Banana Cake with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

Today is A.’s birthday!

source

And to celebrate, I made him a birthday cake. A. doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but one of his favourite desserts when he eats them is banana-nutella crêpes. It’s hard to turn down that banana-y, chocolatey, hazelnutty goodness, and I tried to emulate that experience in cake form.

The cake is a basic vanilla cake using brown sugar. The filling in the layers is made of banana slices, pastry cream, and crumbled dark chocolate bits that I had left over from the last cake I made.

The buttercream is just a regular recipe with a bit of cocoa powder and a whole jar of Nutella blended in. If you love Nutella (who doesn’t), then you’ll be a big fan of it in buttercream format.

If you want something to break up the intense chocolateyness, serve with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream. If you want even more chocolateyness, use a chocolate cake and put buttercream between the layers.

Nutella Buttercream

Makes a whole heck of a lot of buttercream.

  • 1 725g jar Nutella
  • 1 1/2 lbs butter, just colder than room temp
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  1. Cream butter and cocoa powder together using a wooden spoon or paddle attachment on stand mixer.
  2. Add in Nutella, and beat until fluffly.
  3. Add icing sugar by the 1/2 or 1/4 cup, while beating, until desired consistency is reached.

 

Brown Sugar Vanilla Cake adapted from James Peterson’s Baking

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (subtract 1 tablespoon per cup for all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 7/8 cup (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) butter, sliced

Preheat oven to 350F

  1. In a large bowl, with beaters, or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, 1/2 a cup of the milk, and the vanilla.
  3. Add the butter and remaining milk to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-low for about 2 minutes, or until everything’s combined.
  4. Add 1/4 of the egg mixture, and beat till smooth.
  5. Continue adding egg mixture in quarters, beating batter till smooth between additions.
  6. Evenly pour batter into two buttered and flours cake pans.
  7. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Completely cool the cakes before taking them out of the cake pans, and gently slice them in half, so you have 4 total layers.

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  1. Bring milk and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, yolks and cornstarch together in a large bowl.
  3. Pour half of the hot milk into the bowl and whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  5. The moment the mixture starts to thicken, remove it from the heat and keep whisking.
  6. Cool to room temp, or stick it in the fridge with cling wrap pressed onto the surface to avoid pudding skin.

Extras

Sliced bananas, crushed chocolate, nuts, or whipped cream. Whatevs.

Assembly

Spread about 1/2 cup of pastry cream on your first cake layer. Sprinkle on chocolate bits, and then layer banana slices over top. Place 2nd cake layer on top.
Repeat process for all of your layers, except for the top of the cake.
Create a cumb coat: carefully spread some (room temp, or slightly warmed) buttercream over the whole thing, smoothing it down with an offset spatula.
Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, to set your crumb coat.
After cake is chilled, gently spread remaining (slightly warmed) buttercream over the cake, and smooth. Decorate to your heart’s content!

Happy birthday, A.! ♥

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Caramelized Onion and Cheese Loaf

 

I’m not usually the type who eats breakfast in the mornings. Waking up just takes so much dang time, and though I classify myself as more of a “morning person” than an “evening person”, I’m still not ready to get up and go and actually make myself something to eat before work. That being the case, I’m always looking for things that count as breakfast and that I can eat on the run.

This caramelized onion and cheese loaf is one of those eat-and-run type of meals. This is actually one of my very favourite recipes of all time to bake. Chock-full of tangy cheese and sweet onions and a little bit of zip from paprika and cayenne, it’s just delicious and filling and a great start to the daily grind.

I’ve adapted this recipe from when it first appeared in The Ottawa Citizen sometime around 2006 – 2007. The original recipe calls for smoked cheddar and actually makes muffins, but for those with a tiny oven and only one six-cup muffin tin, a loaf is more convenient. I’ve chosen to use aged, unsmoked cheddar, cayenne and some jalapeno gouda instead of the regular cheese, and I’ve opted out of adding the 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil in favour of the jalapeno zing.

You can pretty much add whatever you want to this to make it your own. Pancetta or proscuitto would go nicely, or some blue cheese and mushrooms, or chevre and sun-dried tomatoes. Have at it, do whatever you want!

Below is the recipe.

 

Caramelised Onion and Cheese Loaf adapted from The Ottawa Citizen

Onions

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion, which is about one whole medium-sized onion
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

Batter

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup aged cheddar, shredded
  • 1/3 cup jalapeno gouda, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne powder, depending on how much zing you want
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/4 cups milk stirred with 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice, left to sit for one minute)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup jalapeno gouda, shredded, for topping

For the Onions

  1. Heat the tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring frquently, until the onions are brown all over and caramelised, about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Add brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. Remove onions from heat and cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F

  1. Measure flour, baking powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and both cheeses into a large bowl and stir everything to blend. Make a well in the centre of the bowl.
  2. Combine oil, milk and egg into the wet ingredients and stir until everything is combined.
  3. Add onions, and stir well.
  4. Line a 9″x9″ baking pan with parchment paper (or grease + flour the pan) and gently pour the batter in, smoothing to even it out.
  5. Sprinkle remaining jalapeno gouda onto the batter.
  6. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, and test for firmness: poke a skewer into the middle of the loaf, and if it comes out with batter on it, continue baking for 5 – 10 more minutes, until the skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cool and slice into squares.

 

And there you have it! Delicious on-the-run breakfast that’s super easy to make.

Let me know what awesome tasty ingredient combos you add! This is such a versatile little loaf.

Enjoy!

Easy-Peasy Lemon-Squeezy: Lemon-Lime Posset

 

Posset is a medieval hot drink, traditionally made of hot milk or cream curdled with wine or ale and spiced.

This version is made of cream and sugar boiled together and thickened by using citrus juice — lemons and limes. It’s chilled overnight to create a silky, puddingy texture and is just the easiest thing to whip up as a fresh-tasting dessert.

I’ve added some lime zest into this recipe, but it’s not necessary.

Recipe makes about two servings, but is easily doubled, or tripled, or halved, or whatever.

Lemon Lime Posset via Dessert of the Month Club

  • 300 ml (just over a cup) heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  1. Put cream and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  2. Simmer cream for 3 minutes, still whisking.
  3. Remove cream from heat and whisk in lemon and lime juice and zest
  4. Pour into ramekins and chill overnight.

And that’s it! For serious!

You can input other flavours as well, as long as you keep the citrus base. You need the acid from the lemons to thicken the pudding, but you could add in grapefruit juice, ginger juice, or even something like watermelon juice for flavouring.

It’s so fresh and summery, and is a great ending to a summer barbecue dinner.

Enjoy!

Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake

Roald Dahl is incredibly good at capturing children’s imaginations with food. In The Witches it’s the luxurious description of strawberries and cream that sticks with me most. James and the Giant Peach is pretty obvious. And let’s not even get started on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

But what takes the …. the cake, I suppose, without trying to sound too forced, is the huge, chocolately, moist and creamy insane cake in the movie version of Matilda.

For those not in the know, Matilda is a 1996 movie with Danny DeVito and the girl from Miracle on 34th Street in it, about a little girl who develops psychic powers. There’s a horrible headmaster (Ms. Trunchbull) who tortures children in a makeshift iron maiden, and eventually the star, Matilda, sticks it to her good and liberates the school. But before that, there’s a scene where Bruce Bogtrotter gets called up on stage and accused of eating the headmaster’s piece of cake that she was saving. Bruce is then punished by being forced to eat a chocolate cake the size of a tire in front of the whole school. He does it, of course. What kid wouldn’t?

Anyway, that scene was the best thing about 1996, probably (apart from Wannabe being released, obviously). And there is an official recipe, you guys.

Also bringing you today’s recipe is a bunch of chocolate sticks I was gifted after a photoshoot we did for a local food magazine. As you can see, I stuck them on and around the whole cake in a poor attempt at decorating. That only used up, like, a quarter of the sticks I got, so I’m going to have to think up something else chocolately to do soon.

Anyway.

Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

Cake

  • 8 oz (2 cups) high-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar – optional
  • Wax paper

Ganache

  • 4 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon+ cold coffee

Preheat your oven to 350F.

  1. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar on high till stiff.
  2. Beat egg yolks slightly, in a separate bowl, until pale.
  3. Over a double-boiler, melt chocolate and butter together and stir until smooth.
  4. Stir together sugar, eggs, and flour in a large bowl until smooth, and whisk in the chocolate mixture.
  5. Fold half the egg whites into the cake batter. The batter should be a bit lighter and be one uniform colour. Folding takes time, and if your arm is hurting by the end, you’re doing it right.
  6. Fold the remaining egg whites in. The batter should be way lighter in colour and texture.
  7. Butter two 9″ cake pans, and place a round of wax paper on the bottom of each, so it sticks to the butter.
  8. Pour the batter evenly in the pans, and bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until the top is crispy.
  9. Cool the cakes in the pan, and tip them out upside-down and stack them on top of each other on a plate or wire rack. The cakes tend to deflate a little — it’s okay.

For the ganache:

  1. Chop your chocolate into small slivers, or use chocolate chips.
  2. Heat the heavy cream on medium-low heat until just before simmering.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let melt for 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Flavour with coffee, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to taste
  5. Stir until smooth.
  6. Pour over the cakes.

Decorate with chocolate curls or sticks, or put strawberries on top for a little break in the chocolate.

The cake is delicious. I’m going to say that right now. But, it is incredibly chocolately and rich and intense and just… It’s pretty insane. I dislike how the phrase “death by chocolate” is tossed around by restaurants that don’t actually deliver, but this delivers, baby. If you’ve had an exceptionally hard day, or it’s Valentine’s Day or your birthday or some other day where you just need chocolate, right now, then this is the recipe for you.

If you want an even richer cake, make some whipped ganache or chocolate buttercream and spread it between the cake layers. As the cake is spongy it’s not really necessary, but if you’re an icing fan then go for it.

Serve with a very tall glass of ice-cold milk and revel in your chocolate love.

Tangerine Tuiles and the Importance of Experimentation

I have enough tuile batter in my fridge for 36 tuiles. I have successfully made one, and that “successfully” is used very loosely because even though the recipe called for a “golden brown all over” look, and mine is golden brown in places, those places taste burnt and terrible. So, this is going on the shelf labelled “WTF, try again later”.

I have also been at this recipe for 4 days, trying multiple batches, oven temperatures, spoon sliding motions, thickness/thinness ratios, cooling times and baking sheet surface liners. This has been quote the journey and I have one single lacy tuile to show for it.

All over the internet, this cookie has been described as easy.

My patience is wearing thin.

Tuiles are insanely delicate little cookies typically baked with egg whites, and get their name from the curved pottery tiles used on houses in France. Tuiles are baked flat and then while still warm, warped around a device like dowling or a rolling pin or bowl to create decorative shapes. All I was after was a nice taste and the exact same lacy, webby texture shown in James Peterson’s book Baking.

What I first found is that this recipe may be flawed, as no matter how long I chilled and whisked the batter, every batch ended up greasy. I cut the butter in the recipe and added more fruit zest for my second batch (based on the recipe Peterson’s recipe is based on) and was more successful. What also helps is cooling the melted butter to room temperature before incorporating it, and keeping the batter in the fridge overnight.

You seriously have to use a silicone pan liner with these. Parchment paper just not does it (though perhaps that’s what the extra butter in Baking‘s recipe was to cover?) and you will frustrate yourself to no end if you use it. Everything sticks!

Anyway, in the end, maybe it’s best to just bake them flat and leave them that way. The process of removing them quickly from searing hot baking sheet to rolling pin is stressful, and not fun like baking is supposed to be.

So, here is what I have to show for my hours of work.

Look at that. That’s four days of experimenting and tweaking and that’s the result. It’s a little disappointing.

As frustrating at that may be, it’s really important to try, try again when something you want to create doesn’t work the first time. While the science of cooking and baking has been almost standardized, it’s hard to account for weather, or for stoves overheating or for wonky measuring devices when you’re a hobby baker, and as a result you need to experiment.

Try different things with your recipe. The best thing I can suggest is, if the recipe fails the first time, try it once more following the exact recipe, and if that still fails apply tweaks. Keep everything fluid, and don’t give up. And if you get your tuiles to work perfectly and have perfected the recipe, tell me how.

Recipe below. Good luck!

Tangerine Tuiles adapted from James Peterson’s Baking, which is adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course

  • 3/4 cup fresh tangerine juice. This can be like, 5 – 7 tangerines. You can also use grapefruit or oranges.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 14 tablespoons/ 1 and 3/4 sticks / 207 ml / .875 cups of melted butter, cooled to room temp. This is such an awkward measurement, so I’ve included all kinds.
  • 1 teaspoon grated tangerine zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  1. Whisk together sugar and flour.
  2. Slowly whisk in the citrus juices and mix until smooth and pasty.
  3. Drizzle in the melted butter and the zest, and whisk vigorously until everything’s incorporated and smooth once again. You can also use electric beaters.
  4. Refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with a silicone liner.
  6. Spoon a small teaspoon of batter onto the liner and gently spread it out into a 4″ circle.
  7. If you can fit multiple circles on your sheet, do so. I can only fit two at a time!
  8. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes or until golden brown all over. Don’t underbake.
  9. Take the tuiles out of the oven and let them sit for 1 – 3 minutes or until you can lift them up with a spatula.
  10. Gently and quickly drape them over a rolling pin to set. Cool the baking sheet in between batches.

Seriously. Experiment, let me know how it goes.

Cinnamon Buns with Mocha Buttercream

So it’s been a while! The photography season is starting to pick back up,finally, so I have less time to devote to food these days. But yesterday, after getting home at 8pm and eating for the first time that day, I had a hankering to make something. And that something was cinnamon buns! Light, fluffy, cinnamony and sweet with two frostings, a simple glaze and mocha buttercream.

Buttercream just makes everything better, doesn’t it? And it’s so simple to make, and you can even do it by hand if your butter is soft enough.

Anyway. You need to make a basic yeasted dough for this recipe. Use active dry yeast, not instant rise, and let the dough rise either in the fridge overnight or in the oven with boiling water in a pan set below the dough. You can’t fail!

There are three parts to this recipe: basic dough, cinnamon-sugar interior, and icing. Below is all three.

 

Basic Yeasted Dough adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Honest Pretzels.

Makes 12-14 cinnamon buns, but you can freeze the dough for future use if you don’t want to make that many.

  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups minus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Sprinkle the yeast, sugar, and one tablespoon of the butter into the lukewarm water and give it a stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes while you prepare everything else.
  2. Grease a medium-large bowl with the remaining butter and set it aside.
  3. In another bowl, stand mixer, or food processor, prepare the dough:
  4. Sift the flour and salt together and stir it. Slowly pour it the water-yeast mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Use the dough hook attachment with a stand mixer, or turn on the food processor on a low speed. If working by hand, mix as much as you can with a wooden spoon and then use your hands to knead the dough from then on.
  5. Let the dough come together into a solid mass and let it rest for one minute.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes. If it gets sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour and work it in. The dough should be smooth and matte by the time you’re done.
  7. Put the dough into the greased bowl and let it rise in the oven with hot water on the bottom rack, for one hour.

After it’s doubled in size, slice the dough in half and roll each piece out. Here’s where you have two choices: a very spirally cinnamon bun, or a very fluffy one.

If you want lots of spirals, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 12″ long, and about 1/4″ thick. The thin dough makes it easy to have lots of spirals and layers to the bun, but it’s not as soft and fluffy.

If you want really fluffy cinnamon buns, roll the dough out to 12″ long and 6″ across, and about 1/2″ – 1″ thick. The thicker you leave the dough, the fluffier it’ll bake, but it’s harder to make tight spirals.

 

Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture

This is pretty easy. You can wing it if you like and add something like ginger, or nutmeg or allspice, instead of just regular sugar and cinnamon.

Anyway, melt about 3 tablespoons butter and brush it out onto the prepared rolled dough.

Mix together: 2 tablespoons white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle this liberally on top of the spread butter, and roll the dough up as tightly as you can without squishing it.

Slice the dough roll into 6 equal buns, and repeat with the other dough. Let the buns rise for 45 minutes (in a humid oven again is your choice).

 

 

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a baking dish and stand the buns up tightly in the dish. Brush the buns with melted (salted) butter and bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

Mocha Buttercream

This buttercream is made with instant coffee, and is just barely chocolatey and coffee…-ey.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. This is easiest with beaters or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, but it’s possible to do by hand with a wooden spoon and whisk.
  2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 a cup of the icing sugar onto the creamed butter and beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until all combined.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, and remaining icing sugar to the butter and beat till smooth.
  5. Add the coffee bit by bit. Start with 1/2 tablespoon and increase to taste. My balance is equal parts cocoa and coffee: 2 tablespoons.
  6. You can refrigerate the buttercream, but if you do you need to re-heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds before it becomes spreadable again, otherwise it’ll solidify into butter again.

Basic Glaze

This is just icing sugar and milk, and it’s pretty much the same as you get in the Pillsbury cinnamon bun packages.
Whisk together 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon until you reach your desired consistency.

And that’s it! It’s a lengthy process, about 3 hours, but it’s mostly just waiting. Find some show to marathon or go for a walk while the dough is rising and you won’t even notice the length of time.

Good luck!

 

 

“Marshmallow” Frosting

This is the same recipe I used for the interior fondant in my Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes post. It’s light, sticky, and holds a great pose as long as you beat your egg whites stiff enough! Colours well and is just excellent on richly-flavoured cupcakes.

The process involves beating soft-ball stage sugar syrup into egg whites, so having a stand mixer (or electric beaters) and a candy thermometer on hand is really going to help you out. But the whole process is simple and quick and I can’t recommend it enough!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites

In a stand mixer or with electric beaters, beat the egg whites in a large bowl to soft peaks. “Soft peaks” is a term used to describe the stiffness of things like egg whites and whipped cream — when pulling away your whisk, the egg whites should form little mountains that slowly melt back into themselves.

Meanwhile, melt the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the syrup starts to boil, leave it untouched until it reaches soft-ball stage, at 225F on a candy thermometer.

If you don’t have a thermometer, the easiest way to test soft-ball stage is to boil the syrup rapidly for 3-5 minutes, and then dip a teaspoon of syrup into cold water. It should turn into a sticky, toffee-like ball and roll easily between your fingers.

If the syrup changes colour, it’s been over-cooked and you’ll have to restart, so monitor everything carefully! When the syrup is ready, let it cool for a minute until the bubbles subside.

On medium speed, beat the syrup into the eggs while pouring in a slow, thin, continuous stream. Beat everything to firm or stiff peaks, and frost those cupcakes!

It’s probably best to use food tint instead of food colouring to colour the frosting, but in small doses (one or two drops), food colouring works fine.