A Kinder, Gentler Banana Cake

As I mentioned in a prior post, I love theme-ish dinners. I don’t want the United Nations of flavors on my palate all in one sitting. Some cohesion, please…give it to me from at least the same region. Southern, Eastern European, Italian, Polynesian. Just have there be a running thread somehow, that’s all I ask.

A group of old friends and I were on a streak of these theme dinners and one of our most memorable was our Southern Night. This dinner was probably about 5 years ago and we are still talking about it and laughing our sides off. ‘Nuff said.

Being a Southern dinner, it was heavy on calories, fat and extreme dishes. Extreme meaning we had a chicken fried steak with maple butter on it. Butter. On top of fried. Insane. I think there was also some crazy-cheesy mac-and-cheese, collards and a few other sides. No doubt bacon was wedged in there somewhere, too.

BUT, the highpoint to this story was the dessert. I had attempted a recipe for Bananas Foster Bourbon Cake. Three layers of banana cake…some kind of frosting in there, too…but the kicker was that you made a Bananas Foster mixture on the stove and were supposed to pour this gooey, hot, buttery, saucy mess all over the top of the layer cake so that it saturated every pore, nook and cranny with obscene goodness. It being Bananas Foster, you need Bourbon. And matches, which then lead to flames. Which then lead to a display and a triumphant dessert.

Well, I think there was some typo with this recipe. There had to have been. Picture this: the layer cake is awaiting it’s topping patiently on the counter. Four of us (all college-grads, mind you…several advanced degrees in the mix…lots of education coursing through this little kitchen) are crammed into the kitchen, one of us is stirring the Bananas Foster mixture on the stove in a skillet. Ok…time to add the bourbon and light it up! Bourbon goes in, match hits bourbon and WHOOOOMPH! A skillet’s-width column of fire shoots about 5 feet in the air. I kid you not. A column of fire. In my kitchen. If someone had been looking in our window from the yard at that moment, all they would have seen is *orange*. How do you stop chatter and 4 people cold in an instant?

Light a match to 1/2 cup of bourbon, apparently.

We all just stood there frozen. What college degrees? No one reacted or even moved an inch. Or breathed for that matter. Finally. Finally! Finally! husband, and seemingly the sane one in the bunch (Eagle Scout-came in handy!) in an emergency situation calmly and quietly said…”uh, I think we should put a cover on that.”

Cover goes on skillet. Column of flame is doused. We eat our dessert in silence.

That, to this day, was the best dessert that I ever made whose main ingredients were laughs, gaping mouths, fire and way-too much bourbon.

I offer you now a Kindler, Gentler Banana Cake. No bourbon or flames, but a whole lot of deliciousness.

Roasted Banana Cake with Browned Butter-Pecan Frosting-Cooking Light (anyone have a light?? ha)

2 cups sliced ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tb. butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2  1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
baking spray with flour (weirdest invention but it works)

For the frosting:
1/4 cup butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup, 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional), toasted

Preheat oven to 400. Combine bananas, brown sugar and 1 Tb. butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400 for 35 minutes, stirring after 17 minutes. Cool slightly. Attempt not to eat.

Reduce heat to 375. Combine cake flour, soda and baking powder in a bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk and 1 tsp. vanilla in another bowl. Place 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl (I know, a lot of bowls). Beat until well-blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture, mix well. Add flour mixture and banana mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour batter into a 13 x 9 baking dish coated with the freaky flour-spray. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned (keep an eye on it, keep swirling the butter…it goes from not-browned to over-browned in a nano-second). Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese and 1 tsp. vanilla in medium bowl and mix until smooth. Spread over cake in pan and scatter with pecans, if using.

Finger-licking good!

6 thoughts on “A Kinder, Gentler Banana Cake

  1. Great story, April! Made me laug. I could almost see the flames… 🙂
    Now, the important thing… Is this “my” banana cake? 😉

    1. Yup, you should use cake flour. Cake flour has less protein content in it and therefore less gluten forms. The end-cake will have a finer and softer crumb and be a much better cake. BUT you can make your own cake flour if you don’t have a box on hand…to make 2 cups of cake flour, mix 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch. It’s a good thing to have on hand, though, if you do a lot of baking. Good luck!

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