Midnight Baking: Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache
I am not a great sleeper. In fact, I am a terrible one. I sleep in fits and starts – often with long stretches of sleeplessness (i.e. fidgety, eyes wide open, brain skipping/chugging) during the night. It used to bother me a good deal. It made me angsty and angry. But I have learned to give in – I have learned not fight it. Now, if I can’t sleep (and I am out of Ambien) I turn on the SyFy channel, or I bake, or I bake while watching the SyFy channel. It is all oddly comforting and a bit weird. It’s cakes and aliens at 3AM.
This cake, this amazing, perfect Banana Bundt Cake was the result of a recent no-sleep evening. I woke up, turned on the TV, and started seeking out banana cake recipes. Something I hadn’t made before. Because a) I love banana cake/bread in any shape/form and b) well…my freezer was overflowing with ripe bananas.
Suddenly, like an angel calling from above (or was that the leftover wine buzz?), this recipe summoned me. Or, in less dramatic fashion, I found this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s masterpiece: Baking From My Home to Yours because I had tagged it years earlier. An old, aging post-it note protruding from the pages. Moments later, I was baking a Bundt because I couldn’t help myself.
The next morning I dressed the Bundt with a simple chocolate ganache, sliced it up, and served it for breakfast. It is a perfect, absolutely gorgeous Bundt. with a crumb that is not quite as dense as your typical banana bread. It makes a great morning sweet and wouldn’t be out of place at any post-dinner table. Thanks for the magic Dorie.
A Few Notes About Midnight Baking (Specific to This Cake):
Seeing as how midnight baking is often groggy baking, I rarely attempt recipes that require laser-like focus or many steps. This Bundt is perfect in that it comes together in just a few minutes, is easy to monitor while it bakes, and is somewhat forgiving.
The other downside to midnight baking is that I am less likely to run out to the corner store for missing ingredients at 3AM (though, my corner store is open 24 hours). For this recipe, I was low on sugar (HOW? Where did all my sugar go?) and completely out of yogurt and sour cream.
I ended up subbing the 2 cups of suggested sugar with 1 cup sugar + about ⅔ cup dark brown sugar. This worked out fine and honestly, I don’t think this cake needs the full 2 cups of sugar – didn’t miss it at all.
I also made some buttermilk (1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice) to sub for the requested 1 cup sour cream. Technically buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt are somewhat interchangeable in cake recipes, but I do find some differences in the final crumb depending on the ingredient used. For this cake, buttermilk was completely fine (and my only rational choice at this late hour).
Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Banana Bundt Cake (with Chocolate Ganache) from her book Baking – From My Home To Yours
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed tightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (or buttermilk, well-shaken)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet – you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don’t be disturbed when the batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Spoon the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to debubble the batter and smooth the top.
Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes – if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.
If you’ve got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving – it’s better the next day.
This cake can be eaten plain and Dorie suggest a Lemon White Icing in her book, but I was in the mood for chocolate, hence the following recipe.
Simple Chocolate Ganache
3 ounces dark chocolate, in chunks
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon corn syrup, optional
½ tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
Place the chocolate chunks in a 2 cup or larger glass measure (or bowl). Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it starts to just boil (i.e. bubbles form around the edges of the pan). Pour the cream over the chocolate. Drizzle in the corn syrup. Let sit for 30 seconds, then stir from the outside in until the chocolate is completely melted and mixture is almost uniform. Add the butter and stir in until incorporated. Wait five minutes until mixture is nearly room temp. Pour in thick ribbons over the crown of the cake. Allow to set for 15 minutes or so before serving.