I love bananas. I especially love them when they’re still fairly firm and green. They have such a wonderful naturally sweet flavor, and they’re also quite good for you – full of vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, fiber and vitamin C. I also love that they come in their own container, so they’re a perfect take-along snack.
As much as I love a good, firm banana, I do not really care for them when they start to become over-ripe. I do not find anything appealing about black bananas sitting on the counter. And while many folks see this as a prime opportunity to whip out a batch of banana nut bread, I’m just not that big of a fan.
This past week I found myself the proud owner of a half a dozen black bananas. Every time I opened my refrigerator I had to stare down these little devils as they were burning an unforgettable image into my brain. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, and yet I also couldn’t find the desire to make a batch of boring ol’ banana nut bread.
“What to do? What to do? What to do?” I asked myself that question over, and over, and over again. I could make cookies….nah. I could make crepes…..nah. I could make baked oatmeal….nah. I could make a smoothie……nah. I could stick them in a container and bury them in the back of my freezer until they were so freezer-burned I’d have no choice but to throw them away….maybe…..nah. And then it struck me – I’d make banana cake!
Now I know you’re probably scratching your head right now and wondering what the difference is between banana bread and banana cake. Let me assure you – there is a world of difference between the two. Banana bread is boring – everyone uses pretty much the same recipe. I find that banana bread seems to dry out much quicker than most other breads. Because bananas have so much sugar in them, they tend to caramelize in the bread – their moisture evaporates, leaving the bread quite dull after the first couple of pieces. There is also very little actual banana in banana bread; which leaves me cold.
Banana cake on the other hand has tons of banana flavor, is very light and moist, and is the perfect compliment to a rum flavored frosting – making it reminiscent of the ever popular New Orleans inspired dessert, Banana’s Foster. If you’re not a fan of rum flavored frosting, you can use a light cream cheese frosting or even just a powdered sugar glaze on this cake and it will still turn out delightfully – I’ve done both. I also used toasted pine nuts to garnish this scrumptious cake instead of walnuts or pecans, which are most commonly found in banana nut bread. The toasted pine nuts lend a creamy and mild flavor, which I find compliments the bananas perfectly – allowing the banana to be the star of the cake and not the nuts.
6 over ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (I use the powdered stuff you can find in the baking aisle)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease and set aside a Bundt pan (OR two 8″ or 9″ round baking pans OR 1 9″x13″ cake pan).
2. In a large mixing bowl combine bananas, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time – mixing until just incorporated.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 38 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick just tests clean. Do not over bake or the cake will become dry and tough. If you’re using a Bundt pan or small round cake pans, allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes; then turn pan upside down over a cooling rack to finish cooling. The cake should loosen and fall out of the pans easily (if not on their own) if they were properly greased. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
1 +/- pound powdered sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon rum extract OR dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 – 4 tablespoons evaporated milk (start with 3 tablespoons and add in the last one if it’s needed)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together until frosting is smooth and pourable, but not too thin. Pour frosting over the cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides and pool inside the cake. You can sprinkle the top with chopped/toasted nuts if you desire. Serve immediately and enjoy!