An animal theme can really get things swinging at a kid's birthday party. Indulge your child's penchant for monkey business with a fanciful banana cake with chocolate buttercream icing shaped and decorated to look like a curious friend.
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
- 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 very ripe, large bananas, mashed (about 1 1/3 cups)
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup chopped pecans, optional
- Fluffy Chocolate and Yellow Buttercreams
- 2 black-licorice drop candies
- Black-licorice rope, for decorating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 1/2-inch-diameter 3-quart stainless-steel or ovenproof bowl and 1 cup of a large (1-cup capacity) muffin tin; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and brown sugar; mix on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to medium; mix in flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with banana mixture. Stir in pecans.
Fill prepared muffin cup three-quarters full. Transfer remaining batter to prepared baking bowl. Transfer to oven, side by side. Bake cupcake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in tin on a wire rack. Continue baking large cake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes more (1 hour and 40 minutes total). Let cool in bowl on a wire rack 30 minutes. Invert bowl to remove cake; let cool completely.
Trim flat side of cake to be level. Trim away top of cupcake to be level. Cut cupcake in half vertically for the two monkey ears. Cut bowl cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers. Spread 3/4 cup chocolate buttercream on top of flat layer. Top with domed layer. Transfer to a cake plate. Spread a thick layer of chocolate buttercream over entire monkey head. Spread buttercream over cupcake ears. Attach ears to sides of head, top of cupcake facing forward, securing with toothpicks.
Place remaining chocolate frosting in a piping bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #5). Pipe dots around bottom edge of cake in a continuous line. Switch to a small multi-opening tip (such as Ateco #233); pipe hair on top of head.
Fill another piping bag fitted with a large plain round tip (such as Ateco #11) with yellow buttercream. Pipe an oval near the front base of cake. Fill in with frosting, and smooth. Place 2 small pieces of licorice rope inside for nose. Add a long piece of rope for mouth. Place licorice drops above oval for eyes. Pipe yellow half-circles in centers of ears; fill in with frosting, and smooth. Decorated cake can be refrigerated up to 3 hours.