Nov 29, 2012

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Filling & Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Happy 1st Birthday Blog!  I cannot believe how fast this year flew by.  I also cannot believe I didn't blow up like a whale baking all these desserts.  Want to know the secret?  I get the sweets out of the house as soon as possible.  Sharing is caring.  Sharing also means you don't need stretchy pants.  I think it may also have to do with the fact that I have become overly exposed to sweets so you tend to lose the 'oh-I-must-finish-this-before-anyone-asks-for-a-bite' mentality.  I am also a big believer in moderation.  I hate the guilt you feel after consuming large amounts of anything...except alcohol...booze is fine and in it's own category.

To recap, here's a run-down of what I've learned in my first year of experimentation and testing new recipes that I may have never attempted in the past:

Never, ever turn your back on caramel boiling on the stove.  That b*itch will turn on you in a second.  I still have burned caramel that I CANNOT get off the range.  I even tried grill-degreaser...nada.  It's with me for life.  Or at least until we move.

All chocolate is not equal.  Ikea chocolate is bad, bad, news.  Ikea is for dorm room furniture and cheap ice cream cones, and that's it.  My new favorite brand of chocolate I tested this year is Vivani.  Not only is it organic but it had such a pleasant mouth feel and taste.  It melted beautifully and really did offer a over-all better quality to my desserts.  (If you live in Dubai, you can find Vivani at Organic Foods or Geant in the health foods isle.)

The same goes for high quality heavy cream.  President is best.  When whipped, this cream will hold for days.  And days.  And more days.  Because of it superior quality often times I don't even add sugar when whipping as its decadent taste and 'fluffiness' stands on its own.
When a cake recipe tells you 'allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert on to a wire rack to finish cooling' DO IT!  You may think to yourself  'the pan is still too hot, I don't want to rip my cake by trying to remove it yet.'  Let me tell you, you are just plain wrong my friend.  If you allow the cake to cool for too long, the butter you used to grease the pan will start to harden again, acting like glue and your cake ain't goin' no where.  *there is a trick to fix this if it happens to happened to me with this banana cake actually.  Simply put the cake back in the oven for a few minutes to re-melt the butter.  Say a prayer, then try to remove the cake again.  Good luck.

My kitchen scale has now become my BBF.  I didn't even own one until I started this blog.  Now it's the first thing I pull out when I start a recipe.  However I mostly use it to measure out butter as the butter sold here doesn't come in handy 1/2 cup sticks like we have in the US.  But I do also use it to weigh chocolate and also when I'm baking layer cakes to confirm the pans are equal. 

And some memorable moments of the past year:

I was baking a pie, maybe the Chewy Nut Tart, and had to line the crust with dried beans to do a 'blind bake' before adding the filling.  My husband walks in the kitchen as says 'oh, bean pie, huh?' silly husband, he was totally serious.

After spending a day in the kitchen making God knows what, I finally go plop on the sofa next to the hubby to relax and he says to me 'you smell like cake.'  Well, it could be worse.

After realizing I was short on chocolate while preparing ganache, I made a quick mad dash to the store to pick up supplies.  It wasn't until I was on way home that I realized I had melted chocolate all over my cheek.  Nice.  Yes, I do lick the spoon.  Only once I'm done with it, of course.

My son Mateo, who is now 18 months can say cookie.  And cake.  I am trying to teach him 'Martha Stewart' but that's probably too many syllables.  And lastly, the other day at the grocery store we were next to the bakery counter and he pointed to a cake and said 'mamma.'  Damn straight.

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Filling & Chocolate Ganache Frosting (aka Bananas Cake)
Makes one 8" cake with three tiers
printable version


For the Cake:
3 cups cake flour (or 3 cups all purpose flour MINUS 3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon well shaken buttermilk

For the Peanut Butter Filling:
2 ounces unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (60-72%), finely chopped
8 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the Ganache (to be poured on top of the chocolate ganache frosting):
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Chopped salted peanuts for garnish


To prepare the cake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans.

Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Here is a little trick to help speed up cutting out all those circles. First, trace the bottom of your pan: 

Then fold the paper in half, lining up either side of the circle.

Fold into quarters, again lining up the edge of the circle.

Simply cut along this one line and that's it! 

Butter the parchment paper and then dust with flour and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Whisk to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (the mixture will appear to string or ribbon throughout the bowl).  Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 10-15 seconds after each addition, until the egg is incorporated into the mixture.

Turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla and bananas, and beat until incorporated.  (If the mixture appears curdled, keep beating slowly until the mixture looks like it is coming back together.) 

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds. 

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat 10 to 15 seconds, or until incorporated after each addition.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and use an offset spatula to smooth the tops.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 35-45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment.

To prepare the chocolate ganache frosting, place both chocolates in the bowl of a standing mixer. 

In a small saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil, then remove from the heat and immediately pour the mixture over the chocolate.  Let stand 2 to 3 minutes. 

Starting in the center of the bowl and working your way to the edges, whisk the chocolate mixture by hand until it is completely smooth.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Returning the bowl to the standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, gradually add the butter to the chocolate mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  The frosting should be completely smooth and have a silky look. 

To prepare the peanut butter filling, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth.  Add the peanut butter and beat on medium low speed until just combined. 

 Sift in the confectioners sugar and the vanilla.

Always sift your confectioners sugar.  These are the lumps that would have went into the mix had I not sifted!

Beat until smooth.

Assembling the cake

Trim the top of the first cake layer to create a flat surface.  I used Wilton's Cake Leveler to do the job.  You can control how much to trim off the cake and it guarantees each layer will be the exact same height.  Trim remaining two layers before proceeding.

Place one cake layer on your serving platter (however I recommend using a disposable cake board under your cake to allow transferring the cake from the serving platter to a cake saver MUCH easier).

Evenly spread HALF the peanut butter filling on top of the first cake layer. 

Top with 1 1/4 cups of the frosting and gently smooth it out. 

Add the next cake layer, spread with the remaining peanut butter filling and top with another 1 1/4 cups of the frosting. 

Add the third layer.  Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up.  (This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) 

Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting and refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm it up.

Meanwhile, to prepare the ganache, place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the bowl of a double broiler over medium heat.  Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.  Remove the bowl from the water and stir the glaze to release excess heat.

Make sure your taste-tester is never too far away to check for quality control.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the cake on a wire rack on the baking sheet.  Slowly pour about 3/4 cup of the warm glaze over the cake.  Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges.  Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze.  Remove from the fridge and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake.  It should run down the edges in a thick stream.  You should be able to control the size and length of the streams by how quickly you pour.  Garnish with the salted peanuts and chill the cake for about 20 minutes or until the glaze is set.

Serve at room temperature.  The cake can be stored at room temperature, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver, for up to 3 days.

recipe from Baked Elements 

Nov 23, 2012

Pumpkin Mousse & Spice Cake Parfait

Ok, so yes I'm giving you a Thanksgiving dessert recipe the day AFTER Thanksgiving, but that is only because I had to make these for the holiday.  And unlike typical trifles, these are eaten immediately, and do not need to be chilled over-night.  But I am positive you've made something amazing for Thanksgiving (or at least bought something that looks amazing and put it in your own dish, voile!...I have no beef with that, it's our little secret). 
However, let's clarify something about pumpkin.  Pumpkin-inspired recipes are synonymous with autumn.  Which is totally unfair to this gorgeous gourd.  It's like saying chocolate is only for Valentine's Day...ludicrous if you ask me.  And if I remember clearly, I heard on the Today Show....yes the Today is no longer passe to wear white after Labor Day.  So there.  Pumpkin and white trousers year round.  Whoo-friggin-hoo.
This recipe, like most other pumpkin dessert recipes calls for canned pumpkin.  Fortunately nowadays pumpkin of the canned-variety is available all year long.  Most chef's and cookbook authors will agree (I know because I googled it) canned pumpkin is much tastier, consistent in texture, and down right easier to work with than hacking up and peeling/cooking a fresh one.  Who has time for that? 
Finally, I let my husband be the first to sample these parfaits, and his exact words were 'isn't this for breakfast?'  I guess he has just gotten used to my overly-laden with butter/sugar/heavy-cream-soon-to-give-you-clogged-arteries-but-it's-kinda-worth-it desserts that he doesn't recognize a lightened-up treat when he tastes one.  So yes, this dessert is very, very, light.  Like eating pumpkin air.  Mostly due to the addition of whipped cream in the pumpkin mousse.  But I would think after devouring a heavy meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, this would be a welcoming treat.  Or, just eat it for breakfast.
Pumpkin Mousse & Spice Cake Parfait
makes 6-8 single serving parfaits, depending on your glass size

For the pumpkin mousse:
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin powder
1 (15 ounce.) canned pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups well-chilled heavy cream

For the spice cake:
4 tbsp. (2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the brandy syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy or cognac (I used Cointreau which went beautifully with the pumpkin)

For the toasted pecans:
½ cup pecan pieces (I used slivered almonds since I wasn't able to find pecans.  They were just 'ok' would definitely recommend using pecans though)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the topping: (I topped with fresh, whipped cream.  However you can also top with ice cream, your preference)

whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 pint caramel ice cream


To prepare the mousse, put 1/4 cup cold water in a small heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water.  Be sure to actually sprinkle the gelatin and not just dump it in to avoid clumps. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.


Meanwhile, set the bowl of softened gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear.

Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin/gelatin mixture. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To prepare the spice cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and then line bottom of 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at each end. Grease the paper with butter.  I use a plastic baggie as a glove to make things easy.

Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth (I used a coffee filter, also works great). In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Do not stir, but watch carefully. Eventually, solids will drop to bottom of pan. When they are dark brown, remove butter from heat.  

Strain through cheesecloth (or coffee filter) into a medium bowl. 

*If you're using a coffee filter you might notice the butter will s l o w l y make its way through the filter, this is normal. I gave the filter a gentle twist once it was almost empty to push the last of the butter through. 
Set aside and let cool until lukewarm.

In the metal bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together eggs and sugar to combine. Set bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to touch, about 3 minutes.

Return bowl to mixer base. Using whisk attachment, beat at high speed until mixture has tripled in volume and has consistency of softly whipped cream (about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on mixer).

While eggs are being beaten, sift cake flour, salt and spices into a bowl.

Whisk to combine, and set aside.
When eggs have tripled in volume, turn off mixer and remove bowl from stand. Sift one third of flour mixture over eggs and use a rubber spatula to fold in gently.
Sift and fold in remaining flour in two more additions. Stir 1 cup of batter into browned butter.  Quickly fold butter mixture into remaining batter until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake in middle of oven until top is browned and cake shrinks away from sides of pan, about 12 to 15 minutes. Invert onto rack, peel off parchment and cool. 

To make the brandy syrup, in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir sugar with ¼ cup water until sugar has dissolved. Add brandy. Let cool and refrigerate, covered.

To prepare pecans, in a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Add pecans and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes.

To prepare the whipped cream topping (skip this step if you will top them with the caramel ice cream) pour whipped cream into a well-chilled metal bowl of a stand-up mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on the highest speed until soft peaks form.  Turn off mixer, add sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

To serve, trim 1/8 inch from around edges of cake. Cut cake into 16 squares. Put 1/4 cup mousse in bottom of each of 8 glasses and spread slightly. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon pecans over mousse and add a square of cake. Brush cake with brandy syrup. 

Repeat one more layer as before; mousse, pecans, cake, brush with brandy. Repeat for remaining glasses.  Top with either caramel ice cream or freshly whipped cream.


Recipe slightly adapted from Elle Decor