Thursday, March 20, 2008

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

Oh, look what I went and did now. Really, I must be stopped–this is out of control. One afternoon I saw a recipe for Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake in Gourmet and it was one of those moments when you pause and repeat all of the words to yourself slowly, trying to imagine how someone managed to fit all of these glorious elements into one 8-inch pan (they didn’t, but more on that later)–kind of like the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake of two weeks ago. It immediately went on my Cook This list. The next day, I casually picked up the ingredients for the cake, just in case an opportunity presented itself where a Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake’s services would be called upon. (Hey, these things happen when you run the Smitten Kitchen.) But then it never did and by the end of the weekend, the bananas, they were calling to me and the cake and a few hours later, here we were:

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

Those bananas get me every time. I have an affection for bananas that most sane people reject–call it freckle empathy–and having them around but trying not to a) eat or b) bake jacked-up banana bread with them is torture. To put it another way: I feel like the chimpanzee in this video and the bananas? They never win.

caramel walnut lidbanana cake batterbanana cakecaramel walnut upside down banana cake

So, how was it? Unbearably good. But it was almost unbearably sweet as well. In hindsight, I’m not sure this cake needs caramel on top to make it good, as boring as that makes me sound. The sweetness of the lid nearly overwhelmed it, requiring a two glass of water chaser. It also hardened quite a bit, making it impossible to break through it with the side of a fork and meaning it gets totally stuck in your teeth. But the tender, moist and densely-banana flavored cake within is a gem, and would be a great swap in any layer cake, coated with cream cheese frosting or dark chocolate and coffee ganache. In fact, I can’t wait to make it again exactly like that. But for the love of all that is bathing suit season, I hope to find a better excuse than “It was Sunday, and the bananas called to me!” No, it will at least be Monday.

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

One year ago: Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Roasted Red Peppers and Spiced Cumin Dressing

Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008

If the caramel topping is still calling to you, despite my warnings that it is terrifically sweet and hardens once set, just be sure to serve it warm, before it does. A few other adjustments: the original recipe calls for an 8-inch cake pan, which is an absolute no-no. Mine completely filled a 9-inch pan with 2-inch sides. If you are nervous or don’t have at least 2-inch sides on your 9-inch baking pan, go for a 10-inch pan instead. Finally, I don’t know if my oven temperature is wonk or not, but this cake baked in 40 to 45 minutes in my oven, not 55+, something I have adjusted below.

Topping:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces

Cake:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 to 3 large)
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

For topping: Spray 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Bring butter, sugar, and corn syrup to boil in medium saucepan, stirring constantly until butter melts. Boil syrup 1 minute. Stir in nuts. Spread topping in prepared pan. Let topping cool completely.

For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed bananas, sour cream, rum, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 2 additions just until combined. Spoon batter into pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut around cake. Place platter over pan. Holding pan and platter together, turn over. Let stand 5 minutes, then gently lift off pan. Cool at least 15 minutes for topping to set. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


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