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Banana and Chocolate Crunch Cake with Graham Cracker Frosting

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Special Equipment

  • a freestanding or immersion blender (I used the latter)

Ingredients

For the Banana and Chocolate Crunch Cake

    (makes three 6-inch layers)

    • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 9 ounces super ripe peeled bananas (I used around 3 medium-small bananas)
    • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
    • 1/4 cup Valrhona chocolate pearls, plus more for decorating

    For the Graham Cracker Frosting

      (makes enough for one three layer cake)

      • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
      • 2/3 cup whole milk
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
      • 2 tablespoons tightly packed dark brown sugar
      • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
      • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • 2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

      Instructions

      For the Banana and Chocolate Crunch Cake

      • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 (F). Prepare three 6-inch cake pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottoms of each with a parchment paper circle; spray the parchment paper circle as well.
      • In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until fully incorporated. Set aside.
      • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 6 tablespoons unsalted butter. Cream together on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy and has doubled in volume. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 1 large egg, and continue mixing again on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes.
      • Lower the mixer speed to its slowest setting. In a liquid measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, whisking briefly before streaming into the butter and sugar mixture. Once all the mixture has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for another 5 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white and completely homogenous. You're basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn't want to make room for it, so if it doesn't look homogenous after 6 minutes, keep mixing. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl every few minutes or so.
      • Once the mixture is homogenous, reduce the mixer speed back to its lowest setting once more. Add 9 ounces of banana and mix for 45 to 60 seconds to ensure that the bananas are broken apart and scattered throughout the batter.
      • Still on low speed, add the flour mixture (from the 2nd step) and mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until the batter comes together. DO NOT OVERMIX. Mix just until the dry ingredients have disappeared, before stopping the mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl, and incorporating any remnants of dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula.
      • Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans, using an offset spatula to smoothen out the top of each cake. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and 1/4 cup Valrhona pearls, using your hands to toss the ingredients together until they are well combined. Scatter about 1/4 cup of the mixture over the top of each cake.
      • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes; it's a little hard to tell when the cakes have finished baking because of the chocolate chips and pearls, so take a knife and tap each cake pan. The center of each cake should no longer be jiggly, but be careful not to overbake since the cakes will continue to cook after you've taken them out of the oven — it's better to pull them out on the slightly early side than later. Allow to cool completely in the pans on a wire rack before turning out. If you flip the cakes out too early, the chocolate will still be molten and you'll end up with a hot mess!

      For the Graham Cracker Frosting

      • In the bowl of a blender (or a medium bowl, if using an immersion blender), combine 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 2/3 cup whole milk, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Blend on medium high and puree until smooth and homogenous — it should take about 1 to 3 minutes, depending on your blender. The end result should look like grainy peanut butter. If the mixture doesn't catch on your blender blade, use a small spoon or rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the underneath of the blade. Repeat until you've got the puree.
      • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons tightly packed dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and speckled yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
      • Turn the mixer back on to its lowest speed. With the mixer on, spoon in the graham cracker puree (from the 1st step) a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the puree has been added, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and continue beating for another 3 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl of the spatula. The end result should be a pale tan color — the longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will be.
      • Frost the completely cooled cake using the frosting, before garnishing with 2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder and leftover Valrhona pearls.