Anniversary Special: Exclusive Interview with Amcarmen’s Kitchen by Jialing Mew

Anniversary Special: Exclusive Interview with Amcarmen’s Kitchen by Jialing Mew

Jialing and I have been friends ever since our first year of University back in February of 2011. In fact, our Facebook Friendversary was just a couple of days ago on April 11 and we celebrated a decade of friendship – four years together in Australia, and 6 years of LDF (long distance friendship). Besides us having the same passion for design, we both love everything about food! We even started Muffin Making Monday’s where Jialing would come over to my place every Monday to bake muffins together for breakfast for the upcoming week ahead. We also started something called Fatness Friday’s, but it really only lasted for two weeks I think, where we’d explore new cafés every Friday for lunch after our morning lecture.

A couple of months ago, I think somewhere in February, Jialing ran this brilliant idea with me about doing an interview for my blog anniversary this year! So we scheduled a date in March last month and would you believe, six years of long distance friendship and this was the first time EVER that we did a video and voice call? We would usually just randomly drop WhatsApp messages to each other throughout the day/weeks! After an hour – almost – of banter and a quick catch up, we proceeded with our more than an hour-long interview.

Allison & JialingLeft: Jialing ; Right: Allison

“What is your most memorable achievement/biggest success?”

I think my most memorable achievement since starting Amcarmen’s Kitchen 7 years ago would have to be my Auguest series. In a nutshell, it’s where I invite other foodie friends, both those I know in person or online through Instagram, to take over my blog for the whole month of August. If you want to know more on the series, I’ll drop a link in this interview: Amcarmen’s Kitchen: Auguest Rundown.

When I first started my series, I began with four people, one of them was even my mom, because I couldn’t find anyone else besides her and you of course! Though this year will be my 6th year in running my Auguest series, I think it really only kicked off just last year, since that’s where I made more foodie friends online. That was during the time where I had just moved back to the Philippines and reached out to a whole different audience and community of local Filipino foodies.

Another memorable achievement, or more like just memorable, that I must mention was last year I started joining more Instagram food challenges and collaborations run by other foodies. Some of the challenges that I joined had prizes, and I’m proud to mention that I won one of them! I’ll also share the link to my entry in this interview: #LODINGNocheBuena Challenge

Christmas 'Spaghetti' with Meat-free BaublesAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Christmas ‘Spaghetti’ with Meat-free Baubles (Vegan-friendly)

It was a great way for me to showcase my creativity, skills, and techniques to a wider audience range. Other than that, I also get to meet the people who organise these challenges, as well as the people who participate in them. We get to know, connect, and support each other in the long run. From there, I also took the initiative to run my own food challenges and start my own food community on Instagram known as Foodies United PH together with another foodie friend that I met on the social media platform.

I think so far those are my most memorable achievements ever since starting my blog, other than of course the obvious achievement of running Amcarmen’s Kitchen for seven years now!

Jialing: Obviously you know that I am very supportive of your successes, but you also know that I really enjoy your failures.

So my next question is, “what was your biggest blog fail so far?” And make it a good one, and I want photos!

Oh gosh, to be honest, I don’t even document my failures in the kitchen and I don’t ever post a failed recipe on my blog. One of the main reasons why I don’t do that is because people do follow, or are inspired by my recipes, and if I share a failed recipe, then chances are they’re going to fail too because it wasn’t even a successful recipe to begin with.

I remember one of my colleagues asked me a question, “has there been any recipes that [I’ve] cooked that [I] actually don’t like” and I told her that when a recipe doesn’t work or it fails, it doesn’t go on my blog. If I really want it to work though, like if it’s a good recipe and I just somehow mucked it up, then I’ll either try to salvage it – if possible – or try again until I get it right.

This is also one of the reasons why I like to plan and cook my recipes ahead of time so that in case something happens, I have time to think of a new recipe if I really don’t like it at all, or try again and again until I’m happy with it and so that I still have something to share on my blog.

But, if you really want to know some of my kitchen fails – well it’s not so much of a fail, it’s more like what you would call ‘hazardous cooking’ – I remember making a dessert pizza of Mixed Berries and Chocolate. I used chocolate as the ‘sauce’ base to the pizza and I had it baking away in the oven. I briefly took it out to check if the chocolate had melted, and if so, I’d top it off with the berries and place it back into the oven to bake further. I ‘checked’ by sticking my finger into the chocolate sauce that, you know, just came out of a piping hot oven, and to no surprise, burnt my finger. My first instinct was to lick the chocolate off from my finger and in return ended up burning my tongue as well. I usually write about these mishaps in my blog posts towards the end of the recipe so look out for them! They’re usually pretty hilarious and some can be a way to learn how you can salvage certain food if you ever come across the same mishap.

Nutella & Mixed Berries PizzaAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Nutella & Mixed Berries Pizza

But wait, do you actually want the recipe fails?

Jialing: No I think that was good, I mean you already kind of mentioned what happens with your recipe process. Unless you have certain failed recipes?

Allison: No I don’t think so, or not that I can remember or name any from the top of my head right now, also because, when I look for recipes or inspiration, I actually look for something that I like, so if it’s something that I don’t like, like you’re not going to catch me making a cucumber recipe, because I don’t like cucumber for example. Unless it’s something like a Greek salad that has cucumbers in it, then I probably would have to because it’s part of the salad, but other than that, it’s not like I’m going to use that as a main ingredient if I can substitute it out.

Jialing: Interesting, so that actually brings me to one of my other questions, but we’ll be skipping a couple, but I think that’s fine, let’s go with the flow of the interview.

One of my questions is actually, “is there anything ingredient that we won’t ever expect to see you doing on your blog? What is your least favourite thing to cook with or something that you would never want to cook with?”

Okay, so I guess it comes down to food preferences as well, like I don’t like cucumbers. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them. Raisins and cilantro are on my list of foods I don’t like too.

Jialing: Okay so this brings me to the surprise portion of the interview. I’ll come back to the other questions afterwards.

For the past 6 years you’ve been giving me all these super fantastic Auguest challenges, so now for your anniversary, “I’m challenging you to make a dish using the ingredients you hate the most!”

Nooooo! Oh noooooo! Wait so do I have to use all three of them?

Jialing: You can pick two. The dish has to have two of the three ingredients that you mentioned.

Allison: Do I have to eat it?

Jialing: Yeah of course! It has to be good, you even said so yourself “it’s not going on your blog unless you like it.” It’s your anniversary challenge so you have to do it! I mean, you don’t have to do it for your anniversary, but at some point during 2021 you’re going to have to do it.

Allison: Well, I think it would be fun to do it though for my blog’s anniversary. I normally post a recipe for an anniversary cake every year, so I can have another post featuring this ‘dish’ that you’re challenging me to do.

Jialing: Cilantro, cucumber, raisin cake?

Allison: Nooooooo!

Jialing: Anyway, it’s my anniversary present to you because something that you had previously found to be a negative experience, is going to be turned into a positive experience, so I’m changing your life!

Allison: Now that I think of it, I think there’s a recipe that I know of that has both cucumbers and raisins in it, and it’s actually something that I do like, but remove it so that I actually like it. So yeah, I’m going to try that recipe but have it included in it so that I will actually eat it. So yeah, okay I do have a recipe in mind and it actually fits with my theme for this month so that’s good. Challenge accepted! I’m going to accept your challenge and actually do it. Well technically speaking it is actually something that I do like to eat, it’s just that I put the raisins aside.

Jialing: That was my surprise; it came out early so now I can go back to the questions that got skipped.

Now that we’ve talked about what you would never cook, “what recipes on your blog do you actually cook a lot? Which dish – or dishes – is one of your staple things that you have on regular rotation?”

Okay before I answer this question, I have a little disclaimer for everyone. Since the later part of 2019, I’ve unofficially labelled my Instagram page as “Pescatarian, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, and Vegan.” Despite that, I still eat chicken regularly, but I don’t share any more chicken recipes on my blog to keep in line with that. So, one of the dishes that I repetitively cook regularly, that you can also find on my blog is Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Jialing: Another dish that is also eaten with cucumber!

Allison: Yes, I don’t put cucumber on mine because the cucumber is more like a decoration on the side rather than it being a main part of the dish. So why waste money for ‘decoration’ if I’m not going to eat it anyway? And then another dish that actually also has cucumber – for decoration – as well and that I regularly cook at home is Nasi Lemak with fried chicken and sautéed water spinach with sambal on the side. Other dishes would have to be the very classic Filipino staples such as adobo and sinigang, choice of protein would range from chicken, to fish, and shrimps.

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)Amcarmen’s Kitchen: Nasi Lemak

Okay so my next question is, “how has being a food blogger changed the way you view or interact with food?”

I think this would be a good time for a little back story. When I was younger – or when I say I was younger I mean from up until before I left for university – I never actually set foot in the kitchen, or well I have but it wasn’t so that I could help my mom out with either the preparing or cooking of our daily meals. It wasn’t until ten years ago, back in 2011, where I headed off for my first year of university in Sydney, Australia; I was living alone and I had no close relatives or friends.

I didn’t know how to cook at all, or well, I did know a few dishes up my sleeve, but still, I didn’t even know how to make sunny side up eggs or how long to boil an egg for if I wanted soft or hard boiled eggs. I even boiled potatoes whole, not knowing that if I had cut them up into smaller chunks, they’d cook faster and I wouldn’t have to wait an hour to make myself some mashed potatoes! In addition, I had no rice cooker, and I didn’t know how to make rice on the stove so instead, I bought pre-cooked rice that you can just pop in the microwave and it’d be ready in 90 seconds – Uncle Roger, please don’t kill me! Just going by that, I had no idea how I survived my first year living all by myself!

So moving forward, after my first year of university, I spent my summer holidays in the kitchen back home with my Mom. I had asked her to teach me how to cook the basic dishes that she would always cook for us growing up because to be honest, I didn’t want to go through another year living in Australia not knowing how to cook a decent meal for myself.

I don’t know why but I had this fear of recipes. Just reading it and looking at how many ingredients you have to use and the step-by-step method – like it actually really scared me. I eventually overcame that fear and learnt how to make other dishes besides the ones that my mom taught me. Sydney is rich in multiculturalism, both in the diverse race of people living in the city and in the food you can explore. That’s how it triggered my interest to want to cook and experience other cuisines – cuisines you would otherwise never get back home anyway.

After my second year, I returned home once again for the summer holidays and this time I found myself teaching my mom how to cook the recipes that I learnt – I learnt from my mom, and my mom learnt from me. So I guess now, from there, at least we had something in common that we could both do. I remember asking my mom, “what if I wasn’t into cooking, like what would you think of me as a person?” to which she replied, “oh you’d be such a boring person then” with no hint of remorse in her tone for saying that!

After that, I continued cooking and learning throughout my third and fourth year of university, and of course sharing my knowledge with my mom in between, during my summer breaks. I not only shared my knowledge, but I also shared my food through hosting dinners for my friends and housemates when living in Australia. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen – formerly known back then as Kitchen Headquarters), on 16th April 2014. My first post was actually a very spontaneous one – I started a blog but I had nothing to post that day! So I made an omelette with anything and everything that I had leftover in my fridge, just because I didn’t want to do my assignments. I’ll add the link to my very first post in this interview: Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted Spinach. Yes, my ‘anything and everything’ leftover was quite the fancy one *cheeky grin*

Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted SpinachAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted Spinach

From there, I posted a recipe three times a week, and even had themed days such as our Muffin Making Mondays! Now that I think about it, were you there for the most part of my first year of blogging?

Jialing: Yeah mate, I saw so many of your first couple of years’ recipes! I even remember the board that you used to take all your photos!

Allison: Yeah you were physically there for a majority of them. And yes, for everyone’s information, I used a board from my shelf to use as a white background for my food photos because the table we had at the student housing I was living in had a very dirty plastic table cover. The board that I used though wasn’t particularly big and was square in size; I had to fit everything into a little square, which technically was perfect anyway for Instagram but proved to be difficult when I had so many ingredients to feature and had to squish them all into a square! I think I actually have a picture of the board that you can see in-shot in one of my pictures. I’ll share it in this interview for everyone to see!

Hainanese Chicken RiceAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Hainanese Chicken Rice

So I guess that massive back story explains how I changed the way I view food.

Jialing: Yeah that was a very long term change!

Allison: Indeed! From me not knowing how to cook, to developing a more artistic eye and being very aware of how I want my food to look, or how I want it to be presented, down to what plate I should use. I do have a post on my blog where I talked about My Kitchen Journey – so if you guys actually want to see more of how I took photos of my food back then, it’s all there from my 1st to 4th year of university before I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen. You can actually see how it changed drastically over the years.

And I’ve also started exploring/experimenting with classic dishes and putting a vegan twist to it by using mushrooms or tofu as a meat alternative. I do have some surprises for my blog’s anniversary month based on the current theme that I have going on right now – Flavours of Southeast Asia. You’ll see familiar recipes but with a vegan and/or pescatarian twist to them.

*I decided to add this portion of our interview as a video recording since we went a little off-topic from the original question, but also still somewhat relevant to where my style of cooking has moved towards to ever since I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen, as I talked about my recipe for Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare with Mushroom Bagoong:

Alright, so now that we’ve learnt about your very long seven years of your food journey – from someone who didn’t know how to make rice to someone who has standards on what plate to use when presenting a dish – “what is your biggest piece of wisdom/advice that you want to impart on all your friends and followers?”

Are these tips for people who want to blog or cooking tips in general?

Jialing: I guess it can be either, or even both.

Allison: For cooking tips, there’s not much I can say other than don’t be scared to try new recipes and experiment with different flavours. If you’re scared that you’re not going to like it, my advice would be to go out and try it first – like that’s how I go into cooking different cuisines. For example, if I have no experience in cooking Mediterranean food, I’d go to a Mediterranean restaurant and try their food first to see if I like it or not, and of course to gather inspiration on dishes I would like to recreate at home.

Like speaking in general, you wouldn’t have all the spices and ingredients for Mediterranean cuisines readily available in your home, and if you don’t like it then it’s such a waste of money and of products. So definitely go try it out first – that’s how it started out with my Mom and I – we go to a restaurant, try out a dish and if we like it, we try to recreate it at home with our own twist. Because of that, whenever we go to a restaurant, we never order something that we can actually cook at home because for my Mom, “I can cook it so why should I order it?” and that’s kind of my mentality now as well!

In terms of blogging, all I can say is that if you really like to write or if it’s something that you like to do, I would recommend that you try it out. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone because it can be time consuming. I used to post three times a week, and that was when I was still studying in Australia. I had more free time then because there were days that I didn’t have classes or work, whereas now I work an 8-5 schedule, 5 day a week – 6 days when I was working in Brunei. Weekends are the only time I get to rest but it’s also the only time that I actually get to cook for my blog. If you’re going to start a blog, I guess don’t be too ambitious like me with three posts a week, unless you have the time. It takes me the whole morning to cook a dish for my blog; I’d start at 9 in the morning and go up until noon just to make one dish while documenting the whole process too, and that’s not even including the writing part and editing of photos and videos yet!

It is tough, but if I can do it while having a full time job, I’m sure you can too. If it’s your passion and if it’s what you want to do, you’ll never get tired of it.

Jialing: Nice one! So don’t be afraid to try new things with food, and blogging is not for everyone, but you never know! So I guess we’ll wrap things up here, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, and happy anniversary Amcarmen’s Kitchen!

Allison: Thank you so much as well for this fun interview!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Hello Everyone! Yes, I am aware that it has only been two days since my last post (I post a new recipe every Wednesday night), but today, the 16th of April 2021 is a very special day because:

AMCARMEN’S KITCHEN TURNS SEVEN!

I know I’ve told this story countless times, every year I think if I’m not mistaken, but this is really more for my new followers and new friends I’ve made in the past year, or even just those who happen to stumble upon this post while searching for recipes or inspiration.

Long before I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen, I was already posting my kitchen adventures on my personal Facebook page when I left for university back in 2011. I started it as a way to document the food that I was eating, you know, being a 19 year old girl who left home with zero experience in cooking. Honestly, the food I was making, super cringe-worthy, but nevertheless, I’m glad I did that because it’s always great to look back and compare yourself to where you are now, especially during times like this. If you want to read more about my journey leading up to when I first started this blog, you can read all about it here: My Kitchen Journey.

Fast forward from 2011 to 2014, I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen exactly seven years ago today, on April 16 of 2014; it was a fine Wednesday afternoon during my fourth year of university. It was the Easter holidays and I had zero willpower to tackle the mountain of assignments I had to complete before the holidays were over. Instead, I decided to explore the world of wordpress, and before I knew it, Amcarmen’s Kitchen (formerly known then as Kitchen Headquarters) was born.

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

To celebrate today’s occasion, as per tradition on my blog every year, I’ve baked a cheesecake inspired by a very popular dessert here in the Philippines known as Halo-Halo. The word, directly translated actually means ‘mix-mix’ in English, and is essentially a mixture of, but not limited to, crushed ice, evaporated milk or condensed milk, and various ingredients including, ube, sweetened beans, coconut strips, sago, gulaman (agar), pinipig rice, boiled taro or soft yams in cubes, fruit slices, flan, and topped with a scoop of ube ice cream. Though popular all year round, it’s most especially enjoyed during the hot summer days.

I came across the idea of translating this dessert into a cheesecake about a year and a half ago during a work event. A few colleagues of mine and myself took a short break from event rehearsals and stumbled upon a coffee and cakes corner in the lobby of the hotel we were at. While they were ordering coffee, I spotted a Halo-Halo Cheesecake on their cake shelf and was immediately wowed by such an ingenious idea! I unfortunately did not order a slice at that time, only because I was contemplating on whether I should, or shouldn’t (it was a bit pricey think), but when I finally made the decision to order a slice, on a different day, the day of the actual event, they didn’t have any left, or didn’t make a batch that day. So as Amcarmen’s Kitchen’s anniversary drew near, I knew that that was the cake that I was going to make for this special occasion!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR 20 MINS | SERVES 8-10

INGREDIENTS

For the cheesecake mixture

  • 675g (3 packs) cream cheese, softened
  • 250ml all purpose cream, at room temperature
  • 3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp ube jam
  • 1 tsp ube extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumb base

  • 200g Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the toppings

  • Fresh coconut meat strips
  • Leche flan
  • Nata de coco, red and green
  • Pinipig, lightly toasted
  • Sweetened red beans
  • Sweetened saba bananas
  • Sweetened white beans

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 130C (250F or gas mark 1).
  2. Prepare your spring-form pan (about 8” in diameter) and line the bottom and inside with parchment paper, and the outer with aluminium foil. Lightly grease the bottom and sides with a touch of unsalted butter.
  3. Crumb Base: Add the crushed Lotus Biscoff biscuits, salt, and melted butter together in a small mixing bowl. Mix together until well combined.
  4. Press the crumb into the base of your prepared spring-form pan. Set aside in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set while you prepare your cheesecake mixture.
  5. Cheesecake Mixture: Using an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat, on medium speed, the cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth.
  6. With the mixer running, add in the eggs, all purpose cream, and vanilla extract. Mix for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Separate one third of the mixture into another mixing bowl. Add the ube jam and ube extract to the cheesecake mixture and slowly beat until combined.
  8. Pour the ube cheesecake mixture into the prepared spring-form pan, evenly covering the biscuit base. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until just set.
  9. Once set, remove from the oven and then pour the remaining cheesecake mixture into the spring-form pan. Continue to bake in the oven for another 45 – 50 minutes, or until set.
  10. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely in its pan before placing it into the refrigerator overnight.
  11. Assemble: Decorate as you wish and serve chilled. Enjoy!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

As always, before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say a special thank you to my Mom. She was the one who patiently taught me how to cook my favourite dishes when I was growing up. She was my #1 supporter. I lost her in September 2019 due to a fatal stroke which was caused by a sudden rupture of a vein in her brain, but before all that she had underlying illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease. One of the main reasons why I drastically cut out meat such as beef and pork from my diet and started eating healthier (as reflected in my blog for the past 2 years). Thank you Mama for passing down your knowledge and love for food on to me. I know you’re proudly watching from above. I love you.

Lastly, next to my Mom is of course, my very supportive boyfriend. Ever since the day we met, you’ve been proudly sharing my recipes for your family and friends to see. And for that, thank you for your continuous encouragement and for motivating me to continue doing what I love to do! I love you.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I have another special post to share with you all!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Lemon Sunshine Cake

Lemon Sunshine Cake

Hello Everyone! Yes I am fully aware that it’s Thursday today, which means I’m a day late from my normal upload schedule of every Wednesday night (Philippine time). There’s a reason for this, because:

AMCARMEN’S KITCHEN TURNS SIX TODAY!

For my new followers and friends who don’t know the story behind my blog, before I got it up and running, I already had an interest in cooking. I was already sharing photos of my kitchen adventures on Facebook throughout my first year in university up until my third year. Throughout these years, I kept getting comments and messages from family and friends, encouraging me to start up a blog and share my recipes online.

Finally, after many years of encouragement and pure procrastination, I started what was formerly known as Kitchen Headquarters back in April 16 of 2014. It happened when I was 2 months into my last year of university and in the middle of my mid-semester Easter break; not wanting to tackle the many assignments I had on my to-do list before resuming classes.

Lemon Sunshine Cake

To celebrate today’s occasion, I’ve baked a Lemon Sunshine Cake. It strikes the perfect balance between tart and sweet with homemade lemon curd, a moist lemon cake, and a rich, creamy vanilla buttercream frosting. It’s delicious and sure to brighten your day!

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original recipe that I drew my inspiration from over at The Simple Sweet Life by Claire.

Lemon Sunshine Cake Ingredients

PREP TIME 2 HOURS & 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 35 MINS | SERVES 10-12

INGREDIENTS

For the lemon curd

  • 60g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 free-range egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

For the lemon cake

  • 200g unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 large free-range eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 & 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 6 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 4 tsp baking powder

For the vanilla buttercream frosting

  • 500g unsalted butter (cold), cubed
  • 10 free-range egg whites*
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 10 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yellow food colouring (optional)

* Don’t throw away the egg yolks! You can keep them in the fridge for up to two days while you decide what you can make with them. I made an easy Leche Flan (Crème Caramel) recipe. If you’re feeling a little bit creative and inspired, try turning them into Crispy Fried Leche Flan instead!

METHOD

  1. Lemon Curd: Whisk together the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  2. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. It should almost have the consistency of a pudding. Once the lemon curd has thickened, carefully remove the bowl from the pot of boiling water and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Slowly incorporate the cubed butter into the slightly cooled curd mixture. Cover and then allow for the curd to cool completely in the refrigerator before use.
  4. Lemon Cake: Preheat oven to 180C (350F or gas mark 4).
  5. Add the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer on high speed, whip them together until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder) and mix on low speed until just combined. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Evenly distribute the batter into four 8” parchment paper-lined and greased cake pans. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes come out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool down completely.
  8. Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, cooking until the sugar becomes clear.
  9. While the syrup cooks, whip the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until stiff peaks form.
  10. With the mixed running on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites and whip until the mixture has cooled down to room temperature.
  11. Turn the mixer speed down to low and slowly incorporate the butter and vanilla extract. Continue beating until the frosting is thick and smooth.
  12. Assembly: If necessary, level your cakes before layering for assembly. Place one cake layer on a cake board and spread a layer of frosting on top.
  13. Using an offset spatula, carve out an indent in the frosting and fill with the lemon curd. Repeat with the second and third layer and then top with the fourth. Coat the outside with a thin crumb coat and allow for the cake to set in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes to set.
  14. Optional: Equally divide the remaining frosting into three batches. Tint each batch a different shade of yellow.
  15. Cover the cake with the frosting and use an offset spatula or bench scraper to smoothen the frosting and remove any excess. Feel free to get creative in how you’re going to use the colours to decorate and present your cake.I topped the cake with the remaining lemon curd and added a few slices of baked/dehydrated lemon slices for that finishing touch.
  16. Place in the refrigerator to chill before serving. Enjoy!

Lemon Sunshine Cake

Here are some helpful tips to note when making this Lemon Sunshine Cake:

  1. Make the lemon curd in advance: You can make the lemon curd a week and store it in the refrigerator if you’re looking to save some time when you come around to making this cake.
  2. Crumb coating: Spreading a thin layer of frosting around the sides and top of the cake, and then refrigerating it will lock in any crumbs and keep them from reaching the surface of your frosted cake.
  3. The trick for smooth frosting: You’ll need a rotating cake stand and a bench scraper. Place the small end of the bench scraper on the cake stand, long end against the frosting and turn the table. Once excess frosting is removed, heat the scraper in hot water, wipe and drag around the outside of the cake.
  4. Chill your cake: Cool cake is easier to cut and handle, so chilling your cake for a short while before use will make this process easier.

Lemon Sunshine Cake

Before I end tonight’s post, I want to thank everyone for all the love and support. Of course all the hard work that goes into Amcarmen’s Kitchen wouldn’t have been possible without my #1 supporter, my Mom. I asked my Mom to teach me how to cook after trying to survive off regular takeaway meals from the nearest shop or my attempts at home-cooked food of very poor quality during my first year away from home.

I have my Mom to thank for the days she had to put up with my very little knowledge in the kitchen, and my inability to choose the best produce when she would bring me along to her trips to the market. Thank you Mama for passing down your knowledge and love for food on to me. I know you’re proudly watching over me.

Lastly, I want to thank a very special someone in my life. Since the day we first started talking to each other, you’ve always been very proud and supportive by sharing my recipes each week. And for that, thank you for encouraging and motivating me to continue doing what I love to do!

Lemon Sunshine Cake

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Pear & Walnut Cake with Spiced Red Wine Pears

Pear & Walnut Cake with Spiced Red Wine Pears

Hello Everyone! I’ve got a special post for you this evening as today marks 4 years of Amcarmen’s Kitchen! Don’t worry, I’ll still post a Breakfast Smoothie Bowl up for you guys most probably towards the end of the week since I already had the post and pictures prepared for it.

Anyway, technically I started this blog on April 16th, but it wasn’t until 2 days after on the 18th that I posted my very first recipe! You can check it out here: Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted Spinach. Yes, you could say I was less talkative (wordy) for my first few posts, mainly because I had no clue on what else I could write about. When I started this blog out of pure procrastination way back in 2014 during my uni mid-semester break, I didn’t think I would be able to make it this far to be honest! I did slack behind a bit (a lot) towards the end of last year as it wasn’t easy juggling both a very demanding job, this blog, time for family and friends, and wanting some free time to myself as well. I have been doing a better job at keeping up so far, but it’s too early to tell to be honest, since I only just started getting back into this last month.

Pear & Walnut Cake with Spiced Red Wine Pears

I want to say that I promise that I will try to do better this year, but even I know that that’s a promise that I won’t be able to keep, so bear with me my dear followers! I know it is not in any way an obligation for me to share with you guys every single week, but I feel a sense of accomplishment for when I do so, and I don’t ever want this blog to drift away. It’s the only passion that I have going on for me right now because of my busy work schedule, and I don’t want all the hard work I’ve put into this blog for the past now coming 4 years to just become all for nothing.

With that being said, tonight I will be sharing a recipe that I tackled last November actually… For my 26th birthday! I never got around to posting it, and since I literally just got back from Hong Kong last night and had to report straight to work this morning, I’ve had no time to bake a new cake to celebrate Amcarmen’s Kitchen turning 4. So here’s my Pear & Walnut Cake that I drew inspiration from Olivia over on Liv for Cake. The cake itself was moist, not too sweet and had a lovely texture from the soft pear chunks and crunchy toasted walnuts. The honey buttercream was light and fluffy, beautifully contrasted by the deep red pears sitting atop a white-frosted cake.

(Apologies for not having an ingredient shot like how I normally do for almost all my recipe posts, but the photo didn’t turn out so great so I just decided not to post it)

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 8-10

INGREDIENTS

For the pear and walnut cake

  • 2 & 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (plus extra to top)
  • 180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large free range eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 large pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely shredded
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the honey Swiss meringue buttercream

  • 4 large free range eggs, whites only
  • 360g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey

Optional: for the spiced red wine poached pears to top

METHOD

  1. Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears: Follow the recipe method provided in the link above.
  2. Pear and Walnut Cake: Preheat oven to 180C (350F or gas mark 4). Grease and flour two 8-inch cake rounds and line with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the plain flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Next, using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes pale and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Reduce the speed and add the eggs in one at a time to allow to fully incorporate after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk altogether). Make sure to fully incorporate after each addition. Then, gently fold in the toasted walnuts and shredded pears, and divide the mixture evenly between the two pans.
  6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of both cakes come out mostly clean. Place the cakes on wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto the wire rack to cool further.
  7. Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk until combined.* Place the bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approximately 3 minutes), or until it registers 70C/160F on a candy thermometre.
  8. Place the bowl back on your stand mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until the meringue is stiff and has cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approximately 5 to 10 minutes).
  9. Switch to a paddle attachment and slowly add in the butter (cubed). Mix until smooth.** Add the honey and whip until smooth. Set aside.
  10. Assembly: Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of the buttercream and repeat with the remaining layer. Crumb coat the cake and place in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.
  11. Continue to frost the top and sides of the cake in a rustic manner. If desired, add toasted walnuts along the bottom and top, and place the poached pears on top. Secure pears in place with toothpicks and drizzle with the poaching syrup.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

* Ensure that there are NO traces of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk is completely grease free or your meringue won’t stiffen.

** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.

Pear & Walnut Cake with Spiced Red Wine Pears

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake

Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake

Hello Everyone and welcome to a very special post as today officially marks the 1-year anniversary of my food blog! I started up this food blog exactly a year ago during spring break, and instead of slaving away on the many assignments/projects I had at that time, I decided to spontaneously start up a blog, out of pure procrastination really. Since it was quite spontaneous, I didn’t quite put much effort into it in the beginning, as in I wasn’t bothered to purchase my own domain name, and buy a theme and customise it. I wasn’t sure of how long I’d be able to keep up with this blog (because I have tried many times and failed). I am happy that I am able to finally keep one up and running, posting 3 times a week, almost.

Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake

For the next few months or so, I will work on developing an aesthetic and a colour scheme for my blog that reflects who I am as a person – not just one who loves to cook and is passionate about all things food, but also my personality and my design style. The pink and brown was sort of a “yeah that will do for now” because it fit the default theme that I picked (which was more like “I prefer this theme that the others I’ve seen”). Anyway, so to celebrate my blog turning 1 today, I decided to bake a cake for this occasion. I wanted to bake a citrus poppyseed cake at first but for some reason, lemons were nowhere to be found in every supermarket and market that I went to. Instead, I found another recipe that stood out to me – Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake. Why I chose to attempt this cake was because I already had maple syrup in the fridge and CREAM CHEESE; like who could say no to cream cheese?!

The quantities from the original recipe that can be found on Taste of Home, makes two 6-inch round cake layers, but since my baking pans were about 8.5-inches, I decided to double the recipe until I realised that I should’ve tripled it when I poured the batter into the pans; they barely filled halfway. So I made another batch to top them off. Therefore, the quantities below have been tripled from the original to make two 8.5-inch round cake layers. Once again, Happy Anniversary to Amcarmen’s Kitchen!

Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 20-25 MINS | SERVES 8-10

INGREDIENTS

For the cake batter

  • 2 & 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 & 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 170g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

For the frosting

  • 1 package (250g) cream cheese, softened
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • Toasted pecan halves, to decorate

*I could not find any buttermilk at the supermarket, so I made my own by using a tablespoon of white vinegar for every cup of milk. Set it aside for about 5 minutes for the milk to react to the vinegar. You can also substitute the vinegar for lemon juice.

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F or gas mark 4).
  2. Grease two 8.5-inch cake pans with a little butter and set aside
  3. For the cake batter: Combine the plain flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, butter, syrup, and vanilla, and stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chopped pecans.
  4. Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans to wire racks to cool down completely.
  5. For the frosting: Using an electric handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup in a small bowl until smooth. Then beat in the confectioners’ sugar.
  6. Assembly: Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread with about 1/2 cup of frosting. Top with the second layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with toasted pecan halves and store in the fridge before serving. Enjoy!

Vermont Maple-Pecan Cake

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com