All Join In: Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Banana Cake

crocus
Book:
All Join In by Quentin Blake
1998, Random House

March is a funny month. It’s still cold (and, in some places, snowy), but the daffodils and crocuses are pushing up, the snowdrops are already blooming, and the trees are all covered in catkins and buds.
Now is a great time to put on your wellies and go for a muddy walk to look for signs of Spring.
daffodils
AJIa
Today’s book is All Join In, a book of seven poems written and illustrated by Quentin Blake. They are loosely related in theme, but all relate to a motley group of family/friends who get up to all sorts of activities, usually noisily and messily, but with great enthusiasm.
ajii
All Join In is all about making music…or just noise.


‘The Hooter Song’ concerns a pair of children who thoughtfully ‘help’ various adults by surprising them with bicycle horns.
‘Nice Weather for Ducks’ is about a muddy walk and joining in the duck song.
‘Sliding’ concerns various means of going downhill quickly: banister, sled, etc.
ajic
‘Sorting Out the Kitchen Pans’ is about some more helpful children who take up the noisy task of…sorting kitchen pans.
ajif
‘Bedtime Song’ is not a lullaby, but about joining in with yowling cats.
‘All Join In’ (part two) is just about all the various ways the family and/or friends all join in, whether with cleaning, painting, or eating a chocolate fudge banana cake.
ajia
These poems are fun for anyone, but they would be particularly fun for younger children, because they are meant to be read aloud. Little children love repetition that they can join in with, and each of these poems has that. They are often fun things to shout out, as well, such as BEEP-BEEP or QUACK QUACK QUACK! They also have the benefit of a simple but effective rhyme scheme which is good for demonstrating how rhyming and poetry work.  I certainly know what I will be bringing to class for World Book Day.
ajib
The illustrations, of course, are typical Quentin Blake: very lively, fun, and fluid, with lots of funny little details to find. They complement the messy, noisy poems very well and make the characters seem like people you’d love to hang out with.

or maybe not...
or maybe not…

The downside is that many children would probably be inspired by these poems to start sorting out the kitchen pans!  But that could be fun too. So get together in a group, make some noise, walk through mud, do some Spring cleaning, or go sledding, and when that’s tired you out, enjoy a slice of Ferdinand’s chocolate fudge banana cake.
cfbc7
cfbci1
Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Banana Cake
(grain-free)

Ingredients
For the cake:
1 greenish banana, thickly sliced
3 cups peanut butter (or almond, cashew, sunflower or other nut or seed butter)
2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1.5 cup plain cocoa powder
⅔ cup grated coconut
3 eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

For the frosting/topping:
2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups cream
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 banana, thickly sliced
2 cups grated coconut


cfbc1Method
Mix together all of the cake ingredients except for 1 cup of the chopped chocolate.  Put greaseproof paper in a round 8 inch cake tin and sprinkle in some of the chocolate you put aside.  Then pour in half of the batter and spread with a spatula to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle over some more chocolate and then put your banana slices on top of that.  Try to place them on their sides so that when the cake is cut they will be more visible.
cgbc4
After that, pour over the rest of the batter and top with the rest of the chocolate.  Bake at 180 C/356 F for 25 – 30 minutes, checking after 20 to make sure it is not getting overdone.  It’s OK (and in fact, desirable), for the cake to be a bit squidgy, like a brownie.  When the cake is done, wait for it to cool and turn it out.  While it is cooling you can make the frosting, which is a basic ganache.
cfbc8
Melt the 2 cups of chopped dark chocolate very gently in a double boiler (you can rig one by using a metal or Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of simmering water).  Remove from heat and then slowly whisk in the cream and coconut oil.  Put in the fridge for 10 – 20 minutes to cool — you want it to be pourable but not too runny.  Meanwhile, put your banana slices on top of the cake (you could try whole bananas like Ferdinand, but I suspected that would end in disaster). Then pour the ganache over the cake.  Bananas are quite difficult to coat, it turns out, so you may have to melt some extra chocolate and dip them in.  Lastly cover in shredded coconut — because if we’re having chocolate, fudge, and banana we might as well have peanut butter and coconut too.
And it’s OK if it looks super messy because that’s what we’re going for, right?

Also this is only a small cake but then again I’m not feeding five adults, twenty-one children, a cat, and a duck.
ajij

cfbc6
My kitchen table IRL after making this — anyone wanting to JOIN IN tidying it up??

cfbc9
This is the perfect treat to enjoy with a glass of milk after a walk in the cold March air. And although Pancake Tuesday is over, we might as well have a couple of days more of a carnival atmosphere of noise and rich food.  Especially if it’s raining.
cfbc2

ajih

Advertisements

Evening in a Sugar Orchard: Maple Ganache

Book:
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company.
Poem:
Evening in a Sugar Orchard by Robert Frost.

mar1Goodbye March!  Thankfully, it’s going out like a lamb, as it should, since it came in like a lion.
maplesyrup
March is sugaring season, when thawing days and freezing nights make the sap run in the trees.  Here is a beautiful poem about it by Robert Frost:
branchesThis poem can be read by anyone, but older children could really get into what Frost is doing with his use of language, rhyme, imagery, and his various references.  It’s also a fun poem to memorize and recite.  I particularly love the image of the sparks making constellations in the branches.  You could even go outside on a clear night and try to see  Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
TTKmar1Maple syrup is a wonderful and versatile sweetener which can be used in so many ways. In Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep, she shows what a big event sugaring used to be, with everyone pitching in to help, and then having a big open air feast at the end.  Many of you may not be able to  go sugaring, but if you can, you should!  I had to get mine from a bottle, but it was still great.  I used it to make a chocolate ganache.
tTKmar2ganache1
Maple Ganache

Ingredients
Dark chocolate
Cream
Maple syrup
Note: To make a thick ganache, chocolate and cream should be in a 1:1 ratio or equal parts. However, I substituted a quarter of the cream with maple syrup. To make enough to frost a small cake, I used two 180g (about 6 oz) bars of chocolate, melted, 270g (about 9 oz) cream, and 90g (about 3 oz) maple syrup.

Method
Melt the chocolate.  You can use the microwave, or you can rig up a double boiler by putting a metal or Pyrex bowl into a pan of water and bringing the water to a simmer, then putting the chocolate in the bowl, stirring occasionally until it is melted.  Remove from heat and slowly add cream and syrup, stirring until it is a glossy, even mixture.  Refrigerate for at least several hours, until set.  After this you can roll it into truffles, or eat it with a spoon.  Or refrigerate it only till cool, and frost a cake.
ganache2ganache3cake
Bring your cake to a sugaring-off party (and have sugar on snow for a treat)!
TTKMar3

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!


In the Forest: Raspberry Buckle

Book:
In the Forest by Marie Hall Ets
1967, the Viking Press, New York.

dahlia1
I haven’t had time to walk in the forest lately, but our garden is looking pretty jungly at the moment.  You can imagine there might be some lions or bears in here.


DSCF1374
In the Forest is a cute little vintage book which would be suitable for children of all ages.
intheforest
intheforest1 It tells the story of a child who goes for a walk in the forest, and along the way he encounters many animals, including kangaroos, a lion and some bears.  He isn’t afraid, however, and they don’t seem very fierce. They all decide to join him and parade through the forest.
intheforest2 They stop for a picnic of peanuts, jam, ice cream and cake, and then they play games (Drop-the-Handkerchief, London-Bridge-is-Falling-Down, Hide-and-Seek).  Eventually the boy’s father finds him and takes him home, but he knows he will come back and play with the animals again.
intheforest3
It is a very sweet little story with charmingly simple illustrations.  It could work very well for teaching English because there is a lot of repetition and text which is suitable for performing actions (the lion combing his hair, the parade, the games, etc.).

For a simple story I thought I would make a simple little cake.  The one in the picture appears to be some kind of bundt cake, but I thought one that took advantage of seasonal fruit might be nice.  A buckle is an old-fashioned cake/pudding which often has a streusel topping, but I just used a Victoria sponge mix.
buckle1
Raspberry Buckle

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 small punnet of raspberries
Ice cream or cream to serve.

Method
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.  Combine all the ingredients (except the raspberries) with a wooden spoon or mixer until you have a soft batter.  Do not overmix.  Arrange half the raspberries on the bottom of the cake tin, and pour the batter over the top.  Then press the rest of the berries into the top of the batter, and drizzle a spoonful of honey over them.  Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden.  Turn out when cool. To make the cake more portable for picnics in the forest, you could punch out individual mini cakes with round cookie cutters and wrap them in wax paper and string.  They can be enjoyed hot or cold with ice cream, although I had mine with cream.
buckle2
Take on a walk in the forest and play hide and seek!

jams
Don’t forget the peanuts and jam for the bears!