Monday, January 10, 2011

My Thank You Dinner Party...Featuring Banana-Pecan Cake w/Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing

I added several new cookbooks to my ever-expanding collection thanks to generous Christmas presents from my family. To thank them, I cooked a special dinner last night spotlighting recipes from two of my new cookbooks: Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That? and Thomas Keller's Bouchon. It was a chilly night in Texas, so I decided on a simple and hearty French bistro-inspired menu:

  • Bibb-Herb Salad w/Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette
  • Croque Monsieur Sandwiches
  • Balthazar's Onion Soup Gratinee
  • Banana-Pecan Cake w/Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing
We lit the fireplace, poured some white wine, and put on a nice mix of music in the background to set the mood for a evening of yummy food and lively conversation. It all added up to a wonderful, relaxing post-holiday evening! After the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks, it was nice to sit and visit over a belly-warming meal.

The Balthazar French onion soup was featured in my Top 10 Restaurant dishes for 2010 post last week. I own their cookbook -- also a gift from one of my guests -- and decided to try my hand at making The Holy Grail of French onion soup last night. This stuff is off. the. hook. As in we all raved and raved about how good it was!! I promise to share the recipe here soon, but I have to make another batch first. I forgot Food Blogger Rule #1 last my haste to taste the soup, I didn't take any pictures of the finished product!!

Thankfully, I did manage to take lots of pictures of the delicious banana-pecan cake I made for dessert -- before and after slicing! The first time I flipped through Ina Garten's latest cookbook, I knew that I'd be making this cake, and soon! It's simple to whip up, very moist, and the combination of flavors is really nice. The only major changes I made to the recipe were to use pecans instead of walnuts in the cake, and I added 1 tsp. of Vietnamese cinnamon to the icing. 

Banana-Pecan Cake With Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Ina Garten's How Easy Is That?

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Add the following ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer: 3 ripe bananas (mashed), 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/ cup lightly packed light brown sugar. Blend on low speed until combined.

Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1 tbs. vanilla. Mix until the batter is smooth. Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.
Step 3:  Add the dry ingredients and the grated zest of one medium orange to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pecans and stir to combine. 

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then place on a serving platter to cool.

Step 4:  Make the icing. Combine 6 ounces cream cheese and 6 tbs. butter (both room temp) in the bowl of your stand mixer. Combine on low until combined -- don't whip! Add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon, and 2.5 cups powder sugar. Mix on low speed until smooth.

Step 5:  When the cake is completely cool, frost the top of the cake with the icing. It should be thick enough that it won't run completely down the sides of the cake. It just sort of drapes over the edge. Decorate the top of the cake with pecan halves.

This cake makes 8 generous slices. The cake is only one layer, but it's very dense and moist. The consistency is reminiscent of a moist banana bread. The orange zest gives it a nice citrus background flavor, and I really thought the cinnamon in the icing was a nice flavor profile as well. I hope you'll give this cake a try the next time you have some ripe banana on hand!

While you're here, don't forget to scroll down and enter my Tungsten Toffee giveaway. Their toffee is really delicious...sweet, but not sticky or rock-hard. Last day to enter is this Thursday, and the winner will be announced on Friday.


  1. Sounds fabulous! I can not wait to start entertaining. I am sure Ina has loads of tips in her book.

  2. This looks so good! And I love all the thick yummy frosting!!!

  3. Your ccake turned out so well. I like how that yummy cream cheese frosting is laying on the edge like snow caps in the snow, Can you tell that we're having a snow atorm in chicago Land?

  4. That cake looks sooo yummy! I got the latest Ina Garten cookbook for Christmas as well, so I totally understand your enthusiasm. :D

  5. How beautiful and decadent! I've stayed away from cooking sweets for awhile, and looking at that beautiful cake is making me want to start baking the good stuff again! Happy New Year and enjoy those cookbooks!

  6. I just got Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That? too! i posted about it this morning- I cant wait to try her recipes!

  7. oh wow! this cake looks so tempting! i am drooling over here..:) yum!

  8. What a wonderful way to spend a cold Texas evening! What are we going to do with this weather? I love french bisto food, and your menu looked pitch perfect to me. The soup, the cake, the sandwiches...I need to drive over to visit you soon! I hope you are having a happy day. Stay warm and keep on enjoying all that is beautiful and tasty!

  9. Thanks for the kind comments, ladies! This cake is so simple to whip up...sort of like banana bread on steroids! We all really liked it...and I like that it's a single layer -- easier for me since I'm not a pastry chef!

  10. Forgot to mention...highly recommend adding any and all Barefoot Contessa cookbooks to your collections! I find Ina's recipes easy to make, and her style is so approachable and relaxed...she's the kind of cook and entertainer I aspire to be!!

  11. I'm coming over to your next dinner party ;) The menu sounds so delicious. I love croque monsieur and onion soup. But this dessert is really what caught my eye. Such great flavors. Your guests were very lucky.

  12. I have just bought How Easy Is That and I'm definitely making that lovely recipe - yum! I love how you have adapted it with the pecans and the cinnamon. That is an excellent idea! Thank you for sharing this with our new blog hop group Ina's Garden - it's lovely to discover your blog!


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