Friday Link Love
Mark Bittman's Tomato Jam

Clementine Bakery's Banana Cake


As promised, dear readers, I come bearing cake. Not just any cake, mind you, but the best banana cake the world has ever seen, if you will allow me some superlatives. This is not banana bread, in case you're wondering; it's nothing rustic and it's not remotely acceptable for breakfast. This is cake, rich and tender as all get-out and sporting a gorgeous cap of creamy-sour frosting.

To tell the truth, I made the cake for you. Because yesterday this blog turned six years old. Six. Six! If this blog was a child, it would be in first grade! It would be reading. And telling jokes! If this blog was a dog, it'd be middle-aged! I think that calls for some celebration. And what, pray tell, is a celebration without cake?


Six years is a long time. And it's a preposterously long time for a blog whose originator speculated it would barely last a year. The fact that it's still around and kicking and featuring unbelievably delicious cake is really, in no small part, due to all of you coming here and reading and cooking and commenting and all the rest of what you do. So I made you all a cake. You have no idea how much I wish I could have shared this actual cake with you, slice by slice.

When the book is published, do you know what I'm looking forward to the most? The book tour, is what. Because then I'll finally be able to meet some of you in person instead of just sort of vaguely knowing that you're out there. In fact, when the going gets rough, that's what I think about, I really do. It peps me right up. Puts a spring in my step.


But back to the cake. Hoooo, people. The cake. It is so good. It's super-tender and amazingly not-too-sweet and fragrant with bananas and velvety and moist and the frosting (which I changed a little from the original recipe, to make it a little less sweet) is the perfect foil for it, though I suppose if you left off this frosting and topped it with, say, something dark and glossy like this, I wouldn't kick it out of bed either. My friend Suzy, who I consider to have terrifyingly high standards when it comes to food, gave it high praise. As in, halfway through her first slice, she stopped eating, put her fork down and fixed me with a serious look. Then she said, "This is really good." Then she went home with a doggie bag and ate another piece after dinner which, according to her, never happens. Never ever.

The recipe comes from Los Angeles's Clementine Bakery and is, really, the holy grail of banana cakes, as far as I'm concerned. It even keeps well for a day or two, though it beats me how on earth you'd manage to keep it hanging around for more than a day, unless you were the kind of nut who bakes cakes for her blog and then has to run around the city delivering leftovers for friends lest she eat the entire thing all by herself. And best of all, it is so easy to make - no layers, no complicated mixing techniques. Just a bowl, some ripe bananas, a mixer and you.

I lessened the amounts of cream cheese, butter and sugar in the frosting, but then I added a little extra crème fraîche instead of sour cream, because I think that deeply creamy, sour flavor would be nice to underline. Plus it gave the frosting a little sensuous floppiness, instead of leaving it a stiff spackle. Which I think is sort of crucial when it comes to simple cakes like this one.

Now go forth and bake! And thank you for being here. And happy blog birthday to, uh, me!

Clementine Bakery's Banana Cake
Makes one 10-inch round cake plus a few extra cupcakes, or one 9 x 13-inch rectangular cake
The original recipe is here.

2 2/3 cups pastry flour or 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour minus 2.5 tablespoons
2 2/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mash the bananas with an electric beater until smooth. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until each is completely incorporated, then mix in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Finally, mix the dry ingredients into the batter just until thoroughly combined.

3. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch greased pan or a 10-inch round cake pan (you might have enough batter leftover for a few spare cupcakes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden-brown on top, a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool on a rack.

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 ounces butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons crème fraîche

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and there are no lumps. Add the butter and whip until incorporated, then add the powdered sugar and the sour cream. Beat until the frosting is very smooth and lump-free. Frost the top of the cooled cake, then slice and serve.