Cookbooks and Black Bananas
A few factors led up to the baking of this cake. First of all, I told myself I was not allowed to buy a new cookbook until I had baked my way through one I already owned. I know I won’t hold myself to this since I have a self-proclaimed cookbook addiction, but if it compels me to give the ones I own more love, then it’s a worthy cause.
My mom bought me Good to the Grain for Christmas, an incredible book written by acclaimed pastry chef Kim Boyce who wanted to experiment with incorporating whole grains into familiar baked goods. She doesn’t just stop at whole wheat flour, either. Each chapter is dedicated to a different grain such as teff, kamut, amaranth and quinoa. And the recipes all look delicious. So where to begin?
With the prospect of moving in the very-near future, I’ve realized I need to start emptying the contents of my well-stocked freezer. You might not believe the strange array of food I have hoarded away in there, especially since it’s a fairly small freezer that I share with my roommate. Half a loaf of challah, vacuum-packed grass-fed ground beef, wonton wrappers, ground pecans, bundles of tart dough, way too many veggie burgers…and three extremely ripe, extremely black bananas.
The result of these factors was a dense, moist banana cake, laden with creamy, crunchy walnuts and the unique, grassy notes of quinoa. Kim’s efforts to embrace the distinct flavors of the grain and to find complimenting ingredients were evident in this recipe. If you read one of my very first posts about quinoa, then you know I love the grain, but it definitely has a pronounced flavor. I’ve had it in baked goods before and have found it overwhelming. In this case, Kim tempers the quinoa flour with all-purpose flour while highlighting its earthy flavor by pairing it with bananas and walnuts.
Banana Walnut Cake
- 2 cups walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Arrange the walnut in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Combine the flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Measure 1 cup of the toasted walnuts and grind in a food processor to a fine meal. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the mashed bananas and beat well to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and beat again to combine (it’s okay if the batter is a bit lumpy at this point).
- Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Do not over mix the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Coarsely chop the remaining walnut pieces and scatter over the top (I found there were quite a bit more walnuts then I needed, so you could even reduce your initial measurement to 1 1/2 cups rather than 2).
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan before removing to a serving dish. Can be served room temperature or warmed. Though meant as a dessert, this works equally well as a breakfast cake and would also be good baked up as muffins (I’ll try this next time for sure!). Covered, this cake keeps really well for around 5 days.