Though this winter has been relatively mild, give or take a blizzard here or there, I still find myself at the annual point of being totally over it. Over the cold, over feeling like it’s dark all of the time, over hats and gloves and puffy coats. I’m hungry for lightness and brightness, and for that sunny optimistic springtime feeling. I know it’s right around the corner (please be kind, March), and in the meantime there are things we can do to make life feel a little brighter. If you’re looking to fight back against the end of winter blues, too, may I recommend this banana rum cake with brown butter frosting. And that you save at least a little of the rum to shake yourself up a banana daiquiri to wash it down.
I made this cake originally for a dinner with our friends Tom and Cristina, when I had set myself a fairly easy rest of the menu and was willing to spend a bit more effort on dessert. I asked Hal for suggestions, and he poked around through our cookbooks and picked out Joy the Baker’s banana rum cake. No surprise–the man loves a banana-y treat, and lord knows he doesn’t mind rum. A two layer cake felt a little excessive for a dinner for four, but that was part of the fun. Like all of the Joy dessert recipes I’ve ever tried, this one was a “celebration of butter and sugar,” simple to execute, and seriously tasty. The cake is flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg along with the smashed bananas and rum, and the brown butter frosting is something I can easily imaging using on lots of different treats. It was a hit that night, and having leftovers for the next fews days was a very good thing.
One of the best compliments I can give this tasty cake is that it reminds me of the awesome sweets and booze combos put together by the women of Butter & Scotch. These fabulous gals sold their wares at the Brooklyn Flea (and other spots) for years before opening up their bar in Crown Heights, and Hal and I love their dessert so much that we served their pies at our rehearsal dinner and skipped a traditional wedding cake in favor of a tower of their mini cupcakes. The cupcakes were a huge hit, and I think people really got a kick out of pairing them with our custom cocktail menu–most especially the other hit of the night, the banana daiquiri.
Pouring Ribbons, the beautiful bar where Hal and I got married, makes a seriously amazing banana daiquiri. We had a 12 drink deep custom cocktail menu, and the banana daiquiri is definitely the one I heard the most about after the fact. It’s also a slightly complicated recipe, calling for three different kinds of rum and Giffard Banana. If you’re in the mood for a little liquor store hunting, I think it would be well worth finding the specific kinds recommended in the link. If on the other hand you’d rather not add four new bottles to your liquor cabinet, Hal put together a (slightly) simpler adaptation. Either way, a banana daiquiri with this banana cake would quickly bring a little sunshine to the most February-y of February days. Cheers!
hal’s banana daiquiri (with his brand suggestions)
1 1/2 ounce white rum (Brugal)
1/2 ounce Jamaican dark rum (Smith + Cross)
3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce Creme de Banana (Briottet)
1/2 ounce simple or demerara syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake til frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass, and enjoy!
banana rum cake with brown butter frosting
from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
makes one 2-layer 8 or 9 inch round cake
for the cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
3 tbs rum
3 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
for the brown butter frosting
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
1 tbs rum
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. Set aside.
To make the cake: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add mashed bananas and rum and blend for another minute, until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minutes between each addition.
With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Add the buttermilk and beat on low until the mixture just begins to come together. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until the mixture is almost entirely incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a spatula. Fold in the pecans.
Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes on alternating racks, switching the cakes halfway through baking. When a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, remove the cakes from the oven. Let cakes rest in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the brown butter frosting: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until browned in color and nutty in fragrance. Pour browned butter into a small bowl to cool. The browned bits will add color and character to the frosting.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add powdered sugar, turn mixer on low, and add browned butter in a stream. Increase speed to medium, add vanilla and rum. Beat for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add cream. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too thick, add a touch of cream. If mixture is too thin, add a touch more powdered sugar. Spread between the layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.