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

Whipped Cream Layer Cake {ModBak}

I’m still baking my way through the Cakes Section of the Modern Baker Challenge, and this week’s entry is a simple and delicious layer cake. What makes this cake unique is that the butter you would normally expect to find in a cake is replaced by whipping cream. This makes sense if you recall that overwhipped cream turns into butter.

So all you are really doing with this recipe is replacing the butterfat in butter with that in whipped cream. The fat and the air whipped into the cream add to the texture, lightness, and tender crumb in this cake.

The frosting for this cake is also made with whipped cream, but the sweetness of the cake and cream are balanced by the addition of caramel to the frosting. At least, they are supposed to be.

My misadventures with caramel are legend (although I’ve had some successes, too). At least I’m at the point of not fearing caramel in recipes anymore. So I wasn’t really concerned about making the caramel for this frosting. And it seemed to come out OK. But some of it seized up when I mixed in the cream, and after pulling out the solid chunks, what remained wasn’t enough to be visible or to flavor the whipped cream in any discernible way.

No matter, because even with regular whipped cream, this cake was light, airy, and delicious. Definitely one to make again.

Real Strawberry Shortcake {ModBak}

We’ve been getting some beautiful strawberries this year and using them as many ways as we can. We’ve eaten them whole, sliced, and macerated, and I’ve made a number of desserts featuring fresh strawberries. There are a number of recipes I would like to remember for future years, so, I’ve declared this week “Strawberry Week” on my blog and invited my blogging friends to join in.

Two recipes I made (and the base for a third) happen to be from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge, including this one for a simple, classic strawberry shortcake. As with most strawberry shortcakes, this recipe consists of three components: shortcakes, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream.

For the strawberries, I hulled, washed, and sliced them, then mixed them with sugar (it didn’t take much, as these were height-of-the-season, super sweet strawberries). I set them aside to macerate while I made the shortcakes.

I began by mixing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my food processor. I added cold butter and pulsed until it was finely mixed in.

I whisked egg and buttermilk together, added them to the food processor, and mixed until I had a soft, wet dough.

The recipe presents two options for the shortcake. It can be made as a single cake in an 8-inch round pan, or baked as individual shortcakes by mounding the dough on a baking sheet. I opted for individual shortcakes.

I baked the shortcakes for about 15 minutes, until they were firm and lightly browned.

While the shortcakes were baking, I whipped heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract with the stand mixer.

After the shortcakes had cooled enough to handle, I cut them in half, buttered them, and assembled the shortcakes.

Each shortcake consisted of a buttered shortcake half, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, and finished with the remaining shortcake half.

If strawberries are the perfect fruit, then these may be the perfect dessert. The shortcakes and whipped cream accent the strawberry flavor without overshadowing it. And did I mention that start to finish this recipe takes less than an hour to prepare?

This was a great recipe to highlight fresh strawberries, and a great way to kick off Strawberry Week. Here’s what’s in store for the rest of the week:

Feuillettés with Berries & Cream {ModBak}

For the Puff Pastry section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I’ve decided to take a more organized approach to baking and posting the recipes. In previous sections, I made the recipes roughly in order (although not always) and wrote and published posts as I finished each recipe. As a result, I would often publish several recipes in a row over the course of a few days and would usually finish the section well before the end of the allotted time frame.

At the beginning of the month, as we moved into the Puff Pastry section, I decided to institute “Modern Baker Mondays”. As the name implies, I’ll be posting the recipes on Mondays. I’m going to post one per week, in the order the recipes appear in the book, regardless of when and in what order I actually bake them.

This week’s Modern Baker Mondays offering is the last in a series of sweet mille-feuille, which included chocolate-filled Napoleons and raspberry mille-feuille. The feuillettés are similar to the raspberry mille-feuille, the main differences being size (the feuillettés are mini mille-feuille) and the use of crème anglaise instead of pastry cream.

The feuillettés are comprised of four components — crème anglaise, macerated berries, whipped cream, and disks cut from a baked pastry layer.

Crème anglaise

 Making the crème anglaise is the most time-consuming part, but it’s not difficult. And it’s so good, you may find yourself making it again to use for other things, like berries and cream or crème anglaise ice cream.

Once everything is prepared, it’s just a matter of putting the feuillettés together. This simply involves layering pastry disks, whipped cream, berries, and crème anglaise. So easy a child could do it. Really.

Feuillettés, some assembly required

 We had fun putting these together, and even more fun eating them.

Feuillettés with berries and cream

 This was a simple, stunning, and delicious dessert. It would make the perfect finish to a summer dinner party.

Raspberry Mille Feuille {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is raspberry mille feuille, a light, creamy, custardy dessert. 

Mille feuille (pronounced “meel fwee”) is French for “thousand leaves”, a reference to the many-layered puff pastry that forms the base of this dessert. Like the Napoleons that I made recently, the mille feuille is made with a baked pastry layer. In this case, the filling is a vanilla custard layered with raspberries and whipped cream.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned my love for King Arthur’s pastry cream mix and noted that I generally use it whenever a recipe calls for pastry cream. This time, however, I decided to follow Nick’s recipe and make my own pastry cream. The recipe called for milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. It came together quickly and made a delicious pastry cream.

I covered the pastry cream and refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I baked and cooled a pastry layer, whipped some cream, and set about assembling the dessert.

For the baked layers, I cut the puffed pastry into three circles. The recipe called for 9-inch disks, but I made mine smaller, as I was scaling the recipe down.

With my pastry circles, homemade whipped cream, raspberries, and pastry cream at the ready, assembling the mille feuille was a breeze.

I began by putting a dollop of pastry cream on a plate.

I covered the cream with a pastry disk.

Since I would be serving the mille feuille on the same plate, I slid pieces of waxed paper under the disk to keep the plate clean. I covered the pastry layer with pastry cream,…

…added raspberries,…

…then spread whipped cream over the berries.

I repeated the layering and finished with the third baked pastry disk.

Then I compressed the mille feuille, smoothed the filling around the edges, and pressed crushed pieces of pastry dough around the outside.

When I was ready to serve the mille feuille, I topped it with a bit of whipped cream and some raspberries.

The scaled down version, for which I used half recipes each of the pastry cream and whipped cream, yielded six generous servings.

We really enjoyed this dessert. My father-in-law, who happened to drop by while I was putting it together, raved about it. It was easy to assemble, and the results were both visually stunning and delicious. 

This was another over-the-top dessert from The Modern Baker that can make any home cook look like a professional pastry chef. If you don’t have this book on your cookbook shelf, you’re really missing out.

Molded Chocolate-filled Napoleons {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is one of several versions of mille feuille, which consist of a filling (usually sweet, but sometimes savory) between baked layers of puff pastry. Mille feuille is French for “thousand leaves”, a reference to the delicate layers exhibited by the puff pastry when it is baked.

To make the Napoleons, I began by baking a pastry layer, which I then cut to fit a foil-lined pan.

Next, I made a richly flavored chocolate mousse to go between the pastry layers. Most of the chocolate mousse recipes I’m familiar with are made fluffy by the addition of either whipped cream or egg white meringue to a chocolate pudding base. So I was surprised to see that Nick’s recipe utilizes both whipped cream and meringue. I had no doubt that this would make a stunning mousse.

Another interesting twist to Nick’s recipe is a secret that I recently picked up from Dorie Greenspan‘s Around My French Table — the addition of unflavored gelatin to the mousse. As I learned when I made Dorie’s citrus-berry terrine, French chefs (both home and professional) see gelatin as just another pantry staple and use it for many things, including strengthening whipped cream and stabilizing mousse that’s destined to be used as a filling, as in this recipe.

I spread the mousse over the baked pastry layer in the pan.

Then I topped the mousse with a second pastry layer, compressed it gently, and chilled it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I removed the pan from the refrigerator and unmolded the pastry by lifting it out of the pan, peeling away the foil, then transferring the pastry to a cutting board with a large cake spatula.

I trimmed the edges of the pastry, then cut it into serving-sized pieces. I dusted the Napoleons with powdered sugar and cocoa, then plated them with a few raspberries.

My family is accustomed to my cooking and baking, which often includes exotic ingredients and fancy plating. But even they were impressed with these pastries, which we all agreed looked like they had come from a fancy bakery.

And the taste? Well, let’s just say it lived up to the appearance. The mousse was rich and deeply flavored. And the pastry was crisp, buttery, and flaky.

This is a dessert worthy of your best dinner party. It’s also perfect for a weeknight family supper.

Margaret wrote the official post for this recipe. You can read about her experience here.

Strawberry Chantilly Cake {Bake!}

My friend Kayte had a birthday recently. And in a budding Twitterbake tradition, she chose her own birthday cake from Bake! by Nick Malgieri. Kayte always has a cake with strawberries for her birthday, so this was a natural choice.

This was really more of a set of assembly instructions than a recipe. The directions referred to two other recipes — one for the cake layers and the other for sweetened whipped cream — which were combined with fresh strawberries to make this cake.

Assembling the cake was a breeze. The first layer was spread with whipped cream, layered with strawberries, and finished with more whipped cream. Then the top layer was placed on the cake, and the whole thing was spread with whipped cream. I decorated the top of the cake with sliced strawberries.

I served this cake on Easter, along with blueberry crumble pie and carrot cake. All three were bit hits, and I personally liked the blueberry pie the best. But this cake disappeared first. In fact, my 10-year-old nephew had about four pieces!

The cake layers were moist and light, and the whipped cream was so good I just wanted to eat it by the spoonful. It’s important to use really good strawberries for this recipe, as they add a lot to the overall flavor. There was a small piece of cake that escaped the Easter carnage, and I found that it was even better the next day. In fact, the next time I make this cake, I will assemble it a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld.

By the way, if you’re wondering why there are no pictures in the post, with all the excitement around here on Easter, I didn’t get any. You’ll just have to trust me that this cake was as beautiful as it was delicious. Or better yet, don’t take my word for it. Get a copy of Bake! and try it for yourself.