In an old E.L. Doctorow book, (Billy Bathgate), two characters talk about their favorite numbers. One of them, a book keeper for the mob, explains in beautiful prose why his favorite number is absolutely perfect. I vaguely remember the specifics of it, but I do remember how passionately the reasoning unfolded and how, by the end, I was moved by it. I’m not a numbers person. They’re mysterious to me, though I can appreciate how absolute they are, how they differ from language in that they are non-subjective. The concept of two plus two is the same in any language, on any planet and in any universe. Words are completely subjective, language is highly imperfect and words in common from one language to the next are as rare as finding your doppelgänger sitting next to you on the subway. Out of the necessity to communicate, words are man made, numbers and math have always been here and don’t need us for anything. If I have a word equivalent to Doctorow’s perfect number, it’s “solace”. It’s a great word. It sounds like what it means and for whatever reason, it’s comforting to say. I don’t know why it’s my favorite. I don’t even know that I’ve ever used it in a sentence or spoken it out loud to another person. I think mostly I say it in my head and at times when I need to hear something calming. What’s your favorite word? Why?
But sometimes, comfort needs to come from something more substantial. And if you’re looking for comforting and substantial, I’m about to improve the quality of your life by zillions of percentages. This chocolate chip banana cake with peanut butter buttercream frosting literally tastes exactly how it sounds. The words alone, all put together, are drool worthy, but this recipe stands up to the expectations. Just repeat it a couple of times and tell me you didn’t drool.
Usually, when we put together a 6″, 2-layer cake for Sunday, we’re looking at a few extra pieces slowly disappearing from the fridge for the next two days. This one didn’t make it through the night. Fair warning; go buy an extra gallon of milk.
A couple of tips on making a 2 layer cake with fairly dense cake layers like this include damming the bottom layer with an outer ring of buttercream frosting, then filling the ring with (in this case) semi-sweet chocolate ganache. Since there’s no frosting coat on the cake’s sides, you want to keep the filling from oozing out when the top layer goes on. See the pictures below.
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees, position a rack in the center and prep two, 6″ cake pans by spraying the bottom and sides with non-stick organic canola oil spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. If you want detailed instructions on pan prep, click here.
This recipe yields a 2 layer, 6″ cake that easily feeds 6-8 adult sized people, and that’s with generous sized slices. 4 of us had smallish slices, and there was a little more than half of a cake left, which Josh must of eaten under his blankets with a flashlight after everyone was in bed because no one seems to know what happened to the leftovers.
Time: About one hour with baking time. With the cake in the oven, you have plenty of time to make frosting and filling, both of which are very easy to make.
Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
3/4 Cups of organic unsalted butter softened
1 1/2 Cups organic sugar
2 Eggs beaten (vegetarian fed, cage free, organic and emotionally adjusted)
1 1/2 Cups mashed bananas (about 3 of them)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted whole wheat flour (organic all-purpose if you prefer it-the whole wheat is hardy and fits this recipe but it’s a dense, heavier cake to beging with)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 Cup buttermilk*
*Can’t find buttermilk? Add 1 tsp of white vinegar to 1 Cup of milk (whole, 1% skim…whatever) Let sit for ten minutes.
1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate Chips
Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
1/2 Cup organic, unsalted butter, softened
2 Cups powdered (confectioners) sugar, sifted
1 Cup natural, creamy peanut butter (Adam’s is reccomended…and yes, you have to stir it but it’s worth it)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
3-5 Tbsp organic whipping cream
Semi-Sweet (or Milk Chocolate) Ganache
1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp organic unsalted butter
*9 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped (or about 1 1/2 cups of semi chocolate chips)
1 tsp vanilla extract
You can substitue milk chocolate for the semi-sweet if you like, but my opinion is that milk chocolate is too sweet for this recipe. In fact, I might have dark chocolate ganache and been just as happy with the results.
Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer on high speed. You might want to start off slow to avoid chunks of butter flying out of the bowl and onto the floor (unless you’re talking to my basset hound Blue…she says “let it fly”). Mix the beaten eggs in a small bowl with the mashed bananas and vanilla. Add this to the butter and sugar in your mixing bowl and set to stir for about 2 minutes or until the ingredients are combined.
Begin adding flour and buttermilk alternately in three turns, beginning and ending with the flour. As the final step, add the chocolate chips and gently fold them in by hand with a spatula until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in even portions into the prepared cake pans, about 1/2 way up the pan. Bake until the tops of the layers are firm and a knife inserted in to the center comes away clean. Baking time is between 40-45 mintes.
Place the cake pans on a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using a small knife, loosen the cake edge from the pan. Turn the pans upside down onto the wire rack. Lift the cake pan away from the cake and carefully remove the parchment paper. Set the parchment paper loosely back on top of each cake. Let the cakes cool completely and remove the parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting.
Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting: (yields about 2 Cups)
Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl, add the salt then whisk until throughly combined (Kosher salt isn’t likely to fit through the screen of your sifter). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and at medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, fluffy and slightly lightened in color. This takes about 3 minutes on a standard, 5 quart stand mixer. Be patience and your frosting will turn out nice and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides as needed. Add the peanut butter and return the mixer to medium speed, again beating until it is entirely smooth and fluffy. If needed, add the whipping cream until your frosting is a spreadable consistency. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Allow to come to room temperature and re-whip with a mixer if it has been stored cool. You can also freeze this rosting for two months in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Ganache:
In a medium saucepan, over low heat, heat the butter and cream until the butter is melted and the cream is hot. Tiny bubbles should form in the mixture, which should read around 175 degree (F) on a thermometer (use a digital thermometer if you have one). If you get a skin on the top of the cream, remove it gently with a spoon. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let the chocolate cream mixture sit for half a minute or so until the chocolate starts to soften. Whisk the ganache until completely smooth then stir in the vanilla.