Monday, January 9, 2012

Nut-Crusted Chocolate-Banana Swirl Cake

My friend Hanna at Hanaa's Kitchen has been encouraging me to join ABC Bakers for a while. I thought the last thing I needed was another group (true), but this time she caught me at a weak moment. I had a week off from work so I was relaxed and, at the time, had finished Tuesdays with Dorie with no intention of continuing on with the group when they moved to Baking with Julia, nor of finishing the recipes I had missed.

Fast forward and a lot has changed. I've decided to continue on to BwJ, and I'm joining Nancy and a few other baking buddies in making up the recipes I missed in Baking From My Home to Yours. We're starting with the recipes picked in the very beginning and working through we get to the point where we had joined and were baking with the group every week.

But when Hanaa asked me again if I'd like to join ABC (Avid Bakers Challenge), I took a look at the book they would be baking from in 2012 (The Weekend Baker by Abby Dodge) and was very impressed with what I found. Virtually all of the reviews on Amazon are 5 star. It has the weights for the ingredients (yippee!) The recipes are interesting and approachable and are organized by how long they take.

The first recipe the group is making is the nut-crusted chocolate-banana swirl cake. During the winter, it can take a week for a banana to ripen in my cool kitchen, and it did. In fact, I didn't make these with fully brown bananas, but they were spotty. I was running out of time before I left for a conference so I hoped for the best.

I made this one morning in one of my pre-coffee stupors, and I completely forgot to mix in the buttermilk in between additions of flour. By the time I remembered, I had already divided the batter (by eye, instead of my usual obsessive weighing to get exact quantities of the two batters) and started spooning the melted chocolate into one bowl of it. I put half of the buttermilk in each batter. Turns out I had way more chocolate batter than plain so the plain was a little runnier than the chocolate, but it all worked out in the oven. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Preheat your oven really well. I used to stick cakes in when it went ding but now I give it an extra 10 minutes, and I believe that gives cakes a little more oven spring.
  • One of the things I liked about the recipe is she gives the weight for the bananas peel and all. Another is you don't have to mash the bananas. I dropped banana chunks into the mixer while it was running. A real time saver! 
  • I used 70% bittersweet chocolate and added it to probably 2/3, not half of the batter. It gave the finished cake a very pronounced chocolate flavor that people loved.
  • After going to the trouble of buttering and nut-and-sugar-coating the pan, I was convinced that it just wasn't worth it and I would skip that step if making the cake again. After tasting - no way. It gives the cake a very special element.
  • I used pecans rather than walnuts because we love them and because my buddy Margaret had sent me some (thanks, Margaret!)

Hanaa had said her cake stuck a little bit (find out the beautiful way she remedied that here), but mine popped right out. It looked a little odd because it was predominantly chocolate batter, but my tasters were ecstatic with praise of the finished cake. People who don't normally indulge in the sweets I bring to work were having some because the word in the office was that this one was fantastic. And I have to agree. I'm not a huge fan of baked bananas or banana-flavored things, preferring to peel and eat my bananas. But even I couldn't believe how good this one was - super moist, crunchy on the outside and totally luscious. I'll definitely be making this one again. And again. And again.

If you'd like to see what the other bakers thought of the cake, you can find them here. We're not posting recipes from the book, but you can find the recipe on Fine Cooking.


Hanaâ said...

What a gorgeous cake! I love that pan. What's that one called? I really like how your cake turned out on the inside (predominantly chocolate). When reading your post I was waiting for the announcement "... and that's why this is my first but also my last ABC post", but I'm glad it never came. Very happy to have you on board, Leslie :o)

PS: don't forget to add a link to your post here:

Kayte said...

That is one beautifully shaped cake, Leslie. Very pretty. Ah...those weak moments do us in, don't they? On the other hand, we are really going to enjoy seeing what you make with this group. The book, from your description, sounds very interesting and different from most. Will see if I can have a look at that somewhere.

Carolina Little said...

Gorgeous cake! I love cakes like this especially with my coffee!

Chelly said...

Oh my gosh!!! What a lovely cake! I love the shape of the pan! Beautiful job!

kitchen flavours said...

Hi, Your cake is beautiful! Perfectly baked! I am not a fan of banana in bakes, but I had a few slices of this cake myself! Look forward to our next bake! Happy New Year!

Lien said...

I also just joined and can totally relate in those week moments when you finally decide "oh well OK, I'm in", it's a great start though this bundt.
Love your bundt cake, very pretty!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I heard about this group back in the fall and even bought the book, but haven't gotten any further than that. I'm glad that you are favorably impressed with the recipes - this one looks and sounds amazing!

Di said...

Just what I need, another book to add to my list... =P I'm not usually a fan of bananas in baked goods (I'm with you, I just eat them, and only when they're just right), but after your review, I might just have to try this one. And such a pretty shape to your cake! (reminding myself that no, I do not need any more Bundt pans)

Anonymous said...

So many ckbk groups so few days..
This does look fantastic!! I will have to look up that ckbk.

Glad you are continuing with BwJ and making p the TWD recipes you missed. It will be fun!!