Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If Two Birthdays, then Two Cakes

That logically makes sense, right?

Two of my co-workers, in my little office of 7 people, have the same exact birthday.  For birthdays we generally do lunch from the place of the birthday person’s choice and cake.  At our office meeting, while discussing the arrangements for my co-workers’ birthday, one co-worker jokingly asked would there be two cakes.  I said no (as the resident cake baker), one cake with two names.

Even though it was jokingly asked, I thought what a great surprise two cakes would be.  I champion the cause of NO DUEL HOLIDAYS & PRESENTS.  My own birthday is a mere 12 days after Christmas.  Just 12 days to get over the holiday over spending, kindness and caring spirit burn-out, and holiday pounds that have returned (plus some).  My birthday is usually fraught with part 2 of a previous  gift (i.e., earrings at Christmas, matching necklace at birthday); New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, of which the will power to continue has not dissolved yet; church fasting that always starts January 1 and disallows birthday cake (among other things); and cancellations/lack of participation due to weather.  Most of these I cannot control (weather, other’s diets, and it would be rude/ungrateful to refuse the second part of a two-part gift from anyone… except my mom), but as a person who often gets the dual-holiday short-end of the stick, I could not just lump these two birthdays together.

I decided to make two completely separate cakes—no flavors or components where duplicated (no half gifting here).  The flavors did have to at least be able to comfortably exist next to each other because I put them on the same cake board, in the same box, to retain the element of surprise.  The first cake is a Vanilla Bean Cake, and the second is a Banana Cake with a Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting.  The cakes easily existed on the same board, but they were completely separate and independent, just the way any good holiday and gift should be!

Vanilla Bean Cake

I wanted to try a new recipe, so I used a Warren Brown recipe for United Cakes of America.  The cake came out okay (in my opinion) and my co-workers liked the denser texture of the cake, though it was not supposed to be dense.  The recipe used six… yes 6… eggs separated with the egg whites being folded in at the end.  (I love Mr. Brown’s story—law to baking—and sometimes I consider dream of following a similar, though not exactly the same path, BUT in trying his recipes I have always found them overly/unnecessarily complicated or ingredient heavy [hello, potato starch in this recipe] with varying results.  Just putting it out there… sorry.) 

The frosting was a Swiss Meringue Butter Cream (SMBC) with Vanilla Bean flecks.  It was awesome.  This cake, as a whole, was definitely the office favorite (this was the cake with the name of the co-worker who is in charge of personnel/HR in our office on it… coincidence?).

I used the recipe out of the book, but you can access it here- Amazing Vanilla Cake.

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter filling and Chocolate Ganache frosting

This cake was my favorite and, I believe, the better cake.  I used bananas I threw in the freezer to save from over ripening, just like you would use for banana bread.  I usually do not care for banana desserts; the taste, texture, and density of typical banana desserts are unpleasant to me.  First, I cannot even eat a banana with a brown spot and warn bananas in my crepes make my stomach turn.  So, the thought of over ripe bananas disturbs me.  Second, the texture of mashed bananas in desserts usually leads to a heavy dense, soggy, mess.  Ewww.

To combat those typical issues I drained off the liquid from the bananas after they defrosted.  Also, I used a stick blender to make a smooth banana puree, there would be no dense banana chunks in my cake.  I believe the banana puree is the secret to ensuring this cake is heavy on banana flavor, but light in texture.

The filling was simply Peanut Butter mixed into a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  It was yummy and silky.  Peanut butter is a strong flavor however, and I suggest using it sparingly on the cake as to not completely cover up the banana flavor, which is more delicate.  Similarly, with the Chocolate Ganache frosting, it can (and I believe did here) over power the cakes flavor balance.  I would suggest lightening the gananche by adding it to a SMBC or using a Chocolate SMBC instead.

This cake was not as well received (in theory) by most of my office mates, who overwhelmingly choose to try the vanilla cake.  If they had sampled this one, however, I believe they would have chosen this cake as the favorite.  It is hard to be, especially when it is undeserving, the lowest cake on the totem pole.  That’s okay, I loved it and if you try it, I think you will too!

I followed the recipe pretty straight forward from Moms Who Think, except I did not use a cream cheese frosting.  (Side note: I just re-read the recipe and I feel like an idiot.  It says banana puree; I thought it said mashed banana.  I thought I was doing something novel in using my stick blender to make a puree, but apparently not.)

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