Make-aheads

This weekend will be a bit busy. Being Father’s Day, my mom, sister and I have yet still to make one more ‘research’ trip to Future Shop before we decide which gift is best for my dad, my manager called to ask if I can come in on Saturday as well as Sunday, the youth and I are meeting for a throw-together meeting to prep the next fundraiser, and it all begins with a potluck Bible study tomorrow night.

In other words, lots of baking. I decided on two cakes, and hoped the weather would be nice for ice-cream in the park with the youth. Thankfully, the earlier part of my week allowed for a lot more time in the kitchen.

What’s on the menu for this weekend is mostly catered to the tastes of those for whom it is made for. And because I’ve never been very good with cooking in a hurry (or being rushed into anything, come to think of it), freezing the cakes would be ideal, rather than baking everything the night before. Right. Make sure there’s enough cling-wrap, and we’re good to go.

Extra wrappings will help to keep out freezer build-up around your cake. Here, I've wrapped my dad's cheesecake (also in a conveniently opaque bag to not give it away!)

I was thinking about what to make my dad for Father’s Day last week, and was inspired by the chocolate-banana cheesecake at Secret Recipe, indeed a tasty and well-kept secret in Kuala Lumpur.  Theirs had lovely thick layers of chocolate swirled with sweet mellow banana. Though my dad doesn’t like chocolate, bananas and cheesecake he does!

So I used modified the Banana Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce recipe from the Allrecipes.com community. Having made many cheesecakes past, most of them were baked thoroughly and few had fruit in them (save for the triple citus cheesecake that seemed to do well at the last bake sale, if I may gloat a little!) Omitting sugar from the graham crust, I followed the suggestions for one full cup of mashed banana rather than one-half cup. While I didn’t have banana liquer with which to substitute the vanilla extract, I did have a bottle of Frangelico, an Italian haazelnut liquer. It smelled so rich when mixed with the banana!

I skipped out on the caramel sauce because it might be too sweet for my dad, but I decided to keep the cheesecake simple and dust with cocoa powder before decorating it with sliced bananas. The cocoa should give some colour contrast to the pale banana cheese. When he slices through the cake on Sunday, he should be able to see the chunks of banana, smell the hazelnut, and bite into the graham with a bittersweet chocolate accent. Photos to come!

For the potluck, my friends were not very choosy a crowd, and I had opted for finger-food kind of desserts in the past (i.e. meringues and lemon diamonds) that would be suitable for a party. But this time I wanted to make a full cake. I had used a wonderful chocolate cake recipe in the past from Anne Lindsay that was on the lighter side, using yogurt and cocoa powder instead of sugar and chocolate slabs. It also has a hint of coffee, which makes all the difference when you smell and taste the cake! Freezing flour-based chocolate cakes are a cinch — the first time I froze two chocolate zucchini loaves, and no one tasted the difference — so I wasn’t too concerned about putting this one in the freezer. Similar to the cheesecake, it has to be wrapped tightly to seal out the air. Even a second layer would be alright; I first wrap the cake in aluminum foil and go over it again with plastic cling-wrap.

To decorate the chocolate cake, I thought about doing a vanilla sauce on the side, but knowing the group, it probably won’t be used very much. A tip about serving sauce on your cake: unless the sauce is viscous, it’s better to serve it per slice, per plate. That way you can control the whole appearance, and avoid having glazes and sauces run. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of glaze or sauce would work to decorate cakes en masse if it is not ideal to prepare plate by plate!

To keep in mind, here are some rules of thumb for make-aheads in the freezer:

– If the cake you mean to freeze will have frosting or icing on top, it’s better to wait until just before serving. Same goes for cake fillings. Taking the wrapping off a frozen cake will risk the frosting to come off, and frozen icing has different freezing properties than your flour cake. The consistency may be a little off, and the piping will be even more difficult!

– Whole fruits will take longer to thaw because of the water content. This is true even if the fruit is baked inside a cake — make sure you leave ample time for the cake to thaw, otherwise biting into the fruits inside will be like biting into ice bits!

– When thawing frozen cakes, do so at room temperature.

– It’s always easier to freeze baked cakes as opposed to unbaked cakes. In fact, unless instructions say otherwise, it’s always a better idea to bake a cake as soon as the batter is made. Otherwise, the temperature, air and density of the batter might alter the quality of baking. Even the authorities over at Joy of Cooking “do not recommend the freezing of cake doughs and batters.” Hey, if it worked for them in 1974, it must still today.

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One Response to “Make-aheads”

  1. Photo as promised: http://www.flickr.com/photos/salerie/3655191681/

    However, if I made this again, I’d make several changes ..

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