Saturday, 6 March 2010

Beautiful Cakes

I love baking cakes, and I get lots of compliments when I do, but I've never been one to make fancy decorated cakes. This isn't because I don't like them, it's only because I find the whole idea of them very intimidating because I don't consider myself very artistic! One day I'm going to try my hand at decoration, but for the moment I'll content myself with icing and a few carefully placed adornments - like the odd sugar flower or some shiny chocolate discs.

My cousin Esther on the other hand, makes and decorates the most amazing cakes.  When we had our tenth anniversary party nine years ago, Esther made us an anniversary cake that was tastier and even more beautiful than the one we had at our wedding.  One time when we visited for a family dinner there was a beautiful cake spread over the dining room table of her Mom's house, all decorated with gorgeous sugar flowers. The only thing that has stopped her from turning her cake making into a business so far is a lack of time, but she does occasionally make cakes to order for customers in the Sarnia and Bright's Grove, Ontario area. Here are a few of her creations:-

Check out these cupcakes - yummy!

And the pièce de résistance - a 16th birthday cake complete with a hand made iPod Touch!

Esther is really generous with her recipes and shared this recipe for her chocolate and banana cake with me a few years ago. It’s one I make quite regularly as it is keeps so moist and delicious. It even freezes well (without icing).  I tend to freeze slices as opposed to the whole cake as then you can just thaw a slice or two at a the time. 

I have played around with the recipe a bit, as some of the ingredients – like Crisco - are not easily available in England.  No matter what I do though, this cake is always delicious.  Esther recommends you frost it with your favourite chocolate icing which is fabulous, although when I’ve been pressed for time or wanted to freeze some of the cake, I’ve just sprinkled it with icing sugar. It’s very tasty that way too.
Esther’s Amazing Chocolate and Banana Bundt Cake 

1 cup Crisco or softened butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup sour cream
(I have used crème fraîche when unable to find sour cream - and I use the low fat variety as well so I am sure you could use low fat sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 160ºC or 350ºF.   Grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt.  Set aside. Cream together the Crisco (or butter) and sugar in a large bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time, and continue creaming.  Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla.  Blend well.  Now add the dry ingredients you set aside earlier and stir until mixed.  Carefully pour the 1 cup boiling water over the entire mixture.  This sounds silly, but it really does work!  Blend the water in.  The batter will be quite loose, but that is okay. 
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until just starting to brown and a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the pan before attempting to remove the cake.  If you are planning to frost the cake, or dust it with icing sugar, be sure to allow it to cool completely first. 

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