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Banana Cake with Butterscotch, I Wanted a Cake
Posted By Todd & Diane On April 10, 2012 @ 11:08 pm In Cookbooks,Desserts,Food,Recipes,Vegetarian Recipes | 67 Comments
We entered the convention center’s ballroom to find two women sitting on the stage. One in her 30’s-40’s, chef jacket attired with a professional’s serene gaze. The other – a bubbly, plump Southern Grandma with short cropped hair, her enthusiasm barely contained. That woman was Shirley O. Corriher and over the next 45 minutes she would become one of my heroes.
It was the 2011 IACP conference in Austin, TX and Diane and I had just given a talk on food photography. With our duties done, we wandered the halls poking our heads into random sessions not knowing what to expect out of the different speakers. 30 seconds into listening to Shirley rhapsodize over different type of wheat flour and how that affects biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc…, I was hooked. I wanted to hear what this woman had to say.
At first glance she appeared to be just a cute grandma with a lot of enthusiasm, but the more I listened it became evident to me that Shirley was brilliant. Not content with merely creating a good recipe, she would scour the ends of the earth to find out why something works well in a recipe or not. If there was a better method, choice of ingredients, nuance in the different sources of the ingredients. And she did it the old-school journalistic way. Testing again and again. Also by talking and cooking with people. Brilliant people.
Her knowledge was deep, but then she would also come up with new twists on techniques that were absolutely remarkable. Brushing puff pastry with ice water when you are folding the dough. Brilliant. Adds water (more steam=more puff). Chills the dough slightly allowing you to fold several times immediately instead of needing to refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes between folds. Time is drastically reduced in making the puff pastry and the end result is better.
Needless to say, I’ve since bought her book, Bakewise. It has become another of my baking bibles. I’m no longer content with blindly following a recipe. I want to know why. We have great books, books used to teach in culinary schools, but as M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “…avert your eyes from the baleful hygienic correctness of school manuals. There are good cookbooks to read, that other women have written.”
Bakewise is filled with the scientific wisdom of a baking education, but sugared and spiced with Shirley’s uninhibited enthusiasm. Want to know why baking soda vs. baking powder or how much of either is best – it is in there. Is cake flour really necessary? It is in there. Need a great recipe for …? Probably there.
Want to know why something failed or wasn’t as good as you thought it would be – poor recipes examples are given and how to correct them. Creaming butter – how long? Several pages just on creaming. And different techniques which accomplish the purpose of creaming and how each technique has its own good/bad points. Can you tell I love this book?
Fast forward to last week. We had a dozen left over bananas from a shoot that were quickly browning. Normally it would be banana bread time, but I wanted cake. A really good cake. Moist. Layered. Cream cheese frosting. And with butterscotch.
I already had a banana bread recipe I love, but I wanted to adjust it to make a better cake. Using Bakewise to understand different principles in creating a moist, even cake (Shirley “hates dry cakes” – I love her), I adjusted the ingredients and techniques. The recipe wasn’t harder to do, just more mindful. And better.
Yield: 1 - 8" Layer Cake
Cook Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
The butterscotch sauce is adapted from chef Shuna Lydon’s recipe posted on recipe posted on Simply Recipes. We’ve given it an adult kick with the addition of Scotch to complete the flavors. Having all of the ingredients ready when starting the butterscotch sauce before you begin is very important, as it is a fairly fast process, and the sauce won’t wait for you to dig around for the ingredients.
The frosting was based off of one I had from my grandma, but Shirley as almost the exact same in her book. Great minds, great women...
Preheat oven to 350º F. If you have a baking stone, place that in the center rack to bake on. Butter two 8" cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, butter parchment, then dust with flour and tap out excess.
* Note 1: The ideal temperature for butter to be creamed is 65 degrees. When creaming butter, you don't want it to get too warm. If the butter actually melts during creaming (the beating generates heat) it can result in a very heavy cake. The bowl should always feel slightly cool to the touch. If it starts to feel warm. Pause the mixing, put bowl in an ice bath or freezer for 5 minutes, then resume.
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