There's something about layer cakes that I just can't resist. Sure, those homey sheet cakes taste good, but a layer cake is cause for real celebration. And I love banana in any dessert recipe.
Many banana cake recipes are a butter-and-cream bonanza with just a bit of banana. Luckily this yummy cake already has a jump-start on being healthy. Bananas are one of the best dietary sources of potassium. So we set out to develop a banana cake recipe that kept the healthy ingredients and cut or reduced the less healthy ones to yield a cake that is low in cholesterol and sodium. Many of the healthier cooking tricks we used can be applied to other healthy cake recipes. Here's what we did to give this recipe a healthy makeover:
- Increased the bananas, which helped keep it moist and rich after we cut the fat.
- Replaced the butter with a smaller amount of canola oil.
- We used whole-wheat pastry flour in place of some of the white flour. Higher in trace minerals than white flour, it contains as much of the fiber-rich bran and germ as regular whole-wheat flour.
- We reduced the amount of whipped cream-the second-highest contributor of saturated fat in the recipe-by stirring together a thick, stable base of nonfat milk, sugar and gelatin and then folding in half as much whipped cream.
The resulting banana cake (see recipe below) is only 300 calories per serving and is so delicious it was gone in a matter of minutes from our test kitchen.
Banana Cream Layer Cake
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3), plus 2 whole bananas, divided
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (see Tip, below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Ingredient Note, below)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
1. To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with wax paper or parchment paper.
2. Whisk eggs, 1 cup sugar and oil in a large bowl. Stir in mashed bananas, buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the banana mixture and fold in just until blended. Divide the batter between the pans.
3. Bake the cake until the tops spring back when touched lightly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
4. To prepare Bavarian cream: Place milk in a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the milk and let stand for 1 minute to soften. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the gelatin. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of raw egg whites, 40 to 45 minutes.
5. Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the milk mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate until set and thickened to the consistency of whipped cream again, about 1 hour.
6. To assemble cake: Shortly before serving, place 1 cake layer on a serving plate and spread half the Bavarian cream over it. Peel and slice the remaining bananas; arrange half the slices evenly over the cream. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the remaining cream over the cake and arrange the remaining banana slices decoratively over the top.
Makes 12 servings.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 300 calories; 11 g fat (3 g sat, 5 g mono); 47 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber; 229 mg sodium; 204 mg potassium.
Tip: No buttermilk? You can use buttermilk powder prepared according to package directions. Or make "sour milk": mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.
Ingredient Note: Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Available in large supermarkets and in natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer.
By Jessie Price
EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.
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