Last week a good friend celebrated a birthday. Another friend brought a video camera along to capture the best wishes of her loved ones and friends. Anticipating that my turn would come and knowing that I’d not know what to say, I whispered to the birthday girl that I had already written on her birthday card what I meant to share with her. Sure enough, when the camera stopped in front of me, all I could manage was a “Happy Birthday” and “We love you”. I’m finding myself equally tongue-tied trying to write this post.
Several discarded drafts later, all I want to say is this: This, my first food-blogging year, has been difficult, challenging, exhausting, addictive, entertaining, mind-opening, heartwarming, and most of all, fun. The sheer enjoyment of connecting with so many nice people, readers and fellow bloggers alike, has far outweighed the challenges I’ve faced due to my inexperience with photography and my limited knowledge of computer technology. And guess what? Eventually I stopped being intimidated by my camera and started to have fun with it. The technical obstacles remain but I like doing this enough to plow through them. To me, this has been a wonderfully successful first year.
Thank you for your continued support by coming back post after post. Your comments? They make my day. Believe me, doing this is much more fun when you know someone out there actually cares what you have to say.
To celebrate my first blog anniversary, I thought it would only be fitting to make a cake. Not any cake, mind you. I wanted to have a cake that includes my current obsessions: banana, caramel and chocolate. This one had them all and I was happy to find the recipe in The Essence of Chocolate, the book I won along with the million pounds of Scharffen Berger chocolate from Tastespotting’s fabulous giveaway. It’s essentially a spice cake with chocolate, diced bananas and chopped pecans folded into the batter then baked and drizzled with hot caramel. Though the chocolate had only a supporting role in this cake, it took the banana flavor to new heights.
The recipe called for using a 12-cup (10-inch) Bundt pan but I used a 6-cup pan for half the batch and made 12 mini square cakes with the rest.
But before I blow out the candle, I want to give you a gift. It’s my way of saying thanks for continuing to visit. Remember my previous post? Well, I have a book to give to you. I have a second copy of Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. Having just sampled what his restaurant has to offer, I’m confident that you will enjoy cooking from it as much as I will. All you have to do is share with me your absolute favorite cake. That’s all. I’ll pick a winner via random number generator next week. The deadline for your comments will be Wed, March 23 at 6 pm PDT.
Lastly, when I published my first post a year ago, I shared a picture of me in Dublin with a Guinness in hand. It was St. Patrick’s Day after all. I can’t let this day pass without sharing with you one of my favorite Irish drinks, Bulmers (aka Magners in America). It’s a hard cider, light, crisp and refreshing. I was lucky to find it in stock in one store (BevMo, thank you!). Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
Banana Caramel Cake
From: The Essence of Chocolate
For the Cake:
- Unsalted butter and flour for the pan (I used cooking spray for the bundt pan)
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I used allspice)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/4 cups canola oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar (I used about 1/8 cup less)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 cup coarsley chopped toasted pecans
- 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size chunks
- 1 1/2 cups diced (1/4 inch) ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
For the Caramel:
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I only had golden brown)
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 12-cup (10-inch nonstick Bundt pan. I used a 6-cup pan and a square mini-cake tray.
Combine the dry ingredients for the cake from the flour to the baking soda in a medium bowl.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs, oil, granulated sugar, vanilla and almond extract over medium speed until thoroughly combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the dry ingredients about 1/2 cup at a time, again, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Fold in the pecans and chocolate then carefully fold in the diced bananas. Try not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. For reference, I used half of the batter for a 6-cup Bundt pan and the other half was sufficient to make 12 mini-cakes, each about the size of a cupcake. For my square cakes, I lined each slot with strips of parchment paper to make them easier to pull out of the tray.
For the 12-cup Bundt pan, bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. For my smaller pan, it took about 25 minutes. For the mini cakes, about 12-15 minutes.
Five minutes before you take the cake out of the oven, prepare the caramel by combining the three ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally as the butter and sugar melt. Remove from heat once it reaches an amber color.
Remove the cake from the oven and poke holes with a skewer all over the surface of the cake. Pour the hot caramel on top, poking more holes and pushing the cake slightly away from the sides of the pan to allow the caramel to soak through. Cool slightly on a rack before unmolding onto a serving platter.
May be served warm or at room temperature.