The recipe for this top-grade cake is designed for home baking

SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POSTJanuary 22, 2014 

Bananas Foster Cake.

THE WASHINGTON POST

This recipe is a professional-grade pastry that cooks can re-create at home, says chef Padua Player of Susan Gage Catering and the Suga Chef, his own business in Fort Washington, Md.

Player’s show-stopping Bananas Foster Cake echoes the New Orleans dessert of bananas caramelized in brown sugar and butter and then flambeed with rum, tastes even better than it looks. He uses the caramelized fruit as a filling, along with pecan brittle chopped into crunch and luscious caramel buttercream, between three layers of banana cake.

The chef’s recipe looks involved, but when you spread the steps over two days — the cake, crunch and bananas can be made a day in advance — it’s well within the reach of a home cook. Collective gasps of delight are your reward.[0x0b]

BANANAS FOSTER CAKE

16 servings. You can make the whole cake the day before, let the buttercream harden in the refrigerator and then cover it with plastic wrap. Do not garnish the cake’s top with the pecan crunch until ready to serve, to avoid melting the caramel. You’ll need three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and an instant-read thermometer.

FOR THE CAKE

1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for the pans

4 cups flour, plus more for the pans

6 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup loosely packed light brown sugar

5 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use nonfat)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

FOR THE PECAN CRUNCH

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 cups pecan pieces, toasted (see NOTE on L6)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

FOR THE CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup heavy cream

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the flambeed bananas

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

4 bananas, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup dark rum

FOR THE CAKE

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease the three cake pans with a little oil, then dust them with flour, shaking out any excess.

Combine the bananas and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed until well incorporated, then add the cup of oil, the eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract and orange zest; beat until smooth. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Sift together the 4 cups of flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the banana mixture, beating just until incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans; bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then transfer the cake layers to wire racks to cool completely.

FOR THE PECAN CRUNCH

Grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil spray.

Spread the sugar in a large skillet, then stir in the water to form a mixture that resembles wet sand. Cook undisturbed over high heat for 6 to 8 minutes to form an amber, translucent syrup.

Add the toasted pecan pieces and salt, stirring to coat the nuts evenly. Carefully pour the mixture onto the baking sheet, spreading it in a thin layer. Cool completely, then break up and chop into small pieces.

FOR THE CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM

Combine 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and all of the water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the saucepan; this will prevent sugar crystals from forming there. Cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes to form a medium-amber syrup. Remove from the heat.

Slowly add the cream, being careful to avoid splatters and stirring with a wooden spoon to form a smooth caramel. Cool completely.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Transfer to a smaller bowl.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl (one that can transfer to a stand mixer or be used for a hand mixer) set over a pot containing a few inches of barely bubbling water (medium to medium-low heat). Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat.

Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment or use a hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, then increase the speed to medium-high; beat for about 6 minutes to form stiff, glossy peaks.

Reduce the speed to medium; add the beaten butter in three additions, making sure each one is thoroughly incorporated, then add the vanilla extract. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Switch to the paddle attachment (if you’re using a stand mixer). On low speed, gradually add the cooled caramel, beating for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth.

FOR THE FLAMBEED BANANAS

Have a rimmed baking sheet at hand.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the mixture starts to boil, add the bananas and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn them over and cook for 2 or 3 minutes so that both sides are lightly caramelized. Reduce the heat to medium.

Take the skillet off the heat briefly. Add the rum, then return to medium heat and carefully ignite the mixture in the skillet. Once the flames are out, transfer the banana mixture to the baking sheet and spread to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to trim any domed tops from the cake layers, making all three of them flat and even.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter or cake plate. Spread about 1/2 cup of the buttercream evenly over the surface. Sprinkle evenly with a generous one-third of the chopped candied pecan pieces. Use the back of a spoon to break the flambeed bananas into smaller pieces. Create a layer using half of the bananas and their sauce over the candied pecan pieces.

Repeat with the second cake layer: buttercream, candied pecan pieces, flambeed bananas and sauce. Top with the remaining cake layer. Use the remaining buttercream to frost the top and sides of the cake.

Sprinkle with the remaining scant third of candied pecan pieces.

NOTE: Toast the pecan pieces in a medium, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as need to prevent scorching. Cool before using.

Nutrition per serving: 920 calories, 9 g protein, 113 g carbohydrates, 49 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 460 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 79 g sugar

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