From culinary student, to cook, to whatever the future holds
I’ll admit my other post today was completely unrelated to food. I try not to be “that” person, but I had to get the news about getting engaged out of my system.
Between wedding planning, full time work, and trying to enjoy every sun-drenched moment outside during the day, I have been trying to manage a little cooking here and there. But not every day is a multi-course meal. And the few weeks after vacation feel like a blur of unpacking, laundry, and keeping costs down while we wait for our next full paycheck to arrive.
I was inspired to switch up our morning pastry routine when I spotted a small display in the produce section at QFC. They had small bags or bunches of overripe produce deeply discounted. I have a lot of admiration for any place that decreases the amount of food wasted (whether it goes in the compost or garbage bin). Overripe and irregular produce may not look great, but it certainly has its place. I spied a bunch of spotted bananas. Nature’s queen of fruit sugars. Also, $0.39 a pound.
Initially, I figured they would become the typical loaf of banana bread. But I was really feeling a slice of cake. Did I have the time and energy between 4pm when I was shopping and 8pm (when I was supposed to be going to bed) to make, assemble, and frost a multi-layer cake? After getting up at 4am that morning? And before working at the same time the next day? Bahahah! Nope.
The perfect compromise was a banana sheet cake. You’ve probably heard of the term “sheet cake” if you’ve ordered birthday cakes from grocery store bakeries. The name is derived from a full sized restaurant cookie sheet. These are referred to as sheet trays. A full-sized sheet tray is 18″x26″. Soft cakes are baked in well-greased trays and cut into various sizes depending on the requested cake. “Quarter sheet” cakes are 1/4 of a sheet. This means a full sheet of cake could be made into two x two-layer quarter sheet cakes. But I digress.
Sheet cakes are fantastic because they bake quickly at a higher temperature than the ones you’d use in round cake pans. This means the final product is super moist and is easy to bake/cool/frost in a minimal amount of time.
I set about making my cake by modifying a recipe from simplyrecipes.com. I used my normal home sheet tray (the average size is somewhere around 13″x`8″). I greased the pan very well and lined it with greased parchment paper. I *love* the pop-up parchment sheets from QFC. They use minimally processed paper without a bunch of extra crap, and the sheets can be pulled out the top and cover most of a sheet tray.
The cake turned out moist and delicious, with an equal balance or fresh banana and butter flavor. It was a welcome change to the usual banana bread.
Nothing compliments a good cake like a quality frosting. Did someone say Nutella buttercream? You’re damn right. It was me.
Soft, fluffy, nutella frosting with a just an extra hint of salt to balance the sweetness of the cake.
The buttercream is very forgiving. Feel free to go crazy and add more Nutella if you like a more intense experience. Buttercream too thick? Add some milk or cream? Too thin? Add more powdered sugar. For this recipe, it’s better to have a thinner frosting so it is easy to spread. I didn’t even bother to move the cake to another serving plate. I just flipped it out of the pan, removed the parchment from the back, and popped it back in to frost. Easy peasy, and the folks I fed the leftovers to at work loved it.
Busy People’s Banana Cake
Modified recipe from simplyrecipes.com
For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream
For the Nutella Buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (DO NOT MELT)
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cream or milk
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease liberally. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a large stand mixer, whip butter and sugars until well combined. Scrape sides of bowl and mix on medium high for 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla extract and mashed bananas.
With the mixer on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and sour cream to mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl between each addition. Some lumps are ok, do not overmix.
Pour into prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the center of the cake bounces back when gently pressed. Once done, immediately place cake on the tray in freezer for at least 20 minutes to cool. Remove from pan and remove parchment from back. Cut and frost as desired, or return to sheet tray and frost if you’re in a hurry.
To make the nutella buttercream:
In a medium bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, espresso powder, cocoa, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter and nutella for 2-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar mixture 1 cup at a time. Between each addition, scrape sides of bowl and run mixer on high for 10 seconds. Add vanilla and milk/cream. Whip on high for 2 minutes. Adjust consistency as desired (more milk/cream to make thinner, more powdered sugar to make thicker). Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then whip for 2 minutes in mixed before frosting to regain its fluffiness.
Save time, eat it right off the knife!