Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You CAN bake your Cake and eat it too!

Let's be clear, cake is not exactly a main staple health food, but no one ever died from having cake once in awhile. Now even if you are not a baker, good ingredients will always result in a pretty good cake, even if it does turn out to be lopsided. 

My take is, if you are going to have cake it should be
A:  Deliciously Fantastic 
B:  Have quality "healthy" ingredients. 
For the latter I mean organic butter from grass fed cows or coconut oil instead of margarine or lard.  Eggs from free roaming chickens instead of sickly commercially caged chickens. Organic unbleached flour with a mix of whole wheat. Organic cane sugar, raw honey or molasses instead of genetically modified and bleached white beet sugar or artificial sugars.   And please, no bright artificially colored icings. 
Dessert is not synonymous for junk food. 

 For a person that is not really a cake person, I’ve made a lot of cakes in my day. In fact, with the help of my husband ( he is the best sioux chef) and my wonderful mother-in-law, we made our own organic three tier, three flavor wedding cake for 200.  It is our 9th anniversary today, so I am enjoying reminiscing about that special day. 

I did not always make pretty cakes, but all of that changed the day I mastered a good icing.  I personally like an icing that is not overly rich and has just the right amount of sweetness.   The icing should compliment the cake not smother it.  I guess that’s why they say the “icing on the cake.”

Strawberry Chocolate Banana Cake
Chocolate Banana Cake
These two cakes are actually the same cake but different gift wrapping so to speak.  The first is Strawberry Chocolate Banana Cake. The second is Chocolate Banana cake.
Let’s start with the cake.  It is a classic banana cake for both.  Moist and rich in banana flavor. 

Here is my recipe for the cake.  It makes two round 8 or 9 inch cakes. 

Banana Cake
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquid state
3/4 to 1 cup cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk ( 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar in measuring cup then fill to ½ with milk)
1 cup (about 2 bananas) very ripe, previously frozen bananas
*butter and parchment paper for pan preparation

Whisk together all dry ingredients.  Beat all wet ingredients together.  Slowly add dry to wet until combined.   

Okay, so I added wet to dry here but the results are the same.

Divide batter evenly and pour into greased and parchment lined 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.  Bake at 350 or 25-30min or until toothpick insert comes out clean without batter and just a few crumbs. 
Archer prepping pans.

2 perfect banana cakes

A little treat for my helper.

and a little treat for his helper.

Allow them to cool on wire racks.  Once cool enough to touch turn over on racks do so and allow to cool a while longer until no longer steaming.  Then wrap in plastic wrap, sealing tightly.  Place in freezer overnight or for later use. 

The freezer locks in the moisture, until you are ready to ice the cake.  It also makes it easier to cut the cake if dividing the layers into 4.  I do this for most cakes so you can get icing thinly between the layers instead of having one thick layer in the middle.  This makes every bite perfect. 

This cake is so simple to make. If you have a favorite banana cake recipe of you own, feel free to use it.  Just watch the sugar amount.  I usually use 1/2 the amount of sugar that is typically called for in most cakes and I especially do that for this one, as the very ripe bananas already add so much natural sweetness. 
Now for your icings.

The Chocolate Banana cake actually has two icings.  The filling is a banana cream type icing and the other is a chocolate ganache for outside of the cake.  Are you drooling yet? 
I know my kids are.  As soon as they hear the sound of electric beaters they come running to the kitchen.  No joke.  It is like Pavlov’s dog experiment.  

For the Banana Cream filling:
1 cup of  heavy cream, whipped
1 ripe banana, pureed
1-11/4 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
1 large banana thinly sliced

Using an electrical mixer, whip the heavy cream until it forms whipped cream.  *careful not to over beat or you will make butter.   It should thicken to heavy cream in 3-4 minutes of beating at high speed.  Once the whipped cream is achieved, slowly add banana puree.  At some point the whip cream will separate and look like a soupy curdled mess.  Don’t panic.  Add softened butter, a tablespoon at a time while continuing to beat at high speed.  Add consecutive tablespoons once the butter is well incorporated.  At some point the whipped cream will start to come back to being thick and spreadable.  Keep adding butter until this is achieved.  You may need a little more or less depending on the size of the banana you made your puree with. 

You will notice this icing has no sugar.  Just lightly sweetened by the natural sugars of the ripe banana.  It is a perfect pairing for the chocolate outer icing. 

Archer using an emulsion blender to puree banana

Pureed Banana

Adding Banana puree

Banana Cream filling
Chocolate Ganache

 Always use good quality chocolate for the best results.  I used Ghirardelli, which is a fairly decent chocolate for it’s price. I have used Green and Black chocolate bars before with very good results as well. 

12 ounces chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Add chocolate and whipping cream to a small pot and place over medium heat until chocolate is melted. Stir until cream is well incorporated.  Remove from heat and allow it to cool. ( I put mine in the freezer)  As the chocolate cools it will thicken. You can use it while it is still pourable to make more like a glaze.  I did this for the top of this cake. Or you can leave it to cool longer until it is firm but you are still able to stir with some effort.  At this point, whipped it with a hand mixer to get it nice and fluffy for icing.  This allows the icing to be spreadable and allows you to pipe with it.   

Chocolate and heavy cream

Perfect Ganache

Cake Assembly:
I usually make the icings the day I will be serving the cake.  Remove the cakes from the freezer to defrost some.  I let them stay a little solid still, as this makes it easier to cut the cakes in half.  This will give you four equal layers.  Shave of rounded tops for a more level cake.  Place your first layer, bottom side down on your cake dish.  Spread the banana cream icing on top of your first layer. Then top with thin slices of fresh banana.  Use the second layer of cake to top the iced layer.  Continue this process until the last layer is added.  Be sure the cake is level. Now is your chance to make any last minute adjustments.  (Spines are not the only thing that look better straight.)
Cut cake in half

2 cakes cut into 4 layers

Leveling off the top of the rounded cake

Banana cream filling

Last layer
Now pour your ganache on top of the cake.  The ganache should be pourable but not runny or it will fall off the sides.  Use a spoon or spatula to spread it evenly across the top of the cake.  
A gift that is ready for wrapping.

Glazed ganache for the top.

Stick the rest of the ganache back into the fridge or freezer and allow it to cool until it is rigid.  Then beat it with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. 
Whipping the cooled ganache

Whipped ganache is ready for icing.

Whipped ganache icing

 Using an icing knife or a spatula, ice the sides of the cake.  Start off thin to get a base and make a second pass to add more and make it look pretty.  For an added touch, fill any remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with your favorite decorative tip and decorate as desired. I used some simple stars to complete the edges of this cake.

This seems like a lot of steps, but none of them are complicated.  I would say this is really quite easy to do.  You can break it up and make the cake one day and the icings another.  I made this cake for my favorite soiux chef’s birthday back in March.  He loved it!  Father’s day is this weekend.  Why not give it a try? 
The second cake had the same base of banana cake but the icing was made with some organic strawberries I picked and froze.  The inside layers were iced with the same ganache as above.  I used the beaten, fluffed ganache, as I found this one to be the easiest to handle. 
For the exterior strawberry icing I used my favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) Icing.
Light on the sweet but BIG on the creamy flavor.  No matter how I adapt it, it always gets rave reviews. 

Strawberry SMBC:
¾ cup -1 cup of sugar
1/3 liquid like water or juice from defrosted fruit
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar*
3-4 sticks of butter
¾-1.5 cup of strawberry puree
* optional. ( adds more holding power to icing)

For the strawberry flavor I use approximately 1 ½ cups of frozen strawberries.  Place them in a pot and defrost them on medium heat.  The cooked strawberries will give you the liquid you need to make the sugar portion of this icing.  The remaining strawberries will give you the flavor needed for the puree portion of the icing. 

Strawberry Liquid

Strawberry Puree
Once the strawberries are mildly cooked, add 1 c of sugar, cream of tartar and 1/3 cup of strawberry juice  to another small pot. Cook until crystals dissolve and sugar begins to boil for a few minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.  It should be cool enough to not cook the egg whites but not cool enough where it starts to form a hard candy.
While sugar is boiling, whip 4 egg whites until white and fluffy.  (it should come close to doubling in size). Slowly pour hot sugar mixture into whipped egg whites, while beating with an electric mixer on high.  The egg whites will liquefy some but continue to beat until they start to stiffen back up.  Then add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  DO NOT add too much at once or it will separate.  Icing will start to form a thick fluffy creamed mixture that is uniform.  Once it is at the consistency you like, you can stop adding butter.
Now is the time to add your flavor.  If you are making strawberry, like we are here, slowly add ¾-1.5 cups of pureed strawberry.  Stop adding strawberries if icing appears to loosen.
This icing is perfect for icing cakes and cupcakes because it holds up to warmer (not hot) temperatures and will hold it’s forms from decorating tips.  It also allows for a natural coloring and flavoring through the use of fruit. 
If you have left over SMBC icing, place it in an airtight container and put it in the freezer for later use.  When you are ready to use it, defrost on counter and whip up  before using.  These small leftover batches are perfect for icing just a few cupcakes when you need them in a pinch. 

The icing can get a little intimidating at first,  but once you master it, it will be your go-to icing. 
Here are a few website and will help you troubleshoot any problems along the way.  

Strawberry Chocolate Banana Cake

You may notice I do not specify organic ingredients in my recipes, however for most of my baking as in my cooking, I use as many organic ingredients as I can find.  For these cakes everything is organic except the chocolate (which can get $$$), baking powder (aluminum free) and soda.   

1 comment:

  1. When can I order my birthday cake? These look delectable.


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