Three years ago today we shared a first together. I snapped some appallingly bad photos of these delicious scones I made-which I recently took some time to take again-and I just couldn’t wait a moment longer to make food and write about it. For some reason, some of you decided to follow me. Thank you for that.
A few years later, things look a little bit different. OKAY, they look a lot different. Goodness, they look different than they did a year ago when we gushed about Pumpkin Cake! I suppose that’s the nature of time and how it passes and pieces things together as we navigate the confusing, bittersweet mess of being living, breathing humans with imperfections and junk. It kind of makes you wonder if we should try to treat ourselves and each other with a little bit more compassion.
Other things that deserve compassion: rotting bananas. Recently, I had four of them in my fruit bowl browning away, waiting for a nod of acknowledgement before they were too far gone. There can be something rather melancholy about the passivity of rotting fruit; we forget sometimes that past-prime bananas are simply that much sweeter. When at last I decided to make use of the poor, neglected fruit, I worried that my restraint in using the bananas before they had passed their prime had resulted in wastefulness. Mashing all four of them up into a bountiful mound of puree, I wondered–can a banana cake be too banana-y?
To answer, here is an important life lesson: when doubting oneself, always, always embrace your inner Grumpy Cat, silencing any and all discouraging thoughts with a resounding NO. Especially when there are bananas involved, especially when it comes to cake, and especially when you’re planning to infuse that cake with brown sugar and cinnamon and creamy almond butter. If you find yourself, like I had been in that moment, baking this cake and doubting my credibility, wondering if it’s possible to overdo it with the bananas, please envision the stubborn look on my face when I forcefully respond: NO. USE ALL OF THE BANANAS. ALL OF THEM.
To negate this lack of restraint, I refrained slightly when it came to frosting the cake; instead, I made a spicy almond butter icing, spiked with coconut oil and vietnamese cinnamon and raw honey. Essentially, this made it easier for me to play with my food. Freed from the confines of delicately swathed buttercream, I began slicing geometric shapes out of my celebratory creation, and then arranging them, like little angular soldiers, into a labyrinth of sweetness and spice. I remember standing before the platter of cake and the maze I had created out of its slices and thinking to myself that maybe I had channeled my inner Björk. Where she discovers a city within her television (possibly the most charming Björk-ism EVER), I create a city out of CAKE.
Perhaps that’s why I have been able to keep this thing going for a few years now. I feel like, sometimes, that city is made up of other things (some favorites of mine include Arugula with Roasted (Fruit and) Vegetables; Pappardelle with Brown Butter and Chives; Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies; Chickpea Salad Sandwiches; Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Arugula Pasta Salad with Date Vinaigrette; Strawberry Lime Pie Bars; and Vegan Coconut Cupcakes), but always there is fun and creativity and perspective to be had. It’s been a whirlwind and a privilege. Thank you all for following.
Banana Almond Butter Cake
Makes One Square Cake, sliced as you like it
Banana Almond Butter Cake:
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup whole milk greek yogurt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vietnamese cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp coconut oil, solid (refrigerate if necessary to reach this consistency)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
Almond Butter Icing:
2 tbsp coconut oil, solid
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp creamy almond butter
pinch vietnamese cinnamon
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2-3 tsp heavy cream
Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8x2 square pan. In a medium bowl, mash together bananas with yogurt and vanilla extract. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter, coconut oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg for 1 minute. Beat in banana mixture until combined. Stir in dry ingredients in halves until just combined. Gently fold in almond butter until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean, with moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack to cool completely.
Icing: Whisk together coconut oil, raw honey, almond butter, and cinnamon. Stir in confectioners sugar in 1/2 cup increments, followed by cream in teaspoon increments. Continue doing so until icing has reached desired, glossy consistency.
Assembly: Gently spread icing atop completely cooled Banana Almond Butter Cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Keep refrigerated. Cake will keep for 2-3 days.