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Saturday, 26 November 2011

Banana Split Birthday Cake

My son turned 10 on the 15th of November and this post is rather late! As has become customary in our household, we woke him up early in the morning after 'hiding' his presents under his bed.

Being a school day, we woke him a little earlier than usual so that he would have enough time to open his presents, but unfortunately not enough time to play with any of them!

A few weeks before his birthday, The Lovely Wife and I had 'negotiated' with him on what to do for his birthday. He wanted to invite a few friends over for a small birthday party and we said that he could do that on the weekend following his birthday. With that settled, we said that we would just do something simple on his actual birthday and maybe go out for dinner or make some of his favourite dishes.

I promised that I would make him a cake as well but also 'negotiated' that instead of a cake with a design/pattern, I'd make him a 'designer' cake - meaning a dessert cake that he would enjoy eating rather than just a cake that looked nice with a fancy pattern.

We thought that was that and that everything was settled. However, a week before his birthday, he 'renegotiated' with us. He asked if he could invite the extended family over - meaning his grandparents, uncles and their families. In his own words - "it's not a party, just a gathering."

And that is how we ended up having a party/gathering on his actual birthday!

The Lovely Wife took the day off work and spend it cooking up quite the feast. Michael had specified what he wanted for his birthday dinner but since so many more people were now coming, The Lovely Wife had to make some additional dishes. I had made the cake earlier on Sunday evening with some finishing touches on Monday evening. My mother in law came over later in the afternoon too and made her famous fried prawns that is a firm favourite with all of us.

So, the menu for the evening was Ketupat with Kuah Kacang, Stir Fried Satay, Fried Prawns, Fried Rice with a Pork Trio, Fried Rice with Corned Beef and we also served some Char Siew (BBQ Pork), Siew Yok (Roast Pork that my Mom had bought. Mom in Law also made some Vadai. Quite the feast actually! Missed photos of the Fried Prawns and Vadai though!

Now we come to the cake. Michael had asked that I make his something new, something that I have never done before but something that he would like. Since the cake was going to double up as dessert, I envisaged a cake made up of layers of sponge, covered with chocolate mousse and coffee cream and then serve it with sliced bananas and homemade chocolate fudge.

That was the original plan but once I made the mousse, I realised there was too much and so I used it to cover both layers of sponge. I then piped a layer of Whipped Cream over the top and covered it with Caramel Almonds. As per the original plan, I served it with Bananas and Hot Fudge topping.

This is what I did. The sponge is based on Dory Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake with a few minor alterations where I used some lemon juice in the milk as a substitute for buttermilk.

Banana Split Cake
- 1 Sponge Cake
- Chocolate Mousse
- Whipped Cream
- Hot Fudge
- Almond Pralines (Caramel Almonds)
- Bananas

Sponge Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ cups buttermilk or whole milk
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice (omit if using buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
125g (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

To Make the Cake
Mix the lemon juice and milk and let stand for 10 mins to make buttermilk.
Sift together the flour and baking powder.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Cream butter and sugar - working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between two lined pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up

Chocolate Mousse

450ml cream
3 Tbsps icing sugar
300g dark chocolate
4 egg yolks

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Add in the egg yolks and stir vigorously for about a minute. Chocolate will thicken. Don’t worry if the mixture seizes or becomes a little lumpy. Take off heat and beat with an electric mixer for about a minute or two. Chocolate will become smooth and thick. If it is still lumpy, dont worry and allow to cool a little. While cooling, whip cream with icing sugar until soft peaks form. Add a little into the chocolate mixture and beat till smooth. Beat in the remainder of the chocolate mixture until nicely incorporated.

Caramel Almonds
Make a caramel and add in whole almonds. Swirl in pan to coat the almonds and then pour out onto waxed paper. Allow to cool and then chop roughly.

Homemade Hot Fudge

Whipped Cream
300ml Whipping Cream
4 Tbsp Icing Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla

Whip cream with icing sugar and vanilla till stiff peaks.

Place one layer of cake in a springform pan or cake ring. Cover with one layer of Mousse. Place the other cake on top and cover with remaining mousse. Allow to set in fridge. Pipe whipped cream over the top. Garnish with caramel almonds. Serve with sliced bananas and hot fudge.

I had a few minor issues with the cake. Firstly, I didn't use Large eggs as I was supposed to so the cake wasnt as spongy as it could have been. Small issue but something to note in the future! Secondly, this was the first time I was using a cake ring and I thought I'd be clever and place some cling wrap around the inner sides to help get the cake out easier. Not too sure if that helped any as it was still difficult getting the cake out! The fact that I had to put the cake in the freezer as the fridge was too full of items for dinner didnt help either.

Anyway, all in all the cake turned out really, really well. Everyone loved it especially the fact that it was more of a dessert rather than a cake. We cut small slices and served it with Banana slices and hot fudge for that Banana Split effect although some people wondered why I couldnt serve the cake on its own. Because then it wouldnt be a Banana Split Cake! It would be a Choc Mousse Cake! Aaahh... some things are just to difficult to appreciate :)

The praline almonds (Caramel almonds) on the top made a great topping and the added crunch gave the cake a bit more sophistication. The cake was enjoyed by all with many asking for second helpings. The thing about this cake is, you can choose to make everything on your own like I did or just buy the components and assemble it yourself.

The next day, we enjoyed the remainder of the cake, this time sans bananas and hot fudge and it was just as delicious. Somehow the cake seemed to develop over the days.

Another birthday, and another cake. The kids 'demands' are getting more and more complicated and my body seems to ache more each time. Age is catching up with all of us I guess. Whatever it is, there is a special kind of satisfaction in baking your own cake for your children. The best part is seeing their smiles when they dig into it.

Happy Birthday Michael my darling boy!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Back to Childhood Cupcakes

A couple of Saturdays ago, The Lovely Wife and I were supposed to catch up with two friends - Lynn and Ms Kong Piang - over drinks. My son however had developed a fever so the two ladies asked if it was okay if they popped round instead. When I know that friends are popping over, I always feel that I have to serve something.

A good friend, Naomi, had given us some lovely Cheddar cheese when she had come back to Malaysia recently for a holiday. The cheese was tangy and had a lot of bite that made it really delicious with crackers. That would go down well for the after dinner drinks.

I also decided that I would make some muffins. I know Ms Kong Piang likes my cakes and Lynn is also one of my favourite 'consumers'! I was tempted to just redo what I did on my last post - Walnut Choc Chip Muffins - but decided that I would try something new. I browsed through my cupcake/muffin book and found a recipe for Cookies and Cream cupcakes. This was basically throwing in some crushed Oreos into the batter. Another variation called for substituting the Oreos for Nougat bars. A lamp bulb started to flash in my head and the gear wheels in my brain started to churn as well. What if I used Oreos and Snickers? That would have to taste delicious! Woulnd't it??

So thats what I did. Bought a pack of Oreos and two Snickers bars. Crushed and chopped them up respectively and then threw them into the cake batter. I knew that the cupcakes would be a tad sweet due to the Oreos and Snickers so I put in a disc of dark chocolate in the middle of each cupcake. This would give it a slightly bitterish tinge when bitten into.

250g butter
225g Caster Sugar
225g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 Tbsp Milk
1 packet Oreo Cookies - crushed
2 snickers bars - shopped
Melt the butter until very soft but not completely liquid. Add in the sugar and beat till light. Add beaten eggs a little at a time and continue beating
Fold in Sifted flour and baking powder.
Add in Milk and Vanilla. Mix Well. Fold in Oreos and Snickers.
Fill muffin cups ¾ full and top with a Dark Chocolate disk. bake for about 30 minutes or till done in 180°C oven

I made two sizes of cupcakes. Twelve medium sized cupcakes and twelve large ones. I went a bit overboard with the large ones and overfilled them. They rose beautifully but then started to spill out over the sides of the muffin cases. If they had held, or if I had placed the muffin cases into a muffin pan, I would have gotten lovely muffin caps but alas, the cases were too big to fit into the muffin pans and the batter just spilled over...

No use crying over spilled batter.

Nonetheless, the larger cupcakes turned out really nice and cakey with a light, soft crumb. The taste of the Oreos combined nicely with the taste of the Snickers although neither taste was overpowering. The cupcakes were a tad sweet - sweeter than what we are normally used to and this was due to the Oreos and Snickers. The cupcakes were still very delicious nonetheless.

Since the cupcakes seemed to fit into the mould of a dessert, I served up a batch with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. Yummy! Very, very delicious and my kids absolutely loved it.

Later that night, I served Lynn and Ms Kong Piang the dessert version and they both agreed that although a tad sweet, it was very nice. Both of them took some home too while the rest was eaten throughout the weekend - either on its own or covered with Ice Cream and doused in Chocolate Sauce!

I call these cupcakes, Back to Childhood cupcakes because with Oreos and Snickers in them each bite kind of transports you back to your favourite indulgences when you were a kid. Every kid will definitely like these cupcakes and every adult that still has some kid left in him will love it too!


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