I feel as if this cake is a childhood memory for most kids that grew up in New Zealand. Banana cake, covered in what we affectionately refer to as "shitty chocolate icing". You know the stuff - icing sugar, cocoa, a little bit of butter, and then a little bit of boiling water which inevitably turns into adding too much, having to add more icing sugar, overshooting that, adding more water, etc etc. The best. We often had this as our birthday cakes when we were kids, but would have 'plain' icing instead that we were allowed to colour ourselves - I have very strong memories of managing to get half a bottle of yellow food colouring into a bowl of icing and having THE most bright yellow cake ever. It was awesome.
Turns out Rich has even more ties to homemade banana cake than I do - he went to boarding school and quite often his mum would make him a banana cake with chocolate icing to have in his 'tuck box'. Lucky for him, I tend to be useless at remembering to use bananas up before they go brown, so banana cake/bread/shortbread happens extremely frequently in our house.
Rich also happens to not be a huge fan of buttercream. I have learnt to turn my back while he scrapes most of it off a cupcake into the bin. For this reason, (because he is the primary banana related baked goods consumer in our house), the ratio of this cake is mainly cake:not much buttercream. It is essentially two banana cakes, glued together with a teeny bit of buttercream. I like to run a line of piped buttercream between the two layers to tidy things up, then load up the top with icing sugar, pop on some rosemary, and we are away laughing. He requests it for his birthday every year, which makes life significantly easier on my part!
The cake itself is super simple. It is a great go-to. (as are most recipes from the Edmonds cookbook). If my bananas are super ripe, and I would like minimal dishes, I throw them in the stand mixer with the creamed butter/sugar mixture rather than mashing them by hand. If they aren't crazy ripe, mashing them by hand helps.
The buttercream is a slightly more fancy variation of "Shitty chocolate buttercream". I like using butter straight out of the fridge and 'softening' it using the mixer, as opposed to softening it before you use it. It gives you a slightly colder finished product that is easier to handle. However I haven't tried this without a stand mixer, so if you are using an electric beater, it may be easier to have the butter already soft. The recipe here will leave you with some buttercream left over, which I figure is probably helpful as most people like a slightly higher ratio of buttercream to cake than this, so feel free to spread it on the top/sides. If you make this into a four layer cake (and slice the cakes into two), doubling the buttercream recipe would be beneficial.
This is a fairly large recipe, so if you only have a couple of bananas, or are looking for something smaller, halving it will work beautifully.
Ps how great is the crown cake stand?!? My Mum got it for me the last time I was home, from a teeny pottery shop near Nelson (my hometown). Its a one of a kind, and is inspired by Max's crown from "Where the wild things are". It also turns up the other way and can be used as a bowl! I LOVE it! Thanks Mama Bear! xx
Banana cake with chocolate buttercream
-Makes one 8 inch, two layer cake-
Cake adapted from "Edmonds Cookbook"
250g (2 sticks/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g (1 3/4 cups) sugar
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp (8grams) baking soda
60ml (1/4 cup) milk
450g (4 cups) All-purpose flour
2 tsp (8 grams) baking powder
250g (2 sticks/8oz) butter
500g (4 cups) Icing Sugar/powdered sugar
50g (1/2 cup) Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp (45ml) milk
- PROCESS -
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c. Grease two 8 inch cake tins.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add bananas and beat until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, ensuring bowl is well scraped down and mixture is well combined.
Heat milk in the microwave, or a small pan until boiling. Add baking soda to milk, and add to the mix, mixing until well combined.
Sift flour and baking powder, and add to the mixture. Mix briefly until just combined. Divide between the two prepared tins, and bake 30-40 minutes until lightly golden, and a tester inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean. A ramekin of water in the oven with the cakes will help generate steam and reduce doming. If you don't mind the cake being a little more dense, you can also place a clean tea towel over the cake soon after it comes out of the oven and press down gently to help lessen the dome. Cool in their tins for 10 minutes, then carefully remove and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric beater until pale and fluffy. (if you are using a stand mixer, I find it best to 'soften' the butter from cold with the mixer). Add vanilla, and sifted icing sugar and cocoa, and beat until well incorporated. Add the milk and beat on high until whipped and fluffy. Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I used an Ateco #808)
Level off the cooled cakes with a sharp bread knife or cake leveler. Place one cake right side up on a turntable or cake stand, and pipe a thick layer of buttercream onto the surface of the cake. Spread out with a small offset spatula, then place the second cake upside down onto the buttercream. Ensure that they are well aligned, then using the piping bag, pipe a continuous line of buttercream around the middle of the cake, where the two layers meet. You will likely have some buttercream left over so feel free to use this on the top of the cake. Dust top of the cake liberally with icing sugar, and garnish with your favourite herbs (I like rosemary). Enjoy!