What a Difference a Recipe Makes

Last week’s Banana Cake was a disaster. This week’s was sublime. The difference? It was all in the recipe. I felt determined to make a good Banana Cake. After reviewing many recipes in my vintage cookbooks, I decided to use The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Bombauer from the 1943 WWII edition.

I can’t remember where I got this very battered and well-used book. The history of The Joy of Cooking (read the whole history in this blog)  is fascinating. Irma Bombauer, with no professional training, cobbled together her favorite recipes that she self-published and then sold from her apartment in St. Louis. This was 1931 and incidentally one year after her husband’s suicide. In 1936 she found a publisher and produced an expanded edition and the book’s popularity with average homemakers was assured.

My edition is the 1943 war-time edition. New to this version was information about using pressure cookers, cooking with herbs, and of course a section on how to cook with the new rationing system. Many newly fashionable dishes were added like Beef Stroganoff and guacamole. Plus she added witty comments to many of the recipes.

For instance, for Banana Cake she writes “I wish I might comment on all the cakes in this book. Please try this one if you like bananas and make the comments yourself.” Well, here are my comments Irma. Superb! While the recipe is somewhat time consuming the result is worth it. Here’s the recipe:

Banana Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c. cake flour (by the way, this is important to use cake flour to get a light, fluffy texture)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. lightly mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. sour or buttermilk

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar

Blend until light and creamy

Beat in eggs one at a time

Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt

Mash the bananas – enough to make 1 cup

Add vanilla and milk to the bananas. (I didn’t have buttermilk or a lemon to make sour milk. So I added 2 tbs. powdered buttermilk to the flour mixture and 1/4 c. water to the banana mixture. A good work around)

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 parts alternately with thirds of the banana mixture.

Beat the batter after each addition until smooth

Bake the cake in two greased 9″ layer pans in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes     

While the cakes were cooling on a wire rack I made a Seven Minute Icing.

Seven Minute Icing (enough to frost between the layers and on top rather than the whole cake which in my opinion would be too sweet).

Note: This icing is made using egg whites which I doubt really cook during making this recipe. Many icings from pre-1970 call for uncooked egg whites. I take a chance and also use eggs I buy from the farmer’s market.

  • 1 unbeaten egg white
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbs. cold water
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Place these ingredients over rapidly boiling water in a double boiler

Beat them constantly with a hand held mixer for seven minutes

Remove from the heat and beat in 1 tsp. vanilla

Continue beating until icing is right consistency for spreading

Make sure you don’t start this too early. If you leave the icing to cool it will harden and not be spreadable on the cake

Once icing is made put the first layer of cake on my cake dish and frosted the top

Put sliced bananas on top of the frosting

Place second layer on top of the bottom layer

Ice the top and add sliced bananas around edge for decoration

Voila you have a beautiful cake!

Dan and I both thoroughly enjoyed this cake that has the consistency  and taste of banana bread but thanks to the cake flour is lighter. Within one week I went from cooking disaster to success! Hope you’ll want to try this cake yourself.

 

 

 

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