namabakery wins its first cook-off!

Greetings from New York City! With job changes, having projects outside of baking, and moving around (between 3 different places this year), my namabakery projects haven’t been getting much love and affection, but finally, after more than a year since my last post, I have something I can share with you!

Recently, my office had its own holiday cook-off, where contestants can share a sweet or savory dish or both. Of course, I got really excited for an opportunity to bake for my office so I signed up for it. I was hesitant at first though, because I don’t have a kitchen here, so I’d have to go back to NJ to bake, which means I would have to transport the finished products all the way to NYC. Why can’t I just borrow someone else’s kitchen in NYC? Because all my baking equipment is in NJ and my baking projects require a LOT of counter/table space. It’s more than just having an oven; every oven bakes differently, and that can affect the outcome of whatever you are baking. That said, yes, I am very nitpicky about my kitchen space. 😛 Anyway, ramblings aside, I started brainstorming a couple days before the cook-off. My friend, Cui, had an awesome gingerbread recipe which contained coconut, almond, and flaxseed; tastes nothing like the typical gingerbread, but has a lightly sweetened flavor and uses pretty healthy ingredients, which I really like and was tempted to incorporate this into the baking project. I also wanted to bring back the white chocolate spheres I did 2 years ago because I felt that they could’ve been executed in a better way. At that time, it was just an experiment for my own practice so I’m not too crazy about the outcome of what I did with them. With the gingerbread recipe and white chocolate spheres in mind, I decided to make white chocolate snow globes with mini gingerbread houses (using the traditional recipe), on top of gingerbread cupcakes (using Cui’s recipe). After a full weekend of prepping the snow globes, baking, and making Jimmy the human mixer (cuz my electrical mixer was burning up) and my ride to various stores to pick up ingredients, namabakery won Best Presentation and Best Overall. Though namabakery can only keep the Golden Ladle until the next cook-off, it was an honor to have received the top prize for this round.

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Gingerbread house inside a white chocolate globe, on a gingerbread cupcake.

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This is why I need lots of table space. Also, as you can see in the photo, there were other concepts going on, but I ran out of time so they didn’t make it into the final product. I was going to make white chocolate sleighs with marshmallow gifts inside.

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White chocolate drying. Besides the snow globes, I was also going to make 3-dimensional houses (one of them comes with a garage). Hence you see roof panels and front and back pieces of the house with decorations on the door and circular window.

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White chocolate up close.

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Mini gingerbread house with christmas lights on. This is what it looks like without the globe on.

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Ok, so I actually made 2 types of cupcakes. The ones with Christmas trees and snowflakes are brownie cupcakes. The snow globes use the gingerbread recipe.

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Valentine’s Day Project – with free tutorial

While Valentine’s Day may have passed just a couple of days ago, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t need to show love on any other day! Below is the most recent project. I really wanted to link two separate hearts together and seamlessly, using white chocolate and basic at-home, piping technique of course. I Googled the concept to make sure that no one has done it, and so far, it doesn’t seem like anyone has. But if I’m wrong, let me know; I’m curious if anyone else has accomplished this at home. Otherwise, yay for another namabakery original!

PS – I meant to post this long before Valentine’s Day, but I got so swamped with other projects. Hence, the delayed posting. But don’t let that stop you from using the techniques demonstrated in this tutorial on other dessert projects! Be creative! 😉

Cake Recipe:
Ghirardelli® Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes

1. Using the x-acto knife’s tip, draw hearts onto a folded-up sheet of wax paper. I didn’t use pen or marker because I don’t think they’re safe to consume and the white chocolate will go directly on this template.

2. Cut out some hearts.

3. Pipe patterns onto the wax paper template. Add sugar pearls or any decorative pieces on before the white chocolate hardens.

4. Link a second heart template onto the first finished heart, and pipe the patterns on top of that. Make sure the white chocolate for the second heart does not touch the first. Otherwise the hearts won’t swing freely when they dry. Let the hearts rest on a platform where they can safely harden and not lose its form or have white chocolate sliding off the template.

5. After at least 15 mins, or when the white chocolate has dried and hardened, carefully remove the wax paper.

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Wintery Spheres of Heavenly Chocolate

Just last week, I posted on the Facebook page, “What would you like to see namabakery design/create next?” I received a couple responses (some were offline), and Sumenta Paul’s “Wintery Spheres of Heavenly Chocolate” theme had been selected.

To be honest, it was more challenging than I had thought. But challenge is a good thing! I was definitely thinking of white chocolate spheres, but I didn’t want solid ball of white chocolate on top of a cupcake. That would’ve looked a little lame and uninteresting, I think. 😛 I wanted to incorporate namabakery’s signature pattern and I wanted the sphere hollow so I could fit a mini cupcake in it to resemble a wintery globe encapsulating a cherishable item or surprise inside. I experimented with a couple different techniques. Of course, some failed, so it was back to the drawing board – brainstorming the process of putting together intricate spheres that didn’t break when the “mold” came off, or crumbled under warm temperature. Keep in mind, there were no special molds bought for this. I am only using common household items to create the decorative pieces for namabakery cupcakes.

After three days of tempering white chocolate, chocolate, piping the ingredients, grinding up scrap pieces of white chocolate, remelting the pieces, repipingmeltinggrindingremeltingrepiping, I finally managed to come up with the white chocolate spheres which I had envisioned.

On a side note, before we move onto the pictures, I am not a huge fan of artificial food coloring. Research has shown that consuming too much food dye may cause cancer, thyroid tumors, allergies, mutagenic effects, kidney damage, asthma attacks, adrenal gland tumors, chromosomal damage, and more. To make your own natural food dye at home, try using fruits or vegetables (such as raspberry juice for these red velvet cupcakes). Some sources to start with: http://www.ehow.com/how_2302808_make-natural-food-coloring.htmlhttp://www.marthastewart.com/267850/dyeing-eggs-naturally. I could’ve done this project with just plain white cupcakes, but for the sake of holiday spirit, visual contrast, and those who have asked if I bake anything else besides brownies and chocolate cake, I am going to use red velvet this time. 😛

As promised, here are the results, along with some random other winter holiday-themed cupcakes!

PS – Thanks to Steven Su for letting me borrow his awesome camera!

Empty sphere of white chocolate awaits to capture a cupcake

White chocolate sphere successfully captures a mini cupcake while spying on another one

Sphere with solid bottom half

You know Christmas will be good when the gift is larger than the Christmas tree itself.

Turkey Cupcakes

Apologies for the delay! Just came back from vacation not too long ago, so I didn’t get the chance to post this until now. These White Chocolate Turkeys on Mini Brownie Cupcakes were made for a Thanksgiving dinner event a couple weeks ago.

After a few hours of sketching and paper prototyping, I finally found a design solution which I thought would address my main concerns – structural support (was it going to hold up during transport or fall apart by the time I get there), time limit (it was getting really late and the process of making anything with white chocolate/chocolate requires hours of preparation work), and aesthetic appeal (will it look like a turkey).

I ended up making these white chocolate turkeys from 10pm til 5am. A lot of times I am most productive during the late hours, and the best concepts come when I am asleep (but that’s a story for another day). When I was done, mom came downstairs with the biggest scowl on her face because every little noise coming from the kitchen gets echoed and amplified on the way to her room. Woops. 😛

The best part about these turkeys is that NONE of them broke when I brought them over to the party! They survived every bump on the road from Neshanic Station to Jersey City. This is a first, and a very big improvement for namabakery. 😀

Enjoy!


one weekend: 101 cupcakes + mini wedding project

What a big weekend of cupcakes! On Saturday, I went over to Bayside, NY to bake with a few guys from TANG from 1030am til around 930pm. We borrowed Godwin’s lovely kitchen, and I got to demonstrate how to properly pipe icing onto the cupcakes as well as decorate them. For decorations, I provided the white chocolate and chocolate butterflies, and several designs of the white chocolate leaves. On Sunday morning at 7am, the guys transported all 101 cupcakes to Passport to Taiwan festival at Union Square, NYC. It turned out to be a very hot and sunny day, which is great for the sun tanners, but not for the cupcakes. In the end, I still had a great time and I am really happy to have had the opportunity to bring nama bakery cupcakes to NYC. This whole weekend was a huge learning experience so I don’t regret any part of it.

While selling cupcakes, I also got to do some face/body painting with Vivian and Jenn for TANG. It was quite fun! Then, on Monday, I was called in to help my friend Sumi with wedding cupcakes for a coworker. Hope you guys enjoyed the cupcakes, and congratulations to the one getting married!

Also, thank you Vivian for helping me grab some of these pics during the event!

My feather banners! Made these for the festival 2 years ago. They were printed in Taiwan.

Orchids are a huge part of the Taiwanese culture. Taiwan is actually known as the Kingdom of Orchids.

The cupcakes.. getting baked again.

TANG logo, painted by Vivian. Nicely done!

face painting supplies, and the TANG brochure i had put together for this year's conference (upper left)

Fiona chases cupcakes, by Vivian!

I donated white chocolate leaves to Sumi's batch of cupcakes and helped with the decorating

White chocolate leaf, sugar pearls, blueberry, whipped chocolate, and cupcake with fudge icing

佛誕日 – Buddha’s Birthday

As mentioned in the previous post, there were two cupcake-licious projects set for this month. The first of the two took place today at a local fundraiser which was to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday – 佛誕日 (fo2 dan4 ri4), and also to help the temple financially. On the Lunar calendar, the Buddha’s birthday is always April 8, but on our calendar, it varies every year, and this year would have been on May 10. But since the monks can’t be hosting the event at different temples at the same time, or there weren’t enough to host them at each location, this local temple celebrated today.

After a week of planning and design, and three days of building, here are some photos of the 50 cupcakes that were prepared for the fundraiser. Unfortunately, these weren’t vegan. At the end of the 4-hour event, 43 cupcakes were sold successfully. 😀 But first…

Common FAQ’s I received today:

Q: How did you make the butterflies?

A: Magic! Just kidding.. I used white chocolate and chocolate morsels which you can find in any supermarket. The rest is history.

Q: Did you use a template for the butterflies?

A: No, everything is free-handed. It’s as if I were drawing with white chocolate.

Q: Will you be able to provide a workshop in a future?

A: I’m not sure I have enough material to teach with.

Q: Do you own a bake shop?

A: No, I just do this for fun. Contact me if you’d like some cupcakes made!

Q: Did you study culinary arts?

A: No, I just like playing with food.

(Click on this first image below to go through the photos more easily.)


Winter Cupcakes

Since spring doesn’t officially start until March 20th, it is technically still winter, and therefore I will allow myself to post photos of the cupcakes made back in December. ^_^ They were made for two different holiday events.

After doing extensive research online and through cupcake books, I had many ideas I wanted to work with. As with all design projects, I sketch on paper to help me think it through.

White Chocolate Christmas Trees