Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is just the thing to use up those rapidly ripening bananas in the fruit bowl. I used 3 very ripe bananas for this cake which gave it a great flavour. The recipe calls for buttermilk which results in a more soft and airy texture; but like all banana cakes, it is still quite dense and moist. The cream cheese frosting recipe I followed turned out too sweet for my liking so I added more lemon juice, more cream cheese and a decent amount of whipping cream. The resulting frosting was a little runnier than it would have been because of the cream but it firmed up after an hour in the fridge (I couldn’t wait that long to cut the first slice!). I really enjoyed this banana cake and the housemates helped polish it off within 48 hours- that says it all.

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Published in: on March 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm  Comments (6)  
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Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Coffee Buttercream

Okay, so I kind of cheated with these. Remember my Hazelnut Mocha Torte from a few posts ago? Well this is it again, but in cupcake form; and with a different frosting. They are still gluten free and still just as delicious – if not more so. The cakes had a slightly crusty surface but the inside remained beautifully moist and tender. On top of each, I spread a good dollop of Nutella and piped a small swirl of coffee flavoured buttercream. I felt like they needed the decadence of extra chocolate so I shaved some dark ghana over the top to finish them off.

The swiss buttercream was new for me and I really enjoyed the process. This type of buttercream is slightly harder than ‘simple buttercream’ involving powdered sugar, butter and a little milk – but it is infinitely better. It is far less sweet for one and also has a much more soft, airy and luscious mouth-feel. There are a few other types of buttercreams with increasing degrees of difficulty, but swiss is a good starting point for beginners like me.

Published in: on February 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm  Comments (10)  
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Smashed Pav


It was Australia Day (aka ‘Invasion Day’) last Thursday and I felt inclined to make something Aussie to celebrate. I settled on pavlova due to a surplus of eggs from my mum’s chooks. This was actually my first time making pavlova so I was wary; but it turned out better than I expected, albeit a tad smashed looking. The crust was very crispy and melt-in-your-mouth whilst the inside remained soft and marshmallowy. It came out of the oven looking quite spectacular but as it cooled the crust broke into shards. Once it was topped with cream and fruit it didn’t seem to matter though. I also added banana and passionfruit just before serving. I’m glad I have this iconic dessert in my repertoire now because it was really yummy and a good way to use up eggs.

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Published in: on February 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Hazelnut Mocha Torte (gluten free)

My gluten-intolerant Italian friend introduced me to this amazing cake when she made it for her birthday last year. I finally got around to trying it myself recently and was surprised by how easy it was to make – for a cake with no flour or leavening. The cake itself is beautifully moist and tender with the flavour of hazelnuts and real chocolate. The coffee mascarpone topping is the perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed by how it turned out that I made a second one to bring to Christmas dinner. This is a great flavour combination and a recipe worth trying!

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Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm  Comments (4)  
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Cherry Berry Cheesecake

There has been a serious lack of baked goods in our house for a while now. I just haven’t been in the mood I guess. I thought I should end the drought with a cheesecake that I have been meaning to try. A friend brought a black-forest-inspired cheesecake to a barbecue sometime last year and since then I’ve wanted to make something similar. I don’t have a recipe, but I’ve made enough cheesecakes now that I thought I could just wing it.

The crust is made from finely crushed chocolate biscuits and melted butter. I used a tall glass to press the mixture against the sides and bottom of an 8″ spring-form pan and then baked it for 20 minutes to set. I used cream cheese, mascarpone and sour cream for the filling with sour cherries mixed through. I added a decent amount of kirsch as well to boost the cherry flavour.  The jelly on top is just the liquid from the jar of cherries with some gelatin added.

The combination of chocolate crust and creamy cheesecake studded with whole cherries is a winner. I didn’t measure anything as I was making it but I can probably write a close approximation of the recipe if anyone is interested – just leave a comment if you are. I promise it was easier than it looks.

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Published in: on November 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Comments (7)  
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Black Forest Cake

I posted a while back about my first attempt at black forest cake. I was reasonably happy with how it had turned out, but I knew what I would do differently if I made it again. This opportunity came in the form of my very first customer, who, having seen photos of the first cake, wanted me to make one for them.

I wanted to go for a lighter cake this time as the first one was quite dense. I decided to challenge myself and try making a chocolate sponge. For the record, I suck at sponge cakes. They are notoriously difficult for the home baker so I am definitely not alone in this boat. I spent a good amount of time researching recipes and techniques online, and eventually settled for the promising-sounding Moist Chocolate Genoise from Rose Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.

Genoise (pronunciation) is a very light, dry, and slightly elastic Italian sponge cake. It differs slightly from other sponges in that it contains no chemical leavening, so it relies entirely on air being incorporated into the mixture to rise properly. Other sponges may also use egg whites and yolks separately, whereas a genoise uses the whole egg, often heated with sugar in a bain-marie.

I was rather disheartened when my first pair of genoises came out looking like shriveled cookies. I had sifted the flour 3 times, followed the instructions perfectly, and folded the batter as gently as possible…WHY?! Why was my cake not airy and light like it was supposed to be? But failure was not an option with an expectant customer, so I reluctantly started again.

It went much faster and smoother the second time, and I began to get a feel for how the batter behaves. The second pair of cakes came out so damned perfect I was shocked. They rose all the way to the tops of the pans with a smooth, flat outer crust. It was one of my proudest baking moments. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand, but I measured them each at just under 5cm tall once cooled (it is normal for genoise to sink slightly whilst cooling).

In my previous black forest I had layered it with a thick cherry filling made by cooking sour cherries with sugar and cornflour. I did the same thing but only used it in the middle layer and on top of the cake. For the other two layers I left the cherries whole and uncooked for a fresher flavour. The sponge cake lived up to its name and was quite moist for a genoise, but I still brushed the cake layers with some kirsh syrup to prevent it being too dry.

I spotted some uncharacteristically nice-looking fresh cherries at the supermarket whilst shopping for ingredients and couldn’t resist buying some. Usually you will only see cherries available in Australia for a limited time during summer for abut $20/kg, so this was an unexpected bonus. Forgive the pun, but I think they were the cherry on the cake so to speak, and I’m glad I bought them. They tasted really delicious.

Once the cake was filled and assembled, it was ridiculously, almost laughably tall. You can just imagine how large each slice was. It was quite an impressive sight though I must admit, and the customer was extremely happy with it. They thought it tasted great too which is the most important thing of all.

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Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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Chocolate Mud Cake

This is my ultimate go-to chocolate cake recipe. It is relatively quick and easy to make, and always turns out wonderfully. I have tried many mud cake recipes over the years but none have come close to this one. I was very lucky to receive the original recipe from a close friend, and only made some slight changes such as reducing the sugar content and simplifying the method. You don’t have to worry about creaming butter and sugar or sieving flour multiple times for this recipe, which is one of the best things about it.

I made this as a second cake for Natalia’s birthday dinner (see previous post) when she informed me on the day that she would need two cakes. I was aiming for more of a chocolate/cherry flavour by adding cherry brandy to the mix but the dominating flavour was definitely chocolate. I did this once before in my Black Forest Cake, but I wouldn’t bother again unless I find a concentrated natural cherry extract or flavouring. It still tasted as moist and delicious as ever though, and I got some very good feedback from those who tried it (“Best chocolate cake I’ve had in Australia” said Nat’s Brazilian boyfriend Neco – and his favourite just happens to be chocolate cherry cake!).

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Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm  Comments (5)  
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White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake

My friend Natalia recently celebrated her 23rd birthday. For her birthday dinner I planned on making her a cake, and settled on white chocolate and raspberry which is one of her favourite flavour combinations. I chose to make a cheesecake because I figured the flavours would translate well, plus it’s always popular and a nice twist on the typical birthday cake.

I waited until the day of her birthday dinner to make the cake. In hindsight this was a poor choice as I underestimated how long it would take to set. I have used variations of this recipe twice before; both baked and unbaked. It tasted much better unbaked in my opinion but I thought it had a bit too much gelatin in it last time. I detest the typical cafe/restaurant cheesecakes because they are so full of gelatin that the textural quality of the cheesecake is ruined. It’s a fine line. You need the cheesecake to be able to support it’s own weight without collapsing, but you also want it to be as soft and luscious as possible, not rubbery and solid. I think this cheesecake came very close to that mark, but it just didn’t have time to set properly so it sank around the edges. The raspberries may have also prevented the gelatin from setting slightly as some fruits do.

The good news is that it tasted excellent. The flavour of white chocolate and raspberry was obvious. The raspberry jelly on top was smooth and fresh against the creaminess, and the almond biscuit base complemented it all perfectly. I reduced the sugar content slightly because I included white chocolate, but I still found it a bit sweet. I guess a certain level of sweetness has to be expected with white chocolate and raspberry, but I try to aim for as little sugar as is needed in my baking. The recipe has been amended to include the amount of gelatin and sugar that I think would work well.

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Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm  Comments (10)  
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Census Cupcakes

Earlier this week was Census night, which marked 100 years of Census taking in Australia. I registered for a party pack so that I could convince a few people to come over and have some lame fun filling it out together. The pack was a goldmine of stickers, arm bands, key rings, and even a little wooden plane.

To help celebrate I made some fairly simple vanilla cupcakes with a white chocolate & raspberry frosting and covered them in 100s and 1000s to represent all the people filling out their forms around the country.

The actual Census was incredibly boring and I was left out of most questions because I no longer have a job. The best part was when it was over and we got to eat cupcakes. They were pretty good. I’ve actually never made cupcakes before so I don’t have much to compare them to, but the cake was light and fluffy with a tender crumb, and quite moist. They were super easy to make as well so I’ll be going back to this recipe for sure.

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Published in: on August 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm  Comments (2)  
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Chocolate Orange Mud Cake with Candied Orange Peel

I bought a bag of oranges last week but wasn’t too impressed with their sweetness. Being in a baking mood this weekend, I decided to use them in a dessert of some sort. I settled on my favourite chocolate mud cake recipe, but with a new twist.

I posted another variation of this mud cake here. The recipe calls for quite a lot of water, which I substituted for freshly squeezed orange juice. I also added less sugar because of the natural sugars in the juice and it turned out the perfect level of sweetness for me.

Not wanting to waste the peel from all the oranges I’d juiced, I also decided to make candied orange peel as a garnish. The peel is boiled to remove most of the bitterness, and then cooked in sugar syrup, and rolled in sugar. I also used leftover rind to infuse the cream for my ganache frosting. I didn’t expect the cake to taste very orangey on it’s own so I wanted the ganache to have a lot of flavour, which it certainly did.

I filled the cake with two layers of whipped ganache, and covered it with a thinner, more glossy ganache. I have made a lot of ganache before, and whilst it is essentially very easy to make, it can be difficult to get the consistency just right. I wasn’t 100% happy with the ganache coating because it ended up having very small pieces of orange peel through it even though I strained it. It tasted good but the smooth finish I was after didn’t really work out. Overall though, I was very happy with the result. I can’t wait to try some other variations of this chocolate mud cake.

I also dipped some candied orange peel in dark chocolate which can be served with the cake, or eaten alone.

Edit: I made this again for my Dad’s birthday. I halved the ingredients to make a smaller cake and decorated it with Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments. It didn’t look as polished as I wanted but the family raved about how it tasted. It’s a definite crowd-pleaser, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favourite cakes.

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Published in: on June 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm  Comments (22)  
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