The Hummingbird Trail: Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

I received the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book for my birthday from some incredibly thoughtful friends, and it wasn't until I started flipping through the gorgeous, glossy pages of the book that I realised that I'd never actually owned a cookbook until now. In honour of this little "first" of mine, I've decided to start the Hummingbird Trail - to capture those moments inspired by the book.

Chocrange? Chocorange? Orangelate? Whatever the word of choice, the chocolate-orange pairing is one of my all-time favourites. So, partially fueled by a chocolate-orange cupcake I got from a colleague at work (but mostly from an unshakeable love for the pairing), I made a batch of mini birthday cupcakes in exactly that flavour.

The cupcake I had at work was one that stayed true to the Cake Days' recipe, with its cream cheese based frosting. I'd never thought that cream cheese, chocolate and orange would work as a trio but it did - the distinct tartness of the cream cheese offering an interesting edge to the overall flavour. I decided, however, to replace the chocolate-orange-cream cheese frosting that's supposed to go with the sponge with what I thought would be a lighter alternative - orange butter cream. It was simply a matter of tweaking the recipe for the vanilla butter cream frosting featured in the book by adding the left over orange zest from the sponge recipe. 

Nothing like a whiff of cocoa powder to awaken the senses. 

Obtaining orange zest the old-school way 

As expected, the cupcakes had the Hummingbird lightness that I've come to know and love. Being able to say that a lot less butter went into the cupcakes than would have been required by other recipes is also quite the selling point in this age of healthy(ier) living. 

Another win for Cake Days. Next time, I'll stay true and whip up a batch of cream cheese frosting.

Drop me a message if you'd like the recipe!

Previous stop on the trail: Apple and Walnut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 


Plan B Roasters and The Gingerbread Man, B.I.G, Publika

Sundays are for giving into your whims - breakfast at noon, random nibbles for lunch, you get the picture. When a friend wanted to meet up for a catch up and a light bite on Sunday afternoon, I thought of the coffee bar and laid-back picnic tables that line one side of Ben's Independent Grocers.

Ben's Independent Grocers, 
UG - 1A, Publika

Cappuccinos from Plan B Roasters - foamy, flavourful and a satisfying afternoon pick-me-up (and don't you think the different coffee art patterns was a nice little touch?)

We were presented with the menus from B'Witched upon settling down at a table but decided to pick out our treats from the display counter over at the Gingerbread Man (the bakery section of the grocer) instead. Bakeries are hard to resist - enough said.

The Gingerbread Man has a nice array of (larger than normal) goodies to offer - one really does get a bit spoilt for choice. After some extensive hemming and hawing, we finally settled on a 50-50 split between sweet and savoury. Pictured here: the (slightly obscured) chicken curry bun, the wagyu and onion bun and a sugared doughnut. While not the best we've had, they were all still pleasantly light (yes, even the savoury buns) and sufficiently satisfying.

The English muffin - perhaps the largest English muffin I've ever seen. Pillowy soft, and oh-so-comforting eaten warm with the cream and jam.


I like the atmosphere they've managed to create in B.I.G - the slight hustle and bustle of people picking out groceries, the smell of coffee and baked goods, goodies on display everywhere you turn. Ahh, those clever, clever people behind B.I.G.

Party Hat Cheese(cup)cakes

I was having brunch with a cheesecake-lover one Saturday morning when I decided that I'd like to spend the rest of the day baking cupcakes for a mutual friend's birthday. It was during the lead-up to my exam and well, baking seemed like a good excuse to take a break from the books for awhile. He tried his luck with a "Well, it's too bad you can't make cheesecake cupcakes - no one makes cheesecake cupcakes, right?" and that was enough to help me decide what cupcakes I wanted to make. The idea continued evolving on the car ride to the grocers and by the time I was home, I'd decided that the cheese(cup)cakes would all wear little meringue hats, just for a splash of whimsy (What's a birthday celebration without some party hats, right?).

My mum has had this recipe ever since I was a little girl - you'd know that a special occasion was coming up when she whipped out the familiar tiny silver booklet and we'd go shopping for blocks of cream cheese, yes, always Philedelphia. It surprised me that I'd never made a cheesecake before this. I think somehow, subconsiously, I'd always considered my mum the expert on cheesecakes and had always left them to her.

For the cheesecake, adapted from the Kraft Philedelphia Bistro Cheesecake Recipe 
 (Serves 8-10)

1 cup sweet biscuit crumbs (I used marie biscuits)
1/3 cup (80g) butter, melted
3x250g blocks Light/Regular Philadephia Cream Cheese
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Combine biscuit crumbs and butter, press into the base of a lightly greased 22cm springform pan (or cupcake bases), and leave to chill in the refrigerator.
Beat Philly Cream Cheese with and electric mixer for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice and eggs, continue beating until smooth
Pour onto prepared crumb crust, and bake for 60 minutes (about 30 minutes for cupcakes). Allow to cool in oven.

The best thing about recipes that have been handed down from your mum is that they always come with a few extra tips: bake the cheesecake with a bowl of water place underneath it, on the lowest tier of the oven for a softer result. 

For the meringue hats, adapted from BBC Goodfood's Ultimate Meringue Recipe


4 large egg whites, at room temperature
115g castor sugar
115g icing sugar (I reduced the sugar to about a three quarters of this)
Preheat the oven to fan 100 degrees Celsius/ conventional 110 degrees Celsius/. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil). 
Tip the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted. 
Turn the speed up and start to add the caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for3-4 seconds between each addition. It's important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. However, don't over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy. 
Sift a third of the icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the icing sugar a third at a time. Don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drifts
Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make meringue circles with the same diameter as the cupcakes. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven, or until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. 


Once all the components are done - all that's left to do is to top the cheese(cup)cakes off with the meringue hats.

Gotta love a good cheesecake recipe - thank you, mum (and Kraft foods)! 

Hung Kee, Jalan Loke Yew

"Meet downstairs, lunch, wantan mee, Loke Yew"
Few things can match the perk-up power of finding a slew of messages about a wantan mee lunch upon coming back to your desk after a whole morning of meetings. Yes, charsiu powers are never to be underestimated.

Hung Kee
28-5 and 28-6 Jalan Loke Yew
Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

Hung Kee seems to ring a bell with most KL-ites but I'd never heard of it until now. We found a parking spot in almost no time at all, much to my surprise, and were quickly seated at a table in the air-conditioned portion of the restaurant.

Noodles are thin and springy in Hung Kee and the char siu is of the moister, well-caramelised sort, as opposed to the drier, red-rimmed char siu that one sometimes gets in less authentic places. The boys ordered a "large" each and I must say that I've not seen portions quite so large anywhere else. I reckon that a "large" would probably be enough for three small eaters (though some extra char siu would probably be needed).

We ordered some sui kow to go with the noodles and I have to admit that for the most part of the meal, I was extremely confused by the bowls and bowls of sui kow and wantan that arrived at our table - I only realised later that each plate of noodles came with a bowl of five wantans in broth (it's wantan noodles, duh!). I think perhaps if we'd known beforehand that they were going to be so generous with their wantans (most other places only give you two or three), we'd have been a bit more conservative with our sui kow order. I personally didn't mind though - I thought the large, prawn, pork and black fungus-stuffed sui kow had a really nice bite to it.

So the char siu isn't quite like my mum's and I would have preferred more char siu to go with my noodles but the fact that it still felt somewhat authentic earns it some brownie points. The funny thing is, amidst all the talk of char siu, it was really their sui kow that left the biggest impression (on me, anyway) - I'd go back, even if just for the sui kow.

The Hummingbird Trail: Apple and Walnut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I received the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book for my birthday from some incredibly thoughtful friends, and it wasn't until I started flipping through the gorgeous, glossy pages of the book that I realised that I'd never actually owned a cookbook until now. In honour of this little "first" of mine, I've decided to start the Hummingbird Trail - to capture those moments inspired by the book.

As a kid, I liked my cake as plain as plain could be - no nuts, no fruits (fruitcake was a big no no), just plain sponge, chocolate or pandan if possible. I never could quite understand why my mum would want to add walnuts into a perfectly good sponge or why anyone would want to make cake out of carrots.

I'm thankful now that it was just a phase that I eventually grew out of. Nowadays, I love the added dimension that nuts or fruits give a cake, the different textures keeping each bite interesting. Still, I remember the days when mum would attempt to trick me into eating a coffee-walnut cake by downplaying the walnuts ("Just a little bit! You won't even notice they're there!") so when it came to deciding on what cupcakes to make, I thought that these would be fitting - an ode to those days and a salute to mum for trying (She did succeed, even if  it was a somewhat delayed success).

I took the advice given in the last section of the book and toasted the walnuts before adding them into the batter and there's definitely a good reason for roasting or toasting the nuts first - a deeper, nuttier from the nuts and none of that raw or half-cooked aftertaste. Once again, I added less than half of the icing sugar that the recipe called for - I think it's safe to say that I'll be sticking to those proportions from now on.  Taking heed from my experiment with the mini vanilla cupcakes, I let the cupcakes cook for 10 minutes and they came out of the oven as soft and light (although they didn't rise quite as much) as the vanilla cupcakes despite the added heaviness that I thought the apple and walnut bist would lend to it.

The slight tang of the cream cheese is the perfect complement to the sweet, cinammon-y sponge. Some of the bigger apple bits provide lovely little pockets of flavour and moisture while the nuts do a good job being, well, nutty.

Yes, I like. (My mum did, too).

Drop me a message for the recipe!

Previous stop on the trail: Vanilla Cupcakes

JJ Kimbab, Star City, Kuantan

What used to be a patch of jungle beside my secondary school has now become Star City, a nice little hangout hub - to say that it's a far cry from the overgrown greenery from my school days is quite the understatement. The brother had been talking about a Korean place in Star City that he had become very fond of (lunch, almost three times a week!) for weeks and there's only so much talk you can bear before you relent and give it a go.

JJ Kimbab
A-7, Jalan Seri Kuantan 82, 
Kuantan Star City,
25300 Kuantan

Owned and run by a pleasant Korean couple, the restaurant serves up Korean fare that reminded us of our favourite Korean place in London. The setup is simple, tables that are equipped for hotpot meals and a conveyor belt in the middle of the restaurants for the Korean-style sushi. 

A trio of bottomless appetisers to whet the appetite - kimchi, fried crispy sweet-salty anchovies and peanuts and the pumpkin appetiser that I just couldn't get enough of.

Chicken kimchi stew - spicy and punchy, with a generous amount of ingredients, just the way we like it. A set comes with one bowl of rice and a drink, and is enough for two.

The daeng jang soup set provided a lovely counterbalance to the more fiery kimchi stew with its mellow, subtle flavour. 

Korean seafood pancake - one of those Korean restaurant must-haves. The one in JJ Kimbab is loaded with vegetables and bits of seafood, and dunked into the Korean soy sauce, it makes for a nice side nibble. I would probably have preferred it if it they had let it brown just a tiny bit more, though.

Apple and tomato juice - a refreshing combination that's quite uncommon and by the tastes of it, freshly squeezed with no added sugar. The equally refreshing iced peach tea is also popular.

Delicious Korean food at small town prices - it's no wonder that my brother has become a regular (he also highly recommends the under-RM 10 beef rice lunch set). It's always fun when you discover a little gem like this - I'm definitely going to have to return to sample their hotpot and barbecue, and yes, to collect more stamps on my rewards card too.

Korean in Kuantan - gotta love that progress.