Gourmandistan

Does aging make banana cake with coffee buttercream, chocolate and walnut praline better?

Banana cakePerhaps it was the praline that prevented Michelle from immediately warming to this cake. After announcing to Steve that she was going to make something sweet out of a small bunch of overly ripe bananas, Michelle quickly thought of pairing it with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache, but struggled for a bit to find a way to insert a nut-laden layer as well. Steve did manage to raise a bit of interest with the idea of a baklava-esque layer of chopped nuts and honey, but Michelle feared the mixture would lead to sogginess, and decided on praline instead. As Steve sat in the other room awaiting his eventual slice, he overheard Michelle grumbling about the praline and how she thought it might be too thick. (Michelle often voices her fears of dishes not turning out correctly, generally right before Steve tears into whatever is being grumbled about.)

Banana cake

Praline panic put aside, the banana cake was layered, iced, sliced and served. Steve, as usual, enjoyed it from the start, but Michelle was a bit hesitant to pronounce the combination fit for inclusion in the Gourmandistan canon. (It is possible that Michelle, like Steve, still believes this may be the best banana cake ever invented.) On subsequent servings, however, Michelle decided that she liked the cake just fine. Was her growing affection the result of nights in the refrigerator blending the flavors of coffee, chocolate, banana, walnut and rum into better harmony, or was it the passing of time between the praline worry and the proof of the sugared walnuts’ positive contribution? Outside of Gourmandistan, the truth may never be known—but if you make this cake yourself, you will undoubtedly know it’s delicious.

BANANA CAKE WITH COFFEE BUTTERCREAM, CHOCOLATE AND WALNUT PRALINE

  • Servings: one 8-inch layer cake
  • Print

(cake adapted from Julie Richardson’s Vintage Cakes/praline filling adapted from this/ganache adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking/buttercream adapted from Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey’s Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

Banana Cake:

  • 12-1/2 oz. (2-1/2 c.) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1-1/2 c.)
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 oz. (2 cups) sugar
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 TB dark rum

Preheat oven to 350° F, with a rack at the center. Butter three 8″ cake pans and line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Mix together banana and buttermilk in a small bowl.

In bowl of a stand mixture, using the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and vanilla together for about 5 minutes, until fluffy. Blend in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides with a spatula as necessary. At low speed, add 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of banana mixture and so forth until ingredients are used up, scraping down the bowl from time to time.

Divide batter among the three pans and level off. Bake for about 28 minutes, until centers spring back when touched lightly and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers on racks for 20 minutes or so. Remove from pans and carefully remove paper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of rum over each layer of the cake.

Walnut Filling:

  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 TB dark rum
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 3/4 c toasted chopped walnuts

Combine brown sugar, salt, butter and rum in a heavy saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Add a little of the hot mixture to the egg yolk, stirring, to temper. Add egg mixture to the pan, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in walnuts.

Cover bottom layer of cake with walnut filling. Top with another layer of cake.

Ganache Filling:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/2 c. + 1 TB heavy cream
  • 2 TB butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Heat cream to a boil. Pour half of it over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir with a spatula until incorporated. Add remaining cream and stir. When cream is incorporated, add butter and stir more until smooth and shiny.

Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until ganache reaches spreading consistency. Then spread over the second layer of cake. Top with third layer.

Coffee Buttercream:

  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) very soft unsalted butter
  • 6-7 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Mix together milk, espresso powder and vanilla. Place butter, 4 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar and liquid in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until smooth. Add additional sugar, one cup at a time, until thick, smooth and spreadable. (It usually takes about 6 cups.)

Ice top and sides of cake with buttercream.

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29 comments

  1. I think I have aged enough to enjoy this cake just how ye did it. It would have no chance to age around here. So, on both interpretations of the headline, the point is moot.

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