It still feels surreal that the recent earthquake in Tainan, my hometown, was of such a scale that it made international news. There we were, sleeping soundly at 4 in the morning, violently awakened by the most dramatic of shakes (I had to hold onto the headboard to keep from bouncing off the bed). After a full minute, I was able to go back to sleep after a bit of online checking that my friends here were okay; but many weren’t so lucky. Apart from a massive loss of lives from the collapsed building, it so happened to take major water pipes along with it, which led to nearly 10 days without water in our district. Fortunately for us, the temporary supply stop was but across the road, and we must’ve crossed it dozens of times in the past few days. Minimal showers we could deal with, but washing dishes, flushing toilets and the like were a pain. Which leads me to my point that I haven’t really bean able to bake for a good while *sigh*.
When the news came that water was finally back, guess what I was most excited about doing apart from having a long hot bath? I’d longed to make a lighter banana cake without any compromise in the intensity of banana flavour, which tends to be lacking in banana chiffon cake recipes out there. I was compelled to find a way to maximise and concentrate the bananary-ness, and recalled America’s Test Kitchen’s way of microwaving bananas to extract the juices, along with some others. I settled on ChefSteps’ technique of pressure cooking the bananas while caramelising them – and I have to say that it’s genius. It smelled downright addictive, not unlike banana fosters. I then pureed the caramelised bananas, as well as added some of that butter it’s been cooking in for an extra punch. To take it even further, a sprinkling of chopped up whole dried bananas was applied, taking things to a ban-tastic level.
To balance out the intense sweetness of the nuggets of dried bananas in the cake, I thought it’d be nice to complement it with a light frosting in the form of yoghurt whipped cream. SO GOOD. (I have no shame).
Intensified banana chiffon cake + yoghurt whipped cream
(makes 1 20cm-long, 4-layered cake)
For the banana chiffon:
5 yolks + 1 whole egg
25g banana oil (leftover from the pressure cooker)
145g pressure-cooked banana puree
1/2 tsp vanilla80g cake flour
1 whole dried banana, chopped small (optional)
26g sugar + pinch of cream of tartar (latter optional)
For the yoghurt whipped cream:
150g heavy cream
1 tsp ~ 1 tbsp caster sugar
75g plain yoghurt
Start by pressuring cooking some bananas. Take 2 medium to large bananas and chop them into 3cm pieces, and place them in a pressure cooker. Add to the bananas 35g of butter cut into small pieces, 18g water, 18g sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Cook for 15mins, turn the bananas over and cook for another 15mins. Fish out the banana pieces once they’re cool, and puree them. Keep the melted butter in the pot for later.
Preheat the oven to 160C and prepare a tin (mine is about 20x30cm) by greasing the sides and bottom, and lining the bottom with parchment.
Whisk yolks plus one egg with the first amount of sugar until the volume has increased and the mixture appears paler. Stream in the banana butter from earlier while whisking, followed by the puree and vanilla. Take out about 1 tbsp of the flour in the recipe to coat the dried banana pieces, then whisk in the sifted flour, followed by the floury dried bananas.
Start whipping the whites on low speed, then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar and increase the speed and continue whipping until medium-stiff peaks are reached. A third at a time, slowly but surely incorporate the whites into the yolk mixture and fold until just combined. Poor the batter into the prepared tin, tap to release big bubbles and level out the top. Bake for approx. an hour or more, check doneness by pressing the middle of the cake to see if it bounces back. Remove from the oven, unmold and place on a cooling rack.
For the yoghurt whipped cream, simply combine all the ingredients and whip to stiff peaks.
To assemble the layer cake, slice the cake into 4 equally-sized strips, and layer them with a quarter of the whipped cream per layer. For the top, lay down a thin layer of cream, then pipe rows of cream with a round tip. (If desired, increase the recipe for the cream and cover the sides as well).