13 February 2014

Boozy Choco-Nut Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

When it comes to Valentine's Day, you might as well call me Scrooge.  It's my absolute least favorite holiday of the year.  No matter where you go or what you do, it's practically impossible to escape the overabundance of hearts, sugary sweets and bright pinky red...which is like salt in the wound for this med student wife.  For his first three years the hubs was a medical underling, spending the day either cramming for giant exams or working the night shift.  But this year things are completely different.  No night shifts, no traveling for residency interviews and no large tests on the horizon.  Instead, the hubs and I are celebrating Valentine's on the actual day for the first time...ever.  We're going all out this year with cards, flowers and a heart-shaped cake.  But don't let the shape of that cake fool you.  Stuffed with peanut butter, bananas, chocolate chips and hint of whiskey, this is about as far from a pink fluffy dessert as you can get.

For a girl who hates cupid, I've amassed a ridiculous amount of heart-shaped pans.  Standard, spring-form or miniature, take your pick. And though I usually steer clear from both hearts and cake, there was no way I could avoid flipping by this delicious banana rum delight in Joy the Baker's book.  Especially once I spotted her peanut butter cream cheese frosting recipe a few pages later.  I mean, peanut butter and banana...come on...what person in their right mind could resist?  Be it on toast or in ice cream, I certainly never can.

If this cake were for me alone, I would have been delighted with this combo as is.  But the hubs is so coo-coo for cocoa, he makes Count Chocula look like a weenie.  To make my man happy, chocolate chips were stirred into the batter along with Joy's walnuts and a wee bit of whiskey.  The original recipe went boozy with rum, but I love the taste of whiskey with banana and chocolate.  The substitution was seamless, so I recommend using whatever you have on hand.

This cake literally has it all.  Its subtle sweetness more closely resembles a banana bread than a cake, particularly when riddled with chocolate and nuts.  The savory peanut butter cream cheese frosting is a terrific counterpoint, adding a nice salty component and lightness to the the dense layers of banana cake.  And to make it even better, you have two layers of this goodness.  Double the yum.

Now for you first through third year medical spouses out there, feel free to make this a round cake and avoid the insult of eating heart-shaped cake on your own.  But to everyone else in the world, have a very happy Valentine's Day with your loved ones, and eat a heart or two.

Boozy Choco-Nut Banana Cake
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 c brown sugar, packed
  • 2 c mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
  • 3 tbs whiskey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c + 2 tbs fat free buttermilk
  • 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
  • 2 tbs chocolate shavings
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-9 inch round (or heart shaped!) cake pans, then set aside.  

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.  

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat together on high speed until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes.  Add the mashed bananas and rum, then mix together on medium for another minute until well combined.  Run a spatula along the sides and bottom of the bowl to loosen any butter than may be stuck.  Add the eggs individually, beating on medium after each until completely blended into the mixture.  

Reduce the speed to low and add half of the flour mixture.  Pour in your buttermilk and mix until just combined, the and the rest of the flour and mix until almost entirely incorporated.  Add the chocolate chips and walnuts, then stir on low once or twice to distribute throughout the batter.

Divide the batter between the cake pans.  Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate and switch the cakes on the racks.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes our clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.  Remove the pans and place on a cutting board to cool for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To frost, place one of the cakes top-down on a large plate or cake stand.  Scoop a third of the frosting onto the cake and spread in an even layer over the bottom layer.  Place the second cake top-up on the lower cake and use another third of the frosting to top the second layer.  Use the last third to cover the sides of the cake.  Garnish with a sprinkling of chocolate shavings.  Serve with a giant glass of milk.  

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Joy the Baker
  • 7 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c + 2 tbs peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for a minute, until soft.  Add the butter and beat for another minute until well blended, then add the peanut butter and beat for another 30 seconds.  Reduce the speed to low and add the salt, powdered sugar and lastly the vanilla.  Mix together until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated into the peanut butter mixture, then increase speed to medium and beat until smooth.  

Add the two remaining tablespoons of peanut butter and fold 2-3 times with a spatula to leave streaks of peanut butter in the frosting.  

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