11 September 2015: general election day in Singapore and we all enjoyed a public holiday. To celebrate the day off, two of my friends and I decided to do a little home-cooked dinner featuring a lemon blueberry cake, amaranth, mouthwatering wagyu beef steaks, salad, and home-brewed ale by my friend Mel – complete with vintage-style labelling!

home-brewed beer

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction – her pictures always look amazing! Plus, her recipes are so detailed with lots of tips, which is a great help and makes me feel like I know what’s going on. Unfortunately, my cake didn’t turn out exactly as hoped – to put it mildly.

It started off fine:

lemon blueberry cake ingredientsOnly a handful of ingredients required, all of which are easily obtained from the supermarket – one of the things that drew me to this recipe.

Creaming the butter and sugar.

After adding the eggs and vanilla, followed by the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt), followed by the milk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Here is where things may have started to go awry slightly (although I didn’t discover it until later): the recipe calls for the zest and juice of 3 medium lemons, with 1 medium lemon yielding around 1 tbsp  of zest and 2-3 tbsp of juice – so logically, this calls for 6 – 9 tbsp of juice. I didn’t measure out the juice I put into the batter in terms of tablespoons , and it turned out to be extremely sour. Oops!

Tossing the blueberries with flour – conventional wisdom appears to be that this prevents the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the batter during baking, but many of mine still seemed to sink anyway. And, to add insult to injury, the cake tasted very floury (I’m still not sure why).

Folding the blueberries into the batter.

Layer 1 of 3 – all ready to go into the oven!

In my oven this took about 25 minutes.

And then on to the cream cheese frosting:

Looks fine, right? Well…

Not exactly. The frosting was way too liquid for this climate (apparently, Singapore’s climate is classified as “tropical rainforest” which is hilarious – I just call it “hot and humid all year round”). Sally’s cream cheese frosting recipe calls for cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt. On hindsight, I think I should have left out the heavy cream entirely and maybe substituted a bit of the butter with margarine, which according to this helps because margarine is stable at warmer temperatures.

Anyway, the end product (after putting it in the fridge for a few hours):

This cake looks as sad as I felt looking at it. Observe the frosting flowing like a waterfall over the edges and the unhappy blueberries which took the plunge rather than staying on top.

The bright side is that once cut it looked more or less edible, although it did taste rather sour and floury. (Does anybody know why??)

To this day I remain impressed and very touched that my friends actually ate this.

Amaranth

This was my first time even hearing of amaranth, which looks a bit like couscous or quinoa and is a great option for those on gluten-free diets. You cook it basically the same way you do pasta – boil it with water until (in this case) it thickens and then you can drain the water and eat it.

Amaranth

What was really interesting was that when it was being boiled, the effect was similar to that of a pulsating pillow – if you can imagine what I mean.

Amaranth cooking

The flavour of amaranth is quite subtle and a bit nutty to me. When cooked, it’s a bit sticky but the grains didn’t swell up as much as I thought they would, so it was hard to tell when it was cooked. I liked eating it with the salad (I unfortunately didn’t take pictures of it, so I can’t tell you what was in it).

Wagyu Beef Steaks

I think all 3 of us would agree that this was the star of the night. And it was cooked by my friend Sheldon, whose experience with cooking wagyu beef consisted solely of watching a Youtube video (of Jamie Oliver, I believe?) while waiting for the steaks to thaw.

We got the steaks (grade 7) pretty cheaply at 25% off from MMMM! (Meats, Marinades and Much More) at Changi City Point – about SGD92 for 4 pieces. Yes, we polished off 1 and 1/3 pieces of steak each. Look at the marbling on those steaks!

The seasoning was straightforward (thanks Jamie Oliver(?)) – salt, butter, rosemary and thyme. The key to this is apparently a really hot pan.

wagyu beef steak

wagyu beef steak

wagyu beef steak

This was truly one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. So delicious. The problem with eating wagyu is that once you have it, regular beef is going to pale in comparison. Mmmmm!

All in all, a lovely evening with friends over (mostly) delicious home-cooked food – definitely a recipe (pun very much intended) for success!

Seriously though, if anyone knows what causes cakes to taste floury please let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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