Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Banana Cake with Chocolate Butter Frosting

“A Butter icing is like a favorite cotton dress…simple and easy to put on…cooked white frosting like a perky street ensemble…and the extra touches of tinted coconut, toasted nuts, or allegretti are the gay accessories that make a costume ‘special.’ Your family will enjoy your ‘dressed-up’ cakes the more because they look so pretty.”
– Betty Crocker, "Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book" page 161

I had some very spotted bananas I planned to make spicy banana bread with, but I was missing a key ingrediant (orange juice), so that was out. After some digging, I came across the “New Banana Cake” recipe from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, first published in 1950. If you haven’t seen this, take a look –- it is a faithful reproduction, down to its sexist take of cooking and gallery of regrettable food-like pictures.

The cake was very easy to make. Having said that, the recipe was difficult to follow (at least to 2006 sensibilities), so I typed it out before proceeding (that’s what you see below).

To go with the cake, I chose the book’s Chocolate Butter Icing, which doesn’t use butter but shortening.

Essentially, sweetened Crisco.

I used butter.

I wound up substituting a lot of ingredients, which may be the reason the cake isn’t that great. I was out of sugar, so I used Splenda, there was only 1 ½ cups of cake flour left in the canister, so I added ¾ cup of all purpose flour, and – perhaps most egregious – I replaced the frosting’s cream with non-fat, non-dairy vanilla creamer.

After writing that, I’m surprised this thing was edible at all.

But it was edible, though nothing to write home about. The cake had a strong banana flavor but could have been sweeter; whether that’s the Splenda’s fault is up in the air. The nuts could have been chopped finer, as well. As for the frosting, it’s pleasant with a light cocoa flavor. I used the 99% cacao Scharffen Berger again and now wonder if the reason I can eat straight is because it’s not as intense as it could/should be. You would think it would result in a dark chocolate flavored confection but, in this and the fudge before it, it’s much lighter.

I don’t know that I’ll make this again. If I’m going to go to the time and effort to bake from scratch, the result should be fantastic, and this isn’t.

But buy the book: if not for the food, for the fun.

New Banana Cake

2-1/2 cups cake four, sifted
1-2/3 c. sugar
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 c. soft shortening
2/3 c. buttermilk
1-1/4 c. ripe bananas (about 3)
2 large eggs
2/3 c. chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Grease & flour 2 9-inch pans or one 13x9 pan (I use 9-inch pans and lined them with parchment). Sift together four, sugar, soda, and salt. Add shortening, buttermilk & half of the bananas, mix to combine. Add the eggs and rest of the bananas, mix to combine. Fold in nuts & pour into pans. Bake 30 – 45 minutes, depending upon pan size. (Mine were done in 30 minutes.)

Chocolate Butter Icing

3 c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/3 c. butter, softened
3 Tbs. cream
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

Blend sugar with butter. Add cream, melted chocolate and vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Grade: Cake, B-; Frosting, B

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