The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, Part Banana

15 06 2010

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.

Mise en place for banana cake

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.

Banana "cake?"

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.

Stiff Peaks - I do love a good meringue photo, don't you?

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.

Banana chiffon cupcakes, hot from the oven

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…

Concave banana cakes

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?

Banana cupcake - just right!

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.




17 responses

16 06 2010

I am very very Geekily Excited by this too. I may have had to restrain myself from clapping at the combination of well-written story and banana fun. I really can’t wait to hear what the other flavours are, and how the ultimate tasting goes. Also, congratulations on being your friends’ cake-maker pick! If I wasn’t so darn single, I’d have you in my mental wedding list too. Except for the fact that I’ve never once imagined my own wedding.

Where was I? I’m not sure. I think I’ve just depressed myself. 😛

16 06 2010
Ann Mah

Yummmm! Love the descriptions of the three techniques and if that makes me a geek so be it.

16 06 2010

Hannah – Don’t worry about it. I realized, upon applying for the name change on my driver’s license, that never once in the 9 1/2 years that we dated had I ever practiced signing my married name. It was embarrassing, to say the least.

Ann – Hey, nothing better than an experiment with edible results, right?

17 06 2010
Tammy McLeod

What a great documentary of your results! Personally, I like the first heavy muffin variety.

17 06 2010
hungry dog

Wow, what a fun baking project. I can’t imagine whipping egg whites by hand though. I am weak and lazy. I do like the sound of that sour cream ganache–is there anything that WOULDN’T be good on?

17 06 2010

Tammy – I liked the muffins very much, too, just not to serve at a wedding. 🙂

hungry dog – I never imagined it either, until I found myself in Paris without my Kitchen Aid, although now that I think about it, my dad used to whip egg whites for waffles with a rotary beater. That was impressive. And re: the sour cream ganache, if there is, I have yet to find it. 😀

18 06 2010

Oh my goodness Brunettielocks! Those look delicious. Fun to see your process. I can’t wait for tomorrow!!

19 06 2010

That’s looks fantastic. I need some bananas stat! Thank you for your postings.

My cousin made us cupcakes for our wedding three weeks ago (plus a small cutting cake) – it was much easier than having pieces of cake.

19 06 2010

Hopie – Glad you like the looks of things so far! 😉

btrawick – Thanks! Yeah, there’s definitely something to be said for the ease of serving cupcakes vs. slices of cake.

23 06 2010

ı loved your recipes they are all great conguratulatıons

24 06 2010

simin – Thank you!

26 06 2010
Baking Serendipity

Heavy or not, these look fantastic!

26 06 2010

Baking Serendipity – Thank you!

28 06 2010
The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, Part Frosting « Croque-Camille

[…] Good.  I guess I should back up a little, and explain that there are, in fact, more than two flavors of cake, but the butter cake and devil’s food cake recipes are old standbys of mine and […]

2 07 2010
The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, Part Tasting « Croque-Camille

[…] Clockwise from top left: devil’s food cake with blackberry gelée, banana cake, citrus butter cake, chocolate-hazelnut financier, lemon butter cake with lemon curd filling, […]

7 07 2010

You’re like your own Cook’s Illustrated, painstakingly making recipes to find the Perfect One. Yay! I love the chiffon ones. I’m thinking of sneaky ways to keep them from falling. Nothing, so far. I guess it’ll keep me up at night. Thanks for that! 😉

7 07 2010

pastrychef – You’re welcome. 🙂

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