18th birthday - Checkered Fruit Cake

It's so great to be able to make your own birthday cake and to be able to make 2 of them is simply awesome! Since there would be no point baking a cake that can be bought in stores, I decided to go checkered. So for all who's wondering, this is the "naked" cake, cut into circles and swopped around.

And with a bit of whipped cream, mango slices, kiwi slices and a strawberry, I surprised even myself! Though the mangoes did give me some problems...

The very pretty slices of cake.

Initially, this blog was meant only to record my baking journey, to remember my progress. But now, I've come to realise that for everything I bake/cook, I'm telling a story. Fionainthekitchen is a story of my life. And with this cake, another chapter begins, for a few days before turning 18, something happened and I'll tell this story like how a story goes:

It was a flash of yellow and blue, snapping her head back and knocking the breath out of her. The ball bounced away; innocent, as she tried to gasp away the tears and blink away the sting in her eyes.

Save the lenses. Without them, she's almost blind. But when the lenses are back in, something's not quite right. The left eye, it's misty. As if on a hazy morning, she sees a fog. She blinks, once, twice, desperately. Then she remembered.

4 years back, she was told her high myopia came with side effects - her retina was thin. It could happen now, tomorrow, in years to come or never. But whenever, her retina may tear and she might have to live in darkness. It didn't seem real then, in fact it was such an unimaginable possibility, until now.

She can't see properly. She waited for the fear to come, she knew it was coming. That kind of fear that would seize and paralyse you. That kind of fear that would bring on the tears, tears that she havent had for quite some time.

She was so afraid, terrified, petrified. In the hospital, she thought about worst case scenarios. She wondered if she was going blind, it felt so real. To lose your vision, it meant losing everything that mattered, it meant losing your life. She would never play volleyball again, never bake again, never study again, never have a family... She can't stop the tears, it was impossible to even try.

As she waited, she thought about things unsaid, things undone. She thought about love, about friends, family and life. And she realised that she's not that strong, without her vision, she cannot find the courage to continue living. She knows, she's selfish.

Now, she's turning 18, but it feels like she's turning 38. She stares at the candle; its flame holding promises, and she's thankful for her eyes.

For once, let this wish comes true. She'll give anything to make everyone that matters never leave her again. Because she doesn't know when she might never get the chance to see them anymore. For once, this wish has to come true.

The flame disappears in a puff of hope.


Chinese New Year - Beehive cookies, Chiku chips

Even though it has only been the first day of Chinese New Year, I have to put this down. I am indeed growing fat and in dire need of exercise thanks to all my "research" of chinese new year goodies. Especially pineapple tarts.

Today I was introduced to a recipe for this beehive cookies:

plain flour 400g
rice flour 100g
corn flour 50g
sugar 300g
eggs 10
coconut milk

And I shall make it someday! Yes, I will. But the steps to it weren't passed down to me.

Next, has anyone tried chiku chips before? Personally, I think it tastes awesome, much better
than potato chips. And it's actually in the market and sold at a rather expensive price! Interesting isn't it, I shall try to make it someday too.

Anyway I have since found that rather than sitting down keeping silent when visiting, it is much much more interesting to ask the host about all her homemade goodies. In fact, exchanging all these culinary opinions and experiences really makes me feel very at home. I've made some new friends, proving therefore that food transcends the generation gap!


Ngoh Hiang (Hokkien Fried Meat Roll)

Thursday and I went into the kitchen of my aunt's house to learn to make the most traditional of dishes - Ngoh Hiang. If you are a chinese, you can't not know what this dish is, for as I've found out, it is a must have at every big occasion.

So from scratch, this is the filling. A mixture of minced pork, water chestnut, onions, carrot, prawns, fish paste, 'hua jiao' powder, rice flour, plain flour, pepper, sugar, msg, salt,egg. Stirring it was an excellent form of exercise.

Then we wrap it up with bean curd sheet and steam it with vermicelli below to absorb the excess moisture. The vermicelli will then taste very sweet when cooked. It's actually genius.

And this is how it looks after steaming for 15 mins. It can be kept up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

When the occasion calls for it, simply deep fry the steamed ngoh hiang and then cut it up and serve. Maybe it was because I helped in making this, or maybe my aunt's just genius. In any case, even though it was pork (I try to avoid meat), I couldn't resist seconds.

It was a very nostalgic experience making this. For it is at such moments that I forget reality and remember. I remember the days when my grandma would spend her days in the kitchen, whipping up delicious food for the ones she loved. I remember when she always lamented the fact that there was no one to share her enthusiasm for cooking. I remember her love.

My grandma was a nyonya. She was smart and gifted, but in the old days, females were worthless. So she was sold off to a family and spent her youth holed up in their kitchen as a maid. It was there where she would peek and learn the going ons of the kitchen and from there commit to memory. At a marriageable age, she was immediately given to any man who would take her. He had the worst temper imaginable, and believed only in violence. Her life was tough, but she perservered; she cooked, sometimes I think to save her life.

Then years passed, I came to her. She loved me, doted on me and wished nothing but the best for me. I stayed with her for most of my childhood days, but the child in me didn't know love. And when she left, she took away all her skills and talent, but not her love. Never her love. Because up till today, I still feel it, and I think of her sometimes, it makes me smile to know that I've been lucky enough to come across forever love.

I regret not having enough time with her, I regret letting those skills go to waste and I regret not growing up fast enough to know her. She's my only regret, and I don't want anymore regrets. So I learn to cook, so I can cook. So that when my life needs to be saved, I'll be able to cook.

Today I shared this with some of the vballers, it tasted great.

Some people write, some people hurt themselves, some people cry. For me, I like to put everything into a cake, and shit it all out later.


Valentine's Day

This cake had to be created. It came to me a few week ago and it has never left my mind since. Therefore, even though it was the pineapple bakesale, I continued on for another hour or two more to produce this!

If love was to be represented by a fruit, it has to be the strawberry. For the strawberry looks not only like a heart (heart shape or a real human heart), it can be sour and sweet and you'll never know. Strawberries grow in harsh cold climates, and its fragility requires delicate handpicking when ripe. And love, when treated with the right amount of tender care will remain sweet and beautiful.

This is a simple strawberry chocolate sponge cake, with almonds at the side and custard in place of the unhealthy whipping cream. To me, this is my idea of a perfect valentine's day cake, inspired by chocolate and hearts. There is no layering within, just a cake, and the size of this cake, is perfect for 2. When you are with that special someone, eating a homemade cake, I believe that even the simplest of cakes will taste like the best cake you've ever eaten.

Having you in my mind made it easier to make this cake, but once it was done, I wish I never started. Valentine's Day is always tough, and somehow I just made it tougher for myself. Let the cake rot in the fridge. For with all the barriers, I might just never love again.

End of Pineappple Tarts Sale 2010

Finally, this post marks the end of the pineapple tarts sale 2010. It has been an eventful journey, for I initially thought that I would have my first shop so that fionainthekitchen might jump a milestone and go public. Nonetheless, fate decreed otherwise and the sale was kept domestic.

It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for I doubt I could've been able to cope if the tarts went public. There are moments in life when we doubt our sanity and ever since I started accepting orders, I have been convinced that I am almost on the brink of insanity.

Because one who is not sane, does not know one's limits. And while everyone was safely tucked and snuggled into bed, ready to welcome the new day, I filled the kitchen with smells of freshly baked tarts for 15 hours.

This is just evidence of insanity, with approximately 500 tarts made in total.

All in all, I must thank everyone who supported me in one way or another. For those whom orders I had to reject, I am so very sorry! There's always next year which will be better...

Lastly, for the record, a huge thank you to:
Chingsien, Siying, Deborah, Shujian, Olivia, Dixin, Limei, Cheryl, Gabriel, Kelly, Thomas, Teresa, Valerie and Lennie.

Somehow baking at night feel surreal, you lose track of time, confusing yesterdays with tomorrows. Somehow, it is the best form of escapism. Somehow, it makes me feel better.