Lightning Mc Queen Cake

 

Lightning Mc Queen Cake

So a birthday boy needed a birthday cake. This is the first time that I pulled off something like this! The process is chronicled on my Instagram account (click right!). Thank my lucky stars that fondant is now readily available in supermarkets in Germany. It’s not perfect, but it took me a week to put this together (It would’ve been shorter if I didn’t spend the day hacking my brains out! I was seriously ill with the flu.)

I baked my go to chocolate buttermilk cake for this one. I baked three times the amount of the recipe, and split the batter between two 9×13 inch pans and one 8×8 inch square brownie pan. I also used Magnolia bakery’s chocolate buttercream icing recipe. You would need 1 and ahalf to two portions of the icing to cover the cake.  But you can use whatever cake/frosting recipe you prefer. After baking and cooling the cakes, I stacked the second cake over the first cake, the second cake upside down so that the flat bottom was facing up, using the icing to keep them together. Then I iced 2/3rds of the top layer, and stacked the square cake on it.

I carved the cake using a bread knife for the general shape, and a small steak knife for the refining details. Then I “dirty iced” the cake to keep all the crumbs in, and left it outside, covered with a stiff shopping bag, to freeze. The real reason I prefer baking in winter is because I don’t have a box freezer, and I could just leave it outside when the recipe calls for freezing or refrigerating.

The night the cake spent outside should sufficiently stabilize the cake enough to support the heavy fondant. I needed two big bricks of red fondant, one medium sized brick of black, another medium sized brick of white, and some blue.

The biggest discovery I made so far was pens with food coloring ink to paint the sides and logos! It was really helpful. The wheels were made by pressing an espresso cup into the black fondant, smothing it out with my hands, and sticking it to the sides of the cake.

The kids ended up not liking the cake, and treated it more like a sculpture than food. but hey, it was a great learning experience.

Thoughts on International Parenting

Bi-national and expatriate families, by default, are always straddling three cultures—the parents’, the host country, and the children who live in both worlds—hence the term “third culture kid,” which is a reality for many people who live in this global world.
What I find curious is that I am a completely different parent to my child when in Manila and when I am in Germany. It is a given that a complete lifestyle change occurs when moving to a new country, that the rhymes and rituals that were well-established in the old are chucked for new ones. It mostly depends on the climate and the pace of life in the new place. The host culture also dictates a huge part of how a child is raised.
Germans, for the most (not all) part, have strict rules when it comes to children: Children are meant to be seen, not heard. Let’s take bedtime for example. Children watch Sandman at 6:30, have dinner, read a bedtime story, and are sent to their own bed promptly at 8 pm. I am not generalizing here, since rules differ from household to household, but in an idealized German household, children are to be held to a schedule. “Kinder brauchen Regeln,” and one would be hard-pressed to find children out and about during normal weekday evenings by nightfall.
In the Philippines, children are much, much more involved in family activities, especially during social events. I remember my last night in Manila: We went to a karaoke bar and sang our hearts out until 1 am. There were four children under the age of 5 in our group on a school night! While normal in the Philippines, this is completely taboo in Germany.
This has of course created a hybrid in how I raise my child. I am too strict by Filipino standards, while I am too lax for Germans. I find that in Manila, I expect my child to act more “Filipino,” in that I expect independence in the form of playing with his cousins. In Germany, I don’t have the heart to force my child to sleep in his own bed, because sleeping next to your children is normal in the Philippines.

In another vein, how I parent also changes where I am. I find myself to be a more “top-down” parent in Manila, while in Germany, I spend more time with my son. I guess this is because much of the grunt work is taken from me by the household help.

Has your parenting style changed after an international move? I would welcome answers!

Darth Vader Cake

dv

 

I was asked to make a Darth Vader cake two weekends ago, and the mere thought of it make me laugh so hard that I thought, “why not?” The recepient is a four-year old boy, who is probably not super-critical of the cake’s imperfections. And hooo boy, they were many!

This is a cake of firsts. Not only is this my first Darth Vader cake, this was my first-ever cake iced entirely with fondant, and the first ever cake I have ever molded freestyle, without a template to follow.

And I so thank the Lord that Xenos has ready-made fondant! No more making my own and worrying about how to get the color! I bought two bricks, for 3 euros each. With fondant this cheap, it was perfect for experimentation. This cake was very instructional for me on how to work with fondant. As you see, things didn’t patch up quite nicely. Lesson number 1: Do not break up fondant to flatten, as the seams will show. Maybe it is better to roll, then flatten?

Under that fondant is my standard Chocolate Buttermilk cake, although any kind of cake will do. I baked two cakes, one in a lined, buttered and greased  round springform and another in a square pan. Make the cake the night before and freeze to dry out. In my case I just left it outside, since temperatures were hovering just above zero (40°F).

The next day, I liberated the cakes from the forms, cut the round one across in half and placed the dome-shaped top at the bottom of the glass plate. Spread some icing (I used Magnolia’s choco buttercream) to even the surface, then placed the other half over it, bottom-side up. I did the same thing to the square pan, but instead I cut the cake again in half, then in triangles. The proportions were just estimated to suit the size of the round cake, so I couldn’t give any exact measurement. All I can say is that I cut a right triangle, slathered it with cream, then put another triangle on top of it. Then slather the whole thing with frosting, locking in all the crumbs.

After that, I rolled the fondant on a marble surface dusted with starch, and draped it over the cake. I cut the excess in some places and it tucked in the cake, but there were places that came up short and I had to add a few more fondant strips to the sides.

The details were made using white and gray fondants, based on this Darth Vader cake. Despite the imperfections, the birthday kid was happy, the parents were happy, and the children happily ate Darth Vader. So I guess I’m happy, too!

 

Hotel Panorama Oberhof

From disconto.de

New Year’s was great in our family. I hope you had a great one too!

We ( meaning I, ) needed a to get away during the New Year, as didn’t really want to spend it at home thinking about the million things I had to do. The requirements were: a) it had to be cheap,  b) it had to be near home, and c) it had to be child-friendly.

Hotel Panorama in Oberhof located in the Thuringian forest fit the bill. We spent the weeked there and spent only around 300 euros, so that is a really good deal.

oberhofThe view heading up to the hotel was spectacular, with a brilliant blue sky at the background. One of the main attractions for me was the indoor playground at the hotel, which used to be the tennis court/ sports club. They had an indoor wall climbing facility, a Segway course (with Segways for rent) and all kinds of playground facilites like a ball pool, soccer field, and a bobby car racing track. Parents can watch their kids play at the restaurant or even enjoy a massage armchair for a 2 euro/ 10 minute massage.

oberhof1Day two was spent wandering around Oberhof. The place is known for its skiing and its glass artisans, and so we watched one in action in a shop, where they held a glass-blowing demonstration for the tourists. Several kids were present, and there is really something about fire that transfixes people. I couldn’t believe that the children were so quiet during the whole presentation!

Day three was spent at an exotic reptile and fish terrarium further downtown, and got in for free using the Oberhof Pass that tourists receive. I think I should not have told my kid that pythons eat little children…

Of course, 300 euros also means that you can’t expect the best service and top facilites. Although they tried their best, the the cheap price and the resulting influx of guests meant that I had to wait nearly an hour for my burned “Chicken Cordon Bleo” at the restaurant downstairs.

Our room was great. It was clean, and was cleaned regularly. While the rooms were renovated, I think that our room, and the hotel in general, needs a little updating to move it from 1990 to 2014. That tacky spray-painted mural by the indoor swimming pool has to go, and the hot tub needs to be fixed.

But why does that matter? Thanks to the poor internet connection in the mountains, I was disconnected from Facebook and other distractions unless I was at the lobby, and finally got to read a  book from cover to cover within three days. it was unexpectedly a delight. My son had a great time, and is asking when we’re going back. That is what I call a successful vacation.

 

Tow Mater Cake

cakeSo my boy’s birthday just rolled by. Wow, I gave birth to him how many years ago? Time flies so fast…

This time of the year, I turn into a baking dervish (is that a term?) cooking and baking for my kid’s birthday party. This year was a little different. Since I have a full-time job, I was a little pressed for time to make a 3-D Mater Cake–my kid’s special request this year. So I made a compromise and adapted a cake from this recipe.

I am not a big fan of box cake mixes, so I made my go-to recipe for moist chocolate buttermilk cake. Like with all other cakes I’ve made the past birthdays, challenges cropped up when I least expected them. First of all, I am so grateful to have found ready-to-roll out fondant at the local Xenos shop, and not the liquid goop they sell at the supermarkets here. This means I did not have to make my own fondant this year.

Basically the hardest part was finding substitues for the American products suggested my the recipe. No way in hell I was gonna order a whole pack of Jolly Ranchers online when I only needed two of them for a cake. My goodness, I had no idea that finding chocolate chocolate donuts were gonna be a challenge. I finally found them at the local McCafe for a euro fifty a pop–quite steep but I hoarded all three left at the stand. This place seriously needs an Dunkin’ Donuts.

So basically the side mirrors and wheels were made from two donuts, the bars holding the mirrors in place were yellow fondant, the eyes and teeth were made of white fondant, and irises were a mix of white/green/yellow, and the busted headlight black fondant cut out using a cough medicine bottlecap. The other headlight is a Haribo Jogi-Bussi. The pupils are brown mini-Smarties

Now the recipe had a template for the eyelids and the mouth, but it was more difficult to get the fondant in that dark color. It was easier to mix more brown coloring into the chocolate buttercream icing, and just free-style scratched out the areas where they were supposed to be and carefully spread out the darker icing in that area.

cake1I guess my frustration at not getting to make the 3-D cake that I wanted drove me to make three mini-Mater cupcakes made of honey loops, M&Ms, and white fondant (God forbid I use Eclipse gum on a cake!). The one pictured came from my 4 inch springform pan and a normal cupcake, while the two others were made with normal.sized cupcakes and mini-cupcakes. I left out the frosting except at the places where the wheels and the headlights had to stick.

All in all, I was quite happy with the results and the best part was that the party was a success. I am looking forward to Disneyland next year when I don’t have to do any baking at all!

Mainstream Media is Hurting My Kid’s Language Immersion

As you all know, I am trying to raise a tri-lingual kid. Raised bilingual myself, I place a premium on language learning, just like my grandfather had with me. We have got English down pat. Tagalog is an area we need to work on. His German is fluent. He still makes mistakes, but it won’t be long before he starts correcting my German.

Now my kid loves nothing more than Cars. Like a typical kid, he seriously has fallen for the merchandising Disney trap that I am trying to keep at bay.

So he was watching his Cars 2 DVD a month ago when he requested that we watch it in German. Now I insist that we watch things in their original language, since German is the community language and I have a short time frame to pump the two other languages into him.

When I asked him why, his answer was so clear and mature that it surprised me. “Because only the bad guy speaks German.”

Which is completely understandable. Hollywood still has a tendency to assign a non-American accent to peripheral players and villains. You would never see a gun-toting secessionist from Alabama as a movie bad guy. Now if the only character that my son can relate to is evil, of course he’d rather see the movie without this prejudicial lens.

And if the only Tagalog movies gaining European attention are poverty-core galore, how would that affect my kid’s identity as a Filipino? Is he to think that all Filipinos are violent slum-dwellers? Which is what most Europeans think about us anyway?   It’s not a big leap of logic that he may one day completely reject his Filipino side, as I see many Germany-based mestizo kids do.

If American/Western based mass media is to be believed, my son is a nazi slum-dweller with a mail-order bride for a mom who can’t speak fluent German. That ultimately hurts us all, and hopefully, We will get to experience a more inclusive media landscape, where an accent is not considered the proverbial black cowboy hat.

For more information on raising a multi-lingual child, go to multilingualliving.com.

Using Cloth Diapers

When I was pregnant, I was determined to use cotton diapers at home. I couldn’t really tell you why I wanted to go cloth, but I think it had a lot to do with my growing environmental consciousness at the time.

I wasn’t a complete tree hugger though. I compromised a bit by using disposables when we went out and at bedtime, and made sure that they were the eco-friendly sort in which 60 percent of it fully decomposed. A pack of 30 diapers were on average 2 euros more expensive than the non-biodegradable sort, but because they eased my guilty conscience, they were worth it.

I bought a used set of 10 cotton diapers, and bought about 12 more. Diaper liners made solid waste disposal easy. Since they were biodegradable and flushable, they were easy to dispose in the toilet. A kitchen towel folded in half would do in a pinch, as I discovered during a trip to the US.  Soiled diapers went immediately in an IKEA Garbage can, and I had enough diapers that I only did diaper laundry once a week. I soaked them in wash soda overnight in the can, wrung them out, flushed the water into the toilet, and washed with soap nuts.

Since safetey pins scared me, I used a Snappi Diaper Fastener. What was problematic for me was finding the right waterproof diaper covers. Those made in the Philippines were not sturdy enough to withstand the tougher laundry cycles of German washing machines. Fuzzibunz were great, but expensive. I would definitely invest in similar covers and inserts if I ever have a second kid.

I was surprised at myself for being so adamant about it, and actually following through before my son expressed to me at his seventh month that he did not want to wear cloth diapers by pointedly removing them every time I put them on him. He was fully potty trained by the time he was 2 and a half, and was dry during the nights two months after that. His early (for Western standards) potty training could have resulted from a combination of the cloth diapering and the reward/motivation-based system that I used, as was suggested to me by a friend’s mom.

Reflecting on my parenting style, I’ve discovered that my grandmothers had a huge influence on my mothering. Both my grandmothers were ahead of their time since I never called them Grandma, but “Mommy” on my mother’s side, and “Nanay” on my father’s side. Both grew up in the provinces during the war, both experienced poverty and hardship.

It was no surprise to me to discover that my paternal grandmother thought nothing of nursing a baby openly in a jeepneý, after reprimanding my cousin for using a nursing cover-up. She is a very natural, maternal sort, and no-nonsense. She is a very neat person, and hates it when things go to waste.

My maternal grandmother was very much into herbs and fruits and nature. She had a green thumb, and we always had fruit trees in our yard. She also liked to cook, and had a taste for the finer things in life, and learned how to make fantastic meals from simple ingredients from her.

Although I started using disposables exclusively by his 8th month, it didn’t mean that his cloth diapers were no longer used. They made for excellent burp cloths, emergency blankets, sun shade, picnic blanket. They don’t get much milage from me now, and I am still reluctant to re-purpose them as rags. Who knows? I might need them again in a year or two.

Martha Stewart’s Lion Cake

The one cake that started it all

I started with the whole baking thing because of cakes. I was so inspired by my consistency in baking a good Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte that I decided to up the ante and offered to bake the birthday cake of one of my son’s friends.

When I asked the boy’s mom what was his favorite thing at the time, I thought I bit off more than what I could chew when she said “Lions.”

Alrighty then. I decided to roll up my sleeves and after some research, I decided to bake Martha Stewart’s Lion Cake.

It was this time when I bought my 4 1/2″ springform pan. Though many people think that a small springform pan is useless, I have no regrets! The trickiest part here is making the Caramel Buttercream icing. I mean, 9 egg whites for icing?! But the effort was so worth it. The icing tasted like Goldilocks icing, and it was addictive.

The boy was ecstatic after seeing his birthday cake. It made me so happy, it encouraged me to bake even more.

My next post will tell you what I did with the egg yolks…

Jein.

Jein is one of my favorite German words. It starts with a soft “y”, and with the sharpness of the  “ein,” at the end, makes it sound like an ache you cried out.

It is a combination of the words for yes, “ja,” and no, “nein.” The closest English equivalent is “yeahbut…”

I’ve been thinking about the move. If the commune were willing to give me the space in the attic, then I would definitely say JA. But the thought of downgrading my life to 16 square meters is  exhausting, especially with everything that has been going on in my life right now. A kitchen of my own, I’m sorry to say after self-examination, is a non-negotiable. I really searched within myself if I were willing to share a bathroom with somebody not in my immediate household. Yes, and I’ve done it before. Not having even a teeny-tiny tea kitchen? No.

The space in the attic, they said, will be used as a common space, and they don’t have the money to build it anyway. If I were able to come up with the financing and be a member of the e.V. and not just be a renter, that would solve that.

The biggest equation in the “yeahbbut” debate was my current job situation. I am willing to move to other parts of Germany, and overseas, if need be. That would make the whole commune living argument moot. In fact, that makes even moving to a different part of Erfurt, which my father-in-law has been asking, and I have been resisting for different reasons, moot.

The Mommy Files: Should I Live in A Commune?

No, I am not running away to India. Rather, I’ve been invited to join a group of like-minded people who are building a multi-generational Wohngemeinschaft (living community), one of the many alternative living projects that are popping up in Germany like mushrooms. I’ve been invited to join an e.V., and this organization’s project was to renovate a century-old brownstone building. Instead of keeping the layout of individual apartments, they decided to turn it into a giant shared apartment. The owners and tenants will not have individual apartments, but individual rooms. There are communal bathrooms on each floor, a common kitchen, a shared library, two balconies on each floor, and a common living room. So basically, if I move into this place, I’ll be living in a retirement home without retiring.

The thing is, I already turned them down once. However, one of the people backed out the last minute, because the community isn’t granola enough for them (really! They wanted everyone to eat meals at the same time!) They have asked me to reconsider, since they know me and they know my principles (if you read this blog, you know that I’m a bit crunchy). Today, they were enticing me to move in by showing me the kitchen equipment at my disposal if I do decide to live with them.

I’ve got until Tuesday to make my decision. Now here are the pros and cons of moving there.

PROS:

I know the people– The organizer of this project is a mom in my son’s kindergarten (in fact, that’s how we met). She is as granola as me: meaning, we live an alternative lifestyle but are aware that money is not the enemy. Two of the people who live there are from my community garden club, and I was responsible for hooking them up to this living community in the first place because I backed out. They’re all crunchy Catholic Bavarians, and I know that I will get along with them fine.

Saves babysitter money– There will be several children in the building: two of them go to my son’s kindergarten. He’ll never run out of playmates, basically re-creating my childhood in the Philippines growing up surrounded with children. As an only child, he constantly bugs me to play with him. Not a problem here. There will also be several other people who I trust who can watch over my kid.

Cheaper rent– ’nuff said.

Cooking will be more fun– it’s much more fun to cook for several people than cooking for yourself.

CONS:

Serious downgrade my life-mode– The reason the rent is cheap because as of now, there is only one available room, 16 square meters. This means I’ll have to downgrade my life to 2006 levels, when my life fit in one suitcase.Then wait until a room frees up.

Shared kitchenOne of the many things that foreigners notice about Germany is that they are attached to their kitchens. They are so attached to it that when they move house, they take the whole kit and kaboodle, along with the lighting fixtures. Seriously, the only thing left are the shower, toilet and sink. I didn’t get it until I started cooking. I love my kitchen so much that it was seriously the only thing I missed about Germany when I spent a month in Manila. The first thing I did when I got home was take pictures of it and uploaded them to Facebook to show my brother what my kitchen looked like. A shared kitchen for me is actually worse than a shared bathroom. I notice that the older I get, the less compromising I become

Job Situation– I am looking for a job, and I don’t really want to relocate twice in case I have to move to a different state.

I have tonight to sleep over my decision. Wish me luck!