Lena’s Jelly Delight
Angie’s homemade cake
Cold Cheng Tng
Something for every occasion
The Birthday Cake Story
Birthday cakes are special. They remind us that there are sweet and wonderful moments in life.
The first memorable birthday cake for me was a cake that was a pink gown with silver balls with a doll in it. I couldn’t wait to eat the cake so that I could get the doll, but only to find that the doll had straw legs (drinking straws).
Birthday cakes can be works of art. There was a cake shop in London that had the most amazing cakes in all shapes and forms. The cake that impressed me most was one in the shape of a yacht on the sea. I had no idea how the cakes in that shop tasted, but they were a sight to behold. I checked the internet, after decades the shop in Sloane Square is still there and still makes amazing custom cakes.
But great cakes don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, my brother, who loves history, took me to an old fashioned local bakery in Sunset Way which sells cakes just like the ones we used to have when we were children. They are affordable and bring back memories.
There are a few cakes that I will always remember, like Lana’s blueberry cake and chocolate fudge cake and Angie The Choice’s yam cake and durian cake. They were special treats.
Yesterday while I was out, my mother said, “Let’s have some cake.” We went into Han’s and ordered a slice of no-frills American cheesecake to share. While my mother happily updated me on current affairs, I thought: Mmmm this cake is good! Incidentally, my mother who has always been a homemaker was also my first educator. She gave me a lesson on international trade when I was in kindergarten. It was about how rubber from the plantations in Malaysia was shipped to the UK and came back in different forms, like the rubber eraser that I was using.
More recently, most of my cake treats have been homemade. Someone at home asked me what I would like for my birthday dessert this year, I said jelly, thinking that it would be easy to make. I didn’t expect a jelly work of art in the shape of a cake. I named it Lena’s Jelly Delight.
Someone else surprised me with a homemade oreo cake. It’s Angie’s cake, but this time not from a shop but from someone called Angie, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was homemade. It’s a WOW cake!
By Chayo, Homskil Editor 1, 9 January 2021
The Clear Soup Dessert
It took me several days to find all the ingredients for a local Singaporean dessert which I had always assumed “easy to make”. It involved going to a Chinese medicine shop to get sterculia lychnophora (Pang Da Hai), a type of seed from which the soft jelly substance which give Cheng Tng its distinctive appearance comes from.
By the time I was done, there were so many ingredients in the dessert that a friend commented that it didn’t look like “Cheng Tng” anymore. I didn’t realise at that point that Cheng Tng meant clear soup. I followed the Cheng Tng recipe of The Singapore Women’s Weekly (Online), but probably went overboard with the quantity. I was wondering what to do with a potful of it. Fortunately, none of it went to waste as it was so refreshing that it was all consumed within a few days.
After following the recipe faithfully, I realised that the reason why I had thought it was an easy-to-make dessert was because the Cheng Tng sold in hawker centres and foodcourts doesn’t have all the ingredients of the original recipe, which has been passed down from generation to generation (pearl barley, white fungus, lotus seed, dried longan, ginkgo nuts, red dates, dried persimmon, cane sugar, pandan leaves and water).
Food is indeed part of culture. The more we learn about the food of each country, the more we appreciate the richness of the culture and history contained in each recipe.
By Chayo, Homskil Editor 1, 12 January 2021
Trifle can mean “a thing of little value of importance” or it can mean “a cold dessert of sponge cake and fruit covered with layers of custard, jelly and cream”.
There is art in recycling dessert. I always think of trifle when I think of recycling cake, mainly because I love jelly. But if you add sweet wine or Kahlua in the trifle, it becomes quite special. It has a new spirit to it.
Recently, we had a lot of leftover cake, brownies, strawberries and ice-cream. Putting them together tastefully in the form of a chocolate cake a la mode meant that nothing went to waste.
When a jelly dessert appears, everyone starts to guess what is in it. It’s a good way of using up leftover cut fruits. Jelly and fruit is a healthier option. When there is a knife for dessert, it means that a bowl of fruits will be served. When there is a spoon, it means an exciting dessert is coming. If there is no dessert cutlery, it means ice-cream on a stick or in a cone.
My brother, who is currently the biggest fan of this blog, has been making gula Melaka ice cream and pandan ice cream. Now that sounds really cool. I offered to be his taster and to give my review, but he finished a tub of each flavour by himself. It’s a testimony of how good his ice cream must be.
By Chayo, Homskil Editor 1, 17 January 2021
Sweet Memories of Pumpkins and Rubies
The good news for dessert-lovers is that Thai desserts are inexpensive to make. The not-so-good news is that they take a long time to make. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it.
I made Thai red ruby dessert (Tub Tim Grob) for the first time many years ago, and was surprised at how easy it was. (Pailin of Hot Thai Kitchen does a good demo on her website.) Over time, I have tried different variations. The most recent was adding home-made coconut ice cream to it. It works well, I like the coconut ice cream to be a little salty, so it balances out the sweetness of the syrup in the coconut milk. It’s a bit like salted caramel in that sense. (There are a number of recipes for coconut ice cream on YouTube. I use an ice cream maker and I mix coconut ice cream with cream for a creamier texture.)
The Thai pumpkin custard dessert is an interesting dessert, because most non-Thais don’t know what to do with it, especially when it is served whole. The pumpkin is steamed with the coconut custard inside. When it’s cooked it’s soft and easy to slice into wedges. In most countries, pumpkin is served as a vegetable or a savoury dish, so it’s understandable that some people get disconcerted when they taste pumpkin in the form of a sweet dessert for the first time. (There are a number of YouTube videos on how to make this dessert. The Thai Pumpkin Custard by Daily Dish video is easy to follow).
I haven’t tried making khanom Tako, a Thai jelly with coconut topping served in a pandan leaf case, although it’s one of my favourite desserts. The case requires some skill to make. (Daily Dish has a YouTube video called Thai Pudding with Coconut Topping). The jelly usually has sweet corn or bits of water chestnut in it. The water chestnut gives the dessert a nice crunchy feel to it.
Thailand is a dessert paradise, so if you are trying to avoid sugar and gaining weight, it’s best to avoid the Thai dessert buffets, but there is no harm in trying to make a Thai dessert at home once in a while as a treat for the family. If you do visit Thailand, you can opt for fruit for dessert as a healthier choice and enjoy the dessert just as much, especially if you are fond of durians and mangoes.
By Chayo, Homskil Editor 1, 19 January 2021
A HomeMade WOW cake!
Angie’s Homemade Oreo Cake