Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The moistest banana cake

Saturday was M.'s son's birthday numero uno and I had the honor of baking his very first birthday cake. T. has never had cake so to play it safe, M. asked me to do something with flavors he’s familiar with. He likes banana, so I made banana cake.

While digging around for recipes, I came upon a post by Dave Lebovitz begging the question, “Banana cake or banana bread – what’s the difference?” I was determined to find a recipe that would make a distinctive, light, fluffy cake rather than a heavy, loaf-like bread. I found a good recipe for sure, and the “cake” came out incredibly moist and scrumptious, but I’ve come to the conclusion that anytime you mix bananas with eggs, butter and flour, you’ll get something that tastes just like… banana bread.

The frosting here so simple, easy to make, and super-yummy. I got a thumbs from M. and her entire family except T., who doesn’t like cream cheese and unfortunately got stuck with a funky banana not-so-much-a-glaze. Poor little guy.

Recipe: The moistest banana cake
Adapted from Recipe Zaar
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, depending on how sweet you like your frosting

1. Preheat oven to 275°.
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
3. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
5. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
7. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
8. Stir in banana mixture.
9. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
10. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes.
11. This will make the cake very moist.
12. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
13. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla.
14. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
15. Spread on cooled cake.
16. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top of the frosting, if desired.

Notes on the recipe:
• This cake bakes at a very low temperature compared to most cake recipes. Depending on your oven, the baking times may vary. Just be sure to check it for doneness (till toothpick comes out clean) at the 50 minute mark, then every 10 minutes thereafter if needed.

• You’ll notice that one of the steps is to throw the cake right into the freezer as it finishes baking. This makes the cake extra-moist. I don’t know enough about food science to explain exactly why this works, but it makes sense to me. The water molecules probably become suspended as ice particles rather than evaporating, and then releases as liquid back into the cake. Whatever. I will get back to you after rummaging through my Harold McGee for some real answers.

• The recipe makes enough for a 9”x13” square pan. I wanted a round cake, so I filled a 9” diameter pan in half and baked three additional mini cakes in little ramekins – one for me, on one for T., and the other for M.’s daugher.

• When making the frosting, don’t add all the sugar in at once. After creaming the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla, start with one cup and see if it’s sweet enough, then add more to your liking. I was satisfied with just 1 cup.

• If you’d like, sprinkle frosted cake with some chopped walnuts.


Anonymous said...

OH! that looks lovely! I have to try this one.
Let me know if you try any of my recipes and how it works for you.

Grace said...

i love it when my bananas get mushy and i'm forced to make a cake. any excuse to eat cream cheese frosting is welcome by me! :)

Undercover Cook said...

MF, I wish I could have shared this with you - I think you would have enjoyed it. I will definitely be trying out your red velvet cake recipe!

Grace, I agree, overripe banana's are bakers' gold. This particular frosting falls somewhere between a cream cheese and buttercream frosting. Not a bad thing. :)