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Bananas Foster Cakes

The Bananas Foster at Freemans [1] is one of my all-time favorite desserts. I don’t know what it is about caramel and rum that makes me love bananas. Well, I guess it is the caramel and rum. They might make me love anything. The dish was supposedly invented at the famous New Orlean’s restaurant, Brennan’s [2],  in 1951. This confirms two things: a lot of good recipes were created in the 1950’s AND southern cuisine is spectacular. When I saw this recipe for individual bananas foster cakes in a recent Cook’s Illustrated, I was anxious to try it out. It is a excellent adaptation of the classic dessert.

A warm and subtly-flavored cake is flipped over to reveal a delicious caramel banana topping and the whole thing is pushed over the edge with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Outstanding. I was really impressed with how simple this recipe was and how delicious the results turned out to be. I think this could be a very elegant end to a dinner party. You could put the cakes in the oven when you sit down to eat and they’d be ready when it comes time for dessert. The recipe can also be cut in half (which I did) with equally delicious results.

Individual Bananas Foster Cakes (from Cook’s Illustrated)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease eight 6-ounce ramekins, then set on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup of the brown sugar and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in 2 tablespoons of the rum. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the sauce into the bottom of each ramekin.

Shingle the banana slices on top of the sauce inside each ramekin. Whisk the remaining rum, the milk, eggs, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and zest together. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter into the flour mixture and continue to beat the mixture until it resembles moist crumbs, 1 to 3 minutes.

Beat in all but 1/4 cup of the milk mixture, then increase the speed to medium and beat the batter until

smooth, light, and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly beat in the remaining 1/4 cup milk mixture until the batter looks slightly curdled (this didn’t happen for me), about 15 seconds.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared ramekins, smooth the tops, and gently tap the ramekins on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes on the rimmed baking sheet until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

Immediately run a small knife around the edges of the cakes, gently invert each ramekin onto an individual serving plate, and let sit until the cakes release themselves from the ramekins, about 5 minutes. Remove the ramekins and serve with vanilla ice cream.