I’m usually pretty fearless in the kitchen. If something doesn’t come out the way I’d hoped, I can almost always salvage it, even if it’s for another purpose. But after failing miserably at making pound cakes in the past, I’ve been hesitant to try again. There are so many other types of cake to enjoy, right?
But…a pound cake is just perfect for making petits fours, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (now you know what my next post will be), so I
girded my loins pulled up my big girl panties and tried again, learning a few things in the process. My goal was to make a banana pound cake. I came up with two versions, slightly different, both of which met the approval of my tasting crew. A pound cake shouldn’t be heavy, but it is supposed to be dense, with a velvety crumb. If you want something lighter, keep looking; this is NOT an angel food cake! Pound cake is good on the first day, but better on the second – and fantastic on the third. Covered well and left at room temperature, this cake just gets more flavorful as it ages.
I love making traditional recipes, so tried to stick with the basic measurements our great grandmothers probably used: one pound of flour, one pound of butter one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs. I did use some leavening for insurance, though theoretically the cake should rise because of all the air that is beaten into the batter.
My first cake seemed a little too dense – more like banana bread. While I pondered the situation, I peeked at other recipes on the internet and found that most people use only half a pound of butter. I stalled long enough to test the cake again on it’s third day on the counter. Amazingly, it seemed even more flavorful, and the texture had improved. I loved this cake!
Still, I wanted to tweak the recipe a little, aiming for a lighter texture and color.
I replaced one cube of butter with an extra half cup of sour cream, and even though I’m usually adamant about using real vanilla extract, this time I used Wiltons clear vanilla flavoring to keep the color from turning light brown. (Bananas and vanilla extract will do that!) I also reduced the leavening a little bit and paid more attention to beating the butter and eggs longer.
The result was a cake with a finer crumb, a beautiful yellow color, and a sweet, mild flavor. (Some of the credit for the yellow color should probably go to my hens, who lay eggs with vibrant yolks! If you use store bought eggs and want the cake to be banana-yellow, add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.)
I’ll give you the recipe for the lighter cake, since I’m guessing that’s what most of you will be interested in, but under that recipe I’ll tell you how to make the first cake, in case it sounds better to you. Personally, I think I preferred the heavier cake with the little brown specks. And I think the extra butter made it a bit more flavorful. Your call!
|Banana Pound Cake|| |
- 1½ cups salted butter, room temperature (if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon salt to dry ingredients)
- 1 pound sugar (about 2⅓ cups)
- 1 pound eggs, room temperature (Weigh them in the shell! About 8 large eggs.)
- 2 teaspoons clear vanilla flavoring
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 pound cake flour (about 3 cups) sifted
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- Grease and flour (or spray with a flour/oil mixture like Baker's Joy) a large, 12-cup bundt pan.
- Heat oven to 325 F.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for at least 3 minutes.
- Slowly trickle in the sugar, beating continuously and scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat until light and fluffy.
- With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, beating between each egg for at least 30 seconds. Yes, this will take you 4 minutes, but don't cheat - it's really important!
- In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, mashed bananas, and sour cream. Pour slowly into the mixture in the large bowl, mixing just until combined.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda (and ¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter). Gradually add to batter, stirring just until combined.
- Spoon into bundt pan and smooth the top.
- Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a bamboo skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Don't underbake or the texture of your cake will not be as smooth. If in doubt, give it 5 more minutes!
- Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, and then turn out to cool completely.
- Once the cake is cool, make icing:
- Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and heavy cream in a small pan.
- Heat on low, stirring frequently, until completely melted. Mixture should be thick, but spoonable. If too thick, add a small amount of cream or peanut butter, heating until smooth.
- Drizzle (okay...glop) over the cake. Chill briefly to set the icing faster, if desired.
- Keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
To make the more traditional cake, follow the instructions above, except:
- Use 2 cups of butter (1 pound)
- Use 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
- Use 1/2 cup sour cream
- Increase baking powder to 1 teaspoon
The chocolate icing I used is really more of a ganache. You can use a regular chocolate glaze if you prefer; I wanted thick and fudgy on this cake. I pictured a chocolate covered banana, and almost added chopped peanuts, but figured that might be going too far. Gilding the lily, huh? I think melted white chocolate with the peanut butter would be good too. (Think peanut butter and banana sandwiches.)
A few hints, words of wisdom:
- This is one of those times when weighing your ingredients is very helpful. Hey, I’m pretty sloppy about measuring things, but I weighed my flour, eggs, and sugar on a digital scale for accuracy this time.
- It’s really, really important to have your eggs and butter at room temperature. Please don’t use a microwave to soften your butter – just let it sit out until it can be beaten. Not too soft, not too hard.
- This is pretty obvious, but the top of your cake will become the bottom, so if you want a smooth line at the bottom, take a sharp knife and cut off the top of the cake where it puffed up in the middle!
Now that I’ve found that I actually can produce a decent pound cake, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of them. If I have some failures, pffft…they’ll just be made into trifle.
I’m moving into Valentine’s Day mode now though, so first…heart shaped EVERYTHING!