Sweet Musings on a Tea Cake Class @ Palate Sensations
I love attending culinary classes! Being able to learn to bake a cake or whip up a dish first hand from a chef is often not something one can learn from reading recipes in cookbooks or even watching instructional videos over youtube. The ability to experience for oneself the right dough consistency, the right concoction of flavours, the right stirring technique etc, are just some of the things which cannot be easily replicated through static or even dynamic media. Most importantly, the upclose and personal encounter to observe chefs at work, and to interact and learn from them tête-à-tête is what I enjoy most about classes.
The first baking class I’d attended was a macaron class at Palate Sensations more than a year back. It was phenomenal and basically the onset for many more hours of fun and challenge to conjure these little French petit fours over the last year or so. Since then, I’d attended several other classes and workshops, most notably those at the World Gourmet Summit 2012 just weeks back. Those quick to notice would have observed that I’d not blogged about the other workshops, apart from the Ponthier Dessert Workshop by Chef Christophe Grilo. Doesn’t take much to guess why. The dessert workshop was good but the others, politely put, were much less pleasurable.
Anyway, putting the not-so-happy episodes aside, I’d received news over facebook that Palate Sensations was opening up their kitchens and conducting free baking classes for ex-students. What a lovely and generous gesture! A quick check of the schedule and I was thrilled as the timing for the teacake class suited me perfectly. So it was off to bake some cake!
The instructor for the class was Chef Thripti Hinduja, a newest member to the “faculty” at Palate Sensations. Chef Thripti is from India and graduated from The Hotel Academy in Chennai, upon which she joined five-star hotels and worked in the pastry kitchens of the Taj Coromandel and the Marriott. The experience she gained working alongside prominent patissiers in these establishments led her to open her own pastry shop “Happy Belly Bakes” in the heart of Bangalore, serving primarily as her “atelier” for special orders for custom-design cakes as well as a dessert catering service to well-known restaurants in the region.
For the class, we learned to prepare three tea cake recipes, i.e. Carrot Cake with Creamcheese Frosting, Moroccan Mint Cake with Honey Almond Crust and finally a Banana & Walnut Cake. Truth be told, apart from the Moroccan Mint Cake, I wasn’t too keen in the other two. Banana and Walnut Cake is an SOP bake for any homebaker, something which I’d made countless times for family and friends, while a carrot cake isn’t something which I’m particularly fond of eating, let alone baking. But I went for the class nonetheless with anticipation to learn something and I’m most certainly glad that I did.
Chef Thripti started by demonstrating the carrot cake recipe as the creamcheese frosting requires chilling after it is being prepared. Barely a minute into instruction, she was soon met up with a myriad of eager questions from the other fellow members of the class, which ranged from technique to ingredient subtitution and even oven temperature control. The zealousness of the ladies kept spirits high and the mood positive throughout. Always a sign of a good class! We then went on to prepare the cakes whilst Chef Thripto and her assistant, Malak kept a watchful eye over us, constantly walking down the aisles to check that everything was in good order, reminding us on batter consistency to the melanging order of the ingredients.
Then came the demo for the Moroccan Mint Cake, when the whole cooking studio was completely “infused” by the aromatic perfumes of blended mint and sugar mixture, as well as the mint syrup which was cooking in the pot. Refreshing and sweetly intoxicating at the same time! Chef Charlotte, during the class introduction had specially asked if an extra cake to be prepared for tea later cos she fell in love with it after sampling the same before and we could see why! It smelled damn good, and I’m pretty sure its gonna taste good too!
The last recipe for Banana and Walnut Cake was a simple replication of the Moroccan Mint Cake, using the creaming method so Chef Thripti left us to it after briefing some reminders and details to note. But she supervised us closely by walking around our workstations giving advice and troubleshooting.
On the whole, the class went on smoothly without much hiccup and without knowing, three hours zipped by in a flash. Chef Thripti concluded the session with a demonstration on layering the carrot cake and a variety of designs we may wish to employ for the frosting.
Here’re the shots I’d managed to take amidst all the sifting, creaming and melanging. Enjoy!
Checking on the consistency of our batter as Berlinda, my workstation partner observed intently.
Chef Thripti with another group of students, correctly their technique.
Melanging the batter for the carrot cake.
Demonstrating how a mousse ring can be transformed into a free-base baking pan.
The abled Chef’s assistant, Malak dividing out the mint syrup. She was of great help, constantly helping us check on our ovens to make sure that everything was in order.
Another group with Monica and her workstation partner weighing out the honey for the Moroccan Mint Cake topping.
Chef Thripti answering some queries as she demonstrated the soaking of the Moroccan Mint Cake with syrup.
Drenching the cake with syrup…
Collage of Chef Thripti demonstrating the frosting of the carrot cake with a makeshift turntable improvised by Malak using a baking sheet and a mixing bowl. How clever!
Our Banana and Walnut Cake which turned out beautifully…
Chef Thripti’s Moroccan Mint Cake with Honey Almond Crust. The perfect afternoon tea cake to be enjoyed over a cuppa!
Banana and Walnut muffins with extra batter! They are so good!
And since we had extra creamcheese frosting, don’t waste it!
Our Moroccan Mint Cake. Pretty pleased with how well it turned out!
Berlinda carefully unmoulding the cake as I
looked on took the shot!
Our Banana and Walnut Cake. Absolutely love the soft and light textures, owing much to the correct creaming method. Dense cakes no more!
And a truely wonderful find, the Moroccan Mint Cake, a recipe which I’d definitely be looking forward to whipping up soon!
The textures are really lovely, from the dessicated coconut and almond crunch with the aromatics from the mint and honey.
A big thank you to Lynette and her team at Palate Sensations for the teacake workshop with Chef Thripti. It was most fun and I’m glad to say that I’d indeed learn quite a few things from Chef Thripti despite the recipes being simple. Most certainly make me rethink on how I want my banana and walnut should be like. And what’s best, we had a chance to sample the muffins when they were fresh out of the oven, wdressing them up with leftover frosting from the carrot cake before the taste test. Delish! On top of that, we brought home the three cakes we’d baked during the class! And who said that one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too?! :)
For those interested in the baking classes with Chef Thripti and other culinary classes offered at Palate Sensations, do visit their website for more details.