Thursday, 29 March 2012
Not before time: Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting.
There are some pairings that are meant to be together: Cheese and onion, strawberries and cream, me and Phill (Ugh, far too soppy!!) and I am going to add to that chocolate and banana, firstly because I can, and secondly because it's the truth, as this cake proves.
Starting my cookery journey as a Barefoot Contessa fan led me to search out somewhere where I could join in with conversations involving a pound of butter and 'good' vanilla, I found myself amidst the wonderful ladies and gents of the Barefoot Contessa Message Board. From the foodie conversations there I began to discover more about American cookery and baking, which led me to looking for a cookbook with American recipes. Now I would be lying if I told you that I have only bought one cookbook on American cakes (because in truth another shelf was commandeered for housing more of the things) but a particular favourite is 'Southern Cakes' which is where this recipe is from. It's a stunningly good book full of cakes I had never really heard of, steeped in the tradition of the American South, with little preambles about where the recipes originated. This cake is one that I make frequently from this book, and whilst I am sure there are variations of banana and chocolate cake in other areas of the world, this one is pretty damn good.
Several words about bananas. I don't know whether I have been unlucky or not, but if there is such a thing as substandard bananas then I have bought them in the recent past. They were green one day, yellow with black speckles the next day and tasted like cotton wool. Not tasty enough to eat and certainly unsuitable for baking. Your bananas need to be quite ripe, preferably black speckled in their skins, and actually smell (and taste!) of banana. And Fairtrade preferably, but that's because I like to think I am helping out.
My tweaks from the original recipe were to substitute natural yoghurt for the buttermilk (because I didn't have any; I know you can make your own but...you know how it is sometimes) and I added a pinch of salt and 'good' vanilla to the frosting, because I am a Barefoot Contessa fan and that is what she would do.
Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting, adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott
Ingredients (in cups, for it is an American recipe).
For the cake:
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup of butter, or 1 1/2 sticks (or if you're in the UK, 3/4 of a pack)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of natural yoghurt
1 1/2 cups riped bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
For the frosting:
1/2 cup (or 1 stick, or 1/2 pack if you are in the UK) butter
1/3 cup of cocoa (I used Green and Blacks)
1/3 cup of evaporated milk, or 'half and half' (for those of us in the UK who have no clue about half and half I made the quantity up by mixing half double cream and half milk to create something akin to 'half and half')
4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180c, and prepare two 9 inch cake tins
Combine the butter and the sugar, beating well until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one, until totally incorporated. After the last egg is beaten in, add the vanilla and mix in.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add half to the batter, and mix in until the flour mixture has been just incorporated. At this point add the yoghurt. Gently mix in, then add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Do not over beat at this stage, and if necessary use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl at this stage to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated.
Lastly, add the bananas, mixing through until just combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tins. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the butter until soft. Meantime, in a small saucepan, mix together the cocoa, the 'hlaf and half' mixture and the vanilla and salt. Put this on a medium/low heat and mix until the cocoa has dissolved.
Add the cocoa mixture to the beaten butter and mix in quickly. Add the icing sugar at this stage. Put two cups in first and mix in before adding the next two cups. Beat the mixture on a low speed for as long as it take you to get a smooth thick mixture which is easily spreadable.
Spread the mixture generously over the top of one of the cakes. Top with the other and then frost the top of the cake in a swirling motion. If you like and you are better at frosting a cake than me you can frost the sides too, but I found that I didn't quite have enough frosting to do it.
Really, really, really good with a cup of tea. Enjoy!