Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A banana's highest calling

Years ago we were traveling in the midwest raising support for our missionary endeavors here in Spain.  We had a meeting at the church where the husband of a lifelong family friend of my husband was the pastor.  We arrived at a difficult week for the family as I think the husband had just returned from either a hospital visit to his dad or his dad's funeral. Pretty sure it was the second because several of his church members had delivered food to the house for the weekend that we were there.  One item brought by a dear lady in the church was this banana cake with caramel frosting.  We all had a piece and it was sooooooo delicious!  I took the knife and cut myself another half piece because one was not enough.  I was hooked!  The next day the cake was on the counter at breakfast time and I just had to have another piece, and maybe another "little sliver".  Next thing I know, our friend's mother (who lived in the basement apartment) was wrapping foil on the rest of the cake pan and stashing it away in the freezer for her daughter and son-in-law (the pastor) to pull out for themselves at a later date.  I guess she could see I needed a banana cake intervention!

This cake is easy to make, no odd or hard to find ingredients even here in Spain, and is delicious by itself.  Add the caramel frosting and you may find yourself, like me, wondering if there is a local chapter of BCA (banana cake anonymous).  My entire family loves this cake, and my son says that to be made into this recipe is "a banana's highest calling" in life.

A few "tricks" not in the original recipe:
1.  If I have bananas that are not getting eaten and are starting to turn brown I throw them in my freezer right in the peel.  Then on a day when I have time to bake with them I let them thaw on the counter (or zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so) and then snip off the end with kitchen scissors, then squueze the banana right out of the skin into a bowl where I can mash it with a fork or just stir it up into puree.  1 cup of mashed banana is 2 large bananas or 2-3 medium sized bananas.

2.  I cannot buy buttermilk here.  For this recipe and others that call for buttermilk I just add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk that the recipe calls for.

3.  I usually bake this in a clear glass pyrex 9 x 13 pan.  In my oven it is almost never finished at 30 minutes but with the glass pan I can easily keep watch and see when the sides are getting browned.  Not sure if it is the pan or my oven but mine almost always takes about 40 minutes to bake completely. Do the toothpick test or see if the top springs back when lightly touched.

4.  I cannot get good moist "american style" brown sugar here without a bit of a hunt or spending more than I care to spend.  I have found that 1 cup of white sugar mixed with aproximately 1 Tablespoon of molasses is a wonderful substitute and works very well in this recipe.

5. Recipe says to grease and flour the pan.  Since this cake is served from the pan, the flouring step is optional.  I usually just use baking spray on the glass pan and call it a day.

6.  This cake (better said, the frosting) is very sweet so you may want to cut smaller squares to begin with .... just know that you will most likely be going back for "another smidge" or two or three.  Feel free to transfer some to a freezer friendly container if you or a family member need an intervention, or invite several friends over to help you eat it up in one sitting so you don't have the temptation around for long.

7.  Keep a few bananas in your freezer so you can satisfy your sweet tooth or whip up a wonderful treat when visitors come.  Good any time of day, with your morning coffee or tea or as a dessert after a meal.  ENJOY!

Alice’s Banana Cake

2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup shortening or margarine
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9x13 cake pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Combine bananas and milk in a separate bowl.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well.  Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients alternating with banana mixture.  (Begin and end with flour mixture)  Pour into a 9x13 cake pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (or longer depending on your oven) until cake springs back when touched lightly on top and toothpick comes out clean.

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup margarine (butter is better and what I usually use)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Melt margarine.  Add brown sugar, milk and a pinch of salt.  Boil, stirring continually for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to warm.  Gradually add powdered sugar.  Beat until thick.  If too thick add drops of hot water to thin.  If too thin add powdered sugar.