By the time you read this, I'll be in Paris, where I hope I will have not have discovered that I left half of what I needed in New York. If so, it won't be the first time. For as much as I travel, I'm not a good packer—I'm always stuffing one last thing into a bag—and I'm not terribly organized. I pack at the last minute, which is how I end up taking more of what I don't need and sometimes forgetting that one vital something.
Knowing this about me, my husband wondered why, when nothing was packed and I was still writing to meet a deadline, I decided to make a banana cake. You'd have thought after all these years he'd be able to guess, since the reason is both simple and obvious: I had two over-ripe bananas languishing on the counter! And besides, nothing makes me calmer or happier than baking and a calm, happy me might actually pack better.
Two bananas was just half of what I needed to make my friend Ellen Einstein's terrific banana Bundt cake, so I made just half the recipe and spooned the batter into a dozen muffin cups. (I also threw in some chopped chocolate, just because.)
Yes, yes, of course I considered myself virtuous for having salvaged the bananas so deliciously, but all feelings of virtuousness vanished when I realized how many of those little cakes I'd munched—it's so much easier and, in many ways, so much more fun, to eat baby cakes that you just keep eating them, and eating them. I had thought I'd make them and freeze them, so that my husband and son would have an extra treat while I'm gone, but...
About Ellen: Ellen Einstein and her husband, Dan, are the owners of Sweet 16th, a bakery/cafe in Nashville. They're both very talented bakers and the cafe is a wonderful place—it's as warm and friendly as they are. If you're anywhere near the bakery, stop in and give them a hello from me.
Playing Around: To make this as a Bundt cake, double the ingredients, use a generously buttered 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan, and bake the cake for 65 to 75 minutes, checking it at the 30-minute mark and covering it loosely with a foil tent if it's browning too quickly. Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.
Classic Banana Cake, The Small Version
Adapted from a recipe by Ellen Einstein in Baking From My Home to Yours
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 3 ounces chopped chocolate, optional
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter 12 regular-size muffin cups.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then the egg, beating for about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't be disturbed if the batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped chocolate by hand. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake the little cakes for about 28 to 32 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (The cakes will rise above the muffin cups, dome and then spread out and flatten beyond the cups—that's fine.) Transfer the muffin tin to a rack, cool for 3 minutes, then gently turn the little cakes out of the tin. Cool to room temperature on a rack.
Storing: Wrapped airtight, the little cakes will keep at room temperature for 2 or 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.