When it comes to cooking, financial consultant Renga Naidu believes in making everything from scratch, even vanilla extract.
On the shelf in the 59-year-old's pantry is a 200ml bottle of Grey Goose vodka with three split vanilla beans in it.
"It's more potent than storebought versions and you get much better flavour," she says, holding up the bottle filled with dark brown liquid.
The self-taught cook and home baker adds it to cakes for extra flavour.
She also makes her own yogurt, paneer or cottage cheese, mayonnaise and chutney.
The mother of two grown-up daughters, both of whom are doctors, has an extensive repertoire of dishes that ranges from salmon biryani and roast turkey to banana bread and macarons.
She shares an easy recipe for mini bundt cakes with diced peaches that one can whip up without the aid of an electric mixer.
On her approachable recipe - all the ingredients are mixed together in one go - she says: "Anyone can make this, even children. I want to make baking accessible to everyone."
She came up with the recipe, which makes about 48 6cm bundt cakes, for a charity event last year.
"The mini bundts were ideal for the event because old folks generally don't eat so much cake," she says.
Ms Renga, whose husband Lelah Venotha, 62, is a nursing manager at the Institute of Mental Health, has been teaching baking and culinary classes at Potong Pasir Community Club for the past 51/2 years. She is also vice-chairman of the club's Women's Executive Committee.
Indeed, giving back to the community is something that has been instilled in her since her school days at CHIJ St Joseph's Convent, she says.
Earlier this year, over two months, she conducted free biweekly hands-on baking classes in her home in Serangoon for less fortunate single and divorced mothers. About 100 women attended her baking sessions.
She feels that, through baking, she can help empower these women, many of whom cannot afford to buy treats such as cakes or cupcakes for their children.
She says: "The joy is in seeing these women happy, even if it is just for a moment. Money can't buy that."
MINI BUNDT CAKES WITH PEACHES
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 225g self-raising flour, sifted
- 70g semolina
- 225g caster sugar
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs (65g each)
- 1/2 cup milk or cream
About 6 large canned peach halves, drained and diced into 5mm cubes
1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
2. Put all the ingredients except the diced peaches into a clean mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed for one to two minutes until well-combined. If you do not have an electric mixer, you can mix the ingredients by hand with a whisk.
3. Each mini bundt tray has eight moulds that are 6cm in diameter. Grease the moulds with butter or spray them lightly with olive oil.
4. Spoon about 1/2 tsp of diced peaches into each mould. Spread out the fruit so the pieces do not clump together. Next, spoon cake batter into each mould, about 8mm from the brim.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. The cakes are done when a skewer inserted into their centres comes out clean.
6. Remove them from the oven. Leave the cakes to cool in the moulds until they are at room temperature. Unmould each cake carefully. Repeat with the rest of the peaches and cake batter.
Makes about 48 6cm bundt cakes.
Note: If you do not like peaches, use other fruit such as berries or grapes. If you do not have a mini bundt tray, you can use standard muffin trays or cupcake liners, which may take up to 30 minutes in the oven. Test the cakes with a skewer to check when they are done.
The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.