Split personality: Coco-Mocha Flan Cake
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"
-- Satchel Paige
Next week, I will celebrate my 40th birthday. I thought about dissembling my age and offering coy evasions if asked to enumerate the years. After all, I am entering a new personal era which I like to call the Age of Euphemism - the period in many a woman's life when any direct references to age suddenly become verboten. Instead, figurative phrases are deployed to delicately sidestep the irrevocable and unyielding truth: I am getting older.
So at the University, I am officially classified as a non-traditional student [translation: older than some of my professors]; in polite circles, acquaintances may refer to me as a woman of a certain age [translation: too old to hang with the impolite circles]; and to the bright young things at the café, the classroom and pretty much everywhere I turn, I am simply M'am [translation: old enough to be their mother].
Admittedly, I sometimes wish that time could be suspended. Peering at myself in the mirror, I wistfully expect to see the smooth face of yesteryear instead of the more crinkled visage of today. When I notice the slight jiggle in my upper arms, where taut skin and well-defined triceps used to be, it seems to me less like untoned muscle in need of a good workout and more like a fleshy flag of surrender in the battle to stay fit when my body just wants to throw in the gym towel.
May Birth Flower:Lily of the Valley
And yet, I am in a good, enviable place - I have a husband whom no superlative can adequately describe, a sweetly goofy dog who gives me unconditional adoration, a lovely home that deserves a better housekeeper than me, and countless other blessings. If I am happy with the person I am today, then I must acknowledge that this person is the aggregate of forty years worth of living. Wishing for a do-over is like asking that the Leaning Tower of Pisa be rebuilt straight - it would be more symmetrical but it would also be just another old building.
So, as I look forward to my birthday next Wednesday, I promise to look back on the past, not with regret at what I might have done differently, but with appreciation for what I have actually done to reach this happy point in my life. So far, so good . . .
It's All About Meme
When it comes to birthdays, I subscribe to the idea of 'Queen for the Day': I get to choose the cake, the dinner and the day's activities. In short, it's all about me! As such, there's no better time to finally fulfill the two memes for which I was tagged several weeks ago.
The first came from Christine at Maman and Gourmand, whose blog not only features tantalizing recipes and mouthwatering food photos but also offers product reviews and, more recently, amazing prizes for giveaways and contests - check out her latest prize of artisan chocolates.
Her meme tag was followed by the 'Premio Meme' from two bloggers on opposite ends of the north-south axis: my fellow Minnesotan Scate Bakes who, when she's not blogging about food with a retro twist, knits the cutest items and runs in half-marathons; and Bytes from Texas, a self-described 'Hornsfan' who "bleeds burnt orange" while creating everything delicious from home-baked hamburger buns and English muffins to chicken tacos and Singapore noodles. If these blogs are new to you, please visit - you'll be in for some wonderful treats!
These two memes ask recipients to answer questions or list personal traits that would give readers an opportunity to learn a little bit more about them. I'm all for participating but rather than subject everyone to a double list of my life's minutiae, I've decided to tangle these two strands into one. It doesn't follow the rules, but hey - it's my party and I'll meme as I want to.
Two Memes, One Me
Taking a cue from my astrological sign Gemini, my meme theme is duality. For those of us born under the Sign of the Twins, each personal characteristic is a two-sided coin, a yin for every yang; it's a fine line between having a moody temperament and full-blown multiple personalities. According to Mr. Noodle, life with a Gemini is like a can of chocolate bridge mix: you never know which nut you're going to get.
So, without further ado, I present my Gemini Meme:
Sweet and Sour Noodle: a Tangled List
7 Traits That Best Describe Me . . . and What They Really Mean
I am deliberate. I like to take my time and consider all possibilities before acting . . . in fact, I take so much time that I usually run out of it. Then, I tell myself that the panicky feeling is really adrenaline.
I am open-minded. I give careful thought to all possibilities to ensure the best decision . . . which leads to torturous indecision. After giving careful thought to all possibilities, they all sound good!
I am focused. When I'm working on a project, it has my full concentration and energy . . . unless I'm distracted. When I find a topic [snack time!] that really interests me, I do put my head [Judge Judy!] down and get to business but [squirrel!] not always.
I am energetic. I approach each endeavor with enthusiasm and high spirits . . . which can sometimes cross the line into spastic behavior. Even the dog is sometimes embarrassed to be seen with me in public.
I am sensitive. I am empathetic and deeply attuned to the nuances of emotion . . . so much so that if Mr. Noodle forgets to give me my morning kiss, I'm convinced he loves the dog more than me.
I am health-conscious. A fit body is the vessel for a long life so I eat nutritiously, exercise often, and visit the doctor's office regularly . . . because I am a hypochondriac. If I actually develop just half of the tumors that I've self-diagnosed, I'd look like the Elephant Man.
I am modest. Notwithstanding this 'me' post, I prefer to remain in the background and let others take the spotlight . . . that way, if someone wants to steal an identity, chances are they will overlook me. A bit paranoid, you say? How do you know? Are you spying on me?
Although most memes ask that new recipients be named, I would like to invite everyone to pick up the Premio Meme; see details at Scate Bakes or Bytes from Texas. Or, feel free to take up this Gemini Meme - simply list as many traits as you'd like that best describe you, followed by their flip-side meaning.
Finally, to complete this birthday/duality post, I offer a treat that can't quite make up it's mind - is it a flan or is it a cake? It's a Flan Cake!
Coco-Mocha Flan Cake
The best of both worlds - airy chiffon cake topped with a creamy leche flan, together in one dessert! I had a slice of this during our Philippine trip and I finally found the perfect occasion to make it. I decided to incorporate the three C's of favorite flavors - coconut, coffee and cocoa - while keeping it as light as possible. I also opted to prepare it in individual ramekins although it is usually baked as a whole cake; in hindsight, the traditional form may turn out to be a more visually pleasing presentation than the ones offered here.
Ingredients and Instructions
For the Leche Flan:
(Adapted from one recipe found in both Signature Dishes of the Philippines (1st ed.) by Sony Robles-Florendo, and The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon)
This flan is lighter than most Filipino leche flans; if you'd like a richer, creamier texture try the luscious recipes recently highlighted by Jenn at Bread + Butter and Heather at Girlichef.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster (a.k.a superfine) sugar
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
1 cup coconut milk (For a much more pronounced coconut flavor, increase coconut milk to 1 1/2 cups and reduce 1% milk to 1 cup.)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1. Put sugar and water in small saucepan and heat without stirring until it turns a deep, golden brown color. Remove from heat and immediately pour into a large glass baking dish or casserole. Tilt the dish so that the caramel coats the entire bottom surface before it hardens;
2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and egg yolks until foamy. Gradually add caster sugar and beat until thick and light;
3. Heat 1% and coconut milk, then add gradually to the egg and sugar mixture, beating constantly. Stir in vanilla;
4. Set aside while preparing the chiffon batter;
For the Chiffon Cake:
(Recipe from Baker's Manual (p. 105) by Joseph Amendola and Nicole Rees)
Due to the use of vegetable oil, chiffon cakes tend to remain moist when refrigerated, which makes it the ideal cake base for this chilled dessert. Feel free to use any chiffon cake recipe you prefer.
2/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup strong black coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. In one bowl, whisk cake flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined;
2. Whisk in egg yolks, oil, coffee and vanilla until batter is smooth;
3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites almost to stiff peak stage. Fold egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in two additions;
To prepare Flan Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF;
2. Strain flan custard into the caramel-coated dish.
3. Carefully pour or spoon out the chiffon batter over the custard; don't worry - batter will float on top! Use only enough so that the cake will not overflow the pan as it rises during baking;
4. Place dish into a larger baking or roasting pan then place onto oven rack. Pour boiling water around and half-way up the dish;
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, testing for doneness by inserting a knife through cake and custard. When knife comes out clean, remove cake from oven and let cool.
6. When cooled down, cover with foil or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight;
To serve Flan Cake:
1. Place dish in a larger baking or roasting pan and pour hot water around and half-way up the dish. Let sit for a few minutes;
2. Run a knife around the inside edges then place a large plate over the dish and invert. Cake should slip on to the plate; if not, carefully turn the dish over again and put back into the water-filled pan, replacing hot water if necessary. Repeat.
3. Slice into square portions, spooning caramel sauce from the dish. Serve and enjoy!
Not quite as cake-y but still delicious!