Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Banana Cake with White Chocolate & Pecan Streusel

A few years ago I made the most delicious triple layer banana cake for my birthday.  I don’t remember now why I decided that a banana cake (with cream cheese frosting) was what I wanted—I usually make my Marbled Chocolate Sweet Potato Cake on my birthday.  Whatever the reason, I didn’t actually have a banana cake recipe in my repertoire that I particularly liked.  So I went looking for one.

Most of the time a spur of the moment search like this will result in an acceptable—maybe even excellent—recipe.  But this time, I happened upon the best banana cake I have ever had in my life.  There must have been something about her description (light and fluffy?) that attracted me.  Most banana cakes don’t seem very cake-like.  Often what passes for banana cake could be mistaken for banana bread that has just been baked in a layer cake instead of a loaf pan.  This style of cake tends to be kind of dense and dark…and not very sweet.  And I actually don’t object to this…as long as it is what you are prepared to have on your plate.  But since this was for my birthday, I wanted a true layer cake:  Something light, tender, finely grained…and sweet.  And that’s exactly what this recipe produced.   It is now my go to banana layer cake.

Unfortunately, I don’t make layer cakes that often.  I just don’t have that great of a need for them.  But I do make streusel-topped cakes (for my breakfast) on a regular basis (true story).  I’m not sure why it took me two years to turn this cake into a breakfast cake. 

Besides baking the cake in a 13- by 9-inch cake pan…and topping the cake with a streusel…I only made one minor change to the recipe itself:  I omitted a quarter cup of brown sugar.  I really didn’t want to change such a lovely cake too much, but the original cake really is quite sweet…and with a streusel more sugar would be piled on top.  I didn’t think this small percentage reduction in the sugar would have too much of an effect on the structure and tenderness of the cake…and it didn’t.  The cake is still sweet (and light and tender)—but not overly so (for a breakfast/snack cake).

I toyed with the idea of making only 2/3 of the batter for the same size pan and the same amount of streusel.  If you are a person who always wishes there was more streusel and less cake, then that might be  the route to go (you will find this to be an easy calculation).  But I really love the cake….and feel like it (rather than the streusel) should be the main event.  The result is a lofty cake…crowned with just the right amount of sweet crunch on top.  Perfect.  Now I have not only a “go-to” banana layer cake, I have a fantastic addition to my breakfast cake repertoire….which is just great since you can never have too many streusel cakes in your recipe file.

Banana Cake with White Chocolate & Pecan Streusel

1 c. (120 g.) all-purpose flour
1/2 c. (100 g.) golden brown sugar
3/8 t. salt
6 T. (85 g.) melted butter
3/4 c. (85 g.) pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
3/4 c. (128 g.) white chocolate chips (see notes)
Place the first 3 ingredients in a small bowl.  Add the melted butter and mix until the mixture is homogenous and clumpy.  Stir in the pecans and chips.  Set aside.

3 medium very ripe bananas (340 g. net weight)
2 t. lemon juice
3 c. (360 g.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1 1/2 sticks (170 g.) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. (400 g.) sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. whole milk plain yogurt

Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch cake pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.  Flour the pan, tapping out the excess.  Set aside

Pass the bananas through a food mill, or purée in the food processor.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Set aside.  Combine the flour, soda and salt and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.  

Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt in two additions.  Fold in the bananas. 

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Scatter the streusel evenly over all.  

Bake in a 325° oven until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean—about an hour.  Serves 15 to 18.

Note: Try to get real white chocolate chips for the streusel and not the inferior “white morsels” or “white baking chips.”  I’m partial to Baker’s White Chocolate Chips—which are reasonably priced and widely available.

(Cake portion of recipe adapted from Divas Can Cook)

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