Wednesday, 6 May 2009

WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS




Tammy and I met in 1991. Our company sent us (she from Hong Kong and I from Singapore ) to Kuala Lumpur for the launch of a set of limited edition coins commemorating the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We shared not just a hotel room but also a love for movies, shopping and good food. We kept in touch via hand-written letters and greeting cards. Over the years, the snail-mails turned into emails; and the love for good food developed into a passion for cooking and baking. Each time we visited each other’s city, we swap recipes and traded baking books.

Tammy gets carried away in baking specialty shops like Phoon Huat in Singapore . And Fairprice Xtra. “There is no store this massive in Hong Kong,” she tells me enviously, “you Singaporeans are so lucky.”

Whenever she stays over, Tammy has to put up with a tiny sofa bed and a shared bathroom. When we are not out shopping and sampling at new restaurants, we’d be curled up on the little sofa bed – girl talk and reminiscing about old times.

One morning, I suggested that we should bake a cake. Her eyes lit up. “Let’s do a really simple one. Something you’ve done many times.” So we baked this French-style Lemon Yogurt Cake. For those of you who are familar with Orangette, you must be aware the special meaning this cake holds for blogger Molly and her husband Brendon. And if you’ve read Molly’s site (and her book) you’ll know that Molly's “Winning Hearts and Minds Cake” is her chocolate wedding cake. For me, if by some chance Orangette fans could accept a second "Winning Hearts and Minds Cake", this Lemon Yogurt Cake would have to be it! The recipe is so easy to follow and I've had to bake it again and again and again at the encore of neighbours, colleagues and friends. It truly wins the hearts and minds of everyone around me.

Tammy shares my enthusiasm for the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake. She eagerly grated the lemon zest (which, to me, is the most hateful job in the world!) and sifted the flour. I fired up the oven, weighed out the ingredients and demonstrated to her just how easy it was. When the cake came out of the oven, Tammy cooed in delight. She was won over even before she has had a taste.

Needless to say, Tammy returned home with the recipe. Her kitchen in Hong Kong is particularly small, a 9-inch round cake is out of the question with a counter-top oven. So she baked several batches of mini cupcakes. Tammy later told me that her father commented that the cakes were “very nice” (which in truth meant “out of this world” because he normally only grants a slight nod of approval for most baked goods). Tammy’s father passed away some months afterwards. Two weeks after she broke the news, I suddenly found myself sighing in relief: Well, at least he had a taste of the lemon yogurt cake! Somehow, the thought left me a little less sad.

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