Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Banana Cream Cake with Salted Caramel and Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs

This cake was so much fun for me to make! First and foremost, it was a special order for my adorable nephew, Mason, who recently turned 2. He absolutely loves Curious George, so a banana cake was the obvious choice for this birthday boy. As I thought about what kind of banana cake I wanted to make, I knew I didn't want the cake itself to be a banana cake - I just didn't think it would impress a 2-year-old, or me, for that matter. 

I then started daydreaming about Magnolia Bakery's banana cream pie. (Have you had it? O.M.G. It's one of the greatest desserts ever produced on the face of this earth. If you are ever in New York City or Los Angeles (their newest location), you must promise me, you'll order the banana cream pie!) That's what I wanted for this cake.

As I created this cake in my mind, and added all the flavors and textures I came up with, I didn't want to overwhelm it with a coat of buttercream just to hold everything in place. I really wanted it to take on Magnolia's banana cream pie in cake form. So, I garnered inspiration from another New York staple and personal favorite of mine, Momofuku Milk Bar, and built the cake inside a 6" spring form pan with acetate paper around it. It was the perfect execution for what I envisioned.

Photography by Brittany Maddux, BrittanyMaddux.com

Another Milk Bar inspired element of this cake is the banana milk soak. Adding a little extra moisture to a naked cake is never a bad idea since these types of cakes don't have a layer of frosting to protest the cake from drying out. And more importantly, this step adds even more flavor to the cake. You can't go wrong with a soak!

Also layered in this cake: fresh bananas, toasted graham cracker crumbs, salted caramel, and fresh whipped cream. Basically heaven in a cake.

Oh, and one little note about serving this beauty - serve it cold, or things will get pretty messy when you're cutting the cake... like it did for me!

Luckily, the plated presentation didn't matter too much to the birthday boy. Mason loved the cake and I loved watching him dive into it with such a big smile!

A cute face like this with a mouthful of cake... there's simply nothing sweeter!

I hope you love this custom creation as much as I did.

And, a big thank you to my sister-in-law, Brittany Maddux, author of BrittanyMaddux.com, for letting me make the birthday boy his cake, and for these fabulous photos! 


Banana Cream Cake with Salted Caramel and Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs

Yield: one 6"-inch, 3-layer cake


For the White Cake (adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)
3 cups cake flour, sifted
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Banana Cream Filling
1 box (3 oz.) banana pudding mix
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
3 cups heavy cream

For the Banana Milk Soak (this is going to make a lot, so don't worry that you don't use it all on this one cake)
1 box (3 oz.) banana pudding mix
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups milk

For the Salted Caramel (adapted from Tikkido.com)
1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

For the Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs
18 full crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

For the Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Sliced Bananas


For the White Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 baking sheet pan with butter or baking spray and line it with parchment paper. Butter or spray the parchment paper as well.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and mix until incorporated.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, and then test to see if it's done using a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan. Only a few crumbs should be one the toothpick. May need to cook it for an additional 3-5 minutes, depending on your oven.

For the Banana Cream Pudding
1. Mix the pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and milk in a bowl until well blended, about two minutes. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
2. Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. When the pudding is set,  fold it into the whipped cream in small batches. Carefully fold in all of the pudding until it is completely blended with the cream.
3. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to build the cake. This step can be done a couple days in advance.

For the Banana Milk Soak
1. Combine the pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and milk in a bowl and blend. Mixture should be thin, like milk. Refrigerate until you're ready to use.

For the Salted Caramel
1. Mix the water, corn syrup and granulated sugar together in a very small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, but do not stir. Cook until the mixture caramelizes into the beautiful golden brown color. It happens quickly once the sugar starts browning, so don't walk away from the stove during this step.
2. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and mix in the cream. If the cream is not room temperature, add it SLOWLY, while mixing. Add a bit more and mix that in. Continue mixing in the cream a little bit at a time at first, and then you can start adding more and more as you go along.
3. Mix in the salt and vinegar. Stir to combine. Set the caramel aside and let it cool completely before using, or store it in an air-tight container until ready to use.

For the Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand.
3. Add the crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Add the melted butter and stir until all the crumbs are wet.
5. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely and set aside.

For the Whipped Cream
1. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream and sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form.

1. Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use a 6" cake ring to stamp 3 circles in the cake (or two circles and two halves). 
2. Place the cleaned cake ring on the center of a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Use one strip of acetate paper to line the inside of the cake ring.
3. Put one layer of the cake (or two halves) inside the ring.
4. Dunk a pastry brush in the banana milk soak and slather it on the cake, giving it a nice milk bath.
5. Spread one-third of the banana cream pudding in an even layer over the cake.
6. Spread sliced bananas evenly over the pudding.
7. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the toasted graham cracker crumbs on top of the bananas, followed by a heavy drizzle of the salted caramel.
8. Carefully spread about 1/2 cup of the whipping cream on top.
9. Gently tuck in another strip of the acetate paper between the cake ring and the top quarter inch of the first acetate strip, high enough to support the height of the finished cake.
10. Set a cake round on top of the whipped cream and repeat steps 4-8.
11. Set the final cake layer onto the whipped cream and cover the top of the cake with the remaining banana cream pudding. Sprinkle it with graham cracker crumbs, drizzle with salted caramel and decorate with whipped cream.
12. Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours. About 4-5 hours before you're ready to serve, remove the cake from the freezer and transfer to the refrigerator to finish thawing.
13. Serve chilled.

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