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&Sons bacaro

Bacaro = A traditional Venetian gastrobar, where people stop to enjoy a drink together with little plates of food (cicchetti is similar to the Spanish tapas, but think of it as a regional variation).

This idea of casual dining seems to be increasingly popular, with Morsi and Sorsi launched by Lino Sauro of Gattopardo not too long ago; and now &Sons by Beppe de Vito of il Lido. Opened last December in China Square Central, &Sons seems to already have a pretty strong following. I’ve been there quite a few times, and they are always packed to the brim. Then again, with a wonderful ambience, affordable delish cocktails, and absolutely stunning cicchetis, why wouldn’t they be?

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Proscuitto di Parma & Melon (S$12++)

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Proscuitto San Daniele, Pickled Pears (S$12++)

There are features that distinguish both kinds of cured meats. However my unrefined taste buds aren’t accurately able to decipher anything. That aside &Sons cures their own meat, and judging by their proscuitto they are really good at it. The pickled pears are an absolutely ingenious pairing, adding a tinge of sour to the commonly sweet and salty combination.

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Burrata, Asparagus Cream, Hazelnuts (S$15++)

Lightly dressed greens, a generous portion of fresh and creamy burrata cheese, rounded of with grounded hazelnuts and a drizzle of olive oil – perfection in a plate. The quality of the ingredients lends to a fresh and appetizing dish.

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Grilled Smoked Caciocavallo, Avocado (S$15++)

I was really surprised when I found out that what I ordered was simply cheese! Meaty and chewy, the caciocavallo was deceivingly similar to perfectly grilled calamari. The charred exterior gave the smoked cheese an interesting contrastive texture, hitting the simple ingredient up many notches.

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Tagliolini, Crab & Nduja (S$9++)

For those who don’t know, I first fell in love with contemporary European cuisine after an amazing dinner at il Lido. I was most impressed with the pasta I had, which so happened to be their then Lobster Tangliolini. So this dish was an absolute throw back in time. Al dente noodles, perfectly executed sauce, balanced by slightly tangy crumbles of cheese. Wonderfully executed.

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Spaghetti, Sea Urchin Carbonara (S$16++)

This carbonara perfected the fine line between decadent and overly creamy. All mixed up, the sea urchin cream just barely coats the al dente noodles. It’s like a good aglio olio, where the olive oil is just enough to make it really savoury and falling short of oily. With sea urchin being naturally creamy, &Sons achieved the perfect balance. Of course it also helps that there was a copious amount of crispy bacon bits.

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Tagliatelle, Truffle Pesto (S$12++)

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Wagyu Beef Tagliata, Salsa Verde (S$26++)

The wagyu was nicely seared and tender; a decent dish. Compared to the other dishes it was not much to scream about.

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Baccala Cakes, Sea Urchin Sabayon (S$13++)

These entirely charred balls are actually cod cakes. Break into it, the fresh, sweet cod pairs wonderfully with the creamy sea urchin sabayon. It is odd though that it’s so burnt on the exterior; wonder if that’s intentional?

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Foie Gras, Pumpkin Cream & Roasted Onions (S$18++)

An unexpected combination, this dish is yet another culinary surprise. The usual apples or citrus pairings are absent here; instead &Sons uses another textually similar complement. Yet it works. The sweet pumpkin cream and the roasted onions paired really well with the buttery foie gras.

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Gelato – Pistachio (S$5++)

Creamy, fragrant and bold, this is the real thing. &Sons’ amazing Italian gelato is a must-have.

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Salted Caramel Strawberry Jubilee (S$12++)

A rather ambiguous name, this is rather like an Italian’s eton mess: meringue, ice cream and strawberries all jumbled up into a sinfully delish dessert. The plump and fresh strawberries were the highlight. Not exactly salty nor adding a slightly burnt and smoky dimension, the salted caramel however fell flat. It would have been perfect if the salted caramel was more pronounced.

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Raspberry Zabaione (S$12++)

A light custard, this classic Italian dessert is presented similar to a creme brulee. Flame-torched with handful plump tart raspberries, it is a wonderful way to end the dinner.

&Sons may be new, but being set up by people well established in the F&B industry it is definitely the new kid to look out for. They have recently launched their lunch promotion, offering wonderful pastas (a much bigger portion) at S$8. With the nice ambience, wonderful service and great food, it’s definitely a must to dine at if you’re around the CBD.

&Sons bacaro
China Square Central
20 Cross Street
#01-09
Singapore
S(048422)
6221 3937

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The ‘Telephone’ Generation

I can’t count the number of times my dad said this to me in the week prior to this France trip, when I was still busy with preparations and all that; and I can’t count the number of times I firmly told him that no we can survive without our phones and no it is not an addiction.

I think I’m starting to sway a little. Probably because a day in Paris without data access is the epitome of a living hell. We were all pretty hyped about finally being in France. But the excitement soon died when we couldn’t get our hands on those prepaid 3G SIM cards. It didn’t help that we spent a large sum of the day searching for them.

At the airport
We were directed down to the first floor, then up to the third, and down again a total of 4 times. Groggy from the 13hour flight, drooling at the fresh pastries rolled into PAUL, and dragging our mega luggages – it all added to an unpleasant experience. Lucky or not we managed to snag 1 SIM to be shared amongst the 7 of us, which we later found out was made for iPads and could potentially ruin my phone. Yikes. On a side note, how inefficient is it that the airport does not carry these elusive phone cards?

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View from our apartment

Walking along the streets
It’s really odd how, try as we might, we never found a single tele shop. Not a telecom provider, provision shop or phone shop in sight. The smaller provision shops that we were told carried them, didn’t. With all 7 people latching on to that 1 SIM, we were pretty darn afraid of being separated.

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After 8 hours of having our hopes mercilessly crushed, we finally stumbled on Orange, one of the telephone providers! You’d have to be there to really understand the shift in mood. The absolute unadulterated joy we felt at holding a functional telephone. Suddenly everyone was super perky and up to take the world! We walked streets under the rain, singing songs, holding hands, being stupid. But extremely happy.

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Sad half-equipped tourists that we are.

In hindsight, we were never really cut off from the world though cause we had 1 SIM to share. And we weren’t really gona die outside cause we had cash, which meant getting lost wasn’t much of a problem what with the prepondence of cabs and all. But holding the phone that allowed us contact with everyone around the world seemed so important; even if we weren’t using the data connection, we all felt happy just knowing it’s within reach. I guess it’s a really psychological thing.

Needless to say after we got that data access, everyone walked with their heads bent, eyes locked to the screen, fingers running frantically over those electronic keys.

Maybe Dad’s right for once.

First ever cooking event: Tefal Chef Challenge!

After my half-a-year hiatus from blogging thanks to busy busy semester, I’M FINALLY BACK. With a major announcement.

*Drum rolls*

Ok the title kinda says it all.

I received an email a month or so back, from omy.sg asking for food bloggers to participate in this Tefal Chef Challenge thing. What we were expected to do, was to attend a cooking workshop, then come up with a recipe of our own, cook it with the 2 Tefal pans we’ll be receiving, then write a post about it and get people to vote for us! The pans we’re supposed to use and kinda review are from Tefal’s Comfort Touch pans series; specifically the Comfort Touch Sauté-pan and Comfort Touch Frypan. What happens if we win is we’d receive this Tefal Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker worth S$129 (beats me why it’s called fuzzy logic), and a lucky voter would win a Tefal Blendforce Triplax Blender & Chopper worth S$79.90.

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Other than the pretty cool free pans I would be receiving – for free I must add – I was thinking that this seems like a pretty cool thing to take part in! Besides I’d be able to meet some local food bloggers. So why not? Look out for updates on my progress on this challenge at http://blog.omy.sg/tefal-chef-challenge/!

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Pontini

Nestled at a quiet corner in Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Pontini is considered a fine dining restaurant in Singapore that serves authentic and rustic Italian cuisine. My first visit to Pontini was half a decade or so ago, back when I got my first taste of Italian and European cuisine. I left with a good impression of it then, but I’ve heard that their standards have declined since. So I was secretly glad that a new chef, Domenico Piras, had taken over the reins at Pontini and brought with him a new menu. That gave me an excuse to visit them once again with my parents.

Lightly dimmed and tinged orange, the restaurant emanates a very homely and warm feeling. I especially liked that the waiting staff were friendly, polite, and treated me with equal respect as to other customers. You know how some would give you a condescending look just because they think you’re a kid and don’t have the financial ability to afford their food? Hurmph. Oh and I have to apologise in advance, cause it slipped my mind to jot down the names and prices of the dishes we ordered!

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Complimentary bread: focaccia

This was no doubt one of the nicest focaccia I’ve eaten with regards to complimentary breads. The bread was extremely soft, fluffy, hot, and what I liked most was that the herbs really shone in the bread. It tasted wonderfully delish of rosemary. The staff were very attentive and quick to refill the bread, which as a bonus always came hot. Perhaps what is most impressive was that they served the breads with a variety of dips – olive tapenade dip, tomato salsa and olive balsamic emulsion – alongside the usual french butter.

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Pontini Pizza – with parma ham, mushroom, artichokes

Their pizza was as good as I remembered. Crisp crusts with a thin yet firm base, the pizza dough was a winner in itself. The combinations of ingredients were wonderful, with the saltiness of the ham standing in stark contrast to the earthy button mushrooms. I love how I could actually taste the smokiness of the wood-fired pizza.

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This scallop dish was one of the entrées we had that evening. Perfectly seared and accompanied by an olive tapenade, tomato salsa and fried basil, it was a wonderfully composed dish. The sweet, plump and succulent scallops were very much the star of the dish, and rightfully so.

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I still haven’t changed my mind about foie gras so I opted out from tasting this, but my parents and sisters loved it. Nicely seared and crisp on the outside, and Pontini made a good apple compote to go with it they said.

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When it comes to carpaccio, the one I’ve tasted at Waterfall Cafe easily tops the list. I must say that Pontini’s salmon carpaccio has superceded my expectations. The marinade was refreshing and delectable without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the salmon, and I love the addition of the shrimp roes.

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A classic you can almost never go wrong with, the success of this dish really falls back to the quality of ingredients used. It seems that quality is the one thing Pontini would not skimp on. The rock melon was huge and extremely sweet, and the parma ham was very fresh. What stood out was that Pontini’s rendition was elevated with the addition of some fig compote, which gave the dish a mellow and earthy dimension. Together with this unique presentation, this definitely outshines many of its competitors.

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It’s really hard for me not to gravitate towards any dish that has the words “seafood” and “stew” in it. Naturally this bouillabaisse shouted out to me from the mains menu. Served piping hot in that pot, the stew was warming, hearty, homely and comforting in every sense. It’s the kind of soup that you’d want to drink on a cold day, sitting around the fireplace with your family.

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I can’t really remember what this dish was all about, but it was a decent fish dish. My family loves fish, so as long as it is a change from the usual baked cod with mashed potatoes or purées we’d generally love it. What was interesting was the ratatouille it was served with. It really brings out that rustic Italian authenticity the restaurant boasts.

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Dad, the carb guy, likes the pasta. It was pretty well executed, but given the numerous wonderful pasta dishes I’ve eaten, there’s nothing much worth mentioning about this.

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Who ever said simple isn’t outstanding? This simple seared tuna steak with a lightly dressed salad was arguably the best main that we had that night. It was the juiciest tuna steak I’ve ever had in a contemporary european restaurant, and I must confess to loving every bite of it.

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We were much too full then to have any more space for dessert. So dad decided to order himself just one dessert for everyone to taste. A pretty decent moist and earthy carrot cake, with a wonderful sorbet and mango gelee accompanying it. It was more cake than carrot though, and I’d like to see more carrots in it to bring out the essence of a carrot cake.

We left with a wonderful impression of Pontini that night. Definitely not amongst the top players like Garibaldi, Otto or Oso, but Pontini has its charms and we’ll definitely be back for more.

Pontini
392 Havelock Road
Level 2 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
6233 1133

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Bao Today (包今天)

I’m a true blue dimsum and bao girl. So the headboard of Bao Today (包今天) couldn’t have been less of a blinking beacon to me. And unless you were born in the 21st Century, the pun of the name surely can’t have slipped pass you. It isn’t the first time I’ve bought something from Bao Today, but it’s the first time I’ve actually sit in their restaurant to order. Previous few times were all takeaways from their counter at Vivocity’s Food Republic, which were all pretty good they piqued my interest in the restaurant.

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They offer a much more extensive dining menu at their Marina Square restaurant which includes (of course) all-day dimsum, rice dishes, noodle dishes and beverages. While I didn’t order any noodles or rice cause my focus was on the dimsum, some items did seem rather interesting. Their claypot porridge and bamboo rice are but two of the few.

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My friends ordered this XO Sauce Think Think Noodles. 3 orders in fact. When I asked them why they would pay to eat instant noodles in dark soy sauce, which they can easily cook up at home under $5, they all said it’s a Hong Kong Cafe thing. And that most importantly it’s nice. I’ve never fancied them though so I can’t really comment on how delish they are.

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Seeing the pace my friends were ungraciously slurping up the noodles I believe Bao Today’s rendition must have been pretty good, or at least passable. What I liked was the presentation which made the dish look nice and appetizing, a cut up from the usual mishmash of its competitors.

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Of course the highlight of the meal weren’t the noodles, but these pretty babies. Oh my baby luscious Steamed Creamy Custard Baos. Before I go on about how they actually taste, let the pictures speak first.

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Absolute food porn.

I can’t claim to be a professional on custard buns cause I’ve not had much experience with them, but Bao Today’s custard bao is definitely one of the better ones I’ve tasted. Firstly they have the flowy-custard-wow factor which is absolutely essential. If it ain’t flowing, it ain’t custard buns. The buns arrived steaming hot, and the buns were extremely soft. The green tinge is not simply for show and you can actually taste a slight pandan fragrance biting into the bun. The custard itself was nothing short of amazing. It was burning hot, not oily at all, and most importantly it nailed the balance of salty and sweet. Unlike most commercial custard buns, which are more of the sweet custard, Bao Today’s custard buns were both salty and sweet at the same time. With its pandan bun and delish custard, this is one custard bun that definitely stands out from the crowd for good.

They say that Victor’s Kitchen has the best custard buns ever, so I guess with all the custz bun love now I’ll go check that out soon!

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Ming Ha Gok in Cantonese, these were really nice. Hot, crispy, and they were very generous with the prawn fillings.

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The Fried Radish Cake was well executed too. It had a really crispy exterior, with a slightly charred taste that helped prevent it from getting super jelak. The radish cake was very soft and really hot too.

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I can’t remember the names of this dish, but it was some scallop and prawn dumpling thing. I must say Bao Today uses really good ingredients. The scallops were real sweet and the wonderfully huge prawns were plump and fresh. The skin wasn’t too thick so it was quite good on the whole.

We also ordered their Shanghai Xiao Longbao. Sadly it was the worst xiao longbao I’ve ever eaten. The minced meat did not hold together when encased by the skin, so it felt like I was eating some random scattered minced meat. It was too fatty and it lacked the nice dumpling texture.

Out of the many dim sum dishes we ordered, their Har Gao/Steamed Prawn Dumplings deserve a special mention. Each dumpling had a really huge, plump and sweet prawn. The dumpling skin was also not overly thick, and together it was a superb dish.

However all the steamed dim sum dishes have to be eaten steaming hot, because all the skins of the dumplings started to stick to the wax paper at the bottom of the bamboo steamer after awhile. I got extremely annoyed trying to separate the dumplings from the wax paper, and eventually I gave up and scraped up the encased dishes to eat. Bao Today will definitely have to improve the quality of their dumpling skins.

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That being said, Bao Today’s dim sum was on the whole extremely well made, and I enjoyed this meal tremendously. I’d definitely return for more of those wonderful prawn dumplings, steamed buns (like the oh-so-awesome sesame bun and sesame chicken bun), and of course my favourite custard buns.

Bao Today
6 Raffles Boulevard
#02-234-236 Marina Square
6336 2237

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Nutella Bread Pudding

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This was the first ever bread pudding I ever made! Nutella of course, cause what can go wrong with nutella?

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Chocolatey decadent custard, but slightly spiced and elevated by the rosemary bread used, this bread pudding was absolutely heavenly. I love the combinations of rosemary and chocolate! It’s surprising how the sweet and savoury blend resulted in a kind of spiced chocolate. My sisters thought it was refreshing and kept the bread pudding from being jelak and boring after awhile, but they’d prefer a full blown chocolate one. Chocolate purists you see (:

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I really like the spiced-ish flavour though, so I’d probably use another savoury bread the next time I attempt this. I might mix it with some wholemeal bread too to give it a nuttier taste. On the whole though this recipe is a winner! A great and simple base recipe to work with.

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Nutella Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from Jaden’s Nutella Bread Pudding Recipe

3 croissants (preferably 1-2 days old)
3/4 cup Nutella
1/4 cup pecan halves
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugarpowdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Slice each croissant in half lengthwise then slather one side with Nutella. Put the halves back together to make sandwiches and cut into 2-inch pieces.

3. Add sandwich pieces and pecans to a small baking dish (suggested: 10-inch x 5-inch loaf pan).

4. To make the custard, add eggs, cream, vanilla extract, salt and sugar to a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

5. Pour the custard over the sandwich pieces then gently push down the bread so the custard starts to absorb.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes then remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for about 10 minutes until the bread pudding is golden brown, has risen slightly and the liquid has bee completely absorbed. Let cool and then sprinkle on powdered sugar to finish.

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A Carrot Cake, but which one?

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The problem with foodsurfing every day is that I end up bookmarking almost every wonderful recipe, or copy it down crazily like some mad woman. That kinda explains my 3 notebooks worth of recipes. The problem with having so many recipes is I have to make a note on which of the recipes I tried and which I hadn’t. The problem with cooking at a pace that far exceeds that of blogging is that I forgot which pictures refer to which particular recipe in which particular notebook.

That’s the problem I’m facing with this carrot cake that I made way back earlier this year. I forgot which of the sea of carrot cake recipes it follows!! So I have to go through the hazardous task of looking through my recipe repertoire to search for the recipe that looks and sounds most alike this one I made. It ain’t fun I can tell you that.

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If this is the correct recipe though – and I do believe it is – I remember that it was a good one indeed! After some adaptations, this recipe turned out to be the healthiest and most successful carrot cake that I’ve attempted thus far. Not that I’ve tried many that is! The very first carrot cake I made was an extremely healthy one that consisted of 5 ingredients, whose recipe I just realised I have not posted either, but was a tad too moist. My sister loved it that way though. I prefer my carrot cake soft, moist, yet fluffy like a normal cake. This cake hit the spot. It was a perfect balance of moistness and fluff! I’ll still be trying out other carrot cake recipes to see if they are as good, but as of now this is my favourite carrot cake (: assuming it’s the right recipe.

Carrot Cake (makes 1 loaf pan)
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (optional)
1/4 cup mix of cranberries and chopped dates (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Grease a loaf pan with olive oil and flour them.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend.

4. Whisk honey and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time.

5. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, macadamia, cranberries and dates, if using them. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack.

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