Today’s technically not my birthday, because for sure I wouldn’t want to be posting on my blog on my birthday when I can be doing so many other things…like baking and eating and reading and plain lazing around. The four things I mentioned are perhaps the things I love to do most, not in order of preference of course. This year I am marking an important birthday…because I will be turning a quarter of a century old! =S
I’m not one to have a grand birthday celebration – in fact, my 18th and 21st birthdays were so normal (and uncelebrated) that I honestly do not remember what happened. I probably went out with my closest friends or family on those days to celebrate. However, I do love presents, and as most of you have already realized, as you get older, the number of presents you get become fewer..and fewer… until you get none. These days, I would much prefer getting (cold hard) cash, and my family never fails me on this aspect. I can always expect my family members to gift me some cash on my birthday 😉
There were a couple of things I wanted to do on my birthday, one of them being throwing a huge bash so that I could bake and cook to my heart’s content, but I realized that inviting my different group of friends over to my house would be weird, because (1) my house is really teeny and cannot fit more than 10 people comfortably plus I don’t have enough chairs and (2) I’m not a very sociable person and having to flit around like a social birthday entertaining different groups of friends would be kind of awkward since my friends may not know each other. So that idea was forfeited. Another thing I wanted to do was to bake cakes on my birthday, and force people to buy them so that I could donate the money to charity, but I have been again swamped with work this week that I have not been able to start testing water. I may still want to do that later, but we’ll see. It’s always ocassions like my birthday and Christmas when I think about giving back to society. This is something I’m trying hard to change, because I want to be able to volunteer in society more, and I’m glad that at least I’ve taken the first few baby steps by participating in more voluntary activities on a regular monthly basis.
Another wish or hope I had for myself was regarding my weight, and related to that, swimming. I may or may not have stated this here before, but I cannot swim and I have this horrible fear of drowning and of bodies of water. One of my resolutions this year was to learn how to swim, and my close friends will tell you that this has been a resolution since I was in secondary school! Well, this year, I’ve gone a little further by researching into the swim schools and the classes I can participate in, so I do hope that I give my butt that needed boost by enrolling in swim class real soon! As for my weight, I’ve always been on the heavy side, but this year, I’m making very conscious decisions to be healthy. I’ve never been skinny, and I have been various sizes, including a UK14/16 at my heaviest. I’m currently around a UK10/12, but I’m considered ‘slightly overweight’ based on my BMI. So, long story short, I do have a few kgs to lose (5kg preferably so that my BMI is below 23). To date, I’ve tried out several diets – like the fruit juice detox diet, and the Atkins diet. By trying out, I do mean trying out – ie, a couple of days. I know that a couple of days is definitely not enough, especially for something like the Atkins diet, which should be understood as changing your way of life and eating. Nevertheless, trying out these ‘diets’ have taught me much about my body, and I think I will probably ‘enrol’ myself into Phase 2: Ongoing weight loss (OWL) of the Atkins diet in order to be healthy, and hopefully shed some pounds. I’ll try to post more about my experiences on these diets later, after I’m successful with what I’m doing ;p
One thing that I’d definitely miss on the Atkins diet (which is a low-carb diet, which means no sugary sweets, no alcohol, no rice, no potatoes, no pasta/noodles, no breads, no cakes = sad me) is cake. Especially this cake. This snickers cake contains everything I love – peanuts/peanut butter, caramel and chocolate! :]
The best thing about this? You don’t have to fire up your oven to make this! So this is really the perfect dessert to make on a really hot summer’s day (or any day in Singapore) when you are crazing for some snickers…but as a ‘cake’ ;p
One major substitution I made was using McVites Digestive Biscuits instead of graham crackers, because graham crackers are not too popular here, and I was far too lazy to make my own graham crackers. As such, I had to trim down the circular digestive biscuits into squares before lining them in the pan. I haven’t tried them with graham crackers, but I can tell you that you will love the digestive biscuits! You can also try using saltine or cream crackers, but just keep in mind that the texture may be slightly different – I would imagine that our usual ‘Yeo Hup Seng’ biscuits that we use to ‘oon’ (or dip) into coffee/tea/milo with would give an extra salty twist to the snickers cake.
- For the biscuit layers:
- 24 pieces of digestive biscuits
- For the chocolate and peanut pudding layers:
- 40g cornstarch
- 90g granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 600g fresh milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 120g dark chocolate, chopped
- 80g creamy peanut butter
- For the caramel sauce:
- 200g granulated sugar
- 90g unsalted butter
- 120g heavy cream
- Sea salt, to taste
- For the chocolate ganache:
- 80g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100g heavy cream
- To make the pudding: Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and milk in a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously. Transfer mixture to a heat proof bowl and place over a bain marie for approximately 20 minutes stirring occasionally. If you are confident of making custards, you can place the ingredients in a pot and heat directly. The pudding is ready when it it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave ribbons when pudding is drizzled on top of itself. Add vanilla to mixture. Divide the pudding mixture in half and add chocolate to one half and whisk to combine. Add peanut butter to the remaining half and whisk to combine. Set the pudding aside to cool.
- To make the caramel sauce: Place sugar into a saucepan over medium low heat and allow all the sugar crystals to dissolve. Occasionally, swirl the saucepan to keep the mixture moving. Once the mixture starts to turn a light golden shade, add the butter and heavy cream. Be careful if you are adding heavy cream which is still cold from the fridge because the mixture will bubble and froth. It will not bubble as much if you are using room temperature cream. Set aside to cool completely. You may also add sea salt to taste.
- To make the chocholate ganache: Break the dark chocolate into smaller parts and place into a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan. Once it starts to boil (you see vigorous bubbles), pour the heavy cream onto the chocolate pieces. Stir to ensure that everything is well combined. Set aside and let the ganache cool.
- To assemble: Line the sides of your pan, allowing some overhang on each side so that you can remove the cake from the pan later. Alternatively, use a spring form pan and line the sides. Place the graham crackers/digestive biscuits side-by-side until the bottom of pan is covered. Spread a thin layer of chocolate pudding on top. Place the second layer of graham cracker on top of chocolate pudding. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter pudding on top. Continue alternating layers with chocolate and peanut butter pudding while separating each pudding layer with a graham cracker layer. Once you're finished with the chocolate and peanut butter layers, pour the cooled caramel sauce on top and set aside to set. I added the chopped peanuts on top of the caramel layer before finally pouring the cooled ganache on top. You can finish with some chopped snickers, caramel or chocolate if desired.
- Place the cake in refrigerator or freezer for at least 8 hours to set or overnight. The freezer will create a pudding texture closer to ice cream.
Substitutions: There are numerous adaptations you could make for this recipe - I'm thinking a lemon or passionfruit pudding layer would taste fantastic with dark chocolate!
Taste: Just like Snickers, a mouthful of this cake is VERY filling because of its sweetness. I have tried to use salted peanuts as well as a very dark salted caramel (almost burnt) to balance the chocolate and peanut butter and I think the salt did the job pretty well ;)
Texture: I love Snickers, so the only thing that was missing here was the nougat. The biscuits soften slightly because of the pudding layers, but they provide a nice 'bite'.
Storage: This has to be stored either in the freezer or the fridge at all times. I love the texture it has from the freezer, but it needs to be thawed slightly before it can be eaten. The cake lasted for about a week before we finished everything up. But I reckon you can store it for at least two weeks in the freezer.
Would I make this again?: Definitely! It looks difficult to make, but it really is simple, especially if you skip making the caramel and chocolate ganache. You're essentially making custard and flavouring it before layering it with biscuits!