Or, “Goldilocks” and the Three Banana Cakes
In addition to Battling the Big Bad Internet Provider, I’ve been keeping myself busy lately with cupcakes. I know, I know, cupcakes are SO 2005. All the same, some dear friends of mine have asked me to bake the cake for their wedding this summer, and given that I will be working in a home kitchen, a lavish, multi-tiered, fondant-covered showpiece isn’t really in the cards. Besides, these friends care much more about how their cake tastes than how it looks (which is one of many reasons we’re friends). I sent them a list of about ten flavor combinations, which I asked them to whittle down to six or so for a tasting. After much debate (so I’m told), they sent me their final choices, and I got to work testing recipes.
First up, banana cake. I started with this one because while I have a number of great recipes for banana bread, I didn’t necessarily have one in my repertoire for banana cake. I found three different recipes I wanted to try, which used three very different methods. I was geekily excited to see how varying the mixing method would change the final product, especially when the ingredient lists were remarkably similar.
I chose the simplest of the recipes to get going, because it was Saturday morning and banana cake sounded like an excellent breakfast. Also because if it worked, then yay! The recipe had serendipitously fallen into my Google Reader a few days prior, and I was seduced by its promise of speed and deliciousness. My only reservation was that seeing as this cake employed the Muffin Method, I feared it would be more muffin than cake, especially when baked in cupcake form.
And they were. Moist, tender, and a scrumptious breakfast, but not what I was looking for. Too Heavy.
So Goldilocks (or Brunettelocks, as the case may be) moved on to the next recipe…
(ok, really, this was the last one I tried, but the story’s a little anticlimactic that way)… a fluffy chiffon cake from the meticulous Cook’s Illustrated. You’ll need a membership to see that recipe. Sorry.
This one involved whipping egg whites to stiff peaks, which we all know is no small feat when you’re working by hand. As expected, this method produced a voluminous batter which baked up into puffy, light-as-air cupcakes.
Hot from the oven, they were gorgeous and very more-ish. Seriously, it was like biting into a banana-flavored cloud. I felt like I could eat a hundred of them. When they cooled off, however…
They looked a little sad. Granted, the recipe says to bake the cake in a tube pan, and then cool it hanging upside-down, presumably to avoid just this state of affairs. I had hoped that the cupcake format would be small enough to give it structural integrity, but no dice. Too Light.
Then Goldilocks tried the last recipe.
From my newly acquired copy of Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz, a cake featuring the Creaming Method. In my experience, cakes made this way tend to be along the lines of poundcakes (and in fact, most of the banana bread recipes I know use this method as well), rich and buttery. But would it be too much?
No. It was Just Right.
I’m not going to print the recipe, because I think you should just go buy the book. It’s beautifully photographed, and full of recipes I can’t wait to try, especially given the success of this one. I adapted it slightly from David’s recipe for Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts – I left out the nuts and espresso powder, and obviously didn’t build the whole cake, though I will be frosting them with my favorite sour cream ganache come the tasting – which, if that title alone doesn’t make you hungry, there might be something wrong with your appetite.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.