Sunday, March 2, 2008
Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
I have a problem that I'm sure I share with most people who cook or bake often -- my kitchen cupboards are very, very full. Since the kitchen is pretty small, we try to make the most of all the space we have, but we also like to keep a variety of items on hand for spur of the moment baking or cooking. However, I also have to periodically clean things up. Yesterday, when we were putting the groceries away, I realized we had a problem when I had to empty out most of a set of cupboards and start re-arranging things in order to get two boxes of cereal in there.
During my re-arranging spree though, I discovered a container of peanut butter that was mostly empty. I also discovered a completely full container of peanut butter so I declared that I needed to bake something with peanut butter in it this weekend. A few minutes later as I was trying to get more things into the freezer, I noticed that I had about 10 bananas frozen waiting to be used in baking, so I declared that I also needed to bake with bananas this weekend.
Since I didn't want to make more than one recipe I started considering my options for one recipe that would use both peanut butter and bananas. At first, I thought I might alter a banana bread recipe to incorporate peanut butter, but I was afraid I might dry it out too much. I do have one recipe that calls for bananas and peanut butter -- peanut butter banana muffins -- but I had already made those and while they were okay, they didn't blow my socks off. Then I remembered the Dorie Greenspan Lots of Ways Banana Cake.
I made this particular cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting for a visit by Chris' parents back at Halloween, but it was before my serious blogging began, so I didn't post the recipe. The beauty of this cake is that there are so many variations in the book on how to make it. No brown sugar? Use all white. Don't like coconut milk? Use whole milk, yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk instead. Don't want to frost it? Drench it in rum, or frost it, or fill it, or break it up and use it in sundaes. It's just a great, easy and forgiving recipe that produces a fabulously moist cake with a lot of banana flavor.
Once I found the cake I also knew I had a good recipe for peanut butter frosting -- also courtesy of Dorie Greenspan -- although not in the book Baking From My Home to Yours. This peanut butter frosting is the one used in Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts, which is on Epicurious. This is another recipe that I made before my serious blogging days and it is fantastic.
So, with the cake picked and the frosting decided, the only thing left to do is make it, try it and blog about it. :) When I made the cake I used buttermilk instead of coconut milk, added a cup of shredded coconut, and a cup of chocolate chips. I was a bit concerned that I was overdoing the flavors, but I decided to go for it anyway. Wow... what a great combination. The cake is super moist with lots of banana flavor which is complimented by the chocolate, peanut butter and coconut. There are a lot of flavors going on in each bite, but they all work with each other rather than interfering and none of them overwhelms the others.
The cake won't win any beauty pageants, but damn it tastes good.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup packed light brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp dark rum or Malibu coconut rum
About 4 very ripe bananas (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (or whole milk, buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (or an equal amount of moist, plump dried fruit, or a combo of fruit and coconut)
1 cup chunky peanut butter (do not use natural or old-fashioned)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out excess. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and rum. You'll have a beautiful satiny batter. Now lower the speed and add the bananas -- the batter will curdle, but that's fine; it will come together as you add the remaining ingredients. Still on low speed, add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately, adding the flour mixture in 3 portions and the coconut milk in 2. Mix just until everything is incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the coconut. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. They should start to pull away from the sides of the pans and a thin knife inserted into their centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temp.
To make the frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and 1/4 cup butter in medium bowl to blend. Beat in powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, then milk and vanilla. Spread frosting over cakes. If you are conservative with the frosting between the cake layers, there should be just enough to frost the sides of the cake. If you want a lot of frosting, double the recipe and go to town.