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.



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