Today is my sister-in-law, D’s birthday. It is a fitting day to write a post about cake, because, you see, cake is her most favorite thing. There is no mountain too high, no valley too low, nor expiration date too long past to keep her from cake. It doesn’t matter what kind of cake it is. All that matters is that it is cake. D is an equal opportunity cake connoisseur. All cakes are welcome, be they sheet, layer, bundt, jelly roll or Charlotte. She does not discriminate on the basis of genoise, chiffon, sponge, pound, Angel Food or Dacquoise. Had she been alive then, she just might have trumped Marie-Antoinette and her infamous “Let them eat cake”  comment. Happy Birthday, D. This one’s for you!
I tossed around a lot of different ideas while deciding what kind of cake to bake for this event. I tried to anticipate what my fellow bloggers might make, so as not to duplicate their efforts. After all, what fun would it be to have twenty chocolate cake entries? (Not half as much fun as it would be to have twenty chocolate cakes laid out in front of you!) I spied some bananas on the counter that were just sitting there, mottling right before my eyes, so I decided to make a banana layer cake. It is one of my favorite kinds of cake, especially when enrobed in a rich cream cheese frosting.
I remembered seeing a banana cake recipe in an old issue of Food and Wine Magazine 
that looked interesting. Of course, I couldn’t find it. I suspect that I threw it out during my last little cleaning frenzy. Isn’t that always the way it goes? You hang on to magazines and things for months and months, telling yourself that you might need them someday. They sit, gathering dust and cluttering up your space until you can’t stand it any longer. In a fit of exasperation, you run around with a giant trash bag, stuffing it full of the offending items and throw them out. Then, no sooner does the trash truck come and haul it away, you find you actually did need it – and it is gone! Thank God for the Internet!
I decided to double the recipe for this cake because I was afraid that the layers would be too thin and flimsy. Also, I wanted to have extra cake in case I messed up. It worked just fine. I have given you the measurements for the original recipe (one 9″ cake), but I recommend doubling it. I ended up with cake layers almost 1″ thick, and I think the frosting would have overwhelmed thinner ones. Also, I wanted a little a little “tang” to go with the mellowness of the mascarpone in the frosting, so I added regular cream cheese and increased the amount of confectioner’s sugar.
I had never seen a recipe for banana cake that called for beaten egg whites before. It definitely made a lighter textured cake. It wasn’t the absolute best banana cake I’ve ever had, but the creamy, decadent frosting more than made up for it. Personally, I prefer the recipe in my old Silver Palate Cookbook 
. That one makes a helluva banana cake!
I was really pleased with the look of my cake. Though my cakes may always taste good, a lot of times they look – well- kind of like a kindergarten art project. This time, my layers were even and my frosting didn’t get bits of crumb in it. For the photos, I got a little cocky and placed some nice Fall flowers around it. It actually looked pretty! I almost felt bad about cutting out a big slab of it to eat…..almost.
Banana Layer Cake with Mascarpone-Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March, 2005
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (1 1/2 large), plus 2 large bananas, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups chilled mascarpone (12 ounces)
1 8 ounce brick of cream cheese
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (add more or less to taste)
Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper; butter the parchment paper. Dust the pan all over with flour, tapping out any excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add the mashed bananas and beat the mixture until smooth.
Add half of the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until the batter is moistened. Beat in half of the buttermilk, then add the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining buttermilk.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Beat one-fourth of the egg whites into the batter at low speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whites until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; the top will be very slightly cracked. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone and cream cheese with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers. Place the top layer, cut side up on a cake plate and spread with one-third of the mascarpone frosting. Arrange half of the bananas in a single layer on the frosting. Top with the middle cake layer. Cover the layer with another third of the frosting and top with the remaining bananas. Cover with the bottom cake layer, cut side down, and frost the top.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.