Banana Layer Cake (with your favorite frosting)

April 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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banana layer cake

I am a master procrastinator.  I should be spring cleaning my disaster of a closet right now.  Instead, I am blogging about cake…a cake that I made two days ago, when I was also off work and also should have been spring cleaning my closet.  Housekeeping gives me the blues, but cake makes me happy!

I always buy too many bananas at once, so I have this perpetual stash of them in my freezer, waiting to be turned into smoothies or baked with.  Although I want to make every single thing in the book Vintage Cakes, I figured I’d start with a cake that would put some of those bananas to use.  I’ve made one, no two, banana layer cakes here before, so forgive me if I seem like I’m repeating myself.  They’re all good….moist, and most definitely cake and not banana bread.

I think banana cake is a good match for lots of frostings…cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter.  I didn’t use the coffee walnut buttercream that is paired with this cake in the book.  Instead I frosted it with some leftover chocolate frosting that I brought home from work a couple months ago and stuck in the freezer.  It’s actually too sweet for my tastes, and isn’t a recipe I’d make at home (which is why I’m not providing it below), so I had to temper that sweetness a bit by rewhipping it with a little cream cheese and some instant espresso.  OMG, wait–I used bananas and frosting from the freezer…doesn’t that mean I did some spring cleaning after all?

Banana Layer Cake- makes an 8″ three-layer cake, serving 8-12
adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  I halved the recipe to make 6″ rounds.  They took a little less time to bake, about 24 minutes.  Frost it with your favorite frosting.

2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature

-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease three 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment circles.

-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk them together.  In a small bowl or a measuring cup, combine the banana with the buttermilk.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four.  After each addition scrape the bowl well.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.

-Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 – 30 minutes.

-Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.

-Fill and frost with your favorite frosting.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

March 19, 2013 at 1:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 20 Comments
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mocha chocolate chip cookies

I don’t think Rick Katz’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies are meant to be a before bed treat.  These are zippy!  Two to three tablespoons of instant coffee and a pound of chocolate may just keep you wired.  Too be honest, you could back off a bit on either of those and you’d still have a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

My dough looks dark compared to some others I saw online.  Maybe it’s because I used instant espresso instead of coffee, or because I used Billington’s molasses sugar (which is a bit stronger than regular dark brown sugar).  Anyway, I liked these a lot.  Pre-scooping the dough and then baking them straight from the fridge or freezer helps keep the cookies from spreading too much.  While I left out the suggested apricots, I used a mix of dark, milk and white chocolates because I’m crazy like that.  Also, ice cream–well, you can see what I did there.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Peggy’s Galettista Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Croissants (& Pains au Chocolat)

March 5, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, general pastry, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 27 Comments
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croissants (& pains au chocolat)

TWD’s crossing a biggie off the list this week– Esther McManus’s Croissants.  This probably qualifies as the most technically complicated recipe we’ve made so far.  Like puff pastry and Danish, croissants are made from a butter-laminated, or layered, dough.  This means a block of butter is encased in dough and repeatedly rolled and folded to create layers that puff in the oven (and flake in your mouth!).  Once you get over butter-shock, it’s really fun to make this kind of dough, and if you give someone a homemade croissant they will be seriously impressed by your talents.  Cool weather helps when making the dough, and so does leaving yourself plenty of time to let it rest in between rolls and folds.

I could not resist turning half my dough into pains-au-chocolat.  Dangerously good–now I remember why I don’t allow myself to buy them!  Next time I make croissant dough (that’ll be awhile since I still have like fifteen p-au-c formed in the freezer), I’ll definitely prep almond-filled ones.  Would have done it this time, but as usual I procrastinated and didn’t get it together to make the filling.  Also, I’ll cut my croissant triangles a bit bigger.  I wound up with ones that were only slightly larger than minis and I associate mini croissants with conference room party platters.  Although these were much better (and flakier) than any office-croissants I’ve ever had, and here’s proof…

croissants (& pains au chocolat)

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Amanda’s Girl+Food=Love. There’s even a video of Esther and Julia making the tart together).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

P.S.: For something totally unrelated, enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a copy of Breakfast for Dinner.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Boca Negra

February 19, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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boca negra

This Boca Negra isn’t the first super chocolaty cake I’ve made courtesy of Lora Brody.  Really though, this one is more like baked pudding than cake– it’s almost flourless, so it doesn’t really have a crumb.  It’s silky smooth, dense and at room temperature just barely holds shape (seriously, I destroyed the first piece I tried to lift up).  And has a good amount of booze to boot…the recipe calls for bourbon, but I used dark rum.

I made this in the food processor, rather than by hand.  It took barely any effort, and even less time, to make the batter.  I decided to cut back on the butter by a couple of ounces, figuring that it had enough chocolate, sugar, liquor and eggs to still be ultra luxe.  Along those same lines, I skipped the white chocolate cream that goes along with this one and just used plain, unsweetened whipped cream instead.  It helped cut the richness just a bit.  While the recipe recommends enjoying this at room temp, we really liked it about 15 minutes out of the refrigerator, when each piece was like a slice of the most decadent fudge.

I’ll make this again as an easy answer to a special occasion.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Cathy’s A Frederick Food Garden.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake

February 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 11 Comments
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Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  A perfect excuse to make something sweet and pink, not that I really need one.  I never need an excuse to make a Bundt either– I just love them!  This Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake seemed like just the right treat to make this year.  I know that cranberry season is gone, but if you’re like me, you bought a couple of extra bags during the holidays and threw them in the freezer.  When there’s not a lot of good fruit around, this comes in handy.

This cake uses a lush ingredient–crème fraîche.  You can make your own, but I just buy it.  It’s pretty easy to find now, even at TJ’s.   The crème fraîche gives the cake great structure and texture.  It also helps make it a great keeper.  The pockets and swirls of tasty cranberry sauce inside the cake ensure that each slice just as pretty as the uncut Bundt.  I liked the little bit of almond flavoring in the cake as well, but I’m sure it would be great without if you don’t have the extract or you avoid nuts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  xoxo

Don’t want cake, try coeur à la crème.

Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

Cranberry Crème Fraîche- makes 10 to 12 servings
adapted from Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil by Christie Matheson

Steph’s Note:  I buy my crème fraîche at the grocery store, but you can certainly make your own.  To do this, you’ll want to start at least a day before making this cake, and you’ll need 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk.  Combine the heavy cream with the buttermilk, cover tightly, and let sit at room temperature (in a warm room) for at least 8 hours. Stir the mixture– if it hasn’t thickened completely, cover the mixture again and let it sit in a warm place for another 2 to 3 hours and check it again. When it has a nice, thick consistency, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup (240 ml) crème fraîche
Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce (recipe follows) or 2 cups (450 g) canned whole berry-cranberry sauce
Cranberry Glaze (recipe follows)
1/2 cup (45 g) chopped toasted almonds or toasted almond slivers

-Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4). Brush the inside of a 10-cup (2.4 L) Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour and tap out the excess.

-Whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three increments) alternately with the crème fraîche (in two increments), beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until just combined.

-Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl half the cranberry sauce over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce, and then swirl the remaining cranberry sauce over the batter.  I tried my best to more or less keep the sauce from touching the sides of the pan and tube, just so there wouldn’t be any sticking. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out free of wet batter.

-Swiftly rap the pan on the counter once or twice right after pulling it from the oven…this will help the cake settle and release.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the almonds over the top.  The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Whole Berry-Cranberry Sauce (you can use 2 cups of a nice, canned whole cranberry sauce instead if you’d like)

12 ounces (340 g) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup (180 ml) water 
3/4-1 cup (150-200 g) granulated sugar, depending on sweetness preference 
1/4 teaspoon salt

-In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries with the water, sugar, and salt and cook for about 15 minutes (after about 10 minutes, remove about 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the cranberry glaze), or until the sauce has thickened and most of the liquid has reduced. Let the sauce cool completely before using it in the cake (you will need about 2 cups of sauce for the cake, so you may have a bit extra). The sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cranberry Glaze 

1 cup (93 g) confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (reserved from making the cranberry sauce)

-Mix the confectioners’ sugar and 1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (depending on your desired thickness) in a small bowl until smooth.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: French Apple Tart

January 22, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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French apple cake

I made Leslie Mackie’s French Apple Tart back in the fall, when I had heaps of pink-skinned apples from my CSA.   Good thinking, because the apples I’ve had lately haven’t been so great.  If the tart looks a little familiar, maybe that’s because it’s a sister to the Normandy Apple Tart we made in TWD 1.0 about a year ago.

This tart is easy to make, but it isn’t a quick throw-together.  Get prepared…you can do some of these things in advance.  You need pie dough, apple compote for the filling (this one’s made in the oven) and lots of thinly sliced apples to spiral on top.  It certainly is pretty, though, not to mention delicate and delicious.  Your friends will think it came from a pâtisserie.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Gaye’s Laws of The Kitchen.  It’s also here (and there’s even a video of Leslie and Julia making the tart together).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Rich Chocolate Cake with Salty Dulce de Leche

December 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 4 Comments
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rich chocolate cake with salty dulce de leche

So, Christmas came and went in a tinsel-strewn blur.  And now we are just about to say goodbye to 2012 and hang a new calendar on the wall…but first there’s one more party to throw.  New Year’s Eve is a night that calls for sparkle, like these Glitter Ball Cookies, or decadence, like this Rich Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche.

Here’s proof that decadence doesn’t have to be difficult.  This cake is easy to put together because it’s just a single layer.  It’s a dark devil’s food-style cake, so that’s really all you need.  And you can buy the dulce de leche, although I did make David Lebovitz’s homemade version (which, to be honest, is no  more difficult than opening a can). Some chopped nuts or crushed brittle add a little crunch, but even that isn’t totally necessary.  What is necessary, though, is sprinkling of salt– preferably a fancy coarse sea salt– so don’t skip it.  Salty and sweet, just like this year.

Happy New Year!  See you in 2013…

rich chocolate cake with salty dulce de leche

Rich Chocolate Cake with Salty Dulce de Leche- makes one 10-inch round cake
adapted from One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton

Steph’s Notes:  A half recipe will yield an 8-inch round cake that bakes in 30-35 minutes.  The authors suggest decorating this cake with crushed nut brittle, but chopped salty peanuts or hazelnuts would be just as good (and easier). 

for the cake:
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4  cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plain whole-milk  yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons  (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups  granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose  flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table  salt

for the topping:
1/2 cup dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
a few pinches of kosher salt, fleur de sel or Maldon
about 1/2 cup of roughly chopped, salted nuts or crushed nut brittle for decoration (optional)

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment round.

-To make the cake, pour the hot coffee into a medium bowl and stir in the  cocoa powder until it dissolves.  Stir in the brown sugar, followed by the yogurt  and the vanilla.  Stir thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are  incorporated.

-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat  the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light-yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and mix for 2  minutes.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer running on low speed, mix in a third of the flour mixture and half of  the coffee mixture.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add another third of the flour mixture and all the remaining coffee mixture.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using  \a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until all of the  ingredients are fully incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

-Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, rotate the pan at the halfway point, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out  clean.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20  minutes.  Run a knife around the edge, and then turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment, and  turn the cake back over onto a wire rack.  Let the cake cool completely.

-Put the cooled cake on a serving dish.  In a microwave-safe dish, heat the  dulce de leche on high power for 30 seconds, or until it is just liquid.  Spoon the dulce de leche over the cake, and then sprinkle the salt over the  dulce de leche.  If using nuts or brittle, sprinkle about 1/2 cup around the outer edge of the cake as a delicious decoration.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Finnish Pulla

December 18, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 27 Comments
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Finnish pulla

Oh my gosh–isn’t this loaf the cutest?!?  I’m not in the know with most Scandinavian baked goods, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Beatrice Ojakangas’s Finnish Pulla bread.  Never heard of it, but I was pretty pleased to discover this baby when it came out of the oven.  It’s a little bit buttery, a little bit sweet, a little bit eggy and scented with cardamom, one of my favorite spices.  Pulla is often shaped into a glorious braided wreath, but I made half a recipe, so I did a loaf instead.

The recipe didn’t suggest making the dough ahead of time, but I wanted to take care of it on Saturday night so I could have fresh-baked bread with jam for breakfast on Sunday morning.  I made the dough all the way through the shaping stage (it was a dream to work with in the cooler temps), then put my braided loaf on a parchment lined sheet tray, loosely covered it in plastic and stuck it in the fridge before I went to bed.  Early Sunday morning, I took it out and left it on the counter to come to room temperature for a little over an hour before I baked it.  Seemed like a good strategy.

Finnish pulla

Pulla reminds me of challah, but with cardamom and pearl sugar (which I bought at an IKEA in Jersey about a year ago and until Sunday had still never used).  I’m glad to have this recipe on my radar now, and I bet leftovers will make good French toast (or will that be Finnish toast??).  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Erin’s The Daily Morsel.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

December 4, 2012 at 12:02 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 22 Comments
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gingerbread baby cakes

What–December already?!?  Seems I am refusing to belive it, because every time I went to label the stuff I made at work today, I wrote “11/” and then had to turn that second one into a goofy two.  I feel not quite ready to tackle this month.

Johanne Killeen’s Gingerbread Baby Cakes should help me get into the December spirit.  These cakes may be little, but they are strong, with a spicy molasses, ginger and black pepper punch.  Espresso and cocoa add extra dark, bitter notes.  I want to say that I loved these, because they came out so darn cute, but really, they were too intense for me…too adult for my juvenile taste buds.  I don’t have baby cake molds, but I do have baby tube pans, which made a fine substitute.  I have two cakes left, and I’m thinking they will be cubed for a trifle with sweet cream and stuff to temper their spicy bite.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Karen’s Kitchen Stories (it’s also here).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Best-Ever Brownies

November 20, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 15 Comments
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Rick Katz’s brownies for Julia

It wasn’t until yesterday when I actually got cracking on Rick Katz’s Best-Ever Brownies, that I realized I’ve made this recipe before.  Back in Season 1 of TWD.  Only then they were called Rick Katz’s Brownies for Juila.  Different book, same recipe, same strange egg whipping technique.  I am cheaply recycling the photo, because I missed my light window both yesterday and today (curses to work!).

Well, there is one difference between the two recipes.  This version in Baking with Julia calls for 1/4 cup of extra flour.  I prefer it with that extra little bit of flour…I think it gives the brownies a bit more structure.  The batch I made yesterday looks the same as the one in the photo, but they are a little taller.  This time I made half a recipe and baked it in a 9″ x 5″ metal loaf pan lined with parchment for 30 minutes exactly.  Then I pulled them out of the oven to come to room temperature before I put them in the fridge to chill through.  I did the same thing the last time around, because I remembered this made the chocolate goo solidify into chew.  They were good brownies back then, and they are still good now.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Monica’s A Beautiful Mess.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD blogroll!

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