz and foam.  If it does not, your baking soda must be old.  Discard and quickly buy new baking soda!  Better yet, if you haven't used your baking soda in a while, check it first before even thinking about baking,.

6.  Final mixing.

After you have poured the baking soda/vinegar mixture in, beat your cake batter for about 30-40 seconds only.  The longer you beat, the tougher your cupcake will become.

7.  Filling your cupcake cases.

The best way to ensure your cupcakes will be the same size, more or less, is to use a 2" ice cream scoop.

You will be able to make about 20-22 cupcakes.

8.  Baking.

Check your oven's accuracy with an oven thermometer.  Bake your cupcakes in the middle rack, one tray at a time.  You can also turn your trays around halfway through to ensure even baking.

Following the steps and tips I have outlined here, you will hopefully get beautiful-looking and wonderful tasting cupcakes like these.