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.

Advertisements

Rum-scented Marble Cake {ModBak}

I was all set to make this recipe the other day when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s always more fun baking with others, even if you are baking and tweeting from far away.

This is the third recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. After starting with a delicious, if fussy, pound cake, I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

As impressive as it looks, this cake was really easy to put together, although it did dirty quite a few bowls. The base batter consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (three sticks!), seven eggs, and dark rum. After making a heavy paste of the dry ingredients and butter, I whisked the eggs and rum, then added them to the butter mixture.

The chocolate swirl layer consisted of dark rum, milk, baking soda, bittersweet chocolate, and two cups of the base batter, all mixed together until blended.

To assemble the cake, I put half the base batter in the pan, smoothed the top, then topped it with the chocolate layer.

I covered this with the rest of the base batter, smoothed the top, then marbled it by dragging a knife through the batter from the center to the edge all the way around the pan.

I baked the cake for 75 minutes, until it was done through but still moist.

Pardon the pun, but the cake smelled intoxicating while it baked. The chocolate and rum combined to give it a rich, heady aroma, and I couldn’t wait to cut into it. I let the cake cool, then sprinkled the top with powdered sugar (although it really didn’t need any adornment).

My daughter and I decided to sample it for a bedtime snack.

I was planning to take the rest of it to work today, but after tasting it, my daughter announced that I would be doing no such thing. The cake was rich, but not overly sweet, and had a great balance of flavors. Calling it “rum-scented” is quite apt, as the rum adds more to the aroma than the flavor.

This was another great recipe from The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next seven months(!) of cakes.

Check out Kayte’s and Margaret’s posts to see what they thought and to get a look at their beautiful marbling.

Sicilian Fig Bars {ModBak} — Move Over, Newtons!

When I saw this recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of The Modern Baker, I knew I wanted to make them. I love figs, and I’m especially crazy about Fig Newtons. So I signed up for the official Modern Baker Challenge post and added figs to the grocery list. I have been trying to bake the recipes in this section in order, but once I had figs in the cupboard, I couldn’t wait to make these.

The ingredients list is short: figs, water, apricot preserves, dark rum, cinnamon, and cloves. And other than the figs, I had everything else on hand. After snipping the figs into a saucepan, I added the remaining ingredients, brought it to a boil, and simmered everything for 10 minutes or so, until the figs were soft.  I puréed the fig mixture in the food processor, then set it aside while I prepared the dough.

 

The dough for the fig bars is the same dough used to make biscotti regina. I made a double batch of the biscotti dough, half of which I used for the regina, and the other half to make these fig bars.

Beginning with 1/3 of the dough, I rolled it into a 12-inch rope.

I flattened the rope into a rectangle about 4 inches wide.

Then I spread 1/3 of the fig mixture on the dough,…

… folded the top half over the center,…

… and folded up the bottom half. I pressed the dough to seal it, then flipped it seam side down and put it on a cookie sheet.

I made three dough cylinders, which I put on an unrimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

I baked the bars at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until the dough was firm and golden. As I removed the pan from the oven, I inadvertently tipped it ever so slightly. Unfortunately, given the flat, rimless cookie sheet and the slickness of the parchment paper, that was enough to send 2 of the 3 cookie bars sliding off the tray and onto the bottom of the oven. Note to self: next time, use a jellyroll pan.

I let the remaining bar cool, then cut it into cookies. They weren’t pretty, but they were delicious. Both the dough and filling reminded me of my beloved Fig Newtons, especially in texture. But the filling was much more flavorful. The apricot preserves added a little citrusy sweetness, while the rum, cinnamon, and cloves gave it a spicy depth.

My fig bars could never pass for Fig Newtons. But I would pass up Newtons for these fig bars any day.

Banana Walnut Tart {ModBak}

The third recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts and Pies section of The Modern Baker was another easy and delicious tart. I had sweet tart dough left over from when I made the bourbon-scented pecan tart the other night, so this tart came together really quickly. In fact, I mixed this recipe up this evening after work — something I rarely do — and it was less than 20 minutes from the time I got the dough out of the fridge until I was putting the tarts in the oven.

I used my 4 1/2-inch tart pans and had enough dough for three tarts. I wasn’t sure how much filling to make, so I opted to halve the recipe. After rolling out the dough, I measured walnuts and brown sugar into the food processor and pulsed them until the nuts were finely chopped. Then I added butter, an egg, cinnamon, vanilla extract, baking powder, and flour and mixed everything into a thin batter.

I cut up two bananas and arranged them in the tart pans, poured in the batter, then topped the tarts with chopped walnuts. 

I baked the tarts at 350°F for about 30 minutes. The recipe doesn’t give a baking time, so I started with 20 minutes and kept an eye on them until they were done. Other than the crust, the tarts looked almost like a cake.

Now came the hardest part — waiting for the tarts to cool. I left them in the pans for about 15 minutes, then took them out and let them cool the rest of the way while I distracted myself by watching Jeopardy.

I sliced into one of the tarts. The banana looked almost like a custard filling.

I know some of my fellow Modern Bakers were a bit skeptical of this recipe, mostly because of the cooked bananas. While I understand their reluctance, having tried this tart I can tell you it is delicious, bananas and all. Nick is right when he says the bananas cook to a sweet, jam-like consistency. And the flavors of the bananas, walnuts, brown sugar, and rum all compliment each other, making this tart sweet, nutty, and hard to resist.

While I liked most of the savory tarts and pies in the last section, I think sweets are definitely Nick’s forte. And I’m looking forward to the rest of the recipes in this section.

New Orleans Praline Pound Cake {Bake!}

About a week ago, I Tweeted that I was sweeted out and ready for some savory recipes. So, of course when it came to my turn to choose a recipe for our Twitterbake from Nick Malgieri‘s latest book, Bake!, I chose pound cake!

I’m a big fan of pound cake, so I’ve tried a lot of recipes. One of my favorites comes from a cookbook I picked up in New Orleans about 18 years ago. It’s also one of the simplest pound cake recipes I’ve ever made. And that’s been true of the best pound cake recipes I’ve found: they are simple, straightforward, and result in a cake that it moist, flavorful, and not overly heavy.

So, I was excited to try Nick’s pound cake recipe. Recipes, in fact. He offers a basic recipe, called High-Ratio Pound Cake, and six variations. One of those variations, New Orleans Praline Pound Cake, piqued my interest, so that’s the one I chose for our Twitterbake.

First, a little history. Pound cake got its name from the volume of its four main ingredients. A classic pound cake — the one your great-great-grandmother used to make — called for one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. As you can imagine, this resulted in a huge cake. As family sizes began to shrink, home cooks altered the recipe to make a smaller cake. As long as they kept the ratios the same, they could adjust the size of the cake to suit their needs. Sounds a lot like baker’s math, huh?

The basic pound cake batter is just that — basic. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. And even the praline variation was simple. A bit of brown sugar substituted for some of the granulated sugar, and some cinnamon, a few tablespoons of dark rum or bourbon, and a cup of pecans added to the batter.

When I had mixed up the batter, I was surprised at how light and fluffy it was. Pound cake batter is usually heavier, almost doughy, so I was anxious to see how the cake would turn out.

Just before adding the batter to the prepared pan, I folded in the pecans. As you can see in the picture above, I tossed the pecans with a small amount of flour before folding them into the batter. The recipe instruct you to do this, but doesn’t say why. The reason is that it keeps the pecans from sinking to the bottom of the loaf. Once I folded in the pecans, I scraped the batter into the pan and smoothed the top a bit.

I baked the loaf in a 325°F oven for about 75 minutes, until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of the loaf came out clean. I cooled the loaf in the pan for a few minutes, then removed it to a rack to cool completely.

This loaf rose like crazy. It puffed up so high above the top of the pan that it looked almost like a soufflé.

The praline loaf is in the back in this picture. The other loaf is a vanilla bean loaf that I mixed up while the praline pound cake was baking.

As I sliced into the loaf, I thought it looked a bit like a nut bread. But don’t let looks fool you. This was definitely a pound cake. The praline flavor was subtle and delicious. It didn’t overpower the classic pound cake flavor, but rather complemented it beautifully.

I want to try the basic pound cake recipe and a few more of the variations. But based on this recipe, I have to say Nick Malgieri has nailed the pound cake. This is easily one of the best pound cakes I’ve ever had. And it may just replace my tried and true recipe from New Orleans.