Saturday, March 29, 2008

Banana Cake is in the house!

I've been feeling just a tad overwhelmed this past week. Hubbie & I are on the verge of creating a new corporate entity for some of our business activities, which is not terrifically complex but does involve a lot of paperwork and coordinated details -- most of which fall into my lap.

Last week's consult was with a new accountant, which shifted our original plans in a slightly different direction and resulted in my commitment to finally tackle learning (and using) QuickBooksPro to keep track of the financial side of things. A groaner of a task that I've been postponing for years. Can't say I didn't see that one coming. Sure, I can handle it, but installing and learning new software and converting first quarter '08 data piles more on what already feels like a rather overloaded plate.

Thursday afternoon we met with an astrologer (the lovely and talented Norma Jean Ream) to pick a good "start date" for the new corporation. She lives in Seaview at the far end of Puna, only a couple of miles from where the newest lava outbreak is flowing into the ocean:

We could see this steam plume from the road, and thought of adding in a trek out to ooh and ahhh from a closer vantage point, but by that stage of the day we were feeling hungry and nappish and facing a 50-minute drive home so decided to leave lava-viewing for another day. (And therefore did not take this photo, posted to by "nomadrhizome")

We'd been thinking of mid-May for a company start date, but as it turns out we have a window of spectacularly auspicious astrology available late morning on -- urp -- April 7th. That's A WEEK FROM MONDAY! Okay, so the new corporation thing is all pushed into high gear now. I'm excited about having excellent astrology for the new biz, but juggling the details is making my head spin.

Upshot of all this is that as Friday afternoon rolled around I was pondering the grocery situation to see if we could put off going to the store for a few more days (yes!), with consideration given to upcoming Cake Night on Sunday, and decided that would be a good use for the past-prime banana-and-a-half getting mushy on the fruit plate.

When the "Why wait 'til Sunday?" question arose, I had no good answer. So I hopped online and downloaded a Banana Cake recipe that seemed close enough to what I had in mind -- if a little heavy on the sour cream and sugar.

I did my usual substitutions: whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose; plain yogurt for sour cream; cut the salt and sugar in half. And left out lemon juice. I was going to add some chopped pecans, but only had raw ones, which really ought to be roasted first to bring out the flavor. That seemed like the one extra step that would turn an impromptu baking session from a pleasure into a chore, so I skipped it.

I did include some (organic, unsweetened) shredded coconut, 'cause it was right there in the cabinet, ready to go. And I made a simple ganache icing, instead of the sour cream/cream cheese one in the recipe (baking time having been made in the day by deciding not to go to the store, remember?).

It turned out PERFECT! Best texture of any cake I've made in a while: light and moist at the same time, which is a nice trick. I was a little short on squishy banana (only had about 3/4 cup), but good banana flavor nonetheless.

Here's what I did, should you want to do something more constructive with your mushy bananas than watch them turn black before throwing them in the trash:

Preheat oven to 350, rack in the middle. Prep a 9" square pan (I used a spritz of non-stick spray and a strip of baking parchment; butter and dusting of flour would do fine, too).

The Dry Stuff:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (fluff/sift before measuring!)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all this in a mixing bowl. Stir it around a bit with a fork to mix the leavening stuff in with the flour.

The Wet Stuff:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
3/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado; you could combine some light brown and some regular)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Nancy's Honey Yogurt is a good choice)
1 cup mushed, slightly overripe bananas (most recipes will tell you this is "about 3 large" but in my experience it's about 2)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (smaller shreds are better, grind yours up in a blender or food processor if they're biggish pieces; you could also just leave it out)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar with your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add one egg and mix well. Add the second egg and mix well. Add the yogurt, bananas, coconut, and vanilla extract and mix well.

[I had a little trouble with the wet stuff. For one thing, turbinado sugar has really large grains and doesn't "cream" well with butter. For another, this baking session hadn't been planned in advance, so my butter was straight from the fridge -- i.e., cold and hard and therefore not very creamable, even with a KitchenAid mixer. I thought adding the eggs might help (the moisture in the eggs would help the sugar dissolve, maybe?) but they, too were cold from the fridge, so at that stage what should have been a light and fluffy base was runnny and lumpy. So I scraped it all into the food processor and whizzed it up well with the bananas -- no more lumps! Perhaps not as fluffy as it should have been, but nice and smooth nonetheless. Back into the KitchenAid bowl with it. I changed to the whisk attachment and let it whiz around at fairly high speed for a while in an attempt to add the "fluff" factor while I measured out the yogurt and coconut. Switched to paddle attachment to finish up...]

Add the flour mixture and blend JUST until mixed (don't overbeat!). Scrape the batter into your prepped pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes. (My oven temp was more like 365 than 350; your cake might bake a little longer. If it's a nice golden brown on top and feels springy to a gentle touch, it's done.)

Let the cake cool on a rack. You can leave it in the pan if you aren't trying to impress anyone. Or let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely. When the cake is at room temp, frost the top with:

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao Bittersweet)

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it starts to steam. Dump in the chocolate, take the pan off the heat and stir with a whisk until the chocolate melts and it all comes together into a velvety smooth dark deliciousness. (It may be hard to comprehend that two simple ingredients turn into something else so incredibly over-the-top-gourmet-fabulous, so astoundingly quickly and easily, but they do. What a good reason to keep cream and chocolate in the house!)

Allow to cool for a while (it will stiffen up as it cools) then spread over the top of the (cooled) Banana Cake.

Ooh, dark chocolate and banana, what a heavenly combination!

During the tedious "wait for it to cool before frosting" interim I strolled into the living room (into which tantalizing aromas of Banana Cake had wafted, attracting my husband's attention) and announced, "I feel so much better now, just knowing there's cake in the house!" And I really did.

Okay, so that's a textbook case of emotional baking, but hey, I went from feeling overwhelmed and a little wrung out to being relaxed and happy -- just from baking and smelling and anticipating cake. I hadn't even eaten any yet.
And it was delicious, when we got around to having some after dinnner.

I have been remarkable restrained this morning, by the way, and have not had any cake with my coffee. But I think I'll have some with a cup of tea this afternoon. Which gives me about 7 hours to get in a vigorous workout, so I can enjoy my cake without feeling guilty about the calories.

1 comment:

manxny said...

Better late than never--I made the cake & it was delish! Only had one cup of whole wheat flour so the second cup was oat flour & still it turned out great. (I'm very big on oats these days--oat flour, oat milk--Howie's watching his cholesterol.)