Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bon App: Couldn't You Have Written "Square"?

I love looking at Bon Appetit, to which I received a free subscription thanks to a promotion at Sur La Table. (Wow, that's more French in one paragraph than I use in this blog in an entire year.) They way they photograph food makes me want to make it.

The trouble is, so far, when I've actually made their dessert recipes, there have been a few glitches.

I tried a chocolate cake with ganache and peppermint frosting, an elaborate multi-stage process involving cake, two fillings (white and dark chocolate), and frosting. I didn't make it past the cake stage. The layers were dry, flavorless, even a bit gummy.

Next, I went for a poached rhubarb topped with Greek yogurt, honey, and toasted pistachios. Looked beautiful in the picture, sounded delicious from the recipe. The trouble was that the rhubarb had a sharp, unpleasant tang, and the contrast of the competing flavors of the dessert was overpowering.

My latest attempt was an 8-inch two-layer banana chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting. The recipe promised that the moist cake was "forgiving" and easy even for beginners.

Somehow this didn't ring true to my experience of working with moist fruit (as well as vegetables) in cake batter. I find that when there's fruit in the batter of a layer cake, it tends to mess with the evenness of the baking. The middle stays mushy while the ends get overdone.

Sure enough, though I tried this cake three times, I ended up with the same result:  a big crater in the middle of the layers. I tried different color pans, I tried cooking the cake for longer baking times. Same exact result each time. So much for forgiving.

(After checking the comments on the recipe, I found I was not alone. Several home bakers reported needing at least 20 minutes more to bake the cakes. One reported success when baking the cakes in 9-inch rounds. Finally the mystery was solved when one commenter noted that the recipe calls for 8x8x2 pans, meaning square rather than round pans, which makes a huge difference since the total area of an 8-inch square and a 9-inch round is the same:  64 square inches, as opposed to 50 for a 8-inch rounds.  I wish the word "square" had been noted in the recipe, or the 9-inch alternative had been suggested, especially since most home bakers do not have more than one 8-inch square pan.)

At any rate, the batter was so delicious that I felt obligated to give it one last try:  as a cupcake. I halved the recipe and made two dozen. There, I found success. The cupcakes domed perfectly and held their shape long after they cooled without drying out. Topped with an absurdly rich peanut butter frosting and chocolate candy as decoration, these make a dandy Halloween-themed treat.

If you dare, try the original recipe at this link.  Or, follow my lead and make cupcakes.


Yield:  24 cupcakes

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
5 oz. mini chocolate chips

(You'll have extra frosting)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, and chocolate kisses



Preheat oven to 350°. Fill 2 12-cup cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Line bottom of pans with parchment; coat paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend. Add bananas and sour cream; beat just to blend. Fold in mini chips. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool in pans for no more than 2 minutes. Invert cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.


Using an electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until a light and fluffy frosting forms, 2–3 minutes.

Frost cupcakes. Garnish with chocolate chips and kisses.

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