Grown-up Birthday Cake: Flourless chocolate cake with fresh bananas,caramel and ganache

Is it tacky that I wanted to make my own birthday cake this year? For several months I had been dreaming of this cake that was just too decadent to make for no reason, and I didn't think my family would go for it for their birthday. You see, my August birthday is the last in a string of birthdays that start in March. So after months of variations on chocolate and vanilla cakes with chocolate and vanilla buttercream, I'm over traditional birthday cake.

My idea was to layer fresh sliced bananas, homemade caramel sauce, and ganache on top of a sunken flourless chocolate cake while the cake is still in the pan for a trifle effect. I'm happy to say it was a rich, gooey success! My husband said it reminded him of a turtle, which gave me the idea to use candies nuts instead of bananas. My mom suggested marshmallows which would be yummy too! Lots of possibilities with this cake.

This is a great make-ahead dessert since the finished cake should chill several hours or overnight to get the caramel layer nice and set. Make the caramel 2 days ahead, bake the cake the day before, and add the ganache the day of.

I apologize for the lack of photos, but I didn't plan to blog about it. After we ate it, my mom insisted. The photo with the white chocolate curls is something I made for a school auction using the same cake recipe and a dark chocolate ganache -- possibly the most beautiful thing I've made!

{The Caramel}
I used this recipe - originally from Joy of Cooking. I have noticed that other recipes call for cooking all ingredients at once and I'm not sure if it yields different results (comments welcome!). All I know is this method makes some insanely good caramel!  Follow the link for some great, in-depth instructions on making caramel.

Caramel Sauce
1 C granulated sugar
1/4 C water
1/2 C butter (1 stick)
1/2 C heavy/whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve sugar and water over low heat. When sugar has dissolved, bring to a boil. Allow to boil without stirring for 2-3 minutes. Continue to boil until syrup is a deep amber caramel color, gently swirling or scraping the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat and add butter, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and add cream (mixture will suddenly froth). Stir in vanilla and pour caramel in a jar, it will thicken more as it cools.

{The Cake}
I have been using this Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe (minus the glaze) from for a couple of years now. It is so easy! The recipe calls for beating the egg whites separately, which I have tried, but it is a little too light and spongy for my taste. I prefer a dense cake, more like a brownie or tort, so I've adapted the recipes slightly.

Flourless chocolate cake
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 C butter (1-1/2 sticks)
6 eggs
12 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8 or 9" springform pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan or double boiler and stir til smooth. Set aside and cool. Beat eggs and sugar on medium speed til thick and pale, around 4 minutes. Fold in chocolate and vanilla. Pour and bake 45 minutes. Cake will sink after removing from oven. Do not remove from pan.

Slice 2 bananas into the well in the cake. Pour the caramel sauce over bananas (warm slightly in microwave if caramel has been chilled). You should have a fairly smooth surface. Allow to chill several hours or overnight.

{The Ganache}
Ganache is so easy and can be used so many ways. Dip, glaze, chill & roll truffles, or beat into a fluffy frosting. It's fudgey and elegant. You typically use equal parts chocolate and cream, more or less depending on what it will be used for. You can add a little butter for an impressive glossy finish.

12 oz milk chocolate chips
1 C heavy/whipping cream

On the stove, heat cream just to boiling. Pour over chocolate and let sit 10 minutes. Stir til smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, to achieve a thick but pourable consistency.

With cake still in pan, pour ganache over caramel. Start in the center and work your way outward in a spiral. Chill until set. Before serving, run a knife around the inside of the pan and remove the sides of the pan.


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