The Weekend Dish – Bananas Foster

A banana tree was planted in this backyard sister’s backyard a few years ago. After noticing one in a neighbor’s front yard, and thus quelling any doubts we had about their ability to grow in our Southern California coastal climate, we decided to give it a try. Enlisting the help of a backyard son we chose a spot out near the vegetable garden, planted it and waited; with visions of Chiquita-like bananas available by a simple stroll out the back door. How excited we were when the first bunch appeared! When it turned, what we deemed a sufficiently yellow hue, we even more excitedly ran in to the house and prepared to consume this previously unimaginable treasure of a banana fresh off the tree. Peeling the tiny fruit was different from your average banana but with some effort it was accomplished and I took the first bite and was greeted by a chalky, slightly bitter, hard, dry banana. banana tree
A few chalky bananas later, we came to the conclusion that these bananas weren’t improving and were more like plantains and therefore in need of some cooking (and sugar and liquor and butter!)  Bananas Foster visions happily replaced the fresh off the tree visions. Not only is the dish delicious but it makes for an impressive sight when the bananas are flambéed right before serving.

bananas foster flameIt takes caution and finesse to execute this dish.

bananas foster flame1This definitely was an improvement for these bananas or plantains. Still, these were not the best bananas or even close. The banana tree tale ends a little sadly with the decision to remove it due to its rapid rate of growth causing infringement on the vegetable garden space and its production of little, dry, chalky fruit. The banana tree is, however what lead us to try this recipe and I am eternally grateful.

~ Susan

bananas foster

Bananas Foster

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet.
Place the pan over low heat, either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan.
When the bananas soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum.
Continue cooking until the rum is hot, but not boiling or the alcohol burns off and won’t ignite.
Using a long handled match or barbecue lighter ignite the rum using the fumes at the edge of the pan. Make sure you aren’t leaning over the pan and aren’t wearing loose clothes. Never pour alcohol from bottle onto flaming pan because this can cause an explosion.
When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place over the ice cream in dishes.
Top with generous spoonfuls of the sauce and serve immediately. This is also a delicious topping for waffles or crepes.

The Weekend Dish – Checkerboard Cake

_MG_8216Adventures and experiments in the kitchen can be challenging and fun. Trying to come up with a dish to go with this month’s theme of patterns, a checkerboard cake immediately came to mind. Never having made one and a bit uncertain about what seemed like a daunting task, I suppressed the idea for a day or two exploring other possibilities but I kept coming back to the cake and readied myself for a challenge. First, I learned there is a special pan one can buy for creating this effect, but not wanting to invest in one and, with further research, I found a video online of Buddy, the cake boss, teaching Rachael Ray how to make a checkerboard cake using cookie cutters.  Well, without circle cookie cutters, I improvised using a glass and a glass vase ( thoroughly cleaned of course ). Checkerboard cake here we come. First task is making chocolate and vanilla cakes.

_MG_8208Most cakes after cooking have a slightly rounded top, at least mine do, so to get even layers that will sit flatly on top of each other; after the cake has cooled, trim about one quarter of an inch off the top. Then cut concentric circles from the center out and you will have three circles of cake.

_MG_8211Next step is to alternate the chocolate and vanilla rings. If you have a vanilla ring on the outside insert a chocolate ring next and finish with a vanilla ring in the middle. After assembling your first layer, apply frosting. I learned a trick from the cake boss – use a bag to apply the frosting. I used a ziploc bag and cut a hole in one of the bottom corners. By applying the frosting this way, all you have to do is gently spread it around to smooth it out and it keeps it from getting full of crumbs. For the next layer, start with chocolate on the outside then vanilla and finish with chocolate in the center then add frosting again. I made a three layer cake so for the last layer I repeated the pattern of the first layer. Then apply frosting to entire cake. I could have made another layer but ran out of frosting. . . and time.

_MG_8221It’s fun cutting into the cake and revealing the impressive checkerboard pattern!

_MG_8234I made the cakes from scratch because I prefer that to mixes, but if you want you can use cake mix. I put my foot down at the frosting from the grocery store though; it’s just not as good as homemade!

 Hershey’s “Perfectly  Chocolate” Chocolate Cake  (from the Hershey’s Cocoa box)

  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-in. round cake pans. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

Yellow Cake (from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter,softened
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla (I doubled this, I like vanilla a lot)
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add milk, butter, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes more. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 in. round cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans until cooled completely.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting (also from Hershey’s Cocoa box)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

I once and a halved the frosting recipe but I didn’t have enough to make a fourth layer so I would double it next time.

If you would like to watch the Rachael Ray video click here.

This can be made with different colored and flavored cakes also.

It makes me want to go play a game of checkers. While eating cake of course!

~ Susan