Banana Coconut Mini Cakes

B800FD1A-BAE0-4A7F-BCCB-B5CC5DC7A546The hardest part of self-actualisation is that of  discerning what to accept and what to reject– of the world and of  ourselves– as we build the architecture of our character and stake out our stance in relation to our aims and obstacles’– Camus

Recently I’ve been thinking about habits. Today’s mantra shall be this: kicking old habits is just as important as incorporating new, good ones. We all have our good and bad habits, but sometimes the balance just isn’t there. I, for one, may see a scatter of crumbs late at night on the kitchen floor but oh god, it’s late, and I can do it tomorrow morning. It’s not the most serious crime, but little things do add up to be a lot. Doing things like making my bed and preparing my clothes the night before does wonders for saving time, space and maintaining cleanliness throughout the week, day by day. That’s the miracle of habits. Little actions that change routine that change you for the better. Currently working on bettering myself, to be better around others, too. It’s hard, but worth it, I feel. We are capable. And keep being grateful.

So here’s what I wrote last week in my diary about this cake: “Banana coconut cake with miso frosting! So moist and cute and tender. Might have to change the frosting a tad but I’m happy-dappy for now. There’s a flow to it, it’s enticing and dreamy and moody. Happy-dappy”.

Well firstly, wow I sound quite silly whenever I write about how excited I am about some new experiment in my personal diary. Did I really write ‘happy-dappy’ twice? Secondly, wow this cake is good. Like, really darn good, and I can’t wait for you to experience this banana-ful love all over again, from my kitchen and oven to yours.

3144412 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 presetIMG_54643617481 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Simple, really. You start off traditionally, mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately. Once everything is incorporated, and you pop the thing in the oven and make the frosting. Everything is cooled, then the frosting begins.

I didn’t mean to put miso in there (as is the case for so many random ingredients in my other bakes), but this is what gives the lift, the interest. Banana and miso?? Yes, it works. Please try it. Ingredients of the earth. All from nature. What is so wonderful about baking from home is that you know exactly what you’re putting in it, be it a simple or more complex bake. No chemicals, pesticides or what have you. Flour, sugar, plants… plants! It’s so wonderful, don’t you think.

I was listening to the podcast ‘On Being’ the other night (highly recommend, by the way), and there’s one part which talks about how there’s a link between being in awe of nature and altruism. Just witnessing the greatness of this universe perhaps makes us feel more like we should help one another along in society, keep us afloat in the raging seas, the beautiful yet turbulent grandeur of Mother Earth.

3023814 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 preset3122144 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Banana Coconut Mini Cakes with Miso coconut frosting (makes 4 mini cakes or 1 large 8 or 9-inch cake)

Ingredients

1 and a half bananas, mashed

45g dark/light brown sugar

30g white/coconut sugar

30ml (25g) vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or sub with vanilla extract

60ml plant milk of choice (I like using oat or rice milk

145g (little more than a cup) plain flour, or use half spelt/whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

30g desiccated coconut

 

For the frosting:

130g butter

5g miso paste

150g icing sugar

handful of desiccated coconut

 

For the layering (optional):

a sliced banana

more desiccated coconut, the amount here is up to you

 

Directions

Grease an 8 or 9-inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix together the banana, sugars, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla paste/extract. In a separate, medium bowl, briefly whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, salt, coconut and leavening agents. Tip this into the wet mix and stir everything together until all is just about incorporated. Bake this in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting by beating the butter and miso together with an electric whisk, then slowly add the icing sugar until you get a smooth and thick frosting with bits of miso strewn throughout. Add the coconut and mix briefly. Place the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Once the cake is totally cool, or about a half hour later, use the lip of a glass cup to stamp out circles in the cake. You will get about 4 circles, so two mini cakes. Once the cakes are stamped out, add a dollop of frosting onto one cake, then add a few banana coins and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on top. Place the second layer on top, then frost the top and add more desiccated coconut to decorate. Alternatively, you can leave the cake as is and frost it right there and then, or just frost the 4 circles individually without layering them, to get 4 separate open-faced cakes. These cakes will last 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’re just making the cake by itself, you can store it at room temperature for the same amount of time and in the same way.

Mini Orange Layer Cakes With Blackberry Lavender Buttercream

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I’ve learnt a few things in the past few days. Firstly, it is actually impossible for me to do a tripod headstand. I’m sure this is a familiar term for all you yogis out there. I’ve been practicing yoga for years (to be fair, not so much during the later years of high school) and I still haven’t mastered it. It bothers me to no end.

Secondly, 1984 is almost blowing my mind. Not the literal 80s, of course, but Orwell’s magnum opus. I’m almost done and can’t wait to get my hands on Animal Farm. Sadly, I’m pretty slow with the classics.

Thirdly, right about this time of year, I feel completely and utterly at ease. Yet, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that way, way too much suffering is going on in the world to be ignored. Everyday I go about my business– practicing yoga, journalling, a little revision for my future course here and there, baking (what’s new!), fretting about hair and makeup… And all around me, bombs are dropped, little ones suffer, the clocks stop ticking for thousands, millions. With all the privileges that surround me, it’s easy to take things for granted. To continue living in a bubble of selfishness and oblivion. I just hope most people in the world are more.. aware. That’s all. Me included.

I shall now proceed to wax lyrical about my favourite (orange) cake recipe in the world. And that says something because I’ve made a fair bit of cake in my lifetime.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Oranges, oranges. I initially thought lemon, but lemon and blackberry is already a kill-me-classic, and with fresh, sweet oranges in the pantry, what’s there to fear? The citrus note of the cake using these was indeed milder, yet the flavour and goodness of that pulp and zest did all the talking. It still feels odd to have so much free time with the holidays in full bloom. Experimentation takes flight all the time, anywhere. Ideas flying left, right and centre. If I’m not thinking about what biology/biochem or fiction book to buy next, I’m recipe brainstorming, and goodness does it feel good. I was dying to sculpt mini layer cakes, because they’re the epitome of simple, refined, easy bakes. The blackberry lavender buttercream sandwiched between three layers of incredibly light, orange sponge adds aesthetic and textural oomph. The sweetness hits the palate just before you enjoy the moist and tender cake crumb. It truly is one of my favourite cake recipes.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

You added actual blackberries…? With the… seeds?

Alright, that part is optional. Though most recipes state the addition of blackberry puree sans all the gritty bits, I personally prefer the addition of the seeds for added flavour and texture. Combined with the dried lavender, each bite is like pink fairy dust. Pink and purple aren’t exactly up there on my list of favourite colours (which actually just comprise black and burgundy), but the saccharine delicacy of each little cake is irresistible. I had to adjust the initial buttercream recipe because it yielded too thin a consistency. It all worked out pretty well in the end. If anything, I might just add a touch more tang, be it salt or cream cheese, to the buttercream.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Mini Orange Layer Cakes With Blackberry Lavender Buttercream (makes around 4 mini 3-layer cakes)

For the cake:

188g (1.5 cups) all-purpose flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

large pinch of salt

113g (half a cup) of soft, unsalted butter

225g (1 cup) sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one small or medium-sized orange

160ml (2/3 cup) whole milk

50ml freshly squeezed orange juice

For the blackberry lavender buttercream:

226g (one cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

500 grams icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

large pinch of salt

1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender (optional)

55g fresh or frozen blackberries (around half a cup)

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease a 7×9-inch (or 8×8-inch) baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl and with either a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar for at least a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the zest of the orange, 2 eggs, and vanilla extract. Add a third of the flour mix, stir briefly with a spatula (no need to fully incorporate), then add half of the milk. Fold in briefly again. Add another third, the rest of the milk and the orange juice. Fold in briefly for a few seconds, before adding the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined. That part is so important, for there is a fine line between tender crumb and dull, dense, bleh. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the flour at the very bottom is well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 19-22 minutes. Put 21 to be safe (that’s how long it took mine). While you wait, make the buttercream.

In a large bowl and with an electrical whisk, beat the butter until it looks lighter and, well, fluffier. Add half of the icing sugar and vanilla, and beat. Take your blackberries and microwave on high for around 20 seconds, until you can see the juices seeping out and they are easy to mash. Mash them with a fork. Add to the mixing bowl, together with the remaining icing sugar. Beat until all is well combined. If you wish, fold in the dried lavender with a spatula. Place most of the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with whatever tip you like. Leave all the buttercream in the fridge for later use.

Assembly:

Once the cake is done, remove from the oven. It should be light brown and ever so slightly domed on top. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. It will take at least half an hour to fully cool.

Once cool, take a 3-inch round cutter (or scallop-edged, up to you) and cut out little circles. Remove the buttercream from the fridge to let it warm up a little. Save the cake scraps for your family, before you eat everything yourself. You should get around 6-7 little circles, around 2 inches thick. Using a serrated knife, cut each little cake in half horizontally so you end up with two thinner cake discs. Pipe a circle of buttercream on the centre of one half, and press down with the other half. Pipe another circle on this half and then take a half from another cake and press down on that, so you end up with a mini 3-layer cake, each layer around 1 inch thick. Using a normal or palette knife, smear the sides and top with buttercream (reserved from the bowl) for make the crumb coat. Leave the cakes in the fridge to set and firm up for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Take your piping bag and pipe more buttercream on top, then sprinkle with extra dried lavender.

Ah, life’s a playground.