Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Chocolate Found its Dark Side

I must admit – I was reluctant to post this recipe given the events that shortly followed the creation of these brownies, but the feedback from those who had the chance to enjoy them compelled me to go through with it. This past weekend, I finally came to know the perils of biking in Boston. Long story short, it was an over-the-handlebars deal that resulted in a 6-hour hospital visit and a hysterical mother back in Georgia. Seeing as it could have been MUCH worse than it was (fractured nose, a number of scratches and bruises), I felt this recipe still deserved its due. I sent the brownies with my roommate to the gathering (since I was indisposed to go). The two hosts had BREWED their own beer, called “STUDIO” and had invited their friends over for an evening of homemade beer and treats. I felt it was perfectly appropriate to make something using my favorite beer to bake with: Guinness. The only question was how to make something unique – I had already baked a chocolate stout cake, and just recently made Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes. Brownies became an option in my brainstorming process, and I couldn’t shake the idea, so I decided to make Guinness Stout Brownies (Photos courtesy of my lovely roomie, Jenn Berg).  
These brownies were meant to have a Dark Chocolate Truffle Ganache, but given the unfortunate circumstances that followed later that afternoon, the brownies were delivered to the party as is. I had received the idea for the ganache from a blog I frequent called Sugar Plum ( I can’t say how the ganache fairs in this context, but I highly doubt ANYONE would be averse to having a silky, dark layer of truffle chocolate atop stout brownies.
I always recommend using high-quality chocolate when making brownies from scratch – considering chocolate is the primary ingredient, you don’t want to risk it burning, and a cheaper chocolate won’t produce as silky of results. I used Lindt Excellence – 70% Cocoa. I omitted the chocolate chips (considering I thought I would be including a ganache) and used regular Guinness rather than Guinness Extra Stout. I imagine these will make another appearance so that a) the ganache can tested and b) I can have the opportunity to try one :-) Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate-Guinness Stout Brownies 
Adapted via 
Yields: 24 – 30 brownies

Guinness Stout Brownies:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (or pastry flour)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter, cut into cubes
- 8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup superfine or granulated sugar
- 1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer (see Note below)
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/8 cup (about) confectioners' sugar for dusting

For Brownies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.

Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips in a double-boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined.

Beat reserved flour mixture into melted chocolate mixture. Whisk in Guinness stout beer. The batter will seem a bit thin. Drop semisweet chocolate chips evenly on top of batter (some will sink in). Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on center rack in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let brownies cool, uncovered, to room temperature.

Note: The Guinness should be at room temperature. This recipe uses a little less than a standard 12-ounce bottle of Guinness stout beer. Do not include foam in the measurement. Either spoon off the foam or let it rest until the foam subsides.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Creamy Alternative to Gluten

Having recently experimented in baking with vegan alternatives, the concept of a gluten-free dessert was far less intimidating. Granted, there were a number of considerations I had to take into account (including the fact that, unless labeled “pure”, vanilla extracts and flavorings contain gluten!), but the majority of the staples were still in play (i.e. eggs, milk, sugar, etc.).  As such, I was able to choose a simple solution with a decadent result: Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with a Caramel Sauce and Gluten-Free Gingersnap Crust.

This recipe, from (formerly known as RecipeZaar), is allegedly a la Cheesecake Factory style. The biggest change I made was the topic of this entry: I altered the crust to produce a gluten-free dessert. Some cheesecakes call for 2 – 3 tablespoons of flour. I avoid these recipes altogether since I am something of a cheesecake purist. Thus, this recipe was entirely without gluten aside from the crust. I simply replaced the suggested graham cracker crust with a gluten free alternative of MI-DEL gingersnap cookies.
Gluten intolerance, known as Celiac Disease, is a relatively new concept in American diagnostics, and is believed to effect up to 1 in every 105 persons in the United States. It is an autoimmune disease where the body reacts to the appearance of gliadin, a glycoprotein found in heat products, and results in the degeneration of intestinal villi. This consequently interferes with the absorption of nutrients, inducing the symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, anemia, etc (Wikipedia). The party I baked this cake for had not one but TWO present with Celiac, so I made sure to do my homework. 
Cheesecake is a specialty of mine, probably given that it is my favorite. Whether in its simplest form (New York Style) or extremely complex (Red Velvet Cheesecake), it is a dessert that never fails to please. 

Notes: I used a 9-inch spring-form pan, rather than the 8-inch originally called for. The caramel sauce I used is from a previous recipe I posted a while back - Dorie Greenspan knows her stuff ;-) 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and a Gluten-Free Gingersnap Crust
Adapted via
Yields: 8 - 10 Servings 

Gluten-Free Gingersnap Crust:

   - 1 1/2 cups MI-DEL Gluten-Free gingersnap cookies, finely crumbled
   - 5 tablespoons butter, melted
   - 1 tablespoon sugar

Pumpkin Cheesecake
   - 1 cup sugar 
   - 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (at room temperature)
   - 1 teaspoon vanilla (make sure it’s PURE, or else it might have gluten!)
   - 1 cup canned pumpkin 
   - 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
   - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
   - 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
   - 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Caramel Sauce
   - 2 cups sugar
   - ½ cup water
   - 1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
   - 2/3 cup heavy cream
   - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap tin foil around the outside of a 9-inch spring-form pan, and spray lightly with cooking spray. Combine the gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter. Press onto the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 5 – 7 minutes,  then set aside until you are ready to fill it.

For cheesecake: In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Mix with either the paddle attachment (in a stand mixer) or with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy. Pour the filling into the pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Once the center has almost set, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside for an additional hour.

For caramel sauce: Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just to combine the ingredients. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your saucepan and the intensity of the heat. As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate. Don’t be timid about the color – if it’s too pale, it won’t have much flavor.

Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan, add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Let cool for a bit, then pour over the top of cheesecake – cut with a knife, dipped in after water every slice to prevent a mess, and enjoy! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

"It Takes Two"

I fully acknowledge that the title of this blog was a grade C movie starring the Olsen twins from the 90s, but the following recipes/decadent photos should more than remedy my referencing such a mediocre flick. I gained a reputation as the “office baker” thanks to these cupcakes. An “unnamed” (you know who you are) coworker secretly crossed out all of the names on the Birthday Sign-Up Sheet (a list that shows who is in charge of providing a cake/dessert for the monthly birthday celebration) and volunteered my services for the next 5 months. In other words, these cupcakes mean business, and will surely create a cult following of sugar-addicted fans if you endeavor to recreate them. I baked these cupcakes (a total of 48!) for our CEO Jennifer Hurley-Wales’ surprise birthday party, which took place in lieu of an all-staff meeting. Knowing the entire office would be involved, simple cupcakes with frosting wasn’t about to cut it, so I took leap: Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Salted Caramel Filling and Dark Chocolate Frosting AND Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Ginger.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes
Time-consuming would be an understatement for these recipe – be prepared to devote an entire evening and morning to these little beauties. The result was well worth the effort. Considering I wanted these cupcakes to go above and, both are hybrids of several recipes. Let’s start with the one I know caught all of your attention, the chocolate! My go-to recipe for chocolate cake has and always will be Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake. Quite some time ago, I had come across a recipe by Martha Stewart on one of my go-to baking blogs, BakeorBreak, and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it! Unfortunately, the recipe was for mini cupcakes which, while cute and equally delicious, wasn’t quiote the angle I wanted for this surprise party. As such, I stole the salted caramel filling (no, you’re not dreaming – this is really happening) and dark chocolate frosting portions of the recipe, and used my favorite chocolate cake recipe. These cupcakes were unbelievably amazing!!!!!!!!!
Cooking tip: the recipe calls for a candy thermometer in order to register when the caramel is done – having never owned a candy thermometer; I go by sight and wait until the boiling sugar begins to turn deep amber. I also added 2 tbsp of butter for extra creaminess! For the frosting, be prepared to add a tablespoon or two of butter if the chocolate seems to be burning (a.k.a. gets too stiff to stir).
Confession time: per usual, I forgot a few things. For the chocolate frosting, I didn’t use the “best quality” chocolate for the frosting, but rather 2 bags of Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips. The flavor, in my opinion, was still a sinfully rich texture, so I think either decision is a safe one. Additionally, I used kosher salt in place of the Fleur de Sel.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling
Adapted via BakeOrBreak
Yields: about 30 cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
   - 2 cups sugar
   - 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
   - 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
   - 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   - 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
   - 1 teaspoon salt
   - 2 eggs
   - 1 cup milk
   - 1/2 cup vegetable oil
   - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
   - 1 cup boiling water

Salted Caramel Filling:
   - 2-1/2 cups sugar
   - 2/3 cup water
   - 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
   - 3/4 cup heavy cream
   - 2-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
   - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Dark Chocolate Frosting 
   - 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
   - 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
   - 2-1/4 cups (4-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
   - 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
   - 1/4 teaspoon salt
   - 1-1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For cupcakes: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 

For caramel filling: Heat sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is clear. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Stop stirring, and cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and turns a deep amber brown.

Remove from heat. Slowly pour in cream and wait until the simmering subsides; whisk with a wooden spoon until smooth, then whisk in butter 1 tbsp at a time. Stir in sea salt. Use immediately. If caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.

For filling: Combine cocoa and boiling water. Stir until cocoa has dissolved.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth before using.

For assembly: Use a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece, about 1/2-inch deep, from the center of each cupcake. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of warm caramel filling into each cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip (Wilton #18). Fill pastry bag with frosting. Pipe onto cupcakes, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

Note: The cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Now, let’s talk about the wild card: Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes. When I was first asked to bake the birthday cupcakes for the occassion, the coordinator had suggested this combination. My adventurous streak was intrigued having never tried such a flavor combination, and I set out to find the perfect recipe. It boiled down to two possible sources, and I went with my leading man –David Lebovitz. The balance of Guinness, molasses and sugar seemed perfect for the depth of flavor I wanted. Unfortunately, the thought of a lime buttercream frosting wasn’t exactly my ideal pairing, so I went with a standard cream cheese frosting and added lemon zest and juice. The result was perfect, and the minced candied ginger was the perfect finishing touch! I doubled this recipe since the original only produces 12, but somehow ended up with 30 cupcakes rather than 24!
Cooking tip: be sure to have the sugar pre-measured during the boiling of the Guinness-molasses mixture; you want to add it immediately after you remove the pot from the heat to ensure the sugar melts evenly.
Confession time: I completely forgot to include the minced candied ginger, hence using it instead as a garnish – simple solution, but still a beautifully delicious result!

Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted via David Lebovitz
Yields: 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
   - 1/2 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
   - 1/2 cup  mild-flavored molasses
   - 1/2 cup vegetable oil
   - 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
   - 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
   - 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
   - 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
   - 2 tsp.ground ginger
   - 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
   - 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
   - 1/2 teaspoons table salt
   - 2 large eggs, at room temperature
   - 1/2 cup finely minced candied ginger

For the frosting
   - 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
   - 1/2 cup butter, softened
   - 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
   - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   - half a large lemon, zested and juiced
   - Strips of candied citrus peel or candied ginger, for garnish

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a very large saucepan, bring the stout, molasses, and oil to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda until dissolved. (The mixture will foam up, then settle down.) Stir in the brown sugar, then let cool until tepid.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Whisk the eggs into the stout mixture, then whisk in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Don’t overmix. Gently stir in the minced candied ginger. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake until the cupcakes feel just set in the center, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice. Store in the refrigerator after use. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin. Pipe rosettes of frosting in the center of each cupcake. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can spoon a mound of frosting decoratively in the center.) Garnish each with strips of candied citrus peel or a piece of candied ginger.

Note: The cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container for up to 4 days at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Vegan Experiment

The words "eggless" and "dairy-free" are two that can become a baker's worst nightmare. My friend Laynard, a devoted vegan, just recently celebrated his birthday, and was ecstatic when I offered my baking services. Yet after hours of surfing my favorite sites (while watching outdated episodes of SNL on Hulu), I discovered the innate challenges vegan baking can present. From egg replacers to soy yogurts, I had to fully familiarize myself with a vocabulary of foreign terms and ingredients. It was Whole Foods (go figure) that came to the rescue with a gorgeous cake PERFECT for fall weather - Triple-Layer Vegan Carrot Cake with Soy Cream Cheese Frosting
 Knowing full well that Whole Foods carries all the necessary ingredients, I endeavored to restock my baking staples with vegan-friendly items. This included Ener-G Egg Replacer, Earth Balance “Butter” Sticks, and Tofutti Cream Cheese. Despite the guarantee that these supplements would work “just like the real thing,” you can imagine my apprehension as a first-time vegan baker.

To make a long story short, this cake was amazing! There obviously was an altered look to the cakes, and they were quite fragile as well. So long as you handle the layers carefully, the shape of the cake will be maintained. The frosting, while not as rich as your traditional cream frosting, provided a delicious alternative. The cake had a lush texture with a moist crumb – so for those looking to experiment with the terms “eggless” and “dairy,” this cake receives my stamp of approval! One minor confession (but don’t all of my posts have these?): I used canola oil rather than safflower, but the substitution was by no means a game-changer. I also omitted the raisins, but I can blame Whole Foods for not having any in stock (and for some reason the convenience store down the block was just too far away to bother). Enjoy!

Triple-Layer Vegan Carrot Cake with Soy Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted via Whole Foods
Serves 14 - 16

Carrot Cake:  

   - 2 1/2 cups flour
   - 1 teaspoon salt
   - 2 teaspoons baking soda
   - 4 teaspoons baking powder
   - 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
   - 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
   - 1 teaspoon ground ginger
   - 3 tablespoons egg replacer
   - 2 cups light brown sugar
   - 1 cup safflower oil (I used canola)
   - 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened, original)
   - 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
   - 3/4 pound carrots, finely grated (about 3 cups)
   - 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
   - 1 cup seedless raisins

   - 12 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine, chilled and cut into pieces
   - 1 1/2 pounds soy cream cheese, cold
   - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
   - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease three (9-inch) round cake pans; set aside. Put flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and egg replacer into a mixing bowl and whisk together to blend. Put sugar in a separate large mixing bowl and whisk in safflower oil, almond milk and applesauce. When fully combined, add almond milk mixture to flour mixture and mix just until smooth. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, then divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the center springs back gently when pressed. Remove from oven and transfer to racks to let cool completely.

For Frosting: Beat margarine in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add cream cheese in pieces and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add sugar and vanilla and mix until blended. Increase mixer speed slightly and continue mixing for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Cover and set aside until ready to use (I would recommend chilling this for about 20 minutes, just to allow it to stiffen)

For Assembly: Place a cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate or pedestal. Spoon one-quarter of the frosting onto the top and spread it evenly. Place a second cake layer, bottom side down, on top of the first, and spread with an equal amount of frosting. Place the final cake layer, bottom side down, on top of the others and frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Cover and chill until ready to serve or set aside to let set for 30 minutes, then cut into slices and serve.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Milk's Favorite Cookie" Takes The Cake!

Ever since we were children, we have appreciated the simplicity of Oreo cookies. Just the sight of the cream-filled sandwiches is enough to send anyone into a sugar frenzy. We just can't get enough of this cookie! In fact, oreos were the best-selling cookie of the 20th Century, having sold over 491 BILLION cookies since they were first introduced in 1912! The word "Oreo" is allegedly derived from the Greek term for "appetite" - orexi, which is also reflected in the terms orexigenic and anorexia, both of which are relevant to appetite (Wikipedia). Enough for our history lesson, let's talk Oreo Cupcakes
So these cupcakes were not entirely Oreo-inspired. In fact, the actual cupcake base was my favorite go-to for chocolate cakes: Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake. This recipe is always a winner, except for one very poor attempt at a Barbie cake than ended up being a frosted mess...(TBC). The Oreos made their debut in the frosting and (drumroll) the base of each cupcake! Granted, a few had the cookies float to the top of the cupcake, but the taste was still phenomenal! So for those who can't get enough of "Milk's Favorite Cookie," DEFINITELY give these a shot! 
Oreo Cupcakes
Adapted via DomesticPursuits
Yields: 30 cupcakes

- 30 Oreos, 1 side twisted off and reserved for frosting *
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water

- 2 1-lb packages of confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup Oreo crumbs, made from reserved sides (used above) and additional cookies

- 15 Oreos, split in half and placed atop the frosted cupcakes

For cupcakes: Heat oven to 350?F. Line muffin pans with paper liners and place 1 Oreo (cream side up) in each liner. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir until well blended. Add flour mixture to large bowl and beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter (about 1/4 cup). Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely

For Frosting: Beat shortening and water together. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar and beat until creamy. Add vanilla and beat in well. If needed, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, to attain desired consistency. Beat in Oreo crumbs.

If frosting will not be used right away, store in an airtight container. Otherwise, frost the cupcakes and garnish with an oreo cut in half.

* You’ll probably need more than 1 bag for the cupcakes, frosting and garnish

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Going Bananas for Chocolate

We all reminisce on those days when the simple things were all that mattered: swings sets, grilled cheese sandwiches, snow angels, etc. One favorite staple of my childhood was chocolate banana pops. Granted, that favorite confection has been revisited with chocolate fondues and such, but it's the concept of marrying chocolate with bananas that I'm aiming for here. It's simple, yet irresistible. When I discovered that my friend Zach loves bananas, I knew I had to find a way to utilize this flavor combination for his birthday cake. As such, I unearthed this amazing recipe: Chocolate Banana Cake with White Chocolate Frosting and Chocolate Ganache. 
This recipe has been on my "to-do" list for quite some time. The flavor profiles are profuse, making it a more interesting, colorful dessert than its cousin - the chocolate banana pop. Yet the concept of chocolate and banana is the inspiration here, and both white and dark chocolate have keys roles in this recipe. The cake, a spin on your classic sour cream chocolate cake, is extremely rich and delicious. I do have a small confession - the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of butter, and being highly distracted by the beautiful October morning and scent of fall (my favorite season) I used a whole stick! The cake was still amazing, so I can only credit one of my favorite Southern butter lovers, Paula Deen: “Butter is a very, very beautiful thing." 
This is a highly labor intensive cake, and requires a large amount of downtime (for allowing the cakes to cool, the frosting to set, and more). If the idea interests you, though, this cake would be just as effective in a deconstructed form: cake slices with dollops of frosting and ganache drizzled on top. I mention this because I myself encountered difficulties in assembly - the frosting, have a whipped cream base, is very fragile and doesn't set quite as well as a cream cheese or buttercream frosting. I believe this was partially my fault from over-beating the cream. Additionally, the ganache makes the cake a bit top heavy, so balance also becomes an issue. The photo below illustrates my quandary - nonetheless, this cake is DELICIOUS and I highly recommend it to anyone who misses the classic from their childhood.
Chocolate Banana Cake with White Chocolate Frosting and Chocolate Ganache 
Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine
Serves 12-14 


- 3/4 cup butter, softened

- 1 cup sugar

- 3 eggs

- 1 1/t tsp vanilla

- 1/2 cup sour cream

- 3 cups cake flour
 (I used, as always, loosely-measure all-purpose flour, leaving about 1/2 inch at top) 
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
 (I used Baker's)
- 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas

White Chocolate Icing:

- 3 cups whipping cream

- 10 oz white chocolate, chopped
 (I used white chocolate chips) 
- 1 tsp vanilla

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

- 1/2 cup whipping cream

- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


- 4 bananas, sliced

- 1 oz melted chocolate

For cake: Grease two 8 1/2 inch cake pans, then line with parchment paper and grease and flour. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Beat in sour cream and banana. Combine flour, baking soda and chocolate. Add in 3 additions to creamed mixture. Mix until wet.

 Spoon into cake pans. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

For white chocolate icing: In sauce pan, bring half of cream to a boil, pour over chocolate in bowl, whisking until melted. Add vanilla. Chill until cooled (1 hour, whisking often).

 Beat chocolate and cream just until ridges hold shape. Beat remaining cream just until soft peaks form. Gently fold cream into chocolate cream. 

For assembly: Slice cakes in half horizontally. Spread each layer with about 3/4 cup of white chocolate icing and a layer of sliced bananas. Using a palette knife cover cake with a remaining icing and chill until firm (about 1 1/2 hours).

For ganache: bring 1/2 cup cream to a boil, pour over chocolate. Whisk until melted and let cool 20 minutes until room temperature but still pourable. Pour over cake, letting some run down the sides.
 Drizzle melted chocolate over remaining banana slices and arrange on top of cake.