Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow days and chocolate cakes

We had a snowstorm here in Portland and that happens only every 5 years or so. And when that happens the city shuts down. You would think we had a huge blizzard, but really it was only 3 inches of snow. The truth is we Portlanders don't know how to live with the wet snow; so the city goes on a shutdown. Life seems to magically slow down: school and sports practices cancelled; kids, parents and their dogs outside sledding down hills,  snow shoeing and skiing making snowmen and snow forts.Our local grocery store saw a lot of foot traffic.
 I took stock of the pantry - 4 potatoes, 4 onions, chickpea flour and oil. "let us make pakoras and have friends over" .  Seems pretty logical right? Not that anyone is going anywhere and our friends literally live across the street. My husband  assured me that it was a crazy idea and no one would want to trudge in the snow to come over to eat pakoras. Everyone would rather stay warm in their houses and only crazy people would think of such an idea. Arguing I was not crazy didn't really get me anywhere (too much evidence to the contrary) so I just gave up on the idea. Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and there was our friend on skis, wanting to know if we would come to dinner. Sweet vindication! I am not the only crazy in this neighborhood.

My contribution to the dinner in the end was Lentil Salad and a Chocolate cake - all made from pantry staples. As I started gathering ingredients for the cake, I spied the lonely ripening banana that I had rescued from my co-worker and I remembered David Lebovitz talking about the trifecta of chocolate coffee and banana and the inspiration paid off.

The cake was moist and delicious studded with pecans. You can't really taste the banana in the cake and even that teeny amount of coffee complements the chocolate very nicely.  The cake is spectacular when eaten with a dab of blackberry jam or some Boysenberry syrup.

Chocolate Banana Cake

1 3/4 c All purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 c Cocoa powder
1 c Sugar
1/2 c Canola oil
1/2 c mashed banana (about 1 banana mashed)
1/4 c strongly brewed coffee
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
*1/4 c buttermilk
1 c Pecans, chopped into small pieces

*I would have normally used soy milk curdled with a tsp of apple cider vinegar, but I was out.
Preheat oven to 350 deg and lightly grease a loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, measure out the sugar. Sift the cocoa powder into it.  Mash the banana into it and add the oil, coffee, buttermilk and the vanilla extract. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix until just combined. Fold the chopped pecans into the batter.
The batter will be thick. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for 35- 40 mins. The tester will not come out perfectly clean; but don't be tempted to bake longer. Take the pan out of the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 15- 20 mins. Invert the cake on to a cooling rack. When fully cool, you can dust it with some powdered sugar.

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