Jul 13, 2009

Banana Refrigerator Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting

This cake turned out just fine, and was the hit of our neighborhood Friday Happy Hour, which we do every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But allow me a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself first. It seems impossible for me to make a cake without making a few stupid mistakes. So far, the cakes have been excellent, even with the mistakes--but I want a PERFECT cake, not just a good one.
I decided on this cake because I had a supply of overripe bananas.

As a somewhat crotchety aside, I don't understand why fruit has to have cute labels on it, as if the fruit is talking to you--almost stalking you, really. This banana is supposedly saying, "Psst! I'm full of vitamins." I don't like to pretend that fruit has speaking capabilities and, at the same time, is begging me to eat it.

This banana cake is in the "quick and easy" list, and this is a legitimate placement. I won't say that you can just whip it up with items that you always have on hand, unless you always have creme fraiche, turbinado sugar, white chocolate containing cocoa butter, and cream cheese on hand, but you don't have to special order anything either.
You mash the bananas.

Then process them with creme fraiche, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Then transfer it to a mixing bowl, and add the sugar. Easy enough, but here comes my first mistake. "Gradually add the [canola or safflower oil]...."

I emptied my bottle of canola oil and still needed a bit more neutral-flavored oil. I pulled out my jar of vegetable oil and added enough to get to the required 108 grams. When I pult the bottle down, I realized I had instead used olive oil. Now, I realize that on a scale of global catastrophes, this is not even on the chart. But still.... And then I yelled at poor Jim, who was innocently standing by with his camera. "Did you know I was using olive oil?" I demanded. "Well, uh, sure," he said, "the bottle says olive oil. I figured you wanted to use it." I was in no mood for that kind of reasoning, I can tell you.
And when I smelled the batter, I could smell only olive oil. It overpowered the bananas. Once again, I was on the verge of tossing everything and starting over, except that I had already run through my supply of ripe bananas. I had to just hope there were no super-tasters in the crowd.

It's a very thin batter, and I wasn't sure that it would actually turn into anything resembling a cake.

But it did. It was not quite as tall as the cake in the photograph. Maybe the olive oil? But it looked respectable.
Next came the "dreamy creamy" white chocolate frosting. That name is just a little too cute for me. I'd be OK with dreamy white chocolate or creamy white chocolate, but not both. So I just said it was white chocolate frosting. With the crowd I was hosting, calling something "dreamy creamy" would get you nothing but ridicule.
This frosting is another of the super-easy food processor frostings, like the peanut buttercream from the first recipe. All you do is mix melted white chocolalte, cream cheese, butter, creme fraiche, and a dab of almong extract in the food processor. Let me just say that unless you have the steady hands of a surgeon, you should not measure 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract over the mixing bowl. As you might surmise, if your hand slips, you may end up with considerably more than 1/8 teaspoon. As you might also surmise, my hand slipped. I probably added about a half-teaspoon to the frosting--not a killer amount, but about 4 times more than it should be. Oh well, I thought, maybe the almond extract will cover up the taste of the olive oil.

My Tasting Panel was my entire neighborhood, who first chastised me for "breaking the first rule of Happy Hours." "What rule?" I said. "The 'no baking' rule," they replied. "There is no such rule," I protested. Then, after they were done chastising me, they wanted more: "Why didn't you bake two, as long as you were baking?" These are difficult people to please.
They were extremely enthusiastic about both the cake and the frosting. When I said I wanted quotes to use in my blog, they said things like, "It's delicious." I asked for something more quotable. Joe looked thoughtful and said, "It is delicious, but if I were going to critique it, I might say there's just a touch too much almond flavoring in the frosting." I couldn't argue with him.
On a roll, Joe continued, "And, although it's very moist, I detected a slight note of chalkiness in the cake." The rest of the neighbors turned on Joe. "Are you crazy? Do you think she's going to bake more cakes for us if you tell her they're chalky? This is not a chalky cake!"
I was with Joe on the excess almond, but not on the chalkiness. Still, maybe he's another super taster. Or maybe my olive oil tastes like chalk.


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Cute post... can't wait to give it a try!

Anonymous said...


You certainly have a very friendly neighborhood! I love these stories. I would move to MN, but after living in WI, I just can't take the winters. I hope you understand.

So, you did a great job, as usual. Don't be so hard on yourself!

Banana cake can be difficult, banana bread, too. I'd like to know how moist the cake was. Since it usually is a dense cake (is this one?) having a moist cake and a tender crumb can be tricky.

Happy Fourth to you and your readers!

Laura NYC

evil cake lady said...

Chalky or not, the banana cake looks delicious! I'm very interested in the white chocolate buttercream...with cream cheese AND creme fraiche it can't be anything but creamy and dreamy.

I have a regular potluck crew and in the beginning I would show up with cake and they would say (in mingled dread and excitement) "OMG you brought ANOTHER cake," and now when I show up without cake, they ask me sadly, "you didn't bring cake?" So hard to please.

Marie, keep baking cakes and I assure you, one day all the stars will align and you will bake a cake perfectly!

evil cake lady said...

oh, I forgot to ask, what's the refrigerator part of the cake? just curious.

Anna said...

evil cake lady: Maybe since the cake's made with oil, not butter, it'll keep well in the fridge. (Sometimes butter cakes get too firm when cold. Doesn't keep me from eating them, however.) ;)

Looks great, and FWIW, there are italian cakes made with olive oil on purpose, so even if it wasn't deliberate, others have walked that road before you.

hector said...

Ok Marie, you are allowed only 1 more mistake as 3 comes together -)

Question: does this cake use baking powder?

You all will love the Tropical Wedding Cake on the new book, it is a firm butter cake with the melt in the mouth tenderness and banana!

hector said...

Ok Marie, you are allowed only 1 more mistake as 3 comes together -)

Question: does this cake use baking powder?

You all will love the Tropical Wedding Cake on the new book, it is a firm butter cake with the melt in the mouth tenderness and banana!

Anonymous said...

The cake looks really good, but I must compliment the photographer as well (Jim?) the pictures are excellent. May I ask what camera he uses and does he use any special techniques? Jeannette

Marie said...

Thanks. Believe me, the cake is very good and doesn't at all taste like chalk.

Oh, I definitely understand why a person would want to escape MN/WI winters! I might go a little further south than NYC if I were really bent on better weather, though. :-)
The cake was both moist and tender, even though the addition of some olive oil probably made it somewhat less tender than it would otherwise have been.

Marie said...

ECL and Anna,
I forgot to mention that it's a refrigerator cake because the frosting has to be refrigerated, and therefore Rose devised a cake made with oil so it could be refrigerated and not harden, so Anna, you're exactly right.
It actually didn't taste like chalk.
One day at work, people were arguing about whether my bread hobby or my cake hobby was better for them.
I've actually made a cake with olive oil before--very simple--and I liked it. I just didn't want it in this cake. I am impressed that all of these cakes allow room for error.

Melinda said...

I always seem to have over ripe bananas. I started freezing the over ripe bananas in 1 cup measures. I now have a frozen ripe banana mountain in my freezer. I need to make 10 banana cakes so I can clear my freezer!
Perhaps, I should stop buying bananas... a thought.
I think your cake would be just fine with a wee bit of olive oil. Poor ole Jim, he just can never win.
Joe is yanking your chain, me thinks.

Anna said...

Hey Melinda,
Have you ever made the Banana Feather Loaf from RLB's Bread Bible? Truly fabulous. It's a soft loaf bread, that's got a banana flavor, but it's not overpowering.

Goody said...

The chalk thing-I take medication for arthritis that makes everything sweet taste like chalk-sour chalk. I wonder if your super-taster is on new medication? Thankfully, I only take it once a week, though it takes a few days until the intensity of it goes away.

Personally, I'd take olive oil over canola any day-at least it doesn't smell like a cross between fish and a compost heap.


Marie said...

If I made only one more mistake in my cake-baking project, I'd be ecstatic.

Jim is so tickled when someone compliments him on his photography--I'll pass it on. He uses a Canon PowerShot IS3. I think his technique is to shoot lots and lots of pictures and hope that some of them turn out well, but I'll tell him to let you know if it's more sophisticated than that. I'm thinking that he should get a digital SLR.

Marie said...

I forgot to answer your question. The banana cake has both baking soda (1 tsp) and baking powder (3/4 tsp.). Hmm, I wonder if Super-Taster Joe could taste the baking soda.

Perhaps you should start eating more bananas. I can only buy about 3 at a time because I don't like to eat them once they start getting brown spots. Jim isn't as picky. Yes, poor ole Jim.

That's very astute of you--I'm pretty sure that the banana feather loaf is Melinda's favorite bread from The Bread Bible. Maybe she should bake five banana cakes and five loaves of banana feather bread.

You must be a super smeller! Canola oil smells like nothing to me.

Melinda said...

Anna, Indeed, my favourite white bread is the banana feather loaf. Marie knows this because I have told her so. It is a miracle of a recipe.
It is just so impossibly light and tastes delicious.
I love all bread so much...but bread is loving me so much recently. I will just have to make and bake it for others.

Jim said...

Marie is right that I shoot a lot of pictures in hopes of getting a few good ones - I take from 5 to 10 times the number that show up in the blog. I take close-ups whenever possible or I use the optical zoom (my camera has 12X) if I can't get close. I also use software to crop the pictures and correct the light when necessary. I've only doctored the cake portion of a photo once: in one of the entries Marie mentions small white spots on the surface of the cake; but you can't see them in the picture because I "erased" them with the software thinking I would help out. I should have known Marie would write about them - I'll never do it again.

doughadear said...

I can't wait for this cookbook. The cakes you have made so far have all been wonderful including this banana cake.

Shirley said...

I made this cake today, and no way is it chalky! In fact, I think it's the best banana cake I've ever had.

Marie said...

I saw Joe (of the notorious "chalky" comment) last night, and told him about your comment. He just asked when I was going to bake him another cake.