Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ultimate Chunky Monkey Cake

Oh hi there! See this big cake? It tastes as decadent as it looks. And guess what. You don't have to cover your kitchen with mini chocolate chips to get them coated along the sides. Today I went on Studio 5 to show the unbelievably simple technique to cover the sides of a cake with toppings. It is essentially three easy steps: frost the sides of the cake only, leaving the top "naked," pick up the cake with one hand on top and the other on the bottom and roll it in your topping of choice, and then frost the top and finish. See? Easy! And the best part is that you can use this technique with any topping on any cake. The options are limitless! Funfetti with sprinkles, carrot cake with walnuts, hummingbird cake with toasted coconut, spice cake with slivered almonds, chocolate cake with Oreo crumbles, pumpkin cake with graham cracker crumbs... see what I mean?

Now about the name. Chunky Monkey is a flavor of Ben and Jerry's ice cream that combines banana, chocolate, and walnuts. But I was thinking, chocolate is amazing with peanut butter, peanut butter is awesome with banana, and banana is scrummy with chocolate (that's about my favorite Mary Berry word- scrummy). Putting these three flavors together just made sense, so I added chocolate chips to my favorite banana cake and encased it in fluffy peanut butter frosting and more chocolate (always more chocolate).

Being on the show was fun! The staff was so helpful and nice, and Brooke is as beautiful and as gracious a host in person as she seems on TV. Thanks for having me on, Studio 5!

Ultimate Chunky Monkey Cake 

Moist banana cake studded with chocolate chips is encased in fluffy peanut butter frosting, encrusted with mini chocolate chips, and drizzled with chocolate ganache in this decadent cake.

For the chocolate chip banana cake:

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups mashed banana
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand or electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the mashed banana. Mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. After each addition mix only until just combined, and add the chocolate chips with the final flour addition. Mix just a few seconds with the mixer, and finish blending together by hand, scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl to ensure everything is evenly mixed.

Divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen the sides and turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling the cake.

For the peanut butter frosting:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons cream
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Using a stand or electric hand mixer, blend together butter, peanut butter, cream, vanilla, and salt until well combined and very smooth, about 4 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar gradually, and mix on medium high speed until fluffy, approximately 4 minutes. 

For the ganache drizzle:

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter

Heat cream and butter in microwave until just boiling. Pour over chocolate and allow to sit for 10 minutes (avoid the temptation to stir it too soon). Whisk to combine until smooth.

Cake assembly:

2 layers chocolate chip banana cake
1 recipe peanut butter frosting
1 bag mini chocolate chips
1 recipe chocolate ganache

Spread mini chocolate chips on a tray. Stack the cake layers with frosting sandwiched in the middle, and coat the sides of the cake with frosting, leaving the top bare. Carefully lift the cake, placing one hand on top of the cake and one on the bottom. Turn the cake on its side, like a wheel, and roll it on the tray of chocolate chips, so that the sides of the cake get a nice coat of chocolate chips. Place the cake on a cake plate, and frost the top of the cake. Drizzle chocolate ganache over the top of the cake (a condiment bottle works great for this). Finish cake decoration by piping a border along the top and bottom edge of the cake. 

A few recipe notes:

Cake flour. I like to buy small quantities from the bulk food section at my grocery store. it tends to clump together, so sifting is critical! Unless you like to bite into gummy clumps of flour in your cake. My vintage sifter broke in my last move, so I just use a mesh sieve and shake my dry ingredients through and into the mixing bowl. 

Buttermilk. Did you know it doesn't go bad in the fridge? In a pinch you can sour regular milk (or milk substitute like almond milk) by adding a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. You can also keep powdered buttermilk in your pantry, but since the real stuff can last in your fridge for forever, you might as well keep it on hand for baking, or for fluffy delicious buttermilk pancakes. It really does taste better.

Peanut butter. Really seriously, don't use the delicious natural stuff. If you're a peanut butter purist, just get a jar of the processed stuff just to use for recipes like this one.

Butter. Use unsalted butter. It is hard to judge how much salt to add to a recipe when using salted butter, and the taste is especially noticeably in frosting if over salted. If you do use salted butter, be cautious in how much salt you add, and taste along the way to make sure you don't add too much. 

Cake pan prep. Lining your cake pan will make it so much easier to pull it out of the pan to cool. Simply trace your cake pan onto parchment paper, wax paper, or even printer paper, cut it out, and place it in the bottom of your pan. I like to spray my pans with nonstick spray before putting the paper in, then I spritz a little on top of the paper, which makes it easier to get it off the bottom of the cake. Brushing softened butter into the pan also works like a charm.

Freezing your cake. I often like to make my cake a day or two in advance. After they have cooled completely, I wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze them. Just make sure to put your layers on a flat plate or tray so that they don't get misshapen. Frozen cakes are easy to work with. They won't break apart as you frost and decorate, and won't give off as many crumbs. Just make sure there's enough time for the cake to thaw before you serve it.

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