Saturday, April 2, 2011

Extremely Long Week

Every year in the March-April period, my family will have 3 birthdays to celebrate: my mum's in March; and my dad's and grandma's in April. During my mum's birthday last month, my grandma reminded us to get my dad a cake this year because he is turning 70. My dad hates cakes with whipping cream so I had this coffee yogurt nuts cake in mind. I had wanted to scrape plans for this cake after my grandma's passing last Sunday, but my mum asked me to go along with the original plans.

This is the first time I'm dealing with crumble cakes. It takes some effort to make the crumble and cake batter separately, but the steps are relatively easy. I bought a bottle of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract 2 weeks ago and only tried it out for the first time today.

I find the most challenging part to be to assemble the cake in alternating layers of crumble and cake batter. Some of the crumbles was disturbed while I was trying to spread the cake batter evenly, but overall, it still looked acceptable. Another challenge was the unmolding. The bottom most layer of crumble was very fragile so the unmolding had to be done very carefully.

I haven't tried the cake yet, so no comments on the taste yet until either tomorrow or Monday. Looks wise, this is still within expectations. The recipe was taken from From HHB's Coffee Yoghurt Cashew Nuts Cake, but I've halved it and baked it in a 6" pan instead. For convenience, I've copied most of the instructions and halved the ingredients below:


50g digestive biscuits (crushed)
25g walnuts, lightly roasted and chopped coarsely
25g light brown sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1g cinnamom powder (I omitted this)
25g butter, cold

Cake batter:
75g butter, soften at room temperature
50g caster sugar
1 eggs, lightly beatened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
100g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
75g plain yoghurt

  1. Mix crushed digestive biscuits, light brown sugar, chopped walnuts, cinnamon powder, instant coffee powder in a mixing bowl. With finger tips, rub in the cold butter until the mixture becomes crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Sift cake flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix in vanilla extract, salt and mix well.
  5. Add in the eggs gradually, mix well each time the eggs is added.
  6. With a spatula, stir in the cake flour/baking powder mixture. Stir until the flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
  7. Add in yogurt in a few separate additions, stir well each time the yogurt is added.
  8. Line the bottom of a 15cm (6") springform pan or a loose bottom pan with 1/3 of the crumbles. Spread evenly and press firmly with the back of a spoon.
  9. Add in half of the cake batter, spread evenly with the spatula. Sprinkle the top of the cake batter evenly with 1/3 of the crumbles. Add in the remaining cake batter, spread evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the remaining crumbles.
  10. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170deg for 30-35 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Remove cake from oven, let cool slightly and unmold. Allow to cool completely before slicing/serving.
  12. The cake can be left in room temperature or left to chill in the fridge. If allowed to chill, let the cake returns to room temperature before serving.

Finally, details regarding my grandma's passing will be written in the next section of this entry. It's going to be a very long one, so read it if you are extremely, extremely patient.

My maternal grandma had been relatively healthy. Except for minor ailments like hypertension, high cholesterol and occasional gastric problems, she is healthy enough to go shopping, cook and do some light household chores. Early last week, she complained of gastric problems that caused her to vomit in the middle of the night. She took some medicine for nausea but it did not get better. 

On thursday, it worsened and she decided to go down to the general practitioner right next to our place. The GP gave her some medicine for nausea and she took them but did not feel any better. Instead, it got so bad, she couldn't eat anything. 

On Saturday morning, my dad suggested going to the GP across the street which he usually goes to if he's not feeling well. My sister took her to see the him and he gave her a different set of medicine. She took them in the morning and went to rest. In the afternoon, she said her gastric was better, but she starting speaking incoherently, asking weird questions and unable to comprehend what we were trying to explain to her. She also complained of giddiness which we assumed was because she did not eat the previous day, which resulted in her having a lack of energy. Her state of confusion got slightly better at night. 

On Sunday morning, she was still in a slight state of confusion although her appetite had improved. My mum suspected her giddiness was due to hypertension, so she measured her blood pressure and results showed very high pressure of 180/61 even though she had taken medication for hypertension (which was prescribed my my grandma's usual doctor). My mum called the GP (the one right next to our place) and asked her about it. The GP, as usual, was very impatient and said that she was not responsible for the hypertension medication and asked my grandma to rest more. At that point of time, we were contemplating whether or not to send her to the hospital, but my grandma said it was not necessary since she was already feeling better, except for the high blood pressure and some difficultly to speak clearly. In the evening, her condition did not improve and we decided we would take her to consult the 24 hr clinic (since no other doctor was available on a Sunday) across the street to seek a third opinion after dinner.

While my mum was cooking dinner in the kitchen, she asked my grandma to start eating first while she finished up preparing the last dish. My sister and I were in our room when we heard the sound of breaking ceramic ware, followed by immediate screaming from my mum. We both ran to the kitchen to see my mum holding onto my grandma who was half-conscious and having a seizure. At that point of time, we were not sure if she choked on the food, or had a stroke. I called the ambulance while my mum and sister was trying to keep her awake. At one point in time, she lost consciousness and we had no idea if she was still breathing. I ran next door to get my neighbours for help because judging from the hysterical state of the 3 of us, I'm not sure if we could make the right decisions. A few minutes later, the medic called me and asked me about the state of my grandma, but I couldn't her answer her definitively because there were so many unknowns. She asked me if she had a stroke or she choked but honestly, I had no idea because I had never seen anyone who had a stroke or choked on their food. While waiting for the medics, I turned my grandma's room upside down, searching for her IC while the rest were in the kitchen trying to keep her awake. At that point of time, my dad came home and was shocked to see what was happening. After what seems like eons, the medics came and supplied her with oxygen and put her on the stretcher. While on the stretcher, she was very agitated and tried to say something but no words came out. Her eyes were wide open and filled with fear while she was trying to scream. The medic gave up on calming her down and wheeled her off to the ambulance. That was the last time I saw her alive.

At the A&E's resuscitation room, the young doctor came out to speak to use. She suspected a case of stroke and told us that they need to do a X-ray of the brain to confirm it. She also talked to us about the reatment and recovery of stroke patients, so at that point of time, we did not expect the worst. An hour later, the doctore called as and said that her condition was unstable. While they were taking her to do the X-ray, her condition deteriorated and her heart stopped. They took her back to the resuscitation room to do a CPR on her. Although the CPR did bring her back, her heart stopped again after the brain scan was done. This time round, the doctors said that they were unable to bring her back. The brain scan results did not show any signs of stroke. There was a slight swelling due to low sodium content in her blood, but the swelling was not enough to cause her death, according to the doctor. Even she was perplexed at how the condition deteriorated so rapidly. Since the cause of death was unknown, her body needed to be sent to the coroner's office.

The next morning, after hours of waiting, the outcome was that a post-mortem was not required, which was to our relief. We had opposed the idea of a post-mortem because it would be too painful for her and for us to know that the body had been cut up for examination. The final cause of death was reported as hyponatremia due to emesis caused by uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. She did full body check-ups on a yearly basis and did not have any history of diabetes. Even though we were doubtful of the cause of death, we just left it as it is. It made no difference in any case.

I never knew I can feel fear, grief, anger, disappointment, gratitude all at the same time. My perspective of some things have changed after this whole episode, especially things which I assumed and took for granted in the past, and things which I have only looked at from one perspective. I want to give special thanks to my sister's friends who stayed up till the wee hours of the morning with us. There were only 5 of us  (my 2 cousins, my uncle, my sister and myself) to take turns staying up for the night, while my parents took the late morning and afternoon shift. It was a real challenge for us to keep awake, so I am really grateful to them for bringing us supper and chit-chatting with us till 5 am even though the next day is a working day. Also thanks to ST who came all the way down, and our neighbours as well, who came down to pay respects to my grandma. As for my own disppointment, it will take some time to clear out...I hope.


  1. I am sorry to hear about what happened to your grandma. Do stay strong.

  2. im sorry to hear about that but i hope you stay strong! nonetheless, you bake the cake so nicely (: GREAT JOB!