Banana buttercream, in theory sounds nice but in reality has been hard to make both visually appealing and authentic in flavor— until now
Banana buttercream makes a great cake filling and finish but has been hard to make just right. Searching the internet for the perfect recipe can easily leave any baker wanting to abandon the thought of incorporating bananas into a custom cake recipe. I first wanted to try a banana buttercream when I was interested to make a banana split cake. I had all of the components to the cake figured out except for the filling.
I tried this recipe 3 times before getting it right in the end. Naturally, my first attempt at a banana icing started with folding in fresh bananas to my already made vanilla buttercream. I knew immediately it was going to fail. I couldn’t get the banana to mush right without adding a weird texture and the air turned my overall concoction a yucky brown. With a heavy heart, I tossed my first batch as a fail.
For my second attempt I thought to try a banana flavoring, what could possibly go wrong? Honestly it wasn’t too bad, however, the taste of banana Laffy Taffy was too artificial and overwhelming for my pallet. That, in the most part is a matter of taste and what you may be going for as a baker. You may find that you like that flavor or perhaps that was actually what you were going for but in my case, it wasn’t. One thing that I have enjoyed about cake is experiencing each flavor and to be reminded of its origin. In the end, using just a banana flavoring for my buttercream didn’t deliver in that aspect.
Before my third attempt, I had a little more thinking to do. I knew that I didn’t want to incorporate jello into my buttercream, so how else could I make an authentic banana flavor without the yucky brown color or the weird texture? The solution was right under my nose! The inspiration actually came from my daughters afternoon snack, freeze dried banana chips! It is after all a banana, without the moisture making it the best contender!
It is a cardinal rule not to add anything to your egg whites before whipping them into a meringue, and rules ( some of them) are made to be broken. Luckily, because freeze dried fruits don’t contain fat, adding them to egg whites doesn’t compromise the meringue! Freeze dried banana chips and many other fruits can be found locally, but if they aren’t they can easily be sourced online.
Another great thing about incorporating freeze dried bananas into your meringue is the increased volume. You can thank the bananas natural sugars for that! As a result of the increased volume, deciding to decrease the base buttercream recipe seemed like the best thing to do, and it saves on butter. Making a smaller batch of buttercream also gave me the opportunity to pull out one of my older and smaller mixers. If you have a smaller mixer in your kitchen, this may just be the perfect recipe for you!
Although I ventured out to make the perfect banana buttercream for a banana split cake, it can be used for many other combinations. Perhaps the filling of a banana fosters cake or a hummingbird cake. A good resource to keep on hand to help with flavor pairing is my all time favorite kitchen book, The Flavor Bible.
This recipe was tested on a meringue based buttercream. When I first folded the banana chips into the completed buttercream, the texture was apparent. This texture would also be noticeable in an American style buttercream. For best results, this banana buttercream is best when prepared with a meringue base.
Banana Buttercream Recipe
Ingredients & Tools needed
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ounce freeze dried banana chips
1/2 pound butter, room temperature, cubed
1/4 tsp banana cream flavoring
High temperature thermometer
Non stick pot
Food processor/ spice grinder
Start by grinding your banana chips into a powder using a food processor. If you do not have one, a smoothie blender will also do the trick.
In a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add room temperature egg whites and banana powder, begin mixing on medium.
On stove top, in clean pot add water and granulated sugar. Place on medium heat. Heat syrup to 230F, testing with a digital or candy thermometer for accuracy.
When temperature is met, turn stand mixer on medium high and whisk eggs to stiff peaks.
When sugar syrup meets the temperature of 240F, carefully pour it in mixer avoiding both the whisk and the side of the bowl. Continue mixing until the bowl is cool to the touch. This should take about 16 minutes and the meringue should increase in volume.
When bowl is cool to the touch, add in butter cubes a few at a time until fully incorporated. Add banana cream flavoring. Whisk buttercream for a few more minutes until fully incorporated. Now you have vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.
Buttercream can be refrigerated for 2 weeks and frozen for 2 months. Make sure to bring to room temperature before re-whipping to avoid breaking your buttercream
Now that your buttercream is complete, add it into your cake to make the perfect filling. I incorporated this buttercream into my banana split cake which is a combination of a few recipes. The cake layers are alternating chocolate and vanilla using my foundation vanilla cake recipe. After mixing it, I split the batter in half and added a 1/3 cup of cocoa powder to make the remaining part chocolate instead of whipping up a new batch. For the filling, I also added strawberry compote, it was delicious! You can decorate it how you please, I chose to add pink stripes, sprinkles and a chocolate drip!