Bon Voyage Li’l Ms Tomato

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis” 

I started off this post wanting to be philosophical about the passing of time, transience and hot air balloons carrying us away to our dreams (inspired by Brainpickings’ brilliantly curated piece), but I think I am going to go with warmth, food and an up-side banana cake instead.

Our best friends catch a flight tonight to relocate half way across the world, and I am already feeling nostalgia for what used to be. These guys – a family of three (K, who tells the best uber-dramatic stories based on ordinary everyday incidents and can make people laugh into being better versions of themselves, M, who I have traded books and candy crush lives with – and their two year old daughter aka heart stealer who is basically a cherubic tomato with lots of curly black hair) are our neighbors and over the last several years, have become our family and friends – you know the kind whose kitchen is an extension of yours, you have combined grocery lists, and your gadgets connect automatically to their wi-fi when you step over their threshold.

Of course, food and drinks (several gazillion gallons of the latter!) have been the foundation of our friendship. They are the guinea pigs who I try all my baking on and since they think my Italian cooking rocks (blush, blush), I have gladly fed all sorts of oregano and garlic based experiments to them. My fondest memory, though, is the following: I returned home late one night after a super-long and tiring day at work, to an empty and silent house (the family was away). While unlocking the front door, I was filled with exhaustion and dread at the thought of putting together a lonely dinner for one. In this miasma of loneliness and self-pity, like sunshine, K & M appeared and insisted on dragging me to their place. And I found myself seated at their dining table, tucking into a hot, delicious, home-cooked meal (masala dosas, coconut chutney with a chilled tall beer, in case you are wondering!) while little ms. tomato shared her potato wafers with me. There was something about the all-enveloping and unexpected coziness and warmth from that evening, which will linger on, long after K stops knocking at the door.

In the middle of their relocation chaos, a bunch of us got together at the spur of the moment, to bid them farewell over margaritas. Since K&M got me this fridge magnet, the least I could do was to bake them a farewell cake. Given that my oven insists on sulking before any farewell, I don’t think it was my finest attempt. Still, plenty of drinks and emotion laden speeches later, chasing the cake down with vanilla ice-cream, did make for a good conclusion to a very pleasant evening.

banana and chocolate upside down cake

Now coming to the cake recipe, with more time I would have wanted to make banana cake with mocha frosting and candied peanuts, but given the suddenness of the party, I went with something far simpler, an upside down banana and chocolate chip cake which still utilized some poor bananas which were at the end of their prime. An aside, if you think I don’t bake anything which is not a David L. recipe, you are probably right. I halved his recipe as the expanding waistline dissuades leftovers.

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 30 gm demerara sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • A drop or two of lemon juice (which I actually forgot to add, despite having the lemon out ready to squeeze)

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 105 gm AP flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 75 gm sugar
  • 1 tbsp or 15 gm melted butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 125 gm banana puree (from 3 small bananas)
  • 60 gm yoghurt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 40 gm chopped semi-sweet chocolate (Having run out chocolate chips, I chopped in a few mini Lindts)

Before I forget, do not use a springform for this or any other upside down recipe. And if using demarara sugar, I suggest whizzing it to a fine powder before using it. Else, you will struggle to melt it like I did.

Heat the butter and sugar in a small baking tin. The original recipe calls for an 8 inch, I had a small flower shaped tin. Place the tin over a low flame (on the stove) and heat gently. If it does not melt, don’t panic. Keep at it, and it should soon be this dark brown liquid which you can coax to cover most of the pan. Cool the pan. Slice the bananas to ¼ inch slices and place (slightly overlapping) over the caramel. Add the lemon juice.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar. In a small bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gently stir the wet into the dry. Don’t overmix. Add in the chocolate.
Use a spatula to coax the batter over the bananas.

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 180 c preheated oven. Cool and invert. Serve warm. I thought mine was tad less sweet, so the ice-cream went quite well with it.

Coming back to K, M and Ms. Tomato, wishing you guys bon voyage, and a new life filled with amazing vistas, adventure and joy. You shall be missed.

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