In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am without a doubt the birthday cake baker in my household (and yes, this includes my own). Most of the time, it’s a position that I relish, getting to ask family members and the occasional friend what kind of birthday cake they would like, then doing my darndest to create a delicious cake for them.
However, other times…
I probably need to provide a little background here to explain just why (usually my and my brother’s) birthday cakes so often cause me dismay.
Despite my increasing level of skill in the kitchen (practice, she is the key!), there is one mistake that I have been extremely prone to since my early days of baking. That is, for some reason, I completely forget to add the flour to my cakes. Yes, this has happened far more than once, and no, it appears that I don’t always learn from my mistakes.
Sometimes I catch the cakes in time – I’ll be halfway between the bench and the oven when realizing that the measured and sifted flour is still sitting back where I left it, and I’ll scurry back quickly and stir it into the the rest of the cake batter already sitting in its lined tin, hoping to god that I don’t completely mix out all the air whilst doing so. Other times, well…did I ever tell you about the unintentional batch of brownies?
Yeah, didn’t think so. It was about 4 years ago, and I’m still too traumatized to share that particular tale.
Anyway, as my brother’s birthday started to creep up, I began my pestering to find out what I should make for his birthday cake:
Me: “So, Morticia (my affectionate name for the bastard), have you thought about what cake you want for your birthday yet?”
Martin: “Errr…not really…”
Me: *irritated sigh* “Well, could you have a think about it and let me know so I have enough time to make it?”
Martin: “Yeah yeah yeah…”
He sounded just a touch irritated at this point, so I decided to let it go for now, then promptly forgot about it till the day before! In a panicked flurry, I started madly going through cookbooks and trying to pick a cake at about 6pm at night, and finally coming across an idea that I thought might please, I bolted out to propose it to the almost-birthday boy.
Me: “Morty, Morty! I think I got it!”
Me: “The cake! So, I was thinking, a coffee-flavoured genoise with mocha hazelnut cream – ”
Martin: “Too rich! I already said I just want a banana cake!”
– cue surprised eye boggling –
Me: “Since when??”
Martin: “The other day! I told you its my favourite cake, and I don’t want anything fancy or rich…”
Riiiight…so a banana cake that wasn’t fancy or rich. The problem wasn’t the banana cake, so much as it was trying to find something a bit more special than the heavy, stodgy cake that served as my usual love-child of a banana loaf and cake, that couldn’t be overly heavy or rich for the sensitive palate of my calorie-counting brother.
After doing a bit of searchig on the internet, I came across a recipe that sounded pretty promising – with over 87 positive reader reviews, that’s saying something, right? So I made it as per the instructions, then dipped a finger into the batter to test for sweetness. YEARGH. My tastebuds felt overwhelmed by the sugar assault, and I felt a wave of depression wash over me – if the batter tasted sweet to me, who is undoubtedly the sugar fanatic of the family, then it would be FAR too much for my brother who rarely indulged in anything sweeter than a piece of fruit (with his weakness being the occasional single piece of chocolate!)
So what on earth is an older sister to do?
I decided to bake the cake anyway, and so stuck it in the oven and proceeded with the rest of the birthday meal celebrations. It was only once the cake had left the oven, been iced and coated in coconut that I then started to eyeball it and feel that lead weight in my stomach really pull downwards. After all, I only have one younger brother, did I really want to serve him with a birthday cake that would be far too sweet for him to be able to enjoy and indulge in?
Half an hour later, I decided that the answer was no, and so I urged my weary bones to get up and try making another one. I sifted, stirred, mixed and poured the batter into the lined cake tin, and whilst my tired self vaguely noticed that the batter seemed a bit…well, thin…I didn’t give it another thought as I popped it into the oven.
In all honesty, it wasn’t till 10 minutes later, as I was enjoying a well-earned cigarette outside on the patio that an image of the sifted flour suddenly flashed through my mind and had me screeching back into the kitchen like a bat out of hell. I dashed over to the oven, pulled down the door then hastily pulled back as I fought the instinctive urge to grab the hot pan with bare hands (hey look – I *did* learn something from burning my hand after all!), grabbed the tea towel and carefully pulled the cake tin onto the oven top. I looked warily at the bubbling mixture and wondered whether it would still work, but at this stage was so beyond caring that I rather unceremoniously dumped in the flour, gave it a hearty stirring with a spatula then slapped it back in the oven to bake for another 30 minutes.
And believe it or not, it actually worked! Now there’s a sturdy cake recipe for ya!
As much as I love baking birthday cakes, I’m really quite glad that there are no more to worry about for the rest of the year. After all, with the upcoming stress of the holiday cookie baskets, another birthday cake and I might start going prematurely grey!
Banana & Walnut Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting
3/4 cup brown sugar
110g softened butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup mashed overripe bananas (the blacker the skins, the better)
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Lemon Butter Frosting
100g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup moist shredded coconut
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar till light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition till the mixture is once again light and creamy.
3. Dissolve the baking (bicarb) soda and baking powder into the sour cream, then immediately fold through the egg/butter mixture, working lightly and quickly till the two are well combined.
4. Add the banana and chopped walnuts and stir in till evenly combined, then quickly and carefully fold in the flour till just combined, then spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
5. Leave cake to cool, and meanwhile beat together all the ingredients of the frosting except for the coconut. Once cake is completely cook, smooth on the frosting and layer with the shredded coconut.
[tags]cooking, baking, recipes, cakes, sweets, banana, fruit[/tags]