Thursday, November 8, 2012

Banana Bread Caramel Cream Layer Cake (AKA the angry banana cake) AND a Giveaway!

It DOES look like an angry muppet.

While I pride myself on my free range, local schmocal  lifestyle, there are plenty of times when I daytrip to the big box stores for bargains.  I especially enjoy Price Chopper.  Our friend Jeff is an actor and the official voice of the Price Chopper ax.  If you've ever been treated to a Price Chopper ad, the image of a human shoe-horned into royal blue tights and smothered in foam ax livery has been burned into your frontal lobe.  It's Jeff's disembodied voice that emanates from this poor creature, although it's not Jeff in the costume.  Which is a little disappointing because I like to pretend that my dear friend had the pleasure of dancing in a steamy parking lot in the San Fernando valley in full flop sweat while covered in blue foam.  When I walk through the sliding doors, his voice greets me from the front door display and I get the giggles.

It also makes me happy to see barely browned quintuplet bananas for $.50.  We eat bananas with alacrity in the Prado household; they rarely get the chance to get mushy.  For $.50 I get all the benefits of mushy banana for a baked treat at a price truly chopped.

Come on!  $0.50?  How can I pass that by?

Even better is the chance to make this recipe AND get the Creme Fraiche for NADA!  I'm pleased to announce that Vermont Creamery will give a random commenter on this page a Creme Fraiche gift extravaganza that includes their outrageous vanilla creme fraiche and other goodies.  So comment below by November 16th and if you located in the US, you could be mashing bananas and playing with creme fraiche in not time.



For the cake

2 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 5 browned medium bananas)
3 cups cake flour (I use King Arthur)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted, room temperature butter
4 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 eight ounce container creme fraiche (I use Vermont Creamery vanilla creme fraiche for this.  If you have no reliable creme fraiche supply, you can substitute sour cream)

For the caramel cream

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 cups half and half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups heavy cream for folding into finished cream

For the caramel sauce

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
squirt lemon juice
pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
4 ounces creme fraiche, room temperature

To finish

1 ripe but NOT browned banana
2 tablespoons  granulated sugar
simple syrup (1 cup sugar and 1 cup water melted together on the stove top or in the microwave)


For the cake

Preheat your oven to 300º

•Line four 9" cake pans with parchment rounds and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

•While the butter and brown sugar are creaming, combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

•Mash the bananas until smooth (I puree them in the food processor for extra smoothness) and transfer to a liquid measure cup to make sure you've got the right measure.  Stir in the creme fraiche and the vanilla.

•Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add egg yolks, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions and making sure each egg is completely integrated into the batter before adding the next.

•Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix slowly, and then add half the banana mixture.  Mix slowly.  Continue in this manner until you've added all the flour and banana.  Set aside.

•In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites.  Whisk on high until just foamy.  Slowly add the granulated sugar and whisk until you achieve stiff peaks.

•Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten.  Fold the remaining egg whites gently into the batter until no white streaks remain.

Evenly divided

•Divide the batter evenly among the 4 pans (it comes out to just a little over 2 cups of batter in each pan).  Smooth the batter with an offset spatula and bake until the edges just begin to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan and the cake springs back when gently poked, about 45 minutes.

•Allow to cool in the fridge.

For the filling

•Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has completely melted.  Stop stirring and bring the sugar syrup to a medium amber color.

•Pour the half and half into the saucepan and stand back, it will bubble like crazy.  Stir the mixture over low heat until all the caramel has melted back into the half and half (some of the caramel hardens and you just need to let it warm up again in the half and half).

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks, salt and corn starch and whisk until smooth.  With the mixer running on medium/low, slowly pour the hot caramel cream into the mixer and continue mixing until well combined.  Transfer back to the saucepan, making sure to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl to get any clinging cornstarch, and whisk over medium/low heat CONSTANTLY until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayo.  Stir in the butter and continue stirring until the butter has completely melted into the cream.  Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the surface of the cream so that it doesn't form a skin.  Refrigerate until completely cool.

Good enough to eat with a spoon but save it for the cake.

For the caramel sauce

•In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts.  Stop stirring and allow the syrup to become medium amber.  Immediately pour in the cream and stir in the creme fraiche.  Transfer to a heat proof bowl and refrigerate until cool and thickened.

Creme fraiche melting into hot caramel....heaven.

To assemble

Whisk the 2 remaining cups of heavy cream for the caramel cream until stiff peaks form.  Transfer 1/4 of the cream to the bowl with the caramel cream and stir vigorously to loosen everything up.  Transfer the remaining whipped cream to the bowl and gently fold the two together until combined.  Transfer the cream to a large pastry bag fit with a large open tip.

Hard not to lick the caramel cream bowl.  So good.

•Place a cake round onto a cake round.  Brush with simple syrup.

•Pipe a layer of caramel cream on top of the cake by starting in the middle and spiraling out until you've reached the edge of the cake.  Freeze for 10 minutes to set.

•Add another layer on top of the cream and brush with simple syrup.  Pipe another layer of cream on top of the cake and freeze for 10 minutes to set.

•Add the third layer, brush, pipe and freeze to set.  Keep any remaining cream in the pastry bag and refrigerate.

•Add the last layer  and freeze again until the cake feels very stable.

•Cut the remaining banana in half and sprinkle each half evenly with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Using a kitchen torch, gently brûlée the sugar on the bananas.

•Remove the cake from the freezer and transfer to a cake platter.  Pour the caramel over the top of the cake.  Place the bananas on top of the cake and serve immediately.