Banana Cake

Here is the recipe for one of the oldest family traditions that I can remember for birthday’s. This yummy banana cake was used for many birthday’s for various people in our family over many years. I just made it for my mother’s birthday, and had made it in Feb. for my father’s birthday. I made this cake when my MIL and SIL came to visit us when we lived in MD and had just had our daughter a few months before. She loved it so much that she took the recipe back with her to the West and made it for her parents who made it a habit to continue to request this cake whenever there were banana’s that needed to be used up. I should point out that this is a high compliment to a cake since my MIL is a phenomenal cake baker. I am more of a pie person, but her cakes are out of this world. I hate having long periods of time in-between visiting her because we miss her so much, and I miss being able to sit down with a slice of one of her cakes. She whips them up like it takes no effort to produce a fantastic cake. What can I say, she is one of my idols. I love this recipe because it looks delightfully rustic and that is what I do. I can make food taste delicious; looking delicious is a completely different story. My MIL likes to make this recipe into cupcakes and just use the basic buttercream on top. If you are doing the full cake you should definitely make the creamy nut filling; it’s delightful! This past time that I made it I had already mashed up 4 very ripe, ready to be thrown out, bananas and put them in the freezer a few weeks before. Then I was ready to go with the cake without having to plan out when the bananas we had were going to be brown enough. I love keeping mashed bananas in the freezer for those need-a-bag-of-mashed-bananas occasions! Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Banana Cake

2 C. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 C. lard

1 1/2 C. sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 C. bananas, mashed 

1/2 C. buttermilk

1/2 C. chopped pecans

1 C. flaked coconut

  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • Sift together first 4 ingredients, while beating the lard in an electric mixer. 
  • Add sugar to the lard, followed by the 2 eggs, one at a time. Pour in vanilla and bananas. 
  • On a low speed add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. 
  • Mix in the pecans. 
  • Prepare the cake pans by buttering the bottom and sides, putting a circle of wax paper at the bottom of each pan, buttering the wax paper, finished by lightly flouring the whole inside of the pan. 
  • After filling the 2 cake pans (9″) sprinkle 1/2 C. coconut on top of the cake batter.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Put aluminum foil over the cakes if they are getting too dark before the center is fully cooked. 
  • Cool out of pans on a rack. When fully cooled assemble the cake by placing the bottom layer coconut side down on your platter, fill the inside just shy of the edge with the creamy nut filling. Place the other cake coconut side up on top, and frost with the buttercream frosting, leaving an open hole of frosting in the center of the cake to show off that beautifully browned coconut. 

Creamy Nut Filling

1/2 C. sugar

2 Tbs. all purpose flour

1/2 C. heavy cream

2 Tbs. butter

1/2 C. pecans, chopped

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

  • Whisk together sugar, flour, cream, and butter in a pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly so it doesn’t burn onto the pan. When the mixture is thickened and has turned yellow-ish in color remove from heat. Mix in the pecans, salt and vanilla and let cool. This will go in-between the 2 cake layers.

Basic Buttercream Frosting

1/2 C. butter

4 C. powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Whipping cream to consistency

  • Beat the butter until creamy. Add in vanilla. Alternate the powdered sugar with whipping cream so that it does not lump too much. Put salt in whenever you want to. Sea salt is a nice alternative to table salt in frosting because you get these wonderful bites of salt that enhance the flavor of the sweet frosting. 

Cake recipe and nut filling barely adapted from the Farm Journal. I use my Mother-in-Law’s basic buttercream for this cake, instead of the frosting the Farm Journal calls for. I am not a fan of eating raw eggs, even if it is just the whites. 

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Best Lemon Meringue Pie Ever

It’s true, I do make the best Lemon Meringue pie ever. I am a pretty humble person most of the time, and I do not generally brag about my talents, mostly because as good as I am in whatever I do I know that there are people way better at it than I am. However, this is not true when it comes to my Lemon Meringue pie. It is the best. Period. When making the pie I am always grateful for my husband’s help stirring the cornstarch mixture into the boiling simple syrup. I am not the strongest person and I have weak wrists (thankfully I do not need strong wrists to play the organ) and stirring towards the very end when it is getting really hot and the mixture is really thickening up is difficult. So, when possible, have your special sous chef help. He also helped me by juicing and zesting the lemons, however that I know I can do by myself.

Best Lemon Meringue Pie Ever

Baked 9″ pie shell

1 1/2 C. sugar

1 1/2 C. water

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 C. cornstarch

1/3 C. water

4 egg yolks

1/2 – 2/3 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 Tbs. butter

2 tsp. grated lemon peel

4 egg whites

1/2 C. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

If you like your pie extra lemony add closer to 2/3 C. of fresh lemon juice. I like mine richly lemon tasting, slightly tart, so I always add more than 1/2 C. but not quite 2/3 C. 

I like to get all of my sets of ingredients ready to go. I juice and zest the lemons, put the simple syrup into the pot waiting on the stovetop to be turned on, and mix the cornstarch and water.

  • Combine sugar and next 2 ingredients in a pan and heat over Med-High heat until boiling on the stove. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Whisk together the cornstarch and water. Pour slowly into the boiling simple syrup, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. If you get white lumps in the pot after adding all the cornstarch you will need to strain the hot mixture in a wire strainer. I have had to do this more than I like. I find an immersion blender helpful when doing this part alone (Try not to get burned by flying bits!). Remove from the heat. 
  • Whisk the lemon juice and egg yolks together. Temper the hot mixture by adding a spoonful into the lemon mixture, whisk it up quickly not allowing the eggs to cook, and then slowly adding all the lemon mixture back into the pot. Return the pot to the burner and reheat over Med-High heat. 
  • After reheating add the butter and lemon zest and stir until the butter is dissolved. Set aside to cool. 
  • Pre-heat the oven to 325°. Once the pie shell and lemon mixture are cooled make the meringue topping. 
  • Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until frothy. Gradually add in 1/2 C. sugar, beating on high until stiff, glossy peaks are formed. This happens quickly once it is almost there, so watch carefully and do not over-beat. 
  • Take a good scoop of the meringue and mix into the lemon mixture before adding to the baked pie shell. Top with meringue, sealing all the edges to lock in the juices, and make peaks. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until the peaks are golden brown. 
Adapted slightly from Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook- Best-Ever Lemon Meringue Pie. 

S’mores!

I love S’mores. Really and truly I do. When my husband and I first lived in an apartment with a wood burning fireplace we decided one day that we should roast marshmallows over an open fire indoors! Getting to enjoy a traditionally outside treat in the comfort of my own living room. When we moved to our last home, which did not have a fireplace, I knew that I had to continue eating S’mores and needed to find a good alternate way to create these delicious treats. Once the Honey Maid graham crackers that I knew and loved started to taste like garbage I also took a hiatus from my beloved snack. We recently discovered that Keebler graham crackers are a good alternative to the old, good tasting Honey Maid graham crackers. So I start with good graham crackers, snap one in half, put 1 piece of a large chocolate bar (I always use Hershey’s Special Dark bar) and microwave the chocolate on top of the graham cracker half for 45 seconds. I then make a tin foil plate to put the large marshmallow on and broil in the toaster oven. I would also use the broiler in the oven when I did not have the benefit of using a toaster oven. Then put together and enjoy. Anything I can do to facilitate getting a S’more.