For absolutely no reasons other than I Wanted It and It Sounded Good and Also I Had Two Sad Bananas and Didn’t Want To Make Banana Bread, earlier this fall I got really caught up in making sticky toffee banana puddings, except by pudding I mean British for cake or sometimes a steamed cake and sometimes just the dessert course entirely (did I do this right? please help your confused American friend). Sticky toffee pudding is usually made with dates and almost every person I’ve ever told that to who has had it but doesn’t peruse recipes for fun and entertainment (crazy!) has found that baffling, but indeed, there are dried dates that have been soaked and blended until smooth and added to a lightweight brown sugar and butter cake that is ladled — I mean, truly soaked — with a warm toffee/butterscotch sauce and an enormous spoonful of unsweetened whipped or clotted cream and sometimes sprinkled with a few flakes of sea salt and it’s just unbelievably, unforgettably decadent.
This is that, but for bananas. Yet this is resolutely, indignantly not banana bread. There is no cinnamon nor nutmeg. I wanted this to taste like a cozy winter cake so there’s dark brown sugar, vanilla, and even a spoonful of molasses or treacle for extra gravitas, trust me, it works here. It’s blissful with the sauce and the cream and, no matter what else you make on New Years Eve, be the only thing people are still talking about the next day. (I mean, unless your behavior is particularly legendary, in which case, the cake will happily cede the spotlight.)
The Year In Smitten Kitchen
I love finding out what your favorite recipes of each year have been and this one did not disappoint, truly the first year that a savory recipe has triumphed over a baked good. So, let’s hear it for this crispy rice bowl that I still crave every time I have leftover rice — I don’t blame you at all. You can view all 16 recipes from this page or individually below.
Previously: Best of 2018 (Savory, Sweet), Best of 2017 (Savory, Sweet), Best of 2016 (Savory, Sweet).
I want to say, because I don’t think I do often enough, what a treat and an honor it is to have this website still going after all of these years (13-plus of them, whoa) I’m not tired of cooking yet, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all of the things I want to learn how to make or at least simplify to the point that I might actually do it at home on the regular, and I feel very lucky I get to hang out with you when I do. Happy new year; I hope you have the best one yet.
Banana Toffee Cake
You can also bake this cake in an 8×8-inch square (I cut this into 16 small squares) or 9-inch round cake (8 to 12 wedges) single cake layer — do so for 25 to 27 minutes, until until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out batter-free. I suspect you’re about to ask me why there is molasses and some white sugar in this cake when molasses + white sugar = brown sugar, but I feel that the white sugar keeps the cake from being too gummy and the molasses adds a slightly intense balance that brown sugar does not.
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses or treacle
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup (170 grams) mashed bananas (2 medium bananas, or about 12 ounces unpeeled)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, well-shaken
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
- 1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream, divided (half for sauce, half for whipping)
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt plus more to finish
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sauce and finish
Make cake: Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 12 standard muffin cups in butter or with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together butter, salt, brown sugar, granulated sugar, molasses, and vanilla until combined. Add mashed banana and whisk again. Add eggs and whisk until incorporated, then buttermilk. Sprinkle baking soda and baking powder on batter and whisk until combined and then (don’t skip this), 10 to 20 more times, ensuring that it very well dispersed in the bowl. Add flour and mix only until it disappears. Divide batter between 12 cups.
Bake 14 to 16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out batter free.
While the cakes bake, make the toffee sauce: Combine butter, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a larger saucepan than you think you’ll need over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer, whisking frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes — the mixture thickens slightly. Add a couple pinches of salt and vanilla.
… And whipped cream: In a medium-large clean bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream with an electric or you-powered whisk until it forms soft peaks. Don’t add sugar to this; I promise it does not need it.
To serve: Remove one warm cake from the muffin tin and either plate it dome side-up or you can cut the dome off the cake with a serrated knife and serve the cake upside-down, as shown. (You can use the cake tops to pacify hangry people in your kitchen.) Ladle the cake generously with the toffee sauce, finish with a big dollop of the cream and a few flakes of sea salt. Repeat with remaining cakes.
Do ahead: I find whipped cream keeps for many hours in the fridge without a problem, but if you’re worried, you can use this trick to keep it for several days. The sauce keeps for a week or two; it can be reheated in about 20 seconds in the microwave, just until it liquefies, or back on the stove in a small saucepan. The cake keeps for 3 to 4 days at room temperature in an airtight container before seeming stale to me. If you can gently rewarm it before serving, all the better.
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