08 August

Campfire Cupcakes with

Mini Toasted Marshmallows

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Highlander likes camping but Islander prefers “glamping” (or rather just staying home to cook and blog). Although it has been a while since Highander went out with his buddies on a camping trip, Islander recalls that he would return home late at night and smell smoky. He and his friends had enjoyed sitting around a campfire catching up with stories, singing songs and cooking over a campfire, including toasting marshmallows. “Glamper girl” just toasts her mini marshmallows using a culinary torch in the comfort of her own kitchen and does not smell like smoke afterwards! Highlander the “happy camper” says that toasting jumbo marshmallows over a real roaring campfire is a more fun, social and natural experience and that she is missing out!

Whether over a campfire or by butane torch, the toasty taste of melted ‘mallows is still yummy! As summer vacation and camping season start to wind down, one can continue to go “glamping” in the great indoors and toast marshmallows for some cute campfire cupcakes, especially on National Toasted Marshmallow Day.



  • Chocolate cupcakes (any favorite from-scratch recipe or boxed cake mix)
  • Buttercream frosting (yellow, orange and red)
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Mini marshmallows


Bake and cool chocolate cupcakes.

Make frosting. Divide into three bowls. Tint each with yellow, orange and red food coloring/gel color.

In a large piping bag with tip 1M, fill with each of the three frosting colors. Or use three piping bags with a specialty coupler like Wilton Color Swirl 3-Color Coupler. Pipe swirls.

Position four pretzel sticks on top of the frosted cupcakes. Set aside. Put two mini marshmallows on toothpicks. Carefully use a culinary torch to toast the marshmallows. Place on a Styrofoam holder and continue to toast the rest of the marshmallows. Finish topping the cupcakes with the toasted marshmallow sticks.


  • Thanks to Olga W. for gifting us with the culinary torch so we could make crème brulee as well as toasted marshmallows.
  • Thanks to Karen B. for suggesting this campfire cupcake decorating technique for our blog post.

Baked Bao (with Char Siu Filling)

August 22: National Bao Day

In a previous post, we blogged about steamed char siu bao (also known as manapua in Hawaii). Islander’s brother, Kahuna, prefers the baked version so we are featuring the recipe here for National Bao Day. He thought that the steamed bao could just be baked but the dough is different, although both can be fried as well.

When he came to visit and stay with us during spring break, Islander had pre-made the filling and roux the day before he arrived and prepped the dough in the morning so it could rise while they were out enjoying the day together. By the afternoon, they assembled the bao, then took their power naps (!) during the second rise. They baked the whole batch for dinner and everything was ready when Highlander came home from work. Only a few leftovers remained, which Kahuna packed for the plane as a souvenir/snack.

The process to make baked bao looks long and laborious. But when making manapua (and memories) with loved ones, it is definitely quality time spent together and everyone enjoys the fruits of their labor. So bake some bao for National Bao Day.


(Adapted from China Sichuan Food)

For the char siu filling

  • 2 cups char siu, diced finely
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


Chop up the char siu into tiny squares. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, mix the water with the cornstarch. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Stir in the hoisin sauce and sugar until smooth and thickened. Add the char siu and mix well. Set aside to cool (or transfer to a bowl, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight until ready to use).

For the roux

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water


In a small saucepan, combine the flour with water. Keep stirring over low heat until the mixture is thickened. Place the roux in a cup, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before making the dough.

For the dough

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 ½ tablespoons butter, room temperature

For the egg wash and topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • toasted sesame seeds


Before making the dough, make sure that the roux is at room temperature for half an hour and is mixed well. In a stand mixer using the dough hook, place the roux, milk, sugar and salt.

Then add the bread flour, cake flour and yeast. Knead the dough at slow speed for 10 minutes.

Ad the butter and continue kneading on medium speed for another 10 minutes until the butter is well incorporated. Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool oven until the dough is doubled in size (depending on the weather, this might take between 2-5 hours).

Remove the dough onto a clean, floured surface. Roll and cut into 8-12 pieces (depending on size preference). Take one portion of the dough and roll out into a disc.

Scoop 1-3 tablespoons of the char siu filling (depending on the prefered dough size) into the middle of the disc. Gather the edges and twist to seal. Turn into over and place on lightly greased baking sheet at least two inches apart.

Repeat the process for the other bao. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise for another hour or until the dough has doubled in size again. Make the egg wash by beating the egg with water. Brush on top of the bao.

Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then serve on a tray.


  • Refrigerate leftover bao in a closed container. They are best reheated in the oven for a few minutes rather than in the microwave to retain a softer texture.
  • See our steamed manapua recipe here.

Manapua (Char Siu Bao)

(BBQ Pork Buns)

August 22: National Bao Day

Wow for “Bao”! The animated short film from Pixar won an Oscar in February 2019, the first for a female and Asian creator Domee Shi. The cute, little movie is about a Chinese empty-nester mom who misses her son so much that she dreams that the baozi (bun) she makes is actually her boy. Watch an edited version of the Academy Award-winning film below:

Islander’s Mommy used to make bao for the family, too, with shredded shoyu (soy sauce) chicken or different savory fillings. Her Filipino version is called siopao, derived from the Chinese char siu bao, which is typically filled with an auspiciously red-colored chopped barbecued pork. In Hawaii, this ‘ono (delicious) bao is known as manapua.

Now that Mommy is an empty-nester herself and nearing her eighties, she rarely makes them anymore and simply buys a few manapua from the trucks, bakeries or grocery stores on Oahu for herself and Daddy.

But Islander wanted to learn and continue the tradition and make fresh, homemade manapua as it has become a special ritual for her and her ‘ohana (family) to stay connected to each other and their culture. It may be a little time-consuming to make these little dumpling buns, but it gives everyone some time to “talk story” and spend quality time together.

Take inspiration from “Bao”, the Oscar movie, and make memories—and manapua/siopao/bao—for a delicious snack, especially on National Bao Day!


(Adapted from “Dim Sum Made Easy” by Lucille Liang)

For the dough

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (added after the first rise)

For the char siu (barbecue pork) filling

  • ½ – ¾ pound Chinese-style barbecue roast pork, chopped finely
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tapioca flour/starch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • red food coloring (optional)


Make the buns by placing the flour in a large mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over the stove until warm. Remove from the stovetop. Stir in the sugar to dissolve.

Stir in the yeast mixture into the milk mixture. Slowly pour everything over the flour and mix well. Knead to form a soft dough. Cover with a damp cotton towel or cloth. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two or more hours until it is doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the pork filling by chopping it finely into tiny squares. Set aside. Pour water into a small saucepan and place it on the stovetop. Mix in the flour and tapioca starch.

Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Heat on medium and stir until thickened.

Add the chopped pork and mix well. Stir in some red food coloring. Remove from the stovetop and let the filling cool. Cut out two-inch squares of wax paper. Lightly oil it. Set aside.

Place the risen dough on a clean, lightly floured surface. Punch down and fold in the baking powder, kneading for another 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and softer. Sprinkle occasionally with flour to prevent from sticking. Roll out the dough into a long sausage shape about 1½ inch thick.

Divide and cut into 20 pieces. Roll into a ball. Flatten the ball into discs with a rolling pin.

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle. Gather up the edges, twist and seal the bottoms. Place seam-side down onto a greased wax paper square. Continue assembling the other buns and place on a baking sheet.

Cover the buns with a damp cotton towel or cloth. Let them rise for another half hour. In a lightly greased steamer, place the buns a few inches apart. Cover and steam above boiling water for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the lid of the steamer and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve hot.


  • We tried making the traditional twisty tops like the one in the “Bao” Pixar animated short film but prefer the smooth rounded shape instead (it is also what we are most used to but still tastes ‘ono).
  • We made our char siu barbecued pork filling the day ahead of assembling the manapua. Refrigerating the filling allows it to be less “wet” and is easier to scoop into the flattened dough.
  • The filling used in the “Bao” movie is seasoned ground pork and scallions instead of chopped char siu. Here is the link to Domee Shi’s mom’s recipe.
  • We used both a bamboo and stovetop steamer but prefer the former as the wood absorbs more moisture and won’t drip some condensation water on the smooth manapua tops when lifting the lids.
  • Steam and cool all the manapua. IF there are any leftovers, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze in a zipper top bag. Re-steam for 15-20 minutes. Steaming instead of microwaving keeps the buns soft.
  • There are different kinds of manapua with various sweet or savory fillings. The buns may be steamed or baked—and even fried! But each dough is different for steaming, baking and frying.

Mary Queen of Heaven Cake

August 22: Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Hail, Holy Queen! Mary Queen of Heaven was the inspiration for the cake we made for a prayer party at a Catholic university in South Texas where Islander’s brother ministers/works/lives on campus. The sparkly accents reflect her regal splendor while the white cake symbolizes her virginity and purity. The contrasting blue cake balls inside represent the precious baby boy, her son Jesus, whom she carried in her womb.

Many honorific titles are given to Mary. This down-to-earth maiden who was chosen to be the Mother of God had a great responsibility, which she accepted gracefully. For her love and sacrifice, she is both humbled yet exalted. Likewise, our Mary Queen of Heaven cake is simple yet elegant. But it was appropriate for our celebration during the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.


For the blue cake balls


In a bowl, combine the cake mix, water, oil and egg whites. Blend until the batter is smooth. In a greased cake ball/pop pan, fill the wells with the batter. Secure the top part of the pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Cool and remove from the pan. Trim the excess from the cake balls.

For the white cake


Line two 8-inch round pans with waxed paper. Mist with cooking spray. Arrange blue cake balls in the pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the white cake mix, water, vegetable and egg whites. Blend until smooth. Divide batter into two. Pour over the cake balls in each pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool completed. Slice off the top mound to make the cake even. Smear a cake board with a little vanilla buttercream. Invert the cake onto the board.

Frost the top and sides with vanilla buttercream. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent the fondant from sticking. Roll out 1/8 inch thick and large enough to cover the cake.

Smooth the fondant on the cake and trim away the excess. Position the decorations on the cake (crown, initial M and rhinestone ribbon). Place the cake on a pedestal. Slice and serve.


  • We used two blue cake mixes to make several cake balls. We used two white cake mixes to make two 8-inch cakes and one 10-inch cake.
  • Try changing the color combinations of the cake mixes for different occasions.



August 21: National Spumoni Day

Another hot summer day calls for a cool dessert like spumoni, a colorful confection created by the ever-clever Italians with three layers and flavors of gelato (or ice cream). Similar to Neapolitan ice cream with its pink (cherry or strawberry), vanilla and chocolate layers, spumoni, which is the plural form of spumone, derived from the word “foam”, consists of cherry, pistachio and either vanilla or chocolate Italian ice cream flavors. Some have fruit and nuts between the layers.

We chose to make our spumoni with the fruit and nuts already embedded in the gelato. And we combined pistachio, vanilla (instead of chocolate) and cherry flavors to make a pastel version of the Italian flag.

Have a slice of simple spumoni during the summer and on National Spumoni Day.



  • Pistachio gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Vanilla gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Cherry gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Red food coloring


Line a large loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending over the sides so that it is easier to lift out when unmolding the spumoni. Spread the softened pistachio gelato or ice cream as the bottom layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. Spread the softened vanilla gelato or ice cream on top of the pistachio layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. In a large bowl, stir the softened cherry gelato or ice cream with a few drops of red food coloring until it turns pink. Spread this on top of the vanilla layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the top plastic wrap. Grab the plastic wrap from the sides and lift out the entire spumoni and unmold onto a cutting board. Slice and serve immediately.


  • Canada’s National Spumoni Day is on November 13.
  • Neapolitan ice cream is also of Italian origin (Naples). Inspired by the colors of pink, white and brown, we made macarons and a rosé wine-chocolate naked wedding cake.
  • Search our blog for other ice cream recipes.


Black Cherry Sparkling Ice Pops

August 26: National Cherry Popsicle Day

When an unbearably hot summer day is even more humid and hazy, we feel especially lazy and crazy and just want to stay indoors, blast the air conditioner and cool off with a frozen treat such as cherry popsicles. They aren’t as heavy like cherry ice cream but they are simply light frozen juice on a stick.

We dragged our lazy bums to the kitchen to make something minimal in observance of today’s food holiday with a cheap, plastic popsicle mold from the dollar store and a single bottle of fizzy black cherry-flavored beverage (we used Sparkling Ice brand because it literally sounded cool). Black Cherry Sparkling Ice Pops were nearly an effortless treat to make and post on our blog for National Cherry Popsicle Day.



  • 1 bottle of cherry flavored juice/beverage (sugar powder mix, bottled concentrate or flavored vitamin water)


In a plastic popsicle mold, pour the cherry juice/beverage into the wells, leaving about half an inch from the top. Close the mold with the popsicle stick covers. Freeze for several hours until firm. Unmold. Enjoy frozen.


  • Watch Nat King Cole sing about “Those Hazy Lazy Crazy Days of Summer”, the title track of his 1963 album.

Solar Eclipse Sugar Cookies

August 21, 2017: Solar Eclipse Across the USA

On July 11, 1991, Islander was able to experience a solar eclipse in Hawaii. The path of 100% totality was over the Big Island, but 96% over Oahu was still a good percentage. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day so the moving rain clouds kept interrupting the views for everyone, even at the observatories with the telescopes. Islander woke up at 6:30 a.m. (okay, NOT a morning person!) and started watching the TV news for coverage about the eclipse. Almost an hour later, she went out in the backyard, put on her sun peepers (79 cents at 7-11 convenience store) and watched the heavens above. At 7:28:48 a.m., the sky became dark gray, almost like dusk. Four minutes later, the sun peeked out again after the moon slowly finished crossing its path and a beautiful morning continued on to become another blessed day.

Today we experience partial totality in Texas at approximately 1:17 p.m. Highlander is working at that time but Islander baked cookies for his co-workers to commemorate the rare occasion that a solar eclipse happens across America. The last time it occurred on the mainland was on February 26, 1979; the next one will be on April 8, 2024.

Along with these solar eclipse sugar cookies, we are snacking on Sun Chips, Moon Pies and Moon Cheese, eating chicken salad “crescent” roll sandwiches, drinking Capri Sun apple juice and Sunny D orange juice and chewing Eclipse gum. These fun foods all make for a memorable meal when celebrating the solar eclipse!



  • Sugar cookie dough (we use the recipe from Kitchen Lane)
  • Yellow fondant
  • Black or dark chocolate fondant


Make the sugar cookie dough. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Use a circle cookie cutter to cut out cookie shapes. Bake and cool.

Decorate the round sugar cookies by rolling out yellow fondant 1/8 inch thick. Use the same circle cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Brush water on the top of a round cookie and place a yellow fondant circle on top. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out black or dark chocolate fondant 1/8 inch thick. Using the round cookie cutter, cut different shapes according to the partial moon shadows (quarter, half or ¾ full crescents). Brush water on the back and position it on top of the yellow fondant. Arrange in phases to show the gradual eclipse movements.

Bonus Recipe: Gold Star Cookies


  • Extra cookie dough
  • White fondant
  • Clear extract (almond, lemon, etc.) or vodka
  • Gold edible powder/non-toxic luster dust


With the extra cookie dough from above, roll out to ¼ inch thick. Use a small star cookie cutter to cut out star shapes. Bake and cool.

Roll out white fondant 1/8 inch thick. Use the same star cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Brush water on the top of a star cookie and place a white fondant star on top. Mix a little extract or vodka with gold edible powder. Brush over the star cookies. Let dry. Serve with solar eclipse sugar cookies.


  • Also appropriate for a solar eclipse celebration are cinnamon-pecan crescent cookies and brown sugar shortbread star cookies.
  • We also made some silver crescent moon cookies in the same manner as the gold star cookies above. We just substituted the colors and cookie cutter shapes. Combine these with the solar eclipse cookies for a celestial celebration!

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