Of late, I’ve an extreme weakness for cookbooks. I cannot stop buying them. Usually, I find that at the bookstore I’m very excited to read it from cover to cover and when I buy them back, I just enjoy looking at them from my sofa. Terrible. A few new year’s resolutions have been made to read the recipes and stories and try them out but like most new year’s resolutions, they start brilliant and fizzle off by March. So, this year, a new resolution – I’d borrow the book from the library and if I actually love it and read it, I’m allowed to purchase it. I’m glad to report that this has been very effective and my wallet has thanked me for it.
On one such library visit, I’d borrowed David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert. I fell in love with the beautiful and simple photography and the not-to-sweet dessert recipes. David Labovitz’s Ready for Dessert is a great book. I wanted to make so many of his recipes from the moment I started reading it as all the recipes are detailed. One of the recipes I was dying to try was this Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts. The flavour combination of bananas and mocha… how could you not be drawn to it ?! So my mother-in-law’s birthday was the perfect excuse to make this beautiful cake.
The banana cake is deliciously moist with layers of banana, walnuts and a touch of coffee flavour. The mocha frosting is rich yet not cloying as there is espresso in it. And this is all topped with crunchy, salty and sweet peanuts. Everyone who ate had nothing but compliments for it. It’s a cake that’ll gladly make for any special occasion again. So satisfying and delicious.
Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts
Makes one 8 or 9 inch, 2 layer cake, 12-16 servings
For the Cake
- 2 and 1/2 cups (350g) plain flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee powder
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 6 tbsp (90ml) buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream ( I used buttermilk)
- 2 cups (500 ml) mashed banana (about 4-5 very ripe, quite soft bananas)
- 1 and 1/4 cups (125g) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped into quarters for easier cake cutting)
For the candied peanuts
- 1 cup (150g) raw, skinned peanuts (I bought mine at Shen Siong)
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 3 tbsp (45ml) water
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
For the frosting
- 10 ounces (280g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (125ml) strong espresso or brewed coffee
- 140 g (5 ounces) unsalted/salted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Butter the bottom and sides of two 9 inch round cake pans. I used 8 inch round cake pans and reduced the temperature and increased the baking time slightly. Line the cake pan bottoms with parchment paper.
For the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk the plain flour, ground cinnamon,baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup butter and 1 and 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed (KA Speed 6) until light and fluffy for about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and espresso powder or instant coffee powder, then beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated into batter. With a large spatula, mix by hand half of flour, followed by all the buttermilk and mashed bananas. The bananas should be very, very ripe with ‘blackened’ areas. This allows for the natural sweetness of the bananas to feature in the cake. Stir in remaining flour followed by the walnuts or pecans. Do not overmix as cake will have a ‘heavy’ texture.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared tins. Bake for 40-45 until golden brown and skewer comes out clean. If your oven heats unevenly, after 20 minutes, swap the pans’ sides. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool completely in their pans.
For the candied peanuts, in a heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat, combine sugar, water and peanuts. From this point, keep your eye on the skillet at all times as the sugar and peanuts turn brown quite quickly. When the sugar begins to liquefy, begin stirring with a heatproof spatula. Turn heat down to medium-low. Keep stirring until sugar starts to crystallize and start to turn brown. Use the spatula to scrap the sugar from the bottom of the pan to continuously coat the peanuts. Once all peanuts are evenly coated and they stat to look glossy, turn heat off and sprinkle sea salt flakes and cinnamon over them. Use the spatula to even coat the salt and cinnamon over all the peanuts. Scrape the candied peanuts onto a silicon mat or baking sheet and let cool completely. They reminded me of the sugared peanuts the kacang putih man used to sell. To clean crystallized sugar from skillet, boil some water until sugar crystals dissolve and discard water.
To make the frosting, combine the chopped chocolate and coffee in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally, once the chocolate is mostly melted, until smooth. Remove bowl from pan and whisk in cubed butter until combined. Keep cover in fridge until cake has completely cooled.
To assemble the cake, place a few rectangular parchment papers on the serving tray so that they are around the perimeter of the bottom cake layer. Invert the cake onto serving tray and peel off parchment paper. If your cakes have domed, use a serrated knife to cut a little of the top of cakes off so that they are both flat on top. Spread the frosting on the surface of the cake with an offset spatula or spatula. Carefully invert the second layer on another flat surface, peel of the parchment and and place the bottom of the second cake over the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting evenly around the sides and top of the cake. There should be plenty of frosting for the whole cake. Coarsely chop the candied peanuts and sprinkle candied on top of cake. Remove the rectangular parchment papers from the bottom carefully. You’ll have clean and neat serving tray without the frosting mess. Chill in fridge till ready to serve.
The cake keeps well for up to 3 days. In fact, it tasted better the next day so you could make this in advance and refrigerate it.
If you’re serving this to kids, you could replace the coffee with decaffeinated coffee or water.
This is definitely a birthday cake to remember because it’s so scrumptious with the banana and mocha flavour combination. I could not resist the temptation of eating another piece of cake the next day so I forced myself to give it all away. And all the pieces were gone without any complaints. That’s how yummy this cake was!
Mr. Lebovitz, if you’re reading this post (highly unlikely), thank you very much for this recipe. I’m eternally grateful and I’ll be buying your book.
(Photography courtesy of my sister-in-law, Sujatha )