If you’ve spent anytime around the foodie blogosphere, chances are you’ve at least heard of David Lebovitz. Spend any time on his wonderful blog or follow him on twitter, and you’re sure to become a huge fan. His wit and writing style keep you entertained while his skills in the kitchen keep you coming back for all of his mouth-watering recipes.
According to his website (link: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/books/) he’s written seven books, including one devoted entirely to ice cream, The Perfect Scoop, and The Sweet Life in Paris, a memoir of his time in the city of lights. But two of his early cookbooks, Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert eventually went out of print.
Ready for Dessert- My Best Recipes was born out of the chance at revisiting the “greatest hits” of his earlier books. But instead of just making minor changes here and there and repackaging older recipes, David decided to go even further. In the Introduction, David states, “…just about every recipe has been revised in some way—ingredients were added or swapped out with another or techniques have been changed. Plus, I couldn’t resist including a dozen new recipes, ones that have become favorites of mine, which I hope will become favorites of yours as well.”
The book is full of amazing recipes, as you would expect, and the cover cake just makes you want to grab that spatula and take a big swipe of frosting. It is, however, hard to tell WHAT the cake is, at least it was for me. Turns out it’s a banana cake. But not just any banana cake. Laced with espresso powder and toasted walnuts and slathered in a rich, chocolate and coffee frosting, this banana cake stands out from the crowd. But is it worthy of the coveted cover spotlight? Let’s find out.
Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts
Yield: Serves 12 to 16
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 min
Cook Time: 55 min
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (8 ounces/230 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp instant espresso or coffee powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 Tbsp (90 ml) buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream (regular or low-fat), at room temperature
2 cups (50 ml) banana purée (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
1 1/4 cups (125 g) pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
candied peanuts (This will make a bit more than you’ll need for the recipe)
1 cup (150 g) raw or unsalted lightly roasted peanuts (see Tip below)
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) water
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
candied nuts tip (from the author)
*You can use unsalted roasted peanuts in place of raw if you can't find them. Or you can substitute raw almonds. In lieu of making your own, you can also use honey roasted peanuts as is.
10 ounces (280 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) strong brewed coffee or espresso (you can replace this with water or decaffeinated coffee)
10 Tbsp (5 ounces/140 g) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
2. Spray with oil or butter 2 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
4. In a stand mixer bowl (or large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer or spoon) beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Incorporate the vanilla and espresso powder. Beat in eggs one at a time until each is completely mixed in. Add half of the flour then the buttermilk and banana purée. Add the remaining flour then stir in the nuts until combined, but don't over mix.
5. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake until golden and toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks.
1. In a heavy-bottom skillet, combine nuts sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar crystallizes.
2. Turn heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the sugar melts and browns slightly. Use a heat-proof spatula to scrape the sugar and stir the nuts to coat. Tilt pan if needed to evenly coat the nuts.
3. Once the nuts are slightly glossy toss in the salt and cinnamon stirring to coat. Scrape the nuts onto a baking sheet and let cool completely.
1. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Combine chocolate and coffee or espresso in the bowl and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
2. Remove bowl from the heat and add butter. Whisk until combined and smooth.
assembling the cake:
1. Run a knife around the edges of the cake pans to make sure the sides aren't stuck. Invert a plate over the top of the cake pan, and, holding both the pan and the plate together, flip over. Tap pan along bottom and shake a bit to make sure the cake completely releases from the pan before lifting it off the top. Peel off parchment.
2. Place first layer on serving plate or stand. Scoop out about 3/4 cup of the frosting mixture and spread evenly over the layer using a knife or offset spatula.
3. Place second layer on top and pour remaining frosting over the top, spreading across and down the sides of the cake.
4. Coarsely chop 1 cup of the prepared candied nuts and sprinkle over the top while the frosting is still wet.
Cake will keep up to 3 days, covered, at room temperature.
* I used Stoneyfield low-fat vanilla yogurt in place of buttermilk. Worked great.
* I only had to bake the cakes about 30 minutes and that was probably a minute or three too long. That might just be my oven, but keep an eye on them!
* I used half bittersweet and half semi-sweet chocolate for the frosting, both Ghirardelli. Keep in mind that the only sweetness in the frosting will come from the chocolate and a bit from the butter. It's strong! Also, if you don't like coffee, you won't like the frosting. My mother LOVED the cake, hated the frosting--she can't stand coffee. Use water instead.
* I used raw almonds in place of peanuts. But I don't think I followed the directions right because I freaked out when the sugar crystallized and didn't go any further. It wasn't until I was writing this up that I realized I needed to continue cooking the nuts. It didn't affect the taste, though, because they were amazing. My dad couldn't stop eating them! (My parents stopped by just after I made the cake, hence the reason my mom and dad are mentioned!)
* You can let the frosting cool a bit before using, but don't let it go more than about 15 minutes. It starts setting up and getting difficult to spread.
* It didn't mention anything about it in the instructions, but based on how the cover looks and how my cake looks, I think they leveled the tops of each layer before assembling the cake.
Source: Ready for Dessert, Copyright 2010
There is a lot of work involved with this cake, but it is absolutely wonderful! The only thing I might change is something I thought of as I added the butter to the frosting. It reminded me of when I make my dad’s famous fudge, but we also add peanut butter. I think peanut butter would be incredible in this frosting. I’d have to play with it, but I think you could go half and half with the butter/PB.
Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?
Oh, my YES! Everyone that tried it loved it. Based on the shear number of amazing looking recipes in this book, I think it would be hard to go wrong picking any of them for the cover, but this cake was divine. Rich, moist and bursting with complementary flavors, it’s a keeper, especially if you’re baking to impress. This cake will fill the bill.