Foodiva's Kitchen: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

FFWD - Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak

As mouthwatering as it eventually turned out, this week's recipe had me slightly worried from the word go. We are not big meat eaters in this house and whenever I've cooked it, things like steak magically come out rubbery or burnt. My official food-tasters like their meat well-done, so to me that means "over-done", which isn't really the same thing, is it? Anyway, to cut a long story short, I don't really know how to cook the perfect steak, so more often than not we try not to eat it at home.

Then French Fridays with Dorie throws out this recipe and I am forced to face my....what is it....fear? Weakness? Idiocy? And because I cook meat the way I do, I tried to stick to Dorie's method of cooking the filet mignon as close as possible in the hope that maybe this time, it will turn out fine. By a stroke of luck, I still had my substantial stash of Sarawak peppercorns in the pantry, waiting for their earthy heat to be released.

My stash of Sarawak pepper, and what happened when I
tried to bash them in a plastic bag (ie. holes happened!)

I had bought bags of the stuff while on vacation in Sarawak last year (we are neighboring countries), and though I use it fairly often in my cooking, I still had too much left. This pepper steak recipe was perfect, and the coarsely cracked pepper requirement meant that I got to bash them to my heart's content. Of course, I tried to be cocky about it all and placed the peppercorns in a ziplock bag, poised for bashing. Wrongest move! The plastic bag ended up full of holes due to the sharp bits of cracked pepper... Mental note: next time, stick to the mortar and pestle or the kitchen-towel-wrapping method as suggested in the book.

Young papaya shoestring frites with crispy basil

I followed Dorie's steak-cooking method to a 'T', but did opt to change things up with the accompanying sauce and fries. Using Cognac or any other liquor was out of the question (and not because I'm a member of AA), so I boiled the sauce down with juice pressed out of a very ripe pear instead. Close enough. Then instead of adding the full measure of heavy cream, I halved that and added another half of coconut cream. That gave a lovely sweetness and a tropical touch to the sauce.

Now the frites. Do you remember when I mentioned the low-carb diet going on in this house? (Hint: it isn't me). That forced me to think about alternatives to potatoes. Later on, I went to the market and found these green, young papayas that were on the verge of being ripe but not quite there. Instantly, papaya frites seemed like a really good idea. The young fruit's firm texture is similar to potatoes except that it's not starchy which would probably make it less crisp when fried. I thought I'd give it a try anyway.

A mandoline helped slice the papaya very thinly as I wanted to make shoestring-style fries. You have to really watch the heat on this one as papaya caramelises very quickly. While the strips remained fairly soft in the middle, the edges were wonderfully crispy. I also threw in a handful of aromatic Thai basil leaves into the hot oil at the very end and lifted these out with the papaya. If you've never fried papaya this way before, then you should, the frites tasted hea-ven-ly...

Before and after cooking: Not much difference, is there?

The steak was cooked on the rare side - just for me. While I wasn't used to the pinkish hue of the meat inside, it proved as tender as the thumb I bashed during the peppercorn massacre above. Simply juicy and lovely!

That's it from me this week, I think. It's been a rather busy week, no, month full of blogger's events and challenges (why do I do this to myself?). I'm going to take a blogging break this weekend starting this afternoon, taking in the Wedding-of-the-Century shenanigans going on across many oceans from here. I will, of course, make time during the commercial breaks to check out the other FFWD members' variations of this dish!

Happy weekend to all!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forever Nigella - Royal Wedding Street Party Fare!

"It sounds like something on a very trite T-shirt, but life is what happens."
  ~ Nigella Lawson

Tomorrow, Prince William and his bride Kate (Princess Catherine?) will officially commit to each other, and as we watch them do this live, they will be committing their commitment to the rest of the world as well. What a bagpipe of nerves they must both be in the midst of high expectations of their fairytale union...

My advice to you, Will and Kate, is to just chill out and enjoy your big day. Laugh a lot, kiss each other because it's spring and the flowers are out but more importantly, because you mean it. Forget about the rest of us. A regular wedding bash, let alone a Royal Wedding, is so overrated anyway. Afterwards is what really matters. Oh, and Kate, keep your wedding bouquet. You'll need it to remind you someday why you're in this for the long haul. Bouquet and yes, that delicious ring.

Now that that's out of the way, let me get to the heart of this post. This British Royal Wedding  gives us an opportunity (or excuse, rather) to gather family, friends and neighbors round and throw a street party à la Nigella! This month's Forever Nigella host is Mardi of Eat Live Travel Write blog. She's done a great job in coming up with exquisite food for the street party using Nigella's express recipes, so I'm just going to follow in her cleverness.

Since these are very easy and non-time consuming recipes that I've picked, I've decided to make three types of dishes you can simply pick up and eat with your fingers. Licking them afterwards (your fingers, not the plate) is very much allowed, encouraged even, because this is Nigella's realm, after all.

Halloumi with Chilli

My first contribution to the street party is grilled Halloumi with Chilli. Before I made this, I had never eaten halloumi but Nigella's description of it as "that squeaky, salty Polystyrene-textured cheese" made me want to have a taste of it right away. And she was right, you know. If you've ever bitten into polystyrene (what do you mean, you've never?) and felt it bounce back against your teeth, well that's what halloumi is like. It's springy in texture and the flavor is salty, mellow and tangy. 

The cheese doesn't melt when it is fried and I only needed to dry-fry this quickly in a non-stick pan. After drizzling some chilli-infused olive oil - extra virgin would of course be lovely but is not requisite in naughty Nigella's kitchen, nor mine - all over the cheese slices, they were suddenly ready to be served! A splash of acidity from the lemons worked wondrously to balance out the spicy, salty flavors. How can something so simple look/taste so beautiful? I wonder if they'll be serving these to the Royal Wedding guests? Perhaps not, they won't know what they're missing. This superquick recipe can be found at

Pigs in Blankets

My second party dish is Pigs in Blankets, essentially cocktail sausages wrapped in the same dough you would use to make scones. Unlike the tender touch you'd need with scones, this dough can be manhandled without any consequences. The three-step process of 'roll, wrap and bake' was so annoyingly pleasurable that it was quite easy to make 50 pieces from a single batch of dough! One thing I did change in the recipe was to use chicken cocktail sausages instead of pork. Perhaps these should now be renamed Chix in Blankets?

As easy as roll, wrap and bake.

Cherry Cheesecake

Lastly, a dessert. What, no more space for dessert? But you must make room for some.... because you wouldn't want to miss out on a piece of this loveliness that is Nigella's Cherry Cheesecake. I threw this together in such a short space of time (10 minutes?), it's almost embarassing. It's an absolutely no-bake recipe and only needed to be set in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. The luscious cherry topping was shhh.... out of a jar of very fruity St. Dalfour jam. No one needs to know that this labor of love isn't as laborious as it looked in the end. Trust me, the recipe insists that you don't break out into a sweat while making this.

Take a slice for the Street Party!

So there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed my quickies selection. Now I'm going to make myself a hot cup of tea (like the British do), kick off my flip-flops and put my feet up. In line with all things Royal Wedding, I leave you with these famous words from when Shrek rescues Fiona:

Princess Fiona: What are you doing? You know, you should sweep me off my feet out yonder window and down a rope onto your valiant steed.
Shrek: You've had a lot of time to plan this, haven't you?

Have a wonderful future together, Will and Kate!

Royal mwaahs,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

We Should Cocoa: Apricot-Mocha Brownie Marzipan Bars

Chocolate flows in deep dark, sweet waves, a river to ignite my mind and alert my senses.

Isn't it funny how there are days when you surf the net to check out your blogger friends' offerings and you click on links upon links and finally end up on a page you that makes you pause and think, hmm...I'd really like to be a part of that? For a number of uber-surfers, that's a frequent occurrence but not so for me. Maybe I don't click on that many links, I tend to always gravitate and return to sites that drew me to them in the first place, either for their prose or their photos but most of all, for their owner's personality and friendship. On this one particular day, I stumbled upon the "We Should Cocoa" event hosted by the lovely Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. It's a monthly cooking event involving that most scared of ingredient, chocolate, and one other compulsory ingredient chosen by the hosts, and guess what? Here I am, contributing a chocolicious recipe to the said event.

This  month's extra ingredient is marzipan. I was rubbing my hands in sinisterful glee because I happen to love marzipan! I had never made it myself, of course, nor ever baked with it. But I recall its dense, rich, creamy taste inside Christmas stollens I had eaten in Germany, and in tiny fruit forms (made completely out of marzipan) whenever I've travelled to Thailand. That's really about it, my marzipan experience is sadly very limited.

So why the glee? It's my chance to try and make my very own marzipan(!) and pair it with an original recipe out of my chocolate-drenched mind. After a bit of research, I found out that marzipan was such a breeze to make. I made just a small block for starters and when it didn't crack after overnight chilling and rolling out....I was more than thrilled! (I'm so easy to please, can you tell?)

                Top: Dried apricots and apricot paste                      
Bottom L: My homemade marzipan                                                              R: Mocha brownie on almond crust

For several years now, I've had this rather sinful recipe for chocolate brownie that's laced with strong coffee. It's soft and oh-so-squealy-gooey inside but crisp on top... as I said, it's a brownie headed for Hell. I wanted to wrap that brownie in my homemade marzipan and fashion it into bars but after a bit of thought, that just seemed too dense overall. My pantry held some beautifully soft, dried apricots so after blitzing them in the food processor with some honey, milk and more marzipan, I got this lovely apricot paste. Spread that on top of the brownie, cover it with a sheet of marzipan and we have the rather mouthful Apricot-Mocha Brownie Marzipan Bar. Oh yes, I also baked the brownies on top of an almond crust to give the sweet a bit of crunch and make it look, you know, a bit more bar-like. You can never have too much almonds anyway, can you? 

 Bottom: Faux coffee beans made out of marzipan and rolled in cocoa powder

For decoration, I rolled some marzipan into coffee-bean shapes, dusted them in cocoa powder and placed one on top of each marzipan bar.  

Let me tell you, there are recipes I like and there are recipes I really like. This is one of them. Every layer turned out perfectly and the flavors (refreshing apricots on top of gooey chocolate and underneath marzipan) melded really well together. That's not normal, especially when it's the first time I make something. So you see, if I had never landed on the 'We Should Cocoa' page, I never would have come up with this bliss!

Apricot-Mocha Brownie Marzipan Bars
1st/bottom layer: Almond crust
60g butter
100g all-purpose flour
60g ground almonds
60g sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 8x8-inch deep baking tin with parchment paper, or use a loose-bottomed tin for easy release of cake.
2. Rub butter into flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add almonds and sugar and rub further with your fingertips until well incorporated and forms a loose dough. You can also place the ingredients in a food processor in the above order to expedite the process.
3. Tip the mixture into the baking pan and press down with your fingers to flatten it. This is the almond crust. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside.

2nd layer: Gooey Chocolate Brownie
150g chocolate, chopped
60g butter
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
2 eggs
50g sugar
50g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the instant coffee powder until dissolved. Leave to cool.
2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture. Add the flour and fold gently to incorporate. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Pour mixture over the top of the semi-baked almond crust and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool completely. Preferably, leave the cooled cake in the refrigerator overnight.

3rd layer: Apricot and Honey Filling
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons marzipan (see recipe below)

1. In a food processor, blitz the apricots with the honey, milk and marzipan until you get a homogeneous creamy yellow mixture.
2. Spread the apricot mixture on top of the cooled brownie, flattening with the back of a spoon to create an even layer.
3. Top with a thin sheet of rolled out marzipan. Press down gently until the marzipan sticks to the apricot layer.

4th layer (top): Marzipan
250 grams of peeled almonds
1 cup icing/confectioners sugar
1 small egg white

1. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until you obtain a very fine almond flour.
2. Add the sugar a quarter cup at a time and pulse until very well combined.
3. Finally add the egg white and pulse until the mixture starts to resemble marzipan. Pinch a bit of the dough and press in between your fingers, it should feel soft and pliable.
4. Roll the dough in a plastic film and refrigerate it for at least one hour. After that take it out and place on a clean surface dusted lightly with confectioners sugar. Roll out the dough and fold it two or three times. Flatten it again and return it to refrigerator. The dough is ready to be used when it is no longer sticky. (I left mine overnight)
5. Roll the marzipan flat in between two sheets of plastic film to about ½ cm thick. Cut into an approximate 8x8 inch square and carefully transfer this layer on top of the apricot layer. Press down gently until the marzipan sticks to the apricot layer.
6. Using a sharp knife, cut the marzipan bar into little squares about 2x2 inches each. Wipe the knife every time you cut so the layers of the bar will not run into each other. Serve immediately or store bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Friday, April 22, 2011

FFWD - Mustard and the United Nations of Bâtons

'Allo, 'allo, what 'ave we 'ere? That's a whole lot of puff pastry bâtons for this week's French Fridays with Dorie's recipe cook-along. Actually, the recipe in the book called for just Mustard Bâtons, but then Dorie's bonne idée section led me astray. As in, waaay astray... My imagination got the better of me and everyone in the house ended up feasting on a bâton buffet.

Now, Dorie herself admits that she uses storebought puff pastry every time she makes these. I, on the other hand, have a bucket list of to dos that includes free-falling from the sky, swimming in the ocean with sharks and hmm, making puff pastry. The other two are doable, done even, but making my own puff pastry from scratch.... I had never been too sure if I could pull it off. It may have something to do with all the butter, the rubix-cube folds and the waiting time involved - I would simply go mad!

But I went ahead and did it, anyway. In the least painful way possible. As luck would have it, I found this link on how to make the 'quickest puff pastry' that took me all of 5 minutes to put together and roll (but still needed to chill it in the fridge for an hour before using). That sounded more like it. Lo-and-behold... I managed to produce these really cute, gnome-like bâtons below. It was my test run with puff pastry-making, and while it did rise and produce the layers, it hadn't risen as much as I had hoped. A quick text message to Diva D to "please pick up some puff pastry on your way home, mwaah!" later, and I was ready to play.

My 'junior' bâtons out of homemade puff pastry....more flaky than puffy.

I started off with the mustard bâtons recipe but soon graduated to making other savory combinations and finally, ventured into sweet bâtons. The recipe for mustard bâtons here isn't so much a recipe as it is a set of instructions. I am not at liberty to share it with you but you can find it in the book, Around My French Table or I found an official link here.

My United Nations of Bâtons

Alors, here are my versions! (Click on images to enlarge)

Mustard with Lavender Salt Bâtons
2 T mustard
1 T sea salt
1/4 t lavender flowers (dried)
Sprinkles: Nigella seeds (or blackseeds)
How to: Chop or blend the sea salt and lavender together until fine, stir into the mustard and spread. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle Nigella seeds on top before baking.

Mustard with Shallot Bâtons
2 T mustard
1 T red shallots, chopped finely
Sprinkles: Shredded Nori (seaweed)
How to: Stir chopped shallots into the mustard, and spread. Take a small sheet of Nori and shred or cut into tiny ribbons with scissors. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle Nori on top before baking.

Basil Pesto with Pumpkin Seeds Bâtons
Sprinkles: Pumpkin seeds
How to: Follow the pesto recipe in Dorie’s book (pg. 488) but substitute pumpkin seeds for the pine nuts. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle more pumpkin seeds on top before baking.

Chilli and Garlic Bâtons
3 large, red chillies
3 cloves garlic
1 T sugar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprinkles: Cumin seeds
How to: Grind chillies, garlic and sugar together, then drizzle in the olive oil. Add cheddar cheese and blend until well distributed. Season with salt and pepper, then spread on pastry. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle cumin on top before baking.

Hah! I forgot to take a picture of the sesame batons so here's the actual sesame spread (middle)...

Sesame Bâtons
4 T sesame powder or seeds
1 T chopped ginger
1 T olive oil
1 T black soy sauce
Sprinkles: Sesame seeds
How to: Grind sesame and ginger, then drizzle in the olive oil and soya sauce. Blend for a few more seconds, then spread on pastry. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle sesame seeds on top before baking.


Nutella with Chilli Bâtons
2 T Nutella
1/4 t chilli or paprika powder
Sprinkles: Chilli powder
How to: Really? Is there a need? :-)

Nutella with Macadamia Bâtons
2 T Nutella
2 T macadamia nuts, chopped finely
Sprinkles: Chopped macadamia nuts

Banana and Palm Sugar Bâtons
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 T grated palm sugar
Sprinkles: Shredded coconut ribbons
How to: Spread the mashed banana onto the pastry and sprinkle palm sugar all over it. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle coconut ribbons on top before baking.

Dragonfruit and Lemon Bâtons
2 T dragonfruit flesh, mashed
1 T lemon zest
Sprinkles: Cinnamon sugar
How to: Spread the mashed dragonfruit onto the pastry and sprinkle lemon zest all over it. Brush eggwash on pastry and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top before baking.

Phew, that was a long one! I'm passing the baton on to you now. Check out what the other Doristas over at French Fridays with Dorie have under (or inside) their bâtons!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dragonfruit and Coconut-Lime Bread Pudding

“Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.”

- Charles Pierre Monselet, French journalist

It's that time of the year and red-fleshed dragonfruit has made its appearance in the markets once again here. How long I have waited for you to return.... you fushia-pink, non-fire-snorting ball of juiciness! The dragonfruit is in time to be part of this recipe I've created especially for The Bread Pudding of the Month Club. My friend, Victoria over at Mission: Food hosts this monthly event and if any of you have made/are going to make a bread pudding dish this month, please do hop over there and join us!

In my previous recipes using dragonfruit, I mentioned that on its own, the fruit has very little flavor. Almost like a watered-down kiwi, with a similar texture when it's ripe. Because of this, I flavored the custard out of coconut milk and lime to give the bread pudding some tangible character. The dragonfruit was not completely hopeless because its flesh, when blended with the custard, gave the pudding its striking fushia-pink hue that turned to a baby pink color once cooked.

For as long as I can remember, I've held the perception that bread pudding of any kind and flavoring can only be enjoyed fully after a light meal of salad and... well, just salad. Many times when I've had a hearty main course plus appetizer, I've had to turn up my willpower and turn away this filling dessert. Even as my heart screams, "I WAAAANT!". Okay, I tell a white lie. Sometimes I do have a bite, but I can't really get into it, you know, because I'm so full by that time. If only the serving portions were smaller in the restaurants...

Wait, if I was the one making them, I could make them in a size my stomach can handle. So how does mini-bread pudding sound to you? Because that's exactly what I made. My individual portions were so 'mini' they were the size of a small teacup (150ml capacity). No danger of over-indulging here! And once the puddings were turned out for serving, they even fitted nicely on the saucer, just like a cup.

You can, of course, fashion the bread slices into any shape or cube it and dump it all in the ramekins without any grand order. I decided to cut my bread into rounds and arranged them stacked on top of each other in the ramekin. The smaller circles formed a flower-like pattern on top. Tastes the same, just looks prettier. Oh, such visual animals we all are....

Barbie would love these figure-friendly portions

Instead of serving the bread pudding with cream or any type of sauce, I decided to top it off with fresh fruit. Yes, more dragonfruit! You can save all the trouble by simply chopping and sprinkling the fruits on top of the pudding, but.... I served them as dragonfruit balls skewered with toothpicks and stacked upright on top of the pudding. The fruit balls were chilled in the fridge beforehand, so when you eat this, you can feel their juicy coolness against the warmth of the bread pudding on your palate. Three dessert fork-scoops later, my portion of mini-bread pudding was all gone. To quote Goldilocks, "It was just right".

                                                                            Baby pink love
Dragonfruit Bread Pudding on a saucer. Enjoy!

Dragonfruit and Coconut-Lime Bread Pudding
Makes: 4 small ramekins (150ml capacity)

6-8 slices stale bread, cubed or cut into circles with cookie cutter
1/2 cup dragonfruit, chopped roughly
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 large egg
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 lime, juice only
Vegetable oil, for greasing
1/2 of a dragonfruit, scooped into balls for topping

1. Preheat oven to 325F/165C. Fill a 9x9-inch baking tin with water halfway up and place on the middle rack in the oven. This will be the water bath.
2. Line the base of ramekins with cooking foil and brush their insides with vegetable oil to grease. Arrange the bread circles or cubes in each ramekin until it reaches the top. Set aside while you prepare the custard.
3. In a blender, add the chopped dragonfruit, coconut milk, egg and sugar and process until smooth. Pour this mixture over the bread in the ramekins and press the bread pieces down with the back of a spoon. Squeeze or drizzle a splash of lime juice over the top layer.
4. Carefully arrange the filled ramekins inside the preheated water bath and bake for 35-40 minutes until the tops are just browned. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. To turn out, run a thin knife around the edge of the ramekin and invert onto a small plate. Invert again onto a dessert plate so that the browned layer is on top.
5. For the fresh fruit topping, use a melon scooper to form about 8 balls from the dragonfruit flesh. Take 2 balls and skewer them with a toothpick. Press this fruit skewer on top of a bread pudding and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lemongrass and Lime Birthday Cake Pop for the International Incident Party

This month's International Incident Party is special on two counts. First, we are celebrating our energetic host,'s birthday. Secondly, the theme is Cake Pop, that cutesy ball-of-cake-on-a-lolly-stick made famous by the enormously talented Angie of Bakerella. My inner child just couldn't wait to get both its (my?...its?) hands dirty!

Though I've admired and frequently ogled at Bakerella's cake pop creations for a while, this was only the second time that I've attempted making them myself. Hmm...maybe the first in the strictest sense of the word as I had only made cake balls before this. Once you start inserting sticks into cake balls, it's a different game altogether and I later found out that it takes considerable skill to keep the compacted cake mix stuck onto the sticks!

My chocolate-coating technique had plenty of room for improvement, for as you'll soon witness, the surface of my cake pops had more lumps and bumps than a teenager's troubled complexion. After this experience, I bow down to Bakerella and talented others for their skills in making smooth, perfect-looking cake pops.

I thought at length about how I wanted to shape my cake pops, and I was rather torn between the traditional (spherical) or funky (other shapes). Eventually, I went with the funky, but something that's not too out-there so as to become unrecognizably cake pop-like. To celebrate your special day, Penny, here are my two-tiered Birthday Cake Pops!

For the cake itself, I opted for an unusual combination of flavors (in desserts, at least) which also proved surprisingly delicious - the kids at home devoured these, that's how I know. Lemongrass and lime cake, crumbled, compacted and later covered in pristine white chocolate and decorated with red sugar hearts and tiny birthday candles. I used both fresh and dried lemongrass as I wasn't too sure if using all fresh would make the cake flavor too intense and overpowering. Both lemongrass and lime have strong, distinct fragrances and flavors - lemongrass having a slightly citrusy-sweet and pungent, earthy aroma, while lime has a sharp and refreshing scent. Taking a bite out of these cake pops will stimulate and keep you wide-eyed with alertness. Never again will you leave your fate in the hands of that doctor fellow who quoted us over the years that eating too much carbs makes you feel sluggish!

Lemongrass and lime cake

The cake itself was light and airy in texture. I omitted the butter and reduced the sugar to compensate for the fact that I would be mixing in dense, sweet cream cheese frosting to bind the cake mixture together. I also squeezed extra lime juice into the frosting to give it more zing! As these Birthday Cake Pops were a bit larger in size than cake balls, I knew that regular pop sticks weren't sturdy enough to hold them up. So what's a girl to do? I used short, disposable wooden chopsticks instead. They worked out quite well, just look at the size of these momma cake pops!

Some industrial strength pop sticks!
A large-holed colander worked well as a stand for these cake pops

I can't wait to see what my fellow bloggers have brought along by way of Cake Pops, and I'd be honored if you will join me by clicking here or the thumbnails below to check them out. Without further ado, let me light the birthday candles and share the recipe with you...

Happy Birthday, Penny!
"Whadd'ya lookin' at?"
As I had some leftover cake mix, I couldn't help but make my very own Gangsta Chix ball!

Lemongrass and Lime Birthday Cake Pops
Lemongrass and Lime Cake
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 cup self-rising flour
2 teaspoons ground lemongrass*
3 tablespoons hot lemongrass juice**

*For the ground lemongrass, I used dried lemongrass enclosed in teabags (herbal infusion) and ground it finely in a grinder.
**If you can't find ground or dried lemongrass, you can chop 1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass finely and boil for 10 minutes in 1/2 cup water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, strain, and use the reserved liquid as the hot lemongrass juice for the sponge mix. I used both the dried and fresh lemongrass in the ingredients list above.

1. Preheat oven to 175ºC/350 F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
2. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until dissolved. Add the yolks and lime zest and beat just to combine.
3. Sift together flour and lemongrass and gently fold through the egg mixture followed by the lemongrass juice.
4. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cake springs back when pressed gently. Leave in pan for 5-10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

Lime Cheese Frosting
250g/8oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lime juice

In a bowl, whip the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and lime juice together until smooth. Use immediately to bind the cake mix.

Making the Birthday Cake Pops
You will need:
250g/8oz white chocolate candy melts
2 tablespoons Crisco or shortening (optional)
Round cookie cutters, 2 sizes (5cm/2in and 2.5cm/1in)
Lollipop or ice cream pop sticks (I used small, disposable wooden chopsticks)
decorative hearts or sprinkles

1. Make the cake mixture first. When the above cake is completely cool, crumble it with forks or your fingers in a bowl until it becomes fine crumbs.
2. Pour the lime cheese frosting into the cake crumbs and mix with a spoon. Then continue mixing with your fingers, kneading and mixing until fully incorporated into the cake. Check to see if it will roll into a ball. It should be a malleable, easy-to-handle cake mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. You can leave the mix refrigerated for several days at this point.
3. Prepare a large baking sheet by covering with wax paper or parchment. On a clean surface, roll or pat the compact cake mixture flat to a thickness of 1 inch. Use a large cookie cutter and a smaller cookie cutter alternately to cut round shapes in the cake mix. This ensures that you have equal numbers of large and small discs. Place discs on the lined baking tray and place in the refrigerator while you melt your white chocolate coating.
4. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler. If you want to make the coating a little more runny for even, smoother coating, add a tablespoon of Crisco to the pot and let it melt. Stir well.
5. Take a small disc and dab one side with melted white chocolate. Immediately press gently on top of a larger disc - you've now got your two-tier 'birthday cake'! Leave to set for a few minutes.
6. Take a pop stick and dip one end in the white chocolate about 1-inch deep. Poke this end into the base of the larger disc. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Once the chocolate 'glue' has set, you can dip the cake pop into the chocolate until fully covered. Anchor the cake pops by poking the sticks upright into thick styrofoam blocks or sturdy boxes with makeshift holes.
7. Decorate each cake pop by placing a red candy heart on top. Don't refrigerate these as it will cause the coating to weep or melt. They can however be frozen, undecorated.

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