Monday, November 16, 2009

A Slice of Heaven: Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache

For the past two weeks, we’ve (My parents, four brothers and myself) been working on our new home as a family here in Cape Town, South Africa. (My previous post will tell you all about it). Apart from couches and tables, beds and other accessories, I made sure that this new beautiful home contained all necessary baking utensils so that I can bake my little heart out whenever I desire. After many shopping sprees and large bags of new goodies, I can quite confidentially say that the kitchen is now well equipped and I have made much use of my new oven.

In the first few days, I made my famous banana bread on two different occasions, a classic cheesecake for our first ‘braai’ with friends as well as an apple-caramel cake, some creamy spinach filo pastries and a summery zucchini quiche. My most recent endeavor is a slight step-up from previous baking adventures. Please welcome the first attempt of this beautiful recipe…a majestic, moist, and AMAZING, five-layer banana cake with praline filling and white chocolate ganache generously covering the outside.

I absolutely love being surrounded by my whole family for oh so many reasons. One of these reasons will most definitely include the fact that they fully support my baking passions and will quite happily act as my guinea pigs when it comes to the trial of my baked goodies, day in and day out. After all, I do have four brothers whose appetites never seem to subside and a father that eats absolutely everything. I most definitely will not let such an opportunity go to waste. It is perfect!

I’ve had this cake recipe lying around for at least six months now and have been wanting to give this one a go. Since it’s not a two-person sorta cake, however, I had to wait for an appropriate time to make it. People will think I’m a bit crazy if I whip up a five layer banana cake, only to share it with one other person in a limited amount of time (since the fresh cream doesn’t last forever). Quite conveniently, there are now seven mouths to feed instead of only two so there’s really no excuse not to give this puppy a go. So here I am, spending the most part of my day in the kitchen with my new pastel-colored apron and absolutely loving life!

This tort-like cake comes in several different steps and one definitely needs time and patience, a novelty and a virtue I wish one could always enjoy and practice. My dearest ones know that patience may not always be my strong point but when it comes to baking, patience comes to me with such ease. On this occasion I had all the time in the world and used it accordingly to present my family with this beauty.
The nutty pecan flavor of the praline filling is beautifully balanced with the fluffy and light white chocolate ganache.  The banana taste definitely doesn’t hide away, working in unison with all other ingredients, giving you the final product – a large slice of heaven. The family loved it, I loved it and it has definitely gained itself a spot on my future café’s list of treats. If you’re keen to give it a go, which I highly recommend, you can find this recipe below. Enjoy! 

Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache
from Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
makes a 9-inch triple layer cake


3 cups of cake flour*
3 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of ripe mashed bananas
8 ounces of softened unsalted butter
2 cups of sugar
7 egg whites

Praline Filling:
1 cup sugared pecans, cooled
1 and 1/2 cups white chocolate ganache

Sugared Pecans:
1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves
3 cups vegetable oil
1 cup confectioners sugar

White Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces of white chocolate chopped
2 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper or wax paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In a food processor or blender, process the milk and banana into a smooth light puree. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium high speed, beat in egg whites 2-3 at a time until smooth. Scraping down the sides of the bowl between egg additions.

With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and banana puree alternately in 2-3 additions, beating until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 1-minute. Divide the batter among the cake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto a wired rack and remove the paper liners. Then cool completely one hour.
To assemble the cake, put one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover the top evenly with half of the praline filling, leaving a 1/4"-inch margin around the edges. place the second layer on top, again flat side up, cover it with remaining filling. Finally add the third layer and frost the sides and top with the white chocolate ganache. Garnish with sugared pecans.

Praline Filling
With a large chef's knife chop the pecans. Or pulse in a food processor being careful not to turn into paste.

Add the sugared pecans to the white chocolate ganache and stir to mix well.

Sugared Pecans
Place the pecans in a medium sauce pan, add water to cover, and heat to a boiling.

Boil the pecans slowly until they are swollen and soft 5-8 minutes. Drain the nuts well in a sieve for about 5 minutes. (Do not pat dry; the nuts must remain damp.)
While the nuts are draining, heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan or deep fat fryer t0 350F degrees.

Set half of the nuts aside. Dust the remaining nuts in the sieve with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Shake the sieve to coat the nuts evenly, letting any excess sugar fall away. Immediately add the coated nuts to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon scoop the nuts out and drain them on several thickness of paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining nuts.

White Chocolate Ganache
Put the white chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl. In a small sauce bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1-minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the white chocolate cream stand until cooled to room temperature.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters beat the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream and vanilla until softly whipped. Stir in the white chocolate cream and beat until fairly stiff. taking care not over beat, which would cause the ganache to separate.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where In The World Am I?

What a morning, what a week, what an adventure…

I wake up to perfect weather; The sun is shining and the wind is still. Up I go, out of bed and time for my morning run. A hard act to resist when it merely takes five minutes by foot from our house to the base of one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world: Chapmans Peak Drive. Built in the early 1920’s, Chapmans Peak Drive cuts through steep mountain cliffs, connecting two magical towns. It is a majestic drive, quite breathtaking really and it is part of our very own backyard!

Now the question: Where in the world am I?...

The answer being: Noordhoek, South Africa! I may be biased but I can quite confidentially say that it is one of the most beautiful areas around Cape Town. Mountains painting the sky as a backdrop with large open fields flowing onto an immense, white sandy beach with the clearest and most turquoise water you have laid eyes on. It is an area where houses are scarce and where horses and cows still outnumber people living here. I get to enjoy this exact view every single day and not only do I get to love this place, I get to call it home!

Yes, that is right. Home. A few months back, my parents made the most amazing decision ever; To buy a beautiful property in this stunning part of the world. I am lucky enough to spend two weeks here with the rest of the family, changing a newly bought and empty house into a warm and comfortable KvB-style home. I am loving it!

Let us now shed some light on the background of this decision/move. Everyone asks the question: Why Cape Town, why South Africa? From 1992 to 1996 we lived in Mozambique as a family and spent many weekends and school vacations in South Africa. My younger brother, Elias, is born here and we all established a bond with this part of the world, which we get to re-kindle now. At the start of 2009, my two older brothers continued their studies at The University of Cape Town, which led to the whole family spending Easter vacation here earlier this year. Well, it turns out that a few extra pounds from all the yummy Easter egg chocolates wasn’t the only thing that resulted from our lovely Easter break. We just happened to stumble across a large ‘For Sale’ sign that just happened to stand in front of a magestic, white, and absolutely beautiful old dutch-style home, built in the 1820’s may I add. Mmmm…it does not hurt to ask, right? After all, curiosity is so important and such a healthy addition to everyone’s personality. And here we are a few months later. Our dream has turned into reality and we are still pinching ourselves every time we drive up to our new home. The fact that we own such a beauty and can call it our own is still quite surreal.

I decided to take two weeks to meet up with my family down here. They had no idea I was flying over from Australia to meet them and the reaction that resulted from my little surprise, ended up being the perfect start to a family vacation. The next two weeks would be a mix of minor house renovations, interior designing and decisions on what to buy, what to buy, what to buy. Oh how I love it! Searching in all places from markets to second hand furniture shops to walking into random stores as we drive down the street, we’ve managed to collect a mix of absolutely stunning furniture and accessories. The interior style we’re going for is a beachy, white, farm-style type of design and it suits the house perfectly! Fortunately, the whole family agrees to this type of look, which majorly decreases the amount of discussions and arguments. I can actually quite happily say that it has been nothing less than pleasant so far. We are all approaching the project with a proactive attitude and it's all coming together with such ease.

We’re planning to keep this newly acquired little home of ours and turn it into a welcoming family home where the KvB’s can gather in the coming years. Soon we’ll all be bringing home ‘Plus 1’s’ (and we all know what that leads to ;)), so we bought right when buying a property that has been used as a country guest lodge/bed and breakfast for the past years. Let’s just say that we are in no way short of space and this is being said by a family of seven! Rooms are plentiful, yet the house has a central, huge kitchen and a living room that will blow you away once it’s fully furnished. It is perfect and I think we’re all very much in love J.

These two weeks are the first time we get to enjoy our newly bought home as a family. We got right into it by buying a fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, blender, toaster, trampoline, mountain bike, skateboard?, and in addition to all kitchen utensils you can possibly imagine, we STILL managed to fill another two full trolleys of stuff all in the very first day and in the very same store! It was quite humorous really. Picture a family of seven entering a massive Macro supermarket (same as Cosco in the States or Cash & Carry in Oz, time three), with only 45 minutes before the store closing time. We literally went crazy! My mom and I were on speed and both have probably never made so many efficient and quick decisions in our lives. Yes, we need this, and that and definitely THAT and why not…that as well. And it continues J We all felt like we’d just run a marathon by the end of it. Definitely a lot of fun and filling up the kitchen and house with brand new appliances and goodies, oh what pleasure!

The rest of week number one has been filled with other home projects and we’re slowly working our way down a long ‘To-Do’ list. The list will definitely not be ending once these first two weeks are over but Christmas is around the corner and we are all gathering here once more. And so, the project continues…

Check around Christmas time and you might just find some newly posted KvB home pictures. Gradually it will all come together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Take 2: Re-launching, Travels and A Fresh Start…

I’ve been wanting to post a new blog for the past few weeks since returning from my travels to Bali and North Queensland but have been putting it off. It’s definitely not that I’ve been too busy or don’t have things to blog about. I actually have a whole list of things! Maybe I just needed a kick up the bum but I think what I really needed was some inspiration. And inspiration is exactly what I got out of yesterdays Sunday night movie – Julie and Julia. Can I just say…I absolutely LOVED it! It made me smile and laugh and go ‘awwww’ and most of all, it made me go…’I want that too!!’ What do I mean by that? I mean that I want to put one of MY passions into something that keeps me occupied in life, something that gives me purpose in life, something that I can play with, call my baby and throw all my energy into. I see so many people that have achieved such great things in life by putting their creative ideas into action and I want that too! There’s a whole long list of things that I want to do in life that range from starting and maintaining this Blog and opening a cute little café; to completing an interior design course and owning a rental property; to living the expat life and aiding people in developing countries; to sailing across the world with the person I love; to having babies and starting up my own business in making cupcakes. The list definitely doesn’t end there. My mind runs wild with ideas and desires and passions but I guess you have to take it step by step, plan and start somewhere, right? I am a bit of a nomad in life at the moment. I’m leaving Perth after having lived here for only a year but don’t know where I’m off to next. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a nomad in life though. An international baby is what I am and ‘Home is where the heart is.’ I guess that just leaves me with definitely being able to put one of my ideas into action, which is keeping up THIS BLOG and I’ve decided to be a ‘do-er’ about it! So here we go. This take #2. I am re-launching my very own Baked In Love. J

The idea for this Blog was to blog about two of my great loves in life – Travel and Baking. Both just make me so happy! Well I got my little fix of travels (which, can I just say, was oh so needed!) throughout the month of September by exploring two beautiful parts of this world – Bali, Indonesia and bits and pieces of the sunny Northern Queensland in Australia. I started my full time job in March of this year and ONLY six months later do I jump on a plane with the intention of traveling somewhere new. When you live in a place like Perth, that’s a bit too long for me. Now most of you might look at me and think I’m a bit of a weirdo. C’mon, six months isn’t that long Stella. Yea, I guess it’s not, but when you live in Stella’s world, six months of a Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm routine is a loooooooong time. Let us just say that the joy and excitement...that special feeling that you get in your stomach before flying somewhere exciting…it was intense! Saying that I felt excited is an understatement. I think it was more of a ‘I’m about to pee in my pants’ type of excitement that I felt.

Bali, what a cool place! A surfers’ paradise and so much more than that at the same time. Rob and I spent two weeks there with four of our lovely friends, which allowed us to get a good taste of it. Genuine people, beautiful beaches, good shopping, hip bars and lounges, amazing food and simply an overall fun and carefree vibe that makes you want to come back. We got to see quite a bit over our two weeks. Seminyak, Uluwatu, Sanur, Nusa Lembongan, Ubud and some more Seminyak were the places we stayed. Hiring a car and scooters throughout our stay made it so convenient and easy for us to explore jewels of the island. Since it was over three weeks ago, I’ll just re-cap by highlighting the favorites:

Favorite Beach: Balangan – Feels almost like a hidden beach in Bali. Not crowded and the views of the surf are stunning. There’s proper white sand, which is hard to find on the island, and the small selection of cute Warungs keep the ladies refreshed when watching the boys surf.

Favorite Dinner Choice: Jimbaran – Ever fancied a proper dinner with tables, chairs and good service on a beach!? Well, this is where you can find it. Our table was literally on the sand and there’s a whole array of restaurants to choose from. What’s on the menu? Some of the best barbecued seafood you’ll find on the island. Yummy! One little tip: Make sure you wear clothes that you don’t have to wear the next day, as they are going to absolutely reek of smoke.

Favorite Café: If you’re into the Organic, Natural and Healthy trend, Kafe in Ubud is THE place to go. But also if you’re not into that, this place is still THE place to go. Go for brekkie or lunch and you won’t be disappointed. The food is wholesome, fresh and you’ll even get free wireless. Try the roast veggie salad!

Accommodation: Stay at either Coconuts Resort or Playgrounds when staying on Nusa Lembongan. Enjoying the views from the infinity pool with a cocktail in your hand, you’ll think you just died and went to heaven. Top it off by having a 1-hour massage for under $10! Beauty.

Cocktails: Check out Ku De Ta in Seminyak for a fancy cocktail at sunset. The music is loungie and if you’re early enough, you can snatch yourself a comfortable and perfectly situated day bed, overlooking the ocean whilst the sun is setting. Blissful really.

As for North Queensland…can I get a WOW!! That enthusiasm definitely came from how we conducted our little one week adventure. The crew of four included Ben Wallace, his misus Claire Wallace, my lovely Robin and myself. Having a true local on board (a.k.a. Mr. Robin) made it absolutely amazing. We had already organized the rental of a boat before landing in tropical Cairns, which Ben and Claire picked up with their Forbie (4WD) on their drive up from Byron Bay. We packed the boat full of camping gear, which would’ve included everything you can possibly think about. And more importantly, we packed the boat full of yummy goodies to keep our next four days on a deserted island full of smiles and satisfied tummies. Our new home for four days was called ‘Garden Island’, which lies about 20 minutes by boat off the mainland. Robin grew up in these parts of Australia when he was a grom so he had plenty of stories of previous island adventures to keep us entertained. Garden Island is its own little paradise. You can stroll around the entire island in 20 minutes; it almost feels untouched by human nature and above all, there was absolutely no one else out there!

After claiming our territory and setting up camp, we spent the next four days fishing, boating, reading, sunning, talking, laughing, cooking and eating. Percentage-wise, the boys probably spent 80% of the time fishing, which paid off when we were able to enjoy a freshly caught Coral Trout on the fire for dinner, not on one, but on two different occasions. Yum! Overall, the trip was blissful. It was just the four of us at sea without a care in the world! No noises other than nature and no days without sunshine. Can I get a Hallelujah!

Travels oh travels. What a wonderful way to spend money. What a wonderful way to learn. It opens your eyes and makes you more aware of what this world has to offer. It’s a healing remedy, a teaching tool, an occupation for the lucky ones and without a doubt, one of my deep passions. Thanks to my lovely parents, the act of moving and traveling is engrained in me. The travel bug would’ve entered my system during our first overseas posting in Togo and now the bug won’t ever leave me. I’ve accepted this and am quite pleased about really. It keeps things exciting in my life. I never really know where I’ll be bouncing around in a year’s time. Perth has been good to Rob and I but we’re both 100% aware of the fact that there are so many more places out there we’d rather be. The good thing is that we’re making it happen. I am ueber excited about what the near future holds. Not just excited; I am so eager and enthusiastic, almost impatient at times and definitely a bit anxious, and quite possibly even a wee bit scared. But it’s all healthy, natural and normal. All in all, bring on 2010, bring on a fresh start and bring on LIFE!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Banana Cupcakes

Who doesn't love Cupcakes? A fluffy centre topped off with rich, creamy icing...mmm. My favorite part is probably that you can make cupcakes look so cute! Since we had some over ripe bananas hanging round the house the other day, I decided to make these little guys. The recipe comes from The Classic Banana Bundt Cake Recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book ('Baking: From My Home To Yours') but I used it to make 12 lovely moist cupcakes instead. If you're keen on making these yummy little friends, check out the recipe here.

Baking With Papa

Whoever has spent enough time with my family, would know that Sven, my father, is a great breakfast man but when it comes to anything else in the kitchen...let's just say that my Mom handles that part of the household :) Well, Papa writes me a few months ago and says that he's making some minor changes in his life, which includes giving the art of baking a shot. 

Did I hear right? Sven baking cakes!? Interesting :) I'm stoked about the idea and encourage him to keep me up to date about his baking adventures. Papa comments on my blog the other day and sends me through a recipe of an Apricot Cake he baked just recently. I read out the ingredients and just happened to have them all at home. I decided to give it a shot right away - give Sveni some feedback on what I thought about his little creation. 

The cake was good. Definitely the type of cake Sveni would enjoy...light and creamy with a hint of the German Cheesecake flavor. Those cheesecake flavors gave me the inspiration to share with you one of my yummiest recipes - A Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, which will be coming soon...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My First Ever Post!

Hi Everyone! Welcome to my special, very own blog :) I'm embarking on a little project that I've been wanting to start for a while now and I'm quite excited! My plan is to start blogging on a regular basis on topics mainly relating to my two major passions, travel and baking, and hopefully to one day create my very own baking/travel/lifestyle book. This book will be a reflection of who I am and how I manage to incorporate my passions and interests into my life through a lifestyle and vision that I aim to share with everyone out there! 

To start off my project, I'm going to share my first 'professional' photograph of one of my many baking creations...a simple yet scrumptious, yummy Banana Bread. 

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