I recently had an interview where I was asked how I define success when it comes to my blog. It was a good question, one that, quite frankly, got me to thinking.
A lot. Like, a lot- a lot.
There are many ways one can measure success. When it comes to a blog, some might measure success in terms of how many views or how much engagement they get. Others may measure it in terms of the community they create. Others still might measure it in terms of their ability to generate a livelihood.
Me. I couldn’t stop thinking about this cake.
I made this cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. My mother-in-law, who at the tender age of 55, suffers from severe early onset Alzheimer’s. A fiercely strong, independent, loving woman who’s had to come to terms with having less and less control over her own life, and having to rely more and more on others. As anyone who’s loved someone with Alzheimer’s will know, some days are good, some days aren’t.
Her birthday was a good day. She smiled, she laughed, she enjoyed copious amounts of cake, and although you could see her occasionally drift off in the course of conversation, she seemed genuinely happy.
Success… success is the small day-to-day joys.
Success is bringing a smile to someone else’s face. Success is Besten (my husband’s grandfather… someone who tends to be hesitant of these new-fangled American cakes) taking not one, but TWO big slices of cake. Success is my niece asking me to name everything on the cake in English (would anyone be surprised to hear her favorite English word was “sprinkle?”). Success is my mother-in-law conjuring up a few English words to express her thankfulness in my native language (a task that gets harder and harder for her with the onset of Alzheimer’s).
Success is making memories over a good slice of cake and getting to share them with you.
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup banana puree (about 4 bananas)
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup water
- 1¾ cup (400g) granulated sugar
- 8 egg whites
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 lb (454g) unsalted butter, at room temp.
- 100g dark chocolate
- 100g heavy cream
- Sliced strawberries (for between the layers of cake)
- For the banana cake, grease and line two 6" cake pans and preheat your oven to 350F/175C. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together your eggs and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in your butter, banana puree, vanilla extract, and milk until just combined. Gently fold in the dry ingredients (baking powder and flour) until the batter is lump free. Divide the batter between your two cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- For the vanilla bean frosting, combine your granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat. While the sugar and water boil into a syrup, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Once the syrup reaches 230F/110C, pour it into the egg whites with the stand mixer on low. Add the seeds from the vanilla bean, increase the speed to high and whisk until the mixture has cooled to approximately room temperature. Reduce the speed to low, add the vanilla extract, and slowly begin to add the butter bit by bit. Increase the speed to high again, and continue whisking until a smooth, fluffy frosting forms.
- For the ganache, heat the cream and dark chocolate together in the microwave and gently stir with a spatula (a whisk creates too many air bubbles) until the ganache is completely smooth and lump free. Allow to cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- To assemble your cake, cut each layer of cake in two (this is easier if you've chilled the layers in the refrigerator beforehand). Add about ½" of frosting and freshly sliced strawberries between each layer of cake. Once you reach the top, give the entire cake a crumb coat and allow to chill for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Once the crumb layer has hardened, continue frosting your cake however you'd like (I wanted a nice, smooth finish on mine). Add some sprinkles to the side and top with your cooled ganache. To get a nice drip effect, I like to use just enough ganache to cover the top of the cake, and then use a piping bag filled with ganache to drip ganache down the sides.
- Top with more sprinkles, frosting, and some cherries to tie it all together.