06 March 2009

Ring Ring Ring: Banana Cake!

This banana cake is a birthday favorite, and we'll go as far as to say that it's the best banana cake we know of. In fact, after a different recipe yielded dense, banana bread-like layers, Bake's roommate was compelled to try this one to make up some baking karma (with Bake as an attentive sous-chef).

Check out his commentary (under the pseudonym Aunt Betty) and the recipe (from The Weekend Baker) below, plus a -- er, different -- take on the experience here.

I have to say, my friends and family just simply LOVE bananas! In fact, you could even say that they go BANANAS for them!! Now, I’ve always been somewhat of a banana purist myself. The thought of defiling a beautiful banana with any unnecessary additions seems like a sin against deliciousness. A banana split? I’ll take mine minus the split, thank you very much. So, as you can imagine, I was somewhat skeptical when one of my dearest girlfriends Martha told me I had to try banana cake. If it had been anyone other than her, I would have thanked them kindly, and then gone home and permanently removed them from my Christmas card list for ever suggesting such a culinary abortion. But this was Martha, and she has always had exquisite taste (she was the one, after all, that turned me onto Mary Higgins Clark) – so I thought I might as well give it a shot.

My first attempt at banana cake was a disaster, and I should have expected as much. It was doomed from the start, as I mistakenly decided to employ the use of Satan’s instrument – the internet. Now Pastor Mike has repeatedly reassured me that the internet is not only for the homosexuals and Presbyterians, so I have made it one of my New Years resolutions to start using it more (along with losing a couple pounds in my mid section and trying to stop giggling at church). I searched online for a recipe that looked appetizing, and found a seemingly good one on the Food Network website. The recipe was one of Paula Deen's, and though I firmly believe that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all – I have to say that this recipe was just the worst! I don’t know why I was surprised. That woman’s love of mayonnaise errs on the side of inappropriate. The cake was hard and chewy, and simply not bananany enough. After one bite, I threw the whole cake in the trash can. You should have seen the looks on my children’s faces. They really shouldn’t have been surprised though - I demand perfection from them as I do myself. Why, I would have done the same thing if they brought home a report card that was any less than straight A+’s – right in the trashcan it would go.

I immediately rang Martha, and in the nicest tone possible suggested that she was going straight to hell for wasting my time with such a terrible suggestion. Yearning to redeem herself, she said she would drop off the recipe she used post haste. One for forgiveness, I decided to give both Martha, and banana cake a second chance. The next morning, she dropped off a cookbook called “The Weekend Baker,” by Abigail Johnson Dodge. Although I found the pictures in the book to be garish and a bit flashy for my liking, Johnson Dodge’s anecdotes about her husband and children warmed me up. I found the book marked recipe and for banana cake, and banana cake – take two – was under way!!

The recipe was – well – a PIECE OF CAKE to follow!! And a lot of fun too! One fun suggestion Johnson Dodge recommends is using sour cream in her vanilla frosting instead of cream cheese to give it a tangy zing. And tangy it was! Well played Abigail! One little addition I would like to recommend is to thinly slicing a banana after frosting the cake, and use the slices to decorate the top. I put rings of banana in concentric circles on top, and it was just simply adorable. It’s the little things like this that make my husband love me.

In the end, I was glad I was strong-armed into making a banana cake. It was a huge hit – fluffy and moist and packed full of flavor. Martha sure may be on to something, and I look forward to defiling more healthy snacks by covering them with sugar and butter. Chocolate covered strawberries, here I come!!

Banana layer cake
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
16 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 c sugar
3 medium, very ripe bananas, peeled
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 c buttermilk
3/4 c chopped, toasted walnuts (we didn't use these, but they're optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour two round cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add the sugar and beat until combined. Add the bananas - no need to chop - and vanilla and beat until blended and only small bits of banana remain. Add the eggs two at a time, beating after each addition. Here is where the difference between blended and just blended seems important, probably to keep the cake from getting gluten-y: Add half the above flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add buttermilk and mix until blended, then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in those walnuts now, if you're so inclined.

Pour into pans evenly and bake about 30 min, until the tops are light brown. Let them cool in the pans on racks, then out of the pans on racks. Make your frosting (below)

Brush away loose crumbs from the layers and place one on a serving plate. Cover with about one cup of frosting, then place the other layer on top of it, flat/bottom side up. Make sure the sides are lined up and press down gently on the top. This makes it look much much better than that rounded mound of cake we all learned to frost as kids. If you do the presentation well here, it makes you think that you just might be able to start a job with Duff of Ace of Cakes.

Tangy vanilla frosting
16 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3 c confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c sour cream

Beat the butter until smooth and creamy, then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until very smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream and gently stir with a spatula until blended.

We used the vanilla frosting, but this fudgy frosting is especially fantastic, so we'll include this alternative too.

Fudgy frosting
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 c sugar
1 c evaporated milk
6 tbsp butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Meanwhile, combine everything else in a blender. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from heat, stir, and scrape into the blender Blend until the mixture is very thick (not pourable), about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then frost the cake as above.

1 comment:

  1. I do not like bananas much, but enjoy cooking especially food cake. Meetings not very good that this will taste like
    I will write again on his blog about this subject when completed



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