I had a sudden request to provide a birthday cake for a party for a banana-loving 2-year-old. How do you say no to that? This recipe is virtually identical to my mother’s banana bread, just re-engineered a bit to make it more “cake”-like. I took away one of the three bananas (since bananas are dense) and a third of the flour. I also changed to a layer cake mixing method since a tight, uniform crumb is one of the defining features of cake. The formula now goes like this:
2 overripe bananas (for a total of 1 – 1 1/2 cups mashed banana)
1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs at room temperature
7.25 ounces (1 2/3 cups) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
Make sure your bananas are at least this ripe so they’re soft and sweet enough to incorporate easily. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’re going to need to purée them instead of just mashing them with a fork so you don’t end up with large, uneven chunks in the cake (a uniform crumb not only makes the cake more appealing to look at and to chew, it makes the layer stronger). Put the bananas and buttermilk in the bowl of a food process and process them until they’re smooth.
Add the eggs and vanilla and process again briefly until the mixture is even.
Now sift the cake flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir them together. Add the soft butter and beat on low until it’s fully incorporated into the flour mixture.
Add about a third of the banana mixture and beat the batter on medium-high for about a minute and a half to blend and activate gluten (yes, you want some of that in this instance since it’ll give this rich cake the strength it needs to stand up!).
Scrape the bowl down…don’t forget to scrape the bottom!
Now add the remaining banana mixture in thirds, beating about 15 seconds between each addition.
Scrape, scrape, scrape!
Pour the batter out into a prepared pan.
Smooth it out…
Bake the cake 30-40 minutes until the top springs back when tapped lightly. I was rushing around the kitchen yesterday tapped way too hard (I was fooled by the extra browning you get with banana…it looked done but it wasn’t). I was rewarded with a slight handprint in the top of my layer.
No problem. I shaved the very top crust away with a bread knife to even it out a tad. By the time I poured some warm ganache over it you couldn’t tell.
Sorry I can’t show you what a slice looks like, but it wasn’t my cake!
The reaction from the birthday boy: yummm……