Every once in a while I decide to be “the nice one” in my office. Since I work in customer service/sales, tensions can rise quickly and we all occasionally get snappish when it’s overwhelmingly busy. In order to convince my co-workers that I am genuinely a nice person, I like to bring in delicious sugary treats for them. This tactic works surprisingly well, so last week, I thought I would surprise them with a tasty cake.
And, let me assure you, despite what appears to be happening in the above picture, I did not eat this entire cake on my own. I promise I shared.
But I will admit I was severely tempted. I mean just say the name with me: Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake. Yeah, that’s right, this cake is serious. There is a lot going on with it and all of it is wonderful.
And yes, in case you were wondering, it is sweet. In fact it’s so sweet that when Deb from Smitten Kitchen made it, she actually said the next time she would just make the cake without the caramel topping. But I had made this once before, years ago when it was first published in Bon Appetit, and the notes I made said nothing about it being too sweet. Instead they said things like “this is amazing” and “best banana cake EVER.”
So even though my memory of actually eating it was hazy, I decided to proceed with the recipe as written. And it would have been a painless endeavour if my lack of attention to detail hadn’t kept trying to stand between me and success.
I had the bananas ready to go — nice and brown — but the first day I started to make this, I realized I was out of sour cream. So I went to the store and bought a small container, only to discover upon my return that I didn’t have any butter. Trying to avoid a second run to the store, I put the cake off a day and asked my husband to buy a pound of butter on his way home. Which he did, but then the next day while the oven was preheating, I realized I was out of cake flour.
After two days of failure, I almost gave up but I could just smell the caramel-y banana-y goodness. That gave me strength.
So, I sighed deeply and cursed a little before turning the oven off and watching some TV instead. Have you seen Revenge? It is an utterly addicting show. I’m actually a little scared because I could not turn it off. I am foreseeing a serious obsession.
Anyways, the next day after triple checking my ingredient list, I bought cake flour and got to work! The first thing to do is make the caramel sauce. Start the butter, sugar and some corn syrup off in a small pan and bring to a boil. Then let it boil for a minute, add the walnuts (pecans would be an excellent substitute) and spread it on the bottom of a pan. Let it cool completely. This means you really, really want it completely cool, or else you risk a splotchy caramel topping because the cake layer will sink in.
And now a note about the pan — there was some discussion on a few blogs on what kind of pan to use, some suggested a 10-inch springform, others used two 8-inch rounds. I remembered how I made this the first time, and didn’t recall any spill over, so I used my 11-inch Le Cruset skillet again. It worked perfectly, but I would recommend putting a foil-lined baking pan under the cake pan just in case of caramel seepage.
I measured out the dry goods and mashed my bananas. After the batter came together, I gently spooned it over the cooled caramel layer and baked until it was just set. Some of the reviewers said the cake cooked about 10-15 minutes faster than the recipe instructed, which it definitely did. So set a timer and keep a skewer handy. Take it out when it’s golden brown and springs back to the touch. It will smell divine, but resist the urge to pick at it.
In other words, do not be like me.
Let it still in the pan for about 15 minutes and then run a knife around the edges, just to loosen it. The place a plate on top of the cake and invert. And get ready to drool.
It was amazingly perfect and moist, and while it was sweet, it was certainly not too sweet for my co-workers. We demolished this thing in no time. And trust me, we were all in much better moods afterwards!