Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Banana Black Cake

One of my favorite things about baking is using lots of ingredients. This probably goes back to my childhood baking experiences, but there's nothing I love more than putting half my spice drawer and a bunch of other stuff in a cake or a batch of cookies. Therefore, this recipe was right up my alley. See how all the ingredients barely fit into the picture?

I suppose it's also an American trait to have a lot of different flavors going on in one dessert. French desserts tend to go in for one or two dominant flavors, but American desserts tend to either have one over-the-top flavor (chocolate-chocolate-chocolate) or many mixed.

 But for this cake, almost all the flavors totally worked. The banana shone through, but so did all the dried fruits and nuts. The spices and cocoa held their own in the background. The only thing that I wasn't so sure of was the blackberry jam. I didn't really taste it, and the seeds were somewhat annoyingly crunchy (because I had overlooked the "seedless" part in the recipe and bought very seedy jam from a lady at the market). I recommend buying seedless blackberry jam for this. I'm sure it adds a nice moisture and obviously some sweetness.

 Since this is a big, dense cake with a lot going on, I made half the recipe, which filled a loaf pan plus two mini-loaf pans (with no dried fruit or nuts for Claire). The recipe below is the half recipe, which I think is the perfect amount unless you have a ton of people to bake for or want to eat cake for weeks.

Our friend Bob was visiting us when I made this cake. He got to try the lemon cheesecake and this, and he seemed to prefer this cake because of the big flavors and all the fruit and nuts. It's a tough comparison because they're such different dessert items, but this is just to say that this cake is really delicious and worth making.

Here's the recipe. Empty out your cabinets and get to it!

Banana Black Cake

1-1/2 c. (5 oz.) walnuts
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
2 T. cocoa powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. ground ginger
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 c. (8 oz.) seedless blackberry jam
2-1/2 bananas (8 oz., peeled), mashed with a fork
2-1/2 T. (1.3 oz.) buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 cup +2 T. (4.5 oz.) sifted flour
1/2 c. (2.75 oz.) whole wheat flour
3/4 c. (5 oz.) pitted dates, cut into quarters
1/2 c. (2.5 oz.) raisins

Heat the oven to 300. Butter a large loaf pan (you may need some extra muffin tins or such). You'll also want a shallow pan to put water in (a broiler or 9x13 pan). Grind 1/3 c. (about 1 oz.) of the walnuts in a food processor; use those to coat the pan. If there are extra, let them stay at the bottom of the pan. Chop the remaining walnuts into medium-sized pieces and set aside for later.
Cream the butter with the cocoa, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger, baking soda, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat for another minute or two. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Beat in the jam and then the banana. Isn't this fun? Beat in the buttermilk or yogurt, and then on low speed, beat in the flours. Take the bowl off the mixer stand and stir in the dates, raisins, and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover with foil. Put about an inch of hot water in the shallow pan and put it on the bottom shelf of the oven. Put the covered cake on a rack above the hot water pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Take off the foil (some cake batter may have stuck to it) and bake another 45 minutes or so, or until a toothpick comes out clean (these were the times that worked for me: Maida recommends 1 hour covered and 1-1/2 uncovered). Let cool about 20 minutes and then unmold onto a rack to cool completely. Maida recommends chilling this and serving it cold with ice cream, but I kind of like it at room temperature, just plain--but not really plain.


  1. This is the recipe I want to try next time I have a couple of very ripe bananas...which did you use -- buttermilk or yogurt?

  2. I used yogurt with a little bit of milk to thin it. That's kind of my go-to substitution because I don't always have buttermilk, but I almost always have yogurt in the fridge. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Made it last night -- start to finish 4 hours, because I baked it 1 hour covered and 1 1/2 hours uncovered. We ate it this morning for breakfast, sliced about an inch thick and toasted on a tray in the toaster oven. It is wonderful with coffee. This is a recipe I would never have thought to try had I not come across your blog. For someone who like to bake, it is fun to read about these recipes and your experiences making them -- some are so funny -- thanks!

  4. Hi, Diane,
    I'm glad you enjoyed it--long baking time and all! My oven must run hot.
    And it's nice to know someone's enjoying the blog as well :-).