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Course: dessert
Total time: under 2 hours
Skill level: Moderate
Cost: Inexpensive
Yield: Makes one 9-inch (22.75cm) layer cake, or 12 servings
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Notes

I’ve spent years perfecting the cake: banana layers coated with fudgy, glossy chocolate frosting. It’s a childhood favorite of Chris, my husband, one that he looks forward to every January. In fact, it has established itself as the official Dodge birthday cake, and party guests look forward to it with great anticipation. The layers are rich, moist, full of banana flavor, and sturdy enough for a novice baker to handle easily. The fudgy blender frosting provides an enticing contrast to the banana. For the deepest banana flavor, the peels need to be completely black, so black that you might be tempted to throw the bananas out. Bananas this ripe are the only kind that will give bread, muffins, and cakes the strongest banana flavor.

In the spirit of diversity and to satisfy readers who might want an alternative to chocolate, I developed a vanilla frosting for this cake. Mixing sour cream into a traditional butter-confectioners’ sugar frosting refines its overtly sugary nature and adds a subtle tang that balances well against the banana. Much to my surprise, the entire Dodge family (including Chris) liked the Tangy Vanilla Frosting as much as its chocolate counterpart.

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups (14 ounces/397 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 medium, very, very ripe bananas (about 14 ounces/397 grams total weight, including peels), peeled
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl ounces/117 ml) buttermilk
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces/85 grams) chopped, toasted walnuts, optional (see Notes)
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups (10 ½ ounces/298 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (8 fl ounces/233 ml) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces/85 grams) sour cream
  • Toasted shredded unsweetened dried coconut or chopped, toasted walnuts for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. To make the cake: Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9-by-2-inch (22.75-by-5cm) round cake pans, tapping out the excess flour. (I like to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment rounds to ensure easy and clean removal, but it’s not mandatory for this recipe.)

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk until well blended. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer (stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or handheld electric mixer) on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add the bananas and vanilla and beat until well blended and only small bits of banana remain. Add the eggs two at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture will look curdled and a bit lumpy. Don’t worry, it will all come together. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until blended. Add the buttermilk and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix just until blended. Stir in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly.

3. Bake until the tops are light brown and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of 1 layer comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of each pan to loosen the cake. Invert the layers onto the racks, lift off the pans, and let cool completely.

4. To make the Fudgy Frosting: While the cake is baking, make the fudgy frosting. Melt the unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (see Notes). Meanwhile, combine the sugar, evaporated milk, butter, vanilla, and salt in a blender; there’s no need to blend at this point. (For those of us who have small blenders—mine is an ancient Hamilton Beach that Chris used for mixing up margaritas at college—it’s impossible to make a full batch of this frosting. If you’re not confident of the size and ability of your blender, divide the recipe in half and make two batches.) When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat or the microwave and give it a stir. Scrape the hot melted chocolate into the blender. Cover with the lid and blend on high speed until the mixture darkens and is very thick, about 2 minutes. You’ll also hear the engine working harder then the frosting is sufficiently thick, and it will appear to be barely moving in the blender. It will not be pourable. Scrape the frosting into a clean bowl and set aside at room temperature. When the frosting is cool, cover the bowl with plastic wrap until the cake is completely cool and ready to frost.

To make the Tangy Vanilla Frosting: In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer (stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or handheld mixer) on medium-high speed until very smooth and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until blended and fluffy. Add the sour cream and, using a rubber spatula, gently stir just until blended. Cover and set aside at room temperature until the layers are completely cool and ready to be frosted.

5. To frost the cake: Brush away any loose crumbs from the cooled cake layers. Center 1 layer, top side down, on a flat serving plate. To protect the plate from smears during frosting, slide small strips of foil or parchment under the bottom of the cake to cover the plate. Using a metal spatula or the dull edge of a table knife, spread 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the layer. Place the second layer, top side down, on top of the frosting. Be sure the sides are lined up and then press gently on the layer. Apply a very thin layer of frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish the top with the coconut or the walnuts, if using. The cake is best served at room temperature.

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Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving

707kcal (35%)
177mg (18%)
3mg (5%)
217mcg RAE (7%)
396mg
81mg
10g
62g
4g
92g
133mg (44%)
406mg (17%)
20g (100%)
37g (57%)
5mg (25%)