So I went a little crazy when tasked with making my roommate a birthday cake. I had a moment where I was on the couch, surrounded by no less than 5 cookbooks, writing down what I could pair with what, which cake would complement which frosting, when I was just like…well, I’m officially insane cake lady.
Which, on the one hand, is much better than being, say, crazy CAT lady. But on the other hand, it’s much worse than being, say, a normal human being. Anyway, I finally frankensteined together an idea: 2 layers of deliciously rummy banana cake, 2 layers of dark devil’s food chocolate cake, caramel buttercream, and fresh banana slices in between each layer.
Then after making it I immediately started fretting. I was bringing this cake to a dinner party, so the pressure was on. I fucked up my swiss meringue buttercream a little bit because I was pulling from 2 recipes that said very different things about how long I needed to whip the egg whites. So instead of sticking to one I split the difference and I stressed out a lot about it afterward, because I think the whole frosting just didn’t volumize as well as it should’ve, which meant I ended up with less frosting than I needed. So I skimped. I spread that buttercream so thin you could see through it. It was lingerie frosting.
But I crossed my fingers and then added a whole bunch of hoo-ha to the outside in hopes that the decorative tomfoolery would distract from any sort of frosting or taste deficiency. Well. First of all: there was no deficiency. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy an over-frosted cake anyway, and this frosting was but.ter.y. so a little bit went a long way. Second of all: no tomfoolery was needed. This cake was wonderful. Moist and surprisingly light because of the bananas. Chocolately and banana-y and the caramel in the buttercream was subtle yet sweet.
But you know, piping stars out of melted chocolate and butterscotch didn’t HURT. It certainly gave me something to do for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. Which is the scene one of my roommates walked into when she got home from, you know, doing what normal human beings do on Saturday afternoons. She finds me holed up in the kitchen with 2 bags of melted substance, piping like a madwoman, chocolate all over my face, the kitchen a disaster, and I look up at her all, I don’t know what happened! After surveying the situation she said simply, “well, you’ve gone completely crazy I see,” and then left the area. Wise girl, that one is.
Banana-Chocolate Cake with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, the Joy of Cooking, and I don’t even remember
For the Banana Cake (Dorie’s Lots of Ways Banana Cake)–I halved this to make 1 cake, which I then sliced into 2 layers
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum or Malibu coconut rum (optional) **I used rum, I recommend it, and I rarely recommend alcohol in desserts.
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups)
½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, regular (stir well before measuring) or “lite” (or whole milk, buttermilk, sour cream, or plain yogurt) **I used buttermilk
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, preferably toasted (or an equal amount of moist, plump dried fruit, such as currants, raisings, chopped apricots, cranberries, blueberries, or halved cherries, or a combination of coconut and dried fruit) **I used unsweetened coconut but I splurted a little corn syrup on top of it to make sure it was moist enough. It was.
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and rum. You’ll have a beautiful satiny batter. Now lower the speed and add the bananas-the batter will curdle, but that’s fine; it will come together as you add the remaining ingredients. Still on low speed, add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately, adding the flour mixture in three portions and the coconut milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients). Mix just until everything is incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the coconut. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. They should start to pull away from the sides of the pans and a thin knife inserted into their centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.
For the Chocolate Cake (I used the cake recipe from Dorie’s Devil’s Food White Out Cake)–again, halved this
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don’t worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
For the frosting
2 sticks butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup caramel (I had some leftover from a Banana Cream Pie I had made a few days ago–this one)
Put egg whites, lemon, and sugar in a double boiler (I just used a pot, I know this is WRONG, but whatever) and heat on low until the sugar is dissolved (about 150 degrees on a candy thermometer). Transfer to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and beat on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff (not dry) peaks have formed, about 10-15 minutes. Turn mixer speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tbsps at a time, beating well between each addition. The mixture will look curdled–don’t worry, just keep beating on medium high until the buttercream forms. It could be a few minutes. Then, turn the mixer to low and add the caramel, beating until just incorporated.