My 17th Birthday Cake (Cheat)

~5-layer midnight cake with cheesecake filling, covered with a generous layer of pink buttercream, glossy chocolate ganache, and topped with whipped cream and Oreos~


Guess who’s 17 years old!


I have a love-hate relationship with birthdays. I love everything about them, except the fact that I’m another year older. I prefer other people’s birthdays, with all the celebrations and games and cakes and gift-opening, but without me being consciously aware of my ageing.

It’s weird, isn’t it? The way that day by day, hour by hour, we age, but it’s only once a year for 24 hours that we actually acknowledge it. Then again, acknowledging our constant ageing would take some of the fun out of birthdays.





I don’t understand why people want to get older. A pessimistic way of putting is is that every year, you’re a year closer to death. You become more likely to get sick. You have more responsibilities. Then again, an optimistic way of seeing is is that every year, you are faced with new opportunities. You’ll graduate and start a new chapter of your life. You might get a job. You might meet “the one”. You might get married. You might have kids. Who knows? In the end, the best way to predict your future is to live it the way you want. Sometime’s it’s just easier to be passive to all that happens around you, so that when things go wrong, you can blame the world and carry on, but wow, that must get boring. The happiest people are those who take control of their lives and steer it the way they want to go. When things go wrong, they acknowledge their mistakes and learn from them, and when things go right, they’re living Heaven on Earth. You pick (hint: I’d go with the second one).

I always seem to get really reflective on my birthday. Is it just me?




But let’s focus on the real reason you’re here: CAKE!

Another reason why I always get excited about birthdays – cake. This year, I decided to bake myself a 5-layer midnight cake with cheesecake filling, covered with a generous layer of pink buttercream, glossy chocolate ganache, and topped with whipped cream and Oreos. Helll yes.



To be honest, the cake is pretty much just a chocolate cake with black food colouring added. I used to not like chocolate cake. I thought that it was too rich. I’d always opt for vanilla or red velvet. Chocolate cake just wasn’t my thing, but alas, times have changed. Maybe I’d been deprived of chocolate cake for too long, but this chocolate cake was the bomb. Even before I baked the cake, the cake batter was waving chocolatey scents at me, trying to get me to give in and admit that chocolate cake is one of the best kinds of cake. While I was trimming the cakes, I nibbled on some of the cake crumbs and I was in awe, trying to understand how I had ever disliked chocolate cake. This chocolate cake is velvety. It’s suuper moist and it’s perfectly sweet. It has a wonderful cocoa flavour that isn’t overwhelming, and it pairs beautifully with all the other flavours going on in this cake.

Speaking of other flavours…THE CHEESECAKE FILLING. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but cream cheese frostings are magical. Maybe that’s a biased opinion because they’re my favourite, but tbh I’ve never met anyone who dislikes cream cheese frosting. The cheesecake filling tastes pretty much just like cream cheese frosting, but there isn’t as much butter. The butter’s replaced with whipped cream, which is just folded in at the end, so that you end up with filling that’s extra fluffy and light, but definitely is not missing any flavour.

I don’t want to be writing an essay here, so I’m just going to tell you that the buttercream, chocolate ganache, whipping cream, and Oreos are perfect. Simply, utterly, perfect.




5-Layer Midnight Cake with Cheesecake Filling and Pink Buttercream

Adapted from various sources (linked below)


For the cake

  • 2 1/4 cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
  • 1 cup (120 g) “black” unsweetened cocoa powder (or regular cocoa powder with 1 teaspoon black gel food colouring)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature

For the cheesecake filling

  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g freshly whipped cream
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted

For the pink buttercream

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (500g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink food colouring

For the chocolate ganache

  • 5 ounces (150 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey

For the whipping cream

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste
  • Oreos, for topping


I’ve included generic bad-quality, unedited photos that I took while I was assembling the cake for reference. Let me know if you have any questions!

  1. For the cake, preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, black cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla, and then mix in eggs
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter equally among the three lined and greased 8-inch cake pans or weigh for accuracy. Each pan should weigh about 600 grams
  5. Bake the first two layers until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely. Repeat with the final cake layer. When ready to assemble the cake, wrap the layers in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.
  6. For the cheesecake filling, use an electric mixer to whip cream cheese, butter, and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold in whipped cream until combined
  7. For the pink buttercream, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar, vanilla extract, food colouring, and 1 tablespoon of whipping cream and beat until combined
  8. To assemble the cake, trim the cake layers, and then halve them so that each cake becomes two layers.
  9. Place approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the cheesecake filling (or buttercream) on the center of a cake board, and place your bottom cake layer onto the cake board. Add about 1/2-3/4 cup of cheesecake filling onto the top of the cake, and using a small offset spatula, spread the filling so that it covers the top of the cake. It’s okay to let a little bit of filling go over the side. Add the next cake layer and repeat until you’ve reached your final cake layer
  10. Cover the cake with a thin layer of the cheesecake filling (or buttercream), also known as crumb coating it, and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes
  11. Cover the cake in pink buttercream and chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes
  12. In the meantime, make the chocolate ganache. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate, butter, corn syrup and salt in the microwave, about 50 seconds, and stir until smooth. Let cool until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes
  13. For the whipping cream, use a whisk or electric hand mixer to whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the powdered sugar. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip
  14. (Assembling, continued) Remove the cake from the fridge and spoon the chocolate glaze to the edges of the cake, gently pushing some over the side and letting it dribble down. When you’ve finished putting chocolate glaze on the edges of the cake, spoon chocolate glaze into the centre until covered
  15. When the chocolate has set slightly, pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the cake and top each swirl with half an Oreo
  16. Serve!






Katherine Sabbath Inspired 4-Layer Meringue Birthday Cake (Cheat)

Happy birthday to me! I’m finally 16!



I’m one of the youngest in my grade, and although I liked being the only one in my classes who was 15 while others were 16, it feels pretty good to be 16. 16. 16! The sweet sixteen.


This year, my brother turned 18 (what!) and I turned 16. I’m hoping that this year will go well, overlooking the fact that my brother started his first year in university and I’m starting my first year of the IB, of course.


I wish that along with the study of chemicals and human behavior and history and language, there was a study of time. Maybe it exists somewhere out there, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a course in the IB. If it were, I’d be taking it as a higher level for sure.

Time is – to put it simply – absolutely amazing, and absolutely mind-f***ing.

The brain takes a fraction of a second to process information, so everything that’s happening around you is technically already in the past. And the stars that you gaze up at, including the sun. The light from those stars take seconds and minutes to travel from far away into your eyes, so you’re seeing those in the past. If a star went out, you’d still see it shining for a little while longer, because your eyes no longer view the present. Then there’s also that physics theory, where time isn’t always relevant. The theory states that if you’re next to something of an exceptionally large mass, or traveling at an exceptionally high speed, time slows down. I guess that’s a physics thing, but still.

Then again, time isn’t just about the unmatched human perception of time, it’s also about how much can change in either a millisecond, or over the course of a lifetime. Take this quote from DJ McHale: “A second is nothing. A tick on the clock. Seconds pass all the time and we never think about any one of them. But a second can be an eternity.” (I know, I already shared that quote on my last birthday cake post, but it was worth sharing again).

Tragedy happens at the same time as miracles do. I remember, a couple years back, I was on vacation in Europe. It was nighttime. Dark and rainy. My family and I didn’t have any rain protection, and we were frantically running to find our way back to our hotel. At that moment, I was absolutely miserable, and then I started to think. Someone out there in the world is having the best moment of their life. Perhaps getting married, or a couple welcoming their child into the world, yet I’m here, drenched, dripping, and shivering. Ever since then, I’ve always thought similarly at times of low, and it cheers me up to know that someone out there is having the best time of his/her life. Vice versa. When I’m happy and grateful for all the goodness around me, I take a moment to think about someone across the world who may be rushing through thunder and lightning, desperate for shelter, and although it may not help, I close my eyes and send out my condolences.


Anyways, enough about time.

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I celebrated my birthday with my friends a couple of weeks before my actual birthday. It was a shared birthday party that I celebrated with my best friend, who turned 16 on August 24.

I found out that she, along with most of my friend group, hadn’t ever gone and properly done karaoke. I was stunned. We were in China, in Beijing! I’d done karaoke countless times, karaoke places are like a second home to me. During my childhood, when I lived in Beijing, I’d say that there were only 3 places people ever celebrated birthdays, child or adult: At home, laser tag, or karaoke.

Naturally, I insisted that we went and did karaoke, and then went back to my house to have dinner and cake and to chill, so that’s what we did. We truly had such an amazing time, and my friends got me the best gifts I could’ve asked for. I went to bed that night feeling loved. I was so happy to have received a dessert journal and Bobby Singer’s Journal and the Enchanted Garden coloring book and a cookie cookbook and a fountain pen and stickers and candy roses and etcetera etcetera. Plus, seeing everyone’s reaction to this cake was pretty memorable, but seeing my best friend’s reaction to finding out that she got a Polaroid? Priceless.

I won’t post any of the birthday party photos for the sake of my friends’ confidentiality, but I’ll post my “birthday in photos” here on my photography page tomorrow.


I’ve always wanted to make a Katherine Sabbath cake. A couple months ago, I started planning cakes for all my family’s birthdays this year. I made my brother a Funfetti Layer Cake, my dad a Classic Tiramisu, and I knew that I had to make a Katherine Sabbath inspired cake (mom’s birthday is still coming up!).

There was one night a few days before I started making this cake where I got so excited about the cake that I couldn’t sleep ’til 3am. Granted, I spent a few hours looking at cakes, but still, I couldn’t stop thinking about cake!


In the end, all was worth it. See how this is an 8-inch, 4-layer birthday cake? In just one night, a little group of girls consumed pretty much the entire thing. Two or three slices were taken home on paper plates, and my mom and I decided to save one slice for the next day, but the rest of it? Gone. Utterly gone.

Normally, there’s cake left over. Cake’s too sweet. They’re too full. Yada yada. None of that happened with this one. The cake layers were perfect. They weren’t dense and overwhelmingly sweet, but were fluffy, light, just the right amount of flavor. The frosting, though! I have to admit, the frosting is my favorite part of this cake. No surprise there, of course. I used the queen’s recipe. Katherine Sabbath’s, that is. I’ve always loved cream cheese frosting, but the fact that freshly whipped cream is folded into this one makes it so incredibly fluffy. It’s not diabetes-sweet and rich like most buttercreams, but is light and beautiful and tangy and has a hint of sweetness that balances perfectly with the crisp meringues.


I absolutely adore making layered cakes. If you do make this recipe, you’ll know what I mean. It took quite a bit of time, but I seriously loved making it, especially the part where I got to dribble chocolate over the cake. That was fun. My layered cakes don’t always look as beautiful as the ones from around the web, and this one surely doesn’t compare to anything by Katherine Sabbath, but I did my best.


Katherine Sabbath Inspired 4-Layer Meringue Birthday Cake

Adapted from recipes linked below

Makes 1 8-inch, 4-layer cake


  • You’ll need a recipe for 4 cakes: 2 chocolate and 2 vanilla. You could also bake a chocolate mud cake and a white chocolate/vanilla mud cake, and slice them in half to create 4 layers. These need to be fully cooled and preferably trimmed before assembling

For the meringues

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) superfine sugar
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (preferably powdered)*

For the cheesecake filling

  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g freshly whipped cream
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-4 drops blue food coloring

For the chocolate glaze

  • 5 ounces (150 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey

*I don’t have access to powdered food coloring, so I used water-based food coloring for the blue/green, and used beetroot powder for the pink one. The beetroot powder worked quite well. Meringues call for preferably powdered food coloring, as it keeps them dry, but as long as you keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, you should be fine.


  1. For the meringues, preheat oven to 90 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until you get soft peaks. Add in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, and then turn the mixer to the highest speed and whip until meringue is stiff and glossy. This should take a few minutes. Beat in vanilla extract.
  3. Divide the meringue into bowls and tint them using food coloring of your choice. Transfer into a piping bag with a star or round tip of your choice and pipe onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake both trays until crisp, but not browned. This can take anywhere from 1-1.5 hours depending on the size and humidity. You should be able to remove the meringues from the parchment paper without them sticking. Store in an airtight container in the fridge
  5. For the cheesecake filling, use an electric mixer to whip cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, rose water and food colouring until pale and fluffy. Fold in whipped cream until combined
  6. To assemble, place approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the frosting on the center of a cake board, and place your bottom cake layer onto the cake board. Add about 1/2-3/4 cup frosting onto the top of the cake, and using a small offset spatula, spread the frosting so that it covers the top of the cake. It’s okay to let a little bit of frosting go over the side. At this point, you may sprinkle on some crushed meringues if you wish (making sure to save the pretty ones for decorating!). Add the next cake layer (different flavor) and repeat until you’ve reached your final cake layer
  7. Cover the cake with a thin layer of frosting, also known as crumb coating it, and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes
  8. Cover the cake in a final layer of frosting, and chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes
  9. For the chocolate glaze, in a small bowl, melt the chocolate, butter, corn syrup and salt in the microwave, about 50 seconds, and stir until smooth. Let cool until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  10. (Assembling, continued) Remove the cake from the fridge and spoon the chocolate glaze to the edges of the cake, gently pushing some over the side and letting it dribble down. When you’ve finished putting chocolate glaze on the edges of the cake, spoon chocolate glaze into the center until covered. Decorate the cake immediately with meringues and other desirable decorations/sprinkles
  11. Serve!

Black Forest Baked Oatmeal (Clean)

~ Black forest baked oatmeal. A healthy, dessert-like breakfast oatmeal, with cocoa, cherries, and cream. ~


Black forest is one of my ultimate favorite flavor combinations. Thus far, I’ve posted three black forest recipes. There’s black forest pancakes, black forest cupcakes, and black forest nice cream. All of the black forest recipes have been healthy ones, and this one is no exception.


Although they are both forms of “oatmeal”, baked oatmeal and regularly cooked oatmeal have quite different textures. Cooked oatmeal is generally creamy, while baked oatmeal has a cake-like texture. I usually prefer regular oatmeal on weekdays, as they’re much quicker, but every other weekend or so, I’ll treat myself to baked oatmeal.


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Black Forest Baked Oatmeal

Makes 1 serving


  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder/instant coffee granules
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup/honey, or 1 tsp powdered stevia
  • 1/4 cup sweet, dark cherries, pitted and chopped (about 4 cherries)
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • Whipped cream/whipped coconut cream, to top
  • Cherries, to top


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius, or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a small bowl*, stir together the oats, baking powder, cacao powder, espresso/coffee powder, and salt
  3. Stir in the vanilla extract, sweetener, and chopped cherries
  4. Stir in the 1/4 cup of milk
  5. Transfer the mixture into a greased ramekin or ovenproof dish and bake for 16-18 minutes, until the top is baked
  6. Remove from oven and top with cream and cherries

No-Churn Biscoff Cookie Butter Ice Cream (Cheat)

This easy, no-churn cookie butter ice cream comes together in just a few minutes with 4 simple ingredients and is a perfect summertime treat!

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I made ice cream! My mom insists that this ice cream is way better than any store-bought ice cream, and I agree with her. She was surprised that I actually managed to make ice cream. I’ve been complaining about not having an ice cream maker for the longest time. The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t even need an ice cream machine! You only need four ingredientsIt’s so easy to make, and it’s great for cooling down in the summer heat.

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No Churn Biscoff Cookie Butter Ice Cream

In case anyone was wondering, I didn’t cross “ice cream” off of my baking bucket list, because when I said ice cream, I meant the gelato-like, egg-yolk, cook-strain-churn-freeze kind of ice cream, and I’m still working on getting an ice cream machine. I guarantee, it’ll happen someday, but for now, I’m more than happy to have this easy, cheap, delicious way of making ice cream.

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*You can crush the cookies using a food processor, or do it by hand, placing the cookies in a bowl and crushing them with the end of a rolling pin. I used the rolling pin method because it gave me more control over the size of the crumbs (leaving a few giant chunks in there, obviously…), but that’s up to you 🙂

No-Churn Biscoff Cookie Butter Ice Cream


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 can (14oz or 400ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (200g) Biscoff cookie butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (84g) crushed Biscoff cookies*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 crushed Biscoff cookies (optional, for topping)
  • 1 tbsp Biscoff cookie butter, melted (optional, for topping)


  1. Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, whisk the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, cookie butter, cookies, and vanilla extract
  3. Fold the cream into the cookie mixture until fully combined
  4. Transfer the mixture into an ice cream container or a large loaf pan. Swirl in the melted cookie butter, if using, and sprinkle crushed cookie bits over the mixture, pressing them down slightly. Wrap with cling film or foil and freeze for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Allow to thaw for 5-8 minutes at room temperature before serving (I recommend running the ice cream scooper under boiling water before using). Store in freezer.

Coconut Flour Black Forest Cupcakes (Clean)

~ Coconut flour chocolate cupcakes with an easy 3-ingredient cherry filling, and topped with lightly sweetened cream, chocolate shavings, and a cherry ~



Okay. These are my favorite healthy cupcakes ever. I’m not kidding. I know I say that all recipes are delicious, but this one especially. Each cupcake (chocolate cupcake, cherry filling, cream, the whole thing) is only 172 calories if you use coconut cream instead of whipping cream for the topping. 172 calories!!!!!!! A normal filled, frosted cupcake usually hangs around at 500+ calories and up to 47 grams of sugar (RDA for sugar is 25 grams). The cupcakes only require one-bowl, too. Yay!

I’ll walk you through the makeup of this magnificent cupcake.


Alright, so first of all, these are coconut flour chocolate cupcakes, which makes them incredibly fluffy and moist. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid, so there’s very little flour in comparison to the liquid, which results in a soft cupcake. With flours like whole wheat flour, it’s easy to end up with dense, dry cupcakes, but not with these!


See that moist crumb? Hell yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

So that’s the chocolate cupcake. True, I could just throw a cherry on top of each one and call it black forest, but I wanted to go further than that, so I filled the cupcakes with a 3-ingredient fresh cherry filling. It’s so easy to throw together, and it’s much, much, much  healthier than any sort of store-brought cherry jam or cherry pie filling that people use. It’s made with fresh cherries, which ensures that the sweet cherry flavor shines through.


Lastly, the whole thing is topped with lightly sweetened cream, chocolate shavings, and a cherry. This whole thing is literally so perfect. I used whipping cream, but that’s just because it’s the easiest and, to me, it’s the most accessible. If you have coconut cream on hand and you enjoy the flavor of coconut, definitely go for using coconut cream!


Seriously, though. I can’t stress how much I love this recipe. Low in calories, healthy, and full of flavor. It doesn’t get much better than this.





By the way, if you want a recipe similar to this one, I have a recipe for coconut flour black forest pancakes as well, so be sure to check that out.




Coconut Flour Black Forest Cupcakes

Partially adapted from Lara Deliah

Makes 12 cupcakes



  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • 4 large eggs, or 4 flax eggs
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder

Cherry Filling:

  • 10 cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt (optional)


  • 1 cup whipping or coconut cream
  • 2-3 tbsp honey, or sweetener of choice
  • Chocolate shavings (grated chocolate)
  • 12 fresh cherries



  1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. For the cupcakes, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (melted coconut oil, coconut milk, almond milk, eggs, apple cider vinegar) until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients (coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, coconut sugar, and cacao powder) until fully mixed.
  3. Transfer the mixture into a lined cupcake tin and bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean without any raw batter.


  1. While the cupcakes are baking, heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat
  2. Place all the ingredients for the filling into the saucepan and heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and resembles a jam-like consistency
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool


  1. In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer or a stand mixer to whip the whipping/coconut cream until stiff peaks form (this may take a while if you’re using coconut cream)
  2. Beat in the honey

Assembling (once both the cupcakes and filling have cooled down):

  1. Using a small knife, cut out a small circle in the middle of each cupcake. I cut an upside-down cone, with the deepest part being about halfway in the cupcake
  2. Using a spoon or piping bag, fill each hole with cherry filling
  3. Pipe the whipping/coconut cream onto the cupcake, and top with a fresh cherry and chocolate shavings
  4. (Hide 10 of the cupcakes for yourself, and give the other 2 to people you love a lot 😉 )