Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dulce de Leche Cake

Dulce de leche cake is something I wouldn't normally think of making.  Simple fact - I'm lactose intolerant.  My body can take in small amounts of dairy without any untoward consequence BUT in a cake such as this, where there is a rich combination of dulce de leche and pastry cream, I know for sure I will be in trouble!

I had shared a similar cake nearly four years ago but only talked about it and never posted the recipe. I didn't really feel like making this cake again, not only for the reason stated above, but also because it entailed doing a lot of things.

The cake itself is a vanilla chiffon.  It is frosted with a dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream and filled with pastry cream.  On the cake top are dulce de leche and chocolate flakes and on the sides, toasted cake crumbs.

When I first made dulce de leche cake, I sliced a thin layer from the vanilla chiffon, then crumbled and toasted it.  The toasted crumbs were light in colour then because I started with fresh cake.  I didn't do that this time around because I wanted to keep the full height of the cake.  All I used to make the crumbs for this new cake were the brownish crusts from the cake top and sides.  Scraps, in other words.   (I actually remove the crusts for all my cakes.  Normally, my husband likes to eat them or if he's not around, I would throw them out.  For this cake, there's no waste!)

The pastry cream here is barely sweet.  Dulce de leche is cloyingly sweet by itself so it is important to counteract it.  The Swiss meringue buttercream also has less sugar than my usual recipe because of the addition of dulce de leche to it.


Make ahead your cake, toasted cake crumbs, dulce de leche, and pastry cream (like a day or two before you need the cake).

You know how to make vanilla chiffon cake by now, don't you? Recipe here.

To make the toasted cake crumbs:

Once the cake is completely cool and you've removed it from the baking tin, carefully slice off the top brown crust.  For the sides, just gently rub your fingers back and forth against it and the crust should fall off easily.  You will be left with a clean cake like this...

Wrap this cake in cling film, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate or freeze first.

And scraps like these...


Place the scraps in a tray and bake in a preheated 180 deg C oven for a few minutes, till dry and crispy, then crumble them with your fingers.  Store in a ziploc bag or in a small airtight container for use later.

My crumbs did look too brown (because they were from the crusts) but not burned.
Alternatively, if you don't like to use the cake scraps, just horizontally slice off about a 1/4" thick layer of cake, then toast this instead to get lighter coloured crumbs.

To make dulce de leche:

There are several ways to make dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Some boil the can itself in a pot for several hours, some do it in a pressure cooker. I personally prefer the oven method.

All you need to do is empty your can of sweetened condensed milk into a shallow dish (I used a small pyrex rectangular dish,).  Cover the dish with foil and place it on top of a larger tray.

Pour boiling water into the larger tray until it reaches at least halfway the sides of the dish.  Bake in a preheated 200 deg C oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours.  Check occasionally and refill the tray with boiling water, if needed. Let the dulce de leche cool down then whisk until it becomes smooth.  Set aside covered in the fridge until needed.

Before using, warm slightly in the microwave to make it softer and more fluid then whisk.

To make the pastry cream

You will need:
1 1/4 cups fresh (whole) milk
3 large eggyolks **
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

** Reserve the eggwhites for the buttercream.

In a small jug, whisk together the eggyolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, over low to medium heat, warm the milk just until it starts to boil.  Without turning off the heat, pour some of the milk into the eggyolk mixture to temper the eggs.  Mix until smooth.  Pour this back into the remaining milk in the saucepan.  Mix until the pastry cream reaches a very thick consistency.  Off the fire, mix in the vanilla extract. 

Transfer the pastry cream to a small bowl or container then place cling film directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Before using, whisk the pastry cream until it goes back to its creamy consistency.

To make the dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream:

Follow the same recipe and procedure as detailed here but lessen the sugar to 1/2 cup.

After the last step, mix in 1/3 cup of dulce de leche.  Beat until well combined.

To assemble the cake:

(Remember: Whisk your pastry cream before using to make it smooth.  Heat the dulce de leche gently to soften it.)

Cut your cake horizontally in half. Invert top layer onto your cake board, cut side up. 

Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with buttercream then pipe a dam around the cake edge. Fill the center of the dam with pastry cream.  Top with the other cake layer, cut side down. Cover the whole cake with buttercream. 

To cover the cake sides with toasted cake crumbs, lift the cake board with one hand and hold at a slight angle.  With the other hand, sprinkle the cake crumbs onto the side of the cake.  Do this all around. Be prepared to make a bit of a mess!

Before proceeding, remove the excess cake crumbs that's fallen into your cake board.  Clean up your work space!

Refill the same piping bag with the star tip with the remaining buttercream.  Pipe large rosettes around the cake top, leaving no spaces in between each.  Pour some dulce de leche on the center of the cake. Tap the cake gently or tilt from side to side to help the dulce de leche spread towards the rosette border.

To finish off, garnish each rosette with chocolate flakes or shavings.

Just a final note - don't mind the cake comb marks on my cake!  I couldn't decide at first if I wanted to use the toasted crumbs or not so I decorated the side using a cake comb.  Obviously, in the end, I went ahead and stuck the crumbs anyway!

By the way, the cake pictured above was for my husband's birthday last Thursday.  I didn't eat a slice but since he ate two slices consecutively, that probably meant he liked it, right?  My daughter especially loved the buttercream and she normally hates buttercream.  I reckon that's good enough to give this cake a thumbs up!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Triple Zip Cross-body Bag

Now that my friend in Singapore has finally received the bag that I sent her, I can openly talk about it at last!  

Remember the LeSportsac Kasey bag knockoff that I posted here not too long ago? Firstly, I don't want to call the bag by that name anymore.  I feel like going with a more generic term.  Triple zip cross-body bag, ok?

It's quite obvious now that I love navy blue.  The last three bags I sewed are all in this colour.  As the name suggests, this bag has three zipped compartments - the two front pockets and the main bag.  It is just small and ideal to use for when you only need to bring essentials like a wallet, keys, mobile phone.

I used bag zippers this time instead of the more common all-purpose or dress zippers.  They are so much better because the zipper teeth are a bit wider and the pull is longer, making opening and closing the zipper much easier and smoother.

I did my best to stitch very cleanly and to make my zipper corners really neat.  Homemade doesn't necessarily equate to sloppy or imperfect craftsmanship.  It can be as good as store-bought, can it not? (I have the same attitude when it comes to my cakes too.)

See that jacquard ribbon?  I bought that at Daiso which means that it is quite cheap BUT absolutely cute.

I bought the denim fabric years ago with the intention of making a skirt for my daughter. Never got around to doing it though.  What is great about the fabric is that it has embroidered flowers along the length of one edge.

Pretty neat, isn't it? I was even able to make the adjustable, detachable strap this time around!

I am happy to say that I have successfully made the pattern and instructions for this bag, all 36 pages of it!  It is now available in my Etsy shop and also here.  As with all my other eBooks, this one is loaded with photos and the instructions are very, very detailed. So, anyone interested at all?

To my 'once upon a time' online sewing buddies: You have probably lost interest in this blog by now BUT if anyone of you are still out there reading this, please, please, please do say HELLO!  I still love to sew and create (as much as I do baking cakes) and I miss sharing stuff with you. I hope you can still come and visit sometime, leave comments and let me know what you are up to these days.

PS.  My husband's birthday is in a few days and I am planning this new cake.  If it turns out well, I will be back to share that next time.

Have a good week!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Buttercream roses galore!

I used to really dread piping buttercream roses.  Simple reason - I couldn't do it, no matter how hard I tried.  No matter how many YouTube video tutorials I watched.  No matter what kind of buttercream I used.  The easy way out for me had always been to just mould the roses from gumpaste.

After several years of being disappointed at myself, however, I can finally and proudly say that I have conquered the buttercream rose!  So much so, that now, I look forward to every opportunity to make them.

All these roses were made using Swiss meringue buttercream (no shortening) which many even consider too soft for this purpose.  Well let me tell you, it can be done!

I find that freezing the roses before placing them on the cake really makes the process so much easier. What I always do now is make my buttercream first, then pipe my roses (which I set aside in the freezer right after), frost my cake, pipe my borders then arrange the roses last.  Less stress!

One more thing - I'll let you in on my secret?  I don't use the usual rose tip #104 anymore.  The larger tip #124 is so much better.  Don't know why.  Just is, for me.

Now my new goal is to learn how to write properly on the cake!  My writing is almost always off center or crooked, too big or too small. :(  Oh well, one thing at a time!

Have a good week.