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Hazelnut Chocolate Brown Butter Banana Cake

Updated: May 28, 2020


I admit I'm terrible at writing and posting consistently. It's hard when there are many other important things demanding my time and energies. Baking, photography and blogging are just hobbies that I deeply enjoy but do only occasionally, after the really important things are done first.

So last month, I carved out some time to make this cake – this hazelnut chocolate brown butter banana cake.

Making layer cakes (and cupcakes!) is something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. Believe it or not, cake is my first love in baking; in fact, the first thing I ever baked as a 13-year old back then was cupcakes! I love every bit of the cake-making process – from baking the cake, to making buttercream and other components, to the assembly. It's so fun and calming, and the outcome is beautiful and delicious.

Honestly, I think that I don't make cakes and cupcakes as often as I should. It's definitely a little bit more time consuming to make a cake than say, to make cookies, though I always try to go around that by splitting up the process over a few days. Also, I often feel that I need a reason to make a cake. Is there a celebration coming up? Is there a special occasion that calls for cake? I will seize the opportunity to make cakes when I can or when I believe I have a good enough reason to.

So why did I make this cake then? No reason; I just wanted to eat cake. I mean, I finally figured that if I had to wait for the right time and oppportunity to make cake, it will hardly happen. Also, simply wanting to eat cake is a good enough reason to make cake. Hence, one day in August, when I had a good idea for cake, I got down to making it. And here it is! The hazelnut chocolate brown butter banana cake was born!

This cake contains a lot of my favourite things. Naturally, it has to have chocolate. It also has toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut praline paste (I used store-bought because I don't have a food processor to make my own, but you should definitely make your own if you can!), brown butter, and bananas. It's so delicious, I miss it already.

Whether you have a celebration coming up, or you just want to satisfy your cake cravings, you should make this one.

As for me, I'm definitely up for making another cake very soon.

 

Hazelnut Chocolate Brown Butter Banana Cake

Makes one three layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate ermine buttercream:

  • 75 g (approx 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 45 g (approx 2/3 cup) cocoa powder

  • 225 g (approx 1 cup + 1 Tbs) white granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 250 g (1 cup) whole milk

  • 226 g unsalted butter

  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract

  • 300 g melted dark chocolate, cooled

For brown butter banana cake:

  • 170 g (12 Tbs) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  • 340 g (2 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 150 g (3/4 cup) white granulated sugar

  • 150 g (3/4 cup) brown sugar

  • 1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt

  • 54 g neutral oil (e.g. sunflower oil)

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

  • 4 large overripe bananas, mashed

  • 1 cup full-fat greek yogurt

To assemble:

  • 150 g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

  • 150 g hazelnut praline paste (I used store-bought but you should make your own if you can!)

Method

For the ermine chocolate buttercream:

  1. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a large pot or saucepan and whisk to combine.

  2. Pour the milk into the pot with the dry ingredients and whisk together.

  3. Set the pot on a medium heat, whisking gently all the time, until the mixture begins to bubble gently. Continue to cook the mixture until it has thickened to a pudding-like consistency – it should be able to hold its shape a little bit.

  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Pass the pudding mixture through a sieve into a bowl to get rid of any lumps. Press clip wrap onto of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Set the pudding aside to cool completely. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools. (You can make the pudding a day in advance. Store in it in the refrigerator.)

  5. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave on in 20-second bursts. Set aside to cool completely.

  6. Once the pudding has cooled completely, whip the butter in a large bowl using stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer. Whip until pale and fluffy.

  7. Add the pudding into the whipped butter a spoonful at a time as the mixer whips the butter. Scrape down the bowl occasionally to ensure that all the pudding mixture has incorporated into the butter.

  8. Add in the vanilla and whip to combine.

  9. Finally, stream in the cooled melted dark chocolate as the mixer whips the buttercream on a low speed. Whip until the chocolate is fully combined into the buttercream and there are no streaks of chocolate.

For the cake:

  1. Place unsalted butter into a saucepan over medium heat to melt it.

  2. Once it has melted, let it simmer and cook until it has browned, stirring occasionally. The butter will start to turn from yellow to a golden colour. It will begin to have a nutty and caramel aroma, and it will bubble quite a lot. Once the bubbling subsides and the butter has reached a deep amber colour, remove it from the heat immediately.

  3. Pour the brown butter into a bowl and let it cool completely. Place it in the fridge or flash freeze it from 15 minutes at a time to cool it until it has reached a spreadable consistency.

  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175°C. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper on the bottom. Oil the sides of the cake pans and dust the inner walls of pans with flour.

  5. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, spices, baking powder and baking soda.

  6. Once the brown butter has reached a spreadable consistency, place it in a large bowl along with the sugars and salt.

  7. Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer, whip the butter, sugars and salt together until pale and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Slowly stream in the oil and whip to combine.

  8. Then, whip in the eggs one at a time, ensuring that the egg is well-combined with the butter mixture before adding the next egg. Add the vanilla bean paste and whip to combine.

  9. In another bowl, mash the overripe bananas until mushy. Stir in greek yogurt with the bananas.

  10. Grab the bowl containing the flour. Using a large spoon, add in about one-third of the dry mixture into the butter-egg mixture and fold a low speed to combine. Then, add in about half of the banana-yogurt mixture and fold on a low speed to combine.

  11. Repeat the process of adding a few spoonfuls of dry ingredients (the flours) followed by the wet ingredients (the banana mixture) as the mixer continues mixing at a low speed, until all the ingredients are folded in. The order of adding the ingredients in should be dry-wet-dry-wet-dry.

  12. Mix until all the ingredients are just combined together to form a smooth batter. Make sure to scrape down the bowl and scrape the bottom of the bowl as well, to ensure that all the ingredients have combined together properly. Take care not to over-mix the batter as the cake would become tough.

  13. Pour the cake batter into the lined 8-inch cake pans and bake the cakes in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. To check whether the cake is done, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes will come out clean.

  14. Once the cakes are baked, remove the pans from the oven and let it cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Then, very carefully remove the cakes from the pans and set the cakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble to cake:

  1. Place one cake layer onto a cake board on a cake turntable.

  2. Using an off-set spatula, spread an even layer of chocolate buttercream onto the cake layer.

  3. Then, drizzle some hazelnut praline paste onto the buttercream and scatter a handful of chopped toasted hazelnuts.

  4. Place the next cake layer onto the first layer.

  5. Repeat the process of slathering on the buttercream, praline paste and nuts. Place the final cake layer on top.

  6. Using a spatula, apply a thin layer of buttercream all around and on the top of the cake. This is the crumb coat. It doesn't have to be a perfect layer of buttercream. The purpose of the crumb coat is to catch all the crumbs so that you can apply a neat layer of buttercream later on.

  7. Place the crumb-coated cake into the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes for the buttercream to set.

  8. Once the buttercream has set, apply another thicker layer of buttercream all around the cake and on the top of the cake.

  9. At this point, you can decorate it how ever you want. For me, after applying the layer of buttercream, I used a spatula to gently go around the sides of the cake, starting from the bottom and then slowly making my way around the cake and to the top. I also drizzle the praline paste over the sides of the cake, sprinkled hazelnuts on top, used a 6B nozzle to pipe a border around the top of the cake, and pressed more hazelnuts on the sides of the cake.

  10. Cut generous slices and enjoy the cake for dessert, tea, breakfast, etc.

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