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Happy Birthday


Tuesday was Aditi’s birthday.

Happy 17th Aditi!!! 🙂

I hope you had a great birthday!

Each day you become a day older, but today you get to count an entire year. Today you get to eat a fancy dinner with your friends and family. You receive a treasure trove of presents, most of which will be chocolate, due to a slew of unoriginal present givers! You celebrate one more year of being alive…something I don’t quite understand because you’re only a day older than yesterday…but that doesn’t matter because it’s your birthday!

Having a birthday during school must kind of suck. You have to go to lessons and you have to do homework. You have to get up early in the morning and sleep early at night. You have to endure eight renditions of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song sung in varying degrees of out-of-tuneness (I’m sorry!).

But most of all, you get cake.

That night, as Aditi was busy having fun with her friends, Jenny and I were on a top secret mission. What secret mission? The world may never know. It is a secret after all…

…Okay, I’ve cracked. I’ll tell you. For the last week, we had been planning a (dismal) birthday surprise. It involved a little star shaped cake and a big birthday banner and nothing else. Even though we started planning last week, I unfortunately have to say that Jenny and I are the worst party planners ever. From that night, I can successfully say that I will never become an event/party planner, a caterer or most of all, a wedding planner.

If I planned a wedding, the decorations would be made out of tacky-looking foil, the tablecloths wouldn’t match the curtains and the cutlery would all be missing. The only thing that would arrive intact would be the wedding cake. Which costs on average about $550 USD (!), did you know?

Luckily, I’m not a wedding planner and for the better of couples everywhere, I never will be.

So yes, that night Jenny and I (mostly me) trudged out into the cold, dark and rainy weather to surprise Aditi. You see, our problem was that we didn’t actually know where Aditi lived. Yes, she was on our bus, but we didn’t actually know which building or floor. A friend notified me of her building, but inside each building were about 4 other buildings. I made two very awkward phone calls to two friends involving them picking up to hear “This is not Jean. Do not say my name. This phone call is not taking place. Now, is Aditi there?” , but as they were with Aditi, they couldn’t/didn’t know where she lived. Lovely. So we threw a surprise party in the lobby. Haha, we are the best party planners ever. There’s no venue quite like the lobby!

Originally, we had planned to meet at Jenny’s tower at 6:10, presuming Aditi would leave school at 6, giving us 20 minutes before she arrived home. This plan was made while I was in the shower, getting increasingly pissed off at my phone which kept ringing when Jenny texted every 60 seconds, making me step out dripping wet into the cold bathroom. Humph. It was all going good (this was at about 5:50) when I had just blown dry my hair and I received a text from our secret accomplice.

Aditi left 10 minutes early.


Snap! Our plans!!! Okay, so several rushed phone calls later Jenny and I we were standing in Aditi’s lobby, very much wet, cold and panicking that she was already home. Jenny made a huge, amazing poster that we held for 20 minutes across the lobby and I made…well, you’ll see.



Introducing the cast and crew of this mysterious production…!

Flour, caster sugar, vegetable oil, oranges, eggs, baking powder and the star: natural yoghurt.

As you can tell from the picture (or maybe not if you’re inattentive), I used two different kinds of oranges. They’re both navel oranges so but the darker coloured one was a local Chinese orange and the lighter coloured one in the front was a Sunkist orange imported from the USA.

This is one of the easiest cakes I’ve  ever made. Really. I love it 😀

So first, you take your oranges and zest them! This is the most labour intensive part of this recipe i.e. extremely relaxing. Make sure you wash your oranges first!! You never know what has been on those skins…



Please be more careful than me. I accidentally zested my hand. Twice. I’m not surprised and I guess you’re not either.

Yeah, I have a crappy zester. I really want one of those Microplane zesters that everyone raves about but a 250RMB zester is kind of insane to me.

By the way, when you zest, you only want the orange part of the skin. The whiteish part under the zest is the pith and it has a kind of bitter taste so you don’t really want that mixed in with your lovely fragrant zest.




Okay guys, fess up. I can’t be the only one who finds bald oranges hilarious. I mean, come on. They’re bald oranges!!! 😀 And they look so furry! Resist the temptation to eat the bald, furry oranges of doom. You’re going to need them later!

I couldn’t really tell a difference between the Chinese and American oranges taste-wise, but the Sunkist orange gave a nicer and drier zest that wasn’t as mushy as the Chinese one.


It’s alllll easy from here on. Just sift in your flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir in a pinch of salt.


Let me introduce to you the main character of this production: natural yoghurt. This stuff is from Carrefour as you can tell by the packaging so it’s imported from France. This stuff is really au natural and is really thick and well, yoghurty. Don’t use the local Chinese yoghurt. It’s too watery and has sugar added to it which kind of offsets the sugar balance in this cake.

Teehee, I almost never eat such thick yoghurt in China. I couldn’t resist drawing in it (with a butter knife of course!).


Once you’ve got  Mt. Sifton done and sorted, empty two 125g cartons of your yaourt nature into the dome and SMASH the mountain of flour. It’ll look a bit like the crater on the left. Congratulations, you are now a natural disaster to the inhabitants of Mount Sifton. Give the mixture a bit of a stir until it’s kind of even. It’ll be really really dry, but don’t worry about that just yet.



Use your pretty little whisk to beat 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil until it’s nice and smooth. I used to always beat eggs with chopsticks. I never got why people use forks to beat eggs. It’s so difficult!! But then I started using a whisk and the chopsticks have been forgone. Seriously guys, whisks are the way to go. I have three of them. No kidding. (But one is broken so it doesn’t count!)

Once the oil has been nicely incorporated into the eggs, pour the eggs into the yoghurt-flour mixture.  Okay, this is where I started freaking out. I intended to just stir it with my spatula all nice and easy like muffin batter but there were so many LUMPS! ARGHGH!

I got totally freaked out by the huge lump that wouldn’t budge. But it’s okay! It worked out just fine. Just use that aforementioned wonder whisk and manically whisk your batter into shape.



Aaand we’re already at the last step! Pour in your orange zest and gently stir with the magic whisk until just combined.

This part is optional: You can either slice open one of your oranges and eat it, or you can squeeze the juice into the batter. Either way, finish by pouring your batter into your greased and floured pan.



Aww, isn’t it so cute??? Yup, I made Aditi the mini birthday cake up top. I personally found the shape just too adorable. It’s a star shaped cake!! 😀 What’s not to love??

The colour of this cake was just right for it too 🙂


Slide your pan of awesome into the oven and while they’re baking, clean up the mess you’ve made which hopefully shouldn’t be very much at all. While you’re waiting, slice open the other orange and sit down in your dining room.

Soon, the kitchen will smell mouthwateringly like the citrusy scent of fresh oranges. Tangy, but plump and juicy. Mmm… Try not to open the oven just to smell them. Or in my case, try not to open the oven for too long while trying to excavate the little star tin from the oven with a bit oven mitt on.


My star puffed right up in the oven so your cake might too, but don’t worry. It’ll deflate a bit once you take it out. I’m pretty amazed at how flat this cake is. There’s pretty much no levelling needed if you wanted to make a layer cake.

Take your prizes out of the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Take your sliced orange and squeeze all the juice over your cake. It’s amazing. I’m totally serious.  Let the cake stand for a while so all of that juicy goodness can soak into your cake to make it ultra-moist. Hooray for orange juice!




…And cut into this delicious cake with your favourite knife…It looks a lot like cheesecake, doesn’t it? I really love the browned sides. It makes the cake look like it’s so full of flavour 😀



The texture of the juice soaked part is kind of like a light Japanese cheesecake – super moist and soft. The cake isn’t overly sweet. I think it’s pretty damn cool that the cake is mostly only flavoured with zest.


Time to get down to business, so for those of you who are going to try this everyone, here’s the recipe:


Gâteau au yaourt et au orange

(Orange Yoghurt Cake)

Adapted from Foodbeam



  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 250g plain yoghurt (yaourt nature)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/8 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • zest & juice from 2 navel oranges


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in plain yoghurt.
  3. Pour in oil & eggs, beaten. Mix until combined and lump-free. (Optional: squeeze in the juice of one orange).
  4. Put mixture into prepared pan and bake 30-35 min or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Cool, then squeeze juice of remaining orange over the cake.

Serves 8