Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

Sometimes you just don’t want a big commitment.  Saturday, I went on a 16 mile hike up the highest peak in Orange County.  That was a big commitment; there was snow at the top of the mountain.. in Orange County…

I was totally ok with that commitment.

But sometimes, dessert can be a big commitment, especially cakes.

Because of this, I think my 6 inch cake pans were a great investment, and I think this banana cake has been my greatest creation from them so far.

bananacakecaramel4

I actually made this twice, so I can tell you with confidence that it’s doubly tasty.

bananacakecaramel2

Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

adapted from Epicurious

For Cake:
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar, heaping
1 egg
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Icing:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Sift together flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add in egg, continue to beat for another minute or two.  Beat in mashed banana, milk, vinegar and vanilla.  Add in flour mixture until well combine.

Pour batter into 2 (6 inch round) cake pans (greased, floured and bottom lined with parchment paper).  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through (mine took 25 mins, but yours might differ based on your oven so start checking after 20 mins).  Allow to cool completely.

Make caramel filling.  Melt sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Once sugar starts to melt turn flame to low.  Work out any clumps by stirring.  Once the sugar syrup is a deep amber color, remove from heat stir in butter (mixture will foam a lot but keep stirring), stream in cream as you stir, then stir in vanilla and salt.   Set aside to cool a bit.

caramel

Level off each layer using a serrated knife.  Place your bottom layer crumb side down on a plate (put some pieces of parchment paper around the edges to get a clean frost).  Spread half the caramel in the middle of the cake.  Put second layer on top and spread with remaining caramel.  Caramel should still be warm to the touch but not pourable.  You’ll have to spread it with the wooden spoon and it will smooth out on its own (if you let it cool too much you won’t get a smooth top.  Alternatively if the caramel is too hot, it might flow over the edges, no biggie, you can cover that with icing).

unfrostedcake

Next make frosting.  Beat half a cup of heavy cream, once it starts to form soft peaks add in sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until it forms firm peaks.  Frost the cake as desired.  If you plan to frost the entire thing (including the top) and decorate, double the frosting.  I only frosted the sides

partiallyfrostedcake

then used a piping bag with a star tip to decorate the edges to leave the caramel exposed.  Both are great, tasty options.

bananacakecaramel5

If you’re ready for a big commitment (aka a full size cake), double the recipe and bake in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.

bananacakecaramel1

Either way, store this cake in the fridge until about 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.  Don’t come complaining to me that your caramel is too hard if you take it out of the fridge and slice it immediately.  Like all commitments, that part needs time too.

bananacakecaramel3

What’s your next commitment?

Please tell me it’s this little banana cake!

Caramel Yogurt Bundt Cake

When I was little, I remember my mom regularly kept a Costco Pound Cake in a glass cake dome on the kitchen counter.  I remember not liking it much as a kid, but I’m pretty sure it was offered to anyone who came over.  We all need that kind of cake.

The kind you offer with coffee to any and all of your guests.  A simple cake that almost serves more of a decorative purpose than a gluttonous one.  This is that kind of cake.

CaramelYogurtBundtCake2

But I’ll be honest, this won’t wow you.  It’s a simple cake, and that was my intention.  Sometimes we need simple.

CaramelYogurtBundtCake8

Caramel Yogurt Bundt Cake

For Caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, softened

For Cake:
Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Then start making the caramel.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar to a sauce pan.  Turn on heat on high until sugar starts to melt.  Once sugar starts to melt, turn flame down to low and stir.  Keep stirring until sugar is melted, any clumps have dissolved and you have a deep golden amber color.  Next stir in butter then cream.  Keep stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl or mixer, beat together sugar and oil.  Stream in caramel and continue to mix.  Beat in eggs, beating 1 minute after each egg.    Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl.  Gradually add flour to batter, alternating with yogurt.  Once combined, add milk and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth.

Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake for 30 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 325F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until you poke it with a knife and it comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely and turn onto a plate (note: I had a hard time getting it out of the bundt pan, but finally it happened! This always happens with bundt pans for me!).  Dust with powdered sugar and serve or keep in a cake dome on the kitchen counter.

CaramelYogurtBundtCake1

That’s what I would do if my counter was larger than 2 feet wide.  Clearly my kitchen is a little to simple.  Is yours?

CaramelYogurtBundtCake3

Rum Layer Cake with Coconut Custard Filling

In addition to being obsessed with weddings, I’m also all about birthdays.

Yeah, that’s me… I love birthdays (along with any opportunity to bake a cake).

So…I know cupcakes are all the rage these days, but I have an unnatural love for layer cakes and let’s face it, birthdays merit layer cakes.  There’s something about a fully assembled and frosted layer cake that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I can understand why people don’t like making them.  Let’s face it, they’re sort of labor intensive, but in my opinion totally worth it, especially for a special friend.

My friend, Rachel, totally deserves a layer cake.  In fact, she got this one.

Rum Cake with Coconut Custard Filling

adapted from Bacardi Rum Cake

For Cake:*

1 box yellow cake mix
1 package instant pudding (4 serving size)
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup water or milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs

For Custard:*

1 cup whole milk (I used 3/4 cup nonfat milk and 1/4 cup of cream and it worked fine)
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp corn starch
1 cup shredded coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Food coloring (optional)

Make Cake. Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans (you can also put it in 3 pans, bake it for less time).  Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan.  Pour contents of cake mix and pudding mix into a large bowl. In another bowl mix together milk, rum, eggs and vegetable oil.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined.  Pour into the prepared cake pans, bake approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked in the center.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  You can make this a day or two in advance, just make sure you cover it in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Make custard.  Heat milk on low heat in a medium saucepan stirring occasionally to keep it from burning.  In a separate bowl mix together egg yolks, sugar, corn starch and vanilla. Stir in half a cup of the warm milk, then pour the mixture into the saucepan.  Keep stirring over low-medium heat until thick.  Pour into a bowl to cool, cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate a few hours until completely cooled.

Make Frosting.  Beat together butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla (and food coloring if you choose to use it).

Assemble cake.  Cut off the tops of the cakes so you have a level surface.  Lay down the first layer, then put down a layer of the filling in the center, don’t spread it to the edges, it’ll over flow.  If you only do two layers then place the top layer.   If not, repeat.  Cover in a thin layer for frosting, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Apply a thicker layer of frosting, decorate, chill again and serve.

*Note: For a taller cake, double the recipe.  I used 1.5 of this recipe (had oven issues and had to throw away one of my 4 layers).
**Note: If you only make a 2 layer cake, half the custard recipe is enough for one layer of filling.

I’m usually opposed to box mix.  I know I’m a total snob, but this was just sooo good, I had to give in and make it.  Honestly, I’ll probably make it again. In fact, I feel like this should be a birthday tradition.

It was a hit at the Birthday Dinner.

Happy Birthday Rachel!

What’s your favorite kind of birthday cake?

Chocolate-Wine Cake

Learning is a funny thing.  I have no idea how it happens. The question I probably get asked the most is: how did you learn to cook?

I have no idea. There are very few things that I remember anyone actually teaching me to make (among them: handmade tortillas, Rellenitos, and most other Guatemalan dishes I know how to make).  Most of my cooking knowledge comes from observation and experiment.  That’s right.  Experiment.

Try recipes.  Make changes.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

When I worked at a French bakery, I watched the chef make cakes, tarts and galettes full of envy, because I wanted to make things as beautiful and delicious as she did.

Then I went home and tried it.  The result:

Pear Almond Galette.

The Fall Cake.

All because I watched the chef make it, then I wanted to try it myself.  But inspiration doesn’t only come from watching the pros.

Here’s the most recent example of my constant experimentation.

Chocolate-Wine Cake.

An experiment inspired by an experience.  In Italy, I had a chocolate-wine gelato.  I had never had chocolate and wine together.  It seemed like such an unlikely combination, but I was completely intrigued.  I figured it was worth a try in cake form too.

Chocolate-Wine Cake

adapted from Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sweet red wine (such as Port or other sweet red wine)
1/2 cup boiling water

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl, beat together sugar and oil.  Beat in one egg at a time until just combined.  Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and red wine.  Lastly, stir in boiling water.

Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake 40-50 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven).

Allow to cool completely, turn onto a plate, top with chocolate ganache (optional) and serve!

I thought the chocolate and wine combination was interesting.  The chocolate flavor dominates but the wine is not far behind.  Most definitely a nice break from traditional chocolate cake.    For some, it might seem blasphemous.  Straying from a recipe is a recipe for disaster.  But I like to think of recipes more as guidelines.

From there you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Replacing milk with wine in chocolate cake.  Success.

Using less butter in Italian Buttercream Icing.  Failure.

How else are you supposed to discover the next best thing?

Italian Buttercream Birthday Cake

Today is a special day for a few reasons.

First, I conquered Italian Buttercream.  For some reason, streaming hot sugar syrup into meringue scared the crap out of me.  But I did it.  It was fun.  Now I feel bad ass.  My finished product: the bad ass version of dainty…

That’s yellow cake with apricot filling and amaretto italian buttercream.

Yeah, bad ass.

Speaking of bad ass, so is my sister, and it’s her birthday!  She also makes cool cakes.  See!

I’m not as talented.  I should take notes from her.  In a perfect world, we would live 10 minutes away from each other, my cake decorating skills would be as good as hers and I would deliver a rocking cake to her doorstep.

But sadly, we live about 2 hours away from each other and my cake decorating skills are subpar.  A simple, but delicious cake, or photo of a cake, will have to suffice.  Realistically, my italian buttercream tastes a million times better than fondant.  I feel like that makes my pansy-looking cake into a bad ass.

Happy Birthday to my favorite bad ass sister!!

Fig-Honey Cornmeal Cake

I have something for you, and I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.  It’s simple and sweet, with a bit of a rough texture.  No, I’m not talking about your perfect man.  I’m talking about cake.

If you were here, I’d serve this to you with a cup of tea.  Better yet, I should plan a tea party around this cake.

Who wants to come?

The lovely thing about this cake, aside from the fact that it involves figs and honey, is how quick and easy it is.  You can make the whole thing in less than half an hour.  And that’s exactly what I did this morning.

Fig-Honey Cornmeal Cake

1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup honey (plus more for drizzling)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6-7 fresh figs

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.  Set aside.

Slice figs into wedges (about 6 wedges per fig).  Arrange figs onto prepared baking pan.  Set aside.

Combine egg, honey, and olive oil in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Combine with cornmeal.  Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredients.  Fold together until just combined.

Then pour the batter over the figs.

Gently spread the batter around.  It’ll just barely cover the figs.

Place in the oven and bake until golden brown.  In my oven it took about 13 minutes.  It cooks very quickly!  So check it after 10-12 minutes.

Once it’s out of the oven, allow to cool.  Turn over onto a plate and drizzle with additional honey

and serve any time of day!

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake

My mouth is watering just at the thought of this.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake

Too rich, delicious and chocolately to describe in words.

Just make it and cut the slices small and/or be ready for a blissful chocolate coma.

No really, you don’t need a reason.  But if you do (like I did… 2 birthdays on the same day), then this is probably the best gift you could give anyone.

P.S. Happy Belated Birthday to Biscotti Queen, Matt and my sister!