The first sight you'd see if you walked into a primary school classroom would be the interesting artworks, mounted onto brightly coloured cardboard strung up in neat rows above your head and stuck onto onto every bit of wall. There'd always be the beautiful artworks which immediately draw your attention and there'd be the simple and ordinary artworks surrounding it, quickly forgotten unless it was created by yourself or your own child. My artworks always fell into the latter category- I was never the artistic type. My drawings only ever barely resembled what I'd attempt to draw. My paintings were even worse. And I could never get my colour combinations right.
In the first two years of high school, when I did visual arts, I always got average marks. I remember the first, and only, time I ever got a full marks for a cartoon, in which I'd drawn fruits simply because they were colourful and easy to draw. I was completely perplexed as to why I'd done so well, when so many others which I'd found very impressive scored lower whilst mine consisterd of simple line drawings with circles for eyes and a line for a mouth, like this :)
As much as I found other people's artworks impressive, nothing quite compared to my amazement the day we chanced upon my friend, Steph's, artbook. She'd been in a different class and so I'd never seen any of her artwork, but when we accidently pulled her book out of the cupboard, we only needed to turn to her title page to be completely mesmerised by her artwork. We spent the remainder of the lesson slowly marvelling through her beautiful drawings and paintings. I'd never seen anything quite as amazing in real life and to this day, I'm still amazed by all her artwork- so much so that I was inspired to do something I hadn't done for ages- pick up a pencil and draw something.
Never one to learn to walk before running, I decided that while I was at it, I might as well fulfill my mother's wish of having a portrait of her drawn (a wish she's had even before I was born) so I grabbed a nice photo of her, a blank piece of paper and set about sketching her face. I picked up my pencil, slowly tracing out the shape before slowly sketching each and every little detail and actually found myself enjoying it! Before I knew it, hours had passed, the side of my hand had been coloured dark grey and I'd created my first portrait.
It was a rather amateur and childish attempt, probably describable as cute more than anything and definitely miles and miles and miles away from Steph's artwork. But still, the face was immediately recognisable, if a little dispropotioned and unlike anything I'd ever done before. And I was proud of it.
It's amazing how far a little effort can really get you!
But putting a little effort sometimes isn't quite as easy as it seems. With my cakes I always think that if I just put that teenie weenie bit more effort into decorating the cakes, they'd look a lot more presentable. But despite planning to do so, I always find I put so much too much time and effort into making sure that the cake itself tastes great, that by the time I get around to icing and 'decorating', I'll just slather the frosting on and hope for the best.
Decorating a cake prettily for me is an especially difficult task because I'm not a creative person. I can't just think of a nice way to arrange decorations on a cake and even when I'm copying a design, it never turns out quite right. But not being creative is not an excuse for anything- it means working harder to make up for it. My usual solution to any situation which requires creativity, whether it be designing something, decorating a cake or writing a creative writing piece, is to get inspiration from others. This is the reason I have a whole pile of cake shop brochures from Hong Kong which I look at whenever I'm baking a sponge cake.
I was determined to make this cake look good, so I chose a simple design- one which really could go wrong. One which requires close to no skill but still looks amazing. This cake design is completely copied from the bakery Patisserie-C'est Mieux. Admittedly, I don't actually remember taking the brochure in the first place, but their cake designs were all simple yet beautiful.
For the cake, I decided to use a cheesecake simply because that was what was used in the brochure- and it gave me an excuse to try this featherlight cheesecake from Wendy's blog. True to it's name, it was very light- perhaps one of the lightest cakes I've ever made. I made the mistake of taking it out of the oven too early (because I think my electric oven is a little on the cool side) and had to put it back in the oven again after it had cooled considerably and then accidently left it in the oven after turning it off. This left the bottom half of the cake really weird but the top half of the cake was still perfect- light (but in a different way to most sponges) and delicious but surprisingly not cheesy!!
As for the cake decorating, it didn't come out as beautifully as in the brochure- I should have used a bigger spoon and fork and my fruit arrangement is rather messy but it still looked pretty good and I was proud of it =) It'll probably be a while until I start thinking of my own designs but I think I'll take it one step at a time!
Featherlight Cheesecake from Wendy
125gm cream cheese(room temperature)
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
½ Tbsp cocoa powder (I omitted this)
1 Tbsp boiling water (I omitted this)
1. Line the base of a 8 inch square pan and preheat the oven at 150/160C.
2. In a medium sized bowl, cream cream cheese until smooth.
3. Bring milk and butter to a boil and pour ¼ of it into cream cheese and gently stir until incorporated. Pour in another ¼ the milk and stir again. Lastly pour in all the milk and stir until smooth. (At this point, prepare some boiling water)
4. Let the cheese mixture cool down and put in flour. Mix until smooth. Then put in egg yolks and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
5. In another clean bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Put in salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks. Put in sugar gradually and beat until stiff.
6. Put 1/3 of egg whites into cheese mixture and fold gently but quickly.
7. Pour the cheese mixture into the egg whites and fold until well incorporated.
8. Mix cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth. Put in a few tablespoons of the cheese batter and mix until a smooth chocolatey batter is formed.Pour main cheese batter into prepared pan. Drizzle chocolate batter over main cheese batter. Use a knife and cut through the batter to create a marbling effect.(I skipped this step)
9. Put pan into slightly bigger but shallower pan. Fill the bigger pan with boiling water until halfway up and bake for 50-60 minutes.
10. When cake is baked, remove from oven and release the sides of the cake from the pan immediately by running a knife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Leave it to cool down totally and chill until cold before cutting.