There's been a bit of a banana craze going around lately. Not that I'm complaining, of course. I've loved bananas ever since I started using them in almost all my breakfasts - pancakes, french toast, and my trusty morning oatmeal bowls. Also, caramelised bananas are the best things ever. And the best part is, they are so easy to make!
I made this cake for a friend's housewarming party - I love having a reason to bake! Although having no reason to is just as good, hehe. I took a while to decide what cake to make, as I was absolutely bursting with ideas and simply couldn't decide! Inspiration struck at the dinner table while watching my grandparents eat some bananas for dessert. Set out to buy a bunch of bananas and didn't look back.
I've made this cake once before, but in a loaf tin. I halved the recipe, and served it with a drizzle of some caramel sauce. It was divine, and I hoped to achieve the same result with this one, despite the slight changes involved.
I baked the cakes together in the same pan, although the recipe actually stated for them to be divided into three pans before baking. It probably explained the longer baking time for my cake - 60 minutes, as compared to 40 in the recipe. I probably used up half my toothpicks in those 20 minutes testing for the doneness... But hey, it's all for the cause. The cake also had some cracks on the top, as seen above - which, according to BBC Good Food, may be attributed to three things: too much raising agent (baking soda/powder); too small a cake tin; or too high an oven temperature.
My guess is that it might be the first possibility; as I had run out of all-purpose flour and used self-raising instead. However, I took out the baking soda in the recipe, so I'm not too sure. Hmm...
Layering a cake is no easy task. This is my second time making a layered cake, and this time I made the cake a day before frosting it, giving it enough time to cool and set so the layers can be seen clearly when iced. I baked all the cake in one pan, cutting it in half after letting it cool. The height of the cake was weird, though! It was too tall for a single layer, yet too short for two. But as I wanted to practice my layering skills, I went for two. I'm glad I did, though.
Shall we talk about the frosting?
The recipe called for a caramel buttercream, however I am a total sucker for cream cheese and as I had 3 blocks waiting for me in the fridge, of course I made a caramel cream cheese frosting! The caramel recipe is from Sally's Baking Addiction, and it is my go-to caramel recipe. It's so simple to make, and doesn't require a kitchen thermometer - something I have yet to get my hands on. I've used this recipe multiple times, experimenting with both brown and white sugar, and I've found that white sugar produces the best results. I used to use brown sugar as I thought that it produced more of a 'caramelly' flavour, but after using the white yesterday I suspect that it is the reason why my caramel has a burnt smell to it when cooking. Also, caramel made with the brown sugar tended to harden upon cooling, making it incredibly difficult to pour and use. Lesson learnt: use white sugar!
Yesterday's housewarming was fun; my friend's new house is amazing! They even have a lift inside, which is pretty cool. We started on Insidious 2 following our Challenge Week adventures (when we watched Insidious 1 and found it to be quite a comedy), but only got through ten minutes of it. Oh well. The cake was rather well-received, I thought! One of his mom's friends could even identify the bananas I used, which was great because it meant that the banana flavour came through well.
The cake has a nice balance of flavours, and I'm glad that I cut down on the initial amount of sugar required in the recipe as the bananas contributed to the sweetness given that they are naturally sweet. The caramel wasn't overpowering, which was good. I probably should have put the cake in the fridge after frosting the layers though, as they could have been given more time to set which would have made the cake easier to cut as well. But I was short on time, so - note to self for next time!
Caramel Banana Cake
For the cake adapted from here
- 170g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
- 60g brown sugar
- 40g white sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 375g all-purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 0.5 tsp salt (you can omit this if you use salted butter!)
- 1.5 cups milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large bananas, mashed (or 4-5 medium bananas)
- Preheat your oven to 162 degrees celsius (375 degrees fahrenheit), and grease your 9-inch pan with butter.
- Cream the softened butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy, before mixing the eggs in one by one until silky.
- In one bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In another bowl, mash the bananas and whisk it together with the milk and vanilla extract. Lumps are ok.
- Add the flour mixture and the banana mixture to the butter and eggs alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until smooth. The smell is amazing.
- Pour batter into the pan, and bake in your preheated oven for about 40 minutes - or until the centres are set and inserted toothpicks come out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack, and relish the smell. I used a springform pan, so getting the cake out was pretty easy. Don't worry if the top looks a little wet - it's just the moisture from the bananas.
For the (salted) caramel: adapted from here
- 200g white granulated sugar
- 90g butter, cut into 6 pieces (preferably salted)
- 120ml heavy cream
- 1 tsp salt
- Heat sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted. Clumps will form. That's ok. Keep stirring, to prevent your sugar from burning. Burnt caramel might be nice in Island Creamery's ice cream flavour, but it might not be the best idea for this cake!
- Add the butter once the sugar has been melted completely, and stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted as well. Sally took about 2-3 minutes for her butter to melt completely but mine melted in about a minute or so - use your instincts and powers of observation!
- Drizzle in the heavy cream, while stirring. Be very careful at this part, please. Do this slowly and be gentle while drizzling and stirring as the cool cream may splatter upon contact with the hot mixture in the saucepan, and the mixture will bubble rapidly.
- Allow the mixture to boil for a minute after drizzling all the cream in. After which, remove from heat and stir in your teaspoon of salt.
- Let it cool. Try no to eat the whole pan, no matter how enticing it is! The smell alone will tempt you.
For the frosting:
- 250g cream cheese
- 125g butter
- 125g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- half of the caramel made
- Cream the cream cheese and the butter together, for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and icing sugar a bit at a time, until just combined. Don't overmix, as you don't want it too become too wet. If it is, though, simply add more icing sugar.
- Lastly, pour in half of the caramel you made.
For the assembly:
- Cut the cake in half, using a large knife. Be very careful!
- Spread a layer of the frosting (about one third to a half) on the bottom layer of the cake. Carefully, place the top layer atop the frosting. It might be a good idea to put it in the fridge first to let it set.
- Spread the frosting around the rest of the cake, and decorate however you want. I wanted to write 'Happy Housewarming' on the cake, but I ran out of space as I used a larger tip, so I ended up writing 'Happy House'... But I do want them to have a happy house, so it all works out I guess!