What you see above, even with the squidgy middle and browned edges, is hands down the best banana cake I’ve ever made. It comes courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s the Cake Bible, which despite the eighties release date and world wide fan fare, I have only recently discovered.
Everything they say about this book is true! The recipes are scientifically developed by Rose, who at one point wrote a dissertation on sifting flour. I say though, given the science, research and obsession at play, that a more appropriate title would be ‘the cake nerd.’ I mean this with affection Beranbaum’s approach to cakes is admirable. Even Martha Stewart called these cakes ‘perfect,’ and I suspect Martha Stewart doesn’t bandy that word around.
I chose to make the banana cake first because the interior looked promising in the picture and it delivered. The mixture got an A+ on the lick the bowl test. It was a light brown, intensely banana flavoured silken delight. It almost tasted like you could put it in an ice-cream maker and eat it frozen, with caramel sauce and nuts. Or refrigerate it and eat cold banana pudding. Or just eat the whole thing, in a frenzy over the sink, then come to and wonder why the oven is on.
This one made it to the oven however. Iced with chocolate and honey, it was amazing. It was light and moist but most remarkably, Rose has taken the flavour of banana, multiplied it to the power of a thousand, beaten it up in a bowl and landed it in your kitchen in cake form. In fact, it was so good that midway through writing this, while remembering that texture and extreme banana flavour, I actually had to go and make another one. It’s not technically difficult to make but it does require precise measurments and cooking times(see the less than perfect cake above). Also it’s a two machine cake. You will need to get out both the food processor and the mix master to make this guy. But like lots of things in life a little bit of effort, time and two machines go a long way.
Banana Cake with Chocolate Honey IcingFor the cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum
2 large ripe bananas
30 grams crème fraiche
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
200g plain flour (or cake flour if you can find it), sifted
170 grams caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
142 grams unsalted, softened butter
For the ganache
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
75g unsalted butter
175g dark chocolate, broken into peices
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup
125 ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 180. Grease and line a 9 inch cake pan with a removeable base.
2. Blend the banana and sour cream in a food processor until smooth. Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and blitz once more, to blend.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and 1/2 the banana mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrap the sides of the bowl.
4. Continue beating the mixture on medium speed, add the banana mix in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl once more.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a wire cake tester comes out clean.
6. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
7. When the cake is cool, make the icing. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Remove from the heat and sifted the icing sugar.
8. Add the honey or golden syrup to the chocolate and butter mixture, mix well. Then stir in the creme fraiche and vanilla. When it’s all combined add the icing sugar. Stir until smooth. You might need to add some boiling water. It should coat the cake but not drip off.
9. Spread the icing all over the cake and leave for ten minutes to set.