KITCHEN NOTES: Recipe Development::Chocolate Banana Poppyseed Cake


The seven bananas sitting on the counter were quickly turning to a solid black save for the spot where the sticky tape held them together. Once again I had been overzealous in my banana purchase, thinking I'd make another banana cake, banana oatmeal scones, and some banana cookies. Somehow in the course of the previous two weeks, the bunch got neglected and should have been tossed. However, I wanted to see if I could make at least one recipe.

I’m not a banana fan to begin with. If they’re bright yellow with no spots, I might eat them a few times during the year. If they’re the slightest bit mushy, I won’t eat them. Neither will my children. However, the guilt of letting the bananas turn past their prime got me to try salvaging them. Sadly, I ended up tossing the remaining three bananas.

Looking through the various cake recipes I wrote during my summer in Berlin last year, I decided to combine aspects of each into a new recipe. Thus was born this combination of flavors using "drunken" bananas, chocolate in the form of a powder, and poppy seeds. I wasn't sure how it would taste, but the result was surprisingly better than expected, although one could definitely note the strong banana taste.

There were mixed reviews from each family member in regards to this cake experiment. Cinnamon immediately stated that it tasted like brownies. Saffron said it tasted like bananas, chocolate, and poppy seeds - exactly what it was. My Sagey had a few bites until he no longer wanted it and pushed the plate away while my husband used the German words "gewürze kuchen" (spice cake) to describe the taste. Hearing all of this feedback, I was already changing the recipe in my head.

This was Sunday cake for this past Sunday - a tradition that the children have lately grown to expect, along with Sunday dinner eaten at the "fancy" table. It was important to get a cake made this past Sunday seeing how I was unable to make one last weekend. An unfortunate throat ache, which sent me to unwillingly see doctors and more unwillingly take medication, robbed me of a couple weeks of time. When you have children who bring home illnesses from preschool, you're bound to get your turn in the sickness merry-go-round. With three children, you can expect months of illnesses throughout wintertime. Truth be told, this is the main reason for the lack of posts since late last autumn. Now with spring lurking around the corner and bringing with it some much needed warmth, making it possible to eat our meals outside again, I look forward to a healthier and more productive existence.


Chocolate Banana Poppyseed Cake

makes one 9" cake



200 grams all-purpose flour

50 grams natural cocoa powder

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp sea salt (I used Pink Himalayan)

50 grams poppy seeds

100 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled

200 grams granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

320 grams mashed bananas (ended up being from 4 small, overripe bananas)

100 ml buttermilk



Heat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9” springform pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well to combine and set aside.

Add poppy seeds to the melted butter and leave to cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and bananas and mix until fully incorporated.

Starting and ending with the flour mixture, carefully whisk in the buttermilk (in two additions) and flour mixture (in three additions). Make sure not to over mix. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle comes out almost clean (a few crumbs attached is fine).



THE NOTES (as jotted down in my journal):

What started out as a simple chocolate cake turned into a recipe combining elements from four of my previously developed cake recipes: chocolate hazelnut cake, chocolate cinnamon plum cake, lemon poppy seed cake, and banana cake.

At first I thought the flavors might be a bit too complicated, but despite the "drunken" bananas the flavors worked surprisingly well together. The cake was moist and the crunch resulting from the addition of the poppy seeds added another element of texture.

Changes I would try for next time:

Remember to treat the cocoa powder as part of the flour percentage in calculating baker's percentages. I forgot and thus need to compensate for the extra grams the cocoa powder contributed although the cake rose nicely and was relatively moist.

* Increase amount of butter. Due to the reduced fat content of the natural cocoa powder, more fat needs to be added to compensate for this fact.

* Add an egg yolk. Egg whites dry out a cake while egg yolks contribute to its tenderness. Even though the cake was not dry, I would like to see what happens when I add the extra yolk.

* Add more sugar. Cocoa powder has no added sugar. Increasing the amount by another 50 or 75 grams would counter this. Since these bananas were super sweet to begin with, the reduced amount of sugar was not as noticeable.

* Increase poppy seeds to 60 grams. More crunch is always good for added texture.

* Use a combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour. I'll start with half of each and see what happens.

* Increase baking soda. To counteract the acidity in the cocoa powder, more baking soda might be needed. Might not be necessary if reducing the amount of cocoa powder.

* Use bittersweet bar chocolate (such as Valrhona or Callebaut - about 65%) in addition to the cocoa. Melt the chopped bar chocolate with the butter. In this case, you might not want to increase the sugar amount by too much.

* Reduce cocoa powder. Try 35 grams or 40 grams.

* For another version...omit the bananas and try a simple chocolate poppyseed cake.