February 24, 2010

Daring Bakers - Tirimisu

Groan.... I have to make it entirely from scratch? Yes, that is what the challenge says, so I read it again and it said the same thing. At the beginning of the month, I was pretty pumped up. I thought making this dessert from scratch (a 2-3 day process) sounded like a really intense challenge I was up for. Towards the end of the month when I actually started the recipe... and realized how long it was going to take... I lost a little of that adrenaline (if you could call it that).

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I started with the Mascarpone Cheese. I have been interested in making a cheese at home since reading Barbara Kingsolver's novel, Animal Vegetable Miracle where she describes this process in detail (and makes you believe you can do it too). The directions for the Mascarpone were not the most descriptive. Maybe I expected too much since making cheese seems so much more scientific than heating heavy cream with lemon juice until it becomes thick like custard. Apparently not. I did struggle to get the cream to a high enough temperature (I later learned that many DBers had the same problem and that you should use stainless steel in the double boiler) and although it was a good thing to try once, I think I would rather just buy it from the store.

Night numero dos, I made the Zabaglione. I didn't feel like buying a bottle of Marsala (sweet wine kind of like port) and used coffee instead. Again, it took a lot longer than the suggest 8 minute time frame to get this to custard consistency. [insert grumbling about making this from scratch].
Day three. I need a break. Hosting dinner for a small group. Stare into the fridge and check on the Zabaglione and cheese. looks good. I've only eaten Tiramisu about three times in my life (never while I was living in Italy) and each of those times, it was so so. Maybe I lost my ambition, maybe I remembered how uninteresting Tiramisu was, mostly I just started running out of nights. I bought store bought Savoiarde. They are imported from Italia (justification) and I would have been late with the challenge if I hadn't. I was supposed to make the cookies from scratch, but this challenge was really about getting back in the swing of things. It had been a long time since participating in a DB challenge, so cheating a little on this one is good - or else I may have given up.
Day Four. Pastry Cream, Whipped Cream, Assembly. Pastry cream is another of the finicky stove top heating procedures that can make or break a delicate cream. If you heat it too fast, the egg yolk will curdle, too slow, and you're standing over the stove entirely too long. Mine turned out fine. Whipping cream is always a fun event. The mixer gets to do all the work while you monitor for consistency. Stiff peaks. I prepared the cookie dunking liquid and folded the cream together with my home made Mascarpone (which is actually good) and Zabaglione.
I decided using glasses as my vessel was prettier than the blob that might have happened if I tried it free form. 1 1/2 cookies for each layer with a bit of the cream on top. Dusted with cocoa powder they look so magnificent. I really enjoyed this recipe after tasting it. It was not overpowered by coffee, and I omitted the rum extract, so the mild vanilla/lemon flavors came through nicely. I'm not sure I would go to the trouble of making this again unless I met someone who absolutely adored Tiramisu (and needed one for their birthday).
Mascarpone Cheese
Click the link above for the recipe!

Recipe from Cordon Bleu at Home

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients: 3 eggs, separated 6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar 3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch) 6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy. Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar. Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the shee

ts and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack. Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post) This recipe makes 6 servings

For the Zabaglione: 2 large egg yolks 3 tablespoons sugar/50gms 1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee) 1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a stainless bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:1/4 cup/55gms sugar 1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract 1 large egg yolk 3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth. Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the Whipped Cream: 1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%) 1/4 cup/55gms sugar 1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the Tiramisu: 2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed 1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional) 1/2 cup/110gms sugar 1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less) 2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

To assemble the tiramisu: Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice. Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu. Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. (If you use store bought cookies dip as fast as you can and let a little of the liquid drain out before placing them in the dish). Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Thanks M for snapping some of these lovely shots!

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks BBQ Buffalo Burgers

I'm not a huge fan of red meat. I stopped eating it sometime in middle school and my mom graciously cooked alternate food for me when we had it for dinner. I don't understand the appeal of a good steak (I know, I know) and although I used to think ground beef was revolting, I've been trying to be better at including it (or ground turkey) in meals to change things up a bit. Since I don't really favor beef, we stumbled on a recipe for these buffalo burgers a couple of years ago, and we made sliders for a dinner party. They were great, and I'm not sure why we waited so long to make them again. Much better than ground beef.
Why is buffalo better than beef? Here are some facts about these sweet giants: It tastes better (my personal fact), it is lighter, it's 70 - 90% more lean than ground beef, they are naturally resistant to disease and don't require antibiotics or growth hormones, they are grass fed, they are healthy and don't poo in their drinking water (cows and sheep are less intelligent), it has 50% lower cholesterol than beef, and it's higher in protein and amino acids.
If that doesn't make you want to go out and find some buffalo, maybe this will... The burgers are amazing with the Red Slaw. It is vinegar based and the hint of caraway seed compliments rye bread if you choose this as your bun. The Mango Ketchup is a bit of work but definitely a component you don't want to skip. It is really spicy because it contains one habanero, but the spiciness mellows once everything is assembled. The buffalo meat was lovely on the grill. It takes less time to cook than beef since is has a lower fat ratio so use your grilling skills wisely.
We shared this meal with some friends this past weekend in Tahoe. It is always great to get out of the city and ski or snowboard, or lay around the cabin and watch the olympics, but don't do it without good food. And don't think it needs to be sunny to grill... M grilled the buffalo to perfection in 35˚ weather in the dark, with melty snow dripping on his head from the eave of the cabin.
Whole Foods sells it here in San Francisco, but I imagine it is easy to get in the midwest since that is where our buffalo came from. If not, a simple online search will provide quite a few buffalo meat distributors.
BBQ Buffalo Burgers with Red Slaw and Mango Ketchup
1 1/2 lb ground buffalo meat
1/2 C BBQ Sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Mix this together being careful not to squish the meat. Form into patties and set aside to grill (I made 5 large patties). Heat grill, and cook for 5 minutes or so on each side.
Mango Ketchup
1 mango peeled and diced
1 habanero pepper seeded and minced (wear gloves!)
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 T honey
1/2 tsp salt
Saute garlic and onion in oil over medium heat. Add mango and cook 5 minutes. Add in spices and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer the sauteed mix into a food processor. Add red wine vinegar, honey, and salt and process until smooth. Cover and Refrigerate.
Red Slaw
1/2 head red cabbage shredded, divided
1 C red wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 T caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil and vinegar in a small saucepan to boiling. Add 3/4 of the shredded cabbage, and caraway seeds, stir and cover. Let it wilt for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before serving. Just before serving add in the reserved fresh shredded cabbage for a little extra crunch.
Assemble your burger with a large helping of ketchup and slaw. No cheese necessary!

February 17, 2010

Meyer Lemon Sorbet

I didn't know the difference between Sorbet and Sherbet when I made this ice cream, frankly I didn't care too much because the recipe sounded too good to pass up. Upon serving it to friends on Valentines Day, they asked, "What makes it a sorbet and not a sherbet?" We threw around our answers and then I googled it. (do you think google knew it would become a verb when they started? apparently they are concerned it will dilute the branding...) Answer. The difference is eggs. Sorbet has no eggs, Sherbet does. I'm sure you fanatical ice cream eaters already knew this, but just in case you were thinking the same thing....
This sorbet is the embodiment of summer. It is light and refreshing, and I managed not to explode after eating a scoop. Sometimes heavy ice creams make me feel this way = regret. The lemons I used came from the same batch I used to make Lemon Cake recently. It took a lot of lemons to make 1 C of lemon juice - and this is no time to substitute with "fresh squeezed bottled juice". Since Meyer Lemons have an orange-y flavor, you can substitute about a third of regular lemon juice with orange juice to imitate the flavor if you can't find them. I'd suggest substituting half of the zest as well. It won't be exactly the same, but you probably won't make fish faces after eating the sorbet if you made it with regular lemon juice. They are hard to find because they are not grown commercially. They are delicate. They require special attention when shipping. Most of the Meyers sold in California come from local growers, or small farms.
The taste as I said before is so wonderfully light, you can't beat it. It was a great addition to our Valentines dinner with friends, and a lovely pairing to our warm weather this past weekend. Like little suns in my wooden bowl. I hope to make some more interesting desserts for you before they disappear.
I can't resist telling you another story... these lemons kind of remind me of my fish in college, Limone (use your Italian here: Lee-mohn-eh). He was a beautiful Yellow Tang fish, and one day he got sick. Rather than try and transport him to CA with me (a three day journey not likely to have a positive ending) I took him back to the fish store and they said they would do their best to rehabilitate him. Better ending. Maybe he is planning his escape from a dental office as we speak.
Meyer Lemon Sorbet
1 1/4 C sugar
2 T lemon zest - finely grated
1 C lemon juice
4 C half and half
Whisk all of these together in a medium bowl, add to your ice cream maker and freeze for about 25 minutes - or according to your maker's instructions. Freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight. Don't worry if it looks curdled in the ice cream maker, it will smooth out in the freezer. If you wanted this to be a little more soft and creamy than icy, you could substitute one cup of heavy cream for the half and half.

February 11, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons... Make Lemon Cake

I like fresh squeezed lemonade, but I like cake more than lemonade... and Meyer lemons are much more exciting to bake with. I made a cake for another office birthday using these great lemons. There are so many birthdays in the first 11 days of February - it's a little strange. I know of 6, and made a cake for 3 of them (4 if you count the double office party). Sad I couldn't make a cake for my sister on her birthday (shared with my boss who I did make this cake for). Next year I will plan it better and mail one! I only have one cake in my repertoire that I know mails well, which is the cookie cake tower. It's also good if you don't have to mail it.
My bosses are interesting people. They ballroom dance competitively, run an architecture firm, and enjoy watching Glee - which makes me laugh. I had the option of making chocolate or lemon cake, and I had that very day been offered a bag of lemons courtesy of a friend. I'm not exactly sure where they came from - maybe his uncle, or his uncle's neighbor... I'm just glad I was offered! Thanks R! Since I had lemons on the way, it made the choice much easier. Making decisions is very hard sometimes. (Especially when feeding a diverse group of people, and attempting to make a nice cake for your boss.) I did some research and ended up making a lemon poppyseed bundt cake from a new cookbook.
Bundt cakes travel well (even on the bus), and feed a crowd without all the added layers. You can fancy them up with fresh fruit or fresh cream, and they look so pretty dusted with powdered sugar. Picture me in the office kitchen/library using a tea infuser to dust the powdered sugar on the cake! silly, but it worked well. The lemon poppy cake I made had a lighter texture than most bundt cakes and was drenched in lemony syrup after it finished baking. The recipe called for more poppy seeds than I would normally use, but they offered a nice crunch. Our office joked afterward that we should all avoid drug tests (though we have no such requirement in our office). I'm pretty sure that Myth Busters proved that if you eat enough poppy seeds you will test positive on drug tests. Innocent cake lovers be ware.
I'm looking forward to our next office birthday - not until next month though. Hopefully I'll have something exciting to share with you all here.

February 10, 2010

Little Bits of Heaven

I made some cookies to share at a superbowl party last weekend. If I were a man, I might daydream heaven has something like unlimited cookie dough and football... but since I'm no where close to manly, I'm happy just baking in celebration of helmet cracking and dog piling (my heaven includes puppies). I intended to make something really kitschy like a football cake or little helmet shaped sugar cookies - then I realized I didn't have time for all of that. Instead, I made cookies. Seems it may have taken the same amount of time to make three different cookies as rolling sugar cookie dough and decorating... it may have also helped if I had white granulated sugar on hand when I started. oops. That extra bag in my baking cabinet turned out to be a mystery bag of flour, not sugar. Bummer. Two cookies out, new cookies to come.
I was able to make Coconut Macaroons on Saturday night and subbed sweetened coconut and a tablespoon of brown sugar for the granulated. Interesting combo. Very chewy. I'm not sure if I like coconut macaroons or not. I might like this one more if it didn't taste so much like almond extract/marzipan. Next time I'll switch for coconut extract. Pretty, but super almondy. Don't come to the wrong conclusion - people did like them - I would like them with less almond.
[insert: sleep, wake up early, go to race, watch M run a half marathon, go home, fast trip to grocery store for sugar, make cookies.]
If I had made more cookies on Saturday rather than wait till the last minute Sunday, you may never have been exposed to a favorite of mine, The Orange Snowball. I know it is not snowing here, but these cookies are like little magical white puffs dotted with orange zest and rolled in sugar. They sparkle. Snowball-esque. Pretty. Tasty. You must try them. They do make a nice addition to a Christmas cookie box, but you shouldn't wait that long. They go just as nice with tea and coffee (or beer while watching football). They are simple to make and do not require a lot of ingredients. And unlike my description, they are more like a shortbread cookie than puffs of air.
Third cookie. I found this recipe while scouring the net for a cookie recipe that used solely brown sugar. After reading some recipes, I decided to wait for regular sugar, it seemed appropriate. And I stumbled onto a chewy chocolate chip recipe by Alton Brown I thought I should try. The other 600 people who tried it seemed to like it a lot - and baking with bread flour seemed interesting enough. The science behind extra gluten in the flour is supposed to make a chewier cookie. Unless I did a side by side taste test I couldn't really say how chewy these were but they were definitely good. I'd make them again. If you have bread flour on hand try them out.
Coconut Macarons
2 2/3 C shredded coconut
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp almond extract - or coconut extract
2 oz semisweet chocolate
1/8 tsp shortening
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Mix ingredients together in a medium bowl. Scoop dough into balls and place evenly on a greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Melt chocolate and shortening in microwave on low power. Decorate the cookies with the chocolate after they have cooled. Store at room temperature for 3-4 days.
Orange Snowballs
1 C butter
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 T + 2 tsp orange zest divided
1 T orange juice
2 2/3 C flour
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Beat butter for a minute until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add juice and continue beating. Add in the flour and 1 T zest and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. This might take a few minutes so be patient. Divide the dough evenly into 8 segments. From these segments, make 6 equal pieces of dough. Roll the dough into balls and set aside. Once you have rolled them all, coat them with granulated sugar and place on a baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes. While the cookies are baking, mix the remaining zest with about 1/2 C sugar with your fingers. Remove cookies from oven and as soon as you can handle them, roll them in the zest/sugar mixture. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store airtight for up to 5 days.
I didn't change a thing.

February 6, 2010

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Chili

Not just any old chili mind you, but the best chili I have ever had. I'm not going to lie. M loves it too. I don't much care for red meat - so a turkey chili is a good compromise and it is healthy too! So healthy that even weight watchers scores it low on the points scale (so says some people I know). Thankfully, good food can taste great.
I'm not the most amazing cook. Fairly mediocre when it comes to making food as opposed to baking. I have my staples, and soup is a big staple. I really enjoy soup and crusty bread, and they both seem to be food I can make without recipes that turn out well. I make a lot of blended soups so every now and then for M's sake, I change things up, add meat, and sometimes come out a winner in this cooking battle.
I found a couple of recipes for Pumpkin Turkey Chili online one night and made some alterations, added a bit of flair here and there and out came this meal. One dish meals are a favorite around this household - less dishes - and soups warm us up in our everlasting winter wonderland (it's cold in our apartment). Hopefully for you, you have a nice cozy kitchen to try this recipe in. I'm sure you will enjoy it.
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
1 T olive oil 1 C chopped onion 1 bell pepper chopped 1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 14oz can diced tomatoes 1 14 oz can kidney beans 1 14 oz can cannelini (white kidney) beans 1-1 1/2 C canned pumpkin puree 1 C chicken or veggie broth 1 1/2 T chili powder 1/2 T cumin 3/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper pinch cayenne pepper 1/4 C fresh cilantro shredded cheese crusty bread or fritos (or cornbread) Saute the onion, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add turkey and saute until cooked. Add spices and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, broth and pumpkin puree. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. You can add more broth if your chili is too thick. You can also replace broth with beer. Serve topped with fresh cilantro and cheese and some crusty bread or fritos.

February 2, 2010

Do Groundhogs Eat Banana Cake?

If I were a groundhog I would definitely eat banana cake. If the famous groundhog were offered a nice slice of cake, maybe he would stay out a little longer, not search for his shadow, and declare winter is over - instead of running back into his home....
I welcome every opportunity to make birthday cakes. I took this Groundhog Day to offer my baking skills to my office for birthday celebrations. Most of the time we just buy a cake from the grocery store two blocks from the office - they are fine if you enjoy boring cakes.... I was ready for change.
I've made cakes for a friend in the past who is allergic to pretty much everything - and the allergies are ever changing. My other friend used to be gluten free, sugar free, and now she is corn free. The other two are back thankfully, or this cake might have been a bad science experiment. Cake without eggs is difficult. Bananas help keep the cake moist but I had to get creative with the volume. I loosely based the recipe on an Elizabeth Falkner gem I found on a website in 2006 (website no longer exists). The website was connected to Citizen Cake, one of Falkner's restaurant, and she used to share some of her recipes (maybe imagining that no one would be able to match her skill and still crave her Demolition Desserts). I don't suppose she ever thought I might come along and turn her recipe into an almost vegan dessert. I used her recipe as an inspiration for the birthday cake we celebrated today, Groundhog Day.
Banana Cake. Banana Cake with Coconut Cream, Banana Caramel, and Sea Salt Walnuts. Yum! I was nervous baking this. I hovered around the oven peeking in the window every few minutes to determine whether or not the cake was rising appropriately or browning too much... I even prayed that the cake wouldn't be bad since I was feeding my office the next day. My prayers were heard and the cake turned out just fine. I should have added some parchment to the pan (hindsight) because the cake was so moist part of the bottom got stuck. Caramel is not typically my friend. I've made it only twice before and am always scared I'm going to burn it. I didn't burn this one but the color was super dark and it probably took much longer to get to 218˚F than it should have.
The whipped cream substitute is an entirely different story. I wanted to use a product I read about on the internet. Good reviews, and it seemed to be exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, Whole Foods didn't carry this specific one. They had one other type of whipped dairy substitute that I read about and decided to try. After all, one can of the stuff was about the amount I needed. When I got home and tried it, I spewed about half of the aerosol into an empty container before anything came out. Then the aerosol was gone... and in the can lives the rest of the fake cream. For all I'm concerned it can stay in there forever. It was disgusting! I feel bad for people who have to drink any sort of Rice milk (which is what this is made of even though it is called Soyatoo) and vow to never attempt substituting milk for rice any time soon.
My cakes were done, my caramel sauce was done, and I was really bummed that I had no frosting. This wouldn't have been so bad if I lived near a 24 hour grocery store, but I had to fix this problem the next day... at work... and haul my cakes all over the city before I actually got there. Yeah for the Bureau of Street Use and Mapping! So, I took some time to remind myself what I had read about substituting dairy for whipped cream and Coconut Milk came into my mind. I remembered a specific recipe that called for 3 cans of coconut milk (all while rushing through the grocery store on the way into work) and you had to refrigerate them to separate the cream from the water.... and it didn't whip up in volume but had the right consistency... (still running through Whole Foods) decided to get a soy substitute cream cheese just in case... ran to the checkout and power walked back to work.
Whipping Coconut Cream at your office is difficult. I couldn't see any good way to bring my mixer along that morning (had to substitute a power whisk attachment for my immersion blender) but wish I had. The whisk was a little out of control and my bowl was shallow. I made a slight mess, but with a little powdered sugar the cream turned out really well.
Everyone who stopped in the kitchen gave a "wow" as I was assembling it (which always makes me smile) even though it was not the most beautiful of presentations. I drizzled the caramel on top of the whipped coconut, and topped the whole cake with sea salted walnuts. It was a hit - and now I think I have sealed the deal for cake making. (Just like my friend Nicole in Chicago!) The rest won't be as difficult as this cake. Normal ingredients. Not so much stress. Glad to have made a successful cake though!
Happy Birthday you two!
Banana Cake with Coconut Cream, Banana Caramel, and Sea Salt Walnuts


2 ½ C flour

1 T baking powder

½ tsp (heaping) salt

1 stick margarine

2 T water

2 C sugar divided

½ C vegetable oil

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 T distilled white vinegar + enough soy milk to make 1 C

1 ¾ C diced bananas – about 2 medium ripe bananas

Banana Caramel

1/2 C banana chopped

3/4 C brown sugar

1 T margarine

3/4 C water

Coconut Cream

2 cans coconut milk (not light)

1 T powdered sugar

Sea Salted Walnuts

1 C walnut pieces

1 T marjarine

1 tsp fine sea salt

Prep the coconut milk by removing the tops of the cans and covering with plastic wrap. Place them into the freezer for 1 hour, then move them to the fridge until you are ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray two 9" round cake pans, line with parchment and spray lightly again. Cream the marjarine and 1 C sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the padddle attachment. Add water and continue to mix. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine soy milk and vinegar and set aside. Add flour in 3 additions alternating with two additions of soy milk. In your flour bowl, whisk remaining sugar and oil, mix in baking soda thoroughly. Add bananas and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the batter on medium speed until everything is well incorporated. Separate evenly between the two pans, shake to eliminate air bubbles, and bake for about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack until completely cool. Cover with foil if you are making the cakes ahead of time.

Make the Banana Caramel. Process everything but the water until smooth. Add to a small saucepan and add the water. Set pan over medium heat and whisk to combine water thoroughly. Set a candy thermometer in the pan and cook until the temperature reaches 215˚F. Do not stir during this period. Once it reaches the right temperature, pour into a glass measuring cup to cool.

Prepare the walnuts. Melt 1 T margarine. Add nuts to a small bag and pour in margarine and salt. Shake well to combine, then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 325˚F or until crisp and fragrant. Cool.

Prepare the Coconut Cream. Once the coconut milk is completely chilled, the cream will separate from the coconut water and rise to the top of the can. Scoop out the cream making sure not to get the water in the mix. Add this to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until cream is not lumpy. Add in powdered sugar - or to taste. Coconut Cream will not whip in volume like Whipping Cream, but this should be enough to frost two cake layers (I left the sides visible). If you want to cut the cake into 4 layers use 3 cans of coconut milk instead. Set aside until ready to frost.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a stand (don't forget to remove the parchment). Top with half of the coconut cream and smooth to the edges. Drizzle as much banana caramel on top of the cream as you desire. Place second cake layer, and top with the remaining cream. Drizzle caramel and sprinkle walnuts over the top.

This cake will last up to 4 days well covered in the refrigerator. Leftovers are tasty!

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