Sticky Toffee Banana Cake

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When I lived in Thailand I missed a few Christmases. It was sad and a little weird, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. You learn a thing or two when you’re making Christmas dinner in a tropical country of 104-degrees. For one, I learned that no dinner is worth that amount of sweat ever again, and two, I learned that whether it be one mile or three-thousand miles, love still exists between people. We had a table of about 10 friends that year, and though we all felt the void of our parents, grandparents and cousins, we still found comfort in the presence of each other.

Anyway, before all that warm-hearted stuff, you have to actually cook the big meal. When you love someone (a.ka. Jay) who comes from another far away land other than your own, it takes a little collaboration to get the combination of traditions just right. Our result? We had sticky toffee pudding for dessert on the day and bubble and squeak on Boxing Day. That series of words had never left my mouth before so, it took Google and some serious Great British Bake Off watching to get to the bottom of it all.

Essentially, all of that was just my long way of telling you that this recipe was inspired by the sticky toffee pudding I made that year. It’s gooey, dense, and smells like caramel banana covered bliss. Just think that if banana bread and sticky toffee pudding had a baby, this would be it.

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For the caramel top:

3/4 c. brown sugar

7 T. salted butter

2 ripe bananas

  1. Melt the butter and sugar together and pour into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan.
  2. Peel and slice the bananas in half so that you have two stubs, not two long slices. then, slice the banana halves into thin slices and place them in a fan shape in the caramel. Refer to the picture if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
  3. Set aside.

For the cake:

1 1/2 c. AP flour

1/2 c. almond flour

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. soft butter

3/4 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe mashed bananas

1 t. almond extract (you can use vanilla if you don’t have this)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs, bananas, and extract until fully combined.
  3. Once combined, add the dry ingredients you had set aside just until the batter is moistened and without lumps.
  4. Pour it on top of the caramel and banana design you made beforehand and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back up when you push the middle of it. **
  5. Once done, flip onto a cake plate after about 5 minutes.

**Depending on your pan depth, you may not need all of your batter. Your pan should be 3/4 of the way full with batter.

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Gluten & Diary Free Chocolate Strawberry Cake

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Before you start wondering to yourself if this is some kind of sick joke, it’s not! And before you start wondering whether it tastes like cardboard or wet shoes, it doesn’t! It tastes like….well, like chocolate cake!

Turns out, after months of stomach aches and bloating, I’m allergic to wheat and dairy.

Great.

My solution is that I eat gluten free. Being wheat intolerant isn’t mutually exclusive with being gluten intolerant, but one eliminates the other in my case.

Anyway, this cake is my saving grace. I took a page from another bloggers book with it, and will gladly give her credit where it’s due right here. I made only a couple changes based on what I had already in the cupboard but have made it her way as well. They’re both great. Honestly.

The only thing I would further recommend is topping it with avocado chocolate frosting. Or, you know, real chocolate frosting works too. Guess my options are a bit limited these days and an avocado frosting seems to suffice.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE (Again, with my VERY slight alteration from her recipe.)

150 ml coconut oil (melted)

50 g organic & fair trade cocoa powder

125 ml boiling water

2 t vanilla

3 medium organic eggs

140 g good quality organic brown sugar

150 g ground almonds (almond flour)

½ t baking soda

a pinch of salt

350 F/ 170 C

  1. Grease and line a 9-inch cake pan
  2. Put the cocoa powder in a bowl, and whisk in the boiling water and oil until it forms a smooth paste. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl crack in the eggs, then add the sugar and coconut oil. Using an electric whisk, whisk the ingredients together for 1-2 minutes, the mix will thicken slightly. As noted on her site, doing this by hand will cause the cake to lose height.
  4. Pour the chocolate mix into the egg mixture and combine.
  5. In a separate bowl combine the almonds with the bicarb of soda and salt till the ingredients are well distributed.
  6. Pour into your cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake springs back when you push it.
  7. Top with fruit or cream

 

Iced Chocolate Ale Bundt Cake

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What kind of person would I be if I didn’t make something with ale on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been to the Guinness brewery and the best thing I tasted there wasn’t the beer, believe it or not. It was the Guinness chocolate bar they had in their gift shop. My brother and I were mid-argument, something about directions, and this bar alone brought us together again. I’ve been dreaming of it ever since I took my last bite, and this is a cakeafied version of it.

That said, confession time. I didn’t use Guinness. Oops. I had to get you this far so you’d listen to me when I tell you that it’s equally as good if not better. Instead, I used a dark bitter chocolate ale that I found in a local market. The real kicker here is the molasses in the recipe. It keeps the ale very much alive, which gives the cake a real depth of flavor.

This is my second post in a row about chocolate cake, I know, but come on, what was I supposed to do? I even sprinkled a little gold dust on top. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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CAKE: (recipe used from Fine Cooking)

1 1/4 c. dark ale, like Guinness or chocolate ale (I used Old Tom)

1/3 c.  molasses

1 2/3 AP flour

3/4 c. cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

3 eggs

  1. Line your pan with butter and dust it with cocoa powder (not subtracting from the specified in the recipe).
  2. Melt in a small saucepan on medium heat the molasses with the stout and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl sift the dry ingredients together and set aside as well.
  4. In the mixer, beat the butter until smooth and then add sugar. Beat again until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding another.
  6. Then, alternate stout and dry mixture on low until both are gone and the batter is smooth with no lumps. Scrape down the sides if you have to.
  7. Pour evenly into a bundt pan and bake 40-50 minutes. the middle will spring back up.
  8. Release the cake from the pan as soon as it comes out of the oven.

ICING:

icing sugar

milk

vanilla

  1. Starting with at least 2 c. of the icing sugar and vanilla, pour milk in, a tablespoon at a time until you get a thick paste like consistency. It shouldn’t fall easily from a spoon, but drip slowly.
  2. Drizzle over the middle of the ring and let it fall down the sides naturally.

 

Salted Vanilla Mocha Cupcakes

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I have to confess that this is sort of a recycled recipe. It’s almost exactly my pistachio cake recipe, but there’s more coffee and a different frosting. I came home with a longer lunch break than usual and couldn’t resist the need to bake. I’m an addict. The Kitchen Aid is my trigger. Once we lock eyes, it’s all over. Creepy, I know.

I used dark cocoa for this recipe because the dark, almost black color of the cake is as appealing as a red velvet cake. When you see it, you just know that you want to eat it. I’d call them black velvet, but that sounds a little dark and scary, which is not what these are. They’re pillows of goodness. Try and convince me otherwise.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE: (from here)

1 3/4 c. AP flour

1 3/4 c. caster sugar

3/4 c. dark cocoa powder

1 t. baking powder

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 t. pure vanilla extract

1 c. hot water with 5 T. of instant espresso powder

350 F / 180 C

  1. In large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients ACCEPT coffee.
  2. Next, sift in dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  3. Add espresso mixture. The batter will become very wet, almost watery.
  4. Line 2 cupcake tins with papers and fill each one just over halfway. Bake 15-20 minutes until middle springs back when you push it.

SALTED VANILLA BEAN BUTTERCREAM:

3 c. icing sugar

1/2 c. room temperature butter, unsalted

2 T. whole milk or cream

1 1/2 t. vanilla or the seeds of 1-2 vanilla beans

1-2 generous pinches of sea salt

  1. Beat butter and sugar until combined.
  2. Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
  3. If you want a frosting that is thicker or thinner adjust the sugar or milk amounts.
  4. Sprinkle tops of cupcakes with cocoa powder and more sea salt.

 

Orange & Cardamom Ricotta Loaf Cake

 

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You’ve gotta make this cake. It’s lush and sweet and citrusy and everything nice. I opened the fridge to see a tub of ricotta cheese unused and unloved sitting on the shelf and remembered reading how perfect it is to put in cakes for moisture. It’s true, every last bit of it. Trust me.

I’ve been seeing all of these citrus upside down cakes on Instagram and I’ve been waiting for a good cake recipe to do my own on. Voila! Citrus cakes are, let’s say, not my favorite thing. BUT, when you combine it with something as warm as cardamom, it’s magic.

Cardamom is exotic and warm and it happens to pump up the flavor profile of oranges. When you finally have the pleasure of eating this cake, you won’t necessarily notice the cardamom, but you’ll just get an intensified orange flavor. I guess you could say it’s sort of like adding coffee to chocolate cake.

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CAKE:

1/2 c. brown sugar

2-4 T. water

1 c. cake flour

1/2 c. almond flour (if you prefer you can use 1 1/2 c. cake flour and omit the almond flour all together.)

2 1/2 t. baking powder

12 T. softened butter

1 1/2 c. full fat ricotta cheese

1/4 t. almond extract (or vanilla)

1 1/2 c. caster sugar

3 eggs

1 t. cardamom powder

1 t. grated orange zest

1 orange

350 F / 190 C

  1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and water to make a paste. Spread it along the bottom of your loaf pan evenly.
  2. Zest your orange for the batter and then slice the fruit into paper thin slices and layer them over the brown sugar mixture in whatever fashion you’d like and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, cardamom, zest and salt and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cheese, butter, extract and sugar together for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Then, beat in the eggs one at a time.
  6. Once mixed thoroughly, add the dry mixture and continue to beat until fully combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the loaf pan so that it’s about 3/4 of the way full and bake 40-50 minutes. The middle should spring back when you push it. Note: depending on the type of loaf pan you’re using (metal/glass/ceramic) it will bake at different times. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil over the top and continue baking until it springs back.
  8. Once baked through, turn the loaf out on a plate almost immediately by running a dull knife around the edges and flipping it over being careful not to upset the design on the bottom. If you wait until it is cool, you risk the bottom sticking.

 

 

 

Chocolate Cake w/ Vanilla Bean Icing and Pistachios

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I’ve been craving cake. I tried to avoid the situation with hot chocolate, oatmeal, chocolate milk, but nothing worked. Today while the students were doing their reading I was sneaking a little research session and found a chocolate cake recipe I wanted to adapt. As it turns out, I didn’t adjust a thing because it was that good. Really. Total perfection. The link to the original is below and she deserves full credit. Just talking about it now makes me feel the need to go to the kitchen and shove my face directly into it. I’ll try to resist, but probably not. Actually, definitely not.

This cake is perfection all on its own, but I had to make it mine somehow. So, I whipped up a vanilla bean buttercream frosting and garnished the sides with some beautifully green crushed pistachios. The crunch of the nuts, sweetness of the icing and richness of the cake is sort of enough to make you want to commit to this cake. I’m already married to mine.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE: (from here)

1 3/4 c. AP flour

1 3/4 c. caster sugar

3/4 c. cocoa powder

1 t. baking powder

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 t. pure vanilla extract

1 c. coffee

350 F / 180 C

  1. In large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients ACCEPT coffee.
  2. Next, sift in dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  3. Add coffee.
  4. The mixture will be very wet, almost watery.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes in two 9″ round cake pans until the middle springs back.

BUTTERCREAM

3 c. icing sugar

1/2 c. room temperature butter, unsalted

2 T. whole milk or cream

1 1/2 t. vanilla or the seeds of on vanilla bean

1/2 c. finely chopped pistachios for garnish

  1. Beat butter and sugar together.
  2. Add milk and vanilla until it comes together.
  3. If you desire a mixture that is thicker or thinner adjust the sugar or milk amounts.

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

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I normally don’t dare cross fruit with a brownie because I take my brownies very seriously. I guess you could say that I’m a brownie purist. In fact, there are rules. One, it must be gooey. Two, it must be nut free (because gross). And, three, there must be multiple elements of chocolate involved.

Well, check, check and check.

Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend I wanted to make a sexy little combo with these and what better than a fresh raspberry jam to do the trick?!

So here it is. It’s ooey, gooey, chewy, make your heart skip a beat good.

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RASPBERRY JAM:

1 c. fresh raspberries

1 c. caster sugar

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and berries on medium heat. As the berries begin to release juice, turn to medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until mixture becomes thick and jam-like.
  2. Run through a sieve to remove seeds and set aside to cool.

BROWNIES:

3/4 c. salted butter

1 c. caster sugar

3/4 c. good quality DARK cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 t. vanilla

1 t. instant expresso

1/2 c. flour

1 T. rice flour

1/4 t. sea salt

raspberry jam

optional: bittersweet chocolate chips as desired

325 F / 160 C

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add sugar and stir until the mixture begins to combine
  3. Then add cocoa, stir for about 30 seconds more.
  4. Remove from heat and transfer to a cold mixing bowl.
  5. Beat in the eggs followed by the vanilla and espresso and then by the dry ingredients.
  6. Transfer to a greased and lined 9″ tin (circle or square)
  7. Randomly drop little rounds of the jam on top. Swirl around with a toothpick.
  8. Bake 30-35 minutes until you get a clean knife from the center.

 

Honey Vanilla Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Cream

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Every time I watch the Great British Bakeoff I get myself all excited about what the contestants are baking. So excited, in fact, that I end up making my own versions of their bakes. If you’ve been sticking around for my posts you’ll know this isn’t the first time that I’ve let my obsession get out of hand. You get cake, I get my fix, it’s under control. I swear.

Tamal was making a grapefruit polenta cake, which looked delicious. I, however, don’t love citrus flavors in cakes and made mine with honey and vanilla instead. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been state side during the cold months and I’m loving using these warm cozy flavors again. I’m sure Tamal would understand.

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The rustic and traditional elements here are what I love so much about this cake. Polenta is grainy by nature and gives the cake a cornbread-like texture, but unlike cornbread, is actually enjoyable. The honey cools it down while the vanilla warms it up again. Top it with some mascarpone cream and oh la la.

Last week I made some mini Battenberg cakes, which were a bit tedious at times. This recipe isn’t like that. It’s basic and lovely and if you can do the basics right, this cake beats all. So give it love, give it time and go the extra mile for quality ingredients if you can. You won’t regret it.

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POLENTA CAKE: adapted from this recipe

5 T. granulated sugar

3/4 c. whole milk

1/4 c. whole cream

1 T. vanilla extract

1 sliced vanilla bean

1/2 c. unsalted butter

3/4 t. salt

1 c. instant polenta (I used Delallo brand)

1/2 c. honey

4 eggs, separated

1/4 c. melted honey (for brushing)

350 F / 180 C

  1. Preheat oven and grease a 9 x 9-inch pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, vanilla bean and vanilla extract on low-medium. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Once simmering, remove the vanilla bean and, whisking the whole way, add the polenta and continue whisking for about 30 seconds. It will thicken quickly.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into glass bowl. Add honey, egg yolks and 3 T. of sugar.
  5. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and the remaining sugar to soft peaks.
  6. Fold whites into polenta mixture with a spatula until fully incorporated.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and can hold the push of a finger.
  8. Brush top with melted honey and let cool. Serve with mascarpone cream.

MASCARPONE CREAM:

5 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 c. whipping cream

1 t. vanilla

2 T. icing sugar

  1. Combine ingredients in stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat until thick and fluffy.

 

Mini Lemon & Poppyseed Battenberg Cakes

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Last March, when Jay went back to England to visit his family he brought back mini Battenberg cakes for me. Once I tried them I was hooked. There were about 5 seconds between the first bite and the last bite. They’re considered to be perfect for afternoon tea, and you won’t catch me saying otherwise. They are. But really, when is tea and cake not a good idea? After eyeing the poppy seeds in my cupboard all week, I decided it was time that me and the ol’ Battenburg meet again.

These guys take some time and precision, which makes it a bit of a slow project. Mine didn’t turn out looking like a perfect 10, but more like a solid 8, which is good enough for me, thank you very much.

After reading a few different methods about how to cook the cakes, I settled on one that involved making a makeshift divider out of parchment paper. It was the option that required less cleaning and it worked out great. I also made my own almond paste that gets wrapped around the outside because I’d never done it before, but you could certainly do it with store-bought almond paste. Traditionally they’re held together with jam or custard, but I just fancied a little buttercream instead.

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ALMOND PASTE:

1 1/2 c. almond flour

1 1/2 c. icing sugar

1/2 t. almond extract

1 t. lemon extract

1 egg white

natural yellow food coloring (to liking)

1 T. lemon juice (you may not need all of it)

  1. For homemade almond paste: In a food processor combine the flour and sugar until no lumps remain. Then add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the lemon juice. Pour that slowly in until the dough forms a clump. Dump the ball out onto the counter into some icing sugar and knead it a bit. Once it’s smooth and uniform, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later.
  2. For ready made almond paste: If you are using ready made almond paste chop it up and put it into the food processor. Add coloring and 1 t. lemon extract until it comes together again. If you have almond flour on hand, you can experiment with adding lemon juice for more flavor and add almond flour if the mixture becomes too wet. You can also just use almond paste with no color or added flavoring. Up to you!

BUTTERCREAM:

1/4 c. soft butter

1 c. icing sugar

1 T. lemon curd

1 T. whole cream (you amy need more)

  1. I tend to just eye this so, these are just loose instructions: With the whisk attachment cream the butter and sugars. Add the curd and half the cream. If it is too dry, beat in the rest until you achieve a smooth thick frosting. If it is too wet, add more sugar.

CAKE:

6 oz. soft butter

6 oz. white sugar

3 eggs

6 oz. self raising flour

1/2 t. lemon extract

1/8 t. salt

Lemon curd for icing

Bowl 1:

1 t. lemon juice

1 t. lemon zest

natural yellow food coloring

Bowl 2:

2-3 T. poppy seeds (this depends on how visible you want your seeds to be.)

1 t. lemon extract

375º F / 190º C

  1. In an 8 x 8″ tin, cut a piece of parchment paper that hangs over the sides a bit. Make a fold in the middle of the paper and position it in exactly the center of the tin so that you can pour equal amounts of batter on each side without them interfering. Grease the paper.
  2. In a mixer, combine the sugar and butter and then add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. On a scale, divide the batter into two equal portions.
  4. Bowl 1: mix in juice, color and zest
  5. Bowl 2: mix in poppy seeds and extract
  6. Spread each mix evenly on it’s designated side of the pan and bake 15-20 minutes until it springs back to the touch or produces a clean knife. Let cool completely.

ASSEMBLY:

  1. When cakes are cool, turn them onto a cutting board. With a very sharp knife, level off the top of the cake by running your knife along in a horizontal straight line cutting off any uneven areas. Stack the cakes as perfect as you can and cut off the edges. Then, keeping them stacked, cut your cakes into 1.5″ wide rectangles. Then length of your cake will be whatever is left after you’ve trimmed the edges.
  2. Then, cut your stacked rectangles in half length wise. You should have 4 long pieces per cake to make the checkerboard pattern.
  3. Assemble your 4 pieces into a checkerboard pattern by icing with buttercream between each piece. If this step is confusing, use the picture for reference. Do not ice the outside of the cake.
  4. Once your cakes are glued together with the icing, roll out the almond paste on a sugared (icing sugar) surface to 1/8″ thick rectangle, trimming the edges. Cut rectangles of 4 x 6″
  5. Before you roll the cakes, brush each side with a thin layer of lemon curd. Then, place your cake on the almond paste strips and wrap the strips around until the two ends meet. Trim if necessary.
  6. Smooth over edges with your fingers to make sure the almond paste sticks to the curd.
  7. Brush off extra icing sugar and trim cakes so that the cake and almond paste are flush and the pattern on the inside is exposed on both ends.
  8. Repeat 3 more times until you have 4 mini Battenberg cakes.

Chai Spiced Mini Loaves with Cardamom Vanilla Icing

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Traveling India and Nepal, I became obsessed with Masala Chai. I traveled the two with a good friend of mine and since we were coming from Thailand, which has only three seasons; hot, hotter and hottest, the cold mountain air was welcomed with open arms and endless cups of masala chai.

In India they served it on the longer train rides in higher class cars and along the street sides in the morning. Perhaps a bit of a gamble from the streets, but a risk well worth taking.  In Nepal it was a breakfast staple for us. In the brisk mornings and cool evenings we drank masala chai in the quaint dirt floored cafes along Phewa Lake in Pokhara. Ever since that trip I’ve taken a liking to using it in whatever I can as my way of taking myself back to the Himilayas.

The word Chai actually just means tea, but we’ve come to use it when we’re actually talking about the spice mix that is masala. Garam masala to be exact. It’s a blend of black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg, green cardamom or  some similar variation. When I first looked into this way back when, I was surprised at the black pepper. Who knew?

This recipe, after all that talk, doesn’t actually use masala! Oops. It does however capture a similar flavor. It’s subtle, sweet and spicy in all the right ways. I made mini loaves, but made one large loaf as well for comparison. They both turned out great. Enjoy!

CAKE BATTER:

2 c. flour

1 c. sugar

3 t. baking powder

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. ground cardamom

1/8 t. ground ginger

1/8 t. ground cloves

1 t. salt

2 eggs

1 c. buttermilk or 1 c. milk + 1 T. white vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 t. vanilla extract

SWIRL FILLING

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1.4 t. ground cardamom

1/4 t. ground ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

3 t. melted butter

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In large mixing bowl combine the wet ingredients and gradually mix in dry ingredients.
  3. Grease and line a standard loaf pan or mini loaf moulds with parchment paper.
  4. Fill the loaf pan or mini moulds halfway.
  5. Make the filling by combining all ingredients together.
  6. For standard loaf pan: pour the filling on top of the batter and then pour the reaming batter on top of that.
  7. For mini moulds: drizzle 2 T. of the filling on the batter and then fill again until 3/4 of the way full.
  8. Bake for 50-55 minutes for a standard loaf pan or 20 minutes for mini loaves until you can pull a clean toothpick from the middle.

ICING

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 1/2 T. milk

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/8 t. ground cardamom

*sliced almonds for topping

  1. Mix the ingredients (minus the almonds) together until they form a paste the consistency of glue. You may have to add more sugar or milk depending on the result.
  2. Drizzle on top of the cooled loaf or loaves and let it fall down the sides.
  3. Top with sliced almonds.