On a recent trip to Vientiane in Laos, I ordered ‘fried bananas and coffee’ in a delightfully cozy little backstreet café festooned with dangling pot plants (and a healthy population of mosquitoes, but let’s not dwell on that). If dipping sweet, crispy bananas fresh from the fryer into a cupful of espresso sounds strange to you, consider the fact that both coffee and bananas contain similar flavor compounds (clove and floral notes). Also, consider their very similar growing territories across the world, and suddenly the combination might not seem so strange. The two of them pair beautifully in this case, the coffee cutting through the richness of ripe banana, butter, and brown sugar. This is best as a pudding cake, eaten on the day it is made with some vanilla ice cream.
For the cake
2½ tablespoons instant coffee granules
3–4 teaspoons boiling water
130g soft butter, plus extra for greasing
110g light brown soft sugar or golden caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
a pinch of salt
130g self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
For the topping
3 small, ripe bananas (or 2 large), sliced into 5mm rounds
80g dark brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of the coffee mixture (above)
Grease and line a 20 x 20cm square cake tin (not springform).
Put the coffee granules in a small cup and add the boiling water. Stir to make a thick, dark liquid, almost a paste, ensuring there are no lumps (add a tiny splash more water if there are still lumps). Set aside to cool a little.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5.
For the topping, first place the banana slices over the bottom of the prepared cake tin in a single layer. Then put the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan over a medium heat, and heat until melted together. Add the 2 teaspoons of coffee mixture, leaving the remainder to use in the cake batter. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is thick and dark. Pour this evenly over the bananas (you can spread it out using a spoon, but be careful not to dislodge the bananas).
Make the cake. Using an electric mixer or electric hand whisk, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for about 3–4 minutes, until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs, whisking well between each addition. Add the remaining coffee mixture and salt, mix briefly, then sift in the flour and baking powder and fold the mixture together with a spoon until just combined and you have a smooth, thick batter.
Pour the cake mixture over the bananas in the tin and level the top with a spatula, then bake for 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack or plate and leave it to cool a little more before serving warm in slices, preferably with scoops of vanilla ice cream.