COCONUT CRUSTED BANANA CAKE
MAKES 1 CAKE
Very few activities make me happier than wandering aimlessly through a grocery store, whether it’s the Piggly Wiggly or the hippie health food market on the corner. I rarely make lists; I am a free-associative shopper — a quality which has no doubt contributed mightily to my dwindling bank account, but does on the whole make for more entertaining provisioning. Likewise, the market is also where a lot of my recipe eurekas happen. It starts when I spot an ingredient that’s unfamiliar or intriguing — or hell, maybe just on sale. Then the egg beaters in my head get to spinning, scheming up new concoctions. And the cart fills. It may not be the most economical strategy, but it’s a method that nudges me into experimenting with new flavors — and keeps me from eating rice and chickpeas five days a week.
Which brings me to the big reveal. The theme of this morning’s one-woman, navel-gazing version of Iron Chef was …coconut! A mountain of unsweetened, flaked coconut I toted home from one of the Syrian bakeries on Atlantic Avenue, to be precise. I’ve been haunted by the memory of an insanely good coconut uthappam I had out in Jersey City last month, and at first was toying with the idea of taking a stab at that. And maybe I still will. But, before then…well, I noticed that there were two blackened bananas on the table, and you know it’s always nice to have a nibble of something sweet to go with your morning coffee, and maybe if I just…
These flights of fancy don’t always have happy endings, of course, but I’m glad to report this one does. While in the same family as a traditional banana bread, this cake’s tangy vanilla and cardamom crumb, fruity olive oil bite, and crunchy top layer of brown sugar and toasted coconut give grandma’s version a invigorating kick in the pants. Rotten bananas never had it so good.
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 egg, beaten
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup rolled oats
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a round cake pan or glass pie plate and set aside.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl combine bananas, sugar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and egg and stir, using the back of your spoon to crush the large banana chunks, until the mixture is nearly smooth. (If you you’re left with some banana lumps, that’s fine — just try and break them up so they’re not huge.) Add vanilla bean, nutmeg, and cardamom and whisk to combine. Next, add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir, scraping down the edges of the bowl, until the batter is combined. Then add the remaining flour and repeat.
3. In a separate medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, brown sugar, coconut, and oats. Using your fingers, work the mixture until it is well distributed and there are no large clumps.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake dish and spread it evenly to the edges. Sprinkle the brown sugar and coconut mixture across the top in an even layer, and then, using your fingers, press it lightly into the batter to help it adhere.
5. Place dish the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the coconut topping is crisp and a rich, toasted brown.