August 29, 2010

Banana Bread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Do you want to know a secret about banana bread? It's cake. The same thing applies to all those other tasty, sweet breakfast baked goods: pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, blueberry muffins, etc. Not that we have any objection to eating cake for breakfast. It's kind of funny, though, that in the general realm of acknowledged breakfast foods, these types of cakes are totally acceptable; you can even throw a glaze on (cinnamon rolls) or a "streusel topping" (a.k.a. butter, sugar, and flour) and still call it breakfast. But once you put frosting on, the item in question loses its tenuous breakfast status and becomes dessert.

When our friend Hannah asked us to make us a cake for her 30th birthday party (not chocolate, she said), we at first thought about carrot cake, because we love carrot cake, and we also love cream cheese frosting. But then we got to thinking about banana bread, which is one of our favorite breakfast desserts, and realized that if we call it a "cake" we could go all out - no holding back on sweet deliciousness because our dessert was masquerading as a breakfast item. We could put on streusel. AND cream cheese frosting. So we pulled out our favorite banana bread recipe, opened up a banana cupcake recipe, got out a classic coffee cake recipe, and readied the cream cheese frosting recipe. The plan: two layers of banana cake with streusel in the middle of each, topped off with cream cheese frosting.

We used a banana bread recipe from the Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston, via Gourmet, and a recipe for "Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream" from The Craft of Baking for inspiration for the cake. The streusel topping comes from our favorite coffee cake, Ashkenazic Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Gil Marks' The World of Jewish Desserts (which we discovered on Epicurious).

Banana Bread Cake
makes 2 9 inch layers

- 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg

Streusel topping
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour two nine inch cake pans.
To make the cake, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer at medium high speed until the mixture thickens. When you lift a beater and drip a bit of the mixture down, it should form a ribbon and sit on top of the mixture for a couple of seconds before sinking back in (10 - 15 minutes). Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium sized bowl.

When the egg mixture is ready, pour in the oil in a slow stream. Beat in the buttermilk, vanilla, and bananas. Then add the flour mixture in two parts, beating until well combined.
To make the streusel, put all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, smash everything together until you get coarse crumbs.
Cover the bottom of each cake pan with batter, using about a quarter of the batter in each. Pour half the streusel over the batter in each pan, then pour on the remaining batter, dividing it between the two cakes.
Put the cakes in the preheated oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 - 40 minutes. Let the cakes cool for a couple of minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks; let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 8 oz package of cream cheese
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the confectioners' sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and blend. Add the sifted sugar in three parts, blending until smooth (you will need to pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula). Refrigerate the frosting for 2 - 3 hours before spreading using (it will thicken in the refrigerator).
Spread icing on top of one layer of the cake, stack on the second layer, and ice the top and sides.

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