Sunday, July 26, 2009

Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache

What could be better than banana cake dressed up with chocolate ganache? The need to send a cake to a family member coincided with the cleaning out of the freezer, which is where mushy bananas go to await their culinary fate. At first, I intended to make either the Pleasant Hill Shaker banana bread that I've made for the past 20 years, or the ATK banana chip snack cake that's a snap to put together. A flash of inspiration struck -- Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cordon Rose Banana Cake with Sour Cream Ganache from The Cake Bible. This cake ups the elegance factor considerably (ganache has a way of doing that) and is no more trouble than the rustic cakes, except for the additional bowl to clean up.

It's hard to believe that it's been 21 years since The Cake Bible was first published. Any person interested in baking, especially at home, must have a copy of this book. The banana cake recipe is from the chapter "Simply Foolproof Cakes," and it's true, if you follow the recipes and take care with the ingredients and techniques, you will produce a tender, luscious cake. One of the unusual (at least to me) aspects of Beranbaum's books is that the recipes are in chart form, with measures and weights for ingredients. The only other cookbook that I have with charts is the industrial Food for Fifty. Still, I measure ingredients, although I'm considering entering the 21st century of baking by purchasing a scale. At first the ingredient charts were off-putting, but a few successful cakes into the book and I wish more cookbook had charts.

Beranbaum's charms extend beyond reliable recipes -- the recipe headnotes and the photographs pull you in, really sell the cakes, make you want to get in the kitchen and bake! Beranbaum's foolproof technique combines the sugar, flour and other dry ingredients together before creaming in the butter, eggs and liquid ingredients. This is much simpler than the usual butter and sugar creaming, then eggs, then flour, and produces a lovely, tender cake with just the right crumb. The Sour Cream Ganache is, as my Alabama grandmother would say, "out of this world!" (making three syllables out of "world.") It's just melted bittersweet chocolate and sour cream, but it is luscious and chocolatey and would redeem any cake, no matter the baker or box it came from (not that I would ever bake a cake from a box, mind you, I was raised better than that.).

Check out Beranbaum's excellent blog and search for "banana cake" and "sour cream ganache" for the recipes.

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