Thursday, November 7, 2013

Banana Cinnamon Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

Bananas and I have a long and complicated relationship, one of unrequited affection on my part. This wasn't due to the heartlessness of the banana itself, but more particularly to circumstance, not so much the wrong time as the wrong place. Tunisia for starters....bananas did not exist in this North African clime, but we had already dallied with the banana enough to know what Tunisians were missing. And apparently, we weren't the only residents to have had experience lingering enraptured over a banana split, for when the banana boat came in, maybe twice a year, bananas were hawked from every city corner to avid customers who consumed their yearly requirement of potassium in a matter of a few days! And for a short time, we dined in banana heaven with banana milkshakes, banana pudding, banana cream pie and eventually banana bread which we froze to dole out in the banana-less months to follow.

Our only respite being when visitors came from Europe - at our request they would bring bananas and avocados as the gift I wanted most from home. From Tunisia, we moved to Jordan, where the banana existed, their water gorging trees quenched by the waters of the Jordan River, but alas, they were short, stubby, things often green and reluctant to ripen; no Chiquita worthy specimens these. But the flavor was right and after all, that is what we fell in love with in the first place. In the following recipe, I step aside to let caramel sauce take my place in this love affair with the banana. I can not imagine a more perfectly suited couple....and the cinnamon topping dresses the dish up for a night on the dessert table!

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Topping:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ripe medium bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tab. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
4 tab. butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tab. flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch square or 10 inch round baking pan.

-Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, bananas, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, baking soda, salt and vanilla extract in mixing bowl and mix well, until batter is smooth - 3 - 4 minutes.  Stir in walnuts if used.  Pour batter into prepared pan. 

-Combine melted butter, brown sugar,  2 tab. flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Sprinkle on top of batter in pan.  Bake in preheated oven until top is golden brown and splits slightly, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Test with knife to insure doneness. 

-Cut cake into squares and serve warm or at room temperature with caramel sauce.

(Optional Cream topping:  Place 1/2 cup whipping cream in mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.  In another bowl combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.  Fold cream cheese mixture by hand into whipped cream.  Top squares of banana cake with spoonfuls of cream mixture and then drizzle with caramel sauce.)

The Caramel Sauce  (here's another love story....)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tab. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coarse salt (for salted caramel)

-In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. 
Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. 
Slowly bring to a boil, over medium heat stirring frequently
(constantly if you have the patience...if stirring constantly, you
can edge the heat up a bit.) Once mixture begins to bubble,
continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly for
another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
extract and salt. Let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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