The Kanta-bai in me would tsk-tsk away at not eating bananas, fresh from the tree, leaving them to go overripe.
The Master-Chef, however, would argue that overripe bananas work best when making Banana Bread, for their consistency and texture.
In case you're wondering, Kanta-Bai sits on my right shoulder mirroring all my features while wearing a red saree, spouting horns on either side of her head and surreptitiously concealing her spiked tail with the saree pallu. She really takes the fun out of creative-lethargy.
My Master-Chef me usually wears white, and never gets any of her chef-y clothes stained, because she usually only thinks up
excuses ideas that promote my creative juices.
Either way, here's my take on a Banana and Cocoa Marble Cake - The Banocoa Marble Cake. Or something like that.
2 Overripe Bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour, divided as 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup butter, divided into halves
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder, divided in halves
1 tsp baking soda, divided in halves
1 small vessel to melt butter and cocoa
1 cup measure
1 tsp measure spoon
1 tbsp measure spoon
2 mixing bowls
Loaf Tin (medium sized)/ Cake Tin (8 inch/ 10 inch)
1. Melt half the butter with cocoa in your small vessel on low heat. Keep mixing until the mixture begins to bubble, change colour and not look grainy. Turn the heat off when the mixture just begins to smell like it's burning. The smokiness adds to the bitterness of the cocoa flavour.
2. While the butter and cocoa cook, mash the bananas with a fork and set aside. Preheat your oven at this point for 15 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius (or 350 degrees Fahrenheit). Butter your baking dish lightly, dust the dish with a teaspoon of flour and tip the dish so that all the sides are coated. The excess flour can go back to your flour mixture.
3. Cream the other half of the butter with the sugar until the mixture looks light and fluffy in a vessel
4. Add two whole eggs and whisk well.
5. Mix in the mashed bananas and whisk well. Add half the essence to this mixture
6. Add half the baking soda, half the baking powder and half the flour to the banana mixture and mix slowly. Be careful not to overwork your batter. Set this aside.
7. In a separate vessel, mix in the rest of the sugar with the butter and cocoa mixture.
8. Add the rest of your eggs in one at a time, only when the butter and cocoa mixture have come down in temperature. If you add your eggs when the butter-cocoa mixture is still hot, you're going to have scrambled eggs to deal with.
9. Add the rest of the flour, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla essence to the wet mixture and mix until all the ingredients have combined.
10. Fill your baking dish alternatively with the banana mixture and cocoa mixture, moving your fork through the mixtures to marble them gently. Don't go nuts with your fork, unless you want a banana flavoured chocolate cake. Which isn't half bad for an alternate idea. (Tell me what this turns out like, if you do go ahead with it!)
11. Once all your mixture is into the baking dish, place your cake tin on the rack placed at the middle level, for even cooking, and bake it at 175 degrees Celsius (0r 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
12. Push a skewer, or a clean fork, through your cake to check if it's cooked through. If the fork/skewer comes out clean with no batter clinging on to it for dear life, your cake is done! Else, put it back in for five more minutes and repeat. (Though, honestly, I prefer a little in my cake.)
13. Once your cake is done, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool while you get on to cleaning up those dishes. The cake should start pulling away from the sides by the time you're done with the washing.
14. Slide a bread knife or a butter knife all around the edges of the cake to separate the cake from the tin. Hold a plate over your baking dish and in one swift movement, channel your inner Master-Chef, as you flip your baking dish over the plate, holding on to both the dish and the plate. Lift your baking dish off the plate, carefully, so that the cake doesn't break apart. Breathe in deeply as you revel in this moment of pure theatre and slice your cake up for that perfect cup of tea (up next)!
I love using Plantains, aka "manja pazham" here in Chennai or "palayamkodan", but you can also experiment with other varieties. Stay away from the bananas that are starchy - yes, they're healthier, but if you were looking for health over taste, you wouldn't be here, now would you? This means, stay away from the bananas that are used for steaming and frying - the Nendran Pazham or Ethapazham. They hold their shape when frying and steaming, but turn extremely dense and heavy when baked.
Other recipes will specify using demerara sugar or brown sugar, but you can use regular granulated sugar, and if you're being really picky about colour, add about 2 tablespoons of powdered country jaggery.
You can serve this cake with a dusting of sugar, a few segments of oranges or even some delicious salted caramel sauce to make tea-time a real treat. Heck, this could even be that perfect, comforting end to a really hard, long week when it is warmed and drizzled over with that sauce (a recipe for which I will be back very soon).