Tons of bananas grow in Vietnam, which is why they appear in savories as well as sweets. This moist, fragrant, pudding-like cake is a great way to use overripe fruit. For this easy rendition, you need a slightly squishy, inexpensive bread. Supermarket sandwich bread or baguette is fine. Avoid fancy, rustic, or dense whole-grain breads because their sturdiness will dull the other flavors in this cake. Instead of dark rum, my favorite spirit for this cake, you may try bourbon or brandy.
- 680g overripe bananas
- 60ml dark rum
- 115g sugar
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 400ml tin full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 225g white sandwich bread or supermarket French baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces, crust intact
Peel and thinly slice the bananas, reserving 3 to 4 inches of one to decorate the top of the cake (choose the least blemished section!). In a medium bowl, combine the remaining bananas with the rum and 1.5 tablespoons of the sugar and stir gently to mix. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine 75g sugar, the salt, coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring or whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes to melt the oil and dissolve the sugar. In a large bowl, beat the egg and then whisk in the coconut milk mixture. Add the bread and stir to combine. Set aside for 20 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C. Oil a 9-inch round cake tin with 2-inch sides, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
When the bread is done soaking, use a potato masher to break up the chunks and create a thick, oatmeal-like mixture. Add the banana and its liquid and stir and fold to combine well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and shimmy the pan to level the top. Decorate with the reserved banana slices and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon sugar.
Bake for 1.25 to 1.5 hours, until puffed up and richly browned. The top should feel dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre should come out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour (expect quick deflation), then run a blunt knife around the pan edge and unmold onto the rack. Remove the paper and reinvert onto a plate to showcase the decorated side.
Enjoy the cake warm or let cool completely, to firm up, and eat at room temperature.
Tips and Tricks
For big banana flavor and a more custardy texture, use slightly to very soft fruit. If the bananas are too firm, use a fork to poke four or five sets of holes in each one. Microwave in 30-second blasts, until barely soft. Cool to let the flesh soften and sweeten before use.
Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Microwave slices in 20-to 30-second blasts to bring out the rum flavor, or bake in a 190°C oven for 4 to 5 minutes and then grill for 1 to 2 minutes until gently sizzling to re-crisp the top.
Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Food Any Day, Ten Speed Press, £25.