Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that cakes and other goodies are always in the oven around here, or that I knew from the get-go that Scotch taping a few blossoms to a verbena branch would make for a delightful cake topper, or that the kitchen didn’t look like I had tossed flour and powdered sugar around like confetti for an hour or two. Baking is an occasional diversion I’m content to dabble in. It usually (not always) results in a tasty treat, and if not – well, at least it makes the house smell nice!
This dreamy cake was baked for an intimate unbirthday dinner in honor of one of our dearest friends. No birthday cards allowed, no candles on the cake, no “hope this year is your best,” etc. (however, we do manage to sneak in a few gifts with a coy “oh hey – pure coincidence, this is definitely NOT a birthday gift, but we just happened to have this box, and ribbon, and we came across these trinkets the other day that we thought you might like.”). The evening was wonderfully cozy and full of the sort of conversation and laughter that comes naturally with a group of close friends. And the cake? Even the most die-hard chocolate fans raved and wanted more! It was richly dense (but not too dense), moist, and full of banana / caramel / maple cream cheese flavor. So, if you are looking for something deliciously different for a birthday (or unbirthday) celebration, Easter dessert, or simply to perk up an average Wednesday night, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try!
The banana cake itself is adapted from this recipe. I cut the sugar by quite a bit, nixed the lemon juice, more than doubled the vanilla, added cinnamon and more bananas! Note: I made the cake itself a day ahead, refrigerated it overnight, then frosted it on the day of the party.
// Banana Cake //
4 medium-sized ripe (ish) bananas (yields around 2 cups)
2T Vanilla Extract
¾ Cup Butter, softened
1 ½ Cups Sugar (I used cane sugar but granulated is fine too)
3 Cups Flour
1 ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 ½ Cups Buttermilk
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter and flour two round 9” cake pans (or one 9” x 13” cake pan for a sheet cake).
Mash bananas and vanilla in a bowl, set aside. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in a separate bowl, set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time. Alternate sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk until blended. Fold in banana mixture.
Distribute the batter evenly between the two 9” cake pans (using a ladle helps). Bake for 55 minutes. Keep baking for 5-10 minute intervals until the cakes are lightly golden on the top and pass the toothpick doneness test. Original recipe says to pop the cakes in the freezer right away. I let them cool on a cooling rack on the counter, then covered and refrigerated them overnight.
// Dulce de Leche //
Here are two recipe options, one is more involved, the other one is super easy – but not as easy as my method – which was to use dulce de leche from Trader Joe’s (so good!). I highly recommend this Argentinian dulce de leche too.
// Maple Cream Cheese Frosting //
2 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese (at room temperature to soften)
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
Stir together all ingredients, then whip it into a frenzy with an egg beater until its smooth and fluffy.
// Assembling the Cake //
Use a dollop of the cream cheese frosting in the center of your cake plate to secure the first layer to the plate. Spread a generous amount of dulce de leche on top of the first layer, then add a layer of the maple cream cheese frosting. Add the second cake layer on top. Apply a layer of dulce de leche to the top layer, then frost the whole thing with the maple cream cheese frosting. I left the edges unfrosted since I like that look, but you could certainly frost the edges if you’d like! Note: If you are transporting this, it would be a good idea to pop in a couple of bamboo skewers to ensure that the top layer won’t slide around! Remove the skewers and touch up the frosting when you arrive to your destination.
// Edible Flowers //
We didn’t eat the flower topper, but we could have! I used violas and a few sprigs of lemon verbena from the yard. Cut violas, and put their stems in water so they can get a good drink. Line up a couple of sprigs of herbs, secure with florist tape where needed (as noted, I used regular ‘ol scotch tape but I would have used florist tape if I had any on hand), add violas and secure the stems with the tape. This topper looked fresh for 4 hours or so before the flowers began to wilt a bit (even then they were still pretty). There are tons of edible flower options to choose from for your topper: carnations, roses, pansies, lilacs, even peonies are edible!
What do you think chocolate fans? Are you game to switch it up for a banana and dulce de leche treat?
Photos edited with Foto Rx Photoshop Actions of course!