Double Durian Whammy

One of the great things about living in Malaysia is the great tropical fruits we get. My favourite has to be mangosteens. Juicy and sweet and if the juice of the fruit gets on your white shirt, it leaves a purple stain that’s almost impossible to get out. I always end up a mess whenever I eat them; sticky fingers and juice dribbling down my chin. But it’s always worth it.

My other favourite: fresh tamarind. They’re a bit of an acquired taste but I discovered a palate for them in my childhood.

My family is pretty crazy about durian. I have a cousin who even owns a durian orchard and had sent a driver back to KL with the fruits, from an 8-hour drive away. My aunt used to eat durian for every single meal for days. I’ve seen my dad with bloodied fingers, sucking on the fruit without even realizing he’d hurt himself while trying to open the treacherous casing. Like I said, my family’s pretty crazy about durian.

People tend to either hate them or love them, but I’ve somehow managed to land on neutral ground. I don’t mind the taste but I don’t crave it. I don’t mind the smell but I hate it when my hands smell like those stinkbombs. My mother has recently discovered a fruit seller who would skillfully pry apart those thorny fruits and place their fibrous, sticky yet silky innards into styrofoam boxes for her. She has pretty much overdone the durian purchasing lately because with the toughest part of eating durians out of the way, the family can easily devour durian whenever they feel like it.

I do admit I have a pretty strange addiction to durian flavoured desserts. I love durian gelato and durian ice cream, they’re a great kick when I’m in Melbourne. There are a few types of great durian desserts in KL that are pretty amazing. Durian pancakes, which look like boring little golden squares are actually really think pancake with a whipped cream and durian mash filling. It’s fantastic. I wish I had visuals of this but unfortunately, you’ll just have to use your imagination or Google. Then there’s the chocolate durian cake from Just Heavenly bakery which my good friend Sheena introduced to me one balmy Chinese New Year day. It was so good that I bought a few pieces for my family to try and we’ve been buying them for any visiting relatives or friends, especially if they’re durian addicts. It’s basically two very thin pieces of chocolate sponge cake with a THICK durian mash filling between the layers and thick chocolate ganache coating. It is absolutely sinful but so good.

So with all the durian craziness in my family, I discovered a gorgeous little durian cake recipe in one of my mum’s really old recipe books by Ellice Handy. We have the Second Edition, which was published in 1960 so yes, it’s really old. The first time I made the cake, I was surprised by how fluffy and light it was.

Durian cake, the first time I made it.

Then I got thinking about how it’d be amazing to create a durian buttercream but I wondered how it’d work because the durian is a very fibrous fruit and even though I’d mash those suckers to death, there’d always be some stubborn stringy fibers left behind.

Durian cupcake with durian buttercream.

I made some durian cupcakes but with a extra durian mash than asked for (I wanted it to be potent!) and then I mashed some more durian for the buttercream. As expected, it was slightly fibrous. I add a tablespoon of hot water and continued mashing and the fibers seemed to dissolve a little. I continued adding hot water until I got the consistency I wanted and it was actually really smooth! Unfortunately, after whipping up a batch of French buttercream and adding the durian to it, I got a watery mess. The cream was so thin it would just leak out of a piping bag before I got the chance to pipe them! Panicked, I frantically searched eGullet for an answer to thicken French buttercream up to salvage about 230g of fresh durian. Thankfully, the suggestion to add unsalted butter until the buttercream firmed up was not a dud.

The buttercream was still a pretty horrific nightmare to pipe, though. There was still a tiny bit of fibers from the durian mash in the buttercream and it’d get caught on the smaller piping tips so I was only able to use the open star tip. Even in this instance, the fibers would get caught on the teeth of the tip and would disrupt the even flow of the buttercream and thus create a lopsided star. Sigh!

The super soft and fluffy cake with the overloaded-on-butter buttercream.

It was a massive hit with my family. My dad said it was even better than the Just Heavenly chocolate durian cakes because he always found them too rich and sweet for his liking whereas this was an intense, pure durian flavour. That’s pretty amazing coming from my dad because he’s easily one of the fussiest and harshest critics I know. Everyone I handed them out to commented on how intense the flavour was, which I took as a compliment because, well, intense durian flavour in cakes are hard to come by.

I’d say this was a moderately successful attempt at experimenting with durian and creating my own buttercream recipe from an idea. It’s always fun to see my crazy ideas come to fruition and ironing out the bumps that pop up. I find this method to be a better learning process than just following and executing the same old recipes, although my mother would tsk at such a statement especially in regards to baking recipes where slight deviations can wreck an entire recipe.

But hey, where’s the sense of adventure in that kind of thinking?

(Special thanks to Tina for once again helping me with the awful lighting in my photos and making them pretty for me!)


5 Comments on “Double Durian Whammy”

  1. Hanna says:

    I Hope you open a shop soon cos I’m dying to ty out a lot of your creations!! :)

  2. Oh, durian, tamarinds, and mangosteens! Sadly, where I’m at in Canada, I’ve only found tamarinds in boxes and whole durians in the freezer. But we’ll see what my Chinatown holds in the summertime ;]

    I commend you for baking a durian cake, ahah, I still haven’t attempted it yet. I like how you’ve baked the cake with actual durian in it, and not with durian extract or call it durian cake when only the frosting’s durian (as found in my recipe searches). Your foods look delicious.

    You know what’s fun sometimes? Nom on some durian candies and then breathe on a friend who hates it. They have funny reactions.

    • heysugar says:

      Thank you! I’ve found frozen durian over here in the Asian grocers, so you may be lucky in Canada as well! I find the fresh ones lacking the pungent smell of a truly stinky durian and we all know the scent is about 50% of the enjoyment of the fruit ;)

      I must say, that this cupcake recipe was absolutely ridiculously FULL ON durian. I don’t think I could handle more than 3 in a day, although I did gorge on this a fair bit and suffered from a sore throat a few days later! And of course, my breath and the burps that kept coming up were enough to keep everyone a good 5-feet radius from me at all times :P

      Thank you for all the kind comments, I’m actually reading through your blog right now as well!

  3. Li says:

    Wow, those look absolutely delicious! Any chance you could share that durian cake recipe, please? :D