Saturday, August 22, 2009

Old Hobbies and Upside Down Banana Cake

La Seine at the Pont-Neuf, Paris

Sometimes, when you've stopped an activity for a while, it's easy to forget that a long time ago you may have been good at it.

Back right after college, I was a mad photographer, taking pictures of everything all the time. Digital SLRs weren't around back then, at least not in any sense I could afford, and I so enjoyed shooting film, feeling that I was learning immeasurably with every roll, that it wouldn't really have mattered if I could have afforded a dSLR anyway. Then, oh the irony, I went to graduate film school and never had a minute to shoot still photographs unless it was for an assignment. Later, working 14 to sometimes 16 hour days, there was only just time to eat and sleep.
Banana Cake
In due course, everyone moved from film to digital and I, still skeptical and attached to the Minolta I'd had since I was 12, started very slowly with a little Canon Elf that I purchased to take on a solo trip to New Zealand. That was a complete blast and I loved this little foray I was making into digital photography (in fact, if you go back on this blog, all the pictures were taken with that Canon Elf for over a year).
Then life happened and I completely forgot about photography for a while. Good and mostly bad things overshadowed the need for hobbies, until just recently.

The biggest catalyst was probably Baby Saffron. I take pictures of her all the time because I know she's changing every day and I don't always notice since she and I are never truly apart.
5 months Dumpling
When she's older, I want her to be able to see herself as we see her now. I want her to have a treasure trove of pictures to choose from, if she wants to, for any occasion as an adult. If she has children I want them to see pictures of her as a baby and child. And, let's face it, she's just adorable, so it doesn't hurt to look at pictures of her anyway.
I know that back then I had an eye for it, and looking at the pictures I take now, I realize it will take some time to get that back. I still think I take better pictures with film, that somehow the camera and I get along better in the analog format, but I'm sure that with a lot of practice I can acquire my eye back on the digital format. It will be fun trying anyway. And I think this blog is going to become a little less about food and a little more about a lot of other things, primarily photography. I hope you'll stay with me as I go on this little adventure. Right now I'm just having fun digging through my old photographs. Very few of my film photographs have been scanned like the black and white pictures above and below, but I plan on rectifying that when I have the time to go through old boxes of negative and scan the ones I don't want to forget.
St Patricks Day
St. Patrick's Day, New York

As with the lemon bars, what does that have to do with upside down caramelized banana cake? Well, actually I saw a picture of this cake somewhere and had to follow the link because 1) I love bananas and 2) it looked so intriguing. When I read the post about it over at The Wicked Noodle, and realized we were talking about bananas + caramel, I had to try it. Besides, it was time to do something different from yet another banana bread recipe.
Banana Cake and Milk
Apparently this is a popular cake in Brazil and can be found in every bakery there. You'll notice in the pictures that the crumb is a bit dense, that's just the fault of yours truly overbeating the egg whites. It tasted wonderful anyway, the most delightful thing about it being that as the caramel is truly just caramelized sugar (there's hardly any butter in this cake), the bananas release juices as they cook which blend with the caramel below them, creating little pools of banana-flavored soft caramel between the slices of fruit. I had a little difficulty with the caramel as I've never made any in a thin-bottom pan before, so it was interesting to say the least.

While I love the look and flavor of this cake, I will say that if I want a cake with a really strong banana flavor I'd stick to a banana-bread type of recipe because this, as the look and name indicate, is another cake with caramelized fruit on top. If you love bananas and want a cake that will start a conversation, particularly if you're not in Brazil, this is the cake for you.
And by the way, if you haven't been to Paula Cinini's blog The Cookie Shop yet, run! don't walk, over there right now.

Banana Upside Down Cake

adapted from Paula Cinini at The Cookie Shop as posted on The Wicked Noodle

For a 10" or 26cm circular pan
For the caramel banana layer:
- 1 1/2 cup (170g) sugar
- 4-5 ripe bananas (must be ripe or they will become hard)

For the cake:
- 2 cups (240g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup (90g) cornstarch
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature for best results
- 4 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter
- 1.5 cups (150g) sugar
- 1 cup (200ml) whole milk

For the banana layer:
- Put the sugar in the pan you will be baking the cake in and heat it on medium heat to make a dry caramel (no water). Once it's fluid and light amber in color, with a wooden spoon, as best you can try to distribute the caramel evenly all over the pan (bottom and sides sides). Keep in mind that the caramel will set quickly so you may not be able to coat everything, don't worry about it. Set aside.
- For the cake to look like the pictures here or at the Wicked Noodle, split the bananas lengthwise and distribute them with the cut side down, over the caramel. Alternatively, you could cut the bananas in thick slices and pack them over the caramel. Either way, try to place them as close to the pan sides as you can (they will shrink a bit) as this may make taking the cake out easier afterward.

For the cake:
- Heat the oven to 350° F (180°C).
- In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch and baking powder). Set aside.
- In a dry, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- Beat the butter, sugar and egg yolks until very light and creamy. This is most easily done with an electric mixer, stand or hand.
- Use the dry/wet method, adding the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat only just until the flour is incorporated.
- Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter carefully by hand, preferably with a spatula.
- Pour the batter over the banana layer, distributing evenly.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the
center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cake rest for a bit so that it cools slightly and the caramel sets to some extent, but try to unmold it while it's still warm for ease.

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Unknown said...

Wow I admire that you can actually think to blog at this time but I am glad that you do. I really enjoy reading your posts. It is so true what you said about not noticing all little changes in your baby because you are together all the time.

My little one will be a year next week and I feel like I have emerged from a dream. In a sense it was a very unaccomplished year but then I look back at the gazillion pictures that I took of my baby and I remember that hey, I actually did quite a lot! I gave birth to the most amazing little boy. I breast fed for 10 months. I didn't sleep for nearly a year and managed not to go stark staring mad when it seemed that my 'angel' did nothing but scream for 6 months. Whenever I feel a bit down about all the things I missed out on, or all the goals on my New Year's list that went by the wayside I look at the pictures of my baby and give myself a great big pat on the back...yeah I did good and you will too maman!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Such a lovely post! I have a Soeren wall of fame where I have hung up a few pictures of hime in different stages. I love that wall because often I will just stare at it for minutes on end and think "wow!" i remember how tiny he was and how he has grown. The memories stay fresh! Hilda you are a gem.

The cake is fantastic - for some reason I do not often bake with banana although I love the flavor it gives to baked stuff!

the wicked noodle said...

I love that you tried this cake! I actually have yet to try it, although my husband keeps bugging me - Paula did such a great job with it. Your pictures are beautiful; you really did the cake justice. Thanks for visiting The Wicked Noodle! :-)


Jamie said...

Whether cake or photography, it is all creativity and we are all anxious to see what comes out of you and shows up here; the black and white pics are gorgeous - my husband prefers shooting in b & w, too, so I am partial. Baby Saffron is beautiful, just beautiful and you should make sure you do get all the pictures of her that you can. Looking back, we never have enough.

The cake looks luscious, but I know what you mean about caramel cakes with fruit. I make them cause husband loves them. But yours is a wrok of art.

Unknown said...

I think the photography is beautiful. I am contemplating selling the flute I never play to put towards a new camera. :)

Peabody said...

Oh, I am loving this cake. Gorgeous.

The Leftoverist said...

It doesn't seem like you've lost your knack for photography at all! That banana cake looks luscious.

I love those little chubby ankles. My youngest is 2 now, and it seems like she was a baby just yesterday. As a good mothering friend of mine says about raising little children--"The years go by so fast, but the days can seem so long!"

Anh said...

This post is so touching. I am sure your little one will appreciate all the beautiful photos of her childhood, thanks to her mom!

Alejandra Ramos said...

Oh wow! This looks absolutely amazing. What a beautiful post!

Rachael Hutchings said...

The cake looks beautiful! I love your pictures, so I'll definitely stick around for that!

Liesl said...

That cake looks amazing!! I have some bananas at home that are pretty ripe and ready to be baked into something!! I might have to try out this recipe!

marion said...

Your cake looks perfect
I can't wait to see Baby Saffron :)
And thanks for this great new blog to discover !

Hilda said...

WizzyTheStick: Thank you so much for that. It always helps to know that other mommies are feeling or have felt the way I do sometimes what with the fatigue and all, but it's nice to know that it pays off, and you're right dammit! I made a person! Pretty cool.

Meeta: I heart you my friend and I love that idea of a wall of fame! Am totally stealing it. Yes, bake more with bananas1 I love them and want to see what cool things you'd make with them!

The Wicked Noodle: Thanks for the compliment, for having a great blog, and for having Paula guest post! Get thee to the kitchen to make this cake!

Jamie: Now there you go being all adorable with your comment as usual and then you wonder why I spent my time making that little icon for you?

Jennie: Thank you. Leave the flute, take the camera.

Peabody: Thank you, I like it when you visit.

The Leftoverist: I love your name! And thank you for the compliments. Yes, I'm trying more and more to be careful about not missing anything because it goes so fast!

Anh: Thank you, I speak from the heart.

Alejandra: Thank you.

La Fuji Mama: Yeay! Thank you! I have to send you those recipes for the swiss chard...

Liesl: You totally should, and check out Paula's blog too, pretty awesome.

Marion: Ah mon amie, thank you. I can't wait for you to see Baby Saffron either, and I'm searching for a nice new template right now...

Y said...

Ah Hilda, I heart you and your recommendations! Love that site. This cake looks great, as does the original, but after reading more from your post, I'm not sure whether to attempt it or not. I have some bananas waiting to be used, y'see. I could make my favourite banana cake, or I could try something new (and possibly be disappointed..??) Conundrum!

Anushruti said...

This cake looks so good! Love the idea of a banana upside down cake.

Elizabeth said...

Nice to see some of the archived photos (I'm assuming the black and whites were taken with an actual camera that had film) Amazing how quickly we have all embraced the digital world, isn't it?


Unknown said...

Clearly, you found your photographic eye again!

Leah Wentzel said...

i have never heard of upside down banana cake but i bet that at one time was more popular than all the others.

Pat said...

Food - photos - family -whatever, I love your blog!

Stacy said...

As usual, amazing photographs, yummy looking cake!

Dbe said...

Not a banana fan, but great looking cake

Kat said...

I might try this with plantains instead of bananas but it looks lovely.

Jeanne said...

Taking photos of kids and babies is so rewarding - I have TONS of my nephews...

Sari @ Cook Your Dream said...

I love the photo of Papoose! So cute :)

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