I think banana cake is one I baked most frequent. It is old-fashioned, rustic, comforting and homely. I adore such cake. Over the years, I’ve made all kinds of variations. The all butter one baked in curvy bundt pan, the chocolatey one that doesn’t look like banana cake, tonka beans scented one that cinnamon haters will love, one with loads of crumble toppings for people who likes everything crunchy, the list goes on and all were good.
Some say neutral vegetable oil is the fat to use for banana cake so to allow the banana flavour to shine, some prefer butter fat as butter just makes everything awesome. I also know a few purist who prefers banana cake undisturbed by nuts and cinnamon while some swear by add-in nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, coconut and spices.
I agree to some point that sometimes too much butter does affect the taste of banana but I would still like to have some of the buttery goodness in it. Hence comes the brown butter. If you have not try baking with brown butter, then you are seriously missing out something wonderful. Brown butter, where most call it by its classic french name ‘Beurre Noisette’ literally means hazelnut butter. There isn’t any hazelnut in it, but the browning process gives the butter a light hint of warm toasted hazelnut taste.
This cake I am sharing, introduced just enough buttery nutty flavour with a small amount of beurre noisette. To make it more inviting, I added a handful of lightly toasted walnuts and some chopped dark chocolate, the kind you would eat by the bar. My family are cinnamon haters. Sad isn’t it? But recently, something exotic came to my plea. Tonka beans. The aroma is really hard to describe but I am happy to replace it with cinnamon when needed. Most importantly, it passed the cinnamon haters test. A few gratings are all we need here.
This cake is a balance of everything. Bake it and you will have a piece of heaven landed on the table.
Banana Cake with Chocolate and Walnuts
- 215g unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- a few gratings of tonka beans or 1/4 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 120g caster sugar
- 60g unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, canola is good
- 3 large very ripe bananas, mashed to about 1 1/2 cup
- 2 tbsp greek yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 100g dark chocolate, chop into small chunks
- a good handful of toasted walnut pieces
Butter or spray and line a regular loaf pan.
To make the brown butter, place butter in a small light coloured saucepan. Heat on medium high, let it melt and sizzle without stirring. You can swirl the pan if the sides gets dark faster than the middle. Watch closely. When the butter turn to amber colour and emitting a nutty aroma, remove from heat and strain through a fine strainer. You should have enough for a 1/4 cup. Set aside to cool.
In a big bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. Sift into another bowl. Sift three times. Add salt and grate tonka beans into the flour mixture. Mix well and set aside.
Break eggs into mixer bowl fixed with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until foamy. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed till ribbon stage. About 5 minutes.
Combine 1/4 cup of brown butter and vegetable oil in a measuring glass with a pout. Turn mixer speed to low. Slowly drizzle in the oils into the eggs. Slow is the key here to prevent deflation of the whipped eggs.
Add mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
Remove bowl from mixer. Add flour in three batches. Folding gently till no flour streaks is visible. Add chopped chocolate and walnuts. You can reserve a small portion to sprinkle on top of the batter instead of folding everything in.
Place in center of the oven and bake for 1 hour 10 mins. Check at 1 hour, insert a wooden skewer into the cake, it should come out clean.
Remove from oven, let it cool in pan for 10 mins. Turn cake out onto wire rack and let it cool completely before slicing. If you can’t wait, at least let it cool to a warm-to-touch stage. Too hot can be difficult to slice.