Periodically, I want to make banana bread. I can’t really explain why since I’m not even that fond of banana bread. Maybe it is the ease of preparation, the ingredients seemingly always on hand, the satisfying and great smelling loaf that comes out of your oven after so little effort. There is one problem with my desire to make banana bread. We never have any bananas.
I buy bananas each week and my kids devour them. Spencer (4) has been known to eat three in a day. No matter how many I buy, they are eaten. We never get close to over-ripe bananas. I read about people who freeze bananas that are too brown to eat for future banana bread making days. All I have to say is, can I have some of your stash?
Paging through Tartine, I came across this recipe. Instead of a banana bread, this is a banana tea cake, made different by the use of butter (rather than oil), and the addition of chopped dates. Immediately I glanced at my fruit basket. For some crazy reason, I had not one, not two, but eight ripe bananas. Meaning I could double the recipe and have two cakes. How did this happen? Clearly this recipe was meant to be made in my kitchen. I even had dates in the refrigerator from some catering last week.
So, also periodically, I like to keep it real here. I have disasters in my kitchen. They usually involve cake. Cake that either decides to stay in a pan because of an insufficient grease job, or cake that seems like it is baked through, only to have the middle of it puddle out after being removed from the pan. I had a bit of both with one of these cakes. And here is where I will tell you that sometimes equipment does matter, and that paying a bit more is worth it. I have two 9×5 loaf pans. One is really old and one is brand new. The old one I bought in a grocery store years ago for about $7. The new one came to me from the King Arthur Flour web site and set me back $16.95. I baked my two loaves side by side in my oven, both were filled with the same amount of batter, and one turned out perfectly. The other gave me this for a middle.
I will let you guess which was which.
Here is my pretty cake with the two salvageable ends of the ugly cake behind it. Disasters do happen.
The cake, no surprise, was delicious – even the mushy part. I served slices to four children, ages 6, 5, 4, and 3 (my boys and their two best buddies). I don’t really think of this as kid cake or kid dessert but it was all I had and I have a reputation for my treats not only with adults, but with kids as well. All four of them cleaned their plates. So did the adults. Kendall, age 5, was dismayed that she didn’t get to take the leftovers home with her, as they were destined for Randy’s office. “But you always send us home with treats!”
1 cup + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. (¾ stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1¾ cups (about 8 oz.) dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 medium banana
2 tbsp. sugar
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
This recipe is easily mixed by stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed or by hand with a wooden spoon. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda and stir too mix. Set aside. Peel the bananas and place in a second bowl. Mash with a fork until you have a chunky purée. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt to the bananas and stir to mix well. Set aside.
In a third mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Slowly add the banana mixture and beat until incorporated. Again scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then mix for anther 30 seconds to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Then fold in the nuts and dates. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again, making sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. To top the cake, peel the banana and cut in half lengthwise. Then place each half cut side down and cut in half lengthwise, to yield 4 long slices. (DT: I didn’t do this quite right.) Lay the slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve the cake at room temperature. It will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.