Monday, 2 July 2012

Banana, Chocolate & Cinnamon Upside Down Cake

Tut tut, Waitrose Deliver, tut tut. To mistake "6 bananas" for "6kg of bananas" once may be regarded as a misfortune; to mistake it twice looks like carelessness. By which I mean, thanks to the vagaries of internet shopping, once again we were recently overflowing with bananas. How in the name of all that is yellow, curvy and faintly speckled with brown did it not occur to them that there might just possibly be some error?

Even after taking as many as we could to work, and giving handfuls away to our family, we were still left with bunch after bunch. And delightful as our favourite Banana Bread is (and it is), after making 2 more loaves we still had bananas left. I don't like banana ice cream, I hate the texture of banana puddings, and they were getting a bit too grotty for any kind of banoffee pudding. There was nothing else for it. It was time to try to reinvent the banana cake wheel.

So I called up the old interweb and ended up with David Lebovitz's banana and chocolate chip upside down cake. Sounds good, doesn't it? With a beautiful banana caramel top, and a delicate, chocolate studded base? After all, his salted caramel ice cream had been so brilliant - surely he wouldn't fail me now? Hands up if you can tell where this is going.

Well, I'm overegging it slightly. (Overegging! A cake! I crack me up). It was perfectly fine, maybe even verging on nice. But, no doubt due to my own shoddy execution, the top came out mushy rather than caramelised. The sponge was fine, but nowhere near as delicious and full-flavoured as the banana bread. And the whole thing was just a bit underwhelming - particularly considering the fact that it was far more faff than the banana bread, and nowhere near as delicious.

So if you want a banana chocolate hybrid, make the banana bread*. If you want caramelised banana slices on top of a banana cake, make the banana bread**. If you have 6kg of bananas to use up and you don't know what to do with them***, make the banana bread. I don't think I can put it any clearer than that. What do you mean, the internet never sends unexpected kilograms of fruit? Why does this only happen to us?

*add chocolate chips
** put banana slices on top, scattered with sugar and flashed under the grill or blowtorch - or buy those banana chip things they try to flog as healthy snacks
*** apparently less unusual than you might think

Banana, Chocolate and Cinnamon Upside Down Cake

For the topping
- 60g dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of water or butter (I used water because I can't work out how you measure butter in tablespoons)
- 3-4 ripe bananas
- a few drops of lemon juice

For the cake
- 210g plain flour
- a teaspoon of baking powder
- half a teaspoon of bicarb
- half a teaspoon of salt
- a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 150g granulated sugar
- 30g butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 2 bananas, squished into puree
- 120g sour cream or plain yoghurt
- half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 80g chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate (I whizzed it in the food processor)

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Ideally, you'd have an 8 inch / 20cm square metal cake tin. If you have silicon or something, that's fine but you'll have to do the first bit in a frying pan then transfer it to the silicon tin. Is there another word for silicon cake tins? You don't call it a cake silicon, do you?

Anyway, put your cake tin (or frying pan if necessary) on a low heat and add the dark brown sugar and water/butter. Warm the mixture, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly wet. If you're using water, let it simmer for a minute or two then take off the heat; if butter, stir just until the sugar is bubbling, then remove from the heat. Let it all cool down to room temperature while you make the cake.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk it all quickly to get it well mixed and lump-free. Then stir in the granulated sugar.

In another bowl, combine the butter, eggs, mashed banana, vanilla and yoghurt (or sour cream if that's what you're using).  Then make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ones and mix very briefly until just combined. I used a whisk for maximum combination in minimum time. Gently stir in the chocolate chunks.

Peel and slice the bananas for the topping, then arrange in beautiful, overlapping rows on the caramelly base of the tin. I carefully arranged them like herringbone, going in alternate directions, but you couldn't really see it once they were cooked so you're probably fine just slinging them in any old how. Squeeze a couple of drops of lemon juice on top.

Then scoop your cake mix on top and carefully daub it around with a spatula, until it's all spread. Bake for 40 minutes, or until risen and lightly golden. 

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