A True Yuletide Treat: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

DSC_0342Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, pear. How bad could that be? This holiday recipe, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, arrives just in time to be included in your celebrations this year!

Bûche de Noël, translating into yule log, is a traditional dessert served all over France during the holidays. A light and airy sponge cake is wrapped around a custard filling and then coated in a rich butter cream. Often decorated with little toy ornaments on top, these “logs” are both a festive and fun way to bring yuletide cheer to bakery window-displays and parties alike.

Making a yule log is not difficult, but it does involve a preparing a couple different components and DSC_0324pulling out several mixing bowls. I used a recipe from pastry-god Dominique Ansel as a base, but played with the flavors a bit by swapping out cherries for pears and using bourbon because it pairs so well with chocolate. Showcasing French technique with a slight Southern American twist, this yule log is the wonderful way to say Happy Holidays to your loved ones this week.

DSC_0346Recipe: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

Adapted from Food and Wine

Cake

  • 6 eggs yolks, room temperatureDSC_0315
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (recommend 100% or Special Dark varieties)

DSC_0328Bourbon Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Filling

  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Bourbon Pears

  • 2 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Method

Cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9X13 inch bakingDSC_0303 sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolks with six tablespoons of the sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. In another bowl, beat the egg whites together with the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until the egg whites have formed stiff peaks. Fold the egg DSC_0311white mixture with the egg yolk mixture followed by the cocoa powder and salt. Spread the batter evenly on the baking sheet and bake until the cake is dry and springy, about 18-20 minutes.

Syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-heat heat. Boil the mixture for about a minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow the mixture to cool.

Filling: In a small bowl, soften the gelatin with the water. In a small saucepan,
combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar. Stream in the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking rapidly until incorporated. Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over low heat until the custard has become thick enough to coat the back of spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl. Heat the gelatin in the microwave for about 15 seconds, until melted, and stir into the custard. Allow the custard to cool before whipping the cream and folding it in.

Pears: Combine the pear slices with the vanilla pod and seeds, sugar, and bourbon. Saute over high heat for about 5 minutes, until the pears have softened and the alcohol smell has mellowed out a bit. Discard the vanilla pod and allow the mixture to cool.

Assembly: Run a knife around the edges of cake to loosen it and invert it onto a DSC_0334new sheet of parchment paper. Soak the cake liberally in the bourbon syrup, making sure that it’s covered evenly. Then spread an even layer of the custard filing on top, followed by the pears. Roll the cake up to form a 13-inch log. Because the cake is stiff, it might break on you at this point. That is completely fine. Just use the parchment paper to squeeze the roll together and place it in the fridge to set overnight.

Topping: Beat the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar together until whipped and firm. Coat the cake evenly with the whipped cream followed by a dusting of cocoa powder on top. Cut into slices and serve.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

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Divine Deadliness: Dark Chocolate Cake with Forest Berry Ganache

DSCN0108We all need a good cake recipe in our lives. One that will please the pickiest of eaters and moodiest party guests. With all those rotten cake mixes and trashy grocery store cakes sitting around, it’s easy to forget what real cake actually tastes like, and I think that is something which should never be forgotten.

Making cake from scratch may take a little more effort, but it’s well worth the labor. It doesn’t even require much skill. As long as you can mix things together, there ain’t a batter that could be too difficult for you to tackle. Not to mention, there is such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that comes with seeing your own creation emerge out of the oven. The smiles it puts on people’s faces when they take their first bites are enough to fill me up with warmth and joy. It’s a way of showing your affection for others without being verbal.DSCN0087

Ever since I started getting into cooking, I have always enjoyed the blog 17 and Baking. Breathtaking photography and mouth-watering recipes drew me in, but the fact that these wonders were being made by another teenager inspired me.  If a young seventeen year old could do it, why couldn’t I, and so not only did this blog motivate me to keep baking it, but it pushed me into staring my own blog. It’s been a bumpy two and a half years. I’ll admit that my writing was quite miserable when I began, but now as a wiser (kind of) 20-year-old looking back, I hope that I’ve been able to develop a more entertaining and informative voice by now.

DSCN0094I have recreated quite a few 17 and Baking recipes in my own home, but perhaps the most beautiful of them all would have to be the Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake. The first time I made it, I was a mere 16-year-old trying to bake up something amazing for a friend’s birthday. Making it again two weeks ago for my brother’s graduation, the cake has changed little from the original recipe save for swapping the raspberries for a mixed berry blend and using chocolate with a higher cocoa content. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Darkly colored, moist to the point of disbelief, and brimming with textural and flavor contrasts from the rich cake center, tart and chunky berries, and bitter and slightly savory ganache, this cake is my heaven, my ecstasy, and my ultimate joy. Ms. Elissa Bernstein, the amazing blogger behind 17 and Baking, I offer my uttermost thanks to you for first making this delicacy. I know that the chances of you coming across my blog are slim, but you have inspired me to keep writing for a lifetime.

Here’s to five million more blog posts!

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Cake with Forest Berry GanacheDSCN0121

Adapted from 17 and Baking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened 100% cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water, mixed with about a teaspoon of instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup mixed berry jam

Mixed Berry Ganache

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with a 60% cocoa content
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with a 70% cocoa content
  • 1 2/3 cups frozen mixed berry blend
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and cover with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, combine the oil and sour cream and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the mixture is well incorporated. Add the vinegar, vanilla extract, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Make sure the ingredients have been mixed well together.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Add these dry ingredients in about three or four batches to the wet ingredients, stirring slowly after each addition. Then add the boiling water. Be careful not to over mix the batter. Finish stirring with a rubber spatula if needed.

Pour the batter into the cake pans. It will be very runny. Bake the cakes for about 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before proceeding to the frosting process.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the ganache. Start by placing a large bowl over a pot filled with about an inch of simmering water. This is called a double-bath. Microwave the frozen berries at 30 second intervals until they have softened and become mushy. Strain out the seeds and pulp, reserving the juice. You will have about 1/3 cup juice. Melt together the butter and chocolate in the double bath until smooth and well combined. Then take the bowl off of the pot and stir in the berry juice. Allow the ganache to cool until it spreadable. You can speed up this process by beating the ganache after an hour of cooling in a stand mixer till it has begun to resemble the consistency of frosting.

DSCN0118When frosting the cake, start by inverting one of the cake layers on a cake dish. Spread about 1/3 of the mixed berry jam on top and then cover with a thin layer of ganache. Invert the second cake layer on top of this and again spread 1/3 cup of the mixed berry jam followed with a thin layer of ganache. Then proceed to frost the entire cake with a thick layer of the ganache. Allow the cake to sit for an hour or two before cutting into slices and serving. Enjoy this cake folks, it is divine, decadent, and deadly, but in a good way of course.

Addictive Food 2: Sticky Toffee Pudding

DSCN9331Who knew that Jamie Oliver, better known for his nutritional revolutions and healthy cooking movement, would have such a devilishly indulgent recipe up his sleeve? Then again, being British, it would be a shame for him not to have a good recipe for sticky toffee pudding. Addicting to the core, my friend gobbled down three helpings of this stuff in one sitting! With that said, let’s quickly run through the basics and get to this recipe! I guarantee that you that the tray will be wiped clean before you can even swing by for seconds!

In England, pudding is a generic term given to describe almost things dessert-like, not just the custardy stuff that most people are used to. Therefore, stick toffee pudding is essentially a quick-baking cake made primarily of dried dates. Even though they are madly delicious on their own, dried dates add sweetness, bulk, and such a wonderful moistness to this pudding that you’ll be questioning why you don’t have a date farm in your backyard. Cinnamon adds a characteristic flavor that makes this reminiscent of a spice cake, while ovaltine adds a slight malty note in the background.

After the pudding (or cake if you are looking for a more American description) is baked, it is soaked in a wicked awesome toffee sauce, hence the name sticky toffee pudding. The sauce is also superbly easy to make. It’s a simple reduction of cream, butter, and brown sugar. Even though the recipe asks for unsalted butter, I actually went ahead and used salted butter, and believe me, it was probably one of the best decisions that I had made in a while. Using salted butter allows you to offset the sweetness from the sugar, which sometimes can be cloying, especially if you plan on consuming it in liberal amounts (as you must do with this recipe). It also doesn’t hurt to mention that Denmark happens to have some of the best butter in the world, so naturally I trying to use it whenever I get the chance! However, regardless of where you live, and whether or not you actually like to bake, please, please, please give this recipe a try! It will have addicted to this new realm of quick-cooking deserts in a heartbeat. In fact, I’ve already made this twice!

Recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted Slightly from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

  • 225 grams fresh or dried dates, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 85 grams salted butter, softened
  • 170 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 170 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ovaltine powder
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt

For the Toffee Sauce:

  • 115 grams salted butter
  • 115 grams light or dark brown sugar
  • 140 ml heavy cream

Method

1. In a medium-sized bowl, cover the dates with about 1 cup of boiling water. Allow the dates to soak for a couple of minutes and then drain. Puree the dates in a food processor or blender until they are smooth.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until the mixture is pale in color. Then add the eggs, flour, ovaltine, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix the batter together until everything is well incorporated. Then fold in the pureed dates and the yogurt. Pour the batter into a greased, ovenproof dish and bake for about 35 minutes, till a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

3. While the pudding is baking, make the toffee sauce. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream in a small saucepan, and heat the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, reduced, and darkened to a rich brown color.

4. Serve the pudding hot out of the oven scooped out into plates with a generous pouring of the hot toffee sauce. No ice cream or whipped cream is needed. Just the pure pudding, toffee sauce, a spoon, and a happy person to eat it. Enjoy!

Surprising Find: Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

DSCN7253I grew up watching the Food Network, and there was a time when I was absolutely in love with it. I would sit in front of the T.V. every night glued to channel 110 (that was the food network number on my local satellite provider). Various personalities would come and go, and I would want to recreate practically everything they made. However, that was before I actually got into cooking. When the fire finally came within in me to step into the kitchen, I will admit that it was the Food Network that perhaps inspired me to start cooking in the first place. Yet, I quickly began to discover the flaws within the network’s programming. Too many of the personalities were not actual chefs, and the recipes were more show than actual deliciousness. I left for the rawness of public access chefs, cookbooks, cooking magazines, and yes, the beautiful blogosphere, a magnificent myriad of home cooks bringing creative ideas into their kitchens and then sharing them with the world.

Well if I am easily impressed by the home cooks of the blogging world, can I still not appreciate the celebrity home DSCN7167cooks of the Food Network? Maybe. In my opinion, it really depends on which of them have remained true to their roots. While I am not going to reveal who I think is phony and who isn’t, I will say that when I came across a picture of these red velvet swirl brownies by Sunny Anderson, I was instantly drawn in. I’m not going to lie, as much as I try to refute it, it is true that we eat with our eyes first, and these brownies were red! Red, people, red! It looked so unnatural  yet so desirable at the same time, and they are not just called red velvet because they are red, but also because they retain flavor elements of the red velvet cake. A moist and fudgey chocolate layer is topped with a layer of cream cheese imbued with vanilla. As it all DSCN7179bakes, the layers fuse, yet remain separate, and when you bite into them, it’s absolutely beautiful. I just loved how the cream cheese was tangy enough to offset the sweetness of the chocolate, which by the way was not so sweet that your head will explode. It was more subtle to that note, and even the chocolate layer carries a slight sourness from the vinegar in the batter. The only problem is that these brownies were not that red, but that’s probably because the food coloring I bought was pretty bogus. I guess that people here in Denmark are not that into artificially coloring their foods, and you know what, that’s a good thing. The bottom line is that these brownies still taste like red velvet cake, and that’s all that matters. I’ll even go as far to admit that these are probably the best damn brownies that I have ever made in my life. Thank you Sunny Anderson. You allowed me to realize that not all Food Network “chefs” are bad.

Recipe: Red Velvet Swirl BrowniesDSCN7192

Adapted slightly from this recipe by Sunny Anderson

Ingredients:

Brownie Layer:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (although I’m pretty sure that I ended up putting in a tablespoon)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit ( about 180 degrees Celsius). Grease an 8X8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or butter.

Brownie Layer: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order. Be sure to stir between additions. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and then mix with the other ingredients. Fold in the flour into the batter. Pour the batter into the baking pan, saving about a 1/4 cup for the top.

DSCN7185Cream Cheese Layer: Blend together the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the brownie layer. Plop over the remaining brownie layer over the cream cheese layer. Using a knife tip or toothpick, drag the tip through the cream cheese layer to create a swirl pattern with the dollops of brownie layer you just put over the top. Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes. Allow them to cool completely before cutting.

Cooking Notes:

  • As I realized, you really don’t need the food coloring if you are not that into it. These brownies taste good, and that’s all that matters. 
  • Feel free to stir in chopped nuts or chocolate chips into the brownie batter if that’s what you wish.

Boozy Business: Chocolate and Cherry Beer Cake

DSCN6979I mentioned in my last post, almost a month ago, that I had something big happening in a matter of days. Well I can now tell you that I have long left Nimes’s lazy and warm embraces behind, and I have been situated in Copenhagen, Denmark for exactly three weeks now! I’m actually studying abroad here for the semester so if all goes well, schedule wise, I hope to update you along the way with stories about foods that I both make and eat along the way!

This recipe is probably the first time where I actually baked a cake without DSCN6978a recipe, and I was quite surprised by how wonderfully everything turned out. It was also one of my first forays with Danish ingredients. I paired together the famous, local Carlsberg beer (which is actually surprisingly drinkable) with kirsebærsauce, a cherry compote of sorts which is traditionally served around Christmastime with the traditional dessert, Risalamande, a rice pudding whipped into an almost mousse-like consistency with the addition of whipped cream.

Needless to say, this cake was very much a play on the black forest cake that I usually make at home (hmm, I wonder what I must have been craving then). The beer actually does marvelous things with the batter. You don’t quite taste it in the final product, but it does intensify the chocolate flavor and adds a level of complexity that you wouldn’t quite be able to get without it. It also gives a lightness to everything. With each new bite, you can almost feel the cake melting in your mouth. While I typically like to stew my own cherries, I tolerated a store-bought variety this time because fresh fruit in Denmark can be exorbitantly expensive when it’s out of season (as cherries would be right now).

Now you’re probably looking at the pictures and wondering, “where is the frosting?”. Trust me, I would have made some, but let’s just say that my host family’s kitchen is not the biggest, let alone as well-equipped with all the appliances and go-to gadgets that make cooking back at home a snap. While it certainly takes longer to prepare food here, the end result is still just as rewarding, and best of all, delicious.

DSCN6975Recipe: Chocolate and Cherry Beer Cake

Inspired from a recipe I viewed on Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, cocoa powder (Dutch-process/extra-dark is the way to go)
  • 1 cup Carlsberg beer (stout also works well)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cherry sauce

Method:

In a large bowl, beat together the vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs until well incorporated. Then mix in the beer. Add in the salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Stir in the flour in two additions. Finally, fold in the cherry sauce so that the cherries are evenly distributed throughout the batter. You are free to add more or less cherry sauce if you desire. Just go ahead and taste the batter along the way.DSCN6971

Pour the batter into a 9X13 inch baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, till a knife inserted into the middle comes out warm. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan. Serve at the temperature of your choice alongside a scoop of ice cream and cherry sauce on top.

Dark Decadence: Dark Chocolate Cake Truffles

While I mostly bake for my own personal satisfaction, I still like to please the people. Indeed, the greatest joy in baking would have to be seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they take the first bite of that delicious handmade treat. These little gems do just that. They are better known in the culinary world as cake pops, but since I didn’t put a stick in them, I renamed them cake truffles because at the end of the day, it’s a rich and creamy filling enclosed in a hard chocolate shell.

The dark color of these truffles comes from using Dutch-process cocoa powder which also lends an intense chocolaty flavor and aroma to the cake. It’s devilishly decadent from the chocolate cream cheese icing that’s mixed into the crumbled cake. Once you bite into this moist morsel, it melts in your mouth and fills you with joy. Every truffle is an opportunity to savor the best of an entire cake, all concentrated into the perfect bite. No wonder why these have become all the rage lately!

I served these with a fabulous and refreshing homemade basil ice cream. Basil and chocolate may sound like an odd combination, but it actually works much in the same way as mint and chocolate do. Plus, nothing spells summer more than basil. The flavor of the ice cream is clean and palette-cleansing. The basil gives the sweet cream base an almost savory quality with finishing notes of butter.

As this recipe makes something around 60 cake balls, you’re going to have no problem eating them, but you will need quite a lot of chocolate to coat them. You can make the coatings as diverse as you like. I used bittersweet, dark, white, and milk chocolate with hazelnut bits in it. I found them all to be delicious, but I particularly liked the white chocolate because it really brought out the richness of dark chocolate cake within. However, fell free to half or double it based on the size of the crowd you are feeding. I guarantee you that no one is going to get away with just eating one.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Cake Truffles

Adapted from Hershey’s

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup 100% Cacao unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules, optional

Frosting Ingredients

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons 100% Cacao unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Shell Ingredients

  • 40 to 48 oz chocolate of any kind (recommended: bittersweet, semisweet, dark, white, or milk chocolate)

Method:

For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. In the bowl of a mixer beat the eggs and the oil until well combined. Then add the milk and vanilla extract, and mix well. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three batches. Then pour in the boiling the water and the espresso granules. The batter should be liquidy and runny. Pour the batter into a greased 9X13 pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, till a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

For the Frosting: In the bowl of a mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter until well incorporated. Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder. Mix until all the ingredients have come together. The frosting will not be very sweet, but that is fine because you are primarily using it to bind the cake balls together and to add extra moisture.

For the Chocolate Shell: Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 30 minute intervals until melted.

Assembling the Cake Truffles: Take the cooled cake and break it up with your hands until you have formed fine crumbs. Then add the cream cheese frosting and mix it in. It will slowly incorporate itself into the cake and you will end up with a sticky dough. Using your hands, form golf ball sized balls and place them on a parchment pan to cool in the fridge for a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Then dip the cake balls in the melted chocolate until they are coated evenly in a thin layer and place them in a box lined with parchment paper. Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set the chocolate, but after they have set, you can serve the cake truffles at room temperature if you would like.

Sweet Complexity: Banana-Carrot Cake with Buttermilk-Passion Fruit Ice Cream

On our last night in Nimes, we embarked on our pre-dinner stroll. The purpose of these walks was not only to build up our appetite, but a way for me to scope out a good place to eat. We struck gold when we stumbled upon a South African restaurant, which may sound like a weird choice in France, but since it is a cuisine that is exotic both to us Americans and the French, this restaurant sure wasn’t a tourist trap. In the two hours that followed we were treated to excellent aperitifs, fabulous seafood, and most importantly mind-blowing deserts. What I really enjoyed was how they took otherwise simple deserts and propelled them to the next level. For example, I had a banana-carrot cake with a cactus pear and lemongrass sorbet, and a chilled melon and berry soup. The presentation was stunning enough but being able to enjoy all of those thrilling flavors at once was purely exhilarating. Almost immediately, I knew I had to recreate these flavors at home.

I started building up my rendition of the banana and carrot cake by starting with my go to banana bread recipe because it creates a loaf that is just as moist and tender as any cake would be. To bring together the marriage of a banana bread and carrot cake, I added shredded carrot, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. On the banana bread side I added fresh vanilla bean to really bring out that natural woodsiness in the spice. When I pulled the loaf out of the oven and hour later, I was greeted with a warm loaf filled with comforting flavors that want to hug you. The carrots combined with the warmth of cinnamon complements the sweet flavors of the banana and vanilla really well. As always, the chopped walnuts provide a pleasingly perfect textural crunch, and what is a carrot cake without nuts? Like I mentioned earlier, the loaf is tender, but it still holds up well enough to work as a breakfast bread as well.

As I had made sorbet recently, I really wanted to make some ice cream to go with the cake. This buttermilk ice cream is just as rich and creamy as any common variety ice cream would be, but the addition of buttermilk and passionfruit puree adds a wonderfully tangy note to this ice cream that pairs well with the sweetness of the cake. I also like the faint caramel flavor, contributed by using raw Demerara sugar, which also gives the ice cream a slight tan color.

Passionfruit is an exotic fruit that is widely grown in tropical areas of South America, Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia. It has a flavor that can best be described as a cross between an apricot and a mango. It’s definitely one of the flavors which linger on your tongue for while after you have eaten it, and that makes it all the more addicting. The fruit on its own is quite sour, so I simmered some passionfruit pulp with
sugar, cornstarch, and corn syrup to create a bit of a passionfruit syrup. I swirled some into the ice cream and then and then drizzled a little extra on top of desert before serving.

All of these flavors create a rather complex desert and surprisingly enough, they all work beautifully together. Each flavor holds up on its own, and this ends up being a sweet treat which you can savor all summer long.

Recipe: Banana and Carrot Cake with Buttermilk-Passionfruit Ice Cream and Passionfruit Drizzle

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 3/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Ice Cream (Adapted from Bon Appetit):

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

For the Passionfruit Syrup:

  • 1 cup frozen passionfruit pulp
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoons corn syrup

Method:

For the Cake: Preheat an oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Grease a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan with butter or nonstick spray. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the sugar, bananas, carrots, oil, and eggs until well incorporated. Then add the cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds and mix. Lightly beat in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and then fold it in by hand until the batter is well incorporated. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the Ice Cream: Chill a medium-sized bowl in the freezer until cold, about 1 hour. Whisk the egg yolks in another medium metal bowl or stand mixer. Combine the cream, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk in half of the hot cream mixer into the egg yolks, then return the mixture to the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour the cold buttermilk into the chilled bowl and then strain in the custard. Mix with the vanilla extract. Chill the mixture uncovered in the fridge for about 2 hours, till it is cold. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most machines take about 20 to 25 minutes to freeze the ice cream. Five minutes before the ice cream is done, throw in four to five spoons of the passion fruit syrup, and allow it to swirl into the mixture. Transfer the completed ice cream into a freezer container and freeze until firm, 6 hours to overnight. If you prefer your ice cream with more of a soft-serve consistency, then you can enjoy within 3 to 4 hours of freezing.

For the Passionfruit Syrup: Combine the frozen passionfruit pulp, sugar, corn starch, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking continuously, till the mixture has thickened. Allow the syrup to cool in the fridge for a couple of hours till it is cold.

Dessert Assembly: Place a slice of the cake on a plate. You can warm it up for a bit if you so desire. Place a scoop of ice cream on top and drizzle with the passionfruit syrup. Serve immediately.

Cooking Notes:

  • Raw sugar, also known as turbinado or Demerara sugar, is an unprocessed sugar that has a molasses-like color and aroma, much like brown sugar. It can be found at most grocery stores and natural foods stores
  • Frozen passionfruit pulp can be found seasonally at some grocery stores. (For those of you who live in the Chicagoland area I have seen it at both Dominick’s and Caputo’s). I used the Goya brand. If you live in an area where fresh passionfruits are available, then you can make pulp yourself by scooping out the passionfruit seeds and innards and heating them in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once a juice has formed, strain the mixture to get a smooth liquid.