I made the banana cake of my dreams this weekend, a banana cake so good I had to give half of it away because I knew I would eat it all.
What made it so good? It was a homey, cozy, PTA bake sale kind of cake; there was nothing fussy about it, no caramelized bananas between the layers or Marzipan bananas dancing across the top. You just mix a bunch of wet stuff, add a bunch of dry stuff, put it in a pan, bake it, cool it, top it with frosting and you’re done. And the resulting cake is every bit as satisfying as a more elaborate banana cake; perhaps even more satisfying because the flavors are so pure and comforting.
I found the recipe the way most people find recipes nowadays, a random search online. This is what I stumbled upon: the banana cake from Clementine Bakery as printed in the L.A. Times.
I don’t know anything about the Clementine Bakery but after some rudimentary research I see it’s in California (duh, it was in the L.A. Times) and one of my Twitter followers @savour said, upon reading I was making this cake: “Clementine bakery is awesome. Awesomely awesome.”
After tasting this cake, I have to concur: Clementine Bakery IS awesomely awesome, at least when it comes to banana cake.
The cake calls for pastry flour which, according to the article, gives the cake “a noticeably light crumb.”
Normally I’m suspicious of using a specialty ingredient like this–I was very close to using just ordinary flour–but I thought “what the hay” and bought the bag and I’m glad I did. It does make a difference; the raw flour is coarser than normal flour and the result makes the cake much more interesting than a typical banana cake.
One final note: this cake has a lot of sugar in it. 2 2/3 cups of sugar: so if you don’t like your desserts especially sweet, this might not be the cake for you. But for everyone else? Here’s how you make it.
adapted from the Clementine Bakery recipe as printed in the LA Times
For the cake:
2 2/3 cups pastry flour
2 2/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the icing:
1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
5 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, place the peeled bananas.
Mash them with a fork and then whisk in all the other wet ingredients: the eggs, one at a time, the buttermilk, the canola oil, and vanilla.
3. Place a sifter on a piece of parchment paper and add all the dry ingredients to it: the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, the baking soda and the salt.
4. Sift those dry ingredients directly into the wet ingredients (this is my own special technique, like it?) and tilt any remaining dry ingredients from the parchment into the wet too. Stir JUST until incorporated.
5. Spray a 9 X 13-inch pan and pour the batter in.
6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden-brown on top (it took me about an hour). Make sure it’s cooked through with a toothpick or a knife, then cool on a rack.
7. Now let it cool. Seriously. Step away from the cake: you’ll want to ice it now, but I won’t let you. If you ice it while it’s hot, it’ll be a disaster: crumbs everywhere. So walk away for at least an hour.
8. Ok, 45 minutes into your wait you can start making your icing. It’s easy.
9. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature: that’s really important. (Just take them out when you start to make the cake.) Place the cream cheese in a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth, no lumps. Then add the butter and whip until incorporated and, finally, sift in the powdered sugar and add the sour cream. Beat that all together and you’ve got your frosting.
10. If your cake is truly cool, time to ice it. Just shmear the icing all over: there’s not a lot of icing, so use it judiciously. This looks pretty good, don’t you think?
Cut that cake and serve it up: wasn’t that easy? I’d say it was. Here’s your sweet reward: