June, 2007

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No time to stand up for myself…

…a sign of preoccupation with our Lord Jesus Christ – something I read from today’s (27th Jun) devotion passage from ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ (http://www.studylight.org/devos/utm/) by Oswald Chambers.

Just the third day of school and I’m feeling great anxiety and distress from the demands of my teaching job. Reading this passage helped me take a step back to see what I have allowed myself in for – getting upset by difficult situations and people and losing focus on what truly matters. I have been relying on my own wisdom and determination to push on rather than trusting in God’s deliverance and abiding in His peace which ‘transcends all understanding’. No wonder I feel so spent at the end of the day. Surely, His yoke is easy and His burden light. Knowing Him is liberating. :)

Marble (Butter) Cake

blog-2007-Cooking-CIMG1742-marble-cake.JPGYang has become overwhelmed by cakes these days – thanks to his loving wife. :D

So now I will bake cakes no more for him…perhaps till next week? Hee hee hee. :D

Anyway, my latest attempt is a marble cake. Better than the lemon syrup one I must say. Recipe taken from my wonderful expert baker colleague. Her recipes are fool-proof and sure-win type. Rich and moist marble cake – better than what I can get at many neighbourhood cake shops.

Still, my passion is with muffins. Hee hee. Well, I have no idea why though. Perhaps it was with muffins that gave me my first successful attempt at baking. This may sound like ego-kinda-thing but yes, I felt victorious. *blush*

Thinking of trying the chiffon cake next! :)

Where have all the trampers gone?

blog-labpark-CIMG1699.JPG“Wade out when the tide is low…”

An Australian song my choir sang as part of her repertoire long time ago rang in my head tonight as I blog about a recent field trip to the Labrador Park rocky shore. Folks these days around here are green with envy at teachers as it seems that our big boss is giving us a lot of perks, monetary sense of course. But somehow the money bag needs some special passwords for access to. And one of the passwords is professional advancement. That’s not too bad really. Using that monetary grant, I have recently acquired a new, spanking, coffee table book entitled ‘Singapore’s Splendour – Life on the edge’ by Dr. Chua Ee Kiam. There are a few books on our local shore ecosystem but this one is ground-breaking as it is the result of a few years of exploring (literally) almost all the shores found on mainland Singapore and her islands at low tides.

As biology teachers, we want to bring our students out on fieldtrips to experience nature for themselves. We can link certain concepts in ecology to what students see in nature, such as the rocky shore ecosystem at Labrador Park. So we picked a date during the June holidays when the tide is sufficiently low (it was 0.2 m; to be able to appreciate more of the shore denizens) and the timing is just about right (i.e. daytime). We invited students who are interested to come along with us on the trip to observe life forms at the only natural rocky shore left on mainland Singapore.


Perhaps, folks around here have lost interest tramping at Labrador. We didn’t see a lot of shore combers then. Very well any way as this means that the denizens here have a greater chance of surviving the odds. We saw a lot more flora and fauna as compared to my last visit. Turban shells (cat’s eye), drill, topshell, nerita, onchidium (sea slugs), hermit crabs, red egg crab, fan worm, flower anemones, seahorse, brain corals, soft coral, Sargassum seaweed, sea grapes, bubble seaweed, sickle seagrass, tape seagrass, filamentous green algae, sea cockroaches, mud skippers, fish frys, etc. (See more pictures at this informative blogsite: http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/news/labrador/blog/) We were glad that the rocky shore ecosystem appeared healthy even though the busiest port in the world is just next door. Life is beautiful.


I want to have my cake and eat it too!

Since Yang loves butter cake and requested that I try to bake one, I have been browsing various butter cake recipes and experimenting with some of them. I started with my mother in-law’s recipe but it turned out somewhat rubbery. No offence intended here. I think it could be that I copied down the wrong amount of ingredients or there is a difference in the type of oven used. In the meantime, I borrowed a baking book entitled ‘Ultimate Cake’ from the National Library during an outing with Yang (he was at Sim Lim Square shopping for his second MP3 player :) ).

The ‘Ultimate Cake’ is a really useful book for beginners (or dummies) like me. It starts with giving a glimpse into the history of cakes and the cultures that gave rise to it. This is followed by a photo gallery showing the world’s most mouth-watering, tempting and spectacular cakes. The most practical section has to be the full-colour introduction to the key ingredients and tools used in cake-making, with a photographic guide to the basic techniques and principles of baking. I relied a lot on this section to ensure that I got the right texture for my batter before moving on to the next step. The book comes with over 100 recipes for cakes and instructions for making icings, fillings and decorations. It even has a trouble-shooting section at the end if the cake did not turn out right.

Since I had the luxury of time today after church, I decided to try out one of the butter cake recipes found in the book. When it comes to cooking, I prefer recipes that call for more flavours. So instead of using a plain butter cake recipe, I picked one with a citrus flavour. It is called lemon syrup butter cake. I followed the recipe quite closely, and together with some common sense (seriously, one should use it), my cake turned out nicely – fragrant, spongy and lemony :) Below is the recipe with some modifications:

Lemon Syrup Butter Cake


For the cake

  • 125g butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (ya, I’m paranoid just in case the cake refuse to rise)
  • a pinch of baking soda (same paranoia here!)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon skin (avoid the white part underneath the yellow skin)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange skin (avoid the white part)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp warm water

For the syrup

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 50g sugar


For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree celsius.
  2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tray (7 x 7 x 2.25 inch) with butter.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft and creamy.
  4. Add caster sugar, grated lemon and orange skin and beat for 3-5 mins until pale and fluffy. (This step in important as it incorporates air that is necessary to making a good cake.)
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  6. Sift in the flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Beat into the butter mixture, followed by the water.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 28 mins (your oven may take a shorter or longer time. Just monitor the browning process of the cake surface. When it looks kinda risen and golden brown, open oven and insert a toothpick all the way down the middle of cake and remove it. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.) Important: Never open the oven during the initial baking process, the draught can cause the cake to sink. Only open when 3/4 of the baking time has passed or the cake looks golden brown.
  8. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and poke its surface here and there with a toothpick.
  9. Spoon the warm syrup (see instruction below) over the entire surface. Leave to cool
  10. Cut the cake into appropriate sizes to be served with hot tea.
  11. Store the rest of uneaten cake in an air-tight container to prevent drying out. Keeps for about a week. :)

For the syrup (do this after 20 mins into baking time)

Put the lemon juice, orange juice and sugar into a small, non-stick pan and heat gently until the sugar has all dissolved. Keep it warm (not boiling).

I'm into baking, yep

I’ve been into baking muffins and butter cake over the past month :) I didn’t know that baking muffins can be so easy until my colleague who’s expert at baking share her recipe with me.

blog-2007-Cooking-CIMG1647-apple-almond-maple-syrup-muffins.jpgMy first attempt at blueberry muffins was quite a success. That encouraged me a lot! I moved on to banana muffin but it was a failure. I got all the recipes from google searches on the internet and it had been kinda ‘hit or miss’ experience. Dismayed by 2 failed attempts at making banana muffins, I lamented at my colleague-baker expert one day. She went home to try out her banana recipe and brought me some the following day. It tasted just right – moist and full of flavour! I asked for her recipe and she was ever so kind to share it with me and also taught me the secret to making good muffins. I was thrilled and went home to try out it immediately. It worked! :)

Her recipe can be modified to make other flavoured muffins too. I tried apple-almond-maple syrup muffins yesterday and it turned out well too. The only pity now is that Yang doesn’t take a fancy to muffins and hasn’t really eaten any of my successful products. I’d normally bring my muffins to school and offer them to my colleagues. Some of them enjoyed the amateurish muffins. :)

My next baking attempt will be butter and sugee cakes :)