At the Kennywood Amusement Park, when I was a whippersnapper loving the rollercoasters and fearing the Ferris Wheel, there was a lot of food of the sort that appeals primarily to the young and very hungry. Much of it was destined to cause alarming rumblings in tummies that went upside down, and spun all around. There were the usual corndogs, cotton candy, caramel corn mixed with peanuts, and iceballs topped with brilliantly colored chemicals. Among these goodies, some more dubious than others, was one treat that did not promise more than it delivered- chocolate covered frozen bananas.
A lot of the appeal was about the textures- the strangly transformed, exotic frozen banana, surprising against the thick coating of hardened chocolate. But the taste combination was very fine, too. I thought it could make a nice cake...I'm very fond of banana tea breads and so on, and who doesn't like chocolate icing? So I figured I'd try it for a simple, homey cake for my friend's birthday. He's allergic to almonds, and a disconcerting number of my favorite cake recipes rely on them.
The banana cake recipe is adapted from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book, and the frosting is just a plain chocolate buttercream, made with two melted Lindt's Excellence dark chocolate bars, a cup of butter, and 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, beaten into submission. At first I planned to slice the cake into layers, for a more traditional birthday cake look, but it was really moist, and it sunk a bit on top. I was afraid it would fall or crumble, or slide apart, and I'd have to start over. I hate starting over, though I will if something goes too wrong. But I really didn't want to start over today..I was out too late last night, and have been promising myself a nap. So I went with the single layer, coward that I am.
Silver dots? Well, I never could leave well enough alone. I tell myself that I prefer a cake which looks simple and handmade; whether this is because I'm not terribly good at traditional pastry bag type cake decoration, I'm not sure. Quite possibly. I do like to decorate cakes with flowers, colored sanding sugar, and old fashioned stuff like the silver balls, even though the finished product often has an elementary school look. We'll call it "rustic" and "hand-crafted", okay?
I'd say this was a pretty good cake and frosting combo. I think if you cooked it longer, you could probably split it into layers, without too much trouble, it's fairly firm. But really, I wouldn't bother with that. The cake is very moist, and doesn't seem to need a dividing layer of rich icing as a drier, spongier sort might. I'll make it again. And it's got me thinking about future birthday cakes with fruit based batters- maybe a pumpkin layer cake, with a cream cheese frosting?
And here's what you need for the banana cake. Don't forget to toast the walnuts, it's important. ******CAUTION: Don't try this recipe until I sort out the following problem: As kindly noted in the comments I haven't said when to add the oil. Worse yet, I don't remember adding it. I'm not at home and can't consult the cookbook. I have the awful feeling that I may have left it out. Hard to believe,since the cake was very moist. Buti f I did leave it out, well,I'd do it again,since it was so good. Bottomline-I've got to make this cake again to be sure.I'm going todo that-pretty soon,and willcorrect the recipe accordingly when I do. Sorry, so sorry, sorry as can be******
2cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
3 large ripe bananas, pureed or very well mashed-I used the food processor, as mine could have been riper
11 tbsps unsalted butter-room temp
6 tbsps oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 350F, and grease and flour a 9" cake pan, preferably springform, and 3" tall or so. Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Mix bananas and sour cream, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter 30 seconds. Add the sugars and beat until light, about 3 minutes at medium high. Add the eggs, beating in one at a time. Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Beat in vanilla. Add the banana mix and the dry ingrdients alternately, dividing each into 3 parts, beating on low until just blended. Stir in nuts by hand, using the rubber spatula. Scrape into pan, and smooth out. Bake about 40 minutes, or until the sides begin to pull away, and the top is set. Cool ten minutes in pan then remove carefully from the pan, and cool until room temperature. Frost with chocolate buttercream, made as described above, or using your own favorite kind. Decorating with weird little silver balls is entirely optional.
When I served this one up at the birthday dinner, I heard tell that chocolate covered bananas are still being sold in various places, including Trader Joe's. Browsing images in Google, I found most of the photos of chocolate covered bananas were, um, well amusing, but...So anyway, here's a look at Trader Joe's chocolate covered banana chips. (Although, on second thought, these have, in their own way, some unfortunate connotations.)