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January 23, 2008

Two Years, Too Sweet


It came as a huge surprise when I looked at the calendar and realized that Dessert First was about to turn two years old. Has it already been so long? I still remember when I started this blog, several months out of pastry school, with no idea of what was out in either the pastry world or the blogosphere, only that I loved to bake and that I really wanted a space to share what I was baking with the rest of the world.

Well, it's been two years later and I never would have imagined all the things that could have occurred to a girl with a kitchen, a camera, and a computer. First, and most importantly, I've met some of the most wonderful people ever through Dessert First: bloggers, readers, writers, photographers, cooks, bakers -  of course all them fellow dessert lovers. I've been introduced to some truly inspiring blogs out there and also received some wonderful compliments from virtual strangers. I still remember the first time I got a comment from someone I didn't know; it was the most unexpected pleasure, like a butterfly landing on my shoulder, discovering that someone out there who didn't know me was moved to reach out. Today I'm still surprised at the e-mails I get asking me for pastry advice. It's truly amazing to me - a heartfelt thank you to all of you who've written in!

I've made desserts that I would have never dreamed of doing, especially with the Daring Bakers urging me on, I've discovered that no matter how hard I resisted the lure of food photography was too tempting, and I realized that creating a webpage was only opening the door to opportunities I'd never imagined.

I've gotten to work with professional food photographers and done my very own professional photo shoots. I've gotten to judge a baking contest. I've had articles published in magazines. I'm writing a monthly column for Baking911.


And finally, the top secret project that I've hinted at, the reason my online presence has been so sadly diminished these last few months...I'm writing a cookbook that's coming out at the end of the year!!

Yes, this is a real book being released by an established publisher; I am collaborating with another co-author and we have been hard at work on the manuscript, which is due quite soon - that's why I've been so quiet in the blogosphere! It's been an intense, exhausting, and very fun project, one that I'm very proud to be a part of and I can't wait to tell you all more about it as it unfolds! I can mention the subject of the book though, which is...cookies:)

With the book occupying the bulk of my free time, I haven't been able to devote as much time to Dessert First as I would have liked. There's so many things I'd love to do with this site: more recipes, more photos, more features. Many of you have written me with suggestions, and I've taken lots of them to heart: there are tons of ideas I'd really like to implement here, and hopefully they'll occur in the not-too-far-future!


So thank you all again for your encouragement and support! To celebrate Dessert First's 2nd birthday and all the other exciting news I've shared, here is a creation inspired again by my recent trip to Hong Kong (I'm on an Asian kick, can you tell?) It's another classic combination, green tea cake layered with red bean filling, two of my favorite flavors. The green tea cake is same one I used in my matcha opera cake, a Macbook Air-thin layer of genoise flavored with the smoky intensity of green tea. The filling is simply whipped cream with sweetened red beans folded in; red beans are a staple of the Asian dessert repertoire with their earthy, distinctive sweetness. They give the whipped cream a deep, sensual flavor without the overpowering richness of a buttercream. Elegant, light, not overly sweet: all hallmarks of Asian patisserie, and a beautiful way to celebrate.


Here's a slice of cake surrounded by several of my Flickr cards, happy little reminders of all I've done. I look forward to ordering more sets with all new images of the desserts I'll create in the year to come!

Green Tea Cake with Red Bean Filling

Green Tea Genoise

2 eggs, room temperature
2 ¼ oz confectioners' sugar
2 ¼ oz ground almonds
about 1 tsp matcha powder (to taste)
1 oz all purpose flour
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 ounce sugar
½ ounce butter, melted

Red Bean Filling

1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces prepared red beans - I didn't have time to prepare my own red beans so I bought a tin of prepared red beans at the Asian grocery - they are already cooked and sweetened and ready to use in desserts. Look for the word "Azuki" on the label; they should be individual beans and not red bean paste.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan (about 12"x16") with a sheet of parchment paper or a Silpat.

Combine the eggs with the confectioners' sugar and ground almonds in a mixer until cream-colored and light.

Add in the matcha powder and combine. You can add more or less depending on your taste, but donâ€'t add more than 1 ½ tsp or it might affect the cake'€™s texture.

Remove from the mixer. Sift the flour over the egg mixture.

Whip the egg whites in a clean bowl on a mixer at low speed until they start to froth. Then add the cream of tartar and increase mixer speed, whipping until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar and whip for a few seconds longer to incorporate.

Scoop about 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg mixture and fold in gently with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in until uniformly mixed. Pour the melted butter over the batter and fold in to incorporate.

Pour the batter into the half sheet pan and distribute it evenly with an offset spatula, making the layer as level and smooth as possible.

Bake in the oven for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the cake is just firm and lightly brown but not completely brown – this cake should not be overbaked.

Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. Slide the cake off the sheet pan and onto a wire rack to cool. When the cake is no longer hot but still warm, place another rack or sheet pan on top of the cake and flip it over, then carefully peel the parchment paper from the cake to prevent it from sticking to the cake. You can place the parchment paper clean side down or a clean Silpat onto the cake, then flip it back over to finish cooling.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, trim off the edges and slice the cake in half along the short side, then cut each piece in half along the long side so you get four 6"x8" pieces.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold in the red beans gently with a rubber spatula until they are evenly distributed; the cream may take on a light reddish tint.

Place cake layer on a covered cake round and frost the top with a quarter of the whipped cream. It's ok if some of the cream goes over the sides; just try to keep the layer even.

Cover with a cake layer and frost the top with a third of the remaining whipped cream. Repeat until you have assembled all four layers of cake.

Cover the cake and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve, trim off the sides of the cake to make them nice and even.

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Happy blogiversary!!

And congrats on the cookbook - I can't wait to hear more details!

Oh Anita what exciting news for you! I can't wait till it comes out.
Happy two year anniversary...the blogging world is a better place with you in it!!!

What a wonderful surprise! Congratulations! I can't wait until the finished product is out. Happy Blog Birthday too.

Well congratulations - on your blogging birthday and especially the book! I'm looking forward to more from you. I read a lot of parenting and photography blogs, your blog gives me a sweet little break from what I normally read. I always enjoy your writing, your photos and your recipes.

You should certainly feel very proud, that is very exciting!

Happy Anniversary and keep up with the great work!

That cake looks awesome and extremely delicious! Wonderful!



Wow, congratulations on the book! I can't wait to pick up a copy. In the meantime, though, this recipe looks mighty tasty.

This looks great as always, and congrats on the cookbook!

That looks lovely.
I'm afraid i've been disappointed with Chinese cakes in the past. I've bought them from the Chinese bakeries. They look as good as yours and promise much but deliver little. I suspect yours would be great though.
The filled buns are usually nice though.

Congratulations on your upcoming cookbook! I just stumbled upon your blog recently, and love it. Your creations and pictures of them are just gorgeous. I can't wait to try out your mango coconut parfait.

Happy happy sweet birthday! This is a great accomplishment and I for one wish you a sweeter 2008. Look forward to all your gorgeous creations!

Happy blogiversary, and congratulations on the upcoming book!

happy birthday to Dessert First!! I love the photographs and writing on this blog so much - quite enjoyable!! here's to many more years for Dessert First :0)

That red bean and green tea cake is so lovely - very elegant, indeed!

Happy blog anniversary! I'll hit the two year mark this summer. Strange how it sneaks up on you, isn't it?

Happy Blog-birthday! Thank you for providing us with such beautiful and tasty desserts!! Best wishes for a sweet year!

Happy blog birthday, and congrats on the cookbook!! I will be buying it!

wow, these are a lot of great news together! I've always been a great admirer of you and your creations, and will surely look out for your new cookbook:)

this layered cake is amazing, so light and fluffy, and I've even tasted it thanks to my many asian colleagues! I love the flavor:)

Good Luck on all your future endeavors Anita:)

Congratulations on your new book! I've been a fan of your blog for a long time and definitely love it best when you are on your Asian kick. Let me know if you need a recipe tester down the road - I'd be happy to help.

Congratulations on two wonderful blogging years. You have achieved some amazing things in this time and long you they continue. You cake looks delicous and I can't wait to learn more about the cookbook. Keep it up!

Congratulations on your news! Your photos are stunning.

Happy Blog Birthday! That layered cake looks fantastic.

Wow!! Congrats on the great news! You're an awesome baker and I loved reading your blog and trying out your recipes. I can't wait to see your book! ^_^


First of all, congratulations on your 2nd anniversary! I know you started my blog not long after I started mine and I've always felt that we're like blog sisters!

Secondly, I am thrilled beyond belief to hear that you are working on a cookbook! I will happily be marching to the store the moment its out so that I can buy my copy. You deserve this so much! You're such a brilliant baker and so creative ... I can't wait to hear more about it. All the best!

happy birthday Dessert First! i'm happy to hear such a wonderful news, hopefullyt the book will turn out fantastic.
i always love the combination of green tea and black beans, very nice cake!

Congratulations! That green tea and red bean cake looks amazing. Green tea and red bean are two of my favorite flavours.

happy blog birthday, anita! it is amazing and so well deserved with how many great opportunities your hard (and fabulous) work has awarded you. and a BIG CONGRATULATIONS on the book! i am so happy for you!

and your green tea cake...a perfect birthday cake if i do say so myself. enjoy!

Congratulations on everything! I love these cakes--I fell in love with Asian pastries when I was in Singapore and Japan in June. So beautiful!

Looking forward to your cookbook! Definately will but it..keep up the wonderful work!

I just had a feeling it was a book...and cookies on top of it? Woohooo!! COngratulations on all fronts and the cake looks wonderful!

Oooh - how exciting, can't wait to see the book, and your cakes look delicious too!

Happy anniversary.
I was thrilled when you said you were doing a book. Hopefully it will be available in the UK. The end of the year seems so far away.

Congratulations, sweetie!
You have always been such an inspiration, Anita.

wow.. it looks delicious! wonderful cake.. with red beans inside!

wow, what a wonderful cake! with beans inside also! happy 2nd blog anniversary!

Happy Blogiversary! I recently had my 2nd, also... And you've shown me what someone can actually do in 2 years instead of just fumbling around like I do! :)

Congrats on the book, too!

Many congratulations, Anita.

Thanks for sharing your expertise these past 2 years!

Congrats on the book deal and happy blogiversary!

I've developed quite a love of red bean, especially in sesame balls. I want to try making my own, but I've still got a fear of deep frying.

First of all, Happy blog birthday.Second, Congratulations on your upcoming book. I am so excited for you...and can't wait to hear more about it!

Congrats on both the blog birthday and the book!

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