Saturday, April 9, 2011

Déjà vu

If you've sneakily scrolled ahead and glanced at the pictures on this post, you might be a little confused. After all, I've already done afghans and banana cake, haven't I? Well, what you might not know is that there are in fact two afghan and two banana cake recipes in the Edmonds book. The ones I have already done are the 'from scratch' versions. The alternative is to make them using Edmonds cake mixes, following the recipes in the 'baking with Edmonds' chapter.

I'd planned to make the afghans (p70) as a lunchbox item, but when I saw I had some bananas that really needed using, I decided to make the banana cake (p70) as well.

I began with the afghans, mixing chocolate cake mix with melted butter, eggs, cornflakes and a little water. These ingredients ought to combine to make a stiff dough, something I doubted for a while, but eventually (after discarding the wooden spoon and getting my hands into the dough) I got it all mixed in. Oddly, once it was finally combined, the mixture actually became quite sticky. As such, it was difficult to work with and I had a bit of trouble getting it into nice tidy lumps on the trays.

When I'd finished wrangling with the afghan dough (and had washed my hands) I got the trays into the oven and made a start on mixing the banana cake. I got my cake mixer out for this one, adding water, milk, eggs, butter and of course mashed banana to the butter cake mix. A couple of minutes on a medium speed and I had a cake ready to go in the oven.

The afghans were out and cooling, so I put the cake in the oven. 40 minutes later I pulled out a lovely golden-looking cake. I was quite pleased with this result until I tried to open the spring-form tin without loosening the sides of the cake first, and made a big crack in the cake. D'oh.

The afghans had cooled by this time, and were ready to ice. I used the icing from the cake mix packet, simply adding a bit more icing sugar until it was a suitable consistency. Actually, I went a bit overboard - the icing was stiff enough that it split a hole in my (disposable) piping bag and oozed everywhere while I was trying to ice the biscuits. Never mind, I got them done in the end (and all the wayward icing cleaned up reasonably quickly).

For the banana cake, I wanted to try something different. As I've mentioned in the past, I just don't grasp the reasoning behind icing banana cakes with chocolate icing. I wasn't going to do that anyway, as I've already completed all the different chocolate icings - and I used lemon last time I made a banana cake. Instead, I opted for something entirely non-Edmonds: in the banana cake icing debate that arose in the office when I made the previous cake, someone recommended passionfruit icing, i.e a simple mixture of passionfruit pulp and icing sugar.

Well, passionfruit pulp is readily available at supermarkets, but you may remember I bottled a small jar of my own a few weeks ago. And what else was I going to use it for? I tipped a generous amount of pulp into a bowl with all the icing sugar I had, adding hot water to make it spreadable. Of course, I put in too much water, and made it runny. Well, there was nothing I could do about it. I poured it on and hoped for the best.

The following morning, my passionfruit iced (well, actually, it was closer to passionfruit-glazed) banana cake was the subject of a number of comments. It was at least something out of the ordinary. When we cut into it, the cake was revealed to be lovely and fluffy, but at the same time deliciously moist. The banana flavour was so subtle as to be barely there, but I did use quite small bananas. I was in two minds about the icing, though. It was sweet and fruity, and complimented the cake well, but I didn't much like the crunchy seeds on top of the cake. Perhaps straining the pulp would give a better taste, though not such a striking appearance.

As for the afghans: well, they're alright - moister than a normal afghan, and, perhaps because of this, the cornflakes are kind of chewy instead of crunchy. I definitely prefer the 'from scratch' version. Comparing the afghans to the banana cake (and with various other 'with Edmonds' recipes in mind), I think that if you use a cake mix simply to make a cake, it comes out absolutely gorgeous. It's when you start trying to use them for other purposes, e.g biscuits, that you don't get such a good result. And why would you anyway? It's not like afghans are hard to make! Keep your cake mixes for making cakes, that's what I reckon.

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