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Spiced Butterscotch & Black Walnut Banana Bread

This month I was assigned to Manu’s Menu for the Secret Recipe Club. Manuela is an Italian married to an Indian, living in Australia with her family, so her blog is a smorgasbord of delicious international recipes, with the majority being delicious, authentic Italian food. She has recipes for many things on my 40 by 40 list, like Lamingtons, croissants, biscotti/Cantucci, & risotto. And what did I do? I’m so predictable. I went for the banana bread because as you know, I have an obsession and I seem to always have overripe bananas on hand. I may have not checked anything off my bucket list of recipes to make, but we’re enjoying some really delicious banana bread in the mean time, so that makes up for it. :)

I took Manu’s recipe for the bread and kicked it up a notch, just on a whim that started because of the butterscotch chips sitting on my desk when I was reading her recipe. We really loved the combination of oozing butterscotch, black walnuts, and subtle spices in a loaf rich in banana flavor.  I went ahead and used the butter called for but next time will try oil as I just really prefer the soft & silky texture that oil gives to quick breads. If only oil had all the delicious flavor as butter!

This was a wonderful loaf and I thank you, Manuela for helping me create it. Buon appetito!

Spiced Butterscotch & Black Walnut Banana Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 cups (8 ½ oz / 245 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (5 ½ oz / 150 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 eggs
½ cup (4 oz / 113 g) butter, melted
3 large (or 4 small) overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (2 ½ oz / 60 g) toasted black walnuts, chopped
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 94 g) butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, bananas, and vanilla. Stir together until just moistened, then add the walnuts and butterscotch chips. Stir together until just combined and spread into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about an hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Recipe source: adapted from Manu’s Menu

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

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We celebrated Father’s Day early this year!  OK, truth be told, I made this cake for Father’s Day five years ago.  This is probably the longest it’s ever taken me to blog a recipe, but with the Black Walnut Banana Bread recipe I shared earlier this week, I figured it was about time.

You know a cake is good when you can still remember the flavor five years after you ate it.  This cake is what turned me onto using black walnuts in banana bread – the pairing is ever so perfect.  And the caramel frosting just puts it over the top!  Enjoy it for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or just because you really need this cake in your life. Because you do.

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz) solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 large overripe bananas
1/4 cup (2 oz) buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (4 oz) chopped black walnuts

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup (7 1/2 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more as necessary
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16 oz) box confectioner’s sugar
2 cups (8 oz) finely chopped black walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

For the cake: In a medium bowl, stir together flour and baking soda; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together shortening and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, mix until just combined. Stir in black walnuts.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting. Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar and cream. Cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream at a time until consistency is right. Sandwich 2 layers of cake with icing. Ice the outside of the cake. Surround sides of cake with crushed black walnuts.

*Cook’s note: DO NOT substitute English walnuts for black walnuts.

Caramel Banana Cake with Black Walnuts

I made this cake as an experiment to see what a caramel frosting that didn’t require cooking would taste like.  The only way I’d ever prepared it before was to heat a brown sugar/butter/cream mixture and then let it cool, which produced a very rich, albeit delicious, frosting.  This one doesn’t require heating and produces a much lighter & fluffier frosting and I prefer it to the other.

I got the original recipe from my friend Cheryl, but I changed the yellow cake to a banana and used black walnuts b/c I absolutely love the combination of the two and thought they would pair well with a caramel frosting.  My neighbor, who I gave a piece to, is still raving about it two months later.  I think she just wants more cake. :)

Caramel Banana Cake with Black Walnuts
Adapted from Cheryl’s Caramel Yellow Cake recipe

Banana Cake
1 (18.25 oz) Pillsbury yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
¾ cup water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium)

1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk (I used evaporated)

Caramel Frosting
1 stick of butter (room temp)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk (I used evaporated)
16 oz. box of confectioner sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Black Walnuts
Caramel ice cream syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch round pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all cake ingredients and beat on low until moistened, then two minutes on medium speed (or two minutes by hand), occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula.  Divide batter between prepared pans and bake for 34-38 minutes, or until a tester comes out either clean or with a few moist crumbs.  Top will be golden brown, especially around edges.  Turn cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely, about an hour.

Meanwhile, put the filling ingredients (except for the vanilla) into a saucepan and heat over medium until melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour into a metal or glass bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare the frosting.  Cream the butter with the brown sugar, then add the remaining ingredients & beat a few minutes, scraping bowl with a spatula, until creamy and well combined.  If not using immediately , place plastic wrap directly on top of frosting and smooth flat with your hand all the way to the sides of the bowl, completely sealing it off from the air (otherwise it will develop a crust).

Once cake & filling are completely cool, level the cakes if they are domed on top.  Put the first layer on a cake plate and spread the top with the filling.  Put the second layer on top and frost the entire cake with the caramel frosting.

Press black walnuts into the sides and drizzle caramel syrup over the top.

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