Someone on the street today said (from a safe distance) “How are you?” .
“Great!” I said. Confident for several seconds before adding, “Ya know… scared and anxious but also… great?”
That’s where we are these days. In two realities: one of occasional fear and constant uncertainty, the other of just normal TGIF feelings. We can be both places. That can be ok for now. It must really feel that way especially if you have young, playful kiddos at home. I see y’all out there!
I think of all the grocery store workers, health car professionals, and deliver folks out there also uncertain, also great, and also very much out there for us. Bless them, truly.
As baking is my offering in times of ease and times of trouble, I made us a cake. I developed and shot this recipe 2 weeks (aka a million years) ago. I think it still holds strong. The cake base is a pleasingly simple butter and oil cake with a dash of cinnamon and a handful of pecans. If eggs are hard for you to come by, perhaps save this recipe for more egg-plentiful days – those will come too. If you don’t have bananas on hand (or you’re saving them for banana bread), this cake would also work with thawed, drained, and patted-dry frozen berries.
Be well and happy baking!
This yellow cake is a little wonder. (Double it and you have a dreamy two-layer cake.) It’s the texture of a boxed cake – tender and soft – without the weird chemical taste box mixes have (and maybe I secretly crave sometimes). The secret to the tender texture of this cake is a mix of fat: butter for taste and oil of bounce and pliability.
See… oil is 100% fat – no milk solids or water – so it helps maintain the moisture of the cake for days.
Cream together room temperature butter, granulated sugar, and oil together until soft and fluffy. The mixture will hold peeks like it’s well-aerated (because it is!).
Add the eggs, one at a time, whipping to fluff the batter after each addition.
The batter will become the most lovely pale yellow.
This cake calls for a very good dose of vanilla extract. Please oblige.
Combine the dry ingredients before adding them to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. We want to make sure the spice and leavening is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Partially fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
Add the whole milk and stir until well combined and no dry patches are hiding at the bottom of the bowl.
After the batter smooths, I like to bring the electric mixer back to the batter to whip it for three minutes. We’re aerating the batter from start to finish.
Stir in crushed pecans if you’d like a little crunch. I think it’s nice.
Before the batter goes in the pan, we have some bananas to foster.
Lightly grease a tall-sided 8-inch round cake pan. This is a whole-lotta cake so please trust me when I say you’ll need a 3-inch deep pan.
Place butter and sugar in the pan and place the pan in the preheating oven for the butter to melt.
Use a spatula to spread the melty sugarbutter across the pan – the sugar will still be grainy and that’s A-OK.
Now for the bananas – you’ll want two ripe but not overly soft bananas. These aren’t quite banana bread bananas, just before that stage.
Slice each banana in two and then cut each half down the center. You’ll get four pieces out of each banana.
Arrange it cut-side-down, however pleases you, in the pan atop the melty sugarbutter bottom.
Spoon the cake batter on top of the bananas.
Spread the batter into an even layer across the pan, edge to edge.
We’ll bake this cake a good long while. There’s a lot of batter and bananas to cook and caramelize. 40 minutes – maybe more.
The cake, when done, will come to a deep golden brown. Test the doneness with a toothpick – a toothpick with a few moist crumbs (not wet batter) means the cake is good and done!
We’re mostly there! Now we just have to get this beauty out of the pan.
Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 7 minutes after it comes out of the oven. We want the fruit and sugars at the bottom to be warm so they release when we invert the pan.
Run a butterknife around the cake between the cake and the pan, loosening.
Place a plate or platter atop the pan. Use pot holders to somehow hold both the pan and platter at the same time, and turn the whole thing upside down. You should hear and feel the cake release from the pan to the plate. Guess what? You’re a badass.
There’s no need to wait – what’s better than warm cake?
Top with ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy!
Photos with my friend Jon Melendez.
For the Cake:
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick / 2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 1/4 cups (156 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) vegetable or another neutral oil
- 1 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
For the Banana Part Bottom / Top:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (66 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 ripe but firm bananas
- To make the cake, first preheat oven to 350 degrees; position the rack in the middle. Grease an 8-inch round cake pans. This needs to be a tall-sided cake pan (3-inches high). If you only have a 9-inch tall cake pan – that will do, too.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
- In a large bowl beat the softened butter, oil and sugar together with an electric hand beater until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Add the dry ingredients to the batter and fold together with a spatula until just combined. Add the milk and fold together with a spatula until just combined. Use the electric hand beaters to whip the batter on medium speed for 3 minutes until well aerated. Stir in the pecans, if using.
- Place the butter and brown sugar in the pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. The sugar won’t dissolve just yet. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to spread the butter and sugar into an even layer.
- Peel bananas and carefully slice lengthwise and in half. Fashion the bananas around the pan, cut side down.
- Spoon batter over the sugar and bananas and use a spatula to smooth to an even layer reaching the edges of the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes (it’s a long back because there’s a lot of cake batter) or until the cake is golden, domed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Keep an eye on the cake after 35 minutes and reassess how much time it might need in your oven.
- Transfer the cake to a cooling rack for 5 to 7 minutes. You’ll want to invert the cake while it’s still very warm to ensure that all the caramelized banana goodness comes out of the cake pan. Run a butterknife along the edges of the pan to loosen the sides. Place a platter on top of the cake in the pan and, using pot holders, decisively invert to pan. You should hear the cake release onto the platter. Remove the cake pan and if there is a banana piece left behind in the pan, just use the butterknife to transfer it to the pan and onto the cake. No one will know a thing.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. This cake will store, covered in the refrigerator for up to three days though it’s best the within two days of baking.