This three-layer cake has an outer layer of soft meringue that can be sculpted into swirls, peaks or vertical stripes. Texturing the meringue is good practice for using a palette knife (in baking, an offset spatula). I encourage you to experiment and take note of the shapes your palette knife makes as you sculpt.
Another fabulous element of this dessert is the custard frosting that lies just beneath the meringue layer. It keeps the cake moist and imparts an authentic banana pudding flavour.
Three seven-inch springform pans were used to create a tall silhouette for this cake. Two 9-inch cake pans could be used if you don’t have a smaller size in your collection.
Excerpted from Sprinklebakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist by Heather Baird, published by Sterling Epicure.
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla-nut extract
¼ lb butter, softened
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
3 small, ripe bananas
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup egg whites, from 5 or 6 eggs
1 pinch cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
Make the three cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of three 7-inch springform pans (if you don’t have three, you can reuse the ones you have). Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, and then grease the paper.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the mixer bowl in three batches, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
Divide the batter evenly into pans, or if reusing a pan, fill each pan two-thirds full.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes.
Let the cakes cool slightly in the pans. Remove and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the custard frosting:
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar and flour together.
Beat in the whole egg and egg yolk. Add the milk. Mix well.
Whisk in the vanilla-nut extract.
Place over medium-high heat and whisk while cooking until the mixture begins to boil and thickens just like pudding.
Let cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until well combined.
Add the cooled custard mixture to the butter mixture. Beat on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes, until thick and spreadable. Set aside.
Assemble the cake:
Thinly slice the bananas and place in a medium bowl.
Toss the bananas with the lemon juice until coated (this prevents the fruit from browning).
Line the edges of a serving plate or cake stand with wax paper strips to catch drips and keep the serving plate clean.
Place one of the cake layers on the paper and top with a thin layer of custard.
Top the custard with half the banana slices.
Top the bananas with more custard and set the second cake layer on top.
Top the cake with another layer of custard. Add a layer of bananas and top it with more custard. Place the final cake layer on top of the custard.
Note: When making the 7-inch cake, reinforce the middle with a plastic straw. The silhouette is tall and thin, so it requires extra stability. As you push the straw into the middle of the cake, the bananas and custard will want to squeeze out the sides a little. Once the straw is in, gently tuck in any banana slices that are trying to escape. If the straw sticks out of the top, snip it off with a pair of scissors.
Coat the entire cake with the custard frosting using an offset spatula. Don’t worry about making the icing perfect; this layer will be covered by a thick layer of meringue.
Set the cake aside or chill briefly while you make the meringue.
Make the meringue and finish and embellish the cake:
In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy with an electric hand mixer.
Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Increase the speed to high and gradually beat in the sugar until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
Coat the entire cake with meringue. Use a small offset spatula as a palette knife to texture the meringue. The technique used on this cake is “pulled meringue.” A spatula is pressed flat into the meringue and pulled back to create peaks. Apply texture to the entire cake as desired.
If desired, coat the bottom half of the cake with graham cracker crumbs.
Remove the wax paper strips from the plate. Brown the textured meringue with a kitchen torch, or if you don’t have one you can place the cake under the broiler in the oven. Watch the meringue carefully, as it will brown quickly under such high heat.