Saturday, June 13, 2009

Noah's Birthday Banana Cake

You may remember Noah from Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake. Well, he just turned the big thirty-something (34? 35? 36? I can't remember) and threw an impromptu BBQ party. Julie was so sweet to call me up and let me know that as much as they love my cakes they were just going to order something from the store since the party was so late notice and they didn't think I would have time to bake something up. I told her I didn't take it personally (I don't--but how cute is it that she warned me? I love it.) but that I had some time to throw something together for him if their plans didn't work out.

I guess Noah's ears perked up when he heard I had time to bake him something, because a few hours later Julie called me back to say that Noah would love it if I had time to bake him a banana cake with dark chocolate frosting. I laughed, told Julie that the only banana cake I knew how to make was the same one they got for their wedding, and that it was no problem.

i write like a fourth grader

June 6, 2009
Name of cake: Birthday Banana Cake
Occasion: Noah's Birthday!
Constituents: one 9x13 layer Rose's Sour Cream Banana Cake frosted with Sour Cream Ganache

Noah doesn't like a lot of frosting. Neither do I, but he likes less frosting than me. He was really excited about how little frosting there was on my birthday cake (which was the perfect amount considering how seriously rich it was) so I knew he'd want something like that. I decided that the best way to have a little amount of frosting was to do a sheet cake--one nice layer of frosting on the top and sides, nothing in the middle. So a 9x13 it was.

birthday banana cake

Now as you know, a two layer, 9 in cake recipe will fill a 9x13 pan. Rose's Sour Cream Banana Cake recipe (and the accompanying Sour Cream Ganache) is for a one layer 9 in cake, so I doubled the recipe(s), headed out to the store and bought everything but the bananas. Dangit.

Seeing as I forgot the main ingredient, I spent that evening measuring out everything and getting it ready and planned to bake it the night before the party instead.

banana birthday cake

I love this banana cake. I am not much for bananas when they aren't in cake, but in cake, especially this one, I am 100% on board. It is moist, a little tangy from the sour cream, a little dense and sturdy because of all the fiber, but still tender, soft, full of flavor and not too sweet. It has a homey flavor dressed up in fancy textures.

I especially love this banana cake when it is frosted with Rose's Sour Cream Ganache. It hits the right rich and decadent notes without being too overbearing or too sweet. It stays thick, fudgy, and tangy. Perfectly delicious.

sprinkles in the afternoon

However, this cake was kind of a fail. The middle sunk because, as we discovered when we cut it, it didn't cook all the way through. Dangit. The cake tester had come out clean but it was a big liar. Joelf just told me to frost a little more heavily in the center so that it would all come out even, and we could cut from sides in and hopefully avoid the gooey bits. I warned Noah to take a piece from the outside because that's where the frosting was the thinnest, and the cake actually baked through.

When you get a cake from me, you either get sprinkles or flowers as decoration. I opted for sprinkles this time around--seemed more celebratory--and left a space in the middle for these cool glittered blue birthday candles. We lit them up and sang to Noah before he could blow them out.

glittery blue candles!

It was a fun birthday bash as many of the party goers were also wedding goers. They were nice enough to remind me that they liked the wedding cake! It was fun to see them again, and fun to help Noah celebrate his big day.

happy birthday noah!
that there little girl in the bottom right is picking off and eating as many sprinkles as she can before getting caught!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Peanut Butter Birthday Torte

I belong to a wonderful doula group and we meet monthly to process about births we've attended, share our knowledge and experience, and eat and drink together. These potlucks have been great excuses to bake, as I know these girls will happily eat the cake and bring the leftovers home to their families.

For this month's meeting, I promised one of our doulas a birthday cake. She just turned 30 yesterday. She is extremely knowledgeable and funny, she has two adorable children and she's a chicken wrangler. She is also a placenta encapsulation specialist which I think is so amazingly awesome, and so desperately needed.

Anyhoots, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she would like to have; at first she was polite, and told me to bake whatever I wanted. I remembered how happy she was when I brought a chocolate-chocolate cake to one of our meetings, so I suggested chocolate. She then chimed in that she liked chocolate AND peanut butter, so I suggested the peanut butter torte in Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. My doula girl was very excited; when I walked in tonight she was quite pleased I came through on my promise. Awesome.

Peanut Butter Torte

June 8, 2009
Name of Cake: A Doula Girl's Peanut Butter Torte
Occasion: A Doula Girl Turns 30!
Constituents: A Chocolate Ganache Topped Peanut Butter Mousse with Spiced Peanuts and Mini Chocolate Chips in an Oreo Cookie Crust

This torte is outrageously peanut buttery and seriously decadent. It is creamy, smooth, irresistible (provided you like peanut butter), and richly satisfying. One little slice is plenty. For all of the fancy pantsy vibes this torte gives off, it is really easy to make. It is a good dessert for the summertime as you only need the oven for ten minutes.

The crust is made from 24 crushed Oreo cookies, melted butter, and a pinch of salt. It is blind baked for a few minutes and made the house smell so good.

Peanut Butter Torte

The filling is made of four main components: whipped cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, and a mix of salted peanuts and mini chocolate chips which have been mixed with a little bit of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The whipped cream is beaten to medium-stiff peaks and set aside while the cream cheese is beaten with powdered sugar. The peanut butter is added to the cream cheese along with a little bit of milk and the peanut-chocolate chip mix. Once that gets all combined the whipped cream is folded in and the whole shebang gets scraped into the cookie shell and refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight. I opted for overnight.

Peanut Butter Torte

I was pretty pooped when I put this torte together last night, so I was glad it was easy to do. My peanut butter lovin' roommate got to lick the bowl clean, and he was a little sad that he wasn't going to get any torte. I told him he had to be a doula to get any of this dessert. My only complaint is that this recipe sure does mess up a lot of bowls. I am thankful I have a dishwasher but it is only a little half-size dishwasher--this pretty much filled the machine!

This evening, before the party, I made the ganache. You know, I hate to risk jinxing things, but that will be the third time in a row that I made a ganache and didn't mess it up. Have I turned a corner, or is it just luck?

Peanut Butter Torte

It turns out that two doulas were celebrating birthdays this week, and the other doula's sister is a professional baker with the cutest name ever for a cake business: MaryJane's Cakery. Cakery! I love it. Her cake was a three layer chocolate cake, not too sweet, light and airy, with a beautiful whipped cream frosting with fresh berries. It was wonderful, and just the right amount of sweetness.

chocolate cake with berries and whipped cream
(I'm sorry this photo is so blurry; I wanted to continue eating! There were chopped fresh cherries in the filling. and did you see the two different shades of whipped cream? Something about frosting that shade of pink (which unfortunately you can't really see) just makes me want to eat it.)

Everybody dug into both cakes and loved them both. These girls are smart; they know better than to say no to free cake. The doula girl that asked for the peanut butter torte took the last piece home to savor after she tucked her kids into bed. I don't know if she was going to share with her husband. My guess? Nope.

How many times do you get to say that you met with some of your favorite people, who also are women with whom you do business, and during the meeting you shared two cakes and several bottles of wine? I say that every month (well maybe not the two cakes part)! I love my life, and I love my doula girls. Happy birthdays, ladies!

Peanut Butter Torte

Other doula favorites: Mom's Apple Cake, and Lemon Pudding Cake.

Monday, June 01, 2009

ECL's Favorite Birthday Cake

Well people, another birthday has come and gone and not only am I a year older but I also have leftover cake which I can eat for breakfast for the next few days. I say job well done.

May 30, 2009
Name of cake: ECL's favorite birthday cake
Occasion: ECL's birthday!
Constituents: One layer yellow cake with chocolate-raspberry ganache

I used to hate baking my own birthday cake as it usually meant I spent my entire day baking and worrying that what I was baking was terrible, but this year was completely different. My real birthday was Wednesday--which I took off from work--and I had just been to a great birth the night before. The day was beautiful, my mood was euphoric, and I had lots of time on my hands. While listening to 80's New Wave, I assembled, premeasured, and prepped for my birthday cake in fits and starts. I had decided to bake my favorite cake for my birthday: yellow butter cake with raspberry ganache frosting. Simple, just enough chocolate, perfect with vanilla ice cream. I had also decided to bake a half sheet, as it looked like my birthday weenie roast was going to be about 23 cake lovers strong.

ECL's Birt-day Cake

I know I say this all the time, but I am so thankful for Rose Levy Beranbaum and her Cake Bible. This woman not only has the best freakin cake and frosting recipes I have encountered, but she also has this amazing section in the back of the book that allows the home baker to convert one of her recipes into whatever sized cake desired. In this case, her base recipe for her yellow butter cake had to be multiplied by 7 in order to bake up a half sheet cake. I already knew that a half sheet is about three 9 inch cake recipes and comparatively the math held true. Easy peasy.

Easy sure, but a home baker like myself who doesn't even have a K5 mixer (just a cute little 4-quart KitchenAid) can't mix up the batter for a half sheet in one fell swoop. On Thursday I tried to skirt around that by attempting to mix all the ingredients together using a hand mixer and a giant bowl. I'll pause a moment to let the absurdity of that situation sink in.

This must be an example of my KitchenAid dependence, this forgetting how powerful and strong my beloved stand mixer is. To actually think a hand mixer could power through a beautiful, thick, butter batter where there are 14 egg yolks, 700 grams of both flour and sugar, and 28 tablespoons of butter is sheer folly. And I think I might have burned out the motor for good. I was able, at least, to blend all the ingredients together even though I couldn't get the mixer going fast enough for more than a few seconds to properly aerate the batter. So I pulled out Ol' Trusty and in two batches beat the batter until it looked nice and silky and aerated.

And once more, I've gotta give thanks to Rose for teaching us home bakers how to mix a cake batter in such a way that you don't have to be afraid of overbeating, so that I could do what I did without worrying about my cake coming out all tough and depressing. Rose, you are awesome!

ECL's Birt-day Cake

After the cake was baked and cooling, I decided to wrap it up airtight and frost it the day of the weenie roast (two days later). I've done that before with Rose's butter cakes with no noticeable drying or spoiling of the cake, and I've left them out on the counter to boot. So I wasn't worried. Plus, when Cookie and I bought the hot dogs at CostCo I bought a lifetime supply of my favorite plastic wrap in the world, Stretch-Tite. This stuff sticks to everything! I slid the cake back into the cake pan, covered it with parchment paper so that it wouldn't stick to the plastic wrap, and mummified the cake pan with plastic wrap. Obviously there wasn't any room in the refrigerator (52 hot dogs were in there), so I stored it downstairs in the guest bedroom. (The downstairs is half underground with cement walls and remains a cool 50°F year round.)

Saturday morning I brought milk and raspberry puree to a boil and added it to a bunch of chopped semisweet chocolate. I made a double batch of Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache in order to have enough to frost the cake. (I decided to have just one layer of cake. Can you imagine how badly I would split a sheet cake?) It took awhile for the beautiful, shiny, tangy, rich, chocolaty ganache to cool down enough to frost, but when it did, frosting was easy. And delicious.
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how to make chocolate raspberry ganache

I topped the cake with swirls of ganache, tiny little nonpareils, and hot pink sanding sugar. Turning 36 requires hot pink sanding sugar.

The day was hot and sunny; we picnicked in the shade of big old evergreens on the local extinct volcano. After filling up on hot dogs, potato chips and deviled eggs, we broke into the cake. True to form, the yellow cake was tender, light and moist; not too sweet and a perfect foil for the intense, fudgy, raspberry ganache. A perfect foil for this girl's 36th birthday.

birt-day weenie roast

The cakes of birthdays past:
2003--I decided to make two cakes based on RLB's Star Spangled Rhapsody cakes for my 30th birthday.
2004--I made a two-tiered cake just to see if I could do it.
2006--I made ice cream cakes a la Baskin and Robbins.
2007--an awesome GF Tiramisu.
2008--the Lazy Bakers joined me in baking up Dorie Greenspan's Devil's Food White Out Cake.

(Wow. That's a lot of cake blogging.)