Dark ChocolatePudding Banana Cake
Pudding as frosting? It sounds almost too decadent. I was inspired by the classic Brooklyn blackout cake when I created this three-layer beauty. The filling and frosting is a dense custard, with Dutch-process cocoa and lots of melted dark chocolate adding intensity and plenty of structure. For the best texture, make the chocolate pudding one day before you need it to fill and frost your cake. Oil, (rather than butter) in the banana cake batter ensures the cake’s texture will stay soft and tender even when served cold straight from the refrigerator, and it slices like a dream.
DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING
6 egg yolks
2 cups [480 ml] heavy cream
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1/4 cup [20 g] Dutch-process cocoa powder
11/2 cups [300 g] sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
11/2 cups [360 ml] whole milk
8 oz [230 g] semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
31/4 cups [390 g] cake flour
21/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
11/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
23/4 cups [550 g] sugar
1 cup [240 ml] canola or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups [460 g] mashed overripe bananas
1 cup [240 ml] buttermilk
8 oz [230 g] semisweet chocolate chips
Dutch-process cocoa powder for sprinkling
To make the chocolate pudding:
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, and espresso powder. Set aside.
There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder—natural and Dutch-process. Dutch-process cocoa is the favorite of European bakers. Processed with alkali, it is less acidic, richer, and darker in color than natural cocoa powder. For cakes leavened with baking powder alone, or in cakes leavened with beaten egg or egg whites and no chemical leavening, Dutch-process cocoa is the perfect choice. Natural cocoa powder is more common in American cake recipes that have a greater proportion of sugar, that include other acidic ingredients like buttermilk and sour cream, and are leavened with baking soda or a combination of baking powder and baking soda.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk the hot cocoa mixture into the egg yolks and cream. Transfer back to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding comes to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. Do not simmer any longer than 2 minutes, as the cornstarch will actually lose its thickening powers and the pudding will start to thin. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the pudding through a large fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Stir in the chopped chocolate and vanilla until the chocolate is completely melted and the pudding is smooth. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until very firm and cold, at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
To make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Coat three 8-in [20-cm] or 9-in [23-cm] round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until thick and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer on medium-high speed, gradually add the oil, beating until combined. Beat in the vanilla and mashed bananas.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat just until combined, 10 to 15 seconds after each addi – tion. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, using a spatula to smooth the tops.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cake layers onto the racks, discarding the parchment paper. Let cool completely. (If you are making the layers a day in advance, when cool, wrap them well in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight.)
To make the chocolate curls:
Place a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Spread the chocolate chips in a single layer on a microwave-safe dinner plate. Microwave on high power for 1 minute. Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted. If there are still a few chunks of chocolate unmelted, return to the micro – wave for 15-second increments as needed, stirring between each, until the chocolate is smooth.
Scrape the chocolate onto the backside of the cold baking sheet and use an offset spatula to spread in an even layer. When the chocolate is firm, but not hard, use a bench scraper to push small sections of chocolate down and away from you in one continuous motion to form a curl. If the chocolate spreads but doesn’t curl, it is still too warm, so let it sit for another minute or two before trying again. (The chocolate curls can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
To finish the cake:
Place one of the cake layers, bottom-side up, on a cardboard cake circle, serving plate, or cake stand. Spread about one-fourth of the very cold pudding over the surface of the cake. Top with a second layer of cake, bottom-side up, and spread with one-fourth of the pudding. Top with the final cake layer and spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining pudding. Arrange the chocolate curls in a pretty pile on top of the cake and sprinkle very lightly with cocoa powder. Cut into wedges and serve, or refrigerate the cake until ready to serve, up to 1 day.