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 cafĂ©’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.

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