Banana Mocha Cake

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When I wrote my review of David Lebovitz's "Ready for Dessert" I may have gone on just a little bit about the Banana Mocha Cake in his book. 

I may have mentioned how moist it was. How the combination of the bitter mocha frosting with the sweet banana sponge was a really tasty combination. How the candied peanuts add a lovely crunch to the otherwise soft textures of the cake. I may have said quite a bit about it. 

That's why I'm posting the recipe.

I put some banana chips around the side of the cake 'cause I had them around, a tasty edition but not too pretty

I put some banana chips around the side of the cake 'cause I had them around, a tasty edition but not too pretty

Also, I thought that at least if you weren't one of the two people that I gave this book to, at least you could get the recipe that I was raving on about as a small offering of my appreciation of all the comments received :)

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The first time I made this cake was while on holiday in South Africa. It was made for my aunt-in-law's birthday and it went down a treat. Everyone was raving about it. Although moist, it was also light and fluffy. The frosting a nice gooey chocolatey covering.

Unfortunately second (actually third) time round I didn't get quite the same results and I'm almost wondering if my baking mojo's a little off. But, I've had to look at this practically.

Use up those over-ripe bananas!

Use up those over-ripe bananas!

When I baked this in SA I was at high altitude, so I did what I thought was suitable adjustments and was happy with the results. Also being in SA, the only flour available was bread or cake flour. Bread flour was not an option so I used the cake flour instead. A combination of the high altitude and weaker flour is probably why it was so gorgeously fluffy and light.

Roasted pecan nuts, mmmm!

Roasted pecan nuts, mmmm!

My first attempt baking it back at home in Dublin didn't give me quite the same results. I ended up with batter that rose but then shrunk back down and ended up more like dense banana bread than cake. The obsessed baker that I am decided this wasn't good enough for you so I decided to bake it again. I even threw out my baking powder just in case.

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So with new baking powder and making sure everything was measured just so, mixed just so and instructions followed to the letter I tried again. Also, I checked the progress of the cake while baking and found it was baked in 30mins rather than 40. So with all of this I did have much better results.

Another difference from the first time I made this cake was the frosting, while it's supposed to be finger licking gooey, this time round it didn't seem to like our cold weather. For various reasons we haven't put our heating on yet and the butter and chocolate mixture set up, and instead of that lovely soft ganache-like frosting, it was too firm. Darn you weather!

Mellow flaked sea salt and cinnamon for the candied peanuts

Mellow flaked sea salt and cinnamon for the candied peanuts

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From raw peanuts to being covered in crystallised sugar, to then also being covered in caramel and sprinkled with flaked salt and cinnamon and perfectly roasted

The only thing I did manage to make better was the candied peanuts. In fact, those deserve a posting of their own. 

Compared to my first ravings about this cake you'd think I've now gone completely the other way in my opinion, but I haven't, it was and it still is an absolutely delicious cake, it was just different to the first time I baked it.

I hit a bad baking patch, bound to happen from time to time, but I promise, this is a tasty cake!

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Banana Cake

350g Plain Flour

1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

3/4 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

230g Unsalted butter, room temperature

300g Granulated White or Golden Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Tbsp Instant Espresso or Coffee Powder

2 large Eggs, room temperature

90ml Buttermilk, Plain Yoghurt or Sour Cream (regular or low fat), room temperature

500ml Well Mashed or Puréed Bananas (3-6 very ripe bananas depending on size)

125g Toasted Pecans or Walnuts, roughly chopped



  • Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) or Gas Mark 4
  • Grease two 9 inch pans and line the bottom with parchment paper
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 mins
  • Add the vanilla and coffee powder
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time until thoroughly mixed, scraping the sides of the bowl down between each addition
  • Mix in half of the flour mixture
  • Mix in the buttermilk and banana purée
  • Stir in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated, don't overmix
  • Fold in chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Divide batter evenly between the prepared baking tins
  • Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, between 30-40mins
  • Remove from oven and leave to cool completely before turning out




Candied Peanuts


150g Raw or Lightly Roasted Unsalted Peanuts

100g Granulated White Sugar

45ml Water

1/2 tsp Flaky Sea Salt

1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon



A quick note: This process can take between 40-50mins. It's a slow process so be patient and don't worry if it doesn't look as though it's going to work, it just needs time

  • In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, combine the peanuts, water and sugar
  • When the sugar begins to dissolve begin stirring
  • Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sugar crystallises (the sugar will still be white at this point)
  • Tip: This can take a while (up to 20mins) so be patient
  • Lower heat to medium-low and continue cooking while stirring, let the sugar crystals on the bottom of the pan melt and brown slightly (the browning is the sugar caramelising)
  • Use a heatproof spoon or spatula to coat the peanuts with the caramel continuously
  • Once the peanuts are slightly glossy and coated with caramel (they'll still have crystals on them) sprinkle with sea salt and cinnamon
  • Stir  to distribute the salt and cinnamon then scrape the peanuts out onto a baking tray and leave to cool completely



Mocha Frosting


280g Good Quality Dark Chocolate (at least 45% cocoa content), roughly chopped

125ml Strong Brewed Coffee or Espresso

140g Unsalted or Salted Butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature



  • In a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, combine the chocolate and coffee
  • Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until combined


Assemble the Cake

  • Turn out the cake from the tins, peel off the parchment and put one cake onto a serving plate
  • Spread about 180ml of frosting onto the surface of the cake
  • Place second cake onto the frosted layer
  • Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake
  • Sprinkle whole or roughly chopped candied peanuts over the top of the cake
  • Serve!

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's "Ready for Dessert"

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Posted on November 29, 2011 and filed under Baked, Sweet.