You know those weeks where it seems like no one’s eating the bananas and you end up with a whole pile of ’em destined for (a) the trash or (b) the oven? That was the situation at my house on Saturday when I realized I had six (!) totally overripe bananas. I had some extra time, so I thought I’d look for a project in the high-altitude baking book I inherited from a friend. I was originally thinking banana bread, but I came across a recipe for banana cake that sounded really fantastic. I had all of the ingredients (except for buttermilk, which is super easy to make at home), so I got to work.
Here’s the recipe from Patricia Kendall’s High-Altitude Baking:
Makes two 9-inch layer cakes or one 9×13-inch cake
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract (I recommend cutting this to 1/2 teaspoon)
2/3 cup buttermilk, divided
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9×13-inch baking pan. Mix and sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add oil, almond extract, 1/3 cup buttermilk and mashed bananas. Beat for 1 minute with a mixer at low speed. Add eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk; beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Fold in chopped nuts, if desired. Pour batter into pan(s).
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake(s) from oven and cool in pans for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove cake(s) from pan(s) and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Here’s the frosting I used (from FoodNetwork.com):
Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for two 9-inch round cakes
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Here’s the deal. I was initially a bit disappointed with this cake recipe. I took the cakes out after 35 minutes and my toothpick came out clean; I was worried that I had overbaked them, though, because they had pulled away from the sides of the pans. The cakes came out of their pans nicely after the initial cooling time, and I waited until they had cooled completely before assembling and frosting them. (I really should have leveled them better, I know, but I didn’t want to waste any cake!)
Dr. O was anxious for a slice, so I cut one as soon as I finished with the frosting. The cake was moist and it definitely tasted like cake (not banana bread, which I was half expecting), but the texture was borderline sponge-y. Also, the edges that had pulled away from the pan were too firm.
It was looking like the classic “boohoo, all that effort for nothing” situation UNTIL something magical happened.
As the cake sat overnight, the moisture from the cream cheese frosting seeped in and fixed everything. On that second day, the cake was extra moist and not at all sponge-y; the edges were softened as well. Final result: Knock-your-socks off banana cake with to-die-for cream cheese frosting. I just wish it had tasted this way from the very beginning. I’m going to shave three minutes off of the baking time next time to see if the cake improves; I’ll post updates as I get this one figured out.
TIPS: I mentioned that it’s easy to make your own buttermilk at home. All you have to do is put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1-cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the cup with milk. Let the mixture stand for at least 5 minutes and then use it in the recipe as you would packaged buttermilk. (I usually use 1% with white vinegar, but I’ve heard you get the best results with whole milk.)