I love baking layer cakes, especially layer cakes from the guys at Baked. I have a pretty good track record with their cake recipes, and when I got a copy of their latest cookbook, Baked Elements, the very first recipe I tried was a peanut butter-chocolate layer cake, the oopsy daisy cake. A few months later, I tried the antique caramel cake, and I liked it so much that I made it two days in a row. But it's not always sunshine and rainbows in layer cake land. In between the oopsy daisy cake and the antique caramel cake, I had a colossal cake failure, with the bananas cake.
The bananas cake is a three layers of banana cake with peanut butter filling, covered in chocolate ganache and chocolate glaze. I made it last year as a birthday cake for my co-worker Jillian. I spent hours making the cake the night before, packed it up carefully in a bakery box, and gently set it on the floor of my car before driving into work (I normally take the subway to work, but I occasionally drive when I'm carrying heavy baked goods). Jillian's birthday is in January, so it was a cold day, and I had the heat on in my car. When I got to work and took a look at the cake, my heart dropped; the two top layers had slid off of the bottom layer. I surmised that the cake must have been too close to the heating vent, causing the ganache to soften and allowing the layers to slip off.
I felt awful. Of course I have an occasional baked goods disaster here and there, but I was so distressed to have screwed up Jillian's birthday cake (unfortunately, screwing up a birthday cake is not unprecedented). I didn't try making the bananas cake again until it came up on this week's Baked Sunday Mornings schedule.
I made the three layers of banana cake without any problems. I made the peanut butter filling without any difficulty. And even the chocolate ganache turned out great. I kept my prior experience in mind when I assembled the cake; I wanted to make sure that the cake layers were firmly cemented together.
There is both peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache between each of the cake layers. To make sure that the ganache would be firm and hold fast, I spread the filling and ganache on two of the layers and chilled them separately in the fridge for about 20 minutes before stacking one on top of the other. I also made sure to chill the cake for about a half hour after crumb coating it, after spreading on the remainder of the ganache, and after pouring on the chocolate glaze. After I sprinkled on the chopped peanut garnish, I thought it looked great. I stored the cake under a dome at room temperature overnight, because I thought the ganache would get too hard if I kept it in the fridge too long.
I happened to take the bus to work that day, and when I arrived at the office, it was déjà vu; I opened the box to find that the top two layers of the cake had slid off and were pressed against the side of the box. I did my best to maneuver them back onto the bottom layer, and I offered the resulting pastiche of cake, filling, and ganache to my co-workers. They loved it.
I couldn't believe how delicious the messy pile of cake was. The banana cake is very moist, and it had a strong, lightly sweet banana flavor -- it was outstanding. And while I often think that chocolate ganache can be overpowering, here in combination with the peanut butter filling, it was perfect. The flavor combination of banana, peanut butter, and chocolate was sublime. This one of the most satisfying desserts I can remember eating in a long time. It's comfort food at its best.
Despite having two cake disasters with this recipe, I would absolutely make this cake again. But I think I'm only going to serve it to people at my house -- I'm giving up on trying to travel with it anywhere!
Recipe: "Bananas Cake" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.