Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Boy, I love saying that. It rolls right off the tongue, don’t you think? Heirloom Banana Layer Cake with Prune Plum Filling and Seafoam Frosting. Ahh. The recipe is in Flo Braker’s latest book, Baking for All Occasions; A book worth having. I’ve also made the Signature Yellow Cake and the Eggnog Pound Cake, both with great success.
Last month, my oldest daughter came home from the Netherlands, where she’s been attending college for the last four years. She’s been home for Christmas most of the those years, and summers. But this is the first time in five years she’s been home for her birthday.
Good mother that I try to be, I asked her what kind of cake she’d like. The poor girl has been living in student housing—the kind that doesn’t have proper ovens. So she hasn’t had a nice tall layer cake for her birthday since her senior year in high school.
Good girl that she is, she answered: “Whatever you like”.
Since I needed to tackle my 10 cakes to make in 2010 list, I looked it over, and picked this one—I’ll just call it the HBLCwPPFaSF for short. Catchy, no?
The cake is a banana cake made with buttermilk (always a good sign in a cake), and sprinkled with chopped walnuts—unusual, I think, in a lighter cake. It’s baked in three layers, that are then split in half. I almost skipped that step, scared of likely failure (that caramel cake has me running scared).
I’m so glad I gritted my teeth and went for it. Because the way the layers are filled makes for a pleasantly complex cake. Each of the three layers is filled with a puree made from prunes soaked in oolong tea, then chopped into purée, and finally mixed with Armagnac and sugar.
So you have three two-layer cakes filled with prune purée. The top of each of those cakes is crunchy from the walnuts.
Can I take a second to tell you how much I love boiled icing? Yes, it’s little more than sugar, egg whites, and vanilla. But what happens to those ingredients when visited upon by the right amount of heat and beating is one my favorite transformations. The slithery egg white and grainy sugar suddenly is the lightest, fluffiest, and most easily spreadable (!) frosting I know.
Seafoam frosting? Well, that’s just a boiled icing made with brown sugar. In my book, brown sugar is always good. In boiled icing, it adds a depth of flavor that many people will appreciate (apparently everyone doesn’t share my appreciation for the subtle pleasures of sugar).
Back to the cake. You’ve got your three layers, filled with prune purée. Now you spread the first one with the seafoam frosting. Put the second two-layer cake on top. Spread more seafoam frosting. Finally, put the last two-layer cake on top and frost the whole extravaganza.
It’s kind of complex. Here’s a little diagram, so you can appreciate all those alternating layers, flavors of banana, walnut, prune, seafoam; textures of crumb, crunch, stickiness, and fluffiness.
The beautiful thing about a cake like this is it actually improves over a couple of days. The flavors start to soften and meld, the seafoam frosting begins to have a subtle crunch, one I always associate with walking on frozen snow.
Like I said, the recipe for this cake (and many other temptations) can be found in Flo Braker’s book, Baking for All Occasions.