Cinnamon

Bananas Foster Cake with Vanilla Ice-Cream Frosting

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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.


INGREDIENTS

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:

20g cornflour
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



METHOD

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.

Double Chocolate Cake with a Salted Cinnamon Caramel Buttercream

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I’m always nervous about giving away a chocolate sponge recipe, because everyone seems to have their own ‘no-fail’ version. However, undeterred I am offering to you this humble recipe in the hopes that its television debut (this last New Years Day) will work in its favour! (It did earn me the first Hollywood hug, so it must be alright)

Now, I will admit that the list of ingredients is rather long and seemingly unnecessary, however it hasn’t let me down in the years that I’ve been using it.

A very simple sponge that is delicate in flavour and texture, but holds its own against strong flavour pairings and has the durability to be cut and shaped for custom cakes.

A word about some of the flavours and methods;

Oil and butter! Originally I used just butter in this recipe and creamed it with the sugar as you would in a traditional cake mix. By removing some of the butter and replacing it with flavourless oil, the taste wasn’t compromised, and the cake was even more moist (for longer). Please feel free to revert to butter only with 150g of unsalted butter and no oil.

Flavourings. Coffee is a great friend of chocolate and vice versa. Whilst you can’t taste the coffee in the final product, you can leave this out completely without too much compromise. I will ask that you use decent instant coffee, or make it fresh with grounds using the boiling water in the recipe.

Vanilla. I (almost) insist on this flavour, purely for its familiar warm and creamy tones that complement most sweet treats. Extract (not essence) is perfect, however I have moved over to vanilla bean paste for an even more authentic flavour.

Hazelnut liqueur. This may seem odd, but the subtle nutty tones (once baked) work beautifully with this sponge but is certainly not necessary if you don’t like or want it. You could also use Amaretto if it takes your fancy.

Lastly the ganache. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate that’s so bitter that it could strip your mouth of its skin. Conversely, I don’t like sickly sweet chocolate reminiscent of my childhood! So, I compromise with half and half for the accompanying ganache (the second half of the double chocolate). Please try to use good quality chocolate for this, not only for its flavour, but it will melt and hold its structure much better than a cheaper counterpart.

Enjoy and comment below if you have any further questions.


INGREDIENTS

For the sponge:

265g self raising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
300g caster sugar
150g light brown sugar
100g unsalted butter – room temperature
75g cocoa powder
125ml boiling water
100g full fat yogurt
100g sunflower oil
1 heaped tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
2 tbsp hazelnut liqueur – optional
5 large eggs

For the buttercream:

125g granulated sugar
75g double cream

50g unsalted butter

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp table salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

200g unsalted butter – room temperature

250g icing sugar

For the ganache:

100g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

250g double cream


METHOD

For the sponges:

Grease and line the bottom and sides of 3 8” cake tins (you can use 2, but the cooking time will change). Preheat the oven the 180°c fan.

Start by adding the cocoa powder, coffee and vanilla extract together in a heat-proof bowl. Gently whisk in the boiling water and stir until completely combined. Add the oil, yogurt and hazelnut liqueur and mix well. Finally, add the eggs and whisk together, ensuring there are no lumps.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you have one), add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugars and butter. Mix this on a medium speed until the butter has been incorporated and the mix resembles wet sand.

On a slow speed, add the wet chocolate mix in 3 parts, ensuring everything is completely combined. Turn off the mixer and stir by hand, with a spatula to get the last of the lumps off of the bottom.

Split the mix equally between your tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins for 3 tins, or 30-35 mins for 2 tins.

Cool the cakes in their tins for 5-10 mins before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature.

For the buttercream:

In a medium heavy based saucepan, heat the granulated sugar over a medium heat until it has completely dissolved. Wash the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any stray sugar crystals.

Heat the caramel to 160°c or when it takes on a dark amber colour. Remove the heat and add the cream (be careful) and stir in. Add the butter, vanilla, salt and cinnamon and stir over the heat until everything in smooth and silky – set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and icing sugar (this can be done with a hand whisk). Cream these together until light and fluffy. Add the cooled caramel and whisk on a high speed until completely incorporated.

For the ganache:

Break the chocolate into small pieces and then use a large knife to cut it into very small pieces. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan until it reaches just below the simmering point, then remove from the heat. Tip the chocolate pieces into the hot cream and allow them to sit for 5 minutes before stirring everything together until silky and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When it comes to decoration, I like to use piping bags with all sorts of fancy nozzles to create different effects. You can just stack the cakes with the buttercream and ganache with no particular finesse – either way, the combination of sweet and bitter flavours will leave you wanting more!