When I was a little girl, I spent a good portion of the summer at my grandparents’ house. Most of my memories from that time center around food in some way. There was always so much food to choose from and my grandmother was a firm believer is spoiling her oldest granddaughter. Add to the well-stocked pantry that someone was always dropping by with fresh beans or tomatoes or shrimp or cake, and it is a wonder that I wasn’t a total blimp of a kid.
There were two cakes that I remember being most excited to see: Mrs. Moore’s chocolate cake and Miss Alice’s banana cake. Mrs. Moore’s cake has become a tradition in our family. We make it for all occasions. I think my aunt Lisie can make it in her sleep. But not the banana cake. I somehow lost track of it until I came across this pin one day. I couldn’t wait for over-ripe bananas. And damn it if that wasn’t the time that my kids decided they wanted bananas every day. Health nuts.
The banana cake pin got me thinking about another of my favorite banana cake memories (right? I know you have multiple banana cake memories too). If you live in the Salt Lake area, or are visiting for some reason, do yourself a favor and have dinner at Eva. Order the seared scallops with vegetable ragout and just about anything else on the menu. But save room for dessert because their frozen banana cake is so good you won’t want to put your fork down.
So when I found myself with not one but four over-ripe bananas, I had a choice to make: the yummy looking banana sheet cake from Pinterest or attempt Eva’s frozen banana cake. Here’s where it gets good. I had enough banana for both. The banana cake wars had begun.
I started with the frozen cake. Believe it or not, I could not find a recipe that even resembled Eva’s frozen cake. I did notice that all of the other rolled cakes were considerably lighter than a traditional cake. They had things like cake flour in them. And no butter or oil. So I went to the source, and looked up a recipe for jelly roll in The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. No frozen banana cake here either, but I did learn the trick to making a successful rolled cake: a sponge cake base that is rolled in a towel to cool immediately after coming out of the oven. Apparently, if the cake cools all rolled up, it will easily roll right back into shape once cool and filled. Only slightly intimidated, I chose a simple rolled banana cake recipe for my base. What I liked about this recipe was that it did not require separation of the eggs like most sponge cake recipes that I came across and I had all of the ingredients. I found another recipe for a chocolate roll cake with an ice cream center, so I used that for direction on the amount of ice cream to use.
The cake batter part was easy. Can we talk for just a minute about my only jelly roll pan?
Gross, right? I almost used the bigger half sheet, but decided that the parchment would cover the nasty. It did. Amazing. Cooking time here was quick – 12 minutes in the oven, during which time I spread out my towel and covered it with powdered sugar. This is really important. Both of my recipes said to sprinkle or dust or something fairy like, but you need to seriously coat the thing. Shake it all about. Be prepared to sweep your floors because you loaded that towel up with so much powdered sugar. You might even sprinkle a little more powdered sugar on top of the cake before rolling for that part of the towel that isn’t already doused in powdered sugar. Just saying. I might have learned this the hard way.
I was very nervous to flip the cooked, hot cake onto the towel. I have obviously never made a rolled cake before and, interestingly enough, every recipe I looked out seemed to just assume that the reader was a jelly-roll expert. Nope. I kind of panicked. Here’s the thing. Loosen every side a little bit then just grab that baby on both ends of the parchment and flip it. Don’t hesitate. Got it? Ok, now you can breathe.
I was also nervous to roll the cake, but it is just like traveling in Europe when you wash your clothes in the hotel sink then roll them up in a towel and stomp on them to take out the excess water. What? You didn’t do that? Oh. One thing, though, don’t stomp on the cake.
Once cooled completely, you can unroll the cake while praying that it didn’t stick. At this point, have your softened ice cream (I used two cups vanilla) ready to go, as well as a cookie sheet (that will fit in your freezer) covered with parchment and additional powdered sugar. Spreading the ice cream is just like spreading frosting except that you have to work faster. When you’ve got it all in there, roll that baby back up. No kidding. It magically rolls right up.
Unfortunately, when I took the cake out of the freezer, the ice cream had absorbed right into the cake.
Lame. I’m thinking a layer of jam or something might have been a good fix. Or maybe just more ice cream. Despite this setback, the flavor was good. We served it with a little additional ice cream and some of the kids added hot fudge. Would I make this again? Most definitely. If only just to roll up a cake in a kitchen towel one more time.
Stay tuned. On Thursday, I’ll review the other (really simple) banana cake recipe that I tested. You might want to pick up some extra bananas when you go to the grocery today.