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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiter, There's Something in My...Banana Layer Cake with Mascarpone-Cream Cheese Frosting

Today is my sister-in-law, D's birthday. It is a fitting day to write a post about cake, because, you see, cake is her most favorite thing. There is no mountain too high, no valley too low, nor expiration date too long past to keep her from cake. It doesn't matter what kind of cake it is. All that matters is that it is cake. D is an equal opportunity cake connoisseur. All cakes are welcome, be they sheet, layer, bundt, jelly roll or Charlotte. She does not discriminate on the basis of genoise, chiffon, sponge, pound, Angel Food or Dacquoise. Had she been alive then, she just might have trumped Marie-Antoinette and her infamous "Let them eat cake" comment. Happy Birthday, D. This one's for you!
This month's theme for Waiter, there's something in my..., is layered cake. Andrew of Spittoon Extra is hosting the event, and the criteria is simply to bake a cake with layers, post about it and submit it.
I tossed around a lot of different ideas while deciding what kind of cake to bake for this event. I tried to anticipate what my fellow bloggers might make, so as not to duplicate their efforts. After all, what fun would it be to have twenty chocolate cake entries? (Not half as much fun as it would be to have twenty chocolate cakes laid out in front of you!) I spied some bananas on the counter that were just sitting there, mottling right before my eyes, so I decided to make a banana layer cake. It is one of my favorite kinds of cake, especially when enrobed in a rich cream cheese frosting.
I remembered seeing a banana cake recipe in an old issue of Food and Wine Magazine that looked interesting. Of course, I couldn't find it. I suspect that I threw it out during my last little cleaning frenzy. Isn't that always the way it goes? You hang on to magazines and things for months and months, telling yourself that you might need them someday. They sit, gathering dust and cluttering up your space until you can't stand it any longer. In a fit of exasperation, you run around with a giant trash bag, stuffing it full of the offending items and throw them out. Then, no sooner does the trash truck come and haul it away, you find you actually did need it - and it is gone! Thank God for the Internet!
I decided to double the recipe for this cake because I was afraid that the layers would be too thin and flimsy. Also, I wanted to have extra cake in case I messed up. It worked just fine. I have given you the measurements for the original recipe (one 9" cake), but I recommend doubling it. I ended up with cake layers almost 1" thick, and I think the frosting would have overwhelmed thinner ones. Also, I wanted a little a little "tang" to go with the mellowness of the mascarpone in the frosting, so I added regular cream cheese and increased the amount of confectioner's sugar.
I had never seen a recipe for banana cake that called for beaten egg whites before. It definitely made a lighter textured cake. It wasn't the absolute best banana cake I've ever had, but the creamy, decadent frosting more than made up for it. Personally, I prefer the recipe in my old Silver Palate Cookbook. That one makes a helluva banana cake!

I was really pleased with the look of my cake. Though my cakes may always taste good, a lot of times they look - well- kind of like a kindergarten art project. This time, my layers were even and my frosting didn't get bits of crumb in it. For the photos, I got a little cocky and placed some nice Fall flowers around it. It actually looked pretty! I almost felt bad about cutting out a big slab of it to eat.....almost.
Banana Layer Cake with Mascarpone-Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March, 2005
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (1 1/2 large), plus 2 large bananas, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups chilled mascarpone (12 ounces)
1 8 ounce brick of cream cheese
2 cups confectioners' sugar (add more or less to taste)

Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper; butter the parchment paper. Dust the pan all over with flour, tapping out any excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add the mashed bananas and beat the mixture until smooth.
Add half of the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until the batter is moistened. Beat in half of the buttermilk, then add the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining buttermilk.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Beat one-fourth of the egg whites into the batter at low speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whites until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; the top will be very slightly cracked. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone and cream cheese with the confectioners' sugar at medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers. Place the top layer, cut side up on a cake plate and spread with one-third of the mascarpone frosting. Arrange half of the bananas in a single layer on the frosting. Top with the middle cake layer. Cover the layer with another third of the frosting and top with the remaining bananas. Cover with the bottom cake layer, cut side down, and frost the top.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.


Helene said...

Beautiful! I love the use of fresh bananas in the cake. You can't go wrong with mascarpone and crem cheese frosting!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Thank you, Tartelette. That means a lot, coming from you.

kari and kijsa said...

Wow- now that looks good enough to eat-if we could just get that plate from the screen onto our plates! Sounds so fabuloous-can't wait to try it!

kari & kijsa

Belinda said...

Oh my gosh, Susan! You did an outstanding job with this cake! You should definitely be proud of the way it turned out, its beautiful. I am hopeless with layer cakes...mine never come out even! But yours is like a yummy little work of art...and bananas and marscapone cheese...heavenly I tell ya! I wish you would join the Daring Bakers...its such fun, and I think you would love it. :-)

Susan @ SGCC said...

Kari & Kijsa- Thanks so much! If I could figure out a way to to stuff a piece through the screen, I'd send one over. ;)

Belinda- Thanks! I was pleased with the way it came out. Believe me, my cakes are usually not that attractive. You need to try this frosting. It is to die for! It is good with carrot cake too.

I am dying to join the Daring Bakers. I hope to do it after the Holidays. Between now and then, I have some family obligations that are going to take up a lot of time. Take care. :)

Brilynn said...

The cake certainly does look beautiful and it has me thinking about what kind of cake I can make with the bananas that are ripe on my counter...

Andrew said...

Love the use of the flowers in the pictures certianly adds a certain feeling. Many thanks for the contribution to Waiter...

Susan @ SGCC said...

Brilynn- Thanks! This was a nice cake, but not as moist as others I've tried. I think so that the thinner layers would hold up. The frosting was absolutely sinful, though.

Andrew- Thank you. I usually know what I'm doing in the kitchen, but I'm still learning about the photography part. I envy all of you who take such beautiful photos!

Merav said...

Beautiful presentation and I love the flavour combinations! Mmm...I am craving a slice!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Merav- Thank you. I wish I could send you a slice! :)