Banana Date Cake

Banana Date cakeDo I call this a cake or a bread or a bread pudding?  I’m not sure…  I created the below recipe this week and want to share it, but I am not entirely sure what I should call it.  So… for now, it will be my Banana Date Cake.

My starting point?  I had overly ripe bananas that I needed to put to good use and I’ve been looking for something quasi-healthy to give the kids as an afternoon snack.  Most days I send them with some fruit and (truth-be-told) something processed as their after-school goûter (French, for snack).  When classes finish at 4p.m. my kids are usually famished.  So some sort of goûter is necessary before we all sit down to eat and it must be pretty substantial or I’ll have ravenous monsters on my hands until the dinner bell rings.

Banana bread was the obvious answer.  But I wanted to do something a little different from the standard “needed to use up some bananas” loaf.  Ideally, the cake would be both sophisticated and child-friendly.  It would be moist and rich, without being overly sweet or simplistic.  I love myself a good banana bread; but can easily do without banana bread that is dry or tastes like saccharin-infused loaves of banana flour.

With these thoughts in mind. I used brown sugar (my favorite brand of cassonade, which is what’s available here in France) instead of refined white sugar.  I also threw in some dates to add a different dimension and added moistness.  Lastly, I used generous portions of buttermilk and banana to make sure I got the moistness and density I desired.  The result?  It’s unlike any banana bread I’ve ever tried and I am smitten.  It has a wonderful, multi-dimensional flavor (bananas and dates combine beautifully) and the cake’s texture is more like bread pudding than cake or bread.  Needless to say, it is moist.  But it isn’t in the least bit soggy.  The chopped walnuts give it some needed crunch.  All-in-all, it’s a surprisingly toothsome  bit of decadence.  And one that Ozzie happily devoured after school – asking for seconds of “banana whatcha-ma-call-it” as soon as he walked in the front door.

Banana Date Cake

Makes 1 Large loaf

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cups/227 grams All-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp Baking Powder
1/4 tbsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup/113 grams Butter, room temperature
7/8 cup/170 grams Sugar
2 Large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup/120 ml Buttermilk
3 Ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup/50 grams Roughly chopped walnuts
3/4 cup/130 grams Chopped dates
1 Ripe (but not overly so) banana
Sprinkle of sugar to top

For the Cake:   Preheat the oven to 325º farenheit/165º celsius.  Grease and lightly flour the loaf pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.  Using a stand-up mixer fitter with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium until smooth.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated before adding the next.  Mix in the vanilla and then beat for 2-3 minutes at medium speed – until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Mix in one-third of the bananas, followed by one-third of the buttermilk, followed by one-third of the flour mixture.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides and repeat with the second third of each mixture – bananas, buttermilk, flour.  Again stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and repeat one last time.  Mix just until last portion of flour is incorporated and then scrape down sides and mix for 5-10 seconds more.

Stir in the walnuts and dates, just until spread throughout the batter.  Carefully pour the mixture into your prepared pan.  Fill to 3/4’s full, but don’t overfill.  Take the fourth banana and slice it in half.  Then take each of the halves and slice again lengthwise to create four long pieces.  Place the pieces on top of your batter (I added 3 pieces of banana because my pan is longer and skinnier than typical).  Sprinkle with the last bit of sugar.

Bake for roughly 1 hour, but begin checking for doneness around 50-55 minutes depending upon your oven.  Cake is done when it is a rich golden brown and springy to the touch.  A skewer poked into the center should come out clean.  The cake will not necessarily appear done at the surface due to its high moisture content – so make sure to check with a skewer/touch test.  I would have left my cake in too long, had I not checked it with a skewer.

Let the cake cool on a rack for roughly 10-15 minutes and then remove it from the pan to cool completely on the rack (or at least one hour before slicing).  It will keep for 1 week if wrapped and kept in the refrigerator.

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