Tag Archives: Cake

Mid-week Wanderlust and Daydreams

Some mid-week serendipitous resonance earned me a few moments of day-dreaming, and you a bonus blog post.

I got off early from work, and instead of scurrying back home, I stopped at a neighborhood café (which you must check out if you live/visit Bangalore, for its quaint charm and cream of mushroom soup!). Ordered myself some soup and presently there was the aroma of sizzling garlic, which can warm even the coldest day. And this is how it came to pass, that I found myself, in an island of calm, in a busy city in the middle of the week, reading Bill Bryson’s “Neither Here Nor There” and day dreaming of the Northern Lights.

“I had an itch to roam.
I wanted to wander through Europe, to see movie posters for films that would never come to (my country), gaze wonderingly at billboards and shop notices full of exotic umlauts and cedillas and No Parking sign O’s, hear pop songs that could not by even the most charitable stretch of the imagination be a hit in any country but their own, encounter people whose lives would never again intersect with mine, be hopelessly unfamiliar with everything, from the workings of a phone box to the identity of a foodstuff. I wanted to be puzzled and charmed, to experience the endless, beguiling variety of a continent where you can board a train and an hour later be somewhere where the inhabitants speak a different language, eat different foods, work different hours, live lives that are at once so different and yet so oddly similar.
I wanted to be a tourist.”

On wanting to share the extract with you, I stumbled across the Homesick Wanderlust blog, proving yet again, that technology like the internet can unite, more than it can divide.

Apart from listening for resonance, eating better is a part of my ‘go slow’ new-year resolution. Hence, sharing with you the recipe for a whole-wheat carrot cake, baked a couple of weeks back, to make the most of the seasonal ‘spindly red carrots’ (duly inspired).

IMG_20150110_172525349Grease a nine inch baking pan, and get some buttermilk going by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to about 3/8 cup of whole milk. Grate 1 ½ cup of carrot. Whisk together a cup of whole wheat flour, about a teaspoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, and some cinnamon powder and nutmeg (1 combined teaspoon). Using your stand/electric mixer, whip together 2 small eggs and ¾ cup of Demerara sugar. Add the buttermilk and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Fold the dry and wet and add the carrots. Sprinkle on some optional almond. Bake for 30 minutes and check for done-ness.

Easy, right? We will not mention the spring-form tin which I failed to fit properly, resulting in carrot cake batter oozing across my kitchen counter. Not when we are thinking positive thoughts.

A good book to read, a café to eat at, a blog to visit, a cake to bake, and inspiration to day dream – now that you have several choices, what is it going to be? Am returning to Paris, where I left Bill attempting to navigate the traffic.

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The best month of the year is here…

After the long post last week, you deserve a short one. Further, given that these are the months to drink, eat and make merry, don’t spend it staring at a screen. Make some thumbprint cookies, mix the Christmas cake, dress up for the party in the evening, warm some spiced ale, or simply laze in the winter sunshine. We have a bright red lounger nestled among the garden greens, perfect to watch the sun travel the sky. So come on over, depending on the time of the day, we can read a book out where the hibiscus grows, or bake something with cinnamon and apples, or open the bottle which is nicely chilling, (or we could do all three). It is the season to celebrate, exchange gifts and wishes, and embrace the world in one giant hug.

Semolina Cashew Cakes
Semolina Cashew Cakes

Looking for something simple to make, a little sweet, and preferably ‘healthy’, to tide you over to the onslaught of the cookies? Here is something super from the Ovenderful kitchen. I was looking for something to bake for the dad-in-law’s birthday, he is off eggs, and none of my usual recipes would work. Hence, out came the semolina and the wheat to make this grand dessert. Simran recommends that you put them into cupcake liners and make them to be muffins. I went the cake way and regretted it. The shape does not hold up while de-tinning and I had to scrape it out, pile the crumbs into a glass dish and pretend that I wanted it that-a-away. It was hitting-it-out-of-the-park delish, so no one cared.

Ingredients: 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder, 1 cup curd/yoghurt, ½ cup water, 1 tsp instant coffee mixed in 1 tbsp hot water, 2/3 cup oil (Simran recommends rice bran, I used olive oil), some crushed roasted cashews for the batter and halves to decorate.

To make: In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugars, baking powder and soda. Mix the liquids in another bowl. Add the crushed cashews. Pour into cupcake liners and bake in a preheated 150 degrees oven for thirty odd minutes.

The door is open, the welcome mat is out, something warm is simmering on the stove, and I am dreaming desserts. Come on, troop in!

Followed by everything Sunday should be and sunbursts of orange and chocolate

I get really annoyed when I start on a book which sounds eminently interesting, only to find it is a sequel. It is like going to a party the morning after for brunch. Sure, brunch is good, but I wanted in on all the excitement of the evening before and not pretend to be mildly amused at all the little inside jokes – “you had to be there” and “you should have seen…!”

In short, I feel left out.

Therefore, before you read further, please read this.

So the next day, a cheery if a little warm Sunday, I set out to buy all the ingredients for the layered hummingbird cake. My favorite store yielded everything I needed – the nuts, the can of pineapple, even the bananas at the right level of ripeness for baking – except the cream cheese. They never stock it anyway so there was no reason to lose heart. There was another store down the road which almost always has it. Except, of course, you guessed it, they did not. So onward to another store, a bit further off, the personnel of which seemed rather miffed to be disturbed out of their Sunday somnolence. By this point, the day had stopped being cheery and was merely warm. So I ditched all the hummingandsingingbird plans and bought oranges instead. Triumphant, I returned, only to realize an hour later that, of course, I did not have enough chocolate to go both inside and on top of the cake. A few distinctly unladylike swear words later – because I am still unsure of my ganache making skills and besides who wants to spend the entire week eating fruit salad – it was decided we shall go with orange cake with chocolate chunks but without chocolate ganache.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

Now I may never know how this tastes with ganache, but I will attest to the fact that this cake, the way I made it, is stop-in-your-tracks-holy-moly-guacamole-are-you-kidding-me good. The crisp crust, the moistness and the fresh orange tang, the little bits of chocolate, only a few of the reasons you should go get oranges now. For me, there were three additional bonuses:
1) I used the zester. If you don’t find zesting heaps of fun, honestly go see a shrink
2) The first time I experimented with buttermilk. And not the last time. We live and learn
3) The bundt pan was inaugurated. The beautiful little thud with which the cake says goodbye to the pan – highly addictive.

I made the buttermilk at home and grated chocolate all over. Ate a slice and left for the stand-up comedy show. The husband gracefully took me out and lots of drinks, fried potatoes and quite a few laughs later, this tasted even better.

My recipe was a mix of Smitten Kitchen and Barefoot Contessa’s. I went with proportions that felt right and am glad I did. Since my bundt pan is an 8 inch, I halved Deb’s recipe but went with the entire amount of orange juice for the syrup.

To begin, get the buttermilk going by adding a little over a teaspoon of lemon juice to a little under a half cup of whole milk. I microwaved the milk (straight from the fridge) for about 15 seconds before adding the lemon. Ten minutes later, it will look slightly curdled.

Meanwhile zest two large oranges (two and a half normal oranges) for about 1/8 cup of orange zest. Squeeze out 3/8 cup of orange juice, keeping ¼ cup aside for the syrup topping and 1/8 cup for the cake. Complicated? Baking is a crash course in fractions.

Cream together 113 gm of butter with 1 cup of sugar, till light and fluffy (about five minutes). Add three eggs, one at a time, and then the orange zest.
While the mixer is doing its thing, sift 1 and ½ cups of AP flour with ¼ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda and ½ tsp salt. Chop a little over 200 gm of chocolate to yield 1 cup of chunks, and toss them in a tbsp of flour. In a bowl, mix the orange juice, buttermilk and ½ tsp vanilla.

Add the flour mix and liquids to the mixer, alternating (flour-liquid-flour-liquid-flour). Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl between additions. Add the chocolate.
Pour the batter into a greased-and-floured pan. Mine did not gracefully pour, I had to sort of coax it into the pan. Smooth the top and bake in a pre-heated oven for about 50 minutes at 175 degree. Test it at the 45 minute mark, mine needed another 10 minutes.

Heat the ¼ cup of juice with ¼ cup of icing (confectioner’s) sugar, till the sugar dissolves. Once the cake has cooled down (ten minutes out of the oven), take it out of the pan and spoon the orange syrup over it.

I grated left over chocolate bits over it. If possible, it tasted better the next day. I stored it covered at room temperature. It dried out slightly by the third day which strangely, I liked even more.

Later in the week, I had another ingredients hunt, courtesy my 40-something-chemistry tutor friend, who needed mini burger buns and a particular brand of frozen corn and cheese nuggets for dishing out 30 burgers for her daughter’s class party to be sent off at 6 AM in the morning. I, of course, faithfully checked everywhere for the cream cheese.

Bon Voyage Li’l Ms Tomato

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis” 

I started off this post wanting to be philosophical about the passing of time, transience and hot air balloons carrying us away to our dreams (inspired by Brainpickings’ brilliantly curated piece), but I think I am going to go with warmth, food and an up-side banana cake instead.

Our best friends catch a flight tonight to relocate half way across the world, and I am already feeling nostalgia for what used to be. These guys – a family of three (K, who tells the best uber-dramatic stories based on ordinary everyday incidents and can make people laugh into being better versions of themselves, M, who I have traded books and candy crush lives with – and their two year old daughter aka heart stealer who is basically a cherubic tomato with lots of curly black hair) are our neighbors and over the last several years, have become our family and friends – you know the kind whose kitchen is an extension of yours, you have combined grocery lists, and your gadgets connect automatically to their wi-fi when you step over their threshold.

Of course, food and drinks (several gazillion gallons of the latter!) have been the foundation of our friendship. They are the guinea pigs who I try all my baking on and since they think my Italian cooking rocks (blush, blush), I have gladly fed all sorts of oregano and garlic based experiments to them. My fondest memory, though, is the following: I returned home late one night after a super-long and tiring day at work, to an empty and silent house (the family was away). While unlocking the front door, I was filled with exhaustion and dread at the thought of putting together a lonely dinner for one. In this miasma of loneliness and self-pity, like sunshine, K & M appeared and insisted on dragging me to their place. And I found myself seated at their dining table, tucking into a hot, delicious, home-cooked meal (masala dosas, coconut chutney with a chilled tall beer, in case you are wondering!) while little ms. tomato shared her potato wafers with me. There was something about the all-enveloping and unexpected coziness and warmth from that evening, which will linger on, long after K stops knocking at the door.

In the middle of their relocation chaos, a bunch of us got together at the spur of the moment, to bid them farewell over margaritas. Since K&M got me this fridge magnet, the least I could do was to bake them a farewell cake. Given that my oven insists on sulking before any farewell, I don’t think it was my finest attempt. Still, plenty of drinks and emotion laden speeches later, chasing the cake down with vanilla ice-cream, did make for a good conclusion to a very pleasant evening.

banana and chocolate upside down cake

Now coming to the cake recipe, with more time I would have wanted to make banana cake with mocha frosting and candied peanuts, but given the suddenness of the party, I went with something far simpler, an upside down banana and chocolate chip cake which still utilized some poor bananas which were at the end of their prime. An aside, if you think I don’t bake anything which is not a David L. recipe, you are probably right. I halved his recipe as the expanding waistline dissuades leftovers.

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 30 gm demerara sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • A drop or two of lemon juice (which I actually forgot to add, despite having the lemon out ready to squeeze)

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 105 gm AP flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 75 gm sugar
  • 1 tbsp or 15 gm melted butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 125 gm banana puree (from 3 small bananas)
  • 60 gm yoghurt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 40 gm chopped semi-sweet chocolate (Having run out chocolate chips, I chopped in a few mini Lindts)

Before I forget, do not use a springform for this or any other upside down recipe. And if using demarara sugar, I suggest whizzing it to a fine powder before using it. Else, you will struggle to melt it like I did.

Heat the butter and sugar in a small baking tin. The original recipe calls for an 8 inch, I had a small flower shaped tin. Place the tin over a low flame (on the stove) and heat gently. If it does not melt, don’t panic. Keep at it, and it should soon be this dark brown liquid which you can coax to cover most of the pan. Cool the pan. Slice the bananas to ¼ inch slices and place (slightly overlapping) over the caramel. Add the lemon juice.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar. In a small bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gently stir the wet into the dry. Don’t overmix. Add in the chocolate.
Use a spatula to coax the batter over the bananas.

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 180 c preheated oven. Cool and invert. Serve warm. I thought mine was tad less sweet, so the ice-cream went quite well with it.

Coming back to K, M and Ms. Tomato, wishing you guys bon voyage, and a new life filled with amazing vistas, adventure and joy. You shall be missed.

Days made happier with Spiced Ginger Cake

Remember how a couple of weeks ago, around Christmas, my neighbor-turned friend made ginger cake, and the delicious aromatic spicy smell wafted its way into my house and had me begging her for a little sampler. (If you don’t recollect this, that is because a) you don’t read my blog b) you read my blog, but you have a poor memory c) you read my blog, but were quite caught up over Christmas and ensuing days and therefore don’t recall the finer details. Only option c is forgivable. If you choose option a, don’t tell me – I will want to weep. And anyway you are not reading this either).

Now that we have the complicated-parenthesis-driven aptitude test out of the way, let me get to the cake. And in keeping with the emerging theme of today’s blog post, let’s go with multiple choices. You make/eat this cake if

a) It is December and you want the cozy aroma of a ginger bread/cake in the oven to herald and celebrate the season.
b) It is January and you want something baked to set off past decadent indulgences and yet treat yourself
c) You don’t care which month it is, you just love ginger

My neighbor was kind enough to share the cake AND the recipe AND the pictures she clicked especially for you, dear readers. A big round of applause for her! By the way, she is super-creative, and I urge you to visit and order from her With Love venture. She makes adorable gifts for children (see Happy Day photograph!) and a portion of each purchase goes towards underprivileged children. For more details, visit With Love or write to madewithlove.rose@gmail.com.

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons orange-ginger marmalade (substitute: 2 tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger + 2 tablespoons orange juice)
  • 1 cup basic caramel sauce (to make: heat 10 tbsp sugar in a pan. When it starts to bubble, slowly add two cups of water while stirring. Simmer till the sugar is incorporated and the sauce reduces to half)
  • 1 cup powdered (or icing) sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Ground Spices (Grind together 2″ long cinnamon, five cloves, and 10 peppercorns)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 170 C and prepare a 9 1/2 inch cake pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, oil and butter. Beat eggs separately and incorporate into the wet mix. In another bowl, mix together the flour, ginger & spices. Combine both the wet & dry ingredients well. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes. Cool completely before serving. For that extra zing – serve with vanilla ice-cream.

Hope 2014 has been good to you so far and you are going strong with your resolutions. Will update you on mine soon. Till then, happy ordering With Love products, happy baking and happy eating!

Bravery, Joy and some Toffee Pudding in the New Year

Have you read Neil Gaiman? Yes? LOVED him? Yes? That is why we are friends. Have not read him? Then what are you doing here – please don’t waste a minute more of this precious life and run out and buy his ‘Neverwhere,’ to begin with. If you live in my vicinity, give me a shout – will be glad to lend you a copy. I am dead serious.
If you have read his books, and not liked them, I am not speaking to you anymore. What’s the point? You and I will never see eye to eye on anything. You probably dislike desserts as well.

If you are going out to get a copy, pretty please get his latest book for me. I can’t seem to find it.

Toffee pudding cake
Toffee pudding cake

So why am I thus hectoring you? Because amongst other things, Neil excels at writing wishes for the new year. So here goes, my wish for you and me, for 2014:

“It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.

And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.

So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.”

Good stuff, right? The birth of Pootler chef is easily one of the best things that happened to me last year – the blog has given me much joy. Wish me the will to continue. Hope that you find/keep at something that gives you joy.

SG (the husband)’s family has an age-old tradition to cut a cake at midnight to ring out the old and welcome the new. SG and siblings grew up expecting a cake at the stroke of the hour. And I have eagerly adopted it, no better way to end the year than to pootle around the oven. And digging into warm cake, community style, can only herald good things – time with friends and family, laughter, some good memories – to come.

Here it is, the Sticky Toffee Pudding that welcomed 2014. Since I had only 200 ml of cream at hand, we shall call it Toffee Pudding and be happy with it. I cannot exaggerate the simplicity or awesomeness of this recipe. Let it suffice – I dream of the cake. David L. mentions in his post that he made it twice in a week. Well, SG had to physically restrain me from baking another batch today. Soon, when his back is turned. Evil laughtering.

I baked the cake first and added the toffee sauce later. Do check the original on the options to make this. And yes, my toffee is much paler than it should be, courtesy a new brand of demerara that I was experimenting with. Will let you know when I make it next, if a darker sugar impacts the taste.

To make the pudding

  • Chop 180 gm of dates and keep aside
  • Sift together 1 ¼ cup (175 gm) AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt
  • Beat together (of course, I used the Kitchen Aid, but you can do it by hand or a hand held) 4 tablespoon unsalted butter and ¾ cup (150 gm) white sugar
  • While waiting for the eggs and sugar to become light and fluffy, bring to a boil the chopped dates and 1 cup (250 ml) water. Switch the heat off, and add 1 teaspoon baking soda and mix. Use the mix while still warm
  • Meanwhile, to the butter-sugar batter, add in one and then another egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Keep scraping down the sides of the bowl
  • Alternate between adding half of the flour mix, then the dates with water, and then the remaining flour. Mix gently, and don’t overbeat
  • Pour into a pre-greased 8 inch or 9 inch pan and bake in a preheated 190 C oven for about 45 to 50 minutes
  • Let the cake sit in the pan and resist the temptation to sneak in a taste

To make the toffee sauce

  • In a saucepan, add 200 ml of cream, 1/5 cup (36 gm) demerara sugar, and 1 tablespoon of golden syrup. Add a pinch of salt, though I think I forgot to add some
  • Stir to melt sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes while constantly stirring
  • Make holes in the cake using a fork or a toothpick. My baby niece helped by wielding a fork with more enthusiasm than was strictly required
  • Pour the toffee sauce over it. Cover with foil and bake for another 30 minutes at 150 c

I urge you to make this cake. It is simple enough for beginners and delicious enough for seasoned bakers. Trust me on this, you will find immense joy!

The Magic of Three

Today’s post is about 3. The number 3, my favorite single digit number, right after 7, 2, 9 and of course, 4 and 5. Remember there were three little piggies building houses that the bad wolf tried to tear down (of course, this was in the age when neither wolves nor vampires were lust-inducing handsome creatures). Good old Shakespeare had the same number cackling “Fire burn and cauldron bubble” which in turn, made Terry P. (bless his boots!) gave us Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. And finally, in my third example, JKR chose three brothers and their hallows in keeping with so many other tales and myths. You get the picture, right? Everyone picks 3. In fact, if 3 were in school (or in a competitive game show), it would get picked first when people chose their teams. So all in all, a good number for me to blog about.

Banana Cake with Demerra Sugar and Chocolate Sprinkles
Banana Cake with Demerara Sugar and Chocolate Sprinkles

So the first topic of this post is “three wishes”, for which I need to tell you a little story. Once upon a time (last week), in a land far far away (in Chennai, my least favorite city in the whole world), I landed early in the morning, for a pre-lunch meeting. In a rare burst of romance, that cloudy Friday morning, I mused that I had never been to the famous city beach. Lo and behold, several hours later (after a delayed meeting, missing my flight back and crossing the city a couple of times) – I found myself at the beach, stuffing on mollig bhajjis (chilli poppers) and grilled corn. A long trudge back to the airport, and several hours spent in traffic, only resulted in a delayed flight. AND as icing on the cake, they ran out of my favorite sweet at the airport counter of Krishna sweets (if you have not tasted KS’s Mysore Pak, imagine this milky kind of cake in which you can taste every single of the trillion calories that every bite contains). I begged and pleaded the store counter guys to check again, for even one stray piece and YES, my second wish got granted in the form of a last 400 gm. By then I had thoroughly mixed up the nature of the wishes granted by the genie in the magic lamp (who did Disney musicals in his spare time) and the terrible Monkey’s Paw (spine chilling –decidedly-not Disney). The third wish though was given by the Good Genie. The nice flight check-in personnel, giving in to my abject begging and pleading (it is an art form!), put me on an earlier flight out. And thus it came to pass, that just as the clock struck midnight, I reached home, deliriously exhausted, but just in time for Wedding Anniversary #2.

You see, the husband has two siblings. And quite romantically or poetically, we celebrate our wedding anniversaries in a row. His elder brother went first (you know Papa Bear!) and he and his wife have theirs on the third day. We came second and our day is in the middle. And younger sister and brother-in- law (BIL makes the best pizza and ramen north of the tropics) married third and have their anniversary first. So it all adds up – why I put on so much weight in December. And why the husband is perpetually confused as to when our wedding anniversary is. Of course, I wanted to bake this year. And of course, my ‘airport tourism’ gave me no such opportunity. Instead, Mama Bear got us a gorgeous strawberry cake and the three couples blew out the candles together (with younger SIL and BIL, overseas, using technology and a bit of imagination).

Which brings me to the third topic (I know, I know, long post!) and the three bananas and the cake I did want to bake. I got around to it today, as the three bananas that I was saving specially for the cake, were going beyond over-ripe. And oh my Gawd! I suggest you run out right now and get yourself the ingredients to make this super-easy-and-even-more-delicious cake! You don’t need three or even one occasion to celebrate – in fact, you don’t have a moment to waste, not if you want to taste complete “awesomeness”.
Thanks again to David L. for a super-recipe. I made some minor modifications to his recipe (one for taste/health, a couple for mood, one because of laziness, and a couple due to ingredients and bakeware at hand). My version is  below – do check the original out.

Preheat oven to 180 c and butter and line a 9 inch pan. I used a round spring-form, but I do believe a square one or loaf tin will work better for an even rise. Sieve together 1 ½ cups (210g) of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp salt. Add in ¾ cup (150g) sugar. I used demerara. You can use plain granulated white or brown sugar. Mash 2 over-ripe bananas and break in 2 eggs (brought to room temperature), 2 tbsp (30g) of melted butter, ½ cup yogurt/curd, and ½ tsp vanilla. Mix wet into dry and stir gently. Mix in 1/3 cup (60g) of chocolate chips and stir till just combined. Pour into the cake tin.

Then proceed to go wild. You can bake as-is or top with anything that catches your fancy. I used a combination of demerara and chocolate sprinkles which needed using up. I doubt if the sprinkles do more than look pretty, but that sugar topping!! The resultant crusty-crumb or crumby-crust is to die for! Bake for 40 minutes.

I had a quarter of this cake for lunch (some with strawberry jam!). In keeping with the blog theme, three reasons why I love this cake
1.  Very little washing up. If you have a weighing scale, it requires only 2 bowls, and 1 (½ tsp) spoon and one tiny bowl used for melting the butter. And 1 fork (aka banana masher) and the spatula. It is a party doing the dishes.
2.  Did you notice only 2 tbsp of butter? Did you?! Did you?!
3.  I still have one too-ripe-to-eat banana remaining. Banana granola bars may be in order.

Icebox Cake

When my husband and I moved to Bangalore a few years back, we were helped to ‘settle in’ by my sister in law’s family.

Side note: “Settling in,” to me, is reminiscent of my Caesar playing days. Those not familiar with this video game – it involves building cities and settling it with people, infrastructure, means of agriculture, trading, culture and the likes. Whenever someone asks me if I have settled in, I imagine that I am a governor building Roman aqueducts around an Indian village’s banyan tree.

For mama bear
For mama bear

It is a lonely and physically exhausting effort to move home to a new city or neighborhood. A friendly face, who introduces you to the many tricks of living somewhere new, is the difference between remorse and joy at the moving decision. Yes, we shamelessly made the most of sis in law’s hospitality. So when she, her husband, and our niece moved back into town after being away for a couple of years, it felt natural that Goldilocks should repay the debt to the Bear family. I did make three cakes – the ones for mama and baby bear (a small cupcake) were duly carried as housewarming goodies, the papa bear cake went into sundry tummies around the neighborhood and at work.

The one for baby bear
The one for baby bear

This cake is super-fun to make – everything from slicing the chocolate wafers to piping on the whipped cream; I was like a child building a sandcastle. A big thank you is owed to Smitten Kitchen for the detailed recipe and instructions. 

RECIPE

Ingredients for the chocolate wafers
1 ½ cups all-purpose (refined) flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams of butter (at room temperature, or softened)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (I used the seeds from three fourth of a vanilla pod)

For the whipped cream and putting together the cake
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla essence (I used the seeds from half a vanilla pod)
Cocoa powder or sugar sprinkles to finish

Making the chocolate wafers

  • Pulse together the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor until mixed through
  • Cut the butter into chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse together several times.
  • Combine the milk and vanilla together in a small bowl and add to your mix with your processor running. My processor does not allow me to do, so I simply added the milk + vanilla in small amounts between pulses.
  • Roll out the mix on to a (clean) cutting board and knead a few times to evenly combine. Fashion into a log about 14 inches in length
  • Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate. I refrigerated it overnight, but an hour should do the trick
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 180 c
  • Peel off the parchment paper and using a sharp knife, slice off thin (as thin as you can make them) circles of the log. Mine were extremely oddly shaped circles so don’t worry about them being perfect. I got about 60 odd wafers.
  • Lay out wafers in baking trays lined with parchment paper. Space them out a bit – about one inch. They spread some while baking but not much.
  • Bake wafers (in batches, if your oven is as tiny as mine). Baking time would depend on the thickness of your wafers and the numbers you bake. My first batch burnt on the edges about 12 minutes into baking – so I stuck between 8-10 minutes for subsequent batches.  Since they are so thin, there are in higher danger of being overdone than under, so keep an eagle eye on them especially on the ones which are in the ‘hot spots’ of your oven. Slightly soft, when fresh out of the oven, they crisp up quite soon

To assemble, first prepare the whipped cream

  • Whip together the cream, the sugar and the vanilla essence – using an electric mixer or the whipping attachment of the stand mixer – to stiff peaks. Check for sweetness midway through whipping.

You can either make cakes or cupcakes while assembling

Assembling into a cake

  • Arrange wafers as a flower, one in the center and five around as petals. Smitten Kitchen recommends 1 + 7 wafers, I used 1+ 5 since I made two cakes
  • Spread a layer of whipped cream either using a spatula or piping it on (with the biggest star nozzle you have)
  • Repeat to make several layers, depending on the number of wafers you have.  I managed five layers (for the mama bear cake) and seven layers (for the papa bear cake). End with a layer of cream
  • Sift some cocoa powder onto the top layer
  • Refrigerate overnight for wafers to soften into cake-like texture

Assembling into cupcakes

  • Begin with one wafer placed into a cupcake liner
  • Build the cupcake with alternate layers of whipped cream and wafers ending with a layer of cream. I stopped at four layers due to toppling fears, feel free to go higher
  • Finish with some sugar sprinkles. Or chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder – whatever you have at hand.

Modification suggestions:

  • Use chocolate cream with this recipe from Joy of Baking
  • You don’t have to wait for those wafers to soften into cake. Simply sandwich cream between two wafers for homemade Oreos.

I traveled across the city with the mama bear and baby bear cake (in the blazing afternoon heat) soon after assembling them. Some layers of foil and fervent prayers protected them through the journey. May you find it easier to transport or better still, serve it at home.