Caramel Banana Cake – the crack of the cake world!

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.

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My kingdom for a coffee…

This mug contains everything that is good in the world!

I like coffee a lot. Which is slightly ironic because when I was younger, I hated it with a passion. I did eventually discover the allure of espresso while in Italy but I didn’t get the obsession with sweeter coffee drinks. This was about the time that Starbucks was becoming hugely popular and restaurants were almost required to buy espresso machines because everyone wanted a mocha or latte at lunch. Suddenly coffee shops were opening everywhere, even in teeny tiny Kodiak, Alaska, and people were drinking fancy flavored coffee constantly it seemed. Except for me.

There wasn’t much to do in our town, so nearly every day my best friend Nikki Sea and I would walk downtown just to meander about. Usually we would end up at the same little coffee stand, next to a record store. I would religiously order an Italian cream soda and Nik would always order a “black and white” (which after an embarrassingly long time I finally discovered was simply a vanilla mocha). Every time we would swap drinks so the other could taste a sip, and every time the drink was passed back to its owner while we mirrored looks of exaggerated disgust.

Slowly I grew more interested in her drinks and less enthralled with my still delicious, yet slightly unsatisfying Italian sodas. Finally came the day where I ordered (a la When Harry Met Sally) “one of what she’s having.” And from there, it was all downhill.

coffee goodness