Summer’s final weeks are always a waiting game for me – waiting until I can turn the page on the calendar to September and the unofficial start of fall.
I love summer, but North Texas’ unrelenting heat these past months tells me autumn can’t come soon enough. I long to fill my front steps with pots of yellow and bronze chrysanthemums, hang a sunflower wreath on my front door, and decorate the tops of bookcases and the china cabinet with silk autumn leaves and craft store pumpkins, squash, and pinecones.
I’m drawn to magazine covers and cookbook photos featuring pumpkins, butternut squash, savory casseroles, stews, oven-roasted meats, and baskets of just-harvested apples. With the promise of cool evenings and warm days soon to come, I’m already transitioning to the new season in my daily menus, but more than anything, I want to bake.
Quick breads, muffins, cakes, and chicken pot pies – these signal the onset of autumn in my kitchen.
Always reluctant to make a special trip to the supermarket for a single ingredient, I looked around the pantry a few days ago and spied a couple of very ripe bananas. They were no longer attractive for fruit salads or topping off my bowl of oatmeal, but I knew they would lend fabulous flavor to a banana cake. In the freezer, I discovered a package of cream cheese.
Baking a cake to celebrate autumn’s arrival was sounding better all the time!
Banana cake is one of those desserts that easily transitions from a casual, mid-week sheet cake topped with buttercream frosting to an impressive and decadent two-layer cake lavishly iced with thick swirls of cream cheese frosting. As a huge fan of cream cheese frosting, I decided to go with the latter and simplified the recipe by using sour milk instead of buttermilk.
Still, this cake is made with cake flour, which you’ll find in the baking aisle, rather than all-purpose flour for a light-as-air texture to ensure every bite melts in your mouth.
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ¾ cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine milk and vinegar, stir, and set it aside to sour. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, stir together cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Gradually beat the flour mixture, alternately with the mashed banana and sour milk, into the creamed mixture to create a thick batter. Stir in vanilla.
Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray the pans and paper with nonstick cooking spray-with-flour. Pour the cake batter evenly into the pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes 30 minutes, remove them from the pans, and place them on a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
Dash of salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and the salt, alternately with the sour milk, beating until the frosting is thick and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
Yield: One 9-inch two-layer cake