Coffee Gateau Distinction


Just before Christmas we had another assessment in which we had to make a coffee gateaux with chocolate garnishes and marzipan coffee beans. It’s a delicious genoese sponge layered with coffee buttercream, all of which, might I add, was made entirely by hand, no kitchen aid allowed! Cue burning arm muscles. Well in any case the sweat makes it all taste nicer don’t you think? :p


I was very happy and surprised to learn that my efforts, by some fluke,  had earned me a distinction (one of only two so far on the course).

Forgive me now whilst I quote what our lecturer wrote on the marking sheet as this will probably be the only distinction I get!

“Excellent presentation, layering very good. Chocolate garnishing excellent and texture and flavour also good. Bit more buttercream needed on the sides, but otherwise great job!”

Penang: Cakes at China House

China House is without doubt one of the yuppiest, trendiest hang out places I’ve ever been to. And who would of thought you could find a place like this in Penang!

I always associate Penang with shop houses, authentic hawker stalls and my grandma’s seriously retro house which has remained exactly the same for the past 40 years:

China House is the perfect mix of traditional and modern. It is built on the premises of three old-style Chinese houses and has cleverly retained and incorporated many of their original features. The shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries of China House follow the thin, corridor-like layout of the original houses. The cafe at the front is low key and casual with tables covered with white paper and a glass full of crayons meaning that you won’t be bored whilst waiting for your meal.

Then there is a huge long table filled with sumptuous looking cakes and desserts and further on there is the restaurant with an eclectic mix of mismatched furniture and interesting wall art.  There is also a a wine cellar and reading room, a large outdoor courtyard area which leads onto the bar and live music stage right at the end.

The food is a variety of Western-style dishes (ribs, roast chicken and a wide range of salads); you can view a sample menu here. We had homemade lamb sausages with couscous and warm feta dressing, chicken schnitzel with mashed potatoes and salad and a prawn and avocado salad.

The food was tasty, but I have to admit that at RM50-60 per main course I expected more for the price and the environment we were in.

One thing I absolutely cannot complain about are the cakes. Even though we were almost completely stuffed from a rather substantial lunch and then dinner, we HAD to find space to at least try some of the delicious cakes they had on show. There was so much to choose from, tiramisu cake, pear upside down cake, double chocolate brownies,  cheese cake, mango sponge, vanilla shortbreads….and that’s less than half of the selection!

In the end we went for a slice of passionfruit and coconut cream cake, devil’s food cake and a mini ginger creme brûlée. The portions are HUGE and at RM10-15 per slice it is well worth your money.

Devil’s food cake

Ginger creme brûlée

With all the authority of a family who have tasted a myriad of cakes in their lifetime, we can conclude that these cakes are delicious. If I had more time in Penang I would definitely want to revisit the China House. Probably not for dinner, cooked food does not seem to be their particular forte, but for cakes and presumably desserts too, I wouldn’t have to think twice.

Passion fruit and coconut cream cake

One warning I have though is for those of you who are used to the UK’s ban on smoking in public places. As we were going to be having dinner there we were seated in a lovely part of the restaurant close to the courtyard, but just after we had ordered our drinks a table of three was seated right next to us. They immediately all lit up and our table was immediately swathed in the smell of smoke. When we asked to move to a non-smoking section we were informed that the only non-smoking area consists of a few tables in the cafe section. As we had no choice we moved to the front, to a busier, less formal ambience.

This wasn’t too much of a problem for us as we didn’t mind having the paper tablecloths and crayons, but it is something to bear in mind if you are a non-smoker and thinking of going for an occasion or if you are after a particular dining experience. Perhaps contact the restaurant in advance and they may be able to secure you a non-smoking area in the restaurant…

Other than that, I can thoroughly recommend the China House. It’s setting is truly beautiful and unique. And of course I cannot stop raving about their cakes ;)

China House
153-155 Lebuh Pantai
10350 Penang
Tel: +604.263.7299

Photos by Daniel Kan.

Satay and Ice Kacang
Eastern and Oriental Afternoon Tea 
Green and Healthy at Karen Kitchen

Hazelnut Praline Cake with Coffee Buttercream

WARNING: Not suitable for a low fat diet….hehehe

Hazelnut sponge cake filled with coffee buttercream, covered in chocolate ganache and topped with praline pieces.

For the cake: (adapted from Martha Stewart)
35g whole hazelnuts
150g hazelnuts, crushed in a food processor
170g caster sugar
100g plain flour
110g corn flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
180ml vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease an 8 inch round baking tin and line the bottom with baking paper or a silicone sheet.

  1. Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor with 60g caster sugar. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornflour and hazelnut mixture. Set aside for later.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, yolks, the remaining 110g of sugar, salt and vanilla essence on a high speed until thick and pale in colour and the mixture holds a thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl (this will take 7-8 minutes).
  3. Then quickly fold in the flour, gradually adding the oil whilst folding.
  4. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and turn out immediately onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least one hour.

For the coffee butter cream:
160g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coffee granules
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water

  1. Cream the butter and mix with icing sugar.
  2. Dissolve coffee granules with water and stir into the butter mixture.
  3. Mix vigorously until smooth.

For the chocolate ganache: (adapted from Epicurious)
225g semi-sweet chocolate
120ml double cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
60g unsalted butter

  1. In a saucepan, bring double cream, sugar and golden syrup to the boil.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Finally, stir in the butter and allow to cool until spreadable.

For the praline:
60g whole hazelnuts
80g caster sugar
20ml water

  1. Place water and sugar into a pot and heat over a medium flame.
  2. When mixture begins to bubble add the hazelnuts and stir to coat.
  3. Continue heating until the sugar caramelises.
  4. When the sugar turns a rich golden colour pour onto a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
  5. Break into small pieces using a rolling pin or food processor.

To assemble:

  1. With a serrated knife, level the top of the cake and then carefully cut into half.
  2. Place bottom half onto a serving plate and spread with buttercream.
  3. Sandwich with second half.
  4. Ice the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate ganache and press crushed hazelnuts around the sides.
  5. Garnish the top with praline pieces.


  • after adding the buttercream press down gently on the two layers of cake to close the gap between the two layers, this will make the icing of the cake easier.
  • to obtain a smooth finish on the chocolate ganache use a palette knife dipped in hot water and dried.
  • keep serving plate clean whilst icing and adding the crushed hazelnuts by using strips of parchment paper, wide enough to partially go under the cake and also to cover the plate.
  • for the crushed hazelnuts and the praline it is nicer to remove the skin of the hazelnut. To do this, toast in the oven at 200c for 15-20 minutes until the skins are dried and flaking off, then rub in a damp cloth to remove the skins.

West Highland Terrier Dog Birthday Cake

Quite possibly the cutest cake Rose Apple has made. It’s always hard to make a classy looking dog themed cake, but I think this one isn’t bad. As always, would love to know if you like it!

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