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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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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Baked Cheesecake with Passionfruit Syrup and Fruit Salad

Okay I admit it. I am completely addicted to this season of MasterChef Australia. I barely paid attention to the show in the past, but this time around I’ve been well and truly sucked in. It’s a great source of inspiration and I also find myself learning quite a bit.

Recently on the show, Donna Hay showed us how to make a classic baked cheesecake. Now I’ve tried a few different cheesecakes in my time, both baked and unbaked, but this one looked more promising than anything I had made before. I am generally not a fan of Donna Hay’s recipes because I find them to be almost too simple; she is a food stylist afterall, not a chef. But a cheesecake is essentially quite simple, and she demonstrated some good tips on the show which I was eager to try out – plus Muffy demanded cheesecake after catching a glimpse of what was happening on the tv.

The original recipe can be found here. I changed it a little because I didn’t want to use ricotta, but essentially it is the same. I substituted the ricotta for mascarpone which is an Italian style triple-cream cheese. It’s probably not as good for you as ricotta, but then that’s kind of the point. You could also use sour cream or creme fraiche instead, it really doesn’t matter too much with cheesecake.

I served it with a simple fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries and kiwi which did a good job of balancing out the richness of the cake. I also made a quick syrup to pour over using tinned passionfruit pulp and sugar, reduced down a bit in a saucepan.

Unfortunately the cheesecake itself didn’t turn out as good as I was hoping. I know the recipe is not the problem though, because I tasted the uncooked mixture and it was pretty amazing. I have suspected for a while now that my oven runs too hot, and after this cheesecake I am more sure than ever. It rose a lot more than I was expecting (at 150C) and cracked on top towards the end of cooking. Those are the typical signs of an oven being too hot, and baked cheesecake is particularly susceptible to cracking.

I will definitely make this again, but in a cooler oven if I decide to bake it. Or I might just take out the eggs, add some gelatin and turn it into an unbaked cheesecake. The mixture is seriously SO GOOD. You could easily halve the recipe for the filling as it makes a very tall cake, but adjust the cooking time accordingly. I really liked the base of this cheesecake as well. So many recipes call for crushed biscuits but this had a much nicer texture and flavour.

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Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest Cake

Chocolate and cherries and cream, oh my!

I made this cake a few weeks ago for my birthday. I’ve never really been a huge fan of black forest cake but I put this down to the fact that I’ve just never been lucky enough to try a good one. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making one just because they look so magnificent.

Scouring the web for recipes made me realise just how many different versions there are of this classic dessert. There are a myriad of adaptions and deconstructions that are barely cakes, let alone the real deal. I knew that if I was going to make this I wanted to make it right and stay as true to the original as possible.

The real name for this cake is Schwartzwalder Kirsh Torte which is German in origin and translates literally as Black Forest Cherry Cake. The Black Forest is a region in Germany which is famous for producing a distilled cherry liquor known as kirshwasser (or kirsch for short). Needless to say, kirsh is a very important ingredient in this cake. I have also read that the flaked chocolate usually pressed to the sides of the cake is supposed to represent the branches of trees in the Black Forest. I like the notion even if it’s not true.

Unfortunately I had a difficult time finding kirsch that looked anything like the real stuff. In the end I gave up my search and settled for a nice bottle of cherry brandy. Germans would probably look down on this, but I think it’s a far better choice than Cointreau or brandy used in many recipes, including the popular version by Gary Mehigan which has little in common with a Schwartzwalder Kirsh Torte.

Apart from the choice of liquor used, the other most important ingredient is sour cherries for the filling. I used sour morello cherries which are actually quite easy to find in most supermarkets. I encountered a number of conflicting opinions during my research about what makes up the rest of the cake; some use a biscuit base for the first layer, some use dense chocolate cake, others swear by sponge, and one even argued that cream is not supposed to be used at all.

I did a practice sponge to see if I could pull it off. It came out more like a biscuit and wasn’t very chocolatey, so I decided to just use my go-to chocolate mud cake which is actually quite light with a tender crumb. It is very easy to cut into thin layers as well which is important for this cake.

I was very conscious right from the beginning that any fillings would have to be able to stand up to the weight of the cake. Whipped cream does not have a lot of structural integrity so I experimented quite a lot beforehand with different ways to make it more stable. I also made a thick cherry filling using my sour cherries, sugar, cherry brandy and gelatin. Both stood up to the test very well, but it is important to allow plenty of preparation time for this cake so that it can be refrigerated a few hours after assembly just to make sure it sets well.

I put the cake together in this order: cake layer sprinkled with cherry brandy, cherry filling, whipped cream filling, cake (with cherry brandy), cherry filling, cream, cake, cherry filling with extra frozen cherries added for the topping, cream sides, piped cream rosettes, shaved bittersweet chocolate pressed to the sides, and cherry brandy marinated glace cherries on top. Phew!

A slice oozing with goodness

It tasted pretty amazing (especially the next day) and definitely had the wow factor I was hoping for. I don’t think I’ll be making it again in a real hurry because it is time consuming and black forest cake just isn’t my favourite of all time, but it’s definitely worth a go if you feel up to it. If I did make it again [edit: I did] I would definitely try a chocolate sponge and would possibly use more cream in the layers. If I could find kirsch I would use that too and add it to the cream; the only reason I didn’t do that with the cherry brandy is that it’s not clear like kirsch so the cream would have turned pinkish.

Continue to recipes for mud cake and fillings

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm  Comments (7)  
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