Yeahhh… bananas are really not my thing. They creep me out with their mushy texture and their stinky banana stink and their brown spots and their slimy peels… I waxed poetic about my disdain towards bananas when Baked Sunday Mornings made Bananas Foster Fritters last year… but OHMYGODILOVEDTHEM. I slowly came to realize that although I don’t want to touch a raw banana with a 10-foot pole, they are quite delicious when you bake them into things like bread, fried dough, and… CAKE. That does, of course, mean I have to touch them a minimal amount, but the tradeoff is high, very high; no higher than this week, in fact. The group made Bananas Cake from the Banana chapter of Baked Elements, and this cake is so spectacular that its lovely photo even graces the cover of the book. So in spite of my aversion to bananas, I was actually *really* excited to make this cake, which I can partially attribute to the cake from my recent wedding. One of the flavors (the best one) of my cake from Sweet Tooth Confections was banana cake with peanut butter mousse and salted caramel. (I know.) Given what I just wrote, you might be asking what on earth possessed me to taste this flavor at our cake tasting, let alone actually choose it for the real cake… All I can tell you is that the cake was transcendent. I didn’t expect to like it, but it was really different than the same ol’ boring wedding cake flavors, so I was curious. The amazing combination of flavors in my mouth was unlike anything I had tasted before, and the moistness of the banana cake made me want to weep with ecstasy, so I took that as a sign that it was a good choice. Oh yes– and hubby loved it too.
Soooo, I’ve been
fiending for daydreaming about this cake for the past 7 weeks, and I noticed a while back that Bananas Cake was coming up on the BSM schedule– happy joy! It’s slightly different because the caramel is swapped out for chocolate, but when is chocolate ever a bad thing? The cake consists of banana cake, peanut butter filling (which I had made before for the Oopsy Daisy Cake— mmmm), whipped milk chocolate ganache frosting/filling, and a poured dark chocolate glaze. (That’s right, two filling layers and two frosting layers. BAM.) Four elements there, so this is not a quick cake, but actually none of the steps are terribly difficult, and you shall reap great confectionary rewards if you take the time. *contented sigh*
I started with the peanut butter filling, which you can set aside all day until you’re ready to use it. It is simply made by beating softened butter, creamy peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract in a stand mixer. Frankly, I could eat this stuff with a spoon right out of the bowl. But then my cake would be sad.
I was dreading the cake part slightly because of the whole banana thing, and it turned out that my bananas weren’t ripe enough. On the advice of Starry Eyed Baker, I roasted them in the oven to speed along the process. Internet searching turned up several sources that recommended baking for about 40 minutes at 300°F, but mine only needed 20 minutes because they were already somewhat ripe. The nasty part was unpeeling them– the peels were almost black and the flesh was uber soft, oozing what I presume to be sugar syrup. (For the life of me, I don’t get why people eat these things on purpose.) I just had to suck it up and keep working.
Anywho, the batter is made by creaming the butter and vegetable shortening in a stand mixer, then adding eggs, mashed banana, and vanilla extract, followed by alternating additions of flour and buttermilk. A couple more notes about bananas:
- Make sure your bananas are completely and evenly mashed. I mashed mine with a fork and found several gross, larger clumps that kept clinging to the mixer paddle, which were promptly exiled from the cake batter. I will pulse them a couple of times in the food processor next time.
- Your batter may look a bit curdled after adding the mashed bananas to the mixer bowl. The recipe says that if this happens, you should just keep mixing. I mixed for a good while and even turned the speed up to help it emulsify, but it didn’t help much. I was therefore a little worried, but it came together perfectly fine once I added the dry ingredients.
The finished batter was thick and a little chunky from the banana bits, but it had come together nicely. And really, buttermilk in baked goods makes everything better!
The prescribed baking time is 35-40 minutes, but my BAKED cakes usually take about 30. In this case, my lovely oven decided to fluctuate in temperature spontaneously, so you know, that was AWESOME. (*grumble*) I realized that it was running a bit warm, so I opened the door for a couple of minutes to release some heat. I wasn’t sure if these rapid temperature changes would harm the cake; it baked in about 32 minutes, but I feared that it had over-baked a bit. (It did, in fact, end up a touch dry and quite crumbly.)
While the cakes cooled, I made the milk chocolate ganache frosting. Some people in the group struggled with this part of the recipe, and given my past struggles with BAKED frosting, which can be rather temperamental, I was apprehensive. What I have found after more ruined frosting batches than I’d care to admit is that adhering to temperature instructions in BAKED’s frosting recipes is crucial to success. This should be a soft, silky frosting, and it’s really not hard to make, but it’s important to follow the directions. The frosting is made by pouring boiling cream (with a little corn syrup) over 8 ounces each of milk and dark chocolates. Let it sit for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then carefully whisk until all the cream is incorporated and you have a totally homogenous chocolate mixture. Let it cool to room temperature, then add butter pieces gradually while beating the frosting on medium speed.
There are two steps where it can go wrong: Your frosting can easily be a soupy mess if you do not let the ganache cool completely to room temperature before adding the butter. Also, make sure your butter is not too warm; the recipe calls for butter that is “cool, but not cold”.
You will know it’s right when you see your frosting magically fluff up into a shiny cloud and start clinging to the sides of the bowl in that perfect “whipped” pattern. It will become much lighter in color, just like the picture in the book. (I love when that happens.) Texture-wise, it will look very silky and smooth, and it will be light as air. I was surprised at how light it was– I was expecting a heavier frosting because of the chocolate. But hey, adding 3 sticks of butter has a way of lightening up a bowl of chocolate!
Last month when we made Carrot Cake, I wrote about how I’d been eagerly awaiting a layer cake recipe, even though I used to dread them so much. I now look forward to them, even though they’re not the quickest to make. I’m pleased to say that my filling and frosting skills are coming along nicely with all the practice I’ve gotten since joining Baked Sunday Mornings! This cake was a snap to fill and stack, and the crumb coat went on easily as well. The peanut butter filling was much thicker and heavier than the milk chocolate ganache, which was an interesting juxtaposition, since you layer both of them in-between each cake layer. The chocolate frosting was at once easy to work with and a bit of a beast; it spread so smoothly and easily that at times it was hard to control because of its big, soft swirls. Fortunately I managed to tame the wild milk chocolate ganache in the end! (I had a ton left over, by the way– possibly enough to frost another small cake.)
In the fridge it went after the crumb coat, and again after the full frosting coat was complete. I ended up storing it in the fridge in this state overnight, as it was quite late by this time. If you plan to do this, make sure to take the cake out and let it warm up a bit before continuing on with the last step (chocolate glaze), as the warm chocolate that you will pour on top may not play nice with the cold frosting.
I made the glaze the next morning and let it cool to almost room temperature. You first pour a thin layer on top, just to the edges, let that set in the fridge for 5 minutes, then pour the rest so that it drips down the sides. I just loooove the look of those luxurious dark chocolate streams…
I did have about ⅓ of the glaze left over– I didn’t want to drown the cake. The last step is garnishing the top with chopped salted peanuts. I put the finished cake back in the fridge for a good while to firm up, which is better for cutting anyway, especially given the soft nature of the milk chocolate frosting.
As always, cutting into a 3-layer cake is a special experience– this never gets old. The feeling of the knife penetrating the chocolate surface, followed by each successive layer in the cake, gives me chills. I cut the cake cold in order to get a cleaner slice– this was bound to be a messy one, what with the three different frostings!
The chocolate, banana, and peanut butter flavors were splendid together. Although, much to my surprise, my favorite bites were the ones with primarily banana and peanut butter… The chocolate was not my favorite part of this cake. (Did I just say that out loud?!) If I were to change one thing about this recipe, I would probably double the peanut butter filling, as it gets overtaken by the abundance of chocolate. I do believe I’m going to make a version of this cake using BAKED’s salted caramel and vanilla-PB frosting in the future, but this is definitely a keeper in my repertoire…
Ohhh, this cake. As the recipe intro in the book states, it is, indeed, greater than the sum of its parts: fluffy, rich, not too sweet, and loaded with so many wonderful and harmonious flavors. You need this cake in your life, even if you’re banana-averse like me. And if you’re a banana enthusiast, well… this might be your favorite thing to eat. Ever. The recipe for Bananas Cake can be found at Baked Sunday Mornings, and please take a look at the other bakers’ gorgeous cakes as well– it’s always cool to see everyone’s interpretations. This is a great cake for a summer celebration or BBQ. (Yes, I’ll be bringing it on Monday with a piece cut out of it. What, it’s family…) Happy Memorial Day weekend and HELLLLOOOO summer!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.