Somewhere along the way I convinced myself I don't like sweets. Except chocolate chip cookies, which I'll eat no matter how good, or bad they might be. And by the way, dear Austin bakeries, please make good chocolate chip cookies. Please put a little heart into it. Right now I only buy them at Primizie which A) is not a bakery, and B) I suspect that's the New York Times recipe and it's good, but I'd love to have a cookie that tastes just a little mysterious.
I suppose I could make them myself... because I know what I would do. I know what would make them the best cookies in the world (pecan meal), but I don't like sweets, remember? It's honestly that I can't have sweets near me. They don't exist if they're not in my house. If they are in my house I am an unstoppable glutton who moans and groans incessantly about how much I dislike sweets as I shovel armfuls of the stuff into my mouth, my stomach suddenly a cavernous pit of insatiable-ness. So you see why I claim I don't like sweets? Life is easier that way.
Unfortunately though, I had a little shindig a few weeks ago. It was a little pastry soiree for a few of my nearest and dearest. It was my chance to make some treats for my friends and exercise some of my new found patiserrie skills. I made about 16 different things, cakes and cookies and mousses and breads... and there were a few leftovers. Just a few. It was enough though. I now have had cake every night before bed. And lately I've been having cookies before and after lunch. What's worse, some of these leftovers are in the form of unbaked dough. There's enough for about ten miniature gateau basques and three miniature salted caramel and chocolate tarts. I might have over-extended myself the teeniest bit.
What's worse, I am no match for the gluttonous beast within, I've let it into my fridge and I have to eat until I've eaten the beast out of my house. What a pain.
The problem was recently compounded by the challenge I received from my friend Susann. Actually, it was a nice request to bake a birthday cake for a friend. However, in true Aries spirit I have taken this off-handed request as a personal challenge to make the richest, most seductively decadent, ooiest gooiest creation ever to grace a ping pong tournament themed birthday party. I realize I might have little competition on this front, but forge ahead with competitive drive I will. Now, not to disappoint, but I'll most likely, if all goes as planned, report on this cake in a later post, so hold your horses ooey gooey rich and decadent cake lovers. No treats for you yet.
I'll give you a wee hint though. This cake for the weekend party includes bananas. Very fresh bananas, not the over-ripe version one would normally use for baking. And for some reason I bought those bananas on Monday and am making the cake filling on Saturday. I'm sure you can imagine the state those babies would be in by then. What can I say, I got a bit over-eager.
Seeing that my stash of frozen bananas for smoothies runneth over due to the fact that I never make smoothies, I had to come up with a different use for these bananas and pronto.
Last night I baked. I broke down and added to the sweets stash that is my freezer. I was hoping to make a simple breakast bread that I could slip out of the freezer and toast on the days I need a break from yogurt and granola. I messed up though. Big time. Somehow I managed to make a rich and enchanting spicy cake that I dare not break out until I've done my duty and eaten my veggies.
I've been taken with the idea of making a banana upside-down cake for some time. The thing is, cooked bananas can be so very make-your-jaw-ache sweet. I love the flavor, but it needs a little balance. Normally I pair my cooked bananas with salsa, eggs and beans. See what I mean? In terms of baking though, I wanted my bananas on top of something a little salty, a little spicy, but not at all savory. I played around with a recipe I found online and, well, the sweets stash has been replenished and I anticipate replenishing it many times over with this cake.
Caramelized Banana and Ginger Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook by way of Seattlest
For the topping
1 1/2 Tbsp butter*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ras el hanout
For the cake
1/2 cup butter*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 small eggs
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
Set oven to 325 degrees. Grease either a loaf pan or a 4-5" round cake pan. Cut parchment paper to sit in the bottom of the pan.
For the topping combine the sugar, butter and ras el hanout in a saucepan over low heat to melt the butter and fully combine ingredients. Immediately pour this into your prepared baking dish. Slice banans into 1/2" - 3/4" coins and lay over top of topping. Pack the tightly, coin side down, to completely cover baking dish.
For the batter, sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together for about 3-5 mins. You don't want it fluffy, but you want it very smooth and creamy. Add the grated ginger and cream for about 1 min more. Add eggs one at a time to emulsify. Scrape down bowl between additions. Slowly add molasses. It will look a little break-y at this point. That's okay.
Add a third of the sifted dry ingredients to combine. Add half of the buttermilk. Scrape down between additions. Continue with the additions so dry is the last thing you add and it's fully combined.
Pour into prepared baking dish and smooth out the top. Bake for 1 hour and 30 mins. Check for done-ness before removing it from the oven.
Let cool for 10 mins before turning the cake out onto a cooling rack.
* Use really nice butter for this. You can really taste it and it's so very wonderful!