Matcha Azuki Fresh Cream Cake

On the last Saturday of April, I hosted dinner for my family. I decided to bake a matcha cake for dessert since I will be cooking Japanese curry rice. The cake was really easy to bake and assemble. My family loved the cake very much as it was soft and light.
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Recipe for Matcha Azuki Beans Fresh Cream Cake

Sponge cake adapted from Jeannie's blog.
(Makes a 9" cake, though original was stated as 8")

Ingredients:
6 Large egg yolks
70g Cooking oil
100g Water
90g Cake flour
12g Matcha powder
1/2 tsp salt

6 Egg whites
100g Caster sugar
1/4 tsp Corn flour

Method:

1. Line the bottom an 9″ round pan. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Sift flour and matcha powder together. Add in salt.
3. Beat egg yolks, oil together until combined before adding water. Stir well.
4. Stir in the flour. Set aside.
5. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add corn flour into sugar to mix. Continue beating while gradually adding the sugar and corn flour. Beat till soft peaks.
6. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk batter with a hand whisk. Add another 1/3 and fold until almost combined. Add the last portion and switch to a spatula to scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold up. Keep at it until no streaks of yolk batter can be seen.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake with a water bath at 160C for 70 minutes or until cooked.
8. Remove from oven, and invert it on a wire rack to cook completely.

Assembly:
350g Whipping cream, whipped
35g Caster sugar
200g Azuki beans in a can

1. Slice the cake into 4 layers.
2. Whip the cream with sugar till thick and stiff.
3. Spread the whipping on the first layer of the cake. Add Azuki beans and spread evenly.
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4. Repeat for two more layers.
5. For the final layer, spread with whipping cream and decorate as desired.
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6. Chill before consuming. cake_matchaazuki05

Walnut Maple Buttercream Cake for Mother's Day

Recently I discovered a nice blog - Jeannie Tay's blog which she shared many recipes. Her pictures showed how lovely her bakes turned out, which prompted me to try some. Since it's Mother's Day weekend, I decided to bake a Walnut Maple buttercream cake for my mum.
cake_walnutmaple10 cake_walnutmaple12 Recipe for Walnut Maple Buttercream Cake

Walnut butter cake, adapted from Jeannie.
(Makes a 7" round cake)

Ingredients:
3 Egg yolks (70g with shell)
20g Castor sugar
113g Unsalted butter, melted n cooled
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
70g Plain flour
56g Walnuts, roasted and chopped
1/2 tsp Baking powder

3 Egg whites
70g Castor sugar
1/4 tsp Corn flour

Method:

1. Line the bottom of two 7" round cake pans. Preheat oven to 150C.
2. Whisk yolks and sugar till light and fluffy. Add melted butter, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
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3. Mix the corn flour into the sugar. Whisk egg whites until frothy, then gradually add sugar into the whites and beat till firm peaks.
4. Sift flour into yolk mixture and mix. Add in chopped walnuts. Batter is very thick and almost unfoldable at this stage. 
5. Add 1/3 meringue to loosen the gluten. Continue to fold in the remaining meringue 1/3 at a time. 
6. Pour equally into two baking pans. Shake gently from side to side to level the batter.
7. Baked at 150 degrees at lowest rack for 30mins or till golden brown. Test with a skewer for doneness before removing from the oven.
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8. Unmould immediately and place them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Maple Italian Meringue Buttercream
(Makes enough to frost a 3 layer 7" cake or a 2 layer 8" cake)

Ingredients:
60g Water
150g Sugar
3 Egg whites
250g Unsalted butter
2 tbsp Maple Syrup

Method:

1. Boil water and sugar till rolling ball stage, which is about 115C. This takes approximately 5mins on medium heat.
2. At 3mins, whisk egg whites on the mixer on low speed till frothy.
3. When the sugar solution is ready, turn the mixer speed on medium-low and start pouring in the sugar gradually, slowly and steadily.
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4. Then turn the mixer speed to medium and continue beating till the meringue cools down.
5. Change the whisk to k-beater and add in butter in three batches.
6. Continue beating till butter is incorporated into the meringue.
7. Add in maple syrup and mix well.
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Assembly:
1. Place one cake layer on the cake board.
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2. Spread with maple buttercream generously and evenly.
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3. Place another layer on top.
4. Coat the sides with buttercream and even it out.
5. Spread the top with buttercream and even it out.
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6. Pipe a heart shape on the cake top and add toasted chopped walnuts.
7. Sprinkle with maple syrup and decorate as desired.
8. Chill in the fridge.
9. Remove from the fridge 15mins before serving.
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Happy Mother's Day!


Cream Cheese Chiffon Cake

Chiffon cakes have always been a challenge for me. Sometimes I got it right, many times I just eat it! Still, I like to make chiffon cakes because even though the texture might not be right, it is still soft and light. For this recipe, I made three times, twice with cream cheese and once with shredded cheese. The results are all different! That is why I said chiffons are a challenge! It just won't be consistent...for me!
chiffon_creamcheese04
Recipe for Cream Cheese Chiffon Cake, adapted from "初學者也ok !自己作職人配方的戚風蛋糕” by 青井聰子
(Makes a 20cm tube pan)

Ingredients:
6 Large eggs yolks (at least 70g with shell)
90g Cooking oil
60g Whole milk
100g Cream cheese
100g Sour cream
110g Cake flour
6 Egg whites
110g Caster sugar

Method:

1. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks lightly before adding oil and mix well.
2. Add in milk and mix to incorporate.
3. Add in cream cheese and sour cream and mix well till no lumps, if possible.
4. Sift in flour to incorporate.
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5. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites till frothy. Gradually add in sugar. Continue to whisk till egg whites reach firm peak stage.
6. Add egg whites to yolk mixture in 3 batches. Mix with whisk till almost even after each batch. Scrape down and fold with spatula till just evenly mixed.
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6. Pour batter into the prepared chiffon pan. Bake in preheated oven of 160C for about 45mins, till cake is well browned.
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7. Remove from the oven and invert before unmoulding.

Second bake yields the best taste and texture.
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BBQ Pork Ribs

Some weeks back, my mother-in-law fried some sweet and sour pork ribs. The taste was good, but the meat was tough. We discussed about the cooking method to make it soft on which the meat can come off the bones easily, like how we like our bak ku teh. At that point, I didn't have much idea too. So I went to do a search how to make it like Chili's pork ribs. My father-in-law loves it! And so, I decided to explore it, in hope that I can make for them in future, if I am successful.

A search on the internet provides this recipe from All Recipes - Simple BBQ Ribs. Reading through the comments really provides good guide on producing a good bbq rib. I can't wait to try it out! It turns out to be really good! The quantity I cooked didn't even have enough for all of us. Next time, I must make thrice the amount so that everyone will be finger-licking them!
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Recipe for BBQ Pork Ribs, adapted from All Recipes.

Ingredients:
900g Pork ribs, whole
1 tbsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Ground black pepper
2 tbsp Salt
1 cup BBQ sauce

Method:


1. Place ribs in a large pot with enough water to cover. 
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2. Season with garlic powder, black pepper and salt. 
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3. Bring water to a boil, and cook ribs until tender.
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4. Preheat oven to 170C. Remove ribs from pot, and place them in a baking dish. 
5. Generously brush BBQ sauce on the ribs. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 40mins.
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6. Take out the dish and brush the ribs with more sauce, cover with aluminum foil. Bake for another 20mins.
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7. Remove the foil, placed it on the higher rack and continue baking for another 8 mins. 
8. Rest for 5mins before cut and serve. The meat will fall off the bones easily! 
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We had our bbq ribs with oligo alio and it was really good! bbqpork09

Cruise with Hurtigruten along Norwegian Fjord

"Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords." - Wikipedia.
"A fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion. There are many fjords on the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Chile, Greenland, Iceland, the Kerguelen Islands, New Zealand, Norway... Norway's coastline is estimated at 29,000 km with fjords, but only 2500 km when fjords are excluded. "- Wikipedia

Therefore, a trip to Norway will be incomplete without a taking a cruise along their fjords. In order for us to get from Bergen to Tromso, I booked a cruise ship and take our time to enjoy the beauties along the Norwegian coastline.

Hurtigruten is not only a transporter of passengers, it also transports goods and vehicles from one port to another. Their popular cruise is 12days - starting from Bergen and ends at Bergen heading northwards all the way to Kirkenes and back southwards. And at certain locations and time, you can catch the northern lights onboard the cruise too!

For us, the cruise was about 5D4N, but 3 days 16 hours according to their website. Choosing the cabin room was a challenge - Unspecific Polar Outside, Polar Inside, with windows, with limited windows. I had no idea what was Polar outside. And I chose the cheaper room with similar description to the more expensive one. Hahaha...Lunch was not included in the cost of the cruise. So I decided to add dinner meal. Breakfast was included as part of the cost. My advice is, don't add dinner meal, save the cost. So the total worked out to be 1584€ for 4 days breakfast and 3 nights dinner.

Day 1 - 29 Feb
On day 1, boarding takes place at 3pm, but rooms are only available after 6pm. We took a taxi from Bergen city to the terminal which cost us Nok150 (S$25) for 15mins ride. We arrived just after 6pm. The queue to check-in was long. There was only two counters opened. Many of them came with huge luggage. Later then I realised many of their passengers are from other parts of Europe where they flew in on the same day so that they can check in to the cruise ship directly. I also realised that most of these passengers will cruise the 12 days with them.

During check-in, we were given a room card each, which was linked to our credit cards. We were to use this room card to make all payments onboard the cruise should we purchase any items. Then we were told to go to a room to attend a safety briefing before we were allowed to board the cruise ship.
29 Feb - Boarding Hurtigruten Cruise on Kong Harald. 29 Feb - Kong Harald Our majestic cruise ship is called MS Kong Harald. When we boarded, it was directly at level 5. Our room was near the entrance of the boarding passage. Level 5 also happens to have passage along the ship for viewing. When I reached my room, our checked in luggage was already at the door. When I opened the door, then I realised the room I had chosen can be seen from outside because of the passage. That was what it meant then! So the curtain has to be closed most of the time if you don't want people to look into your room. The room size was pretty good. There was a single bed on the right, and a sofa-turned bed on the left. There is even a third single bed above the sofa bed. So this room can sleep 3 persons.
29 Feb - Our window cabin There was shelf on the right beside the bed, and cabinets top and bottom near the entrance. There is also a wardrobe beside the entrance. The bathroom was on the left, with heated floor. Between the two single beds, there is a fold-able table. There was a television and telephone in the room.

At 8pm, we were told to gather at the reception area for a briefing, for those English-speaking passengers. There weren't many of us. Then we were introduced to the important staff onboard - Captain, Restaurant Manager, Customer Services Manager, Housekeeping Manager and Executive Chef. Then we were told that this cruise was the "maiden" cruise for Kong Harald after it had gone through a major makeover in Feb. That was why the furnishings looks new! We were happy to be the "first" to use the makeover. The next batch of briefing were for German speaking. Then we realised most of the passengers in this cruise were from Germany. Based on the passengers, we realised that the cruise ship were just half filled. That means, it won't be too crowded. Yay!

Introduction to the cruise:
Deck 7 - Large panorama and observation lounges with great views, Sun deck & Fitness room.
4 Mar - Inside Kong Harald - Observation lounge 4 Mar - Inside Kong Harald - Sun deck 4 Mar - Inside Kong Harald - Sun deck
  Deck 6 - Café, Cabins
4 Mar - Inside Kong Harald - Cafe
Deck 5 - All around observation deck (outside), Cabins
Deck 4 - Observation lounges, A-la-carte restaurant, Dining Room, Information Desk, Souvenir shop
4 Mar - Inside Kong Harald - Relaxing area 2 Mar - Dining room 4 Mar - Information deck area 4 Mar - Souvenir area
Deck 3 - Cabins, Disembarkation area
Deck 2 - Car deck, Cabins.

Soon, the cruise set sail at 10.30pm. We watched the port drew smaller from our room. It was quiet outside.

Day 2 - 1 Mar
*yawn* We didn't get to rest well the first night. The sea was choppy, the vessel was moving too much. So we woke up early and went for our buffet breakfast. The cruise emphasize a lot on hygiene. So before we entered the restaurant, we had to use the hand sanitizers. The breakfast buffet was very sumptuous. They have counters and counters of food - bread, cold cuts, fruits, yoghurt, cooked food, eggs, cold juices, salads and coffee. We eat our fill then proceed to sun deck to enjoy the scenery.
1 Mar - Sailing along Norwegian Sea 1 Mar - Sailing along Norwegian Sea We were quite diligent. We went to the gym to do some workouts before lunch. At 12noon, the vessel docked at Alesund - a small town in art nouveau style with approximately 44,000 inhabitants.
We took our instant cup noodles for lunch, then proceed to get out to Alesund to take some photos. To disembark, we had to go to deck 3, scan our card and proceed out. We just stroll around the area as we didn't want to go too far away. Some had gone for their excursions. We got back to the cruise by 3pm as it was due to set off.
1 Mar - *shy* Our mini pantry the cruise. All ready stock up. 1 Mar - Best gym view 1 Mar - Alesund 1 Mar - Alesund 1 Mar - Kong Harald Vessel 
Dinner was scheduled at a specific timing. The timing that was given to me upon check in was 8.30pm. I went to get it changed to 6pm this morning. Table number was also given. So for the next few nights' dinner, we will be seated next to the same people, in this case, an old couple from Amsterdam. We quickly made friends and chit chat a lot while our three course meal were being served. Time went by quickly. We had to vacate our seats for the next dinner timing guests.
1 Mar - 3 course dinner on board Kong Harald - appetiser 1 Mar - 3 course dinner on board Kong Harald - main 1 Mar - 3 course dinner on board Kong Harald - dessert 
We went up to the observatory lounge to relax and use our smartphones. Another day gone by.

Day 3 - 2 Mar
As the vessel was more stable, we had a good night rest. By the time we woke up, we were already docked in Trondheim - founded by Viking king Olav Trygvasson in 997. It is Norway's third largest city with a population of 175,000.
We took our breakfast, then proceed to disembark, exploring longer into the city. There were more buildings to see. The ports that they chose to dock were very near to the cities. They are within walking distance. At noon, the vessel departed Trondheim as we head northwards.
2 Mar - Sumptuous breakfast buffet 2 Mar - Sumptuous breakfast buffet 2 Mar - Sumptuous breakfast buffet 2 Mar - Soft boiled egg. Super good 2 Mar - My wholesome sandwich 2 Mar - Trondheim 2 Mar - Trondheim 2 Mar - Var Frue Church 2 Mar - Nidaros Cathedral 2 Mar - Trondheim 
For the rest of the day, my hubby did some work in the room while I took nap. It was really too relaxing.
2 Mar - Sailing along Norwegian Sea 2 Mar - Going under the tall bridge 
In the evening, there was a competition to submit our form on guessing the exact time when we will cross the Arctic Circle. So exciting. We submitted our forms.

Dinner that evening was buffet. Good sumptuous spread of food. Can't get enough, but it's too much when it's buffet! After dinner, we went to the outdoor observation deck. It was really cold.
2 Mar - Buffet dinner spread 2 Mar - Buffet dinner spread. Notice the caviers? 
Day 4 - 3 Mar
Before I could even get up, the captain announced that we will be passing the Arctic Circle soon. That was only 7.20am. We quickly washed up and changed into our thick clothing, then went out to the outdoor observation deck and waited. Many people were already outside, hoping to take pictures. I was told there was a globe when we pass the arctic circle, but I didn't catch it. :( 
3 Mar - View from our room. Polar outside with window 3 Mar - Deck 5 outside observation area 3 Mar - Snow mountain 3 Mar - A 180 deg view 3 Mar - Houses along the coast 3 Mar - Along the coast 3 Mar - Norwegian sea 3 Mar - Watching the fjords go by 3 Mar - Leaving Ornes 3 Mar - A trail of clear blue seawater 
After that, we proceed to have our breakfast. There was a short stopover at Ornes.
3 Mar - Ornes At 10.15am, there was an Arctic Circle celebration with King Neptune on deck 7. We proceed to join the others for the celebration. It was during this time that they announced the winner for guessing the time we passed the arctic circle. It was 7:34:43am. The prize was a Hurtigruten cruise book. A staff was dressed as King Neptune and a story was told.

After the announcement, the winner was made to sit on a bench, and a scoop of ice was thrown inside her clothing. The temperature was 0 degrees at that time. Everyone cheered! Then the organiser said she had been "baptised" to be a true Norwegian. After that, she was given a small glass of Cloudberry drink. And so, everyone queued up to be "baptised". I did my share too. The cloudberry drink was really nice. And yes, the ice was really cold and my back were all wet, including my pants as the ice slide down. It was all good fun. After that, some dispersed, some stay around, some took photo with King Neptune.
3 Mar - Arctic Circle Celebration 3 Mar - Arctic Circle Celebration At 12.30pm, we docked at Bodo. After our instant noodles lunch, we disembark and walk to the city. Window shopping in their shopping centre, and taking pictures. At 3pm, we departed Bodo.
3 Mar - Bodo city 3 Mar - Bodo city 3 Mar - Kong Harald looks so majestic against the mountain 3 Mar - Curfew for sales of beer 3 Mar - Bodo shopping mall The rest of the time was spent at the observatory lounge at deck 4. I took nap while my hubby was working on his laptop again.

Dinner was buffet again. Chatting with the Holland couple was interesting. They told us their travelling stories, their life stories too. It was the last night chattering with them. At the end of the dinner, we bid each other farewell and wish all of us luck in catching the Northern Lights.
3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner 3 Mar - Sumptuous buffet dinner Again, we went to the observatory lounge to enjoy the night scenery. At 9pm, the vessel docked at Svolvaer - main town of Lofoten Islands with about 4,000 inhabitats. As it was night and everything was closed, there wasn't much to see in this little town. An hour later, the vessel left the port.
3 Mar - Svolvaer, Lofoten 
At 10.45pm, they served Chef's Norwegian Fish Cakes. It was hot and tasted delicious in this cold weather. 3 Mar - Captain's Norwegian fish cake treat Good night.

Day 5 - 4 Mar (final day)
Hubby complained the cruise was too long as there wasn't much activities. Even though I enjoyed the cruise and the fjords, I tend to agree with him that it was a little too long. Fortunately, there were a few towns which we could disembark and explore, otherwise, I cannot imagine myself being on the cruise for so long.

One of the interesting thing I observed in this cruise is, whenever they docked in a port, there will be guests waiting to get up to the cruise ship. They will head to deck 6 cafe to have snacks and gelato. Some will also explore the ship. There will also have some passengers who disembark for good, and others who check-in for their onward cruise.

Usually, 15mins before the cruise depart, there will be an announcement over the PA system to request "guests" to leave the vessel. And thank them for coming. 

The final morning on cruise. Every now and then, the vessel will dock to pick up cargo or deliver cargo. For such time, the docking time is only about 15mins. So passengers won't be allowed to leave the vessel. Sometimes, we will just stay the observation deck to observe what was being moved in/out.

The final docking for us was Finnsnes. It was at Finnsnes when I got down to take photos that I felt onto the hard snow. The blue black on the right knee was really huge. 
4 Mar - Finnsnes 4 Mar - Stopover at Finnsnes At 12noon, we check out our room and deposited our luggage at level 3. Then we "docked" ourselves at the observation lounge until we disembark.
4 Mar - Tromso 4 Mar - Tromso 4 Mar - View of Tromso 4 Mar - Going under the tall bridge Finally at 2.30pm, we reached Tromso - northern Norway's largest town with approximately 75,000 inhabitants. The town is called the capital of the Arctic. There was already a long queue of passengers waiting to disembark the vessel. Some had booked excursions to spend the afternoon here.

For us, it was goodbye Kong Harald as we disembark with our luggage. Overall, it was a pleasant cruise. The vessel was generally clean and tidy. The scenery was simply beautiful. If I had more time to spend, I would have loved to complete the whole journey and experience the Northern Lights on the cruise!

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