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Bananas win gold for versatility of use

Bananas are surely one of our most versatile fruits. Eat them out of hand, in fruit salads and in baked goods. Muffins, breads and cakes profit from their subtle flavor and moistness. In addition, bananas are a good source of potassium.

Banana Layer Cake can be made either in layers or in a 9-inch tube pan. Blue Ribbon Banana Cake includes coconut and chopped pecans in the batter and is assembled in a tasty and attractive way. For a light, airy cake, try Banana Chiffon Cake.

For: Debbie Kennedy of Palm Harbor.

From: Eleanor Streeseman of Palm Harbor, Rosemary Weis of Hudson, Edyth Dodd of Spring Hill, Pat Blanchard of Seminole and Barbara Barber of Zephyrhills.

Banana Layer Cake

2\ cups sifted cake flour

1\ cups sugar

2{ teaspoons baking powder

{ teaspoon baking soda

{ teaspoon salt

{ cup shortening (such as Crisco) at room temperature

1{ cups mashed ripe bananas (4-5 bananas)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt into large mixing bowl. Add shortening, { cup of the bananas and eggs. Beat 2 minutes at slow to medium speed with electric mixer or 2 minutes by hand. Scrape down bowl and beater or spoon frequently during mixing. Add remaining 1 cup bananas and vanilla. Beat 1 minute longer, scraping down bowl and beater or spoon frequently during mixing.

Turn into 2 well-greased 8-inch layer cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees about 25 minutes or until layers are done. Fill and frost with whipped cream. Garnish with sliced bananas that have been dipped in lemon or orange juice or use favorite frosting.

Barbara Barber uses an 8- or 9-inch tube pan and bakes the cake 45-60 minutes until it tests done.

Notes: For Banana Spice Cake, sift [ teaspoon ground cloves, 1\ teaspoons ground cinnamon and { teaspoon ground nutmeg with the dry ingredients. For Banana Cupcakes, turn batter into 18-20 well-greased cupcake pans and bake for 25 minutes or until done. To use cake mixes: When package directions call for 1 cup of liquid (water or milk), use 1{ cups of mashed bananas instead. If 1 cup water and eggs are called for, reduce water to { cup, add 1 cup of mashed bananas and use the eggs, as directed.

From: Mertie Saturday of Palm Harbor.

Recipe: Blue Ribbon Banana Cake, a North Dakota recipe from America's Best Recipes _ 1990.

Blue Ribbon Banana Cake

} cup shortening

1{ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed bananas

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

{ teaspoon salt

{ cup buttermilk

{ cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flaked coconut

Creamy Nut Filling

White Snow Frosting

Cream shortening in a large mixing bowl at medium speed of electric mixer. Gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas; beat well.

Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in pecans and vanilla.

Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Sprinkle { cup flaked coconut evenly over batter in each cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and let cool on wire racks.

Place one layer, coconut side down, on cake plate. Spread with Creamy Nut Filling Top with next layer, coconut side up. Frost sides and 1 inch around top edge with White Snow Frosting, leaving center unfrosted.

Creamy Nut Filling

{ cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

\ teaspoon salt

{ cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

{ cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar, flour, salt, half-and-half and butter in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in chopped pecans and vanilla. Let filling cool completely. Makes 1 cup.

White Snow Frosting

\ cup shortening

\ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg white

{ teaspoon coconut extract

{ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Combine shortening, softened butter, egg white and extracts in medium mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until blended. Gradually add sifted sugar to creamed mixture, beating at medium speed until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Makes 1 cups.

From: Elaine Zeman of St. Pete Beach.

Recipe: Banana Chiffon Cake.

Banana Chiffon Cake

2\ cups cake flour

1{ cups sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

{ cup vegetable oil (Elaine uses Crisco oil)

5 egg yolks, unbeaten

1 cup mashed bananas

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup egg whites

Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle; pour oil, egg yolks, bananas and lemon juice into the well and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy; add cream of tartar, then beat until very stiff. (Hint: Turn bowl upside down, and, if egg whites do not slip out, they are stiff.)

Gradually fold flour-oil mixture into egg whites by hand, using a rubber spatula. Pour into an ungreased angel food tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 65 minutes. Invert pan to cool cake before removing from pan.

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