Chocolate Caramel Tarts

Best Chocolate Caramel Tart Recipe
Photo from Nordljus.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you are looking to treat your lover to a romantic candlelit dinner, then consider ending the evening with this sexy dessert. It’s a chocolate caramel tart conceived by Claudia Fleming, renowned pastry chef and author of the cookbook “The Last Course”.
This exceptional tart starts off with the required Valentine’s Day ingredients of chocolate and caramel. But the dessert itself is much more than just putting two good things together, this tart is about thoughtfully prepared elements using the best ingredients to bring about an experience of texture, intense taste sensations and visual appeal. A not-so-sweet chocolate crust is the container to a rich, buttery soft caramel which is then topped with a dark chocolate ganache glaze. The tart is garnished with fleur de sel salt that makes a bite of this dessert sing in your mouth. Just imagine this thick, deeply golden flow of caramel flowing from the dark chocolate ganache glaze as your fork sinks into the tart to take your first bite. This tart is unforgettable.
Thinking about the chocolate caramel tart brings back memories of an evening Scott and I shared last year. For his birthday, I treated Scott to an overnight getaway at the Battery Park Ritz Carlton. Our room had a telescope to view the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks along the Hudson River, this appealed to Scott’s voyeuristic tendencies. That night we indulged in room service and a bottle of the most excellent Roederer Estate’s L’Ermitage cuvée, which we now call ‘naughty champaign’. The pleasurable taste of that sparkling wine is like nothing we had ever enjoyed. Something about tasting something that good certainly makes you feel a little naughty. At the end of the meal, I surprised Scott with the chocolate caramel tart topped with a single lit candle and a sprinkling of salt. It was a delightful highlight to a memorable evening in honor of Scott.
The chocolate caramel tart is definitely a special occasion dessert. Give yourself plenty of time to make it as you will need to make it in phases (pastry first, then caramel, then chocolate glaze). Don’t skimp on the ingredients – make sure you use a good quality dark chocolate (Valrhona, Callebaut, Scharffen Berger are all wonderful chocolates). The end result will be well worth the effort and your lover might just thank you in more ways than one ;)
Looking for other Valentine’s Day treat ideas? Try this Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Shortbread recipe by Pierre Hermé.
Chocolate Caramel Tarts
Chocolate Tart Dough
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Caramel Filling
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp crème fraiche
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of fine sea salt, such as fleur de sel
1. To prepare the tart dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk. Wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough to an 18 x 12 – inch rectangle, 3/16 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, cut out 24 rounds of dough and press them into mini muffin tins or 2-inch tart pans, trimming away any excess dough; prick the dough all over with a fork. Chill the tart shells for 20 minutes.
3. Line the tart shells with foil and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until the pastry looks dry and set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. (The tart shells can be made 8 hours ahead.)
4. To prepare the filling, place 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and corn syrup and cook the mixture over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until you have a dark amber caramel, about 10 minutes. Carefully whisk in the butter, cream, and crème fraiche (the mixture will hiss and bubble up, so stand back), whisking until smooth. (The caramel can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated.) Divide the caramel among the tart shells while still warm (or reheat the caramel in the microwave or over low heat until it is pourable) and let sit until the caramel is set, at least 45 minutes.
5. To make the ganache glaze, in a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Pour some of the glaze over each of the tarts while still warm. Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. Sprinkle with salt, if desired, just before serving.
Variation
For a large tart, line a 10-inch tart pan with the pastry dough, then prick, weight, and bake as directed, adding 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time. When the tart shell is cool, spoon in the warm caramel filling. Allow the caramel to set before pouring the warm ganache onto the tart.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Ever since Jacques Torres opened up a little shop at the Chelsea Market I seem to be finding many excuses to go to the Chelsea Market. The other day it was cold so I stopped at the market to warm up. I just happened to enter by the side entrance on 15th Street that gave me direct access to Jacques Torres and I thought “what better way to warm up than a hot chocolate?” So I ordered one, and since I was already there, I said “I might as well take one chocolate chip cookie to go!”
The chocolate chip cookies at Jacques Torres are decadent and chewy with layers of bittersweet chocolate that are held together by a sweet but sparse dough. They beat the almost perfect City Bakery / Birdbath chocolate chip cookies, which have been at the top of my chocolate chip cookie list for many years.
I love a homemade chocolate chip cookie. The recipe in the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip package has been loved by many, including me, and has been my preferred recipe for many years. These are delicious right out of the oven, but this recipe usually falls short after the cookies have cooled down. And after you’ve tried an exceptional chocolate chip cookie like those served at Jacques Torres, you realize that you’ve been missing out on a truly great chocolate chip cookie recipe.
So I did some research to find a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie that remains rich, buttery and chewy at room temperature and has lots of really great chocolate. I tested a number of recipes like this one that gets it’s inspiration in from the City Bakery’s chocolate chip cookie. I studied Alton Brown’s show on chocolate chip cookies (part 1 and part 2) and tested his chewy variation. These were good, but I was still not satisfied. So I resorted to one of my favorite sources of great dessert recipes on the web, Dorie Greenspan’s blog, and found an entry referencing David Leite’s New York Times article with his chocolate chip cookie recipe.
The secrets to this recipe are:

  • letting the dough stand for 24 to 36 hours
  • sprinkling the cookies with coarse salt
  • using bittersweet chocolate disks instead of chips

Of all the chocolate chip cookie recipes I tried, this one is a winner. And guess what? It was adapted from Jacques Torres’ chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yields 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Puerto Rican Coconut Rice Pudding (Arroz con Coco)

Puerto Rican Holiday Spiced Coconut Rice Pudding Recipe
Rustic woodfired spoon by Jim Shack. Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
I want to start this decade by sharing with you a very simple but deliciously comforting recipe from the heart of Puerto Rico: Coconut Rice Pudding (Arroz con Coco). This humble dessert of rice, coconut milk and spices is traditionally made in Puerto Rican households throughout the Christmas season. Big batches of it are made, poured into plates, sprinkled with cinnamon and then shared with neighbors and loved ones.
For such a simple dessert with few ingredients, it is surprising how many variations you will find in Puerto Rico. Every family has their own way of making it. Some families like it sweeter, some like to garnish it with cinnamon while others with cracker crumbs, some like to add fresh grated coconut and some use whole spices while others use ground spices. In my grandparent’s home, as Mima gratefully accepted her neighbors’ and friends’ arroz con coco, the tasting would begin. Pito, always the food critic, would comment on the neighbor’s interpretation of the dessert: “too much cinnamon” or “too much sugar” or “this one is too bland, it needs more ginger” or “que rico” when he liked one in particular. Pito developed his own version of arroz con coco. He prefers it with lots of fresh ginger and adds molasses. The recipe I share with you today is my version of Pito’s arroz con coco, I love the use of fresh ginger in his recipe, but have omitted the molasses.
A bite of this creamy, spicy desert is like taking a bite of Puerto Rico itself. Its simple, comforting, and surprisingly festive and delicious. I encourage you to try this easy recipe, make it your own and share with your family and friends.
Arroz con Coco (Puerto Rican Coconut Rice Pudding)
1 cup short grain rice
13 1/2 ounces coconut milk
5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/8″ rounds
6 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1. In a heavy 4 to 6 quart pan, combine the rice, coconut milk, water, salt, sliced ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce it to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. After around 20 minutes of simmering, when the mixture is still loose and creamy, begin to remove the sliced ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Continue simmering until the rice is done (about 30 minutes) and the mixture resembles a thin custard.
2. Add the brown sugar, raisins and finely grated fresh ginger and stir to incorporate. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into two slightly wet dinner plates. Garnish with the reserved cinnamon sticks and allow it to set for two hours. Slice and serve at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpking Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping and Ginger Crust Recipe
Anagama woodfired plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Scott Bartolomei Edmonds.
This pumpkin cheesecake has been a family favorite for years. The crust has a gingery gooey bite, the pumpkin cheesecake filling is perfectly balanced and not too sweet and then it’s topped with a slightly sweet and tangy sour cream topping. It’s the kind of treat that makes you glad you saved a little bit of room for dessert.
If you want to make this cheesecake, I would recommend making it a day in advance as it tastes better over time and you will not want it competing with your turkey and other fixings for oven space the day of the event.
The recipe was originally published by Food & Wine Magazine many years ago in their Thanksgiving dessert feature. Thankfully, I had clipped this recipe as it seems that it is not available at foodandwine.com.
And on a personal note: I am so grateful to our friends who have supported and encouraged me to keep writing during this challenging year. Thank you friends, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 cups gingersnap crumb (from about 1/2 pound cookies)
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 1/2 or 10 inch springform pan and coat lightly with flour. In a medium bowl, toss the gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter until evenly moistened. Press the crumbs into the bottom and 1 inch up the side of the prepared pan. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the crust begins to color. Let the crust cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the brown sugar, then beat in the eggs in 3 additions until the mixture is thoroughly combined, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and heavy cream with 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until combined, scraping the bowl a few times.
4. Wrap foil loosely around the bottom and up the side of the springform pan. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared pan and set it in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Place in the middle of the oven and pour 1 inch of hot water into the baking dish. Bake the cheesecake for about 70 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the center of the cheesecake is still slightly shaky.
5. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and pour on the sour cream topping. Gently tap the pan to spread the topping, and continue baking the cheesecake for 10 more minutes.
6. Transfer the cheesecake to a rack and let cool for 1 hour. Remove the foil and the side of the pan and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Makes 16 servings.

The Best Chocolate Cake

The Ghirardelli semi-sweet baking chocolate wrapping that this recipe was printed on is completely crusted with dried batter, chocolate prints and a generous dusting of flour. I’ve kept it in a folder labeled “cakes” that is stuffed full of great recipes, but nine out of ten times when I want to make a chocolate cake, this is the recipe I reach for. It is the best chocolate cake recipe, period. It’s rich yet super moist and light with just the right amount of chocolate and not too sweet. I have made it many times with very stable and delicious results, even at high altitude in Montana.
This chocolate cake is heavenly on its own and needs no frosting. I enjoy it most with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar. If you are making a birthday cake, consider frosting it with a good buttercream frosting. Or, what about filling it with raspberry preserves and frosting it with chocolate ganache for Valentine’s day?
The secret to this cake is whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks and folding them into the batter just before baking. The egg whites create air pockets that are going to make this cake light and delicious. This video from epicurious.com has some good tips on beating the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites in two installments is key. Chef John Mitzewich demonstrates proper folding techniques in this video.
The Best Chocolate Cake
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup water
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or strong cold coffee
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Line three 8″ or 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper, set aside. Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the water and stir until melted. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla.
2. Sift flour with soda. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk or coffee to the chocolate mixture. Mix until smooth.
3. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form. Fold one third of the egg whites into chocolate batter until well incorporated. Fold in the rest of the egg whites until well incorporated.
4. Spread into the prepared round cake pans. Bake at 350° F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack for ten minutes. Remove cake to cool completely.
Makes 3 cakes or one triple layered cake

Crispy Brown Rice Treats

Crispy Brown Rice Treats Recipe - Wheat Free and Sugar Free Recipe
Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
These wholesome bars have been a favorite in our home for the past fifteen years. Crispy brown rice treats are a healthier version of the Rice Krispies Treats you might have grown up with. We got rid of the marshmallow and butter and replaced it with toasted almond butter and the gentle sweetness of brown rice syrup. For fun, we’ve also added some carob chips. These bars are well balanced and lightly sweet, making them a healthy snack any time of the day. What’s best is that they are super easy to make.
Crispy Brown Rice Treats
1/2 cup brown rice syrup*
1/2 cup almond butter*
2 cups crispy brown rice*
1 cup carob chips (optional)*
1 teaspoon vanilla
oil for greasing
1. Oil a 9″ x 13″ pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the brown rice syrup, almond butter and vanilla. Add the Rice Crispies and carob chips and fold into the brown rice syrup mixture.
2. Pour the rice crispy mixture into the oiled pan . Rub a little oil in your hands and press down firmly to flatten the mixture. Cut into 1.5″ squares and enjoy.
Makes 48 bars
*Visit your local health food store for these ingredients.

Chocolate Ginger Crackles

Chocolate Ginger Crackle Cookie Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
These are a favorite holiday cookie in our household, so well liked that, when I make them, Angelica spontaneously gives me a hug. Not that I bake to win people’s affection, but getting a spontaneous hug from my teenage daughter is all the encouragement I need to make these cookies.
Chocolate ginger crackles are little mounds of moist chocolate cookie studded with bittersweet chocolate chips and candied ginger pieces and covered in powdered sugar. They are delightfully easy to make. The dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a few days until ready to bake. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.
This recipe first appeared in Food and Wine magazine, October 1997.
Chocolate Ginger Crackles
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup minced candied ginger
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the butter. Mix in the eggs, then add the cocoa and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dough for 2 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips and ginger. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. Form the dough into 1 inch balls and coat them generously with the confectioner’s sugar. Arrange the balls 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the tops look cracked. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
You can store these in an airtight container for up to three days.
Makes 30 cookies.

Dulce De Leche

Puerto Rican Dulce de Leche Recipe
Plates by Roger Baumann and Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Let me tell you about Puerto Rican dulce de leche. This is not the creamy, spreadable South American dulce de leche that you might be familiar with. This is a sweet and tangy dessert of curdled milk and lime served in a syrup. Whole milk is first curdled by adding lime juice and then slow cooked with sugar and lime rind to create a wonderful confection.
I have to be honest, this dessert is not for everyone. When I make it at home, Scott and Angelica leave the house right away. The acidic scent of cooking soured milk drives them away. But don’t be discouraged and try it. It’s a wonderful treat and a great use for outdated, soured milk.
Enjoying dulce de leche in Abuela Sara’s kitchen was a highlight of my weekend visits. She would serve it in tiny little bowls. Those little bowls of dulce de leche were like little bowls full of her love: sweet and tangy. I have great respect for my grandmother. She calls it like it is and is not afraid of showing you her middle finger if that will get her point across. Despite her frank and direct demeanor, she manages to remain poised and ladylike in her presence. She’s strong and at 88 years old still a very vital woman.
This recipe is an adaptation of the original recipe from Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s Juntos en la Cocina. Good Puerto Rican dulce de leche will have large curds. The trick is not to disturb the milk by stirring when curdling and cooking. You can use outdated or soured milk instead of fresh milk called for in this recipe.
Dulce de Leche Puertorriqueño
1 liter of whole milk
2 tablespoons lime or limón verde juice
the zest of one lime removed with a knife
2 cups sugar
1. In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil over high heat. As soon as the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat and add the lime juice and zest. Gently stir only once with a wooden spoon. Do not mix or stir too much to allow the milk to curdle into large curds.
2. Return the curdled milk to the stove and bring to boil over high heat. As soon as the milk begins to boil distribute the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, without stirring.
3. Simmer over moderate heat for one hour. Do not stir the mixture while cooking. Occasionally run a wooden spoon along the edges of the pan to dislodge any milk solids. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour the candy onto a platter or shallow bowl and rest until completely cooled. Refrigerate until serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Makes 4 cups or eight servings.

Nothin’ Better than S’mores

How to Make Smores
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Camping would not be complete without this simple and gooey dessert we so lovingly call s’more. The whole experience of making s’mores is enjoyable: you sit around a campfire and watch the flames kiss and burn the pillowy sweet marshmallows at the end of your stick and when the marshmallow is golden and just about to melt right off the stick you make a marshmallow and chocolate graham cracker sandwich. Yum!
Scott, Angelica and I enjoyed this all-American campfire treat this Fall during our stay at the Green Mountain Club Wheeler Pond Cabin in northeastern Vermont. We needed a little Fall escape and this long weekend trip was just the cure from stressful New York City living.
The rustic cabin faces Wheeler Pond and is surrounded by mountains covered in colorful fall foliage. We packed in our provisions which included an assortment of freshly made marshmallows (vanilla bean, cinnamon, raspberry and rosemary) from Three Tarts , some Hershey chocolate bars and graham crackers. Scott started a fire and found a perfect stick for marshmallow roasting. We all sat around the fire and proceeded to have a s’more feast. It’s one of those treats you can’t help yourself around. We were giddy, oooohing and aaahing, licking our fingers and giggling like kids.
Three Tarts marshmallows are absolutely delightful in s’mores, as you can see from Angelica’s face in the photo, below. Sandra and Kiyomi, pastry chefs at Three Tarts, make the marshmallows fresh daily and use fresh herbs, spices and fruit pulp to create their incredibly intense and wonderful marshmallows.
Our long weekend in Vermont seemed longer thanks to the quiet serenity of the cabin and the abundance of fresh crisp air. As we drove away from the cabin toward Burlington, we tuned the radio to NPR and heard news that the stock market had fallen nearly 800 points in one day. An uncertain reality to come off of our s’more and fresh air high.
Read a little more about our trip here. And learn more about s’mores here.

Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
S’mores
marshmallows
Hershey chocolate bar
graham crackers
1. Arrange two squares of graham cracker on top of a piece of foil (enough to cover the s’more). Place a piece of chocolate on one cracker.
2. Roast the marshmallows by placing one in a skewer and gently rotating it over an open flame (a campfire, grill, stove top flame or even electric range will do just fine).
3. When the marshmallow is golden and soft on the inside, remove it from the flames and place it on the chocolate cracker. Top it with the second cracker and cover the sandwich in foil. Place it over embers or grill (or in the oven if you are using your stove) to melt the chocolate and warm the crackers, watching for it not to burn. Remove, unwrap and serve hot.

Summertime Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
There are many reasons to celebrate this month. Today is our 8th year anniversary of moving to New York City from small town Bozeman, MT. Our company, Smatter Inc., incorporated three years ago this month. And, next Friday is the one year anniversary of this blog. However, this cake does not celebrate any of these events. This cake celebrates a little girl’s first birthday this month.
Banana cake is a wonderful summer cake and makes an ideal birthday cake. If you are planning a party, you can make the cake a day or two ahead of time, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerate, and then frost it the day of the party. It’s great even without frosting. I recommend serving it cooled rather than at room temperature.
The recipe was adapted from RecipeZaar’s Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. In the original recipe, they recommend you freeze the cake after it comes out of the oven. I find this step unnecessary and the results are still moist and wonderful (not to mention that placing a hot pan in the freezer can be potentially damaging to other items in the freezer). The recipe will yield one large sheet cake or a double layered round cake.
This cake is delicious, so, find a reason to celebrate in August and try it out for yourself.
Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas (about 3 bananas), mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups cream cheese frosting
chopped walnuts (optional, for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 275°. Grease and flour two 8″ round cake pans (or one 9″ x 13″ cake pan). In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.
3. Beat in the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let it sit in the pan for about fifteen minutes. Remove the cake from the pan by inverting the pan and cool to room temperature in a cooling rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or up to three days before frosting.
5. Frost the cake and refrigerate for one hour to allow the frosting to harden.
Makes 16 servings.