Behold! 5 layers of banana, walnut and cheesecake glory! Lol. Ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic but this really was quite a hit when it was created and gifted to a good friend and co-worker of mine for her birthday. And did I mention the whole thing is adorned with cream cheese frosting?
Yea, not diet food… Unless you justify it by the fact that it does contain bananas. I like that, let’s go with it.
One of the keys to this recipe is to use extremely ripe bananas. Like covered in black spots, about to head to the trash bananas. Which I happened to freeze a while back so I had them on hand which was lucky for me because I tried first to use fresh bananas but the only ones I could find were partially green and (even with the help of a ripe pear in a paper bag with them for a day) were just not ripe in time. A warning though: freezer bananas are pretty gnarly when you squeeze the fruit from the blackened peels! Look past that, they are super sweet and oh so worth it!
So I love banana bread but the point of this was to make cake so I needed to come up with something a bit lighter in texture but still packed with flavor. Have you ever had that banana bread that doesn’t taste much like bananas? Yes, this isn’t that. So I achieved the flavor with the help of the overripe bananas, buttermilk and some lemon zest for some tang and moisture and good vanilla extract. The texture was lightened up with the use of cake flour.
Upon contemplating the cheesecake layers I decided it would be much easier to bake 2 thin cheesecakes than to make one “regular” height one and then have to slice it into 2 layers afterwards. This was a good life choice. I lined two standard cake pans with parchment and divided my cheesecake batter evenly into them. Not only did they cook faster this way but they stored nicely right in their pans (covered of course) in the fridge and were ready for layering when the cake was ready.
Let’s talk about the cake a bit. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey I can’t make two cakes now because you made me use my only two cake pans for the cheesecake!”. No worries, the cake is baked on a half sheet pan lined with a silicone mat. It is then easy after it has baked and cooled to cut your cake pieces out of this, as if you were using a pattern and a piece of fabric while sewing. I used an 8″ cake ring to cut two circles from opposite corners of the cake (after if was inverted out of the pan onto a parchment lines cutting board) and then two half circles from the edges which are later made into the middle layer on the cake, along with a few scraps to fill in the gap. I promise, no one will even know the middle layer was patched together. Unless you tell them, like I just did. If you don’t have a cake ring you can use a spring-form pan without the bottom or in a pinch, just free-form it. A warning though: a 9″ cake ring won’t let you cut two full rounds from the cake sheet but you can also patch the second round as we are doing to the middle layer. This will go unnoticed anyway if you are frosting the whole thing.
Ok so back to business. Then I made the cream cheese frosting, which is pretty standard but with the addition of a squeeze of fresh lemon to brighten it up a touch. The whole cake is “built” within the cake ring used to cut the rounds (or your spring form round). Place a cardboard round down into the bottom of the ring (or just leave the bottom of your spring-form attached). Then place a whole cake round in the mold and coat that thinly with some of your frosting to act as “glue” between layers. Place a layer of cheesecake down, another layer of frosting and then the two half rounds of cake, filling in the space between them with cake scarps. Continue on with another layer of frosting, another cheesecake round and the final cake round. After placing the middle and top layers of cake, use a second cardboard round to lightly compress the layers together. When it is all stacked and compressed, coat the top thinly with more frosting, remove the mold carefully and refrigerate at least an hour before proceeding.
You can really decorate it as you please at this point (or not). I put a thin layer of the frosting on as a crumb coat and then stuck it back in the fridge for another 15 minutes before proceeding to evenly apply a thicker layer over the whole thing and then piping a decorative boarder along the top and bottom and some frosting flowers on the top. I sprinkled toasted walnuts lightly over the finished cake. That’s it! Store it in the fridge because it has a lot of cream cheese in it, both in the frosting and in the cheesecake.
I can’t take credit for the idea of baking cake for layering on a half sheet pan. This comes from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. EXCELLENT lesson on building layer cakes in this cook and this method worked beautifully! I also used an adapted version of her vanilla cheesecake for this recipe. I will consider adding additional mashed overripe bananas to the cheesecake in the future but there is a delicacy to the recipe the way it is and I really like that as well. Up to you. If you want to add banana to the cheesecake, I suggest cutting the amount of sour cream in half and adding in one mashed banana in it’s place. Should work just fine just, as i said before, make sure this is grossly overripe banana! Lol.
I know this cake seems like a lot of work (it is) but none of it is hard and it is worth it for a special occasion or as a birthday gift. My friends know by now to expect dessert as their birthday gift! 😀
I will give three separate recipes below: cheesecake, cake and frosting. I’m sure the cake would be good all on it’s own cooked in a larger pan and topping with this frosting, if you were feeling so inclined!
Cheesecake for Layer Cakes
(Adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours)
*Prepare at least 4 hours before building cake to allow for chilling time, Use Philadelphia cream cheese if possible
- Butter for greasing your pans, or parchment to line it
- 1 ½ lb. cream cheese, room temperature (3 8 oz. bricks)
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- ½ cup sour cream, at room temperature (you may use heavy cream instead)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
- 1 tsp. unbleached, all-purpose flour
- ½ tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- Grated zest of ¼ lemon
- Preheat oven to 300 degree F with rack in the center position
- Butter or line your 9-inch cake pans
- Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth on low speed
- Increase the speed to medium and gradually add the sugar and then the sour cream (or heavy cream), scraping down the bowl as needed
- In multiple additions, add the beaten eggs, beating until they are absorbed into the batter and scraping down after each addition
- Add the flour, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until completely smooth
- Divide between your pans
- Place pans on a half-sheet pan and bake until the sides have risen slightly and are barely beginning to color and the center is just set, about 25-30 minutes
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before covering tightly and refrigerating until chilled, at least 4 hours
Banana Walnut Cake
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup + 1 tbsp. granulated white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups + 1 ½ tbsp. cake flour, sifted
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. fine kosher or sea salt
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 medium overripe bananas, mashed
- ½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Place a silicone baking mat on a half-sheet pan
- In a medium bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the lemon juice
- In a medium bowl mix together the cake flour, baking soda and salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until soft and fluffy
- Beat in the sugar until fluffy
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition
- Beat in the vanilla
- Gradually beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, scarping down the bowl after each addition
- Remove from the stand mixer and fold in the banana mixture and the walnuts
- Pour onto the prepared sheet pan
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tested inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is lightly brown
- Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly in the pan
- To remove, place a sheet of parchment over the whole cake, followed by a cutting board larger than the cake and then invert the cake onto the board
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth
- Beat in the vanilla and the lemon juice
- Add the sugar and beat on low until combined and then on high until smooth
- Spread onto cooled cake or dessert
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE!!! 🙂