Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Battenberg Cake for the Jubilee!

This month's Daring Baker challenge was a lot of fun. We made the kind of cake you imagined eating as a little girl at a tea party with your stuffed animals and tea set. It is a very British cake, fitting for one made during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations. Here in Canada, there was plenty of coverage of the Jubilee but we didn't talk about it in school. However in the small town where my mother and brother live, I found a small Jubilee flag in the school playground. It seems that all the kids were given them. I wonder if they all watched on TV and waved their little flags? I have no idea, so let's talk cake.

The traditional Battenberg has 2 colours and 4 squares, but I decided to make a 9-square cake. I sort of followed the challenge recipe, but was out of almonds, a major ingredient, the day I decided to make this. So, I used freshly grated coconut (I often have a coconut on hand) in the vanilla and chocolate layers and pistachio in the green layer. I didn't use food colouring, but got a nice green because I am very particular about blanching and peeling pistachios so the reddish skins don't discolour anything. It takes forever, but it's a good task when you are listening to the radio or watching TV. I had a small package of marzipan from Ikea, so used that to cover the cake, but I had to roll it quite thin and it was hot and humid so that was a bit tricky. Don't buy marzipan from Ikea--it's cheap but has absolutely no flavour. I kneaded in some almond extract, but that made it even stickier. The cake kept well, but the marzipan all stuck to the plate the next day.
I baked the cake in a small sheet pan and it was just dumb luck that I got nice squares by dividing each colour into thirds. I really enjoyed all the measuring and trimming and assembling of this cake. I am usually quite slapdash in the kitchen so a bit of precision does me good every once in a while. Which reminds me that I ran out of homemade apricot jam halfway through assembly and had to finish up with homemade orange marmalade. Thanks to Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! for a fantastic challenge, apparently put together quite last minute! Don't you love that blog name? Check out all the wonderful Battenberg cakes at The Daring Kitchen and read the challenge PDF for the recipes and the history of the cake and its name.

Blog-checking lines:
Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Oops--looking at The Daring Kitchen homepage, I realized I had forgotten to post my from-scratch cannelloni 2 weeks ago. I did make it! A triple recipe, in fact, which was just the thing for a stiflingly hot day (I sweat remembering it). Here's a photo:
Left: meat filling Right: spinach and ricotta. Both with tomato sauce and pesto bechamel. Mmm.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Banana Chiffon Cake

If you're anything like me, you buy bunches of bananas only to see them all ripen at the same second, so you miss your perfect banana-eating window of opportunity, whatever it is. For me, that window is tiny and complicated by the fact that I only like bananas on cereal or in a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I never eat them on their own. Oh, and I rarely have bread or cereal in the house. So why do I keep buying bananas, you may wonder? To bake with, of course. I think we can all get tired of banana bread, though, no matter how tasty it is. This chiffon cake has all the flavour of banana bread, but is light and airy. It's not as light as a plain sponge cake, but it absolutely melts in your mouth. And it's pretty easy, for something so huge and impressive looking, if I do say so myself.

I made one at Christmas which I frosted with a thin layer of bittersweet ganache, but cream cheese frosting is my favourite here. Use your standard recipe, but lighten it up by beating in milk until it has a consistency more like whipped cream than dense frosting. I'd give you more precise instructions, but I made this months ago. In February, actually. That's my excuse for the rather grim light in the photos. I do have the cake recipe for you, at least!

Banana Chiffon Cake
Source: My mother's kitchen Bible 1960s Purity Flour cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
5 egg yolks
1 cup mashed banana
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Your favourite cream cheese frosting, lightened with milk to a soft consistency (or chocolate ganache)
Pistachios to garnish

  1. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in dry ingredients and add oil, egg yolks, banana, lemon zest, nutmeg, water and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  3. Gradually fold the batter into the egg whites. Turn into an ungreased tube pan and use a knife to cut through any large air bubbles. Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours, until a tester comes out clean. Invert to cool completely. 
  4. Run a thin knife around the pan edge and tube to loosen the cake. Invert onto a serving platter and frost generously. Garnish with pistachios if desired.
Oh, and guess what? I bought a bunch of bananas the other day...