June 29, 2012

Banana Walnut Cake

    I got my first taste of the banana walnut muffin in the US. I do vaguely remember seeing banana recipes in my mother's old trusted recipe books, maybe my mom did try out this cake long time ago, but I have no memories of that.All I remember about bananas being used as an ingredient in a sweet was the 'unniappam', where ripe bananas were smashed, mixed in the maida or rice flour batter along with sugar, cardamom and deep fried. Those were yummy in their own way, but nothing beats the combo of walnuts with bananas. Truly heavenly! Got ripe bananas and don't feel like eating them...well then, just bake this cake. I tried baking this cake with variations in the quantity of flour and it came out great on all the occasions.

Banana Walnut Cake

All purpose flour or maida - 2 cups
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Brown sugar - 1/2 cup(optional, but highly recommended for best results!You can also use just 1 cup                                     sugar, if you don't have brown sugar)
Ripe bananas - 2 (pureed)
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Eggs - 2
Butter - 1/2 cup (use 1 stick of unsalted butter)
Milk - 3/4 cup
Walnuts - 1/2 cup (broken and roasted)
Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp or more (if you like a cinnamon flavored cake)
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
1 round 9 inch cake tin or a 8.5 inch square tin

Method :
     Prepare the cake tin first by smearing a little butter or cooking spray and dusting with flour.Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1) Firstly, bring the butter and eggs to room temperature. You can microwave the butter for about 10 seconds till it is just soft, taking care that it does not become liquid. Immerse cold eggs in luke warm water for a while and it should fasten the process.

Butter and eggs ready for use
2) Sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt and cinnamon) in a large bowl using a sifter. Sifting ensures that all the dry ingredients are mixed well without any lumps.

Sifting together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon
3) Cream the butter using a hand or stand mixer at low speed in another large bowl. You will find it easier to cream butter kept at room temperature.Slowly increase the speed till the butter turns a light yellow color, taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl. By scraping the sides, you make sure that all the butter is properly beaten.

Creaming butter with a hand mixer
4) Slowly add sugar to the butter and continue beating the mixture till you get a coarse sand like texture. It is best to add the sugar in parts, so as to incorporate maximum air. Now add the two eggs and vanilla essence.Beat again on low speed. You can add the eggs directly or first mix them in a bowl and then add them.
1/2 cup Sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar mixed together
Creaming butter with sugar
Eggs and vanilla added to the creamed butter
Fluffy texture after beating eggs and vanilla with creamed butter
5) By now you should have a fluffy light colored mixture. To this add the banana puree and beat for a few seconds on high.The mixture will appear curdled. You can even try to mash the bananas with a fork and add the same. Personally, I prefer the smooth texture of the pureed bananas to the mashed one.

Bananas in mixer jar ready for pureeing
Pureed bananas
Adding banana puree to creamed mixture
Creamed mixture after adding banana puree
6) Add the dry ingredients slowly to this curdled mixture alternating with the milk.Use a spatula to gently cut and fold the ingredients into the wet mixture.You can use cold milk for this purpose.Milk is added to give texture to the cake and to prevent it from being too dry after it is baked.Use up all the flour mixture and milk to get a smooth batter.

Measuring 3/4 cup milk
Cut and fold dry ingredients with creamed mixture, alternating with milk
7) Now add the roasted walnuts and give it just one mix with the spatula till the nuts blend in. Microwave the walnuts for about 20 seconds, if roasted ones are unavailable.Adding the nuts in the end will ensure that they don't sink to the bottom and are evenly distributed in the cake.Add either 1/2 cup or 1 cup depending on how 'nutty' you want your cake to be.I usually don't add more than 1/3 cup as I don't prefer a very nut filled cake, even though I love walnuts.

Roasted walnuts dusted with wee bit of flour
Mixing in the walnuts
8) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.Check with a toothpick or cake tester for doneness, both on the top and sides of the cake. Bake for 5 more minutes in case you feel it is not done. Remove from the oven and keep in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a cooling rack.Cool completely before cutting and storing the cake in an airtight container.

Cake batter in a 8.5 inch square pan
Ta Da!!  Banana Walnut Cake :))
Try these measurements if you want a denser, more rich cake with a buttery taste.
Flour- 1 and 1/4 cup, Sugar - 3/4 cup + 3 tsps, Baking soda - 1 tsp, Salt - a pinch, Eggs- 2, Bananas - 2(pureed),  Milk- 1/2 cup, Butter - 1/2 cup or 1 stick, Vanilla essence - 1 tsp.

Follow the same instructions as given above and bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes in a 9 inch round pan. Test for doneness. Cool completely before cutting and storing the cake in an airtight container.

1) If both recipes are made in a 9 inch round pan, expect it to rise in the center and don't worry if the cake cracks a little on the top. The first recipe is also perfect for the square pan. The cake rises only slightly, but mostly evenly in this pan. In case the cake is not cooked well enough in the center after 35 minutes, reduce the heat to 200 degrees and leave the cake in the oven for 5- 7 minutes till the center cooks well enough.
2) The first recipe is very light and fluffy and absolutely yum! The variation recipe I have mentioned above, I used it when I first started out baking cakes. I recently tried baking this cake in a 9 by 13 inch pan with 3 large and 1 medium ripe banana. I had 2 and 1/2 cups of the puree and used it all with a cup of white sugar. I ended up with a slightly dense brownie like cake. It was mildly sweet and good, but I am still wondering why I didn't get a fluffy texture. Have to investigate ;) Also, I have not used brown sugar in either recipe...... a must ingredient in the banana walnut cake, because on all the occasions I have baked this, I never had stock of this sugar in my pantry :) Honestly speaking, I never missed using brown sugar as my cake was tasty without it. Its only recently that I have started adding 1/2 cup of brown sugar to 1/2 cup white sugar. Oh wow, nowadays, I am baking the tastiest Banana walnut cake ever!!! The brown sugar really does work wonders to the flavor.....hmm, heading to the kitchen to indulge in more baking ;)