Dear Malcolm

You turned 10 on Easter Friday and you chose a beach holiday over a birthday party because you realised that it would probably be the last chance for you to visit the beautiful beaches in this part of the world.

We spent the long Easter weekend at a popular tourist destination 3 hours from where we live. It was cloudy and windy, but it didn’t stop you from having a blast at the beach. You raced with the tides and crashing waves. White sand beach and emerald green water made you so happy.

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We spent hours building sand castles at the beach and you were determined to build the best sand castle. It was good to see you so focused and determined to do something well.

photo 3 (28)Later in the evening, we went to a local seafood place for your birthday dinner. It was a little restaurant that sat on stilts and stretched into the sea. A little run down, no frills, nothing extravagant or fanciful. You loved it and I was happy you did because the last thing we want is for you to grow up with a sense of entitlement especially on this special day.

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Before we left for the beach holiday, you had a great time celebrating your birthday with your friends and teachers in school though. The minecraft birthday cake I baked made you so happy. Before that, you’ve been telling me that I needn’t have to because you knew how much effort it took. You can be muddle headed but once in a while you surprised me with your thoughtfulness.

It was also the same day, when your “favouritest” librarian, Mr Martin told you that you had broken the school reading record and were on your way to setting a new record for the school. His beard was still there though. I think you must have made him ‘work’ very hard to keep his beard this year!

Frankly, I was the excited parent while you were nonchalant. To you, it didn’t matter whether there was a reading test or if there was a target to hit. It didn’t matter whether you came first or last. You read because it was fun. Period.

Even though you had hit your reading target, you picked up your first Harry Potter books and devoured 2 books over the weekend. You think that the next best reader in your class did well despite the fact that his score was only a fraction of yours and you weren’t particularly eager to announce your score to the class. You remember what we said about being smart. That it matters more to put in effort and to have a positive attitude. And that nothing is quite impossible when you put your heart to it.

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I am proud of you in so many ways. I am proud that you are humble and that you are kind and sensitive to your friends’ feelings.

I am happy that you seem to understand that the only person you really need to compete against is yourself. Most of all, I am happy that you are driven not by recognition and fame but by a genuine love and passion.

You may be just 10 but sometimes I feel you already have the answers to some of the big questions in life.

It is my wish and hope that you will never lose sight of the really important stuff as you grow up in this competitive, materialistic and mostly imperfect world.

Love Always,
Mummy
 

 

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A Gluten Free Minecraft Birthday Cake

My elder boy turns 10 today and I made him a cake based on their current favourite game of minecraft to bring to school.


It was a last minute effort but thanks to this and google search, the design was all thought out. It turned out to be the coolest and the healthiest cake I’ve baked so far. The cake is baked using gluten free flour and the amount of sugar was reduced tremendously, so much so that I worry that it won’t appeal to the American taste bud.

It is unusual but I had his birthday party all thought out more than a month ago. I was so sure that it is going to be a Star Wars birthday party considering his craze for the movie then.

But 2 months in, he had finished the Lord of the Ring book series, dreamt of being Gandalf for his birthday party and moved on to dreaming of a beach birthday holiday on the Florida coast and just bringing in a cake to school like everyone else. (We should be bumping at the beach by the time you read this post)

Between a birthday party and a cake, the latter definitely requires less effort, I thought. But I was so swarmed by last Saturday’s cookout that I hadn’t been thinking much about his birthday cake until 2 days before the day itself.

I could have grabbed a sugar laden cake from Walmart but it didn’t seem right to feed his friends something I wouldn’t eat myself. So 2 days before the deadline, I posted online asking for a favourite chocolate cake recipe.

I had no time for trial and error. I needed something simple, fail proof and tastes great. Sounds like quite an impossible feat, huh ? I got a slew of replies from some wonderful ladies and I went with the most popular choice, the recipe looks too simple to be true. No beating, no whipping, just mix!

I had everything mixed in a jiffy substituting normal flour with gluten free flour, free range eggs, organic chocolate powder and organic cane sugar. It was like making the healthiest decadent cake. Kind of like self deluding. But the final mix turned out so runny and I thought I screwed it up again. According to the recipe, I was supposed to blend the ingredients before adding the boiling water, but I did it the other way round.

Oh, well. I still popped the cake in the oven and 30 minutes later, I was surprised with the most perfect chocolate cake. Moist, rich and beautiful tasting.

It was close to noon time and I needed to fetch my preschooler from school.  I rushed off while letting the cake cool. By the time we finished lunch, the cake was ready for trimming and frosting. I trimmed the edges of the 13 inch cake and had it halved. Frosted one layer with chocolate frosting and stacked the other layer on top. The cake was quite levelled so I didn’t have to trim much and I frosted the edges with the remaining frosting.


It was about 2 pm. Everything went on smoother than I expected. I was ahead of time and I decided to work on the fondant which usually would take a couple of days to make.

This was the first time I used Wilson ready made fondant. I bought the white one and I was so happy I did because it was so easy to work with. There wasn’t any sticky mess and icing sugar was not required to ‘flour’ the work surface like the time I made my own marshmallow fondant.


I had the fondant rolled out to the desired size and laid it over the cake. No tearing or breaking. It was effortless.

I also bought this gum paste tool set which made creating those minecraft pixels such a breeze. phew !
By then it was about 3 plus in the afternoon and Malcolm had came back from school and was delighted to see what I had made.
I started working on painting the fondant which was the most tedious part. Luckily it was’t a very big cake and there were only about 200 squares!


I used blue and yellow food colouring to get a palette of different shades of green. It took me about an hour to hand paint every squares and by 5 pm the cake was done and I was in time to pack up everything and cook dinner.

Seeing how the fondant pieces had dried up when I left them outside, I decided to go ahead and leave the cake outside instead of in the fridge. To my horror, I woke up to find that the fondant at the side of the cake had melted and were falling off ! I started to panic, it was 6 in the morning and I didn’t have time to redo the fondant, even if it was just fixing the edges!

Desperate, I grabbed some chocolate cookies from the pantry, mashed them up with my grinder, took a handful of the crumbs and rubbed them all around the edges where the fondant had fallen and sprinkled the rest all around the cake.


Thankfully the damage wasn’t great and it was salvageable. In fact, I thought the cake looked pretty good and was a hit with his friends. A show of hands revealed that EVERYONE knows and plays the game, even the teacher herself who is a grandmother plays it !


Here’s a slice which I managed to save and bring home for his little brother.
It took me a day, which is a considerably short time for a fondant cake. The recipe is definitely a keeper. It tasted great even with gluten free flour. I am quite sure I will make this again. My preschooler is already asking to have the same cake for his next birthday party !
 
P/s: Jasmine, Sharon, Angeline, Dorothea and SuFern
Thank you ladies for sharing your favourite chocolate cake recipe !

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
Serves 20
The bestest chocolate cake that is moist, rich and gluten free
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cups organic cane sugar
  2. 1 3/4 cups gluten free all purpose flour
  3. 1 cup organic cocoa powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  5. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 1 cup milk
  9. 1/2 cup olive oil
  10. 1 cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the base of 13 x 9 baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make sure all the ingredients are well-distributed.
  3. Add eggs, milk, and oil. Whisk for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in boiling water. (batter will be thin)
  5. Pour batter into prepared baking tin.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool completely before frosting.
Notes
  1. I used a 13 x 9 x 2 baking tin, alternatively you can use a 8 inch round baking tin
Adapted from Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Cake Recipe
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/
Chocolate Frosting
Yields 2
Less sugar chocolate frosting
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 stick of unsalted butter
  2. 2/3 cup organic cocoa powder
  3. 1/2 cup icing sugar
  4. 1/3 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir in cocoa powder.
  3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
  4. Add small amount additional milk, if needed.
  5. Let it cool and start frosting !
Adapted from Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Frosting
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/
 

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Cooking Up A Storm

We had a hectic weekend.
A group of us from 42 countries were tasked to cook for some 2000 people last Saturday.
It was an event that the internationals host annually.
The objective: to provide a glimpse of our culture and heritage through food.


It took me some time to finally decide to cook Nasi Lemak, and it did worry me that my Nasi Lemak would be laughable to my friends from Indonesia and Malaysia. The fact is, I don’t even speak Malay but I thought having our national anthem in Malay did suggest that the Malay culture was inextricably linked to our heritage.

I have admit that the deciding factor for the choice of food largely depended on how well I could churn out enough food to cater to the crowd.

The preparation started a few weeks ago when I attempted to cook Nasi Lemak for the very first time. It turned out decent. I had slices of cucumber, ikan bilis, peanuts, eggs, chicken drumsticks and the toughest part, the chilli.


This is my sink on a Sunday morning. It took me 3 days to finally turned my 10 month old dried chilli to paste that tastes somewhat similar to what I wanted.

Luckily the chilli could withstand cooking and grinding and recooking and regrinding. It was not until the third try and multiple phone calls to my mom did I get what I wanted.


On the day itself, I started cooking at 5.30am. The baked chicken drumlets took longer than expected to cook. By 11 am, I had cooked 20 cups of rice, 2 big pots of chicken curry, 200 chicken drumlets, 120 slices of hard boiled eggs, ikan bilis, peanuts, cucumbers and my precious chilli paste. It was quite a feat and I swear I have newfound respect for hawkers and people who do this everyday for a living.

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The event was massive. Some countries were lucky  to have food flown to them and others were fortunate to cater from restaurants. There were many like me who spent days preparing and cooking.

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The Swedes made 500 meat balls over the week and made Ikea’s meatballs taste mediocre. My French girlfriend made the biggest pot of ratatouille over a couple of days and had her grandma’s century old Victorian dress flown over, so that she could put it on for the event.

The Norwegians dressed up as Vikings and fed us cured lamb that was really too exotic for my tastebud. And there was my Scottish girlfriend who baked 3 sponge cakes and batches of sausage rolls despite having to take care of 3 kids, big house, no help and a husband who works most of the time. She brought amazing to a whole new level.

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Thankfully during the event, a bouncing castle was set up on the premise to entertain the kids so the parents got to do what they needed to do.

It was fun and quite an experience but I totally crashed that evening. For dinner, I just fed the kids left over Nasi Lemak and Swedish meatballs.

 

 

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