Most of us who love to cook have our own quirky, sometimes random, obsessions. One of mine is definitely banana. If you want to psychoanalyze it (just humor me please) I think it must stem from the fact that when I was growing up I could never eat bananas, they gave me terrible stomach aches. I avoided all bananas like the plague until one day I realized that cooking them solved the problem. That kicked off a lifelong fixation on banana cakes and breads. This one is wonderfully dense and moist, and thickly plastered with the best frosting ever…a creamy vanilla clove. Go ahead — open up the jar in your spice cabinet and take a whiff — I think cloves have been given a bum rap, they get stuck in a ham once a year and that’s the end of it. But seriously their fragrance is so clear and vivid. Just a dash gives this frosting a unique spiced flavor. Next time you’re whipping up a plain Jane vanilla frosting, consider adding a hint of spice, it adds a soft, warm, distinctively fall touch.
This cake requires just two over-ripe bananas. I skipped the nuts, which I almost always add to my banana breads and cakes, just for a change. I didn’t miss them, although you could certainly add walnuts or pecans. I flavored the batter with cardamom, and that, along with the frosting, gives this a little bit of a spice cake feel.
The unusual thing about this recipe is that you put the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes immediately after taking it out of the oven. That makes it extra moist. And you’ll store in the fridge, too, which gives the cake a firm, dense quality that is really appealing. I made the frosting with a combination of butter and mascarpone cheese. Cream cheese is fine, too, but the mascarpone is a little more subtle. The recipe makes lots, which is essential for this particular cake.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 oz (1 container) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (you can substitute cream cheese)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves (you can add more if you like)
- up to 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- Set oven to 325F
- Grease a 9 inch round springform pan (the cake is tall, you will need high sides.)
- Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or by hand. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and cardamom.
- Mash the bananas until smooth, and add the lemon juice. Blend in to the butter and sugar mixture, and don't worry if it looks curdled.
- Whisk the flour with the salt and baking soda, and add to the bowl alternately with the buttermilk, blending until everything is just mixed.
- Turn the batter into the buttered pan, and smooth out the top. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until the cake is risen, not wobbly in the center, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it.
- Put the cake pan immediately into the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the pan when you take it out of the freezer. When it has completely cooled, frost it.
- To make the frosting, blend the butter and mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and cloves. Blend in the sugar, a cup at a time,until you get a smooth, thick frosting. You may not need all of it.
- I like to store the frosted cake in the fridge.
Adapted from Art and the Kitchen
This is a great everyday family cake, but it’s also nice to have around for guests during the holidays, or for whenever you need to bring something to a party or gathering, because just about everybody loves banana cake. You might even kick off a few new obsessions…