Banana Dream Cake
While we do have different standards when it comes to lots of things, Francesco and I both put this cake in our respective Top 3 Cakes of All Time lists. And you know what? Everyone who’s ever tried it probably has too.
What makes this cake even more special is that it’s a creation of my dear friend Katharine, who pretty much taught me all I know about baking over two long, cold, forbidding Montreal winters. When not freezing her ass off with me, Katharine worked on a “live aboard scuba diving boat” that specialized in catering to small groups of certified divers in places like Mexico and Alaska. Responsible for some of the cooking and baking on board, Katharine made birthday cakes for lucky guests. Once, tired of making the same ones over and over, she decided to wing it with some black bananas and, in the process, created a masterpiece.
Banana Dream Cake is one of those stalwarts I always come back to. It’s simple to make – the frosting involves dumping all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking them together – and everybody loves it. Plus, it uses up those bananas you’ve stashed in the freezer or let rot on the counter and always end up attracting flies and make your whole kitchen smell like banana so you throw them out before you get around to making banana bread. Yes, I’m looking at you. And though Katharine’s recipe calls for 4 bananas, this time around I used up all 6 I had frozen (Francesco was threatening an intervention) and it came out beautifully.
So the big question: what’s with the name? When I asked Kat this the other day she told me that, in an apparently forgotten but no less revelatory moment, I had named it the first time I tasted it. Perhaps one of my roommates will protest, but I do like to think that – though I can’t take credit for much – I’ve contributed something to this cake.
It is, after all, absolutely dreamy.
BANANA DREAM CAKE
This cake lives up to its name: flawless banana cake (better than the best banana bread you’ve ever had) + luscious frosting = dreamy. I usually make this cake a day ahead and frost it when I have time. If you want, you can make the cake in advance, freeze it, and defrost it the day of. Then just fill it with bananas and cover it with chocolate frosting and you’re good to go. We’ve also put chocolate chips in the cake, which add a nice crunch and aren’t over-the-top. If you’re someone who enjoys nuts and there’s no chance I’m coming over, I’m sure walnuts would be good, too.
One more thing: the frosting is pretty dreamy by itself. It’s one of the easiest frosting recipes I’ve ever seen and one of the most delicious.
Recipe by Katharine Caldwell.
SERVES 10 – 12
½ cup (1 stick / 115 grams) butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
⅓ cup buttermilk (or milk with a dash of white vinegar or lemon juice)
1 – 2 bananas, sliced into thin coins (for middle)
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.Grease two 8″ spring form pans.
In large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together for about a minute until creamy. Beat in the eggs then add the vanilla and beat to combine.
In another bowl, mix the banana with the buttermilk.
In a third bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then 1/2 the banana mixture, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the banana, then the rest of the flour. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake for 25-35 minutes or until an inserted wooden pick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting or freezing.
To prepare cake, frost one layer with about 1/4 of the chocolate frosting then top evenly with the banana slices. Place the other cake layer on top, and coat the top and sides with remaining frosting. Best made a day in advance.
Makes enough to frost the outside and inside of one Banana Dream Cake. Not that a bit extra would go to waste… Also: for mocha frosting, substitute half the milk with prepared coffee.
2½ cup icing sugar
½ cup cocoa
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, soft
¼ cup milk or water
1 tsp vanilla
Measure all ingredients into mixing bowl. Beat slowly until moistened. Add more milk or icing sugar if needed to get the consistency you want. Makes about 2 cups.
UPDATE: Gourmand John has weighed in. Having sent him a piece of cake to work with Francesco, who works one floor above (or below I never remember), I just received an email entitled “All Hail Banana Cake” in my inbox which reads: “Unable to restrain myself after Francesco brought me THE SLICE OF CAKE, I ate it for lunch. Truly delicious. Words do not suffice. As the French say, “Il vaut mieux manquer de le dire, que de le dire faiblement.” Thank you.”