I was staring out my window at the ever present blanket of snow last week, when I began craving something sweet, fresh, light. Fruit. But summer and the bustling farmers’ markets bursting with local fruits felt totally out of reach on this miserable day. Then I thought about the one fruit that is practically gauranteed to be hanging around my kitchen during the winter. Bananas! So I found a great recipe for Sky High Caramel Banana Cake, courtesy of Kaiser. This, of course, eliminated the “light” part of my craving, but, along with fruit, swimsuit season also thankfully feels out of reach…
Sky High Caramel Banana Cake from Kaiser
- 3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 14 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 4 large egges
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (approximately 6)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 6 Tablespoons cold water
- 3 cups whipping cream
- 5-6 firm bananas
- 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
- 12 1/4 ounces caramel ice cream topping
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Butter two 9″ round cake pans.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. With a mixer at low speed, combine the dry ingredients with butter, one tablesppon at a time; add eggs and 1 cup of mashed bananas. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add remaining mashed bananas and vanilla; beat for 1 minute. Stir in pecans.
- Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or utnil tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean and cake is beginning to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove to cool completely on wire racks.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water to soften. Scald 1/4 cup of the cream and pour over softened gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Set aside until room temperature. Whip remaining cream until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup of caramel ice cream topping and cream-gelatin mixture and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Cut each cake into two layers.
- Fill between the layers: spread a thin layer of remaining cream topping on top of cake; sprinkle 1/3 cup of nuts on top of topping; cover entirely with sliced bananas; cover with cream. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining cream. Press remaining nuts into cream at bottom edge. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
It was super easy to whip up this batter with my Kitchen-Aid Mixer. I did eliminate the pecans in the batter since I was baking this for my 7 and 5-year-old niece and nephew. This was tough since I love all kinds of nuts, and thought that walnuts or perhaps even almonds would be a great addition. The kitchen began to fill with the scent of the spices and bananas, and really did appear to help alleviate my cabin fever doldrums. Cake can definitely do that to you. The cake came out beautifully, and yes, very high! I chose not to use the frosting from the recipe since I did not have gelatin. Three separate recipes later, I finally came up with the frosting I desired. Thick and billowy, with just a touch of caramel. I must admit that I was a little lazy about decorating the cake, as it was 11 p.m. and I did not have any extra frosting on hand for the piping that I had planned. I will eventually be purchasing a revolving cake stand, which will hopefully help me to perfect my future creations. But that’s the great thing about baking for kids. Throw on some sliced bananas, dot with pecans, which they (at least the ones I know) will certainly pick off anyway, and you will be a creative genius!
There are few foods I enjoy more than cheese. I’ve always loved dairy, but cheese has always been one of my favorite things to eat, whether used as an ingredient in a dish I’m making or just for a snack. I love all types of cheese too; everything from Blue to Mascarpone, but one of my favorite cheeses for snacking is ricotta cheese. I’ll spread it on warm toasted bread, or add some fresh chopped pineapple too it and eat it like cottage cheese. Of course, good ricotta can sometimes be hard to find. So for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have an Italian market near you, I thought I would make up a homemade batch and teach you how. Making ricotta is not nearly as hard as one might think, so don’t be panicked if you’ve never made cheese before. Just follow the recipe below.
Easy Homemade Ricotta
1 gallon whole milk
1 quart buttermilk
- Prepare the sieve or colander. Choose one with a wide surface area, like the Oxo Convertible Colander so the curds will drain and cool more quickly. Rinse a large piece of cheesecloth or butter muslin with cold water, then fold it so that it is 6 or more layers thick, and arrange it in the sieve, or colander placed in the sink.
- Pour the milk and buttermilk into a large, nonreactive 8 quart stockpot.
- Transfer the pot to the stove and heat on high, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the entire bottom of the pan to prevent the mixture from scorching.
- Once the mixture is warm, stop stirring. As the milk heats, curds will begin to form. At this point you may even hear some strange popping noises, this is actually the sound of the curds forming. They will rise and clump on the surface. When the curds begin to form, gently scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula to release any that might be stuck to the bottom.
- When the mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees F, the curds and whey will begin to separate. The whey will look like cloudy water underneath the sheet of thick white curds which forms on the surface. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Working from the side of the pan, gently ladle the whey into the prepared sieve. Be sure to go slowly so as not to break up the curds too much.
Then, ladle the curds into the sieve, lifting the sides of the cloth to help the liquid drain. Do not press on the curds.
- When the draining starts to slow, gather the edges of the cloth, tie them up, and hang the ball from the faucet. Drain until the dripping stops, about 15 minutes, or longer if you prefer a drier ricotta.
- Untie the ball and transfer the ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate the containers and use within 1 week.
Makes approximately 4 cups.
Today is Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, and revelers from New Orleans to Venice are enjoying the last taste of the sweet life they’ll have before the beginning of the Lenten fast. Usually I try to make beignets this time of year, to celebrate Big Easy style, but I’ve started my fast a little early and am currently on day 15 of No Sweets. It’s definitely been harder than I thought it would be. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and when confronted by all of the delectable treats that the blogosphere has recently posted, it has definitely become a test of my will. But I’m determined. Of course, since I gave up sweets, I’m encouraging everyone around me to “have my share.” This year I wanted to try my hand at King Cake, so instead, I’m urging you to! This recipe comes from Emeril’s own collection, so have at it, and be sure to comment and let me know how absolutely delicious it was!
Emeril’s King Cake Recipe
- 2 envelopes active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
- 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
- 5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles
Directions for Bread:
- Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute.
- With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated.
- Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook.
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.
- Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together.
- Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down.
- Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn’t a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.
- Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Directions for Icing:
- Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner’s sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well.
- With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake.
- Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.
The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.
YIELD: 20 to 22 servings