Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lolivya Banana Cake

My Histology professor called Reading Week 'Slack Week'. I admit I chuckled at that when he first wished us a good vacation... Turns out I did much more slacking than reading.

But really, can you blame me? I was down in Port Antonio, Jamaica, with my best friend and family. It's where my mom grew up and I hadn't been there for 8 years. That and, coming from a Canadian winter, it was a paradise. I think my favourite things I ate down there were the fruit. You just don't get them so fresh up in Canada. The bananas literally blew my mind.

Every morning we'd have a plate of fruit (bananas, pineapple, mango, watermelon, jackfruit... all amazing), Blue Mountain Coffee, hardough bread and Guava jelly.... Plus something hot, like scrambled eggs (or even pancakes! My uncle did it for us Canadians). 

One morning, my Uncle Jim even went to a Belgium bakery and delivered these too all the villas:

The one on the right is a croissant filled with chocolate and the left is custard. The custard was so, so good. Mostly because their eggs are fresh and organic (no preservatives down there!). And they were baked fresh that morning, still warm. This is why I gained weight, haha. And also, probably most likely, because we had amazing meals the whole week. We got jerk three times. Jerk chicken, pork, and sausage. With festivals.

Oh man, festivals. They were the best thing I was introduced to down there. They're like fritters almost, just they're made into logs. A dough with cornmeal that's deep fried into amazing goodness. The best we had were from Mr. Glasses. They were thick and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. One batch we tried at Frenchman's Cove had cinnamon in it, which was a nice touch. 

Those glasses are filled with delicious Jamaican rum, pineapple juice and Ting. The plate in the center has festivals. Far corner is jerk chicken and the closest plate is jerk pork.

Now, I couldn't leave Jamaica without baking something with those amazing bananas. And what better to make than a banana cake with cream cheese frosting? Well, a banana cake made with Jamaican bananas and Canadian maple syrup, actually. 

It. Was. Amazing. If I do say so myself. Everyone had seconds. The cake is very moist from the maple syrup. Absolutely addictive. I named it after my uncle's first villa, Lolivya (which translates to: 'Lowes Live Here', my mother's maiden name being Lowe) since I have so many amazing memories there and because it is my home away from Canada. It's really a beautiful cake and if, like me, you live in North America and can't necessarily get fresh Jamaican bananas, just do your best to find the most delicious, ripe bananas you can. I promise it'll still taste amazing.

Lolivya Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
For the cake:
  • 6 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup 100% pure maple syrup 
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 sliced banana for topping

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease two 8" cake pans.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer) beat the maple syrup, icing sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients in batches, alternating with the milk until it's a silky, delicious batter. Add the bananas. Divide the batter into the two cake pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the cake is an awesome golden colour. 

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes and let cool completely before icing.

For the cream cheese icing:
  • 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum
Beat all the ingredients together until it's a smooth, thick icing. 

To assemble:
Place one layer of cake on a serving tray. Top with half the cream cheese icing. Place the second layer on top and cover the top with the rest of the icing. 

Right before serving, decorate with the sliced bananas (if you do this too early, the bananas may oxidize and become brown. If you want, you could mix the banana slices with lime juice to preserve their colour). 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine's everyone. This post may be a little late, but where's the harm in celebrating people you love for an entire week? That and some of us busy people may have had to reschedule our celebrations to the weekend.

Technically this is a guest post! Because I didn't actually make these myself, but my awesome friend, Steph, toiled over the oven to make these for her boyfriend and they looked so awesome I knew I had to share.

She adapted the recipe from the Joy of Baking (click for recipe) , and the only change she made was instead of making the royal icing in the original recipe, she substituted it for store-bought buttercream, which tasted awesome with the sugar cookies. It also is a nice alternative for those of us who don't have time, or can't be bothered, to make homemade icing. I always go for buttercream over traditional icing, personally.

These cookies are perfect for anyone who just wants to make a quick, simple treat that looks great. I say: go for it! See if you have the artistic talent like Steph, or just make the cookies as an excuse to practice if you're like me and weren't born with a steady hand.

Either way, these are awesome. Just look at the picture she took:

How is that not the most adorable thing ever??

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Salsa Con Queso Pasta

It's hilarious how some of the best recipes are created as a byproduct of laziness. Like this one, for example. I wanted macaroni and cheese (when is anyone NOT craving the stuff?). I was too lazy to make a cheese sauce. But I was picky in my laziness. I wanted a Mexican theme.

Then I remembered a salsa my friend bought for our New Years dinner. It was spicy, flavourful and tasted cheesy, even though it wasn't technically a cheese sauce.

So it was born. This is dedicated to parents, university students and all the lazy people out there, who want to eat something delicious, but can't be bothered to put the effort into making it. This is for you.

*Note: I only put 1/2 of a hot pepper in this because the salsa had a kick already. If you like your food with more of a roundhouse kick to the face, feel free to add the whole thing!

Salso Con Queso Pasta (aka The Lazy Delicious)
Serves 6
  • 6 cups of uncooked short pasta 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 hot pepper (JalapeƱo or finger-peppers)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 400 ml jar of salsa con queso
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs mixed with 1 tbsp olive oil
  •  salt and pepper, to taste
Boil a pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dante.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13" casserole dish.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and both peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once pasta is cooked, drain it before returning it to the pot. Add the pepper mixture and salsa and stir to coat. Pour into casserole dish and top with cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is an epic golden brown.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Coconut Poppy Seed Minicakes

So I was bored today (read: procrastinating) and it was the first sunny afternoon we had in a while, so I decided to throw together a quick somethin' somethin'.

I found poppy seeds in the cupboard and wanted to make a cake with it. Then I saw the muffin tins and thought, why not?

These poppy seed minicakes are soft, moist and not too sweet. I like the addition of coconut, especially since it goes so well with orange. And, well, poppy seed loves its tropics, so everyone's happy!

Feel free to put this in a 9x5 inch loaf pan and do it as one cake. Depends if you're feeling like stuffing your mouth with a whole minicake, or slicing off thick cuts.

Coconut Poppy Seed Minicakes
Makes about 24 minicakes
  • 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup of orange zest (about one big orange's worth, or 2 mediums)
  • 1 cup of milk
Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. 

In another bowl or standmixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Fold in the poppy seeds, orange zest and coconut.

Add in the flour mixture in batches, alternating between flour and milk until it's all combined. If the batter seems too dry, add a bit more milk until it's the consistency you want.

Grease muffin tins well (or loaf pan, if using). Pour in batter, filling up each tin about 3/4 of the way. Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes (if using loaf pan, bake for about 25-30 minutes) or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes. 

Enjoy with cream cheese or butter (actually, lemon curd would be nice too) and a nice, hot pot of tea.