Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes

When I was typing my newsletter entry for April, I realized that I hadn't included this recipe in our blog. This is my current favorite potato casserole. It makes a fairly thin casserole, so there is quite a bit of "crisp" top--which is one of my favorite parts. Our whole family loves this potato dish. The recipe is from Cook's Country April 2009. You don't need to grease the baking dish.

1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 pounds russet potatoes , peeled and slice 1/8 inch thick (use a food processor or mandoline)
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1. COMBINE CHEESES Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cheeses and cornstarch in large bowl until evenly coated.
2. ASSEMBLE GRATIN Shingle half of potatoes in large 2 to 3 quart gratin dish (or 13x9-inch baking pan), sprinkle evenly with 1 cup cheese mixture, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Top with remaining potatoes, additional ¾ teaspoon salt, and additional ¼ teaspoon pepper.
3. BAKE Combine cream and broth in large measuring cup and pour over potatoes. Top with remaining cheese mixture and bake until golden brown and fork inserted into center meets little resistance, 75 to 90 minutes (I recommend checking it quite a bit early--check it at least by 60 minutes). Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shredded Tex-Mex Salad with Creamy Lime Dressing

Bart and I made this for supper the other night. It was refreshing and easy to make. The creamy lime dressing is especially delicious! We used some of the extra dressing on our steak and homemade refried bean burritos we had for dinner tonight. It was fabulous on that as well. I got this recipe from the Food Network (by Sunny Anderson).

Salad Ingredients:

1 8-inch pan of prepared cornbread (either use a Jiffy mix or your favorite recipe)
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet sazon seasoning (sold in the Mexican section--if you can't find it, use salt, cumin, and garlic powder to season the beans)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup salsa
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into strips
Creamy Lime Dressing, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar
Special equipment: glass trifle dish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 by 8-inch glass pan with butter. Stir together the cornbread mix with the egg and milk. Evenly spread into prepared pan and bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool completely. Mix together the beans with the sazon and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salsa with the tomatoes. When ready to serve, cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch croutons. Toss the lettuce with 3/4 cups of the dressing. In a clear trifle dish, layer the Tex-Mex Salad beginning with the black beans followed by the Monterey jack cheese, the tomato salsa mixture, the Cheddar, the dressed romaine and top with the cornbread croutons. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Creamy Lime Dressing:

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Special equipment: blender
Blend all the ingredients except the olive oil until smooth. While machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These muffins have a great texture! They also taste incredibly yummy. (I didn't make the topping with it, but I'm including that portion of the recipe as well in case you want to try it. I'm sure it would help intensify the lemon flavor.) This recipe is from "The Perfect Recipe" cookbook by Pam Anderson. I'm sure you could turn these muffins into almond poppy seed muffins by eliminating the lemon zest and instead adding almond extract (probably 1 teaspoonful).

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons poppy sseds
10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (do not use nonfat)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with Baker's Joy baking spray.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (I used my stand mixer). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-third of dry ingredients. Beat in half of yogurt. Beat in another third of remaining dry ingredients, then remaining half of yogurt, then last third of dry ingredients until fully incorporated.

Use a large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm.

While muffins are baking, heat 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves and mixture forms a light syrup, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush warm syrup over warm muffins and serve.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coconut Cake

I made this cake for Easter. Instead of the coconut frosting as a filling, I used chocolate ganache between each layer. The chocolate flavor went really well with the coconut. I included directions for making ganache with the "Big Burger Cake" I posted previously.

3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) coconut milk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) sugar
6 large egg whites (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 drops coconut flavoring (or about 1 teaspoon coconut extract)

Coconut Frosting:
1 (14-ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
5 1/2 cups (22 ounces) confectioners' sugar, divdied
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or 3 to 4 drops strong coconut flavoring (or 1 teaspoon coconut extract)

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Soak two cake strips, if you have them. Grease and flour (or line with parchment circles and spray with nonstick spray) two 8-inch round or square pans that are at least 2 inches deep.

Whisk together the cake flour, coconut milk powder, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is extremely light and fluffy; scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl after two minutes of beating, and beat for at least 3 minutes more. Add 1/4 of the dry ingredients, mix until combined, and scrape the mixing bowl.

Combine the egg whites, milk, and flavorings; add 1/2 of the mixture to the ingredients in the bowl and mix until combined. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients by turns, until all are incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time, and mix for another minute.

Divide the batter between the two pans, and wrap the outsides with the soaked cake strips. If you don't have cake strips, place the pans in larger pans and fill the water halfway up the sides of the layers. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center and the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the oven and place on a rack; remove the cake strips. Let the layers cool for 10 to 20 minutes, then turn out of the pan and return to the rack to finish cooling completely before filling and frosting.

To make the frosting: Set a fine-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl and line it with a clean towel. Pour the coconut milk into the lined strainer and let the coconut water drain for up to 2 hours, until you have a thick lump of coconut cream. After the coconut milk has drained, cream the butter with 2 cups confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the salt and vanilla (or coconut extract) until the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut cream and mix, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar until you have a smooth, spreadable frosting. Cover and hold at room temperature until ready to use.

To finish the cake: Split the cooled cake layers horizontally. Place half of one layer on a serving plate; spread with frosting (or chocolate ganache). Place the other half on top, spread with more frosting or ganache. Repeat until you've used all the layers. Frost outside of cake. Sprinkle coconut over cake to garnish as desired.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pepperoni Pizza Mac 'n Cheese

Maybe this isn't anything new or different, but I threw this together for lunch today, and it was a big hit. Because I really didn’t measure anything, the amounts listed are approximate--feel free to adjust seasonings according to your tastes. You could even add Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, and olives if your family likes “supreme” pizza.

1 box (14.35-16oz) uncooked macaroni (we like Barilla Plus)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 T. butter or margarine, softened
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. Wondra or cake flour OR 1 T. cornstarch
1 ½ C. water
½ C. milk
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. chicken bullion granules
1 extra large vegetable bouillon cube (increase chicken bullion granules to 2 tsp. if you don’t have this ingredient)
½ C. shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz. turkey or regular pepperoni slices, cut in halves or quarters

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni cooks, blend cream cheese, butter, tomato paste, flour or cornstarch, water, and milk in a medium bowl. Add seasonings.
Drain pasta, and add back to cooking pot. Stir in cream cheese mix, and cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Add mozzarella and pepperoni. Add water or milk if it seems too thick. Serve with a green salad.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Green Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

I got this recipe from my friend Jackie and I made it for Mom's Easter party. It's one of my favorite salads, but I have to make it when there is a party because Phil won't eat salad unless it has ranch dressing on top!

1 large head of Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 10 cups)
1 c. shredded Swiss or Mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. craisins
1 apple, cubed (treat with lemon juice)
1 pear, cubed (treat with lemon juice)
1/2 c. slivered almonds

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 tsp. onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. oil
1 TBS. poppy seeds

In a blender, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard and salt. Cover and process until blended. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Add poppy seeds, and process a few seconds more. Pour over salad ingredients just before serving and toss.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cheese Blitz

This recipe is from King Arthur Flour's Baking Sheet Newsletter. It is a very fast bread to make (great for a quick accompaniment to dinner--very good with soup). You can use any cheese you like: shredded 4-cheese blend is suggested (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, and mozzarella). I just used an assortment of cheeses I had in my fridge (cheddar, Asiago, Gruyere, etc.).

3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
1 tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pizza seasoning (optional) or a mixture of basil and oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (4 ounces) grated cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top

Place the water, olive oil, salt, flour, seasonings or herbs, and yeast into a bowl. Stir until the dough (more like a thick batter, really) is smooth. Stir in the cheese.

Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil into an 8-inch square pan, and then spread the dough in the pan. It won't quite touch the sides; that's OK. Cover the dough (you can put the whole pan into a large plastic bag if desired) and let the dough rise for 50 to 60 minutes, until it fills the pan and gets puffy looking. After half an hour, preheat the oven to 375 F.

When the dough is fully risen, grease your fingertips and very lightly dimple the top of the bread. Drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil (if desired) and sprinkle the top with more herbs or cheese. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center reads 190 F. when measured with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

This is the best strawberry ice cream ever! If you like Frosty Strawberry Squares, you'll like this ice cream.

1 container (24 ounces) frozen sweetened strawberries, chopped into large (frozen) chunks
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) heavy cream

Place frozen berries in a blender. Whisk sugar into cream. With blender running, slowly add cream-sugar mixture, stopping to stir 3 or 4 times, until ice cream is smooth with small bits of strawberries. Transfer to an ice-cream freezer and freeze until soft-serve consistency. Place in airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Garnish with fresh strawberries if desired.

Rocky Road Ice Cream

This is one of the two flavors of ice cream Joshua requested for his birthday. You can adapt the ice cream by adding whatever mix-ins (if any) you desire--cookie pieces, nuts, chopped up candy bars, etc.


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) whole milk
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) heavy cream
¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toasted walnuts (toast on cookie sheet in preheated oven at 350°F. for about 12 minutes)
Marshmallows (homemade or mini marshmallows)
Chocolate chips or chunks

1. In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, position a strainer over a medium bowl set in a larger bowl containing ice water. Heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, until steam appears and the milk is warm (about 175 degrees), about 5 minutes. While the milk is heating, beat the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until combined and pale yellow. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated.
3. Whisk half the warm milk mixture into the beaten yolks, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Whisk the milk-yolk mixture into the warm milk in the saucepan; set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until steam appears, foam subsides, and the mixture is slightly thickened or an instant-read thermometer registers 180 to 185 degrees. (Do not boil the mixture, or the eggs will curdle.) Immediately strain the custard into the bowl set in the ice bath; cool the custard to room temperature, stirring it occasionally to help it cool. Stir in the vanilla, then cover and refrigerate until an instant-read thermometer registers 40 degrees or lower, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. Pour the custard into the ice cream machine canister and churn, following the manufacturer’s instructions, until the mixture resembles soft-serve ice cream. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, layering with cooled marshmallow as mixture is transferred. (If using mini marshmallows, stir them into the ice cream with the nuts and chocolate chips). Press plastic wrap flush against the surface, cover the container, and freeze the ice cream until firm, at least 2 hours.


2 cups sugar
¾ cup hot water
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a saucepan combine sugar, hot water, and corn syrup. Cover and bring to a rolling boil; uncover and cook to 240°F. In a mixer bowl, soak gelatin in water. Slowly pour cooked mixture into gelatin mixture, beating constantly. When mixture begins to thicken, add vanilla. Beat until marshmallow sticks to beaters (about 10 minutes).

(Pour any leftover marshmallow mixture into a pan—the entire mixture will go in a buttered 8-inch square pan—and, when cool, turn out on a surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar; cut into squares with wet shears.)

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

I made these pancakes for Joshua's 9th birthday breakfast. I used my smallest cookie scoop (which is very small) to make miniature pancakes. I served Joshua 3 stacks of 3 pancakes each with a birthday candle in each stack. It looked very festive, and he thought it was neat to be able to eat 9 pancakes for breakfast! It was also a good lesson in multiplication: 3 x 3 = 9.

1 ¾ cups (7 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) cocoa
¼ cup (1 ¾ ounce) sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips (heaping)
2 eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
½ cup (4 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup (1 ¾ ounce) vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Combine eggs, buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and oil; add to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Let batter rest 5 to 10 minutes. Pour batter by ¼ cupfuls (or with muffin scoop) onto a lightly buttered hot griddle (about 350°F.). Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is done. Keep warm. Makes 12 pancakes.

To make as a mix, prepare four times the recipe as directed below. Then, measure out 400 gm of mix and place into quart-size freezer bags. When you're ready to make pancakes, combine the wet ingredients as directed above and add to your mix. This also makes a great gift--just include a tag with the mixing directions.


29 ¾ ounces all-purpose flour
4 ounces cocoa
7 ounces sugar
8 tablespoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Sweet and Sour Sauce

This is a really easy to make (and delicious) sweet and sour sauce. Serve with Mandarin Chicken.

1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
2/3 cup distilled white vinegar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained

In a medium saucepan, mix together sugar and cornstarch. Add water, distilled white vinegar, and tomato paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until mixture reaches desired color and consistency. Add drained pineapple.

Mandarin Chicken

Okay--I know you already have the recipe for Mandarin Chicken, but I wanted to make sure this recipe is included on our recipe blog!

½ cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (Accent)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg—slightly beaten
2/3 cup ice water
Yellow food coloring
About 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Cut chicken into small pieces (1/2 to 1 –inch pieces). Mix together all ingredients except chicken. Beat tempura sauce until smooth. Dip chicken in tempura batter and deep fry at 375°F. until done.

California Roll (Sushi)

Joshua chose Sushi and Mandarin Chicken for his birthday lunch. This is our favorite sushi version.

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
4 sheets nori
1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 crabsticks, torn into pieces (if desired—salmon can be used instead if desired))
(*Note: in addition to cucumber & avocado, matchstick-size pieces of red bell pepper and carrot along with a strip of cream cheese cut from a block are very good.)
Pickled ginger, for serving (if desired)
Wasabi, for serving (if desired)
Soy sauce, for serving

Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning. Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. If using untoasted nori (recommended), toast briefly under broiler until nori just turns green. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down. Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside. Cover with a damp cloth. Repeat until all of the rice has been used. You can also create sushi with nori on the outside by spreading rice on nori with wet hands, then adding vegetables and cream cheese and rolling up (without turning nori over). Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

Sushi Rice:

2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

Yield: 4 cups

Chango Bars

Joshua chose Chango Bars as his birthday treat for school to share with his class. We found this recipe last year in a book his class read, "Jalapeno Bagels," by Natasha Wing. (The book also includes a fabulous recipe for Jalapeno Bagels.) These bars are very yummy--they are basically a blondie with nuts and chocolate chips. Be careful not to overmix the batter at any stage--overmixing will create a thick top crust.

½ cup butter
½ cup margarine
2 cups (16 ounces) brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/3 cups (10 ounces) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (heaping cup if desired)
1 cup mixed nuts (I used Planter’s Deluxe Mixed Nuts)

Melt butter and margarine. While this is melting, mix together brown sugar and eggs (mix just until combined—do NOT overmix), then add melted butter and margarine. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and stir into sugar mixture—be careful not to overmix. (Overmixing will create a thick meringue-like crust on top of the bars). Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour mixture into greased 9 inch x 13 inch baking pan and bake 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees. (You might want to check the bars at 35 minutes.)

**Note: I doubled this recipe and baked it in a 13 x 18-inch cookie sheet. The batter fills up the pan, so I used a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil to create a taller side on my cookie sheet so the bars would have room to rise. It worked very well.**

Big Burger Cake

I made this cake for Joshua's 9th birthday. It is one of our favorite cakes. If you don't want to turn it into a burger cake, you can use the peanut butter frosting between the layers and on the outside (or you could use the ganache between the layers and the peanut butter frosting for the outside). Pipe a decorative border with the peanut butter frosting, and sprinkle chopped chocolate-coated peanuts (or chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips) on the top.

Chocolate Cake:
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour (or grease, then line with parchment, then grease again) two 8" or 9” round cake pans—if available, use one pan that has a contoured edge for the top bun. If using 8” pans, make sure the pans are at least 2-inches deep to accommodate batter.

To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.Bake the cakes for about 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.

Banana Cake:

½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter or margarine, softened
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
1 egg
¾ cup (6 ounces) mashed ripe bananas (about 1 ½ medium bananas)
¼ cup (2 ounces) sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon banana extract
1 cup (4-1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour one 8- or 9-inch round cake pan (using same size of pan as used for chocolate cake). In medium bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until blended. Beat in 1 egg; beat 1 minute. Beat in bananas, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and the banana extract. Beat in remaining banana cake ingredients on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Ganache for “Burger”:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate
6 ounces heavy cream

To make the ganache: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft. Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary. Let cool until thickened enough to use for frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting for “Bun”:

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup (9-1/2 ounces) creamy peanut butter
4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar
¼ cup (2 ounces) milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

In medium bowl, beat 1 cup butter with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth.

Decorator Icing (for ketchup, onions, lettuce, etc.):

1/3 cup (2 ¾ ounces) water
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 cups (1 pound 8 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar, divided
½ cup (3-1/4 ounces) solid vegetable shortening
1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon no-color almond extract
½ teaspoon clear vanilla extract
½ teaspoon no-color butter flavor

In large bowl, combine water and meringue powder; whip with electric mixer at high speed until peaks form. Add 2 cups sugar, one cup at a time, beating at low speed after each addition. Add remaining 4 cups sugar, shortening and corn syrup in 3 additions, blending well after each. Add salt and flavorings; beat at low speed until smooth. To thin, add up to 2 more tablespoons each water and corn syrup. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. Divide into portions and tint each portion as desired (red for ketchup, green for lettuce, white for onion, etc.)

To Decorate the Cake:

Over a wire rack, frost banana cake layer with chocolate ganache. Set aside. Place bottom chocolate cake layer on serving plate. Frost side and top of layer with peanut butter frosting. Place banana cake layer carefully on top (using a large spatula), touching up layer with ganache as necessary. Drizzle top edge of middle layer with raspberry preserves to look like ketchup or use red decorator icing. Use green decorator icing with a ruffled attachment on edges for lettuce, and make white rounded ribbons of frosting on edge for onion slices if desired. Place remaining (rounded) chocolate layer on top. Frost with peanut butter frosting. Immediately sprinkle top of cake with sesame seeds.