Monday, August 6, 2007
Rediscovering Maida Heatter
Today we celebrated my boss's birthday. His actual birthday was last Friday, but I had the day off. Celebration deferred.
For all other work birthdays, I bake what catches my eye or what I feel like preparing. For Kevin, I go out of my way to find something that sublimely blends chocolate and peanut butter, one of his favorite flavor combinations. (To be sure, I've never heard anyone complaining about the various dynamic-duo combos I've brought in for Kevin's birthday.) This year, I was feeling a little stumped. I hadn't found a recipe that caught my eye. I browsed one cookbook and saw recipes for peanut-butter mousse and chocolate mousse, then toyed with the idea of mini-refrigerator cakes (the mousses stacked with chocolate wafers). Then the leading contender became a peanut-butter mousse cake recipe from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book.
Eventually, I started browsing my stack of supplementary baking books and flipped to the index of Cakes by Maida Heatter. It's one of her compilation books (companion to Pies & Tarts and Cookies). Although I have several Maida Heatter cookbooks, the only recipe of hers that I can remember making is her legendary Palm Beach Brownies (with their insane preparation technique, baked at 425F). These brownies are great, and I've made them several times.
At any rate, browsing the index of Cakes, I saw a listing for Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icing, so I figured I'd check to see what it was all about. Much to my utter delight, the frosting recipe was associated with the recipe for Chocolate Festival Cake, a monster of a tube cake featuring chocolate, bananas, and peanut butter. I felt as if I'd hit the motherlode and shouted out loud, "Maida Heatter, you rock!"
I am extremely pleased with this cake. It's a dense beast of a thing, overwhelmingly rich with peanut butter and chocolate goodness. The batter has mashed banana in it, but that flavor was unnoticeable, primarily because I had to use barely ripe bananas. The cake is slathered with a thick coat of chocolate-peanut butter frosting. The frosting was the only tweak I made in the recipe. It called for an egg. I didn't much feel like messing around with a raw egg in a frosting recipe, so I substituted 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Then I drizzled in enough additional heavy cream to give the frosting a nice consistency.