My pal Kate [of Kate Schmate] and I have known each other for over 10 years. Eep! We became friends during the second year of Big Horizons, a service-learning based pre-orientation program for incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University. It was my second year involved with the program and I was student directing while she was a small group leader/counselor.
Big Horizons 2001-2002 Leaders . Saddle Up! Project Day
Our friendship continued while we were both still at Vanderbilt. She even had a small hand in the romance brewing between my then crush [now husband] and I, when she took this photo of J for an interview she wrote on him for the [now defunct] literary magazine Versus.
The Husband . Swoon! [amiright?!]
In those ten years, we’ve both graduated from Vanderbilt University, married our college sweethearts and returned to Nashville to make a life for ourselves and our families. Oh, and though she may be ahead in the human baby department, we both have Boston Terriers! [Theirs, Lucy. Ours, Ramble] Speaking of said human baby, Kate + JD’s sweet little, Maggie, turned the big 0-1 recently and they turned to me to help them out in the smash-cake department for this fun monkey-themed party. Because Maggie’s still so young and hadn’t yet eaten any processed sugar, ever, Kate’s only request was that we use alternate sugars.
Miss Maggie, delicately eating her own Honey-Banana Cake!
Moving with the monkey/banana theme, I suggested a delicious banana cake recipe [from my pal Lesley] as the base, subbing the cane sugar for [local] honey. One of my favorite and key steps to make a delicious cake with a strong banana flavor is roasting the bananas prior to adding to the cake batter, making sure to include all the juices that accumulate within the banana peels into said batter. Give this cake recipe a go, and let me know how it turns out for you. You won’t miss the traditional cane sugar. I promise!
PS – See some cute pictures of Maggie, and the cake set up, in Kate’s recap of her sweet daughter’s 1st Birthday, here.
banana cake, topped with [optional] freeze-dried banana slices [like these]
Yield : 1 large or 2-3 small loaves [I doubled the recipe and made 1 8″ round cake and 20 cupcakes]
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
heavy 3/4 cup honey
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp salt
3 large ripe bananas
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup + 3 TBSP unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1. To Roast Bananas: Preheat oven to 450 F. Place bananas on lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. Prepare loaf pan[s] by buttering and and dusting with flour. Set aside. Measure out salt, baking soda, flour and spices into a large bowl. Whisk to incorporate then set aside.
3. In bowl of electric stand mixer, cream butter and honey until uniform liquid [about 5-6 minutes]. Add eggs one at a time, allowing them to incorporate into honey mixture before adding the next one.
4. Add cooled bananas to honey mixture. [Make sure to peel bananas over stand mixer bowl so the sweet liquid from the roasted banana is also included in the mixture]. Mix on medium until mashed/broken to desired consistency. [I like to have some bite-sized chunks of banana in the final product.] Finally, add vanilla extract until just combined.
5. Add flour mixture to honey mixture in three additions, mixing on medium/low until just incorporated.
6. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth top and place in oven. Bake for up to one hour, checking for done-ness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf at 45 minutes. [The top of the loaf should spring back slightly to touch and the inserted toothpick should come out clean.]
7. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and letting come to room temperature on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
I topped the extra banana cupcakes with chocolate chips, banana + honey and blueberries
Honey-Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened and cut into 1/4ths
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature and cut in 1 TBSP pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 dashes of ground cinnamon
1. Add cream cheese and butter to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the whipping attachment, mix on medium/high for 5-6 minutes until combined, light and fluffy.
2. Add honey, vanilla bean caviar and cinnamon and whip for another 2-3 minutes on medium/high until combined.
3. Spread frosting on cooled loaf with offset spatula or pipe with frosting bag.