Banana Rum Coconut Layer Cake {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge cake features one of my favorite flavors. No, I don’t mean dark rum (although I’m certainly not opposed to rum). I’m talking about bananas. Regular readers of my blog know about my obsession with all things pumpkin, as well as my love of apples. But I am equally enamored with bananas.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll eat anything that’s banana flavored. In fact, like strawberries, while I love real bananas, I really dislike “banana flavored” foods. But give me a fresh banana, or better yet a baked good made with ripe bananas, and I’m a happy man.

So this cake was right up my alley. It combines ripe bananas with rum and coconut for a delicious tropical flavor baked into a homey layer cake.

To make the cake layers, I beat butter, granulated and dark brown sugars, and vanilla until fluffy, then added eggs. I mixed flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and mashed bananas, milk, and dark rum in another. I alternated adding these to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

I beat the batter for several minutes to lighten it, then divided it between two 9-inch pans. I baked the cake layers in a 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, until the cake was well risen, golden, and firm in the center.

This cake smelled good enough to eat right out of the oven. But I resisted and cooled the layers while I made the frosting.

As I’ve baked my way through the Cakes section of  The Modern Baker, I have really come to appreciate the simplicity, lightness, and wonderful flavor of whipped cream as cake frosting. And when you add rum to the whipped cream, well, things can only get better.

Having cooled the layers and made the frosting, which consisted of whipping cream, sugar, and dark rum, I was ready to assemble the cake. I placed the first layer on a cake plate, sprinkled it with about a tablespoon of dark rum, and spread the top with whipped cream. I inverted the second layer on top of the first and topped it with rum and whipped cream. I spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake, then pressed coconut into the frosting.

We enjoyed this cake for dessert, and everyone asked for seconds.

This cake was delicious, with the tropical flavors of banana and coconut shining through. And even though it had dark rum in the batter and frosting, it wasn’t at all boozy tasting.

This is another celebration cake: one that’s simple enough to make for any gathering, but impressive enough to commemorate those special occasions.

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Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Bars {ModBak}

This is the last bar cookie recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. If you don’t like coconut, you won’t like these bars. If you do, you’ll love them.

This recipe starts with a rich, buttery crust made from flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and lots of butter. After mixing up the ingredients, I pressed the dough gently into the pan, then baked it for about 15 minutes, until it just started to take on some color.

While the crust was cooling, I mixed up the topping, which consisted of brown sugar, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, sweetened shredded coconut, pecans, and bittersweet chocolate. I mixed all these ingredients together and spread the topping over the cooled crust.

I baked the bars at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until the filling was set and nicely browned. These bars smelled so good while they were baking, with the chocolate and pecans, and with the coconut getting nice and toasty.

I let the bars cool in the pan, then cut them into the recommended 2-inch squares. They were as good as they smelled. Rich, buttery, chocolatey, and with a wonderful coconut flavor.

The only thing I would do differently next time would be to cut them smaller, as they were insanely rich. I could easily see cutting the recipe in half and still having enough for the whole family. Or perhaps making the full recipe but freezing half of the slab before cutting it into bars.

Either way, I will definitely be making these again soon.

Lemon Lime Tartlets & Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets — A {ModBak} Twofer

With two weeks left to go in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I found myself with four recipes remaining. The kids are out of town, and we decided to have a low-key day today, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play a little catch-up. I decided to knock out three recipes at once. The lemon lime tartlet and chocolate caramel pecan tartlet recipes each make 24 tartlets, way too many to have around with just J and me to eat them. Since each recipe calls for the tart shells to be prebaked, I figured I would bake the shells together and then fill them.

As for the third recipe, well, that’s the tartlet shells for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. The recipe calls for shells made with chocolate nut dough, and since this is the first recipe to use that dough, I hadn’t made it yet. The lemon lime tartlets are made with sweet tart dough, which I’ve made for many of the recipes in this section.

I mixed up both doughs early in the day and let them chill in the fridge for a few hours. For the lemon lime tartlets, I rolled out the sweet tart dough, cut it into circles, and pressed each disk into a mini muffin pan. Then I did the same with the chocolate nut dough.

I chilled the dough in the pans for about an hour, then baked the shells in a 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Although I pricked the dough well with a fork before baking, the shells puffed up to the point where there was no room for filling. While the shells were still hot, I pressed the center of each one with a small ladle to make room for the filling. I cooled the crusts in the pan for a few minutes, then removed them to a cooling rack. A few of the bakers in the Challenge noted that their tartlet shells stuck when they baked them in mini muffin pans. Knowing this, I had sprayed my pan lightly with spray oil, and my shells came out beautifully.

While the tart shells were cooling, I toasted coconut for the lemon lime tartlets, then made the filling for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. (I didn’t have to make the lemon lime filling, as I had leftover lemon and lime curds in the fridge from making ice cream.) The chocolate filling isn’t particularly difficult, although it does require quite a few steps and dirties a lot of pans and bowls. The caramel is made in one pan while the cream is heated in another. These are combined, then scraped into a bowl to cool. Chocolate, which has been melted and cooled in another bowl, is then added to the caramel-cream mixture, and butter and nuts (which have been toasted in a separate pan) are added last.

After making the filling and shells, assembling the tartlets was a breeze. I spooned the chocolate caramel pecan tartlet filling into the shells and topped each one with a toasted pecan.

For the lemon lime tartlets, I had planned to mix my lemon and lime curds, which I had made and stored separately, but Nick cautions against overstirring the curd, lest it become too liquid. I tested this by putting a spoonful of each into a bowl and mixing them. Sure enough, the curd broke down and become too watery to hold up in the tart shells. So I filled half the shells with lemon curd and the other half with lime curd, then topped them with toasted coconut.

My wife and I enjoyed these tartlets for a late-evening snack. We loved the flavor of all three of the tartlets, although we did discover that it was best to eat the chocolate ones first, as they tended to taste a little bitter after eating the curd-filled tartlets.

These were delicious tarts, and I will definitely make them again. However, unless I’m making them for a finger-food event, I would be inclined to do them as full size tarts, rather than tartlets.

Mango & Rice Tart (Pudding) {ModBak}

I’ve been involved with the Modern Baker Challenge for a little over a year now. Some recipes have been bigger hits with my family than others, and I enjoyed the process of baking some of them more than others. But each of the nearly 70 recipes I’ve made so far has come out as expected.

Until now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have had my first Modern Baker FAIL. Let me say right up front, though, that it was my fault, not that of the recipe. I know exactly what I did wrong, and I’m sure that if I tried baking this recipe again, I could achieve the intended results.

This is actually a rather simple recipe. You cook some rice, make a simple syrup, mix them together with coconut cream, then let the whole thing sit until the rice soaks up all the liquid. This mixture is then scraped into a prebaked cookie tart shell and topped with sliced mangoes.

So, how did I mess this up? On the very first step. I was doing five other things while cooking the rice, and let it scorch a bit. It didn’t burn exactly, but enough of it stuck to the bottom of the pan that there wasn’t sufficient rice to soak up all the liquid. Looking at the filling, I knew there was no way this would hold up as a tart. Picture a fruit pie that doesn’t set up, and you’ll have an idea of what I was facing.

Never one to let a little thing like failure get in my way, I realized the filling was about the texture of Kheer (Indian rice pudding), so I decided to serve it in custard dishes with sliced mangoes on top. My family didn’t know it was supposed to be a tart, and they loved it. And it really did taste like Kheer — sweet, creamy, and oh so coconutty. The mangoes gave the pudding an additional depth of texture and flavor and will be a regular part of my rice pudding and Kheer from now on.

I thought about remaking this recipe, but I feel like I got the true flavors in the pudding. And heaven knows I’ve eaten enough tarts in the past few months.

Individual Coconut Cakes {Bake!}

It was Kayte‘s turn to pick our Twitterbake recipe this week, and she surprised us all by choosing something other than a lemon-based recipe. Of course, once I read the ingredients, which included grated lemon zest, I was no longer in shock. She loves coconut, too, so I guess it’s the perfect recipe for her to have chosen.

This seemed like a strange recipe to me as I read over it. For 24 mini-muffin size cakes, it only calls for 1/2 cup flour. There are four egg whites, so as first I thought it would be more like a meringue. But as I read the recipe, I saw that the egg whites are only lightly beaten, not whipped into peaks. Puzzled but curious, I started to mix up the ingredients.

In one bowl I mixed sugar, flour, and coconut. The recipe called for unsweetened coconut. I looked in the cupboard and had no less than six bags of coconut, all sweetened. I wasn’t about to buy more coconut until I used some of this up, so I used what I had and cut the sugar back a bit.

In a separate bowl I whisked the egg whites and a pinch of salt until smooth, then mixed in lemon zest and melted butter. After this was well mixed, I whisked in half of the flour mixture, then folded in the rest. I spooned the batter into mini muffin pans. I got 24 minis, each about 3/4 full. After filling the tins, I topped each cupcake with a pinch of shredded coconut.

I baked the cakes for 15 minutes at 375°F, until they were slightly puffed and the coconut was nicely toasted.

These mini cakes were delicious! I didn’t measure the lemon zest — I just zested the lemon right over the bowl — and I think I probably ended up with more than the recipe called for, as my cakes were more yellow than those pictured in the book. But I didn’t mind the extra lemon flavor at all. Combined with the coconut, the lemon gave these cupcakes a wonderful, fresh flavor. It was lighter than I expected and paired perfectly with a cup of afternoon coffee.

Our Twitterbake is a casual affair. Several of us who have Nick Malgieri‘s most recent book, Bake!, get together virtually every week or so to try a new recipe from the book. We bake. We Tweet. Sometimes we blog. Mostly we just have fun trying new recipes. 

If you have Bake! and want to join us, jump right in. We’ll even let you pick your first recipe.