Sunday, September 21, 2008

Banana Chocolate-Chip Cake with Rich Maple Frosting for my birthday boy

So, it's about an hour before guests are to arrive and the birthday boy, Noah, is out on the deck helping his dad decorate for the party. There's a banner that said "Happy Birthday" on the clothes line, a colorful homemade pinata stuffed full of candy dangling above the grass, and a row of be-jeweled handcrafted party hats lined up awaiting the little guests. All of a sudden, Noah, who has observed almost all the preparation and can hardly contain his anticipation, stops and looks up at me with a worried look on his face.
"Mummy!" He says anxiously. "We need CAKE!"
Of course I had to laugh, first of all because it was obvious in his mind that no party was complete without a cake; and secondly, it was too cute of him to worry that his mama just might have forgotten such an essential part of his big day. Little did he know what I had been working on while he was asleep the night before and what was hidden away in the fridge...

We had a lovely party, despite it being rather hectic, and there was everything a good party should have, even if you're just three years old: good friends, good food, good weather (!) and plenty of laughs.

The little ones played croquet in the late afternoon sun while I put the finishing touches on the massive taco bar in the kitchen. Then we laid out an assortment of autumn squashes, gourds and pumpkins in the grass and worked up an appetite playing 'Pumpkin Hop' (which is an age-appropriate game for 2 and 3-year old's, in case you were wondering why you hadn't heard of it.)

After stuffing ourselves with tacos, soft wraps and tostadas with plenty of salsa cruda, the children took turns trying to bust open the pinata. Apparently I construct a solid pinata, because, despite the best efforts of two little boys with big sticks, it required the arms of an uncle to spill its guts. I don't think that is a sight Noah will soon forget: raining candy. For someone who is seldom allowed sweets, it was amazing to be allowed to fill his pockets and mouth right then and there. He's been taking about it every day since and has suggested a few time that we make 'another pinata'.

By now Noah had only asked me about birthday cake about five times and finally it was time! As I set the rather large cake in front of him he shrieked:

"Mummy, I need a FORK!"

To which I informed him that there were certain rituals such as singing 'Happy Birthday' to be performed first.
So as soon as the song was sung and the candles blown out, he repeated his request, equally as loud. The urgency of this child! There's no question, by the third birthday, they know what it's all about.

I figured this was probably the last birthday that I could get away with decorating the cake however I wanted, as next year there could very well be a request for a 'Cars' cake or some pre-historic creature cake that I will have to attempt. I had known for a while how I wanted to decorate this cake since my son's name is Noah...and well, you can probably figure the rest out!
The design is made out of rolled fondant, colored with food colouring paste, cut out with an x-acto knife and painted with more food coloring. The eyes are black sesame seeds and the 'sand' is maple sugar. This part was so much fun to do!

Noah had requested 'chocolate-chip cake' at some point prior to the big day which made me decide to go with a Banana Chocolate-Chip cake. The maple frosting was merely inspired by a late-night rummage in the pantry where I happened upon some specialty maple products such as sugar, spread and syrup and thought hmm..., maple would be great with the banana.
Turns out it was OK! And Noah loved it. I think we'll be converting this recipe into cupcakes very soon.

A little off the food topic (although they did require cooking) are these homemade take-home gifts that I made for the guests. I didn't want to give out another plastic toy that was doomed to just break and end up in a landfill somewhere, but wanted a 'greener' gift. My recipe for play dough came in handy here as I made several batches and colored them into pretty colors. I packaged the balls in Tupperware, something that can be reused long after the play dough is finished, and attached a little plastic cookie cutter for making shapes with the dough.

Here are the recipes, free of charge as usual!

Play Dough
4 cups of plain flour
4 cups of water
2 cups salt
1 teaspoon cooking oil

Food colouring

1 tbsp cream of tartar

-Gather the necessary ingredients and mix the dry ingredients together.
-Mix all of the ingredients in a large pan and heat it over medium heat.
-Stir constantly until the dough feels like stiff, smooth, mashed potatoes. At this point, take it off the stove. Once it has cooled enough, knead it until it is blended smoothly.
-Divide the dough into several balls. Add food colouring to each ball and knead until colour is blended in. This works best if the dough is still warm.
-Store the dough in an airtight container or bag.

Banana Cake (adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

1/4 lb (1 stick) sweet butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans.
-Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg yolks and beat well. Add mashed bananas, mixing thoroughly.
-Sift dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Stir until just combined in. Add buttermilk and vanilla. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold into batter gently. Sprinkle in chocolate chips and fold together.
-Pour batter into the prepared pans. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
-Cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold and cool on rack for 2 hours.
-When cooled, place one layer on a serving plate and frost with Rich Maple Frosting. Cover with second layer and cover cake with remaining frosting.

( I doubled this recipe and made 2-11'cake pans)

Rich Maple Frosting

1 lb (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
250 grams (1 pkg) cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons coffee cream (10%)
4 cups powdered sugar

-Cream the butter and the cream cheese together in an electric mixer. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and maple syrup and beat for about a minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Be sure mixture is smooth, ingredients are well incorporated and there are no syrup streaks in the icing. Add 2 cups icing sugar and mix slowly. Add the cream and mix until smooth. Add remaining 2 cups icing sugar and mix well.
-Frosting will be quite thin.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What an adorable birthday cake! Too bad kids don't remember them, because we always remember the ones we make with love.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Oh, where to begin? Your boys are darling. The cake is delightful. The party sounds perfect. And I love your take home gifts! All in all, a hearty, "Well done!"

Cheryl Arkison said...

Happy Birthday to the little guy.
What a great idea to do the playdough for a loot bag!

Ingrid_3Bs said...

AW, Happy Birthday, Noah!!! Looks like he had a wonderful one!
You're an awesome Mom! How many other moms put as much thought and work as hard to make their child's birthday so special? It would have been much easier and probably cheaper to just buy store bought stuff! I need to step it up for my babies!

BTW, that frosting sounds GOOD w/a capital "G"!


Hayley said...

What a fabulous cake, you're so clever : )

I LOVE the playdough, what a great idea, and so much cuter than plastic party bags!

You should be really proud you did a great job, Happy Birthday Noah!

Deborah said...

Ok, that has got to be the cutest cake EVER!! And what a fun party gift - I'll have to remember that one!

Anonymous said...

this cake sounds decadent, and it is absolutely adorable. i love it!

Patricia Scarpin said...

That is one of the most adorable cakes I have ever seen!
Happy birthday to your son!

Andrea said...

The cake sounds great but the frosting sounds incredible! For me, the cake is always just the vehicle for the frosting anyway. It's a beautiful picture as well! I'm really enjoying your blog!

Heather said...

that cake is so adorable, and so are your kids! and homemade play-doh in those cute little packages! i wish i came to the party!

missweb said...

I'm so stealing your party ideas for Jazz's 3rd!

Aimée said...

Hi Lydia- I know, it's more for us, really.

Hi Lynn- You're too sweet! Thanks. I think the boys are darling too-they actually all wore their hats till the very end of the night.

Hi Cheryl- Thanks, they were fun to put together.

Hi Ingrid- Oh, there's lots of moms out there who are much more crafty than I! Thank you, though.

Hi Hayley- I have as much fun with the play dough as my kids do!

Hi Deb- Merci! What kids doesn't like play dough, right? It's non-toxic too.

Hi Kim- Thanks! There was a lot leftover, but we didn't mind at all!

Hi Patricia- I'll pass along all the birthday wishes. Thank you.

Hi Andrea- You're right, the frosting was goooood.

Hi Heather- Thanks! I think they are pretty cute too, but I am biased. :)

Hi Cara- Go for it. Want to commission a pinata? :)

Brilynn said...

That cake is gorgeous! What a luck little boy you have!

abigail @ Paper and Cake said...

SO sweet...and i absolutely love the cake! i do appreciate the play by play of how noah reacted to events of the party. thank you for sharing.

um, hope you don't mind if i steal-i mean borrow-the play dough idea?

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Your cake turned out perfect! It looks so good too! What a great party you threw!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Happy Birthday Noah from all here!

Looks like a fab party. Gorgeous cake, love the homemade playdough to take home too.

The whole party bag thing is out of control. When I was young you got a piece of cake. A while back Little had a few friends back for tea. When it was time to go one of the kids really kicked off because there was no party bag. Aaarghh!

Anonymous said...

Oh my. You are like the coolest. mom. in the world.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Where do I start...with the cake, the play dough, the taco bar? Everythins sounds perfect for making a little boys dreams come true. When my daughter was bout the same age I had a teddy bear picnic complete with teddy bear pinata. We had to pit it on the ground and wack it to get the treat bags out...wink

Anonymous said...

the cake looks delicious! i see that you've called it a "banana chocolate chip cake" but i don't see chocolate in the ingredients or directions? how much and what kind of chocolate did you use?

my mom use to make homemade playdough when i was little. so much fun!

RecipeGirl said...

Such a sweet cake for your Noah! And those gifts to take home are such a perfect idea!

LyB said...

I saw the cake and I was all: "Awww, Noah's Ark, that is too sweet!" Really, Aimée, it looks fabulous. And I can't believe how much Matteo has grown, it's incredible! So glad you had a nice day, I'm sure it'll be in Noah's memory for a long time. :)

Anonymous said...

What a dream birthday party. Happy 3rd Birthday Noah! Aimee, I hope you put your feet up and had a glass of wine after that one.

Emily said...

Happy birthday Noah!
Cute boys.

That is the cutest cake! You are such a good mama.
I wish I had you here to help me: I have to decorate a cake for my one year old nephew, and I know I'm going to screw it up. It has to be an Elmo cake.

Mmmm tacos.

Anonymous said...

Yum! I'd take that cake for my b-day anytime.

Aimée said...

Hi Brilynn- If only he knew!! Thank you.

Hi Abigail- Borrow away, darling.

Hi Melody- You would do the same for your kids if you had some!

Hi Amanda- IKWYM about the 'loot bag'. I'm new to these things but I can see it's going to get interesting.

Hi Robin- Wow thanks!!

Hi Val- That is too cute!

Hi Jaime- Oops! Good point, thanks. It's been corrected.

Hi Recipe girl- He IS a sweet boy, so he deserved every bite!

Hi Lyb- Isn't Mateo a honker? He's really filling out...and sitting up too! SUCH a fun stage.

Hi Haidi- Oh, there was a pitcher of margaritas that needed some help...

Hi Em- Elmo eh? Better dig out the food coloring. Are we going to get to see it?

Hi Candy- Just let me know what your favorite animal for the top is, OK?

Bitten Sweets said...

that cake is so adorable and sounds delicious! Happy birthday!

Michele Humes said...

I love your Noah cake. You're right; your son isn't going to tolerate biblical pun cakes for much longer, although he'll probably come around to them again in adulthood.

Noah is the best name. Last year I came to the decision that I was going to name my first son Noah. Not that I am, you know, married or pregnant or anything. I've just decided!

Anonymous said...

Holy posts!
Looks wonderful Aimee!
I'm sad we missed it, but I will definitely be trying this cake recipe and the maple icing. Yum

Melanie :D

Domestic Goddess..Diva sometimes said...

How cute! I love that you made homemade playdoh for the favors. C'est une tres bonne idee!

Abby said...

Your boys are so sweet! What a fun party - my cakes for Cash won't be as fancy, but they'll be filled with love, just like yours!

Olivia said...

This looks absolutely amazing. I love the maple makes me want cake really badly right now.

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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