You've been watching that bunch of bananas slowly turn brown for days now and you have absolutely no intention of eating them, so what do you do?! You make banana cake (bread) of course! Now, I have friends who are frivolous enough to buy a new car every year, but would never in a million years throw away an old banana! The idea seems preposterous and I couldn't agree more. Once again, I don't just make a simple, low fat cake, but then I think you'd all be upset if I didn't put some calorific twist on my recipe.
Bananas Foster is an incredibly simple, yet delicious dessert that hails from 1950's New Orleans. Typically, bananas were cooked in sugar, butter, cinnamon and then flambeed in rum before being served over vanilla ice cream. The result was a beautiful mix of warm spice, with caramel and bananas with a creamy twist - perfection! I wanted to bring these incredible flavours together in a cake, and the result is below!
Just a few notes before we get started.
Bananas. I mentioned that bananas that are on the turn work best, and I do stand by that. However, because you pre-cook the bananas, you can also get away with slightly newer fruit and even some that may still have a green tinge.
Dark rum only please - I tried white rum and it was disgusting!
Spices. Traditionally, cinnamon was used in the dessert and that was it. I like the warmth of nutmeg as well, but you can omit both, or add more spices - what about ginger?
Light brown sugar in the main body of the cake is a personal preference, but you can use white sugar if you like. I tried dark brown sugar, but I found the flavour very rich and the sponge a little too dense for my liking.
The frosting! I wanted to recreate the taste of vanilla ice cream in a frosting (buttercream) and this was as close as I could get it. Technically you would make a custard when making ice cream, so it seemed a natural starting block. The addition of gelatine seems odd, but it's the right amount to keep it sturdy enough to hold its own, without having a rubbery texture. If you can only get hold of powdered gelatine, then the equivalent weight is 6g or half a sachet.
This is a large quantity of frosting, but believe me it works well on so may other things that you won't mind having some spare.
For the Bananas Foster:
3 large bananas
60g unsalted butter
150g dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp dark rum
For the cake:
100g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Grating of nutmeg
160g light brown sugar
For the frosting:
¼ tsp salt
30g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large egg yolks
225ml whole milk
150g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
2 leaves of gelatine
Grease and line a standard 2lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
In a large frying pan (or saucepan) over a medium heat, melt the butter, dark brown sugar and cinnamon until they turn to a bubbly syrup. Peel the bananas and cut up however you want (discs or strips). Add these to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning halfway through. Add the rum and cook for a further minute – it’s not necessary to flambé the rum, but you can do so if you don’t value your eyebrows!
Use a slotted spoon to remove the bananas and add these to a bowl along with the butter – reserve the cooking syrup. Mash everything together to melt the butter and to cool the bananas, before adding the eggs and beating together.
Weigh out all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and use a whisk to combine them. Pour in the wet ingredients and use the whisk (or spoon) to combine everything, without over mixing.
Pour this into the prepared tin and cook in the middle of the oven for anything from 45 minutes to 1 hour (my oven takes 50 minutes). Apologies for the vague times, but each oven differs. A skewer will come out clean once the cake is done.
Set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely. Because of the long cooking time, I find that the outside can have a decent crust, so I wrap mine in cling overnight and use it the next day to make everything a bit softer.
For the frosting;
In a small saucepan, mix together the cornflour, salt, sugar, vanilla bean paste and egg yolks. Add the milk and place the pan on a medium heat. Bloom the gelatine in cold water whilst the custard is cooking.
whisk the custard gently over the heat for 5-10 minutes until it is thick and silky. It may appear lumpy at one point but keep going with the whisk and you will end up with a thick and delicious custard.
Squeeze the water from the gelatine, add it to the pan and return to the heat for a further minute, stirring continuously. Remove the custard from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Whisk together the butter and icing sugar until pale a fluffy. Add the cooled custard (it will be a solid lump) and whisk together until everything has combined and is nice and thick – an electric whisk or stand mixer is recommended for this.
Pipe the frosting over the cooled cake however you like, or you can just smear it on with a palette knife. Pour the cooled syrup over the top and serve.
Note: you can serve this warm as a dessert with the frosting (or actual ice cream) and syrup as sides.