Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Last week, after our neighbors invited us to their Saturday evening cookout, I immediately spied the very ripe bananas on our kitchen counter and texted back that I would bring dessert. I've been meaning to share my mom's banana layer cake (While I'm pretty sure that my mom didn't write this recipe, it's one of the cakes I remember her making often in my youth) here for a long time, but with so many new recipes out there, it just kept getting pushed back on my to-do list. The cookout invitation created a perfect excuse to make this sweet banana cake covered in creamy, rich, cream cheese frosting, then share it with all of you! The cake is delicious all by it's lonesome, but after smoothing on the decadent frosting there is a definite "WOW" sentiment shared by all who try it.
When I begin a baking project, or any cooking project with a number of steps, I like to do all of the prep work at the beginning so that when it comes to combining ingredients, I can just dump and mix.
Since this is a banana cake, I began by preparing the bananas. While this cake has a lovely banana flavor, you only need one cup. I grabbed for 3 of the very ripe bananas sitting on my countertop.
When it comes to baking with bananas, my motto is "The riper the better". Extra ripe bananas "mash" easier and they are extra sweet which adds to the overall flavor of the cake.
How ripe is too ripe? As far as I am concerned, as long as there is no mold on the fruit, they are fair game.
My banana "mashing" tip: use a pastry cutter to reduce them to a sweet, slimy, goo.
Next, I sifted the salt, flour, and baking soda together.
Then I prepared the pecans. I filled my Pampered Chef Chopper full of whole pecans...
and turned it over to chop, chop, chop!
In seconds I had a nice pile of finely chopped nuts ready to stir into the cake and sprinkle over the top for a garnish.
Finally, I prepared my cake pans. I buttered the pans first. Then I set the pan on a sheet of wax paper to trace the shape with a knife.
The knife leaves a nice, visible circle on the paper.
Cut out the paper liner x 2,
then press the liners into the bottom of the greased cake pans.
Now for just one final step in pan preparation: sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour into each cake pan and shake it around until the sides are dusted. Knock the pans on the countertop to loosen the excess flour, then discard.
With the baking pans ready to go, it is finally time to mix up the cake batter that will fill them. Start by creaming the butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the flour alternately with
the buttermilk, mashed bananas, and vanilla. Mix each addition until just combined for a soft, tender cake.
Finally, gently stir in 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans until incorporated into the batter.
Pour half of the batter into one of the prepared pans,
and half into the other. You want the batter distributed as evenly as possible so that the layers of the cake are equal in size.
Bake the cakes at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until they test done. Then remove them from the oven and cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.
Loosen the edges of the cakes with a knife.
Next, set the cakes on your countertop with cooling racks on top.
Take away the pan and admire your perfect cakes while breathing in the sweet banana smell filling your workspace.
But don't get so carried away that you forget to peel away the wax paper liner...
Notice that my cake finished just a tad on the dark side? I shut off the oven timer when it sounded, but forgot to take the cake out of the oven. Duh! This one baked about 5 minutes too long. Luckily, the delicious smell of the still-baking cakes grabbed my attention and I rescued them before they burned!
While the cakes finish cooling, begin making the frosting by creaming together a stick of unsalted butter and 8 oz. of cream cheese.
Add the vanilla.
And sift in the powdered sugar. Then mix until smooth.
With the cakes cooled and the frosting mixed, it's time to build this mouth-watering dessert!
Start by placing one of the cakes on a serving plate or cake stand.
Add about 1/4 of the frosting to the top of the first layer.
Smooth it evenly over the surface of the cake.
Now apply the second layer. Take care to center the cake exactly over the first layer to avoid a lop-sided final product. Add more of the frosting to the top of the second layer and spread it out before covering the sides.
I use a big spatula to "rough coat" the cake first, then I use a smaller, metal spatula for more precision to finish the cake.
Since I was not decorating this cake, there was no reason to perfectly smooth the frosting.
Instead, I made a nice, "swirly" pattern over the cake by moving my spatula in a half-circle motion all over the surface.
Now it's time for a garnish. I sprinkled some more finely chopped pecans over the top.
Now the only thing left to do is slice....
I hope that you all enjoy this cake as much as my family does. We've loved this recipe for years. It was certainly a hit at the cookout!
Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans + more for garnish
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine buttermilk, bananas, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the batter alternately with the buttermilk mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. Stir in the pecans. Grease and flour cake pans (line with wax paper if desired). Divide batter evenly between the pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until cakes test done. Remove the cakes to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then invert and finish cooling to room temperature. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1-8 oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1-3/4 to 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
finely chopped pecans (for garnish)
Cream cream cheese and butter together. Mix in vanilla. Sift in the powdered sugar. Mix until smooth.
Assembly: Place 1st layer of cake on serving plate. Top with 1/4 of the frosting and smooth evenly. Top with second layer. Smooth on remaining frosting. Garnish with pecans.
Note: Refrigerate cake until ready to serve and refrigerate any leftovers.