March 17, 2011

Spelt Banana Cake

"This thing is hard to eat… it falls apart," commented BB. "Hmmm...," I thought. "I hadn't noticed." Mine was already gone from my plate, so I grabbed another, this time one with crumb topping.

mis en place - everything in its place

I have a habit, despite my carefully laid out mis en place, of leaving out ingredients. Just as I'm pouring a batter into the pan, I might be heard exclaiming, "Oops, I forget the eggs! They rolled behind the mixer!" Not in this case, though. There are no eggs in this cake on purpose.

Eggs traditionally play the role of binder and leavener, but today I had overripe bananas to use. I've made the 2-egg non-banana version of this spelt cake a number of times, and am happy to report that the egg-free banana version is just as good. While slightly less fluffy, it is particularly moist. You'll notice a couple of other things "missing" from the recipe. There are no refined sugars and the cake is "common wheat"-free.

Spelt Banana Cake
Cream 'til fluffy:
5 Tbsp. butter (salted or not, but it must be at room temp.)
1/2 c. honey (ideally one that's crystallized*)

Add and blend 'til smooth:
1 banana (or 2 eggs for a straight up cake)

Stir in:
1/2 c. milk (don't worry if the batter looks a bit broken)
OPTIONAL: add 1 egg yolk to better emulsify, add golden color, and promote earlier batter-setting

Sift over then blend 'til smooth:
1 1/2 c. spelt flour
OPTIONAL: 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

Fold in chunks from a second banana for a pronounced banana flavor.

Pour the batter into a prepared 9" cake pan and bake at 350°F for 35" (or until the cake begins to pull away from the pan and the center is springy). Because I'm baking at altitude, I prefer a 6-well Texas Muffin pan. It takes the same amount of baking time, but smaller cakes set earlier so I don't have to worry so much about the center collapsing in. A slight collapse can be seen in the cakes on the left side of the Twitpic, easily concealed by a dollop of Chantilly Cream.

Another garnish option is crumb topping. I use the one from a Drake's Coffee Cake knockoff — East Coast representin'! The first time I made that cake, I could be heard exclaiming, "Oops, I forgot the topping!**" The cake was already in the oven and mostly set, but I put the topping on and finished baking. It came out great so I've used that technique ever since. Except today. Turns out, if you put a crumb topping on at the beginning, this batter will rise up over the crumb topping. The crumb topping inside the cake explains why BB's cake was, well, crumbly. So the lesson learned here is to put the topping on after the cake has risen and is mostly set, which means about 20-25" into the bake time. Rotate the pan 180° before you close the oven door again.

Spelt is a relative of common wheat. It is NOT gluten-free so is not safe for anyone with a gluten allergy. It is, however, sometimes tolerated by wheat-intolerant people. Another nice thing about spelt is that you don't have to worry about overmixing and ending up with hockey pucks. Go ahead and blend this batter a little longer than you normally would; you want a nice smooth batter. You'll still have a tender cake that holds together long enough to make it from your plate to your mouth, even if there's topping inside and out. And really, who needs longer than that?

*Crystallized honey is best as it seeds the butter with the tiny air bubbles that lift the batter. Liquid honey will work, though not quite as well, thanks to the baking soda.

**That's what happens when you keep your Crumb Topping in the freezer. It's not officially a part of this recipe (it's not GF). Feel free to leave a comment/request if you're in need of a "Drake's Cake" topping. It's just-the-thing for a multitude of desserts.

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