Intro: We’re stuck in Australia for two extra weeks, waiting for Russian visas. Here’s one of the things we did in the meantime!
For the first time in months, I have a full kitchen at my disposal. Australia has a lot of bananas—markets here are crammed with bananas, including the somewhat forlorn-looking, past their prime bananas that find their way to the discount cart.
Banana-bread was inevitable. But it turns out my tolerance for making banana bread is about once a week and after my first round baking Saint Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread (https://smittenkitchen.com/2006/11/jacked-up-banana-bread/), we still had 4 more bananas languishing in the kitchen. I returned to Smitten Kitchen for another banana recipe, but the only recipe that wasn’t banana bread was a banana crepe cake recipe that used only one banana. If readers wanted more banana, Deb suggested layering the cake with sliced bananas. That was a no go, since at the time we thought Stoytcho was allergic to raw banana.
But what if I filled it with fried sliced bananas? I googled around until I found a recipe I mostly liked. I subbed the white sugar for brown sugar, because that just seems right when you’re working with bananas. The final cake was a 3 hour process of making crepes, frying bananas, making filling, assembling cake, and finishing up with the butterscotch topping. But it was TOTALLY worth it—with a combination of bananas, brown sugar, and cream cheese, this cake takes the cake.
For the crepes:
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 large speckled brown banana
- 1 to 1.5 c milk
- ¾ all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ to 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp freshly ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp freshly crushed cloves.
For the filling:
- 1 8 oz brick of cream cheese at room temperature
- 1.5 c plain greek yogurt
- ¼ to 1/3 c granulated sugar (to taste)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
For the fried bananas:
- 4 overripe bananas
- 3-4 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tsp freshly-ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp nutmeg
- neutral oil to fry the bananas
For the Topping:
- ½ heavy whipping cream
- ¼ c light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter*
- ½ c chopped, toasted macadamia nuts**
- ½ to 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
I simplified Deb’s recipe a lot because I’m in someone else’s kitchen without access to a mixer/blender/spatulas/etc. It did have a mortar and pestle and whole spices, so we did fresh grinds of all the spices, which was simultaneously better tasting and a huge pain in the hands. The kitchen also lacked standard measuring cups and spoons, but it turns out our camping kit has measurements for cups on the side (yay!) and we just fudged the spoon measurements with silverware in the kitchen. So take all of the smaller measurements with a pinch of salt.
- Make your crepe batter: In a bowl large enough to hold all the crepe ingredients, mash banana with a fork until whole thing is wet and there are only a few small chunks. Add melted butter and mix. Then mix in 1 c milk and all of the flour, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for an hour or more to chill. (Deb recommends overnight and up to two days).
- Fry banana slices for filling: Slice overripe bananas to a thickness of 2 cm (~3/4 inch) and prep a plate for the fried bananas with a paper towel on it. Fill the pan with enough oil to cover the bottom and start it on medium heat. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. When the oil in the pan begins to shimmer, dip the banana rounds into the sugar-spice mix and then drop in the pan. Fry for 2-3 mins on one side, then flip and fry 1-2 minutes on the other. Then transfer to prepared plate with paper towel. Repeat frying process, adding more oil as needed, until there are no banana rounds left. Let cool while you make the crepes and rest of filling.
- Make the crepes: Heat neutral oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat and pull out a plate for the finished crepes. Pull the batter out of the fridge—if it seems too thick, add an extra ½ c milk to thin it. When oil begins to shimmer, spoon ~1/4 c of batter into the skillet and tilt the pan so it covers the bottom. Cook until it browns on one side 3-4 min, then flip and cook the other side. Repeat until all crepe batter is gone. (Or better yet, get your boyfriend to do it since he’s an expert at making crepes.) Set crepes aside to cool.
- Make the filling: Beat room temperature cream cheese with a spoon until fluffy, then add yogurt and mix. When there are no more lumps of cream cheese, add sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Assemble crepe cake: Put first (ideally biggest) crepe on what will be your serving plate—this cake isn’t moving once you make it. Spread ~1/4 c of the filling onto the crepe and add 15-20 slices of fried banana onto the filling. Add a second crepe and spread another ~1/4 c of filling, this time with no fried bananas (we had structural integrity concerns with a full banana stack). Repeat process, alternating between fried-banana and banana-less layers until you run out of crepes, filling, or both. Do not put filling on top of the last crepe.
- Make topping: Mix cream, brown sugar, and butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes while stirring frequently. It will thicken and smell like caramel when it’s done and in my case, some of the butter separated from the mix. If this happens to you, just dump the extra butter off. Remove the topping from heat and mix in the vanilla, salt, and nuts.
- Pour topping over the cake and serve. We also found letting it sit in the fridge overnight improved the structural integrity, but it’s not a huge deal—it’s going to end up a delicious mess on your plate anyway.
c = cup
med = medium
min = minutes
tbsp = tablespoon
tsp = teaspoon
* – As mentioned in step 6, we had some issues with the butter separating from the topping. This could be due to overusing butter (we eyeballed 15 grams from a huge stick), or some other condition. Even if you use too much butter, you can just dump it off.
** – Deb’s original recipe called for walnuts, but we only had macadamia nuts foraged from a nearby orchard. These lent the cake a decidedly more tropical flavor.