Michael just celebrated his 28th birthday. And as tempted as I was to make a funfetti cake (my personal fave), I decided to attempt a decadent layer cake. After perusing several recipes online, I settled on a banana layer cake with caramel cream and pecans from Bon Appetit. I skimmed the directions and it didn't look too difficult. Wrong! This bad boy took me close to 4 hours to make (split over 2 days). If you're an experienced baker, I don't think it would take nearly this long. I just haven't made that many cakes in my day (aside from the above mentioned funfetti, of course). It took several stressed phone calls to my mom to get the cake all figured out (in my opinion, the original directions were not descriptive enough). For any novice baker out there who wants to give it a shot, I've made the directions easier to follow. I was actually quite worried that it wouldn't turn out at all due to several mishaps. Luckily, this assumption was wrong and it ended up being delicious. Michael's pop even said it as one of the best cakes he'd ever had. Now that's a compliment! If you want a great cake for a special occasion, give this one a try - you just gotta be prepared to devote a whole evening (or two) to it. Oh, and it makes a huge mess of pots and pans - be ready for lots of dishwashing! It's worth it though, promise!
*When making the banana cream, it says to use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature. I don't know exactly what the difference b/t a candy thermometer and a regular meat thermometer is. We don't have a candy one though, so I used a meat one and the temperature never got above 210 degrees. So I just cooked it for 10 minutes and assumed that was good enough. It turned out just fine. Also, the caramel took an hour or two to cool to room temperature, which is why I switched the directions to make the icing first, then the cake. You'll also see that you have to cool it in the fridge for 3 additional hours before you can spread it. Therefore, it's probably best to make this part of the cake the day before and just let it refrigerate overnight, which is what I did.
When cutting the cake layers in half, use a long serrated knife and go slowly around the edge until you can eventually cut all the way through. I watched a couple videos on the internet to get the technique down.
IngredientsBANANA CARAMEL CREAM
- 1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 small ripe banana, peeled and mashed with a fork
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (generous) fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced fat buttermilk (not my attempt to be healthy, this is really all they had at the store and it worked great)
- 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (not quite 1 lime), divided
- 4 1/2 teaspoons medium or dark rum, divided
DirectionsFor banana-caramel cream:
- With a mixer, blend brown sugar, banana, and 3 tablespoons butter until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups whipping cream; blend.
- Transfer to heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils (about 5-10 minutes).
- Attach candy thermometer to inside of pan; cook without stirring or swirling pan until temperature registers 218°F, about 10 minutes. *If you don't have a candy thermometer, read my above note (didn't seem to matter).
- Pour caramel into bowl. Cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally (this took an hour or two to completely cool).
- Beat remaining 2 1/4 cups whipping cream in a large bowl with a mixer until it begins to thicken (don't have to get it all the way to soft peaks though). Gradually fold in cool caramel mixture.
- Chill until cream is firm enough to spread, about 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans.
- Sift flour, baking powder, and sea salt into a medium bowl.
- Beat butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl with a mixer until well blended. Add 2 eggs; beat until blended. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions.
- Beat remaining 4 eggs and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium bowl (I reused the flour bowl and a hand-held mixer- just quickly rinse out and dry to save some dish washing) until mixture is thick and pale in color, about 4 minutes.
- Fold egg mixture into batter. Fold in bananas.
- Divide batter between prepared pans (about 3 1/2 cups for each).
- Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Toss pecans and melted butter in medium bowl to coat. Add sea salt and toss. Spread pecans in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, about 15 minutes. Cool pecans on baking sheet.
- Cut each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on platter. Drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons rum over top. Spread 1 1/4 cups banana cream over.
- Top with second cake layer. Drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons rum over. Spread 1 1/2 cups cream over.
- Repeat with third cake layer, lime juice, rum, and cream.
- Top with fourth cake layer, cut side down; spread remaining cream over top.
- Scatter roasted pecans over top of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.)