I had an abundance of bananas over the weekend that I intentionally ignored until they were overripe so that I could test out some banana cake recipes. If Banana Republic weren’t a copyrighted clothing line we could have applied as a nation… I mean that in the lightest sense, of course, in that we grow and eat so many bloody bananas. I love bananas but I like banana cake even more. I searched high and low and tested different recipes. The two recipes featured here are the best I have found so far: a banana cake with pecans cooked in a tube pan from Maida Heatter, the grand dame of American desserts and an ultra simple but absolutely delicious banana cake with olive oil from Francois Payard, the celebrated New York pastry chef and bistro owner.
Bananas used in banana cake must be very, very ripe. The ones pictured here have just turned from edible to a little mushy and black in some areas of the peel. You need to peel the bananas, mash them with a fork until they look like baby food and that is the essence of the banana cake. If the mush doesn’t smell fragrant, neither will your cake. I have only attempted banana cake with these bananas (Lacatan?) and since the results were great, I haven’t tried any other types of bananas. As for the recipes, I have used those from well-known cook books as I have no intention of re-inventing the wheel. Proportions for baking are relatively well known to top cooks and since I am not a professional, why bother to attempt making a recipe from scratch. I figured I would do more of a service for MarketManila’s readers if I tested various recipes and commented only on the yummy ones.
From the Payard book, Simply Sensational Desserts, comes the recipe for “Golden Banana Cake”. Ingredients include: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/8 tsp. baking powder, pinch of baking soda, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1.5 tbsp of good olive oil, 3/4 cup sugar, 4 large eggs, 1.5 extra-ripe lacatan bananas, peeled and mashed. To cook, pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8-9 inch loaf pan with butter and sprinkle with flour, removing excess flour. Sift together flour, baking powder and soda. In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, mix butter olive oil and sugar at low speed. Add one egg at a time and beat at a higher speed until fully mixed. Add mashed banana, add flour mixture and stop soon after. Do not over beat. Scrape the batter into prepared pan and put in oven. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out clean. Baking time will vary according to the heat in your oven. Cool and serve. I estimated this one cake cost about P60 to make and it serves 8, or roughly P7.50 per serving (compare that to P40 at chi-chi coffee houses!). This cake was surprisingly STUNNING! It was moist, light, highly flavorful and aromatic and not excessively sweet. It did not rely on vanilla to add taste and it satisfied even the strongest craving for banana cake. This is one of my latest favorites, will definitely make this again and again.
From the Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts comes this recipe for “Banana Nut Cake” (first picture up top). Ingredients: 2 cups chopped pecans, 2.5 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 3/4 cups mashed bananas, 1/2 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1.5 cups sugar, 2 eggs and 1/4 cup buttermilk (since I can’t find any here, I substituted 1/4 cup milk with 1.5 tsp of lemon juice). Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour a 10 inch tube pan and remove excess flour. Chop nuts and add 1 tbsp flour and toss (to prevent soggy nuts after the cake is baked). Cream butter in mixer with vanilla and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. On low speed, add 1/2 of dry ingredients, then buttermilk, then remaining dry ingredients. Mix in banana mash and remove from mixer. Add nuts, mix and turn into the tube pan. Cook for 45-55 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the cake comes out clean. This cake was good, nutty, substantial and heavier than the Payard version. This would hold up well for trips, tailgates, etc. Perhaps the substitution for buttermilk was noticeable in the final product. Total cost was estimated at about P160 (expensive pecans) and this would yield 14-16 generous servings or P10 per serving. This approximates the banana cakes I remember from childhood, it relies on vanilla for added flavor and nuts for substance. From this lousy final photo you can roughly see the difference in the texture and color of these two cakes. To the left is the lighter Payard cake and to the right the nuttier Heatter cake. Happy baking!