Elvis Cake!

Last week I made an epic cake to share with my friends. It's called Elvis cake because his favorite sandwich was supposedly peanut butter and banana and this cake is based on that. It's three layers of banana bread, filled with peanut butter and bananas and iced in dark chocolate icing. Oh yes.

I had it for the first time at an organic grocery store near my work and I have not seen it since, so I decided to make my own. I highly recommend this cake to anyone who likes pb&b sandwiches, it is guaranteed to please. Also, it was one of the easiest layer cakes I have ever made, because the banana bread is dense and easy to handle (it didn't even really need a crumb coat when I iced it), and the filling is a no-fuss affair. It is best eaten with a glass of ice cold milk while listening to Elvis records with your friends! When we ate the cake, we all agreed that it needed more filling than I had originally put in, so I have adjusted the recipe accordingly.

Elvis Cake

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp milk
4 eggs
2 heaping cups mashed bananas (4-6 large ripe bananas)*
4 perfectly ripe bananas for filling
2/3 cup butter
1 jar of creamy peanut butter
1/2 jar of creamy almond butter
2 tbsp brown sugar

You will also need enough dark chocolate icing to ice the outside of the cake. I think it took me 3 cups, but 4 would have been even better. I usually make my own using this recipe from Martha Stewart, but be aware that it is a significant time investment. Being short on time but okay for money lately, I was naughty and bought a very expensive jar of icing from Williams-Sonoma that was nearly identical to the one I usually make. Any really good chocolate icing will do, but I encourage you to make sure it is deep, dark, real chocolate, since others tend to be too sweet and will ruin the mild sweetness of the cake.
*Hint: If you have a bunch of bananas that are a little to hard to mash you can microwave them for 30 seconds at a time until they are soft and easy to mash.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
2. Add mashed bananas and milk, and beat until combined.
3. Slowly add all the dry ingredients (except the brown sugar; that's for the filling), and beat until just combined.
4. Divide the batter into equal thirds, and bake each batch in a greased 9-inch round spring form pan at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, just until the edges brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. When they are done, remove them from the pan and let them cool upside-down on a wire rack. I do this because I hate leveling the layers of cake before assembly. A lot of people level the layers (cut off the little dome in the center) to make sure the cake layers do not slide off. I forgo this step because for one, it's hard, and for two, you do not want to throw out the cut off parts so you eat them, and then you have no room for a slice of the finished cake. I find that if I invert the cake while it is hot, gravity slightly compresses the tops just enough to make leveling the layers unnecessary. Huzzah!

To assemble the cake:
1. Make sure that your cake layers are absolutely, completely cool before starting to assemble the cake.
2. Mix together the brown sugar, peanut butter, and almond butter in a large bowl.
3. Bust out a fancy cake plate and put strips of parchment paper around the edge, and set the first cake layer in the center. (The parchment paper will slide out easily when you are done icing the cake and your cake plate will be spotlessly clean, and it looks very professional and fancy!)
4. Spread half of the peanut butter mixture over the layer of cake, stopping about 1/4 inch from the edge.
5. Slice two bananas about 1/4 inch thick and lay the slices over the peanut butter. Make sure they are very close together but not overlapping.
6. Lay the next layer on top and repeat steps 4 and 5. Add the last layer, and give them a little press.
7. Ice the cake with your favorite dark chocolate icing, remove the parchment paper, and try not to eat the whole thing at once!


I think I am turning into a hippy...

Not that I wasn't a bit of a hippy to begin with (mom was a hippy and raised me as such, though I never did like brown rice, lol), but lately I have been getting very serious about greening this house and everything in it. Which is great, because not only does it save the environment, but most of the time it saves me serious money too. I have been getting more and more ambitious with my efforts this year as opposed to the last couple... It started off pretty slowly when we moved into our current apartment; all the light bulbs were immediately replaced with energy-efficient ones, then we stated making paper out of our junk mail, and then we started a little garden and a compost bin, and got a reduced water shower head (which is the best thing ever because the shower stays hot forever).

That was about it for the first couple of years. But this year I kicked it into overdrive: I swore off grocery bags and have been bringing my own everywhere, I bought eco-friendly organic cotton/hemp/recycled rubber sneakers and organic cotton socks when my old ones wore out, I found a very affordable dresser for Dennis that is made with sustainable wood, e-zero glue, and is certified eco-friendly. And Dennis and I got beautiful organic cotton sheet sets in blue and green for our bed, since his old ones were pretty ragged, and I sewed the flat sheets into a new duvet cover for the comforter. The garden is even bigger this year, and I used all organic seeds and seedlings, plus organic plant food. Since no one has sprayed pesticides on the back yard for at least 10 years I'd say that my garden is now good enough to be certified, lol! And now I m going to start making laundry soap for our house from natural ingredients. I haven't tried it yet but when I do I will post the results.

And I'm not stopping there. One thing that I have been trying to work on recently has been to reduce the amount of trash I generate. I find that even when I carry my own shopping bags to the store, I still end up coming home with plastic stuff that gets thrown out. When I buy loose fruits I end up putting them in those little plastic produce bags, and then when I get them home I just toss them. So I have started to crochet some little mesh bags with long-ish handles that can be tied shut to replace them, and they are made out of lovely organic cotton. I always like making functional things out of somewhat luxurious materials, and this little bag is so yummy to hold and use. I have only made one, but I want to make 2 more and that should be enough for my usual groceries.

Next on my list is to eliminate the packaging I bring home when I buy sugar, flour, and grains. I buy them in bulk as often as I can but I still have to put them in plastic bags to get them up to the counter, only to decant them into a sealed container when I get home. So I am going to make little drawstring bags similar to the organic cotton jelly bags I made last year, but they will be slightly larger and have lighter drawstrings, and I am toying with the idea of embroidering little labels to sew to the front as well. I may make quite a few of these since I want to use them for things that are too small for the mesh bags, like carrots and mushrooms.
And, lastly, I bought some yardages of organic cotton in bright colors right before I decided to stop buying craft supplies for the rest of the year, and I have decided to do a series of shopping totes modeled after my very favorite one that I use all the time because the design is just perfect for groceries. They will have cute little reinforced bottoms made from quilting fabrics too. There will only be a limited run of these bags since I cannot go buy more fabric, and each one will be different. I am super excited to get these done, and when I do I will make time to list everything I have been stockpiling on etsy.

Well, that was a lot of blah, blah, blah, so maybe I should get to it!



Well, I did it: I conquered my fear of trying to draw something on the computer. I got a Spoonflower account and just did this simple little pattern:

I am in love with this fabric. I have always been on the lookout for a simple mushroom fabric like this and it has always eluded me. Not bad for a first try on a cheap-o version of Photoshop. The colors and sizing are just what I wanted, except for a small problem that is easily fixable:

See the little red line? That happened because I tried to do a kind of half-drop repeat on my own without having a clue what I was doing. This was, of course, before I realized that the website will do that for you. So I am going to fix it and re-upload the file and probably blow twenty bucks on a yard of this stuff. I want an apron and a purse out of it, and then I want to make some things for etsy with it too, but that will be later on. My little pile of stuff to list on etsy is growing and growing, but I have so many projects to finish that I cannot find the time to list all of it. It is a vicious cycle! But I am thoroughly enjoying myself all the same, and that is what is important.

In other news, Dennis is all moved in and it is going well. The cats have adjusted relatively well, except little miss Precious keeps picking fights with Kyoto and harassing him to no end when they are in the same room together. I feel bad for him because I thought he would be mean to the other cats but he has been very well behaved - he and the other male cat, Buddy, get along just fine - but Precious has turned out to be a little tyrant! Oh well, hopefully she will learn to tolerate him someday. I am off to work in the garden today; it has been nice and sunny but very cold here the past couple of days, so I hope the plants will not get a chill at night. Wish me luck!