Saturday, September 18, 2010

Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts

Like many projects, this one started with a simple problem - too many frozen bananas. I needed a recipe that would use up as many as possible. My go-to banana bread is really a skimpy recipe. A handful of this, a pinch of that and a couple of bananas makes a dense compact loaf. I was looking for something bigger.

David Lebovitz's new cookbook Ready For Dessert has the solution - Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts. In the first sentence of the recipe David promises " one big, tall scrumptious dessert"; he delivers.

This recipe includes four bananas, a tablespoon of espresso powder and a cup and a half of chopped walnuts. Nothing is held back. The result is a tall, moist cake with big flavours. The bittersweet chocolate frosting, which I used sparingly as in the cookbook photo, is the perfect topper. It was well worth the effort to make the salted candied peanuts.

Altogether the flavour was complex and compelling. Everyone loved it and it was gone in a day.
If you don't have David's cookbook, you should. If you need convincing, I hope this recipe will do the trick.

Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream at room temperature
2 cups banana puree(3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
1 1/4 cups pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and instant espresso or coffee powder.
Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
Mix in half of the flour mixture on low speed, followed by the buttermilk and banana puree.
Stir in the remaining flour mixture then stir in the pecans or walnuts just until combined. Don't over mix.
Divide batter evenly among two pans. Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely.

1 cup unsalted raw peanuts
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp water
½ tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

In a medium-heavy bottomed saucepan, combine peanuts, sugar, and the water over medium heat. When the sugar begins to liquefy, begin stirring.
Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sugar crystallizes.
Decrease the heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring, letting the crystallized sugar on the bottom melt and brown slightly.

Then, use a heatproof spatula to scrape up the liquefied sugar and continuously coat the pecans with it, tilting the pan to help the sugar coat the nuts evenly.

Once peanuts are a bit glossy and coated with syrup(there will be some sugary crystals on them still, which is normal) sprinkle the sea salt and cinnamon over them. Stir the peanuts a couple of times, then scrape the candied peanuts onto a baking sheet and let cool completely.

10 ounces semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup espresso or strong brewed coffee
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Combine chocolate and coffee in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until combined.

To assemble cake: Run a knife around the sides of the cakes to help them loosen form the pans. Invert one cake onto a serving plate. Spread about ¾ cup of the mocha frosting over the surface of the cake. Invert the second cake layer out of the pan, and place it over the frosted cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

Chop the peanuts and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.
Will keep for 3 days at room temperature in a cake dome or air tight container.
Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz


  1. Wow, this sounds really good! The last photo is lovely!

  2. That recipe looks wonderful. What a great way to use up those leftover bananas!

  3. Hi Clivia, I have just made this myself, and it was good. I left off the nuts so I could decorate it as a birthday cake. Yours looks fab!


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