A few weeks ago I promised my FaceBook followers a banana cake was coming. I didn't think it would take this long, but I got distracted, as I often do, with one of 100 other things that swirl in my mind at any given moment.
Some of my favorite ingredients come out to play in this recipe: browned butter, more browned butter and a last minute fold in of whipped cream that makes this one a little extra special.
While I made this one into a layer cake, it also works just fine in a 9" x 13" pan. If you don't feel like dealing with cake layers, go with the 9" x 13" pan, where you can frost it, and serve it from. Easy, easy.
Browning the butter is the key here. You will want it browned to a golden color. It will darken as it cools, and that's okay. Don't go too dark in the pan. Golden is what you want when you transfer it from the pan to the bowl. Once the butter is browned, it takes a while to cool and come back to room temperature. From there it needs to solidify again, so don't rush it.
First things first, if you've never checked your oven for temperature consistency, I suggest you do. Making cakes from scratch requires a lot of things to work just right, and a dependable oven temperature is one of those things. In my oven, in order to maintain 350 degrees throughout baking any cake, I need my oven set to 400 degrees. Not the case if I make cookies, roast vegetables, etc., but if I bake a cake, the temperature wants to drop. You may be surprised at just how many ovens are out of calibration. A $12.00 oven thermometer will help you determine at what temperature your oven is actually baking/cooking your food.
We will brown all the butter at once (the butter for the batter and the butter for the frosting). It's just easier that way.
I learned long ago that weights in baked goods are far better than measures, so if you don't have a scale that measures in grams, this is the time to get one.
170 grams browned butter, cooled and re-solidified (I recommend Land O' Lakes for browning - it has less water content than other butters, and browns nicely)
375 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed really well (use a blender, if you have one)
1/4 cup whipping cream
110 grams browned butter, cooled and re-solidified
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon whipping cream (or half/half, or whole milk)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
If you are using a 9" x 13" pan, butter the pan. Set aside. If you are using round cake pans, butter the pans, and line them with parchment paper. Run a 3" wide strip of parchment paper around the sides, so it reaches about an inch over the pan rim. This will keep any batter from spilling over the edge.
Set a medium sized metal bowl on a heat proof trivet. Set aside.
In a medium saute pan, over low heat, begin browning three sticks of butter. The butter will first melt, then bubble and spatter just a bit. At this point, the water content is cooking off. Whisk continually, using a rubber spatula to keep any browning bits from sticking to the sides and bottom of your pan. As the bubbling ceases, and the butter begins to foam, watch for the milk solids to begin darkening. Look for a rich, golden color to develop. It happens fast, so keep watch. Once you've reached that rich, golden color, *immediately* transfer the browned butter to the small metal bowl you set aside. Make sure you use a rubber spatula to get all the browned bits from the sides and bottom of the pan. This is the best part. Set your browned butter aside to cool and re-solidify.
Once the browned butter solidifies, preheat oven to 350 degrees (remember what I said about accurate temperature? This is the time to check, if you haven't already).
To a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Set aside.
To the bowl of your stand mixer, add 170 grams of the solidified browned butter. Transfer the remaining browned butter to a lidded bowl. Cover and set aside.
To the 170 grams of solidified browned butter, add the sugars. On medium speed, mix the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy looking, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until *just* incorporated. Do not overmix. Alternating buttermilk with your dry ingredients, add 1/3 of each and mix on low. Make the next addition after the prior addition is *just* incorporated. Again, do not overmix. Overmixing can cause your cake to rise too much, and fall when it cools.
Stir in the bananas.
To a small bowl, add the whipping cream. On high speed, using an electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form. Fold the whipping cream into the batter gently, then pour batter into your prepared pan(s).
Immediately place the cake filled pans into the pre-heated oven. Bake until cake is golden brown, and passes the toothpick test, 45-60 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan, a little less for round cake pans.
Remove the cake(s) from the oven, and place on a cooling rack. If you plan to remove the cakes to invert/frost, let them cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing. This is why I suggest the parchment paper. Without it, cooling in the pan for 30 minutes could cause the cakes to stick.
Prepare the frosting. To the lidded bowl with the 110 grams of browned butter (it may be more or less, don't stress about it, just use what you have, it will be enough, I promise) add the cream cheese, and with a hand mixer, mix on medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla and whipping cream, and mix until well combined. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time and mix until well combined.
Once the cake is fully cooled, frost as desired. Top with the chopped pecans, if you are using them. The cake can be left out the day of baking, but leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator, in an air tight cake carrier, or a pan covered with plastic wrap.
It's a flavorful, light cake...I hope you enjoy it.